Violence is not a typical topic for Pride celebrations. It is wonderful that we can celebrate the millions of people who live in states and cities that have marriage equality or civil unions. We rejoice with same gender loving couples who now announce their anniversaries at church or synagogue.
I, too, like to focus on the positive. There are many blessings I enjoy as the head of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). We serve the LGBT world from coast to coast and in close to 40 countries. We truly do celebrate the progress we have made with more than 50 percent of the country supporting marriage equality -- but we tell the truth too. And the truth can be ugly.
I could spare you what I have to say -- but there is a part of me that wants you to know -- and so I write. I write about the gay rights advocate in South Africa who was murdered and mutilated. I write about the rising number of murders of LGBT people in the U.S. I write about the "kill the gays" bill that is back on the table in Uganda. I write about the hatred of LGBT people in Eastern Europe by religious and governmental authorities. I write about Jamaica where hating gays is a popular topic for music lyrics and where murders are escalating.
Pride and persecution are both real. We rejoice in the good and confront the evil.
Days ago in South Africa, Thapelo Makutle, beloved by family and friends alike, was found dead with his throat cut, his tongue cut out and his genitals cut off and pushed into his mouth. In a typical sign of a hate crime, Thapelo Makutle was over-killed as a threat to all advocates of human rights for LGBT people.
Recently, Ugandan police invaded a workshop on LGBT concerns and arrested participants and announced that 38 NGOs would be de-certified because of their support of LGBT rights --although they are starting to back down due to international outcry and lawsuits. The anti-homosexuality bill, dubbed "kill the gays bill" is back and being pushed by religious and political leaders to become law. Even discussion of LGBT equality or friends and family who do not report their loved once could be fined and imprisoned.
The Anti-Violence Project released their most recent report late last month showing an 11 percent increase in murders of LGBT and HIV-affected people in the U.S. This is a three-year trend of growing lethal violence. People of color comprised 83 percent of these murders and 40 percent were transgender women.
In a recent trip to visit MCC's ministries in Eastern Europe, I witnessed the sadness, yet resilience, of LGBT people of faith and advocates in the face of family rejection and official condemnation from both government and religion. Pride marchers are always under risk of attack or imprisonment. One Algerian Muslim lives in exile with deep sadness over losing family, country and faith. A Mongolian activist fled for his life to Europe but wonders where his life will lead. So many people live in deep fear of being assaulted, persecuted and exiled.
ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Alliance, recently released its annual mapping of laws related to LGBT people. There continue to be over 70 countries where same-gender love is illegal while more than seven countries or regions allow the death penalty for LGBT people.
As a pastor, I recoil at telling these stories but my leadership in this global effort requires that I stand with those who suffer and whose voice is silent because of fear and persecution. These stories are not just to shock but to compel us to work harder if we have the freedom to work. Our love is part of every culture on every continent.
Hillary Clinton said it well, "Gay people are born into -- and belong to -- every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths. They are doctors, and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes," she said. "Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality."
Our human reality is that we need to speak out against injustice. It makes a difference. Each time Uganda's right wing has pushed for passage of the "kill the gays" bill, public outcry has blocked it. When European leaders announced that they would not fund countries that imprison or execute gay people, Malawi's President, Joyce Banda, announced she would not support such laws. Our voices and our leverage make a difference.
Whenever you hear yourself say, "Someone should do something!" Or, "What a shame!", remember to ask yourself, "What can I do?" Pick up the phone; make a donation; write a letter; post on Facebook or Twitter. The Global Justice Institute of MCC is a group to support as it works for justice in Uganda, Pakistan, Jamaica and other places. We live in a time for maximum return on our efforts -- we just have to make the effort. The lives of LGBT people around the world are at stake.