Editorial: Tattoos


The tattoos scrawled across the hands of a group of students at a western Pennsylvania high school last week were not the designs of a professional artist. They were not inscribed using a needle, nor were they permanent. But their message stung as strongly as any sharp tool could.

On April 16, as many as 100 students at McGuffey High School in Claysville, Pennsylvania, allegedly wore flannel shirts and wrote “anti-gay” on their hands as part of a self-organized “Anti-Gay Day,” WPXI reported. According to The New York Daily News, the group also placed hateful posters on LGBT students’ lockers and drafted a “lynch list” complete with students’ names.

The movement took place in the wake of McGuffey’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club’s April 15 observance of the National Day of Silence. The annual day of action, led by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is intended to spread awareness about the harassment of the LGBT community in schools, according to the network.

According to a McGuffey administrative statement reported by KFOR, the school is “committed to providing a safe, supportive environment for all children” and is investigating the occurrence.

The protest was hardly an isolated incident — even recently. On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a bill that could legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, The New York Times reported. And on April 10, Westboro Baptist Church — the unaffiliated church notorious for hate speech directed especially toward the LGBT community — gathered on Howard University’s campus to denounce OUTlaw, the university’s law school’s LGBT organization, The New Pittsburgh Courier reported. Westboro protestors armed themselves with signs reading, “America is doomed,” “Mourn for your sins” and “God h8s fag marriage,” The Courier said.

But students at Howard were unwilling to stand idly by.

According to The Courier, nearly 100 Howard students dressed in all black or rainbow colors gathered together, marched toward the Westboro contingent and promptly turned their backs to it in response. As a result, Westboro’s protesters reportedly retreated a mere 20 minutes after starting.

The Howard students’ actions are nothing short of admirable. But the fact that the event they were sparked by existed remains disturbing.

Both the McGuffey and Howard incidents are a reflection of the hate and biases directed toward the LGBT community. And the former displays how easily they can trickle their ugly way down to our society’s youth.

In the McGuffey case, adults were not the ones organizing and promoting hate speech, hateful mindsets and even death simply because of others’ identities. They were teenagers. While it can be argued that the students simply didn’t have the knowledge, education, wisdom or social grace to know better, we cannot brush this aside as a mere juvenile misstep. Those who foster and act on such derogatory attitudes without peaceful opposition are unlikely to outgrow the habit.

Perhaps the McGuffey protesters truly believed that identifying as LGBT is inherently wrong or that anything other than heterosexuality is a personal choice. Such notions are sad, but they unfortunately accurately convey the way some people think. If we cannot change that, we can at least hope to change the way they behave. Identifying as “anti-gay,” however close-minded it may be, is one thing. But acting on those beliefs and harassing others because of them raises an entirely different and elevated question. If we choose to hate others because of who they are, that is our own personal, massive fault. But those who refuse to change their perspectives must let the ones they declare to hate live in peace.

Simply, we cannot tell anyone who they can or cannot be.

And some are, indeed, made to think they should be ashamed of who they are. A 2013 Deloitte study found that a large number of people hide aspects of their identity, human resources activist Morgana Bailey noted in her 2014 TED Talk. Of all the employees surveyed in the study, 61 percent reported changing an aspect of their behavior or their appearance in order to fit in at work, and 83 percent of LGBT employees admitted to changing some aspects of themselves so they would not appear too overt with their sexuality, both Bailey and the study indicated.

“The biggest obstacles (we) will ever have to overcome are (our) own fears and insecurities,” Bailey said. “By facing (our) fears inside, (we) will be able to change reality outside.”

Each of us deserves to strive for personal fulfillment, but crippling others’ ability to achieve it is deplorable. It’s on us to not only put an end to hateful activities, but also the biases that perpetuate them.

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1 Comment

  1. Yes … so if somebody’s faith teaches them that homosexuality is abominable, by all means threaten those persons’ future, because you conclude the Bible is wrong and the majority is on your side. That’s not at all hypocritical.

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