Last year saw notable progress for the LGBT community. We achieved legal and social change that promises not only to change lives, but to save them. But marriage has never been the end-all goal, and across the country, there are still far too many examples of LGBT people facing difficulties for the simple fact of who they are. Take, for example, the string of attacks against gay people in the Oak Lawn district of Dallas, a center of the city’s gayborhood—since September, 14 men have been assaulted, robbed, stabbed. In response to the violence, police have assured the public that they don’t believe the attacks to have been linked, as if that’s supposed to give comfort. Personally, I find it all the more frightening that so many individuals feel increasingly emboldened to target gay people in Dallas, particularly in an area we have worked to call our own.
Having grown up in Texas, I know the capacity Texans have for kindness, for hospitality. That made the defeat of HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) so heartbreaking, especially given the despicable and inflammatory rhetoric that prevailed at the ballot box. But while disheartening, it wasn’t necessarily surprising. When the figurehead of the state, Texas’ Governor, Greg Abbott, adds to the dangerous, purposefully misleading discourse of preventing “men in women’s bathrooms,” people are going to listen. When pastors and priests join in spreading misinformed and malicious lies about bathroom and locker room violence, people are going to listen. Particularly in Texas, we are raised to respect authority, and there are no more all-pervasive and powerful institutions there than the government and the church.
So, I can’t accept the idea that the brutal attacks on Dallas’ gay community are unrelated, because the roots of the violence are clear. When the state publicly spews hatred towards a specific group of people, when it enshrines discrimination into law and actively uses the power of religion to justify persecution, that hatred will take root, it will spread. No one would believe that the Jim Crow Laws were unrelated to the thousands of lynchings of black people in the south, just as we cannot deny the relationship between the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado and Carly Fiorina’s incitement and the rising violence against Muslim or Hispanic Americans and the hateful slurs of Donald Trump. Words have power, and they have consequences, particularly when they come from representatives of the state, and those seeking an office like the presidency.
So long as anti-gay politicians govern states and dominate Congress—not to mention what would happen if they took the White House—hate and misinformation will have an upper hand. But if we and our allies take to the polls, we can ensure that future governments are on our side. Louisiana is a perfect example, where the incoming Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has promised to issue an executive order protecting LGBT state employees, a sharp departure from the “religious protection” laws and anti-marriage equality orders championed by outgoing Governor Bobby Jindal. If we want to protect our community, we must make it happen, we must actively support compassionate, informed leaders and hold those like Governor Greg Abott responsible for the violence they encourage. Because so long as the State is “hate”, “hate” will be the state of things.