Dear campus community,
This Pride month is like none other. COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of parades across the country in support of the LGBT community. Still, there is so much to reflect upon about how inclusive the United States is in 2020.
In a landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination against gay and transgender employees is unconstitutional. For the first time, the employment protections of the Civil Rights Act (1964) will be extended to sexual orientation and gender identity. This is long overdue. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village New York, which is regarded as the beginning of the gay rights movement. As Rev. Martin Luther King prophetically observed “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It does indeed.
For many, this ruling came as a surprise. Since 2015, the Supreme Court has become far more conservative. Then, the court legalized marriage equality. Until the Bostock decision this month, it was still possible in a number of states for members of the LGBT community to be married on Sunday but fired from their jobs on Monday for no other reason than who they are. Prejudice is rarely logical.
The full inclusion of the LGBT community remains incomplete at best. This month, for example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adopted a rule to the Affordable Care Act that effectively denies transgender people access to health care by defining gender based on the designation of biological sex at birth. This rule builds on others. The Defense Department now bans transgender individuals from enlisting in the armed forces. Meanwhile, the Department of Education has rolled back protections for transgender students in schools. These policy choices rend our society apart, not fortify our common humanity.
Hate incidents and crimes directed at members of the LGBT community are real and deadly. One of the most notorious was the 2018 murder of Blaze Bernstein. A university student, Blaze was Jewish and gay. As his parents Gideon and Jeanne Bernstein recounted in the Orange County hate crimes report, “The radicalized neo-Nazi, accused of his murder, grew up here in Orange County and attended public high school, graduating from Corona Del Mar High School in 2016.” Also in 2016, was the single deadliest incident in the history of violence against the LGBT community. On June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people in the name of ISIS. Among the many victims included Latinx men and women.
The current reckoning about anti-Blackness underscores the lethal scale and scope of systemic anti-Black racism, aggravated by homophobia and transphobia. The demonstrations across the country in support of Black lives emphatically includes the lives of Black queer and transgender people. Among the recent deaths of Black people in police custody includes Tony McDade, a Black trans-masculine person. Tony was shot and killed in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27, two days after George Floyd in Minneapolis. In calling for accountability, the Human Rights Campaign reported that his death was the twelfth in 2020. Nationwide Black transgender people are disproportionately fatally shot or killed. When will these lives matter?
Even as this Pride observance highlights manifest progress in civil rights, we are still far from an inclusive society. If anything, inclusion requires each of us to contribute to bending the arc of the moral universe.
Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D. (Preferred Pronouns he, him, his)
Chief Diversity Officer
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Professor of History