Thursday, June 17, 2010

UN Efforts to Decriminalize Homosexuality A Start But Not Enough

I had the privilege of attending a meeting at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office on "Exporting Homophobia" around the world. Ugandan Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who is leading the effort against the anti-gay bill in Uganda, was the featured guest. A "dream team" of religious LGBT advocates were at the meeting, including Yvette Flunder, Cindi Love, Michael Adee, Stephen Parelli, and Michael Schuenemeyer.

I learned a new UN acronym at the meeting: SOGI. That stands for "sexual orientation and gender identity." A representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights pledged her support to work to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Other speakers talked about educating people of faith in the global south on alternative scriptural understandings of homosexuality and one person from Kenya spoke about moving people from seeing homosexuality as the sin to understanding that it is sodomy that is sinful.

Although I was happy to be there and moved by Bishop Senyonjo's presentation, I can't help but feel that the United Nations representatives aren't thinking BIG enough, and that many of the participants don't really understand the sexology of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. I wonder how SOGI became code for LGBTI issues, when all people have a sexual orientation and a gender identity.

But, I also feel somehow that concentrating on the goal of decriminalization isn't BIG enough. Yes, we need to work to make sure that it is not a crime to engage in same sex sexual behaviors everywhere in the world, and yes, we need to help the UN understand and advocate that the rights of LGBTQI persons are protected as human rights.

However, we need to be articulating and working toward a world where it is understood that sexual and gender diversities are part of God's blessing to us, that sexual rights are human rights, and for a relationship-based rather than an act-based sexual ethic. I want to help create a world where participants in this type of forum would affirm the rights of consenting adults to sexual pleasure, regardless of the sex or gender of the partners and which body part goes into another. I want to be at meetings where we discuss how to move people of faith to a broader affirmation of sexual rights and pleasure for all of us.

This wasn't that meeting. I'm thinking about how the Religious Institute could help facilitate that type of dialogue. Ideas welcome!

1 comment:

Steve Parelli said...

Thank you for blogging here on the comment you made at the meeting. Your blog helps me see fuller what you were saying then. I think the flip side of stopping discrimination is the promotion of education – hence the bigger picture – thinking big enough. I remember Rev. Michael Kimindu of Kenya saying at a seminar in Nairobi in 2008 that his experience as a student abroad showed him that the West has been studying in the area of human sexuality for decades. He recommended these studies to his fellow Africans for their consideration. I am grateful for the comment you made at the Consultation meeting, the Religious Institute and for the materials that you offer which further our understanding on human sexuality and inclusion.