Here’s my addition to the chorus of bloggers writing about Chick-fil-A.
For me this is personal and I think it should be for you too.
I grew up in this community, went to elementary, middle school and high school in Rockland County. I played soccer, Just for Fun Little League, was a cub scout and did well in school. I received first Holy Communion, and Confirmation at St. Gregory’s Church in Garnerville.
I grew up with loving and caring working class parents, who instilled in me a strong work ethic and the importance of treating others with dignity and respect. I graduated from undergrad cum laude and am currently finishing a graduate degree in Public Administration. I work at a nonprofit and I am still very much involved in our community. And I am an out 27 year old gay man.
I came out towards the end of middle school, as I entered high school. I remember being called every derogatory name for a gay person by peers. I remember fearing going into the locker room to change for physical education because I was scared I would be harmed, and I remember going home sick to use the bathroom because I didn’t feel safe in the bathroom either.
I remember people screaming hateful comments at me from cars as I walked home from school. I remember the countless nights I spent crying. I remember receiving death threats stating that I would be killed because “gays and minorities are ruining the country” (that was a direct quote from a threat I received). I remember when Matthew Shepard was murdered and I thinking that could be me. I remember feeling angry, helpless and lost.
I must say, I am one of the lucky ones because many LGBT youth don’t make it through school. As we know tragically, the suicide rate for LGBT youth is 4 times that of our heterosexual peers. I say I’m lucky because I had a wonderful support network of friends, family and community leaders.
I was able to take the pain and oppression that I was feeling and translate that into action. Since high school, I have not stopped working for equality and justice because I know I do not want anyone to feel what I had to feel because of who they are. I have come to learn that we can save lives if we start to change policies that normalize the oppression that many LGBT youth feel.
So what does this have to do with Chick-fil-A? My challenge to you is to dig deep. What message is sent to our youth, to our society, when organizations make statements that a segment of the population should not have access to one of the most fundamental cornerstones of our society, marriage? Even deeper yet, should we support an organization that gives millions of dollars to organizations who deem me (your neighbor) as less than, abominations and deserving death?
Some of the organizations Chick-fil-A supports provide harmful so called “conversion” therapy for LGBT people, lobbied the United States Congress to support Uganda's “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”, oppose efforts to end school bullying, and compares us to pedophiles. See it’s much bigger than marriage equality.
These policies and positions empower, embolden and normalize the actions of those who harm my community. This past week, in the United States, a woman was attacked and her attackers carved anti-gay slurs into her body, another person was beaten and a third was firebombed all because they are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. Currently, 21 states in the United States could fire us because we are LGBT.
And in even in 2012, many members of my community fear that we may be victims of violence because of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Rockland County is better than this, NY is better than this and I know America is surely better than this.
To me, we need to start connecting the dots and start digging deep. I believe it is our moral and ethical responsibility to do so. This is more than eating or not eating an artery clogging chicken sandwich; this is about working to end institutional and systematic oppression.