Nel's New Day

May 17, 2012

End Homophobia & Transphobia

Because of Louis-Georges Tin, French university lecturer and equal rights campaigner, today is The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). He chose May 17 for this global day of action to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The organization began with a concentration on homophobia in 2004 and added transphobia five years later.

The week began with clear examples of homophobia. Despite majority approval from legislators, Virginia blocked a gay judge from confirmation.  One Virginia lawmaker said he voted against the confirmation because a gay judge could not be impartial; the House of Delegates voted 33-31 for confirmation but lacked the 51 majority votes required.

Colorado suppressed a bill to allow same-sex civil unions. The Republicans had filibustered the civil union bill until the legislature finished for the year, but the governor brought the legislature back to consider the bills not addressed in the session. House Speaker Frank McNulty then sent the bill to his “kill” committee, the State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee with five Republicans of the nine members. The bill would probably have passed  if it had escaped the committee.

On the good side, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has come out in favor of marriage equality. “I don’t think we want to wait on courts,” Quinn said. “I think in Illinois, we are able to show the nation that we are a state that believes in respecting everyone. Everyone has dignity and rights.”

Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee declared that the state will recognize any legal marriages from any other state, including same-sex marriages. The situation has been pending for five years since then-Attorney General Patrick Lynch issued an opinion that recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriage. The executive order making same-sex marriage legal has many implications. Same-sex spouses of state employees and anyone covered by an insurance company regulated in Rhode Island can get health and life insurance benefits. Same-sex couples having children can list their names as parents on the birth certificates, and they also receive sales tax exemptions on property transfers.

The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) is headed back to committee—and the support behind this is bipartisan! Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced a hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee on June 12. The announcement followed a letter dated May 9 from ENDA co-sponsors Mark Kirk (R-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) urging the committee to bring the legislation up for debate. Harkin said, “Every American deserves an equal opportunity to earn a good living, judged by their talent, ability and qualifications free from discrimination. Workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is reprehensible and has no place in our nation.”

And Ellen DeGeneres is the 15th recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which recognizes individuals who make a difference through satire and social commentary!

Much as some people would prefer to have LGBT people invisible, LGBT people have changed history for the better in all parts of life from art to philosophy to science to politics. Ancient Greece, Rome, China, Japan, the Arab countries, and most early indigenous peoples have known the advantages of these individuals.

The following honors only a few of these people.

  • Writer Oscar Wilde, who changed the world even after he was sentenced to hard labor for his sexuality, said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Many people know him for The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.”
  • Author Gertrude Stein gave no apology for either her gender or her sexual orientation, leaving not only a literary legacy but also the magic that resulted from networking among the developing artists and authors in her famous salons during the early twentieth century.
  • Inventor, scientist, and great painter Leonardo da Vinci created not only machines not known until centuries later but also  such masterpieces as “The Last Supper” and “The Mona Lisa.”
  • A founder of computer science, Alan Turing was instrumental in solving the Nazi’s Enigma code during World War II, allowing translations of intercepted messages so that Allies could anticipate enemy movements. People in the United States might be speaking German instead of English without Turing. He committed suicide after the English government chemically castrated him.
  • The man behind the scenes of the Civil Rights Movement, Bayard Rustin organized the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King made his most famous speech and was one of the main people responsible for the Congress on Racial Equality.

People resentful of knowing the important contributions of LGBT people frequently ask that we not push their identity on others. They fail to understand the way that heterosexuality is pushed onto the world—photos on office desks, wedding rings, marriage celebrations, children, small talk, jokes, etc. Their sexual identity is highly visible: we LGBT people deserve the same rights. It is time that all people become “we.”

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