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The importance of speaking up

A response to the Westboro Baptist church protest

Written By Sarah Gibson

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I grew up in a community with a very sheltered view of homosexuality. What little I knew about being gay had very negative connotations. If you were gay, it meant that your parents didn’t care about you. It meant you were a predator. It meant you were evil. I look back on this institutionalized homophobia, and I’m taken aback. It absolutely boggles my mind now to think that people still perceive LGBT people in this way.

My views changed when I discovered that my uncle, whom I have been very close with my entire life, was gay. It turned my worldview on its head. My uncle was not evil or scary. He couldn’t be gay.

But he definitely was.

After realizing that what I had been taught my whole life was incredibly twisted and wrong, I set out on making sure I was educated on what was actually true. Enter the Westboro
Baptist Church.

I haven’t thought of the Westboro Baptist Church organically in years, and when I heard they were coming to Pittsburgh, I actually thought it was a joke. The idea that someone could still adamantly hate gay people as cartoonish as they do almost made me laugh. By this point, I had come upon my own realization that I was bisexual. I wasn’t evil, scary and I certainly didn’t think I was going to hell. In the end, it just ended up making me sad. What cheered me up, however, was what I saw in response to the news of Westboro’s coming.

What I saw was unity. People from all programs, backgrounds and places making plans with each other to counter-protest peacefully to make a stand for something that they believed in.

In a time where protesting is becoming more and more dangerous due to growing instances of violence towards and among protesters, the Westboro Baptist Church reminded me not to stay quiet about what I think.

While the LGBT community as a whole has been making leaps and bounds in progress especially in the last decade, it’s very important to remember not to take those progressions for granted, and to stand up for injustice when we see it. Without constant fighting and passion for the cause, it lends the opportunity to forget where we once were as a movement.

It’s also important to remember that as Americans, we are privileged to have the right to protest. In other countries, people could be killed for trying to express their beliefs like this, and we should consider ourselves lucky to be able to do so.

That being said, it’s also very important to remember to remain peaceful at these protests. The instant the first punch is thrown, it no longer is a peaceful protest.

It’s very important to remember that especially in times where protesting might seem scary, it’s not time to go quietly. Don’t shy away from your opportunity to express yourself, especially while you’re in college.

Find a group. Go with friends. This is your time to be a part of something and make a change, even if you perceive that change as small.

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