In 2012, we saw great strides for the LGBT community here in United States. We saw marriage equality reach more and more states, taking effect in 2013 and bringing us closer each day to full marriage equity across the board. At the end of 2011 we saw Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) -- making 2012 the first year in which LGBT folks could openly serve, and even allowing some to openly propose to one another in the White House. We saw Joe Biden come out and make a stand for transgendered people, and Obama openly say he thinks LGBT people deserve the right to love and be married.
On the flip side, we continued to see lots and lots of hate from different areas of our country. But we stood our ground during these times.
In 2012, we as a community grew in all areas, but we still have more room to grow. As we enter 2013 there are few resolutions I would like to offer to the community at large -- that aren't about marriage or the armed forces -- to consider as we come back to our offices and homes after this holiday season and approach a new year with new energy and new resolutions.
To Pay More Attention to LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness
Everyday in Chicago I see a young person who is LGBT and is currently experiencing homeless. If you were to walk the streets of Boystown, Chicago on any given night you would be met every so often with a young person who may or may not look homeless to you, but they are. The streets of Boystown over the years have become the landing point during many young queer homeless youth pilgrimage to 'home' or at least a place to feel safe. The young people utilize resources like the Center on Halsted [insert link], the Broadway Youth Center, the Night Ministry, and many others. Boytown to these folks isn't a gay destination of parties and fun, but instead a refuge and place to access resources in the Midwest.
A 2012 William Institute study found that over 40 percent of homeless youth identitfy as LGBT and cited rejection from there family (68 percent) and abuse from family (54 percent) as source of homelessness. These numbers are depressing to say the least. It shows us as a community that no matter how far we've gotten with marriage or DADT, we still have a lot of work to do.
Recently, I helped throw I Thanksgiving dinner for LGBT youth in Chicago, many of which were currently homeless. As I sat around a table mixed with youth, service providers and community members a new guy from Texas, who was gay and just moved to Chicago after college, stated he was 'so excited' to be in Illinois. When I asked why he said that Illinois was one of the most progressive states for gays, especially since the marriage bill looked to be passed soon.
The young person to my right laughed and looked at his food. I turned to this young person, who was a male of color in his early 20s and I asked: Do you think about marriage a lot? He responded instantly, "No! How am I going to worry about marriage when I have to worry about food or a bed everyday?" The Texan looked shocked at this response. I looked over at him and asked, "What are your thoughts on that statement?" He could only say that he had never really thought about that aspect before and it he would need sometime to really process that.
To Be More Inclusive of Queer People of Color in Media
If you were to turn on a TV right now and a show with gay characters was to be on, what do you imagine they would look like? Would they be Latina women? What about black men? Or what about a group of men with no white men sitting in a gay bar? Unless you have turned on a TV and so happen to land on a Patrick Ian Polk film or television series, then you'd probably see gay white men with barely any racial or ethnic diversity.
GLAAD released a report last year that showed us how many LGBTQ folks are on some of the most popular television networks. From the report we saw the highest prevalence of LGBTQ folks in media than ever been reported, which is amazing. But, also the report showed us that in all major broadcast networks none were going to have a reoccurring or 'major' role for a person of color for the 2013-14 seasons. Many may argue that the media represents the majority or the lives of folks that are the majority, but if this was to be true than someone has gotten the data wrong.
A Gallup poll recently showed that racial minorities have the highest rates of openly LGBTQ folks in the country, with white Americans coming in dead last and blacks leading the group. So, if people of color are the most present in the LGBTQ community, in regards to the Gallup poll, than why are we not represented in the media and television? I have a few hypothesis (see: Racism in America), but seeing these facts should not make us jump up in defense but instead stand up and say: time for change.
To Fight for Transgender Rights and Safety
In 2012, we saw the murders of many transgender people here in America. Some of the people lost were Tiffany Gooden, Paige Clay, and the list goes on.
The specific details of these murders vary, and many cases are still open, but one uniting factor is prevalent in all of them: being transgender. The murder of transgender folks is not something new, and this gender based violence has plagued this community for a quite a long time.
In 2012, the Transgender Monitoring Project reported that the transgender murder rate jumped 20 percent in 2012, reporting that 265 transgender people had been murdered as of November 15th. And a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that transgender women currently make up 44 percent of all LGBT murders. These numbers are egregious and much is to be done. Fellow activist and writer Janet Mock spoke out about the death of Paige and the complicated ways in which transgender woman, especially woman of color, must survive in this day and age; I encourage you to watch her incredible speech here.
Beyond the rates of murder in this community, transgender folks face much more. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, published in February 2011, 47 percent of people who responded to the survey cited being denied a job, not getting a promotion, or being fired for being transgender. And 90 percent said they have had been harassed or mistreated while on the job.
What we can see from this survey that is even when a transgender person does obtain a job, things don't exactly become easier.
Transgender folks face high rates of suicide, homelessness, poverty and this list goes on, all based on their gender identity. For many transgender people, it doesn't get better magically - there is a lot of fighting that has to happen to make it better.
There we have it, three resolutions that can help us as a community continue to push forward. I hope these resolutions allow us to take a step back and look beyond the marriage fights, and look at many of the issues many LGBT folks are thinking about before they ever think about what size ring they will wear. And, of course, there are many more that can be added to this list, so please feel free to add your own.
The fight for LGBT equality takes more than one person, or group, or article; it takes all of us. Let's spend more time this New Year working for all of us and not just for some of us in order to make the world a better place.
For a list of other World-Wide LGBT organizations fighting for rights on all fronts click here.