Essay about LGBT Rights
“Despite constant activism in the media regarding the LGBT community, many people remain unaware of the injustices that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face. People also tend to forget how LGBT people are affected by these injustices. If they did know, they would know that these injustices often take a huge emotional toll on LGBT people in many ways. Around the world, LGBT people are denied civil rights and opportunities that are automatically granted to straight/cisgender people. We as a society must demand that they receive equal treatment in order to end this oppression of the LGBT community.
Homosexuality has not always been as black as white as it is today. For example, many indigenous tribes during pre-colonial times have viewed individuals who experience same sex attraction and identify as ‘two spirit’ as holy. These people practiced free and overt sexual relationships and believed that man and woman could exist in one being and their beliefs were accepted among their tribes. European colonizers considered these ideas ‘barbaric’ to Christianity and offered native americans the choice of spiritualized customs and a chance at a guaranteed place in the ‘New World’. After this, Native Americans quickly abandoned the idea of ‘two spirit’ individuals.
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According to The Constitution, discrimination against LGBT people is illegal, but this discrimination still occurs. The Constitution itself states, “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…” (US Const. amend. XIV). This section of the Constitution corresponds with the idea that discrimination is against the law. Allowing gay marriage ensures the people of the United States that every citizen has equal rights. It also ensures those who are coming to America that they will have the same rights as every citizen who is already here no matter their race, origin, values, beliefs, and religion.
As of 2019, gay marriage is recognized in twenty-six countries, including the United States, and civil unions are recognized in many Western nations. While gay marriage has seen the most success in Western nations, anti-discrimination legislation is making progress worldwide. As of 2017, seventy-two countries worldwide have protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including some that also retain sodomy laws.
The first country to legalize gay marriage was the Netherlands in 2001, this groundbreaking legislation is arguably one of the most influential events in the timeline of the gay rights movement. It’s sphere of influence triggered a number of countries to follow in its footsteps in Europe. Belgium became the second country to legalize gay marriage after King Albert II signed a bill legalizing same sex marriage into law in 2003.
Other European countries began to follow this influence with Spain legalizing gay marriage in 2005, Norway in 2008, and Sweden in 2009. Since then, sixteen other European countries have legalized gay marriage. As of January 2019, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom are the sixteen European countries that recognize gay marriage as legal.
In Latin America, however, the gay rights movement was experiencing slower growth in terms of recognition. In the past decade, countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil have made great strides in the quality of life for LGBT individuals. Unfortunately, LGBT people still face discrimination in latin countries, despite recent strides of progress. Machismo, the overwhelming sense of masculinity or pride, is very prevalent in latin countries.
This often leads to hate crimes against any male that does not exhibit traditional “masculine” traits or threaten the gender norms of their country. Unfortunately, as more LGBT issues come into light, opponents of gay rights will continue to fight back. In accordance with this, Latin America has seen an increase of anti-LGBT hate crimes in recent years. Nearly 600 people died across Latin America from anti-LGBT violence between January 2013 and March 2014, according to a 2015 report by the IACHR.
In Africa, the fight for marriage equality and discrimination protections has been difficult. Many nations in Africa, such as Somalia, actively practice the death penalty for those accused of homosexual activity – consensual or not. However, South Africa in particular has stood out as a haven for LGBT individuals in Africa, as marriage and joint adoption are both guaranteed by South African law. “Same-sex intercourse, sodomy and cross-dressing have been illegal or prohibited in Guyana since the beginning of the country’s colonial era to the present.
Laws against sodomy were introduced as part of Roman Dutch legislation during the Dutch colonial era and were continued under British common law during the British colonial era” says Pere DeRoy. “These laws seem to punish those who threaten gender norms, such as feminine-presenting men and masculine-presenting women” (DeRoy 8). Fortunately, progress is being made in terms of representation of LGBT people in African countries. “In a few places, like Egypt and Morocco, sexual orientation and gender identity issues have begun to enter the agendas of some mainstream human rights movements. Now, unlike in earlier years, there are lawyers to defend people when they are arrested, and voices to speak up in the press” (Petrova 7).
In the Middle East, those identifying as LGBT typically face life or death situation in regards to their identity. This is because Sharia Law is widely practiced across Western Asia. In Saudi Arabia, for example, exhibitions of homsexual and transgender behavior are punishable by fines, flogging, and even death. However, some nations are noticeably more progressive in terms of LGBT rights.
