The battle is won but the war for equality is far from over

It’s official: after a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on the 26th June, gay marriage has now been legalised in all 50 American states. In the words of Chief Justice Roberts who voted in favour of the ruling: “if you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favour expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal”. This gay marriage ruling is a massive milestone in achieving equality. But while we should celebrate this achievement in not gay rights but human rights, we are still a long way off achieving equality.

The Supreme Court ruling has not come without opposition, with the scary fact being that it is the 2016 Republican Presidential hopefuls who have been the most vocal of these opponents. One hopeful, former Arkansas State Governor Mike Huckabee, claimed: “we must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat”, clearly establishing a sincere opposition against gay marriage and thereby equality. This attitude is a result of centuries of accepted homophobia, and with one opinion poll in 2014 showing that 41% of American people opposed gay marriage. The fight is far from over. Indeed, there are many who claim that they support gay rights but not gay marriage, but this logic is paradoxical. Equality is exactly what it says on its rainbow coloured-tin; it is equal rights and equal opportunities for everyone.

If you really believe in equality, then you need to actively support it, not just when it suits you. Like how a dog isn’t just for Christmas, supporting gay rights isn’t just something you do when there’s a gay marriage referendum in the news. It’s not a fashion statement. Members of the LGBTQ have to face these issues every single day, not just when Cara Delevingne reveals she’s bisexual. Whenever there is a reported homophobic attack, this is yet another personal attack every gay person has to bare pain for something they have no control over – a pain that heterosexual people will never be able to fully understand.

The amount of times I have had to call up on straight people for using phrases like “that’s so gay!!”, “don’t be so bent!!”, “lmao what a faggot” and “GAYYYYYY!!!!!!” is a disgraceful in a “liberal” and “accepting” society. What is more disturbing, however, is how many of these people would claim to be supporters of the LGBTQ cause, justifying their use of such homophobic language by saying “oh but I didn’t mean it in THAT way”. It doesn’t matter if you meant it in a homophobic way or not. If you use such language, you are advocating ideas of ingrained homophobia, creating a stigma that being gay is still a joke, thus pushing people who you consider to be your friends further and further into the closet. You wouldn’t use the n-word as an insult, so stop using homophobic slurs. You need only to hear that homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty in 5 countries (and in two parts of others), and illegal in over 70 others to realise that homophobia is still rife today.

However, these statistics do not do justice to the levels of homophobia in the world. For example, while homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, in 2013 Russia enacted laws that made it illegal to distribute ‘homosexual propaganda’, in effect meaning that advocating any support of gay rights can lead to imprisonment. Furthermore, a study in America found that LGBTQ teens were four times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teens as a result of not only direct bullying, but due to ingrained “heteronormality”. Indeed, this idea that society advocates that heterosexuality is the “norm” is dangerous for LGBTQ teens. Homosexuals are effectively erased from our education.

It doesn’t matter if you meant it in a homophobic way or not. If you use such language, you are advocating ideas of ingrained homophobia

When we first learn about Shakespeare are we told that he was bisexual (if not gay)? No. Where is our gay sex education? Where are our gay Disney princesses? When are children ever told that gay people exist? Society (in this country anyway) is willing to accept people are born gay/bi, yet we continuously force our LGBTQ youth into heterosexual roles that they don’t want to be in. Heteronormality is almost an invisible form of homophobia; while there is no doubt that the majority of straight people in this country are “for” gay rights, until we start giving the equal exposure to heterosexuality/homosexuality/bisexuality then we will not be able erase the struggle that LGBTQ youth have to endure – something that straight people will never be able to understand how emotionally draining such a realisation is.

The LGBTQ community has done all it can. Now it is up to you, the straight people of the world to push for reform. If the minority does not have the active support of the majority, then progress can never be achieved. If it wasn’t for an all-male Parliament, then women would not have achieved the vote. If an all-white Congress had not supported the efforts of Black Civil Rights activists, then African Americans would not have achieved civil rights laws. If it wasn’t for a predominantly heterosexual Parliament and Supreme Court, then gay couples would not have received marriage rights.

You need only to hear that homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty in 5 countries (and in two parts of others), and illegal in over 70 others to realise that homophobia is still rife today.

The achievement of equality will not be met with placards and celebrations and rainbow flags as we have seen in recent weeks, but with silence. There will be no second looking when a gay couple walks down the street. There will be no looks of surprise as a person born a man walks into work a woman. There will be no long nights spent crying by young people who realise that they are gay. There will be no need to come out. No need to fear. Equality will mean acceptance, which is a lot subtler than a momentary victory.

The battle for equality is like the drawing of a circle with a compass. It may have experienced some jolts along the way, but eventually the circle will be complete and, when it is, it’ll be one of perfect unity. While equality may still be an untouchable dream, it is getting more and more tangible every day. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I can honestly say that this Supreme Court legalising gay marriage felt like one of the bars on our cage of homophobia has been lifted. Despite the weight of many other shackles we still have to carry as we move forward to fight the next stages inequality, let us – not only of those of the LGBTQ community, but humanity as a whole – bask in the glory of this expression of love, freedom and equality. To quote former US President Kennedy, “when one man is enslaved, no man is free”, and we need to stop thinking of this as an issue that minority groups have to overcome. Equality is an issue that affects us all, and until those in the majority actively support those in the minority, those in the majority will continue to bear the guilt of oppression. Those in the majority need to appreciate their privilege and use this privilege to help their friends, family and humanity to ensure society gets the equality it deserves.

So while we may celebrate today, let us celebrate knowing that tomorrow the fight continues. And with an ongoing unified effort from all of society, equality will someday be not a dream, but a reality.

Words by Juliette Rowsell

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