I recently got into a little Facebook tiff with a mutual friend. Well, that occurs on a daily basis (not sorry), but this particular comment war got me thinking. With the sudden but much overdue discussion concerning the issue of LGBTIQ rights flooding the newsfeed of most Sri Lankans, it wasn’t much of a surprise that this was the topic of the aforementioned Facebook post.
However, this post wasn’t bashing the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe government, nor was it condemning or condoning the criminalisation of members of the LGBTIQ community (i.e acts of gross indecency under section 365A) and neither was it a heated rant by another new member of the Pro-LGBTIQ bandwagon who leisurely throws around the word “fag”, “ponnaya” and “girly boy”. This was different. To quote the post – “Don’t get me wrong I am all for the LGBTQ community. But how are you any different when you bash, ridicule and call people against LGBTQ rights uneducated and low class? You are for LGBTQ rights? Cool, that’s your opinion and belief. You are against it? Cool, people are entitled to an opinion. It’s all about working together to create a better society, not dissing each other with different viewpoints”.
While I do not agree with everything in the post, I do have to applaud it for actually addressing what I call the ‘hypocrisy of acceptance’.
I very proudly and openly stand among and for the LGBTIQ community. I recognise that the concept of a fundamental human right should be sans the terms and conditions asterisk. Human rights should apply to all humans, regardless of sex, sexuality, wealth, etc. Sadly, in Sri Lanka (along with a plethora of other nations) this is not the reality.
However, never the one to be a pessimist, I know that actually talking about this, being prompted to write this, having people read this is a step in the right direction. Awareness no matter how slight is still better than total ignorance. I, along with countless other Sri Lankans have and continue to make it very clear that the decriminalisation of the LGBTIQ community in no way is a violation of our culture. Unless our culture is one built on hate, prejudice and marginalisation.
Sri Lankan Buddhists, who build over 70% of the nation’s population throwing around the argument that the LGBTIQ community is in direct violation to Buddhism should consider this: Buddhism is based on universal kindness and compassion. To love all beings equally. I ask if one claims to be a Buddhist; if one claims to follow the Buddha’s teachings, how can one so blatantly and hurtfully ostracise and hate on such a large community? But it’s not just the Buddhists but a jarringly large percentage of Sri Lankans who subscribe to an Anti-LGBTIQ view with generally no real substance to the argument. But, as the post above mentioned, how can we (the Pro-LGBTIQ) ask for acceptance of this beautiful and vibrant community by marginalising the opinions of such a large percentage of the nation. Thus, the ‘hypocrisy of acceptance’ comes to play.
Hence, what I believe is of pivotal importance rather is to address the question: Why do so many people hate the LGBTIQ community? Is it based on personal experiences, vendettas or fears? Not that I can imagine a flamboyant gay man scaring anyone. Is it the horrifying notion of Western influences taking over our island? cue eye roll. If that’s such a phobia Mr.Perera should become Mr Piyadasa and take his pants off and wear a sarong and then take a bullock cart rather than his BMW to work. If acceptance and equal rights is a Western concept – then so be it. All I am saying is, I do respect the rights to an individual’s own opinion but an opinion needs to be formed on a pedestal of ration and knowledge and correct information. Which brings to what I believe is the most important thing that should be addressed: Awareness, Education and Kindness.
Rather than shout one’s Pro-LGBTIQ stance from rooftops until the hype dies down, perhaps this is our cue to create awareness. To teach people that “No, it’s not a mental illness”, as our Justice Minister so eloquently stated but rather an individual trait. To implement systems and processes to educate the young minds of Sri Lanka that if your classmate is gay, it changes nothing. To create a society where a transgender individual feels safe walking down Galle Road at 2 pm, where he/she is recognised as a beautiful, fully functioning and a key part of society.
But until then, all I ask is for Kindness. Kindness to those who we disagree with. Kindness to those who’s rights we are fighting for. Most importantly, if you are a member of the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lankans and you are reading this, please be kind to yourself. You are beautiful, courageous and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. I AM WITH YOU.