LGBTQ+ Rights: 2009 Vs. 2019

LGBTQ+ Rights: 2009 Vs. 2019

We've come a long way, but there's a long way yet to go...

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It really is hard to comprehend just how much culture can change in ten years. In such a short amount of time (historically speaking), ideas can go from unthinkable to societal norms that are accepted without much hesitation. As someone who majors in history, it's so interesting to me to see the evolution of cultures and societies and to see just how dramatically things can change. For a normal person, ten years feels like an eternity, but to historians, it's barely the blink of an eye. One concept that has changed considerably over the past decade is LGBTQ+ rights. Looking back, it's hard to imagine just how restrictive the United States used to be for these groups just ten short years ago.

*Disclaimer: I am not LGBT just because I support LGBT rights. You can support animal rights without being a damn giraffe. Moving on...

Let's start with marriage equality. At the beginning of 2009, only two states issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This number would gradually increase until the number of states that allowed same-sex marriages outnumbered those that didn't. The nail in this homophobic coffin came in 2015 with the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was protected by the fourteenth amendment, making same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states.

There has also been a lot of progress in the protection of LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination. In 2009, fourteen states and the District of Columbia had laws that prohibited workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In the last ten years, eight more states have passed similar laws. Unfortunately, this is not enough; the majority of states in the country still allow discrimination of this type. The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, passed in Indiana in 2015 by then-governor Mike Pence, effectively wrote discrimination into the law rather than leaving it as an unwritten rule. More work is sorely needed on this front.

There was also no federal hate crime legislation for acts against LGBTQ+ people in 2009. However, this was changed in October of the same year with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named for two individuals who were murdered in 1998. The law expanded the definition of a hate crime to include crimes motivated by gender identity, sexual orientation and disability.

Additionally, conversion therapy was legal in all fifty states in 2009. This unscientific religious therapy was meant to change the sexual orientation of those who took part in it, voluntarily or otherwise. In recent years, many allegations of criminal treatment of these "patients" have drawn national attention. As of January 2019, 14 states and D.C. limit or outlaw gay conversion therapy. However, this means that 46 states still allow it. While some religious organizations stand by the therapy, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that it works. However, there is evidence that the therapy can have negative effects on those who take part in it.

Finally, HIV has become much less stigmatized in the United States over the last decade. Medical advances in treatment are a partial cause; protease inhibitors can stop the HIV virus from replicating within your body, leaving the disease dormant and harmless. Along with better sexual education, this has contributed to a 66% decrease in HIV/AIDS deaths since the peak of the epidemic in 1995. Along with this, there was a complete ban on those with HIV entering the country until 2010. I was completely ignorant of this fact before doing research for this article, and it struck me just how much the perception of HIV has changed in recent years.

While these are milestones that should be celebrated, as a country we still have a long way to go. The majority of states still allow workplace discrimination and conversion therapy, and homophobic and transphobic rhetoric is still prevalent, even from the White House itself...especially from the White House itself. We've come a long way, but we can't afford to get complacent. Equality is an attainable goal, a goal that is closer to a reality than ever before, and the last ten years have shown us that it is more than possible to achieve this goal.

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9 Queer Pride Flags That You Probably Didn't Know About

The rainbow flag is certainly the most recognizable, but it isn't the only Pride Flag there is.
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It's Pride Month yet again and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are celebrating. Normally around this time of year, we expect to see that all-too-familiar rainbow colored flag waving through the air, hanging from windows and sported on clothing of all types. Even when not strictly a flag, the colors of the rainbow are often displayed when showing support of the larger queer community. But what many people do not realize is that there are many, many pride flags for orientations of all kinds, so Natasha and I (Alana Stern) have created this handy guide to some others that you may not yet be familiar with:

1. L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay

The most recognizable letters of the entire acronym, L (Lesbian) and G (Gay), represent the homosexual people of the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality is defined as being exclusively sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Again, although the rainbow Pride flag is easily the most iconic and recognizable, there is a Lesbian Pride Flag as well. Specifically for "Lipstick Lesbians," this flag was made to represent homosexual women who have a more feminine gender expression. Here are the Lesbian Pride Flag (left) and Gay Pride Flag with the meaning of each stripe (right).



2. B is for Bisexual

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic and/or sexual attraction towards both males and females. They often go unacknowledged by people who believe that they cannot possibly feel an attraction for both sexes and have been called greedy or shamed in many ways for being who they are, but not this month. This month we recognize everyone and their right to love. Here is the flag and symbol that represents the big B!


3. T is for Transgender (Umbrella)

Gender identities are just as diverse as sexual orientations. Transgender people are people whose gender does not necessarily fall in line with their biological sex. That is to say, someone who is born male may not feel that calling oneself a man is the best way to describe who they are as a person; the same can go for someone who is born female or intersex (we'll get to that in a bit). Someone born female may feel that they prefer to be referred to as a man. Someone born male may feel that they don't mind being referred to as either a man or a woman. And someone may feel that neither term really fits. Identities can range from having no gender, to multiple genders, to having a gender that falls outside of the typical gender binary of man/woman, to anything in between. The colors of the flag are blue (the traditional color for boys), pink (the traditional color for girls) and white (to represent those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a gender that is undefined).


