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August 2011 Archives

The Tragic Consequence of Being an Anonymous Minority Statistic!

It is common knowledge that at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, gay men in many countries were frequently singled out and targeted for physical abuse. Why? Because they were seen to be responsible for the spread of HIV. This view was fueled by sensational reporting in the press that became progressively homophobic.

This homophobia was reflected in newspaper headlines such as "Alert Over 'Gay Plague'," and "'Gay Plague' May Lead to Blood Ban on Homosexuals!" Those and others like them were essentially a form of "yellow journalism" that demonized the gay community even more! As a result, U.S. groups monitoring homophobic violence reported an increase in incidents when public awareness about AIDS in America heightened in the 1980s. Today, this targeted abuse seems very unlikely to end in the near future (especially in America), especially since the CDC recently announced in a stunning report that young people in the United States are at persistent risk of HIV infection. This risk is particularly high for minority and ethnic youth, ages 13 to 29.

Currently, homophobia is not only a national concern. The intolerance it breeds also continues to be a major international barrier to ending the global AIDS epidemic and hate crimes against same-gender-loving people. In many countries, such as Uganda and Ghana, stigma and discrimination prevent men who have sex with men from accessing vital HIV prevention, treatment and care services. Without a doubt, if we are ever going to prevail over the AIDS virus, tackling and combating homophobia must become an essential priority in order to encourage individuals (who fear for their safety) to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, which are on also on the rise.

Every so often, however, there's a glimmer of hope. This year, the United Nations passed a resolution--hailed as historic--that endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people for the first time ever. The resolution expressed grave concern about acts of violence and discrimination committed against individuals in all regions of the world because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. While it is tempting to point a finger at other countries, such as Uganda and Ghana, and condemn them for their extreme homophobic acts and heinous crimes against same-gender-loving people, we must also realize that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Simply put, even though we pride ourselves on living in a technically and socially advanced democratic society and the United Nations was instrumental in proposing their Resolution, in many ways we are hypocrites! For many years, America has allowed bigots and religious extremists to enshrine countless unethical laws that illegally deny same-gender-loving people equal rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (in almost every state) in our own constitution.

Many religious leaders and right-wing politicians use the Bible to justify their outlandish actions. What's more, many also feel absolutely no remorse for their homophobic statements that fuel attacks on innocent people of all sexual orientations. Just as racist bigots in the Civil Rights era used scripture to justify their heinous attacks and social oppression of black people and women, these leaders use similar tactics. Can't people see the same pattern being repeated here? Nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than in our current political climate. As presidential candidates debate, many extol divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. In doing so, they pander to the most extreme elements in the electorate as they campaign on a desperate quest to solicit and garner conservative votes.

Is it any wonder then that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs' researchers recently published a report that noted a 23 percent increase in murders of LGBT and HIV-affected people in the United States, the second highest yearly total ever recorded?

According to the Advocate:

Twenty-seven LGBT people and HIV-affected people were killed in 2010, according to the latest numbers from the NCAVP. Total incidents of violence, which include victims who survived, were up 13% from 2009 to 2010. The statistics found that LGBT people of color and transgender women were subject to a disproportionate number of attacks--70% of the 27 murders in 2010 were LGBT and HIV-affected people of color, while transgender women made up 44% of the murder victims.

In order to understand the cause of these disturbing attacks that disproportionately affect LGBT minorities, one need only recall the disturbing interview with J.L. King, author of the controversial book On The Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep with Men, and the former queen of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey. The interview was an alarming, bold confession of what life was like for him, a Black man on living life on the down low. King immediately garnered national fame and became a trusted, self-proclaimed HIV prevention activist and educator to the nation (especially Black America). The show was promoted by a sensational trailer that warned viewers, "It's a shocker. It's called on the 'Down Low': Men with wives and girlfriends secretly having sex with other men.

Immediately after that interview, a series of articles published in Essence, Vibe, and the Washington Post attempted to expose a secret sexual cultural phenomenon called "the Down Low." Although those articles caused somewhat of a stir, I agree with Johari Osaze Jabir, an artist and African-American studies lecturer, that none were as troubling as one that appeared on Sunday, August 3, 2003 in the New York Times Magazine cover page article entitled "Double Lives On The Down Low." Written by journalist Benoit Lewis, the work sent a shock wave through the African-American community as the article aired some very dirty laundry. Jabir properly noted that while the previous articles in Black publications were written and read by black people, Benoit's piece, displayed on the cover of the Sunday magazine for the entire world to see, had far more impact!

