President Joe Biden was inaugurated Jan. 20, and he wasted no time in fixing the mess of the past four years. Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, rights and protections for the LGBTQ+ community were stripped away carelessly. From banning transgender people in the military to legalizing sexual orientation-based discrimination, many were left wondering if Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage in 2015, would be overturned next.
Indiana has more than its fair share of progress to make in terms of protection and acceptance. The state must establish adequate hate crime legislation, evolve past its exclusionary culture and finally ban the practice of conversion therapy.
With not even a full week in office, Biden already signed an executive order stating gay and transgender people cannot be discriminated against in the workplace or in educational and medical settings. He also redacted Trump’s military transgender ban on Jan. 25.
With this new order in place to protect LGBTQ+ people, I cannot help but wonder how effective this executive order will really be in states like Indiana.
As a white, cisgendered lesbian, it’s easy for me to go about my day almost forgetting about the people who hate me. Unlike people who are racial or ethnic minorities, I have never been discriminated against based off a first glance. I have an overwhelming amount of privilege even though I am gay.
Growing up as a queer kid in the Midwest, I’ve seen how much damage conservative communities can do, and it’s not just in denying service based on sexuality. It's hate speech. It’s forced trauma.
Under the U.S. Constitution, there is no legal definition of “hate speech.” This is affirmed in the case of Snyder v. Phelps, where protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church were protected by the First Amendment when they attended the late Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral with signs reading “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Fags Doom Nations.”
This is still a protected form of speech, according to the Supreme Court.
While the Biden administration is already moving toward progress and protection for our community, in closed-minded communities this “protection” doesn’t mean much. However hard the new administration may try, without sweeping legislation and intense consequences for those committing hate crimes, I will still be called a dyke while walking down the street with my girlfriend.
Related: [OPINION: Progressives can’t use Biden’s presidency as an excuse to relax]
But it’s not that bad to be gay, right? Indiana might ban conversion therapy now. So we can all rejoice! That is, unless history repeats itself and our state blocks this ban like it did in 2019.
What a win for the community.
Indiana’s current hate crime legislation is inadequate, according to the Anti-Defamation League. This “legislation” does not include protections based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender or gender identity, making it hate crime legislation that does not actually protect against hate crimes. Therefore, the ADL lists Indiana as one of just four states without hate crime legislation.
The Trevor Project, a nonprofit devoted to helping LGBTQ+ youth, reports there is a higher risk of suicide in LGBTQ+ teens and young adults than any other group. Queer youth are three times more likely to be suicidal and five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual adolescents.
It is not just about so-called legal protection — legislation is nothing without widespread acceptance.
With hate crime legislation that does not help, coupled with the 16,000 LGBTQ+ youth that have been subject to conversion therapy before the age of 18, queer youth are not being protected in Indiana. LGBTQ+ youth who are outcast for their identity, as they often are in our state, are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.
We have been, and will continue to be, shamed, shunned and scorned for our identities, and if we look to the example set in 2019, Indiana will not be removing conversion therapy any time soon.
This new administration may advocate for us, but make no mistake, we are not yet accepted. In Indiana, we’re not yet protected.
Curren Gauss (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in theater and English. She is currently a member of the Queer Student Union.