Rochester Pride - August 27, 2022
I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the Rochester, NH Pride Festival. Below is the speech I gave titled, "The LGBTQ+ Movement, Intersectionality, and Collective Liberation."
Hello Rochester Pride!!! How is everybody doing on this beautiful afternoon?! Thank you all for being here and supporting Rochester Pride. I’m so grateful to the Rochester Pride committee for inviting me to speak to you today. My name is Robbie Hinkel and I’m a first-term City Councilor just down the road in Dover. I’ve been living in Dover since 2012, and started getting active in local politics during the 2020 election. I was looking for a way to build a community in Dover, so I joined the Dover Democratic Committee and things took off from there. I started out becoming the treasurer for the Dover Dems, then I joined the NH Stonewall Democrats and the NH Young Democrats, met all sorts of activists, young and old, and next thing I knew I was running for City Council. It’s been the most fulfilling two years of my life so far. I’m here to talk to you today a little about the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, how intersectionality is critical to our fight for collective liberation, and about the importance of getting involved.
The fight for Queer Liberation really kicked off in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Queer people were fed up with being persecuted, and decided to fight back. But the battle has been long and hard. The next 30 years after Stonewall were full of setbacks. Laws banning us from serving in the military. The defense of marriage act keeping us from marrying the person of our choosing. Laws banning us from having consensual physical relationships. A complete lack of discrimination protections. Hell, if anything, discrimination against the LGBT community was codified into law. Then came the AIDS epidemic and a complete failure by the federal government to act because it was primarily affecting gay men. But, things finally started to turn around for the LGBTQ+ community at the turn of the century.
June 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court decriminalized consensual same-sex physical relationships between adults. Just 19 years ago.
October 2009, under the Matthew Shepard Act, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability were added as protected classes under federal hate crimes laws. Only about 13 years ago. That said, sexual orientation and gender identity are only protected at the state level in about half the states.
December 2010 Congress passed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Not even 12 years ago. And the trans community’s standing in the military is only as strong as a presidential executive order, which we know Republicans will likely rescind again, just as they did under Trump.
June 2013, in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), forcing the federal government to recognize lawful same-sex marriages performed by states where marriage equality was legal. That was just 9 years ago, and you may remember that that decision set off a raft of state laws and state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.
June 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. An added bonus of the Obergefell decision was that same-sex couples could finally adopt children nationwide. Just 7 years ago, and yet we know that after overturning Roe v. Wade, several members of the current right-wing US Supreme court have explicitly stated their desire to overturn marriage equality.
June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity are covered under “sex” as protected classes from employment descrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just two years ago it was still legal to fire or withhold a job from someone because of their sexual identity or gender expression. AND TODAY, we still don’t have protections in statute to protect us in healthcare, education, housing or financial credit at the federal level, leaving it to the states to have a hodgepodge of protections in place depending where you live.
We’ve made incredible progress over the past 20 years or so, and not only in changing the laws, but in changing peoples’ hearts and minds. We’re their friends, siblings, neighbors, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and everything in between. But, anyone who is paying attention knows that we still have a lot to achieve to be truly equal under the law. And to make matters WORSE, some of the protections we’ve fought so hard for are already starting to backslide, and the most vulnerable members of our community are the most at risk of being further marginalized and losing their rights, freedoms, and even their lives.
During the Trump years, the trans community was banned from serving in the military, after years of loyal service, many of these individuals being decorated officers. In many states, the trans community cannot use the bathroom which aligns with their gender identity. Hell, even trans kids are being attacked, and not allowed to play on sports teams based on their gender identity. LGBT conversion therapy is still legal in at least 20 states. In Florida, and now a flurry of other red states across the country, including right here in New Hampshire, legislators are busy making up “Don’t say gay” laws, forcing kids to hide their identities and their families from their school mates, and even threatening to out young LGBTQ youth to their parents if a school administrator finds out. All of these laws and practices put real peoples’ lives in danger on a daily basis, not to mention the devastating toll it takes on their mental health.
When you add intersectionality to the picture, things get even bleeker. Intersectionality is when two or more parts of a person’s identity collide, often increasing their vulnerability and marginalization, and making it apparent that they don’t just fit easily into one single category. Think about some examples for a minute. A transwoman who is also black. A gay man who is also Asian. An elderly lesbian woman with a disability. A non-binary person who was raised in a strict Catholic family. These are all members of the LGBTQ+ community who face their own unique set of struggles trying to make it in the world. While we’ve made significant progress as a united LGBTQ community on things that affect us all, like marriage equality and overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the folks in our community who have intersectionality in their lives are struggling from other forms of societal oppression.
According to the Center for American Progress:
Among sexual minority adults, African Americans were 6% more likely than their white counter parts to experience housing insecurity.
Older Lesbian woman are likely to experience higher rates of poverty (9.1%) compared to just (4.6%) of heterosexual elderly couples.
17.6% of LGBTQ youth with disabilities and 12.5% LGBTQ people of color need and require housing assistance compared to just 2.5% of non-LGBTQ people.
Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are 5 times more likely to experience violent victimization than heterosexual women.
LGBTQ members of racial and ethnic minorities face racial and ethnic discrimination on a daily basis
Members of the LGBT community suffer with mental health and substance use disorder at drastically higher rates that our cisgender hetersexual counterparts.
My point here is that our fight doesn’t stop with LGBTQ specific rights. The fights against poverty, housing insecurity, domestic violence, substance use disorder, ageism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, reproductive justice, easy and fair access to healthcare and treatment, and every other plight you can think of facing this country… these are very much our fights too! They directly impact members of our own community. The enemy for all of these is the same. It’s the status quo, and the politicians on either side of the aisle who refuse to do anything about it. If we want liberation as an LGBT community, we need to fight for the collective liberation of all Americans struggling under any form of oppression.
We hear every election season how this election is the most critical of our lifetime. Unfortunately, we live in a time where this is actually true. Democracy in this country has been backsliding for so long that the stakes are extremely high, and they keep getting higher. A lot of people don’t like to talk or think about politics. We grew up in a time when it was fairly easy to be apathetic, or disengaged. We don’t have that luxury anymore. Our rights, our LIVES, are on the ballot now. If you haven’t already registered to vote, go to your City Clerk’s office as soon as you can and get registered. Ask for a sample ballot so you can see who is running for office in your district and start researching those candidates. See who supports your values, and who will fight for our collective liberation. Then start having conversations with people you know. Encourage them to vote. Talk to them about why it’s important and what’s on the line. Tell them how certain policies and laws directly impact your life, especially the ones that will impact you negatively. Then tell them what the alternatives could be and tell them about the candidates who support those alternatives. Alternatives that advance our collective liberation. And then vote. Vote every single time you have the privilege to do so. Vote while you still can.
And when the election is over, keep working! Get involved in your community. Run for office. If politics isn’t your thing, find a way you can work toward the cause of collective liberation. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Join an interfaith group that works to build understanding and cooperation between religions. Join the fight for reproductive justice. Fight for immigrant justice. Actively work to dismantle racism and oppression. There are millions of social services and activist organizations you can join. Pick a cause that’s near to your heart, and work as hard as you can to make the change you want to see in the world. If you don’t have the time to volunteer, pick an organization and donate financially. These organizations need funding to do their work and that’s one of the most important ways you can help. Many such organizations are actually here today. Go visit their tables and find out how you can make a difference. If we all do something, collective liberation isn’t a question of if, but when.