As I was writing a column about seniors and LGBT poverty, Kevin Jennings, a longtime gay activist and friend, wrote me the following: “The grinches who stole Christmas in India, Uganda and Nigeria . ..”
Wow, he’s right. We in the West have a wealth of rights that we have achieved over the last four decades, but in other parts of the world they are facing everything from jail time to death just for being out, or for even bringing up the subject and/or word “gay” itself.
We are so busy with topics like marriage equality, nondiscrimination and gays in the military that we might not have noticed that people in those three countries are doing hard time. And it is even worse in other countries. Gangs go around Iraq and Afghanistan looking for gay men and killing them. Iran and other hard-line Muslim countries have publicly hanged gay men. And in South Africa, a country that has gay rights written into its constitution, raping lesbians is almost a public sport.
We need to open our eyes to what is happening in the world. We cannot turn our backs and just say, “Not my area of concern.” If it is not dealt with, it can spread and, believe it or not, it can be changed. There is one word that describes how it is done: education. Our struggle since day one was based on coming out of the closet and getting non-gays to see that we were not equivalent with the propaganda of evil that some had bought. And if you don’t think that is possible, know your LGBT history. Right here in the United States, before 1969, LGBT people were tossed in jail. In some cases they were legally tortured, yes, with sentences handed down by judges. Some were actually lobotomized. Then there are the Metropolitan Community Churches that were burned and their pastors hung.
So, it’s time we share the success story of the United States and how we accomplished change, since these countries are back in 1950. We can make a change, since we already know how. The only decision is what resources and what time do we take away from our struggles here.
Merry Christmas. LGBT people are dying. What will we do to make it a better Christmas next year for them?
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at [email protected].