This morning, while studiously avoiding responsibility, pretending a new academic year doesn't start in a few days and ignoring the fact that my students might actually want a written syllabus to guide them this semester, I successfully diverted my attention to my Facebook newsfeed.
There I read this shining gem from one of those LGBT news compendium sites: "These days, as the LGBT civil rights movement racks up one marriage equality win after another, many people seem to think we're on the cusp of ultimate victory."
The sentence was really just contrast filler to get folks to click on the story about an ordinance in Chattanooga that would have granted equal benefits and was thus successfully shot down. But, instead of focusing on that story, I got stuck on the filler...specifically on those words "ultimate victory."
We have all been hearing the same familiar refrains of progress; sentiments like "Almost there!" and "So much closer to equal!" litter the dialogues about marriage equality. Ultimately, these sentiments are as myopic and foolish as they are privileged and damaging.
Let's get the caveats out of the way: I think the advances in marriage equality are astounding. I'm all for marriage equality. I applaud those who are fighting for marriage equality. I am no Debbie Downer.
That said, to the many people who seem to think we're on the cusp of ultimate victory due to the court decisions on marriage equality, I respectfully ask: are you freakin' nuts?!?
I urge you to expand your focus to include the following:
- Reports of anti-LGBTQ violence increased in severity in 2013, with a 21 percent increase in reports of physical hate violence from 2012. Additionally, fewer survivors are reporting hate violence to the police, and those reporting are being met with increased police hostility.
- There still is a lifetime ban on gay men giving blood. Although AMA doctor after doctor decry this policy as being a paragon of discrimination and not science, gay men continue to be discriminated against on the most basic, cellular level. All the while, the national blood supply dwindles and calls out for everyone's help...just obviously not gay men with the diseases our government actually assumes we have.
- 63.5 percent of our LGBTQ youth continue to felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and 43.9 percent because of their gender expression. Additionally, 81.9 percent were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 63.9 percent because of their gender expression.
To be clear, though the ring finger on my left hand is unadorned, marriage equality most definitely excites me. But it also scares the crap out of me. I worry about complacency in our community, that funds and energy will drop off once this one issue is settled. I fear that marriage equality is a more palatable issue to discuss (in the gay community as well as our straight counterparts) than the disproportionate impact of deadly violence for people of color, transgender women, transgender people of color and gay men. And it terrifies me that the idea of "ultimate victory" will leave some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters behind.
Let us, of course, keep moving forward, keep fighting to have our relationships recognized and keep marching in the direction equality. But let us do so in a context where our shared concept of victory is one that is multi-faceted, comprehensive and thus truly ultimate.