Global War Against the Rights of Gay People
While it is easy to become blinded to the larger world wide struggle for LGBT rights given the fact that many of us feel as if we are fighting a never ending war in both our home states (e.g., anti-gay Virginia, North Carolina were hate groups are pushing for an anti-gay constitutional amendment, and other states) and America. But sadly, despite our third or fourth class citizen status, those of us in the USA have it good compared to many in other parts of the world such as in Islamic nations and in Africa where American Christianists have been working in overdrive to export anti-gay hate and bigotry to the uneducated and easily deceived. Johann Hari an award-winning journalist who writes twice-weekly for the Independent, one of Britain's leading newspapers, and the Huffington Post, wrote a column with Elton John a while back that sums up just how bad things are in many parts of the world where things are going from bad to worse. As always, religion is the underlying poison that fuels the hate and violence. Here are some column highlights:
There has been a strange hole in Western gay politics — until now. We have, understandably, been focused on our own national battles for dignity: to get married, and not get fired for being gay, or bullied into despair as teenagers. But while we were starting to win, millions of gay people were starting to lose — and lose badly. There are seven countries where the punishment for homosexuality is death, and the number is growing. In dozens more, gay people are being terrorized into the closet, or a prison cell, or the hands of a lynch mob, today, now. To pluck one example at random, this summer, a senior official in Ghana ordered gays and lesbians “rounded up”, and announced: “All efforts are being made to get rid of these people.” Imagine a thousand Matthew Shephards, lynched with the approval of the state.
In every human society ever recorded, some people — around 3 to 5 percent — have been sexually drawn to their own gender. It is as universal and as harmless a quirk as left-handedness. Yet somewhere along the way, a whole cluster of fears and paranoias furred around homosexuality. There were myths that gay people were subversives or pedophiles or enemies of an invisible deity. For a long time, these myths killed gay men and women in our societies — and now they are killing people just like us in swelling numbers abroad.
Among some people, there is an unspoken assumption that gay equality inches forward of its own accord — but in many countries, the situation is dramatically deteriorating for gay people. In Uganda, to name just one, there has been an attempt to reimpose the death penalty that has not yet been conclusively defeated. Campaigners on the ground warn that if the international pressure lets up, it will be reintroduced into parliament very quickly, and pass.
This doesn’t have to happen. None of this is fixed by nature. It’s patronizing and false to claim that poor countries are inevitably homophobic: in 2007, Nepal – a bitterly poor country — introduced binding legal protections for gay people. It’s equally patronizing to think that intensely religious countries are inevitably homophobic. Argentina is highly Catholic, but has legalized gay marriage.
The big human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have done some incredibly valuable work on individual countries, but nobody is even compiling a list of who across the world is in prison or designated for death just for being gay. What are their names? What are their stories? What support do they want?
A remarkable group called Kaleidoscope has been set up in London, with global reach and a simple goal. Any gay person running for her life, or any gay group banding together to be treated like a human being, will be given the support they need, in the way they want it.
But so far, most of the pressure flowing from the US and Europe has been in the other direction — supporting the murderous homophobes. A battalion of US evangelicals flooded Uganda prior to the move to reintroduce the death penalty for homosexuality, announcing that homosexuality can be “cured”, and gays were determined to recruit African children. For example, the Atlantic Monthly has revealed that one of Michele Bachmann’s closest advisors, Peter Waldron, is a close personal friend of the man who most aggressively promoted the bill to hunt down and kill all of Uganda’s gays.
Yet Bachmann’s advisor has not done anything to distance himself from this crazed hatred. On the contrary: we now know that Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, teaches and preaches the central idea behind the movements to hunt down gay people across the world: that homosexuality is a choice, and so gay people who persist with their sexuality are being willfully deviant.
There is a global war going on against the right of an entire group to fall in love. The US hard right is aiding the side of the persecutors and bigots. We need to aid the side of the people who want to live and love. That is the goal of Kaleidoscope.
This doesn’t have to happen ever again. . . . . if Kaleidoscope attracts the support they deserve, we believe we will live to see the day when gay people are able to embrace openly on the streets of Kampala and Kingston and Kandahar. Grab your jacket and your instinct for justice — the global Stonewall riot has begun.
For local readers not in the know, the Elton John Foundation has provided funding for the long needed LGBT Center in Norfolk. Until the horrors propelled by religion are defeated, we all must continue the fight and give out time, talent and treasure to opposing anti-gay evil. Donate to Kaleidoscope here.