These days the issues I have to deal with as the owner of Mr Gay Europe has really set things into perspective for me.
The horrible news coming to us from Chechnya, where the leaders now claim that no gays are hunted down and put into concentration camps because there are no gays in the country, shows us once again that the fight for our rights is far from at the end.
I met the same type of argument when sitting across the table with the leading Imam of Norway. He was the leader of Islamsk Råd (Islamic Board) of Norway, I was at that time the leader of the gay network of Norway’s Sosialistisk Venstreparti (Socialist Leftwing party) and the meeting took place in one of the meeting rooms of the Norwegian Parliament. The talk had been initiated by one of the Muslim members of Parliament.
I am not sure who was the most nervous prior to the meeting. I was meeting the leader of most of the Muslims in Norway, including those who think stoning gay people is morally justifiable; he was meeting on of the morally corrupt left wing puffs in Norway.
He arrived with a small group of followers and advisers, in a sharp pink (!) shirts. Prior to that meeting members of the organization had told the press that “no gay people were harassed amongst them since there were no gay people among them.”
The talk was good and constructive, I told him that in fact I knew quite a few gay Muslims, he admitted that of course the organization was aware there existed gay Muslims and it even got the point where I pointed out that the colour of his shirt was in fact the “gay colour”. He asked why, and when I told him about the pink triangles used in the Nazi concentration camps, it seemed that it came to a sort of starting enlightenment.
I don’t know how much it would actually help to talk to the politicians of Chechnya, it seems that they have a long way to go. That does not mean we should give up the fight, there will be more sad and horrible stories from around the world, but the fight will go on.
When reading about the conditions in Chechnya I got another matter on my table. I was told there were some pictures taken that were scandalous. Looking into the matter I found that Stuart Hutton, our Managing Director, and Joni, Mr Gay England and at the moment our 1st Runner up had been assigned to a photo session to take photos that were going to be used in a gay rights campaign. So far so good, there was only one hatch, the guys did not have a lot of clothes on during the photo session and motives showed passion, love etc.
It was a kind of photo session I would never have taken part in myself. I am too shy and as the owner of the competition it wouldn’t be right. Stuart – who is a former delegate, works voluntarily for the organisation like the rest of us – and Joni know each other well as friends. When asked to do the photo session they did not really have any second thoughts, it was for a good cause, and the guys were comfortable in each other’s company.
Mr Gay Europe is a voluntary organisation, we are one big family and the MGE team knows each other well. Anyone suggesting that there has been something going on between Stuart and Joni that is not professional, appropriate or immoral is shooting at sparrows with nuclear weapons.
But Joni is the first runner up, someone told me. Well, we do have an excellent title-holder who is doing his job and as far as I know does not have any plans to step down, the next MGE competition is only a few weeks away and since Joni wanted to do this photo shoot I don’t see any reason to stop him from that.
What will people think? Well, I don’t give a damn, and honestly I think we all should be better at that – not caring too much about what other thinks. We have been too afraid for too long, worrying what other would think, thinking the worst – honestly; doesn’t that only tell us more about those “thinking the worst” than about those been thought about?
Again, this is not a photo session I would take part in myself, but as long as Stuart and Joni are comfortable about the photo session I don’t see any reason why others should be stressed out about it. At MGE we build our work and relationships on trust and respect, should you break this trust or respect, well, than that is a whole other story – something one or two people out there have a personal experience with.
And listen, if we were to worry about a photo session between two grown-up men or detentions of gay men in Chechnya I know where my priorities lie – what about you?
MGE will follow up on the situation in Chechnya – to not speak up and to just be silent would be the biggest crime against the fight for gay and human rights. And for those of you who was awake during the history lessons at school; this was how it all started some 70 – 80 years ago; I encourage all to get our priorities straight – now it is about time to act on matters that really, really count.