When thinking of the different minorities, the one minority that is sometimes not acknowledged as a minority is sexual minorities. These types of minorities can include those who are gay, lesbian, and even bisexual. For purposes of referring to sexual minorities, gays as a reference will be the primary focus. Sexual orientation has been deemed a hot and emotional topic. It can be controversial for many reasons but primarily because it affects so many on the emotional side. Sexual minorities are an established minority because of the discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes they have endured.
Many misconceptions come with having a different sexual preference leading to discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes. When defining sexual minorities, this can include any sexual preference that differs from the traditional idea of relationships that are man and woman. There is an invisibility that comes with a person’s sexual preference. For example with racial discrimination, a person can visibly see why they are harassing or discriminating against a person. With a person who may be gay, it will only be known once that person chooses to tell those around him or her.
Being in the closet may appear to be easier than risking discrimination, harassment, ostracism, and being fired, but it comes with many negative consequences, including stress and anxiety related to continual fear of disclosure” (Bell, 2012, p. 354). For many this seems to be a common fear. Gays are facing many barriers not just in their jobs, but also in their personal and public lives. There are many misconceptions about sexual minorities. They are prejudged at their jobs because of their sexual preference.
The first barrier they face is false perceptions. It is suggested that many people think that all gays are only focused on sex, or inding a relationship with the same sex. The Sinclair Institute states “Straight people aren’t attracted to every member of the opposite sex, so why would homosexuals? ” (2012, p. 2). What attracts people to others is based on their own desires and personal preferences, not their sexual orientation. In reality sexual minorities have the same dreams and desires as anyone else. Most people in today’s society use their own standards to measure everyone else around them. This kind of thinking causes tunnel vision when it comes to any other cultures different than our own.
This is what happens to sexual minorities, when they are pre-judged by heterosexuals. Even minorities of different races have misconceptions about gay people. These minorities that have been discriminated against should understand the problems that gay people encounter in their lives. Unfortunately we all want others to be the same as us. Many people have a hard time accepting others who are different. Some gay people act and talk differently than others, some men seem more feminine, and some of the women seem more masculine. In our society this is very hard for the general population to accept.
It almost appears that anything that does not appear to be “normal” in society’s view is wrong. No group is free from ethnocentrism (tunnel vision); we all have a degree of it in us (Bucher, 2000, p. 98). When we cannot value or accept other ways of life that is when it becomes a problem. We are taught from a young age, mainly from parents and family, what stereotypes we put on people. Again, the stereotyping children develop through their parents and caregivers can also be misconceptions. Another misconception that I have witnessed by parents to children is that almost all gays are sexual predators.
Most pedophiles are not gay men; in fact, approximately 90% of child molesters end up being heterosexual males” (Sinclair Institute, 2012, p. 1). This does not suggest that all parents tell their children this but rather in my profession as working as a Guardian Ad Litem, I have witnessed. When you are around gay people and especially if you work with them you realize right away that many of them like to socialize, go out and have fun. This then leads to a certain way of thinking that sexual minorities only want to party and meet other gays and or lesbians and have brief sexual encounters; this is a misconception.
For many people, sexual orientation is just one part of their identity and is not the overriding factor that defines their entire identity” states the Sinclair Institute (2012, p. 2). Every person lives life how they see and feel fit to live their lives. Their sexual orientation does not implicate that their lifestyle is only a particular way. Other barrier’s to the gay culture is gender identification. One of the basic problems that sexual minorities encounter is their gender identity or expression.
This means “a person’s internal sense of gender, as well as how a person behaves, appears, or presents with regard to societal expectations of that person” (Bell, 2012, p. 355). Many times a person from a sexual minority faces their own internal challenges along with the discrimination that they face from others. These two issues alone can cause total chaos in the gay or lesbian’s life as well as affecting their friends and family. Another barrier faced by the gay community is homophobia, which is the fear of gays by heterosexuals. Gay people in the military face this problem all the time.
With the military employing more than 1. 4 million people, there is a very wide diversity of races, ethnicities, and genders. Gays in every walk of life face this in their employment, in school, and in all other associations they have with others. Trying to overcome the homophobic barrier is a tough one. Many of the sexual minority population stay, work, and gravitate to jobs where they know other sexual minorities work, so they have a sense of belonging. Gays also face the fact that they don’t actually have the same rights as heterosexuals when it comes to relationships. They can’t get medical insurance for their loved ones.
They cannot get FMLA if their significant other is sick or disabled. Author Janet Walsh states “The U. S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives many workers the right to take unpaid, job-protected leave from work to care for a spouse of the opposite sex, a child, or a parent when they have a serious health condition, if the worker meets eligibility criteria” (Walsh, 2012, para. 3). For those states that have adopted the policies and laws that gays have the right to legal marriages, they unfortunately have not been included in the protections that others are entitled to under these laws. This has been a controversial issue for many years.
Gay rights activists have fought this for so long, in the future it may change. Possibly making it legal for gays to get married in all states and adopt children and add their significant others to their insurance policies just as heterosexuals are allowed to do. After talking to a lesbian couple who have been together for over twenty-five years, you understand the exasperation when they talk about how they will provide for their partner should something happen to them. The one partner, who seemed to be more masculine, she was very vocal about the fear that her partner would be without her income if she dies.
She also told me that she was aggravated at not being able to get the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) last year when her partner had to have surgery. When she talked about their employment she was upset that her partner works for a retail company and has little or no health insurance. She said last year when her partner had surgery she had to take off of work, without pay and take care of her. Her partner’s illness and her time off work put the couple in a terrible financial bind that they are still trying to recuperate from it.
When I talked to a gay male that I have known for the last twenty years, he reiterated the same thing, except he does not currently have a partner. He has been a manager of a popular retail chain and is disgruntled that if he did have a partner he would not be able to cover him on his insurance. When you see him and talk to him you can understand his position. The company he works for also works him harder and longer than heterosexuals in his same position because they know he has no children. He feels the treatment he gets is not equal to the other heterosexual men and women who work for the same company.
Both of these couples hope that in the future the perceptions about their lives will change and people and legislation will change in their favor. They are hoping to be married someday in the eyes of the law. They hope that the government will take their relationships seriously. They want better legislation to be passed that will include them in matters of marriage, insurance, discrimination and many more areas of life. “Hate crimes, overt prejudice, discrimination, exclusion, and changing attitudes have continued to fuel the gay rights movement into the present day” (Bell, 2012, p. 356).
The sexual minority community faces adversity every day in every aspect of their lives, including employment. To date there are still no laws or legislation for sexual gender discrimination. Rather currently these types of discrimination are referred to as hate crimes. An example of a gay hate crime is Mathew Shepard. Mathew Shepard was a victim of a hate crime. He was a young gay man who was beaten and left for dead, tied to a post in a field. Mathew was beaten because of his sexual preference. It is almost like he expected to be accepted by any and all; however for him his life was taken away because of the discrimination of his predators.
Even in our day and age now affirmative action does not really take into consideration the gay community. Legislation will have to be changed in the future in order to include the gay community. In recent years the gay and transgender population has increased and more and more laws and legislation will have to include them in the future. Right now in our society the gay community has been negatively impacted by the lack of legislation to help protect them from discrimination, in employment and in social functions of life. My personal point of view is that this is going to be a long time coming.
People in our society are still too prejudiced to accept gay, lesbian, and transgender preferences along with their lifestyles. One solution I believe is to vote for more gay politicians. If they have some kind of representation in the government and those representatives speak out, we can change the laws. We still have so much discrimination in different forms in our country and for all cultures let alone sexual minorities. There needs to be positions held by those that can understand and relate to what is being brought out to attention in communities, cities, and states.
Our government really needs to see all people no matter about race, culture, religion, gender, or sexual orientation as equal. Until that happens we are not going to change the opinion of the population as a whole. I believe the government acts as a role model for acceptance. If the government begins to open their eyes, ears, and minds they will be able to allow society to be more accepting of people’s personal preferences. Since this is America and there are freedoms, their needs to be an understanding of the freedom to marry who a person’s choose without discrimination and judgment.
Though some states have gotten on board and allowed for same sex marriages, this is only a small step to the much bigger issues that are currently being faced. They say that in the future we may not need affirmative action (John. W. Johnson and Robert P. Green, 2009). I disagree; we now need it to include all people with sexual identification issues. The sexual minority community is still having problems and no one really addresses it in any form whether it is employment, marriage or insurance. When I compare my viewpoint to that of my friends that are gay and the couples that I have talked to, I realize that I feel as they do.
