War on the LGBTQIA+ community

The LGBTQIA+ community is under attack on so many levels.

There has been no declaration of hostilities, as in a conventional war. But the hostility is plainly evident, and it has taken violent form. It might not be hyperbole to call it a war against the LGBTQIA+ community.

In 2021, at least 57 transgender or gender non-binary people were fatally shot or otherwise violently killed in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign reported. “We say at least because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported,” the HRC said in its report. “In previous years, the majority of these people were Black and Latinx transgender women.” The 2021 death toll represented a 30 percent increase over 2020.

This violence hit close to home earlier this month: Brazil Johnson, a 28-year-old Black Trans woman, was found fatally shot – multiple times, at close range – on June 15 in Milwaukee’s Triangle North neighborhood.

“I knew Brazil from when we were younger at Project Q,” said our own Imani Sloan of Vivent Health. “I remember her to be a really sweet person and always having a smile on her face. The murder of Brazil is sad, but unsurprising due to the increased violence against black Transwomen. To learn of this in our own backyard is scary, but unshocking.”

Brazil is at least the 17th transgender person fatally shot or killed by other violent means in the U.S. this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. We urge the Milwaukee Police and Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office to pursue justice for Brazil. We also urge the news media to give cover the deaths of Trans people with greater urgency, to shine their spotlights on such hateful acts.

According to an analysis of national police data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, anti-gay (male) hate crimes increased by 51.3% from 2020 to 2021 in 12 select cities. Brian Levin, executive director of the center, said the uptrend in overall hate crime extended into the first quarter of 2022, with bias incidents rising by an average of 30%.

Vivent Health has been fighting this discrimination and stigmatization for nearly 40 years. But the hate we’re facing now is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s frightening. It’s violent. It’s also racist and sexist.

The extremist views that are fueling these attacks are reversing progress that’s been made. Case in point: The recent high-profile incidents at events in Idaho and California, where the threat of violence loomed large. Then, a right-wing show host with 4.4 million Twitter followers tweeted that parents should know that the new animated film “Lightyear” includes a same-sex couple, as if that were something that required a warning.

When you act as if the presence of a same-sex couple in a movie requires a warning, you normalize the idea that LGBTQIA+ people should be ostracized, shunned. Once that door has been opened, the idea that violence is an acceptable response to people simply living their lives is likely to follow.

It’s even worse in Texas. That state’s Republican Party recently adopted a platform which refers to homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and opposes “all efforts to validate transgender identity.” At Vivent Health, we know there is no normal — or “abnormal.” There is only being who you are, and at Vivent Health that means being treated with respect, kindness, compassion and dignity, without exception.

The battle to end HIV and AIDS cannot be won without eliminating discrimination and stigmatization of the LGBTQIA+ community. It requires commitment and support every month. Not just in June.

Communities, organizations and individuals tout their commitment to and support of the LGBTQIA+ community during the month of June. We appreciate that support. But, just as with Black History Month in February, members of the LGBTQIA+ community find themselves looking around on July 1, wondering where some of that support went.

Advocacy is a year-round effort. We will be a champion for the LGBTQIA+ community. Join us, all year round, and you can be the difference. You can be the change. In June, and every month.

At Vivent Health, we value people regardless of the color of their skin, whom they love, where they live, their gender identity or how much or little money they have. We welcome, include, and learn from diverse perspectives to successfully serve our patients and clients, support our employees, improve our communities and advance social justice and equality.

Join us in the fight to end discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. Stop the stigma.