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Desmond Tutu: A Rock Star for Equal Rights

Desmond Tutu: A Rock Star for Equal Rights

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Both men say they were deeply moved by President Obama’s recent statements endorsing marriage equality. “My heart leapt,” Taylor says. “To have the president of the United States of America say that was just phenomenal.”

They recognize that much work has to be done before LGBT people enjoy full equality in the USA or elsewhere in the world. Post-apartheid South Africa has a progressive constitution enshrining gay people’s rights, and it also has marriage equality, but the nation still sees hate crimes against LGBT citizens, such as the practice of raping lesbians ostensibly to turn them straight. And some countries, in Africa and other parts of the world, give government sanction to discrimination and violence.

A key to fighting these outrages, Taylor notes, is for international leaders to speak out against them and support those working in each nation to improve the situation. He lauds Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s address last year on LGBT rights to the United Nations’ human rights group, calling it “a defining moment in the history of human rights.”

On the individual level, he adds, LGBT people can advance the cause by sharing their stories and being their authentic selves, forging connections even with those not inclined toward acceptance. “When you start to tell these stories, you engage people differently,” says Taylor, who discusses this topic and others in his new book, A New Way to Be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive, to which Tutu wrote the introduction.

While recognizing that the day of full equality is some distance off, the two men believe that day will come. Martin Luther King, Taylor notes, said the arc of the universe bends toward justice; Taylor says it also bends toward inclusion.

Tutu maintains his hope that the world will change in other ways as well: that one day all children will have safe drinking water, that weapons development will take a back seat to human needs, that climate change will be addressed effectively. “There’s only one world,” he says. “Destroy that and we’re done for.”

In the face of all these challenges, he says, he takes inspiration from young people. “I think young people are my addiction,” he says. “I get a high when I’m with them. For the most part they are idealistic. … Young people are saying, ‘Hey, what kind of a world are you going to leave us?’”

Although he doesn’t say so, they undoubtedly recognize that Tutu has done more than most to leave the world better than he found it. He’s a rock star with a platinum record on social justice.


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