Biden's new website is...nice.
It's been said many times: Leaving Trump behind feels like emerging from an abusive relationship, or perhaps renewing one's relationship with a former BFF (America) after she leaves her sh*tty man.
After all, Trump is a classic abuser. He gaslights, he lies, he cheats, and he is leaving behind an America with 200,000 people dead and more dying every day. He never admits his mistakes, creating a vicious cycle wherein he does something atrocious, gets a tan, and then shows up smiling with flowers (or in his case, a last-minute attempt to curry favor with the Black community by befriending several aging rappers).
Many Americans are still under his spell, and there's not much a lot of us can do about it. People in abusive relationships are often in denial about what's happening to them, and they often won't leave until they decide to. Shaming someone in an abusive relationship is rarely an effective way to get them out of it, as they've likely already been shamed many times.
Concerned friends and family can get into as many Facebook arguments with Trumpets as we want, but until they decide they deserve better and it's time to leave, there's really not too much we can do for them. All we can do is offer a safe place where they can run to, should they choose to escape. (Of course, we must remember that many Trumpers can be abusive as well).
Anyway, all this is to say that now we're finally kicking Trump out. America, we have decided to free ourselves. And we have the next few months to prepare for a new man to move in: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.
Settling for Joe, Dreaming of Bernie
I know I'm not alone in saying that Joe Biden isn't my dream man. For a long time, I was hoping that Bernie Sanders would sweep me off my feet on an elderly white horse, a joint billowing from his hand. He would take me to the hospital where I would finally get my wisdom teeth removed for free thanks to Medicare For All, and then we would go to Jeff Bezos's house, demand a few billion dollars (just hand it over, Jeff, it'll save you a lot of time in court), and make a couple large donations to community organizers.
But alas, that was always a fantasy—and much like my childhood fantasy of dating Joe Jonas during his Camp Rock years, some things are simply not meant to be.
Now we have Joe Biden. I still don't know all that much about the man, relatively speaking, but I know he's not nearly as dangerous as Donald Trump. When I heard he was the nominee, I thought that if anything, he might just be a do-nothing type of politician who would have to be bullied by mass movements into taking any sort of action at all.
But at least, I hoped, he would clean up some of the mess Trump made during one of his many fits of rage. At least there would be no more 5 AM tweet storms. At least his gang of weird friends from Fox News would stop stealing from my fridge and destroying America's stature in the rest of the world's eyes.
View this post on InstagramUsually wouldn't post in between seasons but was just so proud of the whole team ❤️
A post shared by Jordan Firstman (@jtfirstman) on Oct 7, 2020 at 9:45pm PDT
The website looks...nice. It's been so long since a political platform showed up wearing a suit and holding flowers instead of brandishing a gun at me and threatening to demolish gay rights.
Scrolling through, I actually agree with most of what the website says. I mean, first of all, there's the COVID-19 plan. A COVID plan. A plan! It's not an Elizabeth Warren-level plan, sure, but it's still an actual plan with steps.
Trump had no plan. If anything, his plan was to keep golfing as he let COVID-19 keep raging across the country. States across the nation probably would've shut down again, over and over again each winter for years, because not every state is willing to just...let everyone catch COVID-19. This disease would have continued for another four years to forever. The death toll, the overcrowded hospitals…The nightmare would have gone on, and on, and on.
It's unclear as to whether Joe Biden will effectively stop COVID-19, but dammit, it's nice to know there is a plan–one that's comprised of actual words, to boot.
It's also incredibly relieving to hear someone say they will "ensure public health decisions are informed by public health professionals." This is like if you were dating some guy who's willing to let you lie on the couch bleeding out because he didn't feel like driving you to the ER, but then Joe Biden popped in and said the Uber is on its way. (Yeah, we can't quite expect affordable ambulances with a Biden healthcare plan, but I'll take what I can get).
Biden has promised to set up a Pandemic Testing Board and a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to mobilize community contract tracing. He's going to use the Defense Production Act. He's going to call on Congress to pass an emergency relief package and a "restart package" that helps businesses cover COVID-19 related costs. He's going to build infrastructure to prevent future pandemic threats. He's going to fund schools and small businesses.
And, incredibly, Biden's COVID-19 plan involves science. (How beautiful it is to hear that word: "science"...used correctly…)
I've always had a type, and that type is musicians and/or climate activists. I didn't think Joe Biden was either, but his climate plan is music to my ears.
Biden knows climate change is an existential threat. He knows that the "current COVID-19 pandemic reminds us how profoundly the energy and environmental policy decisions of the past have failed communities" and "at this moment of profound crisis, we have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy—one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050."
An irreversible path to net-zero emissions. Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord—and vamping them up. Creating millions of green jobs. Environmental Justice. Talk. Clean. Energy. To. Me.
True, these are fairly logical, necessary steps to that must be taken if we are to combat climate change, the paramount existential threat of our time, and it will take even more radical action to prevent irreparable destruction. It's sad that we have to celebrate someone doing the bare minimum, using basic logic, and practicing public decency, but here we are.
Maybe I've just gotten so used to preparing for hurricanes and wildfires and being treated like sh*t that I've lowered my expectations to subterranean bunker-levels. And maybe I am too naive.
It's probably naive to believe any of this will be possible or that any real change will happen with Biden. But given that the ex-president mostly communicated through all-caps rage-tweets, this is a nice change.
Biden also has an economic recovery plan. "The pandemic has also laid bare some unacceptable truths. Even before COVID-19, too many families were struggling to make ends meet and too many parents were worried about the economic future for their children," writes whoever wrote the copy for Biden's website.
"Laid bare": That's the phrase that every single one of my favorite journalists has used to describe the effects of COVID-19. Biden steals phrases from reputable journalists rather than from cracked-out Floridian moguls paying for rooms at Mar-A-Lago in order to gain favors from the president.
Wow, my expectations are really, really, really low. I mean, goddammit, the ex-president has failed at countless business ventures and has been bailed out time and time again. He's like Pete Davidson in this recent SNL sketch, who claims he's working on a "start-up" only for you to later find out that his "angel investor" is ghosting him.
Visiting Grandma - SNL www.youtube.com
Trump is a criminal who didn't even pay his taxes. He's literally Keith from this other SNL sketch (a not-so-subtle metaphor for Trump), and America is Ego Nwodim, somehow considering actually taking him back (until the cops show up).
Take Me Back - SNL www.youtube.com
Biden's economic plan promises to "provide state, local, and tribal governments with the aid they need so educators, firefighters, and other essential workers aren't being laid off." The plan also promises to "mobilize American talent and heart to build a 21st century caregiving and education workforce." He included carework and education—traditionally undervalued and under-recognized forms of essential work—in his economic plan.
Hopefully, with Jill Biden at the helm rather than Betsy DeVos, America's education and caregiving systems will improve so that more people of all genders have equal opportunities to ascend to the highest office in the land.
At the very, very least, there will be a dog back in the White House.
Joe Biden and his shelter dog, Champmymodernmet.com
Joe and Jill Biden with their German Shepard, MajorFashion Model Secret
Biden also has a plan to "mobilize across the board to advance racial equity in America." That's right: No more creepy, covert-but-kind-of-overt white supremacy implicit in the presidential platform.
Now, we have Kamala Harris, a Black and South Asian woman, as our VP! Sure, she might have a background in criminal prosecution, and representation doesn't equal reparations, but you know...it's still way, way better than that really disturbing "stand back and stand by" stuff we dealt with for four years.
There's an entire section on racial equality. There's a plan for police reform. We're doing the bare minimum rather than regressing at an exponential pace.
Let's not forget that racism is deeply ingrained in the fabric of America, and white people overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Also, this kind of change has been promised before, and we have been let down many times. There's a lot of work to do.
We aren't out of the woods yet—far from it. But for this one glowing weekend, the dense pines cleared and we saw a sky full of shooting stars. It didn't actually help anyone pay for their kids' food or clear their astronomical healthcare bills; but it's a promise and a chance to imagine that one day, we might make it out.
America Deserves Better
Joe Biden is not the patron saint of hope, equality, and change. In all honesty, it completely makes sense that a lot of people all along the political spectrum aren't excited about him. He's not exactly the guy of our dreams. And America does deserve better.
But hopefully, Joe Biden will be there over the next few years as we bind our wounds and heal the burns from our terrible spray tans. He'll give us time to get a couple makeovers, a la Tutar in the Borat sequel. He'll help us rebuild, and hopefully next time the election rolls around, we'll have found our footing as a strong, powerful nation that doesn't need a man at all.
