Over the course of 20 years, an increasing number of countries have started to become more accepting of people in the LGBTQ+ community. The acronym stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and the plus represents all the other identities within the rest of the community. Changes in legislation are among the most effective ways to protect and accelerate the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. Some examples include the legalization of same-sex marriage, allowance of same-sex adoption, coverage of gender-affirming health care, and appropriate punishment for discrimination on the basis of identity when applying for jobs, housing, etc. Currently, however, only 30 out of 195 countries allow legal same-sex marriages. While a considerable amount of positive change has been happening, there is still a long way to go, especially in changing the perspective of the overall population.
On the 26th of September, 2021, Switzerland joined the ever-growing list of countries that have legalized same-sex marriage and adoption for those in non-heterosexual relationships. Switzerland had already been allowing registered partnerships for same-sex couples since 2007. Legislation to allow same-sex marriage was introduced in 2013, passed in 2020 by the Swiss Parliament, and adopted in a referendum in 2021 with the support of 64.1% of voters.
Marriage equality in Switzerland was a long time in the making. The process started in 2012 when the Parliament requested that the executive Swiss Federal Council examine how to update family law to reflect changes in society. In 2015 the council released its report about marriage and new rights for families, raising the possibility of the introduction of registered partnerships for straight couples and marriage for gay and lesbian couples. There were numerous political parties that supported same-sex marriage such as the Green Party, the Conservative Democratic Party and Social Democratic Party.
In December 2013, the Green Liberal Party submitted a parliamentary initiative, “Marriage for All”, for a constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage. The National Council’s Legal Affairs Committee was then tasked to draft its report on 17 May 2018, the International Day Against Homophobia. The committee recommended that the Swiss Civil Code be amended to remove the heterosexual definition of marriage and that a gender-neutral definition be considered. It then moved forward and got approved in the parliament in 2020 and finally had its public referendum in 2021. The referendum needed a simple majority to pass the bill on. The vote made Switzerland the 29th country to introduce same-sex marriage, and one of the last in Western Europe.
The response to this result has been extremely positive. Antonia Hauswirth of the national committee said “We are very happy and relieved”. Amnesty International said in a statement that opening civil marriage to same-sex couples was a “milestone for equality”. On the other hand, Monika Rueegger of Switzerland’s right-wing Swiss People’s Party and member of the referendum committee “No to Marriage for All” said she was disappointed.
The image below was a set of posters that were displayed around after the legalization of same-sex marriage. “Oui, je le veux”, which is French for “Yes, I want it” shows the public support that the legalization carries.
United States of America
During the four years of the Trump administration, the government's approach was intrinsically controversial. While they appointed several openly gay men to high-ranking positions and oversaw a largely rhetorical campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide, they fell short of their objectives. Trump contrastingly repealed critical protections, such as the military ban for transgender service members and rolled back health-care guarantees for transgender patients. This can be seen as a huge set back to the Obama era, which instilled several rights including the Marriage Equality Act.
Joe Biden, the new President of the United States, promised to be a leader in defending the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals during his campaign. He was the first senior Obama administration official to back marriage equality and argued in international forums that LGBTQ+ issues are the civil rights issues of our time.
On day one, Biden issued the most abrasive LGBTQ+ executive order in U.S. history, extending protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This would be applied to laws prohibiting the discrimination in housing, education, health care and credit. President Biden also repealed the ban on transgender military service, within his first week in office, impacting an estimated 15,000 service members who had been subject to the policy enacted under Trump.
Moving into the future, President Biden encourages the passage of the Equality Act. The Equality Act would create sweeping protections for LGBTQ+ people in housing, education, health care, and more. Providing federal civil rights protections, preventing discrimination in several areas of life. Another major change is the new implementations of gender markers in passports, which modernizes the existing requirements for updating gender markers and include a non-binary gender marker. This ruling would impact millions of individuals including the current: 1.2 million non-binary adults, 2 million transgender people and as many as 5.5 million people who were born intersex.
One of the recent changes in Brazil has been the criminalization of LGBTphobia, which was approved on 13 June 2019. It was approved in the Supreme court by 8 votes to 3. With the ruling, any discriminatory behaviors against people in the LGBTQ+ community are to be configured as a crime with a sentence of three years alongside a fine.
