A New Language of Mourning for the Work of Justice

Fanny Ann Eddy was a courageous lesbian activist who lost her life in her pursuit of human dignity for LGBTI people and her vision for her beloved country of Sierra Leone to embrace all its children. Her amazing life and her senseless, brutal death provide the foreground for Dora King’s article, “Secrecy and the Poetics of Witness: Mourning Fanny Ann Eddy,” from Sexuality in Africa: July 2016 Special Issue, Journal of Theology for Southern Africa.

Secrecy and the Poetics of Witness: Mourning Fanny Ann Eddy

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African Faith Voices: A New Conversation about Sexuality in Africa

A new website dedicated to sharing and amplifying African faith voices on gender and sexual diversity across Africa is being launched today. The core source of these African faith voices is the special issue “Sexuality in Africa” of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa. This journal is published by the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Gerald West serves as the General Editor and Janet Trisk is the Editor of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa.

This periodical is indexed in the ATLA Religion Database and correspondence and subscriptions for the journal are available from the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics. To purchase copies of the journal, please contact the administrator at jtsa@ukzn.ac.za.

This special issue emerged from a historic consultation about Religion and Human Sexuality in Africa organized by Michael J. Adee, Geronimo Desumala and Kapya Kaoma. This consultation was supported by the Global Faith and Justice Project of the Horizons Foundation; Political Research Associates and the Reference Group on Human Sexuality of the World Council of Churches. It was held August 28 – 31, 2014 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Read more

Love Makes a Family: IDAHOT 2017

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). It is a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities. IDAHOT was founded in 2004 to draw attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people around the world.

This year IDAHOT partners with International Family Equality Day to raise awareness and respect for LGBTI families with the theme “Love Makes a Family.”

The date of May 17 was chosen for IDAHOT because this is the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. We look at sexual orientation and gender identity so differently now and seek to respect their fluid nature rather than the previously understood binary notion. This respect for human diversity with regard to sexuality and gender reflects the core values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

IDAHOT is celebrated in over 130 countries including 37 countries where same-sex relationships are still illegal. One of the persistent myths that must be addressed is the claim that homosexuality or being LGBTI is a product or an import from the West. An honest analysis of one’s cultural history, an informed understanding of sexuality and gender, and common sense tell us that LGBTI people and their families are a natural part of the cultural fabric and history of every country. Read more

Presbyterian Church (USA) Responds to Global Crisis for LGBT People

This is a story of compassion turning into action. Rev. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, PA has advocated for the human dignity and equality of LGBT people and their families in her church and local community for more than three decades. Upon becoming aware of the challenges faced by LGBT people around the world, particularly the criminalization of homosexuality and the rising violence and persecution of LGBT persons, her concern and advocacy moved beyond the borders of her city and country.

Rev. Edwards was selected by Pittsburgh Presbytery to serve as a Commissioner to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in June, 2014. She knew she had a unique opportunity to bring a Commissioner’s Resolution for consideration by this assembly in Detroit. She wanted this General Assembly to learn about the global crisis for LGBT people and their families and to call the Presbyterian Church (USA) to faithful, compassionate action. So, she called Bear Ride, a Presbyterian minister and me to work with her on this resolution.

In a historic first for the Presbyterian Church (USA) after three decades of dialogue on ordination and marriage equality for LGBT people, Rev. Edwards’ resolution was unanimously approved by committee and therefore adopted by the assembly. The resolution said: Read more

Imagine a Free & Equal World: International Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day and a celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

“Upholding human rights is in the interest of all. Respect for human rights advances well-being for every individual, stability for every society, and harmony for our interconnected world,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of discrimination and violence against LGBT persons and their families, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles, a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards and moral imperatives with which all States should recognize.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 and the Yogykarta Principles from 2006, help us imagine a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfil that precious birthright.

The United Nations Free and Equal campaign created this wonderful Bollywood video featuring Celina Jaitly, Equality Champion, The Welcome. This film captures the heart and spirit of human dignity and these human rights principles we remember on this day. Our hope, prayer and work is that this story will be the reality for every LGBT person and their family some day soon. We are all children of God and one human family.

Photo: LGBT rights march in El Salvador. Courtesy of Amnesty International.

World AIDS Day: Compassion & Prevention

December 1 is World AIDS Day. This is a day to raise awareness about HIV, to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV, to remember loved ones we have lost to HIV, and to work together to end HIV around the world.

We commemorate World AIDS Day 2016 by standing in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV. And, we remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported in the early 1980’s.

