"...No puede ser que los prejuicios añejos sean más fuertes que el amor”
[I]t cannot be that old prejudices are stronger than love.
~ Chile President Michelle Bachelet speaking to legislators of her intention to reintroduce a draft Marriage Equality Law
From the UN: Jump starting the 35th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Independent Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn presented the council with the first ever report detailing violence and discrimination based on an individual’s perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Muntarbhorn emphasized:
“Killings, rapes, mutilations, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detentions, abductions, harassment, physical and mental assaults, bullying suffered from a young age, pressures leading to suicide, and discriminatory gestures and measures — aggravated by incitement to hatred — in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, are widespread on several fronts.”
The first ever side event specifically focused on “Transgender People, Mental Health and Human Rights” was held during the second day of the 35th session. The event, co-sponsored by leading international trans organizations, examined the extreme negative consequences of pathologizing trans people— treating people as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy due to their gender identity.
In her first presentation to the Human Rights Council as UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Dr. Agnes Callamard argued that “gender-related killings” including “domestic and intimate partner violence, ‘honour killings’, or killings of LGBTQI persons” amount to arbitrary executions and that States must “fulfill their duty to prosecute those responsible”. She made several recommendations, including that governments repeal all laws that support oppression based on gender and gender identity, restrict access to health care, and criminalize sexual orientation.
In 2016, the UN General Assembly held a High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS that included statements from 30 Member States regarding their commitments to key populations impacted by the epidemic, including gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use drugs. The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) has created a public video archive of these statements to assist activists and other stakeholders in holding States accountable to those commitments.
The WHO revised its Essential Medicines List to include drugs taken to prevent HIV infection, specifically PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medicines. The classification as essential medicine can be used to encourage countries to adopt the HIV-prevention method and to make it available to at-risk groups.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: In Uganda, the Ministry of Health participated in meetings with Spectrum Uganda, a support organization for gay, bisexual, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals, to focus on bringing HIV/AIDS support to these populations. Meanwhile, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe met with Ugandan LGBT activists who told him that him that Uganda cannot reach UNAIDS 90-90-90 HIV treatment targets as long as the country's laws criminalize both HIV positive and gay people.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights warned that discrimination against sex workers, trans people, prisoners, and gay people is impacting the spread of HIV in East and Southern Africa by discouraging them from seeking health services.
In Nigeria, where homosexuality is criminalized and can lead to a lengthy prison sentence, the Initiative for Equal Rights launched Quickcare, a mobile app that links LGBT people to health services, provides basic safe sex information, and suggests LGBT-friendly facilities in the country.
In the US, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention continued to warn that, if current rates continue, one in two African-American gay and bisexual men will be infected by HIV. Writing for the New York Times, Linda Villarosa explored the crisis faced by black men and transgender people in the southern US.
From Australia, LGBT health group ACON teamed up with iconic Sydney drag queen, Maxi Shield, to promote sexual health and HIV testing in a new video campaign.
A new survey of men in Switzerland who use the dating app Grindr found that 79% want to learn more about the medication PrEP and 50% plan to start the regime within six months. Global HIV advocacy program AVAC released a new guide to understanding ongoing research of PrEP. Meanwhile, PleasePrEPMe.global has gone live, offering a worldwide comprehensive directory of PrEP providers.
From the UK, the BBC reported that medical professionals “routinely lie” and withhold information from intersex people regarding their own personal health. The practice, meant to hide differences in biology, can result in severe complications as patients age.
From the World of Politics: Jamaica’s Minister of Justice called on Parliamentarians to “act as advocates for people affected by HIV” and called on people to “rethink some of the beliefs” that lead key populations, including men who have sex with men, to suffer isolation, stigma, and discrimination.
As France took in its first gay Chechen refugee, President Emmanuel Macron hosted Vladimir Putin and urged the president to take seriously the threats facing gay and transgender Chechens, promising that he himself, “will be constantly vigilant on these matters”.
