Curtain Raiser

A Walk in the Tolerance Side, Colltalers

The march to legalize gay marriage in the U.S. and step up efforts to protect the individual’s choice of living according to his or her sexual orientation has finally sped up and may’ve reached a point of no return. It’s arguably one of the few reasons Americans still feel very proud about this country. As a cause, it has raised our compassion and empathy toward each other almost like no other, turning lofty aspirations for equality and respect into a pragmatic tool of change. Which is just as well, as we need this renewed sense of community if we’re to successfully tackle the challenges of our age. As a all-encompassing movement, sheltering the full spectrum of the human sexual experience, the fight for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights has extrapolated its ‘minority’ confines to serve a larger purpose, recognizing and embracing with no bias all segments of the American society. We did have come far in the four-decade-plus since the Stonewall riots. Saturday’s 10th anniversary of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and the Obama administration’s consistent engagement with the movement, are but just two testaments to such winds of change. But before we start patting each other’s backs and breaking the self-congratulatory champagne, we’d better understand that if this fight for equal rights is making strides in rich Western societies, it’s far from packing much of a punch, or bringing change, throughout impoverished regions of the world. Sexual oppression, as a leverage for power, has always been associated with rampant ignorance and religious intolerance. For hundreds of millions of people, trapped in medieval living conditions, it remains the rule of the land, exacting a brutal toll as a crushing weapon for domination and control. It’s not a bad proposition to serve as a paradigm of hope for those around the world who, beside having to endure absolute miserable odds stacked against them, have an extra layer of hardship in their lives merely for being what they are. In consequence, many have had their very core of individuality violently teared out from them, physically and psychologically, as despicable traditions of sexual mutilation continue to be enforced. There, as in dwindling pockets within more organized societies, the need to claim one’s sexual identity, however ‘different’ or ever evolving it may be, is still a threatening but empowering torch for whole communities, not just for those brave enough to set the pace and become pioneers. Or martyrs. For at the end of the day, it should no longer be about what each one is or feel comfortable being, but how we’re willing to use our diversity to build a better common good. In other words, there’s urgency for the gay rights movement to reach its maturity because the whole world needs to mature along with it. The angrier people’s sexual preferences make dictators and warlords and bigots all around, the better this world is bound to become. Ultimately, it’ll be a coalition of what’s still inadequately called ‘minorities’ – sexual, racial, agnostic, and whatever else is out there challenging the repressive status quo – what may help turn the tide against the most serious ills of our civilization, our unmitigated ambition as a species, our wretched ways of treating each other and the planet, the bottomless greed of a receding few for exploiting till the last drop of blood the goodwill of the majority. Among the many tangential, but highly relevant, issues making the gay rights movement an inestimable asset to society at large has been the fight against AIDS and the still ongoing struggle to develop better drugs and, ultimately, the cure for HIV infection. Even though it’s not quite as visible as it was in the terrible 1980s, when it affected a mostly middle class, highly educated demographics, it is still a fight mainly led by the movement. Much has changed since then, including the battleground: instead of the glaring discos and jet set lives of artists and entertainers, it’s now mostly localized in huge stretches of poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with women having become the tragic carriers of the virus. That’s not fault of their own, of course, but since they are the main providers in much of these regions, and rape is an integral part of the arsenal in the state of constant war they live in, the speed that the disease progresses and the social devastation that it causes is worst now than it has ever been. There are an estimated over 34 million people infected with AIDS in the world, these days, and many of them don’t even know it. The strict regime of multi drugs required to keep the disease at bay is itself another obstacle to eradication; and then there are those who can’t even tolerate it. The terrifying kidnapping of almost 300 young girls by the Boko Haram group, in Nigeria, only gives us a barely focused picture of what it means to be a young girl seeking education and a way out of poverty in Africa, for instance, and the mortal threats they face every single day. We’re not optimistic that this particular group of children will ever be rescued and no amount of firepower or righteousness preaching can change such a somber prospect. By invoking this horrible event, however, it may sound as if we’re trying to overreach and stretch its implications. But it shouldn’t be hard to foresee what’s very likely to come next for these girls: those who survive multiple rapes, their captors’ violence, unsanitary conditions, and even indoctrination, have a higher than average risk of becoming, and the children they may bear, HIV positive. Nevertheless, the model therapeutic approach developed in the early days of the epidemic by organizations such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and others, is often the only hope that drugs and treatment will be made available for them and those like them, except that applied by local groups. Lastly, the inestimable contribution of the gay movement can not be reduced only on their early and ongoing role in preventing disease. It also reaches out to housing, nutrition, education and support, social issues much beyond the restrains of a sex minority, affecting a large segment of the population. As the income gap spreads globally, many a runaway kid in the U.S., or a teenager mother, victim of political or religious violence in Africa, have found shelter within a gay-oriented community group, often the only one around not to demand any sort of allegiance in order to administer help. In fact, concerns about the young getting unwittingly infected are still at the top of priorities for AIDS prevention organizations, as infection rates at an early age never really reached a negligible level. Then as now, teenagers remain the vectors of a vicious cycle of disease and not always successful treatment. As millions who annually donate time and money for AIDS Walks around the world can attest – we were there yesterday, along 30 thousand strong, in Central Park, New York – the most radical notion about the gay movement has nothing to do with what goes on in the bedroom, but with a profound sense of solidarity, guided by an empathetic brand of humanism, high morals, and a sense of ethics and duty towards our fellow human beings. As far as mass movements go, it’s hard to find one that’s more comprehensive and concerned about the general well being of the whole population, not just its former outcasts, the once named Gay Liberation Movement. As said before, it’s not a bad paradigm to be identified with hope and choice, rather than conformity and intolerance. Have a great week. WC MORE CURTAIN RAISERS

4 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. eremophila says:

    Well said.


  2. Certainly things have changed. I well remember the late 1960s and early 1970s when my gay friends, brave enough to out themsleves, suffered discrimination from all sides, including, ar even particularly, from the law enforcement agencies.

    I lived in Notting Hill, which was a centre for the GLF in Britain, where gays felt free to dress and behave how they wanted. It was a small island in an ocean of prejudice, which sometimes even emanated from the much larger, closeted gay community itself.

    It’s quite amazing to see how things have changed, but as you say, there’s a long road ahead, full of bigotry, hypocrisy and outright hate.


    • colltales says:

      Indeed. AIDS, as most disgraceful diseases, was particularly cruel on its timing, as it happened when so-called sexual minorities were (finally) having the time of their life. It also served to the worst political purposes of hacks such a Reagan and the whole religious right, who wouldn’t miss the chance to bash once more on those it can’t control. Very sad.


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