Why LGBT Rights Matter for Gender Equity
AAUW strongly supports LGBT equality because women’s rights and LGBT rights are deeply intertwined. However, women’s movements haven’t always had the best track record when it comes to advancing LGBT rights. There were troubling moments in the history of women’s movements when some feminist leaders hesitated to support LGBT rights or rejected women who were transgender. But we have come a long way, and those days must remain in the past. A person can’t be feminist and homophobic. It just doesn’t work that way.
We build empowerment by accepting, celebrating, and supporting women with different sexualities and sexual identities. We aren’t empowering women at all if we focus only on issues facing straight and cisgender women. We must be equally committed to ending the particular kinds of prejudice and harassment that women who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, and transgender face. To ignore those realities is to ignore systemic discrimination against many women. We believe in empowerment for all, not in empowerment for some.
The AAUW Outlook Magazine
Read more about the issues
facing the LGBT community in the Winter 2014 edition.
It goes even deeper than that, though. It’s not only that we would leave many women out if we didn’t support LGBT rights. If we didn’t support LGBT equality, we’d also undermine AAUW’s mission of gender equity. Homophobia isn’t only about sexuality; it’s also about sexism.
When a teenager uses a gay slur to insult a friend, it’s likely he isn’t actually claiming his friend is gay; he’s challenging his friend’s masculinity. When kids whisper that a girl might be a lesbian because she cuts her hair short and plays sports, it isn’t just her sexuality they’re gossiping about; they’re making fun of her because she isn’t “feminine” enough. Homophobia isn’t just about sexuality discrimination. It’s also about normalizing gender stereotypes and ostracizing anyone who doesn’t conform. Fighting for gender equity means that we believe women shouldn’t be restricted by traditional gender roles. We don’t want our children confined by prejudices that limit who they can be. LGBT movements are our allies in that work, and LGBT rights are central to that mission.
If we didn’t fully support women who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, what message would we be sending? That, despite whatever else we say about gender equity, gender should matter deeply. That convention, however intolerant, should count for more than freedom. That, when it comes down to it, the reproductive organs with which you were born should determine your destiny, dictate the partners you choose, and define you above all else. And that is exactly the message we and our foremothers have worked so tirelessly to reject.