Panel Discussion Reflection (LGBTQ Rights & the Laramie Project)

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Much of what has been learned in the LGBTQ culture has resulted from the dismantling of cultural views on the community. Historically, the LGBTQ population has faced discrimination and had their rights restricted on the basis of justifications based on faith, traditional beliefs, and natural law. The book of Leviticus specifically prohibits Jews from engaging in homosexual conduct, stating that “thou shalt not cheat with humanity, as with womankind: it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). Various Christian religions and groups have used this verse to demonstrate that homosexuality is prohibited by God. Others try to show that because of science, homosexuality is not a natural phenomenon, but a matter of behavioral disorder.

Defining attributes of society

The panel was made up of people who were intimately familiar with the issue of LGBTQ. These panelists were able to discuss their experiences in a very nice way, which made other members of the audience open up about their own experiences. It was clear that, the society in general had seen a major shift in practices over time, such that today, most people are able to associate with LGBTQ communities and see them as equal members of the society in general.

One of instances involved a career police officer who described his experiences in the force. Perceptions here are harder to change than it is for the general public. The police force was keen to show that it was made up of masculine men who were model members of their societies. As such, it would be inconsistent with the general image of the force for a member to be openly gay.

According to the police officer, the society has however made huge progress in accepting the LGBTQ community. This was not to mean that things were where they should. The community still faced discrimination and hostility, meaning that more needed to be done to help change perceptions towards more tolerance. In particular, schools had an important role as the formative environment of children. By showing them that they were normal, regardless of their family setup, and regardless of their sexual orientation, they would be more proud of themselves, while also being better understood by their contemporaries.

Religion

As with basically everything else, religious views in the LGBTQ community are not consistent with each other. As stated above, some take it that the bible has decreed homosexuality and other unusual sexual orientations to be forbidden, an abomination. However, some Rabbis, who are respected religious figures in Judaism, feel that it is basically unreasonably to implement everything as seen in the bible. This would make for a very difficult society, which was unable to evolve with the times and one which was unable to fully appreciate the contributions of its different members. This would lead to an unhealthy state of events, such as fundamentalism and the exclusion of significant portions of the society form common discourse.

The local priest was very clear too about why the bible should not be used to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community. The priest said that he bible similarly held different teachings such as loving your neighbor, without attaching conditions. This would therefore mean that everyone, regardless of their creed, race or other orientation should be met with love as the bible decreed, and without efforts to make them uncomfortable. It is therefore clear that individual interpretations of the LGBTQ issue are the reasons for this divide, rather than religion. Religion is only used as a justification for divergent views.

Communities

Some communities are, by virtual of the interactions between members, likely to accept or reject gay members of that society. In close knit communities, where people are intimately aware of each other’s circumstances in life, it is likely that LGBTQs will have an easier time being accepted. Everyone in the community is likely to be treated equally, especially if the community is liberal. Inversely, if the community were to be more conservative, they may make life harder for those who are unlike them.

Political and social views

As a general rule, conservatives are less likely to accept LGBTQ communities. They will be more vocal in opposing any sort of compromise or legal changes which advocate for more rights for LGBTQ people. At the same time, they will justify their positions using traditional concepts such as adhering to biblical or Quranical teachings, as well as what the Torah says about homosexuality. Changing their views is possible, but may be an uphill task if the genuinely believe that the sexual orientation is actually a sin and inconsistent with their faith.

Liberals are likely to view things differently. They will be more open to other people who are unlike them, including LGBTQ people. They will be advocates or supporters of efforts to afford them more rights under the law, seeing them as able and full members of the society. While they may have strong religious beliefs, they are likely to interpret religious teachings differently. For this reason, it was possible for one of the Jewish panelists to be advised by her Rabbi that homosexuality was not strictly against Jewish law. It was also possible for a liberal priest to argue that, the law which requires people to love others as much as they love themselves is more important than any other, including prohibition against homosexuality.

Things are however not as clear cut. There are several people who identify as conservative, but who are supporters of gay rights. On the other end of the spectrum are liberals who are strongly in opposition against gay rights. These individuals are driven not by ideological, but by personal views which may prevent or allow them to go to opposite sides of an argument. Therefore, labels such as Christian, Muslim, Jewish, conservative or liberal were just but simplistic ways of categorizing people, while there was much more in individual viewpoints than the labels are able to describe.

Main takeaways

Schools have a special duty to ensure that their members are more receptive of LGBTQ members. This is done by including the subject of these communities in history books, to make people better informed. Being gay should be normalized, so that it is no longer a taboo, and gay people can come out and live freely in society. While society has changed, the process has been slow, and will continue to be so, since not everyone will change their views overnight. Some cultures find it incompatible to have gays in their midst, meaning that as an Arab, I may not be accepted by my parents if I intimated to them that I was gay. Personal interactions are particularly important. People who have gay family members are in a better position to accept other gay people.

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