July 3, 2011

Queer Issue: The Dangers of Single Issue Activism

On June 24th, history was made when the New York Senate made marriage equality into law. This was a huge and hard fought victory the impact of which will be felt for a long time to come. But as we celebrate this victory, I am concerned that we will quickly forget the political sacrifices that were made to achieve this bills passage. One of the biggest losses was the tabling yet again of GENDA (Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act), a bill that would ensure equality for Transgender/Transsexual individuals.

It is important to note here that the facts, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda are as follows:
Transgender New Yorkers face severe discrimination. For example, a report released this year by the Empire State Pride Agenda showed that: 20.7% of transgender New Yorkers have incomes under $10,000 a year. Most recently, in 2011, Findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey completed by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force report that 74% of transgender New Yorkers experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, 20% lost a job and 37% were not hired at all. An alarming 18% of transgender New Yorkers had become homeless because of their gender identity or expression. Health care discrimination for transgender New Yorkers is also very alarming with a 17% rate of individuals who were refused medical care due to their gender identity or expression.

So while Gays and Lesbians are free to enjoy marriage equality, this freedom only came by once again forcing Transgender/transexxual issues onto the back burner. This is simply wrong.

When we talk of LGBTQIA issues or Queer Issues or Gay Issues, we often speak as if though one can focus on those issues alone and no others. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When we address homophobia but and fail to address racism, we only address a portion of the burden born by LGBTQIA individuals from ethnic minorities.

When we fail to address the issues of poverty and homelessness, we ignore a population that is disproportionally made of LGBTQIA youth who ran away from violent settings caused or encouraged by homophobic parents.

When we fail to address the numerous issues of senior citizens, we fail to address the aging populations of GLBTQIA whose problems are exacerbated by laws and care systems that fail to acknowledge life-long partners who are not spouses.

One of the bigger issues of the past decades, the drawn out U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also bears mention. While we talk about the issue of national security, we must not forget that in the resulting chaos and political stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, resulted in increased dangers for gay men in those areas. I can still remember reading the stories of gay men who were hunted down by homophobic gangs that formed as a result of the invasions and subjected to horrors beyond anything that was done to Mathew Sheppard. Newsweek reported in Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Do Kill that more than 430 gay Iraqi men had been killed for being gay since the U.S. invasion started in 2003. That report was made back in 2008. In 2006, Jennifer Copestake in an article entitled Gays Flee Iraq as Shia death squads find a new target which was published in The Observer, that:
The country is seeing a sudden escalation of brutal attacks on what are being called the 'immorals' - homosexual men and children as young as 11 who have been forced into same-sex prostitution. There is growing evidence that Shia militias have been killing men suspected of being gay and children who have been sold to criminal gangs to be sexually abused. The threat has led to a rapid increase in the numbers of Iraqi homosexuals now seeking asylum in the UK because it has become impossible for them to live safely in their own country.

In short, what I am getting at is that we cannot assume that the problems of other people cannot be related to our own. Have we forgotten the saying that "an injustice for one, is an injustice for all"? Not to sound too new age, but many issues are more connected then we think and what affects one part of the population, will usually have an effect upon the whole.

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