The biggest enemy of acceptance: How ignorance harms the LGBT community
Posted on Oct 24, 2012 in Features
October is LGBT month. This is a time when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual people are celebrated for their sexual diversity and the building of a community which takes a stand against discrimination and violence. It is important for us UAB students to take part in LGBT month, even if we don’t identify ourselves as such, because these our our family members, our friends, and our peers. Every day, they face stigmas and stereotypes, and to me, overcoming that is enough of a reason to celebrate. Laurie Christolear, a gay student at UAB says, “None of my lifestyle was chosen. It’s been an ever-going challenge of acceptance. Living in a southern area where being part of the LGBT community is considered wrong has such negative affects on everyone. Everyone. And it requires constant self-acceptance.”
Gays, lesbians, and even bisexuals are more prevalent in society, but what about those who are not sure of how they identify themselves? I have heard words such as “shim” or “it” to describe these people. They are not monsters, they are people, and those derogatory words sting as much as using racial slurs. Christolear says, “The LGBT community exists. It always has, it always will. So there is no reason to be misinformed or ignorant.”
As a rule of thumb, the proper way to identify a transgender or transsexual is by which gender they identify themselves. For example, Chaz Bono, born-daughter of Sonny Bono and Cher, now identifies as a male, so you would call Chaz “him” or “he”. Unlike Chaz, some people do not identify as predominately male or predominately female. Christolear says, “I don’t feel more one gender or the other. Everyone has aspects of their lifestyles and personality that are going to either be more masculine or more feminine.”
Transgender people are becoming more widely-accepted in our society. Transgender characters have been shown on Glee and transgender models have been cast in major fashion campaigns for companies such as American Apparel and Givenchy. The transgender model, Stav Strashko, was recently featured in Japanese Toyota commercial, scantily-clad in red lingerie, seductively walking towards the car. Strashko says, “Usually when people talk to me they soon realize I’m a boy, but sometimes people just keep treating me as a girl not realizing who I really am. I believe that the mind sees what it wants.” In the case of this commercial, “the mind” sees long legs and womanly curves, which again proves that we cannot compartmentalize anyone into one little box.
Stereotyping and ignorance are the biggest enemies of acceptance, so the best thing we can do is treat everyone fairly and equally, especially the LGBTs in our community. Christolear says, “Being open to other ways of living isn’t a hard thing. It’s fairly easy to just allow people to be themselves. It’s just a matter of everyone accepting themselves, then accepting others as equals.” Once we educate ourselves, we realize that these people are just like us, except just a little more brave.