Beyond Our Borders

By Helfin, Michael | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), November 7, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Beyond Our Borders


Helfin, Michael, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


In Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1999, a neofascist group planted a bomb in the Amnesty International office. No one was arrested or charged with the attack, and the group continues to threaten the lives of activists working for the rights of gays and lesbians, blacks, and Jews in that country. In Lebanon the manager of an Internet service provider for a gay Web site and the director of a Lebanese human rights organization were recently arraigned before a military court and charged with "tarnishing the reputation of the vice squad." They had issued a flyer protesting the vice squad's raid of the service provider's office. They face up to three years and three months in prison. And in Guatemala City, two transgendered people were murdered this summer--bringing the total number of transgender murders in that city to six this year. Police there have subjected transgendered people to systematic abuse, including threats, harassment, and rape--and are suspected of complicity in the murders that have taken place.

As we round out yet another national election campaign in the United States, renewing our commitment to fighting for GLBT rights in this country, many of our sisters and brothers abroad face a much bleaker situation. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, theirs is a much greater struggle to secure recognition and protection of their fundamental human rights.

Millions of GLBT people around the world cannot even imagine the possibility of coming out, fearful that the revelation of their true identity will result in scorn and persecution. Their fear is warranted. Not only are those suspected of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered subjected to regular harassment, harsh discrimination, and violence from other citizens; in many countries people may be beaten, imprisoned, and sometimes even killed by their own government for engaging in homosexual acts.

GLBT people in America understand the fear that makes others live behind a wall of secrecy because we have all experienced it on some level. Growing up in a small town in southwestern Michigan, I felt that sense of shame and fear that my own secret uniqueness would be discovered.

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