International politics has become a major issue for LGBT campaigners. The Pride London website lists 41 countries where same-sex acts are illegal.
David Cameron says he will stop providing aid to countries with homophobic governments. But former British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean have homophobic laws because the British imposed them as part of a Victorian morality designed to “civilise” African and Asian people.
The British Empire is history now, but the British government, with its powerful US partner, is still killing people around the world.
Over half a million died in the Iraq war. It’s a bad joke for the organisers of World Pride to present US secretary of state Hillary Clinton with a “World LGBT Award”.
The British or US governments won’t bring anyone freedom or human rights. Cameron and Clinton condemn homophobia abroad when it suits them. When beating the drums of war against Iran they condemn its government as homophobic.
Saudi Arabia is no better—the legal punishment for gay sex is death. But British companies sell weapons to the Saudi dictatorship, so their homophobia goes unmentioned.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused a sickening growth in Islamophobia. Racist and fascist groups try to exploit this and divide ordinary people along lines of race, religion and sexuality.
Last year the racist English Defence League even tried to organise a fake “Pride” march in East London. Local people wanted nothing to do with it and held their own anti-racist Pride later in the year. The local Muslim mayor came and spoke in support of LGBT people.
The history of fighting for LGBT liberation spans the globe. South Africa was the first country in the world to include lesbian and gay rights in its constitution.
Millions of people had taken part in huge strikes and protests to kick out apartheid. They decided that justice in a new South Africa meant ending homophobia as well as racism.
The gay liberation movement took a similar approach in the 1970s. LGBT activists were part of a wider radical movement. They made links with the Black Panthers, a revolutionary anti-racist group with thousands of members and widespread support in black communities.
Today some Tories say they want equal rights for LGBT people, and Barack Obama is the first US president to publicly back gay marriage. This is a sign of how far we’ve come.
But we should reject the idea that LGBT people can win freedom internationally by looking to the rich and powerful to liberate us—or that we should blame our Muslim and African workmates and neighbours for homophobia.
The experience of history is that working-class people, LGBT and straight, black and white, throughout the world, can fight back and liberate ourselves.
Colin Wilson is an LGBT activist based in east London. He wrote about imperialism and homophobia in Socialist Review earlier this year