It’s Always Been About Discrimination for LGBT People

As a gay person, I grew up knowing I was different. Hearing other kids call anyone who deviated from traditional gender expectations a “fag.” Getting called a “lesbo” at age 11. I hadn’t come out to anyone and didn’t even really understand what it meant, but I knew it was an insult.

At an early age, we learn that it’s at best different to be LGBT. And many of us are taught that this difference is bad — shameful, deviant, disgusting. We might try to hide it. We might wish it away. We learn that even if our family accepts us, there are some relatives who might not; we get asked to hide who we are so as not to make them uncomfortable.

This teaches shame.

We hear about LGBT people who have been physically attacked or even killed for being who they are.

This teaches fear.

While I know I grew up with privilege, and others have stories far worse than mine, I also believe that countless other LGBT people could tell stories like this — not the same, but all rooted in a legacy that made us feel ashamed of who we are. And yet I, like many of us, also learned pride and hope and found a community that loves me and makes me feel welcome.

Those experiences are part of why I care so much about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. A decision in support of the bakery would open the door to sweeping discrimination. What’s at stake isn’t just whether we have the freedom to go about our daily lives and purchase the same things that others are able to buy. That’s part of it, but it’s not the whole picture.

We never leave those initial experiences of shame and discrimination behind completely. Our sexual orientation may or may not be readily visible to others. How we dress or how we act might identify us as gay but it might not, and it won’t in all circumstances.

Even with a girlfriend — even holding hands — people don’t always see a couple. I have to decide whether to come out or hide again and again — at the doctor’s office, at my child’s school, when talking about weekend plans with colleagues — because people usually assume heterosexuality. Gay people think about when to hold hands or kiss goodbye in public. Sometimes, it will be a matter of safety. The fact that straight couples don’t have to think about these questions is a reminder of difference. And every time I do come out, some part of me still wonders whether, in this moment, I’ll find that my community has grown larger or if I’ll face rejection — or worse.

The Colorado law that’s being challenged by the bakery in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case says that businesses that open their doors to the public can’t discriminate based on race, religion, sex, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Laws like Colorado’s aim to make sure that when we walk through the doors of a store or hotel, we all have the same freedom to buy a cake, eat a meal, or rent a room. They say to LGBT people, “you matter, and you shouldn’t be mistreated because you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”

This case isn’t about the cake. It’s about a legacy of discrimination and devaluation and a rejection of our shared humanity.

Through laws like Colorado’s, we start to trust those assurances and feel more confident living our lives. But when a business owner says, “No, we won’t serve you because you’re gay,” all that humiliation resurfaces.

That’s why it’s inappropriate to tell us — as the bakery and the federal government do in this case — to just go to a different bakery. This isn’t just about the services. It’s about the harm that being turned away causes. It’s about how shame and fear prevent us from fully feeling safe and participating in public life. It’s about the pain of our children seeing us, and them, rejected, or the pain of our parents watching, unable to protect us. And it doesn’t matter if it’s just one store. Because once we are refused, every time we approach the door of a store, we wonder how we will be treated and are more likely to hide who we are. That comes at a steep cost.

The bakery is arguing to the Supreme Court justices that the Constitution protects their right to refuse to serve gay people, to tell people like me, like Dave and Charlie, and countless others that they object to our relationships and therefore refuse to serve us. But this case isn’t about the cake. It’s about a legacy of discrimination and devaluation and a rejection of our shared humanity.

And yet it’s also a case about hope, promise, and love. The hope that the court will recognize that all of us are worthy of respect and fair treatment. The promise that LGBT young people won’t live in fear and embarrassment as I did. And a mother’s unwavering love for her son and his fiancé, showing us why discrimination has no place in our Constitution.

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MIKAL_ROBINS

I am wondering Rose as you noted early in the article that you knew you were different--so you were born with the inherent desire to be with another woman? If so, then you could not help being attracted to another woman, so what if I present the same style argument that I am attracted to young girls, say 17 years old? Am I allowed to have this attraction if I am say, 35 years old? Is there anything wrong with my inherent desire for this behavior or lifestyle? After all, I have a "hope that the court will recognize that all of us are worthy of respect and fair treatment."

wellread

I want to respond to the anonymous comment "(Argue all you want it's NOT a normal thing.)" Recent statements by professional organizations include:
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973.
The American Law Institute continually updates its Model Penal Code, which is a group of laws that they suggest be implemented at the state level. They recommend to legislators: "that private sexual behavior between consenting adults should be removed from the list of crimes and thereby legalized."
The American Bar Association in 1974 expressed its approval of the Model Penal Code, including its decriminalization of consensual adult homosexual acts.
The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1981.
The American Psychological Association released a Statement on Homosexuality in 1994-JUL. Their first two paragraphs are:
The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity. It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Study after study documents the mental health of gay men and lesbians. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social and vocational adaptiveness all show that gay men and lesbians function every bit as well as heterosexuals.

Nor is homosexuality a matter of individual choice. Research suggests that the homosexual orientation is in place very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth. It is found in about ten percent of the population, a figure which is surprisingly constant across cultures, irrespective of the different moral values and standards of a particular culture. Contrary to what some imply, the incidence of homosexuality in a population does not appear to change with new moral codes or social mores. Research findings suggest that efforts to repair homosexuals are nothing more than social prejudice garbed in psychological accouterments.

wellread

In 1994-AUGUST, The APA sent a proposal to one of its committees that would declare as unethical:
attempts by a psychologist to change a person's sexual orientation through therapy, or
referral of a patient to a therapist or organization who attempts to change people's sexual orientation
The APA publishes an undated brochure titled Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality. They state:
"...many scientists share the view that sexual orientation is shaped for most people at an early age through complex interactions of biological, psychological and social factors."
"...psychologists do not consider sexual orientation for most people to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed."
"...homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder or emotional problem."
"There is no evidence indicating that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children."
In 1997_AUG-14, the APA published a news release about a recently passed resolution "on so-called reparative therapy." The resolution "raises ethical concerns about attempts to change sexual orientation, reaffirms psychology's opposition to homophobia and client's rights to unbiased treatment."
The American Medical Association (AMA) released a report in 1994-DEC which calls for "nonjudgmental recognition of sexual orientation by physicians." They suggest that psychotherapy be directed help homosexuals "become comfortable with their sexual orientation."
The Academy of Pediatrics and the Council on Child and Adolescent Health have also stated that homosexuality is not a choice and cannot be changed.
NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality is a largely conservative Christian organization which promotes reparative therapy for gays and lesbians. Their Statement of Policy and Right to Treatment completely contradict statements by all other professional mental health organizations.
In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers and National Education Association jointly issued a document titled Just the facts about sexual orientation. They:
expressed concern about harassment of gay and lesbian youth.
condemned reparative therapy as potentially harmful and of little or no effectiveness
describe transformational ministries as representing only one part of Christianity—those faith groups which view homosexuality as outside God's will, and incompatible with Christianity. They cite other denominations as supporting equal rights, and protection against discrimination, for gays and lesbians.

Terry

As a business owner I have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason... or no reason. I have gays in my family whom I love & respect but I don't believe they have the right to force a business to serve them nor do they. It's not a religious issue. it's an issue of freedom & free choice. If I choose not to do business with someone there are others who will. Unless it's healthcare or a life/health issue a business has the right to choose.

Anonymous

So you would refuse service to a black person? Btw, who cares if you have gays in your family, your just being an asshole towards them as well.

Anonymous

Rose, I respectfully disagree. While I would not patronize a cake shop I knew discriminated against gay people, I don’t believe it is the role of the government to force them to serve couples they don’t desire to. Now, if they denied an LGBT person employment on the basis of that status, that’s another matter altogether and one in which the government should definitely intervene to protect their rights.

Why is it not sufficient to get the word out about their practices and seek another vendor? It’s not like wedding cakes are a vital resource, the exclusion from which will result in physical harm. Forcing them to make cakes for gay couples will not change their attitudes nor those who would still patronize their store knowing how they operate.

I think what you and people who take your stance on this issue really want is acceptance (as you’ve basically said), so I don’t see how forced compliance achieves that goal.

Anonymous

You really think the White South accepted blacks after the “forced compliance”? There are still some today who don’t.

Anonymous

I see. So this whole facade comes down to you not wanting to be morally judged negatively by people who disapprove of you because it makes you feel bad about yourself. Word of advice: Grow The Fuck Up! You're not entitled to anyone's respect. That's something you earn goddamn it! Oh, I'm so sorry that you are forced by circumstance to try harder than everyone else, but that does not give you the moral justification to play hippie Hitler. You are right. This isn't about the cake, because that would be ridiculous. This is about you using you victim status as a blunt weapon. It's about you holding the gun to the head of a dissenting person wishing to exercise his freedom of association (which is an actual freedom) and telling him how he can and cannot think. You are real fascists here. Fuck you and the genuine nazis. Sincerely, a liberal atheist.

Anonymous

Yeeeet

Anonymous

that is literally the most chill comment in this comments section

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