TIME Ghana

How 2 Gay Men Live in a Country Where Homosexuality Is Illegal

Two young men bravely share their experience as homosexuals in Ghana

+ READ ARTICLE

Some 37 African countries criminalize homosexual relationships, with penalties ranging from misdemeanors to death sentences, according to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report released Tuesday. The report, which analyzed LGBT rights in 54 African countries in total, paints a picture of a continent in crisis.

In Ghana, a country often regarded as among the most progressively democratic nations in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal, punishable by up to three years imprisonment. A recent Pew survey of various countries, not all African, reveals that 98 percent of Ghanaians feel that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable,” the highest percentage of any country surveyed.

“In Ghana, everybody is culturally and religiously blinded,” says Fred K., an openly gay man living in the Ghanaian capital of Accra who didn’t want to share his last name for fear of criminal and social repercussions. “They think that it’s demonic … so I just pray that a time comes that they decide to change and be like the Western countries.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s report is out just a week before U.S. President Barack Obama is slated to hold the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.. Advocates from the U.S. and Africa are jumping on that opportunity to bring the the continent’s controversial LGBT rights record to the world’s attention.

“My fellow gays don’t want anything to be legalized,” Nana Yaw, a human rights activist and openly gay man, says. “All they want is for their rights to be respected and protected.”

TIME LGBT

Obama Urged to Address LGBT Rights in Africa

Advocates issue report on the dreadful state of LGBT rights in Africa, as world leaders and leading figures from the continent prepare for the US-Africa Leaders Summit

+ READ ARTICLE

Updated at 4:38 p.m. ET Tuesday

The White House will host more than 40 African heads of state for a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week, the first event of its kind and the largest such event any U.S. president has held with African governments. Some 200 African and U.S. CEOs are invited, and numerous faith leaders will gather to discuss their role in advancing development. To mark the historic event, LGBT advocates have issued a report on the state of LGBT rights in Africa. Their conclusion? It ain’t good.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Human Rights First report contains some stark numbers. A total of 37 African nations currently criminalize same-sex relationships. Four countries—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—allow for the death penalty against LGBT people in parts or in all of the country. Cameroon arrests more people based on their sexual orientation than any other country in the world. Ghana treats same-sex relationships as a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison. In Kenya, the sentence is up to 14 years. Only one country, South Africa, grants full marriage equality to LGBT citizens.

The U.S.—Africa summit, these advocates argue, is the perfect time for the White House to stand up for LGBT rights on the continent. Voices for equality on the ground deserve U.S. support, they say, and the U.S. should help create the political environment to ensure human rights are respected.

“The United States should demonstrate its firm commitment to upholding the fundamental principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” Ty Cobb, director of global engagement at the Human Rights Campaign, says. “This includes making clear that the United States will be a champion of LGBT rights abroad, and that we will not tolerate efforts to enact state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people in any country.”

The authors of the report aren’t alone. Representatives from the Council for Global Equality, Advocates for Youth, Amnesty International, GLAAD, and a dozen other organizations wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on July 25 urging “particular attention” at the summit to the rights of the next generation of LGBT Africans.

“We are confident that with your support, and the robust contribution of civil society, the summit will provide a unique opportunity to emphasize that LGBT and other marginalized communities suffer disproportionately from governance deficits, and that too many governments scapegoat LGBT individuals to distract public attention away from those structural failures,” they wrote. “The economic themes of the conference also provide an opportunity to emphasize that homophobia, transphobia and related forms of intolerance have economic costs, including to the trade and investment environments in emerging markets.”

Activists also note that the moment has particular importance as some African countries are taking more steps toward equality. “There are reports that Malawi will stop arresting LGBT people and review its laws,” Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel for Human Rights First, explains. “A move to pass new anti-gay legislation (and hold a massive anti-gay rally) was stalled in Ethiopia this year. Two young men were just acquitted in Cameroon. It’s too early to say if this is part of a larger trend or just a few independent rays of hope but it’s a trend we should watch and support.”

