By: Milo Todd*/TRT Columnist—
On May 23rd, newscasters around the world declared that Ireland would make equal marriage legal due to a landslide victory via popular vote. That’s a success and a massive deal. A people’s vote deciding a new law that supports LGBTQ rights has never, ever been done before. History was made mere days ago.
But as I saw all of the victory coverage, all of the photos of people breaking down in pure joy on street corners, I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world this was the only thing mainstream people seem to ever hear about us from big-name newsies.
No, that’s not a question of whether we should be celebrating and spreading the news about this awesome victory. Because we should. But rather, the question is…why is mainstream news coverage on the LGBTQ community virtually only ever about equal marriage? [pullquote]Getting equal marriage on the books is great and all, but it doesn’t exactly solve the LGBTQ world’s problems. …While marriage equality is a victory for some people, the vast majority of us have bigger things on our minds. [/pullquote]
Getting equal marriage on the books is great and all, but it doesn’t exactly solve the LGBTQ world’s problems. And to only cover a matter most interesting to white, cisgender, upper-middle-class people (straight or not) not only distracts from those problems that need our immediate attention, but encourages the mainstream to ignore them entirely.
While marriage equality is a victory for some people, the vast majority of us have bigger things on our minds. We can’t obtain it yet, even if we want it and it’s on the books, because we still have so many other roadblocks in front of it.
“Mainstream LGBTQ” focuses far too much on a select few rights that, compared to the other issues the LGBTQ community has to deal with, don’t really matter much.
Nearly 50% of LGBTQ people attempt suicide at some point in their lives due to harassment and/or bullying, 1 in 12 transgender people is murdered (a disproportionate amount of them being transwomen of color), intimate partner violence for LGBTQ people is the same rate as that for straight women, and 40% of the homeless youth population is LGBTQ.
Transwomen are being put into men’s prisons and raped by both inmates and security. LGBTQ seniors are going back into the closet because care facility workers abuse them. Bisexual people (especially those of color) are being harassed everywhere…including so-called LGBTQ-friendly spaces.
Focusing on an issue such as equal marriage and turning it into the issue for the LGBTQ community makes straight and cisgender people think that once equal marriage is granted throughout the world, everything will be okay. All problems solved.
But there’s no way to solve all problems when only one specific problem is being focused upon for one very specific group of people. Intersectionality is the only way we’ll be able to start working toward a better future for the LGBTQ community because it can help us be appropriately and accurately represented in the problems we face. [pullquote]Transwomen are being put into men’s prisons and raped by both inmates and security. LGBTQ seniors are going back into the closet because care facility workers abuse them.[/pullquote]
While such mainstream LGBTQ notions as equal marriage are important in their own way, they’re terribly distracting from issues that can be considered far more impending.
Yet we rarely hear about issues like those linked. Instead, the biggest names in news have been pouring all of their LGBTQ energy into gushing about…well…pretty much one thing.
And Ireland aside, virtually any photographic coverage to marriage equality’s triumphs or woes is disproportionately skewed toward showing white, able-bodied, ironically straight-appearing men who are assumed to be gay (as opposed to possibly bisexual, pansexual, or fluid). It’s more than just a little irksome. It’s homonormativity.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe Ireland has done something awesome and powerful. To see a country rally like that to voice overwhelming favor to LGBTQ rights moved me. It shows that people’s minds as a collective have taken a huge shift in treating LGBTQ people like humans. If a heavily Catholic country can give a resounding and enthusiastic yes to equal marriage, it makes me feel like anything is possible. [pullquote]Basically, if straight and cisgender people think that Ireland (or any other country that follows its footsteps) is done with its contribution to creating a safer, fairer world for all LGBTQ people because it put marriage equality on the books, they have another thing coming. [/pullquote]
But this isn’t about Ireland and their victory. This is about how mainstream media covers the LGBTQ community at large.
I believe the reason mainstream news only covers something as simple as marriage equality is because it’s easy. They can just say “yay rights!” or “boo rights!” or “this is what people have to say about rights!” without ever actually having to bring to light any of the problematic, white-washed, straight-focused foundations of our (or any other) country that caused this and every other LGBTQ inequality issue we have. They can look progressive without changing a thing.
Basically, if straight and cisgender people think that Ireland (or any other country that follows its footsteps) is done with its contribution to creating a safer, fairer world for all LGBTQ people because it put marriage equality on the books, they have another thing coming.
Yes, take a moment to pat yourselves on the back for all of the recent marriage equality successes. But tomorrow, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. That includes you, media.
* Milo Todd is a freelance writer, editor, and journalist who focuses on LGBTQ and intersectional feminist issues. Originally starting as a freelance reporter and book columnist for Wicked Local, his work has since been featured in such venues as Everyday Feminism. He was a judge for the 2014 Bisexual Book Awards and writes novels in his spare time. He holds a double BA in Philosophy and Gender Theory with focuses in feminist phenomenology, queer phenomenology, and post-positivist realism.