Dare to Ask: Do gays feel shunned by our society?
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Do people of the homosexual preference feel they are shunned? -- Karissa,
Being gay isn't a preference, it's a reality. It also doesn't help that many
groups call LGBT people "perverts" and lie about them. It is definitely true
that LGBT people feel shunned. -- Erin, 18, bisexual, Illinois
Yes, and occasionally they are murdered ... and I imagine being murdered
might make a person feel shunned. -- Carrie, 21, bisexual, Houston
It's not fair when I take my partner out for a dinner and have to avert my
eyes from those casting a scornful look. -- Alaina, 28, lesbian, Cincinnati
I am tired of being the token lesbian at work. Of being left out of family
reunions so "Aunt Judy and Uncle Joe" won't feel uncomfortable. I want the right
to see my spouse in the hospital. My friend wanted the right to be called when
her lover was killed in Iraq. The military called her parents instead. They had
been a couple for 10 years. I want to lead my son's Cub Scout den without being
undercover. -- Kara, 51, lesbian, Austin
It's 2010. Is the shunning still stunning?
Some numbers: A 2008 Human Rights Campaign workplace survey of Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people found that 51 percent hide their LGBT
identity, fewer than half feel OK talking about sex or relationships with
co-workers, nearly six of 10 hear derogatory comments about LGBT people, 42
percent feel they must lie about their personal life, half of those who aren't
open don't reveal their identity because they feel it'll bother others, 40
percent say others get uncomfortable if they mention their partner and some say
they're ignored by co-workers after revealing their identity.
Yet, "in general, things are getting better -- though they're nowhere near
where they should be," said HRC spokesman Michael Cole. "People getting annoyed
because you put a picture of your partner on your desk happens less because it's
becoming less of an oddity."
One problem is that LGBT people often grow up shunning their own reality, and
then get hit with so much that reminds them they are different that it
reinforces feeling ostracized, he said.
"Just last night, the concierge in my building tells me there was a message
for my 'roommate' -- well, clearly we're a couple, and that can be off-putting
when it's not recognized."
The best thing to do: Learn about LGBT people's lives, Cole said.
"Invite someone gay to dinner ... not because they're gay, but because you
want to get to know them. Some straight people latch on to 'that gay person' as
their token diverse person; it's like, 'Oh, let's see what the gay person
But if you do want to ask something, maybe see how they feel about the fact
that in 29 states, including Florida, it's still legal to fire them just because
Just don't ask it at the water cooler.
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
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