Equality for All

Anti gay Destinations October 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taatamata @ 10:04 am

In Russia, a 2005 opinion poll showed that 43.5% of the population supported recriminalization of consensual gay sex and nearly threequarters opposed gay marriage (Anon., 2005b). Jamaica is considered to be a particularly homophobic society where ‘violent acts against men who have sex with men are commonplace’ (Human Rights Watch, 2004a, p. 2). Buggery is a criminal offence, carrying up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and any form of physical intimacy between men up to 2 years’ imprisonment. The murder of a prominent gay activist, Brian Williamson, in June 2004 was regarded by police as robbery-related, but others saw it more as a homophobic attack. Williamson himself is quoted as saying ‘we who are homosexuals are seen as the devil’s own children’ (Younge, 2004). Homophobia has characterized the Jamaican popular music scene, including Buju Banton’s Boom Boom Bye Bye. Concern that homophobic lyrics of a Beenie Man song could incite violence led to cancellation of his concert in London in 2004 (Branigan, 2004a).

Homosexuality is illegal in the Solomon Islands and until 1988 the ban on gross indecency applied only to men. This was held to be unconstitutional but, perversely, the ban was then extended to women (Anon., 2004). Human Rights Watch also reported that the Egyptian government continued to arrest and torture men suspected of homosexual activity (Rodgerson, 2004); homosexual acts are not illegal, but charges of ‘debauchery’ and ‘contempt of religion’ can be laid against gay men. In the ‘Queen Boat’ case in 2001, 53 men were arrested in a Cairo disco on charges arising from sexual relations with other men. There were allegations of torture and 23 were sentenced to 1–5 years’ hard labour. In Saudi Arabia over 100 men were sentenced to imprisonment and flogging for ‘deviant sexual behaviour’ (Human Rights Watch, 2005). The men were arrested at a private party and tried in closed court. An article reporting this in Gay Times also referred to the Singapore government’s prohibition of an AIDS concert because of proposed performances by gay singers. Reports in the same issue of Gay Times (September 2005) that Uganda had passed legislation to prevent marriage of same-sex couples and that Iran had publicly executed two gay teenagers are unlikely to have created a favourable image of these countries.

Although the Republic of South Africa was the first to expressly forbid, in its constitution, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, a high level of homophobia remains (Cock, 2003). A number of positive legislative steps have been taken, such as the ending of workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, the decriminalization of same-sex acts and the extension of equal partner benefits, but the everyday lives of gays and lesbians have changed little (Rahim, 2000). Elsewhere in the southern part of the African continent, ‘many leaders in southern Africa have singled out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as scapegoats for their countries’ problems’ (Long, 2003, p. 1). The presidents of Zimbabwe, Namibia and Uganda have all been quoted as expressing strong anti-homosexual views. Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe all have sodomy laws and have denied legal status to gay and lesbian organizations.

Northern Ireland has been the subject of several adverse news reports with respect to gays and lesbians during 2004/05. A headline in The Guardian newspaper stated: ‘Gays and lesbians under siege as violence and harassment soar in Northern Ireland’ (Chrisafis, 2005, p. 13) and, in another article, the province was referred to as ‘the hate crime capital of Europe’ (O’Hara, 2005, p. 2). Homophobic attacks in the province reported to the police had risen by 176% between 2003/04 and 2004/05 (and by 300% in Derry). In part, this may have been due to an increased willingness to report incidents, but it may well also have been due to a legacy of violence in the province and the greater conservatism of a society under strong religious influence. Perversely, the easing of political and religious tensions may have resulted in other targets being looked for. The murder of ten men in a gay massage parlour in Cape Town in January 2003, although allegedly not a hate crime, could be expected to create an unfavourable image (however short-term) of this increasingly popular destination.

