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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Is the LGBT Community More Accepted? ‘It Depends’

By Peter DeWitt — June 25, 2013 3 min read
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The other day one of my former parents sent me a link to a song named Same Love by Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and it features Mary Lambert. I had never heard it before. It’s a beautiful song about accepting the LGBT community. The video is awesome and it has definitely made the rounds because it has over 50 million hits on You Tube, which makes me think I have been living under a rock these days.

At this point in time, acceptance of the LGBT community must be happening around the country...right? I mean, it’s 2013 and most people know at least one person who is gay. Unfortunately, as much as the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis video is making the rounds, so is this one. It’s a story about Shane and his partner Tom. Unfortunately, it tells a very different story from one of acceptance and equality.

Many people wonder why we still talk about LGBT issues, as if there is no more discrimination to be found in North America. It’s true that many young people are much more accepting because they have grown up in a world where there are gay characters on television and gay people in their family. However, we only need to look to the comments on You Tube, much like what happened to the Cheerios commercial, to see that there is still a great deal of hate in the world.

When I write about LGBT issues I get some e-mails asking me whether I believe the world is more accepting of the LGBT community. My answer is usually...it depends.

It Depends
I know that sounds like a very vague response. After all, I wrote Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students (Corwin Press) and must have a more definitive answer than that. The book is ForeWord Magazine’s “Book of the Year” finalist so that must mean we live in a more accepting world because it is being accepted by a mainstream audience. Unfortunately, those who should read it are very unlikely to pick it up.

The truth is, “It depends” is the best I can do.

When I was a student at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY I took a human services class my first semester. As the professor began to engage all of us in a discussion he was asked a few questions by students and he answered with two words..."it depends.” To this day I’m not sure if he ruined my thinking or helped stretch it because so many of the questions we find ourselves asking can be answered with, “it depends.”

There is no one clear cut answer to any question, especially when it comes to how people in the LGBT community are treated. There are many gay men and women who will say that they have always been treated with respect by their families, friends and co-workers and never had a problem coming out. There are others who never spoke to their family again because they were disowned by their parents and shunned by their friends.

Even worse, there are marginalized groups within marginalized groups. There are transgender men and women who are not accepted by members of the gay or straight community. It’s almost as if there is a pecking order of acceptance. All of this, of course, depends on where you live in North America.

LGBT Students safety
We know, from statistics of such groups as the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that LGBT students are abused and harassed often. A 2011 GLSEN study says,

The majority of LGBT students are faced with many obstacles in school affecting their academic performance and personal well-being. Results indicated that 8 out of 10 LGBT students (81.9%) experienced harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, three fifths (63.5%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and nearly a third (29.8%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of safety concerns."(Kosciw)

There are many schools, like Southside High School in Rockville Centre, NY that do an amazing job with their LGBT student population. There are other schools that are not protecting them in any way and LGBT students feel very unsafe. It all depends on where you live, whether you attend an inclusive or hostile school, and how accepting your family may be.

Pride Month?
June has been considered “Pride Month” in the LGBT community for decades since events like the Stonewall Riots. It has definitely become more mainstream over the years because more and more cities are creating their own Pride events for their communities.

As much as all of this is an important move forward, people cannot forget that there are many LGBT youth and adults who are afraid to come out because of fear for their safety and there are millions of people in the LGBT community who are waiting for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to make a decision on gay marriage. Until then, the answer to whether there is more acceptance of the LGBT community is...”it depends.”

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.