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The State of LGBT+ Rights in the State of Missouri

LGBT+ rights have been in the limelight of politics since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Since then, they have somewhat improved. Gay marriage was legalized in 2015. Danica Roem is an open transgender woman in the Senate. There is no doubt things have improved. But there also is no doubt that there is still work to be done. The graphs below show the Hate Crime Laws in the U.S. and the Nondiscrimination Laws in the U.S. by state from the National LGBTQ Task Force.

 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Landon Brownfield from PrideSTL. We discussed the critical importance of accurate and abundant LGBT+ representation in popular media and the news. Movies tend to romanticize what it means to be LGBT+ and

Landon Brownfield (they/them), PrideSTL

gloss over the very real struggles that face LGBT+ people everyday. Brownfield mentioned that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT+ which clearly indicates at a greater issue. These kinds of problems do not get addressed in any sort of media. Furthermore, there are even more toxic stereotypes spread through personal prejudices formed for a variety of reasons. Some of these include the idea that homosexuality (or any other sexuality or gender identity that is not heterosexual or cisgendered) is a phase or a choice that can easily be reversed. Others include the mentality that lesbians are man-haters, that gay men are pedophiles, that trans people just want attention, that bisexuality is just an excuse to be promiscuous. All of these stereotypes have harmful consequences for the LGBT+ community and have to addressed. These stereotypes are often started in the home, then perpetuated through the media. Eventually, this contributes to the unsupportive legislation exampled above.

 

How can we work towards fixing this?

Historical Context and National Impact

Before discussing Missouri, it might be helpful to also discuss and expand on the state of LGBT+ rights around the country. As mentioned above, there are disparities in protective legislation for LGBT+ people throughout the United States.

  • As of March 2018, 28 states have “no employment nondiscrimination [laws] covering sexual orientation or gender identity” (Movement Advancement Project). 
  • A tally of existing nondiscrimination laws in individual states shows that 28 states have a low to negative overall policy tally (Movement Advancement Project).

This lack of laws around the nation leaves countless LGBT+ people without protection from discrimination from state legislation. In an interview with Landon Brownfield from PrideSTL, they suggested that a predominant reason for this discrimination is a lack of representation in the media, including the news. Landon believes that “media [does not pay] necessarily as much attention [to LGBT+ people] as they should” (Brownfield). The importance of this might not be evident at first, but Landon spoke about a Missouri transgender teen, Ally Lee Steinfeld.

The body discovered by police had been butchered — eyes gouged out, genitals slashed. “It was brutal,” the sheriff said.

The remains of the 17-year-old transgender girl were also torched.

Her bones were stuffed in a plastic bag and placed in a chicken coop near a dented trailer in Cabool, a small Ozarks town in southern Missouri.

Blood still stained the carpet in the living room when police searched the mobile home for clues to the disappearance of Ally Lee Steinfeld.Kyle Swenson

Ally’s brutal murder in 2017 was only covered briefly by national news outlets. Despite the extensive mutilation to Ally’s body and numbers from the Human Rights Campaign that show an immense amount of violence against trans, gay, and lesbian people (Marzullo), the defendants in Ally’s case were not charged with a hate crime (Swenson). According to the LGBT Movement Advancement Project, 20 states either have hate crime laws that do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity, or they have no hate crime laws at all (“Hate Crime Laws”). Landon implied that the lack of coverage of violence against LGBT+ people has left legislators in the dark about the issue, which has prevented them from making protective laws. This may seem like a big jump, but the reality of the situation is that inaccurate and inadequate representation of LGBT+ people in popular media and the news begins a cycle of misunderstanding and consequent detriment.

Do you think the crimes against Ally Steinfeld should have been ruled a hate crime?

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Missouri Legislation

Nondiscrimination laws tally in Missouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, Missouri has a along way to go in terms of supporting the LGBT+ community. There is a lack of protection in non discrimination laws for both sexual orientation and gender identity in things people deal with literally every day, like employment and housing.

What can Be Done?

Unfortunately, there is not one solution to this issue. The problems are so deeply rooted in this world’s history that the effects of many can be nearly impossible to reverse. Fortunately, there are ways to begin changing the established, antiquated narrative.

In a TEDTalk, author Chimamanda Adichie warns about the “danger of a single story” (Adichie). Essentially, she describes the pitfall many authors fall into when creating a story: telling only one narrative. To Adichie, multiple narratives mean representation and the importance of depicting diversity in literature to enhance one’s worldview:

Because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye, I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature.Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Her experience with discovering another narrative about her own people helped her embrace her own identity. Similarly, more representation of LGBT+ people in movies, TV, and literature can help normalize those who are LGBT+, show the general public that LGBT+ people are more diverse than the common stereotypes imply, and reduce the stigmas that come with non-heteronormative and non-gender conforming identities.

