"I was treated different because I was Aboriginal. We’re going to go treat gay and lesbian people differently? For why?"
~ Aboriginal elder, Harold Hunt. Recipient of the Order of Australia Medal.
From the UN: The UN’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Vitit Muntarbhorn, presented his first report to the General Assembly in New York. In his speech, Muntarbhorn warned that around the world LGBT people “suffer a crucible of egregious violations” and said “immediate action” is needed to stop this global crisis. His report, titled “Embrace diversity and energize humanity”, offers this promise:
“[R]espect for human rights energizes human society, yielding a positive dividend in terms of peace, sustainable development and societal inclusiveness. It also contributes to economic benefits, while reinforcing a sense of common humanity transcending borders and cultures.”
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) held a press conference to express “deep concern” over the mass arrests, humiliation, and abuseof people suspected of being LGBT in Azerbaijan, Egypt, and Indonesia. The OHCHR called upon governments to take immediate action to release those detained and to drop charges based on “vaguely worded and discriminatory laws”.
UNAIDS Brazil announced the launch of Olhar para a Igualdade, a Portuguese version of Equal Eyes on our World. UNAIDS Brazil Director Georgiana Braga-Orillard said it will be an informative way to facilitate Portuguese speakers seeking information while working towards zero discrimination and access to health care.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: The head of the Russian Federal AIDS Center, Vadim Pokrovskiy, continued to call attention to Russia's escalating AIDS epidemic that saw over 100,000 new infections in 2016. Pokrovsky and other experts say homophobia, a “negative view” of drug users, and a refusal by officials to admit there is a problem prevents the country from uptaking prevention and treatment policies.
The Malaysian AIDS Council spoke out against “fear-mongering” by local press and officials against LGBT people. The group warned that homophobic and transphobic language prevents vulnerable people from seeking HIV-related services and will undermine community friendly efforts to improve treatment nationwide.
In the US, when asked about Georgia’s high rate of HIV infections, state representative Betty Price suggested that HIV-positive people could be quarantined. Although Price later said her comments were taken out of context, Murray Penner, executive director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, said the "abhorrent" comments damage efforts to improve access to care.
New research has examined the high HIV prevalence among transgender people across the world. Researchers noted that trans people are burdened with a range of intersecting psychosocial factors that prevent them from having access to health care and increase their vulnerability to HIV, especially in resource-poor countries.
A Canadian team announced that the multilingual HIV self-testing app “HIVSmart!” will be introduced to 60 UNAIDS Fast Track Cities all over the world. The app aims to circumvent the stigma and discrimination that prevents many from seeking care. And UNAIDS announced the app Life4me+ is available in 156 countries and 6 languages to help people manage their HIV care.
The European AIDS Clinical Society announced new guidelines recommending gay and bisexual men up to age 40 should be vaccinated for HPV.
Thirteen leading UK psychological groups, including NHS England and NHS Scotland, published a memorandum against conversion therapy for gender identity and sexual orientation, including asexuality. And in response to a Buzzfeed exposé on electric shock therapy, the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a historic statement acknowledging the use of extreme aversion therapy practices for gay-cure treatments carried out as late as the 1970s. Apologizing for the “damage” caused by “wholly unethical” care, the statement adds:
“We can’t rewrite history, but what we can do is make it clear that today our doors are open and that principles of equality and diversity will be passionately upheld.”
The World Medical Association added to the voices calling for the end of forced anal examinations practiced on people accused of homosexuality.
The Asia and Pacific Transgender Network, in collaboration with the UNDP and PEPFAR, launched the Asia Pacific Trans Health Blueprint—a reference document for community advocates, health professionals, and policymakers to improve health initiatives and rights for trans people across the region.
The Swedish government announced a new in-depth study on the mental health of Swedish trans people with targeted efforts to decrease suicide among youth. In the US, a social worker is suing her employer, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, for refusing to pay for her transgender teen’s transition-related medical care. Her son, Pax, described his experiences and noted: “[PeaceHealth] was treating essential treatment as something frivolous.”
