It was not that long ago that the LGBTQ community was subjected to sanctioned discrimination and violence.
It’s been only 12 years since the first state in the union, Massachusetts, legalized gay marriage, defying the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal recognition of marriage equality.
It’s only been the past decade that real strides have been made on health care for same-sex partners and in repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military. In 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard Act, making crimes motivated by a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability a designated hate crime. Matthew Shepard, a gay teenager, was tortured and murdered in Wyoming in 1998.
Across the country, the LGBTQ community has held its ground against the hate – shedding stereotypes and fostering greater understanding along the way. Of course, it remains a work in progress. Which makes the resurgence of bigotry and discriminatory rhetoric within the incoming presidential administration not only disheartening, but a serious threat.
The LGBTQ community, and everyone in solidarity, is legitimately concerned about safety and their civil rights. Even beyond actual changes to the laws, the election has radicalized the haters with some self-induced mandate.
In the Dec. 9, 2016, edition of Street Roots, we report on the efforts of transgender advocates to help people update their identification documents before the new administration takes control. It’s not just a housekeeping measure: Proper idenfication on documents is key to essential services, such as obtaining a driver’s license, health care and Social Security benefits, not to mention personal dignity and integrity.
It’s easy in our city to take these rights and liberties for granted. They seem proper, normal and inalienable, but it will take work to keep them that way.
In these chaotic times, we need to reaffirm that we are not going to tolerate violence of any kind against people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We shall reaffirm that commitment across all communities, in all our glorious diversity.
We have to stand together and call hate out when we see it. We have to remind ourselves that political will is driven by social power. And we need to celebrate real justice when we see it.
In the past, we have stood against the forces of bigotry and homophobia and won.
And, if called upon, we will do it again.