A travel feature in Gay Times focused on ‘exotic’ destinations and rated them according to the internal situation and homophobia or human rights abuses within the country, rather than identifying situations where tourists, in particular, had faced difficulties (Gregory, 2004). The reviews of Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Tanzania as tourist destinations identified some of their ‘darker sides’ as well as obvious tourist attractions. Jamaica, Egypt and Tanzania were bottom of the ‘pink ratings’ (with scores of zero, one and two out of ten, respectively); the implication seemed to be to take care in and perhaps avoid such destinations. Brazil and Malaysia were top (eight and seven, respectively), which also seemed to suggest a greater degree of gay-friendliness for visitors.
anti-gay logo


Matthew Shepard

Filed under: Uncategorized — taatamata @ 9:10 am

Matthew Wayne Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998) was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. He was attacked on the night of October 6–7, 1998 and died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12 from severe head injuries.

During the trial, witnesses stated that Shepard was targeted because he was gay. Shepard’s murder brought national, as well as international, attention to the issue of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.
Matthew Shepard was born in Casper, Wyoming to Judy Peck and Dennis Shepard. He attended Natrona public schools including Crest Hill Elementary School and Dean Morgan Junior High School. He later attended Natrona County High School from his freshman to sophomore year, before transferring to The American School in Switzerland. After graduating from high school in 1995, he attended Catawba College and Casper College before he relocated to Denver. Shepard then became a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming and was chosen as the student representative for the Wyoming Environmental Council.

He was described by his parents as “an optimistic and accepting young man [who] had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people’s differences.”

In 1995, during a high school trip to Morocco, he was beaten and raped, causing him to withdraw and experience bouts of depression and panic attacks, according to his mother. One of Shepard’s friends feared his depression caused him to become involved with drugs during his time in college.

Shepard’s murderers, Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney, awaiting testimony in court (1998)Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, 21-year-old Shepard met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car.[3] Subsequently, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die. McKinney and Henderson also found out his address and intended to rob his home. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow. At the time of discovery, Shepard was still alive, but in a coma.

Shepard suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. As he lay in intensive care, candlelight vigils were held by the people of Laramie.

He was pronounced dead at 12:53 A.M. on October 12, 1998, at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.[5][6][7][8] Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim’s shoes and wallet in their truck.

The two men had attempted to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis.
In court the defendants used varying rationales to defend their actions. They attempted to use the gay panic defense, arguing that they were driven to temporary insanity by alleged sexual advances by Shepard. At another point they stated that they had only wanted to rob Shepard and never intended to kill him.
The prosecutor in the case charged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard’s trust to rob him.[10] During the trial, Chastity Pasley and Kristen Price (the respective girlfriends of McKinney and Henderson at the time of the event) testified that Henderson and McKinney both plotted beforehand to rob a gay man. McKinney and Henderson then went to the Fireside Lounge and selected Shepard as their target. McKinney alleged that Shepard asked them for a ride home. After befriending him, they took him to a remote area of Laramie where they robbed him, beat him severely, and tied him to a fence with a rope from McKinney’s truck while Shepard begged for his life. Media reports often contained the graphic account of the pistol whipping and his smashed skull. It was reported that Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears.[11][12] Both girlfriends also testified that neither McKinney nor Henderson was under the influence of drugs at the time.
Henderson pleaded guilty on April 5, 1999, and agreed to testify against McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he received two consecutive life sentences. The jury in McKinney’s trial found him guilty of felony murder. As they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard’s parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

Henderson and McKinney were incarcerated in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins but were transferred to other prisons because of overcrowding.

