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LGBT struggles go beyond marriage equality

Meet Janani, a New York City organizer and performer, who is fighting for LGBT rights and support beyond marriage equality.
Janani Balasubramanian.
Janani Balasubramanian.

Join us in celebrating the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. To gear up for the June 26 anniversary, msnbc will feature couples’ and individuals’ reflections on the impact the decision has had on their lives and the future of the LGBT rights fight in the United States. 

In the last year, marriage equality has come to nine states. Federal judges have also struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, though their decisions are on hold pending appeals.

No ban on same-sex nuptials has survived in federal court since DOMA’s demise. And, as of this month, every remaining ban has been hit with a legal challenge. Both marriage equality advocates, and opponents alike, believe it won’t be long before the issue is once again before the U.S. Supreme Court, and ultimately legalized throughout the nation.

Name: Janani Balasubramanian

City, State: Brooklyn, New York

Profession: Writer/performer, and co-founder and organizer at the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

Have you noticed a general shift in attitude toward the LGBT community since the Supreme Court ruling?

I'm not sure. The LGBT community is vast and varies widely in their needs and struggles. I hope the nation does not think that instituting same-sex marriage means those struggles are over. The gravest violences queer and trans people face are not related to marriage. They're related to health care, to housing, to police brutality and profiling, to prison, to detention, to employment, to poverty, to homelessness. Stonewall was a riot initiated by transgender people and poor folks in response to police brutality, not a marriage ceremony or pride parade. This is a legacy we have a responsibility to. Some folks told me 'congratulations' or 'great news' on the day the ruling happened. I don't want congratulations. I want us to refocus our energy and attention to the most severe issues this community faces.

"The gravest violences queer and trans people face are not related to marriage. They’re related to healthcare, to housing, to police brutality and profiling, to prison, to detention, to employment, to poverty, to homelessness."'

What are the ways in which the DOMA ruling has fallen short?

The ruling fell short in that there are other issues impacting the lives of LGBT people -- disproportionately so for trans women, people of color, and poor people. My dream is that the next major national ruling around LGBT lives will focus on liberating our siblings who are incarcerated and detained.

What would you like President Obama and future leaders to prioritize in terms of LGBT rights?

LGBT rights are not distinct from other types of rights everyone should have. The reasons people are targeted for anti-LGBT violence has everything to do without other identities they have (race, class, gender, etc). I would like our leaders to pay attention to the needs and experiences of the most marginalized members of our community: those who are constantly at risk for incarceration, detainment, harassment, and police violence. Largely this is trans women of color. I would like future leaders to prioritize guaranteed housing and health care and an end to police, ICE, and prison control over marginalized communities. That's what LGBT rights are made of.

If you were married recently, how has it affected your lives?

I am not married, but I am excited for members of my community who have been able to secure basic rights like housing, health care, and immigration status through marriage. I hope we can work towards a world together where marriage or partnership isn't necessary for that kind of access.

What are your hopes and dreams for the next generation or [for your children]?

I want the next generation to be unwavering in its commitments. I want us to center the worst violences that queer and trans people face daily. I want us to pay our debts to the trans women of color who paved and continue to pave the way for all our lives to be possible. I want us to make names like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, and Cece McDonald erupt far and wide. I want us to imagine and build worlds without cages. I want us to love and honor each other in tenacious, beautiful, and powerful ways.

Stay in touch with Janani @darkmatterrage

Check out yesterday's profile: Allies in the fight for marriage equality