Sparked from the 2008 proposition 8 ruling that banned same-sex marriage in California, they have cultivated and led a fight for LGBT rights internationally. Thanks to their NOH8 campaign, there are now thousands of public faces behind a cause that was once invisible.
Deep divides in LGBT rights still remain around the globe, but the visibility from such human rights campaigns is helping to shift cultures. I am thankful, as the recent change in US immigration policy for same-sex couples has single-handedly opened up new avenues to my own future.
Students like myself can move to the US to complete residency training after medical school, however, previously only heterosexual spouses were allowed to tag along. The choice of being with your spouse or working as a doctor should never have been an issue. But while the immigration issue improves in the US and across Europe, we still see nations divided by how many rights they wish to offer LGBT citizens.
We only have to turn to Russia to see, or not see, people who are silenced altogether in the very real fight for human rights. I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the Russian athletes at the World OutGames in Belgium; I asked them how their situation was and if there was anything we as outsiders could do to help. I was disappointed to learn that their struggle was indeed serious, but even more disappointed when they told me they weren’t sure how I could help.
Is a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics a good idea or not? There are many in the LGBT community who now want nothing to do with Russia, but I think the significant media attention focused on Putin and his regime is a good thing.
Maybe the next Olympics should be in Iran, or Mauritania, or Belize, or Papua New Guinea – any of the 76 countries where anti-gay laws are as bad or worse than Russia’s. Maybe global support for LGBT rights could be truly rallied.
Reflecting on the successes of the NOH8 campaign, I think about how important simple visibility of our LGBT community is. I hope that as Mr Gay Europe I can contribute to this visibility in a positive light. I surly take my hat off to anyone rallying for this cause, especially in countries and cultures where we remain invisible. To those brave few, thank you.
Mr Gay Europe 2013
Have a look at Robbies NOH8 photo session here: