Till death do us part – the commitment to the equality movement

BY NATALIE ACCARDI

Don’t let marriage equality fool you.

This is a time to rejoice, to reflect on the grueling hard work that has paved the way for our triumphant victory. But our ability to utter the words, “I do” and have them be fully recognized by the law doesn’t mean the suffering in our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community has been staunchly stomped out. Amidst our celebration we can not stifle those who continue to speak up, those who know there is a lot more work to be done. Oppression is a multi-headed beast and the legalization of gay marriage didn’t slay the monster. Oppression sneaks its way into every crevice of our lives and if you clean out one corner, you have to clean out the rest.

We can’t say equality has been achieved until we have found solutions for all the issues the LGBT community faces. The reality is that the oppression an individual faces is tailored specifically to them. The LGBT community faces inequality in different ways and to different degrees.

In a report entitled “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, AND HIV-Affected Hate Violence In 2013” the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that 72 percent of LGBTQ homicide victims were transgender women and of this demographic, 67 percent were transgender women of color. In the 2013 “Hate Crime Statistics” report conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 20.8 percent of the hate crimes committed were fueled by the target’s sexual orientation.

The workplace can still be a potentially hostile environment to the LGBTQ community. The Williams Institute, a part of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, found that between 15 to 43 percent of LGBTQ workers have experienced being denied a promotion, harassed, and even fired. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit for social science research, found that 21 percent of LGBTQ participants have experienced unfair treatment by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), only 19 states and the District of Columbia have implemented nondiscrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The LGBTQ community also faces discrimination when it comes to housing. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), only 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place to prevent housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), found that between 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

My intent is not to put a damper on the celebration. Yes, this was a landmark in the fight for equality. Yes, we won this time. But I want us to win the next rounds too. I want to address the often overlooked issues of the transgender community. I want to take on the issues of income inequality, the rampant homelessness of LGBTQ youth, the vicious assault on the LGBTQ community. We know the token names of a few, but there are many more faceless names to the statistics.

We did something tremendous. We earned a right that most people in America never had to work for. We can do more so let’s roll up our sleeves and continue to do the hard work ourselves.

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