Here’s a random fact: in Sierra Leone, if two women get caught having sex with each other, the law has nothing to say about it. Nada. Which is unexpectedly civilised and decent and just, you know, how it should be everywhere. But if two men are caught having sex, they get thrown in jail for the rest of their lives.
And it gets much worse: several dozen nations also have similar laws.
Welcome to the macabre Gay Double Standard. Lesbian? That’s fine, the law says, maybe because in the eyes of cisgender heterosexual men (who, let’s be honest, run almost every country and have made almost every oppressive law on the planet), lesbianism is sexy (as long as lesbians have bodies that cis men find attractive and are willing to have their sexuality objectified for the viewing pleasure of men – because we can’t have any heterosexual penis feeling left out). But if you’re a gay man? Then you die. Because that’s gross and unnatural.
I’m not saying for a second that patriarchal structures have treated women who love women well. In Faramerz Dabhoiwala’s The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution, it’s mentioned that in Britain, lesbian sex was never legislated against because admitting its mere existence was seen as a grave threat to society; in other words, the patriarchy was so terrified of losing its power, they didn’t want women to know there were other options besides having sex with men.
And if a woman did happen to be attracted to other women? More often than not, she’d be thrown in an asylum. Even in twentieth century America, lesbians could have their children ripped away from them, often by jealous ex-husbands who would have the law on their side because of the perceived “deviant behaviour” of a woman sleeping with another woman.
Don’t believe me? Check out the film Carol, which was adapted from a book based in part on a true story.
If we’re looking for small mercies, nowadays in places where sexual activity between two women is technically a crime, it is thankfully only very rarely enforced. But laws prohibiting sexual activity between men are enforced more often than not.
Just ask ISIS how they enforce their “laws.” In areas controlled by the terror group, women can sometimes be whipped for having sex with each other (which is fucked up). But men? They get thrown off actual buildings in front of a large crowd – and that can happen if someone merely suspects that a person might be gay. No evidence required.
Even in Aotearoa – where there’s nothing illegal at all about being gay, and you can marry whoever you want – things of course are far from perfect. Consider this: male homosexuality was a crime until 1986, and many people were prosecuted and convicted. Despite Justice Minister Amy Adams announcing in February that she intended to implement a scheme that will allow gay men and their families to apply to have convictions expunged, no official apology to these men and their whānau has yet been given.
While more of us now understand that what people do in their bedrooms and who they’re attracted to is exclusively their business, it’s important for us to stay woke to the challenges the gay community faces.
And, as a side note, before certain people go and use the Bible as evidence homosexuality – especially male homosexuality – is wrong, let me just lay down this proverbial truth bomb: Jesus never talks about gayness. While the Old Testament does (and in very unfortunate ways), Jesus also said the Old Testament was pretty much obsolete. So it isn’t really possible to use Christianity as a crux to justify anti-gay bigotry, because it goes against the very teachings of Jesus (oh, and before anyone says I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll add as another aside that I read the Bible every night).
It’s time to stop the condescending and objectifying attitudes towards lesbians, and murderous laws against gay men. Call me idealistic, but wouldn’t it be great if people everywhere could understand that #loveislove and accept others for who they are?