The Parliament of Belgium voted to allow individuals to change their gender without requiring that they undergo sterilization. Luxembourg Justice Minister Félix Braz submitted a new law to create a legal framework that would allow people to change gender identity without medical intervention.
In the US, the Texas State House passed two bills limiting the rights of LGBT people. The first continued the trend of denying bathroom and locker room facilities that match a person’s gender identity, and the second allows organizations to deny same-sex couples seeking to adopt children. Meanwhile, the US Congress is considering a federal bill, The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017, that will allow organizations across the country to deny LGBTQ individuals from adopting or fostering children.
The government of Ontario, Canada passed "Bill 89, Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017". The Act amends child protections to include a child's “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression”. Introducing the bill, Minister of Child and Family Services Michael Coteau said he would consider denying a child's identity "a form of abuse".
During the NATO summit in Brussels, the spouses of NATO leaders were joined by Luxembourg’s ‘First Gentleman’ Gauthier Destenay, husband to Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel. Though currently the only openly gay world leader, Bettel is soon to be joined by Ireland’s newly elected Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s youngest and first openly gay PM. And in the UK, the snap election resulted in the "most diverse Parliament yet", including 45 openly LGBT people elected to office.
The Politics of Union: Taiwan’s highest court, the Judicial Yuan overturned the Civil Code definition of marriage as between a man and woman, stating that it “is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality”.
In Japan, the city of Sapporo became the largest municipality in the country to recognize partnerships between gay couples. The recognition does not carry with it the same rights as heterosexual couples but will expand life insurance and some other family benefits.
Meanwhile, in China, mothers seeking to find partners for their gay sons and daughters at Shanghai’s ‘marriage market’ were forced to leave after a confrontation with unwelcoming parents.
Thailand’s Minister of Justice, Ms Pitikan Sithidej, announced she had received a petition of nearly 60,000 signatures urging for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Sithideji said she would push forward a gay rights bill that has been stalled since 2013.
Brazil’s highest court, the Supremo Tribunal Federal, ruled that “stable unions”, including homosexual couples, have equal inheritance rights to those of married couples.
Let the Courts Decide: Ugandan LGBT rights organization SMUG filed a case with the Kampala High Court against the Ugandan Registration Service Bureau after officials refused to register the group’s name “Sexual Minorities Uganda” explaining that because same-sex relations are illegal, “the bureau cannot legitimize an illegality”. SMUG also used the US courts to sue American Scott Lively, leader of Abiding Truth Ministries. SMUG argued that Lively had violated international law by engaging in anti-LGBT efforts in Uganda. Although the federal judge dismissed the case on a technicality, he also noted that:
“Anyone reading this memorandum should make no mistake. The question before the court is not whether Defendant’s actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do.”
In the US, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a school district violated Title IX, prohibiting discrimination based on sex, when it denied a transgender student access to the boys’ bathroom. The issue is likely to head to the Supreme Court.
Gay rights groups from France filed a complaint in the Netherland’s International Criminal Court accusing Chechnya of the genocide of gay men.
In Kenya, 17 LGBTIQ Ugandan refugees were convicted to one month in prison and fined 13,000 shillings (130 USD) for protesting against the conditions of Nairobi’s refugee camp.
Fear and Loathing: In Bangladesh, police arrested 27 young men suspected of homosexuality from a community center where they were attending a party. Police in Jakarta, Indonesia raided a sauna and arrested over 140 allegedly gay men, charging them under the anti-pornography law. Meanwhile, police West Java, Indonesia announced they have deployed a task force to investigate LGBT activity. Journalist Jeffrey Hutton explored the rise in Indonesia's state-sanctioned anti-LGBT sentiment.
From South Korea, one of the 32 soldiers arrested for having sexual relations with another man spoke to CNN about the military investigation that human rights groups have called "a homophobic witch hunt".
