On June 26th of last year, the Supreme Court handed down a historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that granted same-sex couples the freedom to marry nationwide. With such a momentous win and cries of resounding support erupting from the steps of the Supreme Court building and beyond, it was hard to believe that in the coming year so much controversy and tragedy would continue to inundate the LGBTQ community. We won the freedom to marry whomever we please, so everything else (aka our rights to not be discriminated against) would come easily and naturally, right? An astounding majority supports the freedom to love, so our lawmakers are bound to implement basic protections for the community, right? LGBTQ equality is a civil rights issue, right?
The doubts began to work themselves into my mind shortly after the courts approved marriage equality. A few county clerks in some southern states, most notably Kim Davis, outright refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples (aka refused to do their jobs in the positions to which they were elected) citing religious convictions. Davis’ “conscientious objection” eventually landed her in jail, which the left claimed as a victory against bigotry. However, a significant support system backed by then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and right-wing cash money formed around her, turning her into a celebrity and a martyr all at once. The religious right made itself known that they will not go quietly.
More controversy driven by gross transphobia exploded this past spring when the state of North Carolina passed House Bill 2 that would force transgender people to use public restrooms according to the sex they were assigned at birth. On top of that, depending on how large your employer is, the bill also ushered in legalized discrimination based on race, age, religion, sex, and disability. The transphobic rhetoric specifically became a talking point to distract from the civil rights violating bill, and a flurry of other “bathroom bills” were introduced into state legislatures across the nation. In less than year following a historic marriage equality win, how could the anti-LGBTQ sentiment be so strong, and what would lie ahead for the community? Unfortunately, sheer tragedy.
Less than a month ago, on June 12th, a gunman, who claimed he had ties to ISIL in a 911 phone call (these claims are still unsubstantiated), opened fire on the Orlando, Florida gay bar called Pulse, where he killed 49 LGBTQ people and allies in an act of sheer hatred for the community. Weeks later, I grieve typing these words. They are sharp with sadness and guilt, knowing that it could’ve happened in any city at any gay bar because that’s how prevalent anti-LGBTQ sentiment had become.
It hurt me knowing that my community was so specifically targeted and hated by someone so much that he would destroy 49 lives. It scared me even more knowing that he wasn’t the only person who felt this deep-seated resentment and anger toward the LGBTQ community. I don’t know if any words I say will ever sum up how deeply the attack in Orlando hurt me. Just earlier that weekend while walking down the street, a man had asked for my number while I was at work (humble brag), and I politely declined and told him from across the street that I am happily in a relationship with my (awesome) boyfriend. We laughed, and as I walked back to work, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of safety knowing that in 2016, I could proudly proclaim that I am in a relationship with another man without fear of repercussion. Orlando nearly robbed me of that sense of safety.
While Orlando reminded the LGBTQ community that the world is not always a safe place for all the grandeur and flair we bring to the table, our pride is still unwavering. Hatred and anger never win in the end. At the end of the day, the LGBTQ community continues to stand for the beautiful parts of this life. Love and commitment, pride, freedom, and happiness have no place for hatred. While the road to equality for the LGBTQ community has been paved with turbulence and controversy, especially in the past twelve months, we refuse to quit on ourselves and will continue to be proud in every way.
Photo One courtesy of author . Photo Two