Imagine yourself back in high school. You and your best friend are pretty and popular. You two are inseparable, going to parties, to the gym, to dinner — doing everything — together. It has been like this for years but then one day things start to change. You realize that you’re attracted to her. Vehemently denying it, you suppress the attraction and continue your friendship. Inevitably, your feelings only grow stronger until one day, you realize that you’re sick of lying to yourself and accept it — you have a crush on your best friend. You wonder: How is this happening to me? Is this normal? Am I a freak? My friends will stop talking to me if they ever knew. My peers will make fun of me.
These very thoughts and questions will eventually push you into a realm of oppressing silence. The silence confines you to solitude as you begin to drift away from your best friend, peers and the life you were once living.
This is the experience of one of our very own UCI students, and is most likely the story of many others, too. Unfortunately, these students have a reason to harbor such fears. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2007, nine out of 10 LGBT youth were verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation. More so, with 44.1 percent being physically harassed and 22.1 percent being physically assaulted, it really becomes no wonder why a student would rather withdraw into an oppressive silence. Whether it’s because of the bullying, fears of not being accepted or discomfort with such an identity, 30 percent of youth suicides each year are performed by homosexuals. These are all kids around our age. They could be our friends, our classmates or even our brothers and sisters. How are we letting this happen to them? How are we letting them take their lives away for doing nothing but loving someone?
We can help save some of the 1,488 homosexual youth suicides by implementing a study on LGBT issues as a part of the sex education curriculum like a school in a West Michigan school district is considering doing. The video, “Coming out: What Every Teen (Gay or Straight) Needs to Know,” will cover issues regarding tolerance, bullying and identity.
This program should be implemented in Michigan and adopted in schools nationwide. Whether we are poor, rich, Indian, Buddhist or gay we should never have to fear or hide our identity but instead walk with pride knowing who we are. Briefly including a section on LGBT issues in the sex education curriculum will reach out to those students who are questioning their sexuality. Instead of letting them retreat into darkness, we can show them that it’s okay to be gay. Not only will this program reach out to LGBT students, but also to all other students by educating them about what it means to be gay — hopefully destroying any misconceptions.
A parent opposing the idea states, “The basics should be taught in school, and parents or elders should teach anything beyond that.” This is a valid argument; a parent has a right to their child and his or her knowledge. But these parents need to take a look around them and realize that homosexuality is a natural part of human diversity. We often believe that humans exist in binaries — we’re male or female, happy or sad, black or white, gay or straight.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Humans are complex because of our ability to exist in various shades of gray. We’re not black or white but colors in between or mixed together. We exist on a scale and we’re all at some level of gay or straight. In fact, it would be unnatural for us to exist as one or the other. Society rejects the LGBT community under the belief that they are straying from what is “normal” for a human being. Unfortunately, I was failed to be informed that creating nuclear weapons of mass destruction or taking away the lives of innocent people — people that were probably mothers and fathers to children or a brother to a sister — was at all “normal” for a human being to do.
Call me a hopeless romantic, but we all have the freedom to love — both to love someone else and ourselves. Adding a LGBT video to the sex education curriculum will bestow students with valuable knowledge.
Natasha Illam is a third-year business economics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.