Oppression in the LGBTQ Community
The LGBTQ community in America has been faced with discrimination for decades. This discrimination is called heterosexism. The LGBTQ community has a long history of being attacked both physically and verbally by heterosexual communities that want to oppress their rights. The oppression of the LGBTQ community has been going on for several decades, and there is still very apparent hatred towards the group and its allies. The LGBTQ community and their allies have faced discrimination in their everyday lives, even though America is moving towards being more accepting to this community.
Heterosexism is a very real version of oppression that is widespread throughout the United States. Heterosexism is term that is used to “describe an ideological system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community” (Definitions: Homophobia, Heterosexism, and Sexual Prejudice). Only believing in heterosexual relationships has degraded and pushed down the LGBTQ community for decades and has even banned them from becoming military personnel.
The Catholic Church is partly to blame for homophobia and heterosexism, because the bible states a marriage must be between a man and a woman, and not between two people of the same sex. Even though this ideology is changing, the United States has a harsh history of oppression for the LGBTQ community. For decades the LGBTQ community has faced oppression and attacks against them based off their sexual orientation. In the 1960’s there was a law passed allowing police officers to arrest people wearing less than three gender-appropriate articles of clothing (Stonewall Riots). The LGTQ community found protection in gay bars and night clubs, where they could be open about their sexual orientation and could socialize freely without ridicule.
However, the New Your State Liquor Authority shut down different places that served alcohol to people who were either known or suspected as being part of the LGBTQ community, saying the gatherings of homosexuals was “disorderly” (Stonewall Riots). LGBTQ allies fought and became activists against the company and in 1966, the regulations on alcohol distribution was overturned, however portraying homosexual behavior such as holding hands and kissing in public was still illegal. In 1966, the Stonewall Inn, a “straight” bar, was purchased by the Genovese family, and reopened it a year later as a gay bar. The bar was registered as “exclusive,” so they did not need a liquor license in order to serve alcohol. Being an exclusive bar, the club goers signed their names on a book each time they entered.
The Genovese family paid off the police department so they would ignore the activities and health concerns that were occurring inside. Without police involvement, the family could cut “unimportant” services from the bar. These services included a fire escape, clean running water to wash glasses, clean toilets that worked properly, and the family blackmailed the wealthier club goers to keep their sexuality from being publicized (Armstrong, E. A., & Crage, S. M.). With these cuts, the bar was able to have a cheaper cover fee, causing it to quickly become popular in the town.
On June 28, 1969 the New York police department raided the Stonewall Inn and arrested 13 people including employees and others in violation of the state law against gender appropriate clothing (Stonewall Riots). This was not the first police raid that had occurred in gay night clubs; however, it was the first to cause an uprising by both the LGBTQ community and their allies. In previous police raids residents would scatter and leave however, being fed up with the harassment, people did not leave but rather stayed around outside the bar.
Becoming increasingly aggravated, the police began to manhandle both men and women. One lesbian woman was hit over the head while being forced into a police car, and started to shout towards the crowd, causing them to start throwing objects such as bottles and stones at the police. Within a few minutes, a full riot broke out involving over one hundred people. The police were forced to seek shelter in the bar with the people they had arrested, while the rioters outside tried to set the club on fire. Eventually the fire department and a riot crew showed up and were able to put out the flames and get the people trapped inside the club out and disperse the crowd outside.
However, the protests continued for five more days and made national headlines. Even though the Stonewall riots was not the start of the gay rights movement, it is remembered by the LGBTQ community because it was a turning point in homosexual political developments (Armstrong, E. A., & Crage, S. M.). The 1996 turning point for the LGBTQ community was unfortunately just the beginning for a very long ride towards equal rights, especially when it comes to same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has been a long uphill battle for homosexuals since the 1970’s and even though it was ruled legal, some people today still do not believe in it.
On May 18, 1970, a gay couple in Minnesota applied for a marriage license and were denied both by the state, trial court and the Supreme Court, due to both being male (Gay Marriage Timeline – Gay Marriage – ProCon.org). The Baker vs. Nelson case has been used in various state preceding’s in efforts to block gay marriage. Three years later in 1973, Maryland became the first state to ban marriage between same-sex couples and soon many states were following behind them. Another ten years of marriage battles went by and “spousal” rights between same-sex marriages became a major concern for a woman named Karen Thompson and Sharon Kowalski. Sharen had become a quadriplegic due to a drunk driving accident, and her parents would not let her lover, Karen care for her. Many years of legal battles later, Karen won her case in 1991 and became a major activist for lesbian and gay couple rights (Gay Marriage Timeline – Gay Marriage – ProCon.org).
