As you have undoubtedly noticed, I have strong opinions on many issues, many that I keep to myself because, to be honest, I don't particularly enjoy getting into heated debates with people. I may seem laid-back and friendly most of the time, but I have found that when people present to me their strongly entrenched political, religious, or social opinions that I feel fundamentally clash with mine, what starts off as a debate often tends to turn extremely adversarial, in the "we will never be friends after this" kind of way. It's not something I'm proud of, and it's something I'm trying to be more mature about.
However... when it comes to one certain topic, I simply cannot be held silent, and there are long-winded journal entries to show for it. I am, as you may have already guessed, speaking of the need for tolerance and acceptance toward the LGBT community, and the gay rights movement. My stances on this spectrum of issues are ones that I am prepared to lose friendships over in a heartbeat. Sometimes, I thought that aspect of myself also made me childish. Sometimes, I felt that I should tolerate more of the homophobia around me, because it wasn't violent or objectively cruel, and perhaps my constant "politically correctness" on the matter was getting annoying to some people. But the recent string of teen suicides served as a wake-up call. It reminded me of why I take such a strong and unapologetic stance on this issue, and why I will continue to do so until the day I die.
Bullying is something that we have all more or less experienced at some point or another. And I don't just mean as victims; sometimes we were the bullies, too. I can't count the number of times I've legitimately bullied my younger brother in the past; whether it was making fun of his physical traits or inabilities, calling him disparaging names, or just generally treating him like garbage. Worst of all, sometimes I only did it because my older sister was doing it, too. I don't know if I actually caused him any lasting damage growing up, because he seems relatively fine, but I still feel terrible about it, and in that respect I regret having been such an awful sister.
You've heard this before, but I'll repeat it for you anyway. Bullying is about power. And when people side with bullies, it's not because they're right. It's because they don't feel strong enough to stand up to them. I know that's why I sided with my sister back in her bullying days.
Picture this scenario: you're in the schoolyard, and some kids are picking on a boy for walking or talking in what they perceive to be an effeminate manner, possibly pointing at him and laughing, perhaps calling him a "faggot," and maybe even physically harming him. What do you do? Do you step in? Do you call for help? Do you stand and watch? Do you walk away?
Well, I've got news for you. When it comes to bullying, there is no such thing as a neutral third party. You are either part of the solution, or you are part of the problem. When you simply keep walking, or stand by and let bullying happen, you aren't "just minding your own business." You aren't "choosing to not get involved." You're supporting the act of bullying. Whether you realize it or not, you're letting that bully know that he or she is the one in control of this situation, and will likely be in control the next time, if he or she chooses to bully again.
You might walk by some kid calling another kid a faggot or a dyke, and think "it's just a word." I know I have before. But do you ever stop to think how many times this person has been called one up until that point? Do you ever stop to think how many more times they will be called one? Do you ever stop to think whether or not the person saying the word will do it again, or worse, come up with a newer and more hurtful way to express it in the future? Because when you don't step in and correct even these simple acts of homophobia, you tempt those possibilities.
I am Indian, and on a few occasions in my childhood I have been called a "Paki." The first time I was called one, all I knew was that I was being reduced to a word, and singled out from everyone else. I didn't even know what the word meant, but I instantly felt like there was something wrong with me. It felt scathing. So please, do not underestimate the power of a single word, especially the ones you use with even the mildest disparaging intentions.
And I'm tired of hearing the "I'll stop saying it if I actually offend someone" excuse. Just by saying that, you are acknowledging that those words have the power to hurt, and yet you choose to continue using them anyway. If you truly mean well, then prove it. If you actually care about gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people, and are sympathetic to the torment that so many of them have to go through, then stop the problem before it happens. Because you know what? Sometimes you'll never know you "offended" someone, or have been "offending" someone, until the one morning when they're found dead by their own hands.
Also, and I think this should go without saying, know that your religion does not grant you a license to preach homophobia without social consequences. Know that when you persist in stating that "homosexuality is a sin," or "homosexuality is a choice," or "homosexuality is unnatural," or "homosexuality is a curable disorder," you are committing an act of bullying. Know that people will feel personally attacked by those words, and have every right to. Know that you cannot back up those assertions with anything other than personal bias and ungrounded sentiment, as virtually all scientific research on the matter proves otherwise, and that when you persist in preaching them anyway, you are demonstrating bigotry. So when you, in spite of all of these things, have the audacity to complain about how no one wants to associate with you, or how no one tolerates your opinion, know that you are being a HYPOCRITE, and realize that you got exactly what you deserved. But also know that it doesn't have to be that way. You can choose to show compassion instead of intolerance, and you can choose to accept scientific truths, and you can learn to embrace your fellow human beings for who they are, instead of attacking them for things they cannot change.
To those of you who have been bullied, tormented, ridiculed, hated, beaten, ostracized, disowned, or have been the subject of any kind of subhuman treatment because of your actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, I want you to know why people really bully you. It's because they're insecure, and feel personally threatened by the confidence that you have to be who you are. Confidence that they probably don't have, and attempt to cowardly compensate for through physical and verbal intimidation. It's a small wonder, then, why so many gay bashers turn out to be gay themselves.
This may come as a surprise to some of you, especially those who have known me for a long time, but I am bisexual. This is something that I've more or less known for about four years, and have quite internally denied until almost a year ago; all the while, keeping it almost completely to myself. Not because I feared being bullied, but because I feared being judged, being held to a different standard, or being perceived as "just another teenage girl trying to be edgy." And because of my cowardice, I may have not been through some of the things you have, but I know what it's like to hate yourself because of feelings you cannot get rid of, no matter how hard you wish them away. I know what it's like to be afraid of what your family might think if they knew. I know what it's like to sometimes feel alone.
But I want you to know that you are not alone, and that you are never alone. No matter how hopeless your situation might seem, even if you feel as though your own family would relinquish you in a heartbeat, there will always be at least one person out there that you can talk to and get advice from, and who will understand you. And if you can't find anyone, I will be that person for you. Send me a message or an email if you're feeling down. I will read it, and I will respond.
I want to finish this off by letting you know that there will always be people out there who try to make you feel like you need to change yourself in order to be accepted. Maybe to even be deserving of acceptance. Whether or not you are gay, straight, bi, trans, male, female, black, white, or anything else in between; know that if you are not hurting anyone, then you do not need to change for anyone; because you deserved to be accepted the moment you were born into this world, and no one has the right to take that away from you.
It's because of people like you, who have the courage to be themselves in a world that, at times, is not so kind to those who are different, that I now have the courage to be myself. The world can and will become a better place, but only if you strive to be the change you wish to see in it, and live to see it happen.
Be strong, and most importantly, be you.