Printed with permission from Pride. Originally published 08/18/2015.
By Campus Pride
As we move into a post-marriage-equality world, college students are thinking bigger when it comes to changes needed to create a better world for LGBTQ people. The truth is, LGBTQ people exist in all communities and groups of people – all races, abilities, immigration statuses and economic classes. All these issues are interconnected, as many people face multiple forms of oppression. Intersectionality is the notion that prejudices like racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, ableism and homophobia cannot be looked at as separate issues.
Today’s college students are understanding this, and the LGBTQ movement’s agenda is becoming more intersectional as a result. The queer agenda must be intersectional to be effective in achieving equality and equity for all people. This July, Campus Pride, through its summer leadership academy delved into queer intersectional work for social justice. This list includes some examples of the issues that young LGBTQ leaders consider to be on the queer, intersectional agenda.
1. Sexual Assault
The CDC has found that LGBTQ people face sexual assault in numbers much higher than their heterosexual, cisgender peers. Thirteen percent of lesbian women, 40 percent of gay men, nearly 50 percent of bisexual people, and a staggering 64 percent of transgender people will experience sexual assault during their lifetimes.
Sexual assault on college campuses is a major issue that has been receiving media attention, but college students are realizing the need for LGBTQ-specific resources that examine the way homophobia and transphobia influence rape culture as much as sexism influences it. Solutions created for reducing sexual assault cannot succeed if it only assumes one narrative for how sexual assault happens.
2. Police Brutality
The moment often discussed as the beginning of the LGBTQ movement in America, the Stonewall Riot, was a riot against police brutality. The LGBTQ community, and especially trans women of color, are targeted by police in disproportionate numbers. These numbers are influenced by the high rates of LGBTQ homeless youth in the United States who often fall into police custody by doing what they need to survive. After being searched and often arrested on transphobic and homophobic charges like “suspicion of prostitution,” LGBTQ people are held in facilities that do not align with their gender identity, or harassed and assaulted by police, prison guards or other inmates because of their gender expression or sexuality.
These realities often combine with known issues of police brutality against people of color. Young LGBTQ activists understand these issues, and are acting on them by involving themselves in movements like #BlackLivesMatter and demanding an intersectional look at how we can end police brutality by ending mandatory sentences for minor drug charges, examining prostitution laws and looking at the systems that force homeless LGBTQ youth into these crimes.
3. Immigration Reform
The Williams Institute estimates that there are 267,000 LGBTQ undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Many immigrants leave their countries because of harsh conditions of LGBTQ people, hoping the US will become a haven. However, many LGBTQ undocumented people are met with detention centers that disrespect trans people and lead to assault and violence against all LGBTQ people and immense difficulties earning and affording a college degrees.
As an intersectional movement, LGBTQ activists must incorporate immigrant rights into their platforms. Today’s activists are fighting for causes that help undocumented people, including immigration reform, modifying asylum standards to address issues facing the LGBTQ community and supporting the DREAM Act for undocumented students.
4. Accessibility and Health Services
People with disabilities have a stigma surrounding their sexual identities, and are therefore often left out of discussions surrounding sexuality and gender. This is a disservice to disabled and neurodivergent LGBTQ people. LGBTQ people have higher instances of mental health problems, and this is often connected to the lack of quality health care that supports a person’s sexuality and gender identity.
College activists want to increase accessibility in the LGBTQ movement. This includes ensuring that physical spaces are accessible, and also making information accessible by providing access to visual and auditory aids like sign language interpreters, large-print text or Braille. It includes clarifying academic language so it is accessible.
Mental health issues are extremely prevalent in the queer community, and activists are stressing the importance of self-care as a way to address the need to do activism and the need to care for oneself in the healthiest way. This also includes advocating for more inclusive health care policies that allow LGBTQ people to obtain the medical care they need, including for mental health and health problems brought on by minority stress, hormone-replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery.
5. Student Loans
In the past 30 years, average tuition costs have tripled in comparison to the average family budget. This issue affects all students, and especially lower-class families. However, many LGBTQ people do not have family support to rely on when it comes to obtaining an education. Coming out as LGBTQ can often result in family abandonment or homelessness, forcing LGBTQ youth hoping to obtain a college education into government loans with steep interest rates. This is especially true if the student’s circumstances disallow them from getting a FAFSA dependency override.
Tuition reform is a necessary issue to fight in order for LGBTQ youth to obtain the degrees they need to enter the formalized world of nonprofit work and policy change. Creating plans for affordable college educations is an LGBTQ issue.
6. Voter ID Laws
Thirty-four states in the US require identification for voting. This laws are shown to disenfranchise voters with difficulty accessing identification, including poor communities, elderly communities and urban communities. These laws become more complicated when it comes to transgender, and especially nonbinary, people struggling under the current system to get their name or gender marker altered on IDs to reflect their correct identities.
The ability to vote is a right in the U.S., and is considered a backbone to the democracy we live in. People in a group, or multiple groups, that are often disenfranchised when it comes to voting must be a focus for those working toward social justice. Intersectional LGBTQ activists need to consider ID law issues as they apply to voting and beyond.
Allison Marie Turner is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and mass communication and women’s and gender studies. She is a 2015 Communications and Programs Fellow for Campus Pride. Follow her on Twitter@amturner1993.