“You can not be safe if you’re not free, and you can not be equal if you’re not safe”. This quote from Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, and the host of Black Gay Blog’s “How Globalisation is Transforming the Fight for LGBT+ Rights” seminar, hit me on a very personal level.

As a gay man who lives in a country where my sexuality is deemed a criminal offence, I know first-hand the impact of globalisation and what it means to not be free, safe or equal.

Let’s talk about what “globalisation” means exactly and what the impact of globalisation might be for LGBTQ+ rights in today’s world. No other year in the history of human civilisation has shown how truly connected we all are than in 2020. Who would have thought that a virus from Wuhan, a city many have never heard of, would incapacitate the entire world in a matter of weeks?

Millions of people stuck at home but connected via social media, zoom calls and Twitter memes. All of us apart, but linked in a way that we have never been linked before.

2020 showed us two things. It is easy for us to come together, and it is easy for us to come apart—both as a result of the impact of globalisation.

This brings me back to why, in 2021, there are still so many hate crimes being perpetrated against members of the LGBTQ+ community. Why, after all, we’ve seen, human beings still find it difficult to just accept the diversity of our species. If a microscopic virus doesn’t give a fuck about if a man is gay, orange and balding, why should you?

In Africa, out of 54 countries, 31 criminalize homosexuality. Many of them following the remnants of laws put into place by their colonisers. Steve Letsike said it best when she called it “colonialism’s legacy”. The irony of it all is that the people who brought this bigotry have mostly left it behind. 

Currently, Queen Elizabeth is in the process of banning conversion therapy in the United Kingdom. Yes, it may seem a bit overdue, but consider the fact that the Nigerian government would put you in prison for 14 years for sleeping with the man you love. You would think that the impact of globalisation would have at least pressured them to put up an air of acceptance, no?

So what exactly is the way forward? How do we, as a community, create a way for us to be free, safe and equal wherever we may find ourselves?

Portia C. Allen gave a few brilliant suggestions, such as getting allies to intervene where it can be proven that human rights are being violated. Though this sounds like it would be easy, all you need to do is search for “gays killed in Africa” to see hundreds, if not thousands of accounts, of LGBTQ+ members being mobbed, beaten, and murdered. 

With accounts as recent as April 21st 2021, Lonwabo Jack was raped and killed on his 22nd birthday. The fourth incident of a slain community member in less than a month in South Africa.

So there is proof. There are stories. Overwhelming photographic and visual evidence abound.

The impact of globalisation on lgbtq+ rights
Pictured “Lady” Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, host of Black Gay Blog’s “How Globalisation is Transforming the Fight for LGBT+ Rights” seminar.

But, I believe the issue is deeper than showing or telling people about what is being done to the fellow brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings in our community. The problem stems from the fact that even in countries deemed “the first world”, men and women are still being harassed for who they are. Do you mean to tell me those countries don’t embody the actual results of the impact of globalisation either?

Every month there seems to be a new story of black and Latino trans women being murdered stateside. Are you to tell me that 52 years after the Stonewall riots, they still don’t understand we’re here to stay?

So, again, what is the way forward? 

Even amongst ourselves, there seems to be a great division. Gay men who disdain drag queens. Grindr profiles proclaiming “masc4masc”. Snide remarks about if a trans woman “passes”. And still, we demand solidarity from people outside of our corridors? How does that work?

If we can find a way to stand together, I honestly know that we can find a way for the world to really see us as we are. Then we can confidently say we’re bringing about an LGBTQ+ aspect to the impact of globalisation.

Education is key. Many of us need to unlearn some toxic ideas we may have formed through the years, and most importantly, prevent future generations of LGBTQ+ youth from learning them as well. The prevalence of heterosexual ideals in a homosexual relationship for one. Toxic masculinity and discrimination against feminine men for another.

The last 20 years have seen a surge in what defines us as a community. When I was growing up, all I knew was that you could be gay, straight or bi. But these days, there seems to be another label popping up every minute—different colours for our flag and different letters for our umbrella name being created year-in-and-year-out.

I don’t bemoan these developments. If anything, it goes to show how unique we all are, even within the rainbow world. It also demonstrates how the impact of globalisation has brought people that felt alienated together. We just need to understand that labels don’t need to be given and explanations don’t need to be made. Individuals should be accepted for who they are without having to provide a synopsis as to why they are.

Secondly, our activists need protection. Not just physical, no, but like Steve Letsike of Access Chapter 2 said, “we need to care for our carers”. She pointed out that many activists die in abject poverty. After decades of giving back to the community and making impacts that enable an easier life for us all. How fair does that seem? And then we have the audacity to complain that people aren’t fighting anymore? Why would they when the fighters are treated so poorly?

A solution has to be found where we can ensure those who sacrifice their lives don’t sacrifice their existence.

Either through funding, donations, or even just to make sure they have a comfortable place to call home. When we can guarantee that those who are brave enough to carry the community on their backs are taken care of, then we can expect more individuals willing to come forward and join the fight.

Finally, as ECADE‘s Kenita Placide pointed out, “support is out there, but don’t set expectations”. I, for one, resonate with that deeply. Years ago, when I was outed by my aunt and abandoned by my mother, I sought help from multiple organisations in an effort to be rescued from my predicament. Born in the UK, raised in the US and sent back to Nigeria without any foreign documentation, ensured that I was at the whim of my relatives.

I sent emails upon emails, all with the title “Get Me Out”, thinking at least one would unfold into a Cinderella story. I didn’t consider that there are millions of gay men like me who needed to be rescued. At least, I had a roof over my head and food to eat. 

Excuse the sob story, but my point is, understand that any help you do receive, is more help than Lonwabo ever received.

We have a long way to go, yet I’m hopeful because we have already come so far. The beauty is always in the journey, and one day, soon, it’ll all just be another chapter in the books of history.

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