Views & Voices

Straight for Equality: The evolution in LGBT rights did not happen in a vacuum





There’s a whole lot for us to celebrate these days.

In spite of some setbacks, the number of states embracing marriage equality is at an all-time high. When people are asked about their level of acceptance for people who are gay and lesbian, the statistics are greater than ever, with huge growth among people of faith – a demographic once perceived to be unreachable. And in workplaces across the United States, there are a record-breaking number of organizations with outstanding policies and practices to protect members of the LGBT community.

However, these reports only tell part of the story – the progress that we’re talking about doesn’t mean universal gains for everyone within the LGBT community.

This past week, people commemorated the Transgender Day of Remembrance, often reading the names of those who happened to be trans, and, because of that part of who they are, were victims of vicious mistreatment and violence. And based on reports, it does not seem that the trend of violence is decreasing.

Meanwhile, the new Corporate Equality Index reveals that while vast improvements have been made in the treatment of people who are transgender at work, only 66 percent – a noticeably low number – of Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies that protect employees who are transgender or gender nonconforming.

There’s no way to gently comment on these facts other than to say that this is not what equality looks like.

There have been countless hours spent talking about why this gaping space exists between the progress of people who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual and those who are trans, and there’s no need to reiterate here. What does need to be discussed is how we’re going to be part of closing this gap, not as “fixers” for a problem, but partners in creating real culture change ensuring that progress is progress for all across the community.

Culture change isn’t easy work. But PFLAG, which has a long history of transgender inclusion and advocacy, is releasing a new resource that it hopes will be part of this partnership for transformation.

As the organization that both figuratively and literally wrote the book on how to be allies to the LGBT community, it’s in a position that knows that in order to change the world around us, we often need to start by changing our own ideas and behaviors.

The guide to being a trans ally is the fourth book in PFLAG’s signature Straight for Equality project, which was launched in 2007 to invite, educate, and engage new allies into the effort to achieve equality for all.

While the focus of the project primarily has been on non-LGBT allies, this new publication broadens the effort and calls on more people – including those who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual – to be part of the work.

Its approach is pure PFLAG – recognizing that for some people, regardless of where they come from, this can be a tough topic to understand. But it also does what PFLAG does best: It makes the case as to why an issue that might not seem personal, in fact, is.

Even better, it provides specific ways to start learning and then doing, taking people on their own unique ally journeys, straight to equality for all, if you will.

The revolution in equality for people who are gay and lesbian did not happen in a vacuum. For every person in the community who bravely came out and fought, there were people outside the LGBT community – our families, friends, colleagues, and neighbors – who were watching.

Many of them saw what our courage meant and chose to stop watching and be part of the fight. The progress that happened would not have occurred without them. Now’s the chance for us to do the same.

Equality means equality for all, and anything less than that is not real equality.

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