Welcome to the project and to the ride! For my first post, I wanted to provide visitors to the website with an explanation about what motivated me to go on this adventure.
I got the idea for this insanity when I was working at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. I wanted to do something that would be as much of a physical challenge as it was a mental challenge, as well as something that would teach me new skills in areas that I find useful but intimidating, such as fundraising, website design, and social media. Most importantly, I wanted to stand up for something I believe in: namely, that LGBT rights are human rights and that a fundamental component of human dignity is for individuals to be free to express their sexuality and gender identity in a way that is personally fulfilling. While in South Africa, I have been deeply moved by stories of corrective rape, of harassment and imprisonment, and of the murder of activists like David Kato in Uganda, who have been killed for advocating their beliefs.
It’s a project that terrifies me for a number of reasons. My biggest doubt is whether it is appropriate for me, a white foreigner, to raise awareness about the state of LGBT rights in Africa. Throughout my travels, I have found that people with good intentions can do more harm than good when they do not fully understand the complex cultural and political background of a foreign environment. But conversely, I have also found that foreigners are sometimes granted access to spaces that are difficult for local residents to inhabit, perhaps because people are more forgiving of mistakes when they are committed by an outsider. And in the case of LGBT rights in Africa, foreigners are far less likely to be persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I hope that the structure of the project is able to make use of some of advantages of being a foreigner, while avoiding some of the pitfalls of having that status. My goal for the project is not to create policy, but to connect: to serve as a liaison between donors and nonprofits, and to allow those organizations to communicate with each other more effectively.
I have been fortunate to receive incredible support for the project from my colleagues at the Constitutional Court and I’m confident that we have put together a strong team full of energy and vision. But the project is ultimately an experiment—which is also what makes it terrifying. There is the possibility of failure, the possibility of causing offense, the possibility of being ineffective. Despite these concerns, I am buoyed up by an exhortation from one of my favorite professors in law school, who commanded his students to stop thinking of themselves as consumers of ideas and start seeing themselves as producers. There is something both nervewracking and invaluable about exposing your ideas to the world, facing criticism for those ideas, and learning from your mistakes. Ultimately, that challenge is the goal and motivation for the bike ride and the project.
I hope you’ll join me over the next few months on what promises to be a wild ride.