Being gay shouldn’t have to be my job

It will surprise none of you to learn that I’ve been engaged in LGBTQ+ activism since I was a teenager. At 15, I joined a group of students in forming a Gay-Straight Alliance. I held leadership roles in that organization until I graduated, working in turns with and against my school’s administration and the wider community to provide a vital service to our queer youth – a safe space in which to be.

It felt earth-shakingly important at the time, and my grades suffered due to my single-minded dedication to the cause.

I have a bitter memory of a beloved but ultimately unkind teacher meeting with me about my faltering performance. She concluded an hour of discussion with a statement I’ll never forget: “Kyle, it’s not your job to be gay.”

Four years later, it seems – in the most significant ways – it now is my job to be gay. I take this job very seriously.
On Aug. 30, our lawmakers convened a meeting of the Summer Study Commit¬tee on LGBT Issues. I arrived early with my Freedom Indiana compatriots and the community members we prepared to testify. It felt refreshing to be back at the Statehouse, and I was optimistic that we would leave with an idea of how to move our issue forward.

The committee was generally receptive to our message, and seemed to shrug off the worst caricatures our opposition drew of us. However, what really concerned me was that many of those present, lawmakers and citizens alike, didn’t seem to under-stand any better than my teacher why our side is fighting so hard.

This was apparent to me in the testimony of one woman who insisted that civil rights protections should be withheld from gay and transgender Hoosiers. She said that she was tired of kowtowing to a minority of the population, and opined that our community is insatiable – that once our lawmakers gave us one thing, we would come back and beg for more.

I don’t think we are asking the rest of the world to kowtow to us when we demand the freedom to work and live where everyone else already can. That doesn’t sound like special treatment to me, it sounds like the common sense Hoosiers are supposedly famous for.

Pursuing equal rights is not a game to our community. It’s not something we can compromise on.

We fight very hard, sometimes at great expense, because it’s our job to ensure the next generation of queer folks will not have to. I think that’s worth a few poor grades and early mornings at the State- house. I hope that, someday, people like my old teacher and that oh-so-concerned citizen might agree.

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