Tuesday, April 21, 2009
by Wayne Besen
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 this week 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 United States 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 GLBT group 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 GLBT 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 GLBT 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 GLBT 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, GLBT 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 GLBT 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.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
by Wayne Besen
It's been a heady couple of weeks for gay activists -- and it keeps getting better. There were twin marriage victories in the unlikely states of Vermont and Iowa -- doubling the number of places where gay people can get hitched. If that wasn't enough, the New York Times reports that New York Gov. David Paterson will unveil plans
this week to introduce marriage equality legislation.
On New York City's Upper West Side, The Jewish Alliance for Change
presented a benefit concert on Monday evening for marriage equality that featured a stunning array of stars. I spoke at the event and followed Linda Lavin -- who played the lead in the television show "Alice." It was exhilarating to be among the Broadway glitz and glamour. Most important, the event encapsulated what the movement has worked decades to achieve: broad mainstream support and cultural acceptance.
Unfortunately, while our movement bathed in the well-deserved spotlight, not everyone felt its warm glow. There are still gay people -- particularly of school age -- who feel the cool sting of homophobia. They are teased, harassed, humiliated and beaten on a daily basis. They enter the schoolyard in sheer terror -- as if it were a prison yard ruled by fearsome gangs.
Teachers -- who are supposed to be in charge -- act no better than prison guards, indifferent to the pain and suffering. The cries of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students often fall on deaf ears. It is a living Hell and one that too often ends in tragedy.
In 1998, I remember an effeminate male student in high school who was teased mercilessly. He was assaulted verbally and physically -- and it got so bad he had to drop out. Teachers who allowed bullies to ruin his life curtailed his right to an education.
Thanks to groups like the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) much has changed. There are many openly gay GLBT students who have uneventful -- if not enjoyable -- high school experiences.
Still, if a student ends up in the wrong school -- it might as well be 1988 (or even 1958). One such student is Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. He was an 11 year-old boy who was taunted by bullies who repeatedly called him gay. On April 6, he hung himself
in his Springfield, Mass. Home.
It is heartbreaking to hear Sirdeaner Walker, Carl's mother, talk about her son's death. She did everything in her power to alert the school and they failed to intervene.
"I have been homeless, but Carl made it through," Walker told ABC News. "I was a victim of domestic violence, and we made it through. The one thing we couldn't get through was public school."
Last week, parents in Ohio sued a high school after their son, who did not claim to be gay, shot himself after bullies clobbered him with anti-gay epithets. This problem is as pervasive as it is perverse. It is an open secret and offhandedly dismissed, as "boys will be boys." Of course, this response comes from the boys actually throwing the slurs and punches and not the victims and their families.
Equally tragic, is that this problem is not considered a major story in the mainstream media. We are treated to countless hours of babbling baloney and blithering buffoonery -- but the preventable suicide by an 11-year old boy is considered an afterthought.
In my view, this tragedy should be on the front page of every newspaper in the nation. Satellite trucks should be parked in front of Ms. Walker's home to address a serious issue that affects far more people than stories about the latest star in rehab.
On Friday, April 17 students across the nation will participate in GLSEN's 13th annual National Day of Silence
, where they will take a one-day vow of silence to shine a light on anti-gay bullying. More than 8,000 schools are expected to participate in this incredible show of solidarity.
Now, if the media will just end its "century of silence" and elevate this issue, we might see less eleven year olds committing suicide.