by Emery Addams and Ashley Rogers
It’s been six years since the oppressive bans on same-sex marriage in the US were overturned by a Supreme Court decision. Yet homophobic oppression hasn’t disappeared with legal equality. The rights of LGBTQ+ people are constantly under attack, with new tactics like anti-trans “bathroom bills” and played-up controversy over trans athletes aimed at dividing the community and weakening opposition to discriminatory laws. The corporations that dress in rainbow costumes in June for Pride month, are the same ones that finance anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and back homophobic and transphobic politicians and regimes here and around the world.
The LGBTQ+ community needs more than symbolic support and token representation—we need a real material improvement in our conditions! One in five trans people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Only an estimated 7% of youth are LGBTQ+, yet they make up 40% of homeless youth. Guaranteed housing would bring an end to homelessness for all and bring real improvements to the lives of many trans people.
The for-profit healthcare system continues to cost trans people their savings, and even lives. The cost of transition-related care can amount to thousands of dollars, much of which may not be covered by insurance. A 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality showed that 55% of transgender people reported being denied coverage for at least one gender affirming surgery. The Centre for Suicide Prevention reports that 67% of transitioning people thought more about suicide before transitioning whereas only 3% thought about suicide more after their transition. The privatized health care and health insurance system are not only discriminatory, but actively violent.
A quarter of all LGBTQ+ people and three quarters of trans people have experienced some form of workplace discrimination, and over a quarter of all trans people have lost a job because of it. A guaranteed minimum income for all, including the unemployed, the disabled, the elderly, students, stay-at-home parents, and others unable to work, would provide a much needed safety net for the LGBTQ+ community. An expansion of living-wage union jobs, including massive public works programs to develop mass transit, renewable energy, infrastructure, healthcare, education, and affordable housing, would protect LGBTQ+ workers from discrimination in the workplace and provide safe, high quality jobs to millions.
The queer (or LGBTQ+) community has fought—and won—with labor power before. In 1977, Teamsters and queer organizers held a boycott of Coors beer in response to the company’s 178-question employment application form. Some of the questions on this form included asking “are you homosexual” and “are you pro-union”, both of which would automatically terminate the application. Nancy Wohlforth, co-founder of AFL-CIO’s Pride At Work constituency group explained, “[t]he gay bartenders marched out with the bottles of beer and dumped them in the sewers. Coors was anti-gay, and racist and anti-Latino. And to this day, you can’t find Coors in a gay bar in San Francisco.” A new alliance of the queer community and organized labor can bring back this militancy to the fight against struggles facing working class queer people, win real, material gains, and cut across the backwards ideas still held by some workers against the queer community through solidarity in struggle.
Accomplishing real and lasting gains for LGBTQ+ people will mean fundamentally changing the priorities of our society. Corporations today might claim symbolic support for the LGBTQ+ community, but when it comes to real action, they vehemently oppose at every level the steps necessary to improve conditions for the LGBTQ+ community and for all workers. To eliminate the economic roots of homophobic and transphobic oppression means doing away with our society run for the rich—capitalism—in favor of one run by the workers, by the majority, with the democratic involvement of all—socialism. We must recognize the struggle we share with other oppressed groups under capitalism; the fight against homophobia and transphobia needs to be joined with the struggles against police brutality, racism, sexism, poverty, homelessness, labor exploitation, and all other forms of oppression in capitalist society. Only a united movement of the working class, fighting to end oppression for all, can permanently win the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
- Fight discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender, nationality, religion, disability, age, and all other forms of prejudice. Equal pay for equal work. Equal opportunity for all!
- End discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, and all forms of homophobia and transphobia. Defend the right to transition and self-identify.
- For free, universal, trans-inclusive healthcare and sex-ed for all!
- For a three-year rent freeze on residential properties and other rent control combined with a massive expansion of high quality public housing. Democratic committees including homeowners and renters should control housing policy. End homelessness! Turn vacant homes into quality, free housing for homeless people.
- Guarantee a minimum income of $750/week for the unemployed, disabled, elderly, students, stay-at-home parents, and others unable to work. Close pay loopholes for elderly, disabled, undocumented, gig, and “temporary” workers!
- Create living-wage union jobs for all the unemployed through public works programs to develop mass transit, renewable energy, infrastructure, healthcare, education, and affordable housing.