11 October 2010

Enough Is Enough: Homophobia Needs To Go

Here we are again. Another day and another gay teen who has taken his own life because of hatred, fear, and homophobia. 19-year-old Ohio resident Zach Harrington committed suicide on October 10th after attending a City Coucil meeting where members of both the council and the public spent a majority of the meeting shouting anti-gay epitaphs for numerous "reasons." What did Zach do to deserve that hatred accept be himself? He was bullied and victimized most of his childhood for being gay and he took everything to heart, hearing every criticism of LGBT people as a personal attack on his character and his identity. It was.

Now, as a result of that hatred, he is dead. His sister has lost her brother. His father has lost his son. His mother has lost her baby boy. This has become a national epidemic and it's time we as a community - gay, bisexual, and straight - say enough is enough. Some say this has been happening for years and it is only just now getting "real attention," which means it's nothing new and therefore not a real event. To me, that just makes the whole situation worse. You're saying this has been going on for years at the same intensity and we're only now just paying attention to it? Where were we as community members? Where were we as fellow Americans? Where were we as human beings?

Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, every person deserves to be protected from systematic hatred. Did you know that the GLBT community does not have legal protection under the law from hate crimes? It's not just marriage; it's employment, it's housing, and it's crimes driven by hatred based on nothing more than a person's sexual orientation. Now, this hate is killing our young people and it seems to be turning into a daily occurrence. Enough is enough.

I haven't lived in the USA full-time for several years now, and I've had the incredible opportunity to see my own nation and my own identity from the outside. There isn't a day that goes by when I'm not proud of my heritage in some way. In the last few years, however, I've felt almost lucky that I don't have to endure the day-to-day struggles of the GLBT community. Lately, I've been wondering why, in a nation built by a group of people who came over on a boat because they were being oppressed, in a nation that seems to repeat this cycle of oppression and equalization with women, African Americans, and a number other groups, in a nation that spends vast resources bringing freedom, democracy, and "our way of life" to the world, we continue to remain silent when the most vulnerable among us need us most. Enough is enough.

Imagine Zach was your brother, your son, or your grandson. Imagine you've spent your whole life watching him grow up, discover himself, and become an adult. Now imagine that your fellow citizens - neighbors, friends, and even sometimes relatives - are bullying him. Imagine they're shouting messages of hate and telling your flesh and blood that they're not okay and that they don't deserve the same rights you have. Now imagine that this hatred, anger, and unbearable pressure drive him to take his own life. What would you do?

There is a Zach in each and every one of our lives and it's now our responsibility to make sure he grows up to enjoy the same opportunities, beauties, and wonders this incredible world has to offer. We must take a stand before another Zach out there believes that their life isn't worth living. Make no mistake, this is urgent. Do something now:

1. Call your congressperson and tell him or her to support equal rights for EVERY American.
2. Support the Trevor Project and give resources to troubled gay teens.
3. Find a local advocacy campaign and ACT.

These last few weeks have made me think a lot about my closest friends and my own life. So many of us have struggled to be who we are for fear of "what might happen." I could have been Zach. Many of my friends could have been Zach. Today, for the first time in a long time, I do wish I was home. So that I could march. I could campaign. I could show other LGBT teens that they're not alone and America doesn't hate them.

The time for action is now.

Enough is enough.


Kyle Taylor

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