Many of my friends are successful American immigrants and some of them are gay—so I paid attention when on an inauguration day the LGBT page was removed from the government website, in contrast to previous administration believing that LGBT right are human rights. Recent developments confirm the strength of continual conservative attacks on lesbian and gay rights. The Mississippi and Indiana governors signing the laws allowing businesses to refuse service to gay people had been scattered occurrences which will certainly solidify with the new White House administration. Since this is part and parcel of the whole cluster of conservative attacks on civil rights—immigrants’ and women’s and religious minorities’—it’s important not only for me but also for all pro-democracy people.
There’s more to LGBT issues than meets the eye. Millions of people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT. Thousands of them around the world are gaining visibility while many still live in fear. People of good will need to strengthen advocacy, partnerships, research—and, most important, awareness of the relevant issues. Let’s take a step in this direction.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Worldwide
The big picture is best presented in Equality Rising, a 2015 overview of the successes and setbacks of LGBT advocates around the world. We need this big worldwide picture in order to put a proper perspective on the state-of-the-art in our own backyard.
It’s good enough that same-sex marriage became legal in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark (including Greenland), Finland (likely to take effect in 2017), France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg the Netherlands (including the Netherlands Caribbean), New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the United States of America and Uruguay.
It’s not too bad to find the same-sex marriage legal at least partially, in certain jurisdictions of Mexico and the United Kingdom.
It’s bad that criminalization of LGBT occurs in 72 countries worldwide:
- Africa (34 countries)
- Asia (20 countries)
- Caribbean (8 countries)
- South Pacific (6 countries)
- Entities (4)
It’s really ugly that being gay/lesbian is punishable with death penalty in 10 countries of Africa and Asia.
And it’s beyond ugly that in two presumably civilized countries the so-called “anti-propaganda laws” obstruct any advocacy for LGBT: Lithuania and Russia.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – in Our Own Backyard
It’s good that the US is on the “good” countries list, and that according to Gallup, there exist major shifts in Americans’ attitudes about the morality and legality of gay and lesbian relations in the past two decades. Whereas 38% of Americans said gay and lesbian relations were morally acceptable in 2002, that number has risen to 63% today. And while 35% of Americans favored legalized same-sex marriage in 1999, 60% favor it today. So the tendency moves to more inclusion—but not everything is picture-perfect:
It’s bad that of an estimated 904,000 LGBT adult immigrants in the US today, 30 percent are undocumented, having to live in dual shadows. Don’t they need more understanding?
It’s ugly that there exists a network of American extremists who work tirelessly to undercut LGBT people at home and abroad. They spew poisonous rhetoric and discredited science, misrepresenting American public. Isn’t it time for all pro-democracy people to take coordinated action?
LGBT Creativity Case
The first time I heard about remarkable LGBT creativity was at the headquarters of the international PR firm where their HR director advised me (before my seminar) that they hire many gays—because they are “so super creative.” That started me thinking: if creativity is a gift dealt to us at random, what factors/dimensions can boost it?
First, I discovered solid research on creativity explaining why some people are more creative than others: they can see the world from multiple perspectives or “live in two worlds.” We can think of LGBT in these terms.
Second, Nigel Barber in his article, “Secret of Creativity: An Oblique Perspective,” noted that being androgynous (LGBT) is one of the three most frequent causes of this “otherness.” The other two causes are being an immigrant and being seriously challenged or sick as a child.
So, I applied this knowledge to develop the business case for immigrant creativity; we can just as well apply it to develop LGBT creativity case – because they too, can see things through several filters and discover multiple, or even opposing, connotations in the same event. So, being gay is not a curse but a blessing in more than one way. Understanding these characteristics will broaden the public perceptions of LGBT, mitigate intolerance—and enhance overall inclusion!
Inspiring Instances of Creative Immigrants
Here’s a stimulating standpoint: despite “double trouble” of being an immigrant and LGBT, it’s possible in America to make it to the top of profession. Just look at these diverse super-talents:
Portia de Rossi, born in Australia, studied law before being cast for the role in Sirens, a comedy starring Hugh Grant. Since 1997, Portia turned an unforgettable role as Murphy in Scream 2 and then joined the cast of “Ally McBeal” followed by Stigmata, Girl, The Invisibles, followed by appearing on several magazine covers.
After more than a decade of hard work, Portia (pictured) is finally beginning to win real recognition, not only for her golden curls, but also for her wonderful talent.
Peter Thiel, born in Frankfurt, is a German-American entrepreneur, venture capitalist and hedge fund manager. He co-founded PayPal and served as its CEO; co-founded Palantir, of which he’s chairman. Interestingly, Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook. With a 10.2% stake acquired in 2004 for $500,000, he sits on Facebook’s board of directors.
Thiel (pictured) was ranked #4 on the Forbes Midas List of 2014 at $2.2 billion—not too shabby!
Jose Antonio Vargas, born in the Philippines, is a journalist and filmmaker—and a person who doesn’t shy away from LGBT and immigration rights activism. In the United States from age 12, he was part of The Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for covering the Virginia Tech shooting in 2008.
Passionate about the immigrant rights, Vargas (pictured) revealed his status as an undocumented immigrant in a June 2011 essay in The New York Times Magazine, in an effort to promote dialogue about the immigration system in the U.S. and to advocate for the DREAM Act. His public influence continues to grow.
Are these immigrant-and-gay role-models inspiring or what?
Defining All Americans
Negative overreactions to immigrant and gays are often about perception. Americans perceive that more than one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, far greater than the actual rate as measured on Gallup Daily tracking. Some of the overestimation may reflect media portrayals of creative gay characters on television and/or movies. But the exaggerated perception of numbers is not critical for all-American progress. What’s critical is to define an American as a freedom-loving, creative, contributing, inclusive personality—sexual orientation, origin, and such notwithstanding.
I do it consistently trying to be as inclusive as I can. Join me and then, being an American will be pure blessing for all.
I believe it’s critical to define “an American” as a freedom-loving, creative, contributing, inclusive personality—ethnicity, sexual orientation, origin, and such notwithstanding. I do it consistently. Join me or follow me and then, being an American will be pure blessing for all of us, as one nation under God.
Sally Osborne says
Fiona’s comment and upcoming book is very timely, given the turbulent times we live in. Let’s follow her example and stand up for the rights of immigrants and all minorities.
Thank you for sharing your opinion. Ours are the turbulent times indeed. I believe that today immigrant rights are human rights.
Joseph Santana says
We often read articles that focus on inclusivity and cite the challenges of a specific dimension of diversity (E.g, ethnicity, gender, orientation, etc). But we seldom see an article that brings home how the intersection of the various components of human identity as well as the situation these are found in work together. This is an excellent article in which Fiona highlights how two aspects of identity that in certain social, legal and political climates can create an even greater condition of exclusion. Great information for people who are dedicated to increasing inclusion to consider as they develop their strategies. Thank you for sharing this valuable perspective.
Many thanks, Joe, for your uncanny ability to look in-depth and appreciate my description of the two aspects of identity that in certain social, legal and political climates can create an even greater condition of exclusion.
Pablo Garcia says
Is unbelievable the evidence that we have today to foster a more D&I culture in the US and all over the world. Is a matter of time when all the people see the benefits for the community having a more D&I environment. At workplace, we found many initiatives to hire a more D&I workforce, so you can find at the bottom of many organizations a very D&I workforce but after several years it has not permeate into the upper positions, and is at top level where a more D&I culture could also bring greats results for all the stakeholders, based on the idea that a more D&I board will has more information (backgrounds, experiences…) to make better decisions.