2024-07-22 12:56 PM

The LGBTQ+ Reach: June 27 – July 3, 2024

I’ve previously shared with our readers that I — along with many in our community — was bullied a lot in school. At my request, I spent all but four years of my secondary education attending schools outside the neighborhood district, changing schools six times before graduating.

Being bullied in school teaches you some hard lessons: adults aren’t always able or willing to protect you, friends sometimes remain silent to avoid becoming targets themselves, strangers repeat gossip out of pure boredom, and parents of bullies are often unrepentant bullies themselves.

When you’re young, you’re kinda stuck where you are… at least until your parents pick you up. Because my parents both worked full-time, between being pupil-placed and their work schedules I spent a lot of time in School Aged Child Care (SACC) before and after the school day during elementary school.

Having been bullied in bathrooms before, I refused to use one for the remainder of my childhood. I recall regularly enduring deep, blinding stomach pains while waiting to be picked up, terrified to use the shared facility, focusing all of my energy on keeping my suffering undetectable to avoid any unwanted attention.
When the issue of Trans kids using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identities, I remember the agonizing waves of pain, biting my cheeks as hard as I could until the pain receded, breaking into a sweat. It wasn’t until well into my 20s that I would use a public restroom under any circumstances. To this day, my inner monologue still has to encourage me into using one.

Despite progress over the last decade for LGBTQ+ individuals, the queer experience is still sub-par on the ground. Even if there are only a couple bullies out of hundreds of students… that is no comfort to the students being bullied. Being distracted harms educational outcomes.

The Little City is the most progressive part of the Commonwealth, with about two thirds of voters choosing progressive candidates. This may mean nearly all electeds are Democrats, but it also means that one in three individuals is willing to either support extreme anti-LGBTQ+ views, or accept those views in candidates they support in pursuit of other interests.

One in three means the day-to-day lives of all LGBTQ+ individuals are still riddled with pervasive microaggressions, hostility, gatekeeping, and antagonism — from people who don’t know then, but actively seek to harm them.

On Sunday I attended a local LGBTQ+ welcoming congregation, and this week the sermon made an increasingly-common mistake. In referencing the recent evolution of the denomination surrounding LGBTQ+ inclusion — and the internal battle that took place within the congregation — so much effort was taken to avoid criticizing anti-LGBTQ+ views that it almost undermined the church’s inclusive stance.
The most frustrating challenge the LGBTQ+ community faces is not the hate from those who oppose us; it’s the silent submission they are able to bully into our allies. We saw that in the Democratic primary last year, where many elected progressives willingly turned a blind eye to homophobia, so willing to sacrifice the LGBTQ+ individuals they claim to support for deeper pockets.

That politician, who lost their primary after more than two decades in office, just published a book calling our editor a “flamboyant leftist with a public loathing of traditional Christianity.” For the record, our editor has his Master’s degree in Divinity and attends a church. I also wouldn’t call him flamboyant, but the homophobic often miss the nuances.

The fight for LGBTQ+ equality has been hard-fought over centuries, but the last decade has seen nearly all of the progress. That progress happened because people spoke up, not because people changed their minds. LGBTQ+ people came out, and many families chose them over hateful ideology. The silence was broken.

Often attempts to show objectivity result in rewarding hateful views and behavior with implied credibility through “equal” time.

In a court setting, the burden of proof is supposed to lie with the accuser. In any other setting, including the “court” of public opinion, damage is done by an accusation being made regardless of proof.
Forty years ago this October, The New York Times reported scientific “evidence” that AIDS may be transmissible through saliva (it was two more years before this was proven incorrect).

Thirty years ago in the mid-1990s, students like myself watched videos about Ryan White, a young boy who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion, and as a result was denied access to his middle school in 1985. This was part of a public education campaign intended to humanize the virus and battle stigma based on disinformation (in particular debunked myths related to the aforementioned Times report), largely an effort to reinforce that HIV-AIDS cannot be transmitted through water fountains, public pools, kissing (even “deep-throat kissing,” a term I wish had never been uttered).

Twenty years ago last month, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to be legally married.18 years ago, 57 percent of Virginia voters supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the Commonwealth.

This October marks ten years since gay marriage became legal in Virginia. As I write this on Wednesday, it is nine years to the day since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the United States.
In contrast, it was more than 100 years after slavery was abolished that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated… and another 60 years later we still see racism behind efforts to ban books, whitewash history taught in schools, justify (if not celebrate) excessive police force, and myriad evidence of pervasive and systemic gatekeeping by “polite society.”

Silence is only polite to the oppressor.

Speak up!

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