Every once in awhile, I come across someone who is upset that the fight for LGBTQ rights is being equated with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. They argue that the plight of African-American people was far different from the plight of LGBTQ people, that the discrimination was far worse, and that you cannot equate a genetic difference (skin colour) with something that is “not natural.” Some of these people even go so far as to express offense at the comparison of the two movements. The truth is, though, that the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for LGBTQ rights and equality is very much the same.
While it is true that LGBTQ people have not endured 400 years of slavery, it is also true that they have been discriminated against and driven into the dark since the dawn of modern Christianity. While people were being dragged out of Africa and over to the United States, where they were subjected to harsh treatment and forced labour at the hands of their “masters,” LGBTQ people were being forced to hide who they were for fear of being hanged, beaten to death, or burned at the stake. Slaves were persecuted via being “owned.” They were to do as directed or suffer terrible consequences. LGBTQ people were persecuted via being made to hide who they were, marry a member of the opposite sex, and succumb to gender roles. They, too, were to do as directed or suffer terrible consequences. Slaves were beaten, treated as subhuman, and at times driven to suicide. LGBTQ people continue to be beaten, treated as subhuman, and at times driven to suicide. While the conditions of the treatment were not always the same, the severity of it was, and continues to be.
The Civil Rights Movement was a Human Rights Movement. Segregated washrooms, schools, restaurants, seating sections on buses … were all done away with because of the fight for equality and acceptance of African-American people. In the case of the LGBTQ community, the plight is not as outwardly obvious, but is every bit as important. Instead of segregated establishments, LGBTQ people have to endure segregation from society. The word “gay” is used as an insult or joke, the words “that’s so gay” are synonymous with “that’s stupid (or pointless, insignificant),” and slurs like “faggot, queer, homo, and c***sucker” are a societal norm. LGBTQ people are afforded the opportunity to thrive in some industries, but in many cases have to internalize this hatred so that they are less affected by it … and it IS hatred. It is the same hatred that led to walk-outs and sit-ins. It is the same hatred that led to demonstrations and rallies. It is the same hatred that led Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver some of the most impactful words ever spoken. Like the Civil Rights Movement, the fight for LGBTQ rights and equality is a Human Rights Movement.
Of the people denying the legitimacy of this fight, those that say “you can’t equate a natural thing like skin colour with an unnatural thing like homosexuality,” are the most misinformed. Homosexuality is every bit as natural as one’s skin colour, eye colour, hair colour, or any other genetic trait. Genetic traits are minor differences, they do not define us. The difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality is only that a person who is homosexual is attracted emotionally, physically, and romantically to members of the same sex … that’s it … nothing else, and we see this among most mammalian species. Tigers, horses, elephants, chimps, dolphins, and many other species have members who form intimate pair bonds and same-sex relations. As with humans, the numbers are always similar … under 10%. It is not a threat to the population, and it is intellectually dishonest to ignore observable facts. Homosexuality occurs naturally, as does bisexuality, pansexuality, etc. You cannot equate skin colour with homosexuality? Well, actually you can, I just did, and we will continue to.
As a final comparison, I will say that the arguments against issues like same-sex marriage are identical to the arguments formerly used against “interracial” marriage (I put words containing “race” in quotations because “race” is a social construct, and not something that actually exists in reality). It is said that same-sex marriage will cause the collapse of the traditional family, bring harm to innocent children, cause social upheaval, and promote further immorality. The same things were said when people of different skin tones wanted to get married in the not-too-distant past, and they are just as ridiculous now as they were then.
The point is that the fight for LGBTQ rights IS the Civil Rights Movement of today. It is a fight to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a fight to correct the problem of misinformation and ignorance. It is a fight to achieve equal rights (marriage and otherwise) for the sexual minority … it is a fight for Human Rights. We should be looking to the Civil Rights Movement as a precedent. We should be learning from past mistakes. Why are we, instead, repeating them?