Phillip Ensler: Conversation, not complacency

I had a very pleasant dream this week. I dreamt that being gay no longer made a person a subject of hateful acts and feelings of inferiority. But that was not the reality I woke up to. Recent events across the country reminded me of the terror lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals still face.

In case you missed them, here is a recap of the most despicable incidents that have happened recently: A freshman from Rutgers University killed himself after his roommate streamed online footage of him kissing another male; three gay men were mercilessly tortured in the Bronx simply because of their sexual orientation; individuals have been taunted and physically attacked in D.C. since June.

What is most concerning about these events is that many of the attackers are young, college-age students. This challenges the notion that our generation has transcended such hatred.

If we seek universal acceptance for all people then complacency is not an option. Personally supporting gays is no longer enough. We need to respond to this bigotry with a renewed sense of passion and righteousness. We need to stigmatize opposition to gay rights and make those who do not support equality ashamed of their position. Moreover, we should engage in civilized discussions with our peers and family members to convince them that they too should be accepting of all individuals.

This is important, as seemingly moderate voices perpetuate an exclusive and hateful culture. When an individual states that he or she does not think gays should be able to marry or someone proclaims homosexuality is a choice, that person is promoting the notion that being gay is inferior to being straight.

Engage them. Pressure them to recognize the impact of their words.

This acceptance of inferiority makes gay men like Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi turn to suicide. It is on college campuses where many students are coming to terms with their sexual identity and where social pressures are high. Those who frequently surround us can most intimately contribute to our sense of inferiority. We only need to look at Clementi’s death to know that the slightest animosity toward homosexuality or pranks on someone because of his or her sexuality can have horrific consequences.

Let me be clear: It is still imperative to condemn the venomous and callous comments espoused by groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church and other public leaders. But rather than just addressing the bigotry on a larger platform we need to address the very root of the problem: individual opposition to gays.

During the civil rights movement, images of dogs and water hoses used to attack blacks awakened the conscience of the nation and propelled people to respond to such acts of violence. With the heinous stories about the brutality against LGBT individuals fresh in our minds, it is up to our generation to act and fight homophobia head-on to prevent another gay youth from being attacked or taking his or her own life.

The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this column.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.