We tell our children to be themselves. We teach them to celebrate what make them unique, what makes them different, what sets them apart from everyone else.
We tell them to blaze their own trail. We tell them they can be whoever they want, do whatever they want in life and encourage them to follow their dreams and their heart.
We say things before they’re even born, things like, “I don’t care if I have a boy or a girl, just that they’re happy and healthy.”
Yet it seems that some of us don’t really mean that.
June is Pride Month in America, a time to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan which was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in our country. Throughout the month, cities across America host a variety of events including parades and concerts, workshops, family picnics and memorials. People of all ages and backgrounds take part as a way to not only acknowledge the hurdles the LGBTQ community has overcome and still faces, but as a way to show support.
As of March 2022, state legislators had proposed more than 230 bills aimed at limiting rights of LGBTQ Americans. The ACLU lists all legislation currently affecting LGBTQ rights across the country, including those targeting transgender and non-binary people for discrimination, criminalizing health care for trans youth, restricting access to bathrooms and the ability to play sports, and allowing for religiously motivated discrimination against trans people.
In addition, the FBI reports hate crimes based on sexual orientation have risen in recent years. In 2020, the agency reported 20 percent of hate crime victims were targeted because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias. But since reporting hate crimes to the FBI isn’t mandatory, rates likely represent only a fraction of such violence.
This column isn’t about persuading anyone to change how they feel. If homosexuality makes you uncomfortable, that’s fine. If you don’t understand those who are transgender or consider themselves non-binary, that’s fine.
But at the very least, we should all be able to understand that for those in the LGBTQ community, reality can be difficult. They are the target of discrimination in several states around the country. They have a higher rate of being targeted for hate crimes. They are mocked for celebrating who they are.
Imagine knowing as a child you don’t fit the mold. You know you’re different. Yet you don’t feel like you have anyone you trust enough to discuss these feelings.
For so many in the LGBTQ community, this is their reality. They don’t feel they can truly be themselves because they don’t think they will be accepted by the very people who say they love and support them, those who always encouraged them to be themselves.
If we really believe our kids can be whoever they want, if we really just want them to be happy and healthy, why aren’t all of us supportive of what makes them unique? Those in the LGBTQ community are not looking for special treatment, they’re just looking for acceptance, support and equality.
And that’s something we should all have.
— Rachel Brougham is the former assistant editor of the Petoskey News-Review. You can email her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Rachel Brougham: We can — and should — celebrate what makes us unique