Among the story's many shocking insights, the article revealed that after 25 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic not only had HIV infection rates steadily climbed for African-American women, but black religious institutions, in particular, created and supported homophobia within black communities. The result of this homophobia, according to the article was the birth of a subculture of dishonesty and denial with respect to black masculinity, desire, and sexuality. In addition, this subculture sabotaged any attempts at HIV prevention and/or treatment, the article said.

In my popular new book Love Won't Let Me Be Silent, I pointed out the tremendous negative influence that hip hop has had on the nation (in regards to the LGBT community) as a whole. Many are reluctant to admit this, but the denial is particularly vehement in the African-American community. Even today, although much of the homophobic language has been toned down in contemporary rap lyrics, there are cleverly disguised subliminal homophobic messages that still make it absolutely clear that being gay is totally unacceptable and definitely not manly!Personally, I feel that most hip-hop artists will never truly fully embrace same-gender-loving people publicly. What's more, some gay and lesbian hip-hop artists conceal their orientation, as Terrence Dean, author of Hiding Within Hip-Hop, asserts. Clearly, these and many other factors all contribute to the rise in attacks against both HIV-positive and -negative same-gender-loving people, Because I have ministered in the black church for over 40 years, I am very aware of how their refusal to address issues such as HIV/AIDS and the fact that there are thousands of same-gender-loving people within its congregations has gravely crippled us. But there is one more commonly overlooked culprit. The African American community has hundreds of local newspapers and online publications that frequently omit many pertinent issues concerning the gay community, with the exception of such extraordinary black newspapers as the New England Informer and the New Pittsburgh Courier. (Full disclosure: Both papers have also published my blog content and columns.)

But too many black newspapers don't possess the journalistic integrity to follow the outstanding leadership demonstrated by these two exceptional papers. These other black publications depend heavily on financial support from religious institutions. This means indirectly and, perhaps, unfortunately, these papers must shoulder some of the responsibility for the spread of the virus. Why? Because of innumerable anti-gay sermons preached from their pulpits. Ironically, the original purpose of the free press was to inform and educate their readership about vital issues that affect and impact the lives of its readership. But when black newspapers ignore and overlook the importance of pertinent issues that impact the lives of gay and straight African-Americans, they tacitly approve and condone acts of hatred and homophobia.

One example of this is the incident concerning Rev. Rick Warren, well- as witnessed by the case of Christian evangelical minister Rev. Rick Warren, Martin Ssempa's mentor. Ssempa was the chairman of the anti-homosexuality task force in Uganda who attempted to solicit Warren's advice when devising horrific homophobic laws in his administration's "Kill The Gays" bill. Rev. Warren, who had previously made his anti-gay feelings known from the pulpit, never responded to Ssempa. Perhaps this was because when Ssempa revealed his "Kill the Gays" bill, the magnitude of how evil and oppressive this legislation was, was revealed! Rev. Warren attempted political and spiritual damage control by issuing conciliatory videos pleading for tolerance and putting distance between himself and Ssempa. But Rev. Warren never issued an outright condemnation of Ssempa's bill. Instead, he issued a comment that his calling did not include interfering in the political process of other nations.

But in my opinion, Rev. Warren's position may still be viewed as a personal endorsement of Ssempa's genocidal bill. It brought to mind the words of British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke who prophetically said, "All evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing!" The same can be said about newspapers that ignore their original mandate to speak truth to power and prefer to place their love of money above the public good.

We, as a nation must evolve. We must move forward and we must embrace the more noble aspects of our humanity. Needless to say, it won't be easy; it never is! Nor is living easy, particularly for HIV individuals who are being assaulted, as you read this, or all the transgender women who are being murdered, or the thousands in the LGBT community, white and black, male and female, who desperately and simply want to live as God created all his children to live--happily and freely because we were all made in His image!

by Terry Angel Mason, Global Author & Intl. Columnist
WWW.TERRYANGELMASON.COM

THE VIDEO YOU MUST SEE!

Marsha Ambrosius sings about these crimes against humanity - Far Away

Follow Angel Mason on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ALOVEBALLAD

Three days after penning this article two black men were murdered in Iowa and Mississippi:

James Craig Anderson -- Brutally Murdered in Mississippi

Marcellus Richard Andrews -- Brutally Murdered In Iowa

JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL OUTCRY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA!
(When will the madness ever end?)

