LGBTQ in our Society
Currently, about 4.5% of US citizens eighteen years old and older, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That is about 11.3 million people (Trotta). While it may seem like a small number considering the several hundreds of million people in the US, the number does not account for people who have yet to “come out”. Many LGBTQ individuals do not “come out of the closet” from fear of being rejected by their families, being judged, and being mistreated by others, because that is what they have seen throughout history, and even now.
During World War II, homosexuals in concentration camps were identified by a pink triangle (Huppke). Following World War II, gay culture grew, although homosexuality was still considered a crime. LGBTQ individuals would go to underground safe havens to socialize with one another and feel welcomed (“How LGBT Civil Servants Became Public Enemy No. 1”).
Moving forward to the 1950s, the Lavender Scare was a large outbreak of LGBT government employees being fired from their jobs. The State Department began picking out “immoral”, “scandalous”, and “dangerous” government employees. Instead of picking out the murderous communists, they targeted LGBT people. It is estimated that thousands of LGBT individuals lost their jobs during that time and to further mock them, the tabloids and people such as the Senator at the time, referred to gay men as “lavender lads” (Blakemore).
Following the Lavender Scare was perhaps the most remembered LGBTQ movement, the Stonewall Riots. Before Stonewall, it was uncommon for LGBT individuals to broadcast their sexuality (“Gay Pride”). During that time, LGBT individuals were heavily suppressed. If people were found wearing less than three pieces of gender-appropriate clothing, they could be arrested and were not allowed to be served alcohol (“Stonewall Riots”).
On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, New York City, New York. During the raid, police arrested 13 people. All the while, female officers would take suspected cross-dressers into the bathroom to check their sex. Following the raid was six straight days of protests and violent arguments between the LGBT community and law enforcement. In honor of the riots, President Obama marked Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, and the surrounding area a national monument (“Stonewall Riots”).
In 1952, President Eisenhower approved an anti-LGBT law called the Executive Order 10450. The order included “sexual perversion” on a list of security risks, which many government employees referred to homosexual acts as. The order was reversed in 1955 when President Bill Clinton signed an order that did not allow discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation when being granted access to classified information (Blakemore).
The first recognized Pride march was held in 1970 on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Several hundred LGBT individuals marched along the street that ran past the Stonewall Inn bar. Earlier Gay Pride events, called Freedom Day or Gay Liberation Day, typically had low attendance, encountered protests, and were not widely accepted (“Gay Pride”).
In 1974, the Equality Act of 1974, was proposed. At the time, “America didn’t even know gay people”, stated Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center of Transgender Equality. The most known early attempt at a pro-LGBT law, covered only sexual orientation, not gender, and didn’t get a hearing for six years. Once it did, it faced criticism and hateful comment such as “being gay is an abomination” (Steinmetz). The act would be re-proposed in March of 2019 and would be passed by lawmakers from both chambers of Congress. The new Equality Act of 2019 bans discrimination in areas from housing to public accommodations (Steinmetz).
It wasn’t until 1978 that the LGBT community had their very own voice. The most recognized symbol of the LGBT community, the rainbow flag, made its debut in San Francisco. Its creator, Gilbert Baker, put meaning into every color on the flag. Hot pink stands for sexuality, life by red, healing by orange, the Sun by yellow, nature by green, art by blue, harmony by indigo, and spirit by violet (“Gay Pride”). The flag is now used worldwide and is the centerpiece of current Pride celebrations, which consists of drag shows, vendor booths, fun and games, and ends with a grand parade.
Prominent LGBT group, GLAAD, was created in 1985. At the time, the name stood for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, but they have since changed their name to incorporate bisexuals and transgenders. The group was created to counter discrimination against people of the LGBT community in the media and to stand for the understanding, acceptance, and equality of LGBT people (“GLAAD”).
On April 1, 2001, the world’s first legal gay marriage ceremony was held to wed four same-sex couples. The first legal marriage in the United States was on May 17, 2004, in Cambridge, Massachusetts to wed Tanya Mccloskey and Marcia Kadish, following the legalization of gay marriage in the first state, Massachusetts (“Gay Marriage”). It wasn’t until 2015 that the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. That same year, about ? of hate crimes committed in the US was because of someone’s sexual orientation and another 2% because of someone’s gender identity (Curry).
Nowadays, the LGBTQ community faces far less criticism, but their fight is not over. Only twenty-one states have laws that ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment and housing. Twenty states ban it in public accommodation (Steinmetz).
Beginning on April 3, 2019, any individuals found participating in homosexual sex or adultery will be stoned to death in Brunei. The new law faced heavy criticism and a protest began in the US. On March 28, 2019, George Clooney called for the boycotting of 9 hotels associated with Brunei. Some include the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Bel-Air. Other notable names supporting Clooney were Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Kenny Mordaunt, former Vice President Joe Biden, and many famous celebrities (Westcott).
Out of the 11.3 million LGBT people in the US, the state with the highest population of LGBT individuals is Washington, with 9.8% of their population. North Dakota came in at the lowest with only 2.7%, found a study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law (Trotta). A recent survey from PRRI, an unbiased research organization, found that 69% of American would support laws that protect all LGBT people from discrimination (Steinmetz).
Although, not everyone is accepting of the LGBTQ community. A big problem the public finds with the LGBTQ community is if it goes against their religious values. Leviticus 18:22 from the Old Testament declares that “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”. Islamic hadiths also include sayings like “when a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes”, and “Sihaq (lesbian sex) of women is Zina (illegitimate sexual intercourse)”. Pope Benedict believes that gay marriage “threatens the future of humanity itself.” An idea from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope John Paul II, states that marriage “was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties, and purpose” (“Gay Marriage”). Bryan Fischer, Christian radio host and one of God’s Earth-bound spokespeople, stated that “homosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler” and “worst example of cultural appropriation ever: LGBTs stole the rainbow from God. It’s His. He invented it. Gen. 9: 11-17. Give it back” (Huppke).
Fortunately, there are still churches that support the LGBTQ community and will still officiate gay marriages. Many churches raise rainbow flags in front of their church to show their support (“United Methodist edge toward breakup”). On April 4, 2019, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a formerly Mormon identified church, announced that they would be reversing their 2015 policy that deemed same-sex couples’ children unable to be baptized (“Mormon Church to Allow Children”).
The United Methodist Church is edging toward a split, many believe into three different organizations. In February 2019, delegates voted 438-384 for the “Traditional Plan”. The plan provides further bans on LGBT church practices. The largest UM Church, the Church of the Resurrection, currently has 22,000 members in the Kansas City area. Their lead pastor, Adam Hamilton, is withholding $2.5 million from the UMC’s head office to show his church’s opposition to the Traditional Plan. They eventually plan to pay it, but for now, they want to show their support for the LGBT community (“United Methodists edge toward breakup”).
There are still other social issues and legal issues to address about the LGBT community. Matthew D. Staver, Dean of the Liberty University School of Law, believes that homosexuals should not be protected because of the Civil Acts of 1964 characteristics does not apply to sexual orientation. Peter S. Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council opposes gay marriage because “taxpayers, consumers, and business would be forced to subsidize homosexual relationships…”. Gay marriage allows gay couples to claim a tax exemption for a spouse, receive social security money from a dead spouse, and coverage by a spouse’s health insurance policy. Therefore, taxpayers will have to support something they may not believe in. Mark Regnerus, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas in Austin, conducted an experiment in 2012. He found that children raised by same-sex couples had more difficulties in life such as sexual abuse and, later, unemployment (“Gay Marriage”).
Many LGBTQ individuals still face challenges most people don’t even think about. About 40% of homeless young people in the US identify as LGBT and usually because they were rejected by their families after coming out (Curry). Countless amounts of LGBT people have faced trouble when going to the doctor’s office. Many have been turned away from care, had their doctors assume their sexual orientation, or just been blatantly rude.
Therefore, LGBT individuals are more likely to have health issues, both physical and mental. For example, lesbian women are less likely to get pap smears and mammograms, which tests for different types of cancers like ovarian and breast cancer. They are also more likely to be overweight (Praderio). LGBT youth are 2-3x more likely to attempt suicide and more often have problems with alcohol, smoking, and drugs (Praderio).
Yet it is transgender individuals who have the most problems when it comes to public affairs. One survey found that 30% of transgender people reported mistreatment in the workplace, from verbal treatment to being fired (Steinmetz). 27% of trans and gender non-conforming patients had been refused care, compared to only 8% of lesbian, gay, or bisexual patients. Transgenders are more likely to get STIs, have mental health issues, and attempt suicide. 41% of trans adults admitted to attempting suicide and 10-20% of lesbian, gay, or bi adults (Curry). In 2015 a survey of 314 trans women in San Francisco found that 49% were taking hormones not prescribed by a doctor (Praderio).
More than 1000 colleges and universities in the US have some form of transgender policy. In 2017, Spelman College, an all-women HBCU, adopted a transgender policy. Morehouse College in Atlanta, a previously all-male college, will allow trans-men to enroll in 2020. In 2009, Morehouse updated their dress code, partially because of a few male students were wearing women’s clothing. But in 2010, Morehouse held their first Gay Pride, and three years later they offered their first LGBT course (Whack).
It is a constant fight between religious beliefs and moral values with people’s acceptance of the LGBTQ community. Following one’s religion or treating others with respect, a question many have to ask themselves. Although there is no doubt that the LGBTQ community will continue to fight for their rights and proudly showcase who they really are.