Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How far we've come

By: Shelby Dermer

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.” -Pope Francis

I’ve never been able to fully relate to someone who is homosexual. Growing up in a small town where "Paper Boy" was still a job title until 2010, everyone knew your family and your business, and the graduating class was less than 100 students, I never witnessed the out casting a gay individual has to face on any given circumstance.

When I was in the 11th grade, my school welcomed in a new guy, and to my knowledge, he was the only homosexual in our entire graduating class.

Sure, I’d occasionally see him conversing with a few people towards the end of his tenure at the school, but when he first got there he was mostly alone. Shy, quiet, non-controversial, he spent most lunch periods with empty seats adjacent to him. 

Just past the mid-way point of Senior year, I never saw him again. He must have switched schools or taken an alternate route towards completing High School I imagined.

I couldn’t relate to this guy even the slightest. Did he go through some type of hazing? Did he feel like an outcast in a group of people that was completely different from him?

Those questions remain unanswered to this day.

When I got to Ohio University in the fall of 2013, this changed instantly. Suddenly, I was surrounded by college kids that were not afraid to express their beliefs and personalities, no matter how different they may be from other students or from the town they were from. 

In the spring of 2015, I ventured uptown to see a documentary called, “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine.” It was a film dedicated to telling the story of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual male that was brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming for being gay.

I watched the film and was touched by the amount of support the LBGT community showed for Shepard following his unfortunate death.

Many people in the audience that surrounded me were moved to tears by stories of people coming out to their parents about being homosexual, and I felt as if I could finally put myself into their shoes.
Once the film concluded, members of the Ohio University LBGT community came on stage to speak to the crowd, and I thought to myself, “Look how far we’ve come.”

According to, the LBGT movement started its’ initial uprising in 1969. So that means when my father started college (1968), no such community existed at the college he attended, and the issue was more-than-likely, an afterthought.

How far we've come.

Athletically, homosexuals have taken an enormous step forward. In the 2014 NFL Draft, defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay football player to be drafted when he was taken with the 249th overall pick by the St. Louis Rams.

On draft day, Sam was shown in his living room with tears in his eyes, because his dream of playing football at the professional level had come true. He wept as his name was called on TV and Rams' coach Jeff Fisher talked to him over the phone. He hugged and kissed his partner on live television.

An emotional Michael Sam (above left) reacts after becoming the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. (Photo:

I thought to myself, “no way would this have been shown 20 years ago, even 10 for that matter.”
Just a few months prior, now-retired NBA basketball player Michael Collins became the second openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major sports in North America.

How far we’ve come.

And this past summer, gays nation-wide were granted the right to marry.

How far we’ve come.

A large crowd reacts to the Supreme Court's decision that allowed homosexuals the right to marry. (Photo:
However, just because homosexuals have made substantial progress, doesn’t mean their respective journeys are complete.

I read the article on openly-gay filmmaker Parez Sharma. I was flabbergasted about how homosexuals were treated in different religions and in foreign countries.

I also viewed the piece discussing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who claimed that, “homosexuality does not exist in Iran.” That statement was followed by a chuckle from the crowd, why not?

Being in the United States my entire life, it’s crazy to see the difference homosexuality is treated in other places.

The U.S just granted homosexuals the right to marry, whereas in Iran, their president claims that, “homosexuality does not exist.”

How far we’ve come, but how far we’ve yet to go.

Going back to Michael Sam, the openly-gay NFL-draftee told reporters, "there are some famous people, and I'm not the only one," revealing that Sam is not the only athlete that is gay, just one of the few that have publicly claimed it.

I applaud Sam for not mentioning any of their names, but also for bringing it to the Nation’s attention. There are other popular people out there in sports (and I’m sure in other facets of society) that are homosexual and are too afraid to reveal it to the rest of the world.

How far we’ve come, but how far we’ve yet to go.

There will always be discrimination. There will always be hate towards different lifestyles and viewpoints. There will always be a sense of indifference for homosexuals because they do not fit into a social norm.

Until these problems can be limited in the United States and all across the globe, there will always be the need to keep growing in the movement for equality for all.

How far we’ve come, but how far we’ve yet to go.

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