Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Are LGBT Issues?

A new PSA has hit the web that touches on the inequality present in the social security system when it comes to LGBT Americans (not to mention a number of other groups). The video - “What Planet Are We On?” - follows a female alien, Rita, who goes to collect benefits after her partner dies, but is ultimately denied because her partner is also female. The twist (skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t watched the video yet) comes at the end, where we find Rita is not on another planet at all….

While I personally found the video to be moving on several levels, what is particularly moving is this issue itself. Social security benefits heavily affects seniors in the communities, something the mainstream LGBT movement has often overlooked in favor of what they consider more pressing issues, such marriage equality and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

But the fact is, who is affected by issues like marriage and DADT? Anyone under 18 is directly affected by neither, and anyone over 65 is not affected by DADT.** What about protections for youth/students? What about helping seniors who not only face discrimination because of age but also because of their relationships?

What are we missing out on by ignoring the intersections in the LGBT communities? Despite what the media might press one to think, the LGBT movement is not a movement but movements, made of as many varieties of communities as individuals. Being gay in America does not mean being white, male, middle/upper-class, and “just like everyone else.” And nor should it have to be in order to gain basic rights.

The larger LGBT movement - along with rights movements in general - needs to recognize that by trying to simply their goals they are creating one target for reaping the benefits. Everyone needs to be recognized, and the best way to do that is to stop acting like if we achieve on form of equality (ie. women’s rights) the rest will follow. There should NOT be a hierarchy of issues, and yet most people are responsible for helping to reinforce it.

The truth is…
Immigration is a LGBT issue. How many couples are separated because of immigration laws?
Race is an LGBT issue. Why do we fail to recognize the ways in which race and sexuality outside of the white community interact in different ways?
Class is an LGBT issue. How many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans youth are on the streets because of that one facet of their life?
Sexism is a LGBT issue. How are ideas about women use to degrade both women and men (and people who identify as neither or both)?
Religion (and not simply used an a anti-gay marriage tool) is an LGBT issue. How many LGBT-identified individuals struggle to reconcile their faith and sexuality?
Language is an LGBT issue.
Disability is an LGBT issue.
Age is an LGBT issue.

The reality is that we cannot tackle everything at once, but we can sure try. We should not place one issue over another, and we certainly should not exploit/ignore one group to further another’s liberation.

**I feel that these are important issues, and that they have of late been picked on because they have become the spoke-issues for the movement essentially, but visibility of other communities is equally important. However, it should be remembered that marriage does affect youth - families are torn apart because of lack of legal recognition - as well as seniors - being married would allow for a sense of legitimacy. DADT also affects youth - children who cannot talk about one parent for fear of them losing their job - and seniors who once severed who are afraid of losing benefits if they publicly come out.


Rock for Equality: The site which created the social security awareness video.