LGBT Pride: A Celebration of People, Civil Rights & Culture
It has been an emotional couple of weeks, to say the least. The entire country is no doubt still reeling from the tragedy in Orlando. But for the LGBT community, and more specifically the Latin LGBT community, the pain of this moment is different, and will linger for years to come. However, as Pride month comes to a close, and instead of rehashing that horrible day, let us remember those lost by celebrating them and the milestones that have been achieved towards LGBT equality.
A year ago, on Friday, June 26, 2015, something major happened. It was something that changed America and the lives of every queer person across this nation. A year ago it was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that no longer would it be illegal to love someone of the same sex, and no longer would it be necessary to travel to a different state or country in order to validate that love. A year ago, our country told us that everyone has the right to marry whomever they choose. Our country told us that marriage was a fundamental right afforded to every American regardless of their sexual orientation. Our country told us that love is love.
A year ago, marriage equality became a reality in all 50 states, and considering the political and racial climate, for the first time in a long time I cried tears of joy instead of tears of sorrow. Love had won and all I wanted to do was celebrate: Celebrate the people of Stonewall who started this journey; Celebrate all those who we have lost along the way; Celebrate all the people in my life who I knew would be rushing to get married; Celebrate all of the queer girls and boys, including those who haven’t even been born yet, and the fact that they would now get to grow up in a country that supports their right to love whoever they want. This moment was extremely significant. Not only was it one step closer towards true equality for all people, it was also one step closer to an AIDS-free generation.
Discriminatory laws like bans on same-sex marriage have left many LGBT people feeling isolated and marginalized. These laws tell the community that they are not worthy of the same freedoms afforded other citizens. This leads to increased rates of depression, substance use, alcohol use, and risky sexual behavior; all of which are related to HIV transmission. A study completed by Emory University in 2009 found that bans on same-sex marriage could be directly linked to increased HIV transmissions. It was estimated that the federal ban on same-sex marriage increased transmission by four cases per 100,000 people, thus proving that inequality can lead to death.
The passing of marriage equality provided hope and affirmation. It made and continues to make LGBT people feel accepted and supported. This now will lead to increased feelings of self-worth and reduction in risky behaviors, which will lead to decreased HIV transmission and more people engaged in self-care.
Overall, the passing of marriage equality can help to eradicate systemic homophobia and all of the intersections that accompany it. The symptoms of homophobia are a daily occurrence so comfortably placed in our society that it often goes unchecked and unacknowledged. It is an epidemic that has continuously led to shame, violence and death. Just like the Civil Rights movement for African-Americans, the Gay Rights movement is a direct response to the inequality and persecution that LGBT people have faced for a very long time. The culmination of that movement was last year’s historic Supreme Court decision.
Of course, in spite of this victory, history teaches us that just because we change a law doesn’t mean it will change a heart and mind. The legalization of same-sex marriage hasn’t changed the opinion of most bigots and homophobes in this country, and there are still laws in place that discriminate against LGBT people. But it has made it so every gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified person in America can live every day knowing that their country acknowledges them and supports their right to marry whoever they want.
This decision may not have changed everything, but it’s a start. And it’s definitely something to celebrate. Despite recent events, especially Orlando, it is important to focus on the positive and to be thankful that we were able to witness a major victory for gay rights and a giant step towards a better America. Take a moment to celebrate, reflect and dream of the world that could be. Celebrate love, celebrate Pride, and celebrate equality.