The past couple of weeks have seen some tremendous milestones for the LGBTQ community. From Taiwan to the Chechen Republic, we’ve seen the breaking of ancient molds and the freeing of tortured souls. Whether it may be a waiting game that spanned decades or camp survival that dragged on for days, liberation is uplifting. Freedom restores faith.
Such is the narrative that has captured the world and humanity’s heart. It’s tremendous and awe-inspiring and, dare I say, audacious. Ironically, audacity does swing both ways in the eyes of the many. At least when it comes to our quaint and queer community. We are a group that is audacious because we are bold. On the flipside, we are audacious because we spit in the face of traditions. Of customs. Of norms. Sadly, the latter remains prevalent and our biggest hurdle.
For most of the world, we are audacious because we are deviants.
Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at what the ratification of same sex marriage means in Chinese Taipei, and, writ large, South East Asia. Now this is a region that is steeped in ancient traditions and customs. The importance of family as the basic building block of society runs deep. Thousands of years’ worth. A family is a father, a mother, and children. The father provides, the mother guides. A family needs both to be functioning. Anything other than that is taking away from the society. It’s a belief system that is simple—and unyielding. It’s one that transcends nationality, in religion, in language, and in culture. That’s hard to overturn.
As a matter of fact, overshadowed by the celebration and euphoria from Taiwan is the news that came out of Indonesia at almost the same time. Two men in a gay relationship has been sentenced to a public flogging for engaging in intimate acts. 83 lashes. Four hours. All because of their audacious way of life that couldn’t be farther from the norm.
It’s difficult to say if the news from Taiwan will turn out a mere pebble in a puddle or the jolt that will end up causing waves. What is apparent is that so long as the LGBTQ community in South East Asia remains muted, what could have been impactful milestones could well turn the opposite corner and turn out as ornaments in a long winding gallery.
But let’s also not forget the unthinkable that has occurred in the patriarchy-heavy Former Soviet Union. With the cooperation of multiple nations and organizations, around 40 men are in the process of being transferred out of the region. Spearheaded by one group, the Russian LGBT Network, their prospects are now brighter to have a new start in places that would be more welcoming and accepting. All because this organization had the audacity to intervene for human rights and equality.
Since the news outbreak of Chechen concentration camps, one has since been destroyed and relocated. As of early this year there’s still belief that the hunts are still on-going. But with the vigilance of these bold groups led by Human Rights Watch (https://www.hrw.org/topic/lgbt-rights), the UK Foreign Office (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office), Novaya Gazeta (https://www.novayagazeta.ru/), Amnesty International (https://www.amnestyusa.org/issues/gender-sexuality-identity/), and the International Crisis Group (https://www.crisisgroup.org/gender-peace-and-security), the process had been initiated and these men could have some reprieve knowing that people are watching over them. Indeed, its shockwaves are fast forming ripples that may yet erode the boulder of ignorance.
Throughout the long winding gallery of our fight, we see great portraits—snapshots of moments, of people, that chose to be bold and brave, pushing back the spectacles that had long bound the rest of the world. The spectacles that had allowed them to see us in a light so outlandish, so audacious and obnoxious, that it cannot fit their reality. Yet time and again we are presented with opportunities to rise up and gather our voices in unity:
In the face of lashes and flashes of humiliation, yes, still we have the audacity to cause ripples.
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