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Safe Communities

Column: Inside Perspectives
Asian male, wearing glasses, floral print jacket and pearl necklace. Text reads: Like any community, the LGBTQI+ community is a conglomerate of different groups and identities, joined in solidarity to meet the challenges we face together and uplift the progress we've made.
Date Published
June 26, 2024

Greater than the sum of our parts: Celebrating LGBTQI+ Pride Month

Growing up in Hawaii, it was easy to see the melting pot of different communities present throughout the islands. Many of our neighbors, friends and classmates come from a myriad of cultures and backgrounds but live and work together to join those smaller communities into something greater than the sum of its parts. Many of us find refuge and comfort in our community—be it a physical place, a group of people, or both. Our communities guide us through life and influence our values. But that doesn’t mean we all act the same way or take the same approach in life. 

Like any community, the LGBTQI+ community is a conglomerate of different groups and identities, joined in solidarity to meet the challenges we face together and uplift the progress we’ve made. 

Indeed, LGBTQI+ Pride Month is a celebration of the accomplishments we have achieved through our collective voice and how far we’ve come. So, in celebrating Pride Month, it’s important to acknowledge the progress we—not only the LGBTQI+, but we as a country—have made. From the “Lavender Scare” of the 1940s through the 1960s, in which the Federal Government fired or forced the resignation of thousands of gay and lesbian employees, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage, to the record number of LGBTQI+ appointees in the Biden-Harris Administration and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, we have accomplished so much on the path to true equality and dignity for the LGBTQI+ community.

However, Pride Month is also a call to action to live authentically, to love authentically, and to center our actions on advancing equity and justice. It is a call to embody these values not only for the month of June, but every day.

And that includes the work that of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and its Program Offices. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, violent victimization of lesbian or gay people is double that of heterosexual individuals. The rate of violent victimization for transgender people is more than 2.5 times the rate among cisgender people. Gay and lesbian people only report 58% of violent victimization to law enforcement, and bisexual people are also less likely to report violent victimization than straight people. It is essential to collect and share this information to truly understand and respond to the lived experiences of the LGBTQI+ community and continue to build trust between the LGBTQI+ community and law enforcement. 

To that end, OJP has been working diligently to improve public safety for LGBTQI+ people with programs such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Program and the Community-based Approaches to Prevent and Address Hate Crimes program. The Office for Victims of Crimes has funded hotlines through the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act that enable victims and witnesses to report hate incidents to professionals trained in culturally competent communication and trauma-informed practices. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funds a National Resource Center on Justice-Involved LGBTQ2S+ Youth to improve and strengthen overall outcomes for justice-involved Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Two-Spirit plus youth by developing, housing, and promoting resources for professionals and community-based stakeholders involved in the juvenile justice system.

This is where OJP’s mission of building community trust and strengthening every community’s role as co-producer of safety and justice comes into play. Supporting the ability of community-based organizations to serve LGBTQI+ people ensures that programs designed to improve public safety and justice outcomes for the LGBTQI+ community can be utilized by and for the community. This includes funding opportunities like OVC’s Meeting the Basic Needs of Crime Victims in Underserved Communities and BJA’s Training and Technical Assistance for Justice-Focused Community-Based Organizations.

Many LGBTQI+ people are justice-involved or justice-impacted. We are youth being diverted from the juvenile justice system. We are victims of crime or family members of victims. Communities, like identities, often intersect. By focusing on the community’s role in justice and public safety, OJP is working to empower the very people who benefit from our programs. 

As an LGBTQI+ employee at OJP, this work is especially meaningful to me because of Hawaii’s unique history with the LGBTQ+ movement, when in 1993 our state Supreme Court ruled that the right to marriage could extend to same-sex couples. In the history of this movement, my home state represents both the promise and the setbacks of progress. There continues to be room for improvement in advancing equality, fairness, and justice, but if we support communities across the country, we too can become greater than the sum of our parts.

Date Published: June 26, 2024

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