Happy National Human Rights Day to all my guys, gals, and non-binary pals! Though we have come a long way since the United Nations General Assembly first adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 72 years ago today, we still have a ways to go. As a bisexual female with many queer friends and a few close relatives, I am acutely aware of the LGBTQ+ communities’ rights (or lack thereof). Specifically, the many that have been repealed these past few years.

Although Washington has the reputation of a progressive state, accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, growing up here in the valley I have experienced little of that acceptance. I’ve lived right outside of Sunnyside for most of my life, attending various Christian youth groups, working my job as a carwash attendant, participating in church functions, going to school, and getting together with family and friends (Many of these have obviously halted since the quarantine). Within each of these settings, at one point or another, I’ve felt the pressure to be someone I’m not or the shame of being who I am. While getting together with extended family I’ve wondered if their kindness would turn to something else if they knew I wasn’t straight. I’ve been hurt while overhearing a coworker, whom I’d expected to be in favor of the LGBTQ+ community, degrade someone for being queer, and use a slur to describe them. With each new friend, I make I can’t help but worry that they may turn on me when they find out.

Despite this, however, at least gay marriage is legal now. We won, right? Even with the prejudice that’s still woven into our society, if we ignore it, it can’t actually harm us…except that isn’t entirely true. Thanks to the Trump administration, many rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals have been repealed, revised to no longer include these individuals, or otherwise rejected, specifically ones guarding the trans community. I have a younger sibling who’s trans, almost old enough to start working. Now, because of a memo was written by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a position (held by the Department of Justice on the Civil Rights Act) that formerly protected transgender people (like my sibling) from discrimination in the workplace has been reversed. This is crazy to me; people are still challenging the idea that everyone deserves an equal chance, and not just anyone, but actual government officials!

So I’d like for you to try and think of this day, not only as a time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished but also as a reminder of the battle that’s still being fought. As a member of the student government my goal is, by working with you the students, I want to help make known the injustices still going on in the YVC community. When it comes down to it, I’m here to serve YOU. As a student government, we all are. Being a student and member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I will continue to advocate for the equality that the Declaration of Human Rights promised us.

I hope you all have a wonderful winter break!

Tasia Owen
Student Ambassador