Despite sexuality being one of the most intimate and personal of topics, the world has always passed judgement on those that do not fit the ‘100% heterosexual mould’. Unfortunately, we all know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and ‘other’ (LGBTQI+) people suffer discrimination and stigma on a daily basis. And this is a worldwide issue – particularly in developing countries. So, is it really true that attitudes are changing?
I believe, the answer to this is: it depends on where you are from. If you are lucky enough to be from a country or city that is deemed liberal, you will have grown up knowing that sexuality is just one of those things that you are born with, that you do not choose it and that it is part of who you are. Whether you are gay or straight is neither here nor there in the likes of Brighton or Manchester.
However, many others have not been as fortunate. For example, if you were born one of India’s estimated 700,000 transgender women, you will have received little or no schooling and most likely faced rejection from your family. Because of this, you will have been forced into marginalised communities where your options for employment are sex work or begging. And, as if this existence didn’t sound unhappy enough – you will later find out that because of the nature of your work, you are likely to die young from acts of violence.
Luckily, many places in Asia are changing for the better. And Thailand – which is known as the gay capital of Asia, has been a leader in the region for LGBTQI+ rights. It is often promoted as a safe haven for gender and sexuality minorities and this is partly because the Buddhist belief in karma and reincarnation. These beliefs push society into being much more tolerant of peoples’ differences.
Only with a proactive approach, can we start to tackle the worldwide stigma that LGBTQI+ carries. Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of gender identity, age and sexual orientation – has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life.
So, what can you do as an individual to fight for what is right?
The answer is simple, become an activist! Sign a petition, volunteer for a gay rights organisation, challenge peoples’ opinions and start a debate… or failing the above, just talk about it!
By Annabelle Beaumont, who is studying at The Chelsea School or Art