Ignorance is not bliss

With legislative, judicial and public-opinion victories this year, the LGBT community in our country appears to be at an unprecedented crescendo. But our wins aren’t universal, and shouldn’t make us impervious to the seemingly distant fights plaguing our LGBT brothers and sisters.

While here at home we’re celebrating state after state adopting marriage-equality laws, LGBTs in other parts of the globe are being killed, tortured and persecuted simply for identifying as LGBT. Just this week, police in Egypt raided a bathhouse in Cairo, arresting several-dozen men who are expected to be charged with “debauchery”; the arrests are thought to be the direct result of a television-news broadcast about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in which a reporter identified the location of the club. The reporter proclaimed she was moved to report on the bathhouse because “our society is full of disasters, and if we kept hiding from that without facing those disasters, we will all be destroyed.”

It wasn’t all that long ago when bathhouse and bar raids were common in our own country. But the sobering realization that this remains a way of life in a great portion of the rest of the world puts our own successes into stark contrast — and should make us better appreciate the freedom with which most of us are able to live each day.

And it should motivate us to affect change beyond our small corner of the world. The geographical distance between ourselves and the areas where LGBTs face daily dangerous conditions may be an inherent barrier, but we can still support the organizations that have in-roads in those societies, and do our own part to heighten public awareness and mobilization.

While our community — and American society in general — could benefit from being more cognizant and engaged in global conditions, this discussion can also be centered on our country. The community is at a very important tipping point, as LGBT becomes more mainstream and major fights like marriage equality are quickly being resolved — but homophobia and prejudice remain rampant. Changing laws doesn’t always equate to changing minds. Just this month, a young boy took his own life after pervasive bullying for what his peers deemed to be non-masculine traits. While the LGBT community in our country may no longer be subject to bathhouse and bar raids, the spirit that motivated such incidents — and continues to spur more overt and deadly conditions around the world — is by no means eradicated.

While victories should be marked, they shouldn’t preclude us from working to uproot the mindsets that made those wins necessary in the first place.