Nearly a year ago, history was made when same-sex couples were granted the freedom to marry. For much of my own life, I’ve seen this freedom as a major milestone (or even the finish line) in the fight for LGBT equality. Over the years, my naive view has become progressively more complicated through dialogue and further education. I now see marriage not as the end goal, but as just one marker in a long push for equality.
Same-sex couples now have access to the institution of marriage in a way we never have before - an institution that carries a lot of privilege. I’m absolutely not saying gay and lesbian people are all of a sudden excluded from oppression. (Especially in light of recent attempts to pass Religious Freedom Restoration Acts and current employment and housing discrimination practices.) However, power and privilege operate in an ever-evolving way, therefore, so too has the state of oppression facing gays and lesbians now versus decades ago.
The thing about privilege is - it’s easy to ignore. Unless something calls it into question, it’s easy to assume everything is just the way it should be, and everyone enjoys the same access you do. It’s easy to become complacent with the way things are and forget that we all have a responsibility to act. It’s easy to think our situation is “just normal.” People who are part of privileged groups seldom have to think about their privileged identity. So as more rights and privileges are granted to us, the luxury of ignorance that naturally comes with privilege will continue to be tempting, but we have to follow the same thread of justice that’s enabled us to support the countless more who are still fighting.
The fight for equality is far from over. So yes - this month we celebrate how far we’ve come. And - recognize how much more work still needs to be done. Work to make sure everyone in the LGBT community has equal access, but also work for all people (inside and outside of the LGBT community) who are facing oppression every day.
“Harvey Milk once said, ‘If a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.’ But to those of us who’ve made it through those doors, we’ve got a unique obligation to reach back and make sure other people can make it through those doors, too. We have a responsibility to stand up to bigotry — not just against us, but against anybody, anywhere. We have a responsibility to stand up for freedom — not just our own freedom, but for everybody’s freedom... because we remember what silence felt like when hatred was directed at us, and we’ve got to be champions on behalf of justice for everybody, not just our own.”
- President Obama
So yes - let’s celebrate this month: our pride, our triumphs, and our community. And - let’s continue fighting for everyone’s freedom.