Posts tagged ‘homosexuality’

May 24, 2012

Amazing Debate on Same Sex Issues In the Senate of T&T Tonight.

A groundbreaking debate on a clause of the Children Bill during committee stage in the Senate this evening ( ongoing) involving a clause that includes buggery. Anand repeated that a national debate needs to be undertaken – the Independent Senators weren’t taking that.

Paraphrase :

On the suggestion that the AG made that changing the clause would result in decriminalizing same sex acts – a senator said – well maybe that is why we should remove it?

Female Senator – so if a young heterosexual couple have sex and the girl gets pregnant that is okay but if a same sex couple do they have to go to YTC or Womens Prison?

Sen. Balgobin: We cannot base new legislation based on backward laws – ” the time to turn the tide is now”

The Independent Senators ( and others- I was listening on the car radio) were so united on the issue they called for division ( vote) so their objections would be noted. The AG eventually asked that the Opposition meet and discuss their position on the issue and that the clause in question be deferred. This means another animated round of discussion is ahead.

Very proud of the Independent Senators right now.

Independent Senator Rolph Balgobin. ( after midnight in the Senate)

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February 5, 2012

Different from the Others (1919)

A 1919 Weimar Republic  silent film. Via Slap Upside the Head.

December 21, 2011

Arsham Parsi’s Speech at the World LGBTQ Youth Leadership Summit in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Via Sizedoesntmatter.com and IRQR

From his Bio page on his website

My name is Arsham Parsi. I am the founder and Executive Director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), an international queer human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Toronto, Canada. The primary mission of IRQR is to aid and assist to the best of our abilities Iranian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered refugees in countries all over the world, and who now face the threat of deportation back to Iran, in obtaining asylum status in safe countries. IRQR helps those refugees through their complicated asylum processes and provides funding for safe houses through donations wherever possible, as most of our queer refugee clients are in physical danger in their countries of transit as well.

Today, IRQR is the only active NGO that works on behalf of the global population of Iranian queers, i.e. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered Persons. We document human rights violations against Iranian LGBTs on the basis of sexual orientation; provide letters of support for Iranian queer asylum seekers and refugees; and vigorously support anti-homophobia and anti-persecution efforts in Iran. Our documentation is widely respected for its accuracy and credibility.

Arshad Parsi and his NGO are doing extraordinary work to help LGBT Iranians escape  to safe destinations. He also tells the tale of what it was like to confront his orientation in the overwhelmingly hostile environment in the land of this birth. Here is the text of his speech at the summit that took place in Tel Aviv from December 4-9, 2011.

I am very pleased to be in Jerusalem or in Farsi, Urshalim. Although I am not a nationalist, there is an historical story associated with Jerusalem for me as an Iranian. Around 540 BC Cyrus the Great claimed the city of Babylonia as his own, and in short order repatriated displaced peoples, restored temples and cult sanctuaries. Indeed his infamous “Cyrus cylinder” is thought by some to have been the first declaration of human rights. As one who has dedicated my life’s work to the cause of equal and human rights for my fellow man, I am humbled to visit this place where my ancestral countryman first envisioned a world of equality for all.

I believe is the issues we face today are as important or more so than what we dealt with a few thousand years ago, but for academic purposes I learned the history. Studying these stories at school raised significant questions for me that I am still struggling with. Who am I and what are my responsibilities towards other people? What should I do, not only for my wellbeing but also for others? What must my priorities be?

As you can see from your program, my name is Arsham Parsi; I am an Iranian queer activist. But what you might not know is that I have two birthdays. One is my date of birth, September 20th. I was born into a middle class family but as a full citizen of Iran. However, my rights and freedom were denied in my country of birth due to my sexual orientation. My second birthday is on May 10th, 2006 the day I arrived in Canada as an Iranian homosexual, finally complete with the right to freedom and ability to pursue my goals and dreams and ultimately contribute my efforts on behalf of my fellow Iranian queers.

I went through many difficulties and challenges in between my two birthdays but I think all of these obstacles helped me to become stronger and ready to face other challenges especially as an activist.

