On this IDAHOT (The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) we find ourselves in very strange and troubling times for LGBT rights. In some places we’ve seen anti-discrimination policies advance and marriage equality has become law but in many other places LGBT people still endure violence and persecution. Atrocities are perpetrated against the LGBT community while the whole world watches. It’s homophobia and transphobia that allow government and religious authorities to act as if LGBT lives have no value. Now more than ever we must resist. We must defend LGBT people everywhere and we must advance the simple yet audacious notion that our lives matter.
Horrifying reports continue come to out of Chechnya about the violence and persecution that gay men are enduring there. Gay men are being arrested and held in prison camps where they are being tortured and some have been killed. Gay men there are scared and desperate with few resources to leave or defend themselves.
The events in Chechnya are disturbing, despicable, and a gross violation of human rights. Unfortunately they’re not surprising. Chechya isn’t that only place gays face imprisonment, violence, and death at the hands of the government. Egypt, Indonesia, and Iran are some recent examples but they aren’t the only ones. There are scores of countries that treat queer people as less that human.
The first step towards dehumanizing a community is criminalization. Homosexuality is criminalized in 72 different countries around the globe. Decriminalization has to be a top priority for our communities. We must do all we can to support the brave struggle of those working on the ground in those countries while also calling on international authorizes to apply pressure to governments.
Criminalization is not the only problem. There doesn’t have to be a law against homosexuality for gays to face violence and imprisonment. Sometimes it occurs at the hands of the government or police. Other times opportunistic thugs view gay men as easy targets for blackmail or violence. And other times individuals express their hate through violence, such as the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Everywhere we turn governments, media, and religious institutions perpetuate the idea that LGBT lives have no value. The organized violence in Chechnya is the most obvious and egregious example but we see it everywhere. LGBT activists around the globe face violence and murder, such as the killings of activist in Bangladesh. Trans women continue to be murdered in the U. S and around the globe while the main concern of lawmakers are absurd bathroom bills. In Indonesia gay men are arrested and forces to submit to HIV tests. In the U.K. PrEP was seen as an expensive “lifestyle drug” instead of a game changing medication that could save gay men’s lives.
What are some things we can do?
The Russian LGBT Network is working to help get men evacuated from the region. But evacuating gay men from a large city is an impossible task. They have the support of international organizations like ILGA but if you are able to make a donation that always helps. Take your anger and frustration to the streets in a protest as a demonstration of solidarity. Help keep this story in the media because the experiences of these men must be shared and their voices must be heard.
Accurately count gay men:
When Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov was asked about the torture and killings, his spokesman’s response was, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.” To render gay men invisible is to deny their humanity. We must do a better job of counting gay men. The U.N. has comprised population estimate of men who have sex with men (MSM) and they are available in this user-friendly atlas. But even a cursory glance will reveal that the numbers seem implausible and inaccurate.
For example, does anyone actually believe that there are only 22,000 gay men in all of Cambodia, or 330,000 in all of France? Those are the official UN numbers help determine resources and priorities, and are a way to hold leaders accountable when they claim gays don’t exist. We must utilize new technologies and all options at our disposal to count gay men because gay men are worth the investment.
Support activists in Taiwan as they struggle to make history and be the first country in Asia to recognize marriage equality. Take part in the #WeAreOne campaign and share in your social networks and demonstrate to the world how we can work together to fight for equality.
Be out and speak out.
If you are lucky enough to be an out LGBT person you can take coming out a step further by speaking out. It used to be enough to disrupt the safety of our everyday lives by declaring our sexuality or identity. Now we must not only advance the value of our own lives but also the lives of our entire community, particularly those that can’t come out or speak out because of violence and persecution.
When LGBT people affirmatively declare who we are it’s a demonstration of our resilience and determination in the face of inhumane actions. In a world that continues to criminalize and brutalize us, speaking out as an open and proud LGBT person is a declaration of our humanity. Our lives matter and there is strength when we come together as one. #WeAreOne