“All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more - and no less - heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labor organizers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century. We are ordinary people, living our lives, and trying as civil-rights activist Dorothy Cotton said, to 'fix what ain't right' in our society.”
Senator Tammy Baldwin
The Stonewall Rebellion is widely recognized as the event that sparked the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. On June 28, 1969, patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a tiny gay bar in New York City, fought back against police as they raided the premises.
Black transgender women played key roles in the starting point of LGBTQ+ equality, although their contributions have often been overlooked, even within the gay community. In My Stonewall Is Black, writer and activist George M. Johnson tackles this issue.
In the 51 years since Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ community has made significant strides toward equality, including the landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2015 giving same-sex couples the right to marry.
However, LGBTQ+ rights – from access to healthcare and workplace protections, to the right to adopt children, or even to marry – continue to be undermined. In October 2020, two Supreme Court Justices lambasted marriage equality, signaling the right for gays to marry may once again be at risk.
Ongoing discrimination – rooted in homophobia and transphobia – has a significant negative impact on members of the LGBTQ+ community, including:
- Increased physical and emotional health risks
- Becoming victims of violence
- Career and financial instability
- Higher rates of homelessness, especially among LGBTQ+ youth
With these risks in mind, today’s LGBTQ+ activists are not only focused on policies and legislation that protect their communities from discrimination, they are increasingly focused on issues such as intersectionality, transgender rights, and achieving greater representation of marginalized groups within the LGBTQ+ community.
As one activist says in this PBS article, “We’re not just looking for progress. We’re looking for liberation. And liberation goes beyond just the legislation; that also goes to us being able to live our lives without the threat of violence and murder.”
TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Do one or more of the following…
If you want to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, you have to learn the basics, and this LGBTQ 101 presentation by One Iowa is a great place to start! You will learn the difference between sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in addition to a summary of what the LGBTQ acronym means.
According to Iowa Safe Schools, 76% of LGBTQ youth in Iowa have been harassed or assaulted in the past year. This infographic (PDF) shares additional statistics about the queer youth experience in Iowa and highlights several ways you can support LGBTQ+ youth.
National Geographic’s Stonewall at 50 features photos, quotes, and short videos that tell stories of LGBTQ+ resistance and resilience. The stories were collected as part of photographer Robin Hammond’s project Where Love is Illegal, created in 2014 with the mission of ending persecution based on sexuality and gender identity.
Continue your personal education with this reading list (PDF) featuring options that will appeal to readers regardless of where they are along their journey of understanding, embracing, and supporting LGBTQ+ equality.
For organizations or businesses that want to create a more inclusive culture, consider registering one or more of your employees for One Iowa’s LGBTQ Workplace Culture Summit 2020. This year’s summit will be shared virtually via four individual sessions. Topics include workplace best practices, #JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) in the workplace, building diversity and inclusion initiatives with intention, and more.
CONVERSATION PIECE: Art Addressing Equity
Artist: It Gets Better Tour, produced by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
Title: It Gets Better Residency Week Supports LGBTQ+ Youth
Date of piece: February 2020
Link: YouTube Video
Description: The it gets better tour brings the experience and message of the online It Gets Better Project to communities and audiences by blending music, theater, and multimedia into a work for the stage. The cast brings to life real stories from gay, lesbian, transgender, and straight allies from around the country. A dedicated ensemble travels to communities nationwide to produce a week of educational workshops culminating in a moving musical theater performance. They bring their mission to uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQ+ youth, for a week of outreach. The company members lead workshops in city and county government offices, schools, and other non-profits, developing community resources and connections, leading up to the culminating mainstage performance.
In February 2020, the it gets better tour collaborated with Des Moines Performing Arts and partners throughout Des Moines to spark community dialogue and provide supports for local LGBTQ+ youth.
"I am sharing this local example of how the arts can serve as a catalyst for dialogue, allyship and community partnerships as we work for social justice. What partnerships and/or connections can you activate within your sphere of influence to make a difference?"
Des Moines Performing Arts