By Michelle E. Brown 6/26/2015
Like so many in our community I have awaited the Supreme Court’s opinion affirming marriage equality with both hope and anxiety.
Although I proudly wear the beautiful ring my beloved gave me and joyfully celebrate the nuptials of my friends, no license or ceremony, could further deepen our love or seal our commitment to one another.
Marriage gives official recognition and access to benefits/protections but I am under no illusion that it will immediately grant us the respect from those who just don’t get it.
They are the same people whose minds/hearts are so warped by generations of hate and racism that they, consciously or unconsciously, will cast the same side eye at interracial couples years after the Loving v. Virginia decision that they will at LGBTQ newlyweds.
As more members of the LGBTQ community marry, raise families and live openly in communities, hearts and minds will be moved and/or changed and the wall of bigotry, racism, homophobia and transphobia will start to crumble and fall, hopefully once and for all.
We need to feel good sometimes, to celebrate historic victories. And this is the mother of historic victories for the LGBTQ community – LOVE WINS!!!
I know that with every victory will come a backlash so we have to keep our armor on. But this time our world won’t go back to that scary place because, with this decision, a light has been shed on the discourse that can never be extinguished.
So before we leave all our energy on the dance floor, sigh a big sigh of relief and start planning our many, long overdue weddings, let’s take a moment to look at our imperfect union and the inequalities that still require our attention and fervor.
Tomorrow the same religious bigots, who would protect a child’s right to life from conception with no regard for the health of women (even if that women has been raped), will continue to push through legislation to impede adoption rights of loving LGBTQ families. And there will be other RFRA’s to keep us jumping through hoops, taking two steps forward and one step back as we prepare to march down the aisle in wedded bliss.
Women will continue to, on the average, make only 78% of their male counterparts while members of the LGBTQ community remain especially susceptible to being placed at a socioeconomic disadvantage. With efforts for workplace equality legislation continually thwarted, we may be able to get married but face firing the day we return from our honeymoon. It’s time for a fully inclusive ENDA and amendment of civil rights laws like Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen to protect and prohibit discrimination against all Americans.
LGBTQ youth will still experience some of the highest rates of homelessness. Their lives remain at peril. Our futures lie in their hands but too many young people are still bullied, ostracized, kicked out of homes, schools and churches because they are gender nonconforming. According to data from GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), large percentages of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students across the country experience physical assault as well as physical and verbal harassment in school. They want only to live their authentic lives.
Sisters and brothers in our Transgender community will be harassed, confronted with bad bathroom legislation, detained/incarcerated in cells where they are subject to attack and rape with little or no protection from law enforcement. While Laverne and Caitlin grace the covers of magazines, a record number of members of the transgender community, mostly women, have lost their lives in 2015 at the hands of others. Trans lives matter everyday not just when memorialized each November.
LGBTQ elders who paved the way for many of our victories will live in poverty. Some will find themselves going back in to the closet when they enter eldercare facilities ill-equipped and under trained to deal with the needs of our elders. Marriage will have come too late for many who have been unable to receive benefits, pensions or recognitions a heterosexual spouse would receive. They deal with significant health disparities and social isolation.
Tomorrow our post racial America will remain a hoax. Black youth are shot for buying Skittles, playing music too loudly, being seen as a threat for their hoodies and sagging pants. Shot to death while running away from a traffic stop, choked to death while gasping “I can’t breathe”, spine snapped while in custody in a police van – A threat despite “Hands Up, Don’t shoot” while the white shooter, who left nine dead in a Charleston church, was successfully arrested without incident. Taking down, burning and eradicating every Confederate flag will not take the place of real conversations and work on racism that’s been long overdue.
Perhaps I carry too many cards in my human wallet. I am female, African American, Queer and getting older. Each of these identities carry a full subset of other memberships. I tend to look at the world through lenses which often highlight the contradiction and ironies so intensely that it makes my head hurt and my heart ache. I can’t separate one from the other – Trans lives matter. Black lives matter. All lives matter.
Despite all the challenges, I believe in the power of democracy – from the White House to the State House. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We, the LGBTQ community have proved this, changing hearts and minds by telling our stories, living our truth.
As President Obama said in his remarks from the Rose Garden following the decision “On the many issues with which we grapple real change is possible……Today we can say we made our union a little more perfect.”
We won! This decision is another step on our march to equality for all Americans. Love is love. Love wins when we wage love – so let’s WAGE LOVE!!!