As Uganda’s president called gays “disgusting” in a CNN interview and a tabloid newspaper published lists of suspected homosexuals, feeding hysteria and witch-hunts following the introduction of the country’s new laws against homosexuality, politicians and pundits elsewhere may have made appropriate noises of disapproval, but in truth they don’t really know what to do.

Desmond Tutu, William Hague, Barack Obama and the Swedish government (among others) may all have voiced dismay and muttered of consequences, which is to their credit; but the reality is that within a few days, people will nod and say how terrible it all is for gays in Uganda now, and then ask how the elections are going in the Ukraine or if there’s other news we should know about.  Compassion fatigue kicks in quickly as far as the LGBT community is concerned.  It’s a shame we spoiled the Olympics for the athletes, because they worked so hard to get there…

Out journalist Alice Arnold rightly argued in the Telegraph that we “mustn’t be left to fight American and African religious zealots alone”, and whilst happily there are many who support her view, there’s also a growing murmur that somehow none of all  this uncomfortable noise about homosexuality would be happening if we hadn’t kept on rubbing it in people’s faces.  Look what happens when you get uppity. We have only ourselves to blame, and gay was such a nice cheery word until we ran off with it, behaving inappropriately in public.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s Governor is deciding whether to sign the bill allowing businesses to deny services to the LGBT community; that it’s got this far is a disgrace, but a sign of how US evangelists are now beginning to push back at home after their African adventures. Scott Lively, the man who will have blood on his hands for his meddling in Uganda, now has a new target; he wants the American Psychiatric Association to reinstate homosexuality as a mental illnesss.  Don’t be naive and think this will go away overnight, as the debate (yes, the word debate will be used, and we’ll be asked to be reasonable and “hear both sides”) has barely started. And it’s our fault it’s happening, because if we hadn’t made all this fuss about marriage, people would have left us alone…

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When Uganda’s Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, told AFP journalists that  treatment of homosexuals in his country is “tolerant” because the government is “not slaughtering them”, and reports showed suspected gay men being forced to walk naked through the streets of the Nigerian capital, Lagos, it was a stark reminder of just how bad the situation of the LGBT community has now become across much of Africa.  In Cameroon, it’s reported a well-known gay activist has been arrested, and in Malawi, Muslim leaders are calling for the death penalty for gays.

This increasingly active state-sponsored persecution of our community has – as we’ve said before – been partly fuelled by US evangelists exploiting splits in the Anglican Communion (ordination of women, gay rights etc.) and the power of fundamentalism; having lost traction at home under Obama, it’s an opportunity they’ve seized aggressively, often using pseudo-science and stoking the notion that homosexuality is somehow “un-African”, just another example of Western moral decadence imported under colonial rule. It’s given an increasing number of African leaders a useful scapegoat to distract populations from debates about corruption and so forth as well as creating a spurious image of “moral leadership” and a sense of continental unity and shared values linked to ethnic identity which gets beyond tribalism and the tensions between Islam and Christianity.

This week Vladimir Putin gave a top honour for – among other things – “humanitarian work” to a top TV news presenter who says the hearts of gay people who die “should be buried or burned as unfit for extending anyone’s life.”

The combination of what’s going on in Africa and Putin/Russia’s institutionalised homophobia is a particularly dangerous and toxic cocktail,  because it creates a climate which implies there is a twisted “legitimacy” to the anti-gay lobby, and suggests that there is somehow a large-scale morally-acceptable alternative to what has been happening in more enlightened countries in recent years.  

You can already see the effects spreading; a growing sense that the Christian community is being marginalised, and proposals to curb discussion of homosexuality in schools. In the US, several states are debating laws which will allow doctors to deny healthcare to the LGBT community on grounds of conscience.

If you add to that the complacency of the LGBT “community” the world starts to feel increasingly unsafe. It may be partly down to visibility and changes in reporting over the years, but somehow it feels there is a much bigger aggressive and physical threat to the LGBT community than I can ever remember.  It’s time we spoke up.

1480631_713380028679674_60021205_nFor the past few months, New York’s The Museum at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology) has been home to a fascinating exhibition which looks at the relationship between fashion and LGBT culture over the centuries. There’s much more to this than provocative stage clothes (though they have their place) and couture, and even though the exhibition itself closed last month, there’s still a great web site to explore.

A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk is perhaps surprisingly the first exhibition of its kind to look at the topic. For those of us who’ve been active in the LGBT community since the 70s or who look for gay references in music and movies there’s plenty which will be familiar, but this is much more than just a trip down memory lane.

Frank Mugisha, one of Uganda’s few public gay activists (good reason for that), is convinced that’s the case. The US-based Center for Constitutional Rights is working with him to take evangelist Scott Lively  to court over his alleged involvement in shaping the dreadful legal sanctions the LGBTQ community in Uganda has been fighting. There’s a good interview with Frank in the UK newspaper The Independent, in which he argues that “homophobia is actually imported, not African”.

“Lively has been the man with the plan in this enterprise,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “He long ago set out a very specific and detailed methodology for stripping away the most basic human rights protections, to silence and ultimately disappear LGBT people. Unfortunately, he found willing accomplices and fertile ground in Uganda.”

So far, Uganda’s President Museveni has refused to sign the bill which went through the country’s parliament in December 2013 – possibly because of international pressure – but he still said we’re “abnormal”, and that lesbians suffer from “sexual starvation”.

“You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people.”

Wonderful parody of Facebook’s 10th Anniversary movies (my own personal one was somewhat disappointing and so hasn’t seen the light of  day, but some others have been surprisingly good).

Javier Fernández is an Olympic skater and had the honour of carrying his country’s flag at the opening in Sochi. If only he’d kept his mouth shut.

Spanish blog Cromosoma X couldn’t have chosen a better photo of the guy, who said in an interview this week that it would be best if gays kept quiet for a few days to avoid problems with Russia, adding that you shouldn’t mix sport and politics. Unsurprisingly, his comments haven’t gone down well with the LGBTQ community in his home country.

“In every courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages.”

As the LGBTQ community in other countries where gay marriage has become a part of everyday life will attest, the impact of the legal acceptance of the validity of gay relationships on a society has a wider significance; it’s not just the letter of the law that counts. That wider context of US Attorney General Richard Holder’s announcement was summed up by Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin when he said “our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all.” More here.

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