EDUCATION

Opinion: Someone with star power is needed to advance LGBTQ civil rights

Mikael Odum
Oxford Stories
mbodum@go.olemiss.edu

Gay, lesbian, and transgender people face prejudice, and some members of the LGBTQ community cannot be open about who they are because of hateful comments and discrimination.

On June 26, 2015, gay marriage became legal in the United States. Jared Polis, a Democrat and U.S. Representative from  Colorado, has spoken out about LGBTQ equality and civil rights on his website. He said members of this community still face many obstacles others do not.

“In 28 states, for instance, same-sex couples have no legal recourse if their landlords decide to evict them from their home,” Polis said. “In 31 states, it is still legal to fire an employee because they are gay, lesbian or transgender. In 36 states, there are no laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT students in school.”

Gay, lesbian and transgender individuals need more understanding from America as a whole. The reason we are not seeing major change or support is because there is no real champion for the cause. Someone like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a champion for equal treatment for the African American community, is needed.

Thanks to the reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” America has witnessed Bruce Jenner become Kaitlin Jenner. We’ve also had more professional athletes, such as Jason Collins, a retired NBA basketball player, and Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, who were open about their sexuality. 

Hopefully, someone like them will step up to champion the cause of discrimination for this group. When this happens, we will see support grow within America for the LGBTQ community. The issues they face each day should be addressed.

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Akim Powell posing after his bike ride around campus. Photo by Mikael Odum.

University of Mississippi student Akim Powell said some LGBTQ community members continue to face discrimination. “Gay people, such as myself, sometimes feel threatened by others’ judgement,” he said. “Personally, I am not one of those people. I am proud of who I am.”

Since Mississippi is a Southern state, some believe LGBTQ people are not shown love in the Deep South, but Powell said that isn’t always true.

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A photo of Akim Powell at The University of Mississippi. Photo by Mikael Odum.

“I am lucky to go to a school where I can be open about my sexual preferences and also be supported,” he said. “Oxford holds a gay pride parade each year that takes place around the streets of the Square. It’s times like these that I feel loved and supported.”

Birmingham native Jordan Zarzaur said he feels comfortable speaking out about his sexuality in some places, but he feels judged and unwelcome in others.

“Every place within America is different and has a different opinion about the topic,” he said. “I am not one to be ashamed of who I am.”

Zarzaur said he also believes gay and transgender individuals should be shown more support. “Watching high figures, such as Jason Collins, open up to the world about his sexuality has encouraged me in so many ways,” he said. “I also believe that it has helped my friends have a better understanding of the person that I am.”

 

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Jordan Zarzaur smiling for the camera. Photo by Mikael Odum.

This problem won’t be solved overnight. Some still face race discrimination half a century after the Civil Rights Movement began. But with stars, such as Michael Sam being open, the movement has begun. His bravery will be a catalyst to help others be themselves and increase understanding.

Sam has already started discussions among people of different races, political and religious beliefs. With each discussion, prejudice will diminish. It will take time, but hopefully the United States has learned it is better to handle prejudice with peace.

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