I lived most of my childhood and adolescent years in silence and fear. Like many gay men, I felt from a very young age that I was different from my peers. As a teenager I began to associate this sense of difference with my attraction to men. I had limited access to information about homosexuality but soon I realized that in order to survive I would have to hide my true feelings and conform to the social norms of my culture.

A friend of mine loaned me a book that had a short chapter about homosexuality, it was the first material I had ever read regarding homosexuality. It described the sin of sodomy and stated that it was punishable within major religions.

I tried to become a so called “good person”. I prayed and practiced a lot more than other religious people. I felt that I was the only person in the world with these feelings and God hated me. I placed many restrictions on my daily life in order to punish myself whenever I felt guilty or that I was a sinner. After a while, I started to challenge my God. Why did you create me like this if it is wrong since it is known by believers that God is a just God and never makes mistakes? I could not see any justice when some people are legal and free, while others are condemned to death or other punishments and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, nationality, political opinion, religion or any other personal attribute or belief

In Iran, homosexuality is illegal. Punishment for engaging in sexual behaviour with a person of the same sex includes imprisonment, flogging and execution. Socially, the stigma attached to homosexuality carries the consequences of isolation, forced heterosexual marriages and exclusion from one’s family. It means a life lived in fear.

As my circle of friends grew, however, I became increasingly concerned about the stories I was hearing. People forced into loveless marriages to preserve their family’s honour; gay men entrapped through the Internet or in person. When two of my friends committed suicide out of desperation, I felt I had no choice but to act. I started by tackling the social isolation felt by many queer Iranians and then began to challenge the culturally and legally sanctioned homophobia impacting their lives.

Relying on the relative anonymity of the Internet, I started Iran’s first underground queer organization, Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization or PGLO. Starting with the email addresses of my queer friends, I began to send positive information about homosexuality.

It started small. Mostly it was me sending encouraging emails and information to my friends and subscribers. As I learned more and I saw how important it was for these people to find a connection with others, I expanded my work. We developed a website and finally, with the help of a friend in Norway we registered the organization there. I started to give interviews with international media to share our stories. I tried to accept as many invitations to speak on behalf of those who were unable to as I could. I wanted others to know that we existed and that we were struggling. However with limited access to resources, I began my work through the Internet in order to reach all Iranians worldwide. I decided to create a new form of organization and activism online. Even with no funding and the risk of being caught, I was able to establish large network for my cause. I believe it is proven that we can accomplish many things without funding and with limited resources, sometimes with a much greater effect on people’s lives than through large, well-funded organizations.

The organization continued to expand, providing support and opportunities for connection for the Iranian queer community. My international media profile increased as I strove to educate those outside of the country about the Iranian situation. I understood the risk I was taking, but my fear was outweighed by the sense of responsibility I felt to my community.

It wasn’t long, however, before the risks became too great to ignore and my life and the future of my activities were in danger.

In 2004, Iran’s secret police raided a party attended by members of Shiraz’s queer community. Several of my friends were arrested, tortured and “outed” to shamed family members. Capitalizing on the detainees’ fear, officials collected additional information that led to a series of raids over the next several months. The police harassment and intimidation drove the community further into silence and isolation. I was able to learn from those arrested that I was a target and that my organization was a topic of many interrogations. As the days and weeks went by I could feel them getting closer. I knew that if I was to protect myself and my family I had no choice but to flee.

I was an asylum seeker in an unjust situation and poor conditions but my activism was the first priority for me. I remember my Iranian queer roommates and I struggled to eat a meal once a day but I never gave up and instead became more active in my cause. According to a psychologist, sometimes this level of activity can be a sign of displacement and depression. . I never felt that I was depressed but if that was the case, I used my depression to bring change to my community. I felt I was a survivor and as such I wanted to fight back.

