Into a new century – 100 years of progress?

Gay rights are making progress, but gays still face massive homophobia in everyday life.

Homoculture LGBT History Silvia Hildebrandt

As the 1990’s approached, the AIDS crisis had a peak. One day before his death in 1991, the most famous celebrity who suffered from the illness, Freddie Mercury, announced that he was sick. In the same year, the red awareness ribbon has almost become something of a fashion icon. In the most rigid times, being gay seemed trendy. Even Princess Diana supported the LGBT community and surrounded herself with famous celebrities such as Mercury or Elton John.

Freddie Mercury

But in the real world, in everyday life, gay people continued to experience homophobia and resentment. Leaving the glittery world of show business, if one came out as gay, it could ruin their lives. To this day, being fired for one’s sexuality is sadly still all too common.

Although gay rights, legalization and decriminalization of homosexuality saw a massive progress in most countries, law didn’t affect everyday life. There were still very harsh places in the world, like the US Bible Belt, where coming out as gay could mean a death sentence. Little had changed in those parts of the world, nor was any progress made in the USSR.

Fort Complex Kremlin Moscow

In Russia, gay people were and still are discriminated. They face massive violence which sometimes goes as far as homicide.  Their murderers face little to no punishment.

But even if you get away with your lifestyle and keep your job, everybody knows you’re gay, Eastern European families rudely practise discrimination every day, no matter if they’re family or not.

In the East, a man is idolized if he beats his woman, but he will face hatred if he ever declares he loves another man. Homophobia shows in the simple fact that most people can’t bring themselves to say words like “homosexual” or “gay.” Behind closed doors, they giggle at so-called effeminates, faggots or men who are upside down.

The only occasion where the word gaywas used in the 90’s was as an insult or as a casual equivalent to phrases like “son of a bitch.”

“That is so gay” is typical nineties slang for “that’s strange, terrible, dumb, etc.”

It is fair to say that the approaching new millennium changed the legal state of homosexuality, but everyday life was still hard, especially if one’s own family found out you were gay.

“I don’t have anything against the gays, but not in my family” is the passive-aggressive slogan of that era. And it continues to be like that throughout the new century.

Canada Parliament Legalize Gay Marriage

The Netherlands was the first country which legalized same-sex marriage in 2001, to be followed by more and more countries, including Canada and the United States. Germany, who takes pride in calling itself a tolerant nation, only fully recognized homosexual marriages in 2017. The former Warsaw-Pact-members are still not willing to decriminalize homosexuality in most countries.

Son coming out to dad

As the new century is developing, the LGBT community still has to fight for acceptance. Still too many youth are kicked out of their homes after they’ve come out. Still too many gays are murdered for their sexuality. Still too many employees are fired because of their sexuality. Being gay is more of a no-go than adultery.

This example speaks for itself: Once upon a time, in a small company in economically prospering South Germany, there lived two men. A married one who cheated on his wife with his secretary. The other came out as gay with a partner he loved for half his life. While the cheater received a promotion, the openly homosexual lost his job due to disagreements.

So what’s the premise for the future as it seems that more radical and conservative people are elected into governments? Will the achievements for the LGBT community only be empty promises? Only time can tell.

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