This week, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection is host to two significant LGBT events: the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America softball world series and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association annual convention.
Recently, some gay softball leagues have drawn scrutiny for policies on non-gay players — no more than two per team — which, apparently, includes bisexuals. Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that leagues could limit the number of non-gay players, but they needed to have better methods of determining sexual orientation.
In media, and communications in general, there are ongoing questions about the relevance of an organization such as NLGJA, in a time when there is greater openness in newsrooms. There are both more openly LGBT journalists and LGBT topics are covered more frequently.
These two seemingly disparate questions beg a broader one: Is it necessary to have separate organizations for LGBTs, or should sexual and gender minorities integrate into mainstream organizations?
In short, yes, it’s still beneficial to have separate organizations, if not truly necessary.
Certainly, there is no end-all, be-all answer to this question; there’s no “the community has achieved full equality and can move along with progress now” answer.
For one, the community has not yet reached that point. While some cities and states offer protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, there are no federal-level protections. As such, crossing municipal boundaries or state lines changes what rights and protections one has as an LGBT person. For instance, in Pennsylvania there are protections in various cities and townships, Philadelphia included, but no state-level protections.
Beyond antidiscrimination protections, full equality is still on the horizon — even if it’s now closer on the horizon. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will take effect next month, and six states and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriage. Progress — or at least discussion — has begun in immigration, workplace protections and relationship recognition.
Second, as is apparent by recent comments by politicians Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and would-be candidates such as Christine O’Donnell, even when LGBTs achieve equality under the law, there will still be foes fighting to limit, overturn or restrict those rights.
While having a primarily LGBT space isn’t necessary in sports or professional organizations per se, they are both still areas in which individuals are not necessarily comfortable being openly gay — as evidenced by the lack of out players in professional sports and reporters and editors, both on air and in newsrooms.
Until the decision to disclose one’s sexual orientation is no longer a weighty and carefully considered risk, primarily LGBT space and organizations will still be vital.