Gay Rights for all | US Government memorandum on global LGBT+ rights could backfire

One of the bitterly memorable legacies of the Donald Trump presidency was his alignment with the Christian Right – even if only when it served him. Because for the first time, sexual and gender minorities across the globe who looked on the global powerhouse for a crumb of protection lost hope on even that.

The institutionalised terrorism of Christian and Muslim theology used to criminalise the existence of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and other sexual and gender minorities (LGBT+) had found a figurehead in no other than the leader of the free world – which was until then the champion of freedom for all. With a new president come new policies and President Joe Biden is for LGBT+ rights. He wasted no time making that clear.

The imperialist implication of a nation that is struggling for all the world to see to sort out its own internal affairs trying to help other less developed nations is a discussion for another day.

In the same vein, however, that the actions of that figurehead of religious persecution of LGBT+ people hurt LGBT+ persons across the globe, the stance of president Biden made public Thursday last week is a much-needed breath of fresh air that could see an improvement in attitudes towards LGTB+ everywhere. It is also likely to backfire.

President Joe Biden issued a presidential memorandum on Thursday, February 4, 2021, aimed at expanding the protection of LGBT+ people worldwide.

All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love,” the memorandum said, building on a 2011 Obama directive.

It went on to instruct US agencies across the globe to consider appropriate responses, including the full range of diplomatic tools and if necessary financial sanctions and visa restrictions for foreign governments that restrict LGBT+ rights.

This, for the LGBT+, is good news, but …

Even a bad student of history can tell of how countries often sensing what they consider ‘external hostility’ become insular and in some cases go to extremes to assert their sovereignty – extremes like enacting the Same-Sex Prohibition Act (SSMPA) for instance.

Openly homophobic Nigerians reacting to the news on Twitter easily make this case. At the same time, the LGBT+ hail the move. Why not? Willing and powerful allyships, particularly one in the person of the US President are not easy to come by. Any aware minority will tell you that for free.

While attitudes to LGBT+ rights may not be improving at home fast enough – with the repeal of the perennially harmful SSMPA not close in view, the visibility of LGBT+ and the indisputable presence of their plight in everyday discourse has steadily increased over the years.  Most recently during the #EndSARS protests when local gay rights activists like AmaratheLesbian and Matthew Blaise took centre stage to assert the inarguable truth that “Queer Lives Matter.

The rights LGBT+ persons demand for are inalienable rights all human beings are owed simply by virtue of their humanity – the right to life, liberty, security and the freedom of thought, association and assembly. Enshrined in the constitution as rights for ‘all citizens’ but stripped off by laws whose root is set in and nourished by extreme religiosity that violently forces itself on others whether willing or not.

Financial sanctions and visa bans may not altogether persuade Nigeria’s ruling elite to respect these rights first by repealing the laws that stripped them off LGBT+ people in the first place, then by enacting laws that criminalise the victimisation of LGBT+ people by overzealous religious homophobes. The external pressure is nonetheless very much needed. There is only so much gay rights activist can do in isolation.

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