Schools also must pay more attention to the needs of gay and lesbian youth: 36.5 percent of LGBT students in high school have attempted suicide. On top of physical violence, 97 percent of Philadelphia students report hearing homophobic language by students and teachers. This, combined with a school district curriculum that ignores the contributions of gay and lesbian Americans throughout history, has produced schools that are openly hostile to LGBT youth.
For years, Philadelphians have complained about the city's homeless problem. Although we have looked at this problem along race and gender lines, we also must consider the role of sexual identity. According to national studies, 20 to 40 percent of the urban homeless population identifies as gay or lesbian. One-quarter of this group reports being kicked out of home because of rejection by the family. By understanding the factors that make people homeless, we are better equipped to prevent, protect, and repair the damage that has been done.
Forty-three years after Stonewall, the LGBT community remains on the margins of our society. Although homosexuality is no longer considered a mental illness — the American Psychological Association officially referred to it as a mental disorder until 1974 — many in society continue to view it as deviant behavior. To counter this, we must demonstrate through scientific evidence, logic, and our own social interactions that gays and lesbians are no more or less honest, committed, and "normal" than anyone else. We all must work actively to challenge stereotypes and fight oppression, whether it's in our families, broader society, or our own hearts.
Most importantly, we must work to create a city that is more open and loving to members of the LGBT community.
This means that the next cadre of mayoral candidates must have a clear LGBT agenda. This means that the future school district superintendent must have solutions not only for raising test scores, but for protecting our most vulnerable populations.
This means that we as citizens must create a city that isn't just safe for the LGBT community around 13th and Locust, but in every place and every way imaginable.
Daily News editor-at-large Marc Lamont Hill is an associate professor of education at Columbia University and host of "Our World With Black Enterprise," which airs at 10 a.m. Sundays on TV-One. Contact him at MLH@marclamonthill.com.