These are Uniquely Perilous Times for Equality. So What Now?

When it comes to human rights, we’re in a very different time than ever before. LGBTQ people had made much headway, improved their positives in public polling, and convinced an increasing number that they deserve to be considered as full American citizens.

But this time is dangerous because anti-LGBTQ remains a major factor in the playbook of Republican politics as conservative politicians continue to court the extreme religious right-wing; because the Party as a result has put “the convinced” in the legislature and judiciary who actually do believe that LGBTQ people deserve a second-class status at most; and because it’s tempting to let things slide by with some false hope of future security.

Likewise, many leaders who became heroes in the right-wing religious movements by gaining their notoriety with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric know that an anti-LGBTQ position is the only thing that will continue to keep them in the spotlight. To give it up is to lose attention and likely the sheep who adoringly follow them.

Though rational responses have been repeated for almost a half of a century countering all those arguments that the right-wing uses to keep anti-LGBTQ bigotry going, those same tired anti-LGBTQ arguments continue to be regurgitated because they enforce a prejudice that feels familiarly comfortable in those who are used to them and reject changing their minds. Changing ones mind means admitting one was wrong and even that ones wrong view hurt many human beings.

In 2015, back before the radical reversal attempts of the Trump-led Republican Party, Michelangelo Signorile warned activists in a book that still is must reading, that even with wins such as marriage equality the fact is that It’s Not Over. The narrative that LGBTQ people have produced, he said, a “victory blindness” that seduced many to pull back as if equality has really been attained, is dangerously shortsighted.

The reality he documented is that in the midst all those victories, forces ramped up their strategies to roll back gains and prevent full equality. And the answer is not to sit on our laurels or accept mere tolerance.

“In fact, it’s time for us to be intolerant – intolerant of all forms of homophobia, transphobia, and bigotry against LGBT people,” he warned. “It’s time that all of us who support LGBT equality no longer agree to disagree on full civil rights for LGBT people. Anything less than full acceptance and full civil rights must be defined as an expression of bias, whether implicit or not.”

With the current administration’s active, relentless, and hateful rolling back of any gains, much less its prevention of any further wins, with the current administration’s population of the federal judicial system with those who’ve been outspokenly against LGBTQ equality, we can’t just sit around and wait for new generations to take over. We need a strategy for these times before all that the right-wing has on its agenda is firmly reestablished.

Recognize the affect of the rise of power of the religious and nationalist right-wings.

Power has always been their goal. By empowering them and modeling their bigotry, this administration has brought them into the open so that they can act to hurt others with a righteous feeling that they’re on a government-approved and Divine cause.

Hate crimes are rising across the board. LGBTQ people are just one of the scapegoats for their anger. And doing nothing means hate crimes will continue to increase even in locations we thought were safe. Real human beings will continue to be destroyed.

Everyone needs to realize what is now being chipped away and that it can eventually be virtually gone.

Nothing is as settled as we thought it was. The forces working to undo rights are on a well-funded and militant crusade. Corporations that wave rainbow flags to get our money are still funding those who hate LGBTQ peoples.

Their model is how they’ve been eating away at Roe v Wade. It would be nice to rest on our laurels, but we don’t have that luxury today.

Silence now is not only consent, but an act of privilege.

Not acting, advocating, and demanding action from our politicians contributes to the hurting other people. Playing down who we are or ignoring what is happening to others will eventually come around to bite us.

Those who’ve forgotten, or never known, what it took to get LGBTQ people to the place they are now, need to be educated. And that needs to take place by example, not shaming.

There are generations now who don’t realize what it took to get here and what it will take to keep us here.

“We need to galvanize people in a way that makes them invested in changing our schools,” Signorile wrote, “and making sure that LGBT history and culture are taught in an age-appropriate way as part of the curriculum from kindergarten through twelfth grade.’

Now is not the time to disable the institutions that we have put in place as if they’re no longer needed.

We need organizations like PFLAG, local community centers, and national advocates like the NLGBQ Task Force more than ever even if we’re privileged enough to feel we personally are above discrimination.

Working with other movements should be the standard by now.

That all oppressions are related can only be denied by people who don’t see the inter-connectedness of all discrimination and bigotry. Not only do we need allies when our issues are at stake, but we need to see how fighting racism, anti-immigrant policies, sexism, transphobia, able-bodiedism, classism, and even environmental degradation benefits the LGBTQ community.

The academic word is “intersectionality.” Defined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw it “is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.”

The reality is that these are uniquely dangerous times. Denial, settling, and crossing ones fingers won’t do.

© 2019 Robert N. Minor

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Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org

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