America’s Homophobic Tradition Must End. Now.

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Once upon a time, there was a country declaring freedom and justice for all.

As it matured and grew, so did its way of life. While technology evolved, fundamental beliefs stayed the same. But the people became addicted to their own philosophy, birthing martyrdom without a cause.

We as people live in a realm of our own understanding. We see what we want to see, which begins with what we know. If we don’t allow ourselves to know about each other, we’re never going to be able to see the bigger picture. Instead, we will exist within the confines of our own hell.

Countless of Americans have ingested our philosophy like steroids, so much so that it’s shifted logic and reasoning to represent something subjective.

In light of the Orlando attacks, my heart is heavy with grief for the victims and every gay person who sat transfixed to the television. This was a homophobic terrorist attack, and if you ask any LGBT person in the world if they’d met a person with the capacity to do what Omar Mateen did, they would give an overwhelming YES.

Let me give an anecdote. It’s about chocolate. I’m obsessed with it. Chocolate is my best friend. I will dip it on anything: fruit, bread, cakes, poultry, you name it. I can’t imagine life without a little dip of chocolate to soothe my soul. Now, let’s pretend you hate chocolate. Because I can’t fathom that anyone in the world would hate chocolate, you’re wrong.

You’re wrong because I know that chocolate is heaven. I know it. I know it because it’s real for me. I’m in a bubble, a realm, of my own experiences and awareness, and I refuse to see outside of it because it’s my truth. You, on the other hand, have the same perspective except backwards. We are both telling the truth as we see it, so of course we know without a doubt the other person is lying. But who’s right?

Homophobia has the same rules. As a gay person, I will never know what it’s like as a straight person – NEVER. My truth is that I’m a homosexual, and it’s the lens in which I see the world. But as someone who’s been forced in a place to observe the world and its order of things, I’ve had no choice but to question our constructs, which can either create resentment or empathy. Many times it’s both.

Straight people will never be forced in a place to observe our experience. They have to do it on their own accord, which takes effort either internally or externally. They will never understand what it’s like to be a gay person because they were born differently. Because the majority of the world is straight, it’s easy for them to say we’re wrong, or worse, we’re lying.

In the last six months, extremist right-wingers have introduced nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills, mainly citing their Christian beliefs. America is rooted with such tradition that it’s normal for a gay person to hate themselves for being what they are. We’re forced to question what we know is true, making us feel like we’re going insane. Then, we find a community that reminds us we were never wrong, for how can someone else tell a person what’s inside their head?

This is the community that was targeted – a place where LGBT people don’t have to be afraid of judgment like we do outside. If anyone can’t understand how a gay bar or gay neighborhood is a refuge for LGBT people, they’ve clearly never been afraid to kiss their spouse in public. But the habit of lacking empathy isn’t new.

Homophobia is a tradition passed on to generation after generation, and it’s not rooted in religion, but culture. I’ve met plenty of homophobic atheists; believe me it’s not about religion. The Bible and Christianity act as a weapon, but they are not the cause of one’s perspective. Scripture gives homophobes a reason to justify their feelings, while it gives homosexuals a reason to hate themselves.

We’re bred to think men and women need to act a certain way, and it plays on a constant loop until we’ve been programmed. Until we’re forced to think outside ourselves, we are never going to realize the power of diversity.

Everyone is juiced up on philosophies. We pledge freedom and justice for all, but do we ever question what that means? Does it mean being able to drive to Wal-Mart without a bomb exploding on the street? Being unafraid to walk to the corner store without getting raped? The ability to get an education and be whoever it is we want to be?

What about personal freedom? The right to be who we are without fear? To fulfill our potential as a human being without being caged and sequestered? To observe humanity as multiple experiences, rather than one.

You cannot help who you are because everyone’s brain is wired differently. We are organic matter, just like plants. We have similar blueprints, but deep within our wirings, we are not the same. From allergies to taste buds, skin pigments to eye color, blood type to DNA structure, brain responses to sexual orientation – our experiences are different, but our bond should always be the same.

Being different is our strength. It’s how we’ve managed to survive all this time: by using our strengths and weaknesses to ultimately create and manage civilization. Some of us are healers, educators, artists, mathematicians, organizers, leaders, interpreters, nurturers, each and every one of us has a role to play in maintaining our survival – why have these differences become the very thing that divide us?

The tradition carries on for the same reason all traditions do. We’re comfortable with structure and fear change. We refuse to think that someone else is having a different experience than we are; tradition is the only thing with roots, and it sets a guidebook of living so we won’t have to think. It’s written in stone – this is how it ought to be.

But the greatest missing piece of American philosophy is progress. We are a nation of people who pledge allegiance to liberty and justice, but for whom? Not solely for you, but for all of us – each and every one of us has something to offer, the stupidest thing we can do is keep us from it.

Empathy comes from having courage to see outside our realm of understanding. We need to have guts to see that not everyone is like us, and that’s okay. We can all exist on our own: one thing doesn’t need to affect the other. We have become the victims of our own success, and it’s killing us. It’s time to make a new tradition.

David Artavia

Writer

David lives in New York City, where he acts, writes and lives vicariously through his friends.

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