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Speech at Tel Aviv Gay Pride 2011

What is visible can not be ignored.

On April 1st. 2001 in the Netherlands four same sex couples got married. The pictures went all over the world giving an impulse to the struggle for global recognition of same-sex relationships. What was considered to be impossible was made possible. Marriage is no longer the exclusive domain for straight couples.

Since then ten more countries, including South-Africa and strongly religious Spain, gave marriage rights to same-sex couples. And even in Israel marriage between same-sex couples exist. Going to Canada, the only country in the world where foreign gay and lesbian couples can get married, returning to Israel the marriage, as dictated by the court, can get registered as any other civil marriage. A bit different then we are used to, but still.

And this is true for many rights LGBT in Israel has. Not the law, but the court is giving equal rights. Although the outcome is more or less the same, in the process of the development of a constitution for the state of Israel these rights might as well be under threat. With a powerful orthodox lobby in parliament one should not take for granted equal rights will be guaranteed by law.

More support from society is therefore necessary.

In more and more cities Gay Prides are organized. Big events where LGBTQ celebrate their existence, combat exclusion and discrimination and show solidarity to those who live in homophobic countries, fearing even the loss of their lives because of being gay. At the same time in Russia authorities try to prevent gayprides from happening. In Turkey gay-websites are banned and in Uganda the government tries to increase the penalty’s on homosexuality. In the United States suicide amongst gay-youngsters is a major problem, in Lithuania the government tries to forbid education about homosexuality at schools and in the Netherlands christian school can reject homosexual teachers.

The emancipation of LGBTQ means fighting discriminating laws, realizing equal rights and changing the moral of a society in such a way that differences are seen as a positive contribution to the society as a whole. Visibility of homosexuality is one of the most powerful tools. In Africa the widespread thought is that homosexuality is a western anomaly that has no existence in Africa. In most of the countries worldwide it is believed that gay and lesbian couples can not build a loving and caring family. And even in the gay-friendly countries societies at their best allow gays and lesbians to live their own lives without taking co-responsibility for a safe and LGBTQ-friendly social climate.

What is visible can not be ignored. This guiding principle will help fight widespread homophobia, create equal rights and improve the moral of society.

Visibility of homosexuality is a tool to combat prejudice. We are no aliens, we are normal people. Visibility of homosexuality proof many of the African Leaders wrong, as the African Pride last year in Amsterdam Gay pride showed. Homosexuality and Africa do co-exist.

Visibility of homosexuality give face and word to youngsters who fear to get out of the closet, as the campaign “It get’s better’ in the United States did and was given support by leaders including president Obama. Moral leadership by being visible in LGBT-campaigns and prides is a tool to change the moral of a country or to put pressure on unwilling leaders, as ambassadors of various countries including the OESO did last year in Belgrade Pride in Serbia where after the riots the minister of defense blamed the nationalists instead of the LGBTQ-crowd. Change is possible.

Visibility of homosexuality in all aspects of life will make people realize the homosexuality is part of society as a whole. That the neighbors, colleagues or sons and daughters are not straight by default. Leaving heteronormative thinking behind, will create an open atmosphere that is better for all.

Better for all because we have to realize that as long as we live in societies that do not fully accept homosexuals, in that same society the girl with the red hair gets pestered. As long as equal rights are not implemented by law and adopted by society as a whole, every minority group has to fear the norm of the majority.

By being visible we can make a change to the world. Therefore I call for all Gay Pride organizers to join forces and build a global network of gay prides. Not only, or maybe even stronger, not the LGBT-organizations organizing the local gay prides, but the political forces in the same cities. By doing so we will be able to show the world that a gay pride is more then party. It is above all a tool to build social acceptance. Moral leaderships from out mayors, alderman and councils can make a difference and create a token of hope for those LGBTQ’s living in fear, in closet environments. By combining actions we can give empowerment to those activists working en living in homophobic countries, sometimes even having to fear for their life. With the local gay pride organizers and local governments working hand in hand together we can put pressure on those officials like in Russia that year after year ban the gay pride or do not safeguard the right of demonstration. We need to show solidarity. Not because we like gay prides so much, which obviously we do looking at the great atmosphere here in Tel Aviv, but above all we want every gay, lesbian and transgender to be able to live his or here live in the open, without fear and a society rejecting them.

That ladies and gentleman, should be the goals when building a global network or Gay Pride organizers together with local authorities. Let’s build World Gay Pride.

Solidarity is needed. Saying this, I want to suppress that this is equally true within the LGBT-community itself.

At this moment a big debate is going on about the IGLYO assembly that should take place later this year in Israel. The Palestinian LGBTQ-movement has launched a campaign to relocate this assembly. A campaign that got support last week by the Turkish LGBTQ-organization Kaos. I know Kaos very well. A few years ago I attended some courtcases to prevent Kaos from being exterminated by the government.

The occupation of the Palestinian land by Israel is brought up as the most important argument. The fear that Palestine LGBTQ-activists would not be able to freely attend the IGLYO-meeting is attached to that.

It is certainly true that this is a delicate situation. However, at the same time the international LGBT-movement should focus on decriminalizing homosexuality and build social acceptance world wide. With six countries still having the death penalty, with 97 percent of the gays and lesbians living in countries where they can not marry their loved ones and with no country in the world with a score 10 out of 10 when talking about equal rights and acceptance there is just to much work to do, to have our internal debates pressured by complex political fights that do not relate to the LGBTQ-cause as such. In this case, the international LGBTQ-movement should show solidarity with the gays, lesbians and transsexuals worldwide. The IGLYO meeting is a tool for that, to move forward. The only thing that IGLYO should guarantee is freedom of speech and assembly for all without any fear for consequences or what so ever when or when wanting participating the IGLYO assembly. It is the Israelian government who should make clear that IGLYO indeed can have it’s assembly under these circumstances. IGLYO having their meeting in Israel does not mean that IGLYO takes a stand in the political arena regarding the Israelian-Palestine conflict. With the “get IGLYO out of Israel”-campaign, the opposite will be achieved. This is a dangerous development, that can really hurt the global cause of LGBTQ’s.