Live and Let Live

Wendy Peters

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The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center is sponsoring a charter school serving grades seven through 12. The school wants to provide LGBT individuals with a quality education while preventing the ridicule and cruelty of students at a traditional school. Wendy Peters / staff reporter

The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, in a necessary two-steps forward and one-step back approach, is sponsoring a charter school serving grades seven through 12. The school, geared toward providing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals an opportunity to obtain a quality education free from harassment and scorn is a solid idea, but a concern as well.

Many things come to mind but the first is not segregation because this is not segregation. These young adults are being protected from the intolerant and vile among us. While I salute the center for its progressiveness with this and other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, I also hang my head in shame.

This is not an audition — this is our real lives and we are sharing this world together. If not embrace our differences, embrace the attitude to “live and let live.”

Our differences do not hinder our efforts but advances our thinking in understanding the unique qualities embodied in each of us. I know that sounds like mush, but the alternative is when a 15-year-old boy is confronted by several of his classmates about his sexual orientation then shot, declared brain-dead and ultimately dies.

The alleged killer, also a minor, is then charged with premeditated murder with enhancements for the use of a firearm and a hate crime which carries 50 years behind bars if convicted.

Some of the intolerant and vile among us may shrug at this tragedy but some of us get it because there is really more than one victim here. We often forget the families on both sides of such tragedies who have to bear the loss and seek comfort in their memories. What about the friends of the boys who must somehow get beyond this and try to move on with their young lives? There are no winners here, just victims of an intolerant world wreaking havoc on those who just want to exist.

The “Why can’t we all just get along?” sentiment applies here in the true sense and not just mockery. Where are the parents of these intolerant children? We need to address the homophobia and hate at the root and not only the actions they produce. Parents should be held accountable because in some cases they contribute to the mindset and actions of their children.

Gay and lesbian youths are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youths. They account for suicide rates in the range of 30 percent annually and the leading cause of death. There is need for concern when 28 percent of gay and lesbian high school students rather drop out of school than bear harassment. These are real people trying to live meaningful lives.

The center recognizes the need to protect these real lives from this type of hate in our society and sometimes taking a step back advances a cause. However, the hate and intolerance does not always stop with gays and lesbians.

Last year there was a “Kick a Ginger Day” attack on middle school children. At least four red-haired girls and three boys were assaulted just for having red hair, freckles and fair skin. Who’s next and where does it stop?

No, this is not segregation because there is no law that mandates that gay and lesbian youths must attend separate schools. There are no signs directing them to separate facilities or drinking wells. It is just the intolerant and vile among us who refuse to see the unique qualities embodied in others. Therefore, diversity, in many areas, continues to elude us and the need for concern and change should continue to be at the forefront of many of our lives.