by Miguel Ángel Saona Vallejos @masaonav
Text based on the video: UN (2015): “THE PRICE OF EXCLUSION: Free & Equal (New York)
In 2017 we will celebrate the 69th anniversary of two important events: a historical-political one and a scientific one. Since I know that number 69 is a favourite for many, I have decided to wish you the best for this year with the following comments.
1948: publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
1948: publication of the Kinsey Report about male sexuality in the United States, which determines that at least 10% of interviewees are homosexual, 46% are bisexual, and 37% has had at least one homosexual experience in their lives. A report about women was published in 1953. However, Alfred Kinsey, principal investigator for this project, preferred not to use such labels as homo/bi, or heterosexual. From his point of view, sexuality is not a fixed concept and it can change with time, as it is not ruled only by biological factors but also psychological ones.
1973: The American Psychological Association stops considering homosexuality a mental disorder, and in 1990 the World Health Organisation does the same. Eventually, it was clear that one’s sexual orientation is a feature like being left-handed or right-handed, or having eyes or skin of one colour or another.
I have decided to publish these new year resolutions for 2017 because, according to recent surveys, between 50% and 66% of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer people (LGBTQ) all over the world suffer bullying while in school; and that is the reason why 33% of them decide to skip classes or abandon their studies. In the XXI century, many of those youngsters are rejected by their parents and relatives, they are thrown out of their home and end up living in the streets. In the USA, at least 40% of young homeless people in major cities identify as LGBT or queer. As a consequence, bullying, isolation and rejection push them to drug abuse and alcohol addiction, with severe consequences in their lives. The number of homosexual youths who contemplate suicide is four times higher than their heterosexual peers, and the number of those who have attempted suicide is ten times higher among transsexual people compared to heterosexuals.
When LGBTQ people start working, they also experience discrimination at work, everywhere in the world. A European study has established that at least 20% have claimed to be victims of discrimination. By the same token, it is easy to imagine what the situation of LGBTQ workers is like around the world.
Moreover, recent research has also proved that unemployment, poverty, food insecurity and depression rates are higher among LGBTQ people than among heterosexuals. These individual tragedies affect society too with loss of creativity, talent, human potential, and productivity. Essentially, they affect both local and global economies, according to a 2014 study that has established a clear link between LGBTQ discrimination and corresponding loss of potential economic output for the 39 countries examined.
Nevertheless, some people dare say that the world would be a better place without LGBTQ people. To these people I would like to say: try to imagine the world without painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or Frida Kahlo; or without writers such as Virginia Woolf, Sappho, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Audre Lorde, García Lorca, Alice Walker, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Proust, James Baldwin o Marguerite Yourcenar; or without musicians such as Tchaikovskij, Britten, Schubert, Ethel Smyth or, among contemporaries, Ani DiFranco, Beth Ditto, Anohni, Michael Stipe, Morrissey, Rufus Wainwright o Amanda Palmer. As for those people who are not interested in the arts, could we do without scientists like Alan Turing, Magnus Hirschfeld or Louise Pearce? or without philosophers such as Michel Foucault or Judith Butler or economists like Keynes? Would the world really be a better place if all those people had not existed?
And do not let them say that homosexuality is “a new and imported thing”. For example, in pre-Columbian Peru, there are plenty of ceramic objects depicting homosexual behaviour proving that it was equally common back then.
With relation to globalisation, the World Bank has established, through a pilot study, that LGBTQ discrimination costs the world economy the annual amount of at least $32billion, which means less money in taxes, education, health, and other essential services.
All this motivated the United Nations, in 2011, to create a Commission to analyse LGBTQ rights worldwide and to start the Free and Equal Campaign in 2013 to fight against discrimination, violence, torture, kidnapping and murder due to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). In June 2016, a SOGI Independent Expert was appointed for the protection against violence and discrimination.
Shall, therefore, us homosexuals, be satisfied with these achievements? Definitely not. It is not enough yet. According to a 2016 study by the International Lesbian, Gay, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), of the 195 sovereign states recognised by the UN, there are still 73 countries in which homosexuality is a crime; 13 punish it with the death penalty; only 47 have legalised same-sex marriage and only 27 allow gays to adopt children. We still have a lot to fight for, in the name of freedom and equality. In the same way that racial segregation was abolished, people still have to fight for gender equality.
To those religious people who do not accept homosexuality “because the Bible says so”- and I am absolutely sure they have read and analysed it thoroughly – I’d like to remind them that the term ‘homosexual’ appeared for the first time in 1868 (19 centuries after Christ was born) thanks to Karl-Maria Kertbeny, an Austrian-Hungarian journalist. Ironically, this man was a fervent advocate for human rights, but the term was later used in a derogatory way. Generally speaking, the Bible condemns any sexual act outside of marriage. The text refers to homosexuality indirectly, among other activities, only a few times. On the other hand, other terms are referred to much more frequently: hatred, lying and false testimony, greed, theft, adultery, murder, hypocrisy and idolatry. Let me remind you that homosexuality is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, nor is it one of the seven capital sins. Therefore, I expect it to be clear how unimportant this subject was for those who compiled those stories.
Finally, to those who prefer the ‘natural’ argument against homosexuality, let me tell you that at least 1,500 animal species display homosexual behaviour, while homophobia exists only among humans.
To conclude, I hope that in 2017, all over the world, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic or cultural background, everyone will make use of The Golden Rule of human relationships: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Or, if you prefer, live your life and let other live theirs. In two words, reciprocity and respect. That is the only thing I ask my relatives and friends for. I also expect all workplaces to be safer, fairer, more inclusive and not to discriminate against their LGBTQ workers in 2017 and that all countries educate their citizens and create freer, more equal and more prosperous societies.