Why Bother?

I have lost count of how many times I have come across this question: “We have world hunger, poverty, little children being abused, war, and terrorism. Why are we wasting our time talking about homosexuality when we have these bigger issues?” There is no doubt that people facing any kind of harm in this world must be protected and advocated for, and there are people who work tirelessly for almost every cause there is. My cause is equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. Today, I am going to answer that question.

Some will be reading this unaware that in many places LGBTQ people are currently being hunted down and killed (like animals). Some people do not know that verbal harassment, as a result of societal prejudice, has driven the suicide rate among young LGBTQ people higher than it has ever been. Others are unaware that the LGBTQ community is statistically the most at-risk minority on the continent of North America. Many people do not understand that the daily life that heterosexual people take for granted is not so easy for LGBTQ people, who in many places must be forever aware of their surroundings for fear of attack. While it is true that we have many important and pressing issues facing society, it is not true that the plight of the sexual minority is any less important. Through the casual use of words like “faggot” and “homo,” to heterosexism, to condescending gender roles, western society has become a hostile environment toward people who do not fit within the sexual norm.

I have found that people who come forward with the question of “why bother” are, in every case, uninformed on the issue. This can change, as the wealth of information now available is growing. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves. It is unacceptable to speak in a world full of information, having never sought that information. It is intellectually lazy to pose a question without having taken the opportunity to seek the answer, before laying bare our ignorance. It is arrogant and simplistic to downplay the plight of one group of people because you deem the plight of another to be more important.

The murders of Matthew Shepard, Gwen Araujo, Brandon Teena, Angie Zapata, and countless others demonstrates the need for knowledge. The numerous attacks carried out by mindless idiots who think that LGBTQ people are dangerous demonstrates this need as well. Most arguments used against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and other LGBTQ issues, were also used against interracial marriage and the abolition of slavery. Have we learned nothing from that civil rights movement? I’m sure there were people in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s day who felt there were more pressing issues as well.

The point to be made here is that we all have a societal responsibility. By virtue of being social animals, it is up to all of us to work for the common good, the acceptance and betterment of those who are downtrodden. Our species has not survived for so long by harming and killing each other, we have survived in spite of it. Through cooperation and mutual respect, we have built a global society, one that is connected and carries the potential for harmonious coexistence. As long as we hold the view that one group is undeserving because somebody else is suffering also, we miss the point. Where people are at-risk (dying, being killed, being abused, being treated as the “lesser”), there must be somebody to stand up. Why stand up for the LGBTQ community when people are dying in Africa? Because the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and questioning people are also precious.

Happy National Coming Out Day.

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