By KERRY TINGA
Illustration by NIKKI ALBERT
This Pride Month, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a landmark demonstration generally recognized as a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ+ liberation movement. For half a century, the LGBTQ+ community, in which I will include allies like myself, has come together to champion civil and political rights, as well as social equality and liberation from discrimination and prejudice.
Sometimes I marvel at the social progress that has been made, and sometimes I find myself shaking my head as ignorance and intolerance spread on social media, even making its way onto the news, whether it is a misguided article or our own elected leaders throwing around sexually prejudiced slurs.
As the youth, we were not born till much after the first brick was thrown at Stonewall. We have not seen society before the consolidated movement for social and legal acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. But the world we live in is, sadly, still many milestones away from complete acceptance of this marginalized group.
I mentioned “ignorance” and “intolerance,” and here today I write that it is the former I find there is much, much more to fear from. While intolerance is easy to spot out in a crowd, easy to shun into a corner and into the shadows, “ignorance” lies in that dangerous gray area where we sometimes overlook it or even outright forgive it.
They are from an older generation, I find myself thinking, or it was a joke that meant no harm. Then I realize, once that joke, that passing remark, or that sexual prejudice veiled under the pretense of journalism, spread out to a society that tolerates it, we as a society take several steps back.
Recent news has alarmed me, and I am glad to see that it has alarmed many; to see an audience entertaining the idea that homosexuality (and, to a greater extent, all sexual orientations other than heterosexuality, and all gender identifications other than cisgender) is a disorder that should be “cured.”
It is on these sensitive social issues that the tables have turned, where the duty to educate lies on the shoulders of us, the youth, to other generations.
As Ramon Magsaysay once said, “If a popular judgment is to be sound and constructive, the foundation of fact upon which it is based must be accurate and as comprehensive as possible.”
The beauty of the age of the Internet is that information is so readily available; the horror of the age of the Internet is that misinformation is so easily dispersed. Luckily, the Psychology Department of the University of California at Davis (UCD) has published a site featuring the work of Dr. Gregory Herek called “Sexual Orientation: Science, Education, and Policy,” described as “an internationally recognized authority on sexual prejudice.”
This enlightening site is exactly what the internet should be for—spreading knowledge instead of hate, shedding light on the ignorant gray areas so we can make informed decisions.
There is a long history of homosexuality and psychopathology clouded with the bias of antiquated and anachronistic religious teachings during the Middle Ages. We should, however, remember that this is the same time religious teachings included the promotion and selling of indulgences, so we should not take those religious teachings at face value.
The tides, however, began to turn and Evelyn Hooker’s seminal 1957 empirical study concluded: “Homosexuality is not a clinical entity and that homosexuality is not inherently associated with psychopathology.”
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association, faced with empirical evidence and the rise of the politically active LGBTQ+ community post-Stonewall, removed “homosexuality” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Almost half a century later, the notion that it is a disorder to be “cured” is still being entertained, why?
While the data and studies are clear, it is far from concluding that people of the sexual minority are free from psychological distress. Indeed, stress caused by sexual prejudice may manifest itself in the form of psychological distress. If there is an illness or disorder to be entertained, it is one that society has created based on sexual prejudice and projected onto minorities.
That is why Pride Month, and honestly every day that is not in Pride Month, is so important as opportunities to accept and to love. It is the social disease of ignorance and unfounded prejudice that needs a cure, and it starts with us educating ourselves and educating others.
I sign off saying, Happy Pride Month, and may you be proud of who you are in every sense of the word, every day of the year.
Artwork is by Nikki Albert, a 21- year-old illustrator and designer currently studying multimedia arts. Of the work, which includes the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag, the bisexual pride flag, the transgender pride flag, and the lesbianism pride flag, she says, “I wanted to celebrate how the LGBTQ+ community is highly diverse.”
DM @starilune on Instagram, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, for any inquiries and/or commissions.