Progress doesn’t equal equality

This year has been a momentous one for those in the LGBT community.

With the legalization of same-sex marriage and the resulting Kim Davis fiasco, Caitlyn Jenner and her reception of the Arthur Ashe ESPY award for courage and National Coming Out Week taking place a couple weeks ago, the LGBT community has been in the spotlight very much recently.

National Coming Out Week is simultaneously a reminder of the progress that has been made regarding how homosexuals are viewed and treated, and that still more needs to be done.

Unlike 40 or 50 years ago, it is no longer legal to fire someone or deny them a right to marry due to their sexual orientation. America has progressed to the point where the federal government will not tolerate discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner, Ellen DeGeneres and Michael Sam have helped raise acceptance for those in the LGBT community to an all-time high. Yet year round, even during National Coming Out Week, so many homosexuals decide to stay in the closet due to the social stigma that still surrounds homosexuality.

Senior California State University, Long Beach communications studies major Kurcel Joseph is a member of the LGBT community.

“There is still work to do in the hearts and minds of people in America,” Joseph said. “Yes, people are entitled to their opinions, but there is still a standard of reasoning and acceptance that needs to happen among people today. To be honest, there will never be a day when people are fully accepting of the LGBT community, due to people’s ingrained and personal opinions.”

People are entitled to believe that homosexuality is abnormal. Statistically speaking, they are correct but normality does not always equate to righteousness, though.

Slavery, gender oppression and religious persecution are all things that were “normal” at some point in society, but that didn’t make them right whatsoever. Those who view homosexuality as unnatural need to ask themselves when they decided to be attracted to the opposite sex. If the answer is “I don’t know” or “I was just born this way,” then isn’t it fair to say that people can naturally be born with an attraction to the opposite sex?

Even if people stopped ostracizing and looking down upon LGBT members, coming out would still be difficult due to the condemnation of homosexuality by Christianity and other religions. Joseph noted this as a reason for why he felt unaccepted by his fellow brothers in the Christian fraternity Alpha Gamma Omega.

“The two concepts of ‘Christian’ and ‘gay’ just do not mix in the mind of those that are a part of Christianity,” Joseph said. “Do not get me wrong, I love my brothers, but I also know that some of them do not, and maybe even will not, fully accept me because that’s what the Bible tells them. Being gay is a sin to them. To me, I see it as a part of me, and who am I to judge what God bestowed upon me. I do not blame my brothers because they have been taught to see homosexuality as a sin, but I do wish that they could hear me out and see the issue from my side of the field.”

Joseph’s statement is profound because of his understanding of why his brothers feel the way they do, so he does not hold contempt for them not accepting him. If Joseph’s fraternity brothers tried to be as understanding and loving as he is, then they’d see that his sexual orientation is a product of Joseph being the person that God made him to be.

Asking a devout religious person to condone homosexuality can be difficult because of their beliefs. However, if Joseph can be understanding and loving to people who won’t even accept him for who he is, then religious people should be understanding and loving to those who are born gay or have different views than them. If religious people did their part to be more understanding and less ostracizing, then announcing oneself as someone who is born with an attraction to the same sex would not be followed by stigmatization like it so often is.

The LGBT community should be proud of the immense progress that has been made. The fact that there needs to be a week dedicated to encouraging people to reveal their true selves, and yet people still don’t, shows that there is still room for more progress. Once someone can state that they are homosexual and it is viewed as casually and stigma free as someone stating they are heterosexual, then true equality will have been reached.

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