Commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots
28 June 1969 – 3 July 1969.

By Guanaco and subsequent editors – SVG source (version of 17:56, 30 Sep 2011), Public Domain.

“Question Everything”
Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

“Gay is Good!”
Frank Kameney.

“I do not think we have a ‘right’ to happiness. If happiness happens, say thanks.”
Marlene Dietrich.

“Why were gay men, lesbians and everyone who challenged compulsory heterosexuality or didn’t conform to the strict gender binary reviled?”
Alison Thorne.

Around 1968, Frank Kameney coined the slogan ‘Gay is good’ in response to the chant, ‘Black is Beautiful’. While that may not seem so extraordinary these days, back in that era his was quite a radical and extraordinary claim. From the 1974 days of gay liberation, John Lauritsen explains why:

“In almost every state, anti-homosexuality statutes describe the prohibited acts with such phrases as: “unnatural intercourse”, “unnatural crimes”, ‘infamous crime against nature”, and “the abominable and detestable crime against nature”.

“In opposition, the gay liberation movement has put forward the slogan, “Gay is Good!” ” (Lauritsen, 1974/2012, 5).

28 June marks the anniversary of an event in the USA that has mythic overtones. The Stonewall Riots in New York City were not the first time that queer people had protested and rioted – indeed, the US-centric nature of their commemoration is problematic – but they mark what might be called a shocking change of consciousness for the world and serve as a demarcation point for historians and activists alike. Stonewall was like a queer version of Pearl Harbour, Eureka Stockade, and Arab Spring all rolled into one. The western world has never been the same again.

Oppression and Liberation

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of
who do the things no one can imagine.”

Alan Turing

Perhaps the mission of an artist is to interpret beauty to people
— the beauty within themselves.

Langston Hughes.

“We try to take out lesson from the typical tactics and history of other oppressed groups… It seems to be that in our society, if a group of people can bind themselves together into an effective power bloc, then they attain rights and social respectability and the protection of the law. And if they can’t, they have trouble.”
― Arthur Evans (Tobin & Wicker, 1972, 194).

“In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.”
Simone de Beauvoir.

Stonewall was connected to the fledgling movement known as ‘gay liberation’, a concept that later evolved and expanded to include lesbians, bisexuals and trans people – all of whom brought into the collective community a variety of challenges, and redefining self-definitions – and more recently has included intersex, gender variant, non-binary, asexuals, pansexuals and a host of others. The ever-expanding LGBTQIA+ alphabet, and the furious debates that are aroused, can be seen as a successful demonstration of acceptance of diversity and pluralism; often summarised today in the reclaimed formerly-derogatory slur ‘queer’.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The active inclusion of drag, trans and gender variant people within Stonewall demonstrates how the protest was a minor (if visible) part of a much larger and longer continuum of queer diversity within human society. Many ancient kinship societies openly equated sexual and gender diversity with nature (Baghemi, 1999, 214 – 262) and extended a special reverence to transgender, gender-variant, cross dressing, drag and related diverse people, who held a long and respected role in their societies – often with links to shamanism or ritual as a recognition of their being living exemplars of difference. Such peoples can still be found today around the world, from the berdache of North America to the fa’afafine of Samoa (Greenberg, 1988, 40-60). Due to lack of surviving archaeological evidence, it is not possible to link them with earlier shamans – in the Paleolithic era, or Stone Age ritual dancers – although given their known cultural contributions, it seems reasonable to speculate on the possibility (ibid, 63). Is it just possible that the same diverse cohorts, who may have led our frenetic ceremonial dancing during the dawn of modern humanity, also choreographed the outraged and outrageous processional street protests during the dawn of secular gay liberation? We could learn from such a possibility. From Stone Age to Stonewall, from sacred to secular, from Mattachine to Mardi Gras; such a journey of individuality and defiance should be our template.

“The Homosexual Revolution”

“The Christian oppression of women and Gay people was no accident. Their freedom and high status in the old religion made them prime targets for the new religion, which was profoundly anti-sexual.”
― Arthur Evans (Evans, 1978, 99).

“My own feeling of concern arises from seeing how much moral injury and suffering is created by the superstitions of the Christian mythology.”
Harriet Martineau.

“I’m militant about the church as an institution because of the damage done to the minds of homosexuals by the churches. Most of organised religion has been the mortal enemy of thinking people. I don’t want to destroy the churches, but I want to save young homosexuals from being damaged by the churches.”
― Jim Owles (Tobin & Wicker, 1972, 31).

“I say that homosexuality is not just a form of sex, it’s a form of love, and it deserves our respect for that reason.”
Christopher Hitchens.

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

Stonewall and gay liberation comprised a time for challenging the status quo and for redefining and reinventing ourselves. Traditional attitudes and values were challenged; this pointedly included organised religion, business and medicine (Duberman, 1993, 223). Conformity and assimilation were discouraged in favour of outrage and intersectionality. Such protests from that era became open expressions of solidarity with other groups of people who were similarly seeking civil rights, natural justice, equality, elimination of entrenched disadvantage, and empowerment. (Ashley, 2015, 28).

A generation later, the civil rights push for marriage equality by LGBT communities, along with the abandonment of trans rights by some TERF elements of those same LGBT communities, would have surprised and shocked many of the original gay lib cohort:

“In many ways, the new millennium gay movement is the antithesis of the early ’70s gay liberation. It cavorts with politicians who may be good on gay issues, but not on concerns affecting other disenfranchised communities… It courts corporate support for its gala events, even its pride parades, which used to be protest marches and celebrations of the Stonewall Riots. Now those marches seem more of a market than a movement… The queer movement still hasn’t entirely gotten its act together about sexism, racism or the exclusion of transgenders.” (Avicolli Melli, 2009, xiv).

One prominent gay libber from that era – the man who literally wrote the book on gay liberation – came out some years ago as questioning why LGBTQIA+ communities supported marriage equality while ignoring the murder and oppression of their queer colleagues overseas. He also asks what happens to communities whose identity becomes dominated by a culture of consumption rather than activism. His views are not unique among gay lib era pioneers, and such questions of priorities remain largely unanswered even today. His compatriot Peter Tatchell clarifies the difference between gay liberation and modern day queer ideologies regarding the adoption of religion: “The Bible is to gays what Mein Kampf is to Jews.”

From Activism to AIDS

“I’m a twenty-year metastatic lung cancer survivor and a fifteen-year AIDS survivor. And I really believe that activism is therapeutic.”
Kiyoshi Kuromiya.

“Celebrate diversity, and Heal AIDS with Love!”
― Michael Callen (Callen, 1990, iii, personal inscription).

“This epidemic is going to be with us for 50, maybe even 100 years. Its impact will be felt for many generations to come. You must build groups of activists, even if you have only 5 or 10 people, even if the obstacles are daunting and you’re poor.”
Zackie Achmat.

“What I found was that people are going through exceptionally difficult times. Many are married in heterosexual relationships but have lesbian relationships on the side.”
Midi Achmat.

The optimism of the gay liberation era was short-lived for two reasons. With the arrival of a new, cruel, epidemic, AIDS, countless gay men’s lives were shattered, and many men like Rock Hudson were forced out of the closet and into activism that would not have been their personal choice. AIDS also meant that many gay lib era activists and community heroes were struck down with the new affliction. People such as Kiyoshi Kuromiya and Michael Callen had to adapt the communal activist skills that had been refined during gay lib protests, and use them instead to deal with the tragic new situation – in their case, both becoming involved in groups such as ACT UP and People With AIDS. Similarly, South African gay man Zackie Achmat also had to use his anti-Apartheid activist skills to deal with AIDS both on a personal level and as a generic scourge in his country (Nolen, 2007). For all three activist gay men, their world had changed, but not in any way they might have anticipated.

For Achmat’s whole family, the world was turned upside down – when Zackie and his lesbian sister Midi both came out as gay, they were rejected by their Muslim parents, but their activist strength gave them the capacity to walk away and turn their attention to LGBT+ and HIV/AIDS activism that has helped people across their country.

Secular Sexuality

“I do not believe in belief.”
E M Forster, ‘What I Believe’.

“She thought there were no Gods; no one was to blame; and so she evolved this atheist’s religion of doing good for the sake of goodness.”
Virginia Woolf.

… Atheists have a responsibility to support human rights issues like LGBTQ equality; and most importantly… it’s crucial that we do so without delay or hesitation.
Camille Beredjick.

I’ve often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front
saying this is fiction.

Sir Ian McKellen.

Some years ago, I attended the launch of an academic report on gay conversion therapy. As a past victim, I wanted to hear what might be said about addressing the religious dogma that fuelled this pseudo-scientific form of psychological torture. Significantly, the launch itself took place inside a church – the very same generic environment wherein such religious-based abuse often took place. None of the academics who wrote the report, none of the religious queers who used their privilege to obtain the venue, none of the former victims who spoke publicly about their involvement in the study, nor any of the gay Christians who spoke hopefully about ‘welcoming these lost sheep back into the fold’ – not one of them had the sensitivity or empathy to openly question whether or not a religious venue was an appropriate place to launch a report about religious-based abuse, whether or not it was a safe place for former torture victims to visit, or whether any self-respecting victim would even want to be ‘welcomed back’ into a church or religious community.

Similarly, I also attended a queer conference some years ago which was widely advertised as promoting equality, inclusion and diversity. While many openly religious queers were included in the main program – including the chairman of the conference’s organising committee, himself an openly gay Christian – no openly secular or non-believing queers were included – except for myself, shunted into a side room to give a talk to a mere handful of people during a non-peak time when the conference was officially shut for breakfast. Organisers ignored my subsequent email in which I respectfully asked for a more inclusive program next year. Similarly, another multicultural queer network deflected my speech into a small side room for its conference, and excluded openly atheist perspectives from a publication on multicultural queerdom which otherwise overflowed with multi-faith perspectives. This appears to be the template within queer communities – where ‘multicultural’ equates with ‘multifaith’ and brazenly excludes atheist, agnostic or non-believing queers. Given that approximately 75% of LGBTQIA+ people in Australia indicated in 2020 that they have ‘no current religion or spirituality’, (Private Lives 3, 26), this means that the majority of the queer community is being effectively bullied by the 25% who enjoy religious privilege.

Eli Heina acknowledges the problem:

The effort within queer spaces to be inclusive towards religious people is disproportionate and can be downright exclusionary towards non-religious people.

Our people survived and thrived due to Stonewall. And yet another form of stonewalling is common today – the bullying by exclusion of queer non-believers and their views, with their needs and counsel being excluded from queer conferences, media, community networks and events. My own personal experience, since coming out as an atheist in the Australian LGBTQIA+ community, echoes the words of blogger Greta Christina:

I’m finding that I feel more at home — more welcomed, more valued, more truly understood — as a queer in the atheist community than I do as an atheist in the queer community.

The myth that has encompassed the Stonewall Riots has been diluted by a generation of modern assimilationists. Instead of respecting and promoting diversity, queer communities have become passive receptors of the same religious dominance that oppressed and murdered queer people for millennia – and still does in many places such as Africa. Tom Morris acknowledges the high rates of disbelief in the queer community (something that queerdom itself seems reluctant to admit) and offers an obvious reason why:

Every single attempt to increase the rights and well-being of LGBT people has been militantly opposed by religion… everything that LGBT people have done in terms of activism and reform has been opposed by religion in some form.

Today, when even queer believers do acknowledge that significant percentages of LGBTQIA+ people reject the childhood faith of their families, we still see religious dominance in queer spaces and discourse. Some elements of the local gay media often present stories about religious privilege and discrimination against queer people by seeking perspectives and feedback from religious queers and largely ignoring the majority queer view – queer nonbelievers of diverse backgrounds and/or unconventional views.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I have to say it: sorry, religious queer compatriots, your bullying and exclusion of queer atheists does not demonstrate equality – but it does demonstrate a smug sense of superiority and elitism. Your self-affirming testimonies of self-acceptance and acquiescent assimilation within religions that have practiced queer genocide are not utterances of liberation but of narcissism and complicity. Your dominating public discourse does not win debates and converts, but simply alienates others and drives them away. Your privilege does not demonstrate your morality as much as it does your adoption of affluent, straight, white culture. Your silent ethnic cleansing of gay liberation goals and aspirations may lack the open brutality of homophobes who stretch from Tanzania to Texas, but it is no less real and no less deadly – instead of fists and iron bars, your weapons are the pink dollar and pink vote and pink media and pink assimilation and pink conferences and pink ghosting.

As someone who has spent decades agitating for human rights and equality, I am the first to endorse the principle that queers can choose any religion or philosophy they like, even though it means that many conform too closely for my liking to other ‘spiritual but not religious’ populations. But what profoundly disappoints me is the tendency for those same LGBTQIA+ peoples to so openly practice forms of religious apartheid, totally excluding non-religious queers in what should be safely queer space and places. As an LGBTQIA+ atheist and humanist, my non-belief perspective is almost never acknowledged as valid, nor presented in queer discourse, whereas queer astrologers, Christians, spiritualists, alternate philosophies, Jews, Muslims, and reactionaries are given prominence in queer discussions, debates, speaking engagements, networking coalitions, publications and radio airtime, public inquiries and media representation; they are delegated leadership and eldership within the queer community. But they do not speak for me – and I am not alone. Alex Gabriel does speak for me:

Attempts to be ‘inclusive’ of religious queer people by godding-up our communities with sermons, prayers, clergy and promotion of religious groups often mean excluding us.

It must be said that not all openly queer community leaders and speakers are openly religious. Some are what might be termed as being religion-neutral – possibly secular, possibly atheist but politely discrete, perhaps even possibly religious but not always asked to speak about topics that are religiously-suited. Their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) remain unknown or unclarified, which reminds me of pre-Stonewall times when queers stayed firmly in the closet if they wished to have a public voice or respectability. Why are queers forcing other queers back into a lateral closet? What happened to being out and proud?

Out and Proud

Those of us who live with the tyranny only of our own conscience and belief that an ethical life can be lived without reference to the supernatural are called humanists – or atheists, or in my case anti-theists.
Christopher Hitchens.

And you have to give them hope.
Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow…

Harvey Milk.

Do your part. Give ’em hope.
― Dan Savage (Savage & Miller, 2012, 8).

As a humanist I hold to an innate human value and see education as the emancipator of all humanity.
Peter/Ethel Thurston.

In exploring earlier times and eras, it is interesting to see how they may differ from our own, even though we might see ourselves as belonging to the same communities as those from earlier times. Our earliest era of solidified gay liberation was one in which queer atheism, bohemian lifestyles, intersectionality, and protest activism, were commonplace and part of the culture. Today, we seem to have a queer community which believes that equality with heterosexuals means adopting their mores and values, their lifestyles and their traditions – from voting conservative to appropriating heterosexual marriage. It was not always so. All of the people whom I have named and quoted directly within this article are pioneers and heroes in their own way, and significantly, they are all known rainbow atheists – with the possible exception of Hughes and Martineau, for whom the jury is still out. Although their atheism is often excluded from modern narratives, these people have pride of place within the wider picture of gay liberation, Stonewall, and today. Representation matters. Inclusion matters. Diversity matters. And we are all better off when we cast aside our comfort zone and see the world – and each other – as we really are. Stonewall was not the end of the journey, but a step along the way. It is time for individual rainbow atheists to:

…Counterbalance the predominance of religiously-oriented organisations within the Lesbian and Gay male movement.”
― (GALA Review, 1989).

Come Out of Both Closets.”
― Doug Randolph (GALA/SF, 1985).

I am deeply pessimistic of any hope that the churches, especially the Fundamentalists will change their mind about the homosexual.”
― ‘Retired Serviceman’, Washington DC (Lucas, 1964-66 n.d., 4).

My sexuality and my humanism are connected. A big part of why I’m so passionately committed to the godless community and the godless movement is that I’m passionately opposed to how religion has traditionally dealt with sexuality—sexuality in general, and LGBT sexuality in particular. I’m fiercely opposed to the traditional homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and general sex-negativity of most traditional religions, and to the terrible harm they’ve inflicted on millions of people… And a big part of what first drew me to the godless community was how queer-friendly it generally is.
Greta Christina.

Rainbow Atheist banner by Miriam English.

If you want to find out more about the history of Feminism, Transgender Liberation and the Stonewall Rebellion, register here for a Zoom talk on 29 June 2021 by Alison Thorne, who is a veteran LGBTIQA+ liberationist, a trade unionist and a founding member of the Melbourne chapter of socialist feminist organisation, Radical Women. Her talk is hosted by Radical Women and Rainbow Atheists.

The references to HIV/AIDS were assisted by my postgraduate study on the social history of HIV/AIDS (this work was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship).

Non-Digital Sources:

Colin P. Ashley, 2015. ‘Gay Liberation: How a Once Radical Movement Got Married and Settled Down’, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24, No. 3, (Fall), 28-32.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, 2009. Smash the Church, Smash the State! The Early Years of Gay Liberation, San Francisco: City Light Books.

Bruce Baghemi, 1999. Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, New York: St Martin’s Press.

Michael Callen, 1990. Surviving AIDS, New York: HarperCollinsPublishers.

Martin Duberman, 1993. Stonewall, New York: Dutton Books.

Arthur Evans, 1978. Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, Boston: FAG RAG Books.

GALA Review, 1989. ‘Preamble to The Constitution of Gay and Lesbian Atheists’, Volume 12, Number 5, September, 3.

David F Greenberg, 1988. The Construction of Homosexuality, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Adam O. Hill, Adam Bourne, Ruth McNair, Marina Carman, & Anthony Lyons, 2020. Private Lives 3: The health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people in Australia, ARCSHS Monograph Series No. 122, Melbourne, Australia: Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University.

John Lauritsen, 1974 (2012). The Religious Roots of the Taboo on Homophobia: A Materialist View, New York/Boston: Pagan Press. (This is a 2012 reprint of a 1974 pamphlet).

Donald S Lucas, 1964-66, n.d. ‘Homophile Organizations Mattachine Society Homosexual and The Church Stencils‘, in The Homophile Movement: Papers of Donald Stewart Lucas, 1941-1976, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society.