The Obama administration has already reacted to anti-LGBT legislation in Africa. Last month, the White House increased sanctions against Uganda for its anti-gay law signed in February, which made certain homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment. The summit will give the president an opportunity to make the case in person, if he chooses. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni is slated to attend, as is Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who also signed an anti-homosexuality law this year.

“This summit is a unique opportunity to tell the story of how our nation and every nation grows stronger and more prosperous when all citizens—including LGBT people—are accepted by society and provided equal treatment under the law,” Cobb says. “Every citizen must be empowered to reach their maximum potential, and we should urge these nations to reject laws, policies, and practices that discriminate against LGBT people.”

National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price tells TIME that LGBT equality in Africa will be on the table at the summit. “The Obama Administration has long spoken out—including with our African partners—in support of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals,” he says. “We expect the Summit will provide an opportunity to continue these conversations.”

– Zeke J. Miller contributed to this report

TIME LGBT

Panic! at the Disco Turns Westboro Protest into an HRC Fundraiser

Panic At The Disco Perform At O2 Academy In Glasgow
Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco performs on stage at O2 Academy on May 7, 2014 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. Ross Gilmore—Redferns/Getty Images

PatheosLogo_Blue

This article originally appeared on Patheos

When the band Panic! At The Disco (below) — you might remember them from their 2006 hit song “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” — visited Kansas City, Missouri for a show on Sunday night, they had special guests waiting for them: Westboro Baptist Church members, complete with their “God Hates Fags” signs. (The band’s lead singer Brendon Urie said last year that he had experimented with homosexuality, though he’s married to a woman.)

The WBC even recorded a homophobic cover of the band’s hit song, called “You Love Sin What A Tragedy” in anticipation of the concert.

Rather than ignore them, the band responded in a wonderful way. They turned the protest into a mini-fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign:

That’s how you make lemonade out of lemons.

WBC, always declaring victory regardless of the situation, said they would just protest 20 times for every dollar raised. So that’s 20,000 more protests than usual.

Good luck with that. I suspect it’ll be tough to pull off when so many people in the church are either dying or escaping…

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide.

More from Patheos:

 

TIME movies

GLAAD Report: Only 17 Major Studio Movies in 2013 Had LGBT Characters

MCDHANG EC129
Ken Jeong as Leslie Chow in The Hangover Part III Warner Bros.

The advocacy group also found that many of those depictions were offensive

On Tuesday, the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD released its second-ever annual run-down of depictions of gay, bisexual and transgender characters in major Hollywood movies, the Studio Responsibility Index. The organization took a look at 102 major studio releases from 2013, and found that not much had changed: about 17% of the movies examined contained LGBT characters, versus last year’s 14%; about 7% of them passed the “Vito Russo Test” — GLAAD’s way of measuring whether a depiction is both positive and substantial — versus last year’s 6%.

Though the number has increased slightly in both counts, only one character out of a whole cast is needed to move a movie into the “yes” column — and many of the films that don’t pass the Vito Russo Test get a “no” for actually being offensive, not just for lacking an LGBT character. (Among the offenders: The Hangover Part III for the character of Leslie Chow and Grown Up 2‘s “recurring jokes about a female bodybuilder character secretly being a man.”) In addition, GLAAD found that none of the LGBT characters counted were leads, the group was not very diverse (three-quarters of the gay characters were white) and the genres where Hollywood money is most readily spent, such as action, are the least likely to feature LGBT characters.

But despite numbers that GLAAD calls “depressing” in its findings, there were a few bright spots. Notably, in a studio-by-studio tally, Sony Columbia became the first major studio in the study’s history to receive a “good” score, after being marked “adequate” last year, on the strength of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Battle of the Year, both of which pass the Vito Russo Test. 20th Century Fox and Disney both went from “failing” to “adequate.” The number of transgender characters overall also increased from zero to two.

