Equality needed away from UWEC, too

Story by Tommy Kishaba

National Coming Out day has come and gone, just another day for the majority of Americans, and yet I cannot stop dwelling on it.

The fanfare, the loud club music and the overwhelming rainbow flag may not be my style, but I very much appreciate the message behind it, and the number of non-gay-identified students who showed their support for their LGBTQ classmates. It’s a welcome reminder that I (and the rest of us gay folks here at UWEC) have a place where I am accepted and that our generation is full of people who are equally accepting. For that, I thank everyone involved in the day’s events.

Unfortunately, progressive college students like (the majority of) you aren’t the ones passing legislation, and I find myself in a nation that supposedly advocates freedom and human rights in which my basic right to marry is withheld by those in power. At this point in my life I have mulled over this issue, written about it and debated it so much that when people continue to express their opposition, I lose the capacity to use all the right words. I need to express my initial outrage, the ensuing confusion and the fleeting afterthought of pity.

What seems like common sense — allowing tax-paying, contributing members of society to marry a member of the same sex — is still considered an abomination by the religious right that so fervently advocates against my rights.

Gay marriage is no longer in the spotlight of general public concern, and to be honest the actual act of getting married is the part I am least concerned about as well. This is an issue that is representative and deeply connected to so much more than just giving all Americans equal rights.

A study conducted by the University of San Francisco in 2009 shows that gay teens are four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and teens rejected by their families for having the courage to come out are up to nine times as likely to attempt suicide.

It can be lonely being a teenager, but especially lonely to be a gay teenager in a conservative area, and even more so in a conservative family.

When bigoted and narrow-minded people are the ones yelling the loudest to ‘uphold the sanctity of marriage’ and ‘protect their children,’ they not only teach their children to think the same way, but alienate gay youth and convince them there is something inherently wrong with them.

It’s not a lot to ask, really, to be treated as an equal. America is not a theocracy, no matter what the Tea Party may say, and it sounds ridiculous when I hear we are out to “teach” children to be gay (a fear I have actually heard vocalized). I would also absolutely LOVE to hear how my loving, monogamous marriage to a man would detract from the “sanctity” of a non-religious social institution.

When homosexuals are treated as being undeserving of the same rights heterosexuals enjoy, it is the most basic form of perpetuating hatred, which this world has more than enough of.

On the Eau Claire campus, it is easy to forget that so much prejudice still exists in our country, but just last year the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 7-0 to uphold the decision made by voters to ban gay marriage back in 2006.

The majority of current university students were ineligible to vote when it was first brought to the ballots, so I am urging you now: vote. Vote for what you believe in, vote for any and all issues that concern you — and I hope this concerns you.

 

Tommy Kishaba is a freshman print journalism major and freelancer at The Spectator.