It is the middle of the summer, and the Facebook pages of your friends are sprinkled with pictures of Alaskan cruises and hiking trips in Maine.
Here in Florida, our days are filled with heat in the morning and tropical storms in the afternoon. Business has slowed down, but thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, we are going to gay weddings in states like California and Connecticut.
But the gay world is not in such a good state. This weekend, as some of your friends go to celebrate a weeklong gay pride in Amsterdam or Stockholm, young gay teens in Russia are being ostracized and tortured by emerging neo Nazi groups.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has become an international czar of homophobia, enacting laws that ban individuals from holding LGBT rallies, or even writing articles supportive of our community. This is the country where the International Olympic Games are supposed to be held in October.
This past week, as gays in Lithuania tried to gather for a gay pride event, they were ‘greeted’ by protestors who tried to beat them up. The hatred that Putin advocates inevitably spreads, encouraging the crazies to come out of the closet.
Africa remains a terribly dark continent for gay human rights. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has just called for gay men to be ‘beheaded.’ In Ethiopia, the death penalty for homosexual conduct is on the horizon. In Uganda, gay rights activists have been tortured and killed. In New York, gay men are looking to buy wedding cakes.
Here is the heads up. We are not there yet. There are still Pat Robertsons in the United States saying gays cause hurricanes; still churches complaining our behavior is a social evil. This week, the simple words of a quiet pope gave us some inspiration.
Of gay priests, he said, “who am I to judge?” You have to hope that will send a message to millions of his followers that it is ‘non-judgment day.’ You have to hope the LGBT community will no longer be summarily excluded as deviant. Victories come in small steps, with politicians recognizing their past mistakes or Popes coming to grips with present truths.
Indeed, life would be so much easier if all of us measured the other not by the color of our skin, or the partners we slept with, but rather by the content of our character. That was the dream of Martin Luther King, shared with this nation a half century ago at the Washington Monument. It is always a good time to care about civil rights, and never a good time to be apathetic about them.
The LGBT community should be composed of individuals who become the strongest advocates for the rights of international equality. This does not mean we should necessarily stop selling brands of Russian vodka, but it does mean we can band together to protest the treatment of our gay comrades in Russia.
There was a gay soldier named Leonard Matlovich who once made the cover of Time Magazine, fighting the exclusion of gays from the American military. His tombstone reads “they gave me a medal for killing two men, but threw me out of the armed forces for loving one.” To make a difference, you have to stand naked against the cannon, whether it is protesting invasions of your privacy by the National Security Agency or challenging cover-ups by crooked local pride organization leaders.
Two weeks ago, a page 3 piece in SFGN noted that the new Acting Secretary of the Air Force was a gay man. We got here from there because soldiers like Leonard Matlovich stood up when it was easier to remain silent. We got to a Florida where gays can adopt because two men went to court, bucked the tide, and fought for a just ruling, striking down a discriminatory law.
We recognize that poolside barbecues in the summer months are an important vacation respite, and you have to do things that are good for yourself.
We also encourage you to do good things for others not able to be with you at those pool parties, because they are being drowned in a sea of continuing injustice. There are still HIV patients needing your bike ride; still teenagers being bullied; homeless gay youths with no place to turn. They need your help.
Don’t let the blinding light of South Florida’s sun blind you to the LGBT inequities here at home and still pervading other gay communities across the globe. Every day is a good day for civil rights.