By Nathan James
From such far-flung locales as Chechnya and Syria, places which barely register on our collective consciousnesses, come horrifying stories about what is happening to their LGBT communities. In the former Soviet republic, gay men are being systematically purged from society through torture and murder. In the deserts of Biblical Syria, the sinister ISIS terror organization is rounding up gay men and putting them to death in ways so hideous, they defy description in civilized terms. As the march of hatred continues, seemingly unabated, here at home and around the world, there is curiously little outcry from the American LGBT community on these atrocities. Yes, to be sure, we face our own perils, as recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, make manifestly clear. The deadly expressions of bigotry and homophobia on small-town America’s streets, awful as they really are, are made terrifyingly larger in countries where the doctrine of eradication is Holy Writ.
Every day, gay men attempt to flee across the scorching desert, or through the hostile terrain of Russia, trying to escape the clutches of those who would joyfully work agonies upon them until their lungs expelled the last wretched screams from their bodies. The United States, in its rapid descent into the madness that is the Trump administration, can muster no sympathy for these desperate individuals halfway around the globe. Indeed, our trend has been towards expulsion, too, of anyone who does not fall under the strict aegis of white, male, heteronormativity. Yet, still they come, emerging from those dark lands, as if from a burning building, scarred, singed, stunned, by the ordeal they’ve endured in places that, after all, they should have been able to call home like their (straight, acceptable) neighbors.
No welcome mat awaits them on Ellis Island, no Golden Door swings open wide for these children of the rainbow here. In fact, it’s our northerly neighbor, Canada, which has taken the lead in setting the example here. Very quietly, as necessitated by the prying eyes and ears of evil’s twisted practitioners, the Dominion has been providing safe haven to these scared, stateless refugees, from horrors we like to believe ended with the defeat of the Axis Powers 72 years ago. Working with the Rainbow Railroad, the Canadian government dares to defy the Russians (who consider Chechnya their exclusive bailiwick), and ISIS (who enforce their iron will with the rifle and the car bomb). No other rescue has, as of this writing, been forthcoming, least of all from the Western democracies.
It therefore lies incumbent upon us, as in so many other things our community must struggle against (transgender troops being hurled out of the US military, laws allowing people and businesses to refuse LGBT people goods and services), to remind the world of their obligation to act as decent human beings. Governments openly encourage the killing of their gay citizens, and everyone averts their eyes. Terrorists—the enemy of everyone who does not make frightened obeisance before them—make YouTube videos of their inhuman acts, and everyone scurries for cover, thankful merely that they aren’t the ones being flung off the roof, or drowned in a cage, or burned alive.
The anguished wails of these murder victims must be amplified by us. If we wait, if we hesitate, if we falter, aren’t we also enabling? Our leadership isn’t interested in us, or in our overseas brothers and sisters. There will be no United Nations outreach effort—in fact, the absence of UN help made Canada take matters into her own hands—and no one else is going to do very much, until we wake them up. When their eyes are opened to the fact that these crimes against humanity could next be visited upon them, then the issue will be real, and personal, and urgent, for anyone who sleeps soundly in their beds, and imagines no such thing will ever bring their lives to a screaming, bloody end. Let’s cry out with those whose own cries are being silenced, and teach the world something it should know, but has forgotten. Let us teach them to relearn what it means to be civilized. That is the work we as global LGBT citizens can do, because no one else will.