From the World of Politics: The Egyptian Parliament is considering a new law that criminalizes homosexuality and those who support LGBTQ rights. The law calls for a prison sentence of no less than one year for “engaging” in homosexuality, calling for acceptance of homosexuality, advertising LGBT events, and carrying or producing “any symbol or sign of the LGBTQ community”.
African activists fear anti-LGBT rhetoric and legislation in the US will impact their work at home. In the UK House of Commons, politicians across parties echoed those concerns. They urged the UK to work with like-minded countries to fill the “vacuum” to address global LGBT equality.
Although US state and federal governments have continued to bring forward anti-LGBT legislation, a new report from the Human Rights Campaign found that many municipalities have advanced LGBT equality with inclusive policies and practices at the city-level. Meanwhile, the US Federal District Court of the District of Columbia temporarily blocked the transgender military ban.
As Costa Rica’s campaign season gets underway for the 2018 elections, two presidential candidates have promised to include LGBT issues in their platforms. Also, the new progressive party Vamos (“Let’s go”) has put a focus on LGBT equalityand is supporting the first transgender candidate for Congress.
In Uruguay, Michelle Suárez, the country’s first transgender lawyer has taken up office as the first trans person elected to the legislature.
The Politics of Union: Lithuania’s Parliament adopted “the Law on Strengthening Families” which defines the family as “a free agreement between a man and a woman”. The law is intended to help establish new family-related policies. However, the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL objected to the new definition and noted that all Lithuanian families should be acknowledged regardless of marital status.
As Romania prepares for a referendum to amend the constitution to redefine marriage as between one man and one woman, hundreds rallied to support legalizing civil partnerships for straight and gay couples. Activists say an amendment will undo decades of equality efforts in the country.
Australia’s postal survey on marriage equality is coming to a close. Although the results will not be revealed until November 15th, many are still debating the worth of the non-binding survey, including health experts who warn that discriminatory rhetoric is damaging to youth.
From the Channel Island of Alderney, politicians backed new draft legislation to approve marriage equality. In India, experts submitted a draft of the Uniform Civil Code to the Law Commission of India that includes marriage equality and adoption rights. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Panama has reportedly drafted a rulingrejecting same-sex marriage.
Fear and Loathing: Tanzanian authorities arrested 12 human rights defenders during a meeting to discuss obstruction of access to certain health services. Officials claimed they were ‘promoting homosexuality’. This is the second raid on a meeting regarding HIV in the last month.
A Russian man became the first to speak publicly about the extreme abuse he experienced after being abducted and taken to police as part of Chechnya’s round up of suspected gay men. And correspondent Declan Cooley spoke to some of the Nigerians who were arrested and charged with ‘gay activities’ this summer.
As state officials in many parts of the world continue to target LGBT people, journalist Max Bearak described the “rising global tide” of "purges" and arrests, many of which appear to follow the same sequence of events. Meanwhile, Burundi policeannounced a “hunt” for gay people. In Belarus, eyewitnesses say police raided clubs and recorded the names of suspected gay people. And in Tajikistan, an official journal from the Prosecutor-General’s office said that, to protect youth, authorities have created a ‘registry’ of over 300 LGBT people.
In the UK, some activists are struggling to reconcile the feminist and transgendermovements. Efforts intended to include trans, intersex, and other non-binary people that remove gendered words from discourse—such as “pregnant people” in place of “expectant mothers”—are considered by some as moves to erase women. A recent incident in Canada highlighted another aspect of the debate when a female-only spa’s “no male genitals” policy sparked social media outcry.
In an op-ed, Mawethu Nkosana Nkolomba, a researcher at the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), explored the importance of including trans and nonbinary people in gender-based violence research and urged activists, civil society, and policymakers to continue to “make space for difficult conversations”.
Meanwhile, Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt urged people to recognize common ground between the movements, noting:
“We live in a society where, unfortunately, women’s safety isn’t guaranteed. But trans people are not to blame for this, and often they are at risk themselves. They cannot be made the scapegoats, or the distraction from the real issue. Granting them rights does not give violent men permission to be violent.”
