Haynes 1 The Gay Struggle All people face hardship in their lives.

It is a part of life and usually makes us stronger; however, what happens when one is presented with extreme adversities simply because they are different? One such group that faces extreme difficulties is the homosexual community. They are bullied when they are younger, and their rights are ignored once they grow up. They are forced to endure overwhelming challenges just to live their lives. I chose this subject because it was very personal and close to my heart. When I was in elementary school, my parents got divorced because my mother discovered she was a lesbian. It was a very difficult adjustment for my family and me, but I loved my mom and accepted her lifestyle choice. Because of my familiarity to the subject material, I felt it would make an effective literacy investigation. I attempted to delve deeper into the struggles gays must face. Equal Rights for the Gays One of the most prevalent obstacles gays must overcome is the lack of equal rights they are afforded. There is very little representation for homosexuals in politics and, because of that, they rarely receive the same rights and opportunities as heterosexuals. The two most controversial issues surrounding homosexual couples are marriage and adoption. Gay Marriage and the Lack of Benefits Gay marriage has quickly become one of the biggest issues in the political world. Should homosexual couples be allowed to marry and receive the same benefits? Do they deserve a similar system if they are not allowed to wed? William Meezan, who

Haynes 2 specializes in child welfare, and Jonathan Rauch, a well-respected proponent for gay rights, discuss this issue in their government document “Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America's Children.” Of the fifty states in America, fourteen banned gay marriage outright in 2004 (Meezan and Rauch). Over a fourth of our country, known as the land of freedom, bans certain couples from marrying. This exemption from marriage rights prevents gay couple from receiving many of the benefits heterosexual couples enjoy from marriage. The Gay & Lesbian Marriage & Family Reader, a collection of works surrounding gay issues, describes some of the rights gay couples do not have access to because of marital bans. Gay couples do not have the same financial security as heterosexual couples. The book states: “Married persons are assumed to be interdependent upon one another. No similar inference is associated with unmarried persons” (Lehmann 3). Because gay couples are not married, they cannot enjoy the same level of economic security as married couples. If one partner becomes jobless or incapacitated, it is much harder to rely on the other partner than in a heterosexual pairing. A similar situation arises in the event that one partner has a health issue. While a married partner may be under the others insurance, and therefore able to receive proper medical care, an unmarried gay partner is usually not allowed under the other‟s insurance plan (Lehmann 6). Because they cannot marry, the gays are not given the benefits of such a union in society, including financially and personally. Homosexual Child Raising: Adoption and Birth Another challenge presented to adult homosexuals is raising a child. A homosexual can become a parent through a variety of methods, but he or she often faces difficulties both in a joint partnership with a partner or retaining custody in a divorce. The

Haynes 3 primary reason for the opposition towards a gay parent is because of the impact some feel it would have on the child. Meezan and Rauch counter this argument by stating “There is no evidence that children of lesbian and gay parents are confused about their gender identity, either in childhood or adulthood, or that they are more likely to be homosexual.” The lack of “evidence” disproves the commonly held fear that a child raised by a gay parent will become gay. Gay parents also face adversity when fighting for custody in the event of a divorce. My mother, who went through these challenges firsthand, mentioned this as one of her greatest fears in our interview. She said that “Working things out with the father of my children so that we could effectively co-parent our children“ was one of the greatest struggles she overcame. Gay parents frequently lose custody of their children in a divorce because of their sexuality. The courts often rule in favor of the heterosexual parent based upon the “per se standard,” which presumes a gay parent to be incompetent as a mother or father solely because of their homosexuality (Lehmann 49). The fear of losing their child in a court case possibly keeps some people from expressing themselves and coming out.

Accepting the Gay’s Lifestyle Politically is not the only area that looks down on the gay community. They must overcome the struggles of coming out to their friends and possibly face discrimination in the work place. However, there are two areas that I feel have the most significance and are the most difficult for homosexuals to surpass: the judgments made by family members, and the possibility of bullying as a younger gay.

