OREGON'S RECENT marriage-equality win—while absolutely important and thrilling—should in no way be an indicator that the battle for LGBTQ liberation, equality, and equity has been won... in our state, or anywhere else. Winning marriage is yet another milestone for our queer communities to celebrate, but it raises the question: Now what?
Here are five LGBTQ issues we should be just as passionate about as marriage equality:
Have you ever asked a homeless queer or trans youth, who has been rejected by their family and has nowhere to go, what their needs are? The answers one gets are usually along the lines of "I'm hungry" or "I need somewhere to sleep tonight." The fact is marriage equality is not even on the radar of most displaced LGBTQ youth, who are just trying to survive. How about a young person who is being tormented relentlessly in school for their sexual orientation or gender identity? What good is marriage equality if our kids are being bullied into killing themselves before they even get to legal marrying age? We need federal safe-schools laws, and we need them now. In Oregon, the time to hold our lawmakers and school districts accountable for existing safe-schools laws is upon us.
The T and the B
Most of the transgender folks I know and work with don't give two shits about marriage equality. If they're not busy trying not to get fired, murdered, or otherwise humiliated just for being who they are, my trans friends still have to advocate for themselves about daily issues the rest of us take for granted. While the tide seems to be turning in mainstream awareness, and hopefully, acceptance (see: Laverne Cox on the cover of Time magazine last month), the need for culturally competent transgender health care is staggering... and don't even get me started on how trans people are treated in the prison system! The worst part is that many people in our own community are just as transphobic as the rest of the uneducated world. And while I'm on that subject, studies show that the bisexual community is also suffering, and while included in the LGBTQ acronym, they are often excluded when it comes to real life. Bi people make up about half of the entire queer population, yet receive close to none of the movement's funding. Biphobia is alive and well, friends—and it's not just for straight people anymore.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is legislation that, if enacted, would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in the workplace. While the law has been proposed to nearly every Congress since 1994 without passage, we're lucky to have the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries looking out for us. In this state, it is illegal to fire or not hire someone for being gay, lesbian, queer, or bisexual—but in 29 states this is still perfectly legal, and in many states it's still legal for employers to discriminate against you for being transgender.
For every victory the LGBTQ community has won, including marriage equality, we owe everything to the brave trailblazers who came before us and built the platforms we stand on—both politically and in community with one another. There are more out LGBTQ seniors living now than ever before in our community's history, and that number keeps growing as we all age. There's nothing more heartbreaking than having to watch this movement's pioneers, who have dedicated their lives to fighting for our freedoms, go back in the closet to survive non-affirming assisted-living conditions, or be discarded by the communities they created. We must find meaningful ways to honor our elders, and see to it that affirming health care and housing is a cradle-to-grave experience for all of us.
Health and Wellness
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeing a 22 percent increase in new HIV infections in gay and bisexual men under the age of 25 in recent years, to the ongoing heightened health disparities faced by LGBTQ communities around issues of addiction and recovery, sexual violence and physical abuse, studies show that queer and trans people struggle significantly more than straight and non-trans people when it comes to issues of sexual violence, physical abuse, and addiction and recovery. This is all compounded by the discrimination and stigma many LGBTQ people face when trying to access health care. Remember, just because a person has health insurance, does not mean they're going to find themselves in front of a doctor who understands their needs.
One of the great byproducts of these marriage victories is that many groups and individuals within our fractured acronym have been able to set differences aside and work together around this issue.
As the wins roll in, we must not all go back to our corners. We have to use this momentum as an opportunity to remain collectively organized around the battles yet to be won, and we must circle back around to all of the LGBTQ people who have felt alienated by marriage dominating our movement for the past decade. If we can find more ways to all come together, and stay together, we will change the world so much faster.