By Lillian Spiller
Since the legalization of gay marriage in the United States during the summer of 2015, there has been an increasingly prevalent belief that rights for the LGBTQ community have been realized. However, rights for the community still have a long way to go.
Homosexuality, for instance, is still punishable by death in approximately 13 countries, and LGBT relationships are still illegal in approximately 72 countries. Even if we focus on the US and its surrounding territories, rights still vary wildly based on each state and territory. This is especially seen in the southeast, where rights provided to the community are either unclear or nonexistent, with all explicit rights in those territories mandated by the federal rulings and no other explicit state laws that provide any real protection. In addition, Congress is still determining whether a business can fire an employee for being LGBT.
In America alone, LGBTQ rights have only recently reached the point of tentative acceptance. Despite the victories the LGBTQ community has achieved in legislation, American culture and society still harbor a distaste for the community (most seen in religious sentiment and protest, notably in the practices and beliefs of Westboro Baptist Church with their vocal protests at pride festivals and other gatherings). While there have been attempts to educate on these issues in the form of extended coverage in schools, a great deal of the younger generations don’t have an inherently positive view of the community because of how their parents or families raised them.
But it could be argued that there’s a notable amount of acceptance, especially with many companies featuring “pride” collections. The issue with this is that these companies only advertise and offer these products during June, also known as Pride Month. The practice of rainbow capitalism, or marketing towards the LGBT community, spreads a notion that the community is something to be commodified when popular, not a human aspect to be explored and accepted.
The main point to be made is that while there is a much better awareness of the LGBTQ community (decriminalization, orientations no longer recognized as mental illnesses etc.), acceptance hasn’t made any great strides aside from the legalization of gay marriage. Though it’s admirable that some companies try to “celebrate” the community with products (that may have some of their sales revenue donated to charity), it seems superficial when such things are offered only during June.
While we can’t just stand by and hope that those uneducated will one day decide to become more open, we can’t force the community and its allies to be the sole facilitator of educating them. Those who don’t know any better should also make the effort to learn what is being taught to them. Allies should strive to do this as well along with their support of those in the community. Though a change in perception won’t happen overnight or probably anytime soon, it isn’t an excuse to give up and never even start trying to change it.