Trigger warning: This post contains brief mentions of homophobia, transphobia, murder, and suicide.
One year ago today, marriage equality was legalized across the United States. I woke up on June 26, 2015 to the news of Obergefell v. Hodges plastered all over the Internet. It’s a day that I’ll never forget, and I’m happy that if I ever do decide to get married – something which I am not at all sure about yet – I will be able to in this country.
I am glad that this day marks one year of no boundaries to marriage, both literally (across state lines, due to the patchwork nature of marriage laws prior to the SCOTUS decision) and figuratively (no matter your orientation).
But I am also sad today. I suppose that I’ve been a little sad every day since last June twenty-sixth because I am constantly reminded of the hatred and dangers that LGBTQ+ people continue to face on a daily basis.
The politicians who called upon the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling.
The possibility of being fired from our jobs or denied housing.
The refusals to serve us in restaurants and other businesses.
The hysteria at the thought that trans and gender-nonconforming people may share a public bathroom with you.
The psychological torture known as conversion therapy.
The increase in LGBTQ+ characters killed on TV, in books, and in the movies.
The record number of trans women murdered last year.
The threat of mass executions.
The tragedy of Orlando.
Make no mistake, all this is a direct backlash to the events of one year ago. And it’s sickening. Bigots couldn’t change the ruling – not right away, at least, although it’s a possibility that at times doesn’t seem all that distant – so they took out their anger, homophobia, and transphobia in other ways.
It’s hard not to view the people dragging their feet on serving LGBTQ+ customers or the Republicans who want us all to be rounded up and shot or the writers who promise happy endings and representation to LGBTQ+ audiences only to mislead them once again, and connect it to Obergefell v. Hodges. They want us to know our place, to stay quiet and settle for what we’ve got.
And it breaks my heart. I don’t know what to do about it. I’m not writing this post because I want reassurance, because I don’t know that there is anything that anyone could say that could fix this. Some days I just want to curl up in bed and daydream about what my life would be like if I were born in a different, better time. I want all of this – this time, this place, this me – to disappear.
But I also know that I can’t lock myself away. I have to be there for the people I love. Sometimes this means being there in person, and other times it means responding to their texts as soon as possible to let them know that I’m looking out for them. I have to make sure that my visibly queer friend, whose shift ends late, got home safely. I have to give advice to the blogger who follows me who is thinking about killing herself because she can’t imagine ever coming out to her parents. I have to.
I have to.
Marriage is a beautiful thing if you want it, and so many people do want it, but it terrifies me how for every step we take forward, we seem to take two (or more) steps back. Because this slow, halting approach to equality isn’t something abstract and difficult to quantify. This backlash has a body count. We can’t give up, but sometimes it’s oh so hard not to.