What was won can be lost

There’s a famous cartoon by artist KC Green:

As Green told The Verge, it’s popular because:

it’s a feeling we all have, apparently. It’s a feeling we all get of, just like, “Things are burning down around me, but you got to have smile sometimes.” It’s a basic human [feeling], “Well, what are you going to do?”

The version you see online is usually just the two panels I’ve shown here, but the full version shows the dog continuing to ignore the fire. Green:

it is kind of grotesque at the end. It’s easier to sell the first two than the entire panel where the dog melts into nothingness.

As a two-panel strip, it’s a funny “hey, what can you do?” thing. The full version shows the problem of doing nothing.

You’ll find the “this is fine” attitude in all kinds of places, about issues large and small: faced with a mountain of evidence that the room is very much on fire, many people choose to ignore it and tell themselves “this is fine”.

LGBT+ people are not immune to this – particularly older, more conservative LGBT+ people who tell others not to worry about their countries’ lurch to the right, about the well-funded campaigns against equality legislation, about the campaigns against inclusive education, about the return of blatantly homophobic and transphobic rhetoric in politics and in the media. This, they tell us, is fine.

It isn’t fine.

Progress can be reversed all too easily. The latest Rainbow Map of Europe shows that: the map tracks European countries’ LGBT+ rights and protections, and it shows that some countries are sliding backwards.

The UK is one of them. In 2015, it was rated the best place in Europe for LGBT+ rights; this year, it’s ninth. And that’s before we see the effects of having an equalities minister who doesn’t see protecting LGBT+ rights as part of her portfolio.

Other countries are worse. Hungary is going after LGBT+ people (and inevitably, protections for women and girls generally). Poland has declared “LGBT-free” zones. As many countries lurch to the right, LGBT+ people make for easy scapegoats for both politicians and the church.

That’s likely to get worse. Buzzfeed News reports that there is “an emerging global trend during the COVID-19 pandemic: the scapegoating of LGBTQ people.”

reports across the world reveal a parallel phenomenon: Institutions of power — from governments and churches to police and media — are blaming sexual or gender minorities for the spread of the virus.

It forms part of a wider campaign against LGBTQ people, the resonance of which stretches back decades. With the world’s attention elsewhere, administrations are capitalising on the crisis by removing LGBTQ rights, weaponising lockdown restrictions against members of this community, and neglecting those who cannot access government support because of their identity — with many left destitute and in danger.

Human rights defenders are calling for help, warning of the collateral damage within and beyond this minority. But in the chaos of a pandemic, the message is going largely unheard.

As ILGA-Europe executive director Evelyne Paradis says: “History shows that those who are vulnerable before a crisis only become more vulnerable after a crisis, so we have every reason to worry that political complacency, increased repression and socio-economic hardship will create a perfect storm for many LGBTI people in Europe in the next few years.”

This is not fine.