by Greyson Van Arsdale, ’17

Month of June opens discussion on discrimination against GSRM in USA

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 8.35.09 AMJune is a busy month for the GSRM (Gender, Sexual and Romantic Minority) community. Columbus Pride celebrations begin on June 17, and the one-year anniversary of same-sex marriage legalization in the United States falls on June 26.

Additionally, June 28 is the 47-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a historic event constituting a spontaneous demonstration against a police raid on a bar called Stonewall, which was frequented by many queer patrons. At the time, police raids on establishments friendly towards GSRM patrons were extremely common. The Stonewall Riots are considered to be an event that brought the GSRM community together to fight social, political and economic inequality.

However, although the landmark achievement of same-sex marriage legalization has finally been reached, there are many areas in which discrimination against GSRM groups is still widespread. There are three main areas in the news at the moment: in education, in the workplace and in public accommodations.

Sex Education

Many GSRM advocates are pushing for inclusive sex education in schools.

Freshman Kota Wharton, an advocate for the GSRM community, expressed his desire, and the desire of other advocates, for inclusive sex education.

“Sex ed is currently not inclusive. We can see the impact it’s having on the [GSRM] community,” Wharton said. The CDC reported that gay and bisexual men are the group most severely affected by HIV.

25 states including the District of Columbia require sex education, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute published in March of 2016. However, only 13 of those states require their information to be medically accurate. Nine states require sex education to be GSRM-inclusive.

However, some states have to abide by so-called “No Promo Homo” laws, wherein schools are prohibited from discussing GSRM issues with students positively or at all. In some places, these laws require teachers to portray GSRM issues in a negative light.

Currently, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, eight states in the US are under “No Promo Homo” legislation: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Wharton discussed the characteristics of inclusive sex education.

“Inclusive sex ed can look like a ton of different things,” Wharton said. “Mainly it’s using gender neutral pronouns. A lot of classes frame it as if [only] a straight male can give AIDS and HIV to a straight woman. It’s not open to ‘a male can give a male HIV’ or ‘a woman can give a woman HIV.’”

Wharton also explained the need to highlight different types of protection for same-sex partners.

“A very limited amount of schools address that a condom needs to be used between a male and a male, and dental dams or insertable condoms with females,” Wharton said. “These are things that usually get [put aside], or just not mentioned at all in classes. This is something that needs to be mentioned for the kids.”

At Work

Though it is now possible for a same-sex couple to get married, they still face discrimination at work for it. Pew Research found that 21 percent of LGBT Americans reported being mistreated by an employer on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Assistant Athletic Director Kathleen Coughlin talked about her work experience as a member of the GSRM community.

“When I first came out [in college], I really did feel the need to hide it [from employers] and not talk about it,” Coughlin said. “Once my parents found out and they weren’t supportive of it, it was one of those things where in the back of my mind, it was like if my own family was not going to be supportive, I felt I needed to have my guard up. So I didn’t talk about it.”

Coughlin said that if there were more legislative attempts to reduce discrimination, it would increase social accommodations in the workplace.

“I think [legislation prohibiting workplace discrimination] would help, I think that the more you can be open about it and talk about it and understand that people are on your side, [the workplace] will become more open and positive,” Coughlin said.

The Bathroom Debate

With both North Carolina and Mississippi passing their “bathroom bills,” this debate is getting heated. Bathroom bills are legislation forbidding individuals from using a bathroom that does not correspond to their sex at birth. This has been seen by civil rights groups as directly affecting genderqueer or transgender people.

Many corporations have stopped doing business in these states in response to these laws, including PayPal, which pulled their plans to build a facility in North Carolina and the NBA reconsidering their 2017 all-star game in that state.

The Dept. of Justice recently warned North Carolina that their new legislation is unconstitutional. Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, after five days, announced a lawsuit against the federal government and accused the Dept. of Justice of a “blatant and baseless overreach” in their interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in defense of their new bathroom law.

Also with a bathroom bill poised to be made into law is Kansas, the population of the state seems very split on the issue. At a rally on April 29, State Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita compared the bathroom bill to old Jim Crow laws segregating black people and white people into different public accommodations, including bathrooms.

On those same Capitol steps the day before, the Wichita Eagle reported evangelist Franklin Graham as being cheered on by over 4,000 people as he praised his home state of North Carolina for passing their bathroom bill.

“I understand transgender people need to go to the bathroom,” Graham said, as reported by the Wichita Eagle. “But I can tell you this right now, that a man pretending to be a woman has no business in a women’s bathroom or a girls’ locker room.”

In response to these events, the British Foreign Office posted a warning to the GSRM community in Britain traveling to America, particularly in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi.

“The U.S. is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country,” the advisory said. “LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi. Before traveling, please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community.”

Slow Progress

This June, GSRM advocates will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of same-sex marriage, as well as the other advances that have been made since the Stonewall Riots—the event is even getting its own monument at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

GSRM equality has come a long way, and while there are areas in which these minorities are still mistreated, their strides must not be forgotten.

The first gay pride parades took place on June 27-28, 1970, the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

In 1973, homosexuality ceased to be considered a mental disorder by the medical community.

In 1987, Barney Frank came out and in doing so, became the first member of Congress to be openly gay.

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to legalize gay marriage, and of course, this past year, same-sex marriage was made a right under federal law by the Supreme Court.

But despite this progress, the GSRM community has many more legal and social battles to win before they can say they have full equality under the law in education, in the workplace, and in public accommodations in the United States of America.