Gay people have been making more and more strides over the years. The LGBT community has been increasing awareness over the years and has made more progress towards general acceptance. A few years ago, they even got to the point where gay marriage became legal in every state, a landmark occasion that showed years of hard work and support can pay off. Since then, talk of discrimination against people in the LBGT community has dropped significantly; that is to say, many seem to think that gay marriage was the end of it all. Except, it is not over; it just gets swept under the rug more often than not.
Many people still have to deal with the discrimination, and dangers, that come with being queer. Even the word queer in and of itself can cause issues. It was originally used by people of the LBGT community to describe themselves, but over time it became a term of discrimination and hate. But the LBGT community decide to reclaim that word and many are using it to describe themselves, particularly some of the lesser known sexualities and gender identities like pansexual, bisexual, and asexual. That does not stop people from using it as a hateful term, nor does it mean that everyone in the LBGT community likes that as a label. Whatever the case, it is still representative of the conflict that the LGBT community has to face.
In August, a man in Florida was killed for defending his gay friend. Juan Cruz was at a restaurant with friends when another man at the restaurant became enraged over the fact that one of Cruz’s friends was exchanging numbers with another man. He began yelling hateful speech at the group and threatened to kill all of them several times throughout the night. Once both groups left, this man pulled out a handgun and began to fire at Cruz’s friends. Cruz himself got shot and died at the scene. This was only a few months ago. There are still people out there that are ready, willing, and capable of killing LGBT people just because they are not straight. But no one likes to talk about that. Or about any discrimination, for that matter. Too often, events like this get swept under the rug, and it seems more than strange that no one talks about it and that life just goes on. There is more work that needs to be done, and people cannot act like the fight is over just because some progress has been made.
Most people are aware of the popularity of gay clubs, and how they seem to be the go-to spots for any interaction between LGBTQA+ people. It has almost reached the point of becoming a stereotype; clubs are just where all of the gays hang out. In a sense that is true, but from that stems a bigger issue. There are no casual locations for LGBT people in that community to hang out. The only places that cater to them are bars or clubs, both of which exclude younger members of the community and are often inherently sexual. It is not an appropriate place to really make friends or for people under the age of 18 to become more involved with the community. With clubs, it is hard for LGBT people to connect with those who are going through similar life experiences as they are.
The simplest solution to this is to create spaces for members of the LGBTQA+ community that are more casual and not a part of the bar/club scene. Though it is a bit of a cliché, coffee shops aimed towards LGBT people would be a good starting point. It provides a calm and casual place for people from the community to meet up and hang out. Younger members of the community could also be involved without fear of predatory behavior or overt sexual tones being an issue.
People in the LGBTQA+ community often feel the need to hide or avoid talking about their identity. They can feel isolated from the people around them and the community they belong to. Locations that cater to LBGT people can provide a sense of belonging and ease the burden of having to watch how you act and what you say around people you do not know. They often have to guard their actions and words around strangers for fear of discrimination, but in locations that are more casual and designed for LGBTQA+, they can relax and they do not need to hold their breath in anxiety.
Radford University’s Campus has recently obtained gender neutral bathrooms in several of its academic buildings and in all of its dormitory buildings. This marks a significant positive change towards inclusion and acceptance of transgender and genderfluid individuals, something that is sorely needed during this year with its high political tensions and rise of discriminatory actions and organizations.
Radford’s LGBTQA+ organization, Spectrum, helped to make the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms possible on campus. The organization made a great effort to work with the university to make this happen. Spectrum is a group that works hard to provide a helpful and supportive community for LGBTQA+ individuals, and they raise awareness for issues involving them. Organizations like this are a great help to many people and they do a lot to create a better place for the people of their community.
Because many groups and minorities have to worry about discrimination and fighting for their rights, they develop organizations like Spectrum or Black Lives Matter. Groups like these enable individuals to help each other and work towards equality, to a world where people are free to be themselves without fear of hate crimes and/or prejudice. The inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms is a step in this direction. It lets transgender and genderfluid people know they are not alone and that people can and will support and fight for them. It shows that, contrary to the beliefs of some, they are not secondary citizens and that their rights and comforts are just as important as everyone else’s.
We need a greater inclusion and consideration of minorities and we are working towards that. People of the LGBTQA+ community (along with African Americans, Muslims, Latinos, and any minority or group subjected to prejudice and unfair treatment) are real, valuable, and important people. They deserve the same treatment and rights as anyone. They are human beings who deserve the same respect and decency that we all demand ourselves. It is not outlandish to show considerations for their needs; in fact, people should show consideration for others at the the bare minimum.