Proud to still be a friend

By Chris Mielke
Reader Contributor

Thank you to Mr. Jim Healey for your essay “Coming Out in N. Idaho.” And thank you to the Reader for publishing the stories others may not.

Being an older straight male originally from the San Francisco area, I saw the appearance of hippies, and the development of feminist and gay culture. Once when walking in the Castro, I even received homophobic catcalls. But that was long ago, and, being straight, I didn’t experience the continuing oppression by the majority.

Moving here soon after Y2K, Sandpoint seemed like such an enlightened, progressive community. Alas, maybe not so much. And now with the rise of Trumpism and the shooting in Orlando, well, we all had better watch our six.

Mr. Don S. Otis, in his letter to the Reader [6/23/16], shows that many false beliefs still exist among even respected members of our community. He may have gathered these myths from discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, the most ubiquitous purveyor of anti-gay junk science, or a 2010 story by Bryan Fischer of RenewAmerica (also associated with gay-hate groups like the American Family Association and the Family Research Group).

In 1994, the American Psychological Association (APA) noted that “homosexuality is not a matter of individual choice” and that research “suggests that the homosexual orientation is in place very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth.” The American Academy of Pediatrics reported in 1993 and in 2004, that “most scholars in the field state that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice … individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual.” And in 2011, the APA  concluded that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” Considering the hostility experienced by gays from family and community, why would anyone choose this lifestyle? I did not choose to be straight.

In 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that “hate crime violence is directed  at the LGBT community more than any other minority group in America. Studies done during the past several years have determined that it is the stress of being a member of a minority group in an often-hostile society, and not LGBT identity itself, that accounts for the higher levels of mental illness and drug use.”

Richard J. Wolitski, an expert on minority status and public health issues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put it like this in 2008: “… stigma, and discrimination … increase stress and diminish the ability of individuals [in minority groups] to cope with stress, which in turn contribute to poor physical and mental health.”

A report presented by the Council on Scientific Affairs to the AMA House of Delegates Interim Meeting noted that most of the emotional disturbance gay men and lesbians experience around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes, but rather on “a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment.” Several studies at major universities and the Rand Corporation found that LGBT people living in highly anti-LGBT communities and circumstances face serious health concerns and even premature death because of social stigmatization and exclusion.

I recall several years ago at work, a gay female co-worker pulled me aside and whispered, “Are you family?”

Puzzled, I thought, “Mafia? In the veterinary business?”

“No, gay” she explained.

Oh, no, I said, my brother was, but I’m not. “You might say I’m a friend of the family.” I’m proud to still be a friend.

Chris Mielke


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