They are not equal and yet they do the same work as the rest of us. Do they not also have the right to pursue happiness? That is the right of all Americans. What is happiness to one person is a different happiness to someone else. We should not make laws that limit the happiness of someone else. In all ways we think alike and have discussed these issues many times. It is hard for me to see sexual minorities go through all of these things and yet I cannot help them. I am there talking to them and have health insurance and have a marriage license.
Yet I feel their pain at not having the things that the rest of us take for granted. Our society needs to get to the point of equality. I am always amazed at the gay community and how open they are to new friends. I was introduced to many of them through my one gay male friend. The gay people have always welcomed me and are very nice to me even though they do not know me. They just accept you as you are. They are just like us, they are happy and sad, and they work, play, and love. The way we are different is in two ways. The first is that they have been in raised in a heterosexual society.
Where we have not been raised in a gay society and for us it is something foreign and new. Many people do not embrace new situations or cultures they do not understand or agree with. The one thing that I have learned about this group is that they speak their minds. That is where they are different than you and I. We are taught to restrain ourselves and to not say things that might upset someone. Gay people usually just say what they want to, regardless of whether they hurt another’s feelings. They talk to each other like this and usually in a rough teasing manner. Their culture and how they act is indeed different from us.
Socializing is a big part of their culture. Socializing with other gays and transgender people is a major past time for them. The misconception about homosexuals is that they try and force their way of life on heterosexuals. That is not true, as I have been around many of them and they have never acted inappropriately. My views on gays in general changed many years ago, when I lived in an apartment building and had them as neighbors. At first I was wary of them also. As time went on and they helped me a few times with groceries or my kids, I began to see them differently.
Again because of the diversity it is not that I discriminated them but rather I was unfamiliar with them. As time went on and they became my friends, I would invite them for dinners and parties and my kids birthdays, anniversaries and many holidays. They were just like having two brothers. The only difference being they were together in a relationship. I credit them both for easing me into understanding the lives of gay people. That is what made me change my opinion about their culture. Sometimes I feel sad for their culture and that they don’t have the same rights as us.
But in reality they are just like us in every way except one. Their choice of a partner is not what is accepted by society as a whole. My life changed in many ways to understand what a person with a sexual identity issue goes through. The hopes and regrets that they have faced. All of these things have changed my opinion and how I view the gay and transgender community. Currently and in the future when I work with anyone I try and understand their culture. I know from this experience that at one time I judged a culture wrongfully. I try now to be more tolerant of others differences.
I believe that if we all were more tolerant of others differences we would have a great society. With time all things change and in my life the gay community changed my life. They made me realize how critical I was and unaccepting, even when they were accepting of me. We should embrace the similarities in each other and not the differences. You can make friends with anyone who you have things in common with. Focusing on all the common ground either at work, or when socializing and you will have a basis for understanding others. Social distance is a phrase that was coined by a scientist named Emory Bogadus (Bell, 2012).
This describes the degree in which we are willing to interact with ethnic or racial groups (Bell, 2012). Basically we are keeping ourselves away from people who are not like us. This is true of homosexuals and transgender people. People in general fear what they do not know and what is different. Try for a while to put yourself in another’s shoes in the way you treat them and the way you talk to them. If you do that, you may get a chance to meet someone that could be a dear friend or colleague in the future. Why limit yourself, getting to know a new person or culture is very interesting.
You can learn things about another person’s culture that you may not know. Our society and our civil rights are supposed to be based on equality for all. Yet many people that are culturally different from us, like the gay community are suffering from social inequality. We discriminate on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and sexual orientation (Bell, 2012, p. 355). Treating everyone differently and unequally has become a major issue in our country today and will be in the future unless there is a true stance of equality.
It is fine to accept diversity and be aware of the existence; however we are all created equal no matter our religion, gender, or sexual preference. Accepting the diversity consciousness is not just about us but others as well. How well do we treat others? Remember as a child all the diversities you overcame. Whether you are white or another ethnicity, gender, or culture overcoming adversity is part of our lives. Now we just have to apply those ideas to our acceptance of others who are different from us. Overcoming barriers in our society should start with understanding ourselves.
Then it should continue with communication and empathy for others. We should not be afraid or judge cultures we do not know. Try and understand a new culture or people. The first step in our hope to understanding sexual minorities is to put ourselves in their shoes; think of how you or someone you know is different than others. Does or should that make you any more unlikeable? The gay community has many barriers to overcome now and in the future. With the support of opening our eyes and realizing diversity is all around us, society will take steps to overcome the misconceptions that each minority has or does face.