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The importance of gay rights activism

Posted by mandyf on July 21, 2012

Over the past hundred years the LGBT person in America has faced many challenges.The McCarthy era witch hunts, the endless laws which made sure that nearly any action they took could result in social if not legal ramifications, becoming the readily available whipping boy for anything that goes wrong within society whether or not is is remotely logical or not, forced outings, and now the demand to assimilate to be seen as as an equal. Not many people outside of the LGBT community understand the position a queer identified person is put in during this time in history because it is something very unique and in many regards new.As such, the need for every LGBT person to stand up and be an activist for not just their rights, but the rights of future generations is essential.

The call for legal equality under all aspects of the law has given rise to the near necessity for LGBT persons to assimilate to what society wants rather than have the freedom to express their individuality. While the modern gay rights movement does share some similar traits to the push for equality by people of color, there are stark differences which set it apart and make it a very distinct issue. While only very few people of color had the ability to pass successfully as a Caucasian and assimilate to that culture, the LGBT person can if the wish completely suppress their sexual identity in public and assimilate to heterosexual norms at least in outward appearance. Assimilation at its core is a threat to the freedom of individuality.

In fact, many conservative LGBT persons have called for this, but on very odd terms.Over the past 15 to 20 years there has been a movement of LGBT persons whom have called for all brothers and sisters under the rainbow to be out, but not so out it is obvious. It is a very fine line to walk, but the thinking is that there is no way to deny that LGBT people do not exist, but to remind people of this fact is counterproductive to being considered equal. The conservative gay male subscribing to this train of thought may intimate that he is gay, but then go out of his way to appear heterosexual no matter what pains it may cause because they feel rocking the boat is a bad thing. The lesbian may strive in all earnest to appear no different than any middle class working woman even though the rules for lesbians in society are decidedly different than they are for gay men, The post-operative transsexual woman may immediately go into hiding otherwise known as “woodworking” taking great pains to erase her previous history in a male body and demanding all others like her do the same because it poses a danger to everyone if it is known who is who so to speak.

The problems with assimilation regarding activism are many. The first problem is it denies history. LGBT persons have been discriminated against for at least the last 2,000 plus years if one is to believe the written word. Religious institutions regularly point out LGBT persons as being sinners, deviants, ill, and in recent years a threat to society and all the institutions of it. The government itself cannot even seem to decide if LGBT persons are even worthy of equality in regard other than their need to pay taxes in equal proportions to heterosexual persons. Obviously all of that time spent assimilating and staying tucked away in the closet did not work. Why would anyone believe having everyone cram back into it now prove a successful means to achieving equality.

What history has shown us is that when people stand up for what they believe is right, they do get results. The results may not come easily, they may not come in a persons full lifetime, but they can make progress. In the years since the Stonewall Rebellion, significant progress has been made. Laws to help protect against employment and housing discrimination have been passed in many states. Marriage equality has passed in a handful as well, and even the transsexual community which has been the outcast or ugly stepdaughter in the LGBT community for more than half of years since stonewall has experienced an upswing in acceptability and legal protections ensuring equality.

As Harvey Milk was so often quoted as saying “Come out, come out, wherever you are! They vote 2 for 1 for us when they know us.” This was true in 1978, it was true in 1998, and it is still true today. Without activism and being out and visible there is no hope of ever attaining any measure of equality. Being out to only to your closest confidants simply isn’t enough. A person must be out to everyone, which in no way means flaunting their sexuality, but it does mean no marginalizing it, not being ashamed of it, and not running in and out of the closet because it’s the easy thing to do. It means standing up in public and suffering the slings and arrows. Like anything worthwhile it comes at a cost.

The out person that expresses their sexuality may find employment difficult to locate, substandard, stagnated regarding promotions, or under-compensated against similar heterosexual peers. It may mean being an outcast, suffering verbal abuse, or for some it may even mean death. While it sounds extreme to say that, everyone knows all too well the out LGBT person that goes against the grain and is willing to call a foul when one is committed is also the person that often walks around with a target on their back.

With all the negatives that come with being a gay activist, it is something we need in order to not just gain further equality, but to maintain the few rights we have. While so many of us believe that one person can’t make a difference, or that someone else will do their part and ours as well, the reality is that it was that exact thinking which has held us back historically. The most important thing to remember is that gay rights activism isn’t just about gay rights alone, it is about human rights and that is something which affects every single person on the planet.

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