The shootings in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub bring into stark reality the understanding of how far we need to go, still, for GLBTQ* people to feel safe.
I am an out gay woman who came out in a town where for over 15 years I was known as a straight woman, married to the father of my two girls (now aged 15 and 20). I was on several boards and organizations and had been in the media for years both behind the scenes and in the pages of a number of publications.
I have never experienced homophobia in my community for which I am most grateful. However, I can’t say that for everyone in our local GLBTQ family. I am always dismayed to hear of people being bullied, harassed, or made to feel unwelcome. My brain just can not make sense of how anti-GLBTQ people can create the math that equates to damning someone because of their sexual or gender orientation.
And then I have to remind myself: there are over 70 countries in the world not safe for me to visit with my partner or identifying as GLBTQ. 70. And many states as well as rural areas in Canada where I would feel uncomfortable enough that I would consider hiding my sexuality.
It is also important to remember that the rights we do have now as GLBTQ individuals are not sacrosanct. That which is given can also be taken away, as the shifting sands of history have shown us time and time again.
When I think of the Orlando shooter, I wonder, was he gay? Was this self-directed homophobia, taken to the extreme? And how many more people will continue to exist in a self-imposed exile for fear of physical danger, curtailed rights, feeling the spotlight of attention trained upon them as they exit the closet when they wish merely to attain the ordinariness straight people take for granted every day?
And the new frontier in rights and visibility is for those who refuse to live under a label or categorization of any kind (including transgender/cisgender, non-binary gendered people, and just plain queer folk). Even within women’s organizations and gay umbrella organizations, there is a struggle over the acceptance of people who don’t identify as male/female, or who are transitioning.
It’s bewildering to hear people excluding others from loose social organizations. I expect those of us lucky enough to gain our rights continue the work for those who come after us, which is the ‘T&Q’ part of our hard-won acronym.
These questions rise up to the surface within parts of the GLBTQ movement: What constitutes being a woman or a man? Female or male-born only? Transgender-born and mid-transition? And how does a person become excluded – no, ex-communicated – if they aren’t a lesbian woman for example, despite the horrendous, terribly lonely and hugely expensive (time, money and more importantly psyche), journey to become the other binary gender?
Where are trans and gender-queer/neutral people supposed to find community? In a lonely ghetto made up of only themselves, welcome nowhere?
I don’t believe that. I believe it’s time to work towards de-classifying ourselves, and to meet each other where we are at as humans first, also recognizing that fundamental binary societal systems need to change, and soon.
In a recent nationwide survey, 74% of transgender youth reported experiencing verbal harassment in school, and 37% reported experiencing physical violence.**
The way towards that future is through educating ourselves, speaking our truths, standing up for others more marginalized than ourselves, and making love be about addition rather than division.
Go forth and make a difference.
*GLBTQ = gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender/cisgender, and queer identified.
**Trans Equality Rights in Canada website
Links for more information:
Author Laurie McConnell, Married to Diane Mueller. Parents of two children; Part of the Sunshine Coast Sappho’s Circle Organizers 2016; Proud GLBTQ owner/operator of www.Bigpacific.com and Bigpacific Creative Web & Digital Solutions.