I am proud to announce that Equality Federation's staff and board, several of whom identify as queer, have decided to add the letter Q to our mission and begin using the full acronym LGBTQ. To some this decision may seem like we are late to the party and to others it may be a challenge. I remember when the word queer was near ubiquitously used as an anti-gay epithet outside of "queer theory" courses in liberal arts schools. Through a process of reclaiming, the word queer, like many other words, has evolved to represent something more meaningful.
For Equality Federation, adding the Q is about more than a letter. It's about our values. We recognize that a growing number of people in our community identify as queer to best reflect their gender, sexuality, and/or politics. At this turning point, when we are examining and improving upon our commitments to racial, economic, and social justice, we are also doubling down on our commitment to people who identify as queer so that they will be fully embraced and empowered in our organization. Adding the Q goes hand-in-hand with our deeper understanding of intersectionality.
At least eleven of our state-based partners have already added the Q, including Equality New Mexico and Equality Alabama. This is the right decision at the right time.
Not long ago the primary definition of the word queer was "deviant from the norm." Sadly, discrimination is still the norm in America. LGBTQ people are not fully protected from discrimination by statewide laws in 31 states. In 2015, we understand there is no such thing as a "normal" person: we are all unique and we should all be celebrated. Our society's rigid gender rules create a dangerous situation for people who do not conform, many of whom identify as genderqueer.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey gender nonconforming/genderqueer people face shockingly high rates of violence and discrimination. This is especially concerning for our youth. Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported high rates of harassment (78 percent), physical assault (35 percent) and sexual violence (12%). We know that for youth of color, anti-LGBTQ discrimination is often compounded with institutional racism. This propels school pushout and the school-to-prison pipeline. Equality Federation recently released a report with GSA Network and Advancement Project encouraging LGBTQ organizations to collaborate to address this crisis.
While discrimination and violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people is alarmingly high, hope looms on the horizon. In the coming months, Equality Federation will be lifting up the Q in LGBTQ in our words, our work, and our annual planning. We encourage individuals and organizations alike to help us create the most inclusive movement possible.