Nigeria: Nigeria is the most homophobic country in the world, according to a 2013 poll, which found 97 percent of citizens think society should not accept homosexuality. The laws reflect that: Same-sex couples face up to 14 years in prison and even public displays of same-sex affection are illegal.
Uganda: The spotlight has been focused on Kampala recently for its anti-LGBT policies. A law passed this week makes homosexuality punishable by up to life in prison, gay rights activists have been murdered, and gay citizens are widely discriminated against.
Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe has made a crusade out of homophobia – with widespread public approval. Last year, Mugabe threatened to behead gay Zimbabweans and described them as “filth.”
Saudi Arabia: Basing its law, it says, on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, the current Saudi regime has made gay sex punishable by death by the lash. But according to some reports from inside the Kingdom, that doesn’t mean homosexuality isn’t common.
India: Thought of as a highly tolerant society, it came as a surprise earlier this year when the country’s highest court reinstated a colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex. But the decision has been met with protests and the court’s decision is being challenged.
Honduras: There have been a spate of anti-LGBT hate crimes here in recent years. More than 80 LGBT people have been killed in anti-LGBT hate crimes since 2009 and LGBT-rights activist say they are shunned by their families and communities.
Jamaica: Sex between men is illegal, hate crimes are alarmingly common and the government seems reluctant to protect gays from violence. Senegal One of the most anti-gay countries in the world, according to a 2013 Pew poll, which found 96 percent of Senegalese think society should not accept homosexuality, only surpassed by Nigeria at 97 percent. Gay sex is illegal and discrimination is commonplace.
Afghanistan: It may no longer be under the rule of the Taliban (at least in much of the country), but harsh views toward homosexuality still remain. It’s still news when an Afghan comes out as gay, even from Toronto. Yet its male homosexual culture is widespread but rarely commented on.
Iran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s last president, famously told Americans: “We don’t have homosexuals in our country like you do.” His successor, Hassan Rouhani, elected last June, hasn’t made gay rights – or anti-gay legislation – a priority, but it’s already on the books. Homosexuality is illegal in Iran and can even be punishable by death in certain cases.
Lithuania: The Baltic state’s parliament is considering a law similar to Russia’s notorious anti-gay anti-propaganda law. And while homosexuality isn’t illegal, it has many opponents. Last year’s second-ever gay pride parade was interrupted by homophobic protesters.
Sudan: Homosexuality is punishable by death and even attempts at arranging a homosexual act can lead to a prison sentence. The good news is that there have been stirrings in recent years of a pro-LGBT rights movement.
The United States: We have undoubtedly made great strides in LGBT rights in recent years, from same-sex marriage to equality in the military. But Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and several other states have laws on the books that resemble Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws. And anti-LGBT hate crimes remain frighteningly common, especially against transgender people.
Photo: Gay rights activists hold placards during a protest against a verdict by the Supreme Court in New Delhi December 15, 2013. (Photo credit: Adnan Abid/Reuters)
Stunning Photo Exhibition Celebrates Same-Sex Romance Around The World
Here’s one for the romantic in you.
Last year, Braden Summers, a New York-based photographer, set himself an ambitious challenge: to raise $22,000 to travel around the world shooting images documenting same-sex relationships in international communities. The uniqueness of his All Love Is EqualKickstarter campaign helped the crowd-funding drive to quickly go viral, helping him to nail his intended goal.
The project took him from his home in New York to countries as far afield as England, Brazil, South Africa, India and Lebanon. The results are devoid of sex, sensationalism and hype. They are simple, tender and joyous, something Summers wanted to the world outside the LGBT community to experience, as much as the world inside it to take comfort in: “My hope is that not only are my images inspiring romance for the queer community”, he told The Advocate. “But inspiring the acceptance of our romance on a global scale”.
Among others, the project documents a lesbian wedding in traditional Indian saris, a gay marriage proposal on a sun-drenched hill in Rio and a romantic stroll along the Westminster Bridge in the London rain.
“Along the way, I talked with many people about what romance means to them in their respective countries, encountered countless obstacles and received help from some of the most touching and unexpected people I will ever meet”, Summers said. “I was inspired and filled with hope that the resulting imagery will resonate with the public”.
