This paper will discuss the topic of heterosexism and how it impacts today’s society. Heterosexism is the oppression of people who are part of the LGBT community. Individuals in the LGBT community are prone to violence, both mentally and physically, from many different people. Although people in today’s society are working more towards acceptance, oppression still is a major part of what people in the LGBT community have to deal with on a regular basis. The Pulse nightclub shooting was a physical hate crime of heterosexism that affected many people of the LGBT community. Because of issues such as Pulse, some LGBT individuals do not feel comfortable going to the criminal justice system. For those that are not comfortable using the criminal justice system, there are other individuals that stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves. There are even campaigns that help promote anti-heterosexism and promote the acceptance of LGBT individuals. Small steps that people are taking, such as the campaigns, are ways in which people are working towards eliminating heterosexism and spreading acceptance.
When it comes to violence, hate crimes and prejudice are often seen towards those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, which is also known as the LGBT community. The individuals in the LGBT community are often the target focus of discrimination because they are seen as different than the majority of people in a community. The idea of viewing the LGBT community as inferior is known as heterosexism, which is the cause of many hate crimes that occur.
Heterosexism and Crime
Heterosexism was described as “discrimination in favor of heterosexual and against homosexual people” (Gates, 2013, p. 2). There are some heterosexual people that are only in favor of believing that a relationship should be between one male and one female and that anyone who differs from these ideas is inferior. The issue with this idea is that it creates prejudice against others and people are looked at superficially and for who they love, rather than for who they are as a person. Heterosexism relates to crime because these people in the LGBT community are at target, both verbally and physically. People of the LGBT community constantly have slurs shouted at them regularly.
There are also occasions when the LGBT community are the target of violent crimes. One of the most well-known shootings in recent times was at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. Pulse was a popular gay nightclub, where 49 victims were killed and 53 were injured (Zambelich & Hurt, 2016). This act of hate shook both those of the LGBT community and not because it impacted so many people of all genders, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. More and more people now a days believe in justice and are bringing light to these sort of prejudice situations to raise awareness for the LGBT community.
The Common View of LGBT Individuals
At large, the LGBT community is viewed in a positive light. As times are changing, the community has gained more light and acceptance across the United States and more of the world. People are constantly fighting for the rights of the LGBT community because they are a target for so many hate crimes. One campaign that was made to raise awareness for discrimination amongst the LGBT community is the “Beyond I Do” campaign (Ad Council, 2018). The campaign is a way for people of the LGBT community to speak their truth and speak out about how they have been discriminated against for their sexual orientation. The Beyond I Do campaign is just one of the many campaigns that are coming to light to raise awareness for the LGBT community, in order to attempt to minimize the oppression the group is experiencing.
In contrast to becoming more accepted, the LGBT community is still the target of many hate crimes, when it comes to how they are viewed in the criminal justice system. Although people are more welcoming to the LGBT community in modern times, there are still close-minded people out there who are not accepting of those in the LGBT community. Individuals in the LGBT community seem to have mixed views of the criminal justice system because discrimination has been previously seen for quite some time (Nadal, 2012). Some LGBT individuals have had first-hand experience with oppression in the criminal justice system and still believe the criminal justice system to be corrupt. This causes these individuals to be concerned with how the system deals with cases involving the LGBT community.
Representation in the Criminal Justice System
The LGBT community is under-represented in the criminal justice system. This is because many people who are not part of the community often ignore the prejudice and crimes that are committed against the LGBT community. As the HRC Staff (2016) states, there are many incidents in which discrimination can be seen towards the LGBT community in the criminal justice system in forms such as unwarranted arrests and harsher sentencing. There seem to be many cases in which LGBT individuals avoid reporting any of the crimes committed against them because they are afraid of the criminal justice system (Nadal, 2012). When individuals do not report their cases, there is no way for them to be represented in the criminal justice system. If more individuals reported their cases, then there would be more awareness towards the crimes that are committed and hopefully more representation for the LGBT community against heterosexism.
In terms of the effects that can be seen from the criminal justice system on the LGBT community, it is understandable why LGBT individuals are fearful of the criminal justice system. The LGBT community has been a target in the criminal justice system in the past, which makes them cautious of going to the system when they have crimes being committed against them. Because people of the LGBT community are afraid of the criminal justice system, they are not being properly served because many crimes towards them are going unnoticed. That is why campaigns such as the Beyond I Do campaign are so beneficial. These campaigns allow others from the LGBT community to speak out about what is happening for not only themselves but those individuals that are afraid to speak out (Ad Council, 2018).
The Problem with Oppression
Oppression heightens the likelihood that crimes will be committed against a certain group because when a certain group is singled out for their differences, other people begin to feel superior. This, then, causes oppressed groups to not have as big of a support system from others outside. When people are supportive of one another, there begins to feel this sense of safety. If no one is supporting the LGBT community, then they would not have as big of a support system and safety from those who want to express violence towards LGBT individuals. Therefore, less of a support system begins to express more oppression and violence towards LGBT individuals.
Oppression towards the LGBT community was something I was aware of for quite some time. However, I was not aware of the extent to which hate crimes were a part of their everyday lives. I was unaware of the extreme length that some LGBT individuals go through in the criminal justice system when dealing with an issue. Campaigns, such as Beyond I Do, really do make such an impact on the lives of these individuals who are fearful of the criminal justice system. Individuals who speak out against heterosexism and defend those of the LGBT community really do make an impact on everyone and is helping our country is become more accepting of others.
Heterosexism is something that has been around for ages. Although people are bringing more awareness and becoming accepting of LGBT individuals, there are still many people out there expressing violence towards them. The criminal justice system is supposed to be a safe place for people to go when there is an issue. However, not all LGBT individuals feel comfortable in the criminal justice system. More awareness and acts need to be in place for LGBT individuals to feel comfortable and positive in today’s society.
- Ad Council (2018, April 18). ‘Beyond I Do’ Campaign Launches to Raise Awareness about the Prevalence of Discrimination Against LGBT People in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/beyond-i-do-campaign-launches-to-raise-awareness-about-the-prevalence-of-discrimination-against-lgbt-people-in-the-united-states-300632108.html
- Gates, T. (2013, December 22). Challenging Heterosexism: Six Suggestions for Social Work Practice. Retrieved from https://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/ethics-articles/Challenging_Heterosexism:_Six_Suggestions_for_Social_Work_Practice/
- HRC Staff. (2016, February 26). LGBT People and the Criminal Justice System. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/blog/lgbt-people-and-the-criminal-justice-system
- Nadal, K. L. (2012). LGBT issues in the criminal justice system. Retrieved from https://www.apadivisions.org/division-44/publications/newsletters/division/2013/04/lgbt-issues
- Zambelich, A., & Hurt, A. (2016, June 26). 3 Hours In Orlando: Piecing Together An Attack And Its Aftermath. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2016/06/16/482322488/orlando-shooting-what-happened-update