The pink triangle parallel between Nazi Germany and Africa’s Anti-Gay climate
By Melanie Nathan, July 31, 2014.
For me this was a very special San Francisco pride. I had the great honor to be appointed by the San Francisco Pride Board as community grand marshal, in recognition of my global LGBT activism, especially for criminalized and persecuted LGBT Africans.
As usual, Pride month in San Francisco was packed with events, most of which involved partying and fun.
However one such event – the installation of the huge Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks, under the leadership of Patrick Carney, serves each year as a critical reminder of the persecution of gays – of the homophobia and inhumanity toward LGBT people during the years of the Nazi regime
In the 1930’s and 40’s, the Nazis used the Pink Triangle to brand and shame homosexuals. Today, the emblem is embraced by the LGBT community, as a symbol of pride and a reminder of the hatred and intolerance of the past.
When I was asked by Patrick Carney to speak at the 19th installation this year, I saw an opportunity for a chilling analogy. The Nazis then and Africa’s anti-gay milieu now! And it is interesting to note that since making that speech US Secretary of State John Kerry has likened the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality law to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany. However that did not stop Kerry from denying the Anne Franks of Africa visas to our Pride festival. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-nathan/secretary-of-state-kerry-pays-lip-service_b_5523234.html)
Many of us have noted the parallels – its ironic genesis, with Scott Lively’s revision of Nazi history, where he blamed the Holocaust on ‘the homosexuals’, and used his book, The Pink Swastika, to promote his gay hater ideology in Uganda, leading to the scapegoating and persecution it was designed to cause.
After Lea De Laria spoke about the story of the Pink Triangle, I gave the following keynote speech:
Installation of Pink Triangle Speech with a Chilling Nazi Analogy
June 28, 2014.
Mayor Ed Lee, Senator Leno, Elected Officials, Celebrities, Patrick Carney, Volunteers, and Friends,
Good morning and happy Pride:
A special thank you to Patrick Carney for this great opportunity and to the San Francisco Pride Board for appointing me as community grand marshal this year- all a great honor.
Looking down on this magnificent Pink triangle I am struck by an anomaly. While on the one hand we have made enormous strides toward equality in countries like North America, United Kingdom, European Union, Iceland and Israel, 77 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality, either through draconian penal codes or newly enacted anti-homosexuality legislation.
Looking down at this pink triangle, capping our Twin Peaks, there is an obscene and pervasive parallel across the decades that we cannot ignore.
In 1933, Hitler outlawed homosexual organizations and publications, closing down Gay clubs. Soon thereafter Gay people were sent to concentration camps to die. In 2009 Uganda introduced The Anti-Homosexuality Act, with a death penalty for gays and anti-promotion clauses calling for the outlawing of all LGBT organizations.
On May 6, 1933 the Nazis ransacked and closed the “Institute for Sexual Science” in Berlin, destroying records and research that impacted homosexuality.
Eighty-one years later, mere months ago, April 03, 2014, the Ugandan authorities ransacked Makere University’s Walter Reed Project, with homophobic accusations, impacting HIV research, leading to its closure.
In 1934, a special division of the Gestapo in Germany was instituted to compile lists of gay individuals.
Eight decades later, in 2012 the Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, raided workshops, detaining LGBT people, boasting his list of alleged LGBT organizations and individuals.
In 1936, Himmler created the Reich Central Office for the combating of homosexuality.
In February 2014, President Museveni of Uganda assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Act, also to combat homosexuality, with prison terms ranging from 14 years to life for LGBT Ugandans. The list goes on.
Back in the 1930’s that is how the so-called ‘purifying’ began in Nazi Germany. And now, in 2014, on our watch, we are riding the crest of a wave with similar potential.
It all starts with myth, lies and scapegoating serving to underpin the notion of extermination, or “getting rid of,” whether it be through prison, so called ‘cures’ or giving license for the general populace to attack. And where will it lead?
After the Ugandan act was signed Red Pepper Magazine ‘outed’ Uganda’s “Top 200 HOMOS,” and in a matter of months Uganda became a persecution tempest. There are now over 163 reported cases, in Uganda, described as a tip of the Iceberg, where people have been banished, excommunicated, evicted, fired, beaten, threatened with mob justice, causing many people go underground into hiding.
Now I have a question:
Imagine if Ann Frank had access to the internet? Imagine if we had invited Ann Frank to a Jewish festival here in San Francisco and imagine if the State Department had said: “No, no, no, we are not giving her a visa, she may never go home!”
Friends, this is what happened to us here at Pride this week. We invited LGBT Africans from several countries, with laws and milieu similar to Uganda, to march in our Pride parade. And the Embassies systematically denied each visa because they were afraid that our guests would not go home to their persecuting countries.
If you speak to the State Department they will tell you they were following the law.
The issue is much more complicated than I have time for here today. However I want to assert the way our asylum laws and refugee laws work, there is no path here for Ann Frank. There is no direct or safe path here for our LGBT brothers and sisters from Africa who are in hiding.
Only a few of the privileged may trickle in. There is no asylum visa. You have to be on U.S. soil already to claim asylum. There is no special visa for persecuted people and because the U.S. fears they may claim asylum once here, they are unlikely to be given an opportunity to enter as visitors in the first place.
I look down at the magnificence of this symbol and how we have managed, 80 years later, to reverse it’s meaning – to symbolize pride – and with events like this to ensure we never forget.
My mind could easily be tricked into thinking we have won. But for as long as we have hundreds of Ann Franks hiding in dark rooms across Africa we have not won, we have only just begun.
My great grandfather was turned away from Ellis Island back in the early 1900’s and killed when he returned to the pogroms of Eastern Europe. My grandmother was rescued by a philanthropist and raised as an orphan in the Jewish Orphanage, South Africa. But for that philanthropist’s extraordinary act I would not be standing here today.
In extraordinary times we are expected to do extraordinary things.
Are we going to let the eradication of Africa’s LGBT community happen on our watch? This symbol will not allow us to forget but what good is it if we ignore?
DONATE TO AFRICAN HRC.
SUPPORT THE RELIEF FUND FOR LGBTI PEOPLE IN HIDING IN AFRICA – A unique Relief and humanitarian fund for food, shelter and medicine:
An extra note today:
While it may not eradicate the harm done, while it may cause a backlash, and while it will not rid Uganda or Africa of homophobia, let us hope that the Anti Homosexuality Act is ruled unconstitutional in the Ugandan Court tomorrow – http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2014/07/30/plaintiffs-ready-as-ugandan-court-hears-case-on-constitutionality-of-the-anti-homosexuality-act/