Editorial: Queer and now
LGBTQ lives are worth celebrating and protecting.
Today is National Coming Out Day, and more Americans than ever before identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. And according to the 2016 national Gallup poll, millennials born between 1980-1998 were twice as likely as other age demographics to identify as LGBT. As the queer community grows, so does the list of its protective rights — but the USA at large still harbors its reservations.
Last week, the U.S. voted against a UN resolution that condemned and denounced the death penalty for those apprehended for consensual same-sex intercourse. Heather Nauert, a State Department spokesperson, explained that the U.S. could not support the resolution because of “broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances and calling for its abolition.”
As such, the current administration prioritized the state’s right to lawfully apply the death penalty over what could have been our nation’s involvement with a huge international step in improving gay rights. This disheartening decision came just days after the uplifting N.C. Pride Weekend.
In North Carolina, we are no strangers to elected officials tempering celebrations and failing the LGBT community; our former governor made national news when he marched this state backward into government-supported transphobia. Our conservative state has many blatant anti-LGBT sentiments in the form of old policy, new policy and potential policy.
These sentiments can feel distant in Chapel Hill — a blue island in this red state. We live in a town that allows us, members of the LGBT community, the simple privilege to hold hands with our partners on Franklin Street. Our campus health center provides free pronoun pins to gender nonconforming students. We have Pride Place, designated housing for students who identify with the queer community.
The relative comforts granted to our community should not blind us from the reality of the outside world. We cannot forget the homophobia, transphobia, and victimization experienced by the LGBT community in much of the U.S. because of our privileges here.
Last week at a campus comedy event, a joke was made implicitly “outing” certain men in Greek life. To be clear, “outing” is a public call-out of someone’s closeted sexuality. This was done in a public setting of more than 50 people. Taken lightly, the joke was funny. But the truth behind the joke — the difficulties faced by students who feel pressured to remain closeted in Greek life — is far from humorous.
Closeted queer students who perhaps need the most emotional support resources yet are least encouraged to seek them should not be reduced to the second half of a punchline. The act of coming out is courageous, it can divide families and cost people their livelihoods. Anti-LGBT violence is a trend, not an aberration. We all know people who were harassed in school for their sexuality; UNC is no exception.
This transgression is not offered to undermine UNC’s rapport with the LGBT community but to remind us of the margin for improvement.
Chapel Hill is an incredibly inclusive place to call home — but there’s still a long way to go. We should recognize the good, call out the bad and continue to work toward what will be better.