TONIGHT I HAD the privilege of attending a ‘Celebration of Freedom’ for a young man I have supported who has won the right to remain in the UK following a successful appeal against a decision to deny him asylum and return him to a country where being gay can mean imprisonment and even death.
His courage has been amazing and he is an inspiration. It helps to appreciate the freedom we enjoy in the UK to be ourselves and love as we desire, and to remember that many people in many places do not have that freedom. Having struggled to find the freedom to be ourselves and get legal recognition for our rights as a same-sex couple, my partner and I would find it hard to live without this freedom.
The picture above is not mine, and it was not taken today – it is from Liverpool Pride in August 2011. The young man has taken a new name, Zac, and is careful about revealing his identity for fear of unwelcome consequences for himself and his family, hence he stands with his back to the camera. But to see him expressing himself so freely in spite of all he has been through is a joy to behold. And to have walked alongside him for part of his journey is a source of great pride.
At the party tonight I shared a short film showing how much he has grown and changed.
I first met him in January 2010. A few weeks later one of the funders of the LGBT youth group I run asked to interview me and one young person on the difference our service makes. Zac agreed to tell his story, but not to appear on camera.
Six months later another film was made for an anti-homophobia campaign website. Zac agreed to be interviewed again, this time speaking more clearly, openly, bravely, and appearing on camera, though not showing his face. The contrast between the two interviews is impressive.
If you would like to watch the film (4 mins 30 secs) you can view it here:
If you think the fight for LGBT rights is won, remember Zac and millions like him. Don’t take freedom for granted. Remember the words of Martin Luther King:
‘No one is free, until everyone is free.’