A Happy Homosexual

“Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse.”

That was the summation of the queer experience circa-1970, voiced by the character Michael in milestone movie “Boys in the Band”. Often cited as the first major film to honestly depict gay life, the realities it showcased mirrored the times. The characters were generally sad, substance addicted, and sexually compartmentalized. Though immortalized in queer cinema history, the film left the impression that being gay was rather a drag.

June is gay pride month. It’s the time of year when those famous drag queen-laden parades and rainbow-saturated marches happen. It’s when LGBT people come together in a public way to declare with our presence that we are not ashamed of who we were created to be. Anyone who wonders why we gays insist on having these events should remember the quote above. Pride is how we fight back against a dejected self-narrative. It’s our anti-drag.

As “it’s gotten better”, some are questioning why we need to continue such events. Many have suggested that pride augments the very thing we are trying to diminish—our differences. The simple fact is, people are different; and that’s not bad!  In the past year, there have been an alarming number of publicly reported suicides among LGBT teens. Flying a rainbow flag may seem frivolous, but to the 13 year old kid who happens by a march, that flag could end up being a life line. Sometimes, you just need to know you aren’t alone. Pride gives us visibility.

Variety is what fills life with intrigue and meaning. If we don’t celebrate our diversity, though, someone will end up vilifying it. Remember that “kill the gays bill” in Uganda I wrote about several posts back? It appears poised to become law after nearly two years of international wrangling. In the wake of a deteriorating economy and under the rule of a dictator, a wave of “homosexual hysteria” has swept across the East African nation. Gays and lesbians are being blamed for the downfall of their society, an idea promulgated by several prominent leaders on the American religious right. Being gay is already a statutory crime, but that apparently isn’t enough. When hateful ideologies get transferred to countries with extreme poverty and limited access to education, there can be dire consequences. If it does indeed become law, gay people in the country will be executed—and their straight allies will face severe prison sentences if they voice their support for LGBT individuals. Gay corpses and imprisoned heteros are the consequences of being invisible.

The good news for those of us on the range is that we can publicly and visibly assemble without fear of such extreme government persecution. A lot has changed for the American homosexual since Michael’s band of boys first pranced across the silver screen. In the years following, LGBT people have come out and become important forces in local communities and economies. In fact, some of the most successful U.S. cities have the most progressive laws and accepting attitudes on the issue of gay rights. No longer are we sidelined into lives of desperation, secrecy, and unhappiness. In 2011, and yes in Kansas, gay truly can be synonymous with happy.

This June, embrace pride. Gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, or transgendered, all of us should celebrate the totality of who we are as individuals. When Wichita’s pride festival happens June 24th and 25th, exercise your right to assemble. Do it for our brother and sisters who can’t a world away.  Do it to show that being gay isn’t a drag!

Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a thriving community.


Uganda Be Kidding Me

Half a world away, a very serious human rights matter has risen with tracks that follow back to our own yellow brick road.

Sure, Kansas queers have a couple of things we could complain about. It’s perfectly legal to be fired from a job for being gay in this state. A constitutional amendment exists to deny same-sex couples basic legal rights. However, there’s something gay Kansans do have here that our friends in the east African nation of Uganda may soon covet- the right to be alive.

It’s actually illegal to be gay in a number of places abroad. Punishment ranges from large fines to public beatings to prison sentences in many places. A bill has been introduced in Uganda’s parliament that would go beyond that by mandating the death penalty for what the bill’s author coins “aggravated homosexuality.”

Uganda be kidding, right?

Sadly, no, and it isn’t just gay people who need fear retribution.   Anyone who knows a gay person and doesn’t report their knowledge to the police will be thrown in jail. Anyone who advocates or speaks out on behalf of gay rights will also get locked up.  If you lived in Uganda, every person reading this magazine would be in big trouble—unless you turned me into the police to be executed!

As we Americans argue over if gay couples should be allowed to marry, elsewhere, there’s an argument taking place over whether gay people can just BE. I, of course, write this column with my western perspective.  In Uganda, family is a keen value; anything that threatens its traditional structure is a problem that must be stopped. Homosexuality is seen as being the death-keel to traditional family values, so thus, the death penalty is seen by some as a suitable solution. I know that different societies have different values and cultural beliefs. There’s a fine line between tolerance and tyranny, though.

There’s also apparently a not-so-fine line between Kansas and Uganda politicians.

The author of this bill, Uganda Member of Parliament David Bahati, is a key associate of the American “secret society” known as The Family. It is well documented that our own Senator Sam Brownback is among this ultra-conservative clan. Jeff Sharlet, author of a book documenting The Family’s ties, says the group has funneled millions of dollars into the Ugandan anti-gay campaign, and considers Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni as the “key man” for protecting family values in Uganda.  Sharlet also says Museveni can go to Brownback if he wants money for arms or any other project—such as getting this bill passed.

This is quite troubling given the fact that Brownback is the apparent frontrunner to become Kansas’ next governor this fall. In the past, he has used his influential status to aid other global humanitarian issues, such as working to end international sex trafficking. On this issue, though, he has yet to comment or detail his involvement with Uganda officials as it relates. It’s a deafening silence; it’s not a quashing quiet, though.

We have the right to do something in Kansas that our gay brothers and sisters in Uganda don’t have right now. We can ask questions and demand answers. No one’s going to execute us in Wichita for demanding to know the depth of our Senator’s involvement. No one will go jail for asking him to use his apparent connections to speak against and stop this atrocity.  In fact, you can call his office right now and let his staff know you want to see some action– (316) 264-8066. It’s an issue that may seem a world away, but apparently it’s been blown straight to Oz!

(You can also e-mail Brownback’s office by filling out a comment form at http://brownback.senate.gov/public/contact/emailsam.cfm)