It’s currently World Pride Week (with the main march happening this year in Toronto), and a time in which many local gay pride marches also take place around the world. Such parades are well-known, at least in the west, for their fun atmosphere, with dancing, drinking, colorful clothing, and people getting sprayed with water pistols. But Pride Week also offers us an opportunity for a deeper reflection on issues of morality and human rights.
It’s not particularly controversial to say that many people around the world are not big fans of alternative lifestyles that include homosexuality, bisexuality, transgendered people, or any of the many other identities that fall under the Pride banner. In Russia, gay pride marches are often attacked by extreme right-wingers, with collusion from the police. But even in supposedly tolerant countries like the US, a large number of people in a significant proportion of the country are at best uncomfortable with LGBT people, and often actively hostile to them. Sometimes this is for religious reasons, sometimes because of arguments about morality, and sometimes simply because of a visceral personal feeling with no real reason to back it up.
Most people reading this blog live in free countries, where they allowed to think whatever they like about anyone they choose, and so holding these opinions is fine, even if it is unjustified. But we must always remember that our opinions are simply that – opinions, which should have no bearing on whether or not LGBT people receive basic human rights.
In places like Uganda (and, again, even the US and Russia) many gay people are in fear for their lives and can be sent to prison or even killed for their sexuality. Whatever your beliefs about LGBT people, this is undoubtedly wrong – nobody deserves to die simply because of who they have sex with. Lesser examples of discrimination also abound – gay couples being turned away by motels or inns, for example; or, of course, the struggle over allowing gay men and women to marry. Again, whether we officially call it marriage or not, it would be wrong to stop LGBT people from expressing their love for one another and receiving the many benefits that the state gives to married couples.
These are basic human rights to equal treatment and dignity that we are talking about, and we must support these rights for all people if we are to support them for anyone. If we start to say that some people are not worthy of such rights because of their sexuality, then we can have no complaints when others start saying we do not deserve the same rights – perhaps because of our race, our gender, or our religion.
Homosexuality is not a choice, nor is it a disease, and it is certainly not something we should fear or try to eradicate or hide from view. It has been a part of society since history began (read anything about the Ancient Greeks if you don’t believe me!), and we need to start treating it in the sensible, mature manner which it deserves. We can start by saluting the tolerant countries and communities that have taken in gay Ugandan refugees who fear for their lives, who have worked with vulnerable young people to stamp out homophobic bullying, and who are happy to welcome and take part in the pride parades of their towns and cities. And we can wish everyone, gay, straight, or anything else, a happy World Pride Week and a tolerant, understanding future.
world pride week, lgbt, gay march, morality, human rights, equal treatment, ancient greeks, pride parade