*opinions expressed are those of the author.
Logan Libretti – High School Student From Dover, Florida
Iran. Mauritania. Nigeria. Saudi Arabia. What do these nations have in common? Their proximity to the equator? To one another? Nope. Try again. Oh, I know. Is it that same-sex sexual acts are punishable by death? Bingo.
On February 27th, I heard an interview with Jessica Stern, Executive Director of Outright International, on an episode of Crooked Media’s Pod Save the World, and it left a strong impression on me. In it, Stern shared a shocking fact - that around 70 countries across the world criminalize same-sex sexual activity, and many more lack basic recognition and protection for LGBTIQ people. She talked about so-called sodomy laws left over from colonial rule, challenges to LGBTIQ organizing, and the recent horrors in Chechnya where hundreds of (perceived) gay and bisexual men were imprisoned and tortured because of who they love.
Hearing this made me sick to my stomach.
I too have witnessed and experienced people being ostracized and mistreated due to some arbitrary characteristic, and learning about how widespread of a problem this is struck me to my core. I felt a strong urge to do something about it. And so I responded to Jessica’s invitation for those who wish to help to get in touch. In all honesty, I did not expect a response; I have sent emails to campaigns, politicians, and organizations without any answer in the past. Not so this time. Within a few days I received a response, and here I am, writing on OutRight’s blog, telling you why I was compelled to do so, pondering what I, and we, can do.
It is an important question: what can we do? Well, to begin with, we must make ourselves a viable force in global politics. For too long, the LGBTIQ community has been politically disposable. Now, we must be politically undeniable. We must be included in civil rights legislation across the world, mentioned in more than a footnote in international law, and we must be at the forefront of the conversation when discussing human rights violations.
Some nations have offered sanctuary to those fleeing discrimination and persecution, which is wonderful; however, governments must do more. It is not enough to merely help those afraid for their lives; we must be proactive and put forth policy to support people of all sexualities, orientations, religions, races, and genders, because it is not enough to only speak up when the damage has already been done.
It is up to each of us to foment a strong grassroots movement of minorities across the globe to change public opinion and end the stigma against the LGBTIQ community. We must push the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to hold members to a higher standard - a standard which calls for the inclusion and acceptance of everyone. Jessica summarized it best when she said: “you can be a little voice and have a very big impact if you change international laws.”
One thing is clear – this fight will not be easy, nor will it be simple, nor will victory be handed to us. In the face of pushback and adversity, we have to keep going, as “...no cultural change ever happens without LGBTIQ organizations insisting and pushing and trying again and again,” said Jessica. In many countries, LGBTIQ organizations aren’t allowed to register and work. Here we are blessed with that right. And so we must fight for those and our fellow minorities who cannot.
I will do my best to support organizations like OutRight in this important work. If you would like to join me, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on March 15, 2019 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization