Comment: Everyone is Charlie Hebdo. Everyone is gay
Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust Jonathan Cooper writes for PinkNews on the Charlie Hebdo shootings earlier this week.
Human rights are human needs, and this includes the need to express ourselves. We have no choice. We can’t help it. We disagree. We want to persuade people to see our point of view. We may have to protest. We may have to cause offence. Free speech rights can’t be absolute, but short of inciting violence we have to be able to speak up. It’s innate. Murdering people for speaking out attacks the very essence of our compulsion to protect our human needs. That is why the slaughter of 12 in Paris for spreading their word causes a crisis for humanity.
Human rights go to the heart of the human condition. They are everyone’s. The ultimate price is to die whilst exercising our human rights. Our sense of shock and sadness at the Paris massacre becomes overwhelming when we consider why the 12 were killed. They might not have been heroic, or necessarily noble. Neither did they need to have been particularly good at expressing themselves, but they died because they voiced an opinion. It turns out that some of the greatest satirists were amongst them, but that misses the point. It is almost an irony – given the murdered journalist’s passionate commitment to secularism – that they, and those protecting them, have become martyrs; killed for promoting and defending human rights.
Brutality targeted against human rights gets under our skin. These deaths remind us of all the others who have gone before: those that are murdered or left for dead for seeking to pray to their God or simply because of their faith; those protesting; others who speak out; girls who want an education; those singled out because of their race or their ethnicity; those who just want to be. And this includes the LGBT community.
The level of violence that we, and those who defend us, are subjected to is extraordinary. Across the globe there is too much hatred and endless viciousness or its threat. In the UK and France we may now be protected by the state, but elsewhere that violence and murder comes from the state as well as fellow citizens. There are countless people who would still be alive but for the fact they were LGBT.
LGBT people don’t have rights because we are LGBT. We have the same rights as everyone because we are human. Like everyone else, these rights include a right to a sexual and gender identity and the right to be intimate and sexual with other adults of the same sex who want to be intimate and sexual with us. Like all humans, we need the prospect of nurturing and loving partnerships. We need to be able to be part of our communities as who we are. We need to be able to express ourselves.
The experience of many LGBT men and women has much in common with the journalists working on Charlie Hebdo. Mostly we go unnoticed. Our exercise of our human rights makes no actual impact on those around us. Those who want nothing to do with us can just step away. Yet we are subjected to vile abuse, which can have catastrophic results. Religion, apparently, justifies the denial of our rights. One option to avoid this cruelty is to live in the shadows. We could not speak out. We could not be. But then we would live a life half lived. And the consequence would be that human rights, and the needs they manifest, would cease for everyone. There is inevitability about the way the ongoing struggle for human rights proceeds, which is merely reinforced by the tragedy in Paris, as well as the most recent gay bashing wherever it has just occurred. We have no choice but to continue. Human rights are everyone’s. Everyone needs them. This means everyone is Charlie. Everyone is gay.
Jonathan Cooper is the Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust. Follow the Human Dignity Trust on Twitter: @HumanDignityT
As with all comment, this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews.