June is Gay Pride Month, commemorating and celebrating the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual/pansexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.
This month marks the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots which are widely regarded as the inciting incident for the LGBTQ civil rights movement in the United States.
The riots were a series of unexpected and aggressive protests against habitual police raids that took place at the Stonewall Inn, a small bar in Greenwich Village.
This routine raid became violent as the patrons, for the first time, fought back against police harassment.
For several days in the city, in various places, rioters demonstrated in support of their rights.
From these humble beginnings grew countless organizations to support advocacy and gender awareness for individuals in the community.
Discrimination against gays and lesbians occurs at many levels.
Hatred can be expressed with a derogatory remark or an act of physical violence focused on an individual because they identify as gay or lesbian.
In 2010, there is no federal protection against job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
While many states prohibit this type of discrimination, there still exist in our country places where people can be fired if they are even just perceived to be gay or lesbian.
So many legal and family practices that are taken for granted by heterosexuals are restricted by laws that prohibit gays and lesbians from enjoying the same freedoms.
The right to express love and commitment to another in a legally recognized marriage continues to be a hotly contested issue.
In many states, adoption and even foster care by same sex couples are prohibited.
President Obama has stated that he will overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, but as of this writing, gay men and women cannot serve openly in the military.
Because of the continued activism of this community and its supporters, we can point to some increased awareness and discussion of these important issues.
The following comes from the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States:
It seems that there is an increase of public acceptance of LGBTQ individuals.
There is certainly more discussion of sexual orientation in today’s popular culture and media than ever before, and surveys suggest that there is a corresponding greater acceptance of homosexuality among the public.
A Gallup poll conducted in May of each year asks Americans about their attitudes related to homosexuality.
In 2007, 57 percent of all Americans said they found homosexuality to be an acceptable lifestyle compared with 50 percent in 1998 and just 34 percent in 1982.
The survey also shows that acceptance of LGBTQ individuals is even higher among younger generations; 75 percent of Americans ages 18 – 34 found homosexuality acceptable.
For musicians, there have undoubtedly been significant gay and lesbian success stories.
However, there have been challenges in how LGBTQ musicians are marketed to the mainstream audience, particularly in cases where their identity as LGBTQ is so strongly tied into the songs they produce.
In response to this issue, a new record label called Music With a Twist was launched in 2006 to help develop and promote gay, lesbian and transgender artists.
Additional media reaction to increased awareness included the creation of television and radio networks like PrideNation Network, Logo TV and Here!, which all cater to LGBTQ interests.
There has been movement and some success in the struggle for equal rights for the LGBTQ community – recognition of their struggle as well as their unique and innumerable contributions to our society – but there is so much that remains unchanged as so much sanctioned bigotry against the LGBTQ community is still allowed to thrive in this country as well as in so much of the world.
The fight continues. If you or family members have questions or concerns regarding LGBTQ specific issues, please contact the MAP office at (212) 397-4802.
The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 245-4802, ext. 180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.