Going half way with gays

SATURDAY, 26 JUNE 2010 02:14 – DAILY MIRROR, Sri Lanka

By Indika Sri Aravinda

The government said yesterday it was prepared to talk to the Sri Lanka’s gay community, which called for equal rights, but would not take any decision which might damage the Sri Lankan culture.

Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratna said gays and gay marriages were accepted in some western countries but the community here must explain what they meant by equal rights.

The government could then consider its request.

“It is not wrong for them to seek of equal rights. They must tell us what they mean when they speak of such rights. We can then take a decision based on whether the granting of such a request will damage our culture,” the prime minister said.

Last Sunday Sri Lanka’s gay community called for equal rights and urged the authorities to emulate India, which had removed restrictions placed on the gay community in New Delhi last year.

Equal Grounds Executive Director Rozanne Flamer Caldera, speaking at a fashion show organized by Sri Lanka’s gay community said all people must be treated as equals whether they were gay or straight.

Equal Grounds represents Sri Lanka’s gay community and the fashion show held at the Galadari Hotel saw gay and straight people on the stage portraying equality. Several prominent personalities including diplomats were present at the occasion.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S SPEECH AT OPENING OF COLOMBO PRIDE 2010

Here is the speech made by EQUAL GROUND’s Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-Caldera at RAINBOW RUNWAY marking the launch of Colombo PRIDE 2010:

Happy PRIDE everybody!

We are all here today to do one thing: celebrate.

Colombo Pride 2010 is not just a celebration of Gay Pride; it is a festival of equality, diversity and dignity.

Today, we want to celebrate our lives, our loves and most of all – who we are.

We do not want to be in closets anymore.  We shouldn’t have to be in closets to begin with!

So welcome everyone, to Rainbow Runway!

This is no ordinary fashion show Ladies and Gentlemen.  It is a show that you will remember for a long while.  It epitomizes the diversity of the community that celebrates PRIDE this month.

It focuses on the fusion of straight and gay, haute couture and street wear, and the solidarity and camaraderie of the various sexual orientations and gender identities that are represented on this stage this evening.

I am so proud of everyone who has given of their time to do this show today!

The number of participants, volunteers and sponsors has increased significantly over the years.

This is proof that individuals have begun to embrace their sexual orientations as well as others’ and have finally made the move to stamp shame out of their lives.

I would like to mention here that this show is entirely voluntary – the cast and crew have given us an unimaginable amount of support and on behalf of EQUAL GROUND I want to extend my sincerest thanks to all of them.

We celebrate Pride globally today.

It all started as a commemoration and an acknowledgment to the brave men and women who galvanized the gay revolution in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York.

Since then the Gay liberation Movement has gained in strength worldwide.

The Pride Movement in South Asia has been gathering momentum, and open support for it   is growing and developing.

Last year, India decriminalized homosexuality, in a move that was labeled “India’s Stonewall”.

It is time that Sri Lanka emulated India. We need to move forward.

We have endured criminalization and discrimination for over a hundred years in this country.   The time is right to end this.  It is time for all of us, gay or straight, to move forward as free and proud citizens of this country and live in peace and harmony.

At EQUAL GROUND, we believe it is essential to recognize all our struggles as an oppressed people.

We believe that being different gives us an inter-connectedness.

Being different is beautiful.  Diversity is good and necessary.  We need to embrace that, and embrace our existence.

EQUAL GROUND is first and foremost a Human Rights organization working towards equality for all sexual orientations and gender identities in Sri Lanka.

We are not only hair dressers and drag queens, we are also doctors, journalists, artists, lawyers, accountants, nurses….we are everywhere and anywhere and we, EQUAL GROUND continue to strongly advocate on behalf of all of us and mainly the mostly invisible Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community of Sri Lanka.

Over the years, we have been marginalized and cornered. This is our adverse reality. But we have still risen from the discrimination that people have tried to engulf us in. We have surfaced from repeated prejudices and unjust intolerance, and for this, I am proud.

Proud of all the many Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals and Transgenders all over the world and especially in this country, who have dedicated and at times, given their lives to ensure that all people are treated equally for who they are.

We are too determined to give up our fight for equality and acceptance. I want to inspire you, and encourage you to recognize yourselves.

Embrace your uniqueness.  Embrace your sexuality.  Embrace diversity.   Be proud of who you are, whatever your sexual orientation may be.

You do not have to be granted permission to live your life the way you want to, or make the choices you want to. YOU are in control of your life. This is what you must celebrate.

Once again, I would like to thank all those who have been involved in all the activities for Colombo PRIDE 2010.

The support you have given us means more than you would ever know. I would also like to thank our generous sponsors, our Trustees and our staff and you, our audience, thank you for being here to celebrate with us.

In conclusion I will say only one more thing – Closets are for clothes. Step out. Be Proud.

Happy Pride everyone and please, make some noise, and enjoy the show!