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Homosexuality is being attracted to members of the same-sex. Rights for same-sex marriage vary all over the world. Some countries have had it legalized for years, other countries just recently, and some other countries still haven’t accepted homosexuality as a norm.
As a personal connection to this subject, I have a very close friend who happens to be a Vietnamese exchange student studying in the United States. After a few years of knowing her, she revealed me the main reason of her coming to study in the U.S., she’s a lesbian. Her coming out to me was not much of a surprise, but her story was. She came out to her Vietnamese family when she was only 12 years old, and to put it bluntly the family rejected her. Although not always to her face. She proceeded to tell me some disturbing stories of her experiences in Vietnam, from being randomly beaten on the street (by people hired by her parents) to being written out of her parents’ will. This came as a shock to me because I had met her parents and they were the kindest people ever. I told her this and she almost defended them saying that they had to because of Vietnamese culture. The LGBTQ community isn’t very accepted there. What’s even more interesting is that she lives with family in the United States. Except, the family members here who have experienced American culture are a lot more accepting. She came to America to be able to live her life as she wanted to. I really think she sort of embodies the cultural differences of accepting homosexuality across the globe.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently legalized same-sex marriage, but this wasn’t an overnight process. Groups have fought for generations for these rights, and finally they were achieved on June 26, 2015. In the United States, there weren’t many attempts to reach this goal until after World War II, although there were signs of gay communities in places like Harlem and Greenwich Village during the 1920s. World War II allowed people to come into contact with each other much more frequently. This allowed gay men and women who before may have not had much contact with other homosexuals before to come into contact with others. This along with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigations during the 1950s that along with other groups, went after homosexuals, inspired the first political demands for fair treatment in mental health, public policy, and employment (Morris).
The 1950s then saw organizations and groups pop up that supported the gay community. Namely, the Mattachine Society, One, Inc., and the first lesbian group, Daughters of Bilitis. These groups really opened the floodgates and were able to support and reach thousands through their meetings and publications. Other studies and publications were made in the 1950s that supported the gay community, but at this point they were not receiving too much attention. It was not until the 1960s, after the success of the Civil Rights movement, that more attention was received. In the 1960s the first gay rights demonstrations took place in both Philadelphia and Washington D.C. A major event in this movement followed only a few years after these demonstrations, the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots occurred in Greenwich Village in 1969, when customers of the Stonewall in protested the constant raids of this bar. This is a major moment in the gay rights movement (Morris).
The gay rights movement also continued to pick up speed in the 1970s; more political organizations and support began to appear. The first openly gay and lesbian representatives (Elaine Noble and Barney Frank) were elected, as well as the first march on Washington for gay rights in 1979. The 1980s did bring more attention to the gay community for a slightly different reason, because of the AIDS epidemic. However, this did draw many more gay rights supporters. Eventually, same-sex unions were recognized in Vermont in 2000, and Massachusetts became the first state to legalize marriages in 2003. The 2003 ruling Lawrence v. Texas also got rid of the criminal classification (Morris).
Now, in the United States much progress has been made. Same-sex marriage is allowed in every single state thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 26, 2015. This doesn’t mean the fight is over, but it sure has resulted in a lot of progress. That day, even that week, thousands of people were using the #LoveWins on almost every social network. This ruling gained tons of support for the gay community. However, not everyone approves, there are still plenty of people who disagree with this ruling and the entire idea as a whole (Chappell, 2015). Although, the fight isn’t over, the gay community has more rights in the U.S. then many other parts of the world, but in the same breath can be seen as late to the party.
The first country to receive gay rights was the Netherlands. The movement was sparked by Catholic psychiatrists reporting a lot of severely depressed homosexual patients who were complaining of discrimination. Discrimination of any person in the Netherlands was banned in 1983, this then inspired a push for same-sex unions. In 1998, the Netherlands then passed a law that was loosely based on the Dutch law passed in 1989 that allowed civil partnerships including those of same-sex. However the discrimination and separate but unequal social status of this social partnership put forth further social and political pressure resulting in the legalization on April 1, 2001 (Reflecting on 12 years of gay marriage in the Netherlands, 2015).
A study was done a few years after same-sex marriage was legalized in the Netherlands on how these couples felt before and after. Many individuals stated that before same-sex marriage was legal they felt very excluded from the institution of marriage and basically decided it wouldn’t ever happen to them. They also stated that after it was legalized they felt more accepted and more normal. Those who actually got married said they felt more accepted within their families (Badgett, 2011).
Portugal did receive gay marriage rights before the U.S. did however, the U.S. also played a role in sparking the movement in this country. The movement was very much non-existent until as late as the 1990s, yet it took up speed very quickly. It was a movement that got sparked, much like the U.S., by the AIDS epidemic. However, it quickly grew from that. After Massachusetts declared same-sex marriage legal in 2003, and Spain in 2004, the main LGBTQ organization in Portugal began to push for change and gained a lot of support. Then in 2006, two women applied for marriage and were rejected, causing an uproar. This uproar caught politicians’ attention (Vale de Almeida, 2012).
In October of 2008, two proposals were submitted to the Portuguese Parliament supporting gay rights. Both by small left-wing parties, both failed because of the Socialist dominance in the Portuguese government. However, because of the immense pressure, in 2009 the Socialist Portuguese prime minister at the time declared that the September elections would include marriage equality. Soon after this, gay rights became one of the most talked about things in Portugal. On June 5, 2010 gay marriage was legalized in Portugal. The movement in Portugal seemed to have taken off much quicker than that in the United States. The author also comments on the fact that Portugal is seen as a Catholic country. He writes that “According to a very recent study by none other that the Catholic University,5 31.7% of the Portuguese go to church once a week, although 79.59% identify themselves as Catholic. It should be no surprise to an anthropologist, that there can be a significant difference between self-labelling, and belief in, and obedience to, the norms supposedly embedded in the label” (Vale de Almeida, 2012, pg 27).
China is on a much different side of this issue. The process of obtaining gay rights and legalization of same-sex marriage seems to be in the very distant future. Although, there has been some progress, thanks to the Internet. A surprising idea because of the Chinese government’s expansive control of what its people can access. However, more and more in the gay community are finding out that they’re not alone. This has been one of the first steps in many countries’ gay rights movements. More and more people are able to access and share info in what have become these online communities easily and without revealing their identity. As far as the general public goes, very little info at all, let alone accurate, is given to the people about the gay and lesbian community. These online communities have attracted Chinese scholars, and they’re likely remain popular until the social costs of “coming out” aren’t so high (Chase, 2012). As well as the online communities, there also is a theory that the rural-urban migration has helped some identify themselves because they have been separated from their families and can escape their family’s traditions and expectations. (Haochu, Holroyd, & Lau, 2010)
These online communities however don’t seem to do much for legislation. These strong online voices rarely will ever appear in the traditional media. There are many restrictions on political speech and media content in China. However, one scholar is working very hard to get China’s Marriage Law amended and to get same-sex marriage legalized. Her name is Li Yinhe, and she has attempted to persuade the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee almost every year since 2001. She hasn’t had any success but her and her people have engaged in a lot of activities that generate publicity. The effects of these activities however, are still mostly seen online. Online activism has been very effective because of its lack of access to the traditional media outlets. There has been a movement recently to increase the awareness of the gay and lesbian community and to also shed a more positive outlook on it (Chase, 2012). The gay community in China has also, like many other countries, received a lot of negative light because of the HIV epidemic (Haochu, Holroyd, & Lau, 2010).
Homosexuality is far from being the norm in China and this seems to affect how those in the gay community identify themselves. In China it is seen as abnormal, unacceptable, these people are diseased and should be condemned. Largely because they are not in the majority and China’s society is supposed to support the majority. Those in the majority are seen as more powerful and righteous. One man lost his job and had to move towns because of his homosexual activity. In China being heterosexual is seen as good because it legitimizes procreation and keeps the family’s bloodline going. Homosexuals in China still seem to feel obliged to fulfill “their Chinese gender role of being a man”. They see it as their duty. Even though they may have homosexual relations, they will get married and have children just to fill that role. Many men will have trouble identifying themselves as homosexual even though they will admit their attracted to other men. (Haochu, Holroyd, & Lau, 2010).
South Korea is also having the same issues as China is experiencing. The gay and lesbian community is also only really established on this online community. The main difference between China and South Korea’s situation is why the community can’t reach the traditional media sources. In China it is because of the governments restrictions, but South Korea is a democracy. What’s stopping the Korean gay and lesbian community is what is described as a “well-organized, Christian lobby”. Similarly though, there are people trying to get legislation amended in South Korea too, there just isn’t a decent way to spread this information out to enough people. (Chase, 2012).
In Iran, a slightly similar threat to the gay and lesbian community is being posed. Although, its more intense. In Iran homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. This ongoing persecution of homosexuals has become a discussion since 2007. However in Iran, those scholars who are supporting gay rights are being outshone by those who are anti-gay rights. These people are claiming that those fighting for gay rights are trying to force this modern idea upon Iran and Muslims in general. “The notion of gayness as an identity rather than a set of behaviors is a modern and a Western one, Massad argues, and is not shared by men who have sex with men in Arab cultures” (Kirchick, 2013). This sort of statement of denial is similar to the one that many Chinese men are using.
Although much progress has been made around the world for homosexuals there is still a lot that needs to be done. Some countries have made a lot more progress than others. Countries range from it still being completely unacceptable to it being a norm. Media and technology have helped the homosexual community further their cause in many ways. In a lot of ways, countries who are ahead of the times have inspired those that are behind. Much like other issues, this issue is a global one and affects people all around the world.
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