This is such an important time in history. June 26th symbolized one very important step for lesbian and gay couples in our country with the SCOTUS ruling on Marriage Equality. There is no longer such a thing as gay marriage in the U.S.- it’s just marriage folks!
As we celebrate and revel in this time, it's also important to recognize that it's one step among other critical steps that are needed to achieve equality in our nation.
But what do we mean by “equality?” The term equality is being used a little fast and loose for my taste. This is an important point: the work is not done and when we say “Yay equality,” remember it’s not being used in an inclusive way.
I read an article in Mother Jones this week that highlighted a number of truths about transgender women of color that made my stomach drop. Seven transgender women of color were murdered in the first two months of this year. LGBTQ people are 41% more likely to attempt suicide. Transgender women who survive hate attacks are 6 times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with police than other lesbian, gay, or bisexual survivors. Are these truths impacted by the ability to get married? Sadly, not really. In the long run, the best we can hope for is maybe.
As we celebrate LGBTQ rights, let’s remember (and for some- realize for the first time) that trans women of color have a lot more to worry about than marriage. The people who are the furthest from experiencing true equality are the ones who are suffering the most, and marriage equality does not change the truth that homelessness, access to healthcare, employment discrimination, and the threat of physical violence are pressing everyday issues that are a long way from being resolved. We must solve them if we can ever claim to have achieved LGBT equality.
Change is happening, but let’s not mistake this day to assert that change has happened. Change is not about one piece of legislation or a SCOTUS ruling. Civil Rights is about achieving change within the context of laws and policy, and social change is often the work of challenging bias and bigotry in interpersonal relations.
Real change is about untangling a system of laws and policies in addition to the work of battling all the conscious and unconscious ways our thoughts, behaviors, and values as a nation support bias and bigotry of all kinds. Last week nine people were murdered because of racial hate despite the fact that the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. It was not a mic drop moment for equality then, and we do not have a mic drop moment now.
I’m writing this not to dull the brightness of the rainbow we’re all posting on Facebook, but rather to remind us of the work that should continue. The work must continue. Don’t drop the protest signs, flip them over and continue the work.