Human Rights Watch published a report detailing the alleged anti-gay purge in Chechnya. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministries of Germany and Lithuania announced they will join others to begin granting visas to Chechens targeted due to their sexual orientation.
Eastern European news organization Hromadske investigated anti-gay vigilante groups in Ukraine that are accused of beating and extorting gay people.
A new report from Mexico found that at least 202 LGBT people have been murdered over two years. It also described an increase in gang activity targeting gay men for extortion and murder.
In Xian, China, a conference for LGBT topics called “Speak Out” was canceled after police detained the organizers for eight hours. On their website, the group claimed they were told “LGBT events can never be held in Xi’an”.
From the UK, a new survey of gay and bisexual men found that racism is a significant problem within the community. Nearly 80% of black and Asian men and 100% of Arab men surveyed have experienced racism from others in the LGBTI community.
The Japan Times explored the issue of domestic violence within the LGBTQ community. Japan’s Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims does not adequately cover LGBTQ relationships and, with no social support, individuals are forced to endure violent and dangerous relationships.
In the Name of Religion: The Episcopal Church of Scotland voted to amend canon law and allow same-sex couples to marry in the church. Meanwhile, during its synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland held a debate on same-sex marriage that drew 63 passionate speeches for and against the motion.
From the US, Reverend Seth “David” Wynn spoke out about coming to terms with being transgender and his choice to become a pastor in Texas’s Presbyterian church. From Italy, activist Iacopo Ialenti spoke about joining Kairos, an Italian Christian LGBTQ group in Florence that works with the Catholic church on LGBTQ issues.
Winds of Change: During the 60th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, several agenda items included discussion on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Wendy Isaack of Human Rights Watch reviewed how the commission addressed topics of “corrective rape” and “anal examinations”, law enforcement training, and the protection of human rights defenders.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released its latest edition of “State-Sponsored Homophobia – A World Survey of Sexual Orientation Laws: Criminalisation, Protection and Recognition”. ILGA-Europe also released its latest country ranking of the region, which declared Malta, Norway, and the UK as the leaders in LGBTI rights. Evelyne Paradis, director of ILGA-Europe, said the organization is beginning to focus more on transgender and intersex people’s rights.
The government of Kerala, India hired 23 transgender women to work in the city metro service as part of a policy to end discrimination against trans women and to encourage more organizations to hire trans people. The US organization “Safe Bars” expanded its work to include helping transgender people of color to gain employment at bars and restaurants that have been trained by the initiative to recognize and respond to sexual harassment and assault.
Following the Singapore government’s declaration that all foreigners would be banned from participating in or financially supporting the annual Pink Dot celebrations, heterosexual journalist Malcolm Yang reflected on why it is important that all Singaporeans support gay rights.
The US National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) estimates that by 2030 there will be over six million LGBT people over the age of 65 in the country. Journalist Taylor Mayol explored how LGBT-friendly retirement and senior living centers often take the place of family ties.
On the March: The summer’s Pride season kicked off with events throughout the world. In South Africa, LGBTI community and allies gathered in Cape Town and in Western Cape to honor the lives of LGBTI people lost to hate crimes. In Lebanon, Beirut successfully hosted its first Pride week despite threats of violence.
An estimated 200,000 people participated in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Pride parade, whose theme was “bisexual visibility”. While some queer Palestinians and other international speakers boycotted the event, a small group of anti-occupation LGBTQ activists attempted to block the parade, holding signs that read “There’s no pride in occupation”.
In Malaysia, a 3-day campaign and Pride event called “Courage in the Face of Adversity” was canceled by the hosting university after backlash from the Islamic community. In Moldova, police shut down a pro-LGBT march to avoid a confrontation with counter-protesters who threw eggs at the marchers. And in Ukraine, a group of young men attacked LGBT activists holding a small rally Kharkiv city, throwing bricks and lighting a rainbow flag on fire.
