Practicing religion leads to imprisonment. So does sodomy. Church and homosexuality go hand-in-handcuffed-hand. That was my reality growing up through the collapse of the Soviet Union. Much has changed since mid-1980s, and the world is objectively quite different now. However, in a bizarre twist of fate, some things remained the same.
As an activist in America today, I see GLBT people and allies regularly driven to civil disobedience in their quest for equality and affirming faith. It seems the struggle of love and law is indeed universal and eternal. And here we are again, for the first time.
Spring is time for renewal, change of perspective, and far-fetched dreams. I am picking up the torch as the keeper of “Faith in Action.” The usual voice behind this column, Haven Herrin, is taking a literary hiatus. (She probably will write me a scathing e-mail for using the pretentious term “literary hiatus” about her.) Full disclaimer: Not only are Haven and I friends, but I, too, work with Soulforce. While we share many philosophical and time commitments, we are quite different. I am a much better cook. She is a far superior artist.
As an International Liaison, I look for ways to support the struggle for gender identity and sexuality affirmation in places beyond the shining seas that separate the United States from the rest of the world.
While we have a long way to go in this country, in Minnesota, and even in the Twin Cities, the current level of legal, cultural, and religious acceptance we enjoy here is almost unfathomable in Russia, much of the Balkans, and the Middle East—insert your own location of concern here.
However, April brought undeniable signs of the proverbial spring everywhere.
An extraordinary Eastern Orthodox priest began conducting affirming Sunday services at a brand-new official GLBT center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. You may want to go to Google Earth to find where that is—to get the full impact of this idea.
Despite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s best efforts to convince the world otherwise, the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) has drawn considerable international attention not only to the mere existence of GLBT people in Iran, but also to the country’s heinous treatment of its minorities.
Just a few weeks ago, IRQO received a Celebration of Courage Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, alongside South Africa’s second-most-iconic figure, Bishop Desmond Tutu. In his remarks, the venerable global spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner compared speaking out against homophobia and all oppression to a natural act of breathing. Talk about a breath of fresh air!
When New Yorkers Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton got married in Canada, they did not expect a political honeymoon in Poland. Yet, there they were, guests of local organization KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia), in Parliament meetings, and at nationally televised rallies, after Polish President Lech Kaczynski illegally broadcast footage of their wedding ceremony as a warning against marriage equality and the homosexual agenda.
Fear-mongers and peddlers of injustice no longer can use our lives as caricatures for their wicked shenanigans. We’re not just here, queer, and getting others used to it—we’re everywhere, together.
While Bishkek, Tehran, or Warsaw are not likely to make OutTraveler Magazine’s list of top 100 tourism destinations soon, globalization just might be the best thing ever to have happened to GLBT people. Even disregarding the impact of multiple online communities, queer folk never have been more connected, more organized, and more our own people than now.
And that gives me Hope—capital H. Yes, it’s still a journey uphill in America. Yes, it’s still against the odds in Eastern Europe. Yes, it’s still against the law in the Middle East. Yet, I can feel freedom in the air this spring. It gets me in the mood for activism wherever I am, until the day when Pride parades empty jails the world over.
Perhaps, with Minnesota’s long winter behind us, I’m just peaking on the upswing of seasonal affective disorder. Perhaps, I’ve seen enough bleakness already to believe anything but eventual celebration for the sake of just getting through the day. Perhaps, I finally have caught the right liberation wavelength.
Now, what do you think? What does your sixth sense tell you? What’s in your prayers? What comes up when you meditate? Where in the world are you?
Tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org.