There is a lot to be hopeful for if you are an LGBT person in Illinois. With marriage equality looming in the balance and hinging upon an upcoming vote coming out of the Illinois State House, the fates and futures for LGBT people throughout Illinois will undoubtedly change if the bill is passed. I think we’re all holding our breath and crossing our fingers and toes even if prospects for the bill passing look very positive at this point. In addition, Proposition 8 out in California is being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court right now and the potential of that outcome could not only affect Californians but it could legally open the door wide open to marriage equality across the country depending upon how the court makes its ruling.
The slow but steady progression for marriage equality has been in large part due to technology and the connectivity we share with each other through the web and social media. Hollywood and the media have done their part and led the way (as they have in the past) to bring light to the movement and have pushed for social change by hiring openly out LGBT actors and actresses to play leading roles in movies and sitcoms. Public support for marriage equality is at an all-time high and even the President is now on board. Social acceptance is evolving rapidly and momentum is definitely on our side.
One day when nationwide marriage equality is achieved, we will no doubt be celebrating our way through every wedding that can be had in this country and we will appreciate how far as a community we have come. It will be a landmark achievement that millions of Americans have strived and struggled for decades. The question then becomes…what happens after our big victory has been won? What happens after we have spiked the proverbial football, did our touchdown dance, celebrated through the streets of Boystown and Andersonville and kissed our loved ones knowing that a brighter future is ahead for us? Have we now set in stone and put ourselves on equal footing with everybody else within our society? I hope the answer is “yes”, but looking at the history of other civil rights movements in this country, the more likely answer will be “no”.
Did racism end with the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968? Travel 40 years later in time, the first African-American is elected President…does racism still exist today? The answer then is the same as the answer now, yes of course, racism still exists. Saying that progress has been made in between then and now would be an understatement, just as you could say the fight against homophobia within our society has no doubt made significant strides.
Unlike racism though, homophobia and the struggle for LGBT equality is very different. It’s not just a legal struggle, the struggle exists in our homes, in our offices, among the people who are our friends and loved ones, it’s among the people we know and the people we don’t know. The allowance of gay marriage from a legal standpoint does not necessarily mandate the acceptance of that marriage by the people who matter the most to us. I can’t even count the number of people who I know personally who have faced some level of non-acceptance or discrimination by their family or friends or in their workplace. Hundreds and thousands of young LGBT people every year are abandoned and kicked out of their homes by their families because they will not accept them for who they are. It’s either be “normal” or be gone. We know that “disown” is a word that is all too familiar for many gay and transgender people. Can you think of any other personal characteristic about oneself that would illicit such a response from one’s own family? Can you think of any other reason why your family would send you to somewhere to get “cured”? In many other countries in the world, marriage equality is a far, far distant dream and mere survival is a more realistic aspiration.
For those of us who are fortunate to have our family and friends support us, we know that the support and acceptance that they have given us has required time, patience, understanding, education, and sometimes has required them to make a difficult adjustment in how they view us. Whether it be in the home, or in school or in the locker room or in the office, we know that part of the deal when coming out to somebody means that you are risking the possibility that somebody may look at you in a less than favorable light or at the very least will look at you differently even if they don’t realize they are doing it. These optics have been ingrained into how we were raised and it will take many more decades of social change and reeducation to really alter how the average American looks at the LGBT community.
I know that I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know and perhaps it’s a bit sad to rehash these realities, but I think it’s important for us to remember where we are and put things in proper context to the progress we will be making.
Marriage equality will be a landmark moment for civil rights in this country but it will not be the final chapter in our struggle for overall equality. Looking 40 years into the future, if the pathway for equal treatment within our society resembles anything like the one that has existed for African-Americans then I think we can be assured of two things: homophobia will still exist within our society and we will have an LGBT person elected as President of the United States. Marriage equality may not be the end of the struggle but it may be the beginning of something greater.
Guest Blogger – Mallorie DeRiggi
Mallorie DeRiggi is a 20 something marketing manager and communications professional who moved to Chicago over 3 years ago at the start of her career. Mallorie works in the software/internet marketing space and possesses a strong creative ability to communicate ideas and develop strategy to make those ideas persuasive to others. She loves to travel and has had a passion for learning new things about the world ever since she was little. She speaks Italian and Spanish and is working on learning another language in the future. She loves to write and is in the process of writing a novel. She has passion for LGBT advocacy, politics, fashion, technology, cooking and following her favorite hockey team. In her free time, she’s often out and about at different restaurants and bars hanging out with her friends or going out dancing on occasion.