Achieving Equality- Difficult but Simple Victories and Long, Complex Wars

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness
Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from
There are increasing movements forwards with legislative
battles with our rights – a new trans bill in Canada, marriage equality
in Britain, France and various parts of the US, municipal anti-discrimination
laws in various cities and even a battle in the Ukraine which was rather
surprising. Of course, it’s not all going forwards everywhere, far
from it, but there’s a lot of excitement.

There’s also a sense that “zomg we’ve nearly
won” primarily from straight allies, coupled with a sense of “the
GBLT rights movement has moved so quickly!”

I have to burst the bubble on both. Starting, perversely
with the second one.

The whole idea of “the GBLT rights movement has
moved so quickly” is based on that pervasive myth that we only
appeared in 1960 and that the first piece of GBLT activism was Stonewall.
Both of which are wrong. GBLT people have existed as long as people
have existed – and we have been fighting for centuries. The first
attempted same-sex marriage in the UK happened in 1680 and Molly houses
were a fixture of the 19th century. France decriminalised
“sodomy” after the revolution, Germany had, in the 1920s a vast
amount of pro-GBLT activism

And this is from a frankly extremely amateur view
of history since I make no claims of being a historian. But even the
most cursory search finds not only our existence the earliest times
but a centuries old battle against persecution. To call the GBLT rights
movement a young or a new movement is to spit in the face of these people
who fought – and who died – and who straight history has
long forgotten. We have not moved quickly, it has been a long slow fight
that has been denied so long that it’s only recent victories for basic
LEGAL PROTECTIONS that have finally accelerated.

Now addressing the first point. Winning these battles
means we win the SIMPLE part – and not close to being done. The COMPLICATED
is, in many ways, only just beginning.

Firstly, let’s be clear that SIMPLE doesn’t mean
EASY, nor does it mean UNIMPORTANT. It means we know pretty much exactly
what to do and, in many ways, how. I know how to walk to London. One
foot in front of the other isn’t complex. Walking that distance in
this weather would be arduous, painful and an incredible feat – Simple
but difficult.

And achieving equality under law: Hate crimes protection, anti-discrimination
protection, marriage equality – are extremely difficult, powerful
achievements – and they’re simple. Simple because we know exactly
what has to be done – the law has to change and we know how that
is done. Difficult to do, but simple in terms of process

And important because these form not only essential tools, but also
a foundation. It’s an impossibly powerful message of inequality when
the laws treat us as lesser citizens; it’s a loud message. It’s
hard to get people to listen to you demanding acceptance, respect and
challenging hate when the law of the land is roaring “ACTUALLY! HATE
ACCEPTABLE TARGETS, GET THEM HERE!” It’s a foundation and without
it, building anything is going to be shaky

But a house isn’t finished when a foundation is
built and nor will our battle for equality be finished because we have
full equality in law. Law and practice, society and culture are often
very separate. If you need any greater proof just consider the fact
that these legal rights we’re fighting for? Other marginalised groups
already have them – and they’re still marginalised.

On this foundation we need to fight institutional
oppression. We need to change professions that are deemed to homophobic
to tolerate us (or more than a few token members). We need to tackle
bullying – adult as well as child. We need to tackle family acceptance
and positive messages so more kids aren’t raised in self hate and
familial rejection. We need to remove every single temptation to be
closeted – not the closet, forcing us all to be Out is never right
– but remove the motivation to being closeted in the first place.
Conversion therapy needs to be banished into the past, the DESIRE to
change needs to be seen as alien and weird. We need to remove the negative
connotation, we need to banish slurs from the language, we need to have
“gay” stop being a synonym for “bad.” We need inclusive portrayals,
not be considered an afterthought or obscene, we need healthcare that
acknowledges our needs, we need workplaces that have more than just
policies, but co-workers and bosses and customers who won’t try to
drive us out. Neighbourhoods that don’t blink to see us among them.
We need a world were institutional cissexism and heterosexism doesn’t
constantly fence us, drive us out or police us. We need religions that
won’t preach homophobia and transphobia as morality. We need a world
without hate, without contempt, without derision. We need so much more
(this list went on so long I’ve had to delete huge chunks to keep
it manageable), things we will not achieve by laws, things we cannot
achieve by laws (but policies can certainly make a difference) but things
that will rest on a foundation of those laws.

We need a world where we are as loved and respected
and accepted and included as straight, cis people. Only then will we
have won

And that? That’s going to take lifetime upon lifetime
to build.

This isn’t really something even the most optimistic
of GBLT people need telling – we live our lives, we know what
will and will not change, we know how we’re oppressed, we know how
we’re attacked (in fact, straight people telling us what we should
and should not be focusing on need to shut up, really, they do). But
I’m increasingly getting the feeling that many allies are expecting
to down tools and say “yay we won!” and then be really really
shocked when we don’t stop fighting.

So let’s celebrate the victories and progress we’ve
made and are making – because they’re definitely worth celebrating
– and then dive back in the trenches, because we’ve got a long
war to right.

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