As Adichie suggestes, if more creators in literature and the media showed more diversity like Queer Eye, and if they had Baldwin’s ability to tap into the emotional complexity of being LGBT+, if they constructed more than one narrative about what it is to be LGBT+ and not demonize their behavior, they could begin to weave a much healthier, much more accurate image of LGBT+ people and consequentially improve their quality of life.

Works like Love, Simon, Queer Eye (both the reboot and the original), RuPaul’s Drag Race, Call Me By Your Name, and even James Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room include healthier portrayals of LGBT+ people that help break this narrative and destigmatize the LGBT+ community.

We can also express our own disapproval for the injustices done to the LGBT+ community. Missouri representatives and how to contact them are listed below:

US Senate, Claire McCaskill (D): (202) 224-6154 US Senate, Roy Blunt (R): (202) 224-5721

Contacting our legislators is the only way to make it clear that we do not and will not put up with ignorance in our state.

Works Cited

Brownfield, PrideSTL, Landon. Interview. By Sofia Carr. 22 Mar. 2018.

“Hate Crime Laws.” LGBT Movement Advancement Project, 29 Mar. 2018, www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/hate_crime_laws. Accessed 9 Apr. 2018.

Marzullo, Michelle, and Alyn Libman. Hate Crimes and Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People. Human Rights Campaign Foundation, May 2009. Human Rights Campaign, assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/Hatecrimesandviolenceagainstlgbtpeople_2009.pdf?_ga=2.199609451.456283681.1523238405-159913288.1517709422. Accessed 9 Apr. 2018.

Movement Advancement Project. “Non-Discrimination Laws.” LGBT Movement Advancement Project, 29 Mar. 2018, www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/non_discrimination_laws. Accessed 8 Apr. 2018

Swenson, Kyle. “Missouri Prosecutors: Brutal Murder of Transgender Teen Is Not a Hate Crime.” Washington Post, 28 Sept. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/09/28/missouri-prosecutors-brutal-murder-of-transgender-teen-is-not-a-hate-crime/?utm_term=.5433fb24cf47.

 

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COMMENTS: 8
  1. April 27, 2018 by Kellen

    I love the website. As someone who is trying to learn more and more about our country and the ever-changing culture that we live in, I really enjoyed how informative it was about the laws and regulations that have been set as well as not set in order to protect a new and ever-growing freedom of expression. Another part that I liked is how the statistics and information given is backed up and up to date, it really allows me to feel confident in the information given as well as to see how our country is currently and not from a decade or more ago.

    • April 29, 2018 by Sofia

      thanks for the response! I’m glad my page has helped inform you about LGBT+ rights. In our society, it’s something that can be overlooked by those who aren’t directly impacted by it, so I’m really happy you’ve enjoyed my page. If you have any more questions please feel free to reach out at any time, I’d be happy to answer them!

  2. April 27, 2018 by Blake

    The stats and the quotes are all great! It’s interesting to see things from St. Louis and Missouri and how we stack up against the rest of the states. Laws have always been pretty messed up – stuff like the case Baker v Wade and the similar case Bowers v Hardwick, where the court used an old law against sodomy to persecute a homosexual couple having consensual sex in their own home drove that home. But hey, at least 16 years later that stuff got overturned with Lawrence v Texas. Even if progress is slow and a constant battle, websites like these that inform and educate about that fight can do so much. Nice work!

    • April 29, 2018 by sofi

      Hey blake! The most interesting part about this project was comparing Missouri to the nation and seeing exactly where we need to improve. I sometimes get so caught up in looking at other states that I forget my own state has a lot of work to be done. Thank for visiting my page!

  3. April 29, 2018 by Cassidy.Mott

    I thought that your website was very informative and important, I myself had some idea of the discrimination ofLGBTQIA+ community, but your website helped me fill in a lot of the blanks. After seeing your website I did call the senators to show distaste for what has been done and think that your website is really important, especially today with many of our country being homophobic or biased against those in the LQBTQIA+ community. Overall amazing job!

  4. April 29, 2018 by Jennifer.Bernardez

    This is a great project on an important issue and I enjoy how you focused on Missouri instead of a more general issue. A highlight for me was that you actually interviewed Landon Brownfield, it shows you going above and beyond on this project.

  5. May 01, 2018 by Kavya.Radhakrishnan

    This is a great presentation! I am from St. Louis Missouri and I definitly noticed this. Thank you for bringing this issue into the light… well done! 🙂

  6. May 01, 2018 by William.Finley

    Very good presentation! I find it powerful that you included the infographics regarding individual states along with literature and movies that show LGBT in society.

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