Kaleidoscope joins the fight for equality

New London-based advocacy organization is getting a warm welcome from British politicians and the international media

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

As Pride celebrations continue around North Texas, a new London-based LGBT organization is getting off to a sensational start.

Kaleidoscope International Diversity Trust has clearly been in the works for some time; it already has an attractive website, KaleidoscopeTrust.com, with a mission statement, backgrounders, personal stories, donation options and a newsletter free for the asking.

Kaleidoscope — the instrument, not the organization — was named by its 19th century Scottish inventor, Sir David Brewster, who combined three Greek words: kalos = beautiful, eides = form and scopos = watcher.
It seems a fine choice of organizational name, for LGBTs are beautiful in our variety, formed by countless influences, and ever so watchful.

Kaleidoscope — the organization, not the instrument — made BBC World News and thus, the local NPR station very early the next day, when two of its founders were interviewed.

One was an American who works in the United Kingdom, the other a Nigerian who has asylum in the U.K. The interview was brief and quite straightforward, ending with both men acknowledging how far their adopted country has come in terms of LGBT rights and recognitions, but asserting it still has far to go. For while the U.K. recognizes domestic partnerships, the American must fly home to New York to marry his guy, and the Nigerian must fight prejudice against his color and his sexuality.

Yet Kaleidoscope’s welcome by official Britain could scarcely have been warmer.

On Monday, Member of Parliament and Minister for International Development Alan Duncan issued a statement welcoming the Kaleidoscope Trust, labeling it “outrageous that people across the world are still subject to arrest, detention or even death” because they are LGBT, and reminding the world that the U.K. had in March 2011 “published an action plan” aimed at fighting discrimination worldwide.
(Not incidentally, MP Duncan is gay and a Conservative and lists his partner in official biographies.)

That’s not all. Kaleidoscope’s launch merited a House of Commons reception “hosted by Speaker John Bercow MP,” the organization’s honorary president. Plus its director is Lance Price, a prominent journalist who worked both for the BBC and for the Labour government of Tony Blair.

Joining them in praising Kaleidoscope were Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour Party leader Ed Milliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Amazing to hear competitive politicians speaking with one voice. But then Bercow, Cameron, Milliband and many of their colleagues are Oxford “old boys.”

The outlier, Clegg, graduated from Cambridge; perhaps he is allowed into the club because he speaks four languages.

On its website, Kaleidoscope uses a quote from Chinese philosopher Confucius and another from United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, plus a speech Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave to a U.N. panel on decriminalizing homosexuality.

Its theme: “This wave of hate must stop.” And in Britain, MPs, straight media stars and gay rights activists are lining up to support the group.
Far and away the cutest and — if his BBC comments were an indication — the most charming is Bisi Alimi. He studied theater at the University of Lagos until he was expelled for being gay and was the first Nigerian to announce his sexuality on TV, after which his family threw him out, his bosses fired him and many strange people threatened to murder him outright. Now he is studying at an English university and works with a number of human rights/gay rights groups.

By contrast, the most appalling of gay rights activists is London-based “pastor” Rowland Jide Macaulay. For some reason, Kaleidoscope chose to include Macaulay’s essay, “Leave My Father Alone,” on its website.

His main points were that Nigerians should not criticize his father’s love of him, the gay son, and that his father still disapproved of him. Then Macaulay wrote this: “At least we agreed that homosexuals cannot be compared to thieves, prostitutes, drunkards and robbers, but to dwarfs and people with physically (sic) disability.” (Feel free to object online; I did.)

Further, as coverage of the Kaleidoscope kickoff pointed out, “At present, homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries [and] at least five countries — Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania and Sudan — have used the death penalty against gay people.” (I’d say more; think of the treatment of LGBTs on much of Asia’s mainland and on nearby islands.)

In any case, Kaleidoscope has work to do at home and abroad. But the Guardian of London reported that it “intends to leave U.K. gay rights campaigning to the long-established advocacy group Stonewall.”
Stonewallers and other progressives, are we up for the fight? What can we do here in Dallas? Remember: On Jan. 27, 2011, mere hours after his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama proclaimed, “LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights.”

Yes. Sure. But the fight for human rights is ongoing because, as George Orwell knew, some of our fellow humans will always believe that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
We’re among the others.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens