An Abbreviated History
This issue of Contra Costa Lawyer magazine deals with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (“LGBTQ”) current legal rights and some of the issues facing the community. One integral question to ask is, who created this term, LGBTQ? Is the term LGBTQ merely just a bunch of letters that have been grouped together over the course of time to express differences in gender, orientation and/or sexuality? Are LGBTQ people really all that similar or are they banded together merely by the social construct of difference? On the other hand, might there be one red thread, one common ground that ties these groups of people together?
Societies all around the world have often been interested in grouping things together that are like or similar. Therefore, over time many terms have been forced upon certain groups of people like the LGBTQ community. Some of these classifications that exist in the western cultures are harmless while others have proven to be derogatory. In America, we are so fixated with what a person is or is not that we spend time discussing peoples’ masculinity or femininity and sometimes even their sex organs. This seems to be the root of the LGBTQ classification. Anything that is different in sexuality, gender or orientation gets grouped together, but what about the major differences in all of us?
For instance, my road to coming out was likely much different then my gay male friends. Likewise, a transgender person will experience much different discrimination than I might as a lesbian woman. Even in Native American or Inuit culture they have a different term for those that would be classified as LGBTQ in our culture. They call their people two spirited and it is a natural lifestyle further proving that the term LGBTQ is that of a western construct.
Running parallel to the western world’s love for strict classifications is also this concept of fear of what is different. Some people fear change, the unknown and some even fear those who are LGBTQ. Religious liberty laws and discrimination have widely emerged as a backlash to the recent victories with marriage equality and anti discrimination laws for the LGBTQ people. Fear of change in many ways has spawned a turn towards homophobic ideas. However, this correlation between religion and sexuality makes no sense to me. I grew up in a devoutly Catholic family and within my family there was an emphasis on love and respect towards all people. Furthermore, I was taught to protect the vulnerable because one never knows who might be targeted and discriminated against next.
It’s my belief that both the LGBTQ community and its allies have to stand together, empathize with each other and care about one another, so that we can all be safe and live in a community of equality. Not focusing on terminology or classification, but tolerance of all. This way we can effect change globally.
Therefore, it is my goal that we can all perpetuate equality and compassion towards each other, not homophobia or hate or simplistic classifications. Instead, we might want to all strive to spread understanding, non-judgment and compassion. That is what this issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine is about. It is aimed at creating a deeper understanding of whom your brothers and your sisters are and what we (the LGBTQ community, if you must) are fighting to protect. This issue talks about ways you can help and how we all must focus on evolving society to fit the times, not trying to fit the times to any preexisting ideals in society.
Late Addition to the February 2017 Issue of Contra Costa Lawyer
Thanks to Commissioner Toni Mims-Cochran and Alameda County Judge Noël Wise, the CCCBA has been given the opportunity to publish an article by Judge Wise on recent gender laws and the basis in science. This article was also published in a shorter version in the March 8, 2017 edition of Time magazine. According to Commissioner Mims-Cochran, “The article is about the difficult intersection between developing science and law in regard to gender identification. It is one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject.” Please read the article here.