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Paul Pellerito

October 1996

It's Your Life

"Homosexuality is a choice, same sex marriages should not be allowed"

Hearing that was disturbing. But it was a statement I had heard many times before. Even though it's so far from the truth, so far from logic. But that's what the person said. I heard it on a call-in show on one of our local TV stations as they debated same sex marriage. This was on the same day in September that the Senate said a firm NO to any gay or lesbian couple wanting to marry. That was the last comment allowed. No rebuttal, nothing more, the anchor simply said that that was all the time they had and led into a commercial break.

I can picture in my mind the gay youth across the West Michigan who heard those words; I can see the twelve and thirteen year olds, who haven't yet been able to cope with who they are, hearing this as they then turn the channel back to cartoons or whatever. I can almost feel their self-hate grow even more. I can also read into the message our government is sending to gay youth all over the country.

It's bad to be you. It's wrong. We won't allow it.

Whether Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or anyone else on Capitol Hill likes it, that's the message they're sending to us. It's rather hard to accept yourself when you know the government doesn't even approve.

But I guess that just adds to the list of friends, religious leaders, parents and teachers that wouldn't approve of a gay youth in their school, home or church. Ignorance is everywhere, and intolerance is quick to follow. Sometimes it seems hopeless, the odds overwhelming, but if there is anything left for me to believe in, it's the fact that each and every person has the power within him (or her, of course) to change his or her situation for the better.

It's your life. Do something to change it.

It starts with action. Everyone has the power to respond to circumstances in a positive or negative way. If you hear friends gay-bashing at lunch time, you can either ignore it, or do something about it by correcting their ignorance. I realize that taking a stand against gay-bashing may be hard for those of you who are trapped deeply in the closet, but the easiest way for you to combat gay bashing is simply not to participate. If your friends are making gay jokes, don't laugh. Most of them aren't funny anyway, and when your friends don't hear you laughing, that might get them to stop. After all, we're not friends with people because of their ability to amuse us, it's our ability to amuse them that makes it fun. Once you stop laughing at the jokes, stop enjoying the gay-bashing, stop participating, maybe they will, too.

So, you're sitting back thinking that this is all well and good if you live in Massachusetts where it's against the law to say bad stuff about gays, or San Francisco where no one cares anyway. No. This stuff works for me, here in Jenison; a Christian, middle class conservative town. There're more Jenisons in this country than there are San Franciscos. You've got to have confidence in yourself, and you've got to have a drive to change things for yourself.

But remember, if you're already out and people don't like it, it's their problem. Homophobia isn't really our problem at all, it's just that we're the only ones willing to do something about it (because it effects us the most). If a friend can't get past the fact that you're queer, dump them and move on. It's their problem, not yours. We all have enough problems of our own and shouldn't go making other people's problems ours.

As for the Christian right, ask them this question:

Which is more wrong: for a child to grow up loathing himself because he is gay, or a child to grow up gay and happy? Which is better: for a teen to reject their friend because she is a lesbian, or for a teen to love and accept her friend regardless of sexuality? Which teaches children what is right: a teacher to be fired from his job because he is gay and the Bible says it's wrong, or for a teacher to be able to continue in the career he always wanted even though he loves another man?

I'm sure everyone reading this knows the answers to these questions, but our leaders should consider this. There is beginning to be a distinct difference in this country between what is believed to be morally right and with is actually right.

Almost four years ago, Bill Clinton stood in front of the nation and declared that there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right with America. If this is true then our legislators need to stop sending the message to queer youth that the person who they are is not only wrong, but illegal, and start telling them that it doesn't really matter.

Because it shouldn't. We all know that.

And you, the queer youth of America, need to start telling your friends, family and teachers that there is nothing wrong with being gay.

Once we start using the power we all have within us to change our situations for the better, then the queer youth, even the queer adults, will find their situation a whole lot better.

Remember, the future lies in our hands.

See you next month.

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