My newly established organization was my companion during my long journey from Iran to Canada via Turkey. I did not have an academic degree or acquire abundant experiences. I was very young to take leadership of my organization and deal with serious life threatening issues. However, I had something that I felt would compensate for my lack of formal training and experience I had hope and I already decided to act. I knew that nothing could stop me and moreover, I knew myself. I knew I could do whatever I decided and I felt strong about it. So, I was able to meet the challenges that lay before me.

In Canada, with the help of a few supporters, we established the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees which is actively working on behalf of more than 480 Iranian refugee claimants living in limbo throughout the world as well as those who live in Iran. We created Neda Magazine. Neda means “Voice” in Persian and it is an online monthly magazine for Iranian queers. We also launched an online radio station with help of a number of Iranian queers called Raha, which means “Liberation”, where queer individuals have the opportunity to share their stories to others in order to raise awareness and also as a way to be heard. Our organization not only aids refugees but has expanded to help parents, families and friends of queer individuals through an Iran PFLAG project. Furthermore, we have recently launched the NIQHA project which provides information about HIV/AIDS and Sexual Transmitted Infections in the Persian language to raise awareness about different STIs and prevention methods. This work has been very important and it is what I feel I am meant to do with my life but our work is still not finished and we continue on our mission

We have been quite successful in helping Iranian queers who needed support. However, we have limited resources and are restricted to helping only Iranians. This does not stop me from thinking about other countries and communities. In the last few years IRQR has managed to provide support and help to three Afghans, two Palestinians and one Iraqi queer refugee who escaped their homes and sought asylum in Turkey through the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR.

Speaking of the UNHCR, one of my challenges was to establish a professional relationship with international organizations as well as individual activists from all around the world in order to use their experiences and have their support. In the last eleven years, I learned that through dialog and communication with other allies or even those who are in disagreement, we can find solutions for common interests.

I was able to meet the prominent international officials including senators, ministers and members of various parliaments worldwide. It was stressful for me to speak publicly at the 2nd session of the United Nations Human Right Council in Geneva, or meet the UN Human Rights Commissioner, and others, but I knew that I had to do it regardless of any fears I had. I was there to learn and move the Iranian queer human rights cause forward.

Long story short, I learned that I could meet the challenges and have no fear of them. I believe that when we become united and work together, we can overcome all challenges and take the next steps.

Because of the choices I’ve made, I know that I can never return to Iran. Although I suffered many hardships there, it is still my beloved home country where I was born and raised. I would like to share this with you because I believe in your future of activism and leadership in the global queer cause, although you will certainly encounter dilemmas where you must make difficult decisions. Most times, decision making is not an easy task. You are responsible for your choices and you should be ready to respond to those with opposing views. But the best decision is made when you know the situation and the circumstances and choose what the least harmful decision to all is. And it is a big challenge.

I remind myself of the promise I made to myself eleven years ago when I decided to do something for my community just after the tragic incidents of my two friends’ suicides. I decided to speak on behalf of those who cannot, and where ever and whenever possible to break the silence. I left all my belongings in Iran including my family, my job, my school and everything I had ever known just to do what I felt I had to.

Speaking here today, I chose to continue my mission to support my Iranian queer fellows and to speak on their behalf.

I am here today to talk about peace, love and human rights. I want to speak on behalf of all groups who are unable to be here with us today. We all know that there are many things going on in this world that we do not agree with or are not happy about. Discrimination still remains around the world especially towards queer communities. We all know that homophobia exists in almost all countries, even in my new home Canada, known as a land of human rights. In many countries being a queer individual can lead to some sort of criminal punishment. But I am optimistic. I continue to believe that, we can start a new approach for our global queer family’s future toward diversity, respect, tolerance and freedom.

I would like to suggest a one minute of silence with the peace “V” sign to wish for a day of peace, freedom, equality and justice for all citizens of the globe regardless of their sexual orientation, nationality, religion, gender, political opinion and other differences.

– one minute silence –

I am looking forward to that day with you and tomorrow’s queer leaders.

Thank you so much.

Arsham Parsi

December 16, 2011

Anya Ayoung-Chee throws her weight against hate.

