What Marriage Equality Means: The Silenced Voices of Violence

In a ruling with a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. All over the United States, cis gender gays, lesbians and their allies will be celebrating because, yes, it is a triumph, but we should remember that the end is nowhere in sight. Laws don’t change people’s perceptions, especially when it comes to issues like gender and sexuality.

As we have seen throughout history, symbolic, life-changing moments similar to today’s victory often cause backlash. There will be an increase in violence because the people that don’t accept the LGBTQ movement will be angry, disturbed and offended. Much of the backlash will involve violence against low-income people of color who don’t confirm to society’s idea of gender. The US will accept gay marriage, but expect couples to conform to the accepted “norm” of what cis gender people think of marriage.

Let’s celebrate the victory, but also remember the consequences. Let’s enjoy this historic moment and remind ourselves how far we still have to go. Let’s remember the people who aren’t, in fact, empowered by this victory.

Violence against the queer and trans community is worse than ever. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than 1 in 4 trans people has faced a bias-driven assault. This number is even higher for trans women and trans people of color.

One in 5 transgender people in the US have been discriminated against when seeking housing and over 1 in 10 have been evicted from their own homes. Over 1 in 4 transgender people have lost a job due to their gender and over three-fourths have experienced workplace discrimination. The issues trans people face everyday are numerous, including access to health care, voting rights and how they are treated during incarceration. It goes without saying that we have a long way to go.

Marriage equality is not equal. In the words of trans south asian performance duo, DarkMatter, “the institution of marriage is an inherently unequal institution. Marriage is a racist and patriarchal system designed to allocate basic rights to couples over other forms of relationships. The institution of marriage has and continues to exacerbate the racial wealth divide in this country.” Those who don’t believe in the institution of marriage or don’t conform to the ideas of what marriage should be are often silenced.

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While #SCOTUS scatters across Twitter and Facebook like rainbow glitter, other stories go unheard. Today, the Audre Lorde Project is holding a rally in NY for the 11th Annual Trans Day of Action. It won’t get half the attention that this story does. While organizations like the Human Rights Campaign promote their beliefs about equal rights for all, they have a history of excluding transpeople from legislation and failing to help support trans rights or issues.

This past Wednesday at a LGBT Pride Month Reception, Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted the beginning of President Obama’s speech, shouting, “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” Gutiérrez is an activist and founding member of AMILIA TQLM, an immigration advocacy group. In her blog post The Truth About The Heckler, Esther Yu-Hsi Lee writes that Gutiérrez’s outburst was drowned out by chants of “Obama! Obama!” from attendees. Yet another example of trans rights and activism being drowned out by the mainstream.

Today’s decision is a big win in a long battle. Many people who have never spoken out about gay marriage before are suddenly standing up in support. We need more activists and allies who are willing to stand up for LGBTQ and stay standing up for the long haul. Instead of just jumping on the activist bandwagon for a day or two, continue to fight for gay and trans rights.

We need to work to eradicate violence and hatred against all people who don’t conform to ideas of what society considers “normal”, ie: cis gender monogamous skinny white people. In order to be strong allies and give a voice to those still being discriminated against and persecuted, celebrate the win and remind the world what we’re still fighting for.

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