Everyone remembers Obergefell v. Hodges. Thousands of people from around the country went out to the streets to fight for their right to love who they want to love. And they won! The Supreme Court ruling legalized marriage across the whole country, and everyone celebrated this massive event in not only the history of the LGBTQ community but the history of the world.
People looked forward to what was next; maybe it would be the Equality Act, maybe letting people choose the bathrooms that align with their gender, or even the legal recognition of non-binary people federally. But there was nothing. There were some wins here and there, but there haven’t been any action nearly as big since 2015. Why?
It’s not that we don’t need these big actions anymore; there are still so many issues affecting LGBTQ people around the world.
We still don’t have protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation federally, let alone for gender identity. So a man can get married to his husband, then turned away by the baker of their wedding cake, fired from his job, and kicked out of his apartment. When they get on their feet, they can be denied adopting a child.
If someone’s trans, they could be forced to use the wrong bathroom, barred from sports, and misgendered at the DMV, in addition to job and other forms of discrimination.
However, even a lot of the rights we take for granted, like to be open about being gay with others, are still not allowed in many countries. There’s a blindness in the U.S. to the problems of other countries.
According to the 2019 ILGA State-Sponsored Homophobia Report, there are still 68 countries where same-sex intercourse is illegal. In 11 of these countries, someone could get the death penalty.
Only 26 countries allow for same-sex marriage, which is only 13% of the United Nations.
Not only are things already bad, but they’re getting worse. According to the Equality Federation’s Equality tracker, there are over 200 bills in state legislatures in the U.S. that would negatively impact the LGBTQ community, and no one is talking about them. Some of these allow tax dollars to go to discriminatory adoption centers, others will ban trans athletes from competing as their gender. Some state-level bills will prevent cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination laws.
Take the Missouri HB 2303. It essentially says that transgender students at public schools have to use the bathroom that aligns with the sex on their birth certificate. It is an incredibly important bill, but if you search for it on Google News, there is only one result, and it’s briefly mentioned as part of a list.
If we don’t fight for these issues, not only will nothing get better, but it will start getting worse.
Why aren’t these issues at the top of our minds? One reason is that we’re just complacent. Maybe we don’t want to “rock the boat,” as if we’re lucky we have what we already have.
This is a dangerous position. Imagine what would’ve happened if we stopped after sodomy laws were revoked. Who knows how long it would’ve been until we got rights.
We also are privileged to live in a wealthy country, and it can shield us from the problems of the rest of the world. Just the fact you’re reading this means you probably have access to the internet, have a computer or a phone, and live in a country with a free press.
Lastly, something could be said about branding. Think about the marriage equality protests. Everything was iconic, from the slogans like “Love is love” to the symbols like the rainbow flag or the red equals sign. All you would have to do is put a rainbow bumper sticker on your car and immediately everyone would know that you support LGBTQ rights, and it puts the thought of marriage equality in their heads. It was the constant exposure that gave the issue attention. There hasn’t been anything like that for the problems we face now.
So what can we do to get any change to happen? The first thing we can do is talk about it. Get it in people’s thoughts. Maybe make post on Facebook or Twitter. The more people that talk about, the more others think about it and the more normal it feels.
There is a psychological effect known as the familiarity heuristic, where people generally feel more comfortable with things that they are familiar with, and that can apply to this situation.
Also, there needs to be better branding. No one is going to read a bumper sticker that says, “Affirming the gender identity of a student is important and the supposed advantage that transgender women have in sports is scientifically debatable, dependent on numerous factors that can be addressed with policies other than outright bans, and really not important compared to protecting young people from discrimination.” Try something like “Let girls play” or “Trans women = women.”
By implementing these strategies, the LGBTQ community could make an impact, and faster than ever.