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Stop talking over us

| Thursday, October 10, 2019

I started occasionally reading The Observer after a friend joined its staff as a Viewpoint columnist this fall. While I always make sure to show my support by reading his pieces, I also tend to click through the other articles as well. As a prospective LGBT student, it’s a bit alarming to see the voices of LGBT and allied contributors being continually silenced or spoken over in the dialogue they are desperately attempting to establish. Two pieces stuck out to me: “There’s queer blood on homophobic hands,” and “There’s innocent blood on pro-choice hands.”

Audrey Lindemann’s original poem strikes a chord with me, as I too grew up a queer girl in a conservative Catholic environment. I attended an all-girls Catholic school from three years to 15 years old, and it was an incredibly hostile place to be. I attempted to come out once at 13 and faced such backlash that I never dared to speak about it again. I heard girls call me a dyke in private and a freak to my face. It was something that shaped the way I viewed myself — from positive to overwhelmingly negative — and I felt shut out from the Church. I also know I’m not alone. Many other LGBT people feel the prying eyes as they hold hands and hear slurs and threats whispered under breaths. In fact, violence against LGBT people has been on the rise, with an increase of 17% in reported hate crimes in 2017 from 2016. Most notably, the Pulse shooting killed 49 and injured 53 people, making it the largest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. 

Lindemann’s piece was soon followed by a piece from Francine Shaft, which imitated the style of Lindemann’s original work in the context of the Roe v. Wade court case and the abortion debate in the U.S.. While I applaud Shaft for standing up for her beliefs, this is simply not the way to do it. Her piece undercuts the importance of Lindemann’s and takes the focus away from a desperately needed discourse on LGBT rights and protections. 

I take great issue with this overshadowing of queer voices in what is supposed to be a thought-provoking, socially conscious publication, as well as the sheer ignorance of the original purpose of Lindemann’s work present in Shaft’s. In Lindemann’s poem, she references the AIDS epidemic, which has since claimed nearly 675,000 lives in the U.S. alone, most of which were gay and bisexual men. Worldwide, the deaths are close to almost 32 million since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s. In Shaft’s piece, she references over 60 million abortion cases since the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973. While this is no small number, I wonder why she chose to imitate Lindemann’s original poem without ever addressing the considerable loss of life of LGBT individuals in hate crimes, the AIDS epidemic or in suicide. Aren’t their lives just as real and legitimate as those unborn children? Were they not also innocent lives? Or did their sin make them deserving of their punishment?

The rational answer is of course not. No person deserves to die for their sexual orientation — something they cannot even control. A problem of hate still remains, however, in the Catholic and Christian faiths. Westboro Baptist Church members appeared at a funeral for a gay soldier in the U.S. military to protest tolerance of gay members of the armed forces by the government. Mike Pence, the vice president of the U.S. and an outspoken Christian, was gifted an honorary degree from Notre Dame and spoke at the 2017 commencement ceremony. He also famously stated being gay was “a choice” or “at worst, learned behavior,” and has a long history of opposing protections for the LGBT community before and after his vice presidency. Religion still has a long way to go when it comes to endorsing protections for LGBT people as a minority group, and Lindemann’s piece intends to call attention to the ever-present problem of homophobia in religion and society as a whole.

So, if you truly wish to be pro-life, I would like to see someone marching on the Capitol to protest lack of protections for LGBT people, the lack of attention to the high rates of suicide in LGBT people, and hate crimes against LGBT people. I want to see the same care and attention given to these people — who are already born — that is given to these unborn children. 

It doesn’t end at LGBT people. I want to see someone protesting the nearly 40 million people who are currently labeled “food insecure.” I want to see pieces written about the hundreds of thousands of lives currently barely surviving on America’s streets and under its highways. I want the Right for Life protest to protest for all lives, not just the unborn ones. It is untrue to say you are pro-life when you really mean anti-abortion. Care about the quality of life, not just the number.

Four and a half percent of all Americans identify along the LGBT umbrella. Four and a half percent of those 60 million unborn lives would be LGBT, or 2.7 million people. Will you protect those 2.7 million lives? Will you be there when they are cast out of their homes by homophobic parents, ostracized from their friends, killed like dogs in the street? Will you protest for their medical care when they are dying of HIV and AIDS? Will you speak up for them on the Hill? Will you show them the same compassion and love as their cis, straight counterparts? If you doubted a “yes” to any of those questions, you have no business calling yourself “pro-life.” If you actively imitate the work of an LGBT person to use it for your own agenda, you indirectly silence the dialogue she opened. If you want to speak about your opposition to abortion laws, go ahead. Write your article, but don’t imitate the work of those who are actively calling for the protection of the lives of oppressed people around you. Instead, support these creators. Read what they say. Comment on it. Start that discussion. Don’t be a ripoff, because when you do, you undermine the comparable loss of life and widespread discrimination of LGBT people in the U.S., even in your own backyard of Notre Dame, Indiana. Their lives are worth the fight, too.

Elise Bourgeois

prospective student

Oct. 8

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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