Commentary: We Matter

 

LGBTQ. It’s an acronym that has slowly but surely become part of our vernacular over the years. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning. A plus sign is usually added at the end to encompass all other types of sexual identity including asexual and pansexual.

LGBTQ+ Americans have been under attack for decades in this country. In state after state employees were fired, tenants were evicted, and people were murdered just because they were part of the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, in many parts of our country, this still happens today. In 24 states today, in the “greatest country in the history of the world,” an LGBTQ American could walk into their boss’s office, say that they are gay or lesbian and be fired on the spot without recourse. In 44 states in 2017 America the barbaric and medieval practice of conversion therapy is still legal. This “therapy” allows licensed medical professionals to use electroshock therapy and other physical “remedies” as well as talk therapy to “convert” LGBTQ teens to heterosexuals. (Connecticut will hopefully ban this torturous practice by passing HB 6695 currently pending in the Connecticut General Assembly for action this session.) And in several states, there are absolutely no protections for transgender individuals — 25 transgender persons were murdered in America…just in 2016.

The rates for suicide, depression, and drug use are statistically higher in LGBTQ teens due to bullying at school, no support structure from loved ones, and a general isolationism. LGBTQ Americans suffer every single day whether it be internally or externally. We suffer with implicit discrimination — the second look because our speech is accented by a feminine tone that “shouldn’t” be there for example. And explicit discrimination – the name calling and sometimes plain “I don’t like you people.” Now, this isn’t true in all parts of our diverse country. Thankfully, Connecticut is an exemplary state when it comes to protections and equality of all people.

Recently, the President and Congress have begun discussing the types of questions that will be asked in the 2020 Census — the sacred decennial process that counts every single American. It provides us with loads of data and is even so influential that all boundary lines of the Congress and state legislatures are redrawn based on population shifts. The decennial census is a snapshot of America.

In an early draft of questions to be included in the 2020 Census identifying sexual orientation and gender identity were on the list. In the next iteration of questions to consider, at the urging of the Trump administration, this question was removed. Many news outlets have reported that this “erasure” was “inadvertent” and that the President and Congress are at the very early stages of beginning the process of deciding which questions will be in the 2020 Census. Whether it was an inadvertent omission or one by design, this leads to a bigger national conversation.

I am a gay American. I matter. All LGBTQ Americans matter. For those that believed the legalization of same sex marriage was the be all and end all of the LGBTQ fight for equality I am sorry to say that they are wrong. It was just the beginning. Being LGBTQ cuts across all genders, all races, all socioeconomic statuses — every characteristic that one can be. No one should be killed, or beaten, or isolated, or looked at any differently just because they are LGBTQ. The issues facing LGBTQ Americans are issues that everyone faces. LGBTQ Americans have to pay their mortgage, have to buy groceries, want to be able to spoil their children. In this case, the social issues are intimately linked with the economic issues.

I admit that the Obama administration did not start out as the most gay friendly group. However, by the end of his two terms President Obama and Vice President Biden were the most ardent supporters of the LGBTQ movement. The current administration has decided to take a different tact — one of exclusion. President Trump and the staunchly conservative Vice President Pence have decided to overturn many of President Obama’s LGBTQ friendly rules. It is also rumored that a very damaging anti-LGBTQ Executive Order is coming soon although that remains to be seen. I respect those who are conservative and their opinions, however to actively seek to remove and abolish the civil rights of a group I cannot stand for.

I have faced discrimination, explicit and implicit. It hurts. I hope that the President and Congress will reconsider asking questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 Census. I want to be counted for who I am. I have no apologies or excuses for who I am or what I am. LGBTQ Americans are people too. LGBTQ Americans deserve to be recognized and counted. We exist. We matter.

Please sign the petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/put-lgbt-questions-back-2020-census.

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