Stop Harassing, Start Accepting

     *Originally Published in the Northern Iowan*

     Last week, a story out of Philadelphia surfaced about a gay couple who were taunted and severely abused as they were approached by a group of friends.

     Aside from the harassment of these two individuals, solely based on sexual orientation, this story really upset me, mainly because people don’t realize this type of unnecessary harassment and abuse happens to LGBT persons on a daily occurrence. Allow me to share one of my own experiences. 

     For my 22nd birthday, some friends and I decided to enjoy a night out on The Hill. 

     As our group was ready to head to the next establishment on our list, I was met with judgmental stares by a group of guys near our table.

     I asked this group if I could get by, and instead of cooperation, they openly mocked me.

     After being bombarded with derogatory name-calling and verbal harassment, I suddenly found myself being aggressively shoved, while the guys threw drinks at me and continued to taunt me.

     Bar staff members immediately grabbed me forcefully and screamed in my face.

     I did not understand what I did. All I was trying to do was grab my friends so we could leave. Did they not see I was dripping head to toe from the variety of drinks thrown at me? 

     The bar manager, unwilling to hear my side of the story, escorted me out of the bar, while also yelling obscenities at me. 

     What disturbed me even more was that the perpetrators were ordering their next round, not being apprehended for their actions. 

     In the process of texting my friends to tell them where I was, I heard a guy say, “Hey, are you that f****t that caused a fight with my friends?” 

     Before I could look up from my phone, I was struck in the face by a fist. My mind was yet again in shock. 

     I had no idea what was going on. After I jumped up and asked what his problem was, he continued to threaten me. It wasn’t until one of my friends found me that my harasser ran away. 

     I have had to deal with harassment and violence, manifested by hate, throughout my life. I have developed a thick skin and dealt with these types of situations, but it concerned me knowing this happens every day. 

     I don’t understand what the motive was behind the group of guys who harassed me. Did they think after they threatened me I would suddenly become straight and join their crusade against minorities? 

     If you hate gay people and feel the need to express your disapproval of us, know that most LGBT people are already aware of the negative opinions.

     I really enjoy having to worry about being jumped while walking home alone at night, or having to be on constant alert while at a bar with my friends, in fear that some big, bulky straight guy is going to come up and start harassing me.

     How do I, an average gay man enjoying himself in a bar, minding my own business, affect your life to any capacity? 

     In a world where our government is constantly trying to degrade LGBT people and strip them of their rights, employers vowing to fire people if they come out as gay and protesting fueled by religious fervor telling LGBT people they are awful human beings, you would assume people would find the compassion to realize there is enough on our plate. 

     I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep, just wishing I could change and be “normal.”  I feared for my safety daily after having had eggs thrown at me while I walked through a park and had been tackled to the ground. 

     If being gay was a choice, don’t you think I would have chosen the path that doesn’t involve ridicule, humiliation and rejection? 

     For those who want to point the finger of blame at my parents for not raising me correctly, you are in the wrong, yet again. I was raised the exact same way my three straight siblings were. It upsets me when people make up reasons for why I am the way I am. He must not have a good father figure. He must have been abused as a child. He has been exposed to a secular lifestyle. None of those statements are at all accurate depictions of my environment growing up or how I was raised.

     I am lucky to have an understanding and supportive family, who helped me to rise above the negative experiences regarding my sexual orientation that I had to endure as I was growing up.

     It is also baffling to me that anti-LGBT people feel the need to portray a false image of LGBT people. One of the main arguments of anti-LGBT crusaders is that gay people live a “taboo” or “secular” life that is going to ruin society. 

     I can only speak for myself, but I don’t know how going to school full time, working three jobs and volunteering my time for other projects constitutes as a “harmful” lifestyle.

     What is the point of harassing LGBT people publicly or elsewhere? What is the point of abusing them and sending them to the hospital? Do you think we will change and “find Jesus,” or do you get a thrill from harassing complete strangers? If you hate us, then hate us from a distance, because as far as I am concerned, I am not changing my life for anyone.

Riley Cosgrove