When Cindy came to our class to talk about her relationship with her lesbian partner and her attempts to improve legislation in New Jersey for the LGBT community, she seemed to contain great enthusiasm for our future generation. I remember her saying, “Your generation will help pass this bill,” because she truly believed that society was beginning to think more open-mindedly about issues such as gay marriage.
Up until her presentation, I felt the same way. I have been at Montclair for three years, and over the course of this time, I have generally seen people react positively to change in New Jersey legislation. I, myself, believed that since New Jersey is a liberal state it will eventually approve of gay marriage, and from there on, improvements for the gay community are only bound to increase. However, I did not realize how much of an issue gay marriage was in New Jersey. During election time, I saw the increase in discussion about marriage equality in all my classes.
One of my jurisprudence professors dedicated an entire class to discuss this topic. During class, he asked us what we thought about the people voting on the gay rights issue in New Jersey. Having just discussed this in my LGBT Experience class, I had a confident answer about how such voting is not fair because it allows a majority to vote on a minority issue, which has not happened in the cases of race or gender. One of the students in class responded by saying, “Well, that was different. Race and gender was actually an issue.” I was taken aback by his response, and I saw my professor show discomfort with the comment, too. However, he urged us to move away from our personal beliefs, and speak on the matter strictly in terms of law and politics.
The class discussion continued, but the angered student later approached me asking me whether or not I was an avid supporter of the LGBT cause. I responded by saying, “I never thought too much of it, but after taking a class specifically on the subject, my interest on the matter has only grown.” To this, he replied, “Well, I am completely against it.” I laughed because I thought he was joking. I am not saying I have never seen homophobic attitudes in my life, but for someone to actually come out and say it, it was actually quite comical. I asked him why he would say such a thing and his reply was, “Don’t get me wrong. They can do whatever they want just not marry each other. They shouldn’t get that right.”
“So then they don’t get to do whatever they want?” I replied.
“Well, I mean I don’t get why it’s that important.”
“If it is not that important than why are you so stubborn on the issue.”
“Well. I’m part of the Newman Catholic Church…” Before he could even finish that statement, it all made sense to me. He had a religious argument against gay marriage. He continued, “Well, aren’t you Muslim. You should really not be supporting it either.”
“I’m sorry. My religion taught me to treat everyone equally,” I replied.
“What does your religion say about the issue? Is it because of the Leviticus passage?” I continued.
“Oh no! I don’t believe that. I mean I’m all for meat and cotton blends.”
That is when I knew I could no longer communicate on an intellectual basis with this kid. The fact that he would outwardly admit to not believing a text in the Bible, yet still argue that the Bible does not want gay people to get married struck me as absolutely ridiculous. I told him that my views are open-minded and that I do not let the normative expectations of society shape my mind. Consequently, he urged me to drop by one of his church meetings, and then make up my mind.
I asked, “Is your church open to hear my side?”
He replied, “I don’t think you can change our views…”
“Then I am not interested. As a matter of fact, why don’t you drop by my class and speak to my teacher? She can provide you with some valuable insight.”
“Yea right,” he replied. “Like I want some teacher, who is clearly pro-gay marriage shoving her views down by throat?”
“Actually, you are the one who approached me to shove the church’s view down my throat, so thanks but no thanks.”
After this discussion, the student has shown extreme hostility to me in class. He attempts to argue about everything I have to say. This made me realize, if he is so angry with me for being a supporter of gay marriage, how does he react to fellow LGBT students in his other classes? He must attack them in various ways, and the thought of that simply disgusts me. This student is so open about his views, and he is not afraid to make people uncomfortable. He openly discriminates against the LGBT community as well as anyone who supports them. This made me extremely sad because all the trust Cindy showed in our generation can be at risk because of a select few individuals who are unwilling to change their views.
When people like Jeannette in Oranges face isolation from the church and women like Jess in Stone Butch Blues are victimized because of their sexual identification, we tend to view it as primitive thinking. However, that might not be the case. Church members apparently still treat homosexuals as outcasts. They are willing to stigmatize against them and even deny them of their rights. I am sure religion is not the only factor in such discrimination. Many other groups such as Republicans in the political parties and conservatists, geographically dominating the South, also use the same ideology in discriminating against the LGBT community. Sometimes, I fear the student in my class because I am not sure of what he will say next to attack my person views, but I have learned that the best way to face this challenge is by replying in a calm, intellectual manner. If I were to back down because his views are so strong, people like Cindy will never get the rights they deserve. Instead, I have to stand up and show that my personal views are equally as strong as the church’s. By doing so, I believe that Cindy’s dream of a more open-minded American, or at least a more liberal New Jersey, can come true.