LGBTQ– How Far Have We Come? A look at human rights and sexual orientation

Assuming we can overlook the ‘media circus’ surrounding the Bruce Jenner transition to Caitlyn, there is good that has come from Caitlyn’s openness to scrutiny about her history, the decision to follow her heart, and willingness to talk about her feelings.

Because of her public persona, Caitlyn has had a unique opportunity to allow others to see that transgender people are, after all, people. Like the rest of us, they have opinions and preferences in everything from food to politics to vacation destinations. While one’s gender is a part of what defines us, it’s not everything. Our understanding of who we are as humans includes gender and sexuality, but also includes our career, lifestyle, causes we support, ethics, and hobbies. None of us is one-dimensional.

The assumption of equality serves to recognize the essential ‘humanness’ in all of us – that by virtue of being a person, we have the right to be treated without discrimination in every area of our lives. For so many people who are LGBTQ, discrimination still exists, though the climate is improving.

LGBTQ History month is coming up in October. Citizens for Choice is examining how acceptance has improved for all LGBTQ persons here in Nevada County and California in general.

Regardless of sexual orientation, families are still families

Regardless of sexual orientation, families are still families

How far have we really come in societal understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ persons? A brief (and by no means comprehensive) history:

The Bad (not exclusive to California)

  • December 15, 1950- A Senate report titled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government” is distributed to members of Congress after the federal government had covertly investigated employees’ sexual orientation at the beginning of the Cold War
  • March 1970 – Howard Efland, a gay man who had checked into the Dover Hotel, under the pseudonym J. McCann, was beaten to death by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
  • Until 1973, the board of the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a ‘mental illness’
  • July 5, 1978 – A gang of youths armed with baseball bats and tree branches assaulted several men in an area of Central Park in New York City known to be frequented by homosexuals. The victims were assaulted at random, but the assailants later confessed that they had deliberately set out to the park to attack homosexuals
  • November 27, 1978 – Openly gay San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, along with Mayor George Moscone, was assassinated by political rival Dan White at San Francisco City Hall
  • 1984 – Charlie Howard was drowned in Bangor, Maine for being “flamboyantly gay”
  • February 21, 1997 – The Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, was bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph, the “Olympic Park Bomber;” five bar patrons were injured. In a statement released after he was sentenced to five consecutive life terms for his several bombings, Rudolph called homosexuality an “aberrant lifestyle”
  • Prior to 2003, there were still sodomy laws in parts of the United States. It was in this year the Supreme Court finally declared them unconstitutional
  • May 11, 2003 – Sakia Gunn, a black 15-year-old lesbian, was murdered in Newark, New Jersey. While waiting for a bus, Gunn and her friends were propositioned by two men. When the girls rejected their advances, declaring themselves to be lesbians, the men attacked them
  • A 2014 study of the Los Angeles foster care system found that foster youths are twice as likely to report being treated poorly by the foster care system than their straight counterparts


The Progressive:

  • In 1950, The Mattachine Society, the first sustained American gay rights group, was founded in Los Angeles
  • In 1965, José Sarria established the Imperial Court System, which is now one of the largest LGBT charity organizations in the world
  • In 1978, The Briggs Initiative was introduced, which would have banned Gay or Lesbian people from working in California public schools. It was defeated by voters 58% – 42%.
  • In 1982 Laguna Beach, CA elected the first openly gay mayor in United States history
  • In 1985, a Los Angeles Times survey found that 64% of parents would be ‘very upset’ if their child told them he or she was gay or lesbian. By 2013, this number had shrunk to 19%.
  • By 1999 California adopted a domestic partnership law
  • In 2001, only 35% of people surveyed were in favor of gay marriage. 2015 numbers show 55% in favor and rising.
  • In June 2002 the California Legislative LGBT Caucus was founded; it is an American political organization composed of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the California State Legislature
  • In September 2012 Berkeley, California became the first city in America to officially proclaim a day recognizing bisexuals
  • In 2013, California enacted America’s first law (the School Success and Opportunity Act) protecting transgender students
  • This year the Supreme Court ruled that State Laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional

Although there has been significant progress toward eliminating discrimination, it’s not surprising that many LGBTQ youth still struggle with coming out. Much of this is attributed to the attitudes of family, friends, classmates and even teachers.  LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population.

LGBT rights are human rights

LGBT rights are human rights

Here in Nevada County, we’re fortunate to have PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). In March of this year, PFLAG hosted an event to raise awareness about transgender discrimination. Their FAQ page is particularly helpful for anyone wanting more information:

We’re fortunate to live in an era when news travels at the speed of light. The internet has allowed each of us a close-up view of the power of social change in action. Education about social movements to end discrimination is at our fingertips.

What are social movements?  Social movements increase understanding of issues by demonstrating the injustice done to a certain social group and how that perception violates the collective self-image of that society. Social Movement Impact Theory postulates that by increasing exposure to injustice, we become better able to identify what needs to be changed in order to achieve the goals of equality and non-discrimination. The fact that so many of us have access to identify what’s needed to achieve these goals is powerful, indeed.

LBGTQ rights are human rights. Each of us, no matter our sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender, deserves to live without suffering from discrimination.

Citizens for Choice embraces all sexual orientations and gender identities.  Whether you are Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, or Questioning, you can count on us to treat you with respect and dignity.



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