Firstly let me start by saying that being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person (LGBT) is not a choice, it is something you are born as and contrary to some religious beliefs it cannot be cured. Love is love, no matter whether it’s between a man and a woman, two women or two men. Simple!
Sadly even in 2016 not everyone thinks the same and having travelled to some of the world’s most remote countries I can begrudgingly say that gay rights still have a long way to go.
Often seen as a “Western ideology”, being gay in some countries can get you imprisoned, fined or even horror of horror, killed. You might not realise it but there are still 7 countries in the world where adult consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal and punishable by death.
Whilst many condemn Russia for its rather open-opinion of LGBT relationships, you must remember that it isn’t in fact illegal there. My visit to Moscow several years ago certainly opened my eyes as to how much of a scene exists, albeit underground, but for me I was just relieved that it simply existed!
Whilst trawling the internet I found some interesting facts about being LGBT in different countries around the world:
- 62 countries protect their LGBT citizens from discrimination
- 118 countries have legalised adult consensual same-sex sexual conduct
- 75 countries have made it a criminal offence for adults to have consensual same-sex sexual conduct
- 7 countries including Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen can punish their citizens to death if found to have adult consensual same-sex sexual conduct
Just before I travel many of my friends say to me, “Do you feel safe, aren’t you scared or worried you’ll be targeted?”
Well, I think there are a lot of pre-conceptions about travelling to places that aren’t so friendly towards my community. Many are sadly correct but some amazingly couldn’t be further from the truth. For example when I visited Iran, I was incredibly relieved to discover LGBT life does exist and although Grindr and many other hook-up apps are banned, the joys of using a VPN can easily get you linked up to the local community. I’ve never had so much attention before, but I think it helps being fair and having blue eyes *cough* man-magnet!
I decide to visit these places based on the fact that many religious leaders state that no gay people actually exist in their countries. Well I’m sorry to crush that “statistic” but even in far-flung places like Turkmenistan, Iraq and Eritrea I have experienced gay life and local residents who are trying to make the most of their lives, even if their own government wishes to persecute them. I respect these people because it’s likely that they have no choice but to stay and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for them to try to live openly in a homophobic society.
When I arrive in a new country where I don’t know anyone, anybody could literally do anything to me. Maybe that’s part of the excitement, for me it is also part of the adventure and forms a part of my own personal development. Where would I be if I live my life the way I’m supposed to, right? By travelling to a country and meeting people; many of whom have never met a gay person before, I’m broadening their horizons and teaching them that I’m not one of their pre-conceived ideas, I am also simply just a human being like them.
I’m thankful to say I’ve never encountered any remorse or animosity towards me as a gay guy whilst travelling (that I’ve noticed), however I’m more than aware of some of the horror stories. I think the recent Orlando terrorist/hate attack proves that sadly nowhere in the world is safe anymore, but you can stand up to hatred and thankfully the most unlikely people have been standing side by side with the LGBT community in their grief.
Before you begin to think this post is an attack on the straight people of the word…believe me, it isn’t. However if you are straight, have you ever stopped to think what would happen if being straight wasn’t the “norm”, if you went to kiss your girlfriend/boyfriend but it was frowned upon in society, what would it feel like to fear being attacked? This is why gay pride parades around the world still exist.
After travelling the world my advice to anybody LGBT thinking of visiting a country that may not be best friends with us, simply plan your trip very carefully, read forums and blog posts regarding the latest news and updates and try to connect with the local community who will no doubt be incredibly pleased to see and welcome you.
If you’d like any advice on any of the countries I’ve visited and what LGBT scene (if any) exists, please message me via my Facebook page.
Love is Love.
Be proud of who you are.