All I can do is sit here and ask myself, why? Why am I being attacked for practicing my constitutional right to be myself? Why are my siblings being harmed and told they should not exist? Why does it feel like we have been failed by those elected to protect us? I cannot sit here and speak for the entire LGBTQ+ community, just as one Christian pastor does not speak for the entire religion; yet I can say that Ohio has failed its LGBTQ+ citizens, and by extension, voters of all identities.
The truth behind the LGBTQ+ agenda.
Let me put this as simply as I can: there is a lot of misinformation spread around about the LGBTQ+ community and the individuals that identify within the community. This misinformation is responsible for stoking the flames of fear and hate that are leading these proposed legislations in Ohio and across the country. While attending the last Big Walnut Local School Board meeting on December 14, 2023, I listened to people scream that “queer people want to convert our children,” that “they want to take away our rights,” or that “this is just a fad popularized by social media.” I continue to hear that we are dangerous and that we are mentally ill, just because we happen to love differently or identify our gender differently. This cannot be further from the truth. I can promise you, the LGBTQ+ community is not seeking to convert your children. We do not want to create a society where people are forced to become queer. What we want is simple, we want to live an average life expectancy. LGBTQ+ individuals have existed throughout history, and will continue to exist and evolve just as humanity does. People believe that transgender identities, especially non-binary ones, have been created by those seeking fame through social media; however, transgender people have been shown to have existed and flourished in some of our earliest ancient societies. Being LGBTQ+ is not a fad or a choice. You cannot just choose who you are attracted to or what your gender is. Being LGBTQ+ is a process of self reflection and self actualization to realize who you are, who you love, and how you will live your life. We want those who are possibly questioning their sexuality or gender to be able to freely and safely explore their identity. We want parents to have the freedom to get gender affirming medical care for their children if they deem it necessary. We want those who have hidden their entire lives out of fear, to finally feel safe to open up and live authentically as who
they are. We want to live in a world where every LGBTQ+ individual can walk around living authentically without fear of discrimination, hate, or harm. We want to see everyone granted the same equality that our forefathers fought for. This is not a fight for granting one groups’ equality by limiting or removing rights from others; rather this is a fight to grant equality for all.
Who do these attacks really hurt?
Ohio now has failed us, as continuously our state government seeks to adopt laws and regulations meant to oppress the LGBTQ+ community. From House Bill 68 passing the congressional house and senate, to other bills being debated, (HB 6, HB 8, HB 113, HB 183, HB 220, HB 225, HB 240, and HB 245) We deserve to be able to live freely, just as every Ohioan does. What matters here is that we all deserve to live freely and authentically as we are, without our government telling us what we can and cannot do. As shown in the recent election, the majority of voters in our state do not want to see the government regulating what a person can do with their own body. Issue 1 showed us that the choice for abortion is up to that person, and that person alone. Gender affirming healthcare for minors and adults is in that same discussion. The government does not have the right to determine if and when a person should or should not be able to socially and medically transition genders. That decision is up to that person, their medical care team, and their loved ones. Gender affirming healthcare is necessary and life saving for those people who need it. We should all agree that having our government determine what health care is appropriate is a very dangerous road. During the December 10, 2023 public testimony against House Bill 68, doctors from all five Ohio children’s hospitals came together to show their support for the continuation of the counties’ best gender affirming care for minors. In all honesty, the number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ is relatively small, with a global survey of individuals from 30 countries conducted by Ipsos Global Advisor claiming about 9% of individuals identify as LGBTQ. That number decreases significantly to 1% for individuals who identify as transgender. Here in Ohio, according to Nick Lashutka, president and CEO of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association; “Of the 2.6 million children living in Ohio, around one third of the individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria begin medical treatment under the age of 18. This is 0.0003% of the population of minors in Ohio.” Why is our government so focused on creating limitations and restrictions for gender affirming access for such a small group of people? Fear. Fear is the answer. These legislators and proponents of these bills fear the misinformation and falsehoods that have been spread about the LGBTQ+ community. They fear that by granting rights and protections to LGBTQ+ individuals, they are somehow stripping away rights from their conservative base. This cannot be further from the truth. Equality is not a pie, where groups of people have to be given a slice. Granting rights to marginalized groups does not diminish the rights of others. Just look at other civil rights movements throughout history. Did granting equality to women or African Americans diminish the rights of those who held them? No, in fact by granting equality via the Nineteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and others helped to propel us forward by creating a world that truly encapsulates the words of the Declaration of Independence, that Americans hold so closely; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While these laws were not perfect, and I cannot state that equality has been completely granted towards these marginalized groups, we are in fact in a better place than before. More work has to be done, and can only be done when we lift everyone up and demand equality for all; regardless of sex, race, gender, religion, skin color, social status, and more.
What can we do?
What every Ohioan needs is for the Ohio Fairness Act, Senate Bill 132 proposed by Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), to finally be taken seriously and made into law. This act would guarantee protections for every Ohioan, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, etc. This bill would prohibit discrimination of any type in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations. Yes, currently in Ohio, a person can be denied housing or employment due to their sexuality or gender; which seems absurd in 2024. According to the ACLU, “Ohio does not have a statewide law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination. This means many LGBTQ Ohioans can be fired from their job, denied housing, asked to leave a public facility, or denied access to the appropriate restroom.” No matter your beliefs on the validity of LGBTQ+ individuals, we can all agree that all Ohioans have the right to live authentically as who they are. Who a person loves or how they identify their gender has very little impact upon your life. Honestly, how hard is it to adjust how you refer to someone? We already do it when someone gets married, example being calling a woman Mrs. instead of Miss, or changing last names. We all deserve to be able to live our lives as we understand them to be, and deserve respect as a fellow human. I am not advocating for people to completely agree with and understand LGBTQ+ identities. Rather, I advocate that we all should show the same respect that we seek for ourselves. Constantly I hear that “respect is not given, it is earned.” This phrase is one that has been thrown around to justify viewpoints of not respecting LGBTQ+ identities; and yet is not truly understood. Respect is following the mindset that everyone deserves to be treated equally; aka the basis of most modern religions, the golden rule. Being respectful of individuals who are different from yourself does not mean that you have to agree with their choices, religion, etc. It means that you are treating them the same way that you want to be treated. This mindset of respect needs to be upheld as we seek to move into the future. As humans, we will always disagree and debate; but to discriminate and oppress due to those disagreements is what needs to be ended.
No matter who you are, what your religious beliefs are, or where you come from; we should all agree that these attacks need to stop. We need to demonstrate that equality for all is a must, and not debatable. We need to stand together and speak out against the harm that our Ohio legislators are causing, before it is too late.
This piece was originally published in Columbus Underground as "Letter to the Editor: On HB68, Ohio Has Failed Us" on January 14, 2024. All rights remain with the author and publisher.