Ben Haggerty, most commonly known as Macklemore, is making waves across the world with his music. He is most known for his style of music — raps that focus on positive messages: the downfalls of consumerism, the benefits of hard work and same-sex marriage. His performance Sunday night at the Grammy Awards was breathtaking. His song “Same Love” has become the anthem for the LGBT rights movement, and it is a song that helps me make it through the day.
As an openly gay teenager, I’ve found that our society talks a lot about acceptance, tolerance and love for one another, yet in my life I have learned the constant neglect of all these things in our culture, especially in the treatment of gays. The term “gay” is still synonymous with lesser. “Fag” is one of the most derogatory terms out there, and is still commonplace in the halls of schools, malls and public places. I find it silly that we (the LGBT community) have to fight for the same rights as heterosexuals. The fight for gay rights seems ominously similar to the civil and women’s rights movements.
Many people believe that everything is OK and that the progress is forward, which is true in many cases. But at my (student) level, progress seems to be nonexistent. I’m fortunate to have been surrounded by a close support network of friends and have somehow managed to avoid the tormenting that happens so commonly in schools, but I have friends who haven’t been so lucky.
One of my close friends came out as gay, only to be rushed back into the closet by fear of his parents finding out. Holding the burden of his sexuality on his shoulders, he was brought to suicide. For whatever reason, the bullet that he hoped would end his life managed to jam the gun, allowing him a second chance. However, he remains plagued with the misery of rejection, and he continues to struggle with his self-identity.
Another dear friend came out as gay to his family early in high school, only to be told his “disease” could be cured with the help and forgiveness of the church. Although he had accepted his own sexuality as a part of who he is, the church did not, and it excommunicated both him and his family. Since then, he has had difficulties convincing his family that it is OK to love someone who identifies as gay. Call me crazy, but it is in my core beliefs that no one should have to fight for the love of their family.
These stories aren’t rarities, but clichés. In October, a young boy whom I mentored for years took his own life after coming out as gay and facing constant abuse in school. It seems that each day there is a new story in the news of a young person taking his or her life as a way out from the hate and discrimination. Yes, we are making progress — with 17 states legalizing same-sex marriage, the repeal of DOMA and popular opinion beginning to change in favor of LGBT rights — but we can still do better.
I’ve been fortunate to have been raised by an accepting family, surrounded by friends who love me for who I am and by a church that focuses more on the “love thy neighbor” stuff rather than on hate and fear of God. Unfortunately, I know I am more fortunate than most LGBT people fighting the battle of acceptance.
Thank you, Macklemore, for taking a stand and making a significant difference in millions of lives, including my own. Our world is in dire need of more mavericks who are able to recognize issues like LGBT rights and take action. If you’re reading this and you’re in a similar situation as my friends, know this: Things really do get better. As a society, we are moving forward to acceptance. Even if it seems as if there is no possible way you can make it through another day, know that there are others like you and that you are never alone.
There’s an old proverb that reads: “The night is darkest just before dawn.” This is so true.
T.J. Lind is a student at Johnson & Wales University and is from Duluth. Follow him on twitter: @teejlind.