We often discuss privilege and recognize white privilege, socio-economic privilege and gender privilege. However, one that falls in our blind spot is heterosexual cisgender privilege.
If you don’t fall on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer spectrum, you benefit from the most mundane and familiar acts.
You never worry about what bathroom you should use, and you never worry about the rejection you’ll face by your friends, family or religion based on the person you love. You never have to “come out.” Most importantly, you don’t ever consider the fact that the law can invade your personal life.
The aforementioned problems only highlight a few of the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. Despite significant steps taken towards facilitating the lives of LGBTQ+ members, Americans still lack basic legal protections in states across the country.
In the United States, there is no federal law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, highlights that while our nation’s civil rights laws protect people on the basis of “race, color, origin, sex, disability and religion,” they don’t provide consistent protection based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The patchwork nature of the current laws leaves millions of people subject to uncertainty that impacts their safety, families and day-to-day lives. Currently, LGBTQ+ people struggle with access to housing, credit, education, adoption, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, jury duty and most importantly, employment.
A 2017 Harvard opinion survey of LGBTQ Americans found that 90 percent believed that discrimination against them existed in the United States today; 59 percent said that where they live, they are less likely to be afforded employment opportunities because they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. One in five reported that they had difficulty when applying for positions. Furthermore, unemployment rates among transgender respondents are three times higher than the general population. The lack of federal law protecting LGBTQ+ Americans in the workplace emphasizes that while their civil unions and marriages are recognized in the country, their mere existence still holds little value.
In late 2017, the Human Rights Campaign published the 2018 Buying for Workplace Equality Guide. This guide measures and rates how the nation’s largest businesses commit themselves to LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion. The index focuses on three key pillars: non-discrimination policies, equitable benefits for LGBTQ+ workers and families and support for an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility.
The guide ranks businesses between a scale of 0 to 100. Higher numbers reflect policies that support LGBTQ+ communities. Many companies that received a 0 rating are ones that inhabit our daily lives including the following: Publix, Dairy Queen, Dillard’s, QVC, Fruit of the Loom, New York Post, Geico and Chick-Fil-A.
By buying from these companies, you may be unknowingly funding a cause that you morally do not support. Considering the lack of protection offered by the country, we must be reminded that democracy focuses on the people, not the government. Therefore, by understanding that while you love Chick-Fil-A’s fries, you have the power to stop giving revenue to a company that oppresses LGBTQ+ people. Your money is your speech.
Some shoppers may find difficulty in finding other options than the ones listed. However, in Miami, we have an alternative for all the low-rated companies on the HRC list.
If you support LGBTQ+ rights, research your shopping habits. Be mindful of your privilege and be mindful of where you spend your money. The future of the LGBTQ+ community is in your hands whether you know it or not. With proper awareness, there can be a future where a list of where to shop if you support civil rights doesn’t need to exist. We can make that happen as long as we remind ourselves that we, the people, are the foundation of democracy.
If you would like to know more about how to be a better ally or take advantage of the resources offered on campus, visit the LGBTQ+ Center on the second floor of the Whitten University Center. As college students, we have the power to ensure that our future and our children will have an inclusive environment. Equality is not a privilege. It’s a right.
Daniela Perez is a junior majoring in journalism and political science.