"We are a largely religious people, and long may that be celebrated, but each passing decade of this millennium has brought with it a looking glass into a more diverse society — in our views and in our levels of tolerance."
~Royal Gazette op-ed, reflecting on the Bermuda Supreme Court decision for marriage equality
From the UN: Around the world, organizations celebrated the 13th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on 17 May. In recognition of this year's theme, "Love makes a family", the UN showcased a video on the lives of homeless LGBTI youth. In his video message, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said, "Families come in all shapes and sizes … we all have a responsibility to respect and protect one another.” UNAIDS also shared the stories of several LGBTI staff who described "what family means to them".
The UN Free & Equal initiative launched a new campaign called "Culture of Love" that celebrates the role of culture and tradition in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people. With a trilogy of short videos, it is a reminder that:
"Culture and tradition are not fixed: they change over time and are viewed and interpreted differently within societies. There are traditions of hate and repression, just as there are traditions of equality and justice. It's up to each of us to decide for ourselves which ones to carry on. You decide."
The UN Independent Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn submitted his first report to the Human Rights Council on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) with the theme “diversity in humanity, humanity in diversity”. Reflecting that violence and discrimination on SOGI is both local and global, he urged that “strong national and international countermeasures” are needed to promote respect and protect human rights.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights has issued a call to stakeholders, including lesbian, bisexual, and trans women and girls, to join the discussion on the impact of fundamentalism and extremism on the cultural rights of women. Submissions will be accepted through 19 May 2017.
UNAIDS published new research on the HIV epidemic among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in South Africa. Using data gathered between 2013 and 2015, the authors were able to evaluate the treatment cascade and make recommendations of linking men to care.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted half of gay or bisexual black men will become HIV-positive in their lifetime. New research found that although more newly diagnosed HIV-positive men are being linked to care and are accessing antiretroviral treatment, black gay and bisexual men are less likely to be prescribed treatment than their white counterparts.
A study out of the UK found that between 1997 and 2012 HIV-positive men had double the rate of suicide than HIV-negative men.
A new study out of South Africa found that one or two days of training was sufficient to positively impact health workers' prejudice against gay patients.
Activists denounced the actions of Indonesian authorities who published the HIV test results of 14 men forced to undergo testing after they were detained under accusations of homosexuality.
In India, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation launched an online condom “store” that will deliver free condoms to any individual or organizations that submit a request. Orders can be placed via email or phone and will ship free to all major cities in India.
New data of Hepatitis C among gay men suggests that the virus can be passed through condomless sex. Researchers warn that the use of PrEP as HIV prevention could be increasing the Hepatitis C among HIV-negative men.
From Australia, the founder of Black Rainbow, Dameyon Bonson, spoke to Awaye! Radio about the intense need for mental health services for Indigenous LGBTI people.
The LGBT Foundation’s new report “Transforming Outcomes” found that 80% of UK transgender people are afraid of seeking healthcare due to fears of discrimination and misgendering. The report identified six key “roadblocks” that prevent trans communities from inclusion.
Colombian doctor Antonio Ballestas spoke about developing his “voice feminization surgery”, a procedure that alters the vocal cords resulting in higher frequency voices. Transgender women from across the Americas have sought out the procedure, which requires patients maintain complete silence post surgery, followed by four to six months of rehabilitation.
Writing for Psychology Today, Jack Turban urged the media to disregard statements from the “American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds)” which is easily confused with the legitimate organization of 66,000 pediatricians called the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The Southern Poverty Law Center has warned that ACPeds is deliberately promoting false data and misrepresenting research concerning sexual orientation and gender identity.
From the World of Politics: The intergovernmental Equal Rights Coalition released a statement co-signed by 23 countries asking Russia to conduct an “independent and credible investigation” into the reports of arbitrary detention and torture of men perceived to be gay by government authorities. During a rare visit to Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged President Vladimir Putin to investigate.
In Guyana, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination circulated a statement given to them from the government asserting that decriminalization was “unfit” for consideration by the legislature and that it was “recommended that the matter be taken to a vote” by the people. However, the High Commission of Guyana in London denied any knowledge of a referendum to decriminalize homosexuality in the country.
US President Trump signed the executive order “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty”. Although the final bill removed explicit discriminatory language, the Human Rights Campaign warned that the bill can be used to undermine LGBTQ rights.
Meanwhile, over 200 members of the US Congress filed a bipartisan bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equality Act was originally introduced in 1974 and again in 2015, but has failed to pass.
Representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, and Guatemala met with the Special Rapporteur of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the rights of LGBTI people for a three-day meeting to discuss their experiences and to strategize on ending violence and improving the rights of LGBTI people in Latin America.
The Colombian Senate rejected a referendum that would allow the public to vote on whether adoption should be limited to heterosexual couples, excluding same-sex couples, single people, widows, and divorced people from adopting.
In Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board released new guidelines to “promote greater understanding of cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression” and to establish guiding principles for adjudicating these cases. The Canada Post released 10 news stamps to celebrate moments in the country's 150-year history, including a rainbow maple leaf stamp for commemorating the 2005 passage of the Civil Marriage Act.
Activists in France celebrated Emmanuel Macron’s win over Marine Le Pen, whose party platform called for a repeal of same-sex marriage and a restriction of fertility services for gay couples. Although Macron won with 66% of the vote, members of the LGBT community warn their support is not a “blank check” and that Macron will need to live up to campaign promises.
In South Korea, former human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in won the presidential election with 41.4% of the vote. Although considered the liberal candidate, Jae-in came under pressure from local activists after he expressed opposition to homosexuality. The Korea Herald reported on the protest, quoting some activists response: “You can despise acts, but you cannot despise a being. Homosexuality is a being! You are saying you don’t see me as a human being.”
The Politics of Union: The Supreme Court of Bermuda issued a landmark ruling, finding that the law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman discriminates against same-gender couples.
The Congress of Guatemala is considering a bill to prohibit gay marriage. Representatives from the Coordinadora Evangélica Nacional group claimed the proposal had 30 thousand public signatures of support.
In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet and the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (MOVILH) are hosting a series of “citizen dialogues” across the country to discuss gay marriage. The talks involve government representatives, human rights organizations, and community members.
In Romania, the Chamber of Deputies voted to adopt a citizen’s initiative that redefines marriage in the constitution as between a man and a woman. Although Romania has not recognized gay marriage, the current legal definition of marriage is “between spouses”. The Senate must now approve, and a public referendum must be held to change the constitution.
Let the Courts Decide: For the first time, a court in the United Arab Emirates is being asked to grant two transgender individuals the right to change their legal gender and be recognized as men after having undergone gender reassignment surgery in Europe.
In the US, four married lesbian couples, each couple pregnant, filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee over its new “Natural and Ordinary” language law which will undermine gay marriages and same-gender parental rights. Elsewhere, a Kentucky family court judge has refused to hear adoption cases with same-gender parents due to his “conscientious objection to the concept of adoption of a child by a practicing homosexual”. Meanwhile, the state governments of Alabama and Texas moved forward laws that allow adoption agencies to refuse gay couples.
Also in the US, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that West Virginia’s hate crime law which bar’s violence “because of sex” does not include crimes committed on the basis of perceived sexual orientation. Several US state and district courts have evaluated—and come to different conclusions—whether “sex” includes both gender and sexual orientation in matters of discrimination.
In the Name of Religion: In a narrow vote, the Church of Ireland’s General Synod rejected a motion to allow blessings of same-sex marriages. The motion had been put forward by a Select Church committee that spent four years evaluating the issue for its report “Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief”. The committee urged Bishops to continue to examine the theological issues to find a way forward.
The Anglican Church Diocese of Polynesia held its annual synod bringing together members from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. Acknowledging the challenges of disparate local laws, the leader of the diocese, Archbishop Winston Halapua, said the church has a “responsibility” to discuss same-sex marriage: “We cannot function in isolation as we belong to a body of Christ.”
In the UK, the Pride in London festival has scheduled the second annual “Big Gay Iftar” — referring to the evening meal taken during Ramadan to end the day’s fast. The event is an opportunity for Muslim LGBT+ and other LGBT+ residents and allies “to talk to one another, learn about each others’ faiths, cultures, and sexualities and spread some love”.
In Cuba, a three-day conference on theology and transsexuality included the country’s first ever Mass led by three transgender pastors.
