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Earth to American
queers: Wake up

Earth to American
queers: Wake up


Iraqi death squads targeting suspected homosexuals, raids and roundups in Egypt, executions in Iran, political show trials in Zimbabwe, antigay riots in Poland and Russia, the murder and mutilation of a gay activist in Jamaica. American queers still suffer from oppression, but few of us face the mortal danger that our brothers and sisters do in much of the world.

Ancient sexual biases are now front and center in many societies. And the association between LGBT rights and secular humanism has made homophobia a rallying cry for fundamentalists of all religious persuasions. Even some democratic nations, from Eastern Europe to the West Indies, are subject to violent antigay outbursts, and governments there tolerate--even embrace--this backlash because it makes them seem righteous in voters' eyes. The result is a state of emergency for gay people around the world.

Yet the American media rarely notice these outrages. Although the State Department recently scolded several nations for their treatment of gays, no American official has tried to do something about it. In fact, early this year the United States voted with Iran and Zimbabwe to block the International Lesbian and Gay Association and a second gay rights watchdog group from becoming U.N. consultants.

We do have allies. The European Union has acted aggressively against homophobia in member states. Pressure from the E.U. forced Poland's conservative government to stop raiding gay clubs and banning gay parades.

This magazine is an important source of information, as is the dedicated reporting of journalist Doug Ireland. And Amnesty International has spoken out against homophobia. But the murder and repression continue. We read about it, shake our heads, and go on with our lives.

Few of us feel solidarity with the queer in Iraq who brings food to his friends because they're afraid to leave the house or the Jamaican activists driven from their homes by thugs who get off scot-free. We don't see ourselves as a global people with a stake in each other's well-being.

What a loss this provincialism is, not just for those in danger abroad but for Americans who will never know the joys of community on a worldwide scale. Imagine what queer life would be like if there were real international communication, if tourism meant more than partying in exotic locales, if we learned about the various ways queerness is constituted in different cultures. We'd be richer, and other gay people would be safer.

When America acts, the world listens (for better or worse). But in order for our government to move, there must be a strong consensus that violence against LGBT people anywhere is intolerable--and that will happen only when we force the issue. If we don't stick up for our brothers and sisters, who will?

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Richard Goldstein