I was at an event organized by UNAIDS, Sri Lanka to commemorate World AIDS Day. One part of the event was entertainment while the other was the handing over of certificates and awards in appreciation of the work done by various people, including activists, media, artistes and medical professionals.
When an activist was asked to come to the stage to accept his award and certificate, a small crowd of people, waving Pride flags quite proudly, followed him to the stage. It seems very over-done or ‘too much’ until you thought about why they had to make such a big deal out of the award. Everyone else, simply walked to the stage; no crowd, no applause (except for a few).
Sexuality and sexual orientations is none of society’s business. No one should be forced to reveal their sexual orientation, they shouldn’t be bullied because of it and they certainly don’t need to be told their sexual orientation makes them weird, abnormal or sick. We also shouldn’t be forced to choose a label.
And yet, why does the LGBTQI community have to make their presence known? Why is it that those Pride flags are thrown in our faces? As personal as sexual orientation may be, why must they be so open about who they are and what they are fighting for?
If the world was a fair place and if society wasn’t a monster that discriminated, then there will be no need for anyone to make their private lives public. Yet, society and this world doesn’t make life easy for everyone. When the US legalized marriage between same-sex partners, Facebook profile pictures were given rainbow filters. People changed their profile pictures with pride. And yet, not many of them actually spoke about what it meant for the world that the US recognized that marriage shouldn’t be limited to one sexual orientation. Not many spoke about how this was a step towards a better and fair world where we were free to love whomever we loved. Not many spoke about what this meant for Sri Lanka and if society would finally admit that anything other than heterosexuality isn’t a curse or illness or weakness.
In the Vlogbrothers video titled ‘Never Satisfied: The Story of Humans,’ Hank Green talks about how we normalize achievements.
At first we are incredibly happy of that achievement. Sticking to the subject here, when the US legalized same-sex marriage, I was close to tears. Even as skeptical as I am about marriage, it is a great achievement that now society and the legal system accepted this bond or relationship between people, instead of only between a man and a woman. And while there are still a few rainbow profile pictures, there is no more talk about this great step taken by humankind. And what’s worse is that, Sri Lanka continues to refuse to move forward.
UNAIDS has done a good job of raising awareness not only about HIV/AIDS but also homosexuality and even prostitution. They organized media discussions so that the people who can impact social attitudes will know how to responsibly report on such subjects. And even with all of these and constant reminders that prostitutes or homosexuals or transsexuals are also humans and should be treated as humans, society, including the media, avoids accepting this truth.
And so people are forced to publicize their personal preferences and private life and face or risk social backlash just so they can be treated the way they should be. And what do we do? We live in our comfortable little worlds where we were born ‘normal’ and we criticize and make life harder for people who are as human as we are.
A friend, someone who does talk about kindness and the need for a more understanding world (in her own way), shared a post that questioned why Caitlyn Jenner deserved to be ‘Woman of the Year’ and also called Jenner a man. I don’t think Jenner deserved the award just as I don’t believe Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize but I also don’t think Jenner shouldn’t be recognized as a woman.
I don’t believe that some god somewhere created us. I accept existence as a part of nature. And sometimes, there are glitches and someone who is female in every sense of the word is born in a man’s body, just like how sometimes we feel we were born in the wrong time or we don’t belong in the world that we were born to. We accept that people aren’t perfect and yet, with 2016 just around the corner, we can’t accept that genders and sexual orientation is not something we have control over and it’s not something we choose.
We are, however, not without choice. We can choose to insult, discriminate and offend. We can choose to hurt people and rob them of their rights. We can choose to stop humankind from moving forward. Or we can choose to be accepting and understanding and tolerant. We can choose to live and let live. We all get to make this choice and it’s truly pathetic and disgusting that some people continue to choose to make the lives of others miserable and painful.
You may defend your attitudes by saying your religion or culture doesn’t accept anything else. And I’ve seen many people use religion or culture to reject anything that doesn’t fall under their definition of normal. But what is religion or culture if it excludes people or makes their lives so much more difficult than they need to be? Shouldn’t our values, principles and beliefs be about how we want to be treated and how people deserve to be treated? If so, why can’t we just accept people without using their sexual orientation or sex as a reason to hate or discriminate against?
*This post was originally published in November 2015 but we thought it’s worth a republish after the Sri Lankan president decided to abandon the proposal on lgbt rights.*
For additional information on events and movements, follow Equal ground, a nonprofit organisation seeking economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community of Sri Lanka.