With all the advances in the world, one thing that remains a constant battle is the fight to live as our authentic selves. Here, columnist Bhavna shares the terrible reality for many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and implores us to stand with them to fight for everyone’s right to love, with pride
Love is love. Loving and being loved are the most basic of needs in any organism. Poets tell us that to love is the goal of human existence, and to be loved is the greatest treasure of the heart. And yet, for some like me, who are part of the global LGBTQIA+ community, loving whom we choose could be a death sentence.
Despite advances in LGBTQIA+ rights through Stonewall’s first riot to the Pride marches across the globe, loving someone of the same sex can mean death in many parts of the world. Only in June, during our Queen’s Jubilee, the representative of Her Majesty in Indonesia was called to account over why there was a Pride flag flying at the British Embassy. This is timely proof that there are still many countries around the world where there is a price to pay for love.
We hear of young couples being reported to authorities, sometimes by their own families, because they are gay and love each other. Why?
We hear of two young women in India, in their early 20s, hounded by their families because they have chosen to be in a loving relationship, and abducted by their families to force them apart, having to go to court to fight for their right to be together. Why?
We hear of corrective rapes in South Africa, and other parts of the world, to ‘teach’ LGBTQIA+ people a lesson. Why?
We hear of trans siblings of the LGBTQIA+ family being harassed and murdered, transwomen being assaulted and murdered, because they found the courage to be who they are.
We hear of high rates of suicides in the LGBTQIA+ community, because of the stigma of being gay. Why?
We hear of people choosing to enter heterosexual marriage and betray themselves to keep family happy, and take the target off their backs. This raises many other questions. We can’t hide what we feel – I know, I was in the closet for 32 years of my life until it became unbearable to live the lie, and I had to come out before it killed me. I will never get those three decades of my life back.
One of the excuses I read and hear repeatedly about why being LGBTQIA+ could be a death sentence for some is that it is against ‘their’ religion. Yet, despite my study of religious literature over decades, the main lesson I’ve taken from all religions has been love, forbearance, and peace. The final commandment of Jesus was to ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’
The Office for National Statistics found that 1.9 million people in the UK (3.1% of the population) identify as LGB, whereas those identifying as trans number 1%, according to Stonewall.
The National LGBT Survey carried out in 2017 found that LGBT respondents are less satisfied with life compared with the general UK population. Furthermore, more than 66% stated concern about holding hands in public for fear of reprisals. The report stated that at least two in five people had experienced verbal haras