True acceptance missing in BC community
Published: Monday, March 25, 2002
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
This past week I was fortunate enough to attend Judy Shepard’s moving presentation on the legacy of her son Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student fatally beaten because he was gay. I have long been a supporter of the gay rights movement, a straight ally to what I believe the most worthy of all causes. This experience brought out a strange combination of inspiring and depressing feelings for me. Despite the many harsh realities of the gay community that Judy shared, and there are many, I was most struck by her confession that she was merely preaching to the choir, that she had spent the past four years at countless podiums pouring her heart out to groups of people who already understood her message. As I glanced around at my tear-smattered peers, I realized the truth of her statement. Surrounding me were tolerant, accepting, and loving members of the Boston College community. They already understood, and they already cared. The homophobic, ignorant, and hateful had chosen not to attend.
I realize that years of exposure to families, friends, and institutions that condone and participate in hateful, homophobic behavior is nearly impossible to reverse. However, I believe that those who do not approve of a homosexual lifestyle are overstepping the bounds of their rights to believe as they chose when they openly attack homosexuals. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion: Republicans, Democrats, the KKK, the Catholic Church, your roommate, and your parents. No one has the right to deliberately hurt others, may it be with something as little as words or as big as weapons. Those institutions that believe homosexuality is a sin, namely the institution under which this college was founded, do not in any way condone hate, abuse, or murder.
This society has become consumed with all the wrong issues in what is eerily similar to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. The “gay rights movement” is not about “gay,” it’s about rights. The struggle of blacks to earn equality in America was not about “black,” it was about equality. Both are about treating people as people, whether you like their lifestyles or not. It is the essence of the Golden Rule of life and the heart of the principles in the Ten Commandments. It is part of the most important and universal aspects of the very religions behind which so many hide to defend their homophobia. This is not a nation of one religion or one belief.
Matthew Shepard was not killed by two homophobic boys in Laramie, Wyoming; he was killed by the American people. He was killed by the parents who teach their children that this kind of hate is acceptable. He was killed by a government that did not protect his person. He was killed by the students of Boston College who harass gay members of our own community. We are the most educated and democratic nation in the world. Why is this still okay?
Thankfully Matthew Shepard’s story is an anomaly. But gay youth who attempt suicide are not; they are twice as likely to attempt taking their own lives as heterosexual youth, according to the American Journal of Health 2001. Every anonymous prank, rude whisper, and blatant comment weakens a person already fighting for the strength to exist each day.
Statistics say that one in 10 people is gay. There are roughly 9,000 students attending Boston College. That means that 900 are gay. How are we contributing to these numbers? How are we making death a better option than life?
Jessica Rosen is a staff writer for The Heights and a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences.