|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
A civil rights march for the gay community. Joe Knudson told me that that idea popped into his head last year after readers of his book, Living the Difference, revealed that they didn't know LGBT citizens were not granted the same rights and privileges allowed all other segments of society.
"It made me realize that society and governments worldwide need to be aware of these same things," said Knudson, who lives in Oklahoma.
The result is the first-ever Worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March this Saturday in over 30 locations across the globe, including Great Britain, South Africa, Pakistan, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, the Philippines, and several cities in the United States.
"With 2012 being an election year in America," Knudson explained, "along with all the atrocities in certain foreign countries against the LGBT, we needed to seize the moment." The march also comes on the heels of President Obama's decision not to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
However, the issue gets more personal for Noa Francis Shayden, a genderqueer/trans/pansexual in charge of the Chicago march, who at times worries about harassment while out in the city.
"One time a friend and I were riding the train," Shayden told me, "and this guy came down and sat in the seat in front of ours. After a few minutes of him eyeballing us, he had the nerve to call us women and started speculating as to what was in our pants. He also was physically threatening. Eventually my friend and I got up and moved to the other side of the train, though the man didn't stop his verbal harassment and continued to yell at us from across the train. There were other people on the train, as well, though they did not do one thing to either stop him or to assure us that we'd be OK."
Dusty Wenk, the organizer of the Atlanta march, is a lesbian immigrant. She shared with me her first impression of the United States: "I am from Germany. I came to the States because of my girlfriend. In Germany I was open about my sexuality pretty much as soon as I realized it for myself. Germany seems to me to be very liberal to our community. So when I came to the States, I was honestly simply very shocked to see how much hate and discrimination is still going on here."
For those who are gay and famous, actions speak louder than headlines. Actor Zachary Quinto, who plays "Spock" in the new Star Trek movies, will be marching in Hampton, Va. this weekend. According to his blog, Quinto came "to realize it's not enough for me to say I support the cause. I must become involved to make a true difference."
What do the organizers of this weekend's march hope to achieve? Full federal equality for every individual in the world, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"If these worldwide marches could only do one thing for the community," said Knudson, "I would want that to unite the LGBT communities worldwide and allow all of us to realize that we are entitled to basic human rights. It is through this continued education and enlightenment to societies and governments worldwide that will allow us to advance to the same level of rights, laws, and guarantees enjoyed by all other segments of society."
Wenk hopes for something more personal.
"Encouraging everyone to stand up for themselves, to be proud of who they are. Because everyone is perfect exactly how they are."
For more information on the Worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March, and where you can participate, visit their website.