Stephanie Nolen, 2007. ‘Zackie Achmat’, in 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, Melbourne: Text Publishing, 180 – 200.

Doug Randolph (ed.), 1985. October Newsletter, Gay And Lesbian Atheists (San Francisco chapter), October, Archives of Sexuality & Gender.

Dan Savage, 2012. ‘Introduction’, in Dan Savage & & Terry Miller (eds.), It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating A Life Worth Living, New York: Penguin, 1 – 8.

Chris Stedman, 2012. Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, Boston: Beacon Press.

Kaye Tobin and Randy Wicker, 1972. The Gay Crusaders, New York: Paperback Library.

©2021 Geoff Allshorn


“A few months ago Trinnie told me that he would die in Kakuma, I hoped that he would get to a place of safety and would be able to live his life in the way that so many people take for granted. I despair that he has suffered such a cruel brutal assault and that Trinidad’s life has been cut short by homophobia and neglect. I am thinking particularly of his friends in Kakuma who are now grieving while living in fear for their own lives.
Rest in peace Trinidad Jerry 💔”
– Gareth Lee, 14 April 2021.

Commemorating World Refugee Day on 20 June 2021
and in memory of my friend Trinidad Jerry.

I’m only thirty years but have seen some life,
A far cry from the worst and yet so close to it

I know the pain,
Of getting heart broken and the honour,
Of being entrusted with handsome boy’s virginity.

I know how it feels to score,
One hundred percent in an exam and how it feels to score,
Zero percent in the same exact subject just a few years ago,
I know how it means to transition from being a golden son to being a family embarrassment

I know how it feels about suicide and romantacize about it,
To actually consider it and finally try it out,
And I know what it means to spend the rest of your life waiting,
For something you do not understand …I know the narrow path.

I know first hand about depression, anxiety and PTSD,
And I know how enough time might heal those wounds,
And I know how how to have a mountain moving faith and how you can lose it,
And I know the intensity of the grief you experience when you lose loved one

If I ever say that I need to know how it feels to pass the gift of life,
Please do not ask me why
Because I do not have a such idea how to answer a such question

– Trinidad Jerry, last posting on Facebook
Before being attacked with firebomb.

On 3 May 2021, US President Joe Biden announced that he was raising to record levels the number of refugees who would be admitted to the USA. This is a highly commendable, humane and civilised act. I commend the President for this announcement and I offer my humble support as a world citizen for the honouring of such humanitarian principles. I hope that Biden’s nobility in this matter teaches other, less enlightened governments – including Australia’s Parliament, or the UK Parliament – how to treat vulnerable refugees in ways that befit civilised human values.

Tragically, however, Biden’s announcement came too late to save the life of a young poet and human rights activist in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Trinidad Jerry was one of some hundreds of LGBTQIA+ refugees detained in Block 13 at Kakuma, surrounded by ignorant, prejudiced, traumatised, embittered, religiously motivated violent homophobes. I have seen phone film footage taken shortly before Trinidad was attacked, in which another refugee pointed and appears to have declared, “I will burn you alive”. That night, Trinidad and others were attacked with a firebomb as they slept.

I understand that #UNHCRKenya took days to transport Trinidad and his friend Jordan to hospital, despite their terrible and extensive burns. And as far as I know, the #KenyaPolice have not prosecuted anyone for murder. It appears that #BlackLivesMatter unless you are LGBTQIA+ in Kenya, Uganda, or some other African nation.

We Live for Justice

In the traumatised, violent world of refugee life, it is often necessary to gather together in groups for mutual protection. Trinnie was a leader in Block 13 at Kakuma, and as such, his understandable loyalty to internal camp politics sometimes interfered with our internet friendship, but we retained an undercurrent of mutual respect – just as another person similarly testified after Trinnie’s death:

“Gone from our sight, but never our hearts. We are really sorry for your loss, Trinnie, everybody is thinking of you during these difficult times. Words can’t express how saddened we are to hear of your death. As brothers, we sometimes had misunderstandings and fought, but our hearts stayed connected with love, courage and we all hoped for goodness for the entire queer community in Kakuma.”

In my case, I got to know Trinnie through Facebook because of his interest in books. He was reading the novel, ‘Lord of the Flies’, and asked me if I had read it. I told him that as a former school teacher, I had taught the book. We spoke at length about the story of young people cut off from civilization, and of their daily choices to follow Ralph or Jack and thereby choose between laws and lawlessness, good and evil, rationality and fear. We agreed that one must avoid at all costs sharing the fate of Simon, a kind boy and gentle-natured leader who lost his life due to the cruelty of others.

“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend…”
― William Golding, Lord of the Flies

How tragically, heart-breakingly ironic that Trinnie aspired to be Ralph but became Simon. Trinnie’s final message to me was sent about a month before he was fatally attacked; he had heard that I was in hospital and he sent me a get well wish. My final message to him, after his attack, was to send much love, and he responded with a ♥. I am thankful we had that opportunity for a small, silent farewell.

The poet may be gone, but his poetry lives on:

We are at the crossroads,
Mirrors reflecting our faces,
We doomed where to head,
Could it be the dead end.

Born free, minds fresh, hands chained,
Everything blossomed,
Is our life nature,
It’s what we where meant to be.

It’s a curved ball,
Oh yeah a curved box,
No where to run,
Short of ideas, with our God mother

A judgement befalls, on the cross roads,
Where should we go!
It’s a dead end,
Yet the world watches!
The silent island appears.

The sparkling light dims,
We are good as dead,
If could only we could resuscitate.

But who could be the saviour,
The saviour lost in fake paradise,
We are our own saviours,
Dad taught me that!
Believe in myself,
Never them, Trust myself,
Only me can.

But why?
The world should know,
We are black-brothers,
Not enemies,
Thou shalt live,
By help of one another,
And aim at justice,
For we live for justice,
And shall die for injustice.

– Trinidad Jerry
16 February 2021

As a friend of his states: “He was a great activist who had something to live for, but unfortunately he suffered terrible injuries that made him leave this world at a tender age.”

