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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,16 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 33
A world of hurt - Russia isn't the only country ?Gays should think twice about visiting
Section One
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A world of hurt - Russia isn't the only country ?Gays should think twice about visiting

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Russian President Vladimir Putin created the perfect hate-storm: just as he signed the (three) anti-Gay laws, Russian's so-called 'Gay Propaganda' measures, into policy, LGBT people around the world watched in horror as the hetero world community (you know, the people in power) did absolutely nothing to stop it. Normally - and God, I hate to admit this - something like this wouldn't have gotten the slightest mention in mainstream media other than your standard 10-second, 'Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin & blah, blah, blah.' But Putin's hate machine, the current Russian government, did this terrible thing right before the nation is scheduled to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Thankfully for the LGBT community in Russia, all hell broke loose. Suddenly Gays were in the streets of major American cities dumping vodka down drains, people began to call on the Olympic bigwigs to move the games out of Russia, and countless organizations and governments from around the world are calling on Russia to rid itself of the bigoted laws which have spawned bully and death squads of neo-Nazis and thugs who target the country's Gay teens. Some have already been killed. And we know the ones who have already perished are not likely to be the last.

It's a damn shame. But what is worse is that, as so many have begun to point out, Russia is not alone in its hate for LGBT people. Gay media sources like SGN have routinely published stories about the atrocities that our people face around the world, many of them subjected to attacks, beatings, or imprisonment against the background of the sobering repetition of being ignored by the world's community. It's been that way for decades. As American writer, actor, and Gay rights activist Harvey Fierstein recently said, 'Everybody loves to hate a homo.'

SCAPEGOATS NO MORE On Tuesday, Fierstein appeared on MSNBC's All In, anchored by Chris Hayes. Fierstein appeared unwavering in his message that LGBT people will no longer 'be the scapegoat of the world any longer.'

Fierstein told Hayes, 'What's going on in Russia is absolutely frightening. The Gay community has in our history been attacked in every way you can attack a group. There's nothing that the human race has thought of to tear down other people that hasn't been used on us. Thankfully we have - over the centuries, over the decades, and over the last few years - made some great strides where people realize we're just human beings, we are your family, we're not a strange group from somewhere else. We belong in your family - we're teachers, parents, and children. Those strides have been made.

'My feeling is, at this point it is time to stop being scapegoats for the rest of the world,' he continued. 'Putin is not doing these laws because he believes this. I don't know what his real agenda is, but I have to assume it has something to do with money. With Putin, it always does. I assume he's trying to get his right-wing people behind him, and everyone loves to hate a homo. He gets the church behind him; he has his wing behind him. And he can go out and do whatever it is he's doing and no one's looking that way.'

In a nod to history repeating itself, Fierstein pleaded with Hayes, 'You cannot just ignore evil. When evil shows its face you have to answer. When you don't answer, look what happened - you were talking about Hitler, so we went to the [1936] Olympics in Germany, right? Yes, they took down the anti-Jewish posters for two weeks, what happened? [Jesse] Owens won a gold medal and then six million Jews were killed. What if the world had turned their back on Hitler - what if the world had left Germany empty for those Olympics?'

Fierstein makes a good point. I mean, no one can contest that the Holocaust didn't happen unless you are as idiotic as Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And then the question was asked. 'Why Russia? This type of thing happens all over the world, so why single out Russia?'

To be fair, many have asked others and more than likely, themselves, that same question. And, depending on whether or not you really can see more than five feet in front of your own face, you came to the same logical conclusion as Fierstein, who said, 'You remember when the AIDS crisis first hit. I would have people say to me, 'Why are we spending so much energy on AIDS? There's cancer too.' One doesn't negate the other.'

IT'S NOT JUST RUSSIA While Fierstein is correct, it should not matter where the problem is, but rather when and how we respond to it; the truth is many Americans haven't a clue where danger is eminent for LGBT travelers and immigrants, and those perceived to be LGBT.

In his August 14 story published on the popular Gay news blog The Bilerico Project, writer Terrance Heath makes the point, 'LGBT people across the globe are threatened with violence, rape, and murder.'

To make his case, Heath references two recent news stories, outside of Russia, where Gays face extreme hate and violence.

The first is the story of a British man and his Haitian partner who were attacked by dozens of locals who threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at the couple's private engagement ceremony. Several people were injured, two cars were set ablaze, and windows were smashed at the residence where the ceremony took place in Port-au-Prince late Saturday.

Police arrived just in time to prevent people being killed, inspector Patrick Rosarion told AFP.

The attack on the British man, identified only as a member of the Red Cross named Max, and his Haitian partner, was a clear example of homophobia, a rights advocate said.

TRANS MURDER IN JAMAICA The other incident Heath points to is from Jamaica, where a Transgender teenager was brutally murdered by an anti-Gay mob.

'Dwayne Jones was relentlessly teased in high school for being effeminate until he dropped out. His father not only kicked him out of the house at the age of 14 but also helped jeering neighbors push the youngster from the rough Jamaican slum where he grew up,' wrote Heath.

'By age 16, the teenager was dead - beaten, stabbed, shot, and run over by a car when he showed up at a street party dressed as a woman. His mistake: confiding to a friend that he was attending a 'straight' party as a girl for the first time in his life,' he said.

'When I saw Dwayne's body, I started shaking and crying,' said Khloe, one of three Transgender friends who shared a derelict house with the teenager in the hills above the north coast city of Montego Bay.

