I’m an 18-year-old gay conservative going to Vanderbilt University. I came out to my family, friends and all the rest this past summer. They all accepted me with open arms and were supportive of my coming out. It took me so long to come out because I was not sure how they would react, given that they used homophobic language frequently. However, when considering someone they cared about and knew deeply, as opposed to a caricature of stereotypes they have heard, they were just as supportive as anyone could have been. To contrast, I know that some people would have reacted differently, showing signs of homophobia even after their friends had come out. While I do not endorse this behavior, I understand that every belief comes from somewhere and not everyone has control over where their beliefs come from. Therefore, it is time that we become more accepting of homophobic people.
So, you might ask, if I am so thankful for people being so accepting, then why aren’t I quick to vilify homophobes? Simple: if I want others to accept me, shouldn’t I accept them? Different upbringings and experiences can cause people to become homophobic. But that doesn’t make them bad people. Picture living in a religious area that strongly interprets the Bible as being anti-gay. If all you were told growing up is that gay people are the work of the devil, you would not likely think any differently. This is especially likely when you do not personally know anyone who is out as gay.
If we continue to brand homophobes as an evil force that we have to defeat, then we will further alienate them and entrench them in their beliefs. We have to hear people out, not counterprotest their genuine beliefs. We must accept that not everyone thinks the same, and work to change homophobes’ views by showing them that gay people can be so much more outside of their sexuality, that their sexual preferences don’t define them.
Just as anti-gay violence and verbal abuse is wrong, ostracizing and fighting homophobes is wrong. If you seek to change people’s minds, denigrating them for their beliefs won’t get you there. Of course, I don’t endorse violence against people for their sexuality. However, this violence will continue if the alienation of homophobes continues. In order to stop homophobia, we need to start understanding where it comes from and not feed into it–not all of its proponents are violent radicals. Many of them are just people who can very well change their mind in response to new experiences.
For anyone who is gay, you should remember how long it took for you just to accept yourself.
Fortunately for gay people, acceptance for homosexuality has grown steadily in the recent years. For instance, according to a Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who think that same-sex marriages are morally acceptable has jumped from 44 percent in 2006 to 67 percent in 2018. A lot of this can be attributed to increased exposure: another Gallup poll found that, today, 8.2 percent of millennials identify as LGBT while just 3.5 percent of Generation Xers identify as LGBT. People fear what they do not know. As more and more people get to know gay people and are able to see them as no different than everyone else, they will become more accepting. As more and more people come to know people in the gay community, the gay community must be cognizant of what impressions it is leaving on those who are unfamiliar with it.
The LGBT movement was founded upon ideals of acceptance and love for everyone. These values are being lost. Being intolerant of someone because they have a different viewpoint is going against the exact ideology the LGBT movement is trying to promote. For anyone who is gay, you should remember how long it took for you just to accept yourself. Use that sentiment and think about how, when someone has not had the space to accept gay people, they are going to need some time, too.
Instead of labeling someone a bigot just for disagreeing with your lifestyle, let the person genuinely get to know you so they can see you are much more than your sexuality. By name-calling and demonizing homophobes, not only are you giving them another reason to dislike gay people, but you are also furthering a toxic us-versus-them dynamic. This same dynamic, of in-group and out-group, is exactly what homophobia looks like.
It is time for everyone to understand that gay people can be just like everyone else. But it is also time to accept homophobes so that we can help them get to know and accept gay people, too.