North Texas Daily

LGBTQ+ acceptance is still new, don’t pretend that it’s not

LGBTQ+ acceptance is still new, don’t pretend that it’s not

LGBTQ+ acceptance is still new, don’t pretend that it’s not
November 21
12:00 2020

Looking back at my early childhood has always been kind of an alienating experience. Obviously, I didn’t know I was gay when I was five, but that I didn’t even know then that people could be gay. It seems incredible to me now, especially as someone who considers their sexuality to be a key component of their identity.

I was first introduced to the concept of homosexuality in middle school, where the phrase “blood in the water” was never more applicable. My classmates caught on before I did, and if it was hard being a white lesbian in suburbia. I can only imagine what other closeted kids with less luck and less supportive parents went through.

I’m blown away by how different my younger brother’s experience has been. It wasn’t that he’s never experienced discrimination for being gay, but, being a mere four years younger than me, being an openly queer high schooler with a number of openly queer friends is something of a testament to how much progress can be made in just a few years.

Which is kind of my point: it’s only been a few years. I’m 22. A few years ago, I watched my social studies class debate over whether or not I deserved rights. A kid at my middle school was bullied out of campaigning for student body president after his sexuality was called into question. If I have to remember these things, other people should too, but it’s felt more and more to me lately that straight people are purposefully experiencing collective amnesia in how recent widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ community is.

Since Obergfell v. Hodges, the LGBTQ+ community has had to contend with straight people being all too eager to perpetuate the lie that the fight for gay rights somehow ended with the legalization of gay marriage. It’s the “why shouldn’t showrunners write evil gay characters?” when gay characters have only recently begun to be portrayed as anything other than perverted. It’s the “what more do you want?” when President Donald Trump finalized a rule that allowed healthcare workers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, and on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting no less.

The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court endangers the 2015 ruling that was supposed to usher in a new era of acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community. Having to grapple with the idea that centuries of persecution and decades of activism might only amount to five years of relative freedom was nothing short of surreal, not to mention completely infuriating. While Joe Biden’s presidential win might have saved gay marriage, it doesn’t change the fact that the five years we’ve spent with our marital rights secured were also spent living in fear of a president who actively encourages his followers to commit hate crimes.

In fact, my referring to society’s current attitude toward gay rights as “widespread acceptance” was more than a little misleading. The results of the 2016 election and popularization of right-wing rhetoric was a direct result of some people being too hateful to accept the progress made in years prior. Violence against transgender women, Black trans women, in particular, is so prevalent as to be considered an epidemic by human rights groups. We are a long, long way from obtaining all of the rights we are owed by the government, and to pretend that widespread animosity directed toward the LGBTQ+ community is a thing of the distant past is to also pretend it doesn’t exist.

So I do not want to hear another straight person say anything along the lines of “not every character has to be gay” (around 10 percent of television characters are gay, and that’s accounting for those that might perpetuate harmful stereotypes), or “why don’t straight people get a month to celebrate their sexuality?” (that’s every month), just because I finally get to wear a pride pin outside of my house and (maybe) not be called a slur. What we’re seeing now in terms of gay representation and gay rights is the bare minimum of what we’re owed.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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