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Don't stop here

Online celebrations of America's same-sex marriage ruling are wonderful, but there is so much more to be done.

Since the US Supreme Court on Friday ruled same-sex marriage is a legal right across the United States, opening my browser has been like stepping into a virtual Pride parade.

Google "gay marriage" and the search results are fringed with rainbow-coloured hearts and figures holding hands. Countless popular Web sites painted their logos and avatars with rainbow stripes, and, of course, Facebook's Celebrate Pride tool allows users (millions to date) to superimpose the rainbow Pride flag onto their profile pictures in just two clicks.

While celebrating my queer identity on social networks has never felt safer and it's wonderful to see my ally friends publicly proclaiming their support, I worry that people will think giving the LGBT+ community the support it needs is as simple as changing one's profile picture, or that all this celebration means all our battles have been won.

What was once a political and often personal statement has become a social media trend, which can be picked up with much less research, understanding or care, and more selfish, image-based motivation.

I worry that the magnitude of this celebration - however warranted - will perpetuate the idea that marriage equality is every queer person's most critical concern, and reduce the manifold, complex and constant struggles of LGBT+ people into one victory.

I worry that this reduction of LGBT+ rights will reduce Pride in popular culture to homonormativity: the acceptance of homosexual people and their marriages within a heteronormative culture, provided they are cisgender and live up to prescribed gender norms.

Moreover, I worry that, as social media trends do, this wave of support will slowly retreat as its recency fades, ultimately becoming a bandwagon that was hopped on or a boat that was missed.

SA's Constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and its Constitutional Court legalised gay marriage almost a decade ago (so much for US vs SA "development" narratives), yet it is still difficult and often dangerous to be an LGBT+ person in this country.

While legal framework is integral to protecting one's rights, it does not guarantee social or cultural support of these rights, or even institutional enforcement of the law.

[PQ]I am reminded of Nadia Swanepoel, the transgender woman in Johannesburg who last year resorted to a hunger strike until home affairs ceased to deny her her right to an ID document reflecting her changed name and gender. Swanepoel went through the application process for these changes - sanctioned by the 2003 Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 49 - several times over the course of four years, to no avail. She obtained a 'do not resuscitate' order before beginning her strike, presumably because neither the law's enactors nor its socio-cultural environs provided her with the quality of life the law is supposed to enshrine.

I am reminded of the countless stories of "corrective rape" of queer women and other LGBT+ people in SA.

I am reminded of the disproportionate percentage of LGBT+ youth around the world who are homeless, often because their families refuse to support them.

I am reminded of the disproportionately high suicide rates among LGBT+ people - particularly teens - because we do not receive the acceptance, affirmation, support and protection that cisgender, heterosexual people do.

In addition to institutional and social discrimination, it is difficult to be proud or confident of an identity - or be sure it even exists - when it is either absent from popular films, television and other media, or reduced to flat, limiting stereotypes like the "fabulous" Gay Best Friend.

Dear allies, by all means, celebrate pride, but please don't think: "We did it!" Think: "What more can we do?"

Please continue to support the LGBT+ community, but please don't stop at your profile picture: think about instances of discrimination in your everyday life you could be challenging.

Think about language you might be using or jokes you might be making that could (often unintentionally) cause hurt; assumptions you might make about LGBT+ people that limit the person you allow them to be; unfounded myths you might believe about LGBT+ people - and what you could do to help make your environment more worth living in for LGBT+ people.

Equality is a communal effort. Two clicks does not an ally make.