Today I am grateful for the privilege based on the country and family I was born into. I may have had my challenges – and they were very real challenges – but today I was reminded in such a stark contrast how much different my life could have been.
I finished up a day of work and headed out to a happy hour networking event for LGBT employees of my firm as well as some of the other firms nearby. An opportunity to get to know other LGBT workers in the area and perhaps do a bit of flirting. Its pretty standard and at this point in my life I’ve done far too many of these events to consider.
That being said, I’m looking to make new friends who have similar interests in a new city – its a great place to chat and meet people so obviously I went.
At the risk of sounding like a power-player gay I also – following that event – had another LGBT networking event. This one was for the Young Professionals for Equality Committee. YPEC is a part of OutRight International an organization that works with LGBT groups on the ground in local communities and hostile countries to save lives however they can.
I got involved with YPEC & OutRight following an event where I heard the Executive Director tell the story of how OutRight helped save 2 gay men from being thrown off a roof by ISIS. Tonight we heard from a handful of speakers including an Academic, a UK-based International HIV organization and Becki.
Becki is from Ethiopia and he goes by Becki in the LGBT world because it isn’t safe for him to use his real name. Becki and his friends have worked tirelessly in Ethiopia to push for the recognition of LGBT people. Full Stop. Literally to be recognized because the President tells the people that gay people do not exist in Ethiopia. And yet that is what they are preached to each week, and if arrested and convicted of being gay they have a potential 15 year prison sentence.
So Becki and his friends work to do what they can. Which at this point is to educate men who have sex with men that it is in fact possible to contract HIV through same-gender sex. Because they have only been told about the dangers of HIV transmission through straight-sex, they think it isn’t transmitted through gay sex. Because of this, these men don’t use condoms or lubricant and in fact they can’t really get either.
Becki came to us asking not for money, but for someone to help him build a website and a mobile app that can be translated and then shared so they can help get the word out. Becki and his friends are not trying to build an Underground Railroad to escape this world, but instead are working to build an Underground Safe haven.
I grew up with parents who love me for who I am and the privileges that comes from being born White, Male, and American. I owe it to Becki to donate more, to do more, and to engage as much as I can with groups like OutRight International.