We must follow MV GSA’s example

We must follow MV GSA’s example

Tal Marom

The beliefs that all people are either gay or straight as well as male or female are two traditional views that are on their way out the door. Pangender, bisexual, gender nonconforming — these are all gender and sexual identities that people define themselves by. It’s not just gay and straight anymore. This explains why MV GSA, formerly known as the Gay Straight Alliance, made the strategic decision to become the Gender Sexuality Alliance.

The GSA’s move not only raises awareness of the very existence of gender and sexuality variation but also promotes inclusiveness of the diverse LGBT+ — notice the plus — community. It sends the message that all members and allies are equally important.

The club’s name change is a timely one, amid the gradually growing awareness surrounding gender and sexual diversity in previous years. In February of last year, Facebook released 58 gender options for users to choose from, departing from the outdated options of male, female and unknown. Popular media is also beginning to be more inclusive, with television shows like Degrassi, Orange is The New Black and Glee providing complex portrayals of trans characters.

Unfortunately, much of the LGBT+ community still fails to match MV GSA’s progressivism. Many LGBT+ organizations still perpetuate the belief of binary sexuality — you are either hetero- or homosexual. Organizations like the national Gay Straight Alliance, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network are all guilty parties. These groups fail to raise awareness of the community’s diversity through something as simple as a non-inclusive organization name. By now, you’d think that if a high school student group could do it, so could a national organization.

This sometimes encrypted suppression of diversity is much more apparent in the media. New movie Stonewall, which depicts the Stonewall Riots of 1969 — the event that launched the modern gay rights movement — is set to release in September. Controversially, the film replaces a black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson, who is historically credited with starting the riots, with a white cisgender homosexual male. A cisgender person is someone whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their sex assigned at birth; not transgender. The movie is directed by Roland Emmerich, an openly gay man. Emmerich is a proud advocate of the LGBT+ community, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations such as the Legacy Project, which preserves gay and lesbian film. Ironically he chooses to protagonize a more mainstream character of the community in his new film, going against historical accuracy and the frustrations of fans. The film could have easily been a great platform to demonstrate the gender, sexual and racial diversity of the LGBT+ community. Instead, it has become the target of a petition with over 20,000 signatures, while also receiving criticism from multiple historians.  It’s not just the film; even the Stonewall statues in New York, meant to commemorate the riots, are just two white gay guys.

We have made massive gains in legal equality and social awareness in recent times, most notably with the passage of marriage equality in June earlier this year. But how can the LGBT+ community continue to spread its message of equality when it isn’t doing enough internally to value all of its members?

This is an issue that needs to be sorted out, and Monta Vista GSA is leading the way, all without having to change its acronym.