Socialism and LGBTQ Struggle

I recently attended “Pride Prom” at the Andy Warhol Museum in my home city of Pittsburgh. It was a cathartically beautiful occasion—a chance to celebrate the creativity, love, and passion of LGBTQ youth. As we danced, shouted with joy, and celebrated our identities, the pain and fear we felt at home, work, and school diminished. But it didn’t disappear. This became all too evident when a taxi drove by, and its driver felt it appropriate to yell homophobic slurs out the window at teenagers trying to enjoy themselves.

As the night wore on, I found it impossible to ignore the sheer number of LGBTQ youth who have self-administered scars on our arms. These are evidence of the terrible pressures faced by the LGBTQ working-class youth in our struggle against a homophobic, transphobic society that drives LGBTQ people to self-harm and suicide.  Suicide rates for LGBTQ youth are four times higher than for straight youth. 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide, 92% of them before the age of 25.

What is it about being LGBTQ that drives people to suicide? Many LGBTQ youth are dependent on parents who do not recognize or accept their identities, who are willing to abuse or disown their children because of their backward conceptions of gender and sexuality. In fact, it is common for transgender youth to ask their friends not to use their preferred pronouns around their parents. Why must we put up with this abuse and invalidation? Because within the bounds of bourgeois legality and its nuclear family, which exists to reproduce capitalist class relations, we can’t leave and find more accepting people until we are eighteen years old and, if we’re lucky, financially independent. Many LGBTQ youth are also told by religion that their identities are unnatural, an abomination to their creator. This leads to intense feelings of shame, self-hatred, and further alienation.

For transgender workers, the cost of medical transition is often inaccessibly high, thanks to this country’s inefficient and dysfunctional private health care system. Trans youth are also unable to change their name or gender on official legal documents, which is a constant reminder of their lack of autonomy.

What solutions does capitalism offer us? In 2011, then-President Barack Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, making it legal for LGBTQ people to serve openly in the military. In other words, it made it legal for us to assist the capitalist state in the destruction of innocent lives in its imperialist ventures in the Middle East and elsewhere. This is an attempt by the state to appear inclusive of LGBTQ people, even though it was the same state that violently suppressed the protests at Stonewall; passively watched HIV destroy a generation; allows corporations to fire you for being LGBTQ in 28 states; and imprisoned the recently released transgender whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, not only unjustly, but in an all-male prison.

Once a year, corporations sponsor Pride parades in an attempt to present themselves as allies of LGBTQ people, even though these are the same companies that make massive campaign contributions to homophobic politicians and take advantage of the aforementioned homophobic workplace laws. This has turned the tradition of the Pride parade from a militant demonstration for LGBTQ rights into a massive, alcohol-fueled, apolitical party used to advertise and push commodities. This is why in Pittsburgh, People’s Pride has emerged as an alternative for LGBTQ people who feel underrepresented and taken advantage of.

Compare these capitalist “solutions” to what was achieved for Russian LGBTQ people after the October Revolution of 1917. The seizure of power by the Russian working class separated the Church from the State, cutting across the Church’s direct interference in people’s personal lives. Religious marriages, in which there was no option of divorce, no autonomy for women, and which demanded heterosexuality, were ended and replaced with civil marriages. Homosexuality was decriminalized, it became legal to change one’s name and gender on legal documents, and a gay man, Georgy Chicherin, served as the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs.

The new Soviet state also vastly expanded public education and subsidized public restaurants, laundry services, and communal housing, taking steps to eliminate the need for the nuclear family. Imagine what could be accomplished after the socialist revolution in the US, in a country where the economy and the working class are far more developed than they were in Russia a century ago!

The capitalist status quo offers no way out for LGBTQ youth. Our oppression can only end with the end of capitalism and all of its rotten institutions. Those of us who are oppressed by homo- and transphobia—on top of the usual exploitation, oppression, and cyclical crises of capitalism—have the potential to radically change society as part of the working class united around a revolutionary program. We must fight to replace the current system with one that fulfills everyone’s basic needs and then some, a system that recognizes the right of LGBTQ people to exist openly and proudly. For this to happen, we need a mass socialist party based on the working class and the revolutionary energy of the youth. Join the IMT today to help build that revolutionary party!

Are you a communist?
Then apply to join your party!