Despite the fact that we’ve come a long, long way towards equality for homosexuals, we still have just as far to go. Things are better, but not perfect. We’ve seen laws against homosexuality rescinded, and same-sex marriages legally recognized in countries like Canada, and more recently, the United States. Assault against gay men and women is widely viewed and treated as a hate crime, as it should be. Companies and businesses, both big and small, proudly and loudly claim to be supportive of the LGBT community and their cause. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee or applicant based on their sexuality.
And yet, it does still happen. Some studies reveal a wage gap between similarly experienced men, with gay men earning as much as 20% less than their straight counterparts. Another study uncovered discrimination against homosexual applicants for jobs, with gay men and women 5% less likely to get an interview than a heterosexual with similar experience and education.
Again, better. But not great.
Most of us have come out of the dark ages and see sexuality as a private matter. It shouldn’t have any impact on how we treat an individual. Saying you’re against homosexuality because it goes against your religion is like saying you’re against milkshakes because they go against your diet. One has nothing to do with the other.
We all deserve to be treated with respect, and we all deserve the right to be the person we were born. Who we love shouldn’t determine where we can work, or whether we’re “allowed” to devote ourselves to that person through the bond of marriage. And it’s getting to that point, albeit slowly.
That being said, there are a few careers where it’s still not “okay” to be gay. Granted, “okay” in this sense is subject to debate… it might be prohibited, or it might simply be frowned upon. Regardless, gay men and women in these positions find themselves fighting an unfair uphill battle.
You would think that actor would be the most open-minded and tolerant of jobs. And it can be. There are many successful gay actors, including Neil Patrick Harris, Jim Parsons, Ellen DeGeneres, Ian McKellan, and Jodie Foster. After all, the position by definition requires someone assume the personality and characteristics of someone else, so who they are in their private life shouldn’t carry much weight.
And yet, there is still a stigma attached to it. Paradoxically, many people can’t believe a gay actor playing a straight part, especially if that part requires a romantic connection with the opposite sex, yet we have no problem with straight actors playing gay roles… because it’s just make-believe, after all.
You just don’t see a lot of openly gay actors in the lead of a traditional rom-com. The public can’t wrap their head around it… even though acting is nothing but pretending. We suspend our disbelief of everything else, though. We accept actors as mentally challenged, disabled, psychologically damaged, deranged, even magical. But a gay man pretending to be romantically interested in a woman? No. That’s too much.
Openly gay actors often end up playing a cartoonish version of themselves as the oversexed alpha male (à la Neil Patrick Harris’ character on How I Met Your Mother) in a “wink-wink, nudge-nudge, look at the gay men pretending to be straight” inside joke, or they get typecast and offered nothing but gay characters, or if they’re one of the lucky ones, they’ll continue to get work… so long as it’s a supporting character role with no romantic interest.
To be fair, it does seem to be getting better, but the fact that it’s an issue at all makes no sense. A good actor is able to portray virtually anything at all.
Sadly, there are laws against homosexuals serving in the military in many places. Even in the United States, it was illegal until 2011. Yeah… only four years ago. Prior to that, the US adhered to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy implemented in 1993. The policy “allowed” homosexuals to serve in the armed forces as long as they didn’t reveal their sexuality. Otherwise, they were prohibited from service because their presence "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability". Wow.
Homosexuals were good enough to serve and die for their country, but only if they kept their private lives hidden. The act was repealed in 2011, and homosexual Americans can now openly serve their country. But that’s not the end of the discrimination.
Unfortunately, the United States is not alone in this kind of antiquated and thinking. Whether laws exist to prevent it or not, many places frown upon it. Plenty of people consider homosexuals unfit to serve, for either moral or physical reasons. The stereotypical gay man is neither masculine nor strong enough to adequately perform his duties in the military… or so the thinking goes. Religious Tolerance reports that some members of the general public, as well as other service personnel, feel that homosexuals don’t belong in the military, and harassment, abuse, and in some cases even assault still happen today. They are increasingly isolated and rare, but they haven’t disappeared completely.
A small percentage of straight servicemen admit they would feel awkward and uncomfortable having to shower, undress, and share living quarters with a gay peer.
The law allows it, but attitudes are slow to change sometimes. The argument against homosexuals in the military is flawed in every way: a) believing that gay men are not masculine enough (even though masculinity is not a requirement for even straight men to succeed in service), or b) that gay men and women will be unable to control themselves around their straight colleagues. Both could not be more wrong.
Openly gay professional athletes are few and far between, and with good reason. Much like the situation with the military, there’s a lot of lingering discrimination out there in the realm of professional sports. Thirty percent of LGBT athletes report having been harassed or attacked for their sexuality. Laws forbid preventing a gay athlete from playing, but many straight players, team owners, and managers admit to having reservations about gay individuals on their rosters. The reasons are anyone’s guess: unwanted media attention and distraction, homophobia, buying into stereotypes that gay men are not “manly” enough, discomfort with their own sexuality, and so on. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Many gay athletes either believe, or are told outright, that it would be better to hide their orientation. So they do.
As a result, we may never know the true number of professional gay athletes, and when they do come out (often not until after retiring from the sport), it’s a major news story. Michael Sam. Jason Collins. Robbie Rogers. Billy Bean. Martina Navratilova.
Imagine a headline that read “LeBron James Admits He Likes Women” to see how ridiculous the whole thing has become. Gay athletes are increasingly recognizing a need to come forward and publicly discuss something as private as their sexual orientation. They shouldn’t have to, but they do in order to give hope to the voiceless gay athletes unable or too afraid to come forward themselves.
Being a gay athlete is not illegal, but it’s still not easy.
We hold our teachers to a high moral standard. We trust them with our children, and we expect them to behave in a manner that reflects and deserves that trust. Most teachers are dedicated and passionate about education, spending vast amounts of their time and their own money to improve the quality of instruction that our kids receive.
But, once again, there are those out there that believe a gay teacher should not be allowed to instruct children, as if any sexual orientation (gay, straight, bi, or otherwise) has a place in the classroom. Despite laws that protect them, gay teachers are frequently the target of harassment, abuse, and wrongful dismissal.
The fear can often be traced back to long-held beliefs linking homosexuality and pedophilia, even though various organizations – including the American Psychological Association – have shown them to be unfounded. There is no correlation between the two. At all.
Other individuals and groups use the so-called “gay agenda” as reason to keep homosexuals out of the classroom entirely. They believe that homosexuality is a choice, and that gay men and women will influence their children to choose it as their own. This, despite the fact that science is finally starting to prove that sexuality is hard-coded the same way as eye or hair colour.
Like gay military personnel and gay athletes, many gay teachers find it best to keep their sexuality a secret. Most say they don’t and would not hide it, per se, but they don’t reveal it, either. Too many potential issues and prejudices.
Those against gay teachers treat sexuality as something contagious, like a fifth grader could "catch gay". It’s insane.
We all like to consider ourselves open-minded, tolerant, and accepting, but the reality for gay men and women is far from that. Many still believe that gay men and lesbians should not perform in certain roles.
My sexuality has nothing to do with my abilities. Your sexuality has nothing to do with yours. It’s akin to saying people with brown hair can’t be bakers, or women under 6 feet tall shouldn’t be allowed to drive, or men with a weak chin can’t buy a house. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just discrimination.
I don’t have to announce myself as a straight man in life, and no one asks, because it doesn’t matter. Why should gay men and women be treated any differently?
Things are better, but we can do more.
Where do you still see discrimination against gay men and women? As a gay man or woman, have you ever experienced it firsthand? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below…