Op-ed: Russian Gays Aren't the Only LGBTs Suffering

While many of us turn our heads toward Russia, we also turn our backs to the plight of LGBTs in Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and Nigeria.

BY Neal Broverman

July 31 2013 9:50 PM ET

Have you seen those pictures of LGBT Russians getting punched, kicked, and spat on? If so, did you notice how many of them were good-looking? Many of those poor kids, with blood running down tattoos and sleeveless tops, look like they stepped off the platform at the Bedford subway stop in Williamsburg.

These camera-ready young folk have no doubt helped many gays here turn their attention to Russia, currently in the grips of an antigay zealotry that has the government passing laws criminalizing “homosexual propaganda” and threatening the detainment of LGBT visitors. Everyone from Dan Savage to Harvey Fierstein to Cleve Jones are rightfully calling for Americans to help our Russian brothers and sisters, with some advocating boycotts of vodka and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But while gay Russians unquestionably need our help now, there are other LGBT people around the world — where cell phone cameras aren’t as common and faces don’t look as familiar — facing conditions just as frightening as those in Russia.

Take for instance, the gays of Zimbabwe. Just as bars in New York and Los Angeles were pouring their Stolichnaya down the drain, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe called for the decapitation of gay people. Yes, the leader of a nation proudly declared in public that his own citizens should have their heads forcibly removed. This tyrant called us "worse than pigs, goats and birds" and made the following statement:

“If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads. This thing (homosexuality) seeks to destroy our lineage by saying John and John should wed, Maria and Maria should wed... Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice... We will never do that.”

Few Americans realize that Mugabe was pushing his homophobic agenda — which includes stiffer prison sentences for sodomizers — partly because he was facing reelection. That election was held Wednesday, though the American media was too focused on a "Real" housewife getting indicted and the continuing saga of Weinergate (guilty). While Zimbabwe doesn’t export booze favored by Patsy Stone, or really anything that Westerners consume, a boycott is mostly out of the question (not to mention, potentially cruel for a nation suffering with unemployment estimated at 94% in 2009). But it wouldn’t hurt to email your senator and urge a harsh stance on Zimbabwe's homophobia; no rights, no money. Or how about staging a protest? The Zimbabwe embassy in D.C. is on New Hampshire Avenue, a nine-minute walk from Rhode Island Ave., and the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign.

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