Israel is often referred to as an LGBT “oasis” compared to its neighboring Arab nations. Members of Israel’s LGBT community are not persecuted, tortured or killed over their sexual orientation, unfortunately that’s something that cannot be said about Iraq. In that country, which is the most dangerous Middle Eastern nation for LGBT individuals, a large number of vigilante killings arise from the lawlessness that has evolved there as well as the government’s failure to take action against anti-LGBT violence. Turkey is another country that consistently neglects the needs of its LGBT community. In 2017, Turkey’s government placed a ban on all LGBT cultural events.
This ban included Istanbul’s annual gay pride celebration which served as a way for LGBT people of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate who they are in an accepting environment. Istanbul also has a large amount of hate crimes against LGBT individuals. In 2017, a transgender woman named Warda was brutally murdered and mutilated by a man who had purchased her for sex. This murder went highly unnoticed by the public and the police force in Istanbul. To this day, the police have not found Warda’s killer and have refused her of a proper burial. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence in Turkey. Crimes against LGBT individuals often go unnoticed and when they are noticed, they are often never solved.
In Asia, LGBT laws vary widely by country. Some nations, such as Taiwan, are on track to be the first in Asia to legalize same sex marriage. Thailand, often coined as a sort of ‘transgender capital’ has actively included ladyboys, or ‘kathoey’ in their modern society. However, in Brunei, legislation recently passed has deemed homsexuality punishable by stoning for men, and caning or imprisonment for women.
In North America, LGBT laws have been much more progressive than other continents outside of Europe. While bullying in schools is still commonplace in the United States and Canada, discrimination protections on the basis of sexuality and gender identity are widespread. Additionally, gay marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005, and legal in the United States nationwide since 2015.
The 2015 Supreme Court decision ruling that homosexual couples were, by law, allowed to marry sparked great debate when it was first passed. This ruling came less than two decades after President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a union between only a man and a woman, thereby denying same-sex couples federal marriage benefits, such as access to health care, social security, and tax benefits, as well as green cards for immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens. Advocates for same-sex love rejoiced at this legislation, exclaiming that equality was finally attainable. On the other side side, opponents of gay marriage mourned the direction the nation was facing, firing back on social media with firm viewpoints.
Due to its highly controversial standing, the debate on gay marriage often brings forth the question: how does one determine right from wrong? When injustices arise, someone, based on their beliefs, will step in and take action to fight whatever they believe is wrong, but at the end of the day, it ultimately comes down to what the individual perceives as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
LGBT youth often face adversity in their school, social and family lives due to differing opinions on whether or not their lifestyle is acceptable. On 18 April 2019 Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old high school freshman in Alabama committed suicide due to homophobic bullying. Nigel took his life because he was ostracized for having the courage to be himself, unfortunately his authenticity went unappreciated by his classmates.
While tragic, LGBT suicides are not uncommon. A 2018 study by JAMA Pediatrics concluded that sexual minority youth were 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers. Transgender adolescents were 5.87 times more likely, gay and lesbian adolescents were 3.71 times more likely and bisexual youth were 3.69 times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide. Family problems and bullying most often contributed to suicides among LGBT youth in the study.
Although gay marriage is now recognized in the United States, the way LGBT people are treated in the United States has not exactly correlated with that triumphant action. After President Trump’s election in 2016, LGBT hate crimes in the U.S. rose 17% in one year, going from 6,121 reported attacks in 2016 to 7,175 in 2017. In a 2017 interview, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said “the country’s increase in hate crimes should be a surprise to no one, but it should be alarming to all. We look to our elected leaders to set an example,” (Bay City News 1)
Recently, there has been speculation about President Trump and his anti-LGBT policies. On 24 January 2019 President Trump placed a ban on transgender people serving in the United States Military. This action sparked controversy and conversation over whether the president was homophobic. The President has not directly said that he was homophobic, but his actions definitely correlate with homophobic beliefs.
LGBT organizations around the world have been responsible for several changes in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. With many newly being formed in nations where it was never thought possible, there is hope around the world for LGBT individuals.
The ACLU is just one organization that has worked towards earning equal rights for LGBT citizens. They carry out their work through five central priority areas: Basic Rights and Liberties, Parenting, Relationships and Marriages, Youth and Schools, and Transgender Discrimination. The ACLU works hard to make sure that LGBT people have equal opportunities to participate fully in civil society. The ACLU states that “no LGBT person should experience discrimination in employment, housing, or in business and public places, or the suppression of their free expression or privacy rights” (ACLU 1). The ACLU has also stood behind legalizing gay marriage, stating that they believe that “LGBT people, like everyone else, should have the freedom to build the kinds of personal, intimate relationships most meaningful to them without risking that their families will be disregarded or harmed by the state” (ACLU 2).
