Another Point of View
PLANETROMEO knows a thing or two about dating, and about the gay community, but we’re really interested in hearing other points of view too. We decided to hand our blog over to guest writers from time to time. What are their interests and passions? Where do they spend their time and what do they enjoy doing? So let’s hear another point of view.
Over to you – Nish Gera
Bio – Our first contributor is, Nish Gera, a writer and filmmaker based in Brussels. He is the screenwriter and director of the award-winning short film Scar Tissue, released earlier this year. When not busy making films, Nish also contributes to the Huffington Post. The talented Mr. Gera was born in India and lived for a while in New York City. You can follow Nish on Twitter @nishgera.
Pride and Prejudice
Christopher Street and 6th Avenue, New York City, June, 2005. Throngs of sweaty shirtless men dancing on open trucks. The drums of a Brazilian samba band making the crowd go wild. Toddlers waving rainbow flags, perched on the shoulders of proud parents.
I am twenty-four, and watching the pride parade in New York City. With my mother. She is visiting from India, where she lives, and has never seen anything like that in her life.
This was then. I wasn’t out to her yet and she thought we were watching just another scintillating spectacle that the big city offers, comfortably oblivious to what the parade was for, or what being gay meant, or what homophobia was, for that matter.
“These people must be really happy!”, she said, her face mirroring the sea of joy in front of her. I wanted to quote the writer Cheryl Strayed, and explain to her how this was “an explosion of love that has its roots in hate.” I didn’t.
Every year in the summer, this explosion of love takes over tens of cities across the world. We celebrate our hard-won freedoms. We celebrate difference. The right to be who we are. The right to love who we love. We celebrate the glorious mess that human sexuality, gender and our bodies are. At least momentarily free of those cages that have defined us, and hence confined us, for almost all human history.
Looking over the arc of the history of our civilization, it feels like we won these freedoms about three minutes ago. It is undisputed now that the gay rights movement has been one of the fastest (but in no way easiest) progressing civil rights struggles in modern history.
Gay couples can marry in the US and many countries in Europe, something that seemed unthinkable less than a decade ago. Catholic Ireland has its first openly gay Prime Minister. Same for Serbia. Belgium has already had a Prime Minister who was openly gay.*
Even my Indian mother calls up my partner at odd hours of the day or night now, lovingly indifferent to the time difference between the countries we live in!
But then, there are differences – and distances – that traveling through time zones or over oceans cannot bridge.
When we march down 5th Avenue in NYC, or dance in Plaza de España in Madrid, or join that ecstatic parade of boats on the Amstel in Amsterdam, it’s sometimes easy to forget that even though these streets might be covered in rainbow-colored confetti, a majority of the world’s people live in countries where being gay is not only difficult, it’s often fatal.
To be precise, about half of the world’s population live in countries where homosexuality is either illegal or punishable by death. This does not include countries which are neutral on the subject, meaning they offer no protections, but being gay doesn’t make you a criminal either.
LGBT relationships are illegal in 74 countries. Being gay carries the death penalty in 13 countries and 40 countries still retain a “gay panic” clause which enables people to commit crimes such as assault or murder and get away with them. It works something like this, in a court of law: You look gay! It made me panic, so I hit you! End of discussion.
In other words, over three billion people in the world live in countries where it is dangerous to live openly as a gay person (with the usual 5-10% of the population as LGBT – do the math!) Not only do these scores of millions of people live in constant fear, they are, much more often than is reported, the target of unimaginable violence.
As we celebrate our hard-won freedoms, let us remember that these freedoms are not only new, but can also be easily lost.
As we wave those rainbow flags this pride season, let us remember that there are people, just like us, being taken to camps in Chechnya and tortured, or being flogged publicly in Indonesia, or being thrown off rooftops in Iraq and Syria.
Or, as is the case for millions of others, living in cages of silence and secrecy.
We must remember that living apolitically is a privilege we may have access to in the West. A privilege that we can acknowledge, but one that we must never exercise. In fact, living apolitically is no longer a morally neutral act. I doubt that it ever was. How we live, how we vote, what we buy, and how we protest are all laden with the politics of who we are and who we love. And it will remain so for a long time to come.
In the words of J.K. Rowling, “Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters; for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it through our own apathy.”
Look at how far we have come, in how little time. Here in the West, we have brought our community, through countless individual battles, to a position of power and to a position of great responsibility towards those whose voices are still unheard. The war isn’t over yet, there are many battles still to be won, even here.
With the victories we have had recently, it’s sometimes easy to look at the world with rainbow-tinted glasses. To take the Politics out of Pride. And think that we have won the war. But for those millions of people around the world, many who don’t know that there is light at the end of their very long tunnel, let’s do something, however small, to make that tunnel less dark.
And maybe, just maybe, there might be a rainbow at the end, even for them.
Make Your Voice Heard
If you would like to write a piece on gay culture, send your proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoyed this story? Then you’ll love this one.
Be sure to check out our Travel with Pride piece too.
We’re introducing a new chapter to our blog page; it’s a chance for you to have your voice heard as a personal opinion piece, and to read other points of view. We’re happy to present some open editorials here to stimulate thought or initiate a conversation, but just because we share something, doesn’t always mean we agree with it. More that we think it’s worth thinking about. Topics like gay culture, food, fashion, sport, music, human rights, dating, sex, and anything else you get up to, that’s what we’re looking for.