A Narration Full of Love

Trinnie’s funeral drew the grief, mourning and regret of thousands of people across Kakuma Refugee Camp, and further afield across Nairobi, all of Kenya and Uganda, and around the whole world. Watching the event live, I wept along with hundreds of my African friends.

This is how I will master the art,
Of tearing open all my heart,
Exposing all of the dirt,
Embracing the divine hurt.

If I meet a Muslim Allah akhbar,
When I meet a Christian hallelujah,
If I meet a Buddhist I will bow,
For the Dhaoist there no words!
I meet a lot of homophobes on a daily,
I wave and some pretend to wave back,
With all mystics I see through everything,
And with shamans, I go completely nuts.

But do not anticipate his next move,
He delights in taking you by surprise,
Life is a narration full of love,
Mystery, mayhem and murder of course,
I used to be confused by the source,
Of some of the most intricate thoughts,
The thoughts slowly became a voice,
Then came visions and dreams,
Not everything is how it seems,
But it seems that is not how everything is,
From today this source has become anonymous!

Not feeling mentally fine, so thought of anything to write about
3 February 2021

Lucretia, a friend of his in Kakuma, speaks of Trinnie with fond love and memories:

“He was an inspirational, encouraging, self-made, outspoken activist. He taught me a lot, telling me that , ‘the power belongs to the people’. He told me: ‘If you are standing for the truth, you’d better be ready to stand alone’. He told me, ‘For the sake of – – – (a 9 year-old kid), we should fight until our last breath to get Block 13 folks to safety’. He was always inspired by Miriam Makeba’s A Luta Continua.

“He would risk everything when it came to ensuring the safety and freedom of those around him. He stayed more hours late in the night looking over us, acting as our watchman, but unfortunately one night, we weren’t able to watch over him as someone threw a petrol bomb.

“Trinidad was a great leader. He was exemplary. He could mobilise us, encourage us, whenever we were weak and feeling hopeless about ever moving out of the camp to safety. He used to report to the UNHCR every attack we suffered, every death threat, but the inaction and silence of the UNHCR murdered him.

“Trinidad’s death was preventable from day one in the camp, until the day he took his last breath. He should have been protected as he always asked – as we were all asked. He shouldn’t have been left to sleep outside any more, as this left him exposed and at risk until the day he was burnt. He should have been assigned care givers while under UNHCR care in Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi (instead, he was restrained, and he couldn’t feed himself, even while he was on strong treatment). All this neglect led to Trinidad’s death.

“Trinnie, wherever you are, in power you rest. You have left a big gap in African and international human rights. Sometimes I feel too small to do anything without you, I feel like I have nobody to lean on, I feel like you left me hanging in space, like a piece of paper blown in the air to the highest and most distant part of the sky.

“You owe me, comrade, and I will make it up for you. I promise that. Trinnie, forever, rest in power.”

I agree that with Trinnie’s death, all of African and world human rights have been diminished. I feel that Trinnie would feel jointly amused, honoured and embarrassed if I acknowledged the reason why, paraphrasing luminary poet John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
[Africa] is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Trinnie’s death was avoidable, and came as a result of an ongoing series of homophobic attacks that were ignored by #UNHCRKenya and #KenyaPolice and the world beyond. His friend Lucretia asks why the wider world only seeks to humanise the stranger after tragedy briefly pricks our collective conscience, but why the rest of the time such attacks are ignored:

“The reason we’ve been ignored is simply because the world considers queer lives dispensable, more so when you are a queer African, and even more so when you’re a queer African refugee.”

It’s A New Day

Flickr Album: George Floyd Protests
A memorial for George Floyd in South Minneapolis. cc-by-sa-2.0

Indeed, the question might be asked why George Floyd is known around the world and Trinidad Jerry is not. I suspect it is not merely a matter of simple geography or nuanced racism and homophobia, but also of complacency: the wider world does not care about Trinidad and his peers – how many churches, organisations, societies, friendship groupings, schools or benevolent societies actually do anything to help refugees across Africa, Asia, or even in Australia? How many politicians actually care about the disgusting, barbaric, homophobic laws and the backward religious customs that fuel hatred and death in families and communities and UNHCR offices across Africa? How many LGBT churches or community groups actually pay anything more than lip service to loving their neighbour? Intolerance and complacency begin right here, in the heart of every individual. The bell tolls around the world, every day, non stop.

As this year commemorates the centenary of the Tulsa race massacre in the USA, and while some of Australia lives in denial of its frontier wars history, we should also ponder a larger question: does the Maafa (African Holocaust) continue today, in the form of complacency and apathy from much of the western world in response to the terrible living conditions faced across Africa? Will future generations judge us as disapprovingly as we judge slave traders or apartheid proponents?

Trinidad reads one of his poems online, late in 2020.

Meanwhile, following the murder of Trinidad and the subsequent death of Arnold in Kakuma from unknown medical problems, thousands of LGBTQ refugees across Kenya now struggle with grief and fear. We must try to make something good come out of this tragedy, such as helping his friend Jordan who suffered similar burns in the same attack, or helping LGBTQ refugees in Block 13 and elsewhere at Kakuma.

After the demons get tired of chasing you.
And the ghosts get wasted and blue,
Paradise dawns
With beams of beautiful dreams.
As darkness crawls away.
The colors of love emerge.
It’s a wonderful world.
Lets clean up the debris…..
And heal humanity
Its a new day.

14 March 2021

Trinnie’s valiant fight in the face of terrible injuries is testimony to his strength of character, and must inspire us all to keep fighting injustice and evil whenever we can. Trinidad Jerry was a strong and inspiring and poetic and humble and educated and compassionate and friendly person. The world has lost a hero and a future to which he could have contributed – but his legacy lives on in the hearts of his friends in Block 13, across Kakuma and Kenya, and around the world – and they will not forget him or his fight. He continues to inspire us, and therefore his greatest contribution may be yet to come.

Rest well, Chriton (“Trinidad Jerry”). Your struggle is over but your fight continues; your influence lives on in the hearts and lives of all those who knew you. Those in #UNHCRKenya and #KenyaPolice who neglected you and your rainbow family in Kakuma will one day, somehow, face poetic justice.

Kenya: Anger and horror over death of LGBTQ+ arson victim

(Poetic License: Trinnie was not thirty years old as one of his poems suggests. He was younger.)

Public disclaimer: I have used poems from Trinnie’s Facebook page by permission of his close friend in Kakuma. I make no claim to the copyright on poems written by Trinidad Jerry, and include them here solely so they can be collected and displayed publicly in his honour. All rights for that poetry are returned to Trinidad Jerry or his beneficiaries. I ask readers to please honour his talent by donating money to his rainbow family (see links to Jordan, Block 13, or elsewhere in Kakuma as listed here and above, or use the links below).

And hey UNHCR, let’s get those human beings out of hell.

I am part of a group that has been started in response to the ongoing LGBT+ refugee crisis across Kenya and Uganda, and I invite readers to contribute to the building of a better world: Humanity In Need: Rainbow Refugees.

This presentation © 2021 Geoff Allshorn. All rights to his poetry are returned to Trinidad Jerry or his appropriate beneficiaries.

Oh Glorious Sun!

A “HYMN” for Sunday Assembly by guest blogger,
Rod Bower (Secretary, Humanists Australia).
Presented here in celebration of the Solar Eclipse on 10 June 2021

Joshua Earle on Pixabay .

One of the reasons for the early success of the Salvation Army was their “borrowing” popular songs of the day and putting new “Salvationist” words to them. Thinking about Sunday Assembly I thought it might be time to return the favour, so here’s a start, using a tune that I used to love singing beside my grandfather as an adolescent visitor to his church…

(Sung To the tune, “How Great Thou Art”)

Oh Glorious Sun, when I perceive the wonder
Of nature’s beauty, powered by your rays
You rule all life on land and sea and under,
You give us light, and tides, and rainy days

With wonder filled I marvel at your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!
I love to sing and revel in your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!

In awe I see the galaxies and stars shine,
And through the year, your arc move low and high
The planets’ glow, reflects your light at night time
As does the Moon, migrating ‘cross the sky

With wonder filled I marvel at your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!
I love to sing and revel in your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!

In times of doubt when signposts all have shifted,
I look for answers and a sense of peace.
I feel your rays, and with my spirits lifted
and body warmed, my heart is more at ease.

With wonder filled I marvel at your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!
I love to sing and revel in your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!

And when at last my time of life is over,
as for all lives, and death has set me free,
Back to the Earth I’ll go, but not forever
Because your power will make new lives from me!

With wonder filled I marvel at your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!
I love to sing and revel in your power
Oh Glorious Sun! Oh Glorious Sun!

© 2021 Rod Bower/Geoff Allshorn
All rights returned to Rod Bower.

Take Our Future Seriously

Jasmine Trecento is guest blogger for World Environment Day (5 June).

School Strike 4 Climate, Melbourne, 21 May 2021. Photograph by Jasmine Trecento.

On 21 May, as a secondary school student from rural Victoria, I took a trip down to Treasury Gardens in Melbourne to take part in something that has a huge impact on my generation’s future.

A protest organized by ‘School Strike 4 Climate’ was being held in every state in Australia, to bring attention to the ongoing issue of climate change. The strike, aimed at the Morrison Government, was to show that instead of creating thousands of jobs for Australians in the renewable energy industry, they are lining the pockets of gas and coal companies. Such companies are the main contributors to the climate crisis.

With the strike beginning at one o’clock, students from all across Victoria began to make their way to central Melbourne. The protest started with Ella Simons and Anjali Sharma acknowledging the custodians of the land that we were gathering on, which was and always will be stolen land. They then went to on to explain to the crowds why we were all here and what this protest was aiming to do: to show the government that despite their efforts to ignore the problem, we, the upcoming generation, are going to fight for our future and planet. After a few more speakers took to the stage, the strike began.

With over 20,000 people coming together, the majority of them being school students from various schools across the state, it was a massive show of unity and strength. We are not going to let the government that is supposed to be protecting us, ruin our chances of having a future. We are calling on the Government to take our future seriously and treat climate change as what it is: a crisis.

School Strike 4 Climate, Melbourne, 21 May 2021. Photograph by Jasmine Trecento.

I believe that the reason so many students participated in this strike is because we know that without us acting upon the issue, nothing is going to change, and we will be stuck in a world that current politicians have neglected. By taking action, we are hoping that the government will know that we will not accept their ‘efforts’ to look after future generations. If they don’t start making changes soon, we will be the ones in power before too long, and we will not let this issue continue to be ignored.

The millions of dollars being spent and put towards mining fossil fuels is an amount that could be used in so many different areas to save our planet. If the money being spent on the things that are creating so many issues on our earth were instead put towards collecting energy from natural resources like sunlight, rain, tides, waves, and wind, not only would we be creating jobs and a sustainable way to live but saving resources and our lives.

We will not stop protesting and fighting for our right to be able to live our lives without the worry that we won’t have a future. Fund our Future, not gas.

© 2021 Jasmine Trecento/Geoff Allshorn
All rights returned to the author.

We Are the 1%

NASA Photo: ‘The Blue Marble’ photo taken on 7 December 1972 by Apollo 17 (the last human mission to the Moon), some 29,000 km from Earth on the way out to the Moon.
Wikimedia Commons.

Even as a child, I used to wonder at our self-obsessed culture.

Every advertisement is aimed at instant self-gratification: buy our product to become smarter, sexier, cooler, more popular, and only worry about yourself. Forget about metaphorically storing treasures in heaven, just make sure you horde everything you need for creature comfort today while your neighbours starve.

Every popular song in the ‘hit parade’ is aimed at ME ME ME. I can’t get no satisfaction. I love you, yeah yeah yeah. Love me tender. Man, I feel like a woman. You know you love me. I will survive. My heart will go on. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

The cultural worship of narcissism.