"A vicious immoral insanity has invaded Uganda like a biblical plague, and is now eating away at her soul and festering amongst her people like a virulent malignant disease. Moreover, this plague, if not stopped, excised and exorcised from Ugandan culture, will continue to incite more political oppression, more unjustified murders and more unwarranted and illegal imprisonments. This insanity that I refer to is extreme homophobia, which has been tragically and purposely imported into the country by Right wing Christian evangelical leaders, resulting in disastrous consequences for the people of Uganda. This intolerant mindset has been eagerly and cruelly embraced by Ugandan government officials, who have now codified this extreme form of homophobic genocide into their very country's constitution..."

These prophetic, compelling words grabbed the attention of the entire international community in an article penned by my personal assistant Asim (Editor, Author and Creative Writer) and I, entitled: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ARCHITECTS OF THE UGANDAN GAY GENOCIDE. Even though we both hoped these words would never come to fruition, and that somehow the human rights violations being committed against same-gender-loving people would at least taper off, if not stop all together, regretfully, they have not! In fact, on July 20, 2011, Paul Evans Aidoo, the Western Region Minister of Ghana, urged "landlords and tenants" to report suspected homosexuals and suggested gays should be rounded-up in an effort "to get rid of these people in the society." The comments followed the announcement that 8,000 gay men have registered with AIDS charities in the area. Not long after this information was disclosed, Muslims and Christians began staging anti-gay protests and The Christian Council of Ghana called on Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals.

Before I go any further with this article, I want to state that I know for a fact that there are far more than just 8,000 LGBT people living in Ghana because it is a proven fact statistically that same-gender-loving people who live in areas where they are stigmatized and marginalized, that hundreds if not thousands never disclose their sexual preference to anyone! As an author, Civil Rights Activist and AIDS advocate, I can personally attest to receiving countless emails from African same-gender-loving people who reach out to me all the time. I am often overwhelmed by their numerous requests for advice and reading materials, so I know firsthand that 8,000 is only a drop in the bucket! I can't tell you how many sleepless nights I've spent agonizing over the plight of my brothers and sisters in Africa because they are so severely oppressed, jailed, abused and even put to death simply because they are gay!This heinous mandate (to round up the gays and kill them) bares a chilling resemblance to the recent proposed Ugandan Gay Genocide and the evil mandate issued by Adolph Hitler and his monstrous regime before the Enlightenment, when Jews (like same-gender-loving people) were hated because they were different and refused to assimilate. The word, "GENOCIDE" seems to be the theme of Africa, known also for the horrific Rwandan holocaust, where an estimated 800,000 people in the small African nation of Rwanda were brutally murdered!

You may recall that not long ago, The Obama administration introduced its first statement calling for the United Nations' top human rights body to combat discrimination against gays and lesbians around the world, implementing a U.S. reversal from years of ambiguity on the subject during the presidency of George W. Bush. "We are very concerned that individuals continue to be killed, arrested and harassed around the world because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Suzanne Nossel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations. "This statement sends a strong message from across the globe that such abuse should not be tolerated. Again, I can only applaud the Obama administration for championing equal rights for all same-gender-loving people across the globe, especially in view of the recently proposed gay genocide in Uganda!"

Both Ghana and Uganda and other surrounding countries' inhumane acts of violence and overt discrimination directed at same-gender-loving people have blinded them to truth and compassion which subsequently has clouded their good judgment and sense of self-preservation. It now also threatens to undo 30 years of progress made against the spread of the virus as previously stated in the aforementioned article. We are already seeing signs of these repercussions, since thousands refuse to seek medical care, fearing that doctors, nurses and practitioners will disclose their sexual preference--something mandated by both Ghanaian and Ugandan's Legislators. The daunting reality is that millions more will die, not only in Ghana, but all throughout Africa needlessly because of fear, ignorance and intolerance.

What I find amazing is that the use of laws to arrest, prosecute or imprison individuals for consensual same-sex relations in private or on the basis of their gender identity or expression is a violation of Ghana's international human rights obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The rights enshrined in these international treaties include the rights to privacy, freedom from discrimination, equal treatment under the law, freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Ghanaian government has obligations under these standards to promote, respect and protect the human rights of its population without distinction or discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ghana's own constitution recognizes the right to freedom from discrimination in Article 17. Furthermore, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, ratified by Ghana in 1989, affirms the equality of all people. Article 2 affirms the right to freedom from discrimination, article 3 guarantees equality before the law and article 26 outlines the duty of all individuals not to discriminate, and to "maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance."

