The journalists came from Asia, Central and South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. Some were obviously and openly gay, some weren’t. They worked for a variety of media, both mainstream and LGBT.
The journalists met with government officials, members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, members of the LGBT press and LGBT community leaders.
In Philadelphia, PGN participated in a roundtable discussion with nonprofit and city leaders, sharing how the city policies protect LGBTs, how activists have affected change over the years and what’s still left to be done.
One journalist from Uganda — where homosexual activity is illegal — talked about the murder of gay activist David Kato, and asked about the legal differences between a crime and a hate crime. (A crime is still a crime; a hate crime increases the penalty.)
A journalist from Guyana disclosed that police in his country often target transgender people, and asked about relations between police and LGBTs in the U.S. (Much improved over the years, but can still be problematic.)
A woman from Turkey shared a similar concern, noting that in her country too, police are often abusers.
The visit was both heartening and heartbreaking.
The Secretary of State has certainly demonstrated her commitment to and leadership on LGBT rights, advocating for increased protections even when full equality has not yet been reached in the U.S.
Likewise, the journalists who participated demonstrated great courage and commitment to equal rights: If their governments, societies and families are homophobic, what danger have they put themselves in by taking this trip?
In many ways, the LGBT-rights movements in their countries are where the movement was in the U.S. in the 1960s and ’70s. (Some are better, some far worse.) Protections are few and far between, if they exist at all. Governments, religious officials and families respond with violence and hate, trying to ban same-sex relations and mete out punishment for what they consider to be crimes. LGBTs are shunned, prosecuted and persecuted.
And yet there are those who resist. Those who stand up and challenge the violence, who expose it and tell the stories of discrimination.
Though they may have come here for insight, to learn from our collective experience, they too are to be commended for continuing the fight for justice and equality.