In our current political discourse, right-wing politicians continue to demonize the LGBT community in sad and desperate attempts to rally their base. While, happily, their efforts have not been as effective as in the past, any attempt to make gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people feel anything less than equal can lead to devastating consequences, as the ongoing string of youth suicides so painfully highlights.
Any preventable loss of dignity and human life must be stopped. The question is, "How?"
While prior efforts have focused on the issue of harassment, it is time for the LGBT community to take the dialogue one step further. When you are a teen, simply waiting for your next birthday can seem like an eternity. Telling our youth that life will indeed get better, some years into the future, is not enough. We must instead create a world in which there is no longer any shame in being gay. We must show that each and every one of us has something of value to contribute to this world, period.
The first step is creating discussion with the haters around where their anti-gay beliefs come from, and challenging those beliefs with facts. But we then need to take that dialogue even further and examine more closely what they hope that such convictions will ultimately achieve.
Typically, those who hold negativity toward those who are LGBT can be placed into two main camps: those who believe that being gay is unnatural, going against nature, or those who believe it goes against religious teaching.
With either group, the case can be made to counter such beliefs with facts. For example, those who believe that being gay is unnatural may be surprised to learn that homosexual activity has been observed in close to 1,500 species, and that such scientific certitudes should be spotlighted. For those who believe that homosexuality violates religious principles, pointing to texts such as the Bible as justification, and dialogue around translation issues, intent, and historical context, might be beneficial.
However, in both situations, while factual evidence might change some minds, most will still be unwilling to let go of long-held beliefs. My question to them then becomes, "What do you hope these beliefs will achieve?"