One Year of Marriage Equality: A Reminder That Tolerance Is Not Acceptance

White House 6.26.15

June 26th, 2016 was the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in the United States. On this day, I proposed to my beautiful partner on a breathtaking hike that led us to where the mountains met the ocean on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. On this mountaintop, we were removed from the politics, stereotypes, and stigma that come with being a queer couple. In our momentary isolation, we were just two women expressing our desire to spend the rest of our lives together. In that instance, our love was not labeled nor politicized. Our love was not a “hot topic issue”. Our love was entirely free from judgment. It was true, honest, and the most natural phenomenon.

 

While the LGBTQ community celebrated Pride month and last year’s outstanding milestone in our fight for equality, it was also a reminder that my queer relationship with my fiancée is still deemed intolerable, sinful and deserving of death.

 

Unlike many other queer couples before us, we have the opportunity to share the same rights as heterosexual married couples because of the diligence and commitment of our community and allies to gain these equal rights. Rather than feeling absolutely ecstatic to share the news with our family and friends, as any heterosexual couple would, we hesitated to tell some of our loved ones.

 

Attitudes on same-sex marriage are slowly changing with a majority, 55%, of Americans in support of marriage equality, according to Pew Research Center. Whilst this is certainly cause to celebrate, that still leaves a significant amount of folks who do not believe the LGBTQ community deserves these basic civil rights. There are loved ones in our lives who are part of the religious right and don’t believe in marriage equality. Roughly 6 in 10 Catholics now support same-sex marriage equality, but we have unfortunately experienced the reactions of the less accepting Catholics when they heard our engagement announcement. See these direct quotes below:

 

“I find this highly disrespectful of our feelings.”

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“What you people are doing is against Gods law no matter what everyone says. His law comes before any one’s law.”

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“I am asking that when you come to our house you refrain from talking about your wedding or show signs of affection between the both of you.”

 

This year, on the anniversary of marriage equality, I was reminded that tolerance is still not acceptance.

 

Unfortunately, the above comments were nothing new to us. In fact, these are fairly tame compared to some comments we’ve received in the past. We habitually let these bigoted opinions fly under the radar to keep the peace and all too often do we forgive these primarily baby boomer friends and relatives for being products of the silent generation. Certain people in our lives tolerate our queer relationship. As long as we’re “friends” or “roommates” and ultimately all signs of our sexuality is erased from their minds, then we are tolerable human beings. As soon as we display any sign of affection or express our love for another, our morality is strictly judged.

 

It is, of course, worryingly common for LGBTQ people to experience similar bigotry throughout their lives. My fiancée and I are by no means unique to this lack of acceptance.

The author, together with her fiancée
                       The author, together with her fiancée

While I would say that our experiences are definitely not as extreme as other queer couples in the United States – particularly those in places where the mere existence of queer people and, even more so, transgender folks is taboo. The killings of transgender Americans reached an all time high last year, and 2016 is on its way towards bypassing that deadly record. The majority of these deaths include transgender people of color.

 

 

We have so much more work to do.

 

As a white, cisgender, femme queer woman, I recognize the privileges that come with my skin color, gender identity and gender expression. As a society, we have to realize that the experiences of trauma, terror and violence that LGBTQ folks are living are not always subjective. Sometimes our experiences are simply not comparable, especially when you see the brutal deaths of innocent, loving humans like the beautiful souls who were massacred in the Orlando shooting– again the majority of victims were people of color.

 

We have so much more work to do.

 

Just when the Republican Party couldn’t look any scarier, the official GOP nominee Donald Trump appoints one of the leading anti-LGBTQ people in our country – Mike Pence – as his running mate for Vice President.  A few months before marriage equality passed last year, Pence famously signed a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ customers in Indiana. When the potential President and Vice President of the United States oppose the basic civil rights of LGBTQ persons, it becomes a personal attack on all of us and the progress we’ve made thus far in our liberation movement.

 

We have so much more work to do.

 

The United States is in a political climate that is so homophobic and transphobic that we – as community members and global citizens – do not have the luxury of being complacent. There are too many bills that currently exist in our state legislatures that aim to discriminate against a certain population of our society.  When elected officials want to refuse public services and accommodations to LGBTQ people, we must make sure we change the nature of these politics and elect responsible people to represent our community and protect our humanity.

 

As we continue to celebrate the summer-long Pride festivals and parades and our efforts that passed marriage equality in the United States, we should remember that there is still So. Much. More. Work. To. Do.

 

As my fiancée and I celebrate our engagement with those who love us unconditionally, we do not plan on forgetting those who deem our relationship unworthy because these are the people who motivate us more than ever to make sure the LGBTQ community continues to progress despite the hate. These close-minded people remind us that our tireless activism and fervent dedication to human rights must persevere to make our society more inclusive, loving and peaceful for the LGBTQ community now and for generations to come.

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