Sobering News and Things to Do

A little over a week ago I saw the film Milk right on the heels of seeing the documentary Chasing the Devil in the Ex-Gay Movie. It may sound blasphemous, but I didn’t like the Milk film that much. A few years back I had seen the tremendously powerful documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (now available for free at Hulu) with all the archival footage and in depth narration they provide, and wept my eyes out over the wonder of such a liberated man as Harvey Milk and the tragedy of his assassination.

In the recent film when Harvey Milk and the activists of his day overcame the odds to defeat a California proposition to ban gay and lesbian teachers from the school system, I felt shock that in 2008 a California ballot initiative passed to remove rights from gays and lesbians (and bisexuals and transgender people who married or wish to marry someone of the same gender).  The opposition to the transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay people is very real and pervasive.

Over at the blog, gay persons of color, I read,

Almost 20% of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Ireland have attempted suicide according to research published this week.

That’s one in five. The blogger links to an Irish Times article which appeared yesterday which reports on a study published by the minister of health. The Supporting LGBT Lives: A Study of the Mental Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People,

clearly shows, according to its authors, “the negative effects of stigmatisation, harassment and discrimination – what is termed ‘minority stress’ – on LGBT people”.

Some 80 per cent of respondents said they had been verbally abused because of their sexual identity and 58 per cent had been bullied in school.

As well as the vast majority having been verbally abused, 40 per cent of respondents had been threatened with physical violence and 25 per cent had been punched, kicked or beaten.

I remember years ago when I first heard about the legal and social harassment and oppression of Christians in Communist countries, and how my heart ached for my brothers and sisters being crushed because of their faith. I continue to feel  concern for oppressed people of faith around the world some LGBT and many people simply because they are LGBT often perpetuated based on a religous bias.  Bullying, harassment, verbal and physical violence are wrong and need to be addressed by law makers, administrators, community leaders, ministers and concerned citizens.

In Malaysia, Yuki Choe blogs about a Transgender Woman Found Dead With Neck Stab Wound. Yuki points out that the New Strait Times demonstrated a lack of professionalism and in my opinion a lack of common decency and respect, by constantly referring to the female identified victim as male. (Sadly something I see even gay and lesbians do when referring to transgender people).

Yuki writes,

I feel uncomfortable, and realize how disturbing it is to install a new entry to the Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2009. But such murders must be exposed for the world to see the bigotry and hatred manifesting itself into such violence. There is a need to continue working on the protection and security for transgenders and gender-non conforming individuals in Malaysia, and worldwide. May this victim rest is peace. We will remember.

Yesterday on the National Public Radio segment, Tell Me More, two women give their reflections about the brutal rape of a lesbian woman in Richmond, CA last month. (hat tip Metro Weekly)

Jenelle Forde, an elementary school teacher in Washinton, DC says,

It makes me very frightened because homophobia — like racism, like sexism — it’s grounded in irrationalism….. Just recently, I was on the subway here in Washington, DC, and a group of young, African-American men, they were yelling derogatory statements toward me. I am an African-American woman and, in appearance, I have very short hair, but I think it’s still quite easy to tell I am female. And these young men, they apparently made the assumption that I was lesbian and the company I had was my partner, and they took great offense to that. They looked at me and judged me to be lesbian and decided to schpeel very negative, hurtful statements toward me….

I think I would like for many of us to do away with the misconceived notion that because people of color have a history of oppression, we should naturally be relievers or curers of other people’s pain…. [Because] young people of this generation, my generation, are progressive thinkers that naturally we will act when needed to. I think it’s just not enough to be a progressive thinker, but it also takes courage. I know when I experienced, what I shared earlier on the subway, not too many people said anything at all. And it was something that was ignored, even though, I’m sure, that in Washington, DC, most people would object to such statements that I heard….’

I hear sobering news from Vancouver, British Columbia, where a gay man was recently bashed in the streets. I hear sobering news from South Africa where there is a growing anti-gay religious movement that seeks to roll-back the legal rights of LGBT people and where there has been extreme violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

How do we respond to all this sobering news? One thing is to acknowledge it, to talk about it, to blog about it, to let ourselves and others know about it. And although it may seem counter-intuitive to people gripped with fear about rejection and homophobia, we need to live our lives openly without apology and without shame. Yes, there are some for whom the risk is too great, but most of us find that the greatest obstacle to coming out is internal.

It is not OUR FAULT that some people in the world treat us inhumanly. People who speak out against LGBT rights and who demonize our love and our sexuality contribute to this atmosphere of hatred and violence. People who are inwardly LGBT-affirming who may say nothing negative about us OR anything positive also contribute.

We are not powerless victims. Transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, same-gender loving, queer people do much to counter the disrespect, ignorance, misinformation and oppression by living openly, confidently. This of course is not a talisman against violence, as we sadly have seen by the recent victims, but it is an important part in challenging the oppression and turning society around.

Check out the Tell3 campaign which encourages us to tell three people what it’s like for you and your loved ones to be LGBT. (hat tip Good As You)

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This post has 2 Comments

  1. Vincent Cervantes on February 3, 2009 at 4:41 pm Reply

    You are certainly right, we are not helpless or powerless!! I feel so discouraged sometimes when I read these stories of LGBTQ folk being beaten or even killed. I can’t help but ask at times, “Am I next?” But we can’t let that fear be put into us. Instead I need to constantly remind myself that hopefully the more I share my story there won’t be a “next.”

  2. The Muser on February 4, 2009 at 3:13 am Reply

    Thank you so much for your reminder about the power (and risk) of simply living authentically, affirming the goodness of who we as we live it out. Amen.

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