Online LGBT activism and community-building are the focus of this week’s video in the “Quorum” series of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues.
Moderator for the latest discussion is Andre Banks, executive director of AllOut.org, the U.S.-based advocacy organization that has enlisted 2 million people worldwide to take action online for LGBTI rights.
Panelists / activists on the video are:
- Suzan from the organization Mideast Youth, speaking about its project Ahwaa.org, the biggest LGBT forum for the Middle East. On that site, LGBTI visitors can discuss personal, health and social issues in confidence in Arabic and in English. On the video, her family name and images of her face were omitted for her safety.
- Xiaogang Wei, speaking about Queer Comrades, an LGBT webcast in China that has been produced since 2007.
Xiaogang Wei said, “Actually, the whole Chinese LGBT movement started on the Internet, before people were more secure — just go online to meet people. … In 2009, we had one video talking about lesbian sex. After three days, we had 3 million people viewed that one show.” Viewers left a thousand comments, most of them negative.
There has been some progress since then. The percentage of negative comments is lower, he said, and supportive comments are more common..
“Things are changing,” he said. “We are building this language. We are building this identify. People know how to use the right language to fight back.”
“Ahwaa.org started in 2010, and it was meant to fill a space that really didn’t exist before. Ahwaa.org was created because the queer issues that the LGBT community in the Middle East are concerned with are very different from the issues that other queer communities around the world are concerned with. So it was formed to create a space for people to really explore the issues that matter to them whether it comes from society, culture, religion and political issues.”
She also focused on how LGBT Westerners can support and understand their Middle Eastern counterparts, instead of acting as though they have the wisdom and the right to tell queer activists in the Middle East how to think and act:
“One of the ways to keep in mind, when it comes to being a good ally, is that people’s priorities are different. And in western queer identifies there’s such emphasis on the rainbow flag and gay marriage and the right to be gay in the military.
“A queer Palestinian isn’t going to be concerned about whether he has the right to wave a rainbow flag outside his house. He’s worried about whether his house will be demolished or not.
“A queer person in Syria is struggling just to survive, but not because that person is queer, but because the government is attacking everyone. …
“Allies have to learn that the personal and the political intersect a lot more than the mainstream LGBT community in the U.S. realizes.”
The “Online Media and Storytelling” video is the seventh of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues that overall are designed to “reverse the megaphone,” allowing activists from abroad to tell Western viewers about the challenges that LGBTI people face worldwide. The videos were recorded at a December 2014 meeting in New York.
The series, under its full title “Quorum: Global LGBT voices,” is presented by The Daily Beast. The Erasing 76 Crimes blog, as a member of the advisory board for the project, helped The Daily Beast select Quorum speakers.
- Quorum introductory video: Global LGBT Voices in New York (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 1: Malaysian prison turned her into a trans activist (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 2: Jamaican activist: Be a global voice for LGBT liberation (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 3: Panel of U.S.-based activists discusses LGBTI rights advocacy in the world at large. (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 4: ‘Laws are great,’ but LGBTI struggle must go further (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 5: The human cost of Russia’s anti-gay campaign (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 6: ‘Save us from the saviors,’ say LGBT Indians, sex workers (76crimes.com)