I want to share a story from the front lines that puts in sharp relief the challenges LGBTI people continually face.
IGLHRC’s Africa program coordinator, Shehnilla Mohamed, traveled to New York this month for meetings with diplomats ahead of negotiations for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a critical process that will determine the direction of billions of dollars of development aid.
In a meeting with one ambassador to the UN, she raised “the cost of exclusion”— the fact that LGBT people are turned away from housing, jobs and school due to policies and laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
As Shehnilla discussed brutality and discrimination that LGBTI individuals face, the ambassador listened, then told her: “What you are telling me is a non-issue in my country. It simply never comes up.”
Stunned, Shehnilla offered specific instances of violence as evidence, including murders and rapes. Finally, the minister stopped her and said: “Well, if homosexuals stopped acting gay, then no one would bother them.”
The intent of his chilling comment was clear: LGBTI people should continue to exist in a “cloak of invisibility.” If not, we have only ourselves to blame.
The ambassador’s view is certainly not true of all government officials. But it is widely accepted and underscores what we have been saying all along – that LGBTI people are too often invisible in the eyes of their leaders. In fact, we are considered to be a “non-issue.”
This is the harsh reality that inspires us, with your support, to do all that we can to push for dignity for all.
Jessica Stern Executive Director
P.S. We will celebrate our 25th anniversary on September 28th on a New York Harbor cruise! This year's special A Celebration of Courage gala will be hosted by Alan Cumming, Michael Cerveris, and Billy Porter, with more VIP guests and performers to be announced soon. For more information, visit iglhrc.org/coc2015 or purchase your tickets today.
Published on July 15, 2015 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization