LGBT in the Contemporary World
The LGBTQIA+ community/lifestyle is one that has been persistent and growing over the past few decades. This community is defined as “The LGBT community or GLBT community, also referred to as the gay community, is a loosely defined grouping of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, LGBT organizations, and subcultures, united by a common culture and social movements. These communities generally celebrate pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality.” Over the years, the LGBT movement, and all that comes with it, has become one of the most controversial topics of discussion. From the government recognizing same sex marriages as legally binding, to people such as Bruce Jenner transitioning from man to woman and renaming herself as Caitlyn Jenner, this community has had an effect on society as a whole, and I would like to dive deeper into that.
In this paper, I’d like to address some of this community’s toughest questions. What is required to be a part of the LGBT community? What does it mean to have pride/why are LGBT pride celebrations actually important? What negative feats do people in the LGBT community have to experience because of their sexual orientation or gender identity? How are people in this community treated in the workplace, or in general? Most importantly, I’d like to dig deeper and find out what real impact the LGBT community and all of its supporters has had on society and humanity as a whole.
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Over the years, the LGBTQIA+ community has become one of the most controversial topics within the realm of “ethics.” Understanding their history and everything that has taken place within it plays a big role in understanding the community and what they represent. Beginning as early as the year 1624, homosexuals have been faced with execution in many instances because of their lifestyle choices. Three hundred years after the first execution for sodomy, in the year 1924, Henry Gerber and a few others located in Chicago, Illinois founded the Society for Human Rights, which would become the first known gay rights organization in the history of the United States. From then on, the rights of those within the LGBT+ community would be questioned, fought for, and changed forever.
In the year 1950, another organization focused on gay rights and acceptance was formed, calling itself the Mattachine Society, and founded by an activist named Harry Hay. By 1955, yet another organization is formed for the community, but this one is focused on the rights of lesbians, specifically, and is called Daughters of Bilitis. They hosted private social functions where people of this identity could gather without having to fear police raids and violence.
Although there were many different organizations and events that led to the freedom and acceptance of those within the community, one of the most significant and influential events were the Stonewall Riots that began in the year 1969. On June 28th, 1969, the police in New York City raided the Stonewall Inn, which was one of the most popular gay clubs in the country at the time. Because of this raid, those involved in it and others around the city began riots that would last six days and serve as some of the most impactful in the history of gay rights. According to history.com, “The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United Stated and around the world.” Following these riots, there were many different organizations and groups that were formed in support of those within the community, such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay Liberation Front, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Defining the Letters
Although it may seem to many that the letters in the term “LGBTQIA+” should be self-explanatory, it is important to know in detail what each of them stand for in order to understand what the community truly encompasses. Starting with the L, this stands for lesbian, being defined by dictionary.com as “a homosexual woman.” The most obvious of them all is G, which stands for gay, and is defined as “of a person, especially a man, who is homosexual.” Following the G is a B, which stands for bisexual, and refers to any person that is sexually attracted to both men and women, regardless of their own sex.
Even though those seem fairly easy to comprehend, some of the categories are not so easy to understand. The next one, going in order, is the T, which stands for transgender. The transgender community is probably the most questioned part of the LGBT community as a whole. A transgender person is defined as “a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex,” or, in easier terms, a man who feels like a woman on the inside or a woman who feels as though they identify as a male. The Q is sort of an umbrella term for the community, and as transstudent.org says, “[Queer is a] general term for gender and sexual minorities who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. There is a lot of overlap between queer and trans identities, but not all queer people are trans and not all trans people are queer.”
Intersex is what the I stands for, and is something that is usually identified at birth as someone who cannot be named male or female due to biological characteristics such as having the sexual anatomy of both a male and female. The A in LGBTQIA+ is sometimes questionable, as some refer to it as Allied and some refer to it as Asexual. Either term works, and both definitions are provided below. Allied is defined by Wikipedia.com as a heterosexual person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBT social movements, and challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Asexual is referred to as someone who lacks sexual attractions to other, regardless of their sex/anatomy. Last but surely not least, the plus sign in the title is just there as a reminder that the community is always accepting and inclusive of all gender identities or sexual orientations, and that nobody should ever feel not welcomed. Many people think that in order to be a part of the LGBT community you have to identify as “not heterosexual,” when in reality the only requirement is that you are supportive and not judgmental.
LGBTQ+ Pride Celebrations
Every single year since 1970, the United States have taken part in Pride parades and celebrations. Usually, these celebrations take place during the month of June, which has been referred to as Pride Month since the early 1970s, in celebration of the Stonewall Riots that took place in support of the community. Across the country, major cities dedicate entire weekends during this month to supporting and showing love to those included in the community. Although to outsiders Pride may just seem like a lackluster celebration, people within the community will tell you something completely different. To them, gay pride celebrates inclusion and support, as opposed to discrimination and violence. Gay pride parades are a chance for them to show that they are proud of who they are, what they are, and where they came from. Businessinsider.com refers to pride month as a “celebration, protest, and act of political activism.”
