The women in our network know this phrase well as it is one part of our credo, however for our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community it takes on additional meaning. Whether we call it being visible, coming out, or being our authentic selves the unfortunately reality for many LGBTQ+ individuals in the US is that visibility leads to increased violence.
We saw that only too well Saturday night at Club Q in Colorado Springs. While more details are still being released, we know that 5 wonderful people died last night and many more are in critical condition. Our hearts mourn for them and their families.
While we invite you to take a moment of silence for them, I’d encourage you all to take a minute and reflect. If you are in the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps take a moment to reflect on moments and places you’ve felt seen and safe, reflect on how you want people to show up for you, and reflect on how you want organizations to show up for you as well. You might consider reflecting on what you know about the history of LGBTQ+ rights in the US, on any preconceived notions you might have, and on how we can work to end this cycle of violence. As you continue thinking about this, continue reading and learn more about the history of LGBTQ+ achievements, struggles, and potential steps forward.
If the total history of LGBTQ+ people was chronicled it would be as long as the history of humanity and touch just as many continents. It is important to remember that LGBTQ+ history is our history and always has been. So where to start?
In January of 1962, Illinois was the first state in the union to decriminalize homosexuality. It took another 41 years before this becomes the law of the land and same-sex sexual conduct is decriminalized across the United States.
Throughout that time is a series of patch work laws, constitutional cases, and advocates working to advance LGTBQ+ issues. For example in 1996, Hawaii became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. It takes until 2012 for a major US political party to support same-sex marriage on their platform and until 2015 when all state-wide bans on same-sex marriage were overturned.
These achievements came after years of work from advocates, protests, and countless lives lost as people fought for their basic human rights.
So where are we now?
Despite these victories, we know that unfortunately LGBTQ+ people, particularly youth, are still facing many challenges and in some cases fighting for their lives. For example, compared to peers they are 4 times more likely to commit suicide. In 2019, a study found that most LGBTQ+ students are not safe at Minnesota schools and similar studies have been conducted across many states (read your state report here). For adults and youth alike, gender affirming care, access to appropriate resources, and issues like being able to use the correct bathroom are still being debated and legislated.
While legislation criminalizing hate-crimes has been passed, the incident on Saturday and other tragedies like it, go to show that legislating hate doesn’t eliminate it.
So what can I do?
Be Fierce Advocates of Each Other
Stand up for LGBTQ+ individuals at your workplace and fight to normalize correct pronoun use, fair healthcare access and insurance, and adopt policies of community and equity.
If you don’t have LGBTQ+ voices in the room, fight until your colleagues are present.
Say yes to helping each other:
Consider ways you can show up!
Volunteer at local LGBTQ+ organizations in your community.
Donate to organizations who are providing support like:
Be unabashedly visible:
Speak up and share about LGBTQ+ issues when meeting with friends.
Ask your local representative what they are doing to take action on this issue.
Reinforce Her Voice:
Respond to posts from LGBTQ+ creators and help amplify them!
So what will you do?
We know that actually taking a moment and writing down your goals increases the chance you’ll complete that. So, if you are an ally, I’d encourage you all to take an extra moment and write a comment sharing one way you have been an ally and one new step you are going to take today. If you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, we would also love to learn from you on what else you would like to see added to this list. How Women Leads wants to make sure you feel safe and seen, so please feel free to leave a comment or reach out privately.