Looking at news involving the LGBTQ community in the past few weeks is heartbreaking. Most of the articles we see are concerning hate crimes, the victimization of LGBTQ individuals, and the general distaste the world seems to have towards us.
The New York Times’ recent piece joking that Trump and Putin are gay is a prime example, using homophobia as grounds for making fun of individuals. This isn’t new; these jokes have been around since the election as a topic for protest art and late-night host shows. The only thing that is seen as humorous about these jokes is the simple fact that a relationship between two men is seen as “laughable” and even demeaning, portraying gay men as being more effeminate and even less capable than straight men. These jokes are simply society using blatant homophobia to mock queer culture, a big middle finger in our faces, and the writers using “it’s just a joke” as justification.
Worse than the cultural jokes about queer society is the violence faced every day by members of our community.
In America, the rise of Trump has also shown an increase in people being unafraid to express their hatred. A Trump supporter in Florida was illegally picketing outside of a neighbor’s house with a sign saying “a gay asian with AIDS who hates fireworks and America lives here,” all because his neighbor put up anti-Trump signs on his lawn.
A same-sex couple being repeatedly harassed and threatened by neighbors, a second-degree misdemeanor in Oregon, were denied help form police, who stated it wasn’t a hate crime since the men “couldn’t have known they were lesbian.” A teenager was arrested near Boston for locking a gay man in a church bathroom for four days and repeatedly beating him, shouting homophobic slurs. His family and lawyer state he is the victim, because he was “suggested things against his nature” by the man who was beat.
And outside of the country, the flame of hatred rages on. A straight teenager bashed in the window and broke the sign of the iconic Stonewall Inn with a baseball bat after being kicked out. Despite his mother’s allegations that he is a quiet kid who doesn’t seek out trouble, he has been arrested before on charges of assault, criminal impersonation, and robbery.
A survivor of the Chechen Gay Purge who fled to Russia from a concentration camp, Zelimkhan Akhmadov, was recently abducted by his father while taking out the trash at a safe house. He was able to text for help to the Russian LGBT Network, the organization which had assisted him in finding refuge after escaping Chechnya, a region of Russia. Luckily, both him and his father were recovered by police, and Akhmadov has been put in protective custody. Akhmadov was one of the many of LGBTQ men taken and tortured by Chechen authorities.
After escaping, he was put on a wanted list, and has been in hiding for over a year. There have apparently already been five attempts to abduct him before this. The Russian LGBT Network states this kidnapping only proves what the government has been denying, and refusing to take action about. The report states “…this attempt of abduction disproves the official position of the Russian authorities, which repeatedly states that there are “no gay people in Chechnya.” Members of the LGBT community try to flee Chechnya because of the mass campaign against LGBT organized by the local authorities, but it is not enough. Chechen individuals suspected in homosexuality are persecuted outside of the Republic, too. The Russian LGBT Network registered five cases of such abductions, as a result of which five people were taken back to Chechnya by force. It means that the Russian authorities cannot or do not want to protect the Russian citizens, not only in Chechnya, but also outside of Chechnya.
The Russian authorities turn blind eyes on what is happening in Chechnya and refuse to open criminal proceedings for systematic mass detentions, tortures and killings of people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity in 2017. The Russian LGBT Network defines persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya as a crime against humanity and demands an open and transparent investigation.”
According to the Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, over 200 men have been taken, and about 26 killed, in these concentration camps. Chechen families have been encouraged to turn in their children or even engage in “honor killings.”
Living in a world that is hostile and violent towards us, seeing our community constantly being attacked, how are we to not dwell on the darkness? We have to remember that while all this is happening, there are still a few people taking steps in the right direction and helping our community.
Senator Edward Markey and Representative Joe Kennedy earlier this month introduced the Gay and Trans Prohibition Act of 2018, which proposes to end the panic legal defenses concerning gay and trans individuals that are used in court. They are defined in the bill: “gay and trans panic defenses characterize sexual orientation and gender identity as objectively reasonable excuses for loss of self-control, and thereby illegitimately mitigates the responsibility of a perpetrator for harm done to LGBT individuals.” These defenses are still allowed in federal courts currently. The bill argues that such defenses “completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim is provocation enough for the violent reaction of the defendant.”
On July 10, India’s most influential court began to hear challenges to a law that has banned gay sex from the time they were still a colony of England. This law is rarely enforced, but often used to threaten citizens. Lawyers and petitioners say these old British values are outdated, and values have changed over the years. There is a real chance that the LGBTQ community in India will actually overturn this law.
Despite being surrounded on all sides by bad news and persecution, we have to remember to look towards the future and push for change. We have to have hope, and use that hope to inspire others who desperately need it.
“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you… And you.. .And you… Gotta give ’em hope.” –Harvey Milk