What if this book turns me straight?
As an openly gay man, I have recently become extremely concerned about the effects of specific literature on my own personal life. It dawned on me the other day that perhaps the types of literature and educational learning outcomes that I have been presented with might result in my becoming heterosexual. From the young, romantic plot twists of “Romeo and Juliet,” to the biological teachings of procreation, I have truly struggled to remain gay in an environment that so obviously wants me to accept the straight lifestyle choice. It is obvious that if I continue to be presented with heterosexual ideals, I will be destined for a “straight” life. This type of heterosexual agenda must simply be stopped.
If this argument sounds absurd and ridiculous....that’s because it is. However, the same can be said for the offensive and oppressive ideologies of some of the political and educational leaders in the state of South Carolina. As you may already know, there is a current movement running through South Carolina (and in many other areas of the United States) that is calling for literature, art, and programs addressing the LGBTQ community to be discontinued and silenced. These types of beliefs are not only a demonstration of intolerance, but simply serve to further marginalize a group of individuals that so desperately needs an outlet that allows for open discussion and acceptance. Apparently, certain legislators and community leaders have decided that these types of educational channels must be stopped and condemned. Through budget cuts, personal attacks, and blatant homophobia, these types of ideas are quickly evolving into actions that further aim to demonstrate heteronormativity and ultimately hope to silence individuals within the LGBTQ community. Actions like budget cuts to public universities and colleges that promote the importance of a wide range of educational values and ideas, and banning performance art during campus events that serve to allow LGBTQ community members to experience stories they can relate to, are just two examples of how these oppressive ideals are beginning to take hold.
As a paying, college student, I chose to attend a liberal arts institution because I saw value in the wide range of opinions and ideas that I would come in contact with during my college years. The experiences of others, the discussions about opposing viewpoints, and the possibility of becoming more open-minded were of extreme importance to me and are the main reasons I chose to attend a liberal arts school. The learning outcomes of a liberal arts education clearly provide students with a much more broad and valuable degree than those that only allow students to explore one-sided arguments and (so-called) “approved” subjects. Students and faculty should be deeply concerned that select individuals are now deciding what they should be allowed to select and what is deemed academically important, and what it not. This not only undermines the importance of a liberal arts education, but is extremely dangerous to the communities that deserve to have a public voice. It’s no secret that members of the LGBTQ community are already at great risk. The high rates of homelessness in LGBTQ teens, high unemployment rates, lack of protection from discrimination (both in the workplace and in areas such as marriage equality and hate crime legislation) all prove the need for more in-depth education and discussion. We must not sit back and allow individuals to erase our existence.
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Material addressing LGBTQ issues does not promote the “gay lifestyle” nor does it in any way attempt to persuade college students to join the LGBTQ community. If it were true that learning about a topic meant a person would automatically be converted, then none of us would have any opinion or sense of self. To suggest such a thing is not only insulting to the LGBTQ community but to every human being who seeks to learn about others. We must learn to find the value and importance of everyone, even if we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye. Harvey Milk once said, “Worry about becoming a human being and not about how you can prevent others from enjoying their lives because of your own inability to adjust to life.” These words still ring true today and we must demand that all individuals have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of life, not just the selected few. We must realize that if you silence the voice of some, you are really damaging the minds of all.
- TRAVIS WILLS, A SENIOR SOCIOLOGY MAJOR WITH A MINOR IN WOMEN'S AND GENDER STUDIES AT COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY IN CONWAY