Over the weekend I received a message on the TPG Instagram that really took me by surprise. I guess now that I have a pretty sizable base of followers, that also includes international gay followers. Being a typical American, I often forget that the domestic gay perspective is not the only gay perspective, and that gays around the world lead very different lives. My message was from a guy in a Middle Eastern country that identifies as gay. This happens to be a country where being publicly gay is still punishable by death.
We hear about these things from time to time, but with all of the rights gays have been afforded in America, it’s easy to forget that other countries still have so much progress to make. If you think about it, the fact that America only recently legalized gay marriage on a wholesale basis is even shocking for such a “progressive” nation. So I’m not sure why I was so shocked to be reminded that you can still be killed for being gay in other nations.
This guy was asking me what his options were. He is a young, educated professional and has to live a lie out of fear of death. I told him that all he could really do is try to immigrate to a more progressive country either through a job or marrying a citizen. Even being educated and a working professional, that is a very hard task to accomplish. I started looking into whether or not countries like America offered political asylum to citizens of countries where being gay is punishable by death. Unfortunately, we generally do not (of course for other political reasons). This was very upsetting to me.
Sadly, the only thing that will fix this problem is time. Look how long it took America to get to this point. Other countries are probably 50+ years behind us before being gay might be ok internationally. The Washington Post recently published an article outlining 10 countries where being gay is still punishable by death. Considering this was not on my radar, I figured the least I could do is use this platform to spread awareness. I bet running an Instagram and blog like mine could get me killed in other countries.
As someone whose cultural roots emanate from the Middle East, it is not lost on me how blessed I am to be living here. Even for Americans, so many of us live our lives closeted or wait too long to live our truth. If anything, I hope this type of reminder wakes up Americans who actually have the freedom to be who they want to stop hiding and do it. Even in my life, I still don’t know that every single person I know agrees with my lifestyle. But the point is that they can’t tell me a damn thing about it. There are people around the world wishing for that reality.