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Being LGBTQ in America isn’t getting easier

In 1998, Mathew Shepard, a student whose ride home turned into a beating that took his life, was largely thought to be killed because of his sexuality.  His murder brought the issue of ‘gay rights’ and LGBTQ individuals to a national scale, and the shocking brutality of the act marked a turning point in history.

In 2009, Congress passed the Mathew Shepard Act, which expanded the national hate crime law to include those motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender or sexual identity. Today, instead of even more progress, a history of violence and low tolerance for LGBTQ people seems to be repeating in America. Levels rose in 2017, leaving individuals worried about their futures.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence’s ‘Crisis of Hate’ reported an 86 percent increase in hate crime-connected homicides of LGBTQ individuals in 2017, with a total of 52 reported incidents.

“For too long, legislators have not taken meaningful or effective steps to address the increase of hate violence in this country,” the coalition said in a statement. “We ask that people call their representatives and ask them what they will do right now to proactively address hate violence and ensure that their communities are safe and affirming for LGBTQ people.”

Hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals often occur because of perceived homophobic attitudes in America, which are still prevalent despite increased knowledge and awareness of LGBTQ rights. Violence at the same individuals happens because of the stigma against them, being both physical and psychological, even escalating into murder.

Tolerance levels have also worried the community, as in the first time in four years, they have lowered.

Of non-LGBTQ adults, fewer than half, 49 percent, said they were ‘somewhat’ comfortable around LGBTQ individuals, according to the report released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The number is down from 53 percent in 2016.

A factor many say contribute to the harsh environment is President Donald Trump’s election and presidency.

Trump made headlines in June of the past year by breaking the tradition of acknowledging LGBT pride month. While the President sold himself as an LGBTQ ally throughout the election process, his recent policies and decisions have polarized those in the community.

FSC students Jacky Erazo and Kierra Hickombottom both shared their worries about the future of LGBTQ rights. While both wished to stay positive, they acknowledged that it was hard to.

“It’s difficult to see the almost complete 180 our country has made in the past two years,” Erazo said. “It doesn’t feel as safe anymore. I feel like I should watch what I say or do in case it becomes deadly.”

“I just want to be able to live as a person without worrying about anyone deciding I need to die because of who I chose to be with,” Hickombottom said. “Anyone’s sexuality shouldn’t be their death sentence.”

While the future is uncertain, the LGBTQ community still has much to pass in the name of their civil rights. Detractors against their lifestyle and lives themselves will be prevalent for as long as they are allowed to be.

An LGBTQ FSC student, who chose to remain anonymous, decided to remain positive while looking towards the future.

“I chose to stay aware of my place in the world, and I refuse to allow anyone to take me out of it,” the student said. “I know I have a safe place inside my community, and I hope my community will eventually not have to worry just about being safe.”

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