The LGBTQ is a standard abbreviation for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning individuals. In a recent study according to (Gates, n.d.), there are approximately 9 million people who identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ Culture in America today. According to (Greve, 2016) This indicates the LGBTQ Culture is larger than the population of 40 American States.
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According to the past 14 years of hate crime data, Mark potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center recently told the PBS Newshour, “LGBT People are targeted for violent hate crimes at a rate of 2x that of Muslims or African Americans, 4x that of Jews and 14x that of Latinos” (Greve, 2016). This Culture is the definition of oppressed by society. Understanding the LGBTQ Culture starts with understanding the history of oppression and discrimination that they have faced for many years and how they are still struggling for equality today. According to (Goldman, 2018), Barack Obama once said “When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”
They were not like everybody else, it wasn’t just their sexual preference that separated them from others, being gay was a culture. According to (Marcus, 2002), “When we tried to explain this to somebody, I would explain that I was using culture in the sociology sense, as a body of language, feelings, thinking, certain words. My whole person, my whole being, my whole character, my whole life, differed and differs from heterosexuals, not just my sexual preference.” (p.24). The LGBTQ Community first began making waves in America way back in 1950. The movement all started with small amounts of gay men and lesbians meeting secretly in many Los Angeles locations to talk about their lives, as well as their hopes and dreams. What lead to these secret meetings? According to (Marcus, 2002), The “Gay Awakening” all started due to the World War II and the Cold War, members of the LGBTQ culture became targets of institutionalized discrimination in the military as well as government employment. LGBTQ individuals were tolerated in the military service, and sentenced to severe punishment, if not death, in the Holocaust. Across the country, LGBTQ individuals became the targets of police harassment and entrapment. Due to the discrimination, LGBTQ men and women gathered together and created meetings to explore who they were; debated whether they were ill, as psychiatrists claimed, and argued among each other on what they should, or could, do to improve their standard of living in America. (p. 21) They were the definition of oppressed by society.
As the LGBTQ Culture grew bigger, they became even more oppressed. According to (Marcus, 2002), Many Articles in the Miami Daily News arose, headlines such as; “How LA Handles it’s 150,000 Perverts” they then stated the question “Is Greater Miami in danger of becoming a favorite gathering spot for homosexuals and sexual psychopaths?” (p. 22) The LGBTQ Community were looked at as sick human beings and were not welcomed by society. Exposure of homosexuality could mean losing your job, friends, family, and even your home at this time. It is pretty remarkable that the newly founded gay and lesbian organizations survived through this. They not only survived, they created a movement that has impacted society even today. According to (Marcus, 2002), The Mattachine Society was the primary organization for gay men as an oppressed cultural minority, founded by Harry Hay and Chuck Rowland, who were long time supporters of the LGBTQ community in the 1950s (p. 23).
Other important LGBTQ Organizations on the West Coast included the One, Inc. Founded in 1952, and the first lesbian support network called Daughters of Bilitis, which was founded in 1955 by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. (Morris, n.d.) This was the beginning of the Gay Civil Rights Movement. These organizations were able to reach out to thousands of people, and found support from famous psychologists and sociologists. Donald Webster Cory published the book “The Homosexual in America” in 1951. This book described the oppression that the LGBTQ community was facing as a minority group. Another break through was in 1953 when Evelyn Hooker, PhD, won a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study gay men. In 1956, Evelyn wrote an outstanding paper that demonstrated how gay men were just as functioning, if not more, than heterosexual men. Although, it wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association officially removed classifying homosexuality as an “illness” in the diagnostic manual. (Morris, n.d.)
Through the 1950s and 1960s, individuals in the LGBTQ Community continued to be at risk for psychiatric lock up, as well as jail, losing their jobs, losing custody of their children. Court and clinics continued to define gay love as sick, criminal or immoral. The Civil Rights movement finally won new legislation outlawing racial discrimination in 1965. The first gay rights demonstrations took place in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., these demonstrations were led by longtime activists Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings. (Morris, n.d.) At the same time this was taking place, a historical turning point for the gay liberation also took place. On June 28, 1969, individuals at the popular Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village began fighting back against the continuous police raids on their neighborhood bar. This was a groundbreaking event for the LGBTQ community, they were fighting back for what was right. From this event, too this day, Stonewall is considered a historical moment of gay pride (Morris, n.d.)
Another historical moment of the gay liberation movement of the 1970s was the amount of expanding religious support and acceptance they began receiving. The first Gay minister was ordained by the United Church of Christ in 1972. (Morris, n.d.) This was ground breaking for the LGBTQ Community. Many events followed such as the formation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in 1972, offering support for family members in the gay rights movement. Political action of the movement was highlighted through the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian task force, as well as the election of openly gay and lesbian representatives like Elaine Noble and Barney Frank. Another historical moment was the first march on Washington for gay rights in 1979. (Morris, n.d.)
