A Reflection During Pride Month
Written by Holly Wickham
When I see the rainbow window displays at corporate banks, I wonder if those same places would have denied my partner health benefits just 6 years ago before the marriage equality act. This doubt comes from a place of fear and survival instinct, and these discrimination practices are not ancient history. We’ve seen a revival of anti-lgbtq bills in the last few years.
Let me be clear, I love that people seem to be coming out left and right. As Harvey Milk said, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” It’s certainly not new; ask me about Rock Hudson and Katharine Hepburn. Due to a variety of reasons, including the Hays Code, it just hasn’t been safe to show a world where queer characters can live happy lives in media until recently. Of course, there have been many subversive gays in Hollywood that snuck us some hope into their movies over the years. What seems to be new is that mainstream media has gotten on board. I’ve been blown away by the diversity of genders and sexualities represented in a lot of shows and in movies, and I feel so grateful for the representation.
We are finally getting queer stories with happy endings, and I love that our queer youth get to see more possibilities than ever before. The depiction of queer characters living complicated and rewarding lives in our media is powerful and validating. However, it’s hard not to also feel bitter when I see corporations pink-washing as if they’ve always been on board, as if equal rights have been achieved and we can put our signs down to just celebrate and relax. It feels like an erasure of how pride started, with riots at Stonewall and community organizing by trans women of color like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. This fight is not won.
We are still fighting for equal rights and equal protections. Right now, our rights to exist safely largely depend on what state we live in. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 175 anti LGBT healthcare laws were proposed in 32 states around the U.S. in 2016. Our trans children have been specifically targeted. First it was bathrooms and now it’s youth trying to play with their friends on sports teams. When I follow these court cases, all I can think about are the children that are being ostracized from their peers and given the message that yes, there is something wrong with them.
Our children internalize the messages they receive and carry them as adults. It’s neither a secret nor a surprise queer people have higher rates of substance abuse and mental health needs. A study from the Trevor Project found that 40% of trans adults have made a suicide attempt and 92% of those people had attempted before the age of 25. The bar of being treated with respect is so low that calling a trans person by their name (and not their dead name) is linked to a 29% decrease in suicidal ideation, and a 56% decrease in suicidal behavior, according to a 2018 research article published in Journal of Adolescent Health.
Media representations are tremendously powerful when they can give us hope that we’re not alone, there’s not something innately wrong with us, and we can find a place in the world where we are accepted. It’s not enough though. Yes, we have come a long way and we can and should pause to celebrate. We need to embrace joy when we can. However, the fight is not over; we have a long way to go towards justice and equity.
My suggestions to:
- Read: Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
- Watch: Feel Good (Netflix)
- Listen: Edge of Sports with Dave Zirin Podcast – Episode “Chase Strangio on Countering Attacks on Trans Athletes”
- Donate: Ruth Ellis Center