There’s no doubt that this month’s Pride Month is profoundly different from others. On June 15, in a 6-3 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that Title VII, a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects LGBTQ employees from discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex. As a gay woman, this decision will have profound impacts on my life. While I cannot help but feel proud of advancements towards equality for our community, it is pertinent to understand that our work is far from over.
Not only have transgender Americans been plagued with discrimination in accessing healthcare, but the lives of transgender Black women are being ignored. Under new Health and Human Services (HHS) rules, recently released on the 51st anniversary of the historic Stonewall riots, transgender people can be denied medical services or incur higher costs in gender reassignment surgeries. HHS decided that transgender people are not protected by the nondiscrimination protections laid out in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, reversing Obama’s precedent. Amid a global pandemic, transgender people can literally be refused healthcare under legal guidelines. There is a blatant disregard for the equal health and safety of the transgender community.
Transgender people, particularly women of color, are also disproportionately at risk of fatal violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Two Black transgender women were murdered this week: Riah Milton in Liberty Township, Ohio, and Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells in Philadelphia. Although there have been at least 15 transgender or gender non-conforming murders in the U.S. this year, there has been a tremendous lack of media coverage or serious political discourse on this epidemic. The widespread apathy of politicians and the complete erasure of the Black transgender community is deplorable. Despite marriage equality and protections for LGBTQ workers, our community is forced to endure systemically sanctioned violence.
It should be no surprise that there are no rainbow lights on the White House; yet, this month has been a hotspot for anti-LGBTQ legislation. On June 4, 2020, President Trump’s Justice Department filed a brief in support of Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, a child welfare agency that attempted to refuse to work with queer couples. This administration is in favor of allowing tax-payer funded organizations to discriminate against queer people, or other groups, for religious purposes. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take the case. But queer people are tired of waiting for high courts to decide the fate of their lives. Queer people are tired of their equality hanging at the mercy of 9 people.
In my own life, I still fear the judging glares, degrading comments, or horrific acts of violence that I may face when I hold my partner’s hand in public or show any level of affection. I still worry that the rainbow flag adorning my college dorm room could define the rest of my life if I invite the wrong person over.
But, being a queer person is so much bigger than individual experiences. Though we must acknowledge privilege in our community and recognize that we are not a monolith, we are united by a collective struggle. We need leadership that is going to affirm our worth, equality, and our humanity as queer people. This must be accomplished through the amplification of queer voices and real legislative action to crack down on the unjust violence and discrimination we face.
Standing up for the queer community is how I show my pride. Underneath Supreme Court decisions and pride parades, there is a culture pervaded with hatred and inequality that we need to acknowledge and dismantle. Until everyone in our community is supported by our legislators and our legal system in their pursuit to live a safe, equitable, and healthy life, we will never be equal.
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