Despite the United States progress toward homosexual liberation in the past few years, anti-gay and lesbian attitudes are still showing their ugly faces. Violence towards homosexuals is on the rise, conversion groups are popping up everywhere, conflict over homosexuality innateness is high, religious and personal discrimination is rampant: all this in a time when more and more gays and lesbians are coming out and their coming out at younger ages. It is a time in America when we need to support the homosexual community.
Jamie Nabozny, now an openly gay man, was a troubled teenager who ttempted suicide three times and had frequently stayed in psychiatric wards. In high school he was tortured with emotional and physical violence from his peers. On one occasion in his freshmen year, two boys attacked him in the bathroom. He fell into the urinal and the boys proceeded to urinate on him. I just remember sitting there, waiting for it to get over with, recalled Nabozny (Jerome, 1). The school did nothing to prevent the harassment.
Later, in his junior year, he was beaten so severely that he had to undergo exploratory abdominal surgery. Nabozny decided to sue the school district. The case was thrown out, but when he appealed to the federal courts, they decided a school could be sued for not preventing harassment. The district settled out of court, paying Nabozny $900,000 (Jerome, 5). Willi Wagner, a gay teenager who came out in ninth grade, was also harassed. Most of the time the abuse was verbal, and he was always ready with a comeback. Theyd call me a faggot and Id call them a hick, Wagner said.
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However, things did become violent. When Wagner and some friends were walking down the street, two vehicles stopped beside them and eight boys jumped out. Five of the boys formed a circle around Wagner, while the others beat him, leaving him with two black eyes, a broken nose and many bruises. I could feel my nose crack. It wasnt a good feeling, Wagner said of the incident. Two of the boys were put on probation for the incident; not near enough punishment for the crime (Jerome, 3). Incidents like these are quite common.
In fact, one study showed that while the overall crime rate decreased four percent, anti-gay crimes rose seven percent (Peyser, 1). Another study, conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Education, found that, for homosexuals, the igh school years are filled with abuse, some of it self-inflicted. Gay and lesbian teenagers are five times more likely to use cocaine or skip school out of fear for safety than straight kids. Over thirty six percent of homosexual teens will attempt suicide each year (Jerome, 1). Conversion groups, usually run by religious denominations, are becoming more widespread.
The goal of these groups is to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals, and in the meantime save them from the pits of hell. Conversion groups thrive on the idea that homosexuality is a choice, something about a person that can be changed. Some programs include butching up the men and feminizing the women. This is done by taking the males to sporting events and having make-up or shopping parties for females, or by pairing them with heterosexual mentors to show them the way to act. Others have gays and lesbians imagine members of the same sex as diseased, or perform exorcisms..
These programs say they have about a one-third success rate, success being when a homosexual is cured, that is when he or she no longer acts on urges (Schoofs, 2). Often, however, these therapies end up doing more harm than good, as hey did for Jeffrey Coates. He had been raised to believe that gay men go to hell. So after his first sexual experience with a man, Coates joined a twenty week conversion program called Desert Stream. He was recognized for making excellent progress in his group, even though he admitted that he felt absolutely no different inside..
He continued to try to become heterosexual until he finally decided suicide was less of a sin than same-sex relationships. He drank heavily one night and drove home on a narrow road, hoping to drive into the canyon. Fortunately, he made it home alive (Schoofs, 1). Now Coates is comfortable with his sexuality and does not regret his conversion experience merely because it helped him come to terms with himself. Another man, Brandon Bauer, could not be accepted as gay by his Mormon peers. He attempted suicide at age seventeen, and soon after, he was admitted into therapy under a Mormon psychologist.
He told Bauer that he was under Satans influence, that Satan was making him believe that he could not change. Bauers parents were instructed to remove all magazines that might contain male underwear models and to time his showers to prevent im from masturbating. He was told that God could forgive a murderer, but He could never forgive a homosexual. It haunts me to this day, he said. Bauer began to live a double life, one as a heterosexual with kids and a wife, and another as a homosexual who drinks and has sex.
Despite the fact that he now accepts his sexuality, he admits that conversion therapy has permanently scarred him (Schoofs, 3). Many people wonder if these therapies actually work. This issue was addressed by Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder, two New York psychologists. In their study, they found that five out of one hundred and fifty people tested are happy with their conversion, but each of these people still have homosexual urges (Miller, 2). It may be concluded that homosexuals are not cured but merely suppressing their feelings.
Often, as in the case of Kelly Kirby, the attendees end up meeting their future partners at the conversion meetings (Schoofs, 4). These ministries actually act as a transition place for many people to come out and accept their gayness, says Jeffrey Coates (Schoofs, 5). The gay curing movement is spreading because of actions like the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Councils joint effort in launching a $200,000 ad campaign. The full-page ads feature photographs of ex-gays, talk about the physical and spiritual consequences of sin and offer the solution of conversion therapy.
This kinder, gentler homophobia was the brainchild of Janet Folger, who on Nightline, confessed to supporting laws that criminalize homosexual sex, proving to some the true anti-gay hate behind the facade of Christian love (Schoofs, 1). In a study administered by Gallup, only thirteen percent of Americans onsidered homosexuality as innate in 1977. By 1996, that number had climbed to thirty one percent. The study also found that Americans are twice as likely to accept homosexuality if they believe it was not a choice (Schoofs, 2).
So, is it a choice Scientific evidence says no. The evidence we now have strongly suggests that this is determined. Its not purely genetic, but there doesnt seem to be any choice in the matter. One thing that is clear is that the brain of homosexuals and heterosexuals appear to be different. Studies suggest that homosexuals in many cases developed neurologically in a ay that made them more likely to become homosexual, reported University of Massachusetts (Amherst) professor of neuroscience Geert J. De Vries (Jerome, 2).
More simply put, Ask some straight guy to imagine what it would be like if he was told, You cant love women and now youre going to have to love a guy. Tell em that, and then they get it, says Dave Lemon, a man who tried for years to become heterosexual (Schoofs, 2). If it were a choice, why would someone choose it Despite improvements in openness, such as the public coming out of Ellen Degeneres, many still say homosexuality is wrong. They might point to anatomy. Our bodies are not made for homosexual sex, says Michael Johnston, president of the Kerusso Ministry, The anus was not to be penetrated (Schoofs, 3).
What most people dont seem to realize is that many heterosexuals practice anal sex, and that many gay men (not to mention lesbians) never do. Joseph Nicolosi, cofounder of NARTH, a secular psychological organization, said, I think the penis was made for a vagina: I dont think it was made for another mans rectum. When Nicolosi was asked if the penis was made for the hand or the mouth, other body arts where the penis is often found, he answered sharply, I dont want to get into that (Schoofs, 4).
Some insist it is morally wrong or they point to the Bible, taking the Scripture literally, and say it is a sin. Many believe marriage and relationships are to be between a man and a woman. Some Americans are concerned that the homosexual community will encourage their children to be gay or lesbian. The Boy Scouts recently fought to ban gay scoutmasters. Scout spokesman Gregg Sheilds said, A homosexual is not a role model for traditional family values (Peyser, 2).
As for the religious iscrimination, The gay and lesbian community is still the community you can blatantly attack and then hide behind the Bible, said Rebecca Isaacs, political director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (Revival of Hatred, 1). America is currently in a period of backward thinking, the one step back after our two steps forward. Tolerance is the only way the United States can become united at all. We must overcome our differences, end discrimination and join this fight together. No one deserves to be mistreated as homosexuals are today. Remember that all men were created equal- even gay men.
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