During the month of October, in the United States and across the globe, we celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month. As with many heritage month celebrations, this place in time allows for necessary and remediated understanding, reflection and awareness provoked by mainstream historical and social neglect, avoidance and disaffirmation. My reflections intend to suggest from this ignored state of struggle, emerge paramount lessons for humanity.
The ACLU routinely tracks legislation at the local, state and national levels that impact the LGBTQ+ communities and the current issues include topics such as: limiting health care for trangender youth, exclusion of transgender youth from athletics, single sex-facilities restrictions (access to restrooms), prohibition of adoption and foster youth care and religious exemption bills. The dominant driving theme of legislation is exclusion and/or prohibition targeting LGBTQ+ individuals.
On another social front, for years the federal government dismissed, ignored and denied the tidal wave of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that began in the United States in 1981. According to the History Channel “…U.S. leaders…remained largely silent and unresponsive to the health emergency. And it wasn’t until September 1985, four years after the crisis began that President Reagan publicly mentioned AIDS…”
The passage of legislation and subsequent enforcement of laws play a significant part in the history of LGBTQ+ communities in the United States. Additionally, the same might be said for the experiences of the LGBTQ+ communities in the context of public health. One might argue that there are eventual lessons learned from the injurious, social circumstances experienced.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in June of 2015, struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states. Additionally, the court ruling required all states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses (Source: Wikipedia).
According to the Wall Street Journal (Dec. 24, 2020), “ Many of the new technologies and approaches employed to create potent Covid-19 vaccines and therapies trace their origins to the desperate search, starting in the early 1980s, to slow the spread of HIV.”
I find it disconcerting that until 2015, state and federal law prohibited individuals from marrying another person whom they loved. I find it equally unsettling that the federal government would fail to recognize the destructive forces of HIV/AIDS until thousands of mostly gay men had died. What do the actions (or lack of action) from the super structures of the courts and public health tell us about the human condition of care, regard, and kindness?
Leo Buscaglia, the author of many books on love and long-time faculty member at the University of Southern California, once wrote “Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.” He also opined “I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.”
So as we embrace and seek authentic and genuine understanding of family members, friends and colleagues in the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps a lens to see through history is the power of love – even when delayed beyond mortal or conjugal reason.