Of course, many powerful villains remain. There's America's resident zombie-ghoul, Mitch McConnell, who has long been blocking Democrats' every effort to make real change. Even though the man is rotting from the inside out—perhaps his hatred has at last calcified into a visible plague?—we haven't been able to exorcise that particular demon yet. (Kentucky...we'll be ready to elect Charles Booker when you need us, but we can't help you until you help yourself).
And in truth, we will never heal until we learn to love ourselves, America. We can't rely on another old white man to fix us. We have to turn to our people, our communities, and mass movements. We have to decide what we want our future to look like, and go get it.
It's clear that it will take a lot more than a president-elect to wring out some of America's lingering, ongoing traumas. We'll need therapy, certainly, and a lot of it. Hopefully all those freshly legalized drugs will help with our collective depression.
At some point, we'll actually have to engage with the deep traumas and early childhood wounds that led us into these kinds of relationships in the first place. We have to confront the mistakes of our forefathers and foremothers, the slavery and colonization and colonialism that created the attachment issues and socio-psychological defects that drew us to men like Trump. We have to be the ones that change our lives in order to change our nation.
But that's a tall order, and we're all tired. So for now, I'm just going to keep gazing lovingly at the work of Biden's excellent web designer, who clearly knows how to pick a font and lay out an escape plan. I look forward to being mildly uninspired by Biden's administrative staff picks rather than openly horrified.
It's been a terrible time, America. For many of us, life has always been this way. But it's late-stage 2020; the status quo is no more, and anything is possible. If you told me I'd be writing a thirsty essay about Joe Biden's website in February 2020 I would have thrown my beer in your face then gone back to my awesome free concert (just kidding, I probably would've been right here on the Internet protected by net neutrality, but I digress).
Yes, I am pretty desperate right now, and I don't think I'm alone in that. But I have faith in the organizers that have been working tirelessly to get us here, and I believe if we keep fighting, organizing, and working towards change, we'll see a new world come to be.
For now, love is love, so I will continue to feel vaguely attracted to this website until climate change ends or I finally get my goddamned stimulus check.
As Pride month ends, we look at the life of one of the most important figures in the push towards gay rights.
Content warning: This article contains a brief mention of sexual assault.
As Pride Month comes to a close, we remember Marsha P. Johnson, one of the principal figures in the gay liberation movement.
A Black transgender woman, Johnson was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1945. Her parents were blue collar workers who raised Johnson with her six siblings. At age five, she began wearing dresses, but stopped after boys in her neighborhood began bullying and harassing her over her outfits. She later recalled being violently raped by one of these boys, who she remembered being around 13 at the time.
She had a religious upbringing and remained a devout Christian through her later life. In her adolescence, Johnson "always thought gayness was some sort of dream." She abstained from sexual activity until she moved to New York City at age 17 with only $15 and a bag of clothes. She began waiting tables in Greenwich Village; for the first time in her life, she met other queer people, and the "dream" of being gay was slowly becoming her reality.
With a newfound confidence to explore her gender identity, she ditched her birth name, put on a blond wig, and adopted the name Marsha P. Johnson. The letter "P" stood for "pay it no mind," a phrase Johnson would use to sarcastically dismiss people who inquired about her gender.
After arriving in New York, Johnson began performing in drag; she became known for her slender silhouette and her crowns of fresh flowers. She usually couldn't afford the ultra-glamorous ensembles worn by more extravagant "high drag" queens. Nonetheless, Johnson became one of the first drag queens to go to the notorious Stonewall Inn, a bar that had previously only been open for cisgender gay men.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall uprising occurred in the form of violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT+ community in response to a police raid. Along with fellow drag queen Zazu Nova and sex worker Jackie Hormona, Johnson is often cited as one of the leaders of the pushback against police during the Stonewall uprising.
However, Johnson later denied these claims, stating the riots had already begun when she arrived at the Stonewall that night. Witnesses have recalled her throwing a shot class at a mirror, shouting, "I got my civil rights," as well as throwing a brick at a police officer and shattering a police car windshield.
One year later, the first Pride parade occurred on June 28, 1970 to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Then called the Christopher Street Liberation Pride rally, Johnson joined the Gay Liberation Front—a group of LGBT+ activists—and participated in the march. The following August, she helped stage a sit-in protest at Weinstein Hall at New York University, after the university's administration canceled a dance event upon realizing it was sponsored by LGBT+ organizations.
