Emotional Health · Marriage & Life Partners · News

Let LGBT Be the Issue to Unify Us

fordCecilia Ford, who has been a psychologist in private practice in New York City since 1987, has addressed emotional issues for Women’s Voices in many articles over the years.


8450394689_0a9e6b58a9_zPhoto by Flickr user Praveen. (Creative Commons License)

People have always had a natural tendency to be tribal, and have identified themselves as belonging to certain groups. Religious, racial, ethnic, and national divisions remain powerful today despite our efforts to fight prejudice. Even after the shame of slavery was acknowledged here, civil rights took 100 more years to achieve, and anti-Semitism in Europe remains high despite the horrors of the Holocaust.

Crimes against LGBT people have now surpassed those against Jews (the usual highest target) according to The New York Times:

Ironically, part of the reason for violence against L.G.B.T. people might have to do with a more accepting attitude toward gays and lesbians in recent decades, say people who study hate crimes.

As the majority of society becomes more tolerant of L.G.B.T. people, some of those who are opposed to them become more radical, said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The flip side of marriage equality is that people who strongly oppose it find the shifting culture extremely disturbing, said Gregory M. Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who is an expert on anti-gay violence.

Perhaps a dialectic is occurring that will eventually lead to truly widespread acceptance of LGBT individuals. This issue could be an important step on the road to easing tensions between groups, maybe even a cornerstone. Why? It is now recognized that sexual/gender orientation is an issue that any family can encounter and knows no racial, ethnic or political divisions. Any parent can lose a child; anyone can lose a friend to prejudice against them. The only difference is that some cultures are more reluctant to accept this fact, making the LGBT members less likely to be accepted and open. Self-hatred, long a terrible byproduct of these prejudices, is sometimes a motive driving this kind of violence.

In Western culture, attitudes have shifted through the years but it was not so long ago that homosexuality was thoroughly taboo. There was some recognition of the “confirmed bachelor” type, and “Boston Marriages” (a term for two spinsters living together) were, well, common. But explicit reference to sexual activities between same-sex individuals and/or acting publicly on these urges was forbidden. The only option was to live an underground life, “in the closet,” which is why places like gay bars, where one could be open in “public,” were so important.

RELATED: No More ‘Same-Sex’: U.S. Supreme Court Affirms My Full Marriage

CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, who is gay, was devastated on the air last week, crying as he read the names of the victims. “I can’t tell you how many bars and clubs I’ve been to over the years,” Mr. Cooper told The New York Times, adding that his longtime companion, Benjamin Maisani, owned several gay bars in New York. “Every gay man in America remembers the first time they went to a gay bar and how they felt.”

The freedom afforded in the bars gave a sense of sanctuary: “At least here I can be open about who I am, people felt, without fear that someone will be offended or even hateful to me,” was the sentiment gay clubs inspired.

Orlando, among its many lessons and warnings, has robbed LGBT people of that feeling of safety. Despite all the gains of the recent years, they are still being reminded that this issue is incendiary, inciting the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The victims were expressing their identity and feelings of love, both of which are fundamental to being fully human, taking no stand or position against anyone. But the perpetrators of these crimes react with fear and hatred, “retaliating” as if they have been attacked.

Psychologists now agree that sexuality and gender identity are due primarily to nature, not nurture. For many years people sought therapy to change themselves in an effort to be socially accepted. We are now awake to the idea that it is society that must change, and in many ways it has. Gay people dance not just in their own clubs, but can dance anywhere — at weddings, where straight people dance alongside them. They now have their own weddings, a remarkable achievement after so many years of struggle. While these changes have no doubt incited some of the reactionary feelings against them, the more LGBT are fully integrated into society the harder it will be to isolate them and make them such easy targets.

Read More »

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Toianna Wika June 23, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Hello. Thanks for your email. I guess we are making some progress for the Lgbt community to become recognized just as other people. I am a freelance writer..please let me know about any opportunities to support my brothers and sisters. I am not gay, and I am Christian. However, I want to defend human rights and try to defend social justice FOR ALL.