Okay! Here's where we get into the lesser-known letters of the acronym. You may have heard of some of these before but didn't quite know what they meant or how they fit into the larger queer community, or you may not have heard of them at all. Either way, we'll do our best to explain them!

4. I is for Intersex

Intersex people are people who are have a mix of characteristics (whether sexual, physical, strictly genetic or some combination thereof) that would classify them as both a male and a female. This can include but is not limited to having both XX and XY chromosomes, having neither, being born with genitalia that does not fit within the usual guidelines for determining sex and appearing as one sex on the outside but another internally. It is possible for intersex people to display the characteristics from birth, but many can go years without realizing it until examining themselves further later in life. Here is an older version of the intersex flag which utilizes purple, white, blue and pink (left) and a more recent one that puts an emphasis on more gender-neutral colors, purple and yellow (right).


5. A is for Aro-Ace Spectrum

The A in the acronym is usually only defined as Asexual, which is a term used to describe people who experience a lack of sexual attraction to any sex, gender, or otherwise. People who are asexual can still engage in healthy romantic relationships, they just don't always feel the need or have the desire to have sex and are not physically attracted to other people. If that's confusing, think of it this way: you are attracted women, but not men. You may see a man and think, "He's kind of cute" or "That's a pretty good-looking guy," but you still would not feel any desire towards that person, because that's not what you're into. Asexual people generally feel that way about everyone. That's the "Ace" half of "Aro-Ace."

"Aro," or Aromantic, is a term used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people still have healthy platonic relationships, but have no inclination towards romantic love. The reason Asexual and Aromantic are together is because they are very heavily entwined and oftentimes can overlap. Underneath that spectrum are also other variations of asexuality (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are asexual but experience sexual attraction in very rare circumstances, or only after they have a romantic connection) and aromanticism (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are aromantic but experience romantic attraction in very rare circumstances).

Below are two versions of the Aromantic Pride Flag (top and middle) and the Asexual Pride Flag (bottom).





6. P and O are for Panseuxal and Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual people are not limited by gender preferences. They are capable of loving someone for who they are and being sexually attracted to people despite what gender their partner identifies as. The word pansexual comes from the Greek prefix "pan-", meaning all. Pansexuals or Omnisexuals will probably settle for whoever wins their heart regardless of that persons gender.


7. But what about the Q?!

The Q can be said to stand for Queer or Questioning, or both. "Queer" is more of a blanket term for people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (a term that has come to describe people who feel that their gender does fall in line with their biological sex; i.e. someone born male feels that he is a man). It is also possible for someone to identify as queer, but avoid using it to refer to specific people unless you know they are okay with it; some people still consider it insulting. Questioning means exactly what it sounds like: it gives a nod to those who are unsure about their sexuality and/or gender identity or who are currently in the process of exploring it.

There's no one flag specifically for the letter Q, as all of the above sexualities and identities technically fall underneath this term.


This list is hardly comprehensive and there are a number of other flags, orientations and identities to explore. Pride Month is still going strong, and there's always more to learn about the ever-changing nature of sexuality as a whole and the way we understand it. It's a time for celebration, but also a time to educate and spread the word.

For a more in-depth description of different types of attraction and how they work, click here.

For more complete lists of gender identities throughout history, click here or here.

For a general list of commonly used words in the LGBTQ+ community and their definitions, click here.


Now go grab a flag and fly it high--you've got a ton to choose from!

Cover Image Credit: 6rang

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How I Came To The Realization That I Was Bi

Sometimes you don't always know who you are, but when you know, YOU KNOW.

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Growing up, I knew that I liked boys and I never had to question that. I remember my first crush, my teen heartthrobs, and even my odd obsession with Brendan Fraser. Maybe it was because I thought that was what I was "supposed" to feel. When you are a little girl, you are constantly asked what boy you had a crush on or if you had a boyfriend. It's like society is embedding in you at a young age that you have only one option.

It wasn't until I got to college that I started to question whether boys were my only choice. It started off like most cliche college movies do, with a party. I saw a girl kiss another girl and I was jealous. I wanted that to be me and I didn't know why. I always thought that girls were pretty but I never thought anything more of it. I never tried to think anything more of it, because I didn't think it was a possibility. Not until that night. You see, you never think something is possible for you until you see people like you doing that thing.

I found my eyes lingering on girls a little bit longer than usual and truly admiring them as I did boys before. At parties, I would make out with girls just for "fun," because that's what everyone did. That was until finally, I met a girl that seemed to really like me. I pursued her, thinking that she actually was interested in me. It was exciting and I was feeling a way that I never felt before. Then after a while, she told me she wasn't really gay and I felt heartbroken, betrayed even. I've never felt the sting of unrequited feelings from a girl before. I knew then that I was bi. I knew that what I felt was real and a few days later, I told my friends and then I told my mom. It felt as though I was finally sure of who I was and what was possible for me in life.

I still struggled with figuring out who I was after that and constantly found myself sliding up and down the sexuality spectrum. Though as a grew older, I realized that it's okay to be bi. It's okay to feel whatever I am feeling because that is me and I am just fine the way I am.

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