Gay rights are a hot issue at the moment, with varying opinions flying from all sides. After gay marriage was legalized by a Supreme Court decision during the Obama administration, it was hoped that LGBTQ rights would become less of an issue than it had been prior to that, but the pattern of escalating violence and hateful rhetoric has, unfortunately, proven that hope false.

Queer People are Ancient

Queer people have existed for as long as there have been people. Ancient Greece saw extensive practice of homosexuality, as well as Ancient Rome. These cultures were famous for men writing that they “admired and revered” the male figure, and for women claiming special relationships with friends and lady servants.

Source: X/ghostofhellas

Cross-dressing has also been a common practice among both men and women for centuries. Traditional Shakespearean plays featured a significant amount of cross-dressing, as women were disallowed from performing on stage for a number of years. As a result, men dressed up in women’s clothes in order to portray the female characters, a practice that often led to greater comedic hilarity in classic Shakespearean comedies. 

Romantic Queer Relationships More Recently

Even more recently, there is plenty of evidence of men and women having romantic relationships in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It’s widely believed that Jane Austin, the famous author of Pride and Prejudice, may have been a lesbian, as she was a recluse who famously chose never to get married to a man. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Likewise, Tennessee Williams, American playwright and author of plays such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie, was famously gay in a time where it wasn’t a popular decision for men to do so. He was in a relationship with an actor named Frank Merlo for 14 years, and these years were reported the happiest and most creatively productive years of his life.

Discrimination is Not New Either

Unfortunately, prejudice against gay people is not a new occurrence either. History has seen queer people discriminated against, ridiculed, and ostracized in various societies throughout the centuries. Particularly in religious cultures such as Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, queer people have been heavily looked down on. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The United States is no exemption to this, given the faith-based extremism that many of its founders believed in. The Puritans and the Separatists were all varying levels of Christian, believing that marriage is meant to be between a man, a woman, and God, with no room for exploration of queer love or gender identity in between. 

Hate Against Gays in the Holocaust

Some of the most famous hate crimes against gay people, though, were on the part of the Nazis during World War II. While the most famous crimes of the Nazis were, of course, against the Jews, Jewish people were not the only people targeted by the fascist Nazi movement. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

People who were suspected of being gay were rounded up and put into Nazi concentration camps alongside Jews, and were identified via a pink triangle on their uniform. Jewish people were identified with the Star of David, and all individuals stuck in concentration camps were treated equally atrociously. 

Nazi Book Burnings

Persecution by the Nazis went beyond the gay people imprisoned in concentration camps, too. Nazis conducted campaigns of targeted book burnings, where they tried to eliminate any sort of literature that they perceived as threatening their ideal Aryan race.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately for the gay community and history as a whole, one of the targets of these book burnings is what many believe to be the first transgender clinic. The Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin was a clinic with pioneering literature on sexual and transgender research, and it was burned in 1933 by Nazis who destroyed the life work of pioneering sexual researcher, Magnus Hirschfield.

Gay Moral Panic

The moral panic surrounding the LGBTQ+ community has continued on from that terrible point in history. The Stonewall Riots in 1969 saw the first social revolution regarding gay rights of the modern era, and spawned modern Pride parades as they are currently seen every year in June. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

And all the while, conservatives and deeply religious individuals have gone out of their way to preach against the gay community. To say that their lifestyle is unnatural, that it’s a threat to children. That children who identify as gay or transgender can be changed, if simply they try hard enough – an idea that has spawned the horrific practice of conversion camps.

Transgender Fearmongering

Transgender people are the most recent individuals to fall prey to this ideology. It’s understandable that the far right would be looking for a new target for their homophobic rhetoric. After gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court, a good deal of the general moral panic surrounding gay people seemed to subside in America. 

Source: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

However, anti-trans rhetoric and language surrounding “grooming” done by transgender individuals and the gay community have stirred up that same moral panic all over again. Anti-LGBTQ+ laws are being passed in spades around the country, and are making their way through legislatures as hard-right conservatives try to hold onto power by stirring up fear in average Americans. 

Far-Right Conservative Rhetoric

Unfortunately, this rhetoric has made its way up to the federal level. The Freedom Caucus has been pushing a good deal of far right rhetoric regarding liberals and gay people, claiming that gay people are grooming children and that Democrats are seeking to indoctrinate Americans with “liberal, anti-American rhetoric.”

Source: Wikimedia/Office of Speaker Mike Johnson

These talking points make it unsurprising that conservatives managed to work in a rule change to the recent $1.2 trillion spending package that was signed by President Biden. The spending package funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year, and one of the tenets of the bill is that it disallows the flying of pride flags over U.S. Embassies.

A Bipartisan Spending Bill

The bill was a bipartisan endeavor, something that President Biden spoke on heavily when discussing the bill. “The bipartisan funding bill I just signed keeps the government open, invests in the American people, and strengthens our economy and national security,” Biden said. 

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“This agreement represents a compromise, which means neither side got everything it wanted,” he finished. Bipartisanship has been a consistent talking point of the Biden administration, so this latest development is well in line with an established pattern of Biden as a president.

Specific Text in the Bill

The specific text regarding flags in the bill states, “none of the funds appropriate or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended to fly or display a flag over a facility of the United States Department of State.”

Source: Canva

The flying of pride flags at embassies has been debated between Democrats and Republicans for years. They were first flown over embassies during the Obama administration, according to Forbes, prior to being banned by the Trump administration in 2019. 

Restoring the Flag

The Biden administration reinstated the ability to fly pride flags in 2021, aligning with Biden’s inclusive, LGBTQ+ positive policies. A Biden spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but they released a statement on the issue. 

Source: Wikimedia/Onanymous

“Biden believes it was inappropriate to abuse the process that was essential to keep the government open by including this policy targeting LGBTQI+ Americans.” The White House continued on to say that they would be seeking a way to repeal the ban without negating the rest of the spending package. 

Unsurprising to Activists and Allies

While this is a deeply troubling act on the part of conservatives in the government, LGBTQ+ advocates are wholly unsurprised by this move. But all is not bad. 

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“It poses absolutely no limits to other displays of a pride flag, hosting LGBTQ+ events or embassy employees’ ability to display Pride flags in their work spaces,” Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Brandon Wolf said in a statement on Friday. 

Motivation to Get to Work

While advocates for the gay community are unsurprised by this move on the part of conservatives, they are still furious. This has given yet another reason for liberals to work hard, reach out to allies, and drive motivation ahead of the 2024 election. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Because these small actions on the part of conservative legislatures against the gay community are just the beginning. Anti-trans laws passing around the country are a terrifying preview of what could happen if far-right conservatives gain more power in the federal government, and the LGBTQ+ community and their allies will have to work hard and keep their sights on the goal in order to avert future disaster.