Fight for Queer & Trans Liberation
Marriage equality seems like the apex of civil rights recognition for the LGBTQ+ community, yet what remains to be liberated?
Activists and supporters sighed with relief when the SCOTUS announced its decision on June 26, 2015. The landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case overturned past legal precedent and thus directed states to legally allow the marriage of same sex couples. Considered a win for the LGBTQ+ community, we could finally marry the ones we love!
Advocates and supporters consider marriage equality to be the biggest of wins, but we still have quite the journey remaining. Of course it means the world to have the legal recognition of marriage between two, consenting adults. With marriage equality, you can visit your partner in the hospital without disruption, share legal guardianship of your kiddos, easily confer ownership rights, and more.
LGBTQ+ folx remain concerned about a litany of issues — many of which intersect with other vulnerable populations in our communities-at-large. Trans women of color continue to be the most at risk! When it comes to transgender issues, barbaric violence may always be a concern.
We recall the many senseless and discriminatory legislative efforts in state houses across the country to prioritize bathrooms, and attempts at erasure of trans protections against discrimination — among other things pushed at the federal level by the Trump administration. Transgender and queer individuals find it nearly impossible to get respect on even the simplest things like others using their correct pronouns — particularly regarding legal documents. Simply put, a friend informs me that xe views recognition of trans rights as “abysmal”.
Another major concern for us queer people is the HIV epidemic — 38,500 new cases in the United States reported every year (regardless of orientation or identity). Many people still don’t realize how far treatments have progressed, as well as their shortcomings. We have yet to produce a cure. Furthermore, housing discrimination continues unchecked, and nearly a majority of youth experiencing homelessness are also LGBTQ+. While we discuss queer concerns, let us finish by mentioning the roots of our ongoing movement.
I recently attended a Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) ceremomy hosted at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. A transgender friend and comrade invited us to show up, to be in solidarity, and it was the least we could do. Trans, queer and their peers pay respect every November 20 to siblings lost to irrational and pointless violence because of who they are. In a just and fair world, this would not be a concern, but this is not such a world. This world necessitates educating, agitating, and organizing.
Additionally, oligarchs, their think tanks and corporate puppets continue to push right-wing, state-level legislation which seeks to prioritize the delegation of an “appropriate” bathroom — rather than focus on more pressing needs like universal healthcare. The motivation behind these efforts is seated in hate and fear-mongering, and the science speaks against these efforts. You can keep track of attempts to legislate against transgender folx in restrooms here.
Beyond daily fears for our safety and having to combat barbaric bathroom policies, transgender and queer people cannot easily have others practice the basic respect of using their correct pronouns. Cisgendered and heteronormative folks sometimes express how much effort it requires to use pronouns respecting gender identity. Really, it’s no different than asking someone’s name and then respecting them enough to call them that.
What’s the big deal? It isn’t hard to respect someone’s title — regardless of how you feel about it. This is just a small taste of concerns affecting trans persons, and I know we sometimes disregard the trans perspective because it doesn’t seem to affect us personally. On the contrary, this affects us deeper than we realize as an injury to one is an injury to all.
Moreover, trans and queer people must still abide by our outmoded patchwork of government gender identifiers that rarely recognizes anything but the archaic binary — an understanding of gender that has since been disproven by the spectrum model. When you go to the DMV, one is usually obligated to select male or female. Hell, we are sorted right from birth. Some babies are born with ambiguous genitalia, or some combination of both.
Thankfully, we see infant “gender corrective” going out of vogue, but this trend only began relatively recently. Research shows that surgically gendering intersex infants is traumatic and deleterious — particularly later in life. What about gendering’s effects on society at large? The difficulty of having your gender legally recognized traumatizes some further, and many officials, allies and loved ones remain unamenable to facilitating the process of legally recognizing your identity.
For just a moment, make an effort to empathize with a transgender/queer person. Imagine everywhere you go, people disrespectfully call you the incorrect gender (misgendering). Imagine using the restroom being a frightening experience — not knowing if you might encounter a bigot who decides to bully you for simply being yourself. Tis nearly impossible to fully realize the perspective of another, but the majority of us live day to day with barely a consideration of gender, how society categorizes, and the implications thereof. Gender identity and sexual orientation not only play a large role in our daily lives, but especially relates to our next topic of health.
The HIV epidemic remains another major concern for our community (at a glance) — as well as other STIs. Nearly 1 in 7 who live with HIV do not know their status (straight/cis people included). There exists 20 minute rapid tests often freely available now (as with Hepatitis C), and you may find comfort in bringing a trusted friend with you to get tested. Indeed, practicioners saw an overall decrease in new infection rates from 2010–2015. Though to be frank, 38,500 new diagnoses a year is still too many. Deeper statistics can be found at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
I say this not to be harsh or punitive, but to inform you that low or no cost therapies exist to help at-risk groups remain negative — most at risk being males who have sex with males, Latinx males, and Black males. PrEP, short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a once-a-day pill with a drug combo similar to the same meds that treat HIV. Truvada is a popular (monopolized) choice, but PrEP in general reduces risk of transmission by over 90% when one remains adherent to their prescription.
The statistic aforementioned implies regardless of condom use. While condoms are pretty effective at preventing transmission of sexually-transmitted disease in general, PrEP and anti-retroviral therapies provide a greater protection against HIV-transmission than do condoms. Condoms help protect from other communicable diseases, as PrEP does not.
While we are at it, we should also mention that using lubricant (copiously) reduces STD/STI transmission, as well. Simply put, lubricant reduces wears and tears caused by the friction and vigour of rubbing mucuous membranes together. Especially important is that receptive partners apply lube, as the anus is not evolved to self-lubricate like the vagina does. Spit does not suffice, and I recommend against using saliva as lubricant, alone. Apologies for being momentarily explicit.
Please get tested and seek treatment regardless of ability to pay. Myriad resources exist to facilitate long-term treatment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and that includes services like co-pay cards, case management, and other programs. A good start is a simple Google search for a local CARES or HIV-specific clinic near you; admittedly, services tend to be clustered in metro areas. While these do fall short of a single-payer, national healthcare program, they do provide some measure of care for specific populations until the day in which healthcare becomes guaranteed as a human right in the “richest nation in the history of the world”.
On the subject of sexually-transmitted diseases focused on the LGBTQ+ sphere, let us examine a few more facts and figures. Turns out, sharing sex toys is not the best idea; it causes women who have sex with women to be at a higher risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Additionally, while we have seen a decrease in new HIV rates, we are seeing an uptick in chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea.
“Syphilis can show up on the body in sores and rashes. Gonorrhea and chlamydia can lurk with no symptoms. They’re all generally easy to cure with a timely antibiotics prescription, but when left untreated, they can lead to infertility or life-threatening health complications. That’s what makes screening and access to health care so important.”
These concerns affect all of us, and HPV is another lurking threat. Note that in general, 1 in 4 sexually active people carry Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) — which may or may not by symptomatic. Rates of HPV are especially high with men who have sex with men (3 of 4), and many times people show no sign of being carriers. How absurd it is to continue debating these things when a universal healthcare model could guarantee simple, cheap and effective strategies like screenings, checkups and general preventative healthcare. We still have millions without even insurance. In the United States we are #1 at having the most medical bankruptcies among highly industrialized nations. Nevertheless, when discussing liberating folx by meeting their needs, one must also consider access to safe and secure housing for LGBTQ+.
Photo by Toa Heftiba
Housing, as with healthcare, should be recognized as a human right rather than commodified. When the absence of a resource will cause your death, it should be maintained as a human right. One is unable to survive without food, water, housing, etc. — so why would a just and equitable society erect a price barrier and thereby restrict access? Regarding queer and trans folk in particular, housing discrimination arises perpetually.
Referenced earlier, 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+. Many find it appropriate to discard their unwanted youth. Children are not some garbage or old furniture you throw outside when they no longer suit you. Despite this, many caretakers lack the capacity to love and nurture their young ones without condition. The condition required for their love is conformity and obedience to some ill-conceived norm. Some of us have to choose our families, and that practice helps define the resilience and intimacy of our community.
Mentioned earlier, the most likely to experience discrimination are trans women of color — though many gender nonconforming experience prejudice, too. We must stand up especially for TWoC, because they catalyze these movements . From Stonewall to marches to Pride, we remember those who forged our paths, and the fight continues until we all achieve equity and freedom.
The Modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement as we know it today evolved with heavy influence from the events of the Stonewall Riots — as did Pride marches. Traditionally celebrated as commemoration to the historical night of June 29, 1969, Pride and marching through the streets en masse harkens back to the days of old when our siblings did so during that hallowed summer night at the sacred New York City Inn. Police would subject Stonewall Inn patrons to regular raids because of their being different — a practice found commonplace at that time. Trans patrons, genderqueers, lesbians, bis, gays and everyone in between fought back against police and social oppression that fateful night of ’69. This memorable night sparked the flame of the movement, and we must always remember upon whose shoulders we stand.
Police oppression affects everyone. Police raids sparked the movement that led to the progress many queers in my generation now take for granted. Know your history and know your roots — lest you be doomed to repeat yourself and find yourself without bearings. Take note when those wise with experience seek to confer wisdom upon you, and I will attempt the same.
Our forebears lit the fire of this movement, and the younger generations must ready to receive the baton as elders pass the torch. Our fate is hopelessly intertwined, and we fail when we treat our mutual liberation as separate issues. Say it with me: Trans Rights are Human Rights! Gay Rights are Black Rights are Women’s Rights are Native Rights are Migrant Rights are Human Rights! There is no getting yours and dipping. We must follow the footsteps of those learned and experienced, and they would say to show up for one another.
The system is far from perfect, and discrimination remains pervasive. However, now more than ever we need concerted, grassroots efforts to push the bar further. Electing people into office and passing landmark legislation only comes after we sow the grassroots and grow them— right here where we live. Most essentially, things only begin to truly change when we do the inner work required to get there.
Evidenced by topics examined here, much work lies ahead in order to advance the cause of socio-economic equity for the LGBTQ+ community. How can we expect to achieve a just and fair world without first recognizing the humanity in one another? We must be there for our trans and queer kin. The situation calls for us to support national healthcare — for reasons such as the medical needs of chronic illness, costs of transition therapy, and mental health. We need to guarantee housing for all, because these basic needs are insecure. Show up for one another, stand strong in your resolve, and for the love of god(s) respect people enough to use the correct pronouns. Respect human rights! Together, we will win this fight. 🌈
Photo by Laury Jaugey