In late 2004, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas reported on an investigation into the murder for the television program 20/20. Though Vargas primarily relied on personal interviews with people involved with the matter, the report was billed as exploring “New Details Emerging in the Matthew Shepard Murder.”[2] At the forefront was the possibility that the murder had in fact been motivated by drugs rather than Shepard’s sexual orientation. McKinney, Henderson and Kristen Price (McKinney’s girlfriend) claimed in these interviews that the attack was a result of heavy drug use, a robbery and a beating gone awry.[2] Price, in her interview with Vargas, ultimately openly remarked, “I do not think it was a hate crime at all. I never did.”[2] This statement contradicted Price’s first interview with 20/20 in 1998, in which she said (of McKinney and Henderson’s attack), “They just wanted to beat him bad enough to teach him a lesson, not to come on to straight people, and don’t be aggressive about it anymore.”[17] In the report, Price and McKinney’s long-time friend Tom O’Connor, on whose property McKinney and Price once lived, both stated their belief that McKinney was bisexual. O’Connor stated that he and McKinney had sex in the past. However, when Vargas asked McKinney whether he had ever had a sexual experience with another man, he said that he had not.
The 20/20 report also mentioned a statement by O’Connor that Shepard told him he was HIV-positive.
Retired Police Chief of Laramie, Commander Dave O’Malley — who was also interviewed by ABC and criticized the 20/20 report — pointed out that the drug motive does not necessarily disqualify the homophobia motive: “My feelings have been that the initial contact was probably motivated by robbery because they needed money. What they got was $20 and a pair of shoes … then something changed and changed profoundly… But, we will never, ever know because Matt’s dead and I don’t trust what [McKinney and Henderson] said.”[18]
Hate crime legislation
Main article: Matthew Shepard Act
Henderson and McKinney were not charged with a hate crime, as no Wyoming criminal statute provided for such a charge. The nature of Matthew Shepard’s murder led to requests for new legislation addressing hate crime, urged particularly by those who believed that Shepard was targeted on the basis of his sexual orientation.[19][20] Under then United States federal law[21] and Wyoming state law,[22] crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation are not prosecutable as hate crimes.
In the following session of the Wyoming Legislature, a bill was introduced defining certain attacks motivated by victim identity as hate crimes, but the measure failed on a 30-30 tie in the Wyoming House of Representatives.
At the federal level, then-President Bill Clinton renewed attempts to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay and lesbian individuals, women, and people with disabilities. These efforts were rejected by the United States House of Representatives in 1999.[24] In 2000, both houses of Congress passed such legislation, but it was stripped out in conference committee.[25]

On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1592) was introduced as federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors. Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis, were present at the introduction ceremony. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007. Similar legislation passed in the Senate on September 27, 2007[26] (S. 1105), but then-President George W. Bush indicated he might veto the legislation if it reached his desk.[27] Ultimately, the amendment was dropped by the Democratic leadership because of opposition from antiwar Democrats, conservative groups, and Bush.
On December 10, 2007, congressional powers attached bipartisan hate crimes legislation to a Department of Defense Authorization bill, though failed to get it passed. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said she “is still committed to getting the Matthew Shepard Act passed.” Pelosi planned to get the bill passed early in 2008[29] though did not succeed in that plan. Following his election as President, Barack Obama stated that he is committed to passing the Act.
The U.S. House of Representatives debated expansion of hate crimes legislation on April 29, 2009. During the debate, Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina called the “hate crime” labeling of Matthew Shepard’s murder a “hoax”. Matthew Shepard’s mother was said to be in the House gallery when the congresswoman made this comment.[31] Foxx later called her comments “a poor choice of words”.[32] The House passed the act, designated H.R. 1913, by a vote of 249 to 175.[33] The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28 by Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and a bipartisan coalition;[34] it had 43 cosponsors as of June 17, 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act was adopted as an amendment to S.1390 by a vote of 63-28 on July 15, 2009.[35] On October 22, 2009, the act was passed by the Senate by a vote of 68-29.[36] President Obama signed the measure into law on October 28, 2009.
Public reaction and the aftermath
The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, led by Fred Phelps, picketed Shepard’s funeral as well as the trial of his assailants,[39][40] displaying signs with slogans such as “Matt Shepard rots in Hell”, “AIDS Kills Fags Dead” and “God Hates Fags”.[41] When the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that it was legal to display any sort of religious message on city property if it was legal for Casper’s Ten Commandments display to remain, Phelps attempted and failed to gain city permits in Cheyenne and Casper to build a monument “of marble or granite 5 or 6 feet (1.8 m) in height on which will be a bronze plaque bearing Shepard’s picture and the words: “MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God’s Warning: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.’ Leviticus 18:22.
As a counter protest during Henderson’s trial, Romaine Patterson, a friend of Shepard’s, organized a group of individuals who assembled in a circle around the Phelps group wearing white robes and gigantic wings (resembling angels) that blocked the protesters. Police had to create a human barrier between the two protest groups.[46] While the organization had no name in the initial demonstration, it has since been ascribed various titles, including ‘Angels of Peace’ and ‘Angel Action’.[39][40] The fence to which Shepard was tied and left to die became an impromptu shrine for visitors, who left notes, flowers, and other mementos. It has since been removed by the land owner.

