By Avery Liby
While it appears that LGBTQ people are making progress towards acceptance at school and in Shawnee, this progress has not been matched by the rest of America; instead, some LGBTQ people like Augustine believe that their rights “have never been closer to being ripped away.”
Evidence of this rise in hatred for LGBTQ people can be seen in rising hate crime rates: in 2017, the hate crime rate increased by 17%, and 1,130 hate crimes were committed due to the victim’s sexuality or gender identity. The largest attack against the LGBTQ community in American history, a shooting at the primarily gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando which left 49 people dead, also took place in 2016.
Augustine attributes this spike in hate crimes to the attitudes of the executive branch.
“Since Trump has been elected, there’s been an insurgence of hate crimes in almost every minority group,” Augustine said. “It’s because he and his openly transphobic and homophobic vice president have been elected to office.
Legal challenges to LGBTQ people have also been on the rise. Although gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court in 2015, recent Supreme Court cases have called into question whether LGBTQ people can be fired for their identity. These legal challenges and hate crimes represent what some members of the LGBTQ community perceive as a dangerous regression in attitudes across America.
According to Zebley, a large part of this spike in hatred is due to depictions of LGBTQ people in the media and on social media. He thinks the stereotypes are ignorant and misrepresent LGBTQ people, painting them in too negative of a light.
“[LGBTQ people are] depicted as really easy to offend and inflammatory people who just want to overturn the status quo,” Zebley said. “It’s just not like that. I just want to go to school. I want to go to chemistry class, man.”
Augustine singles out social media as a cause for this recent movement.
“Because of social media… kids who have been raised by parents who [are homophobic] can talk about it publicly for everyone on the Internet to see,” Augustine said.
Zebley thinks that ignoring these stereotypes and allowing LGBTQ people to speak and be understood is one of the best ways that non-LGBTQ people can fight this prevalent hatred.
“I think [people] can be better by being willing to listen. A lot of what you see in the media isn’t really true about us, like how we get offended over everything,” Zebley said. “A lot of us are just willing to listen to you, as long as you listen to us.”