Saturday, May 29, 2010

Small Worlds and Herculean Tasks

 Hello Everyone,

I realize my blogging has been really sporadic lately. Taking care of five kids and getting ready for an impending vacation has kept me on my toes....please forgive this harried blogger as he plays catchup with the worlds events. Namely, recent news coming from the international stage concerning the freeing of the Malawian gay couple jailed for holding a same-sex engagement ceremony and the struggle of Russian gays to hold a pride march in the face of overwhelming hostility. Both of these stories make me think about how small our world is though we often think it big enough to shield us from the suffering of others. That is, until our bubble bursts and we realize we don't stand alone in the world and that all of us are struggling in our own ways. The fight to repeal DADT touches the fight for the basic right to exist for African gays which touches a similar struggle in Russia which also reverberates outward in a spidering network of rippling effects to others as well.

In Malawi: Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga Where arrested for holding a engagement ceremony. The Government of Malawi called it "a crime against their culture" and after much time in jail awaiting trial they were finally sentenced to 14 years in prison...separate prisons. You see, it wasn't enough to stop the "evil homosexuals" from commiting their perverted act of expressing love for one another, they also wanted to make sure they would not see each other during the prison term that they would most likely not have survived. All they wanted to do was express their intent to commitment to loving each other and instead faced the possibility of never seeing each other again.

When I read this I felt helpless. I believed that the authorities meant to separate these two for good and once in prison, they would be forgotten. A prison sentence can quite often be a way to pronounce the death penalty without coming right out and saying thats what it is. There was a time when that was true here in America too...a time not so long ago. People go in jail and "accidents" happen and gays and lesbians among other "undesirables" quietly dissappear. Thankfully that didn't happen this time.

International pressure and tons of internet coverage has led the government of Malawi to pardon Monjeza and Chimbalanga..(woot!). Even Madonna got involved. I couldn't believe it when I read it and I new it was the miracle these men would need if they were ever to see each other again. Now the next step is getting them out of the country, which... I read, they have a desire to do. Malawi will not be safe for them. Thankfully I hear that arrangments are rumored in the works to get them to safety. retorical question: What about the rest of GLBT people in similar situations that will never make the news?

but moving on...

In Russia and Belarus: A Moscow district court recently upheld the ban on a gay pride march...the last chance to win official approval before marchers intend on holding the march anyway.

In my mind this is Stonewall's spirit....the "we're not gonna take this anymore" attitude that marked the begining of the gay rights movement here. Its incredible, frightening, and inspiring to watch. As we head into summer time, pride festivals in the form of parades, BBQ's in the park, and parties of all kinds will happen across the globe well into the fall. As we celebrate with sequins and floats others dodge gas grenades and riot police. From the Pam's House Blend write up by Andy Thayer comes this account of a Russian pride event:

Belorussian and Russian gay activists ended up conducting the city’s Pride protest as a running game of cat and mouse with the Belorussian riot police, literally running down city streets with a huge Pride banner as police chased them, arresting some of them as they attempted to fade into cafes and other businesses after the police broke up the event.
That takes brass nuggets if you ask me, considering your as likely to get attacked by onlookers as you are the police.

Now...It is not my intent to make anyone feel as if we should not celebrate because of what is happening to GLBT's elsewhere around the world....quite the opposite. Celebrate because it has been made clear to me by  commenters to this blog that when we do, others watch and dream of the day when they can do it too. Celebrating and expressing the freedom we have gives hope and courage for others to go out and brave the riot police, the slurs, and the punch's in the face to one day be able to march down the city streets in celebration instead of defiance. We celebrate and show the world who we are in the light of day, in the streets of the city, and know that no matter how many miles separate us from one another, we march together for the same thing.

Writing about foreign news topics is always a subject of insecurity for me precisely because my life has been lived so long completely isolated from the experience of others in countries outside my own. After all, its hard to write about someone elses experiences and communicate the right message when you haven't walked a mile in his or her shoes or don't understand the cultural differences or history of a given people. But the point is to watch, to be aware  and above all remember that the world is a much smaller place than we think it is. As what happens here in the struggle for gay rights eventually influences struggles elsewhere around the world and that, in some sense, we all walk the same path even if we are on different points along the way. We can know the experience as a whole...not simply as an American, African, or Russian experience.