In spite of the progress that has been made against HIV over the past 15 years with the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010. Moreover, there has been resurgence of new HIV infections among key populations in some parts of the world.

2.79 billion people live in countries that criminalize homosexuality. Criminalization of one’s personhood, sexuality or gender expression makes one more vulnerable to HIV infection and less likely to receive adequate, even life-saving healthcare. The criminalization of homosexuality is a concern for civil society, a violation of both human dignity and human rights, and a public health concern.

Around the world, conservative political and religious ideology creates a climate of fear, stigmatization and persecution of LGBT persons and their families. This climate hinders public health initiatives and places LGBT persons in harm’s way with regard to HIV, joblessness and poverty.

Prevention is the international focus for World AIDS Day 2016 for UNAIDS. We have proven methods of prevention of infection. Significant barriers to prevention are criminalization of homosexuality and stigma. Faith voices and faith communities can and should make a difference by speaking out against criminalization and addressing stigma. Compassion is the way forward. We are all children of God and one human family.

Love Wins –­­ Celebrating Pride, Finding Hope

One night everything changed. On June 28, 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall Bar in New York City something unexpected happened. It was a tipping point, the LGBT people fought back in what would later be called the Stonewall Riots.

The denial of respect, safety, equality and human dignity had run into a wall, a human wall of LGBT persons who drew a line in the sand and stood up for themselves en masse for the first time. A social movement for LGBT equality in the United States was born that night.

The early LGBT leaders decided to commemorate the Stonewall Riots with the Christopher Street Liberation Day march in New York City on June 28, 1970. This march is understood as the first Gay Pride March in the United States. Similar marches challenging anti­-gay discrimination and to celebrate LGBT life and culture were held in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Artist Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow gay flag in 1978 which is now the universal sign of LGBT pride and diversity.

We owe much to those early LGBT and ally pioneers who stood up, spoke out and courageously blazed a trail for us. Surely in every LGBT community and in every country around the world, the stories can be told of the first ones. Each generation gives rise to new LGBT and ally leaders all around the world. Let us remember the pioneers and celebrate the new leaders. Read more

Where Love Is a Crime

2.8 billion people live in countries that criminalize same­-sex relationships. This reality raises many important questions. How can this be in light of human dignity and human rights for all persons? How can this be in democratic countries claiming the equality of citizens and the responsibility of majorities to protect minorities? For persons of faith who believe in a God who creates and loves all persons, how can we not speak out as sexual minorities are placed in harm’s way by these laws?

“We need to honor our traditional values and our culture,” and “We must oppose homosexuality because it is a Western influence” are the common arguments for maintaining or strengthening anti­-homosexuality laws in many of the 76 countries where homosexuality is criminalized. Nothing could be further from the truth when one looks closely at their own indigenous cultures and the influence of colonial history.

Same­-sex love is, and has been, a part of human life and history in all cultures across time. While some may describe homosexuality or same­-sex love as a Western creation or a modern phenomenon, the witness of ancient art, literature, culture and history tells us the truth and the stories of the variety of human sexualities and relationships. Read more

The Irrational Season of Christmas

This is the irrational season, when love blooms bright and wild. Had Mary been filled with reason, there’d have been no room for the child. ~ Madeleine L’Engle

I am a human rights activist. As someone who works for the recognition of human dignity and the achievement of equality for LGBT persons and their families across the world, I have come to understand myself as an irrational optimist.

Remarkable gains for LGBT equality have been made in 2015 such as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for federal marriage equality; Mozambique removing its colonial penal code which had criminalized homosexuality and same-­sex love; Ireland’s national vote for marriage equality with thousands of Irish people coming home to vote; Botswana’s ruling to give space to a LGBT organization; and this week, Greece’s Parliament approving civil unions for same-­sex couples. Read more

World AIDS Day: Getting to Zero

Since 1988, December 1st has been World AIDS Day. This is a day to raise awareness about HIV, to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV, to remember loved ones we have lost to HIV, and to work together to end HIV around the world. The international theme for World AIDS Day 2015 is “Getting to Zero” which means working toward the dream of an AIDS-free generation.

Stigma and discrimination must be eliminated in the work to reduce infections, to improve access to healthcare and to open paths for advocacy. Populations at risk to HIV include LGBT persons, men who have sex with men, women living in poverty and sex workers.

2.79 billion people live in countries that criminalize homosexuality. Criminalization of one’s personhood, sexuality or gender expression makes one more vulnerable to HIV infection and less likely to receive adequate, even life-saving healthcare. Read more