Editorial 10/20: Love won, but the fight isn’t over: Why National Coming Out Week was so critical

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National Coming out week is important for advocating for the rights and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community. Credit: Unsplash Images

By the Editorial Board

Last week was National Coming Out Week here at Canisius, and Unity worked hard to put on events all week that aimed to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community as well as provide education. The events were extremely successful and well-received. Despite this, some students were confused about the purpose of the week.

One student was overheard harmlessly voicing a question that perhaps many people were curious about: “Marriage equality has already been passed, why do they [the LGBTQ+ community] need a whole week?”

Although this question is a fair one, it lacks an understanding of the more pressing issues facing the LGBTQ+ community today. Even more, it shows that the student has not been paying attention to current events tied to non-cisgender, non-straight people. But, of course, why would you if it doesn’t pertain to you?

Since Trump’s rise to power, the LGBTQ+ community has been under attack, just like every single other minority group (unless you count white supremacists as a minority group). However, the jabs have not been covered as much as the harm done to other groups. Of course, this is not a media flaw or a measure of which group’s suffering is more “important,” but rather a sad reality; there are so many people being harmed by this presidency that groups that have been covered by the media heavily in the past are now sharing their “time” with other groups that are struggling as well.

However, because of this, many people don’t understand how much hatred, both social and legislative, is being thrown at the LGBTQ+ community every day.

On Monday, a statement from a source inside the White House claimed that during a meeting with a legal counsel, Trump joked about the fact that the counsel should not ask Vice President Mike Pence about gay rights because he wants to “hang them all.” Although the “all” referred to in this situation is, of course, the people in the LGBTQ+ community, the violence that the President and VP feel encompasses so many groups that this statement could be applied to a majority of the population.

The fact that Trump not only stated this fact so bluntly, but also stated it in a joking manner, shows just how much danger the LGBTQ+ community is still in. Trans people especially have been targeted in the months following the election with potential laws being put into circulation that jeopardize their safety, livelihoods, and happiness. For example, in Mississippi, trans people can openly be refused treatment by medical professionals and gay people can be refused service at any location, both on the basis of religious freedom.

While not many comprehensive bills or laws have been passed during this administration (so far) that directly harm LGBTQ+ individuals, the statements made by the President and VP have already had harmful and real effects in the larger American community.

As a perfect reflection of this, read the following and reflect on whether you’ve heard these facts before:

“34% or trans people attempt suicide.”

“30% of suicides are LGBT related.”

“Over 40% of bisexual people considered suicide.”

Upon first glance, you might think that these statistics came straight from a campaign for raising awareness about the LGBTQ+ community and mental health. Unfortunately, their origins are much more sinister. They were actually plastered on a poster that was found on Monday on the Cleveland State University campus urging LGBT people to kill themselves. “Follow Your Fellow Faggots” was written across the top, with the above statistics and a silhouetted picture of someone hanging with a rope around their neck underneath.

The poster, signed from a group called “Fascist Solutions,” was layered underneath another poster from the same group picturing two white faces with the caption, “WE HAVE A RIGHT TO EXIST.” The irony is, of course, that the posters are promoting the “saving” of one group that doesn’t need saving at all while simultaneously urging for the demise of another group which is constantly in harm’s way.

After this poster was brought to the attention of the administration, the school’s president, Ronald M. Berkman, released a statement relaying that he was not able to remove the poster from the wall because of First Amendment rights, even though the topic of the poster was “controversial.” Don’t worry, though; he urged that, “a spirit of inclusiveness will always be central to the very identity of [CSU].” If that “spirit” was also extended to groups who exercised hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, then he was absolutely right.

After extreme backlash, the administration ended up removing the posters only because they weren’t reapproved by the administration, not because they were violent. Berkman also released a half-hearted apology promising that he did feel “personal outrage,” but he just didn’t express it as well as he should have.

The administration is not looking into the event or the group any further, so the queer student union on campus has taken it upon themselves to find out who was behind it. With no repercussion for posting such posters, more “solutions” are bound to follow from this fascist hate group.

When President Hurley was questioned about whether or not he had heard about this event, he responded that he has not heard anything about it. Personally, we here at The Griffin believe that if the same thing happened at Canisius, administration would be more likely to act in accordance with our Jesuit values promoting peace and the well-being of others and remove the poster immediately. That’s what we hope, anyway.

It’s important to remember that not only does the LGBTQ+ community want to celebrate its members, but it’s also still actively working to keep its members safe. As perfectly stated by Unity’s posters from last year, “Love won, but the fight isn’t over.” While marriage equality was a great stepping stone to more LGBTQ+ rights, it is ultimately a figurehead of a platform for people to fight for because it’s easy to swallow. “Love is love” is easy to push, while shouting that 21 trans people (19 being POC) have been murdered because of hate crimes only this year is more difficult. If you want to be a true ally for the LGBTQ+ community, you have to understand that it’s not all about the rainbows (although that is a huge part of it).

Shamar Smith, ‘19, of Unity’s executive board stated that, “National Coming Out Week is an opportunity, as queer people, to stand up against [homophobia and heteronormativity]. We deserve happiness, and we deserve to celebrate it.”

The LGBTQ+ community, much like the rest of humanity, wants the ability to live safe, fulfilling lives without constantly being attacked, degraded, or urged to hang themselves. Marriage equality is great, but it’s not the full picture and it never was. The fight isn’t over.

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