The past few weeks have been a pivotal time for gay rights. From President Obama to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, it seems everyone is now on the side of marriage equality. My concern is that this fixation on same sex marriage is mainstreaming the wider LGBT movement. Currently, the diverse queer community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer/questioning, asexual, intersex, genderqueer, pansexual) is popularized into being seen exclusively as a gay community. While this exploitation takes place many more vulnerable groups and individuals are being left behind. Earlier this month, Obama’s decision, to publicly affirm that ‘same sex couples should be able to get married’, was met by a plethora of reactions. Within ninety minutes of the announcement the president’s re-election team had collected a million pink dollars. Meanwhile, a number of gay civil rights blogs posted sappy one-liners, expressing their eternal gratitude towards Barack for supporting, rather than merely sympathizing with, their plight for marriage equality. Community centres throughout the nation promptly celebrated, cracking open bottles of champagne. While they rejoiced, CeCe McDonald, a 23 year old transgender woman of colour, and victim of transphobic violence, waited in custody. Since then, she has been sentenced to three years and five months at a male prison, for defending herself against a life threatening hate crime. In a country where such discrimination, on streets and within the justice system, takes place, there seems little to celebrate. Such prejudice is by no means anomalous: according to a survey taken by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2010, a staggering 41% of the trans* community have been driven to attempt suicide. A couple of days passed, and then Rush Limbaugh, American political commentator, promptly accused Obama of waging ‘a war on traditional marriage’. Traditionalist Torys, who oppose David Cameron’s intentions to alter the law in Great Britain, also made their sentiments clear. David Burrowes, MP of Enfield Southgate, stated: ‘it is a British issue that needs to be dealt with in the British way’ – because everyone knows homosexuality was invented in the UK, and we never follow the United States (unless it’s into Iraq or Afghanistan, that is). Let’s face it, the issue of gay marriage is trendy; the far right opposes LGBT inclusion and gets votes, while the left supports gay marriage and gets money. This is all too unsettling, as, in the words of Cory Booker, Mayor of New Jersey, ‘We should not be putting civil rights issues to the popular vote – subject to the sentiments, the passions, of the day’. Many media tycoons have also jumped on the rainbow painted bandwagon, for the sake of being current and edgy. It was in 2008 that Katy Perry amicably sung to the world that she hopes her boyfriend won’t mind that she kissed a girl. A few years later she was reported by Queerty as having appropriated  an offensive transphobic slur in order to describe herself: ‘you can’t be a full tranny every day of the week’ –  unless you are trans*, Katy. Then when somebody decides to use that term to describe you, you don’t really have a choice. Exploitative cultural appropriations, as well as statements like Obama’s, keep privileged liberals comfortable by giving them that soft and gooey feeling that progress is being made. Although for those on the ground, things are a bit different: ‘For the youth I work with, it is not “getting better”. For Cece Mcdonald, it is not “getting better”. For Brandy Martell, Mark Aguhar, Agnes Torres, Paige Clay, it did not “get better”. Their lives are far more important than Obama’s show of approval for gay marriage, and yet many more in the world will know of his speech while living in blissful ignorance to the lives and struggles of these people. Marriage equality? Fine. However, marriage equality as the pathway to justice is a notion completely ungrounded in reality.’ Obama’s support for gay marriage has turned heads, but we would be naive to think it supported anyone aside from the privileged gay members of the LGBT community. Pressing matters, such as, institutionalized transphobic discrimination and the teen suicide epidemic, to name only a couple, show that the movement for LGBT equality must be a holistic one. In other words: we must not let a thumbs up to gay marriage from the US president, and a tub of ‘Apple-y Ever After’, muffle the pressing civil rights issues at hand.

Same sex marriage: a distraction to LGBT Equality?