The first legal same-sex marriage occurred on October 10, 1987 in the National Mall in Washington D.C. Nearly 7,000 people viewed the first of many homosexual marriages and were elated at the progress they had made in the legal system. Unfortunately, on September 21, 1996 under the Clinton administration, the Defense of Marriage Act was signed. It was a giant slap in the face for homosexual couples, because it defined marriage as a legal joining between a man and a woman and defined a spouse as a person who is the opposite sex than that husband or wife (Gay Marriage Timeline – Gay Marriage – ProCon.org). Section Three of the law was shut down by the supreme court however, saying marriages between gay and lesbian couples for federal programs must be recognized by the federal government and cannot be prevented (Frequently Asked Questions: Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]).
As stated before, 1996 was a turning point that helped gay and lesbian couples move towards more equal rights because of many protests that showed they would not be silenced by people who did not agree with their sexual orientation. Moving ahead two years to 1998 when Alaska made a huge leap into the future and legalized the rights for same sex couple to marry, while Hawaii voted to put a ban on same-sex marriages (Haider-Markel, D. P.). As laws went back and forth for many months that turned into years on if same-sex marriage was legal or illegal, the Supreme Court finally made a lasting decision to legalize gay marriage in Massachusetts. Since 2003 and the Supreme Court ruling, the LGBTQ has built stronger lasting relationships with political and religious affiliations and achieved amazing legal and political success (Hopkins, J. J., Sorensen, A., & Taylor, V.).
Many states started to back gay marriage and began to issue legal marriage licenses between same-sex couples. Everything seemed to be going up for homosexual couples, however in 2004 President Bush supported an amendment ba
nning same-sex marriage. He argued that marriage cannot be uprooted from its “cultural and moral roots,” and urged Congress to approve the amendment to “preserve the meaning of marriage” (Hopkins, J. J., Sorensen, A., & Taylor, V.). The amendment was not passed, however in San Francisco, California the supreme court stopped all same-sex marriages until they could come to a legal decision later that year. There were many years that this same legal batter kept happening and gay marriage was legal then became illegal again and again until 2015. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made all bans on same-sex marriages illegal in all 50 states and were required to recognize same sex marriages from other states (Hopkins, J. J., Sorensen, A., & Taylor, V.). Even though this was a major victory in the equality rights for gay and lesbian couples, they are still facing oppression in their everyday lives. The LGBTQ community has been oppressed, not only on a governmental level but also on individual and community levels as well.
Marriages becoming legal between same-sex couples was a major win the LGBTQ on a macro-level. When the government legalized gay marriage, same-sex couples were able to legally bind their relationship to have equal marriage and political/governmental opportunities. Laws banning same-sex couples not only from marrying one another, but from being able to express themselves in public by the way they dress or act, has helped shape the rights and privileges they are given today. Being able to run for political offices and hold prestigious jobs in society was a major win for this community because in previous years, they were only held by straight white men. These were intentional biases because they were based off laws and regulations that were set in place by heterosexual white males. On a mezzo-level, many churches did not approve of same-sex marriages even after it was deemed legal in all 50 states (Gay Marriage Timeline – Gay Marriage – ProCon.org).
Many churches pushed back and refused to marry same-sex couples due to marriage being defined in the bible as between a man and woman. They pushed back and sided with the Bush administration, backing them up on their amendment against allowing same-sex marriages to be legal. Many people in different communities looked down on same-sex marriages as “not natural,” because they are not between a man and a woman (Admin, M.). Families often played a role in same-sex marriages as well. For many people, the fear of coming out to their parents as gay or lesbian is a scary thought because of the possibility of being rejected by them. There are also a ton of mental health concerns that go along with being homosexual, due to the stress and stigma that surrounds sexuality (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Communities and Mental Health).
Depression and anxiety disorder are very common between gay and lesbian individuals due to the fear of being rejected and actually being rejected by peers and family. On a micro-level, individuals who are lesbian or gay may have a difficult time coming out because they are afraid of the way people will react. The fear of being rejected by friends and families is a very common problem when trying to express one’s sexuality. They could be rejected at school or not get a job they qualify for because they are homosexual (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Communities and Mental Health). Many employers reject and deny people of occupations because of their sexual orientation. Even though there are laws against this discrimination, people still find loopholes in discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Housing opportunities are also decreased based for same-sex couples based off individual and community biases. Certain communities “shun” against same sex marriages and do not want homosexual couples in their communities.
There are also more taxes implemented on same-sex couples as well, based off ownership of the property and adding another tenet to the housing situation (Housing for LGBTQ People: What You Need to Know). Seventeen states have banned housing discrimination based off sexual orientation and gender identity however it is still happening all over the country. The LGBTQ community has been discriminated and oppressed for decades. Heterosexism has run the United States since it was founded and has shunned anybody who identifies as homosexual. Even though LGBTQ allies have worked against oppressors, America still has a long way to go until there is equality for everybody, no matter what their sexual identity is.