Gays Without Borders

The gay news from Africa gets more frightening every day.

In Uganda, a member of Parliament said he would hang his son if he learned that he was gay. He said this while the Ugandan Parliament debated an anti-gay bill imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality - including the death penalty.

In Malawi, a gay couple faces 14 years in prison because they held an engagement party. There, gay marriage is not just illegal (meaning, not allowed) - it is criminal.

And in Kenya, mob violence greeted fake reports of the marriage of two gay men. Rioters destroyed computers and other equipment in an AIDS clinic. They beat more flamboyant men in the street. And they went house to house in a witch hunt to find gay men, arrest them - and beat them.

The American reaction to this - even the gay American reaction - tends to be one of two things.

We're indifferent. Or we're horrified, but blame American Christians and expect them to fix it.

We blame American Christians because some extreme, anti-gay rightwingers encouraged fear of gays within the Ugandan government. Some have taken responsibility for that; some have not.

But it is not enough anymore for the gay community to stand by while our African brothers and sisters are rousted from their homes, beaten senseless, arrested and killed.

We cannot sit back and expect our homegrown American extremists to make it better. After all, they might have been responsible - or at least instigated - the situation in Uganda, but Kenya's horrors were incited by local Muslim clerics.

Instead, we must do what we can. And we can do a lot.

On the home front, we can use our political power to ensure that African gays and lesbians who are in danger in their home countries find political asylum here. And when they get here, we can help them find homes, jobs, education.

We can pressure our leaders to make public statements against anti-gay violence (Barack Obama, of Kenyan heritage and beloved in Africa, would be a particularly effective spokesperson).

And we can encourage our Congressional leaders to tie the billions of dollars of HIV/AIDS funding that we send to gay-friendly education efforts. If Republicans can add pro-life strings, why can't we add pro-gay ones?

But I think we can be even more creative than that.

Christians, after all, didn't have pull in Uganda because they made a speech. They have influence because they have spent millions of dollars in Africa - on AIDS, yes, and also on infrastructure, on food aid, on personnel to educate and heal and help. They send missionaries to live among the people. They recruit.

It is time we did the same.

We need Gays Without Borders. We need to start pooling our talent and resources and assisting developing countries.

After all, gays and lesbians - lesbians in particular - tend to gravitate toward non-profits. We are social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers. Why shouldn't we put that knowledge to use to help Africans? Who knows how to organize the medical establishment (or lack thereof) to fight AIDS better than gays and lesbians? Who can tend to AIDS patients better or with more empathy?

And we wouldn't help just gay Africans, either. Christian relief groups don't just help Christians. Instead, the idea is to be a model - and to encourage a certain way of thinking. In our case, that way of thinking would be: Gay is OK.

Many Africans think of gay people as being perverted. They think of us as an underground sexual cult of some kind. But Gays Without Borders could show them first hand that we are a people to be respected, emulated, idolized.

We are scared and horrified by the news coming out of Africa. It is time we did something about it.

9 Comments for “Gays Without Borders”

  1. posted by Bobby on

    Jennifer, Christians are really good at fundraising, missionary work isn’t exactly cheap. Besides, there are plenty of gays serving in the peacecorps. Gays without borders? Who’s gonna pay for that? Mormons tithe 10% of the income to the church, are we gonna do the same? I doubt it.

    I don’t know what we can do about Africa, economic sanctions would be hard to sell through congress. One thing we could do is avoid traveling to homophobic countries. For example, Kenya has great safaris and Mount Kilimanjaro, but if they’re gonna persecute gays I would rather vacation in South Africa

  2. posted by Christo Pace on

    I think Andrew Sullivan had the right idea. He suggested that President Obama ought to appoint openly gay/lesbian ambassadors to Keyna and Uganda.

    Sullivan noted that President Reagan appointed a African American ambassador to South Africa long before the fall of apartheid.

  3. posted by Throbert McGee on

    I wonder how you say перезагрузка in Swahili?

