Moments after I was informed of the Supreme Court's decision regarding marriage equality, I was swept with emotions I had not expected, few of which included happiness.
I immediately could imagine the chatter of excitement on social media, the rainbow flags being flown higher than the day before, and every gay and lesbian couple throughout the nation kissing in joy. But after the confetti in my vision touched the floor and the cheers quieted down, I sat down to ask myself one question: what happens to our movement now?
There is no debating the fact that the quest for marriage equality (or 'gay marriage' as so many folks still refer to it) has been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ justice movement in the recent years. As radical activists call out the need to reform our nation's justice system, school policies, and transgender legal protections, the issue that continuously received mainstream attention and support was whether or not two queer people would ever be able to wed.
So the day that this finally became our reality and America joined the short list of nations that recognized same-sex marriage, the question of where our movement was headed next was all I could think about. While the lists of issues besides marriage had already been ignored by mainstream queer activists for so long, how much longer would these lists be put on hold as gay men basked in their victory?
It's not that I am against marriage equality, but as an 18-year-old non-binary low-income transwomyn of color (who is single because college is my current boyfriend), my right to walk down the aisle is no where near my list of priorities. While I am ecstatic that my queer siblings can profess their love to their partners, I cannot ignore the issues that stand directly in the way of queer and trans folks' lives.
Of the homeless youth throughout this nation's 50 states (that now respect marriage equality), 40 percent identify as LGBTQ+, according to UCLA's Williams Institute. Of these youth without stable housing, 68 percent were kicked out by family because of their identities, while 54 percent reported also being victims of abuse. The conversation needs to continue beyond weddings and into a direct plan to combat young queer homelessness. This includes altering school policies to keep students in class and broadening the emergency services offered to underaged people without parental support.
A conversation that also should have been prioritized over marriage equality is the alarming increase of violence against queer and trans people of color. While the National Coalition for Anti-Violence Programs reports an increase of anti-LGBTQ murders in the last three years, transwomyn alone make up 45 percent of targeted murder victims. Trans Student Equality Resources' (TSER) statistics read that transwomyn have an one in 12 chance of being murdered, while transwomyn of color have an one in 8 chance. I fail to understand why the passion of activists fighting for their right to place a ring on someone's finger out shined their desire to, literally, save the lives of their trans sisters.
Undocumented queer individuals have also been given a seat towards the back of the queer liberation movement as the campaign for love led our way. While the undocu-issues definitely bring up intersectional discussions, there is no excuse to sit idly by as our LGBTQ+ identified siblings are detained, held in custody, and eventually deported back to countries many tried to leave intentionally. The housing of so many trans and gender non-conforming detainees alone, should force our communities to stand and demand justice. Jennicet Gutierrez, in an op-ed about her interruption of the White House's Pride ceremony, cited that transwomyn made up one out of every 500 people in detention, but one out of every five confirmed sexual abuse cases in ICE centers. But, as a documented person, I guess I am to put this on the back burner while I celebrate marriage equality?
The list of issues queer people are still facing goes on, and the reality of how many of these are life-threatening was all I could think about as my friends tweeted #loveislove and #YasSCOTUS. And while I attempted to join in and celebrate this victory, since I do believe this is still a victory, my heart remained heavy.
My fear after hearing of the 5-4 vote was that so many Americans would take this success as the end of our fight for liberation. I feared that gay-America would consider this to be the peak of our rights and turn media's attention to another hot topic. I feared that the little attention these issues received behind marriage would cease to exist at all.
But if I have learned anything these past few years, it was how to raise my voice to be heard. As a transwomyn of color, I have instilled the confidence in myself to stand for my community and demand visibility. Within my fluid queer identity, mentors have taught me how to collaborate and build coalitions in order to gather strength in numbers.
Now that I am able to marry who I love one day, I will continue to fight the systems of oppression that hold my people down.
I am not entirely sure what will happen to our movement from this point, but I am sure in knowing that our fight to LGBTQ+ justice is far from over, and "I do" plan to continue marching and fighting for my right to exist, thrive, and essentially live a happy, and one-day, married life.
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