Winds of Change: The wave of allegations against US entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked a tsunami on social media as women reached out to join the chorus of #MeToo’s and bring attention to an epidemic of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Bisexual, trans, queer women, and gay and bisexual men have added their voices to expose the unique and shared pressures the LGBTQ community faces in situations of sexual assault.
Albanian gay rights activist Kristi Pinderi described his experience co-founding LGBT organizations. Romanian journalist and founding editor of Brrlog, Gabriel Sandu spoke about the challenges of introducing LGBT issues to the public. And India’s first transgender judge, Joyita Mondal, wants to help more transgender people find work in government to escape social discrimination and become independent.
From the Philippines, celebrity couple Aiza Seguerra and Liz Diño talked about working to create a “new normal” where LGBTQI are not seen as unusual. And to celebrate LGBTQ History Month the Human Rights Campaign highlighted the work of activists in Iran, India, Croatia, China, and Georgia.
Intersex Awareness Day on 26 October offered an opportunity to reflect on the progress made in spreading awareness of intersex issues.
Kosovo held its first ever Pride parade during a week of events supporting the LGBTI community. And for the first time in South Africa, the mayor of Tshwane delivered a keynote speech at Pretoria Pride parade urging African leaders to “wake up”.
School Days: Paraguay’s Ministry of Education announced a ban on any material on “gender ideology” in public schools, saying the government recognizes “traditional values” and the “traditional family”.
In Uganda, the Ministry of Health refused to endorse new sex education guidelines developed by the country’s reproductive health division, stating that the guidelines would encourage promiscuity. Meanwhile, Namibian religious leaders are objectioning to the Ministry of Education’s plan to adopt the Life Skills curriculum which includes comprehensive sexual education. The Ministry says all information will be age appropriate, though adds that it covers sensitive topics such as sexual health, incest, and rape.
A Brazilian student was suspended and refused re-enrollment next year for objecting to her University’s ban on sex education, 'gender ideology', and LGBT activism in the classroom. And from the UK, Emily Bashforth wrote about how inclusive sex education will create a safer environment for LGBTQ+ youth in schools and communities.
Business and Technology: From India, authors of the Standards of Conduct for Business argue that the private sector could be a catalyst for change by embracing LGBTI human rights. From South Africa, writer Kholekile Mnisi argued that African countries that ignore institutionalized discrimination and homophobia are missing out on the economic benefits enjoyed by countries that have embraced “Pink Capitalism”.
In South Africa, the first network to support LGBT+ professionals was launched in Johannesburg. Called “The Forum”, it hopes to improve equality while attracting more talent to the country.
In the US, 76 leading companies filed a brief to urge the Supreme Court to consider the case of a woman who suffered discrimination at work due to her sexual orientation and gender expression, saying that LGBT discrimination impacts their ability to do business. Meanwhile, prominent chefs and restaurant owners joined a brief asking the Supreme Court to rule against a baker who argued that the right to discriminate against gay couples should be protected by freedom of expression.
Sports and Culture: In Taiwan, hundreds attended an event commemorating the anniversary of the suicide of the well-known artist, activist and National Taiwan University professor Jacques Picoux. Many believe Picoux, who had been unable to marry his partner of 35-years, renewed the country's push for marriage equality when he died.
In Lebanon, a university held the first 'queer fashion show' showcasing gender fluidity and gender equality. The first Indian plus-sized transgender model, Mona Varonica Campell, spoke about her experience becoming an ‘overnight sensation’ in India’s fashion scene. Belgian intersex top model Hanne Gaby Odiele talked to Gay Star News about coming out as intersex.
Trans playwright Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile discussed creating Botswana’s only LGBT themed theatre festival. The French film BPM (Beats Per Minute) has earned rave reviews for reflecting on AIDS activist group Act-Up Paris through a queer perspective that doesn’t ignore sexuality.
Finally, check out the sweet short My Heroes about a family on Halloween as their children express themselves in cross-gender costumes.
photo via Taiwan Info/ Twitter