As mainstream culture becomes queerer, more diverse, and more progressive, Republicans in power have responded by becoming more extreme, posing a threat to queer rights nationwide and embarrassing our country on a global scale.
I often say that two contradicting things can be true at the same time, like how as a gay man I experience oppression and as a white man I experience privilege. This nuanced intersection of justice and injustice, of privilege and oppression, is currently on full display in the United States.
On the one hand, we have more queer representation in media, more queer politicians, and significantly more queer people living openly than ever before. We have the legal rights to exist freely in public and online, gather and protest, be represented in media, marry, transition, and adopt.
On the other hand, many of these rights — some of which we haven’t even had for a full decade — are under an unprecedented assault from Republican politicians. Violence and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people have increased, and we have always lacked certain protections and rights, like inclusive universal health care.
So, while queer U.S. citizens have more freedoms than queer people in Iran, Russia, North Korea, and Eritrea, we also have fewer rights than queer people in Canada, Uruguay, Iceland, and Spain, according to Equaldex.
The Equality Index by Equaldex details and ranks LGBTQ rights across the world, ranking the U.S. as number 10 on the list of 197 countries. Each country is given a score between 0 and 100, with the U.S. receiving an 83. This number is likely to fall due to the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills being filed in Republican-led states across the country.
As multiple states move to ban access to gender-affirming health care, ban trans children from sports, erase queer people from the classroom, separate trans kids from their parents, and ban books and drag, queer lives are in grave danger.
Despite how often politicians in the U.S. position our country as the ‘freest,’ this has never been the case for queer people, people of color, the working poor, people with uteruses, or the billions of people globally affected by our egregious economic and foreign policy decisions.
It is a dangerous cult of ignorance that allows a nation to boast about freedom after stealing land, decimating cultures, toppling democracies, stripping reproductive rights, creating enormous amounts of pollution, allowing children to be massacred at school, and funding war while denying health care to millions.
The U.S. has always been a right-wing nation, and it is not reasonable to suggest we were ever in a position of moral authority. As people start questioning racist and homophobic ideologies and oppressive structures like the prison system, militarism, and billionaire-backed crony capitalism, Republicans face a challenge unlike any they’ve seen.
Indeed, the U.S. is becoming more queer, more Black, and more ready for change. Republicans are scared, and they should be.
As conservative capitalists face this legitimate threat of losing their grip on power, their tactics have become increasingly authoritarian and extreme with defining traits of fascism. The U.S. government and the conservatives within it have always held dangerous platforms, but they have never been so willing to openly support violence and attack democracy itself.
Republicans have attempted a literal coup, pushed election conspiracies, tried to silence and expel democratically elected officials in Tennessee and Montana, advocated violence at Trump rallies, empowered ‘strong men’ figureheads in Trump and DeSantis, supported and platformed Kyle Rittenhouse and Daniel Perry — who both murdered peaceful protestors, and created boogeymen by scapegoating trans people and pushing the narrative that queer people are dangerous to children.
As the right continues to ironically espouse ridiculous narratives about freedom while they take freedoms away, it is important to remember that almost all of our freedoms were won by protest, not given to us by the rich and powerful. With every headline, every protest, and every election, the world is watching. Let us continue defending our rights and advocating for those in nations who can’t do the same.