By Alan Lett and Anthony Ferrell
This week commemorates the start of the Stonewall uprising in Manhattan. While the six-day movement set the foundation for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, 52 years later, there is still more work that needs to be done to ensure the equity of rights for all.
We are a happily married LGBTQ+ couple who just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in late June. It is our duty to be allies for the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, especially for those that are nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and transgender.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the U.S. is 1 of 29 countries in which same-sex marriage is legal. However, within our own borders, data shows that 1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination in some form during the past year.
Digging deeper, the data is even more alarming.
Among individuals specifically identifying as nonbinary, genderqueer, agender, or gender nonconforming, nearly 70 percent reported discrimination in the past year.
While our country has progressed in the six years since Obergefell v. Hodges, 2021 has already seen a significant number of states that have enacted anti-LGBTQ legislation that target transgender people and foster discrimination toward LGBTQ+ youth.
As Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in April of this year, “companies cannot rise up and speak out against hate in the streets but remain silent when they see hate being indoctrinated in our laws by state legislatures and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.”
In our education system, nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ+ students who provided reasons for planning to not finish school said that elements of hostile or unsupportive school climates were a barrier to completing high school. Even worse, LGBTQ+ students were more than three times as likely to have missed school because they felt unsafe.
Americans can do more to create an inclusive environment for all that fosters allyship and access to support networks.
There are still people in our very own circles who do not understand where others within our community are coming from, who they are, or people that won’t recognize them as a person.
How are we supposed to ask for someone to be an advocate – or fight for us as a community – if we’re not even an ally within our own community?
It’s ok if you’re starting at zero as an ally – it’s completely alright. But, are you able to be open-minded and have a discussion? As human beings, we need to have that conversation with ourselves, with our neighbors, and act.
For us, our passion is serving others and advocating on behalf of our community.
In 2019, we founded Luminiris, a Houston-based nonprofit that provides professional development opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth and young professionals seeking to pursue careers in creative or technology fields.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic limited in-person events, we were able to engage our community through Instagram Live sessions that allowed our members to network with local business leaders, develop new skills, and focus on professional growth.
Regardless of where you are in your allyship journey, resources like The Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce or Facebook’s LGBTQ+ Community page are venues to learn more about advocating for legislation, equity of rights, and creating a safe environment where people can be their authentic selves.
As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote on June 26, 2015, the LGBTQ+ community’s “hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness…. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
We’re all in this together.
Anthony Ferrell and Alan Lett are the co-owners of AF Custom Shirts and OG 713, an LGBTQ-certified business that designs Houston-themed apparel created by in-house designers or by commissioned local artists.