Along with her close friend and drag queen Sylvia Rivera, Johnson went on to co-found Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). STAR helped push intersectional politics and provided housing in Lower Manhattan for homeless queer youth and sex workers. The first STAR House was a parked trailer that served as both a shelter and communal space; but after finding the trailer had been towed one morning, Johnson and Rivera found a more permanent location for a STAR House on Second Avenue.
Johnson and Rivera paid rent for the unit with income they earned from doing sex work. STAR was the first LGBT+ youth shelter in North America and the first organization in the United States to be founded by non-white transgender women.
Despite making innumerable strides in gay liberation and maintaining a mostly lighthearted, positive, and generous persona, Johnson endured a great deal of pain throughout her life; she relied on sex work to survive while living on the streets in the '60s, her husband was shot by police, and she claimed to have been arrested over 100 times.
Her behavior was dangerously erratic at times, leading people to suspect she might have had schizophrenia; she could quickly take on a violent demeanor. For this reason, people long hesitated to acknowledge her impact spearheading the gay rights movement.
Finally, in summer of 1992, Johnson's body was found dead in the Hudson River. Her death was quickly ruled a suicide, although close friends of Johnson's maintained she was never suicidal in spite of her struggles with mental health. She was 46.
Despite not gaining much attention in mainstream press (the New York Times published a very belated obituary in 2018), Johnson was beloved by her community, and she continues to be remembered as one of the most crucial figures in gay liberation. She's been cited as a major influence by RuPaul, the drag queen known for hosting the competition reality show RuPaul's Drag Race.
Though there are still actions that need to be taken in order to achieve full equality for the LGBT+ community, it's irrefutable that Marsha P. Johnson is responsible for much of the progress towards true liberation. Johnson may or may not have thrown the first brick at Stonewall; but either way, she fought like hell for all queer people. Though she didn't know them each personally, they would all come to recognize her as a hero.
This is a major step towards fairer treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
Virginia just made history in the name of equality.
The state just passed the Virginia Values Act, effectively becoming the first Southern state to pass a bill that protects the lives and rights of people in the LGBTQ+ community. The bill outlines anti-discrimination protections for queer folks on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Though it must still go through more procedural votes before going to the governor, a victory on this bill is feasible based on the results of the 2019 midterm elections. If passed, the Virginia Values Act will make the commonwealth the first state in the South to have non-discrimination policies related to sexual orientation.
"Today, history was made in Virginia, and LGBTQ Virginians are one step closer to being protected from discrimination. No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love," said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "This day would not have been possible without the years and years of tireless work from advocates across the commonwealth, or the voters in Virginia that filled the halls of the General Assembly with pro-equality champions who fulfilled their promises. HRC is proud to have worked to elect pro-equality lawmakers across Virginia in 2019, and we are thrilled to see that effort culminate in this important victory today."
Based on previous presidential campaigns, Virginia has been considered a "swing state," and more left-leaning bills like the Virginia Values Act could indicate how the state votes in this year's presidential election. So far, fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that include protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. For the rest, it's time to catch up.
In a country where everyone has freedom of speech, where do we draw the line?
The structures of heteronormativity, patriarchy, and white supremacy are now made fun of, overshadowed, and cast aside by many.
Consequently, some straight, white, and/or male people, used to a society built for their needs, feel irrelevant and unheard. Anytime a minority or oppressed group is celebrated, privileged people try and insert themselves in the conversation. There's a reason why every year people ask, "Why isn't there a White History Month?" during Black History Month. When white men start getting passed up for promotions in favor of more diverse hires, it causes them to feel a fraction of what POC and women have experienced for decades. They view these setbacks as oppression and their erasure from representation as an attack. In turn, they acknowledge they're beginning to lack dominant authority. Groups like Meninists and All Lives Matter exist to belittle the root causes of systemic issues in our country. The relationship between the main systemic sources of violence in America resonate beyond Straight Pride: They remind us how those power dynamics are at play even within marginalized communities.