Like many Transgender and Gay people in Jamaica, Khloe wouldn't give a full name out of fear.

'It was horrible,' she said. 'It was so, so painful to see him like that.'

International advocacy groups often portray this Caribbean island as the most hostile country in the Western Hemisphere for Gay and Transgender people. After two prominent Gay rights activists were murdered, a researcher with the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch in 2006 called the environment in Jamaica for such groups 'the worst any of us has ever seen.'

'Death came neither quickly nor easily for this young person,' said Heath.

Khloe told Heath she tried to steer him away from the crowd, whispering in Dwayne's ear: 'Walk with me, walk with me.' But Dwayne pulled away, loudly insisting to partygoers that he was a girl. When someone behind him snapped his bra strap, the teen panicked and raced down the street.

But, according to Heath, Dwayne couldn't run fast enough to escape the mob.

The teenager was viciously assaulted and apparently half-conscious for some two hours before another sustained attack finished him off, according to Khloe, who was also beaten and nearly raped. She hid in a nearby church and then the surrounding woods, unable to call for help because she didn't have her cellphone.

Heath reports the family wouldn't even claim the body, and refused to talk about their child's life or death. 'No surprise, since not only did the father kick his own child out of his home, but according to some reports even joined neighbors in running his own child out of the neighborhood,' he said.

Jamaica is no stranger, like Russia, to anti-Gay violence and bullying. On February 28, a man believed to be Gay was found raped and murdered, with his throat slashed, in downtown Kingston. Last December, a J-FLAG (Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays) activist was stabbed to death. His name was never released to the public, but he was only 26 years old. Notably, in 2004, and this shit is really disturbing, a father encouraged a schoolyard mob to attack his son, whom he believed was Gay. The teen's fellow students tore boards from benches and beat him until he was unconscious. He was in the 11th grade. Allegedly, his father watched with a smile.

OTHER REPORTED VIOLENCE o Lebanese Internal Security Forces threaten, ill-treat, and torture drug users, sex workers, and LGBT people in their custody.

o In Cameroon, journalist and LGTB rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was tortured and murdered. Friends found his body in his home. Burns from irons pressed into his legs suggested Lembembe was tortured. His death followed a month of anti-Gay violence and death threats against activists.

o Also in Cameroon, John-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to three years in prison for texting to another man, 'I am very much in love with you.'

o In Myanmar, Gay men and Transgender women are falsely arrested, violently abused, and humiliated. They are dragged, kicked, handcuffed, forced to strip naked, photographed, and threatened with a barbwire stick or a gun.

o In the Ukraine, weeks before Kiev's first Pride march, various groups threatened violence against participants.

o In Tanzania, Gay men reported being arrested, held for several days, beaten by police, raped by other detainees, and only released after bribing officers with a huge ransom.

o In Chile, a Gay teen was in danger of losing his leg after a hate crime attack.

o In Zimbabwe, Lionel Girezha was attacked, arrested, and dragged into court for having consensual sex with a man he met at party. Girezha says he and his partner were brought before a 'kangaroo court' convened by his partner's brothers, who interrogated them and the turned them over to the police, who incarcerated them for several days. The men were released on bail and ordered to report to police once a week. As a result of the arrest, Girezha - a graphic designer - was unable to get work and was forced to move in with relatives in a neighborhood where he was not recognized, and to spend most of his time locked indoors for his safety.

o In Peru, a father allegedly set fire to his son after learning the 22-year-old was Gay and HIV-positive. According to reports, the father doused his son with gasoline and set him on fire, after tiring of neighbors' jokes about his son's sexuality.

o Wilfred de Bruijn was beaten unconscious near his home in Paris. De Bruijn's boyfriend, who was also attacked, said he heard three or four men shouting 'Hey look, they're Gays,' just before the men were attacked. De Bruijn's battered face was became a symbol for what activists said was a rising tide of anti-Gay violence.

o Eighteen-year-old Briton Steven Simpson - who was Gay and autistic - was set on fire at his 18th birthday party and died as a result of his injuries. Simpson, who had recently moved home to escape being bullied for his autism, was bullied at his party and doused with tanning oil before he was set alight. Jordan Sheard, 20, was arrested for setting fire to Simpson's groin after he was sprayed with tanning oil.

o In Iraq, Gays have suffered atrocities at the hands of militias for years - including torture and death - since the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. A BBC investigation revealed that law enforcement agencies in Iraq were involved in systematic persecuting of Gay Iraqis, targeting and executing hundreds of Gay men and 'emos.'

o Sierra Leone Gay rights activist FannyAnn Eddy was murdered on September 29, 2004, by four men who broke into the office of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association in central Freetown. The men gang-raped, stabbed, and eventually killed Eddy by breaking her neck.

o Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato was murdered in 2011, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine that had published his name and photograph, identifying him as Gay and calling for him to be executed.

o In 2009, two men were arrested in Malawi and charged with 'unnatural offenses' and 'indecent practices between males,' and potentially faced 14 to 15 years in prison. The men were denied bail and were subjected against their will to medical examinations to confirm 'sodomy' charges.

In light of what's happening in Russia, many people have demanded that the Winter Olympics be moved elsewhere. Heath asks, 'But where?'

'That 76 countries have anti-Gay laws on the books means that the same problem could crop up in another country,' he points out. 'That should at the very least remind us of the plight of LGBT people in those countries as well.'

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