The status of the LGBTQ community is a constant issue in the news, even though it shouldn’t be. The right to marriage under United States law was a step in the right direction but there is so much more ground to cover.
The issues discussed in the news are many, but there are many more that don’t get talked about openly in the media and popular culture. One such issue is the relationship of LGBTQ persons and society. For all intents and purposes, society can be read as “cisgender/heterosexual society.” Now, we need to analyze where the LGBTQ community’s position in society has come from.
While LGBTQ persons have existed since the birth of human civilization, the civil rights movement for LGBTQ persons began on June 28, 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. Now, if you have never heard of these riots, I would not be surprised because the majority of LGBTQ history is completely ignored in modern history classrooms. The Stonewall Riots were a series of protests and riots sparked by the New York City Police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a LGBTQ safe space in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The police showed up at the Inn and stormed the place and instead of following proper protocol, they resorted to violence and began hurting patrons of the bar. These riots were influential in getting LGBTQ issues into the limelight. However, the fight was far from over.
From the 70s to now, LGBTQ persons have had a rough go. They suffered through the AIDS crisis of the 80s in which former President Ronald Reagan ignored the crisis stating, “Shouldn’t medicine and morality teach the same lesson?”. They have suffered through extreme violence all because of being who they are. They have suffered through “conversion therapy,” or therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These are all issues that are heard about in the news, but the severity of these issues is often downplayed.
Like any other minority group, the LGBTQ community has been told things like “We’ve come a long way.” This phrase is often used by so-called “allies” who want to put off the importance of LGBTQ issues because it is inconvenient to talk about. Also, like other minority groups, LGBTQ persons often have difficulty relating their experiences with cisgender/heterosexual experiences. These phenomena lead to a whole other host of issues that LGBTQ persons face.
There are no easy solutions to the issues mentioned, but there are steps towards making a world that everyone can exist comfortably in. Firstly, cisgender/heterosexual persons can put themselves in the shoes of their LGBTQ fellows and try to understand their past. LGBTQ people often have to deal with “coming out,” or revealing their sexual orientation to friends, family, colleagues and other personal relations. This experience can be quite traumatic and many LGBTQ people who come out to their loved ones often lose them. Cisgender/heterosexual individuals should not overtly ask about these experiences but understand that their fellows are living trauma-informed lives and that the phrase, “You’ll find a significant other eventually,” after a failed romance is never an appropriate thing to say.
Secondly, cisgender/heterosexual individuals can defend their LGBTQ with reckless abandon. We live in an incredible time of acceptance and love but unfortunately, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is rampant and many states do not have any protections for LGBTQ individuals. What cisgender/heterosexual individuals need to do for their friends is take no prisoners for people who discriminate or commit acts of violence. I want to be clear: acts of violence are not limited to physical attacks. Using a transgender person’s “deadname,” their name assigned to them at birth, is an act of violence. Asking a gay couple, “Who is the man and who is the woman?” is an act of violence. Accosting a transgender person in a bathroom is an act of violence. Don’t let anyone make your LGBTQ friends feel inferior for existing as they are.
Thirdly, society needs to move much quicker in terms of treating LGBTQ persons like people. A clear statement needs to be made: LGBTQ persons are not up for debate. We exist, and we aren’t going anywhere. Our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is given by our existence and any person who disagrees is wrong. There could be any number of reasons for why people discriminate against LGBTQ persons. Bigoted people use willful ignorance, pseudoscience, and religion to justify their hate, but this needs to end. We as a society need to stop giving these people a pass because they’re “good people” other than their hate of an entire group of people.
Equality is the only goal. No more can a gay man happily marry his partner on Monday, be fired on Tuesday, evicted on Wednesday and told that they have no legal basis for litigation on Thursday. Take a moment to find your LGBTQ friends and make a difference.