In Brussels, the Political Network for Values, a global platform of conservative religious activists and lawmakers, held a transatlantic summit titled “How far can we get?” A press release from the Family Research Council noted that the summit gathers “pro-family, pro-freedom policy makers”. Other participants include groups that defend criminalizing homosexuality and opposing marriage equality.
Fear and Loathing: The situation in Chechnya continues to go unresolved nearly a month after the first reports of gay men being rounded up by authorities. Five Russian activists were arrested under the law prohibiting unauthorized public gatherings as they attempted to deliver petitions with over 2 million signatures calling for authorities to investigate. The communications manager of the Russian LGBT Network spoke to US National Public Radio about their work to evacuate men from the region. Meanwhile, Canadian immigration authorities are grappling with how to safely and discreetly reach individuals attempting to escape.
From Australia, new research on homelessness shows that family rejection is the main reason LGBTI youth become homeless. The report also found that trans, gender diverse, and bisexual youth experience rejection and become homeless at younger ages on average than lesbian and gay people.
In the US, the Center for American Progress released results from its nationwide survey that found that widespread discrimination continues to negatively impact LGBT people in all aspects of their lives. While 25% of LGBT people reported experiencing discrimination in 2016, many more altered their lives— including hiding their orientation from employers, avoiding certain public spaces, or refusing medical care—to avoid situations that they fear could lead to discrimination.
In Canada, some feminists are protesting a transgender rights bill that would update the Canadian Human Rights Act and the criminal code to include protections for gender identity and gender expression. The women contend that “real women” who do not “have a choice to choose to be a woman” need protected spaces. Prominent trans activist Marni Panas responded, “Let me assure you, somebody doesn't come out as a transgender woman for privilege. It comes at a great cost.”
Winds of Change: Amnesty International’s new report “First, Do No Harm” reprimands Danish and German authorities for “outdated gender stereotypes” that result in “non-emergency, invasive and irreversible surgical interventions” on intersex children.
Amnesty International Japan published a proposal in Japanese and English calling on the government to address discrimination against LGBT people, especially in the workplace, in access to healthcare, and in education.
From Nepal, activist and openly gay politician Sunil Babu Pant described his experiences with the Blue Diamond Society, an LGBT rights organization with a focus on HIV prevention and human rights violations.
The Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) has released an advocacy brief to raise awareness among LGBTIQ people about the mechanisms available to report human rights violations in the South Asia region. The brief is now available in English, Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Pashto, Sinhala, Tamil, and Urdu.
In the US, a coalition of 16 organizations with support from the Southern Poverty Law Center, have created “Communities Against Hate”, an online tool to report hate crimes targeting racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and gender minorities, immigrants and people with disabilities.
Following Queensland Parliament of Australia’s vote to remove the “gay panic defense” from Criminal Law, Catholic priest Paul Kelly and Sydney barrister David Buchanan discussed their efforts lobbying the government to end the “homophobic, archaic and outdated law”.
In South Korea, alumni of Seoul National University selected Park Han-hee to receive public interest funding to support her work as the country’s first transgender lawyer. The fund will provide 1.7 to 1.8 million won (US$1,500-1,590) a month for at least two years.
On the March: The 6th annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride, sponsored by 190 local and international organizations, wrapped up with a parade of an estimated 5,000 people. Check out Japan Times’ video compilation of the event.
The 6th annual Tirana Gay (P)Ride took place in the capital of Albania. Despite a pre-announced opposition protest, over 200 LGBTI community members and allies joined the bicycle ride. Organizers coordinated with the opposition to ensure everyone’s safety, declaring: “It is important to understand that public space belongs to everyone, and nobody can stop the basic human right of assembly and our right of expression and free speech.”
From the UK, it was discovered that the Home Office has been using outdated information when assessing asylum cases from Albania. A court of appeal ruled in 2011 that evidence of Albania’s safety for sexual minorities, victims of trafficking, and survivors of domestic violence should not be used. Barrister S Chelvan estimated that hundreds could have been sent back to dangerous situations, calling it “a clear miscarriage of justice”.
From Kenya, members of The Nature Network, a support group for LGBTI refugees in a foreign land, posted a series of video blogs talking about the work they do and why it is important that the Nature Network exists. Their video series is supported by the International AIDS Alliance.
