One Equal World

Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Image credit: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Jamaica has an ugly record regarding the treatment of LGBT citizens and visitors.

Sexual activity between men is illegal, with life imprisonment and hard labor among possible sentences. There are many reports of hate crimes against gay or transgender people—from corrective rape, to denial of health care by doctors, to murder and a lack of interest by the police in investigating such crimes. Hundreds of LGBT Jamaicans seek asylum in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom every year.

There is a breath of change in the wind, however. While human rights groups continue to point to Jamaica as the most homophobic Christian-majority nation in the world, the current government says that “there is no legal discrimination against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation”

Mind, they haven’t changed those laws yet.

But the country made the news this week for turning away notorious American anti-gay pastor Steven Anderson, who travels the world as a “missionary” to spread his teaching that homosexuality should be punishable by death.

Anderson and his teenage son were about to board a flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Jamaica when Delta Airlines informed him that Jamaica was denying his entry. This happened in response to a 38,000-signature petition by Jamaican citizens, collected by LGBT activists.

Anderson has previously been banned from South Africa and deported from Botswana for shouting on a local radio program that LGBT people should be “stoned to death.”

Jamaican officials said only that Anderson’s statements were “not conducive to the current climate.”

Does that mean it’s purely a PR move? It’s possible. But the immediate result is that a man who uses the pulpit to directly preach hate and violence will not be allowed to stir up a potentially dangerous audience. So it seems like a net win, regardless of the motivation of the Jamaican government.

The British flag in rainbow colors.

Image credit: Shutterstock

“Queers” aired in the U.K. as part of Gay Britannia, a season of LGBTQIA-themed programming meant to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967, which (partially) decriminalized gay sex. Which is to say, the new laws made it so you couldn’t send an English or Welshman to jail for having sex with another man, if both were over 21 and neither was a service man or a merchant seaman. Scottish and Irish citizens of the U.K. still had until the early 80s before their laws would change, and any man could still be fined or given a court appearance for kissing another man in public, but it was still a large step, and largely put an end to the trend of chemically castrating gay men which had begun in the 1950s.

So Gay Britannia was not quite a celebration so much as a retrospective. And “Queers,” an eight-part series of monologues on being queer in the U.K., spans not only that fifty years, but the fifty before as well.

LGBT British actors, most of them well-known, perform the pieces in character. Ben Whishaw embodies a soldier returning from WWI to find more trauma at home. Alan Cumming plays a man in today’s world reflecting on gay marriage and its place in the fight for civil rights. Other actors, including Fionn Whitehead (“Dunkirk”) and Gemma Whelan (“Game of Thrones”) will cover the HIV crisis, and the impact of the Sexual Offenses Act itself.

Mark Gatiss, writer of BBC’s drama series “Sherlock,” is the lead of this project, and wrote one of the monologues himself. Each short, written and filmed independently, runs for about 15 minutes. They were aired on BBC4, the arts and culture channel, earlier this year and were also performed live at London’s Old Vic Theater in July.

BBC America will be airing the series beginning October 14th, though without the greater context of Gay Britannia.

A bronze statue of a lion sitting outside of HSBC bank in Hong Kong.

CC courtesy of Ronald Woan on Flickr.

Who knew that lion statues could cause so much controversy? In Hong Kong, an iconic pair of lions sits out front of the HSBC bank. Traditionally, they’ve been featured in bronze. But on November 30, 2016, HSBC introduced two new replicas painted in rainbow colors. The colors were intended to reflect the bank’s pro-LGBT stance.

So far, the lions have been a pretty big hit among Chinese progressives. Many people have been posing for pictures alongside the statues. Rights activists have even praised the bank for taking such a firm stance on equality.

But not everyone was enthusiastic about the lions. As you can imagine, it caused quite the uproar among conservative groups. Much like the U.S., Hong Kong is pretty divided when it comes to LGBT rights.

For example, a 2011 survey reveals that 22% of Chinese respondents were “not accepting” of lesbian, gay, and transgender people. An additional 21% were “unsure” or “ambivalent” on the issue. But most upsetting is the fact that 25% of respondents said it was “acceptable” or “sometimes acceptable” to refuse to offer a job to an LGBT person.

Several pro-family groups have publicly voiced their disdain for the lions. The Family Schools Sodo Concern Group, Parents for the Family Association, and Overturning LGBT Agenda have teamed up to release a joint statement. The statement accuses HSBC of “trampling on the existing family values of Hong Kong.”

In an interview with BBC News, Roger Wong from the Family Schools Sodo Concern Group said:

“The lions are an icon of Hong Kong. A lot of Hong Kongers have a certain affection for them and it’s not right that they are projecting meanings on to them that a lot of people may disagree with. The male lions represent the stability and power of the bank. By adding a rainbow on the lions—does that mean they’re homosexual? I find that objectionable, and they don’t look that aesthetically good either.”

But HSBC has shown no signs of backing down.

“Understanding and embracing everyone’s unique perspectives, beliefs and experiences is core to HSBC’s values. This campaign demonstrates our commitment to achieving a truly open and diverse working environment,” said Kevin Martin, HSBC Group General Manager.

You go, HSBC! You may not have everyone’s support, but you certainly have ours.

An image of a red stamp that reads, "banned."

Image: Shutterstock

In case you don’t know who Steven Anderson is, here’s a quick breakdown: he’s a homophobic preacher who loves hate speech and hates everybody. Specifically, he made headlines when he led a sermon praying for the death of President Barack Obama, and again for saying that gay and transgender people should be murdered. He also celebrated the Pulse nightclub shooting. Oh, and he said that the Paris bombings happened because France is a sinful nation and that the Eagles of Death Metal concert attendees (not, by the way, a death metal band) were devil worshippers.

