Saturday, August 21, 2010

Buddha Is My Hero | One Of A Kind

On a continent where over 20 countries still consider being gay a crime,  in a country riddled with poverty, strifed with political turmoil, in 2007 Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the government to extend equal protection to LGBT and interesexed people. This is due in a large part to the efforts of Nepal’s first openly gay politician Sunil Babu Pant.

Under the threat of arrest and persecution, Pant has led The Blue Diamond Society from handing out condoms in parking lots, to a network of over 20 groups working on Gay rights, social justice, HIV, and environmental issues.  The BDS has won the Utopia Award;  In 2009 Pant was name a Person of  The Year by Advocate Magazine; and received the  ”Felipa de Souza Award” from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

It wasn’t until attending university in Belarus that Pant even realized that there was a word which distinguished people based on their sexual preference.

What was it like when you returned to Nepal, now realizing there was a distinction based on sexual preference?
I wanted to meet other gay people like myself, as I did I started to learn about their struggles. There was torture, black mail, sex abuse, especially for transgender people, a lot of gay men were forced into a straight marriages and living a double life. There was little awareness of AIDS, and they knew nothing about safer sex.   There were married men, who were having unprotected sex and bringing it home to their wives.  So I just started talking to them about safer sex, and offering them condoms.

How did this grow from you handing out condoms to a movement?
After about 6 or 7 months, I thought we needed to get organized. This was not a plan, I was just living life day to day and responding to the needs of the people I was interacting with. We had to say we were a  mens health organization since there was no mention of “gay” in Nepalese law.  We  needed to have a board of directors, no one was willing to put their name down on the forms.   They were all afraid of persecution, of going to jail, or being harassed.   So I asked my family to sign the papers.  They knew it was a human rights organization, but not exactly the whole truth at that time.

Having learned about their arrests, torture, was there any hesitancy or fear for yourself in “getting organized?”
I didn’t think too much about my safety and security, because it would have been too easy a justification to not lead this movement.  I thought,  if this is the right thing to do, that is enough reason to do it.  It is doing the right thing, trying to do the good thing.  All of these are opportunities to learn more, opportunities I couldn’t miss.

What happened when the media wanted to interview you, and the people your organization served?
They all disappeared.  They were scared to have their names or identities revealed.   Other people had concern, probably the environment around them, their families were not so good; I was lucky, I think.  Also, I believe it was the right thing for me to do.  I didn’t think it was pushing boundaries or anything, it was just the right thing.

You stayed for the interviews though?
I was the one calling the journalists how could I disappear?

There are numerous incidents where your peers and colleagues were afraid to have their identities revealed.  They didn’t want to be members of your board, talk to the media, some even were in sham marriages leading double lives.  How come you didn’t follow that path?
After I knew I was  gay, that  my orientation was not inclined towards woman, I couldn’t ruin someone else’s life.   Honesty was a strongly held principle.  I was more worried about my own dishonesty than someone rejecting me. It’s up to them.  For me my actions are what’s important.  I shouldn’t be hiding or lying.

Having values helps a lot.     You don’t obsess with values, you practice and make them part of your life.  Do not intellectualize them too much. It’s a simple thing, not an intellectual one.

Some people are conditioned in a difficult way that they probably had to hide something, which is very difficult.  I understand that very much.  I also feel compassion for them, that they have to hide something.  Ideally it’s a free life, and you should enjoy the freedom.

What advice or suggestion would you have for someone who is having the struggle enjoying their freedom?
Even today gay people end up in straight marriages. In that way, a simple formula is: coming out is an obstacle, but a relatively short obstacle, a higher intensity for a short while; the other option is you live a double life for the rest of your life.  The short term uncomfortable for the long term freedom.

Every  moment is a test, we pass sometimes, a lot of time we also fail the test.  But life has moved on.  Becoming conscious of how we can pass more of the time.  The wisdom is not limited, so never stop learning from anything any incident, anybody any moment.

On this whole journey on pulling this whole movement together, you almost make it sound easy, was it?
I didn’t face any death threats, people have been very kind.  It’s always been easy somehow.  People always give a great level of trust.  They walk with me.  No challenges that stopped us. There have been some conflicts, I don’t avoid them or get paranoid with them.  These are the things we all have.  Buddha had a lot of conflict,  so deal with it.

You need to have somebody who is being very difficult.  They are actually a friend in the face of life, A teacher.   If you deeply think, they are a person helping you to grow.

Do you have any mentors?
A lot of people, everyone I meet.  Even people I don’t meet,  I do read a lot of Buddhist books, so people ask me who is your hero.  Buddha is my hero.  His are very simple teachings.   Life and the world are impacted from your actions, so if you do a good action -good karma – it makes all of humanity better,  including yourself.  You attain a level Buddahood, you master certain things like compassion, wisdom, toleration, mediations, all of the obstacles help you.

How has  being a member of parliament changed things?
You can really make a unqiue and quite an impact.  It is an important time, we are about to rewrite our constitution and it will include the rights for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.  In this sense,we are more advanced than the West.  This is a country, where not to long ago a woman did not have her own passport, because she was part of either her father’s or husband’s household.

Right To Love "An American Family" Preview

Via JMG: Meg Whitman: I'll Defend Prop 8

GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has announced that she will defend Prop 8 in court if elected.
"The issue right now is, as I understand is 'Will Proposition 8 have the appropriate support to actually make an appeal to the circuit court of appeals?' " Whitman said. "And I think the governor, the attorney general today has to defend the constitution and has to enable the judicial process to go along and has to enable an appeal to go through. So if I was governor, I would give that ruling standing to be able to appeal to the circuit court." The appeals court plans to hear the case in December, but Supreme Court appeals are planned by both sides, so Whitman would have plenty of time to intervene if she wins and takes office in January.
Whitman and Jerry Brown are essentially tied in the latest polls.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: New Hampshire LOL

(Tipped by JMG reader Brian)
reposted from Joe

Quote of the day (via Doreen on Facebook):

 “What we do for ourselves dies with us. But what we do for others and for the world, remains and is immortal.”

- Albert Pine