The petition to demand the Trinidad Express apologize for running an offensive advert that, among other things, described LGBT  people as ‘broken’  has been slowly picking up speed thanks to social networking and ActUp.org which posted an article but the pace was infuriating. Yes, the signatures tripled in two days but to have a mere 600 signatures for a subject that affects the  lives of so many people was disturbing to me. I am not broken and I will scream it out to the world

Sign the petition here.

Read the ActUp article here.

This evening the wonderful Anya Ayoung-Chee ( winner of Project Runway season 9 in case you haven’t been following this blog) came on board this evening via Twitter and Facebook. It was interesting that I was being treated to an early birthday dinner this evening and my friend Peter asked why I hadn’t encouraged Anya to join the fight. I didn’t have an answer- it was such an obvious thing – and then – as if to  admonish my sorry ass – she tweeted the ActUp post on Twitter followed by a post on Facebook to sign the petition – synchronicity.

The results have been extraordinary and the petition signatures have accelerated. Poor Anya, who is such a sweet person, has had to endure a fair number of hater comments on FB and even personal  attacks for her posts but she stands up for what is  right and we all need to be proud of her. This might be the pivotal moment in this campaign. A small battle but a significant one  for the LGBT community in T&T.

On another front,  a newspaper response is being arranged for the ignorant and cowardly bullies. Copy is being done by a Trinidadian living in the US with great credentials and the funding is being arranged as we speak.  The bigots may have achieved exactly the opposite of what they planned.

So on behalf of all the young lives that have been insulted by this ad  – a giant video bitchslap  to the evil people who posted  it  – from just a few of the wonderful and most definitely not broken people out there like me.

 

And finally, as posted before – for all the  LGBT kids who were driven to suicide because of the hate of people like the ones who posted that advertisement.  Never forget!

December 13, 2011

Preaching the Gospel of Hate

On Sunday the Trinidad Express published a vile advertisement that can only be described as hateful, mean spirited and  a pack of lies. I missed the ad when it ran but thanks to Colin of CAISO|GSPOTT posting it on Facebook it became a subject of much discussion and anger. Naturally, as is typical of such adverts, the usual suspects are mentioned as the saviors of  LGBT people – the ‘pray the gay away’ crowd of evil clowns.

Reputable psychological associations worldwide and even the WHO have indicated that human sexuality is naturally diverse and being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is not in any way shape or form a mental illness. Of  course the advertisement doesn’t even use any of those terms because they show that sexuality is only part of the equation that makes us human and also includes such things as gender identity.  The  people who write and publish such things don’t really care about the people they condemn –  they are just fodder for their  moral egos – humanity has no place in their warped and blinkered world. Even they can’t  honestly believe the rubbish they write.

They say they are doing it to save LGBT people from certain hell while doing an excellent job of creating a hell for them in the here and now. If they really want to save large numbers of people from Hades perhaps they should take out ads condemning the wrongs of Islam or Hinduism – there are a lot more Muslims and Hindus than there are LGBT people I assume. The problem is they can’t. Most countries including Trinidad and Tobago have strong laws against inciting religious hatred. So what the bullies do is pick on the ultimate marginalized and often not legally protected group – queer people.

Unable to fight inexorable progress towards full equality in their home countries ( or having lost the fight in places like Canada) they are now trying to export their hateful ideas to the developing world – often in countries where LGBT people’s lives are already threatened.  It is ironic that the advertisement here was placed one day after World Human Right’s Day and a few days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s groundbreaking speech to the UN on equal rights for LGBT people.

One can safely assume  that any intelligent person would find the ad laughable and dismiss it ( quite rightly) as a feeble attempt by nasty bigots to inflict harm on another group – that is not the worry. The real worry is that some little kid somewhere who is beginning to feel the first stirrings of his or her  attractions might see it and genuinely believe he or she is ‘broken’. If a kid feels he or she is ‘broken’ and knows instinctively that he or she cannot change – they might pursue that one avenue that has seen us lose so many great kids over the years.  The only ‘broken’ people are the ones who can’t love and accept, who can’t resist imposing their beliefs on others, who don’t care about the hurt and damage they can cause and who are the very hypocrites that their Jesus would have soundly condemned.

They should remember that their savior spent his short life with people on the margins preaching the message of love.  They need to remember words ascribed to Jesus at the Last Supper – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love “one another.”  They also need to go back to the New Testament and count how many times Jesus discussed the ‘sin’ of  homosexuality.

There are some people in T&T and around the world who aren’t taking this hateful ad placement on the chin. A petition is being circulated demanding that the Trinidad Express apologize for publishing it.  Please sign it as every signature makes a difference. As my  friend Bruce in Nova Scotia  points out there is some problematic wording about ‘lifestyle’  ( it isn’t a lifestyle – it is a life) in the petition but we can forgive that for the while as the general point is still there.

The other great news is that after I tweeted the lovely folks of ActUp.org , an international LGBT activism group, to retweet the petition  – they did – and they went further and posted it as a news article on their site.  Read it here.

It is sad that the petition is taking so long to build up momentum but given the fact that  gay sex is still criminalized in T&T (though seldom if ever applied) and there is still much stigma perhaps it isn’t that surprising. Still, standing up for our rights and the rights of others is a measure of our humanity and I am still hoping that more people show their humanity in this regard.

UPDATE

As a media advertising person who I used to work with just noted on a friend’s FB page –

Besides this advertisement being malicious and disgusting…it is also illegal. The Advertising Standards Authority prohibits ads to be published without a clear indication of who is paying for the ad and re-dress information. Letters should be sent to the Media Complaints Council (800-4622); Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA); Chamber of Commerce (Media Committee); and MATT.

November 24, 2011

Against nature? Homosexuality and evolution (17 Nov 2011) – UCL lecture

Via Peter Galazka on G+

Professor Volker Sommer (University College London –  Anthropology)

Same-sex sexual behaviour is often condemned on the grounds that it is “against nature”. Indeed, biology tells us that selection favours those who leave more offspring. But then, homosexual behaviour is widespread – not only amongst humans, but other animals alike, be they flamingos, gorillas, dolphins or bisons. Doesn’t this constitute a paradox for Darwinian Theory? And is there a connection between what goes on in nature and what is morally desirable? This talk addresses these controversial topics

March 4, 2011

Interesting article on Hinduism and homosexuality in the context of Guyana

Via CAISO|GSPOTT

One often hears about the Christian religious right and its views on homosexuality and the position of mainstream Islam is fairly obvious too but what of the views of the over one billion Hindus? It seems the complex belief system of Hindus does not offer any easy answer on the subject.

This excellent article in Hinduism Today by Vidyaratha Kissoon takes a rare regional look at the subject in the case of Guyana. It is interesting to note that Trinidad & Tobago also has a sizable Hindu population and recently the Trinidad Express included the thoughts of a local Hindu leader on the matter:

“In response to this, Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, said although “the rest of the world is turning upside down to accommodate these people”, Trinidad and Tobago has more important things to address than “the rights of gays and lesbians”.

“We (as a Hindu organisation) recognise that there are these oddities in society that have odd behaviours, but we do not believe that is sufficient grounds to change the laws.

Notwithstanding the idiocly of such local views, the Guyana article notes that there is a diversity of opinion on the matter but many of those voices believe that there is no fundamental conflict between Hinduism and homosexuality:

“But community debate has uncovered a simple truth: there is no unified policy in Hinduism about homosexuality. In general, the matter is ruled by common sense, wisdom and tradition. But tradition can be a fluid concept, widely dependent on regional practices and collective memory; it shifts from generation to generation. One example is the strong influence of prudish British thought on Hindu morals in the last few centuries (see sidebar below).

“Indian culture has always had multiple expressions of gender identity and sexual orientation,” says Pandit Deodat Tillack, priest at the Shri Samayapuran Mariamma Temple. “The major festivals around Lord Aravan and the worship of Bahucharia Mata, called Murgi Mata in Guyana, reflect these views,” he claims. The festivals to Lord Aravan, are a favorite of the third-sex hijra in India, who attend en masse; Lord Krishna is believed to have assumed the form of Mohini to marry Aravan as a reward for his dedication. Bahucharia Mata is a patron Goddess of the hijra community.

