By Nikhil Umesh:
The date June 26, 2015 is one for the history books. In a landmark decision in the case Obergefell vs. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages legal across all 50 states. For a decision of this stature, the response was, expectedly, all across the board. Taking a glance across social media, I saw people filtering their Facebook profile pictures with the LGBTQI+ pride flag, some citing religious arguments against queerness, and others contending that the LGBTQI+ movement’s radicalism has been diluted in a pursuit of assimilating into the state.
This decision means that many LGBTQI+ people now have access to rights, both symbolic or material, that they grew up being told they didn’t deserve. If this decision had passed decades earlier, many who died of AIDS during the 1980s epidemic would have had legal authority to have their partner with them by their hospital bed.
My Facebook newsfeed is more politically radical and left of the mainstream LGBTQI+ movement. So, many within my social circle called for us to be wary of uncritical celebration in this historic moment.
Considered the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement are the Stonewall riots of 1969. In the early morning hours of June 28, an uprising led by low-income trans people against police violence in the Stonewall Inn ignited the modern struggle for LGBTQI+ rights in the United States. However, these events have largely been erased from collective memory. Queer and trans organisers have pointed to the movement being co-opted by wealthy, white, cisgender men, separating it from its politically radical origins.
The Wednesday prior to the landmark decision, President Obama was giving a speech at a LGBTQI+ Pride Reception at the White House when he was cut him short. The person interrupting him was Jennicet Gutiérrez, a transgender activist fighting to bring attention to the struggles of trans women in immigrant detention centers.
“I am a trans woman!” she shouted. “… No more deportation!”
The crowd quickly tried to silence her, with cheers and shouts of “Obama!” following suit. Within minutes, the President shut down the interruption and had her escorted out.
In an opinion piece for the Washington Blade, she calls attention to rifts in the priorities of the LGBTQI+ community: “It is heartbreaking to see how raising these issues were received by the President and by those in attendance. In the tradition of how Pride started, I interrupted his speech because it is time for our issues and struggles to be heard. I stood for what is right. Instead of silencing our voices, President Obama can also stand and do the right thing for our immigrant LGBTQI+ community.”
The question of whether we will see mass support for an end to deportations, police violence, and mass incarcerations against all LGBTQI+ people, just as we have seen for marriage, remains to be answered.
Some aren’t interested in waiting for an answer.
To quote someone on my Facebook newsfeed: “I’m not interested in equality. I want justice and liberation.“