In the light of the recent, heartbreaking, events in Pulse, an LGBTQI night club in Orlando I felt the need to use this week's digest to use to talk about the lives of those who identify as LGBTQI. Whether ‘in’ or ‘outside’ of the metaphorical closet I wanted to discuss the realities for those of us affected by the issues raised in the articles below. Highlighting that whether hidden or seen, safety is not something that is guaranteed and this can be largely influenced by the legislation that creates the ‘worlds’ we all exist within.
I would like to start this week's digest with an article by Joel Gunter of BBC detailing the story of Jane*, a transgender airman in the US military. For me I find this article particularly pertinent in light of this week's recent events in Orlando. The article highlights the issue of living your life in secret for fear of how you will be treated. Your gender identity or how it is ‘performed’ can be the deciding factor on if you ‘fit’ or can be accepted in your particular social setting. "You can legislate some sort of guarantee that people are protected," she says, "but you can't legislate acceptance.” (Jane* quoted in Gunter 2016). Unfortunately LGBTQI persons, and even allies, outside of the armed forces cannot be guaranteed either of those things. The structures of the ‘realities’ they live within need to shift, starting with gun control and moving to socio-structural approaches to ‘queerness’.
This issue is also taken up in Asra Q. Nomani’s Washington Post article. She describes herself within the article as a Muslim, a feminist, and under Sharia law, like the homosexuals she writes about, a ‘criminal’. Nomani argues that it is not legal, structural, change that will make people safe, but also fundamental changes in conservative religious thought. In regards to Islam, that ‘we’ need “an interpretation of Islam that values compassion, privacy, acceptance and love over judgment and bigotry” (Nomani 2016). The question therefore lies in how to enact this change, as “in the West, cultural attitudes are closely intertwined with legislation” (Nomani 2016). Discrimination is not simply specific to religion, it intertwines all aspects of social life and in order to combat it can be argued we need to start up and work ‘our’ way down.
But where else does this discrimination formulate? Is it external or internal to the person enacting it? Events are rarely isolated, as we often see in the studies produced by Anthropologists. Rather they are interconnected and based on series of relations. Margaret Talbot’s New York Times article details this in relation to the man who committed the terrible shooting at Orlando's Pulse club. What this article shows is how the personal (past acts of domestic violence) influence and affect the public, and how this needs to relate to issues around access (guns). Things are interconnected and legislation and laws need to treat them as such.
This is not to say that the world is without hope. Terrible events such as these highlight the importance of communities and stregthen their ties. Matt Baume’s Huffington Post article highlights the validity and importance of ‘Pride’. He centres this around the past of the Stonewall riots and what this teaches us about the response to hate crimes today. “Pride transformed shame and terror into a celebration. It gave people the strength and community that allowed them to face hard times” (Baume 2016). Not only showing the importance of unity but the resilience of humans in the face of adversity.