Standing with my eyes on the screen of my camcorder, all I see is hate, cynicism, complex (inferior and superior), confusion, minds that are made up, two opposite paradigms! I’m participating in a human rights workshop in Geneva organized by Gmedia Center and the Swiss FDFA. The overall objective of the workshop is to empower media to
further civil society goals on human rights and democracy. On day 2 of the workshop (yesterday), an organization promoting LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) rights came to speak to us journalists. Participating journalists are from Chad,Nigeria and Senegal; though we have a language barrier (French vs English), our emotions were united.
The delegation from this LGBT rights organization included a white man and three Nigerian men. Perhaps my Nigerian colleagues were more angered by the fact that three of our people were championing this cause, they just could not understand any other sane reason they would do this except that they were gay and had received a lot of money! Arguments ranged from “Why should I bother with LGBT rights when there is poverty, corruption, unemployment, insecurity that is ravaging our people and economy?” to “whether you like it or not, we contribute to the economy as well. Our organization provides employment to lots of people who are not even gay!”.
Back and forth we went until one of the delegates from the LGBT rights organization mentioned he had two children to which my colleague cut him mid-sentence and asked ” how did you have your children? are they yours?, who helped you give birth to them?”. Awkward silence for two seconds after which the delegate responded “They are my children and it’s my private life”, the meeting ended few minutes after this.
I understand the feelings of my colleagues, for us LGBT is cultural. It is against our values, faith, it is unnatural to us. Homosexuality is not a new phenomenon from the western world, it existed way back in the old testament, even before Christ came. However, we have been sheltered from this reality and are just not ready to face it, no not yet. I understand the feelings of my father when my brother came to inform him that my sister had had a child at twenty, she was in the university. He disowned her immediately, how could she bring him so much disgrace! I understand the feelings of people who avoid you once you are HIV positive, it has no cure remember?. In all these and countless others, only three things matter – us, our feelings and the choices made.
When almost everyone left the room another LGBT delegate came and asked to speak to my colleague who had asked the question. He said her questions were inappropriate, he could see her disgust in her face but nevertheless she shouldn’t have spoken in that manner. Out of curiosity I said “excuse me, can I ask you a question? Are you gay?”. He lost his composure for a second and replied “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question, it’s personal”. I concluded he was gay and as he spoke to me, trying to get me to understand the need for their rights, I fought the disgust I was feeling and failed miserably.
Then it hit me! I was no different from the religious scholars and the pharisees who brought the adulterous woman before Jesus to be stoned. I had judged and condemned my neighbour even while he spoke to me. I didn’t even want him to touch me, like my dad, I disowned him. Here I was playing God! We set standards and anyone who falls short is categorized. Even the UN and the global human rights council has categorized LGBT! They fight for human rights and then fight for LGBT rights. In the eyes of the world, they are not men, women or children; they are not humans at all, they are Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual with separate rights from us humans.
We might never be able to understand the feelings of LGBT persons, but we must understand that they are humans! We all have a right to life, love, freedom and of course choice! We might be unhappy with their choices but it was never ours in the first instance – it’s THEIRS! Like Jesus said “The sinless one among you, go first: throw the stone!” and I paraphrase “The one who has never made a choice that displeased another person, go first: decide who is human and who is not!”.
In the end, I saw my neighbour for the first time and shook his hand. I wonder if he saw me too.