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The United States of Gaymerica

12 October 2009

Homosexuality may be more accepted than ever before in the United States of America but that does not mean homosexuals have been made equal under the law.  Gays and lesbians are still not allowed to serve in the military openly, donate blood, get married, adopt, or openly serve the civilian workplace (many state laws do not include sexual orientation in their definition of discrimination).  Couple those issues with the fact that gay people are more likely to have acts of violence committed against them, are at a higher risk of suicide, and gay youths are 28% more likely to drop-out of school.  The image these facts begin to paint is not one of acceptance or tolerance, but one of discomfort and misunderstanding.

In my personal experience, I’ve had a few brushes with intolerance.  I was honorably discharged from the United States Navy as a result of my sexual orientation in 2001.  I’ve been fired from two civilian jobs for what I believe was blatant discrimination.  Most recently, a friend was interested in adopting a child and received preliminary information in the mail.  Item number three on the application was a question asking the applicant to define their sexual orientation.  Overall, discrimination rarely rears its ugly head in my daily life.  Part of that I attribute to living in an extremely gay friendly neighborhood.  South Miami Beach is probably best known for two things; the Versace mansion and homosexuals.

What does it mean to be gay in America today?  One of the first things that came to mind is the generally larger incomes.  In gay households with two adults, according to a study conducted in 1997, gay households made 41% above the nation average.  Gay couples are earning more money with less financial responsibility, such as children, which means they have more disposable income.

Gay Income

Why our local, state, and federal governments are not using this extraordinary opportunity to their advantage is beyond me.  If, for example, gay marriage were legalized nationwide, we could look forward to a small economic boom.

Gay Marriage

Gay Marriage

On the other side of that same coin, being a gay couple is often far more expensive than being a straight couple.  This topic was explored in a recent New York Times article.  It takes a number of variable into account including location, taxation, child-care costs, health insurance rates, employment rates, and more.  The article suggests that a gay couple should expect to spend between 41k and 460k dollars more than a straight couple when living the same lifestyle.  Granted, the gap is over 400k dollars as a result of the many variations in lifestyle and legal precedent.

Gay couples often make more but spend more as well.  However, doing so does not imply a better quality of life.  Studies show that gay individuals are less likely to have health insurance, more likely to develop a preventable disease, and less likely to receive public aid.  It is important to keep in mind that there are drastic difference between a gay individual and a gay couple.  Statistics related to gay couples reflect a healthier lifestyle and income as a result of non-discriminatory legislation while the numbers related to gay individuals which indicate a lower quality of life are, arguably, a direct result of discriminatory legislation.

Baptist children at equal rights protest

Baptist children at equal rights protest

It could be said that the main reason for the denial of full equality among the LGBT community is the influence of religious institutions.  The Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Lutheran, Evangelical, and many other churches spend large amounts of money every year countering what they call “The Homosexual Agenda.”  Somehow, in a  country which claims its clear separation between houses of government and houses of God, we have churches dictating which groups of people receive rights and which don’t by way of elected officials.

An argument often offered by the anti-homosexual movement is “being gay is a choice.  There is no gay gene.”  So far, this statement is half true.  While I certainly did not choose to be gay, it is true that a gay gene has yet to be identified.  Many of the top geneticists believe that no-such gene exists and the best explanation geneticists seem to be able to offer is as follows:

Genes + Brain Wiring + Prenatal Hormonal Environment = Temperament
Parents + Peers + Experiences = Environment
Temperament + Environment = Sexual Orientation

Genes may play a role in a persons sexuality but they are by no means the direct or all-encompassing deciding factor.  This equation, of sorts, shows that homosexuality among true homosexuals is not a choice.  Stepping back and looking at life around the globe, not just humanity, it becomes clear that homosexuality is quite normal.  Homosexual activity occurs in all species of the Earth which have two sexes.   No species on the planet is invulnerable to homosexuality, humanity is certainly no different.

A Chinstrap Penguin

A Chinstrap Penguin

On the topic of the animal kingdom, let’s use a famous pair of penguins as an example for humanity.  Roy and Silo are two male penguins at Central Park Zoo who coupled.  When Chinstrap Penguins mate, they have a need to raise young.  Since two male penguins can not produce off-spring, the Zookeepers provided an unhatched egg to the couple.  Roy and Silo cared for their egg as any other penguin couple would and eventually hatched a healthy baby girl penguin named Tango.  Tango eventually grew to mating age and coupled with another female penguin.  Not only was a same-sex couple able to care for offspring but the offspring also displayed homosexual tendencies.

These penguins were given the opportunity to be a family by zookeepers who were more interested in providing a healthy and happy life to their penguins than they were in correcting their behavior.  If only gay humans had such champions.

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk

If I were to brainstorm a list of people who have acted as champions on behalf of the LGBT community, the list is remarkably short.  It contains, depending on your definition of “champion,” between three and eight names.  Among them is Harvey Milk.  California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, today proclaimed that May 22nd (Milk’s birthday) will now be known as Harvey Milk Day.

We need more leaders in the gay community.  Openly gay politicians, corporate executives, sports figures, actors, or anyone in the public spotlight.  Anyone who can put a familiar face on homosexuality needs to step up and help lead us in the right direction.  The gap between gay and straight, single and coupled, must be closed for the benefit of all Americans.  Equal rights should not be perceived as special rights.  Likewise, gay rights activists must be careful to not ask for more than what other groups have.  It’s a fine line we must walk on our march to equality.

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