By Eliel Cruz
The photo blog series Human of New York recently shared a portrait that has the LGBT community involved in a debate on discrimination. The series was started four years ago by photographer Brandon Stanton and captures diverse street portraits of New Yorkers, all different ages, races and backgrounds, accompanied by a quote or a snippet from each subject’s story. Brandon leaves the quote or accompanied life snippet up to the subject — this sometimes leads to controversial and shocking statements. A snippet that got many people talking was from a gay man. According to HNY, he said
I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I’m gay, and I don’t think there’s nearly as much discrimination as people claim. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced discrimination. But it hasn’t been a huge factor in my life. I feel like a lot of people bring discrimination on themselves by getting in people’s faces too much. They like to say: “Accept me or else!” They go around demanding respect as a member of a group, instead of earning respect as an individual. And that sort of behavior invites discrimination. I’ve never demanded respect because I was gay, and I haven’t experienced much discrimination when people find out that I am.
He was right on one thing: It was not a popular opinion.
Validating his experience is important. We should never ignore the testimony of experience a gay person puts forth. But the fact discrimination hasn’t been a huge factor in his life is a blessing, not the norm. There are many of us who can’t say the same, no matter how much we wish we could. His experience is his own, but it’s not the rule — it’s the exception.