    (Hillary joke)

  4. posted by Throbert McGee on

    But seriously, anyone who was paying the slightest bit of attention to what the Ugandans were actually saying* during their Parliamentary debate about the gay bill should immediately realize that part of the problem “on the ground” is the ignorant perception that “gayness” is a sort of foreign contagion. So sending an openly gay ambassador does exactly nothing to combat this idea. A better strategy, in my view, would be to send a Roman Catholic or Anglican who is more or less a traditionalist on the matter of sexual morality (heterosexually married, has two or more children), but who is also bluntly libertarian on the matter of civil rights for gays.

    * Raise your hand if you know without Googling who King Mwanga II was and why he’s relevant to understanding Ugandan homophobia!

  5. posted by elizabeth on

    I love what you are saying and would support organizations such as Gays w/o Borders. I also believe that those of us on the left side of things need to reclaim Christianity. In the sixties the left-Christian movement was humanistic and powerful. So powerful that it was targeted and systematically destroyed by our government. Today to be “Christian” is automatically assumed to be “Right Wing.” But the Right does not have a corner on caring for human beings. The Left must find ways to re-cultivate our humanistic roots.

  6. posted by TS on

    I will not support Gays without Borders because they would be going to places it is not safe for gays to be. I’m very private about this particular opinion in real life, but my solution to the problem of Africa and the Mideast is simple: cease all aid. Pull out all Western-owned technology and medical supplies. Cease all diplomatic and military intervention. Offer diplomatic refugee opportunities for educated residents. And let the savages extinguish themselves.

    We as the Western world created this problem, sure. And that’s exactly why we can’t solve it. Our interferences don’t have the effect we mean them to. This is not racial, this is sociological. When you hold people down, two things happen, they hate and mistrust you, and they become proud of their down-ness. Then, when your attitude changes and you try to help them up, they stubbornly burrow further down. They will never put together what I would describe as a sensible, civilized society without learning for themselves why it’s the best way to go. They will probably have to do this by climbing out of a pool of blood. And that is none of my concern. I have never been to Africa and I love no one there.

  7. posted by Bobby on

    Elizabeth, what do you mean “reclaim” Christianity? Leftists aren’t interested in Christianity, they get upset if a high school teaches Intelligent Design alongside evolution, they don’t want “God” in the pledge of allegiance, they’re always fighting to remove the 10 commandments for public places (although SCOTUS finally ruled that those monuments are ok if they’re purchased with private money). Leftists for the most part hate religion because they hate looking at life in terms of right and wrong (unless they’re bitching against conservatives which they see as wrong). It is religion that takes care of other people, specially the filthiest poor people in the world. So what if some liberals join the Peace Corps for 3 years? There are religious people doing charity work for life. Where’s the secular equivalent of Mother Theresa for example? And I hope you don’t mention Obama, he already got a Nobel Prize for doing nothing.

  8. posted by Infovoyeur on

    Hmmm… Here’s my sociocultural determinism? Anyhow, analogy of “puppet theatre.” The Ugandans etc. are dancing to the tune of the invisible puppetmaster of the current Norms Mores Folkways, climate of opinion, today’s truths and taboos, etc. (Admittedly for subliminal motivations, scapegoat, etc.) As we did in the homophobic 1950’s though of course milder. As Adm. Mullen (top brass) is doing now: prating of “hypocrisy is bad,” valid citizens can’t serve without fear, injustice. How nice. But did he think outside the Box to get there? No, he simply absorbed the changing norms of today. Are we all puppets in the theatre of (anthropological) culture? Depressing… (P.S.–X years from now, I wager, even the most macho male athletic directors of high schools will say like “Hey you don’t harrass the gay kids, any more than the Hispanic or Black kids, see…” Because he arrived at that integrally? No, just because it’s Today’s Tune. Can ANY of us think outside the box? I recall when same-sex marriage seemed even to me, the very idea, as “hun”? (Probably like “women having the vote” was received ca. 1890…).

  9. posted by TS on

    “Where’s the secular equivalent of Mother Theresa for example?”

    Mother Theresa. There is considerable evidence she didn’t believe.

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