In October 2017, news that Hollywood legend Harvey Weinstein had sexually assaulted over a dozen women in two decades hit the press, drawing an international response of solidarity through social media in the form of #MeToo and opening a whirlwind of awareness and stories of sexual harassment from women in all avenues of life, from students to women serving in the military to female politicians and celebrities. And while such a conversation was certainly overdue, it was far from perfect.
What #MeToo omitted were the shockingly high rates of assault and rape in the LGBTQ+ community. Already plagued by above average rates of homelessness, discrimination, poverty and marginalization from sexual education curriculum, under-reporting of assault becomes magnified. In the U.S., 40% of gay and 47% of bisexual men had experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, while 44% of lesbian and 61% of bisexual women had been raped or assaulted. And such numbers are those who come forth — 85% of victim advocates report to have worked with a victim who was denied service due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These numbers only become more horrific as we dig deeper.
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47% of transgender individuals had been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, not to mention the even higher rates among trans people of color — a whopping 65% of American Indian respondents, 58% of Middle Eastern respondents and 53% of Black respondents had been sexually assaulted in their lives. And individuals in positions of power can compound such rates — over 20% of transgender prisoners report being assaulted by guards and correctional officers and 17% of trans individuals in homeless shelters report assault.
The #MeToo movement sparked important conversations and reformation at national, state and local levels but it was not perfect. At the same time, we cannot make good the enemy of perfection, nor can we associate “good” with “good enough.” We must be careful not to become complicit in progress being made. This pride month, let us bring together important movements, celebrate how far we’ve come and recognize that there is still progress that can be made in merging LGBTQ+ advocacy with mainstream social media movements and conversations and including those topics in our everyday lives.