Extending a Hand to Global Gays

Article excerpt

I recently received an e-mail from the 27-year-old leader of Senegal's gay organization. He told me he was in grave danger ever since the local press in Senegal had outed him. He was in hiding, trying to escape the country by fleeing into a neighboring nation. He had been attacked twice since I had met with him in Africa in April 2004.

"They began to beat and punch me," be recounted. "They threw me on the ground, kicking me. My arm was hurt, my face was completely beaten up, and afterward they threatened me, saying that if I didn't stop defending the gay cause, they would finish by killing me."

I remember my friend from Senegal (who asked not to be identified) as skinny and frail but with a sparkle in his eye and a passion in his speech that underscored his courage and commitment to making a change in his homeland. God only knows where he is now.

Senegal, as I reported in our Fall 2004 issue, is a relatively liberal Muslim country with a hopping nightlife, women in sexy Western clothing, and legalized prostitution. But Senegalese gays have been barred from organizing or holding meetings, and their requests for gay-targeted anti-AIDS funding have not been answered by their government.

In many countries and cultures around the world homosexual activity may be tolerated and even encouraged to some extent, but "gay identity," is not. As long as one fulfills the obligations to marry, have children, and keep up a heterosexual veneer, quiet homosexual relationships are somewhat accepted. But making a public stance and stating your true orientation is not. Despite the influence of the modern gay movement (or, some say, maybe because of it), attacks on self-identified homosexuals continue unabated in many countries, particularly in the developing world, where economic and political freedoms are not as prevalent as in richer countries. …