As Republicans take over Congress and we move toward spring and start getting serious about the 2016 presidential race, the question must be asked: What should the LGBT community focus on?
There are two areas needing immediate attention and in some ways they are connected yet not the focus of the community. They both require society to look at itself and become more accepting of differences. Currently the Human Rights Campaign is committed to supporting and championing the introduction of comprehensive LGBT civil rights legislation in this Congress. HRC has begun work on its southern strategy and we know work is still needed to ensure same-sex marriage is legal in every state. Progress on marriage will now come through the courts. We know there are still issues with regard to gays and lesbians in the military, allowing transgender persons to serve, and ensuring they all have every right accorded to others.
Today you can be married in 36 states and the District of Columbia yet in many of those states you can marry on a Saturday and be fired from your job on Monday. You can be married and kicked out of your apartment and not have access to adequate healthcare. All the fights for our individual rights must continue while we work to pass that comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill.
But other fights we must take on are jumping out from today’s national headlines and we can no longer ignore them. One is the issue of conversion, or some call it reparative, therapy. This is the discredited therapy some young people are still forced to undergo by their parents trying to change them from gay to straight.
Recently D.C. became only the third jurisdiction in the United States, joining California and New Jersey, to prohibit reparative therapy for those under 18. It was an honor to witness Mayor Vincent Gray sign the bill. At the signing I had the chance to chat with a young man, Samuel Brinton, who I first noticed when he performed an amazing solo with the Gay Men’s Chorus at a Christmas concert. He is hard to miss with his bright red Mohawk. But when you get to know him you realize quickly his hair is really the least amazing thing about him. Among other things Sam is taking a lead in bringing the issue of banning conversion therapy to national attention traveling the nation to do so.
Last Saturday, I joined the D.C. rally in remembrance of Leelah Alcorn, the young transgender woman from Ohio, who committed suicide by stepping in front of a truck. Her story is tragic but she left a suicide note saying her death wouldn’t be in vain if it led to making a difference for other transgender persons. At the rally a number of people observed the Trevor Project uses the line, “It Gets Better” to help young people deal with their sexuality and bullying, but added through personal experience they knew for a transgender person it often doesn’t. Others spoke words that resonated with me about conversion therapy: “While we can now get married in 36 states and the District of Columbia in 48 states parents can still put their children through torture in an effort to turn them into something they are not.”
On Sunday night at the Golden Globes, the award for best TV series, musical or comedy went to “Transparent.” The show was created and is directed by Jill Soloway. It revolves around a Los Angeles family and their lives following discovery that father Mort is transgender. One review in the Jewish Daily Forward by Debra Nussbaum Cohen said, “Transparent is a television series about a transgender father coming out to his three young adult children. It weaves together the tragicomic family dynamics of five unbelievably narcissistic people.” So while this ‘comedy’ won an award, Leelah Alcorn wasn’t alive to see it because her life, in school and at home, was so unbearable it led her to suicide.
The time has come for the entire LGBT community to focus on ending conversion therapy. We don’t need to fix or change LGBT people. We need to fix society. Together we can make a difference, we can make it better and we need to do it now.