Human Rights, Opinion, World, Editor's Choice

Stories and Struggles of the LGBTQ+ Community

In collaboration with Macey S. Saavedra

They say that a pot of gold awaits at the end of a rainbow, but for the LGBTQ+ community, there are no treasures. While the advent of the LGBTQ+ (or LGBTQQIAAP, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies, and Pansexual) community has brought about new meanings to rainbows and pride, the rest of the world, at its core, remains resistant to the possibilities of gender fluidity. And for these people, the struggle continues.

Where Has Pride Gone So Far?

The acceptance towards the LGBTQ+ community around the world has drastically evolved over the years. From regarding homosexuality as an illness to legalizing same-sex marriage, it had been a zigzag journey for the queer community. Today, societies have developed a greater acceptance towards homosexuality, queerness, and gender fluidity, albeit in various degrees, after decades of movements. Although the battle is still far from over, the progress is undeniable, and these step-by-step developments are proof that the society welcomes change.

In Malta, gay conversion therapies are now banned, and individuals who are guilty of undertaking actions aimed at changing a sexual orientation of a person can be fined or imprisoned—the first ever European country to do so. Taiwan has become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The Canadian Prime Minister was the first ever prime minister who showed his unparalleled support for the LGBTQ+ community by participating in the gay pride parade. In Belize and Seychelles, homosexuality is no longer a crime.

While there are milestones, there remains to be setbacks. According to the published report by Equaldex, same-sex sexual activities are still illegal in some parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan, it is still punishable by death. In Turkmenistan, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe, only women are allowed to be gay, but for men, it is considered illegal.

All of these goes to show that there is still a lot of work to do. Many countries remain to be repugnant over the fact that homosexuality is not a choice people make. They refuse to accept sexes that are not in the male/female binary and also refuse to treat them as regular citizens as they should be.

Gay Marriage, Legal Adoption, and Gender Modification

Striving for a holistic quality of life is not a struggle for heterosexual people, particularly in terms of family building. However, for LGBTQ+ people, happiness and the pursuit of happiness is fleeting because the very notions of identity and family are difficult to achieve. Gay marriage, adoption, and gender modifications are helpful in building a promising future of family life. These are the things that they are entitled to by birth but the very same things that the LGBTQ+ community is constantly deprived of. Equality, in a nutshell, means giving fair treatment to people regardless of their race, age, and gender; this means that homosexuals should be given the same rights and privileges just like everybody else.

In Colombia, same-sex marriage was legalized while it was illegalized in Botswana. Australia on the other hand, while giving the LGBTQ+ the same rights as the heterosexuals, still has not legalized gay marriage. For some countries which allowed same-sex legal adoption, the adopting couple had to be married. Otherwise, a homosexual couple was not allowed to jointly adopt a child. Interestingly, Kazakhstan allows for same-sex legal adoption but prohibits same-sex marriage. Gender modification, on the other hand, is allowed in most countries but only after undergoing necessary surgical procedures. In 20 countries, it remains illegal.

There are laws in some countries, but for the most part, these areas remain to be a long-enduring battle.

The LGBTQ+ Struggle Continues: Bullying, Discrimination, and the Culture of Nonacceptance

Despite the acceptance of many countries and communities to the LGBTQ+ community, the culture of bullying is still alive, the hate pulsating in the veins of a patriarchal society. Time and time again, LGBTQ+ people experience verbal or violent bullying from heterosexual supremacists. In the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey in the US, 10% of the surveyed LGBTQ+ students were threatened or injured with a weapon on a school property, 28% were bullied online, and 18% of these students have experienced violence during dating, including forced sexual intercourse. Ironically, straight people bully LGBTQ+ people, but at the same time, some of these straight people seek forced sexual gratification among the queer, the very people whom they bully.

In the Human Rights Campaign Report in the US, 4 in 10 LGBTQ+ youth believe that they live in a community that is not accepting of LGBTQ+ people. This means that 42% of the 10,000 youth who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum are still living in fear of bullying and isolation. They are still unable to express themselves for who they truly are because of the threats that their environment poses for people like them. While they have already accepted who they are, they still live a life in the closet, their self-expression only in the abstract and not as lived experiences. For those who find courage in showcasing their identity, they suffer the consequences.

LGBTQ+ Rights are Human Rights

Because of this, the virtual community becomes a safe refuge for these people. In fact, roughly 73% of LGBTQ+ youth consider the online realm as space where they can be honest about themselves. Social networking sites become a place where they post about their gendered interests and relationships, unafraid to shout to the world how they truly feel (as long as these virtual spaces do not have families or relatives in it). However, it is again ironic that 92% of these LGBTQ+ youth say that they hear negative messages about their sexuality mostly through the Internet. In this supposed safe haven for these people, the threats still exist, from offensive memes to irrational comments that only favor the straight.

LGBTQ+ Discrimination and Hope

Meanwhile, discrimination might probably be one of the most difficult battles for the LGBTQ+ community. The fact is, until today, discrimination continues to seclude the gay community. Discrimination is only illegal in very few countries around the world, that is why workplace and housing discrimination remain a struggle to date. On a positive note, the US military has become openly welcoming about transgendered people joining the military, closely after the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Thus, this month, we shall dig deeper into these narratives. There seems to have been good progress regarding acceptance, both by law and through a changing culture, but stories of struggle continue. From one story to another, from one lived experience to the next, we will unravel these narratives and hope to find pots of gold. We shall seek the joys in every pain, the small victories in every encounter, and hopefully, in these inspirational stories, we will find a deeper and more truthful sense of pride so that the rest of the world will see it too.

About Cheeno Marlo Sayuno

For Cheeno, writing is a responsibility: a promise to offer perspective that opens readers to new possibilities of viewing the world. A writer of children's storybooks while teaching in a university in the Philippines, Cheeno finds passion in using the power of the pen to empower readers of all ages. He is on his way to obtain a PhD Communication degree and is an avid fan of Broadway musicals.

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