Quorum is a live journalism forum focused on LGBT experiences around the world. Its mission is to lift up the voices of non-Western LGBT activists defining the struggle for justice. Visit Quorum.TheDailyBeast.com for more stories of persecution, triumph, adversity and strength.
Looking back over the last twenty years, it’s clear that one of the main factors driving change in attitudes regarding LGBTQ people has been our media presence. In the United States, television shows from Ellen to Transparent have made LGBTQ lives visible in new and compelling ways.
But what about more repressive environments, where familial, cultural, legal, or religious pressures make coming out a dangerous proposition?
In fact, thanks in equal measure to information technology and the courageous efforts of cultural activists, media and culture are drivers for change elsewhere in the world as well.
Here, in Chapter 7 of Quorum: Global LGBT Voices, two online activists talk about how they work to build awareness and community in challenging environments. Xiaogang Wei, founder of the Chinese website Queer Comrades, shares stories from his work as an online media activist in China. And Suzan (last name withheld) talks about Ahwaa, an online hub for LGBTQ young people throughout the Middle East and North Africa. They are joined by Andre Banks, director of All Out, the leading U.S. LGBT organization using the power of new media and information technology to bring about social change.
Xiaogang and Suzan are from vastly different cultural contexts, of course. China’s antipathy toward LGBT people is mostly a feature of familial pressures, not legal or religious persecution, and there are signs it may be changing. In the Arab world, sexual diversity is depicted as foreign and un-Islamic, even as it has been part of Islamic civilization for centuries. Yet this cross-cultural dialogue reveals some surprising commonalities as well. Not least the courage of the activists themselves.