No, this is not merely a reference to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical – it is a question that has been bubbling under the surface of the gay and lesbian community, to varying degrees, for quite some time now.
Same-sex marriage has become almost an inevitability across the Western world. Horrified to learn that Australia is now behind even Texas in affording gay and lesbian people the right to marry, I was recently bouyed by an article suggesting that health care was the next frontier in the fight for queer equality. It would seem to me that, once our community overcomes the marriage barrier we have been banging our heads against for the better part of half a century, we must open ourselves up to a much larger, more diverse, but infinitely more complex set of issues to overcome.
I use the term ‘gay and lesbian community’ above intentionally, because these are the people who inherently frame where the debate goes from here. Having all but entirely succeeded in securing the right to marry, we are faced with either resigning ourselves to the white picket fences of our matrimonial dreams or continuing to stand up to queerphobia in every facet of society. Many, I would argue, will see no need to keep rallying, writing letters, picketing homophobes (indeed, some do not see even the need right now). Many will think that equality has been achieved, and that queerphobia is all but dead in the dust as the last vestiges of the older, conservative, bigoted generation slowly fade. This, unfortunately, is very far from reality.
Trans people have known where we should be heading for a while now. In a time when there have been eight reported murders of transgender women in the US alone so far this year (and it is only February); when the suicide of a trans teenager highlights the crucial need for education, parental acceptance, and access to physical and mental health services; when studies find that between 40 to 50 percent of trans people will attempt suicide (14 times higher than their cisgender counterparts); when over 80 percent of transgender youth report being bullied at school. We cannot ignore that queer youth – trans in particular – are being oppressed to the point of illness and death for not conforming to social ideas about gender, and what it means to be a ‘real’ man or woman. We simply cannot erase the fact that this is the same kind of queerphobia that gay and lesbian people have faced for a long time, merely in a different form.
That is only one tip of one iceberg. Queer refugees across the globe are fleeing torture, corrective rape, and execution. This, in the face of countries such as Australia testing the ‘gayness’ of refugees by asking them about their promiscuity or gauging their knowledge of cultural tropes like Madonna, Oscar Wilde, and Bette Midler; or Germany reportedly advising refugees that Uganda (home of the ‘Kill the Gays’ legislation) is a safe place to live for queer people; or the United States deporting a queer refugee, who was then tortured and executed in a Honduran prison. We cannot ignore the fact that we live in a very ‘privileged’ society – one that does not condone our torture, rape, or execution based solely on our gender or sexuality. We owe it to queer refugees to, funnily enough, provide refuge from that level of violent, lethal queerphobia.
As a community, our fight extends beyond the white picket fence. Our straight allies have stood with us in the long, arduous battle to gain rights, whether they be to marry, to adopt, to surrogacy, wills and estates, powers of attorney, or to be free from discrimination in the workplace and the schoolyard. Now, it is our turn – our duty, really – to show that same level of allyship to those in our own community that are facing some of the most abhorrent forms of queerphobic oppression. Oppression that is resulting in their deaths by the droves.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock
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