Pandit Tillack’s views are echoed by many in Guyana. His colleague Pandit Rajin Balgobind feels that non-heterosexuals, who often question why they were born that way, should recognize that their sexual orientation is part of who they are. “Hindu scriptures do not discriminate against people; we are to be respected as our own decision makers. Everyone, including homosexual people, should lead disciplined lives that fulfill dharma, contribute to the well being of their society and do no harm to anyone.” In Balgobind’s opinion, sexual orientation falls into the category of kama (pleasure), one of the four goals of life, called purusharthas.

Read the rest of the article in Hinduism Today

December 6, 2010

The Horror of Life in Iran

Read an extraordinary article by Otar Makharashvili about life for LGBT people, and specifically gay men, in Iran today. Disturbing would be too mild a word to describe the horrors that are going on in that country. How does one reason with a nation that treats its own citizens like this?

Via @vonIrrwegen on Twitter.

His first arrest for being gay came when police raided a party. He was imprisoned, tortured, raped and sentenced to 100 lashes: “After fifteen lashes the pain went away and I became unconscious. I was biting my arms so hard, to keep from screaming, that I left deep teeth wounds in my own arms. Eventually I passed out before 100 lashes were over. I do not remember a thing. When I woke up, my arms and legs were tight and I was lying on the ground in a cellar. I knew I was going to die that day that they were going to kill me and I wanted them to. It was better then public humiliation, better then seeing my parents faces when they found out I was gay.”

Read the full article here.

November 12, 2010

Great analysis of LGBT rights in T&T

The Trinidad Express has been distinguishing itself lately with some excellent articles on sexual orientation. A young columnist and 2006 President’s Medal winner  Rajiv Gopie has penned an excellent article  and promises to continue the discussion in upcoming columns.

“This week we will continue our discussion on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gendered and queer (LGBTQ) issues, specifically on the nature of laws dealing with homosexuality in T&T and a few other chosen countries.

According to Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, homosexuality by proxy is a crime. Paragraph 8 (1) (e) of the Immigration Act makes entry for LGBTQ individuals into T&T illegal.

Now where does this leave our fair nation? First and foremost laws exists that can be used to persecute a sector of society for the very act of their existence. These laws can be used to bring about terrible and draconian treatments of LGBTQ persons should the state choose to do so. On the other hand the Immigration Act can legally bar from entry some very powerful and important persons including the vice chancellor and foreign affairs minister of Germany who is gay, the lesbian Prime Minister of Iceland, a plethora of US Democratic Congress members and British MPs as well…”

Read the rest here.

 

November 2, 2010

Professor Julian Kenny cuts to the chase

Remarkably, another Trinidad and Tobago newspaper article on sexual orientation. This time it is from the highly respected UWI professor. I find the reactions in the comments section on the article very interesting. One compares it to pedophilia or cannibalism. I am serious. Maybe they should read this. But they are probably too stupid to read that. In any case the Professor wrote:

Homosexual behaviour in the wild amongst higher vertebrate animals has been recorded in the literature for over 1,000 different species. Amongst birds a full range of homosexual behaviours has been recorded amongst as diverse groups of birds as gulls, ducks, swans, penguins and albatrosses. Note that these groups all display social grouping behaviour.

The behaviours range from simple courtship through pair bonding and even parenting, as has recently been reported in a pair of female albatrosses that actually incubated and raised offspring in the absence of a male, the eggs having been abandoned by the previous heterosexual pair.

Homosexual behaviour in mammals is also well documented in as diverse groups as lions, elephants, dolphins, sheep, giraffes, monkeys and apes, such as the bonomo and the chimp. Indeed the bonomo, a sort of pygmy chimpanzee and a separate species, demonstrates heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual behaviours even within a single social group, with individuals alternating their behaviours as circumstances change.

Read more here.