There won’t be any less of us…

There won’t be any less of us…

If I was a woman I would marry Rachel Maddow.

Maddow is one of the most intelligent commentators on US television.

Back in 2015, when the US Supreme Court was in the early stages of deliberating about marriage equality, Maddow had the predictable ‘for’ and ‘against’ advocates on her program on MSNBC.

At one point, the ‘anti-equality’ advocate was making a long-winded point about how it’s important for children to be brought up in families where it is a man and a woman who are the parents, and that this traditional concept of marriage should be upheld ‘for the children’. Maddow interjected and shut him down:

‘All of these laws that you’re making or seeking to uphold, they don’t make any less of “us”, they just institutionalise discrimination.’

As an out-and-proud lesbian, Maddow’s logic is fairly compelling and irrefutable. Irrefutable because of the scientific research that has helped us understand a bit more about human sexuality.

Dr Qazi Raman, who specialises in the study of human sexuality (and manages to explain things plainly and simply), summarises the research as:

‘We don’t know everything about why our biology creates gay men and lesbians, but we do know that it’s not a choice, that throughout history a minority percentage of our population will genetically be gay or lesbian.’

What Maddow articulates so succinctly is that law-makers (and advocates for maintaining legislation that uses sexuality as a basis for different treatment of people) need to be transparent about the decisions they are making. Having a law that says that marriage is only open to relationships between men and women discriminates against gays and lesbians who are wanting to formalise same-sex relationships. It won’t in any way lead to there being less gays or lesbians in the world, it just institutionalises a conscious decision to treat differently or discriminate against a minority of the population.

It’s an over-simplification, but if you take at face-value the optimistic message of the It Gets Better project (founded by Dan Savage and Terry Miller), we’re on a linear journey from anti-LGBT homophobia towards equality, acceptance, and a freedom from discrimination. Obviously, different parts of the world are at different stages of that linear journey.

Living in the UK, it’s easy to think that much of the struggle for recognition of the reality of human sexuality, and a general acceptance that there is no basis for discriminating against gay men and lesbians, has been safely achieved. Legislative and social change has been quickly building momentum and there is a palpable sense of relief across the UK’s LGBT community that: “We’ve done it!” “We’ve got there!” “Finally we can stop fighting for acceptance.”

But let’s not forget the lessons of our history. During the Weimar Republic years in Germany (1919–1933), Berlin was an open and accepting society where diversity of lifestyle, thought, and sexuality was allowed to flourish and was celebrated. A few years later gay men were being branded with pink triangles and transported to concentration camps where many of them died.

Things change. Public opinion shifts. What was once assumed to be an established state-of-affairs can quickly transform into a different reality.

Take, for example, Russia. The history of Russia is fascinating — from the wealth and extravagance of the Tsars, through revolution, cold war, and violent political and social upheavals. It makes you wonder what’s going on in a country, in a community, that it has to start looking for scapegoats. Laws banning ‘gay propaganda’ seem to be signs of a leadership and of a community looking for excuses or distractions from deeper problems that they’re not ready to face up to.

The United States appears to be at a tipping point. With so much progress made in recent years, the election of Donald Trump and the apparent demonisation of liberal or socially-progressive thinking, seems to make the progress made on marriage equality and trans rights incredibly vulnerable.

It’s easy to become fixated on our own experiences, or the stories that fill our daily media and news feeds, but around the world gay men, and people that identify within the LGBTI umbrella, are struggling against systemic discrimination, criminalisation, and threats to their personal safety.

A quick glance at today’s news reveals plenty of examples:

In the words of Rachel Maddow:

‘All of these laws that you’re making or seeking to uphold, they don’t make any less of “us”, they just institutionalise discrimination.’

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