"Can I discuss gay rights and religion in my essay?"
Before answering your question, I would want to why you'd like to write about this issue. Why does it matter to you? If you have a clear, compelling reason to write about it (like you or someone you're close to is LGBT), then you might attack the topic from the angle of how you explored and adopted your belief.
Did something happen to change your mind? Did you face any resistance in arriving at your belief? How has your belief changed the way you act?
If you reflect on these questions, you might be able to defuse a controversial topic by focusing on your personal growth instead of the topic itself. Then again, after more thought, you might decide you can tell a story of personal growth with a topic less likely to provoke people's prejudices.
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Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.