Gay Rights: A Student’s Perspective

Growing up bleeding-heart in Southern California, gay rights have never been an issue for me. My third grade teacher is gay, as is one of my mom’s best friends, and a lesbian couple lived next door for years. For as long as I can remember, I have accepted without problems the truth that gay rights are not a controversy. Honestly, when I was little, I didn’t really understand what it all meant.

My first real experience with LGBT rights came in second grade, when Kirby said that gay people get married with just the right note of revulsion in his tone. I confronted my mother.

“What does ‘lesbian’ mean?”

Panicked, she said that lesbians were just friends, and then pulled me aside a few days later to tell me the truth. Honestly, I don’t remember that much about that conversation, but I do sort of recall feeling somewhat… surprised. Surprised as in, “This is it? This is the big mysterious secret thing? Who cares?” I just didn’t get it.

In sixth or seventh grade, I asked my (Christian, conservative) friend whether she thought gay people should be able to marry. I watched as she struggled, aware that I was seeing a battle of wills between what she wanted to say and what she knew she should say. “Well… well, I mean- like, they should be able to get married, but you shouldn’t call it marriage, you know? Because the Bible says that marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

“Like civil unions.”

“Yeah.” I nodded, smiled, and decided not to get into the whole fewer-benefits-lower-status-basic-premise-that-your-religious-beliefs-should-dictate-my-marriage thing.

Earlier this year, when Kelly started talking about Rick Perry’s idiotic “Strong” video, I braced myself for something homophobic and was pleasantly surprised when she talked about how stupid it was. At my school, while people still throw around “that’s gay” and no one is out (in fact, one alumna came out as bisexual her freshman year at a religious high school, which I think says something about the culture at my nondenominational school), no one has ever explicitly stated a bias or disciminatory belief, though I’m sure some have them.

Most, though, do not — which shouldn’t be surprising. After all, a recent Gallup poll showed that support for gay marriage is at 70% for 18- to 34-year-olds. Since my classmates and I are younger than that, I would guess that support is even higher — perhaps not at my school, but in general. Having a poll on that topic would be fascinating and, in my view, would bring a new dimension to the gay rights “debate,” especially considering the recent controversy when President Obama talked about the effect that his daughters had on his decision to support gay rights.

Since we’ll be the ones who eventually decide the issue, it does irk me a bit that no one is bothering to ask us about our views, but I’m fairly confident that, when we eventually get the chance, my generation will do the right thing.

Related Stories:

Israel Rejects Gay Marriage

Half of Americans Support Same-Sex Marriage

“Like Lincoln and Emancipation”: Obama’s Gay Marriage Evolution

Photo Credit: powerbooktrance


Rin S.
Rin S.4 years ago

I agree with this 100 %

Jen Matheson
Past Member 4 years ago

Terri Lynn, thank you for your comments. I loved hearing your story.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 4 years ago

Terri Lynn, thank you for your comments. I loved hearing your story.

Terri Lynn Merritts
Terri M.4 years ago

Part of my comment got lopped off so let me continue here. My husband and I are staying temporarily in Nashville and the Tennessee legislature has recently passed laws such as the "Don't Say Gay" one where teachers and school staff are not allowed to say anything positive about gays or to acknowledge that any student is gay or has gay parents. They also passed a sex ed bill that promotes abstinence until heterosexual marriage and forbids any discussion of being gay even by a gay student. They passed a law that allows christian students to bully gay students or students who have gay parents if it is while proselytizing and calling gays sinners and perverts. They also passed- but the governor says he will veto- a bill that forbids a private university- Vanderbilt University- from having an All-comers policy. Vandy started this policy that they will not house nor fund any student club that does not allow any student to join. Immediately there was a howl from the christian groups (but none of the other religious clubs or atheist groups) that they wanted to discriminate and ban gays even while being funded and housed with fees that came from ALL students. Vanderbilt started the policy because of christian groups discriminating against gays. They don't want to fund bigotry. There has been a howl in Nashville over this and the legislature quickly passed legislation that the public universities MUST fund and allow christian bigot clubs that discriminate but the governor , who likes

Terri Lynn Merritts
Terri M.4 years ago

When I was growing up in the 1960's and 1970's in Atlanta, my parents always had gay friends. When I started the first grade in the fall of 1965, my mom and her two best friends Vivian and Elizabeth sat me down and we had a serious talk. Vivian had gotten my mom a job at the SH Kress store where she worked (this was before my parents opened their bookstore) and Elizabeth taught at the elementary school I would be attending. They were a lesbian couple and in my 6 year old mind, I thought they were married. They were in love, lived together and certainly acted like a married couple.

I was told that I must never refer to Vivian and Elizabeth as anything but room mates. I must never mention at school or at Kress that they were in love or a couple. I was shocked hearing that in the world around me, gays were considered sinful (as a young Atheist, I had never been taught any such thing and was grateful not to be involved in christian mythology), evil, dirty, and not fit to be in normal society. This was all news to me. I started worrying about my teenaged cousin who was gay. I worried about our family's gay and lesbian friends. They could lose their jobs, my mom warned. They might even be physically harmed.

Fast forward to 2012- 47 years later and gays STILL are facing this nonsense. Christian mythology is still alive and well and spewing its poison to another generation of kids. Why are we not beyond this? My husband and I are staying in Nashville temporarily and the Tennes

John B.
John B.4 years ago

Great story Ann and as an older GLBTQ person I feel that you and your generation are the future for a society of non-discrimination. I never thought that in my lifetime gay rights would advance as far as it has and now I have even more hope for the GLBTQ community in the future. Thank you so much for the caring and insightful story.

Jennie R.
Jennie D.4 years ago

Good story. I feel sad when I think of all the suffering .....needless suffering, which has gone on due to prejudices.....especially children committing suicide. I am 67 years old and used to be ignorant about it too (but was never hateful) but now I know the truth. The world is not flat and gays are authentic and wonderful just as they are. End the prejudice now!

Jen Matheson
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks for righting this, Ann G. It's good to know things are better for the generation after mine.

Sian R.
Sian R.4 years ago

I'm in my 60s; my neighour is in her 80s. Both of us have supported gay rights all our lives.
The circles I move in, though in general younger, would be surprised if I even raised the issue of 'gay'. To them, gay people are just ordinary folk we happen to know and they'd think I was prejudiced if I happened to even mention it.
So take heart, young lady. It's it just the younger generation that supports you, but many, many thinking people everywhere.

Keevin Shultz
Keevin Shultz4 years ago

The term gay rights should be changed to human rights.