One of the remarkable highlights of American history is that it is brimming with times vital that are loaded up with movements for championing the rights of the marginalized section of the community. The twentieth century, the period that was generally important in American history because it saw the evolution of one of the great civil rights movements. The movement was a variety of developments that looked for a halt of mistreatment for African Americans, end of isolation, racial uniformity, equality of men and women, an expansion of rights to the LGBTQ people group, end of American contribution in the Vietnam war, and a large group of different issues. Essentially, the movement was initiated to realize the dreams of America that laid the foundation for its basis. These include freedom, equality, and democracy. The talk about the civil rights movement has revolved around the role of the African Americans and their struggle. It has expanded on the role of Martin Luther King and many other such heroes. Similarly, feminist movements have also been given importance and their role has been explained. But, what is missing often is the role of the LGBTQ community in furthering the American ideals of democracy and equality. They have played an extremely important role and fight for their rights. The paper will analyze the causes that led to the start of the LGBTQ movement and then analyze whether it was a success or not. It will also throw light on the current state of the LGBTQ community and the challenges faced by them.
Social movements for furthering the rights of the marginalized section of the population have been an integral part of American history. These movements have been critical to achieving the American dream of equality, liberty, and democracy. One such movement for achieving equality was for Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. The LGBTQ movement is defined as the movement that prioritizes and endeavors to promote the rights of this community (Levy, Michael). The movement gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s during the broader era of the civil rights movement. No doubt that the movement has given many rights for this community, but it evoked the wrath of the people belonging to the religious and conservative sections of the people. Still, it has not managed to get equality in real terms and faces major obstacles.
There were many factors that were responsible for kickstarting this movement. One of the immediate factors was the Stonewall riots in 1969. The Stonewall was the gay bar where homosexuals gather for recreation. In the month of June 1969, the police raided the gay bar which triggered the first mass response from the gay and lesbians community. The riots that followed this raid continued for successive days. So, the immediate cause for triggering the LGBTQ movement was the historic stonewall rights in 1969.
Apart from this, there were other factors that gradually culminated in this movement. In this case, the deep-rooted factors that have marginalized, criticized, and shamed this community over the years were the primary reason for triggering a sudden response. In the past, the members of this community were attacked, maligned, accorded an inferior status in society, and viewed as some queer creatures. This created a sense of alienation and provocation among this community. This historical subordination rooted in biased and prejudiced views has transcended the limits. As a result, in 1969, the LGBTQ community said enough is enough and they commenced a movement to win their rights.
Another factor that was responsible for triggering this movement was the circumstances of that period. The period of 1960 was a historical period regarding the history of social movements in American history. The period of the civil rights movement was inimitable in its nature and scale. It saw the emergence of the movements against segregation and for the rights of Black, the origination of multifarious feminist movements, movements against the Vietnam war, and many other movements. So, the question arises how did these movements influence the gay and lesbian rights campaign? The broader civil rights provided the reason and necessary impetus to this movement in many ways. First, the start of the civil rights movements guided the LGBTQ community that rights can be won and the biased attitudes can be changed. They saw their subordinated counterparts such as Black and women gaining rights and changing the entrenched antediluvian beliefs of the society. Secondly, these factors provided the impetus and urgency to the people of the LGBTQ community to gather and fight for their rights. They were confident that time is on their side and it provided them with an opportunity to garner strength and challenge the official corridors. So, the most inherent and natural factor that started this movement was a broader atmosphere engendered due to civil rights movements. The atmosphere provided the basis for the gay and lesbian community to say enough is enough and start a historic movement.
Another more critical reason underpinning this movement was the American dream of liberty and equality. The people believed that America was built on these enlightened foundations and it was the bastion of these ideas. The notion of liberty and equality provided them a strong reason to make America liberal and equal in the true sense. This was only possible when every community of people living in America would get free rights and can live with freedom without being abused by the majority of the people. The broader notion on which the American Revolution was carried out provided the impetus to vie for their rights.
The next question that arises is to what extent the LGBTQ movement was successful? It cannot be asserted that the LGBTQ community has got absolute equality, but it can be argued that they have managed to win many rights which were non-existent prior to that of the civil rights movement.
Firstly, the movement has been able to get political rights for the people of its community. For instance, in 1980, the Democratic party categorically asserted that it will not discriminate against homosexual people. Similarly, in 1974, Kathy Kozachenko was the first person of the gay community to be elected to the Michigan city council. From that onwards, political participation from the homosexual has seen an upward trend, albeit gradually. But still, it is much better than in the past. This has allowed them to influence policies and pass laws that can further the rights of this community. For instance, the Obama administration passed the Matthew Shepard ACT which broadened the definition of crime conducted on the basis of gender identity so the crimes against homosexuals can be prevented and prosecuted effectively.
