[CN: Homophobia, Transphobia, Orlando]
This article was originally written for TheHumanist.com, but it turns out my friend Callie Wright of the Gaytheist Manifesto is writing an article about the same thing. I guess this means she’s not my friend anymore.
Just kidding, Callie! I love you.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote.
This past weekend saw the one-year anniversary of the SCOTUS’s landmark decision to make same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states. I remember waking up that morning hearing the news and thinking, “Wait, we won?” Even though my home state of Maryland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012, I still rejoiced with my LGBTQ friends and family that, after years of campaigning, we finally won the battle. And yet I also worried that the mainstream LGBTQ community would soon forget that the war wasn’t over yet.
For starters, many in the transgender community felt that mainstream LGBTQ activists were focusing on marriage equality at the expense of trans rights. After all, in 2014 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) director Chad Griffin told a trans activist that “marriage isn’t a transgender issue.” Griffin later apologized, but to many LGBTQ people, this only solidified how far removed the LGBTQ movement was from its radical roots. In her book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, Shiri Eisner critiques what she calls the GGGG (gay gay gay gay) movement’s failure to address more pressing issues. She writes:
The struggle for same sex marriage leaves behind almost everyone who isn’t already privileged. People with more urgent needs than marriage are neglected from the resources and activist efforts of the GGGG movement. GGGG organizations spend many millions of dollars on the struggle for marriage, while organizations addressing the issues of queer and trans homelessness youth, HIV positive queers, queers of color, queers in poverty, queer survivors of violence, and many others, suffer from a constant lack of money and resources.
Indeed, The New Civil Rights Movement reported an alarming increase of hate crimes against LGBTQ people only days after the SCOTUS ruling. Also, as we’ve seen in the past couple of months, numerous “bathroom bills” have been proposed that would require transgender people to only use public bathrooms that aligned with their assigned genders at birth. Not to mention the fact that, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 34 states have introduced over 200 anti-LGBTQ rights bills this year alone.
And then came the early morning of June 12, 2016 when 29 year old Omar Mateen walked into an Orlando, FL gay nightclub called Pulse on Latinx Night and started shooting, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. If the Orlando shooting wasn’t a wake-up call that the fight against anti-LGBTQ bigotry isn’t over yet, I don’t know what is. Even in 2016, we’re still fighting for our right to live. We still live in a world where toxic masculinity shames gay men and trans women, and where religious leaders tell their congregations that LGBTQ people need to be either shunned or killed.
But we can get through this. I know because the LGBTQ rights movement always fights back. We fought back against the cops during the Stonewall riots of 1969. We fought back against Anita Bryant’s crusade for anti-gay discrimination in the ‘70s. We fought back against the AIDS epidemic in the ‘80s and ‘90s. We continue to fight back against politicians who want to take away our rights, and bigots who want us dead.
It’s not always easy, though. That’s one reason why the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance exists (of which I am part of their Advisory Council). According to our mission statement:
While the death of DOMA has empowered the mainstream LGBTQ movement and its allies, there are various issues related to LGBTQ rights and social justice that demand attention. This includes social issues that disproportionately impact queer communities like health care deprivations, homelessness, violence against queer and trans people, and economic injustice. The LGBTQ Humanist Alliance is dedicated to realizing a more inclusive humanism that confronts these issues through education and direct action.
Despite what critics may say, the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance isn’t meant to be divisive. Our goal is to address issues that specifically affect the LGTBQ community in order to both fight for our own liberation and to teach straight and cis people how to be better allies.
As Pride Month draws to a close, we need to remember where we came from and where we’re going. Progress has been made since Stonewall, but we still have a long way to go. Same-sex marriage may be legal throughout the United States, but we still face discrimination, bigotry, and violence. Let’s forge ahead.