If you haven’t been living under a rock these days, you’ve probably heard the big news by now: The United States has finally decided to legalize same-sex marriage in the entire country! Woohoo! About time, America! This is a huge, absolutely ground-shaking event. It’s quite literally history in the making, and we’re living it. We’re directly witnessing a ginormous, significant twist of how society is viewing the highly controversial matter of same-sex relationships, and this newly established freedom is representing the advancement our world is making in the direction towards acceptance. But as awesome as all this is… It’s still not enough.
Don’t get me wrong, all these new rights are amazing, of course, and they truly are a huge step up from where we used to be, but there is still a long way to go. Sure, laws are being passed and human privileges are expanding, but is our society really free of homophobia? I’m constantly realizing that there are still pieces of inequality harnessed within the structure of our everyday lives, many of which we are barely aware of.
There’s no doubt that queer people have experienced a lot of unjustified discrimination in the past, and although the world has definitely come a long way overtime, it can still be difficult for non-heterosexual individuals to feel the same ease and comfort that all human beings should be fully entitled to. Homophobia and prejudice seem to have had roots in our society for so long that extracting them from civilization completely can prove to be quite the task.
For example, I’m sure all of us have heard the words “that’s so gay” being applied in one way or another. This statement is usually presented in a derogatory fashion, which has always baffled me. I simply can’t seem to wrap my head around this comment, nor can I understand the negativity that comes with it. Why is a sexual orientation of all things being used in the form of an insult? Is it something to be ashamed of? Is it wrong or demeaning? What confuses me even more is how people actually take offense to this comment, as if it’s the worst thing anybody could say to them. This remark has become quite common in modern day environments, and it’s always being uttered thoughtlessly, the morals behind these words completely overlooked. Comments like these are reinforcing the idea that being “gay” is embarrassing, and that the word alone is somehow worth cringing away from.
A lot of the times, we have no idea how our words may come across the wrong way. We end up carelessly hurting others without giving it a second thought. The worst part is, the damaging impact of what we say don’t usually come to our attention because degrading comments and hurtful slurs are so frequently thrown around that nobody bothers to examine the deeper meaning behind them anymore.
But hold up. There’s more.
While verbal expressions carry a lot of weight, simple actions and unspoken gestures also have the potential to be maliciously cruel, sometimes speaking even louder than direct insults. I recall this one time when I was with a few friends doing some shopping downtown, and I saw two men walking down the street hand in hand. They appeared happy enough and weren’t doing any harm, and yet I couldn’t help but notice that a few people turned and stared for several moments longer than what’s normally considered polite, and their expressions held just a hint of distaste as they exchanged a few quiet words with those around them.
After seeing their reactions, I had to take a moment to revaluate just how free our “free” country is. I live in Canada, a place that’s widely renowned for its well-mannered and courteous people. And yet, even in such a supposedly positive country, disrespect still exists toward those who are socially set apart from the majority. I could not have been sure whether the couple had noticed the responses around them, but I remember feeling a deep desire to reach out and connect with those who continue to suffer from inequity, regardless of how subtly the discrimination is expressed. All those little words and actions really do matter, and they paint a greater meaning in the whole picture.
When it comes down to it, double standards and poisonous ideas are so intricately woven into society itself that our culture practically cultivates them.
To give you an idea of what I mean, let’s take a look at another concept that I’ve never been able to comprehend: the “coming out” process. Non-heterosexual people are often expected to come out of the closet, but honestly why is there a need for a coming out in the first place? Straight people aren’t burdened with the need to go through such a situation because heterosexuality is viewed as the norm and the default. They don’t have to sit their family and friends down and directly address their sexuality by making some huge announcement. The way I see it, neither should anybody else. All humans should be able to show their sexualities openly without being treated as if they’re abnormal and peculiar, and yet still be loved regardless of what they may personally identify themselves as. As much as I admire anybody who is able to stand before an audience and reveal something that others may be against, someday I hope the idea of “coming out” fizzles away when people no longer feel the need to do so because they were never hiding in the first place.
As you can see, there are details in our everyday behavior and social norms that have more power than we tend to believe. Due to our insensitivity, we are still perceiving the LGBTQ community through irregular lenses instead of thoroughly understanding that they are on the same tier as everyone else, that they shouldn’t be treated any differently, and that they should not be subjected to standards and expectations that do not apply to others. Everyone is equal and it’s about time all humans are seen in the same way.