IDAHO: A Look Back At A Year of Successes
The past year has been full of successes like the incredibly inspiring “It Gets Better” project and the strides made towards the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” but that doesn’t mean the struggle for justice and equality is over. All over the world the progression of our steps forward is challenged by intolerance and discrimination. In the last couple of days new amendments have been passed to challenge the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while legislation proposed in Uganda makes homosexuality a crime punishable by death. The truth is that Uganda, although in the media’s spotlight, is not the only place in which homosexuality is punishable by death. Worldwide, eight other countries have similar legislation. Even where homosexuality is not punishable by death there are 79 countries in the world where it is classified as a crime. Globally, and in the US, homophobia is still alive and a real threat to justice and equality. It’s for these reasons and more that the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is so important. It is important because it is a global day of solidarity against all forms of discrimination and injustice against all people who are treated unfairly based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
As this day grows and gains worldwide recognition there are events and a global front like never before. Vigils, days of prayer, marches, flash mobs, and actions are planned in countries all over the world from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, to China, Africa, Latin America, Canada, and the United States.
As I look around and think about the importance of this global event I am also careful to understand my role as an American and write this blog with the understanding that although it will have a global reach many of those involved with Soulforce have roots in the United States. It has taken awhile for IDAHO to catch on here and it is with much excitement that more and more organizations in the US are standing in solidarity on this day. In traveling and working internationally with organizations such as IGLYO (The International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Organization) and MCC I know that the work Soulforce does has a special relevance to the conversation of homophobia and transphobia abroad.
Soulforce is working to combat the many religious organizations and leaders in the US that export religious ideals and funding to enforce homophobia and transphobia abroad. Soulforce well understands this link. I know this because of events like the vigil and delivering the petition of over 75,000 signatures to Lou Engle who is the outspoken evangelist working in Uganda as a catalyst for legislation such as that calling for the death penalty of LGBTQ people.
I think so often there is an idea that to have an impact on a global level we have to have the funds and resources to go to Uganda or abroad but that’s just not the case. As Americans we have incredible resources and access to people and organizations like Soulforce, HRC, MCC, and the United Nations locally that we can work with locally that can have a tremendous and sometimes even more effective results abroad.
In one of my Women’s Studies classes a feminist professor and speaker from abroad pleaded that if we wanted to help her country and the exploitation of people in her country then please do but do not come to her country to do it. She went on to explain that visiting her country as tourist, as researchers, or missionaries would do little to help change the reality there and only work to further drain their often limited resources. Likewise, because of the often negative association of “homosexuality” with Westerners it could likely result in a backlash that would even make the situation worse.
In her lecture she went to offer a better solution as she too drew the connections of fundamental evangelicals pouring funds and resources into countries abroad tainted with ideologies of sexism, heterosexism, and religious exclusion. With so many of these organizations based in our own back yard our reach can be far more effective if we work to change the hearts and minds of those people locally funding these missions. Likewise, we have a voice in the United Nations where much work has been done to lobby governments to introduce and sign on to the declarations and resolutions protecting the human rights of individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
So as we all come together with a global movement for the International Day of Homophobia and Transphobia don’t let it end there. Find ways to get involved in your community, get involved and support organizations like Soulforce, MCC, and HRC who are working to change the hearts and minds of the evangelical organizations exporting intolerance abroad and locally, and finally, make every day a day against the harmful effects of homophobia and transphobia by calling it out every time we see it.