This would be the first reaction to the advance of the conservative mentality that won space in politics and in the streets in the past years, transforming Brazil in the reflection of its own intolerant ideals. Statistics saw a tragic rise in the murders of LGBTQ+ people, one death every 23 hours making it the most violent country against LGBTQ+ individuals: 175 people just in 2020. Brazil also holds the top position in transgender pornography consumption, illustrating the irony and ignorance present leading to lost lives of transgender women of color in particular.
Despite the change, whenever an LGBTQ+ person files charges against their aggressor, they are likely to suffer some kind of abuse by the hands of the police force, as it is highly unprepared and under-skilled when it comes to properly answering a crime that falls under the LGBTphobia umbrella. The situation gets even more complicated for transgender individuals that go to ratify the LGBTphobia they suffered and even as the victim have to face another round of aggression from the justice system.
The media also does not always help the situation of LGBTQ+ folk, as they usually focus on the horrible aggression made against the community. Trans people, for instance, are referred to with their deadname (a name that stops being used, “dies” when a trans person chooses their new “Chosen name”) and extremely derogatory language.
Representation in Media
Throughout recent years, LGBTQ+ representation has grown and become more true to the lived experiences of people under the queer umbrella. This led to the inclusion of more LGBTQ+ characters and a demand to make sure that they are written and played by queer people as a way not only to remain closer to the reality, but to also allow LGBTQ+ people to tell their own stories.
GLAAD, an organization which centers around the LGBTQ+ community, releases reports every year on the community’s representation in the media. The study found that 9.1% of series regular characters to appear in prime-time television this season are LGBTQ. Furthermore, for the first time in the report’s history, over half of LGBTQ characters on cable television are people of color, an important step as at the start of representation the stories were mainly told by white cis men. As time unfolds, other identities have also been given a chance to take the place in the spotlight. Across all three platforms, there are 29 regular and recurring transgender characters. These characters include 15 trans women, 12 trans men and two non-binary trans characters.
Even though representation is still scarce, the current level of media representation is a much different reality than in the early 20th century when people from the LGBTQ+ community were hardly featured at all. They were often selected and constructed to reinforce harmful stereotypes, feeding into the belief of the time that they were abnormal.
To this day, having LGBTQ+ characters especially in children's TV shows is still seen as controversial, as they “push that idea onto impressionable young kids, which can then ‘turn queer’”. This is a blatant fallacy as most queer people to this day had little to no LGBTQ+ representation and still turned out to be queer. An example of this can be the most recent Pixar movie Luca; suspicions that both boys could have romantic feelings for each other caused an enormous influx of people who refused to watch it, demanding that “politics be kept out of their movies”. Even though there had been no confirmation from the director, people are allowed to have their own headcanons on pieces of media. A headcanon is when someone invents a piece of fanon they really believe in, it may not be accepted as a general part of fandom, but it still stays tucked away inside its creator's brain This can be explicitly seen for identities where there is little representation, due to similarities between the person and a character people decided to headcanon the character with an identity even if it is not confirmed by the creative team. In some cases the confirmation can come after the show has ended as companies had previously not allowed the writers to openly announce a characters' identity.
Currently, there are many series with LGBTQ+ to keep an eye out for. If you’re into animation, check out She-Ra and the Princesses of Power for a modern version of the characters from our parents’ childhood: a perfect light-hearted watch. On the other hand, if you’re more into historical dramas, don’t miss Pose, which tackles ball culture and the gay and trans community in New York during the late 80s and early 90s. For a teenage feel good show that still deals with important issues, be sure to watch One Day at a Time, which follows a Cuban-American family and the ways that they deal with the good, the bad, and how loved ones can help. Lastly, if you need a reality TV show, do check out Queer Eye, where 5 queer individuals get together and completely make over the life of a specific person.
At times, it can seem that there are more negatives than positives happening around the world as an LGBTQ+ individual. However, on the bright side there has recently been a bigger change towards a more accepting society. According to a Trevor Project study of 35,000 LGBTQ Gen Z, 1 in 4 LGBTQ members of Gen Z are non-binary. Also, according to a report by Gallup LGBTQ+ identification has risen 5.6% in the United States. A majority of LGBTQ+ Americans report to being Bisexual and 1 in 6 Gen Z adults consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community in one way or another. With an increase of LGBTQ+ people that know their identities and live in a society where they are safe to come out, the future generations can have a somewhat better place to grow in, especially if they are LGBTQ+. Having an increasing amount of countries legalizing same-sex marriage, allowing their citizens to change their gender markers in documentation, eliminating, educating and punishing discrimination, and furthering representation in media will encourage a more accepting and ever-evolving world for LGBTQ+ folk everywhere.