An open letter from the Most Rev. Dr. Desmond Tutu appears in the November 2010 issue of Essence, as well as the magazine's website, asking people in the U.S., in Africa, and around the world to stop the bullying, violence, and in some cases murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. GLAAD worked with both Dr. Tutu and Essence to deliver his message of peace and love. The celebrated human rights activist and former Anglican Archbishop from South Africa wrote:
Today I pray for people in Africa and throughout the world who long for freedom because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It grieves me to be retiring at this crucial moment in history, so I write to you in this open letter, to invite you to pick up the work that remains to be done. More than 70 countries still imprison or execute gay and transgender people, and bullying and murders are all too common. This must change.
Boldly, I urge all faith leaders and politicians to stop persecuting people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Every day people live in fear because of who they love. We are talking about our family members, our flesh and blood, our humanity. LGBT people are in our villages, towns, cities, countries -- and our whole world.
Dr. Tutu's call for change and acceptance comes at a crucial point in many nations. In Uganda, a local newspaper has been running names and photos of gay and lesbian locals, as part of what the editor has called 'a war against homosexuality.' While Americans are in the midst of a long-overdue national dialogue about anti-gay bullying, and the harm it can cause - much of the blame for the anti-gay sentiment in Uganda can be directed at American anti-gay religious activists. Dr. Tutu says these attitudes have no place among true people of faith.
In South African churches we have sung, "Oh freedom! Freedom is coming, oh yes, I know." We sang this chorus at the lowest points of our journey toward freedom against the racist and colonialist system of apartheid, and we still sing it to this day. Freedom is coming -- and those of us who have freedom must speak out for those whose freedom is under attack. We can and must make a difference.
We applaud Dr. Tutu for his message, and we thank Essence for sharing it with the world.