In June 2022, the LGBTQ+ communities and allies celebrate annual Pride Month. Concerts are organized, rainbow flags are hung, and colorful parades are enjoyed all around the globe to commemorate love, friendship, sexuality, and identity.
Where Does Pride Month Originate?
In the late 1960s, being openly gay was considered disorderly conduct. Naturally, gay bars were prohibited. On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City was raided by the police under the pretense that the bar was selling liquor without a license. In reality, officials were closing the bar because of its numerous LGBTQ+ customers. However, to the astonishment of the police, the owners stood up to them, marking the beginning of days of riots and protests. To mark the anniversary of Stonewall riots one year later, the first pride event was held in the streets of New York.
Today, 53 years later, one search on Google can confirm that there are still too many countries officially banning LGBTQ+ members from their society. For example, Brunei, Oman and Kuwait, have national laws that criminalize “posing as” or “imitating” a person of a different sex. In Saudi Arabia, police routinely arrest people based on their gender expression. Under Sharia law, Malaysia and Nigeria prohibit “posing as” a different sex. And the list goes on.
Luckily, laws discriminating against LGBTQ+ rights are no longer officially in place in most Western countries. Now we can celebrate ourselves for omitting laws from our justice systems that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Yet, this does not mean that gay, lesbian, transgender, non-binary, bisexual and queer citizens are spared discrimination in their daily lives.
Can we, truly and honestly, say that goals towards more tolerance and inclusion have been accomplished?
Underneath all the color and glitter of the pride marches in 2022, a question has to be asked: Can we, truly and honestly, say that goals towards more tolerance and inclusion have been accomplished? How far have we come since 1969?
Discriminatory Practices Did Not Stay In 1969
Just a few days ago, I stumbled across Hunter Schafer’s Instagram post. The trans actor and model, known by many for her role as Jules in Euphoria, filmed herself in front of a night club in Duesseldorf (Germany). She pointed her phone camera at the doorman who tried to hide himself after having denied access to Hunter’s personal manager “because she is trans”.
Apparently, the club Silq is not very safe for black visitors either. Although, in this case, the police was not the one denying LGBTQ+ members their rights, the situation still resembles the Stonewall bar remarkably. How can clubs like these still exist? Maybe it is because enough people still choose to go there despite knowing of the discriminatory practices of such establishments. Or is it because of those practices?
The Case Of Lia Thomas
Another area where LGBTQ+ rights are actively discussed is the domain of professional sports. More specifically, the question that causes much controversy is: Should transgenders be allowed to compete under the gender they identify as? Many answer “no” to this question, arguing that transgenders would have an unfair advantage.
In March 2022, Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to compete and win in a national sports event. The 22 year-old student of the University of Pennsylvania won the NCAA Division race in 400m freestyle. Thomas is the face of a deep-rooted debate that affects all sports equally and will eventually require a decision by the Olympic committee: whether transgenders should be allowed to compete under the gender they have changed to. To undergo her transition to the female gender as well as bringing down testosterone levels, Thomas met the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) standard of one year of hormone-suppression therapy. Testosterone is seen as one of the major advantages men have over women in sports. However, many scientists argue that hormone therapy is not enough to tune down the biological advantages Thomas still has.
Maybe we should ask ourselves which message we are sending when deciding what is more important: a slight competitive advantage or inclusion?
Not being a scientist, I cannot say for certain which biological advantages Thomas has. Maybe we should ask ourselves which message we are sending when deciding what is more important: a slight competitive advantage or inclusion?
There are many aspects about this debate that cause discomfort. First of all, Thomas is just a 22-year-old student who wants to enjoy sports. Professional athletes already face enough pressure as it is. Trans people face discrimination in their daily lives. The combination of both in addition to (negative) media attention can easily become unbearable. I admire Thomas for fighting for her rights and setting a positive example for all the transgenders who wish to compete in sports.
Secondly, what is the alternative? Forcing someone who has undergone the emotional toll of changing gender to move back to place they so urgently fought to leave by making them compete as their “initial” sex.
And, lastly, shouldn’t sports be about more than biological sex? There are so many factors including training, nutrition, discipline and stress that contribute to an athlete’s performance. More importantly, I believe that what unites all athletes is their passion for the sport itself. And their willingness to dedicate, maybe even sacrifice, their lives for it.
Schaefer and Thomas are examples that gained media attention, but their stories are far from unique. As important as it is to celebrate pride month and all members of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to remain critical of our own attitudes and ask ourselves what we can do for everyone to feel more included in our society.
Cover: Rosemary Ketchum
Edited by: Gaukhar Orkashbayeva