As court considers workplace discrimination protections, revellers and activists ponder fragile state of their rights
National Coming Out Day festivities across the US were tempered this year by anxiety that some LGBTQ people may have to go back into the closet so they can make a living, depending on what the supreme court decides about workplace discrimination.
But the mere fact that words like transgender are being uttered before the nations highest court gives some hope that the pendulum will swing in their favor.
I want all members of our community to feel supported by the government, and often for a lot of us and a lot of friends of mine, its the first time that they feel represented, said Jessica Goldberg, a bisexual senior at the University of Colorado Denver.
Still, for many, the arguments showed the continuing relevance of National Coming Out Day, first observed in 1988 and marked every 11 October though events happen over several days. Philadelphias annual OutFest was held on Sunday and billed as the largest National Coming Out Day event.
Such events aim to show that coming out of the closet helps individuals and the larger community win visibility and acceptance.
As music echoed in the packed streets of Philadelphias Gayborhood and smoke from food carts hung overhead, Priscilla Gonzalez pondered the timing of the supreme court arguments and what she sees as a nefarious military tactic of dividing opponents to Republican policies, in order to weaken them.
Its true that we are focused on trying to protect our group, said Gonzalez, a New York resident attending her first OutFest. Because we feel so threatened, we start to divide more, and I think that division brings disruptions.
Emotionally, the 2015 victory for marriage equality was huge said Susan Horowitz, publisher and editor of Between the Lines, an LGBTQ newspaper in Michigan. But the workplace discrimination case, with its legal ramifications, is bigger, she said.
You can get married one day and be fired tomorrow if you put your spouses picture on your desk, Horowitz said.
Some of the language in the supreme court this week about whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination including a question by conservative chief justice John Roberts that appeared to show confusion about gender transitions and questions about bathroom use by liberals Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows there is a long way to go, said Shannon Minter, a transgender man who is legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Donald Trumps attempt to ban transgender people from military service and the backlash to it has helped educate people and some of the questioning felt like the justices had not caught up with that reality, Minter said.
It was a wake-up call that the court is not always completely in sync with where the public is, he said. I hope between now and the time of the decision that gap will close.
The court is expected to rule by June 2020, which is also LGBTQ Pride Month.
Kyla Hines, assistant director of the LGBTQ Student Resource Center for the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Community College of Denver, hopes people who are out or on the verge of coming out can find that courage despite anxiety over the impending supreme court decision.
I definitely see a lot of weight and heaviness in the community, on our campus and in our office, Hines said. We really want to view this time as a celebration.
Missy Stowe, attending Philadelphia OutFest, echoed that, while noting that as a pansexual woman working for an LGBTQ-owned prosthetics company, she is fortunate the case is unlikely to harm her, whatever the outcome.
She even voiced some suspicion about the timing of the arguments: I think it was a totally inappropriate time for this to come out because were supposed to be celebrating.