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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is redefining what LGBTQ+ equality really looks like

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Christobel Hastings
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

What does LGBTQ+ equality look like in a post-marriage equality world? For Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pride Month is the perfect time to raise awareness of the most important LGBTQ+ rights battles ahead. 

LGBTQ+ equality has come a long way in the US in the last five years. 2015 saw a landmark ruling granting same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry, that same year brought equal opportunity policy for gay and lesbian military members, while 2017 gave anti-discrimination legalisation for LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.

But with a transgender military ban in effect, and clear legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals still absent from thirty states, there’s a long way to go before true equality is realised, something Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez understands all too well. 

Over the weekend, America’s youngest congresswoman addressed the issue of LGBTQ+ equality head-on at Bronx Pride in New York City, showing the country exactly what a fair, just society would look like in practice. 

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Taking to the stage, the representative for New York’s 14th district in the Bronx gave a speech breaking down the LGBTQ+ policies she would introduce to move towards equality in the community. Namely, making PrEP widely available, tackling the disproportionate levels of homelessness amongst LGBTQ+ youth, and ensuring protections for transgender people in police custody.

“Pride is about honouring the community workers, the people who work in the clinics, the community organisers, the people who work with LGBT youth, the people who are fighting to make sure it’s not just about marriage equality but about quality of life for all people in the community, everybody,” Ocasio-Cortez shouted to a cheering crowd, before asking for the air horns to be sounded.

“What does the LGBTQ fight mean in a post-marriage-equality world? Here’s what it means: It’s making PrEP free for all people. It means tackling the homelessness crisis among our LGBTQ youth. It means de-carcerating our society so that no trans woman and no person ever dies again in custody. It means no one is denied a job because of their gender identity, no matter what it is,” she continued, as a cacophony of air horns blasted all around.

AOC is no stranger to championing LGBTQ+ equality, of course. She has led the charge in fighting to make PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) available, a drug which reduces the risk of contracting HIV infection during sex. In May, she confronted the CEO of drug manufacturing company Gilead over the price of the medicine, which costs around $2,000 for a 30 day supply.

She’s also raised the profile of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness in Congress, when she gave a speech registering concern at the discriminatory culture of certain faith-based organisations offering housing services, arguing that the stigmatisation of LGBTQ+ youth drives them to the streets. It’s a problem that’s escalated to a critical level, as research from the True Colors Fund has found that LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness compared to straight, cisgender youth.

Arguably the biggest hurdle that Ocasio-Cortez is fighting on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community is The Equality Act, which would enshrine civil rights protections to the LGBT community as federal law, which has twice failed on Capitol Hill. At present, there are 30 states which are still without protections for the community, meaning that LGBTQ+ individuals are still at risk of discrimination in housing, the workplace, and other public accommodations.

Here’s hoping the POTUS, who is always on hand to comment on Ocasio-Cortez’s public appearances with astonishing speed, was watching this one closely.

Image: Getty

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.

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