There is no doubt that recent years have brought radical gains for the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. The most prominent example of this is the landmark Supreme Court Case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. While wins like this are commendable, and we should celebrate them whenever they occur, it is important to acknowledge that the fight for equality among people of all sexual orientations and gender identities is far from over. While the following list of problems still faced by the LGBTQ+ community is by no means exhaustive, it will serve as a good overview for some areas where the fight for equality is still ongoing.
- Many states have banned transgender athletes from playing on a team that aligns with their gender identity.
Just this year, 8 states have implemented these types of bans, and they require athletes to play for the team that matches the gender they were assigned at birth, regardless of how the athlete currently identifies. These bans are problematic not only because they cause undue stress on transgender athletes, but also because they open the door for anyone to question an athlete’s gender identity, which is a private matter.
2. Adoption for LGBTQ+ couples is extremely difficult or impossible in many states.
In many states, there are severe limits to an LGBTQ+ couple’s ability to adopt. In 29 states, there are no explicit laws on whether or not LGBTQ+ couples can have access to second-parent adoption, meaning both parents may not be able to legally adopt their child. Even worse, in 5 states adoption agencies can legally discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples if doing so would go against the agency’s beliefs.
3. Members of the LGBTQ+ community have unequal access to healthcare
It is legal in 37 states — a majority of this country — for healthcare insurance companies to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, while it is not legal, many doctors participate in discriminatory practices against LGBTQ+ individuals, especially those who are transgender, such as refusing to see them or refusing to grant them health care related to their LGBTQ+ identity.
4. LGBTQ+ individuals are often victims of hate crimes
16.7% of hate crimes are committed based on sexual orientation, and this percentage is increasing. These crimes inflict mental and physical harm upon their victims. The most horrifying, and unfortunately, a famous example of a hate crime against LGBTQ+ individuals, was the Orlando nightclub shooting, where, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured at a gay nightclub. The truth is that members of the LGBTQ+ community have to constantly be afraid of retaliation from people who hate them based on who they are
5. Conversion therapy is still legal in many states
The practice of conversion therapy, which is a dangerous practice that attempts to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, is still fully legal in 23 states. Conversion therapy is dangerous because it uses a toxic combination of mental, emotional, and physical manipulation — all with the purpose of convincing an LGBTQ+ individual that who they are is wrong and immoral. This process is extremely damaging to the individual and is the reason why suicide rates for LGBTQ+ individuals who undergo conversion therapy are 2 times higher than that of other LGBTQ+ individuals.
In order for the LGBTQ+ community to truly be equal to the rest of America, these problems, and many others not covered in this piece, have to be solved. This will only happen if citizen activists continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights and convince legislators to take decisive action to promote inclusivity, punish discrimination and hate crimes, and ultimately protect the rights of people who have had none for so long.