Patrick Zabawa’s column on LGBT activism represents a fatal misunderstanding of both the purpose and context of LGBT activism (The hypocrisy of gay activism, 04/16/2009). His basic premise is that homophobic and transphobic people have a right to discriminate against LGBT people as much as LGBT people have a right to live their lives openly and freely. This is absolutely incorrect on several counts.

Zabawa claims that it is hypocritical for LGBT activists to push for legally binding protections against discrimination because it amounts to forcing homophobic and transphobic people to accept an opposing viewpoint. The law is not a forum for public discourse. It is an organized system of the rules of conduct that dictate what actions are and are not permissible. We can debate opinions in newspapers, on the street and at protests. Having a court uphold fairness and equality does not suppress opinions.

Most bizarrely, Zabawa asserts that activists are going too far in pushing for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in employment, rather than “persuading” employers not to fire their employees just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Perhaps Zabawa has gotten a little too comfortable in the University’s environment, which supports LGBT people.

This environment was the result of the activism that Zabawa speaks against. The anti-discrimination policy that establishes fairness here at the University did not fully include protections for sexual orientation until 1994 and for gender identity or expression until 2007. And they did not appear by magic — it took years of hard work to get these policies in place. And LGBT activism on campus continues today.

Tolerating intolerance is an issue of intellectual freedom, and a very valid one. But when the effects of intolerance and bigotry include increased risk for mental health issues, higher rates of suicide, higher rates of poverty, increased physical violence, frequent sexual assault and pervasive harassment in work or school, we cannot consider intolerance harmless. LGBT activism is about fighting for fairness, equality and justice. It’s not about silencing opposition.

Anand Kalra
School of Information junior

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