Caitlyn Jenner recently won an ESPY award for courage, leading many to argue that the trials and difficulty she faced as an LGBT person weren’t at the level required to qualify as “courageous.” Even before Jenner was in the spotlight, people have been making this argument – saying LGBT are not brave for coming out of the closet or simply being an LGBT person – and often drawing comparisons between an undeniably courageous segment of the population: soldiers.
It is for that reason I’d like to take a moment to make a few observations regarding soldiers, the LGBT community, and courage.
First, it should go without saying that thousands of LGBT men and women have served this country over the decades in the military while hiding who they really are for fear of backlash. For someone to hide who they are while simultaneously putting their life in danger to protect people who would spit on them, beat them, or kill them if they knew the truth is patriotic, selfless, and courageous.
Secondly, while it might not seem apparent at first, there are many parallels between soldiers and the LGBT community. Statistically speaking, the way LGBT people have been treated over the years has actually had similar results to the way war treats soldiers.
- Both have higher rates of homelessness.
- Both have higher rates of depression, PTSD, and other mental illness.
- Both have higher rates of substance abuse and suicide.
- Both include people maimed, attacked, and killed.
Indeed, for both groups it has also been a decades-long, bitter fight to change these statistics – and really, it’s only recently that things have started improving (a push toward more adequate care for soldiers and equal rights for LGBT people).
Courage is not a competition and it is not mutually exclusive. The courage of an LGBT person to face another day, whether hiding who they are or proudly stating it, does not undo or take away from the courage of a soldier on the battlefield.
As for the rest of us: Let’s do what we can to make life better for both instead of debate who deserves to be called courageous more.