On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights office, as part of their Free & Equal campaign, launched a new video to raise awareness regarding discrimination against people who identify as LGBTQ.
The video, narrated by openly gay actor Zachary Quinto, addresses issues often raised by LGBTQ advocates including homelessness, workplace discrimination, and suicide. In accompanying text, the United Nations Human Rights office notes that, “Rates of poverty, homelessness, depression and suicide have been found to be far higher among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people than in the general population.”
And while the film offers many statistics – that between half and two thirds of LGBT young people experience bullying, that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, that gay and lesbian youth are four times more likely to consider suicide, and that one in five LGBT individuals have experienced workplace discrimination – the true focus was to educate the public on the economic costs to society of discrimination against LGBTQ people.
”Every LGBT child thrown out of home and forced to miss out on education is a loss for society. Every LGBT worker denied their rights is a lost opportunity to build a fairer and more productive economy,” explained the United Nations Human Rights office. They also drew attention to a study “that found a clear link between the marginalization of a country’s LGBT community and a corresponding loss of potential economic output.” Another study found that discrimination “could be costing an economy the size of India’s up to thirty two billion dollars a year.”
In its mission statement, the Free & Equal campaign describes its goals as “rais[ing] awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination, and promot[ing] greater respect for the rights of LGBT people everywhere.” In some aspects, this campaign accomplishes that goal. However, by focusing on an appeal to economics and capitalistic growth for the entirety of society, the video is sending the message that respecting the rights and lives of LGBTQ people is not reason enough, in and of itself. Instead they’ve decided that the public, looking out for their own best interests and pocketbooks, require a justification to support anti-discrimination.
And what if there was no financial bottom line when it came to the violence, harassment, and discrimination faced by LGBTQ people? Would it still be worth upholding the dignity of queer and transgender people?
Perhaps those at the Free & Equal campaign simply want to offer a reason to those people who don’t see the value in protecting and supporting all people based on our shared humanity. I, however, question if people who lack this morality are the allies that the LGBTQ community needs.
Gwen is a writer who has an education degree, a social work background, an extensive knowledge of vegetables, and a devotion to queer revolutionary politics. She lives deep in the woods of Maine with two dogs, a magnificent partner, and an ever-growing collection of plants.