Apart from increased political participation, the movement has also been able to win many social rights for the community. The more important in this aspect is the increased acceptance of homosexuality as compared to the early 19th century. The movements that have been able to alter the entrenched notions have been a great success. It can be said that these attitudes have been wholly transformed and society has become embracive. But still, it is a major improvement as compared to the past. They won the right to live with each other and marry. For instance, in 2010, a federal judge issued an order that legalized gay and lesbian marriage and stated that Prop 8 is unconstitutional (www.pbs.org).
This part of the civil rights movement has impacted society in different ways. Firstly, the notion of homosexuality changed the entrenched beliefs about sex. It ended the binary concept attached to sex. It gradually boosted the acceptance of homosexuals and they slowly changed the entrenched notion about sex. Not only this, but it also changed beliefs related to sex that was traditionally attached to women and men. The sex has been liberalized where partners willing to do sex were given leeway. The sex has been deregulated. Women were allowed to express their sexual satisfaction and jettison the notions of sexual passivity. Women now entered marriage with greater sexual confidence and if this did not satisfy their demands, they were allowed to divorce. Dating has become more common and couples were to date before marriage. Moreover, the literature that was spurred during this era also contributed to sexual awareness. The sexual behavior became more or less equal as it allowed both men and women to freely and openly express their sexual desires. The wearing of bold dresses and openly adopting nudity also changed sexual behaviors.
The movement has also been able to win economic rights for gay and lesbian people. Still, discrimination against people of this community is widespread in workplaces. However, they have managed to bolster their participation in the economic sector. This has allowed them to change their fortunes and improve their financial status. In 2010, the presidential ordinance was passed by Obama to grant certain benefits to federal homosexual employees.
Though the movement has been successful to some extent, it is still a far way from achieving full equality and liberty. The LGBTQ community still faces a lot of encumbrances in its fight against abuse, racism, and inequality. Firstly, major obstruction towards the movements of the LGBTQ community is religious conservatism. Religious conservatism has been at the forefront in providing a solid front against this movement. It has provided a strong foundation to undermine the movement and weaken its efficacy. It has categorically asserted that homosexuality is a sin and should be banned at any cost. It has provided a solid foundation in the sense that homosexuality is harmful to society and is a major problem to form a rightly-guided society. As the religious notion still has a deep influence in American society, it is a major obstacle in the sense that it outrightly rejects the notion of homosexuality. Apart from this a section that may not be religious but has conservatives leaning opposes this notion of same-sex. The obstacles become more strong when the conservative due to its influence is able to manipulate state policies against the rights of homosexuals. So, one of the major roadblocks standing in the way of the LGBTQ community is the deeply rooted belief in religious conservatism.
Another factor that obstructs the civil rights movement is the discrimination faced by them in different spheres of life. So, how does this affect the movement? Every movement depends that its supporters should possess an official position and have the resources to tilt the public and state opinion in their favor. But in the case of the LGBTQ community, they face discrimination in workplaces and politics which barred them from assuming high positions and improve their financial status. As a result, this weakens the movement and its ability to influence state policies. According to the survey, more than 1 in three LGBTQ communities faced discrimination in or another form (Gruberg, Sharita). Ergo, this pervasive discrimination against homosexuals is another major impediment for them to gain equal rights and relish liberty as enunciated in the constitution.
Besides this, the movement faces internal challenges. There are factors inside the LGBTQ community that undermine its efficacy. There are different perceptions within the LGBTQ community about the rights of the “T” which pimples transgenders. A survey by GLAAD-Harris shows that for those who support homosexuality, there is some type of cultural discomfort when it comes to supporting the rights of the “T”. such internal cleavages provide the opposers to exploit this and vitiate the movement (Capehart, Jonathan). Hence, there is a need to cover these internal divisions and biases, so that a movement can be projected more effectively.
Marsha P Johnson was an African American gay who was a drag artist. His activism played a significant role in the rights of the LGBTQ community and black people. Marsha and her friend established an organization named STAR. It stands for Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. It was established to provide support to homeless members of the LGBTQ community. Prior to this, Marsha stood against the raids of police in the 60s and organized protests for the rights of LGBTQ and black people.
Marsha’s struggle was significant because she organized protests and created an organization that was helpful for homeless members of the community. It was important for her to focus on the LGBTQ community because she herself belonged to that community. Furthermore, the LGBTQ community was more severely targeted and it was for someone to come forward and raise their voice for them. Her activism also inspired other members to fight for their rights.
The LGBTQ movement has made gains as compared but still, it is a far cry from achieving equality. So, there is a need to fight these challenges to materialize the promise of equality.References:
- Levy, Michael. “Gay rights movement.”
- “The riot that changed America's gay rights movement forever.” June 2019
- “Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement.”
- Gruberg, Sharita, et al. “The State of the LGBTQ Community in 2020.” October 2020
- Capehart, Jonathan. “The Internal Challenges facing the LGBTQ movement.” washingtonpost.com, February 2015.