Thursday, July 04, 2013
Gay rights is part of a development plan too
It was one of those, “Wow, really?” moments that changes your world view in an instant. I had to rethink everything I thought I knew. But from the get-go it never occurred to me to judge anyone solely based on the gender of who they choose to love. So after that first jolt of understanding, I never considered it a big deal - or anyone's business - that someone was gay, let alone an excuse for denying people basic rights.
As a Canadian, I’m very proud to hail from a country that now recognizes that working up a sweat about sexual orientation is not only pointless, but harmful and offensive. I got to thinking about Canada last week while writing a blog for July 1, and realized that the country’s efforts on behalf of gay rights is one of the things that makes me feel proudest about being Canadian.
But now I live in Honduras, where you’d have to be one brave soul to step out of the closet. It’s like stepping back into 1950s North America, all repression and denial. While nobody talks about any of it, my impression is that marriages of convenience and extremely low-profile trips to secret gay-friendly enclaves are about as good as it gets for people here, and all of it undertaken at huge personal risk.
Maybe a month ago at my work, a big stack of 2013 datebooks arrived that had been put together by one of my organization’s major funders, a European NGO. All the big European funders have got it going on around gay rights, so the datebook included a sweet story out of South America about a lesbian couple whose farm was thriving thanks to help from one of the projects the funder supported.
Well. My co-workers, who are generally lovely, caring people, were completely scandalized by that story. They are very, very Christian, and conservative in their thinking. For that reason I usually steer clear of subjects that I know we’re going to disagree on. I couldn’t let this one go, of course, but I could tell they were just gritting their teeth through my rant and waiting to get back to feeling shocked and disgusted.
Why, why, would anyone want to make a big deal about something that’s essentially about love? I have no idea. Yet living here has reminded me of just how much hatred and misunderstanding still exist in so many countries. I appreciate the sensitive language that international funders put into their contracts in Honduras to try to bring home the idea of equal treatment for all, but this place needs a lot more than that to get past its deep prejudices on this issue.
Send down the gay-awareness squad and let's get this thing done.