In the US, the annual Los Angeles Pride parade was turned into a “Resist March”. Organizer Brian Pendleton said the change was to lend “our iconic rainbow flag to anyone who feels like their rights are under threat and to anyone who feels like America’s strength is its diversity".
School Days: he Global Alliance for LGBT Education (GALE) published a strategic guide to create cooperation between NGOs, the government, and education systems when creating initiatives to promote LGBTI education programs in various settings.
The Ministry of Education in Cambodia is working with LGBT activists to draft a new "Life Skills" curriculum that will include coursework on LGBT issues.
In Tokyo, Japan, a group of students calling themselves “Schqueers” (School Queers) held an event to photograph other students wearing gender neutral school uniforms. The event was aimed to support transgender students and others who feel anxiety due to their gender identity.
The health ministry of Malaysia adjusted the criteria for the National Creative Video Competition on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health after activists protested that a category calling for videos to “prevent” homosexuality and transgender identity would increase hatred against LGBT young people.
In the US, a new meta-analysis found that despite perceptions that society has become more accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals, LGBTQ+ people—especially youth—suffer as much or more violence and victimization today than 20 years ago. Another study evaluated the coping strategies that most helped LGB young adults navigate discrimination and rejection from their families and communities. Among the outcomes, the study found that joining LGBTQ+ groups was the most effective strategy for improving mental health.
Business and Technology: Out of Guyana, a new social media campaign #ExpressYourself encourages LGBT people to share their coming out stories. The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) challenged community members to post videos describing their experiences and the impact on their families.
A Chinese game and tech development company paid $240 million to purchase the dating app Grindr. Although Grindr is available in China, it is surpassed by locally-based gay-dating app Blued, which has over 27 million users. Meanwhile, China’s lesbian dating app Rela, with more than 5 million users, suddenly shut down with no explanation. Some users believe the app was targeted for supporting mothers of LGBT children who attended Shanghai's “marriage market”.
In the US, gay dating app Hornet launched a new billboard campaign to target "divisive rhetoric" and spread messages of hope. The billboards are "a reminder" that "we will not be silenced and we will not be erased" and will go up nearby the headquarters of national anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
In Hong Kong, 12 multinational financial institutions filed an application with the Court of Appeal to support an expatriate married same-sex couple who moved from the UK to the city for professional employment. Hong Kong’s Immigration Department has refused to grant dependent visa status to the employed woman’s wife. The institutions argued that the policy will adversely impact Hong Kong as an international financial center; however, the court has rejected their application.
In Australia, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company has “banned same-flavored scoops” until the country passes marriage equality. Additionally, Ben & Jerry’s stores have arranged to collect messages of support from customers and passers-by that the staff will deliver directly to local Members of Parliament.
Sports and Culture: Australian tennis champion Margaret Court caused a stir when she announced she would boycott Qantas Airways for its support of marriage equality. Czech-American tennis star Martina Navratilova, who proposed to her girlfriend at the US Open, called on the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed over Court’s remarks. Many on social media echoed Navratilova’s call.
In India, Gaysi, a blog about gay life, has grown off the internet into a country-wide published magazine and host of open mic events and book clubs. From South Africa, MaThoko Books has published a new anthology of short fiction titled “Queer Africa 2”. Nigerian poet and photographer Chibuihe Obi wrote about the importance of queer literature, despite the extreme threats and violence perpetrated on African authors such as himself.
In France, the film 120 Beats per Minute—about the AIDS activist group ACT UP—won the prestigious FIPRESCI Award at the Cannes Film Festival. From Argentina, Esteros a film about the costs of denying your sexuality is now available on video on demand outlets. Meanwhile, media monitoring organization GLAAD released its latest Studio Responsibility Index that tracks LGBT representation in film. The Index reports only a single transgender character appeared in 2016’s major studio releases.
Check out this sweet cartoon about a school boy who falls in love with the most popular boy in school. The filmmakers, who attend the Ringling College of Art, launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund an original score for the video. The campaign raised over $14,000—4 times the amount they sought.