When we talk about LGBTQ people, most of us stereotype it or prefer to stay silent. They are criminalized for the acts they never committed. They are seen in the shadows of unacceptability, shame, and repugnance. It feels disgusting to realize that human being has this self-esteem that forces them to become superior among their own.
But the question among all this is quite clear- why? Why do we outcast someone who had no control over his or her gender? Can we decide our gender by birth? Just like being male or female, homosexuality is also a natural phenomenon existing in our society for ages. But this discussion can only be meaningful if we look at the timeline of gay rights throughout the world.
The Early Gay Rights Movement
Humans have existed for more than six million years and so has every gender. But since civilization, the world only recognized two genders- male and female. The third gender came much later, not because they never existed but because they weren’t educated enough to understand their own sexuality. In a world dominated by only two genders, the people who differ found themselves weird for not being fit in the society.
Thus the first gay movement did require dominant constructions over masculinity and femininity and especially homophobia. The first gay movement was noticed in 1924, when a German immigrant, Henry Gerber, founded in Chicago the Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization in the United States. He published newsletters awaring people about sexuality preferences, however, the group was disbanded in 1925. A rather short but historic movement in history.
The following years remain devoid of any gay movement yet the LGBTQ community did come to light on several occasions. They were lynched, mistreated, criminalize, and outcasted. During World War2, the Nazi regime held captive the homosexual men in concentration camps and branded them with the infamous pink triangle badge that was given to the sexual predators. While the world remembers the mass murder of men, women, and children, they fail to recognize that Nazis even murdered gay men especially those who failed to hide their sexualities.
In the early 18th and 19th centuries, same-sex sexual behavior was widely considered socially unacceptable. It was a serious crime and strict sodomy and sumptuary laws were implemented. Though there were some exceptions, for instance during ‘plays’ the role of female characters was usually played by men. Such a type of cross-dressing was acceptable but not really appreciated.
Social reformer Jeremy Bentham was an early advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality around 1785. It was his dedication and Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, that in 1791, France became the first nation to decriminalize homosexuality. Yet, the local acceptance and homophobia still had a long race to improve. Social attitudes around the world to homosexuality became more hostile during the late Victorian era. in 1885- when they criminalized being homosexual.
In some countries, Homosexuality was also identified as a disease or a disorder and invited tons of superstitions as well.
The First Drag Queen and The Emergence of LGBTQ Rights
The first drag queen to be ever known was William Dorsey Swann, who was born enslaved in Maryland. He was the first person in history to ever held legal and political action for LGBTQ rights. Despite being arrested on numerous occasions, Swann continued his works towards the betterment of the community and organized several drag balls in Washington.
Since then several communities were made and gone, yet not much impact was held on the local believes and people still considered homosexuals as criminals. In 1870, Bayard Taylor published Joseph and His Friend: A Story in Pennsylvania which is widely considered to be the first American gay novel. Poets, sexologists, and writers wrote many books enlighting people about the LGBTQ rights and why it is important. It is these books alone like ‘The Intermediate Sex’ that made homosexuality known among the local public. Yet the mass hysteria was still untouched.
After World War II, a number of homosexual rights groups were revived. These groups identified themselves as homophiles rather than homosexuals to portray love over gender. In 1950, Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Foundation which was the first gay rights group in America. By the 1970s dozens of such groups were active but they were ignored by the media.
Sexual Offences Bill 1967 was introduced in England that decriminalized homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private. With this introduction, more bisexual people came out and Bisexual activism became visible. With rising social movements like black power and women’s right, the LGBTQ community also found its solace. This new radical approach is highly regarded as the Stonewall riots of 1969 when homosexual people resisted a police raid.
Soon after the Stonewall incident, Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Gay Activists’ Alliance were formed that normalized the word ‘gay’ within the society. Gays were becoming unapologetic and were bravely coming out from hiding. In all essence- they were Out, Loud, and Proud.
Though the people remained prejudiced, the LGBTQ community did manage to survive equally within the society.
The Legalization of same-sex Marriages
In 2001, the Netherlands become the first country in history to legalize same-sex marriages. In 2005, Belgium and Spain also legalized it. South Africa was the first African nation that legalized same-sex marriages in 2006 and currently is the only African nation to do so. By 2020, around 26 more countries including United States, Germany, and France legalized the phenomenon. On September 6, 2018, consensual gay sex was legalized in India by the Supreme Court.
The anti- LGBTQ community did try to ban homosexuality but was unsuccessful and many developing countries are becoming open to the third gender. Currently, the world is fighting to include words like “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the Human Rights act and many nations have already done it. These inclusions protect the rights of the LGBTQ community and help them live a peaceful life in a still unacceptable world.
LGBTQ rights are opposed by many organizations due to their religious or political prejudice against the group. They term the legalization of same-sex marriages as unethical and that it encourages unhealthy practices. This conflict between morality and factual ethics still continues to doom the LGBTQ community within society. Despite being recognized under the laws, not many people accept them and they face rigorous backlash.
What does LGBTQ stand for?
Starting from L, it stands for lesbian- A lesbian is a homosexual woman. The word lesbian is also used for women concerning their sexual identity or sexual behavior, regardless of sexual orientation, or as an adjective to characterize or associate nouns with female homosexuality or same-sex attraction. Then we have G, which stands for Gay- Gay is a term that refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual- in a simple word for a homosexual male. Then comes B, which stands for bisexual- which means that a person is either physically attracted to the other genders male and female. This attraction can be romantic as well as sexual. After LGB, we have T which stands for Transgender. Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. This meant that a person that is born as a boy has traits similar to that of a girl or vice versa, their assigned birth gender is different from their sexual orientation. And lastly, the Q, which stands for Queer. Queer is a term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender. This means it’s a category for people whose gender preferences are a bit unique but they don’t fall under any category of LGBT.
So it’s clear by now that LGBTQ is just another set of genders which most of us find hard to accept or even appreciate. And it’s not just because of what we think but because of what we have been thinking for a long time.
How can we end anti-LGBTQ prejudice?
Awareness comes from education from a young age. As the community experience, a higher level of hate crimes fell more prey to mob lynching and are mostly subjected to day-to-day humiliation, the only resource to end this is education. Parents should teach their children about gender equality from the beginning. Research shows that education has a positive impact on the support of the LGBTQ community.
Only when we come above the racial prejudices, discrimination, and cultural traditions, our world can become more accepting about the things that we have been taught incorrectly till now and that women, men, and transgenders have equal rights in society.