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DITORIAL

Dear Friends,

It

is my pleasure to introduce to you the first edition of Rainbow News, a publication of EQUAL GROUND. In this issue we strive to give the reader a cross-section of news, events, articles and poetry by the Gay community for the

lnside fhis issue.'

center and a mat weaving center in Batticaloa for 2 of

the

ILGA World Conference

communities

affected by the Tsu-

Adam and Steve

Cay community.

nami. (For those interested in our Tsunami

Contact details

For those of you who are not familliar with EQUAL GROUND and its work, let me begin by giving you, the

efforts, please get in touch with the office for details).

reader, a brief history of the organisation.

In the summer of 2004, a group of friends decided to form an organisation that would represent LGBTIQ persons in Sri Lanka in a manner that would evoke Pride and acceptance both within the LGBTIQ community, as well as society at

large. EQUAL GROUND is the only

organization in Sri Lanka that includes Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals, Tiansgender, Intersex, Questioning and Other (straight, supportive) folks who are interested in an equitable status for all citizens of this country, regardless

of

ethnicity, religion, caste, class, sexual orientation and gender identity. In particular it focuses on issues of inequaliry discrimination and marginalization of LGBTIQ persons across the entire populace ofSri Lanka.

In the almost 2 GROUND

years since

its inception, EQUAL

groundbreaking experiences which were highlighted by the publishing of a booklet entitled Human, has had

Right? and the first-ever Gay Pride event in Sri Lanka (2005). This event included over 300 people of mixed sexual orientations and gender identities coming together in an amazingaffirmation of solidarity to celebrate PRIDE. This was followed by a week long celebration of PRIDE in May 2006, which is the first time an event of this nature was attempted in Sri Lanka. \7e are hrppy to report that it was an enormous succâ‚ŹsS; and we thank our supporters and donors for making this possible.

Much of 2005 was also spent in assisting Tsunami affected persons in the South and the East. In an outpouring of love and solidariry LGBT persons and other supporters donated money to the EQUAL GROUND Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction fund. These funds were used to aid the survivors of the devastating Tsunami of December 2005. As part of this program, we established a sewing

Through our monthly

members meetings, PRIDE, events and our work as a Human fughts organisation, EQUAL GROUND is committed to elevating the status of the LGBTIQ community while simultaneously giving the many disempowered men, women and transgender individuals a sense ofbelonging, a sense ofPride and a sense of ac-

complishment.

Ve hope you will join

us as we stride toward our future

with renewed vigour and commitment to make Sri Lanka a place that we all can live in, devoid of fear, stigmatiza-

tion and discrimination. \With Best \7ishes,

*k,*.

,0.."

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


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We are happy and proud that four of our members represented EQUAL GROUND at the Gay and Out Games in Chicago and Montreal respectively.

Turning out for Track, Badminton and Pool at the Gay Games (July

't5th

- 22'o), Pinto, Amila and Tami did us proud. Rosanna and Manjula presented workshops at the Out Games (29th July 3'd August 2006), while Amila flew our flag high in the

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Badminton event. We are proud of them!

A brief history of the Gay Games

Doctor Tom Waddell, a decathlon competitor at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, conceived this athletic event as an opportunity for gay people to demonstrate to the world that their skills and competitive spirits in sports parallel those of the rest of humanity and to show how "normal" gays tend to be in comparison to the stereotypes. He wanted to replace the obsession to win at all costs with the positive joys of simple participation. These games would require no minimum ability for participation. Winning would be defined as achieving one's personal best. Competition would not stress nationalism or age, and men and women would compete on an equal basis. Tom Waddell felt Nationalism was a unity-breaking concept, so athletes were encouraged to represent their city rather than their country. A group called San Francisco Arts and Athletics (SFAA) was formed. Two years were spent in the planning of this event,

which was to be called GAY OLYMPIC GAMES. Opening ceremonies were planned for August 28, 1982,* and TINA TURNER agreed to perform. Three weeks before the opening, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) obtained and injunction in federal court prohibiting the use of the word "Olympic". The GAY GAMES without the use of the word "Olympic" were held atKezar Stadium in San Francisco on schedule. The Master of Ceremonies was Armistead Maupin, author of "Tales of the City". * Rosanna and Tami were privileged to have witnessed the first Gay Games held

in

San Francisco in August

Doctor Tom Waddell, founder of the Gay Games, died of AIDS on July 11,1987

of 1982


RrrNeow News

Voluue l. Issue I P,qcr 4

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ILGA

2006

At the reccently concluded International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) \World Conference in Geneva (29'h March 03'd April 2006) Rosanna

tested) to the post of Co-Secretary

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Conference opening

Plenary. Mr. Tenzin Samphel Kayta read a message of solidariry from his holiness the Dalai Lama, we haye reproduced that

Rosanna giuing her speech at the Openirug of the 23'r

letter here.

