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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

America has always been known for its many freedoms: religion, speech, press, to bear arms, and the right to a fair and speedy trial.  Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  America is world-renowned for this philosophy and yet there are still groups of people who feel discriminated against.  In today’s society, the greatest dilemma we face is with sexual orientation.

At a park bench, two men are kissing.  At a nearby coffee shop, two women are holding hands.  Why do people stare and look down upon these couples, but not on a man and woman couple?  The issue of gay rights has always been a matter of discussion in America and probably always will be.  The site selection took place in Los Angeles, a city of great diversity.  We welcome different races and religions with open arms and the state of California has always been Democratic with the majority of the people living there liberals. Although California was the first state that said only marriage between men and women should be recognized, it was also one of the first states that made domestic partnerships for gay couples legal.  In order to gain rapport, I debated between the members of the local church.  I subsequently met a woman who has seen the trials and tribulations of how America has dealt with gays and lesbians since 1939.  She seemed like the perfect candidate: a Caucasian Christian middle classed woman whose micro culture was being a lesbian.  As a lesbian, Laura Summers was kind enough to share her story with me at the nearby Starbucks.  She is a 67 year old retired woman with a life partner and two adopted children.  Her life story explains how she and her partner together dealt with the past’s and today’s social division.

I met Laura at the Metropolitan Community Church, a fellowship church of Christians with a focus on outreach to gays and lesbians.  There were rumors of her story and what she had been through as a child, but no one had sat down and interviewed her before to get the truth.  We met at a typical Starbucks late in the afternoon.  It was the normal quiet, casual setting with the aroma of coffee in the air.  With no more than five other customers in the shop, we sat down by the window in the soft cozy green couches.  I asked if she minded me typing on my laptop during the interview, and in her casual business attire and a half-hearted smile, she declined.  As I read over the first question on my list, a certain feeling of uneasiness started to come over me—I was about to pry into this woman’s life and unlock the gates of her past.  It was not so much as culture shock that made me uncomfortable because she represents the majority of what America’s culture is: middle classed, Christian, and Caucasian — it was the fact that I did not know this woman very well, and to put her on the spot and ask questions about her family and her life seemed nerve wrecking to me.  However, what I uncovered during the interview was much more than her life story, I found America’s unjust and discriminating ways towards others.

Childhood is a time of growth and development.  It is a time when parents impart onto their children right from wrong, their ideologies, religion, and what they believe their child should know.  Bad parenting, however, can lead to a multitude of emotional, physical, and psychological problems that can make that child look at our society and culture in a different and perhaps negative light.  As a child Laura did not have the normal American childhood; instead, she endured much more than that.  Molested by her uncle on her father’s side at the young age of six, she started out with a negative outlook not only on life, but also on men.  Her father was an alcoholic who went into numerous random bouts of anger and repetitively struck her frail young body. Her mother, no matter how hard she tried, did her best to protect her and in doing so even received several blows herself.  Unlike her father, she was a kind and gentle woman who did her best to be the perfect mother and wife.  In doing so, “she cleaned the house, always made sure there was food on the table, tried to buy them what they wanted, and never dared to lay a hand on them”.  She says she believes that what made her look more towards women for love and support was the fact that they were kind and loving to her unlike the many men in her family.  Because she was traumatized at such a young age by her uncle and father, she was under the impression that all men were similar to them.  Using her story as an example of children who were abused, it is probably more likely that those who endured what she has are more prone to look to the opposite sex of their tormenter.  In essence, her experiences as a child never left her and instead stayed with her and contributed to her outlook on life.  What children go through at the young developing stage in life greatly affect how they see their future and what they think of our society and can sometimes lead to discrimination, sexism, or possibly even racism.

Psychologists often times argue that children who are molested have an increased chance of becoming a homosexual while others argue that people are born homosexuals.  Anti-gay activists, however, say it’s a matter of choice—people can chose to be gay or they can chose to be straight.  While Laura’s personal history could make an argument that psychologists are right and because she was molested as a child, she became gay due to her negative look on men, it does not provide an explanation as to why she was married to a man as her first choice.  She does believes that it is due to her childhood experiences that she became fonder of women than men, but is also irritated by the people who make these assumptions.  She argues that regardless of what people say, we all have our own individual right to be who we want to be and it is not in anyone’s place to try and psychologically analyze why we are who we are.  However, she also understands that there will always be two sides to every argument and she accepts and listens to both.  As a country with the freedom of speech, America has always been known as being democratic.  We argue back and forth between republicans versus democrats, pro-life versus pro-choice, racism versus equality, and gay rights versus anti-gay rights.  While we are known for our heated debates, we are also known to take action for our opinions.  Marches, parades, and boycotts are only a few examples of how Americans have been known to express our opinions.  With the freedom of speech and press, America has become a land of great diversity and adding to that movies, newspapers, magazines, and television shows that all express an individual’s opinion on just about every subject matter.  These methods of mass media and propaganda are aimed towards couples who are straight.  Movies and magazines always have male and female characters, never same sex characters.  Because this has been such a long standing tradition in our culture, it is hard to adjust from seeing heterosexual couples to suddenly seeing homosexual couples.

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