Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 23, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY


Commentary: Activists and allies needed from here to Russia

As LGBT History Month draws to a close, it is important to recognize how this month is imperative to the growth and strength of queer people finding their voices in the choir of multiculturalism and diversity.

Here in the United States, where marriage equality is becoming more acceptable and a month is dedicated to the celebration of queer people, it is easy to forget how dangerous LGBT relationships can be outside of this illusion of safety. Marriage isn’t applicable to all LGBT persons, and pressing issues such as health care and general acceptance are still relevant subjects of social justice. In many countries, identifying as LGBT is still punishable by a death penalty.

In June, a federal law was passed in Russia banning “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors. As we prepare for the Winter Olympics, we must think about what it means to identify as queer in a country where one may not be safe to do so. This is particularly troublesome for Ithaca College interns who may or may not identify as LGBT people or allies. The interns will participate in an international event that, because of its host country, could be perceived as discriminatory toward LGBT people. More than 100 organizations from 33 countries support Russia’s law, and same-sex relationships are a crime in at least 76 countries, according to a 2011 United Nations Report.

Yet despite what is happening in the world, we can see people creating lives for themselves who identify as LGBT right here on campus. Next month, queer student organizations are working to make professional LGBT people more visible. PRISM will host a discussion panel at 7:00 p.m. Nov. 7 in Clark Lounge that consists of both college faculty and members of the Ithaca community regarding LGBT experiences across a diverse array of careers such as optometry, coaching and teaching. There will be events such as Sex Fest and queer-trivia hosted by Spectrum that will discuss underrepresented queer identities. All of these are ways that the Ithaca College community is creating an inclusive campus.

I am a queer American woman, and I am grateful that we have spaces that allow us to be more than just queer; we are authors, architects, businessmen, teachers, students, economists and human beings. Without being able to foster a community of queer people and learn about others like us, we would be isolated in a culture modeled predominantly by heteronormative standards. Simply knowing that one can be LGBT and successful is inspirational. Hopefully, the support experienced on campus and in the Ithaca community will inspire interns to know that they carry that spirit with them to Russia.

This month has served to remind us that there are support systems, like Equality Forum, for LGBT people outside of college. Besides the support LGBT History Month provides for individuals who identify as queer, recognizing the month nationally shows respect to a community of people who have largely been underrepresented throughout American history — and world history — and who are still discriminated against in America and across the globe.

To straight allies, thank you for acknowledging our existence, and to queer activists, thank you for fighting to make our voice be heard. To allies and activists alike, let’s begin to think of ways to support the international LGBT community in the face of global oppression.