June 26, 2015 was a historic day. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the rudimentary right to same-sex marriage. This monumental progression towards equalizing the political rights of those with LGBTQIA+ identities helped millions of socially marginalized Americans. While a significant step in the right direction, the right to marry hardly means true equality for those who don’t identify as heterosexual. The fight for LGBTQIA+ acceptance and empowerment is far from over.
Harvard historian Timothy Patrick McCarthy put the problem of non-inclusivity in the movement into perspective when he explained, “There is still widespread inequality within the LGBT community based on race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, nationality—you name it.” Indeed, modern LGBTQIA+ movements are failing to be intersectional, and instead use lenses of inclusivity when it comes to fighting for rights. People of color, the disabled, and the poor who have LGBTQIA+ identities face social exclusion from mainstream social justice movements. The white privilege complex that pervades society and entrenches systems of entitlement exacerbates this effect.
Any LGBTQIA+ movement must respond to the needs of all within the community if it is to be effective; it is time to listen to the stories of the voiceless. At the point where representation in discourse is the most sound tool for societal progression, it is time to expand the conversation. We must build a movement that centers around everyone’s experiences, validation, and safety in order to dismantle the system of structural oppression.
Something is missing from your history textbooks and your newspapers: police militarization and criminalization of LGBTQIA+ youth. A report from the Association for American Progress found that 300,000 gay and transgender youths are detained each year. The study also quantifies that 60 percent of all criminalized gay and transgender youth are people of color.
This not only highlights the stark racism fortified by the prison industrial complex, but also shows the discriminatory and unbalanced brutality used by primarily straight white police to advance racist agendas and carry out perverse incentives.
It’s important that we don’t allow marginalized individuals to be further mistreated by law enforcement or ostracized within the juvenile justice system. Reform within the criminal justice system is long overdue—now is the time for change. The LGBTQIA+ movement must recognize and value experiences, identities, and oppressions in a manner that is inclusive and intersectional. The issues presented here are just a small piece of the larger portrait of violence against marginalized communities that the mainstream movement fails to recognize. Clearly, work needs to be done.
It’s time to rewrite the narrative.