Homophobia is endemic to impoverished places. Look at U.S. slums and the portions of America that are awash in paucity or crime. Privation is often combined with a lack of education and a dearth of cultural diversity as well. In short: Poor people often blame the rich, educated “other” for their miserable lot.
And why not? Oftentimes they’re right. The rich generally take advantage of the poor. And who’s the worst of the worst? Fags and dykes, of course. According to the Right’s rhetoric, not only are we rich and powerful, we’re also devoid of morality and want to overthrow the very bedrock of civilization.
While the enlightened realize that LGBT people hold no particular abuse or animus toward impoverished people (how many millions of LGBT people are in the throngs of the disenfranchised?), it makes it easier to understand why queer people suffer so greatly in ghettos, third world countries, dictatorships, theocracies and communist regimes.
Therefore, if poverty (coupled with a lack of understanding often stemming from having no modern education or democratized social system) is a primary source of homophobia, then we privileged homos in the developed world actually have the ability to help stamp out discrimination by making financial choices that employ, enrich, educate and empower the very people who would otherwise suffer and be more likely swayed by homophobic ideology.
If you are not aware of it, consider familiarizing yourself with products and groups that are certified “Fairtrade.”
The international bodies that certify products and organizations have created rigorous protocols that place exacting standards on those goods and groups seeking their approval. Just as food certified “Organic” must meet stringent requirements, so too must those items or organizations deemed Fairtrade.
The international granting bodies have also developed methods for monitoring and evaluating suppliers, so that abuses cannot infiltrate the brand once approval has been given. When you see the Fairtrade mark, you can be confident that your purchase will be supporting a better future for the entire planet.
How? The overarching principles of Fairtrade touch on many layers of interconnection between economics, politics and environmental issues. Fairtrade requires that providers and producers (e.g. farmers, laborers, etc.) be adequately paid to cover not only their cost of production, but also enough profit to facilitate social development (e.g. education, healthcare, etc.). Fairtrade adamantly opposes child labor and slavery.
Fairtrade products are created within a clean environment with safe conditions where workers are granted the right to form unions. Fairtrade products must be made with environmental protection and preservation in mind. Fairtrade demands that all this together create sustainability.
These combined standards mean that Fairtrade, by way of ethical economic practices, increases the independence of workers by improving their standard of living, and thereby reduces local and regional political conflicts by supporting patterns of economic, social and environmental responsibility.
Support of Fairtrade products and organizations directly improves the lives of people in poor nations. That encourages more education and dialogue. Dialogue introduces people to new ideas from people of divergent backgrounds. Familiarity removes the fear of others. Fairtrade is therefore indirectly creating a situation where homophobic discrimination will eventually be rooted out, along with poverty, disease, political upheaval and environmental destruction.
So, what you buy can not only help bring equality to LGBT people in the third world, it can also contribute to improved worldwide environmental stewardship and the expansion of democracy.
Another example of making ethical economic choices is tied to war diamonds, popularly called blood diamonds after the release of the major motion picture of the same name. Just as choosing to purchase Fairtrade products improves the sustainability and stability of third world economies, choosing to not purchase war diamonds has a similar effect.
War diamonds come, for the most part, out of African nations governed by rabidly homophobic war lords who are responsible for some of the most inhumane actions imaginable. Everyone should avoid buying diamonds from Angola, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), but LGBT people in particular should know where their diamonds come from.
There are international policies in place that have helped lower war diamonds from about four percent of the world’s supply in the 1990s to about one percent in 2007. The Kimberley Process was developed by African governments to account for the diamonds that leave the continent; however, this process is not always monitored thoroughly enough.
Extensive diamond mines in Canada were discovered about 10 years ago, and all diamonds registered by CANADAMARK can be traced back to the mine from which they were hewn. In buying only Canadian stones LGBT people can know for certain that their diamond purchases are not funding attacks on gays and lesbians in Africa.
Diamonds that fund violence are called conflict diamonds. Purchasers and retailers who make donations to Global Witness, Amnesty International, the Red Cross or other charities to offset the effects of violence (because they cannot account for a diamond’s origin) trade in conflict-neutral diamonds. Gems such as those registered through CANADAMARK are called conflict-free diamonds.
Jack Kirven holds an MFA in Dance from UCLA and was nationally certified in personal fitness training through NASM for six years.
— Q-Notes’ “Health and Wellness” column rotates between physical fitness, spirituality, green living and medical wellness.