The reason GLAAD takes the time to track these movies, the report explains, is that Hollywood films are — in addition to being entertaining — capable of spreading ideas worldwide. When a gay character gets significant screen time but perpetuates stereotypes (as in the case of Riddick, GLAAD points out, where a major lesbian character is routinely insulted and later successfully seduced by the ultra-macho protagonist) that may be worse than having no depictions of gay people at all.

“These studios have the eyes and ears of millions of audience members, and should reflect the true fabric of our society,” said GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement announcing the report’s release, “rather than feed into the hatred and prejudice against LGBT people too often seen around the globe.”

TIME LGBT

Obama Signs Executive Order on LGBT Job Discrimination

Protects employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

+ READ ARTICLE

President Obama signed an executive order Monday protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people working for government contractors from discrimination.

The order protects any employee for a federal contractor from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identification. It covers about 28 million workers, making up one-fifth of the U.S. workforce, and includes no exemption for religious organizations.

“It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do but because of who they are,” the president told supporters at the White House, CBS News reports. “America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.”

Many U.S. companies already offer protections for LGBT employees, according to data highlighted by the Obama Administration. Some 91% of Fortune 500 companies already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and 61% prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

The five top federal contractors–which get about a quarter of all federal contracting dollars–already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Still, although many companies were already in support of protections, Obama’s order makes it official, and without exceptions.

TIME Turkey

Transsexual TV Reporter Becomes Turkey’s Face of LGBT Rights

In Turkey, legislation does not discriminate against transsexuals, but the country has a long way to go when it comes to LGBT rights, advocates say

+ READ ARTICLE

Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread and activists hope to make the country an example of respect towards the LGBT community.

Michelle Demishevich, a prominent LGBT rights activist, is the country’s first transsexual TV reporter. While Turkey’s gay and transgender communities enjoy better rights than their counterparts in most Muslim countries, her achievement is rather unique.

In the video above, reported by the AFP, the activist talks about the fight for LGBT rights in Turkish society.

TIME LGBT

Ruling Allows Same-Sex Marriages for Florida Keys

MIAMI (AP) — A judge in the Florida Keys has overturned the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage after a legal challenge by six gay couples said it effectively made them second-class citizens.

The ruling was issued Thursday by Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia and applies only to Monroe County, which covers the Keys. The lawsuit contended that the same-sex marriage ban approved by voters in 2008 violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The judge says licenses could be issued starting Tuesday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and ban supporters argued that the referendum vote should be respected and that Florida has sole authority to define marriage in the state. The Florida amendment defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

TIME Video Games

Atari Unveils Pridefest, an LGBT-Themed Social Sim Game

Atari

Atari says it's working on an iOS and Android game that's effectively a parade-building sim designed to appeal to the LGBT community.

A social sim game designed to appeal to the LGBT community is coming to an iOS or Android tablet near you, Atari says. Dubbed Pridefest, players will be able to “launch their very own personalized pride parade in a city of their choosing.”

So, customize parade flotillas by choosing size, components, mascots and decorations, as well as surrounding structures and side attractions, which in turn feed a city happiness metric, checking off quest or challenge goals to unlock new parades, receive festival supplies or secure bonuses. Social elements of the game also include avatar customization, chatting with friends and the option to bring your parade to friends’ cities, or to join in on theirs.

While there’s no specific release date yet, Atari promises this is “coming soon.”

“To have [Atari] support our conference and cause, as well as bring an LGBTQ-themed game to market is a huge step toward equality in gaming,” GaymerX founder Matt Conn said in a statement. “It’s extremely important that we see these large publishers like Atari stepping up to the plate, and I’m excited that they have the courage to take the first step in supporting the community.”

As Conn mentions, Pridefest is significant in a number of ways. While LGBT characters have been featured in games before–even as a protagonist in, for example, My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant–this seems to be an exception to the rule, and certainly not the norm. Pridefest may be the first video game to unambiguously cater to the LGBT community as a whole.