Many musicians have written and recorded songs about the murder. Three narrative films and a documentary were made about Shepard: The Laramie Project, The Matthew Shepard Story, Anatomy of a Hate Crime and Laramie Inside Out. The Laramie Project is also often performed as a play. The play involves recounts of interviews with citizens of the town of Laramie ranging from a few months after the attack to a few years after. The play is designed to display the town’s reaction to the crime.[47][48] Ten years later, The Laramie Project created a second play, based on interviews with members of the town, Shepard’s mother, and his incarcerated murderer.

In the years following Shepard’s death, his mother Judy has become a well-known advocate for LGBT rights, particularly issues relating to gay youth. She is a prime force behind the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which supports diversity and tolerance in youth organizations.


Victory for Matthew Sheppard

Filed under: Uncategorized — taatamata @ 8:38 am

Hate Crimes Bill Signed Into Law 11 Years After Matthew Shepard’s Death

President Obama signed major civil rights legislation on Wednesday, making it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. The new measure expands the the scope of a 1968 law that applies to people attacked because of their race, religion or national origin. The U.S. Justice Department will have expanded authority to prosecute such crimes when local authorities don’t.
The provision, called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is attached to a defense authorization bill. It is named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student tortured and killed in 1998, and James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death the same year.
The measure expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to the must-pass defense policy bill over the steep objections of many Republicans.
The measure was a priority of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., that had been on the congressional agenda for a decade. During the signing ceremony, Obama acknowledged Shepard’s mom, Judy, and remembered that he had told her this day would come. He also gave a nod to Kennedy’s family. Going forward, Obama promised, people will be protected from violence based on “what they look like, who they love, how they pray or why they are.


Victory or History for the Lesbians, Gays and All-Sexuals in Jamaica October 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taatamata @ 2:14 am

One of the most notoriously homophobic figures in reggae and dancehall music has agreed to stop singing violently anti-gay lyrics. Buju Banton – whose 1990s hit Boom Bye Bye advocates the shooting of gay men – has signed the “reggae compassionate act” set up by the gay rights campaign group Stop Murder Music, after a three-year campaign to bring him into line, the group will announce today.
Banton is the latest in a series of high-profile artists, including Beenie Man and Sizzla, to sign the declaration after worldwide protests from gay rights groups resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of concerts and sponsorship deals, costing the artists in excess of £2.5m.

In signing up, Banton has agreed to not make homophobic statements in public, release new homophobic songs or authorize the re-release of previous homophobic songs. The act states: “There’s no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia.”

It adds that reggae artists have always fought against injustices, inequalities, poverty and violence.

Peter Tatchell, of the gay rights group Outrage! which has coordinated the campaign, said the move was a big breakthrough in a battle that has raged between gay rights activists and a number of dancehall artists for 15 years. “Our No 1 priority is to stop murder music,” he said.

Banton has been a focus for gay activists since the release of Boom Bye Bye, in which he sings about shooting gay men in the head, pouring acid on them and burning them alive. He has previously said he wrote Boom Bye Bye as a teenager and is not homophobic, but he was filmed performing Boom Bye Bye at a concert in Miami last year. Yesterday, Dennis Carney, vice-chair of the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group, said: “These performers are sending a clear message that lesbians and gay men have a right to live free from fear and persecution here in the in Jamaica.”

Vincent Nap, a British-based reggae artist, said there was a problem of homophobia in dancehall music, but attacking artists’ commercial interests would not solve the issue. “If they keep attacking us, we will fight back,” he said. “If they try to stop our music we are going to have to defend ourselves.”

Others were more pragmatic about Banton’s actions. Mark Richards, known as DJ Kemist from reggae label Xtremix records, said: “I can see why he’s done it. He doesn’t want to jeopardize his whole career over just a few songs. But it doesn’t mean it’s going to change any of his opinions.”

