2019 was quite a remarkable year for the LGBTQ+ community. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently investigated if it is possible for LGBTQ+ people to be discriminated against by their employers. Countries such as Brunei, Uganda, Kenya, and Gabon have begun the process of criminalizing gay sex, a stark contrast to countries such as Botswana which has legalized gay sex and Taiwan, Ecuador, and Northern Ireland which have legalized gay marriage. Brazil has recognized homophobia and transphobia as a crime, and Germany has criminalized conversion therapy.
LGBTQ+ rights are a political statement in these countries — directly contrasting conservative religions and going against the traditional roles of gender and sexuality. This is specifically relevant to an event that occurred in Zambia.
Recently, the U.S. Ambassador for Zambia, Daniel Foote, found himself being removed from his post due to comments he made on the country’s position on LGBTQ+ folk. Ambassador Daniel Foote released a press statement criticizing the Zambia government for not being more open to meeting with him and on the 15 year sentencing of two gay men who were in a relationship. After this release, Zambia told the U.S. State Department that the position of an ambassador is no longer tenable, which could be perceived as Foote being no longer welcome in the country.
This is a devastating loss of an LGBTQ+ ally in a country that is less welcoming of those who do not confine to heterosexual or cisgender roles. Unfortunately, the pressure for gay people to remain closeted or quiet is not that unusual, especially not with countries that are more conservatively religious or adopt traditional gender roles. This is just a publicized example because Zambia is an African country with financial strife and America is the seemingly better country in terms of its tolerance.
For politicians and for their supporters, LGBTQ+ issues are still a confusing topic as evident in the multitude of events that have occurred in this past year from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling coming up to Germany criminalizing conversion therapy. Simply put, those who are not members of the community are frightened because they don’t understand why these people can’t be like everybody else. Why do these people not follow the gender roles and strict religious practices that everyone else does? Why do LGBTQ+ people want to be so different? Why do LGBTQ+ people want to be so special?
In truth, LGBTQ+ people do want to be like everyone else. Transgender people and people of various genders want rights, want to be respected. They want to be equal as everyone else is. Queer people, whether it be LGBTQ+ or any other sexual/romantic orientation, want the opportunity to marry, build a home together with a family and a job. They want to live a normal, boring life where they are not persecuted against. But the desire to have that is inherently political because it goes against what the “normal” idea of a citizen is– a heterosexual cisgender person.
I’d like to point out (and you’re going to have to take it anecdotally) that many kids who were LGBT back in the “good old days” killed themselves, hid in the closet or lived in toxic shame, just because they weren’t visible doesn’t mean they weren’t there. 💔
— RealDorisR1234 (@R1234Real) November 20, 2019
People tend to be scared of what they do not understand. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is something people are uneducated of still and confused by, and that is why there are so many obstacles for LGBTQ+ folk all over the world. There have been significant steps forward for the rights of the queer community, but in countries including America, there is still hesitancy on letting transgender, gender-variant, gender-queer, and more people who identify as gay have rights. Integrating politics and queerness is going to be very difficult for governments trying to return back to tradition or are very religious, as seen by the Zambia incident. As negative as it sounds, politics and queerness may never work together. Politics is geared towards people who are powerful and most secure in society, such as a white middle class cisgender heterosexual man. Queer people don’t always fit that mold and advocate for what the majority wants, and that makes them less of a priority for politicians to address or reach out too.
Queer people don’t always fit that mold and advocate for what the majority wants, and that makes them less of a priority for politicians to address or reach out too.
The rise of Pete Buttigieg as a Democratic candidate for the presidency seems to be a move forward. As the first openly gay man who is receiving traction for the Democratic party, it appears that the LGBTQ+ community is finally being represented. Yet, he represents a part of the LGBTQ+ community that has privilege– he is a white, cisgender, Harvard educated man who has been accused of tailoring his gayness to straight audiences.
In his 2015 op-ed for the South Bend Tribune, he said his gayness was as significant as having brown hair– something that not all LGBTQ+ people are fortunate to say in their lives. Additionally, he made it very clear that he monogamously dated men, specifically that he married the first man that he met: a man he met on Hinge rather than Grindr. This is not a story that is unusual, but it also is exclusionary to people who date more than one person and really shames queer folk for having non-monogamous sex.
Whether or not Buttigieg means to exclude other members of the LGBTQ+ community, he is modifying his story. Patenting his gayness in a way that’s more digestible and acceptable to religious straight folk. Buttigieg is trying to present himself to straight folk as the gay person whose sexuality is not important, should not be talked about that much, and his relationship should not be that important. He doesn’t outwardly advocate for LGBTQ+ rights or discrimination, because he doesn’t want to differentiate himself from his cisgender heterosexual peers. He doesn’t want to talk about how he is different because he is gay, and he doesn’t want to talk about how other members of the LGBTQ+ community just don’t conform to the cisgender heterosexual community. Buttigieg needs support from the powerful people, and as I have mentioned before, that isn’t always the LGBTQ+ community.
In a time where gay people are still overcoming persecution as seen in Zambia and even here in the U.S. where only 19 states have banned conversion therapy, LGBTQ+ folk still have a long way to go. Being gay is a political statement, as we have seen how LGBTQ+ rights have been at the forefront of legislation. Only with continued discussion and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ leaders and organizations in the conversation will the community be less political and more human.
Photo: 42 North via Pexels