Where Love Is Illegal, Telling Our Stories Is the Best Tool We Have
With so much information right at the palm of our hands, some of which is not reliable, it’s common to feel overwhelmed, numb and lose hope that we can do something to change society. What happens in politics often borders on the absurd and dangerous, and on top of that we deal with economic stress and a lack of energy and enthusiasm to be proactive in our own lives, in our work and in our relationships. Little do we know how much it’s within our power to change — even save — the life of someone on the other side of the world.
Being visible as LGBTQ people is a privilege, and activism is an everyday thing — small, constant and visible acts, not just going out once a year or demonstrating before Congress. From holding your partner’s hand in the streets to daring to wear the clothes you want. Day after day LGBTQ people commit acts of bravery that little by little change the minds and hearts of the people around us.
And if we don’t change minds of those who see us, at least the conversation has started. They cannot ignore us, and they cannot force us to live in secrecy or anonymity. Not anymore.
“It was amazing the cruelty of guys in high school… I was alone at school and alone at home because I couldn’t tell my parents about my problems… The path of my boyhood – it was loneliness, loneliness, loneliness. It seemed to me that I was the only one in the whole world. The first time I asked God to take my life was when I was 12 years old.” Artyom is a young gay man from Russia. He survived the isolation of high school and, upon reaching university, found people who love and accept him. – Read Artyom's story shared with the #WhereLoveIsIllegal campaign, a platform for #LGBT stories of survival, at the link in our profile. At the link you can also see how to share your own experience of #discrimination and #survival and how you can support. Photo by @Hammond_Robin / @noorimages. This is a @witness_change project. For more stories of survival follow @WhereLoveIsIllegal
All this didn’t come from nothing. Hundreds of people who made small and large symbolic gestures over the years are the reason we can be as free as we are. Many people paid the price by being pioneers.
We continue to lose lives due to homophobia and transphobia in many countries, but at least — in theory — we have in many cases the support of states and international organizations that recognize our human rights. But pioneers in the 73 countries where homosexuality is still a crime face a desolate reality and imminent persecution, legitimized by those who are supposed to watch over their welfare.
Their stories can’t remain anonymous. They cannot be lost and allow themselves to become a number. We have faces, identities and stories, and sharing them to demand justice is the least we can do.
Where Love Is Illegal is a project dedicated precisely to that, to tell the stories of survival of LGBTQ people around the world. Its Instagram account documents with photographs the stories of survival and having to do the unimaginable to avoid being condemned for who they are.
“At age 5, I was able to formulate my wish to be born with a female body.” Stephanie is a transwoman from Germany. For years she struggled with her identity, but when she did come out her family supported her. Her father saying “I wish that you become happy.” This year she started hormones. – Stephanie shared her story with the #WhereLoveIsIllegal campaign. You can read her full testimony at the link in our profile. At the link you can also see how to share your own experience of #discrimination and #survival and how you can support. #loveislove Photo provided by Stephanie. This is a @witness_change project developed by @Hammond_Robin. For more stories of survival follow @WhereLoveIsIllegal
There are many injustices in this world, but being punished for existing is a clear contrast to the privilege many of us have by living in more inclusive countries and times. But what can we do about it?
In a globalized world, fortunately there are many things we can do about it. You can support organizations like Railroad Rainbow that are rescuing LGBT people from danger and assisting those seeking political asylum in European countries and Canada. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are two international organizations doing a great deal of political lobbying and organizing to defend LGBT rights and end these laws. You can volunteer or donate a minimum but constant amount to help them continue operating.
“We are a lesbian married couple though not recognized because in Ugandan society lesbianism is an abnormality, an outcast, a disease that needs to be cured.” For their safety they must keep their love secret. J&Q pretend to be roommates and move frequently so that neighbors don’t learn that they are in a relationship. – On this Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the resilience of love in the face of intolerance. Around the world #LGBTQI＋ people are subjected to daily discrimination because of who they are or who they love. In 72 countries it can mean imprisonment or death. To read LGBTQI＋ stories of survival follow @whereloveisillegal. – Read J&Q story shared with the #WhereLoveIsIllegal campaign, a platform for #LGBT stories of survival by following @whereloveisillegal. On the page you can also see how to share your own experience of #discrimination and #survival and how you can support. Photo by @hammond_robin / @noorimages. This is a @witness_change project. For more stories of survival follow @WhereLoveIsIllegal
In North and South America, most countries fall under the jurisdiction of the Organization of American States and its agencies — the Inter-American Court of Human Rights — where, if the legal channels of your country are exhausted, you can resort to these institutions to seek the justice you didn’t obtain from your government.
The United Nations has an LGBTI Core Group and a permanent awareness campaign on sexual diversity called Free & Equal. We must continue to press for these efforts to have an impact on those who need to be heard with greater urgency.
Finally, the most effective pressure — in addition to what you can do when signing an online petition, such as those by All Out — is knowing who to direct your message to.
“In 2010 I was chased from school when they found out that I was in relationship with fellow male student. I was also disowned by my family because of my sex orientation.” Apollo is a gay activist from Uganda. Throughout his life, he has been targeted and subjected to torture. Despite all this, he still fights. “I can’t forget when I was raped in the police cell by prisoners, after all that I decided to start an organization with some campus students.” – Read Apollo's story shared with the #WhereLoveIsIllegal campaign, a platform for #LGBT stories of survival, at the link in our profile. At the link you can also see how to share your own experience of #discrimination and #survival and how you can support. Photo by @Hammond_Robin / @noorimages. This is a @witness_change project. For more stories of survival follow @WhereLoveIsIllegal
Those who govern us will always be looking for our vote and confidence, and anti-rights groups like the National Front for the Family are not afraid to be heard. Know who your deputies, senators and foreign ministers are. Become familiar with the embassies that represent these 70 nations that criminalize us; write to them, tweet them, send them the stories of those who need to be heard. Let’s use the voices that our pioneers granted us to continue to open a gap for our community around the world.
Featured image by Robin Hammond for Where Love Is Illegal