So yeah, sorry about that, but it’s important to know that this guy is not pleasant. He’s a pastor in his own little church in Arizona which who, for whatever reason, loves to travel to Africa to try and bolster the ranks of his hate group church (as in, the Southern Poverty Law center declared them a hate group). But here’s where we get to the good part: he’s failing miserably at that mission.

Having made it known that he was planning to visit South Africa, a country with a really discriminatory history which is trying hard to do better, the United Kingdom banned him from entry. He couldn’t even have a connecting flight in London. Then, South Africa barred his entry as well. He is on record as thanking God that he had a wide open door to Botswana, but guess what? Yeah, Botswana has declared him a “prohibited immigrant” which means that he is to be deported from the country.

Why is this important? Because it shows that, throughout the world, homophobia is losing ground, and hate-speech is becoming less and less acceptable. South Africa is a perfect example of a country with a violent, terrible history built on racism and oppression, which is now home to some of the most progressive laws in the world. They’re working hard to make their country a better place, and if they can come this far this fast, then the U.S. certainly has hope.

A computer generated image of two rainbow hearts with interlocking gold wedding bands in front.

Image: Shutterstock

Marjorie Enya, 28, is a volunteer manager at Deodoro Stadium, Rio’s Olympic Rugby stadium. It’s a temporary job, but she’s having the time of her life. Not because of the Olympics, but because of someone more special.

After the final match of women’s rugby sevens, in which Australia took the gold, before the other teams could leave the pitch, Enya walked out onto the field and asked Brazil player Isadora Cerullo to marry her. It was the first same-sex marriage proposal in the Olympics. And Cerullo, teary-eyed, said yes to applause from the stands.

Enya and Cerullo, who is twenty-five, have been together for two years, only a year less than Brazil has had legalized same-sex marriage. Same-sex civil unions have been legal since 2004, putting Catholic Brazil surprisingly ahead of the international progress curve.

Enya had planned her proposal carefully, but with pure confidence. Like anyone making a public proposal should, she already knew what the answer would be. Cerullo, who grew up in North Carolina and holds dual citizenship in Brazil and the United States, had already moved with Enya to São Paulo to focus on her Olympic try.

“As soon as I knew she was in the squad I thought I would have to make this special,” Enya said in an interview with BBC Sport. “I know rugby people are amazing and they would embrace it.”

Embrace it they did. In the video of her speech and proposal, which went viral the moment it aired, there were nothing but happy reactions, the two surrounded by cameras and teammates and cheers as they kissed.

The Rio Summer Olympics have over 40 out athletes across more than two dozen disciplines, a record number for the games and especially satisfying after the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, where anti-LGBT laws interfered with some athletes competing.

A photo of an athletic man standing on the beach. He is wearing a blue tanktop and a rainbow wristband with Olympic medals around his neck.

Never before in the history of the Olympics has there been as many openly gay/lesbian athletes as this year’s 2016 Rio Olympics.
Image: lazyllama /


Athletics is not an easy to field to be out in, especially in the high-visibility, high-scrutiny world of the Olympics. This is a year when the Olympics is a braver place than most, with at least 42 visibly out LGBT competitors on the board.

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, married women from Great Britain, are competing together in field hockey. This is Helen’s third Olympics and Kate’s fourth, and they’ve been married for three years. Susannah Townsend, also on the same team, has been out as a lesbian since before the 2008 Olympics.

In Rugby, Isadora Cerullo from the Brazil team was proposed to by her girlfriend on the pitch. Jillian Potter, from the U.S. team, cheered her on with her own wife at her side.

Maartje Paumen from the Netherlands, again in Field Hockey, has been out since 2009. She’s also one of the top Olympic scorers in her sport, with 14 goals in both the Beijing and London Olympics.

Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel of the Dutch national team, took home the gold metal and came out as a lesbian during the 2012 Olympics in London.

The list goes on and on. 32 women and 9 men from 14 countries are presenting the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities on the fields, the water, and on horseback. Some of them are newly out, some have never been in the closet at all.

And perhaps most groundbreaking of all is Caster Semenya, a runner from South Africa. She is a strong hopeful to win the gold at the 800 meter run. Perhaps she does not fit the definition of out, as she does not use the word intersex to describe herself, but the controversy around her qualifies this woman for inclusion. Just two years ago, she would not have been allowed to compete due to the arbitrary rules about naturally occurring testosterone in female athletes. But this season, those rules are in limbo pending arbitration, and so she will run.


Jalaluddin al-Rumi was a 13th Century Muslim poet. Considered as one of the best poets who ever lived, he’s still praised today, even among non-Muslims. That’s why David Franzoni, the writer of Gladiator, wants to make a film about him. According to Franzoni, such a film would challenge the way Muslims are usually portrayed in western cinema.

That’s a laudable goal, and one that many people could get behind, normally. But in typical, tone-deaf, racist Hollywood fashion, who’s the studio’s first pick for the actor to play Rumi? Leonardo DiCaprio.

Let that sink in for a second. These filmmakers want to “challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters” by making a movie about a poet born in what is today Afghanistan and who died in what is now Turkey, and they want to cast a white man to play him. And, they want to cast another white man, Robert Downey Jr., to play the mysterious mystic Shams of Tabriz, who played an important role in Rumi’s life.

Understandably, people on Twitter are already up in arms about this. We don’t even know if the actors have been approached. But the fact that their first thought was “cast famous white men” instead of “find actors of Middle-Eastern descent to play these important men from the Middle-East” is indicative of just how endemic white-washing Hollywood is.

And this comes after the backlash to white-washing characters in upcoming films based on Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell. These are actual historical figures that are being cast, not fictional characters. This is attempted white-washing on an entirely more vile level, and begs the question: are Hollywood producers that racist, or are they just that stupid?