There is much rejoicing to be had in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage equality. Simultaneously, we must be vigilant to remind ourselves that this ruling is not the final check on a to-do list for LGBTQ rights. It is particularly urgent for those of us with straight/cisgender privilege who strive to be allies to acknowledge ways in which the queer community remains marginalized.
The young people I am fortunate to know through volunteering at YouthOutright, an organization serving LGBTQ youth in Western North Carolina, may have the most intimate understanding of homophobia’s systemic influence in our culture. Unfortunately, the struggles they frequently disclose are not mitigated by legalizing gay marriage. For instance, approximately 40 percent of all homeless youth nationally self-identify as LGBTQ, many of who are forced to flee homes that are not accepting.
Risk factors (not limited to HIV infection, rape and intimate partner violence) are exacerbated because traditional shelter environments may be inadequate or unsafe, especially for those who are transgendered. Despite our reputation for inclusivity, a subsequent draw for displaced queer youth, Asheville does not currently have housing resources to meet this population’s needs.
This may change with the advent of the Joy Center and Leelah’s Landing, which hope to open their doors respectively as emergency and transitional shelters specifically for LGBTQ youth. Supporting these projects is a one way for Asheville residents to demonstrate ongoing solidarity for queer rights. Both centers are still in great need of donations and contributions; more information can be found on social media (https://www.facebook.com/joycenteravl?fref=ts [and] https://twitter.com/leelahslanding) and their websites (http://www.joycenterasheville.org/ [and] http://www.leelahslanding.org/).
Recognizing dignity and legitimacy for all sexual, romantic and gender orientations is not merely the imperative of the Supreme Court. Let us continue to celebrate, albeit with integrity and attention, to the challenges that lie ahead.
— Laura Eshelman