Sofia Martinez Ramos

Sofía Martínez Ramos

Sofía Martínez Ramos

Before the mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando, I started writing about acceptance of the LGBT community. My son asked me, “Why write a feel-good piece, when there’s a lot more work to be done?”

“Continuously fighting for acceptance is exhausting and demoralizing. I want to focus on progress to encourage people to keep fighting,” I answered then.

But no words or actions can erase the terrible loss, pain and senselessness we now feel. Now more than ever, we must think about progress to move forward.

When I was growing up, we did not talk about LGBT issues, needs or accommodations.

Most who identified as LGBT kept it hidden out of fear they might be bullied or shunned. Many families did not support their identities or help them through challenges. There were no student or professional organizations, welcoming logos or expectations of understanding by family or friends.

It was unimaginable that the federal government would defend transgender people’s individual rights. Yet, the White House statement, “Sex discrimination and discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including transgender status is prohibited,” shows times have changed.

Kissing and love should be celebrated, not judged, feared or disdained. A gunman, whose father said he became angry after seeing two men kissing, should be a wake-up call that hateful rhetoric and vitriol are not without consequence. We should all have full-throttle intolerance to all language and actions that hurt or discriminate against anyone based on their identity or group membership.

As we debate LGBT rights and who gets to use what bathroom, the outpouring of love for the LGBT community from around the world shows times have changed. President Obama said, “This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.”

The struggle for equity and civil treatment of the LGBT community is far from over. This tragedy must unite us and lead us to reject ill-conceived biases and barriers. Let's focus on progress to help us move forward.

As conservatives continue to fight against LGBT rights, many businesses, government officials, artists and everyday people have joined to support them, and the list of supporters continues to grow. The Massachusetts House of Representative’s bathroom bill requires accommodations for gender identity. Oregon State University student allies support and accompany transgender peers where they feel unsafe.

Mayors from San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Vermont suspended official state travel to North Carolina in response to an anti-LGBT law passed.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin stated, “The North Carolina law is an absolute disgrace; Vermont has a proud tradition of protecting the rights of LGBT individuals.” Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee boycotted North Carolina due to “our state’s approach to tolerance, fairness and a lack of discrimination.” Both states protested Indiana’s anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoration Act by banning state-paid and official travel to the state.

The strong support from all over the world for the LGBT community is a beacon of hope to keep us fighting for change. We cannot ignore history, the lessons we have learned or the progress we have made. Racism, sexism, ageism, genderism, homophobia and nativism have all been affected by the hard-won progress that we now take for granted. Let this encourage and remind us that while progress is slow, we must keep demanding change.

Sofia Martinez Ramos is a fellow with The OpEd Project, president of Luminario Education Strategies, and an adjunct lecturer in Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona. Contact her at sramos@email.arizona.edu

Dr. Sofia Ramos is an op-ed fellow and president of Luminario Education Strategies, as well as adjunct lecturer in Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona. Contact Dra. Sofia at sramos@email.arizona.edu