Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Religions, Homophobia, Transphobia..,

Religions, homophobia, transphobia….

A rationale for an initiative around the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia

1 Religions and homo/transphobia

All over the world, transphobic and homophobic violence is often perpetrated by conservative people who use religion to justify their acts. This is not the privilege of any specific religion and it would be only too easy to find examples related to outburst of violence in Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, animist, etc… contexts. Leading to a climate of violence, exclusion, hate and discrimination within the faith groups and believers, these expressions of violence also indirectly influence many non-believers or atheist people, and lead them to opinions and acts that attack the dignity, safety and sometimes the very lives of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people. Far from being a phenomenon of the past, this religious violence is a persistent, and sometimes an increasing reality in many countries. The conservative religious right is also mandating its theology of violence and exclusion into the political realms as well.

But at the same time, many voices are increasingly being heard that express concern that religions are being invoked to justify violence and exclusion. On the contrary many believers are gradually joining the position that violence and bigotry should not be one of the most visible expressions of their faith . They feel the religious scriptures express values that encourage respect for human dignity, values that welcome the ‘stranger’, the ‘other’, values that promote hospitality and respect for diversity. Groups and individuals, including many non-religious or atheist movements, increasingly raise their voices in support of Bishop Gene Robinson’s argument that if religion has been the biggest obstacle to full equality and dignity for LGBTI people, it can also make the biggest contribution to changing the situation.

Various movements and initiatives exist around the world who work on both promoting the positive role and combating the negative role of religions in the struggle for the rights of individuals to live free from discrimination on the basis of their Sexual Orientation or/and Gender Identity.

To contribute to addressing these challenges, the IDAHO Committee, the organisation promoting the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia worldwide , proposes to envisage an initiative that aims at taking advantage of the added political and media exposure that the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia provides to support and develop advocacy strategies around the issue of Religions, homophobia and Transphobia.

Arguments for the added value that the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia brings to advocacy strategies:
- It gets good media attention and provides an interesting moment to go public and talk to the media.
- It is a good opportunity to request political attention from policy makers.
- It generates mainstream social attention and allows getting messages out to constituencies that are outside of the “usual” LGBTI/Human Rights circles. It may therefore increase the public campaigning potential around LGBT issues, including through the mobilisation of social networks.
- Through the common focus on one Day, it allows joint initiatives to take place. It helps build perennial alliances around a cause.

It is proposed that the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia in both 2010 and 2011 are used as campaigning moments over this issue.

2 Outline of an initiative focusing on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia

Following some early exchanges between the IDAHO Committee, and some members of the religious LGBTI organisations, the following arguments/elements for an initiative were highlighted :

The objective of the initiative would be to expose and discuss how religion and politics in many countries are intertwined in such a way that religion poses a political problem for the LGBTI. To discuss about this matter honestly and directly and to discuss the role of religion in society especially the role it plays with regards to LGBTI people.

Although the Day is focused on fighting homophobia and transphobia, its spirit should be to engage into mutually respectful dialogue and strategy, and not in a confrontational approach that would (in this case) consider religious movements as our “enemies”. A strategy around the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia shall focus on the positive contributions that religious movements can have to create a safer and more inclusive environment (focusing on the essence and roots of religions). It shall in part expose and oppose the negative impact of religious fundamentalist discourses but shall mainly be about highlighting the alternative to these discriminatory positions. The language around this initiative should be “FOR” not “against”. This initiative shall raise the profile of those religious leaders and communities who are working for inclusion, religious people who usually tend to be marginalized within the Churches themselves, also to raise the profile of Gay Affirmative Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and other places of worship.

As is always the case for the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, each participant should develop their own activities as they feel useful and feasible in their own context. Yet, coming together over some common actions brings a clear added value. We therefore suggested two directions :

1) Developing and disseminating an international Appeal to Religions, that organisations can endorse but also circulate to their audiences. The aim is to gather as many signatures as possible from citizens, politicians, intellectuals, and of course Religious leaders.

2) Organising national dialogue initiatives around this issue, preferably including the progressive religious leaders, in order to promote a positive and constructive participation of religions in the Human Rights debate.

For further information please contact Joel Bedos or Louis Georges Tin


sattler said...

Thanks so much for what you said. This is a good opportunity to say hello. For years now I've wrestled with the ambiguity of faith in responding to the persecution of gay people. I've blogged about my own journey recently:

Every blessing to you in your life and work.


Phil Wood

Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay said...

We must continue to Speak up and stand up and share our stories, in so doing we will help others