Last March, many of my Facebook friends changed their profile pictures to red equal signs, showing their support for marriage equality in the United States.
A while later, the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Section 3 didn’t allow the extension of full federal rights to same-sex couples whose marriage was recognized in their state, essentially invalidating same-sex marriages federally.
The hype that was created by the Human Rights Campaign – a group “working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equal rights” to promote marriage equality – significantly died down after this decision, so much that I rarely see any posts about marriage equality on my newsfeed anymore. They only come up when same-sex marriage gets legalized somewhere.
It comes as no surprise that more people will show their support for a cause when all it requires of them is a profile picture change, and leaves me wondering whether any of my friends who jumped on the equal sign bandwagon have ever really spent more than 10 seconds thinking about same-sex marriage and human rights in the US.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment. I love knowing that so many of my friends who themselves identify as heterosexual think that cheap online viagra it’s only logical to extend full rights to LGBTQ+ people.
However, what I don’t love as much is knowing that the fight to strike down one section of DOMA and the larger fight for marriage equality has overshadowed so many other aspects of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in Canada, the US and internationally.
Campaigns for marriage equality in the US have taken up disproportionate amounts of media coverage compared to other issues that queer people face. The reality is that a signed bill doesn’t make our societies inclusive and accepting, which is what we should be aiming for.
Violence against queer and trans individuals continues at high rates. Up to 40 per cent of homeless Canadians are self-identified as LGBTQ+. High numbers of mental health issues, addiction and attempted suicides are also consistent problems in the community that are often related to their struggles as a queer or trans* (or both) person.
Not only does marriage equality not magically fix the existing social constructs and prejudices surrounding the queer community, but it also takes away from attempts to focus on intersectionality within the “Gay” rights movement.
Shockingly, 70 per cent of all anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes target Queer People of Colour. And in 2012 alone, there were 256 recorded murders of trans* individuals. When Bill C-279 (which included gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination) was up for debate this year, it got nowhere near as much coverage as the strike of DOMA’s section did.
People argue that while marriage equality isn’t the ultimate solution, it is a step forward. While I agree, I think focusing all our efforts on a single issue that is definitely not the largest shared struggle of queer people is taking away from the potential of the movement.
Marriage equality has become sensationalized in Western media, its achievement being made to seem like the final frontier of gay rights. The reality is that a lot of us are far from done, and some of us have just started to find each other.
So while we’re changing our profile pictures and liking photos of middle- and upper-class same-sex couples getting married in City Halls, it’s important to remember who we’re forgetting.