A recent post on Amar’s World was directed at gay teens, with the message that there is hope and they are not alone. A very inspirational and needed message and, in that post, Amar provided a link to a site called "Give a Damn". This site represents a network of people, gay and straight, dedicated to equality and gay rights. For anyone who feels alone or that no one cares, this site is an excellent source of hope and inspiration. I however had a different reaction to the site. What it showed me was that, even though there are many people who are caring and accepting, there is still far more hatred out there than I realized. Of course I know there are many homophobes out there and we still have to deal with hatred in many ways. I suppose what really surprised me was how little legal protection there is in the United States. The cases of workplace discrimination were especially jarring. Apparently in more than half the US states, discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation is still perfectly legal. That means you can be refused a job, or even fired, just for being gay.
I am very lucky to live in Canada. Here we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which offers a very broad spectrum of legal protections against discrimination of almost any kind, including race, religion, language, colour, age, sex and mental or physical disability. While not explicitly stated in the original version, charter rights are understood to apply to any group with traits that cannot be changed or should not be reasonably expected to change to get equal rights (such as religion). Sexual orientation is understood to be included in these rights and this has been confirmed by case law since at least 1998. It has the legal force similar to the Bill of Rights in the US - any laws have to respect the charter, otherwise they are ruled unconstitutional. It is because of the charter, at least in part, that same-sex marriage is legal here. Since many rights are reserved for married couples, the supreme court ruled that not allowing civil marriages to a couple based on sexual orientation was a violation of the charter and essentially compelled the government to do something to remedy the situation - the easiest way being to legalize gay marriage. Another important effect of the charter is that it prevents employment discrimination. If an employer does fire you for being gay, you can sue them and it is quite likely that you will win. The charter has been in effect since 1982, with the equality provisions taking force two years later, so I have no knowledge of how things were before these protections were available. This is why I was shocked by the lack of protection in the USA. It is doubly difficult because in many of the states that lack protection, there is also a deep current of hatred and bigotry that runs through the population. I am horrified at the large number of stories of parents who reject their children who come out. I understand that it may be a disappointment to you, maybe even a shock, but your child is the same person he/she always was. And NO, your child did NOT choose this, it just is. That might be the real danger of believing homosexuality to be a choice; parents may see their kid being gay as disrespect.
I also learned that the toughest time to be gay seems to be in high school. I certainly understand why and I know that, even though things are more tolerant here in Canada, I don’t believe it would make it easier for a gay student, as high school students are cruel pretty much anywhere. The only difference is that I would hope the school authorities are more likely to respond appropriately when homophobic bullying is brought to their attention. Personally I was not out during high school, and was not even aware of my orientation in a conscious way. High school was still a difficult time for me, since I was not very social and a bit of an outcast. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been to be openly gay as well. I am actually glad that I waited until an older age to come out. I had more confidence and was in a situation where I was more able to control who knows about it. In school, if somebody knows, then everyone knows. At this stage, very few people in my real life know - apart from my parents - and have decided that I will only come out if the topic is broached. Otherwise I don’t think my sexual orientation matters all that much in my relationships with family and friends.
I do not necessarily gear my blog toward a youth audience so I’m not sure if I have any young gay readers, but if I do, I would like to add my voice to the several already voiced and tell you that you are not alone. There are plenty of people out there that do care and will support you. It can really help to talk to someone. Ideally that someone could be your parents; if you don’t feel comfortable telling them just yet, try someone else you trust. It can be a friend, a relative, a teacher or counsellor at school - anyone that you feel comfortable with. I am publishing a few links here - others can be found on the sidebar at Amar’s World.
Give a Damn: http://www.wegiveadamn.org
ChadzBoyz: http://www.chadzboyz.com/chadz - a Canadian-based support site
PFLAG Canada: http://www.pflag.ca - Parents For Lesbians And Gays
For more information on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, visit:
http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/1.html - The Official legal document
http://www.charterofrights.ca - virtual tour of the charter, including explanations and case law
In closing: just yesterday I purchased a book I first heard about over a month ago about being gay and Jewish. I have only started reading it and am already blown away. I will be writing more about this once I have finished reading it, but for now I will simply mention the name, author and that I would highly recommend this book to any of my readers.
Mourning and Celebration: Jewish, Orthodox and Gay Past and Present. By K. David Brody
visit the author’s website at: http://www.MourningAndCelebration.com
To end this post on a brighter note, I found another link that has nothing to do with today’s topic. It is highly entertaining, especially for writers and those who appreciate writing. Visit and enjoy!
How to Write Good: http://courses.cs.vt.edu/~cs3604/support/Writing/writing.caveats.html