Being gay can cost your life, even in countries where it’s legal

Riot police protecting the Greek Parliament as neo-Nazi Golden Dawn members take their seats. Half the police voted for Golden Dawn in the recent election. pic by Steve Jurvetson.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex & Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) was celebrated in more countries than ever this year. but as the worldwide tide of equality slowly rises, a blacker tide of hatred and violence rises to meet, and in some places, even overwhelm it.

In 76 countries it is still a crime to be gay; in 10 it can cost you your life.  That’s a sobering thought. But even where it’s legal, being gay can still be a death sentence. A 33 year old New York man died instantly last week when a man yelling anti-gay insults shot him point blank in the face.

Across Europe, even in traditionally tolerant countries, violence against LGBTI people is rising. Two-thirds of respondents to a European Union survey – three-quarters of gay men – are afraid to show their sexuality in public.

In Italy the shadow of the Vatican darkens any prospect of liberation, while the traditional Italian culture, awash with male pride and vanity, “reduces gay people to caricatures“, says the President of the Chamber of Deputies.

In Greece, where unemployment has hit 27%, LGBTI activists and supporters have been attacked and threatened by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

Violence is on the rise in France, too, despite President Hollande signing gay marriage into law only last week. Catholic France is the least tolerant country in Western Europe. 28.8 per cent of people don’t want a homosexual neighbour.

Over in the East, Georgia, the third most homophobic country in the world (92.6 per cent don’t want to live next to us), mounted a concerted attack on a government-sanctioned IDAHOBIT celebration in the capital Tblisi.

10,000 Christian Orthodox protestors, led by their priests, swept aside heavy police cordons and hunted down gay rights demonstrators, pelting them with rocks and beating them. 14 ended up in hospital with concussions and broken limbs.

Russia is no rainbow picnic either, with local and national parliaments passing anti-gay laws, and another IDAHOBIT gathering, this time in St Petersburg, coming under attack from smoke bombs and rocks, and Moscow yet again banning Pride March.

China is trying for tolerance, but prefers LGBTI people to stay in their closets. Fear of ridicule and abuse keeps most of them locked away, while officialdom is capricious; sometimes supportive, other times lashing out.

And as for Africa . . . . . .

In Australia we are at least tolerated. But tolerance is merely prejudice cloaked in politeness, easily broken down under pressure. Progress has again stalled, and the national conversation is turning ugly.

The Australian Football League has abandoned plans for a Pride Round or match. Marriage is dead-ended in state and federal parliaments. Anti-discrimination reform is failing. Politicians with little sympathy and less manners are coming to the fore: politicians with whom we must work, if only to protect our communities as best we can.

Turbulence is coming. Fasten your seat belts.

EXTRA: Moldova

The Orthodox Church of Moldova have issued a statement about a Gay Pride at the  “Rainbow Over the Dniester” festival:

His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir addressed a message to General Mayor of Chisinau, Mr. Dorin Chirtoaca, pleading that the authorities do not allow the organization of a gay pride planned for the 19th of May.

It is mentioned in the message: “The Metropolis of Chisinau and All Moldova continues to believe that this is a defying initiative, conflicting with moral values and decency. At the same time, a potential march of sexual minorities on the streets of Chisinau will be nothing else but a strong provocation with severe consequences, taking into account general repulsion of the population towards the deviant behavior of homosexuals and lesbians…”

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)