School Days: In Kenya, the African Population and Health Research Center collaborated with the Guttmacher Institute to study the state of comprehensive sexuality education across 78 secondary schools in Kenya.
The Scottish Government announced a working group to investigate how to implement education and curriculum that is inclusive of LGBTI youth. The group will include Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) members who have campaigned for two years to get Members of Scottish Parliament to sign a pledge to support LGBTI students. Writer Shona Craven notes, that the hardest campaign promise to fill will be LGBTI-inclusive mandatory sex and relationship education—currently Scotland schools are not required to provide any sex education at all.
The Superintendent of Education in Chile sent school directors instructions that all schools must take steps to guarantee the rights of transgender students, including calling them by their chosen name and gender, allowing them to wear appropriate uniforms to their gender-identity, and facilitating the use of inclusive restrooms.
In Indonesia, the Governor of West Sumatra, Irwan Prayitno defended University Andalas for prohibiting LGBT students and forcing students to sign a form stating they are not LGBT. Prayitno tweeted out several homophobic statements on the subject, including: “Everybody has the right to an equal education, and Unand’s students have the rights to feel secure from sexual perversion.”
In the US last year, a small town Texas school superintendent canceled the entire senior prom rather than allow some students to attend with same-gender dates. Community members decided to fundraise to throw an inclusive “Lavender Prom” this year. Meanwhile, celebrities and rock stars are scheduled to attend Buzzfeed’s Queer Formal in Los Angeles. The event will fly out selected high schoolers making a difference in their communities to attend.
In Australia, youth support group Minus 18 celebrated its latest Queer Formal with 550 attendees, some traveling several hours to join the LGBTI-specific event. Minus 18 gained popularity last year when some protesters rallied against the dance and attempted to buy up the tickets so LGBTI kids could not attend.
Business and Technology: In New Zealand, one of the largest employers in the country announced a comprehensive policy for transgender employees that includes designated sick leave, bathroom and changing rooms access, and correct name and pronoun use.
For the fifth year, US retail giant Target is carrying its seasonal ‘Take Pride’ line of rainbow-colored products in select stores and online to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. The move is in line with other LGBT-friendly company policies, including gender-neutral kids products and marketing and a firm pro-transgender bathroom policy which sparked a national boycott.
Writer Daniel Villarreal reviewed the growing trend of corporate sponsorship of LGBTQ “social media influencers”, a lucrative partnership where social media stars are paid to promote brands online. Villarreal noted that LGBTQ personalities offer companies “a subtle way that avoids social outrage” while marketing to a niche demographic.
Gay Star News wrapped up its online “Digital Pride” festival with many video panels on diverse issues from politics, to health, to culture. Check out this panel discussing the “role of corporate brands in an increasingly polarized world” and how they can support the LGBTI community.
Sports and Culture: With more gay men coming out to support far-right political parties, writer Matt Keely reflected on the history of Nazi leader Ernst Röhm, an out gay man and close associate of Hitler. When Hitler no longer had need of Röhm and his associates, many of whom were believed to be gay, Hitler had them arrested and killed.
The battle over LGBT recognition played out in the Ukraine, hosts of this year’s Eurovision contest. Though controversial, authorities partially painted a soviet monument, The People’s Friendship Arch, in rainbow colors. Member of Parliament Mustafa Nayem noted, that Eurovision was “our chance to demonstrate how much we have changed”.
Writer and poet Dayna Troisi reflected on her experiences dating as a queer woman with a disability and the “ridiculous” stereotype that “queer disabled women “become” gay because men reject them”.
Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe discussed his struggle with depression before coming out to his family and the public.
Ayta Sözeri, Turkey’s first trans actress, discussed her work in television and how she came to recognize her gender identity.
Kami Sid, Pakistan’s first transgender model, is using her platform to advocate for trans women, lobbying for more protective legislation as she tours large and small speaking engagements. Sid aims to break stereotypes saying, “People think we’re just sex workers or beggars or dancers. After modelling, I’ve said we can become anything – doctors, engineers, teachers. We just need a platform.”
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Switzerland is featuring an exhibit that traces the AIDS response through posters and art from around the world over the past 30 years.
Finally, check out this video about the Initiative for Equal Rights and Stand to End Rape groups' collaboration to showcase LGBT Nigerians in a new photo exhibition in Nigeria.