You can walk through any high school in North America and hear the words “dyke” and “faggot” spoken as if they were okay to use when it quite obviously isn’t.
The prevalence of this language is attributable to homophobia: something that has been present throughout history and has not yet diminished as much as other forms of discrimination such as racism or sexism.Western society often views itself as superior in all aspects of life, whether it’s economically, culturally or socially. But that’s not always true. The United States often calls itself the leader of the free world, while a quick glance reveals it to be anything but. The U.S. has clearly had a history of oppressing various groups, as demonstrated in the struggles of African-Americans through slavery and the civil rights movement; women during the suffrage movement; and now, with a culture that views homosexuality as some sort of threat.
Canada doesn’t have a much better track record than the U.S. on these issues. Canada also battled against the women’s suffrage movement and, although Canada did not support slavery, the government discriminated against Chinese workers by not allowing many into the country, treating them deplorably in unsafe working conditions and charging them a head tax. And of course, the government’s mistreatment of Aboriginal Peoples over the centuries stands out as a lasting source of shame.
Some people believe that, although we used to be racist and sexist, we have somehow changed and become a better society that doesn’t discriminate. This is simply not the case, as either through our ignorance or our purposeful intentions we have allowed one group to slip through the cracks of our allegedly egalitarian system. I refer of course to the LGBT community.
I am straight. I have friends who are straight, gay and bisexual. Still, I’ve personally seen and heard my friends being discriminated against as well as being the ones doing the discrimination. It just disgusts me that one person can think they are better than another on the basis of sexual orientation.
A person’s sexual preference doesn’t change who they are. Friends have come out to me and not one thing in the world changed. They were still my friends and all I learned is that they preferred people of the same gender as themselves.
Canadian acceptance of homosexuality, at least at a federal level, has been around for almost a decade. Canada instituted the Civil Marriage Act in 2005, which legally allowed the marriage of same-sex couples. And yet, the stigma still remains that homosexuality is somehow evil or unnatural.
The bullying and homophobia directed toward the LGBT community has a high price, as seen on Oct. 18, 2011 when an Ottawa teenager took his own life. Jamie Hubley was 15 and the only openly-gay boy at his high school. After enduring abuse at the hands of his peers for years, Hubley took his own life.
In a heartbreaking note to his family, he wrote, “Its just too hard. I dont want to wait 3 more years, this hurts too much.”
His death was not the first caused by homophobia, nor will it be the last unless our attitudes change.
Hillary Clinton has said that “gay rights are human rights.” Indeed this is true, and as such we must see that nothing, even one’s religious beliefs, can excuse violence against LGBT people.