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Hope for the LGBTQ+ Community, or Another Long Fight Ahead?

By David T. Valentin

In an interesting study posted to NBC News website this summer, they detail, with data, the generational shift of not only how same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ people are viewed now compared to a few years ago, but in also how Gen Z adults self-identify.

In a few infographics posted on the article, NBC shows: the percentage of how many adults self-identity as LGBTQ+ broken down by generation; support for same-sex marriage and its legality over the years; and the rise in percentage of those who self-identify as LGBTQ+ within recent years.

While many of these studies seemed to stop at 2021, I would be interested in seeing more recent date in the year 2022, and I’d love to isolate the data to see how many adult members of Gen Z specifically identify as nonbinary, trans, and gender nonconforming.

For many the 2020 and the global lockdown within subsequent years, while a year of great turmoil, was also a year of self-discovery. Without the pressures to adhere to social norms, I personally know many people, including myself, who wrestled with questions of how they self-identify in their gender; self-discovery on a mass scale that not only I witnessed in my personal life, but through anecdotes on the internet and something many LGBTQ+ members noticed as well.

As the study points out, “To be clear, that does not mean the number of people who actually are LGBTQ has climbed that much in that time – or even that the number reflects the actual percentage of Americans who personally identify as LGBTQ. In some sense, ‘self-identifying’ as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, even in a survey, is an act of feeling comfortable sharing that information with the broader public – and for some respondents, that may have become easier as same-sex marriage became a more accepted part of the culture.”

But that idea of safety could also shift in the next year or so. Despite Democrats controlling the three branches of government, there has been a push in Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation sweeping The United States in both 2021 and 2022.

In an article posted by The Human Rights Campaign on May 7th, 2021, the author noted that, “So far in 2021, seventeen anti-LGBTQ bills have been enacted into law surpassing 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.”

And what else happened in 2015? The legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Obergefell v. Hodges. So, despite groundbreaking changes in the way citizens of The United States see LGBTQ+ citizens, there was also a push back from conservative lawmakers.

Now, we see that again in 2021 and 2022. While many politicians have come out in support of Trans people, including President Joe Biden when he became the first United States President to honor Trans Americans, there has also been a push back to force Trans people, and much of the LGBTQ+ community, back into the closet.

In recent years, Republicans have launched a cultural war specifically targeting Trans youth, the most infamous being Florida Governor Ron Desantis and his crusade to be the face of the “anti-woke” counter movement. Banning books. Banning mentions of LGBTQ+ identity in schools. Positioning LGBTQ+ people as “groomers.” None of these tactics are beneath Governor DeSantis.

Despite the supposed optimism of NBC News and their data back in the Summer of 2022, they went to post another article titled, “2021 was supposed to be the ‘worst year’ for LGBTQ rights – then came 2022.”

While allyship is important to any minority group, haphazardly dragging minority groups into political cultural wars in order to drum up votes can lead to a backlash from the opposition, especially when leaders of minority groups are not front and center to speak for their own community. That is not to say that LGBTQ+ allyship is unwelcomed, but that we as a community should consider how genuine politicians support is when it actually comes down to protecting our community.

In some ways, we see Democrats as the bastion party of Civil Rights and equality – those we somewhat expect, at this point given the current fracturing of the Republican party and its far-right radical agenda. But if this year has taught us anything it’s that progress is not a one-way ride, but an incredibly bumpy, messy ride.

Back in June, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a decision that many Americans were shocked about despite Republicans stating they were gunning to overturn Roe v. Wade since 1973.

Immediately, many Democrats were openly against The Supreme Court decision, including New York Governor Kathy Hochul in here reelection campaign of November 2022, a position that not only reelected her as governor of New York but also made her the first elected woman governor of New York state.

Now, at the end of 2022, Governor Hochul is pushing for Hector D. LaSalle as a Chief Judge, a judge who has a record of conservative and anti-abortion leanings. If Governor Hochul is determined to protect abortion rights in the state of New York, why then is she nominating conservative, anti-abortion nominees? And even worse, trying to use the fact that LaSalle would be “the first Latino head of the highest court in New York.”

Going forward as voters, we need to be careful of wolves hiding in sheep’s wool. We need to make sure that, when push comes to shove, lawmakers are willing to fight just as dirty as Republicans to protect the rights of vulnerable communities. If they’re not playing fair to strip away the rights of the most vulnerable of our communities, why should we play fair to protect those rights?

As much as it would be nice to see Republicans and Democrats “compromise,” we have seen the repercussions of Democrats playing it “safe” and “fair” with four years of Trump. And while the midterms were a hopeful indication that the American people are sick of the Republican party’s hyper partisanship, it does not mean that Democrat lawmakers and voters should be getting comfortable. If anything, we should be getting more riled up for the 2024 election and, this time, not underestimating the shocking allure that American voters might have for people like Trump and Governor DeSantis.

It's time we stop pretending we’re surprised and see Republican lawmakers for what they have been telling us they are: far-right radicals with nothing to offer the American people other than pathetic cultural wars and tax cuts for the rich. And perhaps it’s time we start seeing some Democrats for who they have been telling us they are along as well.


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