Fortunately I have been blessed with being able to get out and see a little of the world. A little mind you...and most of it European. When I was young, I believed that I would nver be able to have that experience because my family couldn't afford it. I never even expected to be able to leave my home state. Fortunately, I was wrong.

When you get beyond the boundries of your country...or hell, even your become conscious of having lived in a least I did. I realized while watching the news in London on one such trip, just how much of the worlds comings and goings you never hear about on American news. The BBC showed news from Africa, India, Asia, It was amazing how much information about world events they reported America, the biggest network news story was The latest American Idol winner. I realized then, how much happens that the average person...not watching internet news...doesn't get any exposure too at all. I felt positively sheltered and realized how isolated from the world we can be.

My second realization came also when oversea's. I don't remember where I was exactly...Italy I believe and time was coming to a close on our vacation. I was sad to leave while at the same time missing home. Looking up into the sky and daydreaming I realized that the same clouds I was watching would soon be flying over my home in a matter of hours...much like me. In that instance the great globe of the Earth shrunk to a much smaller place tied together in inseparable ways. Now, at home...when I smell the  scent of the ocean on the breeze I wonder if it came from any of the places I had been.

What the heck does this have to due with Russia and the Malawian couple? Well....aside from traveling the globe via Google Earth, the internet has become a marvelous thing for humanity. In the past, a gay couple jailed for holding their own private commitment ceremony would have simply gone to jail and never been heard from again. Today they are going free, even if it is to an uncertain future.... Before the internet shrank the world, news of a demonstration of any kind would not have gotten beyond Russia's borders let alone travel far enough that a guy in California would here about it. All the protesters would have been simply rounded up and sent to prison or exile. Today we can know about their courage and send them our support. We can let them know we are watching and that we stand with them in spirit. Its enough to make me wonder what other changes may come in the next twenty years  that can shrink the divide between us even further than did telephones, airplanes, or the internet. Ah well...we can dream can't we...

until next time dear readers....

*Update*...Per Edgewire: Two parades/protests were held in Moscow with no reported arrests or violence (woot again!)

from the edge:

Asked whether he felt a thaw in official attitudes toward gays, parade organizer Nikolai Alexeyev told The AP after the protests Saturday that there had been no change, and no detentions had been made because the activists had simply given the cops the slip.
Russian authorities also claim that this in no way signals a growing tollerance to gays and lesbians but was simply "better military planning".......whatever..../eyeroll...


  1. The overturn of DADT is going to have some interesting legal repercussions.

    For example, soldiers benefits. If they're available to the partner/spouse of a gay soldier then why not full equality in marriage???

  2. I literally just finished a blog post on my take on this subject only to discover your post which I agree with wholeheartedly. It is amazing how we exist in our own regional bubbles and then stories like these reach out and inject some perspective into our lives. Great post! I, as always, enjoy reading your writings.

  3. Nice blog entry, Bryan.

  4. once again another amazing post Brian. I have been fallowing these stories partly online and the Miawie couple onine and on my BBC news feed on my phone.(its shocking how much more news it has then the US news)
    I wish that I could afford to travel like you have been able to, its one of my dreams! but the most travel i have done is visit Pennsylvania once (for a car-show and to meet a bunch of friends form an online forum) and a couple of trips just north of the border to Vancouver BC. up till they required passports or enhanced drivers licences. Other wise I live in a very regional bubble if I don't manage to run-across stories for other regions or countries.

  5. I just got a chance to read this article, as I've been moving recently and haven't had a connection to the internet. Its funny as I also just wrote an entry about both of these events for my blog - with some similar responses...

    Traveling is one of the best ways we can teach ourselves about everything - not just other cultures, but our own as well. And it teaches us a LOT about ourselves...

    In the case of both of these stories, my response has only been gratitude for the country that I live in and the freedoms that it grants me as a gay man.