Travel Restrictions

Travel is my reason for being. Due to finances, I haven’t been able to leave the country in several years, but I have been to 19 other countries, and these experiences have been the high points in my life.

I strongly encourage everyone to travel. It’s the only way you can truly have an open mind. It’s the only way you’ll learn that “our” way isn’t the only way and in fact it may not even be the best way. Until everyone truly understands that concept, there is no chance for any type of peace on earth.

Having said that, as people become more financially desperate, the world is becoming an increasingly scary place, with kidnappings, incarcerations and crime on the rise. And Americans are becoming, if anything, more hated by segments of the international community.

Does that mean we should stop travelling altogether? On the contrary. Now, more than ever, we need to eschew isolation and make more of an effort to be part of the global community. Not only to spread our wealth around a bit, but also to foster as much good will as we can.

But it is very important to travel intelligently. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that it might be a good idea to avoid war zones. But it’s also important to understand the human rights philosophy of the government in question. When making travel plans, my first stop is always the State Department website, where you can read up to date reports on travel advisability and news for each country. Many countries are safe to travel in, but contain regions to avoid, and this is always good information to have. And if you fall into a particular minority group, you may want to extend your research even further afield.

As sad as it makes me to say this, I know that there are certain countries which I realistically will never visit. North Korea, for example. But also, as an outspoken woman who refuses to be treated as a second class citizen, I don’t see myself ever visiting Saudi Arabia, either. While I’m willing to respect customs related to clothing, no one will ever tell me I can’t drive. Full stop. Sadly, as a woman traveling alone, there are many parts of the world I should think twice about visiting.

My nephew has reached an age where he’s looking forward to exploring the planet, and I’m thrilled for him. I remember what that’s like, that feeling that you have endless possibilities for adventure. I love him to pieces, so it nearly killed me to have to ever-so-slightly rain on his parade.

He was talking about going to Egypt, and that’s someplace that I’ve always wanted to see myself. But I had to tell him that as the laws stand in that country at the present time, he can be incarcerated simply for being gay. He told me he didn’t plan on doing “gay things” while there, and while, yes, that would greatly reduce his risk, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely, and this is a young man who, try as he might, would not be able to “fake it”. Unfortunately there are many countries in the world that would pose a risk for him. That breaks my heart, but it’s a fact.

Americans seem to be under the impression that they have some sort of immunity when traveling abroad. They think that if arrested, they will simply be able to call their embassy and be set free. Au contraire. All the embassy can or will do for you in the vast majority of cases is make sure your relatives are notified, deliver your mail, and give you the occasional red cross package. So the best thing to do is be aware of the laws of the country in which you travel, and strictly adhere to them. I’ve never found that to be particularly hard, but apparently some people do. If you plan to go somewhere with several kilos of cocaine taped to your inner thigh, well then, you deserve what you get.

So travel, yes, but do your homework first. Knowledge is power. Bon voyage.


[Image credit:]


Corrective Rape — “It’s for your Own Good.”

I’m in the virtual world known as Second Life, and a total stranger approaches me. He says, “I want to make love to you.”

“Uh, no thanks.”

“I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thanks all the same, but I couldn’t be less interested.”

Sheesh. Are there really men out there who think women are animals that can be used? Do they really think we go for emotionless sexual congress? If that’s what you’re really after, get a sheep.

That guy quickly moved on to the next hapless woman, and I’m sure he eventually found someone with low self-esteem who was lonely enough to take him up on his offer. That makes me really sad. But it also makes me wonder what lessons this is teaching this man. In Second Life, doing “the deed” requires the woman’s cooperation, but what is this guy like in real life, where that cooperation isn’t necessarily required if you are not moral and law abiding, one wonders?

He seems to be under the impression that his talents, real or imagined, are some sort of gift that all women should appreciate. That’s a really scary attitude and seems like it is only a few steps from there to a slippery moral slope that ends with an alarming trend.

Corrective rape is a hate crime that victimizes the LGBT community. These violent encounters are a way to punish these people, and in the twisted minds of the perpetrators, it is also, astoundingly, supposed to get them to see the error of their ways and somehow start preferring heterosexual sex. Many people do not see this form of rape as the heinous act that it is, but more as a way to “fix” people who are “not right”, so it is often supported, even encouraged, by family members and local clergy.

This type of crime has been reported in Ecuador, Thailand, Uganda and Zimbabwe, but especially in South Africa where rape statistics in general are off the charts. The statistics about this phenomenon in particular are a little sketchy because these countries lump all such reports in with other types of rape, but rest assured that in these countries today, lesbians are living in fear of having the doors to their homes kicked in. That’s no way to have to live. It isn’t right.

Another huge problem related to this trend is that it often goes unreported, because in order to report it, you also have to reveal your sexual orientation to the local authorities, and who wants to do that in an intolerant regime? It also results in a great deal of HIV among members of the lesbian community.

