Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

For those who do not know, October is LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Allies) History month. Also taking place in early October is National Coming Out Day. Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why do we need a National Coming Out Day or LGBTQA history month?” The answer is clear: because it’s important! It’s important to acknowledge the trials and tribulations our community has suffered through in order to be where we are today. Many people have been hurt and died both in silence and out and proud in order for our community to make strides towards a better world for us. Others have been hurt and died with loud voices fighting for our right to be not only viewed as equals, but treated as equals.
I believe there is no argument to be had about if being LGBTQA is “right” or “wrong.” Saying a person who is LGBTQA is “wrong” is the equivalent of saying a person with brown hair or green eyes is “wrong.” Most people who are LGBTQA do not chose their sexual orientation, but rather, discover it at some point in their life. Yes, sometimes a person’s environment can play a role in when or how they discover this part of themselves, but the way a person is nurtured is not the determining factor.
Living in a predominantly heterosexual world, sometimes it’s hard for people know they are gay at an early age. For instance, at the age of 12 my friend knew she was attracted to other women, but she didn’t have the vocabulary for what that meant. The term lesbian was not used in her home or at her school, so when she started to realize she was not romantically or sexually interested in men she felt confused because her friends liked men and she didn’t know or understand why she was not like them. It wasn’t until she spoke with someone from a different school that she was taught about different terms for sexual orientation. It was an “ah ha” moment for her. It is my experience that most people assume a person is heterosexual unless they are told otherwise. I am not saying anyone is a bad person because they may make this assumption; I am saying people make this assumption because society has taught them to do so.
Once my friend discovered her true self, she felt free, but life became harder for her because of how others viewed her. When she started coming out to some of her friends in high school, some of them told her she is going to hell and being LBGTQA is a sin. Some of them thought this meant she was attracted to them, and some of them supported her because they were her real friends. Luckily, her parents told her they will always love her and give her support no matter what and just because she is a lesbian does not mean she is worth any less.
Unfortunately, not all families are awesome like this and some LGBTQA individuals are disowned from their family. Some lose their jobs or custody of their children, and some are killed by a family member, member of their neighborhood, an acquaintance, or a complete stranger. Even further, sometimes people in the LGBTQA community take their own lives. People in the LGBTQA community commit suicide for many different reasons and it breaks my heart to know that those people felt so alone and so unloved that they felt they could not continue to live.
Have we made progress? Yes! Is there more work to be done? Yes! Our community no longer wants to be just “tolerated,” but accepted and celebrated. We are all people with thoughts and feelings and should be treated in such a way that we feel equal. Equality is a gift that should be given to everyone, but some people have decided that is not the case. Living in “the closet” is difficult, coming out is difficult, and sometimes being out and proud is difficult. I have great optimism that all of these will become easier in the future. Everyone deserves the chance to be out and proud without judgment or discrimination.
The purpose of writing this is to raise awareness in hope that more people become allies. The more people know the better they can understand. Having an understanding of who a person is can make a huge difference in any type of relationship whether it is personal or professional. Allies can influence the LGBTQA community in great ways. Helping others understand and accept diversity; standing up and speaking out in order to be change agents for the world. Every ally is important and each ally can make a positive difference. Please don’t wait for change – let’s make it happen!
Rebekah Balmer is a first year graduate student in the higher education counseling and student affairs program. She can be reached at rb649636@wcupa.edu.

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