Why the Battle For LGBT Equality Isn’t Over and How Nudists Need to Support It
Back in June, Jordan and I attended the annual NYC Pride Parade. It took place just two weeks after the horrific mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in which 49 people were killed and dozens of others were injured. Yesterday (Monday, September 12) marks the 3-month anniversary of the massacre.
The parade was the biggest NYC has ever had. A record 32,000 marchers (last year saw 20,000) and over 400 groups participated.
At the very beginning, they commemorated the Pulse nightclub victims with a moment of silence. Later there were marchers dressed in white, displaying all the victims’ photos and names in a compelling tribute.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke before the parade began: “When we talk about New York values, our values are inclusion, tolerance, understanding, diversity – that’s what we believe in and that’s what we celebrate today…This parade is New York City saying defiantly, ‘We will stand up to hatred. We will stand up to those who try to undermine our values.’”
The event ended at the historic Stonewall Inn, which was designated a national monument by President Obama on June 24th. It’s the first ever national monument dedicated to gay rights and LGBT history.
As a nation we’ve made notable progress towards LGBTQ+ equality in the last decade.
- In 2009, the U.S. Federal Hate Crime Law was expanded to include crimes in which victims were targeted based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, color, religion and national origin.
- In 2010, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law (that banned LGBT people from serving openly in the military) was repealed.
- More LGBT people have entered public office, and the first ever openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin, was elected in 2012.
- Over the last few years, there’s also been increased visibility of transgender people and issues affecting them.
- In 2015, a huge victory was won when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage throughout the USA on a federal level.
All that being said…there is still much work to be done!
In 31 states, there are no comprehensive, fully inclusive anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people. So in these states, they can be denied housing, services and even fired from their jobs for simply being who they are. (And discriminated against in public restrooms as we’ve seen in North Carolina.)
There are also currently no federal laws that explicitly address these types of discrimination. There’s hope for this to change with the Equality Act, which is a new bill that was introduced last summer. The Equality Act would finally establish explicit, comprehensive, equal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It covers housing, public accommodations, employment, education, federal funding, credit and jury service. It has yet to be voted on.
In addition to legal battles, there are also the issues of homelessness, poverty and mental illness within the LGBTQ population.
For those who might not be aware, transgender people are 4 times more likely to live in extreme poverty. Gay and bisexual individuals, as well as families, are all reported to experience higher levels of poverty and economic disadvantages. They, along with trans people, are also 3 times more likely to “experience a mental health condition.”
The statistics are even more troubling with regards to teenagers. In 2012, the Williams Institute found that “40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.”
This past month (August 2016), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their findings from a new nationwide study of high school students which included the individuals’ sexual identity. What they found were “heartbreaking” levels of violence reported by gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers. Compared to heterosexual students, this group was at a much higher risk of bullying, violence, drug use, suicidal thoughts, depression, sexual assault and rape.
More than 30% of LGB students had been bullied at school, and 28% were bullied online. These statistics were nearly double those of heterosexual students (19% and 14%, respectively). More than 1 in 10 LGB students had skipped school because of safety concerns.
They were more than twice as likely as heterosexual students to experience physical violence (18% vs 8%) or sexual violence (23% vs 9%) while dating. They had more than triple the occurrence of rape with 18% having reported it compared to 5% of hetero students.
In looking at mental health, the study also found that “more than 40% of LGB students had seriously considered suicide and 29% reported having attempted suicide” in the prior year.
These numbers could’ve been even worse had they included transgender teens. In 2008, the LGBTQ Task Force surveyed over 6,000 transgender and gender non-conforming adults. In this group, 78% reported experiencing harassment, 35% physical assault and 12% sexual violence, while in a school setting.
Just over 40% of those surveyed said they have attempted suicide. You can find more statistics in The Task Force report regarding discrimination, health care, employment, housing and more.
But I also wanted to mention transgender hate crimes. GLAAD, a LGBT advocacy organization, notes that violence against transgender people “is at an all-time high and rising.” In the last 3 years, most of the victims of LGBTQ hate-driven violence and homicides were transgender. And about half of those murdered were trans women of color.