INDIA, MUMBAI : Indian supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community attend the “Pride March” in Mumbai on January 31,
2015. Marchers were demanding India’s Supreme Court reconsider its
verdict of December 11, 2013 which reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay
sex on that could see homosexuals jailed for up to ten years in a major
setback for rights campaigners in the world’s biggest democracy. AFP
PHOTO/ PUNIT PARANJPE
Growing up [in Texas], I’d always say that I wanted to be my sister when I grew up. When you are a 5-year-old “boy,” this [wish] is acceptable. But when you start growing a mustache at 11, things just get more complicated.
This is not your conventional trans narrative. This is not a story about being born in the wrong body. This is the story of being born in the wrong world. This is the story of being told who we are without our consent. This is a story of a gender that refuses to be defined by a body.
This is my story.
In my culture, there was always a space to be gender non-conforming as a kid. I was the dancing diva at every Indian dinner party, belly-dancing to all of the latest Bollywood hits as my aunties cheered me on.
But everything changed when I hit puberty.
Most boys are eager to tell you about the growing pains that become part of their lives when they shave boy and stumble into man. We are told that we are supposed be grateful for our burgeoning manhood, but for some of us, masculinity is nothing more than a form of violence when we realize that it’s not just our bodies that change, it’s society’s expectations of [us].
Suddenly, I was no longer allowed to dance. I was no longer allowed to wear colors. Every action was put under scrutiny. This is why the older boys in high school would roll down their pickup truck windows and tell me to go to hell. This is how I learned to fear myself more than I feared them: to walk around my small town in Texas with the constant paranoia of being bashed if I let myself deviate even a little bit — that dash of color, that flick of a wrist, that sway in my walk.
The thing about gender-policing is that often you learn how to do it better than the people who started to do it to you in the first place. Over time, I learned to apologize for my body. Every time I would hear a recording of my voice I would wince, embarrassed at the tinge of effeminacy, disappointed in my failure to be normal. This is what gender meant to me: learning to deepen my voice, learning to hide myself in a button-up shirt that felt like a straitjacket.
Now that I’m older and I look back on my life I recognize that I didn’t want to be my sister growing up — I just wanted to be me.
You see, we grow up in a country where we’re taught that there are only two genders. We are told that femininity is for “girls” and masculinity is for “boys,” but there is no space for people like me: We who fall outside of these binaries, we who grow up not having the language to describe ourselves, we who are often erased from our cultures and histories and told that we are not supposed to exist.
And I wish I could tell you that it’s gotten totally better, but the truth is even in progressive spaces gender-policing is everywhere.
I’m told I don’t matter when I go home to my family and tell them that I am not their son, and they tell me I picked this “thing” up at school.
I’m told I don’t matter when I say that I use gender-neutral pronouns (they/them) but when people see my 5 o’clock shadow they immediately use male pronouns.
I’m told I don’t matter when your building doesn’t have a gender-neutral restroom.
Even in many LGBT spaces, we gender non-conforming people are told that we’re not “trans” enough, that we’re not “visible,” enough, that we should just choose one gender or the other, that our genders are only valid if others say so. Sometimes it feels just as frustrating and as violent as it did growing up — to not have control of my body, to have it always shaped by others’ assumptions.
I am fighting for a world where everyone, no matter what they look like, can self-determine their gender. I believe in a future where we don’t have anyone telling us how to express ourselves — be that the bullies at school, the police, or even our own friends and families. I want every person questioning their gender out there to know that you are enough. That there is no one way to be a boy, a girl, or even transgender — that there are as many genders as there are people on this planet.
Gender-policing isn’t just about individual slurs, policies, or bullies; it’s about a culture of assumptions. The only way we’re going to end it is if we stop just saying we shouldn’t make assumptions (that’s easy!), but actually also commit ourselves to the slow and deliberate work of doing it. Join me in creating a world where I can #livemytruth — and where we all can.
(Alok Vaid-Menon (@DarkMatterRage) is a trans/national queer South Asian activist and spoken word artist, as well as a member of Look Different’s Good Look Panel. You can read their work at www.returnthegayze.com)