I am inspired by the speech President Obama made to the Human Rights Campaign in Washington DC last night. In it, he expressed his support and commitment to the rights of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) people in this country and the world.
Watching the video of the address on The Huffington Post moved me to tears several times. The President promised to sign Hate Crimes legislation bearing the late Senator Ted Kennedy's name in honor of Matthew Shepherd, a young man who was brutally murdered for being gay in 1998. He said he would support the fight against HIV/AIDS and end the military policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" which discriminates against gay soldiers.
Hearing Obama speak of these things while receiving enthusiastic responses from the Human Rights audience was very uplifting to me. We have been waiting a long time to hear these words from our American leaders.
As an "out of the closet" gay American, I can say it gave me hope. In fact, it has inspired me to write an open letter to America.
We are GLBT Americans. We don't want to indoctrinate your children. We don't want to turn the world gay. We don't want "special rights." All we want are the same rights that everyone has: to marry the person we fall in love with; to be able to visit our sick lover in the hospital; to be able to have, raise, and adopt children; to not lose our jobs because we are GLBT, and to openly serve our country in the military.
We want to be accepted as human beings even though our sexual orientation is not the norm. We don't want our lives to be ruled by fear or shame. We want to be free from fear of persecution, prejudice, or violence. We want to rid ourselves of the shame that was thrust on us from childhood by our religious institutions, schools and even our own parents.
As to that defining question of whether it is a lifestyle or an orientation, we would like to declare that it's not a choice, but heredity that made us GLBT folks. And we should know because we are the ones that had to take this journey. Coming out is a process and hopefully it is one in which we can learn to grow and accept ourselves for who we are.
Which brings us back to the indoctrination question. If we are born this way, why or more appropriately, how could we influence another to become gay? It's an impossible task if it's not a choice. You can't convert someone to be gay who is not gay.
Rather, I would argue that religious anti-gay organizations have been the "indoctrinators", trying to "straighten us out" by reforming homosexuals to become heterosexuals. Conversely, that is also an impossible task as "Focus on the Family's" failed "Love Won Out" program has shown. The logical conclusion is to live and let live. Be who you were born to be.
I urge you all to listen to President Obama's speech on gay rights. He has offered us GLBT people a seat at the table. That is all we have ever wanted. Our desire is to be treated with respect and dignity as American citizens whose orientation is only a part of who we are, as our President so eloquently stated.
We are everywhere. We are a part of the fabric of this society. Nature dictates that we will always be a minority, but we can be a positive force for human rights, equality, and the good of humanity. That's all we are asking for.
I e-mailed the video of President Obama's speech to my brother, an Obama fan and born again Christian who believes that homosexuality is a sin and a lifestyle of choice. It's comforting to have the leader of the free world on my side in this debate. Here's hoping he can make a difference in helping others including my own family members to "see the light."
Thank you, Mr. President for taking this bold stand. Hopefully, "love will win out" and your message of civility for all will resound across the land.