Remembering what happened at Pulse nightclub
One of the defining moments of our recent queer history was the attack on Pulse nightclub.
On 12 June 2016, there was an armed attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were murdered and over 50 people injured.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the palpable shock was felt around the world. It was a violent attack against people who thought that they were in a safe place. It was a violent attack against the LGBTQ community, in a gay club in the US.
The violence that night manifested in the actions of one man, but the damage was done long before. Homophobia is systemic and continuing. None of us are any safer following the death of the man who carried out the attack on 12 June 2016.
The attack on Pulse nightclub is another example of the threat that LGBTQ people face every day of our lives.
What’s life like for LGBTQ people in the United States?
While for many years, the US has been one of the leading advocates of LGBTQ equality, things clearly took a step backwards under the Trump administration.
As the Biden administration takes charge, the early signs are promising that some of the damage of the past four years can be repaired, and that the LGBTQ community can continue to work towards equality.
On his first day in office, President Biden signed a raft of executive actions – a symbolic move to immediately roll back a number of flagship Trump administration policies.
One of the executive actions signed by Biden on his first day was focused on LGBTQ equality.
The order reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and ensures the federal government does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual identity.
“This Order will also direct agencies to take all lawful steps to make sure that federal anti-discrimination statutes that cover sex discrimination prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons…” said a press release from the Biden transition team.
The Trump administration had made it harder for trans people to access some healthcare benefits, and had also removed the words “sexual orientation” from its workplace discrimination manual.
“There’s no time to start like today…” Biden told reporters, as he began signing orders. “I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people.”
The Trump administration’s ban on Trans people serving in the US military remains in place, but Biden has signalled that he will seek to pass the Equality Act in the coming months – this would remove the military ban.
Is it legal to be gay in the US?
One of the complexities of the experience of LGBTQ people in the United States is that much of the legislative framework for the country varies on a state-by-state basis.
It was only as a result of a Supreme Court decision in 2003 that same-sex sexual activity has been legal in all US states.
There is still some variation in the age of consent – it varies from 16 to 18, and some states have different ages of consent for same-sex sexual relations.
Is there anti-discrimination legislation in place to protect LGBTQ people in the US?
Yes. Federal anti-discrimination protections have been extended to all employees across the country. This now means that LGBTQ employees can’t be fired for revealing their sexuality.
Is there marriage equality in the US?
It was a 2015 Supreme Court decision that requires all states to licence and recognise same-sex marriages.
What’s life like for LGBTQ people who live in the US?
There have been huge advancements for LGBTQ people, with some landmark Supreme Court cases that have made symbolic and practical steps forward in achieving equality.
The modern LGBTQ Pride movement was born in the US in 1970 – marking the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969. The month of June is now designated as Pride Month across the US, with a huge number of parades and events held in communities of all sizes.
In many ways, the US could be described as one of the best countries in the world to be gay, however numerous problems still exist.
The attack against the gay club in Orlando in 2016 was obviously an extreme event, but 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured in what should have been a safe space.
LGBTQ teen homelessness and rates of self-harm and suicide are disturbingly high – particularly for people from non-white ethnicities.
Trans people are routinely vilified by conservative politicians. Black Trans Women are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse.