Jack B.K. Pennsylvania

On the Significance of the Denial of LGBT Rights

LGBT people are constantly discriminated against all over the world, whether that be within the society of a certain place or whether that be the denial of certain rights and services from a government. Despite last year's legalization of same-gender marriage, we still have a lot to accomplish.

Dear Next President,

At the end of the year 1950, homosexuals in America were considered a security risk because their identity was deemed a mental illness. On June 26, 2015 Americans received the right to marry who they wish regardless of their sexual orientation. This is what progress looks like, but it is not where it stops. Despite this country’s progress in the last 66 years with LGBT rights, there are still many deeply rooted societal issues preventing the acceptance of LGBT people into American society.

As a nearly seventeen year old transgender and bisexual student and citizen of the United States, I have seen, been affected by, and experienced discrimination against myself, and against my fellow LGBT students and teenagers. It is no secret that people are denied service in restaurants, denied the ability to adopt a child, and denied their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I will not keep it a secret that I have feared for my safety when I enter a gender specific public bathroom because I did not know how I would be perceived by the people inside. I will not pretend that I do not wait to call someone a friend and trust them until I know that they will accept and respect my identity.

I will also not hide that it is the duty of this country to provide freedom to all - all - of its people, to make sure all people receive the same protections and privileges from the government as everyone else. Mr. or Mrs. President, I am writing to you not to beg for my rights or my family’s rights or my friend’s rights or my neighbor’s rights, but to ask for an increased urgency on the rights and freedoms of the American LGBT community. From my own perspective, it appears that our federal government has lacked the motivation to pass social protections for LGBT individuals as many states still continue to deny LGBT people services and make daily living a struggle by legally discriminating against them.

There is no reason for there to be a hesitation in giving LGBT people the same rights as other people. There is no justified reason for preventing LGBT people from participating in the same social activities as their straight and cisgender (someone who identifies with the gender they were given at birth) counterparts. Adopting a child or finding a job or getting a place to live shouldn’t be more difficult than they already are, and there’s no reason to make them more challenging for specific groups of people.

American people have a voice in our government and a say on what happens in their own lives; it is why this country was founded. LGBT people have a voice too, and though our government does not take away our ability to voice our opinions and experiences, and to ask for equal protections and rights, it does diminish our ability to be heard. We are denied the ability to change our gender on our birth certificate, or have people refusing to let us adopt children when, according to AdoptUSKids.org, there are over 100,000 children ready to be adopted. We are not only neglected by our government and denied rights which other people have, but people who agree that LGBT people do not deserve these rights have their views validated by a high authority, and that puts the LGBT community in danger.

LGBT rights and protections do not need to be given out all at once, as it might cause a lack of care for each right and allow there to be loopholes for people to fall through and continue to discriminate. Not to mention, also, that it is a huge step forward for society, and it may be too quick of a step for everyone to adjust to properly. With this, though, LGBT rights and protections should still be verified at a constant rate. We should not have to wait a long time to receive our human rights. Why can’t transgender people use the bathroom that matches their gender? Why can’t LGBT couples adopt? As aforementioned, there should be no hesitation in giving LGBT people their rights. There’s no reason for it.

Many people in the United States, including politicians, believe that LGBT people should not have the right to marry - despite its legality - or adopt or join military services or even keep their jobs or get one in the first place. It is believed by some people that homosexuality is a mental illness, and the same can be thought of transgender people. LGBT people are seen as other, unnatural, as “it” or as attention seekers. Many deeply religious people see LGBT people as sinners. These people specifically have had an effect on the rise of Religious Restoration Acts in certain states which protect the people’s right to practice their religion, and many have given people the right to deny LGBT people service based on religious beliefs.

I want to propose a hypothetical situation for you, Mr. or Mrs. President: imagine if you yourself were LGBT. Imagine that you went to a pizza shop in Indiana with your same-gender partner, the employee noticed that you were in a homosexual relationship, and because of this decided not to serve you a simple slice of pizza. It’s just pizza, and yet you are denied this simple service because of the beliefs that the server has on your sexual orientation, which is unrelated to eating pizza. This is a simple example, but how would you feel? What would be going through your head if you had the intention of getting pizza, but instead left with a new story to add to your list of discriminatory experiences?

LGBT people are not all regularly denied pizza, but we are regularly faced with the reality of prejudice. Many people - to add on to the previously mentioned beliefs - want to assume that LGBT people have more rights than they really do. According to a 2013 poll by YouGov, almost 70% of people believe it to be illegal to fire someone for being LGBT despite the fact that it is, in fact, legal. This perhaps may be a reason why America is taking so long to give us our basic civil and human rights. People, including government officials, believe the LGBT people have these rights already.

It is evident that we are actively trying to give LGBT people their deserved rights and protections. Though sometimes it feels like it is only the LGBT people speaking out against the lack of a right or protection, rather than how the government is working on a bill or law preventing some of the discrimination against LGBT people.

These protections are working their way into our society at a dangerously slow pace. LGBT people continuously are at risk for harassment, suicide, and homelessness. We are still unable to adopt, use the right bathrooms, and be ourselves in public. This denial or lack of rights validates the ideas many people possess which are against LGBT people. This validation endangers LGBT individuals as these people become more likely to want to express their thoughts publicly. Perhaps in order to further protect people from LGBT-based discrimination, we can pass more laws and protections for LGBT people and influence people to show us the most basic respects.

We need to progress further in LGBT rights in this country, and progress quicker. Recent progress such as the acceptance of transgender people in the military, and the Department of Defense laying out the responsibilities of military servants and transgender members - contrary to deeming it a mental or physical defect - is a great example of what LGBT rights and protections should look like. If we can layout what workplace discrimination looks like and outlaw it, or engender an understanding of the transgender identity in lawmakers, we can give protections to transgender people using gender specific public bathrooms. We can accomplish so much needed progress for the LGBT community through education and close examination.

Many people like to make assumptions about what it’s like to be LGBT in a time when you can never tell who will accept you or be discriminatory. However, as an LGBT person myself, I can attest to many experiences and realities which many people in the LGBT community face daily. Almost any LGBT person can tell you an instance when they have heard or read something that a person has said that is discriminatory. It’s a problem that this is such a common prejudice and such an accepted belief. Why should I, or any LGBT person have to feel lesser or inferior to straight and cisgender people because of who we are and of something we cannot control?

I will not beg for my rights, but I will do everything I can, Mr. or Mrs. President, to convince you and the rest of the United States government that LGBT issues are real issues, and that “gay rights are human rights.” And so I leave you with many ideas to think about, and to consider how they affect so much of the country. I ask you to reflect on how putting off LGBT rights may affect the country. What will happen if we continue to validate the prejudiced views against gay and transgender citizens? How will they affect me? How will they affect you?

Sincerely and respectfully,

Jack B.K.

Science Leadership Academy at Beeber

Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber - E band

Students from Ms. Burrows-Stone's English 3 class at SLA Beeber write persuasively about issues that matter to them in the 2016 election.

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