LGBTQ+ is used in reference to the section of population that incorporates lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgenders, queer/questioning and others. It constitutes of people who are united by having gender identities or sexual orientations that might differ from the heterosexual or cisgender population.
Before we go any further, it’s crucial to understand some basic terminologies for understanding LGBTQ.
- Gender identity: it's an intuitive sense of who we are, in relation to one's gender. It's an auxiliary that makes one realize how they relate to others and how they see themselves
- Sexual orientation: it’s the pattern people sexual orientation takes towards other genders
- Queer: a sexual orientation that is intentionally left vague
- Coming out: To let fellow human beings know about your sexual orientation
- Transgender: These are people who do not identify with the gender given to them at the time of their birth
- Cisgender: People who are not transgenders, these are the people who identify with the gender assigned to them at the time of birth
- Transitioning: The process of undergoing change to represent one's internal sense of gender
- Lesbian: a woman who is sexually or romantically attracted towards another woman
- Gay: a person who is romantically or sexually attracted towards people of their own gender
- Bisexual: a person who is attracted towards both (or all) the genders
- Heterosexual: A person who is attracted towards opposite sex or in other word who is straight
Now, the question arises, what was the need for LGBTQ, why go through all this hassle and create an autonomous group. To understand the need let’s go back in history, in 385 BC, Plato published a writing called symposium, in this document, many intellectuals of the era argued that, love between males is the highest form of love, and that, between a male and a female, is mere lust and utilitarian. However, in 2nd and 3nd century Roman emperor Septimius Severus, prescribed capital punishment to homosexuals throughout his empire.
Joseph Epstein, in 1970, in Harper Bazaar magazine stated
"If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.”
Humans are usually petrified of things that are different or things they don’t understand fully. There was a time, when left handed people were considered malevolent, like left handedness, homosexuality can knock on anyone's door; rich poor alike, but since homosexuality was different, something which they could not understand, they called it “malicious”.
Until as early as 20th century, if parents saw any sign of homosexuality in their kids they would panic, the next course of action, hide them in cellars or give them to mental asylum, so that doctors can experiment on them making them feel more alienated. In order to protect the rights of such individuals it was decided to categories them into groups.
To go from not worth mentioning to special or somewhat neutral context, to get rid of all the negative connotations. It is difficult for the LGBTQ people to come out, calling themselves as gay or lesbian only makes it more complicated for them. Think how it will make you feel, if someone introduces themselves as "Hi, I am John, and I am a gay Spanish guy, working for so and so company". Well, nobody gives a damn if you are gay or straight.
LGBTQ is an umbrella term used by people, who don’t want to express their sexual orientation. Religious groups have always felt threatened by LGBTQ's, the church fiercely antagonized against the LBTQ people.
Earlier day churches considered it great sin if you are gay, that would require repentance and different deluded therapies, if not treated these members were often excommunicated from churches, which ultimately meant, being thrown out of the society.
Islam, doesn’t favors LGBTQ people, it's considered punishable to indulge in any kind of sexual act within the same sex. Most Islamic countries and organizations of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have opposed the advances in rights to the LGBTQ community.
Gay men are stoned to death or lashed in squares like a movie set of 1960's.In Hindus, although there is a concept of third genders (Trans), but homosexuality is still considered illegal and against the very nature of the teachings of old Veda and Puranas (Hindu religious texts). Other religions, all have more or less the same views when it comes to LGBTQ.
Although much has been done but there is still a long path to cover, there are still no laws protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals, they can be fired anytime, anywhere, citing any non-worthy reason just because of who they are. They are often subjected to hate crimes and not much is done about that.
Most developing and muslim majority countries still consider same sex marriage illegal, same sex parents often struggle for the rights which are otherwise easily granted to heterosexual couples.