As a child, I also used to puzzle over Boris, a widowed World War Two Polish refugee who lived in my neighbourhood. He lived a lonely and troubled life, and the neighbourhood was replete with stories about how he had allegedly dug escape tunnels in his back yard in case of a night raid by Nazis, and how he had concreted up his electricity meter box so nobody could tell if anyone was living inside his shuttered-up home. As a boy, I recall seeing him sitting in the gutter outside his house, using a spoon to share a can of dog food with his only friend – his pet dog – and I wondered why the adults in my neighbourhood used to ignore him. Didn’t Jesus or Santa Claus also love him?

Confronting Capitalism

I don’t condemn our culture for obsessing over self-preservation – selfishness sells at least as much advertising copy as its constituent components: sex or vanity. There is of course nothing wrong with healthy self-preservation, nor with ensuring that you survive along with your immediate family. My concern is that our culture promotes the falsehood that family stops outside our front door.

I even accept that self-preservation can be a fine, upstanding platform of morality – provided it does not trump other morals such as loving thy neighbour. And our culture creates false divisions between neighbours: Not in my back yard. Protect our borders. Punish the dole bludgers. Hide the homeless in another location. Lock away the sick old people where we cannot see them. Stop the queue jumpers even when the queue for those fleeing war or poverty extends over 150 years. Charity begins at home – and ends there. Privileged white lives matter too.

Wherefore art thou, Boris?

Our idolatrous promotion of capitalism is based upon two falsehoods: the first is that self trumps society, that the individual is paramount and should remain the focus of our capitalist system. After all, the myth proposes, people need to be rewarded for initiative, because otherwise free handouts via godless socialism simply make people lazy. Hence our culture prefers to hold billions of humans in economic servitude and allows millions to die each year from starvation, disease, or other poverty-related problems, rather than organise fair and equitable sharing of our resources. Universal Basic Income, anybody?

Culturally, our society honours those whom it sees as being worthy of praise – usually conflating affluence with hard work – and disrespects the poor and disadvantaged, as though blaming them for their failure to be rich. Our worship of economic rationalism and ‘trickle down economics’ – philosophies that are largely immoral and discredited – permeate our lifestyles, causing us to behave in ways that, to an objective observer, are not the optimal ways for humans to treat themselves or others: from undertaking exploitative employment through to the way we approach charity – giving the poor a few breadcrumbs off our table.

The second falsehood in capitalism is the idea that we can all consume abundantly and shamelessly, and that our planet can and will absorb our mindless pursuit of hedonism and selfishness. Who cares if the oceans will soon be depleted as long as we can gorge our gullets today with lobster? So what if forests and the Great Barrier Reef will be gone within a generation, as long as we can eat, drink and be merry today? Who cares if in few years’ time there will be a billion climate change refugees, as long as our borders are secure and we can keep out the black people?

A friend of mine recently discussed similar points on Facebook, and with her permission I quote from her wisdom with some minor adaptations.

When people angrily denounce the 1% as being the evil bastards who keep everything for themselves and neglect everybody else, I remind them that WE are part of the 1% wealthiest people on Earth, just by being born here. We are those evil people who think a meat meal at a restaurant is more important than the lives of the 9 million or so people who will starve to death this year… or the tens of millions who will never manage to lift themselves out of borderline starvation.

In Australia we live really well — even the poorest of us… and I am one of those poorest. I don’t own a car or home. I eat one meal a day, only having protein (a little tin of sardines which I feel guilty about) one day a week. I don’t buy myself much of anything. But I have access to the vast riches of the internet, I never starve, I have a (leaky) roof over my head, am warm and happy. We are not starving to death. We have the dole and pension and many charities that hand out food and other goods. My brother works (for free) in a charity shop that has ridiculously low-priced goods, which they often give away to needy people.

We are sooo lucky here. Most people don’t realise. I come from a well-to-do background, so I have always known a wide spread of people, from filthy rich to destitute. I’ve always been amazed at so many of my wealthy friends believing they are struggling to keep their heads above water. It is always the people who are richer than them who are the problem. The thing is, we all are. We Australians are among the biggest energy consumers on Earth. We produce more greenhouse gases per capita than any other western nation. We produce more rubbish. We do less recycling than almost any other 1st world nation. We really need to ditch this selfish government that encourages selfishness in us and do our part to help fix the world.

At the same time, I don’t think less of those who don’t. It is entirely understandable that most people don’t realise how much better off we are than the vast majority of the world’s people. It is unfortunate, but not really anybody’s fault. It is changing slowly.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

So you think this is an exaggeration? The USA and Australia are among the top ten richest countries in the world, as measured by GDP per capita. Maybe reassess whether you are rich: if you received more than $1500 US (or $2000 AUS) last year, you are among the world’s richest 20% of income earners; if you earned $50K US (or $65K AUS) then you are among the richest 1%.

It might be argued that our economic focus upon progress has disconnected us from the real world. My friend explores the idea that we need to reform even our concepts of what it means to practice charitable living and giving:

These days I spend a lot of my time, money and effort helping disadvantaged people in some parts of Africa. And I was never very rich in time or money to begin with, living below the poverty line and having way too many projects on the go simultaneously. But we here in Australia are unimaginably wealthy — even those of us, like me, who live below the poverty line.

I help people in Africa who are in danger of dying. The greatest difficulty is that death is knocking at the door for so many there, it is difficult to triage the problem and spend the money in the most effective ways. Helping people set up a shop, buy land, build a house, get mosquito nets (against malaria), get solar powered lights so they don’t have to pay for fuel or cut down precious vegetation…

I should add that I don’t see myself as virtuous in any of this. I’ve been a pretty selfish shit for much of my life. Helping others is not atonement for that or anything. It just makes good logical sense. We all benefit from an improved world.

Everybody benefits from making the world a better place to live. Where will the next genius come from who might change the way we see the universe? That person might be a young girl in a slum. Who will be the person to gain new insights into the best ways to build and use artificial intelligence? It might be a young boy who gets saved from poverty in a Brazillian favela. Who might be the inspirational person to bring about world peace? It might be a young gay man trying to survive in a deeply homophobic society. Who might show us the way to live lightly, yet luxuriously on this planet? That might be a child yet to be born to a young woman struggling to survive in a land devastated by war and broken agriculture.

If you doubt this, consider the following:

A man who escaped extermination, as a member of what was considered at that time a race of vermin, totally altered the way we understand the universe. He was Albert Einstein.

