We live in a world where it has become embarrassing to admit adherence to racial or ethnic discrimination. That does not mean that racism is gone, far from it, but people who harbor xenophobic or racist thoughts have learned how to hide them behind something possibly more justifiable. Anti-immigrant sentiment and racism can be hidden behind concerns over legal vs. illegal entry into a country – which, certainly, is not an illegitimate argument, but in many (though not all) cases is simply used as a smokescreen to hide a rather more primal bias.
Similarly, discrimination of women – equally widespread – is being hidden behind calls for alleged tradition or simply denied. The Taliban and the current Iranian regime of thuggish bearded men, as well as many clean-shaven board members of Western corporations are certainly the most pronounced purveyors of misogyny, but even they try to couch their feelings in terms expressing some sort of pretense that they just want to protect women from modernity and men in general and want to relegate them to the realms of sugar and spice and pinkness.
This kind of desperate quest to hide prejudice can sometimes be found when it comes to LGBTQ rights, but in recent years it has become apparent that resistance is growing against those who do not identify as being within the male-female cisgender dichotomy.
Hatred against people identifying as LGBTQ has become, yet again, something that is seen as somehow justified. Direct statements that are unquestionably homophobic or transphobic can nowadays be uttered proudly and boldly, without even the slightest pretense of caring about how such sentiments may be perceived.
Those most committed to expressing themselves along these lines typically do not express their views because of questions of care or fairness, but because of direct and visceral rejection and hatred. This was visible just again recently at the attack in Colorado Springs, it is visible in FIFA’s abhorrent caving to Qatar’s homophobia which is on full display again during this year’s Soccer World Cup of shame, and even Russian officials like Patriarch Kirill justified the genocidal war against Ukraine with preventing “gay parades.”
Such out and proud hatred of those who want to love differently can also be seen in the increasing demonization of what is criticized as “wokeness.” Granted, even in the fight against discrimination, some activists can go a bit overboard. When fighting for social justice, we need to be clear that this is not a fight for special interests but a fight for everyone. Liberation from racism, sexism, classism and gender roles is something that will eventually benefit all of us. We cannot lose sight of this. Hatred needs to be called out, stereotypes need to be countered, and lives need to be protected. If we want to be woke, to have awoken to the ideologies that divide and oppress us, we need to include everyone and have good arguments to promote justice for all. Sometimes, this is difficult: you cannot expect those who experience hatred and threats to their lives to always have a measured response. This is where allyship comes in.
The quest for LGBTQ rights, just as for women’s rights, just as against racism and xenophobia, and just as against class-based exploitation, is a fight for the liberation of all humankind. This is about the liberation of us as ourselves – about what we are allowed to do with our bodies, who we are allowed to love, who we are allowed to associate with – and thus pertains to the very fight for freedom, liberty and emancipation that cumulated into the declaration of human rights. This about the freedom from oppression, and the freedom for self-expression.
We are all born into our imperfect bodies, into imperfect societies and geographies and histories. And yet, we are all human, and we deserve to live up to our full potential – and we must be allowed to do so because only then can we benefit – both as our individual selves, and all of us as a society.