82% of the LGBTQ teens are harassed because of who they are in one form or another. Sexual health education at schools do not include sex between a lesbian and gay couple, due to the stigma attached to them and discrimination queer people are not at the receiving end of health benefits, even if they are lawfully married when it comes to having children, adoption and surrogacy prove to be very abstruse. Children of same sex partners often have to undergo severe bullying at school not only at the hands of fellow pupils but also by their parents.
Transgenders are likely to experience more poverty, discrimination, bullying as compared to their gay or lesbian counterparts, for transgender a simple trip to doctor can be a nightmare because it can lead to discrimination or hostility simply because of less understanding to their situation, they are more likely to have STD's going out on date or buying a condom can be a difficult task with the judging eyes and homophobes living around every corner.
If we draw out a map coloring each country with low, moderate or high resistance towards LGBTQ rights, It would be a variegated map. LGBTQ members have limitations and rights according to the country they live in, some might experience great laws that protect them, for some, you are not allowed to even breathe if you are gay.
Talking about rights, let's talk about them country wise. For most Asian countries, LGBTQ's have very limited to non-existent rights, same sex sexual activities are outlawed in 20 Asian countries, in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq homosexuality is punished by death penalty. In European countries, 15 out of 25 countries allow same sex marriage.
Although homosexuality is found all over Africa, every African country has their own rights and laws. It has been outlawed by 34 of the African countries. Two African countries, Banin and the Central African Republic, do not ban homosexuality but they have some rules regarding the same. Some African countries have criminalized homosexuality others are more lenient towards it.
In America, sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex as well as same-sex adolescents of a close age has been legal nationwide, again the limits can be close and far depending on what state you belong to. In Australia, LGBTQ members enjoy the same privileges as enjoyed by other members of the society.
Easier said than done, it can be difficult for someone to come out in open with prying eyes being judged all the time, but there are some ways that can help LGBTQ members to come out.
First of all, don’t judge yourself, if you don’t want others to take pity on you stop doing the same to yourself.
Pressuring yourself to give a name to your identity, will only make you miserable, if you are not ready you are not ready. You don’t have to choose between your faith and your sexuality.
Start form telling one person, it could be anyone who you feel comfortable telling. Think about the positives, some people do have negative experiences but it could be different for you. Be realistic, to some parents it can be too much, give them time, for them it's almost like losing their child they always had. Stay calm, remember you don’t require anyone's permission.
All parents adore their kids, they try to support but supporting is not always easy, especially if you are a parent of LGBTQ child. Here are a few tips you can follow to make your and your child's life a bit easier. You know that you love your child, show them that they are loved, no matter what they are protected. Having their parents behind them is a huge support, they can fight the world if they have the backing of their parents.
Communication is very crucial between both the parties. Try to bring a dialogue regarding their sexuality using age appropriate movies or media. Don't just learn the terms, try to understand the facts. Involve with school, advocate the gay-straight alliance, push for more inclusive and advanced sex education.
Stay at top of the social media game, 80% of the LGBTQ teens are bullied over social media and in 99% of the cases their parents are ignorant, don’t be an ignorant parent. Look out for signs of bullying, like depression, anxiety, making excuses not to go to school, trying to be alone, getting aggressive, unexplained absences, declining grades, drugs, new sexual partners.
Most of the signs are associated with hormonal changes in adolescent years but if you look closely there is a huge difference.
Schools and other educational institutes can play important role in helping the LGBTQ youth feel less oppressed. They must always intervene, whenever they hear even the slightest sound of bullying, anti-gay language. Setting classroom rules at the beginning of the academic year is a must, send a clear message that homophobia will not be tolerated. Assumptions are the worst, when you make them based on the background of the student. Show your support by organizing activities like cultural fest, plastering posters on the wall, giving them assignments to empower their cause. Educate yourself and try to be as much involved as you can.
It's still a long way to go but the humankind have indeed come a long way. With new reforms and laws,
LGBTQ members can come out, marry same sex partners, serve openly in the military, protection against hate crimes. Small steps make a huge difference, it proves so true when you can go to the washroom according to your identity, choose to play in the sports team of your identity.