Many know what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ in the United States, Canada, and England, with varying degrees of rights, trials and tribulations, and what it’s like to live here. But what it’s like to live here is not what it’s like for everywhere in the world.
We are not the only culture, nor the only way of life.
The experience of those in these nations are not the same as those elsewhere. Their rights are not the same; their culture is not the same, as each is unique and different; the acceptance of gay people is not the same in different parts of the world. So, we’re taking a look at some other regions of the globe and what it’s like to be LGBTQ+.
Our first stop is South Africa, which has a decent track record on LGBTQ+ rights.
They have been ahead of the game on rights, being the fifth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. According to the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act of 2003, people can change their recorded sex in the population registry if they have undergone a physical transition. Unlike the United States, the old blood donation policy banning men who had sex with other men from donating blood has been changed in South Africa to a more gender-neutral policy that disallows donations from those with new sexual partners within the last six months or more than one partner.
The current Red Cross policy requires men who have sex with men to have been “three months deferred from most recent sexual contact.” Unfortunately, there is still violence against LGBTQ+ individuals in South Africa, and it’s fairly precarious outside of cities if one is gay or trans.
Our next stop is India, which only just recently decriminalized consensual homosexual sex in 2018.
There seems to be a push for rights in India, but there’s a lot of homophobia as well. However, some states protect hijras, known as the third gender, from certain discriminations. But, it seems like a lot of people hide themselves from being outwardly gay out of fear of family shame and reprisal due to societal expectations.
Those looking to learn more about what it’s like to be queer in India might find some interest in various films on the topic. One of the movies to watch, called Fire (1996), is a little outdated, but it has a heavy impact from Bollywood and was the first movie of its kind to show a lesbian relationship. This was important because it was really taboo at the time to show such things, and it showed something that other films weren’t willing to show before. There’s also Aligarh (2016) about a journalist covering a story of a gay professor who was being fired for his sexual orientation. This film covers life in India and the fear that many gay and trans people still face in everyday life – and it’s based on a true story.
Next, we come to China.
Though certain rights have existed since 1997, the history of homosexuality goes back thousands of years, being documented during the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BCE). This means same-sex acceptance has been present until the Communist Cultural Revolution. When homosexual rights were given, unfortunately, this did not include transgender rights, which are still considered a mental illness in China despite allowing people to make legal gender changes.
A popular film about same-sex relationships isn’t from China, but from Hong Kong, titled Happy Together (1997) by War Kai-wai, who also made In the Mood for Love (2000). It follows the story of a very complicated gay relationship, to say the least. It depicts male gay sex, which producers wanted to censor in Hong Kong at the time.
Finally, let’s end on Malta in the Mediterranean sea.
It’s a small country just off the coast of Italy holding a variety of people from Italians, Arabics, Normans, etc. historically. LGBTQ+ rights have the highest standards in Malta, which have been ongoing for hundreds of years. Legally, though same-sex activity came to be allowed in 1973, gay marriage took longer to be legalized – but when it did, in 2017, Malta became a tourism vacation for cruise lines to get married in International waters.
In 2016, Malta was the first European Union country to ban gay conversion therapy. One can serve in the military regardless of sex or gender identity. The military attitude towards gay people in the military is “live and let live” and to base their ideas on qualifications. The Overseas Security Advisory Council, part of the US Department of State, has recognized Malta for the degree of liberty it gives its LGBT+ citizens. Also, The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex Association of Europe recognized Malta first out of 49 countries and has upheld this recognition since 2015.
Despite being one world, being LGBTQ+ around the globe isn’t universal, and the fight for rights will always occur so long as persecution and discrimination exist. The fight for our rights in this country and other countries will continue, as we move towards every new goal post of expanded rights. No country is perfect, but in some countries, things lag behind. But, they’ll get there. It’s just a matter of time.
The gay and trans experience is different everywhere in the world, but some experiences are universal. We’re all in this together, after all.
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