}

Saturday, May 20, 2017

#CultureOfLove spreads a great message


The United Nations’ Free & Equal project has launched a mini-campaign exploring the role that culture and tradition play in the lives of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world. The #CultureOfLove campaign features three short videos that show what it looks like when culture and tradition are opened to LGBTI people. I think they’re awesome: Anyone who is LGBTI—or loves someone who is—should watch them.

In Tradition (above), as the Free & Equal project put it in an email, “a young man in Mumbai brings his boyfriend to a family celebration of the Festival of Holi”. One of the end title cards (shared with all three videos) says, “Culture and tradition should bring us together, not tear us apart”. No one with a heart could possibly disagree with that.

The second video I watched was Culture, though it was actually the third posted to their YouTube Channel (where, as usual, all these videos are available in a variety of languages). In this video, “a genderqueer youngster in Britain joins their father at a soccer match and basks in the camaraderie that goes with supporting the local team”:



Finally, in Family, “Chinese parents shake off their initial hesitation and include their daughter’s same sex partner in their traditional Lunar New Year celebrations”:


What all three videos have in common is that they show very traditional cultures that are traditionally more or less anti-LGBTQI, and how people letting go of the chains of traditional culture and embracing love of family can make the world a better place.

All of this is based on Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. In the website for the campaign, they say:
Culture and tradition are profound parts of our lives. They allow us to come together to mark life’s milestones, and celebrate our heritage and the people we love. For many, they provide a sense of home, of history and identity.

Culture and tradition belong to everyone. Each of us gets to interpret, adapt and practice the beliefs, customs and rituals that are meaningful to us as individuals. These are basic cultural rights – guaranteed to everyone without discrimination.

Sadly, some people see the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people as a threat to their cultural values. They may try, wrongly, to rationalize violence and discrimination as a way of protecting their beliefs in the name of culture and tradition. No matter how diverse people’s beliefs and values, culture and tradition are not a license to discriminate or an excuse for violence.

Culture and tradition are not fixed: they change over time and are viewed and interpreted differently within societies. There are traditions of hate and repression, just as there are traditions of equality and justice. It's up to each of us to decide for ourselves which ones to carry on. You decide.
This is the heart—literally and figuratively—of this. In Western societies we’ve seen rapid progress for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people, even as we see growing repression of, and hatred directed toward, Trans people. LGB people have won, for now, the right to marry and be treated as any other citizen in most Western countries, but Trans people are still left to wonder when their time will come, when they, too, will be welcomed as free and equal people.

To be sure, the West has no room to gloat or to puff out its chest: Homophobia and Transphobia are rife throughout our societies, and even the hard-fought right to marry for same-gender couples could be taken away in an instant if we become the same object of hatred that Trans people are now, or as we were in the past.

But even where legal protections exist, so, too, does violence, hatred, and discrimination. There are many reasons for that, but culture and tradition are often used as justifications for it (as for example to justify the creation of concentration camps for and torture of LGBT people in Chechnya), and it is always wrong and unjustifiable.

My personal belief is that if one’s culture or tradition tells one to use violence and discrimination against LGBTI people, there’s something wrong with that culture or tradition, not the object of their enmity. Love and family must always come before culture and tradition, and when it does, change happens and cultures grow and form new, inclusive traditions.

Still, it’s impossible to wave a magic wand and transform a culture or to make long-held traditions adapt. Instead, WE do that, and it begins with a simple and clear determination to put love and family first. This is the way forward, I think.

The UN’s Free & Equal Campaign has put out some great videos over the years (see also below), and this series continues that. They’re doing good work toward making this world a better, safer, more peaceful place, and they should be commended. I hope they succeed in changing hearts and minds. I hope they help us all become Free & Equal.

Previously on this blog:

Suggested realities (2013) – My post where I first mentioned the Free & Equal Campaign
Free and Equal (2013) – From later the same day as the first post in this list, it was where I first shared a video, The Riddle.
Free & Equal – ‘The Welcome’ (2014)
UN Fighting to make LGBT people Free & Equal (2015) – A post with five videos from Free & Equal
This is my fight song (2016) – With the video Why We Fight featuring the song “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, the first time I’d ever heard that song.

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