What can you do when your homeland and your people — family, neighbors, colleagues, religious and educational institutions, judiciary, police, and the feared and uncontrollable extrajudicial gangs — despise who and what you are? When you’ve been subjected to — or at any moment may face — severe torture, forcible removal from everyone and everything you hold dear … and even an unquick death?
We in the West are now hearing dreadful stories of our people being abducted and tortured, or tortured in their own homes, or subjected to the horrors of “corrective rape” (that’s when a gang of men rape a woman so that she will throw down that disgusting lesbian life, and assume the mantle of “model hetero life” afterwards).
Or those of us who “just” suffer a life of constant vigilance required in an existence replete with almost endless harassment and constant fear, and the accompanying accumulation of wounds, physical and otherwise?
We know our people must get out, but how?
Rainbow Railroad, or RR, provides an important possible escape route. Rainbow Railroad is a dynamic nonprofit entity, begun in 2006 by queer Canadians. Rainbow Railroad’s sole purpose? To rescue queer people from life-threatening homophobia in their home countries and move them to more life-affirming nations. Over 700 people have been relocated since the group’s inception.
Rainbow Railroad is modeled on the Underground Railroad of 19th century United States. Historians estimate that up to 100,000 individuals fled Southern slavery for the North. Unsurprisingly, Canada was the destination for many passengers then, as it is today. Visit RR’s website for more information: rainbowrailroad.org.
Rainbow Railroad has extracted people from countries such as Chechnya, Syria and Barbados, and settled people into places like Canada, England and Belgium. Because of the difficulties dealing with the United States in the Trump era, we are not an RR destination. Hopefully, this will change under Biden.
A careful vetting process exists, and once someone is selected, a group of dedicated individuals works in almost spy-novel fashion to get them out. Among other things, this means paperwork for various national entrances, verified transportation methods, back-channel government assists, way-station safe houses, and and other methods not discussed due to necessary secrecy.
Understandably, it costs about $10,000 for one person to be extracted and placed. Then, the mundane costs associated with building a life kick in, like housing, food, job search, and papers.
Rainbow Railroad is currently running a campaign called #60in60, where they pledge to rescue 60 people in 60 days, beginning on the first of November. #60in60 believes that the LGBTQ+ community and supporters will raise the $600,000+ needed to get our people out from their life-threatening horrors and move them to countries where they can breathe.
Unfortunately, over 1,300 people so far this year have applied to Rainbow Railroad for help. And we will undoubtedly see more people willing to leave everything and become refugees.
It’s true, we make LGBTQ history each day we live our lives, and Rainbow Railroad is history in the making.
Myself? I’ve lived as openly queer for over 40 years. As a result, I have been lucky. Lucky to be part of some amazing and important things. Today, I’m lucky to have this pulpit. And I am phenomenally lucky I was not born in any country I’d need extraction from. So, I do one pure thing this holiday season: help rescue one of us from dangers and death.
You know what comes next: I’m asking everyone to consider donating. Even living on a fixed income, I burn to be part of this history-making. Hence, my donation; and my household is doing additional fundraising.
Please consider making a donation Rainbow Railroad’s #60in60 Campaign, no matter the size. The recent elections proved that any donation, no matter how small, can make a big difference.
Here is a chance to make history. Why would you not grab it?