Mead & Hunt wrapped up its pride month programming with a history of LGBTQIA+ people spanning thousands of years. And what better way to end the month than by reflecting on our history and looking toward the future?
People with same-sex attraction, transgender people, asexual people, and people outside the gender binary have always existed and have been part of societies across the globe. It’s impossible to boil that history down into one presentation or one blog post, but there are three major takeaways everyone should know:
Progress is Not Linear
Same-sex relationships and genders outside the binary have, at varying times and locations throughout history, fluctuated in their acceptance.
For example, there is evidence of same-sex relationships in early ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. These relationships looked differently across societies, but they are generally believed to have been normalized, and in some cases, culturally significant. However, homosexuality was made entirely illegal in Rome by 533 AD, and European colonization brought rigid values to cultures that once had a more fluid understanding of gender and sexuality. This is most prominently seen in African and North American societies.
LGBT People Have Had to Fight for Their Right to Exist
Pride month takes place in June to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising that began in June of 1969. LGBT activists had already been fighting for rights for years and Stonewall represented the first major pushback against police harassment and social discrimination. The five days of protests became a symbol of resistance and launched a national discussion on gay rights.
It is these efforts that have led to the progress we’ve seen in the United States in the last 50 years. Without the hard work of activists throughout the Stonewall era, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and beyond, we may never have seen the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 or even the nationwide repeal of anti-sodomy laws in 2003. Nothing the LGBT community has achieved has been freely given, and there is still much work to be done.
We’re Not Done Fighting
The legalization of same-sex marriage is not the end of the fight. Not even close. It wasn’t until 2020 that the US Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees from discrimination. Just a few of the other issues affecting the LGBT community today include:
- Vulnerability of LGBT youth. LGBT youth make up a disproportionately large percentage of homeless youth. Children are often kicked out of their homes after coming out or need to escape abusive situations. This leads to higher rates of involvement in the juvenile justice system.
- Access to medical care. Many LGBT people struggle to find medical providers who can provide proper care, and often face barriers related to insurance coverage. This is especially the case for transgender and intersex people.
- Housing discrimination. As of the publication of this blog, there are no federal housing protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity/presentation. Some protections exist at the state level, but this leaves many people vulnerable.
These are complex topics with more detail and nuance than could ever be covered in one sitting. If any of these topics pique your interest, I encourage you to do your own research and share your discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues.