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Stand in unity against gay hate crime

Stand in unity against gay hate crime

Thapelo Makutle, Noxolo Nkosana, Jody Dobrowski, David Kato, Harvey Milk, Matthew Sheppard, Craig Gee, Alexis Frumin, Brendan Courtney, Fanny Ann Eddy, Lauren Harries, Angie Zapata and many more.

These names represent the reality of the world we live in. From Africa to Asia, Caribbean to Europe, North America to South America, Oceania to the Pacific. These names bring tears to the eyes of the many people who understand they are connected.

All of them were victims of homophobic murders.

In 2011 alone over 30 people were killed in the United States of America for their sexuality. In every part of the world, ‘civilized and uncivilized’, being gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans can be fatal.

This hatred knows no boundaries, has no respected for age, gender or vulnerability. It ranges from corrective rape in South Africa, to ‘honor’ killings in India and the Muslim world. And we cannot exempt ‘ideological’ killings in so-called ‘developed’ countries.

Today I sit in the comfort of my room writing this article to celebrate many colleagues and friends I have lost. Prominent among them is David Kato whom I knew personally.

I have tears in my eyes but I can also count myself lucky. If I hadn’t been lucky back in Nigeria in 2007, my name would have been on that list today. As it is, I managed to escape and flee to Britain, albeit still carrying the physical and emotional wounds I referred to.

And while I ran away from Nigeria with the hope of finding solace in the UK, I had to deal with homophobic abuse and even physical assault because of my sexuality in Britain too.

I remembered vividly the attack I experienced in south London in 2008, just a year after escaping death in Nigeria. I was slapped and beaten in Lewisham by a group of boys. My only sin was that I kissed my then-boyfriend goodnight.

Like a cat with nine lives, I was able to escape that day. However, the attack brought me back to reality that no place is entirely safe for you if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

To many of us that have been direct victims of hate, we can say this is something that scares us for the rest of our lives.

While there is a law in UK that protects me, it did not stop the killing of Jody Dobrowski, a 24-year-old gay man in Clapham London. Or have we forgotten the killing of 62-year-old Ian Baynham? He was killed just by Trafalgar Square right in the middle of London.

Ian was killed by teenagers. His only sin that day was his sexuality.

Like Ian, Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old Chilean gay rights activist was attacked viciously earlier this year and died a month later, sparking worldwide outrage against the increasing killing of LGBTs. His death led to Chile coming up with a hate crime law.

South Africa in 2012 alone has recorded over 10 hate killings of LGBT people. Lesbians are prominent among the victims.

South Africa possibly has the highest number of rapes in the southern Africa region. Corrective rape is the biggest threat to lesbians in that country.

As gay man, I have tried many times to understand why someone will kill another human being just because they are different from you.

In the words of Caribbean-American writer and poet Audre Lorde ‘we have all been programed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in three ways; ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate’.

When Audrey made this statement many years ago, she never knew sexuality would be replacing racism in terms of hate crime.

Many people will disagree with me that ‘gay is the new black’ or that in most cases ‘gay is the other black’.

In the case of racism, there is nothing I can do about my color. It is clearly the first thing you will see when you see me. It is the core of my identity. No matter how rich or high class you are, your race will still play a role in the way you are viewed and respected in the society.

Sexuality is often only ‘perceived’. But while we have more and more people speaking up for the rights of women and girls all over the world, we are losing the battle to protect LGBT people.

We even have to justify the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are indeed human rights.

When I was young I watched the televised version of the amazing book Roots and learned the story of slavery. I saw how my forefathers were treated as animals. How they were made to work the fields with no food. How they were degraded.

Over 200 years later, I see LGBT people of all races treated like animals or worse. Like the boys hanged in Iran to the gay men imprisoned in Cameroon to transgender people killed on the streets of Europe and South America.

And the justifications for this barbarism is religion and tradition.

Lest we forget, religion and tradition were the basis for slavery and oppression of women.

I remember the wonderful words of Bob Marley ‘How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand besides and look’. Or the words of Desmond Tutu ‘an injustice to one is an injustice to all’.

There is no better time to examine the evil of slavery, racism and homophobia than the month of October. In the United Kingdom, this month is set aside to celebrate the struggle of black people. Black History Month highlights slavery but also takes the black people beyond its shackles to the beauty of our achievement and pride.

At the same time, the United States of America has set aside this month to celebrate LGBT history and the achievements made by our movement since the Stonewall riots that sparked the modern gay rights movement the world over. Today, like in the time of Stonewall, LGBT people of all races are standing up to be counted.

Alongside this is the international vigil against hate crime that started in London over three years ago and will be marked again this year on 20 October. The aim of this event is to mourn and at the same time celebrate the courage and pride of our fallen heroes.

While I was researching for this article, the youngest person I learned about who died as a result of hate crime was an 11-year-old American.

This kind of news breaks my heart. I have never cried so much writing an article as with this one. How do we justify playground homophobia? How do we justify bullying? How do we justify religious intolerance?

I raise my hat to the people at 17-24-30 who are organizing a week against hate crime in the UK starting on 13 October and running up to the international vigil on 20 October.

They remember anyone that has been a victim of hate crime. They bring us together in solidarity to challenge hatred and tell people that try to divide us that we are stronger than ever.

Mark Healey of 17-24-30 said: ‘These events are important because they remind us that we are not alone, we are part of a community and when we come together we can make a real difference to those who have been affected by hate crime.’

I challenge us all to come out on 20 October and join 17-24-30. Remember it only takes standing together in unity to defeat hate.

Remember, the next victim might be your friend, your sister or brother, your mentor or hero, your father or mother, your aunt or uncle. The next victim of hate might be you.