Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The State of LGBT+ Equality

by James Stuart-James

Transgender Community Flag

Going into June, the symbolic month of LGBT+ Pride, I heard multiple arguments that Pride was an outdated instrument of the past. These claims seem to have been growing ever since 2013 when the Same-Sex Couples Act was passed which legalised gay marriage across the country (excluding Northern Ireland). However, I maintained that in our current political climate, we should never assume that all is well and that the fight for equality is over. Over in America, the GOP Presumed 

Donald Trump, Presumptive
GOP Presidential Nominee
Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has said he would “strongly consider” appointing judges that would seek to overturn Same-Sex marriage laws. Though he has ‘flip flopped’ on this point a number of times, the very idea that he would consider such a path is alarming. He has also been known to change his opinion on Trans Issues, first saying that he would allow Caitlyn Jenner to use a ladies’ bathroom in one of his Trump towers, as an example of being open to trans people before later going back on the policy and favouring the traditional GOP stance of not allowing people to go to the bathrooms of their own identity, despite the obvious risks such ideas pose for said trans individuals. 

Hillary Clinton, Presumptive
Democrat Presidential Nominee,
ex-Secretary of State
and New York Senator
On the side of the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton’s record is not much better. She voted in favour of the Defence Of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 under her husband’s administration which stated that “the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” and she only decided to switch sides in favour of gay marriage in 2013!

In the meantime, Senator Bernie Sanders, Secretary Clinton’s democratic primary opponent, voted against DOMA i.e. in favour of gay marriage and marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr in Selma to combat racism which contrasts with Clinton who said in 2008 that “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.” after Obama started to beat her in the Democratic primary polls.

Senator Ted Cruz, self-proclaimed 
Conservative Constitutionalist
GOP members like Trump or Ted Cruz would often suggest that by allowing trans people to go to bathrooms of their choice, this would open opportunities for male paedophiles to dress as women in order to harass young girls, a scenario which has never been reported as an incidence. Instead, they choose to neglect the fact that if you decided to send a fully transitioned Transsexual woman into the male bathroom, that could easily lead to genuine harassment in the form of beatings as it would be impossible for the trans woman to pass as female if stuck in a male bathroom hence leading to high potential for transphobia thanks to cisism (the concept that cisgender people are superior to trans people, intentionally derived from racism as a form of hate speech) which could even result in socially acceptable rape of trans people.

Caitlyn Jenner, Transsexual
television personality and
retired Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete.
To make this worse, Caitlyn Jenner has even come out to endorse Trump saying he would be “very good for women’s issues”. This being assigned to a man who has referred to women as “pigs” and has suggested that the reason why the Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly supposedly asked him misleading questions during a GOP debate was because "there was blood coming out of her wherever” (which he later concluded was her nose). Furthermore, Jenner stated that “choosing clothes is the hardest part of womanhood”, hence completely ignoring societal misogyny eg. the gender pay gap or the prohibition of abortion rights as well as negating issues faced by the trans people such as bathroom rights and the fact that trans women are suggested to be the leading demographic in the West per capita for suicidal contemplation while trans men are the largest Western demographic per capita to successfully commit suicide.

Nigel Farage, UKIP Leader
Meanwhile in the UK, Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, stated dismissively in relation to gay marriage in 2014 that “I think we are opening a very big can of worms here”. He refused since to conclusively elaborate on his statement and publically support or reject gay marriage on principle hence leading to much doubt around his stance on the matter. With the upcoming EU referendum in which UKIP stands to profit greatly if the British public decide to ‘Brexit’, could we be opening up our very own can of worms by providing those whose intentions are unclear, a substantial voice in the construction of our sovereign identity in the wake of a vote to leave the European Union? As it stands, various LGBT rights are protected through EU law. Same-sex sexual activity has been legalised in all EU states by the EU and the EU banned employment discrimination in regards to sexuality in the year 2000. However, EU states posses differing laws in respects to greater protection, as evidenced by the nuance between same-sex marriage and same-sex civil partnership as well as wavering national policies on same-sex adoptions. If we do vote to leave the EU, could what progress we have made evaporate? 

EU Member States Flags with the flag of the European Union

Christina Grimmie, Lesbian Singer
shot on Saturday.
This brings me to the tragic events of the last weekend in America. It started when the Lesbian singer Christina Grimmie was shot dead in front of her fans on Saturday as she stood with “arms open wide” in a defiant greeting towards her killer before Christina’s brother tackled the killer to the ground  as he “possibly saved countless other lives” according to Chief John Mina of the Orlando Police. Unfortunately, the killer drew the gun on himself, committing suicide in the process to avoid questioning. 

On Sunday, this worsened when the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando which catered mainly to gay audiences was attacked by a single gunner wielding an assault rifle, who has since been linked to the so-called Islamic State (or Daish as I prefer to say due to its blatant non-Muslim principles). 50 people were killed and 53 others were injured in the assault hence making this the largest case of public gun violence/shootings in American recorded history and it is yet to be decided whether it will be classed as a hate crime or a terrorist attack. Supporters of the Second Amendment to the American Constitution which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms were quick to argue that if the members of the club had themselves been wielding weaponry, they could have defended themselves. However, later evidence showed that two guards were armed which only antagonised the attacker further. It has also been reported that the DJ allowed members of the club to hide under his booth in order to protect them from the shooter. Since then, a man was caught by the police on Monday armed with a prototype chain bomb which was said to be targeted at another gay club.

Emergency services outside the Pulse nightclub
The Pulse shooting happened in an area where LGBT people have normally been accepted due to Orlando’s large and diverse LGBT community promoting a sense of comfort and safety. Though the incident that jarred Orlando’s LGBT community and the entire nation, may be brutal, it is also something that LGBT+ people have always experienced, as gay and lesbian bars and clubs have often been targeted. To me, this is more of a reminder, no matter the motives that lie beneath such hatred, of the ever present danger which the LGBT community still faces.

Eric Rudolph, aka the Olympic Park Bomber due to the terror attack on the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996, also attacked lesbian bars, in addition to abortion clinics. In 1997, the Otherside Lounge in Atlanta was attacked with two bombs, one of which detonated in the bar and injured five people. (The second bomb was then discovered in a parking lot of the bar which was detonated by the police without injury.) Rudolph, who had ties to the Christian extremist group “Army of God”, later pleaded guilty and admitted to targeting homosexuality. In 2014, Musab Masmari was sentenced to 10 years in prison after setting fire to a Seattle gay nightclub on New Year’s Eve in 2013. The assistant U.S. attorney reported a friend of Masmari saying that  Masmari confided in him that he “burned a gay club” and that he did it because “what these people are doing is wrong.” Another friend of Masmari reportedly said he maintained a “general hostility towards homosexuality.”
Hatred against LGBT+ people is nothing new and even after we make progressive strides; we encounter fierce backlashes that are inspired primarily out of bigotry or other peoples’ self-loathing. Most people take for granted the freedoms they have won, and certainly will not think twice about enjoying their lives. However, in doing so, they may elect to ignore the dangers that still face the LGBT+ community.

Hate crimes against LGBT+ people have not dissipated since the onset of marriage equality and have in fact been on the rise in recent years. These terrible tragedies in Orlando serve as reminders of the threats of violence against LGBT+ people every day, and that we must always remain vigilant. This is not a time to classify LGBT+ Pride as a redundant bygone; it is now more important than ever that we stand together in solidarity and embrace a society where people can be themselves.

LGBT+ Pride Flag

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