On Sunday, 63.1% of Swiss voters voted in favour of extending anti-discrimination laws to the LGBTQ+ community, despite the efforts of the right-wing parties and press. This is a momentous decision on the part of Switzerland, not just because it will help protect thousands of people, but also because of what it represents. This law signifies a step forward from mere ‘tolerance’ to a truer acceptance; the difference between these two views is that ‘tolerance’ is simply another way of saying ‘put up with’ while this vote shows that most people actively want to stick up for and protect members of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a trend seen across Europe, with laws like Switzerland’s being in place in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and even the traditionally Catholic countries like Spain and Portugal.
The problem that arises when such laws, along with gay marriage, are introduced, is that we are then asked the question: why are you still campaigning for gay rights? Although the statistics on social attitudes are promising, there is still a long way to go, especially in terms of trans rights and the issue of gender identity.
Even in Oxford, we have professors and speakers who are trans-phobic, and there is a general lack of awareness within society about what it means to be trans.
A similar misunderstanding is felt by bi and pansexuals, who are labelled as ‘greedy’ or ‘indecisive’ within many discourses. In addition, there has been an increase in hate crimes based on sexuality or gender identity across England and Wales, reaching over 16,000 in the year 2018/19 compared to just under 5,000 in 2012/13. Although this could be down to people feeling more able to report hate crimes, it is still thought that the majority of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people go unreported.
In addition, we are often told to ‘not flaunt’ our Queerness, not to act so gay, not to be such an easy target, not to ‘be asking for’ abuse when walking down the street. Many people, admittedly of an older generation, I speak to about the future of LGBTQ+ rights do not realise that maybe we do not want to act ‘normal’, and nor should we have to. While there is an acceptance of what is perceived as the biological and scientific aspect of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, there seems to be a distinct lack of comprehension of any cultural or psychological aspects. But, given that LGBTQ+ youth have the highest rates of suicide attempts of any group, this is not the time to stop campaigning for a society in which diversity is celebrated rather than just accepted or tolerated.
Pride flag, Guaranco. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gay_Pride_Flag.svg