Have we done it? Can we pack up and go home? Are we … equal?
Psychiatrist Óttar Guðmundsson probably didn‘t mean to offend anyone* when he wrote a column (published yesterday) about how queer people are facing a crisis because they have nothing left to fight for.
But he did.
In fact, his column sparked a wave of shocked response from people who do not agree when he wrote: „But the times changed in a flash. During the 21st century, the struggle [for the right to a normal life] succeeded in most ways. Persecutions were no more and gays became a natural part of society. […] Some even lost their martyrdom associated with being a persecuted minority. Normal life turned out to be quite boring, in the end.“
When reading his column it‘s worth noting that dr. Guðmundsson isn‘t just any ol‘guy. Apart from his many other accomplishments, he has decades of experience working with transgender people in Iceland, for example.
Within their circles, he has sometimes been called „the gatekeeper“. He has been the man who says yes or no to transgender people seeking treatment. The only person in the whole country who could make the decision. And although his decisions have hopefully been based on the best knowledge he has had*, each time, they have often meant broken dreams – broken lives – for his „patients“.
But more importantly in this context, and I guess some people might miss my point and only see this as a cliché*, he is a straight, middle-aged, able-bodied, white cis-male. A breed that (and I‘m in no way trying to belittle dr. Guðmundsson) is terribly ill-equipped to discuss queer rights, privilege or prejudice.
You see, it‘s not easy to put yourself in the shoes of a person you have very little in common with. How would you? You can‘t tell an orange you know how it feels, because you once had a spray-tan.
“…even though the good doctor may be trying to offer a new perspective to the history of queer rights*, in reality he‘s just adding to the ever flowing river of sometimes-well-meaning, most-of-the-time-missing-the-point speeches…”
So even though the good doctor may be trying to offer a new perspective to the history of queer rights*, in reality he‘s just adding to the ever flowing river of sometimes-well-meaning, most-of-the-time-missing-the-point speeches, blogs and comments from people who perhaps should be asking the experts, rather than playing them.
Let‘s imagine the struggle of minorities for equal rights as people trying to scale a wall of segregation, and that with every battle won a few stones are removed from the top of the wall.
For the people standing at the top of the social ladder, it doesn‘t take long before the wall seems quite smaller and more manageable from up there. „Heck! It seems to have pretty much disappeared!“ they may say. „Looks like them folks are going to be cursed with our boring, everyday life from now,“ they may even say, and be terribly pleased with the whole thing*.
But for those living on ground level, where the struggle takes place, it doesn‘t matter if the height of the wall is six meters or sixty meters, it is just as impossible to scale. And even when the height is down to one and a half meter, and the minority in question can manage to get across with great efforts, it is still a struggle. And the struggle won‘t be over until the very last stone of the wall has been removed and thrown off the cliff of human rights victories, into the deep pits of embarrassing history.
• Passports with only two gender options.
• A ban against gay men donating blood.
• Different rules for lesbian couples when it comes to assisted fertilization.
• Bullying and violence against queers at schools, work and public places.
• Medicalization of attributes associated with queer people.
• Hate speech being promoted under the cover of freedom speech.
• Having to live under two different names for a year or two at the beginning of gender transitioning.
• Priests having the right to deny some couples their services, despite being public servants.
• Doctors performing unnecessary operations on intersex infant‘s genitalia.
• Being denied work or housing because of how you identify yourself.
• Having to adopt your spouse‘s children to be considered their parent.
• A committee deciding if you‘re fit for being the gender you identify as.
• Not being binary, and therefore not having your rights protected by law or the constitution.
Unfortunately (in a way), to those who have never faced such a wall, a meter and a half is the same as no wall at all. And this gives them next to no understanding of what it‘s like.
And as the gender-neutral marriage law is only five-year old and law on transgender rights only three-year old, what rights exist today can‘t really be seen as to have come overnight, can they?
Well, compared to our Earth‘s history, the whole of human evolution has merely taken the blink of an eye … so maybe I‘m not looking at this in the right context?
Going from being imprisoned to being allowed to marry in less than a hundred years, that‘s pretty fast, right? Even if you still can‘t guarantee a priest would do it?
*I’m not pretending to know.
Main photo: Gatekeepers and guards come in many guises. As can be seen from this photo depicting workers starting on the Berlin Wall in August 1961. A soldier stands guard and makes sure the public doesn’t interfere.