According to (Marcus, 2002), The turning point for the gay liberation started as a deadly disease spread drastically in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in 1981. This disease took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the United States in just one decade, most of them being part of the LGBTQ community. The opponents of the LGBTQ community used this to their advantage, stating this was god’s punishment for being gay. As the number of deaths rapidly increased, the gay liberation came to a stand still. Thousands of individuals in the LGBTQ community joined in on the fight against
AIDS. Many began advocating for increased federal funding for AIDS research, treatments and cures. This epidemic brought back much discrimination towards the LGBTQ community. Many of the community were fired from jobs, evicted from their homes, and were denied health insurance at this time. They were denied access to emergency rooms, and many of the surviving partners lost custody of their deceased partners children. (p.245)
According to (Marcus, 2002), While the AIDS epidemic dominated the gay agenda for a majority of the decade, the struggle for equal rights continued. During the 1980s, Many gay and lesbian individuals were elected and re-elected to public office. The first openly gay and lesbian judges were appointed to the bench. Almost every religious domination in the country was forced to address sexuality, several openly gay and lesbian individuals were ordained. An increasing number of religion leaders gave their blessing for same gender relationships. In the 1990s many laws were issued protecting the rights of gay individuals. More and more of the LGBTQ community began living their lives in the open, raising awareness. As the 1980s came to an end, the fight against the AIDS epidemic became institutionalized. This allowed the gay liberation to gain their focus back to gaining acceptance. They focused on their rights, such as, same sex marriage, anti gay violence, as well as the acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the Military. Many young individuals shouted their demands in the streets, churches, city halls, and suburban shopping malls. (p.246) Large marches on Washington drew as many as one million gay rights supporters in 1987 and also in 1993. (Morris, n.d.) As the LGBTQ Community grew and became more open about their gender identity, more people became familiar and accepting which grew the community drastically.
During the beginning of the 21st century is when the LGBTQ Community exploded and gained extreme recognition. As millions of Americans watched a famous celebrity, Ellen DeGeneres, came out as a lesbian on her hit show Ellen in April of 1997, this came to be a new era of Gay Celebrity with the widespread of the media. Celebrities, whether a member of the LGBTQ Community or heterosexual, continued to be among the most vocal activists regarding acceptance and equal rights for the LGBTQ Community. With the greater media attention aimed towards gay and lesbian civil rights in the 1990s, Celebrities advocating and coming out on national television, and as a result of hard work from countless campaigns, organizations and individuals from all around the world, the 21st century signaled new legal gains for the LGBTQ Community. (Morris, n.d.)
Under the Vermont law in 2000, same sex civil unions were recognized. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to administer same-sex marriages. The LGBTQ Community were officially free from criminal classification. The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Canada were the first to legalize same-sex marriage. Although, the acceptance of same-sex marriage by the church and states continued to be an issue worldwide. (Morris, n.d.) According to (Library, 2018), Obama became the first sitting President to publicly express his support for same sex marriages in May of 2012. On September 4, 2012, the Democratic Party became the first political party to publicly support same-sex marriages. As support for the LGBTQ community arose in politics, more and more laws came out allowing LGBTQ individuals to serve openly in the Military, The Olympics, as well as in the Office. The groundbreaking moment for the LGBTQ Community was on June 26, 2015, when Same-Sex Marriages was officially legalized in all 50 states. The LGBTQ community finally made their victory for freedom. On June 24, 2016, Obama announced the location of the first national monument dedicated to the LGBTQ community, The Stonewall.
The LGBTQ Movement has came a long way, but the ruling for Same-Sex marriage didn’t end the fight for equal rights, as well as protection. Across the country, members of the LGBTQ community still face legal discrimination for parenting, jobs, housing, health care, and even prison. The Community still faces hate crimes across the country as well. According to (Curry, 2017), nearly one in five hate crimes that are committed in the United States are due to sexual orientation. Transgender women of color are the most attacked minority in the country in which they face racism, sexism, trans-phobia, and poverty, which puts them at a very high risk for violence. Unfortunately, sixteen states do not include sexual identity under their hate crime laws, thirteen are only covered under sexual orientation, and four states have no hate crime laws what so ever. (Curry, 2017) Parenting is another legal factor that the LGBTQ community is currently facing. California is the only state as of right now that allows members of the LGBTQ community to adopt legally. Only a few states allow members of the LGBTQ to parent together.
In most states, LGBTQ members can still be fired from their jobs regardless of their job performance if their boss disagrees with their sexual orientation. More than half the states across the country didn’t pass non-discrimination laws, making members of the LGBTQ still very vulnerable. The LGBTQ community continues to fight for equal rights in health care as well. They encounter discrimination from doctors, as well as health insurance companies. Transgender are the most discriminated against, if they identify themselves to insurance companies they can be denied or encounter higher rates of health insurance. Insurance companies can discriminate based on sexual and gender identity in 37 states. LGBTQ members are extremely vulnerable in prison, and face lot of discrimination and violence. They usually have to be put in solitary confinement for protection. According to (Curry, 2017), about 40% of youth that are homeless are members of the LGBTQ community. They are rejected by their family members putting them out on the streets. The younger generation of the LGBTQ community still faces extreme discrimination and violence. According to (Curry, 2017), 41% of trans adults and 10-20% of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals have reported attempting suicide according to The Williams Institute.
The LGBTQ community came a long ways since their secret meetings in Los Angeles. It is a miracle how far they have came and the ways they have impacted society and the movement is still in full force. When I had to pick an Oppressed Minority group to write about, the first thing that came to mind was members of the LGBTQ community, as they are still fighting for equality and protection to this day. Spoken by John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, “When the dust settles and the pages of history are written, it will not be the angry defenders of intolerance who have made the difference. That reward will go to those who dared to step outside the safety of their privacy in order to expose and rout the prevailing prejudices.”(Marcus, 2002)
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