Lesbian activist declines Queen’s MBE honour

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

An LGBT rights activist has told the UK’s Queen that she’s not interested in being honoured by her or her empire.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, who is of Ghanian decent, was among more than 1,000 people awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

She has, however, declined the accolade because, as “a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values.”

While Opoku-Gyimah said that awards are an acknowledgement of hard work and may help in future efforts, this is not one she will accept as she does not want to be a “Member of the British Empire”.

“I don’t believe in empire. I don’t believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists,” she told Diva magazine.

“I’m honoured and grateful, but I have to say no thank you.”

Opoku-Gyimah is the founder of UK Black Pride and a trustee of the UK’s Stonewall LGBT rights group.

Thirty-nine of the 53 nations in the Commonwealth currently have anti-homosexuality laws on their books, almost all introduced by Britain during the colonial era.

In a November 2015 report, Michael Kirby, former judge of the Australian High Court and member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, argued, however, that this is no excuse.

He said that “most Commonwealth countries have been independent for 50 years and the responsibility is theirs alone.”

Kirby pointed out that anti-gay laws in these nations have largely remained unchanged and three recent decisions in supreme courts in India, Singapore and Malaysia “have actually set the cause of reform backwards.”

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