GLAAD, or the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is another organization that has devoted its time to protecting LGBT people. GLAAD works through entertainment, news, and digital media to share stories from the LGBTQ community that encorage acceptance. GLAAD delivers this message mainly through social media with inspiring posts and celebrity endorsements, always making sure to let LGBT people know that they are worthy. GLAAD has also been pivotal to the increased portrayal of LGBT persons in the media in a fair, respectful manner that highlights the diversity of the LGBT community.
An emerging topic of conversation regarding LGBT activism is representation in the media. LGBT activists are calling for more portrayal of LGBT characters, struggles and relationships in all forms of media whether it be in film, television, or even music. Compared to television thirty years ago, LGBT people are very represented, but are still a minority compared to straight/cisgender, or heteronormative representation. According to GLAAD’s annual media report, LGBT representation on television hit a record high in 2018, with 8.8 percent out of 857 series regulars on broadcast TV openly identifying as on the gay, trans, or queer spectrum.
This movement addresses the importance of young children seeing LGBT characters portrayed as role models in the media. Not only did this movement focus on visibility of LGBT characters, but how they were portrayed. This criticism was particularly concerned with the negative portrayals of gays and lesbians as sissies, drag queens, butch lesbians, and other groups that didn’t fit into society’s mainstream gender categories. These depictions, although they did include members of the LGBT community, depicted them as outsiders to society.
While the media industry has made huge strides towards equal LGBT representation, some people do not agree with this movement. In some cases, homophobic parents refuse to let their children watch media that highlights LGBT representation, this consequently discourages media producers from including LGBT people in the media for fear of losing regular viewers. Thanks to organizations like GLAAD, LGBT people, especially LGBT youth, are seeing themselves being represented in the media.
At the forefront of many of these organization are fearless leaders who stood up for what they believed in. Cleve Jones, an American AIDS and LGBT rights activist, author and lecturer is one example of an LGBT activist that has fought to change the way our society treats members of the LGBT community. By co-founding the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983 and The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, one of the world’s largest community arts projects, in 1987, he managed to help thousands of LGBT people as well as offer them a beacon of hope.
Marsha P. Johnson, an African-American transgender woman and revolutionary LGBT rights activist, is credited for being an instigator in the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots are regarded by many as history’s first major protest on behalf of equal rights for homosexuals. Alice Nkom, a Cameroonian lawyer, is best known for her work towards decriminalization of homosexuality in Cameroon and founding the nonprofit Association for the Defence of Homosexuals (ADEFHO) in 2003.
There are many cases of activism in today’s society that resemble LGBT activism of the past. Most notably is the call to find a solution to climate change, which has been widely debated and protested by young and old alike. Like LGBT activists, climate change activists often face adversity for their views on the environment. However in order to truly make a change, activists of all kinds must continue to fight no matter what hardships they face.
Greta Thunberg, a sixteen year old Swedish climate activist and a role model for international student climate activism knows what it’s like to face adversity. She is known for having initiated the school strike for climate movement that formed in November 2018. This protest was considered highly controversial by many. Climate change deniers argued that Greta didn’t know what she was talking about and that she was too young to be leading such a large and controversial movement.
Environmental activists praised Greta for her courage and for her willingness and dedication to activism at such a young age. Despite opposition from people all over the world, including politicians, Greta continued on with her fight for environmental justice and inspired many others to make a change. Like Greta, LGBT activists face constant opposition but they carry on with their activism in hopes to improve the lives of others.
As many LGBT individuals in the world fall under the protection of comprehensive legislation that allows them to be themselves, there comes an even greater need for those with a voice to help the voiceless. In April 2019, Brunei put into effect an anti-LGBT law stating that gay sex and adultery would be punishable with death by stoning. This sparked a huge outcry from western nations. This response included outcry from highly influential public figures on social media and a boycott of several Brunei-owned corporations.
In the age of smartphones and social media, activism has become more accessible than it ever was before. Social media allows people from all over the world to rally together and share ideas. In recent years, a culture has been created on social media that encourages youth to take action in their communities, and to stand up when they don’t agree with something. The internet now serves as a huge platform to spark change. It is our responsibility as youth to take advantage of this platform.
Although we have seen huge strides in LGBT representation, a large amount of LGBT struggles still go unnoticed by the public. Even in 2019, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people around the world are still being deprived of the same opportunities that are viewed as ‘human rights’ to straight/cisgender people.
By using our voices and platforms, we can help bring justice to LGBT people around the world who desperately need outside help. We must defy the larger culture’s malaise and fight the opposing forces that wish to oppress the LGBT community. It is our responsibility to take the lead in showing society that equality for the LGBT community is attainable, but most importantly, it is necessary.”