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THE TIBET BUREAU OFFICE OF THE REPRESENTATIVE OF H.H. THE DALA

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MESSAGE

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am pleased to bring you greetings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the occasion of the XXIII World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

His Holiness welcomes the special attention given at this conference to religious tolerance and respect for diversity.

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His Holiness is greatly concerned by reports of violence and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender

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His Holiness opposes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and urges respect, tolerance, and the full recognition of human rights for all.

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Finally, he expresses his best wishes for a successful conference.

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EQUAL CROUND'S newest Trustee, Ameena Hussein, cuttirrg the Birthday cake

Also in the picture are Rosanna, Tanti and lndu.


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The Views expressed by the contributing authors are not necessarily the views of EQUA.L CROUND and are subject to inlerpretation.

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Adam and

Steve

-rinkerbe,-

"l was given a medal of honour for killing two men and a discharge for loving

one" - Oscar Wilde

Picture this. A young couple walking hand -in- hand, exchanging sweet nothings and gazing into each others eyes, as through nothing else in the world mattered. "Ah, young love ...." many would exclam. "How lovely!" Now just take that exact same image and subsitute one of the two partners with one belonging to his / her own sex.

They may as well be volunteering to be burnt at the stake. Numerous allegations would be thrown their way of flaunting their sexuality or promoting lheir' lifestyle. Heterosexuls are free to talk about their spouses or dates. They can wear their wedding rings, display pictures of their loved ones on their desks, kiss good-bye at the airport, include their signficant other in company parties and so on. A gay person who chooses to do the same may be seen as a troublemaker or a radical homosexual out to prove a point.

Lives of gays and lesbians are as varied as the lives of heterosexuals.

Some choose to live in long term - commited relationships; others choose to remain single. Some couples choose to raise children, others do not. Hobbies, Occupations and activities are just as varied as within the heterosexual

population.

or couPtes (gaY all Shoutd "tir,gnO have to disclose

-';;;

to

sexuat Practices to ensttre that the wortd' to the i(s in adherence taw?

What the majority of people mean when they say that homosexual

people should keep their lives private, is that homosexual people

should keep their lives secret. Contrary to popular belief, homosexuals are no more inclined to be consumed with sexual thought or

feelings than their heterosexual counterparts, nor are they attracted

to everyone of the same sex they meet!

So why is there this great cry made by society whenever the issue of homosexuallty is raised? ls it a fear of change, an anger derived from ignorance or is it purely choosing to be in denial of its quite apparent existence?

Don't get me wrong, l'am very God fearing, faithful Catholic and am aware that the church doesn't quite approve of homosexuality. lt's quite ironic through isn't it, how there are so many everyday things that are condemned by


VoLuur Pacn

l.

Issue

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9

the Bible such as the consumption of alcohol, having tattoos done, lying, committing adultery, stealing etc..., that the common man easily overlooks. ls this because society tends to adhere to a type of unwritten rule that enables them to continue certain practices which they deem to be less sinful than others or what?

Call me old fashioned, but I wasn't aware that there were different degrees of sin under God's law. Neither was I aware that the Bible had given the majority the right to use their own discreation to decipher what falls under the category of sinful and what should not. It's either all or nothing if you ask me, so, if one is to interpret the Bible literally, word for word, the choice is all yours. But it's not as easy as you thought huh?

A word to the wise: ln our selective pursult of what we consider righteous, let's not overlook one of the most fundamental values upheld by the Bible - "love your neighbour as yourself". Cliche as it may sound, this is one Commandment that has withstood the test of time, as there's no room for interpretation. lt is as it is. I firmly believe God loves us all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and even SEXUALITY. Jesus spent most of this time with the downtrodden and the outcasts of society (as started in the Bible). He loved each and every one of us for who we were, not what we were.

I should add that most of us are ridden with severe bouts of 'convenient amnesia'. This enables us to remember only certain details and data that best supports our cause.

It's not just about religion, the random

in our country it's also against the law relationships. Section 365 of the Penal participate in homosexual acitivity under partake in unnatural sex.

fi hers

,,il1)EER'.' ' he's

no good

'homophobic' atheist will tell you that to partake in homosexual activity/ Code makes it a criminal offence to the basis that it's an offence to

Ever wondered how many heterosexual couples indulge in 'supposed' unnatural sex? What then? Should all couples (gay or straight) have to disclose their sexual practices to the world, to ensure that it is in adherence to the law? I think not. Then why the double standard?