As well as monitoring the actions of artists who have signed up to the act, activists have vowed to continue their campaign against four artists who have not: Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa and Vybz Kartel.

The news that Banton had signed was welcomed by gay rights groups in Jamaica, where attacks on gay people are common and gay sex is illegal. Carl Edmonson, from Jamaican gay rights group J-Flag, said: “I really hope that his actions are genuine and it is not just because international pressure is hurting his pocket. We hope it is a sincere commitment that will end homophobic violence.”


I Am by Dzhun de Leon October 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taatamata @ 9:33 am

I Am by Dzhun de Leon

This is me…
I am the non-existent space between,
I can get through your filthy skin,
Creeping, crawling, slowly penetrating.

This is me…
Touch me and I wouldn’t melt.
And for all the things you said you’ve never felt,
I’m the great insensitive that’s what it means.

This is me…
The vanguard recipient of pain,
Find me crying, screaming in vain,
Somebody free me from my helpless reign.

This is me…
A ruptured glass in framed metal,
The thing that holds my pieces together,
Has nothing but support to offer.

This is me…
I would sugarcoat my better past,
Contend with it but doesn’t last,
I am a sorrow-dwelling enthusiast.

I am…
The intriguing abstract of Picasso,
The unique brushstroke of Van Gogh,
The missing eyebrow of Leonardo.

I am…
The awkwardness after a sarcastic laugh,
The unfunny host for the evening,
The stupid joke that was left hanging.

I am…
The sweet revenge of an ardent killer,
The sounding silence of a guilty face,
A dirty deed without a trace.

I am…
Your hot temper in the scorching summer,
The frostbite courtesy of cruel winter,
The springs freshly-surfaced intruder.

Now keep your distance for I could be your fall,
Guised by chipping white paints I’m a dirty wall,
With proud red letters that quietly bawl,
“This is me! The sum of it all.”


J-FLAG (Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays)

Filed under: Uncategorized — taatamata @ 2:34 am

Jamaica has been a long-running resort destination for world travelers eager to experience Caribbean culture, good food, world-influencing music, and beautiful sand and beaches. But behind the paradise lies another long-running Jamaican tradition—violent and socially acceptable homophobia. The cries are loud and clear: Gays (or “battymen”) and lesbians are not welcome in Jamaican culture.
The world is most familiar (and outraged) by the anti-gay and violence promoting lyrics by popular artists Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Elephant Man and Sizzla, among others. Lucille Scott in her article Trouble in Paradise published in the September 2007 issue of Poz cites Isaiah Laing, CEO of Supreme Promotions, which organizes the island’s largest dancehall concert where the aforementioned homophobic artist frequently perform as saying, “If the crowd isn’t paying attention, the artist will say “I shot battyman,’ and everyone will throw their hands in the air and shout.”
The result of a society that neither prevents nor protects gays and lesbians (the Jamaican Constitution does not protect individuals against discrimination based on sexual identity) and a popular culture that promotes violence is an environment where gays live in fear. Gay men are often attacked in public and met with little assistance or compassion. One of the few places they can turn is J-FLAG(Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays), founded in December 1998 as the first human rights organization in the Jamaica’s history to serve the needs of lesbians, gays and all-sexuals.


Sleepwalker by Harold C. de Mesa

Filed under: Uncategorized — taatamata @ 2:01 am


Close my eyes,
Let me sleep,
I’m tired and sick
of walking at night.

I am alone,
alone with darkness,
waiting for someone,
someone that I don’t know.

Suddenly you came along,
out of nowhere,
A pale face with a crystal clear eyes
in front of me.

You look at me
and without a single word
you took my hands
and gently kissed my fingers.

On bended knees
you hugged my legs,
I stroked your hair
then lifted you up.

Our eyes met,
your mouth gently brushed
my ice-cold lips,
your tongue entered in to my soul.

I pushed you back
And asked;
“Who are you?”
No answer.
“Can’t you talk?’
You nod.

I pulled you back and brushed your lips
Now I can hear your voice
inside my heart Saying;
“The night was dark,
Let’s move in to the light
My love will give you rest
Sleep in to my nest”.
lovers in the night