ANALYSIS: WHAT 2022 TAUGHT US
If there was one singular lesson to be learned from 2022 for LGBTQ people, it was this: making our voices heard has never been more necessary to survival. This was true in the U.S. and throughout the world where the LGBTQ community remain under extreme threat solely for their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Whether it was fighting for vaccines for monkeypox, for representation in elected office, or to maintain civil rights it took decades to secure, LGBTQ people in the U.S. found themselves taking to the streets and to the polls to make sure their voices were heard.
Yet some of the biggest LGBTQ stories of the year — stories with far-reaching implications — continued to be told almost solely in the queer press. It took months for Brittney Griner’s wrongful detention to become a mainstream headline.
Thousands took to the streets in Iran over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022. Yet despite calls to treat women differently in the months-long protests, at no point have the names of Zahra Sedighi-Hamedani, 31, known as Sareh, and Elham Choubdar, 24, been mentioned. The two lesbian activists were sentenced to death by an Iranian court on charges of “corruption on earth through the promotion of homosexuality.”
Iran’s state news agency, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported the sentencing of the women on September 5. The fate of a third activist, Soheila Ashrafi, 52, has yet to be decided. Calls for the release of the women from groups like Amnesty International as well as the U.N. have gone unheeded.
Throughout the United States, the rise of right-wing extremism has impacted LGBTQ people. The claim that queer and trans people are “grooming” youth to be queer and trans became a focal point of legislation from the GOP. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis led the rhetoric with his “Don’t Say Gay” law, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took time from sending migrants to Philadelphia, New York and D.C. to threaten parents of trans youth who sought gender-affirming care.
In the U.S., white nationalist groups continued to infiltrate the Republican party and spread white nationalist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. The impact of that rhetoric was felt in increased discrimination, harassment, and violence against LGBTQ people. The massacre at Club Q killed five people and injured 25 others, some critically.
Just weeks later an attack on substations in North Carolina was linked to a drag show in Moore County, North Carolina, some 90 miles outside Charlotte. That action revealed that in 2022, attacks on drag shows by far-right groups like the Proud Boys, who were also involved in the January 6 insurrection, had escalated to well over 100.
All of which led to questions about how to control the violence. New reports indicated that far-right protests targeting the LGBTQ community showed a clear and disturbing link with violent attacks. Far-right activists engaged in at least 55 public actions targeting members of the LGBTQ community, according to a new report released this week by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
But that data doesn’t include the protests against drag shows nationally, which GLAAD reported faced at least 141 protests and significant threats in 2022.
What happened to LGBTQ people in the U.S. and globally demands our attention and our concern. The lesson is succinct: the time for activism is not in the past — it is now. The attacks on the LGBTQ community are not going away. The only way to protect the most vulnerable members of this most vulnerable community is to fight back. Advocacy groups like GLAAD, HRC, MAP, ACLU and others are behind us. But the fight must also come at every level from the community itself. That is the commitment that should be on everyone’s list of resolutions for 2023.