Here is my speech if i had have made it to the first European Humanist Forum that took place in 15th this December 2007 but i never attended. Please read what i wrote to the participants.
Friends, it is great to know that you are all here for this event and am sure there are some freinds from Africa.It is sad that there are a bigger discrimination when it comes to travel between Africans and other continents to Europe or USA. People from Europe and USA enters Africa as they want however they stop most of us to travel by denying us visas no matter if you have met all the requirements they asked but sadly still,they don't tell you why your Visa was denied.This means something to me.
And that brings me right to what I want to share with you today - my thoughts on what steps we need to take next to continue that progress in the struggle for equality to all people of this Globe. We have seen LGBT rights become a much greater worldwide issue now.
Previously, gay people in a number of countries were mainly concerned with the battle for freedoms in their own countries.Now that an increasing number of countries offer fundamental freedoms,many are now turning their attention to the plight of people in our countries, and this is both an opportunity and a problem.
The more pressure seems to come from outside the country and still not within, the more homosexuality is blamed on being a'western' disease that people claim is alien to our own cultures. We know this is not true, but how can we protest effectively if we are still living in secret, in hiding? And so the purpose for my talk today is to encourage ourselves, as leaders of LGBT people around the world and in Africa especially, to consider what is for most of us an important question at one time or other: Coming Out.
For those of you who think of your cultural and political environment and think, "No way", let me give you a number of reasons why this is important for advancing our cause.
1) For an LGBT community to have a visible leader sends a powerful message to people living in our countries or regions. Remember that many of us have grown up being told repeatedly that people like us are evil and unworthy, and many will have low self-esteem.
It helps us all to have role models, and to have someone like us being out and visible can be a massive confidence booster to those who still doubt whether they are even valid human beings..
2) People fear the unknown, especially if its there is an apparent danger that this 'foreign' thing might come to their own land.Right now Grenada is debating whether to allow gay cruise ships to dock for a few hours, in case the Island becomes 'infected and over-run with gayness'. That's because most of the population don't realise there are already about the same proportion of LGBT people there as anywhere else because they are too invisible.
Has anyone everseen any science fiction 'B' movies from the 1950's such as 'Plan 9 from Outer Space', and seeing people running screaming when some creature walks towards them? You'd only need to replace the word 'alien' with 'homosexual' and the film could apply to many countries in Africa right now - "Oh my God - a homosexual - and it's coming towards us - DO SOMETHING!! DO SOMETHING!!"
We need to show people we aren't treatening to arrive - we're already here, we already alive among you and we've been here for centuries - and we aren't dangerous unless threatened.The key point here is that fear of us is only possible with ignorance. When we are able to undermine the fear by people's awareness that close proximity to us is not dangerous, then it enables people's minds to open up to understanding us even better.
3)People's perceptions of us are often highly influenced by our own perceptions of ourselves. If the leading representatives of LGBT people in our countries are out, proud and confident, it sends a powerful message that we are comfortable with who we are and WE believe we are valid human beings. By contrast if the even the leading lights of the LGBT community are scared to identify themselves, the rest of the population will not respect us much either.
4)It creates a focal point for the international community to changes and events in society in our countries. It gives media a recognisable contact point to accept. The media loves a recognisable figurehead Points to consider Taking that step to come out for our countries is a big decision. You can't easily go back into the closet once you've come out.
It's a one-way trip. So there are some criteria that need to be considered before you take that step. In particular, if you are the only openly gay person in your country or your region, people will regard you as being representative of all LGBT people. Therefore, it is important that it works not just for you, but for everyone.
1)Are you someone who finds it easy to hold opinions on matters such as great moral issues,that are different from everybody else, or do you find yourself agreeing with the majority for safety? Does your judgement about right and wrong come from deep inside, or what the majority thinks? A key requirement of someone who is to lead openly is that they must be firm in their convictions that people's sexual orientation is their valid right, regardless of what religious leaders or politicians say, or even thugs may say to your face. You must feel as valid a person as the highest official in the land who condemns you, because many people will judge you on how, deep down, you feel about yourself.