Does anybody pay any heed to the number of lesbian/gay suicides in our country? Well, maybe it's time we did, cos' each and every one of us 'have blood on our hands'. Why you ask? Because we, the masses make up society at large. We discriminate againest those different from us. We ostracize them from the

rest of society. We virtually drive them to their deaths. i

As kids it's inculcated into our heads that Heterosexuality

= Normal and Homosexuality = Abnormal. Therefore, we grow up in an environment of 'Black or White;'there are no grey areas.

lr I

He might be the most helpful neighbour, the most caring brother, the most duty conscious employee, the most loyal friend or the most loving partner. But, if he's "QUEER" , he's no good.

\,i

!.

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,,li

'/'

1 1

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GAY IRANIAN TEENAGERS REMEMBERED Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in lran on

19 July 2005 for the 'crime' of Homosexuality. The Youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the

city of Mashhad, in north east lran. They were sentenced to death by Court No. 19. lran enforces lslamic Sharia law, which dictates the death penalty for gay sex.

One youth was aged 18, and the other was a minor under the age of 18. They were only identified by their initials, M.A. and A.M. They admitted - probably undertorture, London-based gay human rights group Outrage! suggests - to having gay sex with each other, and that they were not aware that homosexulity was punishable by death.

,:f"'::ffi,t

Prior to their execution, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten wilh 228 lashes.

Demontrations and vigils were organized all over the world on July 19 2006, the first anniversary of the public hanging of the two gay lranian teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni. Groups in Amsterdam, London, Marseille, New York, Provincetown, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Stockholm, Provincetown, Washionton D. C. staged demontrations, vigils, or public events July 19, at the call of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organisation (PGLO). The initative was sponsored by the lnternaiional Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), the lnternational Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the lnternational Gay and teibiun Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Biritish gay rights group OutRage and the Swidish groupTupilak. These demonstrations are intended to help call attention to the homophobic reign of terrior, which the regime in lran is inflicting on its lesbian and gay citizens and as testimony of the soildarity of all gay communities worldwide with their persecuted lranian sisters and brothers.

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Voluus l. Issug Pacs

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1l

LOieA

*loya

After almost ten weeks in Sri Lanka, I am slowly preparing to go home. My time here has been spent doing and seeing some incredible things, and l'm truly grateful for t[e opportunity I had to come and work here. When I arrived on 7 May, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. My time in the Repbulic of Ceorgia as a volunteer and my international development class work in America had not covered the realm of lCAftq issues in development, something I have been interested in for quite some time. So I jumped at the opportunity to intern for the summer with an LCBTIe organization. Now, nine weeks later, I know quite a bit more about LCBTIQ issues in development, as well as life for the LCBTIQ community in Sri Lanka. Something I was completely clueless about before. I am throughly impressed with the passion and dedication of those of you involved in EeUAL CROUND : staff, trustees, members and volunteers. While Pride 2006 was not my first or last here, it will most definitly "*p"ri"n." stand out in my mind as one of the most powerful. I am lucky to live a country that, while not perfect for homosexuls, allows us to live without fear of imprisonment, extortion, or harassment by the police. But even with those threats in Sri Lanka during Pride I witnessed a group of individuals, who were able to celebrate their identities without the shame that society oftentimes inflicts on the LCBTIe community. lt was during this week that I saw the definition of the word community breing truly displayed. I was very pleased to see such a large turn-out at pride events, and was equally as pleased to see that sucess turn into an incresed membership in EQUAL GROUND. Having worked with numerous facets of EeUAL cRoUND, I know that there are many things to look forward to in the future and many ways in which this organization can have an impact not only in the LCBTIQ community, but also in Sri Lankan society at large.

This is a beautiful country with an amazingly diverse landscape and extremly hospitable people. I believe that with time and effort, the goals of organizations like EQUAL GROUND wili be achieved, making it easier for everyone in the LGBTIQ community to enjoy the wonderful things that Sri Lanka has to offer. I Jnticipate hearing of the LcBTIQ community's many sucessses over the upcoming years. Cood luck to all ll!

-Hope Harrison-

For

all Your Rainbow 'PRIDE' Products

T-shirtsoCapsoMugs We can take orders

fi,

ory promo item as well I

E-moil : groycot@sltnet. lk

Mobile: 0722-254348

CICP PRIDr


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EQUVL GROUND

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