Last edited: January 01, 2005

As I See It: Combination of Strategies Best Way to Achieve Equality for Gays, Lesbians

Kansas City Star, December 22, 1998
1729 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64108
Fax 816-234-4926

By Jane Ralph

On Nov. 24, The Star printed an Associated Press story stating that Missouri’s sodomy law does not affect adult couples engaged in consensual sex. However, for same-sex couples this statement is not accurate.

The Star’s Dec. 2 "Nation Watch" printed the headline "Gays get more rights in Florida county" on an Associated Press story. This was not fair.

When headlines read "Gays get more rights," it promotes the idea that we already have equal access to the rights that nongay individuals have.

Suddenly we have been granted extra rights. I challenge anyone who opposes equal rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons to identify a right that would be special or particularly gay.

Gay and lesbian people know we can lose our jobs, be denied housing and public accommodation, be at greater risk for violent attack prompted by hate, have our private consensual sex lives be cause for conviction. Each time we share our sexual orientation with another person, we take the risk that any or all of these things might occur.

Kansas City provides limited protection; sexual orientation is included in the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. But without the backing of state or federal legislation, this protection is drastically reduced.

Why, then, do we come out? We come out because we know we can’t wait for legislation. The suicide rate for teens questioning their sexual orientation is 33.3 percent as compared to nonquestioning teens reported at 9.9 percent (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Youth who come out often face rejection from their families.

We come out because we know that visibility and cultural change are as important as legislative change, that hearts and minds are changed through accurate images of our community in the media, our faith communities and our schools.

GLAAD’s mission to promote representation of individuals and events in the media is a strong means to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. But it is not enough.

Legislation is not enough. Education and support groups are not enough. We need concerted efforts involving all these strategies.

"Equality Begins at Home" might just be a vehicle to drive this effort.

"Equality Begins at Home" is a state-by-state campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and our allies to promote equality and justice. Efforts have begun in Kansas and Missouri to build to events in each state capital in March.

I am convinced that The Star’s problem is less homophobia than homo- ignorance. "Equality Begins at Home" is an opportunity to bring attention to the realities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives. With such attention, I look forward to fair, accurate and inclusive coverage.

(Jane Ralph is the Kansas City Media Resource Center manager for GLAAD.)

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