My research paper is going to explain the
importance of individuals ‘coming out’ to their peers, and discuss the problem
of heterosexism in our society. Also,
since I am able to personally relate to my research topic, I will be sharing
some of my own experiences with ‘coming out.’
Another section of my paper will discuss the “popular” views and
stereotypes of the LGBTQ community that need to be changed in order for our
nation to grow. The LGBTQ community has
gone through horrific persecution over the years, and I plan to address that
while I show respect to all that the community has accomplished to this day. At the end of my paper I will bring together
the importance of individuals ‘coming out’ and express how we can encourage
this to happen.
People around the world face violence and
inequality—sometimes torture and execution— because of how they look, who they
are, or whom they love. These freedoms
should never lead to discrimination or abuse.
They should be commemorated. Jumping
back to 500 BC, we can see the first concept of homosexuality and how ancient
Greece accepted and even celebrated same-sex relationships. Traditionally, same-sex relationships in
ancient Greece involved an older man and a younger boy. In the article, Male Love in Ancient Greece, “young males were considered the fair
sex par excellence; the Greek ideal of beauty was embodied by the young
man.” These relationships could last
until the young boy reached full adulthood, and it was considered an important
part of their growth and education into manhood.
Robert Eichsberg and Jean O’Leary, an openly gay political
leader from LA who is also head of the National Gay Rights Advocates, founded
national Coming Out Day on October 11, 1988.
The day October 11th was chose to mark the anniversary of the
1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This day celebrates everyone who identify as
bisexual, lesbian, gay, or transgender.
With the rise of the homosexuality movement in the late 1960s, the
stance on seeing homosexuality as immoral, criminal, and unnatural became more
scrutinized. The American Psychiatric Association
dropped homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis in 1973; however, the question
of why there were still so many negative attitudes toward those of the LGBTQ
community was still in the air. Dr.
George Weinberg coined the term “homophobia,” which later appeared in his book,
Society and the Healthy Homosexual
published in 1972 that “explores the psychological factors underlying that
prejudice and offers advice to help individuals overcome the prejudice and
accept their sexuality” (Weinberg). Steven
Seidman writes an amazing essay, Heterosexism
in America: Prejudice Against Lesbians and Gay Men, where he examines the
social significance of discrimination toward homosexuals and talks about the
social struggle against heterosexism.
Around the year 1950, large numbers of homosexuals moved to cities that
were more tolerant of nonconventional lifestyles, including: New York City, San
Francisco, and Chicago. Neighborhoods began to expand and thrive where
homosexuals could reside and develop a sense of community. Unfortunately, “this was a conservative
period in which the government and the police pursued vigorous anti-homosexual
policies; employees were dismissed and even more were harassed because of
suspected homosexuality” (Steinberg 238).
Conflict with the government and the police became more frequent and by
the early 1970s a full-blown lesbian and gay liberation movement had
exploded. If homosexuality is kept a
secret, heterosexism will thrive and create more ugly stereotypes. Every individual should be celebrated when
they come out, because they finally feel safe and strong enough in their self
worth to express their sexuality to their friends and family. “If tens of thousands of individuals come
out, the hope is that Americans will see that homosexuals are a diverse
population made up of individuals with different ethnic, racial, occupational,
religious, and political backgrounds who deserve to be treaded as individuals”
(Steinberg 239). Our society has
instilled so much shame on those that identify in the LGBTQ community, so when
an individual comes out to their society it shows that their self-pride has become
stronger that the self-loathing they previously felt. The lesbian and gay movement still manages to
amaze me with the commitment it has invested in the fight to abolish
discriminatory laws and establish equal civil rights. “Gay civil rights efforts have sought to
ament existing city, county, state, and federal laws which do not prohibit
discrimination based on sexual orientation” (Steinberg 239). Media in our society is a huge reason for the
continued stereotypes pointed at those in the LGBTQ community. Steinberg states, “the power of the mass
media in shaping public attitudes is enormous” (239). Despite the advances in the LGBTQ community,
the battle for their civil rights is first priority because they still face
discrimination in all areas of life. A
handful of these rights include: legal equal employment, gay men donating
blood, adoption in some states, educational discrimination based on sexual
orientation, live in certain communities, get married in certain states, and
transgender people cannot join the military.
The amount of sexual
prejudice in our society for identifying as a homosexual is absurd; however,
majority of Americans today do not tolerate this behavior, and support
homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
According to Pew Research Center, in 2017, 62% of Americans support
same-sex marriage and see homosexuality as morally acceptable. This is a drastic improvement since 2001,
when 35% of Americans accepted homosexuality and majority saw it as morally
wrong and unacceptable.
Heterosexism is not going away any time soon, but we need to
keep working toward that. The trend in
this country suggests that groups and institutions will define heterosexism as
the social problem, not homosexuality.
America is know for being a melting pot, and a land of opportunity where
individuals and groups of people would flee to when they were in search of
safety from persecution. The United
States puts the notion of ‘freedom’ on a silver platter, and preaches the value
of independence in their nation; however, they are discriminating so many
minority groups that they truly are not living up to their ambition. As a nation we should ask ourselves hard
questions, like: what kind of society do we want? How much diversity is enough?
What behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable? The choices we make on these
issues will go a long way toward determining what kind of people Americans are
or want to be.