The third world met the first world in the back seat of a car somewhere in Toronto a few weeks ago, which should alarm us all.
In that car, two men berated and threatened a gay refugee who had fled from Chechnya to Canada via a secret underground railroad operated by the Liberal government. The Globe learned about the incident and reported it.
Just in case someone is reading this who knows those two men, or anyone like them, please pass this along: If any of you harm any of these new arrivals, the vengeful wrath of the Canadian people and their justice system shall be visited upon you.
This ugly scene reminds us that there are three worlds of tolerance toward sexual minorities, and that these three worlds can inhabit the same physical space, such as the back seat of a car on a Toronto street.
In the first world, people are respected regardless of their sexual orientation. Discrimination is illegal. Same-sex couples enjoy marriage equality. Being gay is not a career impediment in most occupations. Straight people are comfortable being around LGBT people.
This blessed state has only lately arisen and is not uniformly present even in Canada. Sports teams remain bastions of machismo; some people still glare at two men or two women holding hands; sexual minorities who are also racial minorities may face multiple forms of discrimination; there may not be a single openly gay man who bags a moose this year.
But for the first time in our history, sexual minorities can live freely and safely in most parts of Canada and other developed countries. People of all sexualities should be enormously proud of this.
In the second world, sexual minorities are tolerated, but only just. Mostly, this attitude belongs to countries on the cusp between developing and developed status, such as Russia, China and much of Latin America.
Homosexual acts are legal, but discrimination and even violence against sexual minorities are common. A 2015 report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that, over a 15-month period, at least 594 people had been killed because of their sexual orientation or identity in Latin America.
Governments may signal their contempt for homosexuals, such as Russia's law against homosexual "propaganda" and China's recent decisions to ban any depiction of homosexuality from television or the Internet. In the second world, most gay people stay at least partly in the closet.
In the third world, the government is your enemy if you are gay. In 72 countries, same-sex acts are illegal and conviction can lead to public floggings, long prison sentences or, in nine countries, the death penalty.
Third-world societies generally have several things in common: Organized religion – usually Catholicism, evangelical Protestantism or Islam – is powerful and condemns homosexuality. Women and racial minorities are also discriminated against. In most cases, education levels are low and poverty is high.
Both Conservative and Liberal governments have made it a priority to rescue homosexuals from these environments, bringing them to Canada as refugees. For the Harper government, Iran was a priority; for the Trudeau government, the current focus is on Chechnya. Both also made promoting and protecting the rights of sexual minorities a major foreign-policy priority. It is wonderful that Canada is talking this talk and walking this walk.
But inevitably, third-world attitudes toward sexual minorities – and women, and any religion other than their own – arrive with some immigrants. And some of the native-born are badly raised. They may deface mosques and graves, jeer and leer at women, bully gay men.
They are miserable – angry and bewildered by being so badly outside their time and place. They are also dangerous – a threat to those they discriminate against.
If you are a gay Chechen man recently arrived in Canada: Welcome. You have come to a place where you are free to live and love as you please.
But if someone does threaten you, we need you to report the incident to police, because these men are a danger, not just to you, but to us all.
And remember: Even though you have been here only a few weeks, you are far more Canadian than they will ever be.