People within the LGBTQ+ community plan for this event all year round, and some people involved make it their full-time jobs, as it is something special and important to them. A woman named Heather Michelle Newell wrote a blog post on wordpress.com talking about her experiences with pride, and she quoted (2017), “Pride was more than flashy celebrations on blocked black-tar streets around the world. Pride was more than the pomp and circumstance of love is love is love. It’s all those things, of course, but Pride is special because it is a sacred time of the year when all of us in the LGBT community can remember, reflect, and be driven forward with the conscious reality that we matter, we are loved, and we can be ourselves. Pride acts as a marker against hate; freedom for us, liberation for all, it’s bound up in the ability to think differently, and to do things differently, too. I’m certainly not perfect. I have more work to do – for myself and others. Pride tells us to “go” – to not stop – and to push forward even when it feels like systems, world views, or leaders want otherwise. Pride is a place where God can enter and say, “Yes, YOU! YOU! You are strong enough.” That is a perfect definition of what pride truly means to those people within the community.
For years now, people of the LGBT community have been experiencing negative encounters on a daily basis. One of the harshest treatments they face is called Gay Conversion Therapy, and consists of extreme practices forced upon people in an attempt to “cure” them of their homosexuality. In an article written on Usatoday.com by Patrick Ryan (2018), survivors spoke on their experiences with these practices. One of the most common was that the therapists tried to convince the people that they were attracted to a person of the same sex only because they had traits that they wanted to have themselves. They often told their clients that every single person is “born heterosexual,” and majority of the time are only taking part in homosexual acts due to childhood traumas or learned characteristics. They would try to treat those traumas in an effort to “reverse” the same-sex attractions and return them to their original state, which was said to be opposite-sex attractions.
From homosexual slurs, to people marching with signs against same-sex or trans relationships, people have been facing negativity in this community since it was started. The Center for American Progress, or CAP, conducted a survey that represented the LGBT community nationally, and found that 25.2% of respondents have experienced some sort of discrimination within the past year due to their gender identity or sexual orientation, which comes out to approximately 1 in every 4 people within the community. Along with this, on average 53.3% of those people reported that the discrimination they face somewhat affected either their psychological, physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being.
A woman named Rose Saxe posted an article on ACLU.org talking about what it was like for her growing up as a part of the LGBT community. She quotes (2017), “As a gay person, I grew up knowing I was different. Hearing other kids call anyone who deviated from traditional gender expectations a “fag.” Getting called a “lesbo” at age 11. I hadn’t come out to anyone and didn’t even really understand what it meant, but I knew it was an insult.” This goes to show that even though times have changed, there is still a lot of room to grow as far as societal acceptance of the LGBT community. She also speaks on how many people within the community are taught and told that their differences are something to be shameful and disgusted by.
On another note, the LGBT youth category is one of the most tragic due to the fact that they are often at a higher risk for mental and behavioral issues such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. An article written by Michael Kerr on healthline.com (2016) found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. This same article claims that 55% of LGBT youth feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. It says that 74% of kids in the LGBT community were verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation, and 16% were physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
The LGBT youth faces troubles every day, but there are laws in place to protect their well-being. There has been a federal law put in place called a Title IX, which NCAA.org (2018) describes as ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’ The Title IX law applies to every single educational institution, public or private, that receives federal funding. This law helps those youth within the school system feel safer and more protected, but it does not solve all the issues outside of the school environment. LGBT youth still face discrimination and mental health issues outside of the educational system, and there are currently no laws protecting them from that aspect of their lives.
Gender identity and sexual orientation play a large role in the ability of people to get promotions, raises, and even jobs in the United States. Whether it be a person who identifies as transgender, or even just someone who is attracted to the same sex, these people struggle every day to find and keep jobs. According to the website outandequal.com, nearly 1 in every 10 people in the LGBT community have willingly left their jobs due to an unwelcoming environment. 8% of these LGBT employees reported some sort of discrimination that affected their work environment negatively. More dramatically, though, the transgender unemployment rate is three times as high as the national unemployment rate.
Even though this is such a tough thing for them to deal with, there are currently no laws protecting people in the LGBT community from being discriminated in the workplace. That means there are employers who are legally allowed to fire you just because of your gender identity or who you choose to love. Along with this, catalyst.org (2018) claims that LGBTQ+ people of color are also more likely to face workplace discrimination than LGBTQ+ people who are white. Often times, fear prevents these people from truly being who they are at work (dressing or talking how they want, hiding personality traits) because they are terrified of the risk of being discriminated against, demoted, or even fired. It is one of the toughest things that people in this community face on a daily basis.
Although people in this community still face discrimination, hatred, and judgment on a daily basis, over the years, society as a whole has become much more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community and everything that it encompasses. This community has taught many people in this country that love and acceptance are more powerful than hate. An example that shows the advancement of the nation’s views is cinema. LGBT characters in shows and movies have moved up from being novelty characters to playing characters as fully functioning people in society.
In conclusion, my goal in this paper was to define the trials and tribulations that people in the LGBT community experience on a daily basis, and what the United States as a whole is doing to help alleviate those struggles. Although I do believe this country has made huge strides as far as accepting and inviting the LGBT community into society, I also think that a lot more help and support should be given. I do not think it is fair that LGBT youth are being treated the way they are, and the government and educational systems are continuing to let it happen. In my opinion, the LGBT community is one of the toughest in the country to be a part of, and it amazes me and brings me joy that so many people are willing to go through the discrimination and hatred just so they can live the way they want and be who they truly are. I believe the country as a whole should be even more accepting and practice love and encouragement, as opposed to judgment and hate.