If this type of violence is not taken seriously, it will spread to other countries. It needs to be treated like the hate crime that it is, and people involved in these acts must be prosecuted and given the harshest of sentences. Until we all understand that every person deserves respect and dignity, and that no one has the right to impose their will upon another human being, it will be the perpetrators of these acts, not the people that they are abusing, who will be the ones who need to be corrected.

Animals. Sick, twisted animals is what these rapists are, and as far as I’m concerned there isn’t a well deep enough to throw them down.

corrective rape

[Image credit:]

On Coming Out in Public

On Valentine’s Day, actress Ellen Page came out in front of a large group of people at the Time to Thrive conference in Las Vegas. You can hear her moving and heartfelt speech by going here if you get my blog by e-mail:  but I’ll also attach the video below.

Since her speech, there has, of course, been a lot of critical backlash on the web. People are chiming in that being gay is a sin, and that horrible things should happen to Ellen and LGBT people in general. People are claiming that her speech was just a cheap way for her to get publicity. They are saying that there was no need to stir things up in this fashion.

What a steaming load of crap.

If you take the time to watch it, you can tell that coming out like this was a big deal to her. Her voice was shaking throughout the speech. But she did it for many reasons. Not only was she tired of lying by omission, but she knows she’s a role model, and she knows there are many LGBT youth out there who desperately need her to be one.

Suicide and depression rates among LGBT youth are a great deal higher than in the rest of the population. They are also much more likely to be bullied, harassed, discriminated against, and basically made to feel “less than.”

While I long for a time when someone saying “I’m gay” will cause as little an impression as saying “I have green eyes”, unfortunately now is not that time.

As long as we live in a world where people can be tied to barbed wire fences and beaten to death, we need people like Ellen Page to make speeches.

As long as there are countries where you can actually be imprisoned for being who you are, we need people like Ellen Page to make speeches.

As long as people can be attacked in the street for holding hands, and as long as there’s even one person out there who thinks that if you’re gay you must therefore be a pedophile, we need people like Ellen Page to make speeches.

As long as there are people out there who have to hide in closets of isolation, depression and pain because society will reject them otherwise, we need people like Ellen Page to make speeches.

There are dozens of public figures whom we are all pretty sure are gay, but they haven’t come out. This frustrates me, because they could be doing so much good in this world. Yes, they have a right to their privacy, but they are needed, and I call upon them to do the right thing.

A lesbian friend told me that when she came out to her fundamentalist Christian parents, her mother held her arms behind her back while her father beat her bloody, and then they locked her in a room for two weeks so she could “come to her senses.” She most certainly did. She hasn’t seen her parents since. But she went through years of depression afterwards on her way to becoming the proud lesbian she is today. She sure could have used this speech back then. And hopefully kids who are experiencing this same sort of alienation now will benefit from it as much as she would have.

So on behalf of dozens of friends as well as my favorite nephew, thank you, Ellen Page, for speaking out.

Upset that Everyone Now Has the Same Rights that You Do? Oh, Simmer Down.

Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Fundamentalist, Atheist, anywhere in the spectrum, all Americans have to abide by the US constitution. There’s nowhere that says you have to like it. So feel free to pitch a tantrum. I just wish you’d do it in the privacy of your own home, because you are messin’ with my celebration here!

I’m never wild about getting political on this blog, but when the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act the other day we witnessed history, and I couldn’t be more proud. At a time when politicians on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers, and bureaucrats in general are behaving in a shameless, corrupt and despicable manner, it does my heart good to know that sometimes they still manage to get things right. And this administration has done more for LGBT rights than any other in the history of the world. Yay!

Opponents of this decision will use California as an example, and say that the federal government should have no right to overturn the decision of the majority of the people. California voted against proposition 8, thus depriving a segment of the population their right to marry, and saying only marriages between a man and a woman are legal, and that should be that, right?

To that I say poppycock. If you had asked the Germans to vote in 1935 to deprive the Jews of every single right imaginable, they would have. That wouldn’t make that action any less of an utter slap in the face of civil rights. So I’m THRILLED that the federal government doesn’t care what you want, California! There are times when what you want isn’t the right thing. Sorry.

Everyone should have the same rights. No group should be singled out. And every year, on the anniversary of this fateful day, and as more and more states make gay marriage legal, more and more people will pull their heads out of their behinds, look around, and realize that allowing people to marry whom they love has not in fact brought about the destruction of life as we know it. It hasn’t oozed into the very foundation of individual marriages, causing some sort of irreparable damage. It hasn’t caused children’s heads to explode. And it certainly isn’t going to loose the four horses of the apocalypse.

So enough with the free floating anxiety. Relax in the knowledge that civil rights seem to actually matter in this country, at least every once in a while.