If Not You, Then Whom? Taking a Stand For What You Believe In
By now you might have heard of the debate going on about Chick-Fil-A, Chick-Fil-A’s President’s Dan Cathy’s statement about the company’s statement that they support the “biblical definition of the family unit” which does not include same-sex couples. The company actively gives money to anti-gay organizations. YA author Jackson A. Pearce has a couple of wonderful YouTube discussions on it ( http://youtu.be/JprRWKQys7A and http://youtu.be/ABY27P12eWQ ), and I’m sure there are more floating around.
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We live in an imperfect world that has prejudices. There is ageism (look at movie theaters that refuse to let teens in after 9 p.m. unless they are accompanied by an adult), racism (my teens will get looked down on at places because they’re Mexican-American, even though they were born in America), sexism (even though I know more about cars than my husband, he will instantly get respect in a repair shop while I get treated like an airhead).
Yes, we in the United States of America are a nation under God. Practice your religion however you like. The problem is when you decide that your beliefs trump mine.
The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Now, Chick-Fil-A and its President can say and do whatever they want. That’s freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of exercise of that religion. Where the problem lays is when the anti-gay groups have decided that the acts of GLBTQ go against *their* beliefs, so it should go against *everyone’s* beliefs. When they attempt to restrict others’ actions, they interfere with the free exercise of others’ beliefs. I’m not hurting anyone with my beliefs, nor am I trying to say that anyone cannot practice their version of Christianity, or Buddhism, or Hindu, or whatever. But when you say that my version of Christianity (or Buddhism, or Hindu, or Judiasm, or whatever) is invalid because it doesn’t fit with your worldview, then we have a problem.
This is exactly the type of thinking that was rampant during the pre-Civil Rights movement, when African Americans where the second class citizens and Jewish synagogues were bombed. Religion was used to support the beliefs that African Americans were less than Caucasians, that Judaism was less than Christianity. Today it’s GLBTQ who are fighting for their rights to be how they were made.
FACTS: GLBTQ teens are bullied and harassed for being who they are- they are mentally and emotionally abused, physically beaten, and all because the adults and peers in their area allow it. If it were anyone in a different minority taking this type of abuse, people wouldn’t stand for it. GLBTQ teens have the highest number of suicides. They are 3 times as likely to feel unsafe at school, and 90% of them have been harassed at least once because of their sexuality.
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and accounts for 12.2% of the deaths every year in that age group. (2009 CDC, “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group – United States, 2009”) (From Trevor Project website)
TALKING IN NUMBERS: No matter which side you stand on, there are ways to take a stand. Teens have enormous potential, and can do more than you might think. According to the 2010 Census, over 40 million, or 14% of the US population were teens 10-19 years. FOURTEEN PERCENT. Only 54% of those who could voted in the last presidential election. Teens have over $200 BILLION in spending power. And you ARE the future voters. So while you may not think you can make a difference, you can.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: There are a variety of different ways you can make a difference.
- Start a petition, either physical or virtual on change.org and then get the word out.
- Do research on companies that you frequent, and learn where the profits go- are they doing things with their money that you support? If so, keep on supporting them. If not, find other businesses to patronize.
- Find a volunteer organization that supports your world view, and give your time.
- Find like-minded teens and have a fund raiser for your favorite charity or volunteer organization.
It’s up to you. If you don’t take a stand, whether with your time, your money or your energy, you are floating downstream and can just accept what’s going on. But just remember, it is only a matter of time before you are the one that the focus is on- what happens when no one speaks up for you? – TLT contributor Chritie Gibrich
If you are a GLBTQ teen, and are thinking about suicide, PLEASE, don’t. Call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386
Filed under: Advocacy, Bullying, Diversity, GLBTQ, Teen Empowerment, Teen Issues
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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