John Hugo, the President of Super Happy Fun America and head organizer of Boston's controversial Straight Pride Parade, describes himself "living openly as a straight man." Hugo is one of three white men advocating for heterosexual representation within the LBGTQ+ community. Super Happy Fun America is a perfect example of the phenomenon in which the privileged see equality as oppression. SHFA even has their own gay ambassador, Chris Bartely. His tokenism and bio illuminates that although he is a gay man, that does not mean he has the right to speak for the entire LGBTQ+ community:
As gay ambassador, Chris uses his status in the LGBTQ community to challenge heterophobia wherever it exists. He became involved in the straight pride movement after being ostracized from established advocacy groups for merely suggesting that straight people be afforded equal rights.
What Bartley gets wrong is that straight people are discriminated against. Although, not all people within straight relationships are afforded rights like maternity and paternity leave or an abortion, but that's due to issues unrelated to sexual orientation. SHFA utilizes right-wing Trumpism to prick at the current frustration white, straight men entertain. Meanwhile, the definition of "great" is up for debate across the nation. In retaliation, liberals are readdressing America's history and the narratives ignored in textbooks, thus increasing the discourse of who truly makes America great.
The SHFA convinced themselves they have good intentions, but in reality they're misinterpreting the purpose of the LGBTQ+ community. The organizers fail to understand that the community is more than an umbrella term for sexual orientation: It's comprised of identities that could endanger lives and livelihoods because of outside discrimination. Those identities go beyond sexual orientation. They include a spectrum of gender identities which already foster inner conflict within the community due to transphobia and misogyny. By viewing LGBTQ+ solely as a flag of sexual identities is to entirely miss the point of why the community itself exists.
However, pride is a touchy subject when it comes to who is welcome at the celebrations and who it's about. Specifically, it spawns conflict within the community from gay men who exhibit misogynistic rhetoric about female allies and bisexuals. Some within the community push binaries of homosexual relationships (gay men and lesbian women) as the standard. In such instances, systems of patriarchy and white supremacy affect transgender people and queer POC at an alarming rate compared to other peers. Straight pride is a reminder that pride incites complicated matters of identity politics and how the community can be exclusionary by gate-keeping.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Super Happy Fun America are challenging said gate-keeping by arguing in favor of an S in LGBTQIA. Their Vice President, Mark Sahady, has come forward to announce the event is moving forward since they have a permit from the city. If Boston were to take that permit away, Sahady would sue on grounds of discrimination. Their argument is a slap in the face to Pride's history.
With the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, members of the community are reflecting on the horrors of their history, specifically police brutality. Today, police presence stirs debate about how parades can exist within governmental bounds. After all, every parade needs a permit, and the police are brought to enforce the safety of its participants. But when there's a history of police brutality with an oppressed community, it's difficult to trust their intentions. Yet, the men of Super Happy Fun America use their permit from Boston to their benefit (and yet, also as a legal threat). Due to their privilege, they don't see police presence as an issue, because the enforcers have never endangered them: Police protect white men.
The LGBTQ+ community and their allies are rightfully disappointed that anyone would want a straight pride parade, since they know what it truly stands for: These heterosexuals want to overshadow a marginalized community that is beginning to thrive. American society is not at a point yet where we can see or accept each other for who we are and our diverse perspectives. By breaking down other viewpoints' origins, we can get to the root of such ignorance. Straight Pride is a reminder that prejudice is often wielded in reaction to "others" and increases our divisions. To reflect on the roles of sexism, racism, and homophobia is to better ourselves and our communities, dismantling systems of oppression that keep us at odds and with each other as Americans.
In a time when trans people's safety, security, and integrity are subject to attack, here are the top 10 tips to being a good transgender ally.
In today's destabilized political climate, social progress in inclusivity and acceptance can seem glacially slow. On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court allowed President Trump to ban transgender persons from serving in the military, despite a federal court ruling against it in 2018. LGBTQ+ activists condemn the ban as cruel and prejudiced, but people outside the queer community can play a crucial role combating transphobia.
Trans allies can enlighten cultural attitudes and shift discussions away from ill-informed or maligning stereotypes. PFLAG defines transgender as "a term often used to describe an individual whose gender identity does not necessarily match the sex assigned to them at birth." An ally, in the words of UC Berkeley's Gender Equity Unit, is "someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own; reaching across differences to achieve mutual goals."
In a time when trans people's safety, security, and integrity are subject to attack, here are the top 10 tips to being a good transgender ally:
1.Never "out" a transgender person.
