The globalization of gay bashing

Anything But Straight

by Wayne Besen    
Published: May 2, 2009 in Anything But Straight, Opinion

The latest alleged anti-gay terrorism in Iraq is gluing shut the anuses of homosexuals, while forcing the victims to ingest a form of Ex-Lax. The special glue can only be removed by surgery — thus often leading to a painful death.

It is challenging to know if such information is accurate. But, confirming the latest form of torture is beside the point, really. What we do know is that the news from overseas is rarely encouraging.

For example, in March “tens of thousands” of people from Burundi demonstrated to outlaw homosexuality. This destitute nation is the kind of place that you may have seen in late night infomercials where flies buzz around the lips of starving children. Eighty percent of Burundi’s population lives in poverty. Famines and food shortages have occurred and the World Food Program reports that 56.8 percent of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Yet, the good citizens of Burundi have time to chant and hold signs demanding the imprisonment of homosexuals.

Back to Iraq — our tax dollars are now overseeing the wanton murder of gay Iraqis. The New York Times reported this month that “the bodies of 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City…”

In Nigeria, lawmakers are debating a bill that would imprison gay people who live together and jail anyone who doesn’t rat out the gay couples. In July 2008, London’s Independent wrote a story about a 26-year-old gay man in Turkey, Ahmet Yildiz, saying that his own family may have killed him. “They wanted him to see a doctor who could cure him, and get married,” a friend explained.

Box Turtle Bulletin reported that a Ugandan newspaper published an article under the banner headline, “Top Homos In Uganda Named.” This outrage — that jeopardizes the lives of gay people — follows a recent anti-gay conference in Uganda featuring a board member from the American “ex-gay” organization Exodus International.

In Moscow, mayor Yuri Luzhkov has rejected calls for a gay pride march to be held during an upcoming European music festival. He has called pride parades “gay propaganda” and “satanic acts,” according to The New York Times.

What we are seeing in front of our eyes is the globalization of gay bashing. The U.S. has exported marketing techniques and church structures to culturally homophobic countries. The sexual minorities caught in these nations do not have the same freedoms that we enjoy in the west, so they can’t fight back. They are essentially voiceless and fearful — allowing insidious myths and stereotypes to go unchallenged. With gay people effectively demonized and hatred promoted by civic and religious leaders, hysteria on gay issues ensues.

“U.S. religious right sponsored programs blossomed under the Bush administration,” explained Christina Engela of the LGBT group SA Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SAGLAAD) in South Africa, noting the rise of such groups in her country. “Suddenly these people are using us as scapegoats to unite and build their power bases.”

Unfortunately, the LGBT community is not currently up to meeting the new global challenges. Passive and overly cautious bureaucrats staff some of our leading human rights organizations. They are good at reporting violence, but not very effective at countering it.

Even more disturbing, they sometimes serve as apologists in the name of cultural and religious sensitivity. Exhibit A is Scott Long, director of the LGBT program at Human Rights Watch. In the publication “Contemporary Politics” he lashed out at some of the world’s top gay activists and chided them for demanding that Muslims actually respect the right of LGBT people to exist.

“The incessant insistence that Muslim communities accede to the political agenda of LGBT identities actually forecloses politics altogether,” Long wrote. “It fences off the arena of shared interests…”
So, in other words, LGBT people should put their human rights on the backburner to assuage the grievances of religious people. We should also not act on our own behalf until all of the world’s problems are solved.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of LGBT activists who will no longer allow culture, history or religion to be employed as a rationalization for homophobia. We do not believe that a state’s sovereignty enables it to brutalize and marginalize gay people within its borders.

The world is shrinking even faster than our community’s leadership on global issues. It is time for groups, such as Human Rights Watch, to show us their comprehensive strategy for creating a new paradigm. The bloody status quo has brought us few victories and an abundance of ruddy reports that shock the senses. Many of us are tired of the elitist sophistry that tells us the world is too sophisticated to take action.

In the absence of leadership, there are those who will fill the vacuum — as some of us have done in our efforts to boycott Jamaica. But, the tired excuses from human rights groups have got to end. An unmistakable message must be sent that there is a steep price to pay for homophobia.