The War for Equality

lgtb equalityThe BLGT community has been enjoying a lot of victory and support of late. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are portrayed positively on our televisions and in film, there are many gay, lesbian and bisexual performing artists and now the community has begun to realize some real life victories. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed by a 234-194 vote. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been repealed—making the definition of marriage something that State governments determine rather than Federal. Joining this list of victories is the overturning of California’s “Prop 8” bill declaring:

With so many victories under our collective belts it can be easy to trick one ’s self into believing that the war for equality is being won. The danger in believing this is that it tempts us to forget the other battles that are being fought.

A report from the Kyrgyz Republic—released days after the Prop 8 ruling—reveals that the lives of thirty bisexual and gay men are fraught with danger and persecution. Of thirty men interviewed for this report, twelve identify as bisexual men while fifteen were age 25 or younger. The report goes on to reveal stories that many in the BLGT community are familiar with:

“It happened in December. A guy was stopped by militia. Out of nothing they start checking for documents. He didn’t have any. He’s a bit feminine, mannered – so they got it immediately. They said: “You’re gay, aren’t you? Let’s go to your parents now.” They demanded eight thousand soms.”

Labrys, an orginazation aimed at improving the quality of life for the BLGT community in the Kyrgyz Republic was founded in 2004 and currently has 1,000 members. Syinat Sultanalieva, executive director of Labrys, said in February that violations of the rights of people of non-traditional sexual orientation occur most frequently within the family, saying of her organization: “Our organization has started a ‘refuge’ project. We provide temporary accommodation to those people who have been thrown out of their homes, or who have left of their own accord because their families do not accept the choice they have made,” With bisexual and gay youth being thrown out of their homes and forced to seek refuge, it begins to become clear that the struggle for equality and acceptance is far from over.

Other battles are far more subtle and far more dangerous. Also within days of the prop 8 decision, bioethicists are accused a noted American pediatric endocrinologist and researcher of what they claim is the first attempt to prevent homosexuality and bisexuality in the womb. The pediatrician, Dr. Maria New of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, is a longtime champion of the prenatal use of a powerful steroidal medication called dexamethasone to prevent the development of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH )— a condition which can result in girls being born with ambiguous genitalia.

Amongst the bioethicists charging Dr. New is Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine who charges:

“Her main goal has been to prevent ambiguous genitalia and all the things that come with it, including what she calls ‘behavioral masculinization’ [sic] She includes in that what she calls ‘masculinized orientation.’”

CAH has a status as a rare condition—prompting several medical societies to suggest guidelines be put in place that establish prenatal treatment for CAH as experimental. Additionally the guidelines will note that dexamethasone can cause low birth weight and birth defects. The proposed guidelines do not mention and are not concerned with sexuality or orientation.

This style of Eugenics may seem like something from science fiction—however, it is clear that the prejudices against gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women are alive and well and it appears that there is a long way to go before the war for equality is over.