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LGBTQ+ people face discrimination and violence

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Oct. 11 marked National Coming Out Day, and amid a flood of Facebook statuses about nonconforming gender identities and sexualities, I found myself reflecting again on the visibility of the queer community and its effects on the levels of violence LGBTQIAP+ individuals face daily. All of us, out or not, encounter manifestations daily of the cis-hetero-patriarchy and oppressive gender binary. Across society, identities are assumed and relationships are presumed to take only certain forms. Queer visibility is nearly always conditional, for LGBTQIAP+ individuals are seen almost exclusively when it benefits those in positions of power and privilege.

Socially, our lifestyles and our very selves are invalidated because we are unacknowledged, because it is altogether too easy to forget that some people have no choice but to exist outside of hetero-normativity, outside of cis-normativity and the gender binary. In the media, we as a diverse community are mostly reduced to stereotypes of white gay men if any queerness is portrayed at all. Visibility is low: queerness is not normative. Yet, it doesn’t seem difficult for trans people, especially trans women of color, to be recognized and subsequently murdered. As of Oct. 16, 22 transgender people have been killed in the United States in 2016.

The mere existence of trans women is a threat to the disproportionate power of masculinity, which is why they are so often the victims of violence. We are seen when it is profitable, when we are exploitable. They refuse to see us, yet as of July, 288 out of 50 states still had laws that allow employment discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual folks, and 31 states had laws that permit employers to arbitrarily fire trans people, according to the Huffington Post. Disproportionately, LGBTQIAP+ youth are homeless. They face discrimination in the workforce often after they are cut off by their families. Restrooms are almost always gendered along the binary, imposing expectations for gender performance and expression on non-conforming individuals. Queer and trans bodies are considered deviant and criminal, and perhaps that is why queer people, especially transgender people of color, are incarcerated at higher rates than white, heterosexual and cisgender individuals. Queer and trans bodies are systematically devalued and the socioeconomic implications of that oppression are real.

This society is still afraid to defy gender norms and is still afraid of people that do choose to defiantly be and express who they are. This society is still afraid of femininity, expression, compassion and art. Capitalism demands that bodies pass within the limited social construction of gender assigned at birth, because social conformity is the ultimate form of productivity and efficiency. We have internalized capitalist values that invalidate our most personal and necessary forms of expression. Society is afraid that affection must be limited to the forms dictated by the Judeo-Christian, capitalist, colonialist values imposed in all of our institutions and processes of socialization. People are afraid to be something that is unproductive, something that serves human functions rather than capitalist ones.

Some people are out and they are celebrating. And that is important; it is beautiful. But on such a day, we must really take the time to think of those that are not out, those that are neither seen nor heard. It is dangerous to express any resistance against the expectations of gender and sexuality that this society burdens us with, for it results in violence altogether too frequently. Those who are not out reveal much more to us about the world we live in than those who are. The discussion of LGBTQIAP+ issues is often limited to those who are visible, centering around marriage equality and other concerns specific to white upper and middle class queer people. Legality can only come after visibility. Let us maybe talk more about those who are not visible, how they are affected by masculinity and violence, and how we can change that. Let’s talk more about the social structures that devalue the people we are and the potential we have as sentient beings.

Colleen Dehais is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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