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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Be Totally Proud but Not Totally Satisfied

Pride is such a great time of year—especially when there have been notable victories in our never ending struggle to achieve full equality.  Last year, we in Maryland celebrated the historic passage of marriage equality and we were in the midst of a referendum battle that created uncertainty but also a degree of activism on the part of the LGBT community that had not been seen in previous years. 

Every Pride, it seems, there is something different we can cheer about and reflect upon our improving fortunes, particularly in light of the struggles our predecessors had to endure at the time of Stonewall—the consensus onset of Gay Pride.
This time around we have myriad reasons to be proud.  Marriage equality was finally achieved in Maryland after many years of disappointments.  Having won last November at the ballot box makes the victory even more gratifying 

Starting New Year’s Day, marriage for same-sex couples became legal and hundreds of couples have since rejoiced.  At the Pride festival, there will be a mass wedding.  How sweet is that? Thousands more will be afforded the same standing as our heterosexual counterparts if we can get key portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA repealed. 

Two other states joined Maryland on Election Night while another beat back a hostile constitutional amendment.  Since then several others rapidly jumped on the bandwagon resulting in a total of 12 states plus DC that have legalized same-sex marriages and adding much momentum to the cause.  Plus a few foreign countries joined the party.  Moreover, some Republicans (gasp!) in Congress announced their support for marriage equality. 

On top of that, we eagerly anticipate a potentially historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 in California and DOMA.  While most observers do not see sweeping, broad rulings from the Court on these cases, both decisions could (and should) be favorable.  We expect to find out by the end of Pride month.  What timing!
Then in the world of sports—a major component of our culture—we witnessed for the first time male athletes coming out in pro basketball and pro soccer while active as did a college basketball player.  There were athletes from various sports publicly declaring their acceptance of a gay teammate with a whopping 92 percent of players in the National Hockey League, according to a recent survey, asserting that a gay teammate would be welcome.  

These developments, one would think, should put an added spring in the steps of the parade marchers on Saturday and make the rainbows a little bit brighter throughout the weekend.  While we can bask in the glow of these victories and prospective ones to come, it goes without saying that there is so much, no, too much work to be done to be fully satisfied.
While basis protections for transgender individuals exist in Baltimore City and in Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties, there continues to be a barrier at the state level.  For the past few years, strong efforts to achieve non-discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on gender identity and expression remain elusive.

We also need to address the plight of those LGBT youth who have been discarded by non-accepting family members or as a consequence of poverty and become homeless.  There is a disproportionate amount of LGBT youth among the homeless in Baltimore and it is especially acute among trans youth.  As such, homelessness among our youth increases the chances for violence, poor health and crime—as perpetrators or victims.
And make no mistake, we can enjoy the benefits of marriage equality and other advances, but no matter the decisions by elected officials or votes at the ballot box, there are way too many people out there who do not like us.  It may not be visible or obvious to casual observers, but it is quite apparent when we learn about violence directed towards our community.

You can see evidence of this “anonymous” vitriol spewed on blogs and other Internet-based threads that discuss LGBT rights.  Hiding behind the security and obscurity of a keyboard, folks from all over the country lash into our community with alarming intensity and frequency.  Some of this is attributable to the culture they grew up in that breeds contempt for LGBT people; other causes are probably due to a backlash in the unprecedented rapidity of advances in LGBT rights.
As we have witnessed here, LGBT folks have been attacked, beaten or murdered simply because of who they are.  Law enforcement can do their job and they try, but we need to be vigilant and conscious of our surroundings.  There remains much hatred out there.

This continued disdain towards our community extends into bullying habits at schools.  While jurisdictions have adopted anti-bullying initiatives, the bullying against LGBT teens and pre-teens or those who are perceived to be LGBT, has not waned significantly.  Pressure needs to be applied to localities and school districts to help curtail these incidents.  Bullying contributes to low self-esteem and dropping out and worse, suicides among the kids.
There are also issues on the national stage that need to be legislated like job non-discrimination, immigration reform as it pertains to LGBT people, and HIV/AIDS funding.  Unfortunately the Republicans in the Congress have a stranglehold on any progressive legislation, and redistricting will keep them in place for an extended time.

So while I don’t want to cloudy up a sunny and bright Pride weekend especially in the aftermath of significant political victories, reality has a way of seeping into the mix.  We should all be proud of ourselves, our accomplishments, and the upward trends towards equality, but we should not rest on those laurels or be satisfied.  Understand that our work is far from finished.

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