Born That Way

There is a relatively recent internet site called “Upworthy,” that culls videos from around the web that the site’s managers deem worthy of a wider audience (they’r “UpWorthy”) and promotes them. This morning, I saw one of them–a clip from comedian Wanda Sykes in which she explains why it is more difficult to be gay than to be black (she’s both). After all, she didn’t have to “come out” as black. I encourage you to click through and watch this 2 minute performance; Sykes is a gifted comic, and it is pretty funny.

The bit reminded me of an epiphany of sorts. When I was Director of the Indiana ACLU, I hosted a small fundraising dinner at my home for our Project for Equal Rights. We used that euphemism for Gay Rights, because it was the mid-1990s, and this is Indiana. At any rate, the guest of honor was the then-head of the ACLU’s national gay rights project, Bill Rubenstein. Something he said during that dinner  has remained with me ever since.

Gay kids have no role models.

Virtually every minority group teaches its children how to “be” what they are; Jewish parents model “Jewishness,” Hispanic parents are a bridge to the cultures from which they came, etc. But gay children are born to heterosexual parents–and most often, to parents who have no experience with gays or gay life. Each child who grows to realize that he or she is “different” has to figure out how to understand that difference, and how to live a rewarding and authentic life–without the help of a parental role model, and often despite parental rejection of that difference.

That’s a heavy burden. The least we can do as a society is not add to it.

4 thoughts on “Born That Way

  1. Amen! I’ve had students tell me horror stories about how they were treated in high school–not only by other students, but also by teachers. We can’t change our skin color, and we can’t change our sexual orientation. We are who we are.

  2. Right On. The gay student is pretty much on his or her own. When he comes home from school, it may well be to a fundamentalist gay hating environment. Many of these kids become “Throw Aways”. Once their good Christian fundamentalist parents find out who they really are, they chose between their “book” or their kids. Too often the kids loose. Many of them become street kids. Many homeless youth come from these “loving” homes. With huge amounts of pain and loneliness these kids are very apt to become drug users and prostitutes. High suicide rates for even those that stay at home. But hey, at least Mom & Dad have their “book” right? PS: I will always be grateful that my folks did NOT take “Books” seriously. AMEN.

  3. In the mid-1990’s and earlier, we didn’t yet have the hard scientific data showing that brains of homosexuals develop differently from heteros. That is, that gay people really are born that way. just like redheads. Shows why its so important to do what’s right in the long run.

    For gay boys, knowing that a sports star is gay might help. Supposably an NFL player is going to come ‘out’ soon…pro sports is a big problem area for gays, the bias bad bad bad.

  4. I guess Rock Hudson, Greg Louganis, Freddy Mercury, etc…weren’t enough? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I based my childhood role models off of their achievements, not off of who they found attractive or what they looked like. I think it’s a bit shallow to hold something like that as a focal point for who should be a role model.

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