A young black woman in the insanely racist south of USA grew up in a time where girls did not do math, but her abilities ended up making her one of NASA’s most valued people. Her calculations were respected more than those from the new computing machines. She was Katherine Johnson.

A young boy, the son of illiterate black parents in racist, apartheid South Africa, grew up tending cattle, but believing in fairness. He ended up peacefully dismantling Apartheid and leading that country forward. He was Nelson Mandela.

A young Italian boy, born illegitimately, out of wedlock, realised as he grew up that he was gay at a time when that was a very serious “crime”. He became perhaps the greatest artist/scientist/technologist/inventor in all history. He was Leonardo da Vinci.

We don’t know where the next geniuses will come from who will deliver new ways to understand the universe, life, and psychology. We don’t know if those poorest people will give us the tools to live lightly and luxuriously upon the earth. Maybe those key insights will come from wealthy 1st-worlders like us, or maybe they will come from the much greater numbers of poor people. In the past, some of the most oppressed people have given us some of our brightest stars.

This time we live in now is a Renaissance. It is the beginning of a new era for humanity. There are more geniuses alive today than ever before in all human history. We have vast amounts of free information available to us at our fingertips. People living in poverty have supercomputers in their pockets that let them access this information and communicate with other people all around the planet. Society is shifting to greater tolerance and empathy faster than ever before. Great social changes, which used to take a hundred years, now occur in decades, or even less.

It is true that we have great problems to solve: the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, ecological collapse, religious extremism, increasing waves of disease… but we are smarter than ever, more peaceful and cooperative than ever, and more knowledgeable than ever.

If every person in Australia helped some people in the poorest parts of the world, we might eliminate deep poverty and starvation. We might end wars over resources and stupid gods. What might the human race then become? Knowledge, art, and culture are really the only unlimited resources. Imagine how that could enrich us all.

I find her words compelling and her spirit admirable. She suggests that if we want to change the world, we must first change ourselves. But she also warns us that this change must be sustainable:

One of the big problems with trying too hard to help fix the problems is burnout. It is difficult to maintain perspective. I worry sometimes that I might end up giving up on the impossibility, instead of concentrating on small things that can make a big difference to people.

My friend’s warning about sustainability moderates both our desire to help others and our perception of what is needed to implement real change. I am reminded of a childhood memory: I was out doorknocking for a charity called, ‘The Freedom From Hunger Campaign’, when through a flywire door I observed a man eating lunch. In a splinter of my mind’s eye – undoubtedly coloured by my somewhat disapprovingly emotional memory of the event plus subsequent life influences – I seem to recall him as a large, almost obese fellow, gorging himself upon a lunch while displaying the temperament, dimensions and character of Jabba the Hutt. In between loud chews, he asked me what I wanted, and I invited him to make a donation to feed the hungry. Without breaking chews, he loudly and rudely replied, “No!” and turned his attention back to stuffing his face. In my more excitable moments some fifty years later, I recall this man and wonder if he serves as a metaphor for myself, my country or my world.

Museums Victoria

I do believe that the world has big problems and things must change. Whether through social evolution or revolution, real change is coming and it will hurt. Climate change, economic inequality, political instability, dwindling resources, science denialism… we face many challenges, but I would argue that the human species has the resources of intellect and courage to overcome these with rationality and selflessness. If we choose. But just as war often imposes rationing, we are living in an era when the Third World War (a war to save what we patronisingly call the Third World) is already underway, and we need to adopt a collective mindset wherein we act to help our human family by being prepared to use our affluence to help those who have less.

Whether we act pre-emptively and mitigate imminent change – or continue trying to ignore it as long as possible until it overtakes and overwhelms us – this is our choice both as individuals and as a society. How we each respond to that call determines our ethics as human beings and our civilised values as a human society. As Sarah Connor, once said, “A storm is coming” – and this will necessitate lifestyle change for us all.

I am not necessarily advocating the overthrow of capitalism; but I do propose its humanising: an economic system based upon compassion not consumption, predicated on helping instead of hoarding. We need a world built upon apposition not opposition; upon coalition not competition.

Any rational and ethical concept of human identity must include a healthy perspective of being collective and collegiate. This includes a morality which is based upon human need and human reason. The concept is not hard – even children can grasp the concept that sharing is preferable to selfishness, as expounded in the ‘Pronoun’ song from the old children’s TV series, HR Pufnstuf:

“Mine is a selfish word,
Yours is a thoughtful word,
But ours is the nicest word of all.”

The human factor – indeed the organic life factor – must surely comprise an important part of anyone’s perspective if they wish to be fully alive and fully human. This leads to certain inescapable conclusions. Life is not a shopping spree nor a game to see who dies with the most toys. History will never thank you for watching every episode of your favourite TV series, for going on that overseas holiday, or for painting the back verandah a special colour last summer. But if you instead gave equivalent time, money and effort to help others, then you may leave a human legacy wherein some future family can literally thank you for their home, their environment, or perhaps for their very existence – a much better form of immortality than that found within many religions and philosophies.

Do you want to see the world change? Then get out there and change it.

Photo by Womanizer WOW Tech on Unsplash

Here is an opportunity to support some of the work that my friend supports,
helping homeless people and saving lives:
Lunko House in Kenya and Uganda.

And here is one of mine, supporting people directly in Kakuma Refugee Camp – building shelters and toilets, providing life saving night lighting, feeding people, saving lives with medicine:
Humanity in Need – Rainbow Refugees.

Another opportunity for direct assistance in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. Helping those who have nothing. They currently need food and firewood.

Directly funding a self-sustaining project, the Rainbow Refugee Food Program in Nairobi. Feeds refugees, supplies gainful employment and income and rent.

A direct fundraiser for Nairobi-based rainbow refugees
run by my trustworthy friend in the USA. Feeds and clothes, provides shelter and medicine. Saves lives and gives hope.

Or you might like to commit to helping a safe house give shelter to marginalised refugees who might otherwise be homeless and in great danger:
Marginalised Refugee Empowerment Program Africa (MAREPA)

© 2021 Geoff Allshorn