Shuffling through my iPod again, I am reminded that no entertainer in the history of music had as much flair, was as much of a divo, as the late Wladziu Valentino Liberace, better known throughout the world – or at least a fair part of the world – simply as Liberace.
Liberace was a singer and TV personality, of course, one whose sexuality was –and will probably forever be – more ambiguous than the exact recipe of Nutella.
True: Liberace may have hid his sexuality for fear of a backlash.
Also true: Unlike Liberace’s native United States, gay rights are universally accepted by the Swedish government and most of society, and are vigorously defended.
Such a subject can be very controversial in different parts of the world – from countries where the death penalty is mandatory for those who engage in homosexual behavior to those where gay marriage is legal – but in Sweden the controversy is largely a thing of the past.
Though some people may not agree with such equality, it’s a fact of life students should be aware about before coming to study.
That being said, many individuals have called gay rights the most important civil rights issue of our time. While there are many different ways to measure it, it’s clear that some countries are ahead of others on the issue. And here, people should focus their odium* on something else, though it’s best if they don’t have any.
*Odium (oh-dee-uh m): intense hatred or dislike, especially toward a person or thing regarded as contemptible, despicable, or repugnant.
I’m not saying don’t come to Sweden if you disagree with such equality. Just be aware that it’s the cultural norm, and that affronts to equality are taken VERY seriously. You have the right to express your views, but it’s not O.K. to infringe upon the rights of others.
And if you’re part of a group that’s been historically victimized, let me say this: welcome to paradise. I promise your beliefs and lifestyle choices will be protected, and you will be valued and respected as a human being no matter what.
Personally, I think such equality is beyond refreshing. Life is stressful enough as it is: no one should have to live in fear just because of who they are. I applaud the Swedish government and the Swedish people for being so committed to human rights, and as a student you’ll get to see the result of those rights exhibited first-hand in a dynamic, multicultural setting.
In sum: Swedes are among the most modern, tolerant people on earth, with minority rights seen as extremely important. LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) students are highly unlikely to encounter offensive behavior or other problems during their stay.
As Lady Gaga might say, why can’t we all be born this way?