Well if you haven’t been privy to the loud voices and pumping fists of the gay, lesbian, transgender and multi-sexual Australian population before, 2011 was the year we all tuned in.
Close to home, marriage equality has been the hot-button topic with rallies, government dinners and one nail-biting conscience vote. On December 3 last year, the ALP took same-sex marriage rights into their platform, promising to have it on the political agenda in 2012. Overseas, Hillary Clinton made a speech about gay and lesbian people being the last group to receive their basic human rights, while Nigeria passed laws making homosexuality and support for homosexuals punishable by 14 years in prison.
We talk so much about equality and many people just think about the squealing dads on Modern Family. But pushing equality for LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) means people have a far bigger impact than we might think.
LGBT equality demonstrators are looking for a basic right even other marginalised groups take for granted: recognition. LGBT people have only been specifically mentioned in any legislation over the last five years, but there are still countries where homosexuality is a crime. There is no other group that can be imprisoned based on an orientation they can’t control. People might see marriage equality as a frivolous right to fight for, but at the heart of each rally and pro-vote is an understanding gay people deserve to be recognised for their basic humanity (in the same way women once demanded).
We can take two things from this comparison. First, the recognition debate is completely changing the way people think about diversity as a wider global issue. LGBT people are actually pioneering a lot more than they realise: by demanding equality for their own group, they encourage many other groups to stand up as well. It is no coincidence we have seen resurgence in discussion about Muslim women’s human rights, and a growing need to better help troubled children. It has become part of developed society’s moral code to be more accepting of diversity as opposed to difference; a distinction made more prevalent by anti-homophobia movements in schools. As the acceptance of diversity becomes more prominent, society is better prepared to handle discrimination and marginalisation.
Newer generations are shaping society around values of acceptance, community and social change, as opposed to elitism, bureaucracy and social control.
Does this mean that we Generation X and Y cohorts should just leave the young ones to it? What role do we play?
To begin with, we live in a lucky country; a developed nation who is much further along in the fight for recognition and acceptance of LGBT members of society. Various not-for-profit organisations are working hard to bring the rest of the world up to speed, and to secure the safety of LGBT people worldwide, particularly African and Middle Eastern nations. By supporting these organisations, we can help progress LGBT acceptance and become a globally holistic movement.
Closer to home, we can show stronger support for LGBT people. According to a national report on sexuality, 8 to 11 per cent of young people are attracted to the same sex . The likelihood if you, the reader, aren’t same-sex attracted then you are almost certain to know someone who needs your support, your recognition and your understanding. You can make a difference to how someone feels about themselves, their lives or their family by thinking twice about offensive terms or jokes you may make.
When we are born we are given a name, a sex and even a prescribed set of colours that entangle us in a matrix of semantics and cultural codes. The time has come where individual value is being acknowledged and we can break free of these codes, which for some are strangleholds. The liberation of LGBT people is the first step in a true coming together, where we can take on global issues like poverty and global warming as one concerted human race.
Hillier, L, Dempsey, D, Harrison, L, Beale, L, Matthews, L and Rosenthal, D 1998, Writing Themselves In: a National Report on the Sexuality, Health and Well-Being of Same-Sex Attracted Young People, La Trobe University, AUS