2)Do you find being in the public eye uncomfortable, even over non-controversial issues? To be an effective leader you need to accept you will be not so much stepping on to the platform to speak to a friendly crowd, but stepping into the arena where the lions have already been released, with a largely hostile crowd, with the world's media watching. Its your job, over time, to wow the crowd and slowly bring them round to our way of thinking. We must be someone that, even if they don't agree with us, they at least begin to respect.
3)Are we of even temper, able to remain calm and in full control of ourselves when our opponents try to provoke us? For they will. As we have seen with many politicians or public people in different countries, when our opponents (and we must include many of the media among them for now) find an emotionally vulnerable flaw in our character, it may be manipulated mercilessly.
We need to be able to withstand taunts and character assassinations as if we were Nelson Mandela. He had the dignity and stature of a president even when he was imprisoned, and that's how he made that remarkable and almost unprecedented journey directly from prisoner to president. That is the stature we need to emulate.
4)Are we well versed in the justification of how we are, from a variety of different perspectives? Not just human rights, which if people regard us as being less than human, it's a weak justification to them. We need to know and be able to argue strongly against the religious arguments in particular, which are most commonly used against us in Africa.
We need to be familiar with the sociological evidence that we are not any more likely to harm children than heterosexuals that we can quote it against others who accuse us of being a danger to children. It may help us if we are aware of the scientific literature that indicates our sexuality is determined by the time we are born and is not 'chosen' or the result of a corrupting environment.
It may assist your arguments against those who claim being gay is 'against nature' if we have read about some of the higher-order social animals who have a variety of sexualities among them.And who are not homophobic.
5) Is our past clean? By that I mean is our past honourable?Are there skeletons in our closet? Do we have a past that would embarrass others who are LGBT if it were to become public. For sure, people will try to find anything to discredit us. And, as I have found, if it doesn't exist they will make it up.
6)Are we good at inspiring courage and cooperation with others? If have a habit of causing disagreements and opposition with people who are supposedly on our side, we will find it difficult to lead effectively. We need to be able to persuade people to work with us willingly behind the scenes for no glory except the satisfaction of having contributed to an overall victory at some unspecified point in the future.
We need to be able to work out people's individual strengths, weaknesses and motivations to get them to help achieve collective goals in cooperation with each other. And we need to have a clear focus and determination to succeed. It sounds as though we need to be an exemplary people who has personal qualities way beyond the ordinary mortal. To an extent, this is true, but in a way that is because the standard of the ordinary mortal is pretty low, which is why we are in the mess we are in now.
In reality we can only do our best, and for our standard and quality of behaviour, as long as we have stars to aim at, then the chances are we will hit higher than those around you. A key point is to keep improving what we do.
How to make leading from outside the closet work for ourselves or our group
1)We need to know who our supporters and enemies are around us. Before coming out to the world, come out to our friends and family, so that we know who we can count on when we need support. We MUST have either a close group of people around us or a partner who encourage and support us wholeheartedly, even when we feel beaten down by the opposition, so that in our weakest moments they are there for you.
2)Remember that leadership is not a one person acting by themselves but is a team effort with one person as the figurehead. There are a variety of skills required amongst the leadership, which means including the people around and ourselves: These include the ability to prepare press releases that will be taken up by gay media or gay frinedly medias
The ability to network amongst other groups to get moral and practical support; If we can find anyone who is good at fundraising, they will be a god-send, but we must be prepared to work on very little funding. Having someone who understands effective publicity and public relations is vital.
And we must pay as much attention to encouraging and nurturing grass-roots support as you do for high-profile approaches to international media.
3)Build up contacts in international gay-oriented or gay-friendly media so that we have an outlet for news stories. Ensure that the world is watching events in our countries, and that very bad behaviour by opponents is so well reported that it reflects on the reputation of the country. And be prepared to produce responses to local events promptly and accurately so that we and our groups are regarded as a reliable source of information.
4)If your group already exists and is known to an extent, use coming out as an excuse to re-launch or re-brand, making it clear you are stepping up a gear.
5)When high profile opponents, such as political or religious leaders issue attacks on us in the media, respond promptly and accurately so that we are always there with a response. However big our enemy is, if we are able to respond with a quality reply, it can seem like a battle between equal opponents to the media, who love reporting a fight.
