I just returned home from attending the SMYAL annual fundraising brunch. SMYAL is a Washington, D.C. based organization that “supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.”
Two amazing young people who currently participate in SMYAL programs spoke movingly at the brunch. When you hear these empowered young people speak, it becomes clear why programs like SMYAL that support LGBTQ youth in our community is so important. So many young LGBTQ people are at risk in their homes, schools, and communities just for being who they are. The keynote speaker, Zach Wahls, author of the book, My Two Moms, spoke about the importance of SMYAL to the lives of young LGBT people. He then went on to talk about the meaning of the events in Paris, France at the hands of ISIS.
As we mourn the heinous crimes of the Islamic State against mostly young unarmed civilians across Paris, France this weekend, it is important to contrast the LGBTQ freedoms we are fighting for in the United States against the treatment of LGBTQ under ISIS rule. The Islamic State is the same group that has sought out and killed LGBTQ people across the middle east. Through stoning, beheading, or being thrown off of a building, ISIS, according to a Daily Mail article from August 2015, “has executed at least 30 people for being gay,” according to UN reports. The article describes that the first-ever, “UN Security Council meeting highlighted the ‘barbaric treatment’ of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in territory held by the extremist group.”
This is the same group, ISIS, that planned and executed a strategy of terror and ruthless killings across Paris. According to the New York Times, “At least 129 people were killed, with 194 people still hospitalized — 42 in intensive care. A total of 415 were treated at 10 Paris hospitals, according to a statement issued Sunday by hospital officials.” ISIS also took credit for downing an Egyptian jetliner killing all 224 people aboard.
We are at a new place in the fight against global terrorism and religious extremism. As we celebrated the accomplishments today of a local organization doing very important work with young LGBTQ people across the Washington, D.C. region, it is important to keep in mind the hatred of LGBTQ by ISIS and all that ISIS stands for. The terror of ISIS has not yet come to the USA, and I hope it never does, but we will all need to be vigilant. We are in a new phase of the fight for freedom. We are still fighting for the ideals of, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, which first emerged with the French Revolution and took form in the following years.
I am so glad that I could be part of today’s moving brunch to support an important organization, SMYAL, and the good work it does in the lives of LGBTQ young people. It is important to remember moving, meaningful events like this, in light of the hatred that exists in the world against LGBTQ.