Catherine McCall MS, LMFT

Overcoming Child Abuse

Love & Marriage; Gays & Straights

New York's gift to gay teens.

Posted Jul 02, 2011

Michael Barbaro's front page article in last Sunday's New York Times states that "the story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples who wish to be wed."  I send a hearty thank-you to New York legislators, and celebrate the shift in public sentiment, though it's been long overdue--much too long for many, including my brother Paul.  Had he lived beyond the age of 39, we might be celebrating the legislation along with his 57th birthday today, but he didn't live beyond 39. He died a miserable death from complications of AIDS. 

Looking back on Paul's life, I remember with sadness how tortured he felt by his emerging sexuality during adolescence, and I wish he could've seen Kurt, on Glee, grapple with his, or that he could've watched Mitchell and Eric on Modern Family. But though we now have these mainstream TV shows, prejudice against homosexuals persists, and my sentiments about my brother extend to adolescents in communities and church congregations throughout the country, who suffer their homosexuality in silence, in fear, in confusion, in conflict, in loneliness. How are they doing?

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) reports some enlightening statistics:

  • In a class of 30 kids, 8 students (27% of the class) will be directly affected by the homosexuality of themselves or of one of their siblings or of one or both of their parents.
  • 50% of gay teens are rejected by their parents and 26% are forced to leave home.
  • Gay students hear anti-gay slurs as often as 26x/day, yet faculty intervene only 3% of the time
  • 27% of gay students have been physically hurt by another student
  • Gays and lesbians are 7x more likely to be victims of hate crimes
  • Gay students are 2-3x more likely to commit suicide

More data confirming how hard life continues to be for gay teens can be found at  www.pflagphoenix.org/eductingyouth_stats.html, or www.gayfamilysupport.com.

Last night we discussed these issues over dinner with friends. At the close of the evening one particularly perplexed friend kept asking the question that contunued to prey (pray?!) on each of our minds:"How can people still be against gay marriage?" So we googled the question, just to see what would come up, and found an excellent, detailed essay, which I recommend that you read, at www.bidstrup.com/marriage.htm . In it, Scott Bidstrup lists 14 of the usual reasons we hear about, followed by nine of what he sees as the real reasons people oppose gay marriage, along with his perspectives on each. His final sentence, ironically so fitting for 4th of July weekend, is this: "Let's get over our aversion to what we oppose for silly, irrational reasons, based on ignorance and faulty assumptions, and make ours a more just and honorable society, finally honoring that last phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance; "With liberty and justice for all."

New York's legislators have shown us how to do that: they allowed themselves to be moved by the emotional pleas of gays who wished to wed; they allowed themselves to be moved by the love they witnessed in these pleas. And as a result, teens in New York and all over the country could see that homosexual love can be powerful, and public, and transformative, and is worthy of respect.

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