So, I’m just a little bit pissed off. I’d say that I’m furious or disgusted and to an extent of course I am, but alas I am not surprised or shocked.
By now quite a lot of us have seen the headlines “Mississippi Passes Bill That Legalises LGBTQI Discrimination.” Well. Isn’t that a great way to start the day? The bill basically says that if someone were to have “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” they can prevent access to services to LGBT+ people in a number of ways. Queer people in Mississippi now can be refused housing, adoption services, employment, or education and can be turned away from businesses.
Now, I don’t live in America. I live in New Zealand (thank goodness), where sex between two men was legalised in 1986, the Civil Union Act was introduced in 2004 and same sex marriage was legalised in 2013. Sure, there’s still lack of understanding towards LGBT+ people in New Zealand, but there are no laws that tolerate discrimination.
I want to look at America, the supposed ‘Land of the Free’. We all rejoiced in 2015 when same sex marriage was legalized in America (I know I cried a lot that day.) The Supreme Court ruled that “same-sex married couples were to be constitutionally accorded the same recognition as opposite-sex couples at state/territory levels, as well as at federal level.” So, you can get married in America! (as long as you don’t live in Texas, Kentucky, Alabama or any other right wing state) But, you can also still be discriminated against in a number of ways.
In New Zealand we’ve had several out Members of Parliament over the years. We had the world’s first transgender MP, Georgina Beyer, who was elected in 1999. Our current Attorney General is gay. Last year, in-depth education about sexuality and gender identity was introduced to our sex education for juniors at high school. At many schools in the city I live in, students have organized Queer Straight Alliance groups and Queer Studies is taught at the local university. There are multiple (non-government supported) agencies that offer support to queer people, many specializing in youth. There are handful of queer teachers at my high school. Of course there are still the social stigmas around being queer in New Zealand, but it’s pretty good. Especially when you compare NZ to other countries such as Australia where same sex marriage is illegal, Russia where you can be arrested or Iran where you can be executed.
It’s at a point, and it breaks my heart to say, where it feels like queer people may never win. There will always be someone who hates us. For me, it no longer hurts as much when bills and laws like these are introduced, no matter where in the world. I’ve been desensitized to the pain of my people. I hate myself for it, but everytime I read one of those headlines, I get further and further back into the closet. The message is being sent, loud and clear. Queer people are an endangered species.
Where is the greater good in all of this? Who is being protected with these laws? No one. Religious freedom is a lie. Religion has no place in politics. Religion, much like sexuality and gender identity, is a personal affiliation. Governments should not have the power to rule over this. Of course people should have the freedom to peacefully celebrate and practice their religion, but why should that not extend to queer people? Why is one okay and not the other? They’ve both been around the same amount of time. And what about the queer people who are religious? How are they supposed to embrace themselves and their religion at the same time when, according to the law, one contradicts the other?
America is illuded* with itself. The American government is in pieces: there is no solid unity between the federal and state governments. How these people have been granted permission by voters to govern this land is beyond me. There needs to be a finite decision as to whether state governments can get off their high horses and support the federal government or if they want their state funding cut. I know that’s extreme and could affect more good people than bad, but the people making these decisions really need a talking to. They need some cold water splashed on their faces, and a reality check.
Up until now I know this article had been filled with a bit of a defeatist attitude. Because that’s what can happen when you’re constantly forgotten, erased and demonized. Especially as a young person who has only come out to themselves in the past few years, it’s really hard.
The message being sent to anyone in the process of coming out or who is already out is that if you are queer, it’s gonna screw up your life. This message, subtle or not, is giving pretty much anyone the permission to treat you badly in some way. Society isn’t apologizing for this. Interesting, isn’t it? How we claim to be living in a progressive, accepting, equal society but there are those of us who are constantly pushed to the edges.
On a positive note, Colombia’s Constitutional Court recently affirmed that same-sex couples can get married! There are so many organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor project, that are working towards LGBT+ equality and supporting the community. Celebrities like Ellen Page, Tyler Oakley, Laverne Cox, Halsey and Amandla Stenberg are all living in the public eye and normalizing conversations around queer issues -basically showing people that we exist and can have happy and successful lives.
This article is dedicated to all young queer people. You’re angry? So am I. That’s good though. Keep the anger and use it. Protest in the streets or even in your own home or social circles. Keep the conversation going. Remember that no matter what they say, there is nothing wrong with you. Love is natural but hate is not. Do not accept discrimination, demand your rights and do not let yourself become desensitized. Pick your battles, but do speak out and vocalize your opinions. Don’t let us die out.
*Illuded- verb / branch off of the word Illusion / “He had allowed his imagination to illude him”