What the Uganda stories are failing to mention

Sure, I guess I support a bunch of straight white male politicians and journalists vowing to boycott Uganda and whatnot if they pass their death penalty for being gay law. Yes, I get that this is a timely issue, and the most likely time to get a law struck down is when it hasn't yet passed and is still being considered.

But what I don't get is why none of these stories are even mentioning that there already exists a death penalty for being gay in Somalia, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran and parts of Nigeria. And life sentences in another handful of countries. Also, freakin' labor camps where they send gays and lesbians in Angola.

Where's the outrage from the straight people about that?


Jodie said...

People can't get outraged at things they don't know exist. In all fairness, how many non-straight people can name every country where there's a death penalty for being gay? If a person has friends or family or is considering a move to another country where such laws exist, of there's been a news report about it, sure, but I doubt even every non-straight person knows (or at least would have prior to all the recent media attention about Uganda). I can think of several gay people I know off the top of my head where I'd be shocked if they knew all the countries you mentioned (not just the fact of the death penalty, but even that all those countries exist, which frankly is an issue for an awful lot of Americans, sexual orientation aside). Perhaps the issue needs better public relations all around.

eeka said...

Well, that's where it comes down to a straight privilege thing. I couldn't name all those countries without looking then up either, but I've also had the fairly frequent experience of fantasizing about future travel and then needing to google and see in which countries my existance is a crime, or meeting new friends or clients or coworkers and googling to see whether they've likely been raised to view me as a criminal, then listening closely to see whether they still hold this view. Most straight people (thinking largely of the politicians and journalists who are suddenly outraged) wouldn't have any reason to do this. People in privilege groups don't have to feel out in every interaction whether the other person has a prejudice against them. But if they were really allies who really listened to and instilled confidence in their queer friends, chances are that someone would have talked to them about countries where queer people are criminals. There's a lot of publicity in queer media about this, which true allies would be reading.

And yeah, North Americans not knowing there are other countries. I encountered someone a few years back who told me that this person's OWN CHILD (not biological, United-States-born) was Cambodian. Based on physical appearance, child was pretty clearly largely genetically African. Other sources had told me the child's biological parents were both Cape Verdean. Cambodian, Cape Verdean...they have a lot of the same letters! And the people in both places are, uh, not white! Easy to mix 'em up, right? Maybe American schools should start requiring that people play Sporcle. Great way to learn about demographics of various places.

Jodie said...

I think that also speaks to another type of privilege- how many Americans never even dream about traveling to other countries because that doesn't seem like it would ever be an option for them?

For myself, it wouldn't occur to me to think about legalities of being gay in certain countries not just because I'm straight, but because the few places I have on my travel wish list are pretty socially liberal. Maybe it's narrow-minded of me, but I only have one life to live and I'm spending most of it working and being a student, leaving not a lot of time and money to travel the world. I'd still love to visit many of the places that other friends of mine had the opportunity to visit though out their childhoods, like Europe. My childhood travel was limited to part of New England, Florida and the 8th-grade school trip to Montreal (which my parents would never have taken me to, and I had to pay for. The school also made trips to France and Mexico, but it would have taken me 5.5 years to earn enough money by babysitting to go on either of those trips). That's still a lot more than many Americans, and it's not at all unusual for Americans to not be well-traveled (or not have a big desire to do so) for a number of reasons, not the least of which is not having the money to travel. I work with plenty of kids now who have never been out of Connecticut- and their parents' travel (if any) is limited to Massachusetts and New York.

There's a lot in the issue that can be looked at in terms of privilege, and it's not quite as simple as only being about straight privilege, which I think it also a huge part of the larger picture.