This issue has been rolling around in my head for sometime now. I have been watching and listening to the news reports, legal decisions, and most importantly, people’s views and attitudes toward gay rights. It’s definitely changing. Gay marriage and domestic partnership are being both recognized and legalized in more states. Children are more easily adopted by same sex couples. It seems like the views that prohibited these rights for gays are either weakening or hopefully, reflect an understanding more of the importance of accepting people just as they are.
In December I heard a wonderful end-of-the-year summary of 2013′s progress on the changing attitudes of gay rights. National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro summarized the legislative and attitudinal changes sweeping through the country in the last year. From state legislatures to Congress and even to the Supreme Court, same sex rights are being recognized and finally acknowledged as basic, deserving rights.
This reflects a growing societal acceptance of gay people. One that is so long overdue. How could one of the most developed countries, as we are, ever have a hard time embracing love between two people? I, as you may have guessed, come from the school of thought, that believes being gay is an inherent part of one’s self. After all, can you explain why you’re heterosexual or homosexual? I can’t; I just know I am heterosexual.
I was in a meeting last spring discussing the challenges that people with disabilities continue to face in regards to trying to help the general public become increasingly more accepting and embracing of people with various abilities. I mentioned that I thought that we could learn a great deal from the LBGT community and the gay rights movement. I believe the key of their growing societal and legislative progress has to do, at the very core, with self-acceptance and really claiming, “This is who I am.”
In the NPR piece the reporter captures this sentiment by quoting Harvey Milk. Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to office in California. He is recognized as an early leader of the gay rights movement, perhaps because of this philosophy:
The most important thing gay people can do is come out because once you know us, you don’t hate us.
I believe the same principle is so very true for people with disabilities. While many disabilities force us to “come out” because they are so evident, claiming one’s disability as an integral part of who one is and having a sense of pride (think Gay Pride) can go a long way in people getting to know us and seeing our value.
Throughout my life one of the most common pieces of feedback I receive from people about my disability is because I am so comfortable with it being part of who I am, that allows others to feel the same. Like gay people, once we stop resisting such an integral part of who we are and what makes us different, we can proudly claim how we don’t fit into that elusive “norm,” giving others the encouragement to accept and embrace us as we are.
There’s a lot to learn here. Keep watching the gay rights movement. Maybe some year we’ll have the Most Differently Abled Year.