In honour of International Day of Happiness (20 March).
What does it mean to be LGBTQ in countries where being different is a legal or moral crime? How does one live on a continent where being ‘outed’ is likely to lead to family and community rejection, where displaying a rainbow flag is likely to provoke a violent attack, and where the very religion to which one may turn for consolation is the same one that preaches death to queers?
A loved gay friend in Africa recently expressed disillusionment and defined an LGBTQ life as one being full of rejection, pain, suffering, violence, depression, unemployment, discrimination, and an unsafe environment. His life is testimony to such realities.
He wrote poetically and with deep feeling:
This young man fills me with admiration at his courage, his strength and his resilience in the face of hardships. I am proud of this rainbow son, as I am of his whole rainbow family in their adoptive home nation. His lion heart is strong in the face of attack, but gentle to children and those he loves. It is therefore sad to see when he feels down. With love and hugs across the world, I offer him a different definition of what it means to be LGBTQ:
Being LGBTQ means living a full life that is:
Full of love that some might not understand, so we need to keep educating them.
Full of sensitivity that others might not share, so we need to keep exercising it.
Full of potential, so we need to keep being optimistic and enterprising and creative.
Full of difference, so we need to stay proud and diverse.
Full of being fabulous, so we need to enjoy enriching the world with our special skills and perspectives.
Full of pride, so we need to stay strong and forgiving when others are cruel or ignorant or intolerant.
Full of empathy, so we need to keep expressing sympathy for the suffering of others.
Full of humanity, so we need to keep fulfilling our responsibility to care for others in our human family in order to set a better example for those who treat us badly.
Full of humility, so we need to keep loving ourselves with the quiet strength in our hearts.
Full of courage, so we need to stay strong despite our many difficulties.
Full of rainbow, because the world needs the love, sensitivity, potential, difference, pride, fabulosity, empathy, humanity, humility and courage that we possess.
In a world where marriage equality is not the norm but homophobia is, people of good conscience surely have a responsibility to offer a fuller life to those around them. While the International Day of Happiness 2022 proposes that the world rebuild after the trauma of COVID, (‘Build Back Happier’), LGBTQ communities around the world have already experienced a generation of dealing with another, potentially more lethal virus, and we have led the world in developing strategies for harm minimisation and building supportive, safe, loving communities amidst an epidemic. We should do the same for people whose lives have been impacted by the traumatic virus of homophobia. It’s time to rebuild.
©2022 Geoff Allshorn