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Coming out should not be trivialized

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Equating the experience of being conservative with the experience of being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is blatantly ignorant.
Equating the experience of being conservative with the experience of being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is blatantly ignorant.
Illustration by Cameron Hubbard

Thursday, Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day, a holiday marking the 30th Anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington of Lesbian and Gay Rights. Texas State students commemorated the day’s significance by raising awareness on campus.

Members of the various LGBTQIA+ pride clubs at Texas State spent the week on the Quad raising awareness for National Coming Out Day and the queer community in general. Queer, in this context, is used as a positive way to refer to people whose sexuality is located anywhere on the spectrum apart from straight.

The purpose of this day was not to make a statement against any person or organization but rather spread positivity and awareness through nonviolent public demonstration. It has been the norm for people in the queer community, as seen during Pride Month, to seek equality and recognition by making their voices heard in public spaces.

These students were not alone, however. Standing right next to the National Coming Out Day demonstration was a group of conservative students. Fit with signs and a symbolic door through which their own demonstrators walked through, these students declared Oct. 11 as their day to come out as conservative.

The implication here is that it is just as unsafe to be conservative as it is to be a member of the LGBT community. This is completely absurd. It is in incredibly poor taste to equate political opinions with sexuality or gender identity. Political stance changes with age, education and current events, but sexuality and gender identity do not.

Being publicly conservative does not result in the same prejudice as being publicly LGBTQIA+ does. In modern history, it has never been legal to discriminate against conservatives simply due to their political opinion but for decades it has been prevalent to do the same against queer employees on the basis of sexuality. Discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation is explicitly illegal in only 22 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

It has never been considered a mental illness to be conservative, yet the American Psychiatric Association stated that homosexuality was a mental illness until 1973. It did not take decades of lawsuits and eventually a Supreme Court ruling to allow conservatives to engage in consensual sex and marry, as was the case for same-sex couples leading up to Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, respectively. Likewise, queer and trans people have been victims of violence simply for existing in a way that conservatives have not.

Queer youth feel an immense pressure to find their place in society and when influences such as family and religion are added to the mix, the result is often major depression and anxiety that follows into higher education and onward.

This is why organizations such as The Trevor Project exist. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. According to polling from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 40 percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide, 92 percent of whom did so before the age of 25. In 2017, 40 percent of homeless youth in America identified as LGBT. This goes to show how insidious the hetero-normative status quo is in this country, especially among young people like the students here at Texas State.

Equating the experience of being conservative with the experience of being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is blatantly ignorant, especially at a time when all three branches of the federal government are led by Republicans and all state-level executive positions in Texas are held by Republicans.

Feeling isolated in one’s own beliefs is a valid concern, but appropriating a term famously associated with the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community and tacking it onto a much smaller problem is not a proper form of expression. It is a cheap tactic that trivializes the decades of hard work queer and trans people have done to earn respect in society.

– Max Foster is an English sophomore

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