By Wayne Besen
Bad actors across the globe are attempting to remake the World Order into a dystopia that conjures the worst demons of the previous century. In every scenario where revanchist nations could potentially prevail, LGBTQ people’s lives would markedly deteriorate. It is up to the collective LGBTQ community, as well as individuals, to lead the international fight for freedom. Whether it is registering voters, protesting on the streets, running for office, writing articles or fighting in military trenches, we cannot shrink from defending Enlightenment values. This is a war we must not lose because the alternatives are unbearable and unthinkable.
We can begin by standing up for Ukraine against a resurgent Mother Russia. While not exactly Fire Island, progress has been made in Kiev on LGBTQ rights. This is a far cry from Russia, which passed a draconian law against “gay propaganda”. What this backward law really does is harass and intimidate gay and trans people, while limiting their ability to organize and speak out for their rights. When Russia controls subordinate territories, anti-LGBTQ atrocities occur, people are targeted for harassment, and LGBTQ organizations vanish.
All Ukrainian citizens will suffer greatly if tanks roll across the border. The stakes for LGBTQ people, however, are even higher. Pink News in the U.K. reports, “a Russian attack, or potential invasion, would spell disaster for Ukraine’s LGBT+ community…They fear that progress on LGBT+ rights would grind to a halt and that, in the event of a Russian invasion, they could see their freedoms restricted and rolled back.”
To give you an idea of Russia’s attitude toward the LGBTQ community, a key Putin advisor recently said of the West, “They want to give children the right to determine their own sex, and in some places they’ve gotten to the point of legalizing marriage with animals.”
For the Ukrainian LGBTQ population, a Russian incursion should be viewed as an existential threat. Every able-bodied gay and trans person should fight the Russian menace wherever it is encountered. We have the raw numbers to play a decisive role, if not in the initial onslaught, certainly in an insurgency against an illegal Russian occupation. What’s going to send the Russian military back to its own borders is producing enough body bags to turn the Russian population against Putin.
Of course, we are a law-abiding, peaceful movement. Our message is traditionally about love and acceptance. Our giant Pride events are often showcases of how to bring a million people together with virtually no acts of violence. However, we can’t allow our penchant for peace to curdle into a naïve pacifism. For pacifism to be successful, our tormentors across the world must recognize our humanity.
Unfortunately, they see us as less than human and have joyously bullied, tortured, jailed and murdered us. Exhibit A is Iran, which just executed two gay men on sodomy charges. If we don’t hide in Iran, we die. We live like underground sewer rats, risking our lives for basic human needs like love or intimacy. Given the unspeakable horrors of this brutal and unforgiving world, we better commit to preserving our hard-won liberty in the few places where we have achieved a measure of equality.
This begins at home by doing everything in our power to ensure America remains a Constitutional democracy. At this moment, the trajectory of the United States remains too fluid for comfort. Last week, Donald Trump incited his “Brown Shirts” to future violence at a rally in Texas. We also learned that the former president was more deeply involved in his post-election coup attempt than we knew. This included serious proposals to seize voting machines by the Pentagon or Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party has so debased itself that it now shies away from standing up to fascists. In central Florida, Nazis rallied with flags while hurling homophobic and anti-Semitic epithets. Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to condemn these hoodlums, while his press secretary, Christian Pushaw, Tweeted “Do we even known they’re Nazis?” I’m going out on a limb, but the swastikas and “heil Hitler” salutes were a pretty good indication. It’s bad enough that Republicans are pushing a “Don’t Say Gay” bill for Florida’s schools, but apparently, today’s GOP leaders can’t say “Nazi”.
We must be clear-eyed about what we are facing. This is a right wing religious insurgency disguised as political populism. The theological angle is evident when you consider that eight of the 10 most challenged books in libraries and schools last year were based on L.G.B.T.Q. subjects or narratives. We are also dealing with a cult that is so fanatical that people are willing to die rather than get vaccinated and wear masks. For example, Chad Carswell of Hickory, North Carolina rejected a kidney transplant because he needed to be vaccinated to receive an organ. He responded to his impending doom by saying, “I was born free. I’ll die free.” How does an LGBTQ movement based on reason and rationality deal with a growing number of absurd people who embrace such radical views?
It is critically important that we hold the line against fascism in the United States. For all our glaring flaws, we are still the LGBTQ community’s best hope for spreading equality across the globe. If we falter, a resurgent Russia will further exert its influence across Europe, diminishing our safety and security. We are already getting a glimpse of this phenomenon by witnessing Germany’s kowtowing to Moscow in exchange for energy. Without the United States security blanket, Europe would quickly become less LGBTQ-friendly as it tries to appease a meddling Russia.
China is the dominant power in Asia. It recently banned “sissy” characters from television and deleted gay dating apps, making it more difficult for LGBTQ people to meet. China also promulgates an amoral foreign policy that appeals to authoritarian countries by pledging not to speak out about human rights abuses. Of course, why would China want to discuss human rights when they have placed up to a million Uyghurs in “reeducation” camps? In no conceivable way is China’s rise, under increasingly fascist dictator Xi Jinping, good for the gay community or the world.
If LGBTQ people are to thrive in the 21st Century, we will have to be an incandescent light that shines so brightly that we thwart a looming Dark Age. We must commit to being the masters of our own destiny, because if we are passive bystanders, there is no future. There are tens of millions of us worldwide and we are a powerful force of creativity and strength. If we don’t fight for our families, not only will we ruin our own lives, but we will bequeath generations of LGBTQ people with a barren hellscape with no exit ramp.