Throughout our history as a Nation, and indeed our world history as human beings, we have seen time and time again examples of the way fear and ignorance manifests into anger, and then often into violence. No generation is immune to this pattern. It indeed is still occurring today, and arguably has intensified in recent years. We see it with immigration policy, we see it in the increased public presence of white supremacist groups, with the battle over transgender rights with "bathroom bills" across the nation, with conversion therapy for LGBT youth.
The social narratives we construct around "the other", those who exist outside of the perceived majority of the white heteronormative population, can be so powerful. They can normalize hatred and encourage violence against an entire section of the population. However, there are always those who push back against those narratives, and who advocate for change. Out of tragedy can come powerful change. The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard for being a gay man in Laramie, Wyoming is one such tragedy.
Matthew was tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die. His murder, along with too many others, such as the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr in Jasper, Texas, inspired the Federal Hate Crimes Act. Signed into law October of 2009, this law gives the U.S. Department of Justice the power to investigate and prosecute defendants who selected their crime victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. This was a huge step in the Justice system acknowledging the perception of male, white, Christian, heteronormative supremacy, and the resulting victimization of "the other" based on those harmful violence-inspiring social narratives.
Just last year, after decades of trying, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 was introduced and passed the Senate. This act, should it be signed into law, will make lynching a hate crime. It seems long overdue. However, there are groups that are seeking to have "sexual orientation" removed from the Act's text, arguing that the lynching of an LGBT person should not be considered a hate crime. This is one of many examples of how advocacy isn't a one-time event. Changing social narratives and entrenched ignorance, fear, and hatred, is long and dirty work.
You may think that LBGT issues do not impact you. You may think immigration issues do not impact you, or Indigenous or Black American issues do not impact you. I want to assure you that without question these things do impact you, whether you are part of those communities or not. What we give permission to be done to one group, we give permission to be done to all groups. No one is off limits.