540, 41, 220, 75, 76. These are the numbers so far.
540 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been introduced in 41 states. 220 pieces of legislation directly target transgender and non- binary folx (this is a record). 75 laws in over a dozen states directly target the LGBTQIA+ community. 76 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have become law this last year. These are the numbers that I read through in an article about the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) declaring a national state of emergency for LGBQIA people. They have even created a downloadable travel guidebook for folks in the community who are traveling to help keep us safe. The guidebook includes health and safety resources and a summary of state laws.
As I read this article I began to think about where I am living. About my marriage to my wife, how I feel safe holding her hand wherever we go. The fact that I never ever feel as if I need to change my wife’s pronouns when I am speaking about her for safety. How we can live openly and lovingly with each other. The fact that, even if something is said or happens to us, we have recourses and laws protecting our rights.
In 2006 Washington state passed anti-discrimination laws in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Washington also criminalized malicious harassment and violence motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity, making it a hate crime. Washington has laws that are gender affirming and a third-gender law which allows the gender marker X for folx who identify as nonbinary, agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, transgender, two-spirit or other identities that do not identify with the gender binary. Washington state also abolished the “gay panic” defense. This defense was a strategy of legal defense in which straight individuals charged with a violent crime against someone who is a LGBTQIA+ person could claim that they lost control and reacted violently because of unwanted sexual advances towards them. These are just few laws that have allowed me to be out and open.
I came out in the late 80’s at the age of sixteen. Before any of these law or protections existed. Being out was not easy. I lost friends when I came out. Some of them told me that I lied to them about who I was, and they felt betrayed and others were afraid I was going to prey upon their children and no longer wanted me around them. (That’s how I lost a babysitting job.) I have been pepper sprayed, called all sorts of names, screamed at, kicked out of places, assaulted in bathrooms both physically and verbally, felt unsafe in spaces and places while traveling. I have been afraid to hold my girlfriend’s hand. I have been scared to death to simply be.
June is Pride month. A celebration of LGBTQIA+ people. A time and place to feel connected, seen and heard. Pride celebrations of the few times and places that many of us truly feel we can be unabashedly and authentically ourselves. For folx of my generation we would wait all year for Pride (which used to be only one day) to feel free, to feel validated, loved, seen and heard. To be joyous together. There were no other opportunities to truly be free.
My community has gone from being in the shadows to being visible. There has been so much progress made. It is not super perfect but we have stepped out of the shadows. Big things like me being able to marry my wife and LGBTQIA+ clubs in school. As I stated before I no longer feel the fear that I once felt.
I share a bit of my story with you because I felt that life as a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+ was getting easier. I look back and think to myself “It’s ok that I went through all of that because my nieces and nephews will have it better than that.” And maybe it has gotten better a bit. But everything that has been fought for and won is endangered now. I am becoming fearful again. Only this time it is not just me that I am afraid for. It is my nieces and nephews, my friends kids, for all of their friends. I find myself being careful again and hyper aware of my surroundings again.
I checked the number to make sure that I had them correct. The Human Rights Campaign updated them. This is the year-to-date numbers-540 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced. (This is a record). 220 bills specifically target transgender and non-binary folx. 45 out of the 75 laws that have been passed have been enacted this year. (This is also a record.) Check out the HRC Weekly Round Up to learn more about the specific nature of the laws.
As I stated before. We are lucky to be living in Washington State. Even folx in Eastern Washington are lucky. There are people in states like Texas, North Dakota, and of course Florida that are fleeing for their lives. We need to aware of this. Things are changing and happening at what feels like the speed of light. We need to educate ourselves on the language that is being used to justify these attacks. Language like “protecting children and families.” Get to know the dog whistles that are being blown. Find a way to get involved. Like supporting the HRC or other organizations below.
- Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Center: https://www.gaycity.org/
- Lambert House: https://www.lamberthouse.org/
- Transgender Law Center: https://transgenderlawcenter.org/
- Lavender Rights Project: https://www.lavenderrightsproject.org/btcs23
- Rainbow Center: https://www.rainbowcntr.org/
Media and event outlets: