“I have been going to the mountain to pray about [how to stop being gay], fasting and I came to the point that I was just starving myself…it’s something that I have tried and I have come to the point where I am saying: this is me and if I try to run away from myself, then who am I going to be?”
~ Eric Sambisa, from Malawi
From the UN: UNAIDS and MSMGF hosted the first meeting of the 'Global Platform to Fast-Track HIV Responses among Gay Men and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men.' The Platform will provide UN agencies strategic advice on the priorities and needs of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
The UNHCR has announced a new comprehensive training program that will educate staff and other humanitarian workers on the specific issues LGBTI people face when fleeing persecution.
In a first, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) called attention to Iranian LGBTI children, with committee expert Clarence Nelson noting that children are forced to undergo 'curative practices,' including hormone therapies, electroshocks, and sexual reassignment surgeries. The Iranian government's replied that homosexuality is an illness and was treated as 'gender identity disorder.'
HIV, Health, and Wellbeing: In the Asia-Pacific region the HIV epidemic is growingfastest among young gay and bisexual men, while girls and boys between 15-19 years old account for 15% of new infections.
In the US state of Georgia, advocates and doctors are facing an 'alarming' HIV epidemic, which they compare to 1980s New York. Experts warn stigma, especially among young gay and bisexual black men, has contributed to the epidemic.
UK experts warn that cuts to NHS sexual health services will contribute to an 'explosion' of STIs, especially syphilis and gonorrhea among men who have sex with men.
New research from the US has found that HIV prevention drug PrEP is comparable to aspirin in terms of patients' safety. And new research from the Netherlands suggests that immediately treating men who test positive for HIV would prevent 19% of new infections among gay men, and if PrEP was additionally given to 50% of those who test negative, two thirds of infections would be averted.
The Thai Red Cross opened Thailand's first clinic to provide healthcare to transgender people.
The Chilean Ministry of Health published instructions on healthcare for intersex children calling for an end to 'unnecessary normalization' surgeries.
Studies from the US and from Canada find that bisexuals face discrimination from society at large and exclusion from within the LGBT community, leading to worse mental health outcomes than any other sexual orientation.
From the World of Politics: The Russian parliamentary committee for legislation has rejected a bill to ban gays and lesbians from 'coming out'. They further advised the Duma to unanimously vote against the bill in the event it reached a first reading because it is too similar to existing legislation.
In the US, 28 states permit discrimination against LGBT people and allow people to be fired, evicted, and refused business services.
After two years of discussion, the Hong Kong government released a report on discrimination against LGBT people. However, activists were dissatisfied that the report had no recommendations for legislative changes.
Members of Parliament in the UK released a thorough report on transgender issues and called for a revision of all legal protections for transgender people. Commenting that 'no group suffers more discrimination than trans people,' committee chair Maria Miller noted:
“Almost half the population accept that gender is fluid and is not as simple as male or female. There will be a minority of people who might be uncomfortable about that, but parliament is there to represent the way that society is today.”
Italy's Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano, declared that people who use surrogacy services to become parents should be treated as sex criminals and sent to prison. He also wants to ban gay couples from 'stepchild adoption,' in which a person adopts their partner's children.
The Politics of Union: Despite opposition, the Greek parliament approved a same-sex civil partnership law giving couples equal rights on inheritance and property issues. The bill does not include adoption rights.
In Germany, minority party leader Renate Künast used a legislative loophole to demand that the parliament debate marriage equality, despite the judicial committee's refusal to hear the issue.
In response to activists, Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama disparaged gay marriage, saying that if people of the same gender wish to marry they should move to Iceland and that 'Fiji does not need that rubbish.'
Let the Courts Decide: A court in China agreed to hear the first case on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit was filed against the Furong district civil affairs bureau after the bureau refused the plaintiff's request to marry.
In Japan, experts are questioning whether a recent Supreme Court ruling on surnames of married couples, which defined marriage as between 'two parties,' has created an opportunity for same-sex marriage.
The Botswana government appealed a historic ruling by the Gaborone High Court that it must recognize a local LGB rights group on grounds that the constitution does not recognize homosexuals. And in Tunisia the Court of First Instance has suspended LGBT rights group Shams (‘sun’ in Arabic) after the government filed a complaint against the NGO that claimed Shams' registered statutes did not include rights for homosexuals.
In Lebanon, the Court of Appeals of Beirut ruled that a transgender person can change their gender in the civil registry, though the ruling only applies to people who have undergone sex reassignment surgery.
In the US, federal courts are considering whether protection of sexual orientation should be included in sex discrimination laws. The District Court of California ruled that educational institutions cannot discriminate on sexual orientation and gender, meanwhile the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has asked 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent discrimination in the workplace.
Fear and Loathing: In Syria ISIS executed a 15 year old boy who was accused of being sexually engaged with a prominent ISIS officer. The officer was expelled to Iraq.
In India, a 15 year old student set himself on fire after suffering harassment and abuse from neighbors who saw him being intimate with another boy. Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly explains how his attempted suicide is a symptom of India's law criminalizing same-sex relations.
In Mexico, 'Miss Gay 2015' died from internal injuries after being beaten by a group of unknown assailants outside of a nightclub. And in Pakistan a transgender person with a gunshot wound was left unattended by hospital staff for over three hours.
From El Salvador, journalist J. Lester Feder and Nicola Chávez Courtright, co-founder of AMATE--an organization documenting the local LGBT movement--explored the history of missing and murdered sex workers and transgender women.
In a Malawian television interview, Eric Sambisa, leader of Southern Region Rainbow Alliance, announced he is gay and made the provocative statement that the government should give gay people rights or should kill them. Following the interview, Sambisa was detained by police and has since gone into hiding.
In the Name of Religion: A world summit of Anglican leaders has concluded with'consequences' against the US Episcopal Church including a three year suspension from participation in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal branch was punished for allowing same-sex marriages and for the ordination of an openly gay bishop.
In the Netherlands, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Episcopal Reverend Mpho A. Tutu married her female partner Professor Marceline van Furth. The couple have planned a second ceremony in South Africa later this year.
Orthodox priests in Romania are urging parishioners to sign a petition to change the constitution so that it explicitly excludes same-sex marriage.
In Israel members of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties did not attend the swearing in ofthe first openly gay parliamentarian, Amir Ohana.
In a newly published book, Pope Francis clarifies his theological stance towards LGBT people. The pope is often credited with a shift in 'tone' on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.
The United Church of Canada in Toronto is hosting a new initiative to outreach to LGBT youth with 'Young Queer Church,' a monthly christian worship that highlights inclusion and 'authentic living.'
Winds of Change: In Australia the state government of Queensland announced it plans to expunge the criminal records of men convicted of homosexuality prior to its decriminalization in 1990.
In Slovenia, leading newspaper Delo honored Jure Poglajen with the 'Person of the Year' award for the work he and his partner have contributed to support the refugee crisis. Poglajen previously campaigned for marriage equality.
Botswana artist and activist Kolanyane-Kesupile explores how the LGBTI movement in Africa has shifted from parties to human rights, and notes:
"As a proud, trans* citizen of the African continent, I have first-hand experience of how tempestuous the regional atmosphere is, and this contributes to widespread misrepresentation of LGBTI+ Africans."
From New York, former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae spoke on his efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and his hope for the future of LGBT rights across Africa.
Meanwhile, in South Africa activists marched in response to the disfigurement and murder of a young lesbian and to protest the inaction by authorities.
School Days: In Vietnam, nearly half of LGBT students reported experiencing abuse and discrimination from other students and from teachers. Now some educators arepushing for sexual and gender diversity programs, as well as improved reproductive health classes, to combat the problem.
Eight US states have laws that prevent schools from discussing homosexuality, including teaching about health and rights issues and from acknowledging gay students. Meanwhile, in the US state of Georgia, a private alternative school for primary and secondary students is being opened specifically for, though not exclusive to, LGBT youth.
In Ireland a teacher will receive compensation after her principal made repeated homophobic slurs against her son. In Jamaica, controversy exploded between the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) and people both for and against gay rights after it was discovered that 800 guidance counselors refuse to council gay students. The JTA says counselors cannot be forced to provide for gay students because homosexuality is illegal.
In New Zealand, past and present students of a prestigious secondary schoolaccused the school of rampant homophobia. Following media coverage, headmaster Tim O'Connor released a statement promising to address the issue.
In Canada, the University of Victoria appointed the world's first chair of transgender studies, funded by US$1 million donation from trans billionaire Jennifer Pritzker.
Business and Technology: At the 2016 World Economic Forum Annual MeetingLGBT issues were featured on the official agenda for the first time. In his remarks, US Vice President Joe Biden urged business leaders to confront political leaders on LGBT issues, stating: "Culture never justifies rank, raw, discrimination or violation of human rights. There is no cultural justification."
A Chinese gaming company has bought majority ownership of gay dating app Grindr, valuing the company at $155 million. Meanwhile, in the UK police urged caution, noting that reports of crimes related to Grindr and straight dating app Tinder have surged dramatically over two years of police records.
The Netherlands Advertising Standards Board ruled that gay dating app 'Squirt' may continue to advertise in public despite numerous complaints calling the ads 'inappropriate' and 'shocking.' The board noted that the ads met the 'precautions' for 'good taste and public decency.'
Social media juggernaut Twitter has banned any speech that could incite terrorism or violence 'on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, disability, or disease.' Though some praised the action, others noted the policy does not go far enough to prevent harassment and bullying.
Sports and Culture: The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) was fined for firing referee Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ after he came out as gay. The TFF claimed that Dinçdağ was 'unfit' for the job as his sexuality also deems him legally 'unfit' for Turkish military. And FIFA fined Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and Peru for“insulting and discriminatory chants” made by fans in an effort to be 'proactive' against homophobia.
In Australia, game company Atari launched 'Pridefest,' the 'first LGBT-focused gamethat represents a passionate cause.'
Canadian photographer Samra Habib's series “Just Me and Allah: A Queer Muslim Photo Project” documents the international Muslim LGBT experience.
From Taiwan, intersex advocate Hiker Chiu reveals the struggle for self-acceptance and finding community outside of expectations of gender. And the Guardian examined the rise of 'gender fluid' identifying young artists and celebrities, compared to theatrical or androgynous celebrities of the past, and noted that this rejection of gender binaries is more than a passing fad.
The king of theatrical and gender bending performance, artist David Bowie passed away from liver cancer only days after his 69th birthday and release of his last album. Bowie was an icon for many as he made people feel that being different "no longer meant being a victim; it meant triumphing".
Finally, from India’s Hijra community, get 'happy' with this music video by India’s first-ever trans girl group.