Things are heating up around the country with the Supreme Court hearing arguments for Prop 8 and DOMA this week. As a married gay woman who is starting a family with my wife, I'm feeling very vulnerable that my rights and the future of equality in this country hang in the hands of nine Supreme Court justices, one of whom is a self-admitted homophobe.
With all the coverage of what's going on in D.C., you can't escape the ignorant comments: homosexuality is a choice; God hates fags; marriage equality is harmful for children (more about why that is totally not true here and here); allowing gays to marry will ruin straight marriages (If your marriage is really so weak that the marriage of total strangers can tear yours apart, I think you have some other issues you should be focusing your attention on, but I digress…) and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
These sentiments are full of hate. And fear. They are hurtful, to say the least.
But the one that irks me the most is "homosexuality is a choice." The people who say this have absolutely no idea how challenging it is to be a gay person living in this world. Now hold on, this isn't a pity party, and sure, it could always be worse - and it absolutely is for the trans* community. But if you can seriously think that anybody would choose to live a life littered with legal discrimination, a life that increases the chance of being physically harmed by others, a life that is illegal and can actually get you killed in certain countries throughout the world, you are out of your mind.
It's true that I live a pretty cushy gay life with my wife in New York State. I'm out at my job. My family has fully accepted me from Day 1, never having wavered in their love and support of me. There's only an issue with some of my wife's family, so I guess that's not the worst (though, it is definitely the most painful). And I know many happy, healthy, and successful gay people and couples. We rise. Above it all.
But it's not without struggle.
When I think about my future children, I know that if any of them are gay, I will love them unconditionally. I will stand with them and fight for them. No. Matter. What.
But there are certain obstacles they would face being gay, and while I would love my children no matter what, their lives would be harder. It's a simple fact, and here's why:
1. Lack of 1,138 Rights In 2004, the General Accounting Office for the Federal Government calculated that there are 1,138 rights associated with civil marriage. These rights are denied to same-sex couples.
2. Gays Can Be Legally Fired in 29 States Simply for Being Gay In the majority of the states in this country - 29, in fact - an employer can legally fire a gay employee for no other reason than being gay. That's in more than half of this country. Now, in 2013.
3. Higher Suicide Rates Throughout all age groups, but especially among youth, gay people kill themselves more frequently than their straight peers. Low self-worth, familial rejection, and bullying are behind these numbers.
4. Constantly Explaining Yourself I can't tell you how many times I've had to repeat the word "wife" when explaining who my wife is - to the cable guy, the representative on the phone, cashiers, nurses - the list goes on. And whenever I met someone new, "the conversation" has to happen: Yes, I'm gay; Yes, I'm married to a woman; Yes, we're going to be moms.
5. Health Care Discrimination Thirteen percent of LGBT seniors have been denied health care and/or believe that they have received inferior care because of their sexual orientation.
6. Housing Discrimination Gay Americans can be discriminated against in renting or buying housing because the Fair Housing Act does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases.
7. Being Gay is ILLEGAL in 76 Countries Homosexuality is straight-up illegal in 76 countries throughout the world. Penalties for gays include jail time and even death.