Haynes 4 It’s a Family Thing Someone admitting they are gay oftentimes irreparably damages his or her family relationships. The homosexual can be ostracized, left out of family events, and virtually removed from the family. The spouse of the gay family member is also treated cruelly, and may even be blamed for the homosexuality. My mom mentioned this as another heavy struggle she had to overcome. Her father and older sister strongly disapproved of the new lifestyle, and it took years for them to finally accept her. Before he passed away, my grandfather accepted my mom and her partner after years of intolerance and “he treated [her] partner almost like another daughter” as his love for my mom overcame his beliefs. My mother says her relationship with her older sister is also much better now, but “there are [still] some things [they] just can‟t discuss.” My mom admitted that her sister “believes that God will „ask her on Judgment Day why she didn't love her sister enough to tell her that her lifestyle is wrong‟.” My mom proceeds to wonder, “What if God asks her why she didn't love her sister enough to accept her as He made her?” Despite the belief that your family is supposed to accept you no matter what, this is not always the case. Bullies- Just Because You’re Different At an age where fitting in is more important than anything else, being gay can be painfully difficult. Homosexual children in middle and high school are often tormented and bullied because they are gay. This teasing and abuse can lead gay teens to drastic consequences like suicide. The New York Times ran an article after a small string of gay teens across the country committed suicide because of bullying. Sympathetic religious leaders began to speak out against the harassment of gay adolescents, and stated that

Haynes 5 there will never be a religion that advocates bullying children to death (Freedman). As if growing up to a life that ignores the rights of the homosexual community wasn‟t enough, their peers subject those who come out at a young age to even more torment just because they are different. Where Is Our Country Heading? Despite all the challenges posed to the gay community, America is taking the proper steps to ensure a tolerant future. For example, some states in the United States have legalized same-sex marriage. Another positive step was the repeal of the “Don‟t Ask, Don‟t Tell” policy used by the military. The policy kicked homosexuals out of the military if they were discovered to be gay. President Obama stated that it was “a very good day” for America, and that those who want to protect and fight for our country‟s freedom should not be discriminated against because of their sexuality (Lee). My mother feels we are headed in the right direction as a country; she believes same-sex marriage and adoption will eventually be legalized on the same principles that lead to the abolition of slavery. Our country will see that it is wrong to withhold rights to certain groups of citizens. After this investigation, I learned a little more about the odds against same-sex couples, but what I learned most was about my mother. Through the entire ordeal, she allowed my sister and I to take our time adjusting and feel however we wanted about the situation. She also said “The biggest difference [between a homosexual and heterosexual parent] was being sensitive to the kids - letting them decide when/if/how to „come out‟ to their friends as having a gay parent.” She wanted to make the situation as easy as possible for us, and she wanted us to have the freedom to make our own choices whether or not

Haynes 6 we told people about our lesbian mom. She also admitted, “facing the fear that I might lose my kids” was one of her biggest initial fears; the fact that she was a lesbian mother could have swayed a judge to remove custody if a court case had arisen. She was grateful my father recognized the damage a custody battle could have caused, so he and my mom worked together to make things easier on my sister and me. My research strengthened my opinion that gays should receive the same rights as everyone else. America advocates separation of church and state, but has yet to translate this into marriage and adoption rights. People of all backgrounds are against homosexuals, from ignorant homophobes to politicians like Rick Perry; but people of all backgrounds can be gay as well. The acceptance and equality for the gay community should come soon if this country wishes to allow the freedom it is famous for.

Haynes 7 Works Cited Freedman, Samuel. "Gay Harassment and the Struggle for Inclusion." New York Times 09 Oct. 2010, late ed. 19. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. Lee, Jesse. "The President Signs Repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell": "Out of Many, We Are One"." The White House Blog. N.p., 22 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. Lehmann, Jennifer. The Gay & Lesbian Marriage & Family Reader. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. Print. Meezan, William, and Jonathan Rauch. United States. Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America's Children. Princeton, NJ: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and The Brookings Institution, 2005. Web. 14 Nov. 2011 Reavis, Nora. E-mail Interview. 16 Nov. 2011.