I could spill some more digital ink this month continuing to detail the struggles of minorities, both under the current United States administration and abroad. I could comment on the racism-and-homophobia-fueled “Straight Pride” parade, or how one of the organizers blames her gay son for their bad relationship. Or how an Ohio lawmaker blames mass shootings, in part, on homosexuality. Or how the victims of the anti-gay purge in Chechnya describe their kidnapping, imprisonment, and torture.
In times of darkness, however, it’s not only important to shine a light on wrongdoing, but also to acknowledge our victories, large and small. So this month I want to focus on some positive stories that are centered on queer people and our collective struggles; call it a queer (good) news roundup.
On August 9, the Democratic Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, signed into law a bill that requires LGBT history to be taught in schools. This is an important step as it is often a tactic of the political right to make invisible the contributions of minorities in an effort to further marginalize and erase them. Democratic State Senator Heather Steans, who sponsored the bill, said “one of the best ways to overcome intolerance is through education and exposure to different people and viewpoints.”
Nearly 550 Alabama Methodists signed a letter apologizing for how their church has treated LGBT people. Back in February, the North Alabama Conference unsuccessfully tried to get the United Methodist Church to officially overturn their anti-homosexuality stance, embrace equal-marriage rights, and to extend deaconship to LGBT people. Instead, the church voted to expel LGBT pastors as well as pro-gay churches. In June, the group tried to have a vote on a statement apologizing to LGBT people, but that too was also defeated. Though non-official, the letter represents a mounting dissent within a growing number of Christian-identified churches that seek to make more inclusive their religious groups.
Just six months after shifting the governorship from Republican to Democrat, the Kansas Department for Children and Families has outlined new guidelines that ask foster parents to allow LGBTQ children in their care to “express themselves as they see themselves,” a move that has angered conservatives in that state. While this is still a far cry from being an official policy or regulation, it is an important step toward normalizing LGBT children and in an environment in which they are often the most vulnerable.
DC Comics revealed that the new Aquaman isn’t straight, with the character sharing a same-sex kiss in the animated series Young Justice: Outsiders. Additionally, more queer characters are on the horizon for the comics giant. One might feel that the personal lives of comic book characters or cartoons are irrelevant to the real-world dealings of equality and politics, but this is an important move toward expanded visibility and normalization. Young people growing up and seeing same-sex relationships in movies and on television (even if just in comics or animation) will have a better time accepting these things as a normal part of life, so this is definitely good news in my book.
Rhode Island recently joined 17 other states, plus Washington, D.C., in offering a gender neutral option to their states’ ID cards and driver’s licenses. These state and local governments will allow the gender marker “X” to be used instead of the more common “M” or “F”. This follows a March ruling by the U.S. State Dept. that allowed an intersex veteran to obtain a passport with a non-binary gender marker. With more and more states recognizing the reality of non-binary and trans identities, it becomes only as matter of time before more states follow suit, and the road toward trans equality opens even further.
In 2021, the £50 note will feature the likeness of Alan Turing (1912-1954), the WWII code-breaker and father of modern computing. While he was instrumental in assisting the Allied powers in reading Axis communications (efforts that were praised as saving lives and helping to end the war) he was later prosecuted by the British government for “gross indecency” (i.e. being gay) and was subjected to chemical castration. He was later found dead in his apartment from apparent suicide. Now, more than 65 years later, he is finally being honored as the hero he was. May you rise in power, Mr. Turing. What is remembered lives!
In a crushing blow to online bigots everywhere, the World Health Organization removed gender nonconformity from its list of mental disorders earlier this year. While there is still a long, long way to go in terms of ensuring trans equality, the new official classification, “gender incongruence,” is expected to help liberate transgender people by making it clear that their identity is not the result of any “disorder” or “illness,” a charge often lobbied by religious conservatives in their attacks against human dignity.
The organizer of the aforementioned ‘Straight Pride’ parade admitted that their organization was a racist one. Don Grundmann inadvertently referred to the National Straight Pride Coalition a “totally peaceful racist group” while speaking before the Modesto, California city council. The revelation was met with laughter and jeers, with one city council member turning her chair away and convulsing in laughter. (Hey, it might not be big, but it’s certainly funny. A little bit of schadenfreude can be good for the soul.)
With so many negative stories out in the news I think it’s important not to forget the positive. We need to celebrate our victories wherever and whenever we can. So let’s allow ourselves to have a nice full belly-laugh at the expense of our oppressors. And then tomorrow let’s get back to work. We have a lot of chains to break, and bigots aren’t going to mock themselves – well, not on purpose, anyway.