As many of you will no doubt have realized, with rainbow flags in every storefront and #pride posts from every ally on your Facebook feed, June is Pride Month. This weekend is the New York Pride parade, so in light that, today I’m going to take you on a quick world tour of LGBTQ victories from 2018 so far. I’ll cover topics relating heavily to oppression of LGBTQ folks, specifically trans folks, as well as self-harm and suicide.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Supreme Court Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that a law criminalizing sodomy was unconstitutional. The court had been asked by a man named Jason Jones to decide whether the state had the right to regulate sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex. Said Rampersad: “It is a threat that is sanctioned by the State…it justifies in the mind of others in society…that the very lifestyle, life and existence of a person who chooses to live, in the way that the claimant does, is criminal and is deemed of a lesser value than anyone else,” illustrating just why it’s so important for laws to reflect equality – because when they don’t, people use them as justification to discriminate against those affected.
Likewise, in Poland, a printing company that refused to print an order for a pro-LGBTQ organization was found to be in violation of the principle of equal rights before the law by the Supreme Court.
In Japan, an increasing number of schools are finally introducing new uniform codes, either replacing the strictly gendered uniform binary with a gender neutral uniform, or by allowing flexibility of choice as to which uniform might be worn. This follows a 2015 directive from the government asking schools to pursue policies which might better consider the needs of their LGBT students. Progress has been slow, and many policies won’t go into place until 2019, but it’s certainly a victory.
In April, the Chinese social media service Weibo preemptively decided to censor LGBTQ content on its platform, despite governmental silence on the issue. While the CCP has a general policy of “don’t encourage, don’t discourage” when it comes to LGBTQ rights, companies sometimes try to lead to way on censorship to stay on the government’s good side. However, there was an outpouring of protest, and a pro-LGBTQ op-ed in the state-run newspaper, which forced Weibo to back down and reverse its policy, representing a win for both LGBTQ rights as well as freedom to protest.
In Greece, lawmakers decided in May to approve a measure which would allow same-sex couples to foster children through the Greek foster care system. The Church, tightly intertwined with the government, protested loudly, but the measure stands, representing a win for a country that basically invented gayness. Just saying.
Finally, just this week, the World Health Organization updated its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) to recognize gender non-conformity as “gender incongruence” instead of “gender identity disorder,” recognizing that any mental health issues related to gender non-conformity arise from the stigma and bullying that society attach to it rather than anything inherent in the person themselves. Given that 70% of psychiatrists worldwide use the ICD to code their diagnoses, this has the far-reaching effect of allowing trans and non-binary people to seek surgery and medication without being forced to accept a diagnosis of mental disorder – in other words, to affirm their gender without having to have a psychiatrist tell them their identity is a disease.
The world is ever better. An ever more accepting and peaceful place to live, even if it doesn’t much feel like it sometimes. But there is always work to be done. Here at home, we effectively banned trans people from the military (because unlike the WHO, in the US you still have to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to receive insured medical treatment, which is now disqualifying for the military) and made the apparent decision that bakers need not bake cakes for gay couples (even though that SCOTUS decision actually only said that Colorado should have been more respectful of religion in how they handled the case – not that Phillips was fundamentally right to refuse the couple service). These things have real consequences for real people, every day. Every instance of LGBT bullying increases the chances of self-harm by 2.5 times. LGB youth are 5 times more likely than their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide, to say nothing of transgender youth, who by adulthood attempt suicide at a rate of 40%.
We’re winning the war, but we’re losing people every day. This is why Pride matters. Happy Pride.