Waking up for San Francisco Pride Parade this year felt like a moment to fully grasp, so I took a mental photo to store in my memory for years to come. The previous day the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage to be legal nationwide, which is why the event felt monumentally different than previous years that I had attended. And this year was even more special because my best friend’s moms drove up to visit us for the parade and celebration. On that day I was a proud citizen.
I was raised with the understanding that we are all equal, but I was always told that the law needed to catch up. So when the law finally did catch up, it felt unreal. It wasn’t until I was walking toward the parade itself that an overwhelming sense of honor and joy enveloped my senses. Everywhere I looked, there were smiling faces, rainbow flags, couples kissing and confetti being thrown—a true celebration of love.
Part of my itinerary was to stop by Melanie Nathan’s booth for The African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) to have a chat about her cause. Nathan was an Individual Community Grand Marshall of San Francisco Pride in 2014 and is the executive director of AHRC. Her campaign on YouCaring, LGBT Relief Fund 7, aims to help LGBTI people in Africa whose lives are dictated by anti-homosexuality laws, draconian penal codes and endemic persecution. Homosexuality is criminalized in 38 African countries and the AHRC provide services that aid individuals looking to reclaim their human rights. Many LGBTI individuals in Africa face the terrifying reality of being exiled as they are often forced out of their villages, fired, expelled, evicted, threatened, blackmailed and even tortured due to their sexuality. The AHRC focuses on securing relief for individuals in these situations while advocating and working to eliminate the stigma attached to homosexuality along the way.
Speaking with Nathan added an even more powerful lesson to my day; although on that day we were celebrating the recognition of same-sex marriage in the U.S., there are still places around the globe where people are fighting for their freedom and equality. She opened my eyes to the true power homophobia has on areas around the world, even mentioning that out of the seven countries that utilize the death penalty to punish homosexuality, four are African countries.
I realized that this newfound pride I was feeling from the Supreme Court decision was indeed epic, but still not enough. There is still a wealth of things to be done in the fight for equality for all, and Nathan is one of the individuals leading the way, promoting her cause, AHRC, directing several advocacy projects as well as being an equality and human rights activist. Visiting her booth sparked a change in my perspective. There is a vast difference between what’s happening locally and what’s happening globally and Nathan reminded me to be more conscious of the world outside of my little bubble. I encourage everyone to do the same! Please consider contributing to this worthy cause.