The 1980s and early 1990s will forever be a shameful period in United States history. The way the LGBT community was treated by our political leaders, our schools, our religious institutions and even (in many cases) our parents was despicable. Television shows, movies and even radio shows constantly portrayed members of the LGBT community as perverts, psychopaths and people not deserving of any type of love, especially in the mid-1980s. The amount of LGBT members we lost due to suicide (no, they weren't selfish) AIDS, and other effects of being marginalized is too high to count.
The fact remains that many of those people who accept us today were some of the people saying we deserved to die of AIDS, we deserved to be bullied, we deserved to be beaten to death, we should be fired from our jobs and we didn't deserve to get married. We should embrace their change of thought, but should not forget their past actions; if we do, history will only repeat itself.
There were so many in the LGBT community who fought against the backlash. However, the reason such an intense backlash against the LGBT community existed is because a good portion of us refused to speak up or be acknowledged as part of the community. We like to bring up the homophobic past of others, but many of us need to look at ourselves in the mirror and visit our past. This will be extremely uncomfortable, but think about the following questions:
• How many of us, afraid of our own sexuality, didn't raise a finger during the AIDS crisis?
• How many of us made fun of gays, lesbians and even bisexuals as a way of repressing our own sexuality?
• How many of us voted for blatantly homophobic politicians and said, "Well, I'm not defined by my sexuality!" even though they defined us by it?
• How many of us refused to defend a LGBT employee who was fired for obvious reasons?
• How many of us said nothing when the phrase "That's so gay!" was used as an obvious pejorative right in front of our faces?
• How many of us dated members of the opposite sex just to prove we were "straight"?
• How many of us didn't raise a finger when the gay marriage backlash hit in fear of being thought of as gay?
• How many of us who were completely gay said we were bisexual just to appear less despicable by the straight mainstream?
• How many of us refused to go to LGBT pride parades just because we were afraid of being seen or because we actually believed the stereotypes about the parades?
This list can go on and on. And if you answer was "Yes, because I needed to survive!" to one, some, or all of these questions, don't get angry. You are not a bad person by any means, but need to think about this when you call out politicians or other famous figures, who are now pro-LGBT, for their past homophobic behavior. There are a number of people in the LGBT community who could answer "No" to all of these questions and they are true heroes who deserve all our gratitude. But we can never forget a horrific past that some of us actually participated in. Yes, we certainly need to move on. But taking a look at past actions can make sure that history doesn't repeat itself.