The biggest enemy to freedom and equality for gays is apathy.
Most people who ‘support gay rights’, support it on a theoretical level and never stop to do anything about it. They believe wholeheartedly that people should be treated equally but they, perhaps understandably, feel unaffected by the oppression of homosexuals. Why should they care?
Here’s why. To instigate change in a society, not only the oppressed but also the bystanders must demand it. The blatant immorality of a situation is revealed when people who are seemingly unaffected by the oppression, demand change and fight for their fellow citizens’ rights.
So, my first point is, we need your support.
Transgender and Genderqueer
Transgender rights are different, but the same concept still applies. For gay, lesbian, bisexual and genderqueer (GLBT) rights, I spoke about the people who believe in their equality but do nothing for it. However, transgender rights are hindered for a different reason.
Unfortunately, there are fewer people who agree wholeheartedly with transgender rights, and this stems from a lack of education about the whole concept of gender identity.
Gender throughout the history of the world has oppressed people and the oppression of transsexuals and ‘transgendered’ individuals is no different. We must recognize that somebody’s body has nothing to do with their heart and should in no way factor into how they are treated.
People should be treated lovingly and respectfully whether they identify as men, women or genderqueer, they should be given the same rights and privileges. We must as a society work to educate the people around us about gender identity, and stop the hatred and violence towards them.
My second point is that if you live in the United States or any democratic nation, or if you have been raised like a big part of the modern world, to believe in the fundamental human rights of liberty and equality then you should recognize this movement as a struggle for civil rights and you should be outraged at the atrocities happening.
If you follow the sentiment of the United States constitution, you should recognize that when a government or a society is not carrying out the will of those within, when they deny them their own basic rights; that we have a duty to each other and to ourselves, to ensure the safety of our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, lovers and children.
For me, this movement is perfectly summed up in the slogan of the French Revolution (the Revolution unfortunately has given the slogan a bad name): Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
What are we striving for? The freedom to our bodies, our lives and our love, the equality we deserve as human beings, with the promise that we will stand together in the face of tyranny and, as brothers and sisters, protect each other’s rights to life.
When people think of GLBT rights, they automatically think of gay marriage. While big-name goals like legalization of gay marriage in the United States are incredibly important, we have to remember that we’re fighting for a lot of other things too.
We have to remember that in Brazil one person is murdered because of their sexuality/gender identity every day, we have to remember the thousands of kids who have taken their own lives as a result of being bullied, and we have to remember the hundreds of countries where being gay and transgender/genderqueer is still illegal.
We have to fight for education, for understanding—we have to change things socially and culturally, not just politically. Until parents raise their children to be loving and accepting, until schools stop tolerating hate and discrimination, until the media stops trying so hard not to alienate homophobic and transphobic viewers, there will always be hate, bullying, violence, suicide, and exclusion aimed at GLBT people.
We have to show the world that we can’t be intimidated into silence. We have to be proud of ourselves and not let anyone’s ignorance stop us. We have to bring about a shift in the ideas of this society.
So you want to help…now what?
Even the smallest things are helpful, and obviously there’s a range of things that, depending on who you are will be more or less doable (you can sign petitions, or you can join protests or get arrested—obviously, the latter ideas aren’t things most people want to do.) So here’s a list we’ve come up with, so you can do what you can and want to do and make a difference:
- Sign petitions. www.AllOut.org (this sounds useless, but it helps enormously).
- March/protest. Check online to find marches/parades/protests near you online.
- Check out this list of 52 things you can do to help fight for transgender equality.
- Go to sites like Yahoo Answers, find questions about GLBT related subjects and answer them. Most of these questions come from kids who get no information about these topics except from off the internet, which is dangerous. The more people on the internet telling them that being gay/transgender is okay and educating them about it, the better.
- Start conversations: there are people in all our lives, who disagree with us about gay and transgender rights. The best thing you can do is to talk to these people. Show them your side. The more you teach people about gay and transgender rights, the better. There are also people who support gay and transgender rights and do nothing about it. Teaching these people that we need them to fight with us, that we are still being oppressed, is really important.
- Pass out and post fliers in your community. You can make your own, or contact us and we’ll email you some. We’ve been handing out fliers a lot these past few days, and it’s actually rather difficult to get people to take them and look at them, but even if they read them and then throw them out, they’ll still learn and change even a little.
- Help stop the bullying. This is probably the most important and most difficult task. The best you can do is watch yourself, because we all bully in little ways. Most people don’t want your pity, but try to find people you can offer support, friendship and love to, people who need it. It’s hard to give advice for this, and it’s such an important problem, but I’d say, showing people that you care and not judging them is important and more appreciated than you might realize.
- Get in trouble with the police (hopefully not real trouble). Borrow something from the Occupy Wall Street movement, it supports the effort enormously. This is the fun one, that nobody wants to do. But it comes down to anything you can do to get noticed.
Most importantly, start to talk about this, start to think about this, start to fight for this. And help us change our world.
Jane Dare is a musician, singer-songwriter, GLBT rights activist, student, anarchist, and artist. She lives in NYC, drinks too much coffee, and loves literature. She also skateboards and takes photographs.
Jane, Bryn, and Frank are working and blogging together @ thenextrevolution.tumblr.com to fight against homophobia and transphobia. They believe in civil disobedience and revolt and are slowly trying to turn the fight for equal rights into what it should be: a revolution. They love literature, music, art, philosophy, and poetry. They live in NYC, have an alternative rock band and they are also Starbucks addicts.
Editors: Sharon Pingitore / Andrea B.