You wouldn't want your most personal information shared freely with strangers. Demonstrate the same respect for the personal lives of your friends. This includes being sharply aware of your surroundings when discussing trans topics before mentioning names, as you could expose your friend without meaning to.
2. Use the names and pronouns your friends prefer.
Don't be afraid to ask if you aren't sure. If you make a mistake, politely correct yourself, and gently correct others if they do the same. It isn't infringing upon someone's freedom of speech to allow individuals to self-identify and called by that name.
3. Don't make assumptions about a transgender person's sexual orientation.
Gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation. Gender identity is an individual's own understanding of their gender, and sexual orientation is who they feel attracted to. Transitioning is not an indication of any specific orientation.
4. Be patient.
Transitioning is a long process that may have long phases of questioning, exploring, and experimenting. Individuals may change their preferred pronouns, change their minds about their gender expression, and then change back. Be patient and accepting while they work it out for themselves.
5. Be willing to listen.
Transitioning can also be incredibly frustrating and emotionally turbulent. Be open and accepting when a friend wishes to talk. Respect their space when they ask for it, but make it clear that you're willing to listen.
6. Don't expect transgender people to educate you.
Don't expect your transgender friends to represent the entire community. Make use of resources to understand important issues. Books, films, blogs, and YouTube channels offer insight into the shared experiences in the community.
7. Challenge transphobic attitudes.
GLAAD advises you speak out against anti-trans remarks and backhanded compliments like, "She's so gorgeous, I would have never guessed she was transgender." Challenging these remarks and clarifying why they're inappropriate is a small step towards changing cultural attitudes.
8. Support all-gender public restrooms.
Advocate for unisex, all-gender, or single user restrooms at the workplace, schools, or businesses. Since some institutions still don't welcome gender non-conforming or transgender people, speaking up is one small way to shift attitudes towards acceptance.
9. Advocate for LGBTQ+ legislature.
As PFLAG states, People who are transgender or gender nonconforming can be fired from their jobs under state law in more than half of the states in the U.S. simply for being transgender." There's no federal law explicitly banning discrimination against transgender people, but a plethora of organizations are lobbying for that to change. You can get in touch with National Center for Transgender Equality or the Sylvia Law Project to help the cause.
10. Know your own limits as an ally.
It's never wrong to say you don't know. If you're unsure of what's appropriate, ask. If you don't feel comfortable discussing something, say so, and don't fake it. Otherwise, your reactions can range from insensitive to insincere without meaning to.
In contrast, the education system in the United States is not nearly as LGBTQ+ friendly.
In what advocates say is a historic moment, Scotland will take the lead as the first country in the world to embed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex rights into their required education curriculum.
State schools will be instructing teachers as well as students about the history of LGBTI equality and movements, challenging homophobia and transphobia, and exploring LGBTQ+ identity and terminology. There will be no exemptions to the policy, so individual schools will not be allowed to opt-out. The Scottish government's move comes after an LGBTI Inclusive Education working group, led by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, outlined 33 recommendations in a published report on how to tackle LGBTI bullying in schools.
In a study, TIE found that nine in 10 LGBTI Scots experience homophobia at school, with 27% reporting that they had attempted suicide because of being bullied. Research also discovered there was little understanding in schools about prejudice against people with variations of sex characteristics and intersex bodies. These findings are likely a part of the destructive legacy of section 28, the infamous legislation enacted by Margaret Thatcher's conservative government in 1988. The clause, part of the Local Government Act 1988, banned the "promotion" of homosexuality by local authorities and educators in British schools. It was repealed in Scotland in 2001 and in the rest of the UK two years later.
Jordan Daly, the co-founder of TIE, said of the new curriculum: "This is a monumental victory for our campaign, and a historic moment for our country. The implementation of LGBTI inclusive education across all state schools is a world first. In a time of global uncertainty, this sends a strong and clear message to LGBTI young people that they are valued here in Scotland."
Surprisingly, Scotland is regularly ranked one of the best European countries for legal protections of LGBTI people despite the country decriminalizing homosexuality in 1980, 13 years after England and Wales did the same. Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale described the country in 2016 as having "the gayest parliament in the world." At the time four of Scotland's six party leaders identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual: Dugdale, Ruth Davidson, David Coburn and Patrick Harvie.