It is well known globally that many African nations depend heavily on outside support from other countries because of the severe poverty ravaging the continent. This is why the threat of proposed sanctions against the Uganda government was effective and helped to neutralize and dismantle the "Kill the Gays Bill." These distasteful, inhumane acts grieved the international community to such an extent that humanitarian activists united with an unrelenting resolve, driven by the spirit of justice, vowing never to rest until Uganda was forced to eschew, foreswear, and permanently renounce all efforts to imprison gays for life and/or kill them.

Often, international advocates warn that global pressure could be misconstrued and have an adverse effect. However, even though some caution that international sanctions could be seen as an attempt to impose foreign values on a sovereign country, we cannot sit idly by and do nothing lest we also be found just as guilty as the crazed homophobic abusers, who beat, rob, rape, unjustly imprison, and even murder innocent same-gender-loving people in these oppressive nations. There is no doubt in my mind that despite the possibility of a backlash from African countries who may resist global intervention; international pressure is essential, necessary and needful in order to send a message to reactionary African nations that any such type of horrific genocidal legislation will never be tolerated, nor condoned! Moreover, we, the civilized nations of the world community, must send these purveyors and architects of such cruel inhumane bigotry and genocide a clear strong, unambiguous, and resounding message! A message that proclaims such blatant and overt contempt and willful disregard for the rights and safety of its citizens will always be met with moral outrage, international censure, and financial sanctions, without question or hesitation!

It is important to note that even though American Right Wing Evangelicals were not directly responsible for inspiring this travesty of injustice in Ghana, still, they cannot be completely absolved of responsibility for it, since for decades they have infused African people with a spirit of intolerance and homophobia that has even grieved the heart of the very Creator Himself!!! While many discount the accuracy of the Holy Scriptures and multitudes flee legalistic driven houses of worship (and rightfully so) because of narrow-mindedness, homophobia and gay bashing from the pulpit, still I can't help but wonder (as a proud same-gender-loving believer) if the following particular scriptures have accurately and historically framed this overt insane expression of hatred, when they foretold of a time when men would kill each other in the name of the Messiah, foolishly thinking that they are doing God a service; a time when the love of men would grow cold and men would be fierce despisers of those that are good, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, and extremely brutal? Even so, I am encouraged because I know that these same scriptures declare that perfect love casts out fear, and that the power of love always triumphs over injustice! While the mills of justice may grind slowly, ultimately justice will prevail if you and I will boldly step up to the plate and take aggressive action! We must never forget the words of Edmund Burke who said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

In conclusion, we should all turn our attention towards beautiful New York harbor, to Ellis Island, where stands The Statue of Liberty. This icon of Human Rights continues inspiring, illuminating, and enlightening the world. This wonderful gesture of kindness and symbol of freedom was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. This is why I call on all democratic nations of the world, the United Nations, Congress and President Obama to emulate and duplicate the heroic and compassionate example of The U.K. and likewise offer political asylum to the persecuted same sex community of Ghana and Uganda. Surely, these famous words inscribed upon the Statue of Liberty which I now quote, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" should include them as well!

By Terry Angel Mason, Global Author and Intl. Columnist

This article is featured in my new book: THEY SAY THAT I AM BROKEN

About Global Author Terry Angel Mason

Terry Angel Mason is an internationally renowned author, columnist, keynote speaker, poet, singer, songwriter, minister, and Civil Rights activist who currently resides is Southern California. He is the author of three popular titles, Love Won't Let Me Be Silent, They Say That I am Broken, and The Dream Keeper, set to be released in 2012. A revered leader and global change agent, Terry Angel Mason's mission is to inspire, educate and empower millions around the world, and promote love and acceptance for all people. A highly sought after author and activist, Mason has been featured in The NBJC Newsletter, The Advocate, Frontier Magazine, Broadway World, The Windy City Times Newspaper, New Pittsburgh Courier, New England Enquirer, Our Weekly Magazine, Out Impact, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, ME Magazine, POZ Magazine, The New Civil Rights Online Magazine, A&U Magazine, Religious Tolerance, Marriage Equality International, Homorazzi, BN&S News Commentary, Real Health Magazine, Q Magazine, MSNBC News Vine, ILGA, Out Military Online Magazine, Proud Parenting Web Magazine, Fuse Magazine, Echelon Magazine, and in many other publications.

Follow Angel Mason on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ALOVEBALLAD



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