In 2015, GLAAD conducted a survey to see how Americans view LGBTQ people and whether they are more accepting of sexualities / identities beyond heterosexual.
They wrote, “GLAAD’s findings point to a culture of complacency, wherein the non-LGBT public is under the false and potentially dangerous impression that the work for LGBT equality is done.”
They found that 50% of non-LGBT Americans think that “gay people have the same rights as everybody else.”
Though other survey results point to an increasing tolerance of LGBT people, there is still this lack of awareness surrounding the current social and legal issues affecting this population.
And now, let’s talk about the nudist community. Time and again I’ve seen nudists demonstrate this same lack of awareness. Once marriage equality was achieved, there was a general response of “The battle is over! Full LGBT equality is achieved!” No. Nope nope nope. It’s not over.
Then some people in the nudist community have gone on to argue that since LGBT people have equal rights, it’s time for nudists to get equal rights! Unsurprisingly, I almost always hear this coming from straight, cisgender White males.
Can we end these types of statements in the nudist community now and forever, please? It’s wrong, embarrassing and makes us all look bad.
Many nudists (including myself) have drawn parallels between the nudists’ and LGBT community’s fight for acceptance.
For example, many nudists remain “in the closet” for fear of losing their job. (Not a totally unwarranted fear with jobs like teaching.) Or they fear not being accepted by their family and friends.
As a group, we are regularly discriminated against, such as when a nudity ban is enacted, or a nude beach gets shut down, or a city suddenly decides to ban naturists from using the same facilities as everyone else.
We’re often regarded or portrayed as sexual deviants and perverts that are out to corrupt public morals and harm everybody’s children. Our path to acceptance may also mirror that of LGBT people – “coming out” as nudists and telling friends, increasing awareness, etc.
We may have all these similarities, but there are 3 major problems with the idea that nudist acceptance is nigh due to LGBT people having gained equal rights.
- Once again, LGBT people are NOT yet fully equal under the law or in society. They still deal with a lot of legal and social issues, as described above.
- Being a nudist is a very different type of identity. It’s one that you choose. You can always decide to take your clothes off or not. You can decide to join a nudist club or not. But being LGBT is innate. You can choose your partner(s), but you don’t choose your sexual orientation or gender. You’re born with it. It’s a core part of a person’s identity. (Confused about gender? We have a guide to understanding gender / gender identity.)
- We need to recognize that the nudist community has a history of discrimination against LGBT people. These days it’s not socially acceptable to openly discriminate, but clubs and resorts can easily do so discreetly. As a marginalized group, gay nudists have formed their own groups and clubs. Most don’t seem to be affiliated with the national nudist organizations, which don’t force acceptance of gay couples or transgender people. (AANR only listed their first gay nudist club — The River’s Edge in Georgia — on their website in 2015.)
As naturists, we don’t need total LGBT equality or gender equality or racial equality in society before we can continue our own battles for acceptance. Rather, we can and should be supporting social equality while at the same time, continue working on naturist-related causes.
As I’ve explained with the “Fallacy of Relative Privation,” it is possible to care about multiple issues, big and small, at the same time.
Of course you can’t care about other, bigger issues if you don’t even know they exist. So I believe we need greater awareness of LGBT and other social issues in the naturist community.
We also need to work on ensuring that nudist places today are safe for everyone and openly inclusive of LGBT people!!!
Nudists often pride themselves on being accepting and non-judgmental of others’ differences. Your outward appearance, your income level, your job, your sexual partners, your gender – all of that is supposed to be less important in a naturist environment, right?
Well when it comes to social nudism in America, I have learned that that is sadly not always the case. It’s is far less accepting and far more discriminating than we admit.
At YNA, we believe AND openly advocate that tolerance, acceptance and equality are our core naturist values. We believe that naturist places should be body-positive, sex-positive and inclusive. We constantly publish and create public discussions and awareness.
Based on the “leadership” (or lack thereof) in naturism today, it may remain a fringe culture for a long time. That said, we believe our value-driven culture (at least in YNA) can make the world a better and more tolerant place for us, for LGBT people and all oppressed minority groups.