A number of Scotland's neighbors, including Wales and the Republic of Ireland, have also been looking into further integrating LGBTQ+ issues in their curricula. In England, some schools are already teaching LGBT-inclusive classes.
In contrast, the education system in the United States is not nearly as LGBTQ+ friendly. Much like the repealed section 28 in the UK, seven U.S. states have anti-gay laws that explicitly prohibit the positive portrayal of homosexuality in schools. The laws, currently in effect in Alabama, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisina, and Mississippi (Utah repealed its law in 2017), can have various negative effects on LGBTQ+ youth within the millions of public school students affected.
A report by GLSEN, an LGBTQ+ education advocacy group, found that LGBTQ+ students in these states were less likely to find peers that are accepting of their identities, more likely to hear homophobic remarks, and more likely to face harassment and assault at school because of their sexual orientation and/or gender expression. Schools in these states are also less likely to have teachers and administrators supportive of LGBTQ+ students, as well as fewer resources (like Gay-Straight Alliance clubs) and less health services inclusive of LGBTQ+ needs. While the exact laws differ in each state, advocates say they all function to further stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.
Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney said Thursday, "Our education system must support everyone to reach their full potential. That is why it is vital the curriculum is as diverse as the young people who learn in our schools."
"The recommendations I have accepted will not only improve the learning experience of our LGBTI young people, they will also support all learners to celebrate their differences, promote understanding and encourage inclusion," Swinney said.
The United States should take note of the progress being made by their allies across the pond.
A victim of anti-gay hate, the LGBT icon's ashes are interred in Washington, DC.
Twenty years ago this month, a young gay man named Matthew Shepard was beaten and left for dead tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming.
Friday, on the other side of the country, his ashes were interred in a crypt at the Washington National Cathedral while thousands looked on. They came to celebrate the life of Shepard, who in the years since his death became a symbol of hope and love amidst anti-gay hate and oppression. For many LGBTQ+ people, the circumstances of his death bring memories of their own struggles, both inside the closet and out.
The public service was led by the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington and the Right Rev. Gene Robinson. Like Shepard, Robinson is an openly gay man, and poignantly, also the first elected as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
Robinson had tears in his eyes as he welcomed attendees. To those who are LGBT, he said "many of you have been hurt by your own religious communities, and I want to welcome you back." He referred to Shepard's burial at the cathedral as a homecoming, saying "it is a remarkable step forward."
Shepard's father thanked the attendees for their support. "It's so important that we now have a home for Matt... A home that is safe from haters. A home that he loved dearly." Robinson praised both of Shepard's parents, who founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation to combat hate crimes across the country, for devoting their lives to LGBT activism.
During the service, Robinson shared a touching anecdote from the police officer who first saw Shepard the day after his brutal attack. When she arrived, a deer was lying beside Shepard's body and looked the officer straight in the eye before running away.
"What she said was: 'That was the good Lord, no doubt in my mind.' And there's no doubt in my mind either. God has always loved Matt," Robinson said.
In October 1998, Shepard was tortured and robbed by two men he had encountered in a bar, and was subsequently abandoned for eighteen hours tethered to a chain-link fence. He died from his injuries five days later at the age of 21.
Prosecutors in his case alleged that Shepard was targeted because of anti-gay bigotry. The two attackers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, were both sentenced to life in prison. Although characterizing the murder as a hate crime has been disputed by some, outrage over Shepard's death ultimately led to the passage of the Shepard/Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. James Byrd Jr, an African-American man killed by white supremacists in Texas, also inspired the legislation.
Shepard's funeral in 1998 was protested by the now-notorious Westboro Baptist Church carrying signs reading "God hates F*gs," "Matt in hell," "AIDS cures F*gs," among other hateful speech. During the trials for Shepard's killers, the group Angel Action peacefully counter-protested the church's signs while wearing white angel costumes. The costumes had ten-foot wingspans that covered and silenced the church protesters.
Throughout the Friday service, Robinson urged the crowd not only to commemorate Shepard, but to also confront the prejudice and violence that faces the LGBTQ community today. Marginalized factions within the community are particularly at risk of hate, like transgender people. "There are forces who would erase them from America," Robinson said. Twice he encouraged the crowd to "go vote."
Robinson received a long-standing ovation as he closed the service, choking down the final words:
"There are three things I'd say to Matt: 'Gently rest in this place. You are safe now. And Matt, welcome home.' Amen."