The size of our enemy may become an advantage if, by the coverage given to both of us, we can appear to be as strong or stronger in our arguments compared to them. Remember, that truth of our validity withstands scrutiny, whereas their false claims about us do not, and that makes their lies easy to expose.
6)When people attack you personally or LGBT people in general, publicly challenging and ridiculing their attack weakens it. Appearing to relish the challenge and, instead of being weakened by an attack but appearing to be made stronger by it instead provokes respect, because ultimately we are all animals at some level, and animals respect strength in someone they regard as an opponent.
7)Always be willing to expose the hypocrisies and flaws in enemies as they will attempt to do to undermine us. Especially if we pick up their flaws and weaknesses that are already known to their own supporters, then we will find our own enemy's supporters recognising truth in what we say and by such means we may divide our enemy, thus weakening further their attacks on us. We may find it helpful to link issues around LGBT rights to other oppressive denial of human rights for the general opposition in the population that many people will recognise and support.
It is helpful to find ways in which we have common ground with our enemy against someone else, such as political authorities. This is the approach taken by Christian and Moslem religious leaders who find common ground with each other by uniting to fight against us.
Finding common ground with the majority population by picking up issues of fraud, corruption, police brutality and oppression of other basic freedoms and aligning our aims with those of the general population can undermine the popular base of attacks by authority on us. As the old political saying goes, "Anyone who is the enemy of my enemy, is my friend".
8)Constant presence is important, because fear is fuelled by ignorance. Over time, constant reminders of our un-threatening presence among people undermines their fear of the 'foreign and unknown'. When homosexuality is a constant topic in the media, then even when the content of the topics is threatening or 'anti', gradually the fear among the population declines simply through the constant exposure to it. When people are no longer afraid, then they are able to use the critical faculties once more.
Where does this lead us?
We must not make any mistakes - taking a public stand is not easy and there are real threats to those who make themselves known. We may have to take avoiding action and live in exile for a period of time, as I have had to do. Luckily with the increasing ease of communicating electronically, we can still lead from afar, and our leadership team may consist of individuals who are geographically remote from each other.
These days it is considerably easier to reach the critical mass needed to become an effective movement for social change.The costs of not stepping forward can be crippling. To fail to step up to grasp the nettle when the opportunity occurs is to remain closed in our own prison cell. As Nelson Mandela remarked,
"Eventually oppression by others can become self-oppression".
To boldly step forward is to become in perhaps a small way at first, a world leader. The big rewards will be a long time coming, but each day overall in the world things become easier. There is hardly a day goes by when either social, political or legal progress is not made somewhere in the world, and sometimes even in the most unexpected places.
Yes, there are bad days when things take a step backwards, but these will not be sustained. In the long term they will prove to be a futile reaction to progress around elsewhere.When people barricade themselves in with sandbags against the rising water,the water just finds another way in.
Only today we have learnt that Grenada has backed down over banning gay cruises visiting, because the adverse publicity while they were deliberating on the issue has caused a number of cancellations. People are beginning to realize we are a commercial force to be reckoned with.If we participate in this international move towards greater equality, justice and freedom then in years to come we will not have to wonder what could have been if we had failed.
One of the people I count on as being part of my team said one of the things that had the most impact on him in his life was learning that, in interviews, very few old people regret what they did. But most old people massively regret what they did not do that they could have done.
I hope you will join me in not only not regretting, but being proud,of what we have done, by being able to look back in future years and being proud of what we have done.
Oppressive laws and official campaigns against us,Lack of information about us in the society,Negative media publication Deep culture and religious disapproval, Risk of social isolation and violence Absence of safe meeting places and financial support also affected and still affects us more and will continue to be available if we don't play our part.
Therefore, it's inside this movement that modern LGBTs are called to journey today! We need to journey as those seeking our own identities. We journey as men and women in search of our wholeness for one another and ourselves for freedom from the distortions of our prejudices, fears, treats and angers.
We look those things that both define us; Sex, Family, Tribe and Religion. We look at the arenas of our competition in the never-ending struggle for survive, rights and for freedoms.