Opinion: It gets better, but it's still got further to go

One month ago, a complete stranger called me a faggot. Even in 2015, in Santa Monica, on the Santa Monica College main campus.

This still happens.

I was doing an assignment for my photography class where our instructor challenged the students to take photos of groups of strangers without looking through the viewfinder.

I photographed several people with no issue, until under the walkway of the HSS building I found a group of guys hanging talking outside of a classroom.

They did not fit the stereotypical macho, misogynist homophobe mold from the outside, so they seemed like a safe and easy photograph target. Once I snapped a photo, one person in the group turned and angrily shouted.

“Is that what you do? You go around taking pics of guys?!” I was already rushing away when I heard him shout as I left, “Fucking faggot!”

They say “It Gets Better,” and I can attest that in my lifetime, this has been proven time and again when it comes to LGBTQIA acceptance and rights. However, what a lot of people don’t talk about, is how much better it still has left to be.

In February, an Orange County lawyer named Matt McLaughlin proposed a ballot initiative dubbed “The Sodomite Suppression Act.” The measures in the proposal seek to make sexual interaction by two members of the same sex punishable by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.”

Not even that, but under the initiative, LGBTQIA allies would also be removed from office and sentenced to imprisonment or a $1 million fine.

It should at least raise some flags that McLaughlin says in the initiative that “it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God's just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst.”

Does this sound preposterous? Laughable? Ridiculous? Even completely implausible that anyone would possibly support this? That’s what I thought during the 2008 elections when 52.24 percent of California voters voted to ban gay marriage.

At the same time that the nation voted in Barack Obama as the first black president, the great liberal beacon of the west voted to deny me, and any other LGBTQIA person, the right to marry someone of the same sex, a right that was already available to us within the state.

I will never forget the mixed feelings I had that night. I was so certain that Proposition 8 would not pass. People know better than to think that same sex marriage is harmful or threatening to anyone as attack ads would say, right?

My own mother voted in favor of it. Even though we had discussed it before her voting, she had her Spanish language sample ballot all marked up and ready.

When I asked her if she voted for it after the results, I just remember being furious with her. My sexual orientation was never a matter of discussing in my home. And to this day, that night was the closest I ever got to having an honest discussion about it with her.

Why would she vote for it? Didn’t she understand that we’re just people that want to be able to live our lives just like everyone else? Didn’t she know that someday I may want to get married? Adopt children to keep them out of "the system"?

Her answer was simple enough, and knowing the cultural background she came from, I understood, and lamented her choice and that of many of the other voters who made the decision. She said it wasn’t natural, and children should be raised by a mother and a father.

That weekend, I joined thousands of others to march in Downtown Los Angeles; a march that ended up breaking free from organizers and going to CNN’s LA headquarters in the middle of Hollywood.

During that time, national approval of same sex marriage was at 40 percent according to a Gallup poll. Today approximately 60 percent of Americans approve of legalizing same sex marriage.

It does really get better. State after state in the country decides to legalize same sex marriage with 37 now allowing it, but still 13 states banning. Last week, Ireland, a famously Catholic nation, and Greenland voted to recognize same sex marriage, making it 22 countries in the world recognizing same sex marriage.

In fact, things are so much better for us now, than even ten years ago, that Americans greatly overestimate the amount of gays in the country. Another Gallup poll says that Americans believe 23 percent of the country’s population is LGBTQIA, where in actuality, only 3.8 percent is.

Clearly this can be attributed to the amount of media attention LGBTQIAs have been receiving in recent years. From LGBTQIA characters in popular shows like Glee and openly bisexual recurring character in iconic British TV show Doctor Who to the unexpected success of RuPaul’s Drag Race and lesbian-laden Orange is the New Black, LGBTQIA media presence has brought their issues and stories to the forefront of social consciousness.

Just Monday, Caitlyn Jenner made headlines with waves of support crushing the few detractors of her announcement to the world, declaring herself a transgender woman, on the first day of the month president Obama declared LGBT Pride Month.

Because the vast majority of people are starting to see our stories and getting attached to these characters and personalities and seeing them as people, rather than inhuman monsters, the tides of opinions are starting to support our rights. But this doesn’t mean we’re done.

There are still national news outlets that are skewed in their coverage that blame homosexuality for everything from earthquakes to 9/11, clearly without any supporting evidence. Someday, we’re going to get past the damaging views, the hurtful words and actions, but as far as today goes, it’ll get better.