It's 2021, why are we still talking LGBTQI+?

Did you know that almost 3 billion people live in countries where consensual same-sex activity is criminalized? Although significant progress has been made in the last few years, much still needs to be done. Being gay is punishable in 70 UN member states by imprisonment, torture, or even death. And not even one grants the same rights to LGBTQI+ people as their heterosexual counterparts.

In countries where laws are relatively accepting of the LGBTQI+ community – for example, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania – many LGBTQI+ people are still likely to suffer backlash in the streets and certain cultures can be slow to change. Take the example of same-sex marriage: In a survey on European views of minorities, the majority of people are in favor of gay and lesbian marriage in Western European countries, almost all of which have now legalized the practice. However, in the Central and Eastern European countries surveyed – none of which allow same-sex marriage – most people are against it.

It has been estimated that two-thirds of the recent historical change in attitudes toward same-sex marriage is due to people who are personally affected by it one way or another. This is of course encouraging, but, for such a personal connection to happen, LGBTQI+ people need to “come out.” And while revealing one’s sexual orientation is a (often difficult) choice for LGB members of the community, transgendered people often don’t have that liberty: their transition is visible. Although between 0.05% and 1.7% of the world population is born with intersex traits – that is, being intersex is about as common as having red hair – transgender people are often stigmatized and subject to multiple human rights violations. Let’s not forget that it was only in June 2018 that the World Health Organization proposed to remove “gender incongruence” from the list of mental illnesses.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg

  • 70 UN member states still criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults (68 by explicit provisions of law, 2 de facto).
  • The death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts is still imposed in 6 UN member states.
  • 32 states have laws restricting freedom of expression on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
  • 41 states pose barriers to the formation, establishment, or registration of sexual orientation-related NGOs.
  • A mere 73 states have laws protecting from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Only 9 states contain constitutional provisions that specify sexual orientation in their discrimination protections.
  • Just 39 states have laws that punish acts of incitement to hatred, discrimination, or violence based on sexual orientation; while 42 states impose enhanced criminal penalties for offenses motivated by hate towards the victim’s sexual orientation.
  • Only 26 states recognize same-sex marriage; while 27 states provide for some partnership recognition.
  • A mere 28 states have joint adoption laws, while just 30 states allow for same-sex second-parent adoption.

So what can the LGBTQI+ community and allies do?

In May 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to publicly vote on same-sex marriage, which passed with 62% of the vote. People around the world were surprised by the results, mainly because of the perception of Ireland as a deeply conservative and predominantly Catholic country. What I learned from studying that vote, was that people can surprise you. There’s hope. Speaking for UCR specifically, if we work together, as a community, as friends, as an employer, and as students, we can and we will make a difference to a better, happier, and truly more inclusive future. And so, to celebrate #PurpleFriday, here are a few suggestions of what we can all do (today and for all the days to come) to thrive as an LGBTQI+ community and its allies.