Chaos under the dome; what does it mean to our community?

The Oklahoma State Capitol. File photo.

by Troy Stevenson

Oklahoma has joined the ranks of political disaster that have been long occupied by Kansas and parts of the South. Years of ignoring structural problems with the state budget, and continually reducing our revenue base to the point where we can no longer support the core services of our state, created a situation that may be impossible to overcome without extreme courage from our lawmakers.

That is courage that has yet to solidify under the dome at 23rd and Lincoln in Oklahoma City. The question is, what does that mean for queer Oklahomans?

What we have seen this year is a legislature that operates in a constant state of brinksmanship. It is clear that the concept of compromise has been lost on the leadership of both parties at the Capitol.

Legislators would rather “score points” by making hyperbolic statements to TV cameras or on social media posts, rather than doing the hard work of finding agreement among themselves that would serve to better our state and their constituents.

We have seen a willingness to focus on social issues such as reproductive rights, or which restroom an individual is forced to use, rather than concentrating on the real issues facing Oklahoma. There has been an abdication of leadership at every level and a game of political chicken that has finally resulted in a collision that could very possibly take our state into a constitutional crisis of epic magnitude.

Like every other citizen of our state, we, queer Oklahomans, count on core services that many take for granted

• Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our schools are over-crowded

• Our youth have been reduced to four-day school weeks

• Our prisons are busting at the seams with non-violent offenders

• Our citizens rank at the bottom of all health statistics

• Our teachers and state employees have not had raises in their pay in years and are actually making less money than they did a decade ago when adjusted for inflation

These are issues that affect each and every Oklahoman. But when you truly look at the services and departments facing steep budget cuts, you find our community is disproportionately impacted. Why you ask? That is a great question.

Some of the steepest cuts faced if a budget compromise is not reached are those in the field of mental health. Cuts as deep as $75 million could be imminent. LGBTQ individuals are not genetically predisposed to mental illness any more than anyone else.

However, factors arising from prejudice and stigma greatly increase rates of depression, self-harm, suicide, substance abuse and all the other indicators that are a part of the mental health crisis facing Oklahoma and the nation.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, “minority stress” disparities in the LGBTQ community stem from a variety of factors including social stigma, discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, abuse, harassment, victimization, social exclusion and family rejection. This means that LGBTQ folks are three times more likely to commit suicide.

An estimated 38 – 65 percent of our community face suicidal thoughts. An estimated 20 – 30 percent of our community has issues with substance abuse, as opposed to nine percent of the general population. The statistics go on and on.

The bottom line being that while the ineptitude of our lawmakers has created a crisis for everyone in our state, it has created a particularly dangerous situation for us. We must be vigilant in advocating for our community in stopping further erosion of the core services that have already been cut to the marrow.

Copyright The Gayly – December 4, 2017 @ 9:20 a.m. CST.