That said, the game carries with it huge potential for stereotyping. The concept alone, that LGBT is de facto synonymous with “pride parades,” “flotillas,” “colorful decorations” and so forth seems a little reductive, pandering to pop culture simplifications of what it means to be LGBT.

Anyone considering purchasing this game should consider the following: Assuming the underlying gameplay is competent, is this the sort of game someone who identifies as LGBT would also want to play? Are games that fold LGBT characters and issues into more mature game narratives, say a character like Dragon Age Inquisition‘s Dorian (or at least what we know of that character at this point), of greater interest?

Another, greater question for the gaming community: If you could roll out your own LGBT-themed or inclusive games, what kinds of games might they be?

 

TIME NFL

Watch Michael Sam’s Emotional Speech at the ESPYs

“Great things can happen if you have the courage to be yourself”

Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted by the NFL, gave a powerful speech about being true to oneself during his acceptance speech for the ESPYs Arthur Ashe Courage Award in Los Angeles.

The defensive end, who made history after being drafted by the St. Louis Rams earlier this year, began by quoting the late tennis star Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

“Those are words to live by, whether you’re black or white, young or old, straight or gay,” Sam said, holding back tears.

Sam told a story of speaking with a woman who was considering suicide rather than come out to her loved ones. “When we spoke she told me that she would never consider hurting herself again and that somehow my example would help,” he said to a round of applause from the crowd.

“To anyone out there, especially young people, feeling like they don’t fit in and will never be accepted, please know this: great things can happen if you have the courage to be yourself.”

TIME Singapore

Singapore Has Banned an Archie Comic for Depicting a Gay Wedding

In an installment of Life With Archie first published in 2012, the franchise tackled the issue of gay marriage head on — by putting it on the cover. The Hollywood Reporter

A recent crackdown on publications discussing homosexuality sheds light on Singapore's traditional moral values and notoriously restricted press

State media censors in Singapore have banned the sale of an Archie comic book for its frank presentation of gay marriage, a matter that remains socially taboo and legally verboten in Southeast Asia’s most developed state.

Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) censored the comic book, first published in January 2012, earlier this year, but the ban is only just now coming to light — a week after another state agency removed three children’s books promoting tolerance of same-sex relationships from the national library’s shelves.

The third installment in Archie: The Married Life, one of several spinoff series in the multifarious Archie universe, features the wedding of Kevin Keller, a gay character whose creation in 2010 earned writer Dan Parent a GLAAD Media Award last year. (In the latest volume, Archie dies taking a bullet for Kevin, now a U.S. Senator.)

As critic Alyssa Rosenberg noted Wednesday in The Washington Post, the 75-year-old comic book franchise has in recent years adopted a distinctly political subtext, taking on issues of topical significance as they come: Kevin, a gay solider, was introduced as the Obama administration was deliberating the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; Archie’s interracial marriage made the cover in 2012.

Social progressivism isn’t really Singapore’s forte, though.

“[We]… found its content to be in breach of guidelines because of its depiction of the same sex marriage of two characters in the comic,” an MDA spokesperson said in a statement to TIME. “We thus informed the local distributor not to import or distribute the comic in retail outlets.”

In its guidelines for imported publications, the MDA prohibits comics and other illustrated material that depict or discuss “alternative lifestyles or deviant sexual practices,” listing homosexuality as an example of such (alongside “group sex and sadomasochism”).

Such stringent regulations are par for the course in Singapore, where social conservatism reigns supreme and strict curbs are placed on the dissemination of information. The country ranks 149th of the 179 countries listed in the 2013 Press Freedom Index — between Iraq and Vladimir Putin’s Russia — earning it the distinction of having the least free press of any developed economy in the world.

Concerning the recent purge of homosexual content, though, these restrictions may not be completely unwelcome. Sodomy, although rarely prosecuted, is criminalized as an act of “gross indecency,” and the majority of citizens, according to one survey, still take a “conservative approach” to marital and family matters. Indeed, the MDA claims to predicate its censorship decisions upon “public feedback or complaints,” and only turned its attention to the Archie comic after receiving a number of grievances.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser