Shame On Us

It is difficult to imagine a human being who would not be deeply saddened by the story of Tyler Clementi. The young college student, a promising musician, was gay and was “outed” in the most malicious and humiliating manner. As a result he ended his life, jumping from the George Washington Bridge. I wonder what the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who hold up signs saying “God Hates Fags” at military funerals, think about this. Have they so lost their humanity that they don’t care or, worse, are happy that something like this still happens in the 21st century? Or do some of them still have enough residual humanity to feel a pang of guilt when reading about Tyler’s story?

Gay people have made major contributions to the arts, music and literature. I wonder how many fundamentalist Christians who take their children at Christmas time to The Nutcracker realize that its composer Tchaikovsky was gay and struggled with keeping it a secret his whole life. Gays serve our country in the military, even though they live under the constant threat of expulsion if their sexual orientation is exposed. Other industrialized countries have no problem with gays in the military. Only the United States and the middle eastern countries have such prohibitions against gay people — isn’t it nice that we have so much in common with Iran and Saudi Arabia on social issues? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a basic human rights violation. President Obama should have ended it by executive order on day 1 of his administration.

One of the most disquieting examples of anti-gay prejudice is the story of Alan Turing. Turing was a mathematical genius, one of the fathers of the computer age. In World War II he decoded the Enigma Code of the Germans. The Germans never realized that their sophisticated code had been broken by the Allies, and this information was used by the Allies to save thousands of soldiers’ lives and was instrumental in winning the war. Alan Turing was one of the truly genuine heroes of our time. Alan Turing was also gay. He kept it a secret, but, like Tyler Clementi, was outed, and, since homosexuality was a crime in Britain at that time, was criminally tried and convicted. He was forced to undergo chemical sterilization with estrogen injections. He committed suicide by taking cyanide in 1954. I can’t think of anything more shameful than the way this great man was treated just because of his sexual preferences.

I hope some day we can look back at our era and wonder why we would discriminate based on sexual orientation in the same way we look back at the pre-Civil Rights era and wonder how we could have had separate restrooms for “Whites” and “Coloreds.” Until that day arrives, shame on us.

By mannd

I am a retired cardiac electrophysiologist who has worked both in private practice in Louisville, Kentucky and as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. I am interested not only in medicine, but also in computer programming, music, science fiction, fantasy, 30s pulp literature, and a whole lot more.

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