By Emily Depperschmidt
When my brother came out, my mother told me I had to have a husband so I could give her grandchildren. When my aunt found out her coworker was non-binary, she said it was “stupid”, and that someone is female or male. I hear around my house how sexuality and gender is a choice, something that you choose to be.
And I sat there, wondering how my brother felt to hear how his parents thought who he was was not really him, but only a choice. I cried myself to sleep one night terrified of telling my parents anything if all they would ever see me as was a choice. If that was how they saw my friends. If that was how they would label my brother for the rest of his life.
In the US, gay marriage is legal, but so is gay conversion “therapy.” While I can’t deny that support for the LGBTQ+ community has raised from 57% in 2001 to 62% in 2017, there is still a stigma against the people of the community.
Gay conversion “therapy” is the idea that being gay or bisexual is a mental illness, and the therapy is trying to change their sexual orientation to straight. Out of the 50 US states, it is only illegal in 15 states. Gay conversion therapy includes inducing nausea, vomiting, paralysis, and snapping a rubber band around the wrist when aroused by homoerotic images.
Along the lines of hurting people to change who they are, people in the LGBTQ+ community are 3 times more likely to to develop depression and anxiety than the average person due to the fact that most LGBTQ+ people have a fear of coming out and being discriminated against. Even though there is that 62% of people in the United States who support gay marriage, the fact that people are still terrified to come out, to the point that it can drive them to extreme mental illness says a lot.
Now, I’m not denying the progress the LGBTQ+ community has made. The acceptance rate for individuals has revealed that some amazing progress has been made since gay marriage was legalized in 2015. But, a recent poll reported that non-LGBTQ+ people were less comfortable with their LGBTQ+ neighbors than they were in 2014. The poll takers attributed this to the Trump administration, which exhibited an increase in bias, attacks, and erasure of the LGBTQ+ community.
This isn’t saying that only the Trump administration is to blame. But it definitely is a contributor to the decrease in LGBTQ+ acceptance rates. Trump, at the beginning of his run for presidency said he supported the community, but his vice-president, Mike Pence, has openly opposed the community and even supports conversion therapy, which mentioned before, is damaging to mental health.
With leaders in power that have opposed the LGBTQ+ community, and how people are easily influenced, the public’s opinion of the community can change easily. But, it isn’t all negative. A survey of LGBTQ+ Americans showed that 92% of them thought that society had become more accepting of them. And that’s great that people are feeling more accepted, but what about that 8%?
Over the years, the LGBTQ+ community has become increasingly more accepted, but it still isn’t positively received by all. It probably won’t ever be. But we can do more to make people feel comfortable about coming-out, about just living as themselves with no fear of backlash or being isolated from society. We have gay marriage legal. A wonderful first step. But the next step of making people feel comfortable is the most important one.