Abigail Ruhman is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
This column is part 12 of Abigail Ruhman’s “Twelve Gays of Christmas: The Sequel” series. Twelve Gays of Christmas is a 12-column series about a variety of LGBTQ topics. During the holidays, members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience depression. By informing readers of the issues facing the LGBTQ community, these columns are meant to support the community this holiday season. This year is the second year of this series and shows that even though it can seem like things are fine, there is still a lot of discrimination and challenges facing the LGTBQ community.
Human rights can’t be narrowed down to something digestible for the current status quo. The more that society tells marginalized groups that they must create change with small improvements, the more the current climate is allowed to thrive. For the queer and gender-nonconforming community, there is a unique consequence of tiptoeing to avoid upsetting the majority.
The further that homophobia and transphobia are ingrained into society, the more likely it is that the queer and gender-nonconforming community will have no future. While it sounds like a doomsday statement, it’s something that has been discussed within queer academia and queer theory.
Lee Edelman, author of “No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive,” explains that accommodating the status quo creates a situation where queerness can easily be erased. Because sexuality and gender identity are not visible, Edelman argues that those aspects of people’s identity can go back to being pushed down or ignored. If queer and gender-nonconforming rights are not continually pushed until equality is reached, a queer future is threatened.
Homophobia and transphobia work to erase different identities from society. If the community is asked to compromise for the sake of the current structure of society and they choose to listen, the community is put at risk. In order to achieve true equality, everyone needs to get mad about the way marginalized communities are being erased. The only way to ensure the doomsday scenario doesn’t happen is for people inside and outside of the community to keep pushing the line forward.
On June 28, 2019, The Atlantic published an article titled, “The Struggle for Gay Rights Is Over.” Despite the cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, the existence of conversion therapy and the lack of support, the author, James Kirchick, genuinely believed that the movement was done in June. For him, the existence of barely-there representation on TV, marriage equality and lack of “state-sanctioned terror” is enough for him to tell the community that they can finally close the book.
However, within his own article, he talks about how queer and gender-nonconforming individuals are more likely to have mental health problems. There is a recognition that the community is seeing multiple disparities in access and rights, but Kirchick, and many others, wondered if anti-discrimination legislation is necessary at the federal level. After all, “the majority of gay people live in the 22 states where nondiscrimination statutes are already on the books,” according to Kirchick.
The problem with this logic is that it’s avoiding the actual issue.
The community tends to live in those 22 states, not by coincidence, but because that is where they feel safe. The fact that they don’t get to feel safe in all 50 states and the District of Columbia is the real problem.
The struggle for queer and gender-nonconforming rights is not “over.” Saying that it’s over ignores the discrimination and inequality the community faces every day. The struggle is not done until queer and gender-nonconforming individuals are given the same opportunities as everyone else. This is not over until the community is no longer subjected to conversion therapy, hate crimes, workplace discrimination, healthcare disparities and ignorance being used as an excuse.
People who believe that the fight for equality is over are either falling for the fallacy that the community was only fighting for marriage rights or not paying attention. The more that people believe that the struggle is over the closer the community gets to Edelman’s warning of a future that is devoid of queerness. Those fighting for true equality are not grasping for straws because they want to experience discrimination. They are pointing out flaws in the status quo that threaten the queer and gender-nonconforming community now and in the future.
The fight for equality will never fit into the world without causing actual structural change. That isn’t a bad thing. Change means that the community still has a future. For a community that has had a heartbreaking past, a future where a college student can’t even think of 12 issues facing the community sounds pretty great.
Edited by Bryce Kolk | firstname.lastname@example.org