By Alex Temblador
In the U.S., members of the LGBT community are able to marry and create families with those whom they love. However, with our own struggles in the U.S., it is easy to forget that there are people in the world in which this reality is not so easily attained. A family is not on the minds of many LGBT persons in some countries. Rather many wish to be able to walk freely in their own country without being condemned or punished for who they love. Why? Because in some countries across the world, it is still illegal to be gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or gender non-conforming. This is where #WhereLoveIsIllegal comes in.
Where Love Is Illegal is more than a hash tag. It’s an organization that shares photos and stories of LGBT persons from around the world who have dealt with discrimination, harassment, and many other forms of brutal injustice merely for being who they are. Their most popular platform for sharing these stories is through Instagram (though they have a Facebook, Twitter, & Tumblr too!) where they currently have 111K followers. Each photograph on Instagram is accompanied with a quote from the person in the photograph, along with a short explanation or summary about the person’s personal story and struggle in their own country. The photographs range from single individuals, couples, smiles, tears, hidden faces, and poses or photos that reflect the abuse that these people have endured. Though different, they are all moving in their own way.
In addition to a quote, summary, and photograph, Where Love is Illegal provides a link to their website where the stories of these individuals are sometimes shared in longer forms, from which followers can learn more. They also encourage readers to donate to their cause with donations going to “grassroots LGBT organizations operating #whereloveisillegal.” They are currently donating to three organizations, Hope Alive Initiative in Nigeria, Kuchu Times in Uganda, and PASSOP in South Africa, and the money will be evenly distributed. Additionally, Witness Change and The Fund for Global Human Rights will receive 10 percent of donations. So who is Where Love is Illegal? This organization began as a photo-based project by photographer Robin Hammond who began taking photos of LGBT persons after being “shocked to see the rise of intolerance towards LGBTI communities in some countries.” His first photographs were of five men in Nigeria who were arrested and flogged because they were gay.
Robin shared how hate inspired him to push forward and create this organization: “Homosexuality, I always knew, was frowned upon, but it went from a subject rarely talked about to, in my mind, a very hot and hostile issue. It wasn’t just a bunch of extremists though. Africans who I considered my good friends were not shy about letting me know how “evil” gays were—how if they ever met one, they would beat them.”
After collecting photographs and the stories of these brave people, Robin applied for the Getty Grant for Good and headed out with designer Erin Joy to gather more photographs and stories. Where Love Is Illegal was born.
“I did this work in seven different countries with people of 15 nationalities. Usually I’d work with a local LGBTQI nongovernmental organization. Finding people willing to talk was sometimes a little hard, but, sadly, uncovering stories of discrimination, once I’d found an organization, was very easy,” Robin told National Geographic. Robin began making connections with LGBT groups in other countries and created an online space where “people can share stories of discrimination and survival.” Where Love is Illegal states that what they are doing is “a stand against discrimination, persecution, and violence by people who cannot and will not be anything other than the way they were born–people who refuse to be silenced.”
Where Love Is Illegal and its social media accounts have already produced positive and meaningful results. For instance, they discovered that four men in Nigeria were in prison because they were caught having sex and were facing 14 years in prison. After posting a request for help on their social media accounts, they raised enough money to post bail and find legal representation for the men, who were soon after, set free.
Where Love is Illegal has become a powerful platform for those that are being prosecuted and hurt because of who they are. Their wide-reach and influence on social media has placed it in a position to save lives and to change the future of countries that have made love illegal. However, it is the brave souls that have stood up and shared their stories with thousands across the world on Where Love is Illegal who must not be forgotten. They are true heroes and courageous survivors who have inspired us all to stand together and make a worldwide change.
To share your story on Where Love is Illegal, click here.