“It is my freedom, my self-expression. If I don’t fight for that, then why am I living here?”
~ Sasha, Lebanese fashion model and transgender activist
From the UN: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, announced he will not seek a second term. In a statement to his staff, he wrote that he feared another term would require “muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice — which is your voice”. During his tenure, the Human Rights Council has made significant strides for the LGBTI community, including adopting the resolution against LGBTI discrimination and violence and creating a standards of conduct for businesses on LGBTI issues.
Speaking at the annual Anna Lindh lecture in Sweden in November, Al-Hussein dedicated his remarks to the universality of human rights, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, nationality, or any other characteristic:
You may think: so obvious is this point, why even bother to mention it? Our curse today, the tragedy of the hour, is that I am forced to. Because the universality of rights is being contested across much of the world. It is under broad assault from terrorists, authoritarian leaders, populists and those who claim to back “traditional values”.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: New US research found that the country could reach its goal to reduce new HIV infections by 25% by 2020 if 25% of high-risk gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men used PrEP. Some US doctors are urging primary care physicians to become better informed on PrEP and HIV treatment and prevention. They note that because undetectable = untransmittable, primary care physicians will replace specialists as the front line against HIV.
Zimbabwe’s Prison and Correctional Services deputy Commissioner-General Alfred Dube said the government should reconsider its position on distributing condoms in prisons in order to prevent the spread of HIV.
Writing for Youth Ki Awaaz, Shambhavi Saxena explored the difficulties that sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and trans people face when trying to safely and affordably seek HIV treatment in India.
New research found that HIV-positive people and especially gay men and other men who have sex with men have a higher risk of HPV infection and anal cancer. And a new study based in Brazil, Mexico, and the US found that males who have not engaged in intercourse acquire HPV via other sexual activities.
The WHO published a new systematic review on violence motivated by perceptions of sexual orientation and gender identity. New US studies have re-asserted that young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning are at greater risk for attempting suicide than heterosexual youth. In a national survey, 40% of LGBQ youth seriously considered suicide and 25% had attempted, compared to only 6% of their heterosexual peers.
The Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE) released a new report “Gender is not an illness. How pathologization violates human rights law” that examines how treating a person’s gender identity as an illness encourages stigma and discrimination and restricts people’s access to health and human rights.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, officials announced a plan to start a voluntary ‘conversion therapy’ course for transgender women that will include medical, psychological, and religious components to return people “to normal lives”.
From the World of Politics: For the first time since 1951, India’s government is updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in an effort, it says, to detect migrants illegally in the country. The government ignited fear by publishing a “partial list” that included only 19 million people of an estimated 32 million in the country. Transgender activists have warned that most trans people are unable to access legal documents and could be among those excluded from the NRC.
The Indian Parliament also reintroduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016. Although the bill is meant to improve non-discrimination rights of trans people, activists say it disregards progressive reforms made in the Supreme Court Transgender Rights ruling of 2014 and presents a “fantasy” definition of who a trans person is.
Pakistan’s Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights approved the Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017 to improve recognition of trans people, property rights, and employment opportunities. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body that advises parliament on laws and Islam, will review the bill in January.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May removed Justine Greening, the first openly gay woman to serve in the UK cabinet, from her post as Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities. Greening was overseeing the delayed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and the public consultation to improve sex and relationship education, including the addition of LGBT sensitive curriculum.
In Bangladesh, Nadira Begum became the first openly third-gender candidate to run for public office. And in Canada, Julie Lemieux became the country’s first openly trans person elected to be a mayor.
The US issued sanctions against Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, for “being responsible for extrajudicial killing and torture” and against Ayub Kataev, head of Chechnya’s prisons, for reported involvement in “abuses against gay men in Chechnya during the first half of 2017”.
The Politics of Union: The British Overseas Territory, St Helena approved marriage equality through a vote of the legislative council. St Helena’s Supreme Court was due to examine the marriage laws in 2018, but some of the council feared that the process could take years to complete.
In Bulgaria, a lesbian couple married in the UK last year are suing their municipality for recognition, despite the country’s constitution which forbids same-sex marriage.
Although Taiwan’s highest court ruled in May that the Civil Code must be amended to include same-sex marriage, the Taipei High Administrative Court has refused to validate a lesbian couple’s marriage, saying that it is up to the Legislative Yuan to change the legal framework for marriage.
Let the Courts Decide: India's Supreme Court announced it will reconsider Section 377 of the Penal Code that criminalizes sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex. The judges decided to reconsider, in part, because of the court's historic August ruling that declared privacy as a fundamental right.
UK’s Supreme Court announced it will consider the case of a Northern Ireland bakery that refused to make a cake with the message “support gay marriage”. The case echoes an ongoing US Supreme Court case, with a key difference being that the Irish baker refused to write the message but would provide the cake, while the US baker claimed providing any cake would itself be support for gay marriage. While the US Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling, the state appeals court of Oregonruled against bakers also arguing their right to refuse to make a wedding cake for gay couples.
The UK Court of Appeal ruled that a Jewish transgender woman, rejected by her ultra-Orthodox community, must be allowed contact with her five children. The original judge had decided that the woman could not see her children because their religious community threatened to ostracize the entire family. The appeal court justices noted that it was “unfortunate that the judge did not address head-on the human rights issues and issues of discrimination which arose” in the case.
In Singapore, a district judge refused to allow a gay man to adopt his four-year-old biological son, born in the US via surrogacy. Singapore does not practice surrogacy and only allows IVF for married couples. The man and his partner, who previously were rejected for any adoption because of their sexuality, will appeal the decision.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called upon the government of Nepal to honor its historic Supreme Court 2007 decision on LGBT rights. Despite some progress, the ICJ said not enough is being done to implement the full ruling of the court.
In the Name of Religion: Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, told reporters that LGBT people should be “embraced”, not “shunned or excommunicated”. The Human Rights Watch cautioned that the Minister’s words should be taken in context as the Minister has also repeatedly called LGBT “mentally ill”.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in collaboration with several other conservative Christian leaders, published an open letter to reject the “false idea” of “gender ideology” that “harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt”. The letter calls for people who have “discomfort” with their sex to be treated with respect; however, they emphasized that persons cannot change gender and that children especially are harmed when they are told that they can.
Started by Jamaican activist Jay John, over 4,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to ban US Baptist preacher Steve Anderson from entering Jamaica. Anderson has previously been banned from South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, and the UK for spreading hate speech, including calling for gay people to be stoned to death.
Israeli activist Zehorit Sorek discussed the challenges of encouraging religiously conservative rabbis to accept LGBT Israelis in religious life. Catholic priest Fr. Gregory Greiten came out to his congregation and then to the public with an op-ed describing the “heavy burden” of secretly knowing he was gay. From the US, Mormon mother of five, Jerilyn Pool talked about SafeXmas, a program she started three years ago to provide LGBTQ Mormons a safe space to spend the Christmas holidays.
Winds of Change: ILGA released the 2nd edition of the Trans Legal Mapping Report which provides a compilation of the laws and processes trans and gender-diverse people worldwide are subjected to when attempting to obtain official identity documents. The edition also features interviews with in-country trans activists and aims to “capture some of the nuances” of different legal systems and how they impact communities.
The US-based Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released a new report examining LGBT organizations, including their staffing, priorities, and fundraising. This year’s report included 39 major LGBT advocacy groups and discovered many have had “radical shifts in organization priorities” as the movement responds to attempts by the government to roll back nondiscrimination gains.
The Italian Coalition for Freedom and Rights (CILD) selected Italian-Pakistani film director Wajahat Abbas Kazmi as the “Young Activist of the Year” for his efforts promoting LGBTQI Muslim rights and his work on the “Allah Loves Equality” campaign.
Activist Manisha Dhakal described how she “endured countless humiliations” as a trans woman in Nepal, yet those challenges led her to become executive director of the country’s largest LGBTI rights organization. The New York Times spoke to LGBT activists in Lebanon about coming out in the Arab world, progress towards acceptance in Lebanon, and how to further push for change. Open Democracyspoke to Russian activist Igor Yasin about the dangers of supporting the LGBT movement and where the movement is headed.
Fear and Loathing: Amnesty International published a new report on the LGBTI movements in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. In addition to widespread discrimination, the report finds that LGBTI human rights defenders and activists face added pressures of violence and stigma. Most troubling, it describes how many civil society groups and prominent NGOs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia ostracize LGBTI groups and activists.
The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang) published a new report on hate speech in newspapers, state-controlled media, and from other official statements between 2011 to 2017. The report suggests that hate speech from officials encourages a “culture of violence and intolerance”.
Although Ghana rarely enforces its anti-gay law, a new report from Human Rights Watch found that the law contributes to a climate where LGBT people routinely face violence and discrimination from both the public and their families. As one woman expressed:
The government should recognize that we are human beings, with dignity, not treat us as outcasts in our own society. We want to be free so we can stand tall in public and not deal with obstacles and harassment daily.
From the UK came new figures that 45,000 18 to 24-year-olds sought help for homelessness in 2017. UK’s Albert Kennedy Trust say their research shows that one in four of those homeless are LGBT. Meanwhile, US organizations working with homeless say that LGBT youth are overrepresented among those they support.
Also from the US, the Williams Institute published its 2017 LGBT Data Overview. Estimating 10 million LGBT adults in the US, the report emphasizes the many economic and health disparities they face, including higher rates of poverty, food insecurities, and incarceration.
School Days: The Global Alliance for LGBT Education (GALE) published the first comprehensive report on European countries and the right to education for students disadvantaged because of their expression of sexual preference or gendered identity. The report provides analytical information and recommendations and hopes to stimulate dialogue and cooperation among stakeholders.
Sports and Culture: The LGBT International Powerlifting Championshipsannounced a new optional “Mx Category” for trans, non-binary, and intersex athletes for the 2018 London event. Athletes may choose which category they wish to participate in, whether Male, Female, or Mx.
From the US, ice skater Adam Rippon is the first openly gay man selected by the US for the Winter Olympics. From Brazil, professional football player Douglas Braga and former player for premier league team Botafogo discussed joining BeesCats Soccer Boys and becoming part of LiGay, the country’s first formal league for gay and trans players.
From Tunisia, LGBT group Shams began broadcasting the region's first online radio station to talk about LGBT issues. Shams director Bouhdid Belhedi remarked, “There is nothing out there that talks about the LGBTQ community honestly. This gives people a way to defend our community.”
The Netherland’s Stedelijk Museum is featuring Colombian artist Carlos Motta’s exhibition “The Crossing” that explores the experiences of LGBTQI refugees and the dangers they’ve met both at home and in the countries they’ve sought asylum.
Writer Kevin Fallon reviews the most popular LGBT films from 2017, including Oscar favorite “Call Me By Your Name” and Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman. In Uganda, the Queer Kampala International Film Festival carried on in secret after police forced the public event to shut down.
Polish artist Karol Radziszewski discussed creating DIK Fagazine, the country’s first magazine dedicated to masculinity, homosexuality, and art, and how the magazine has evolved to explore the queer scenes of Soviet Union countries during the socialist era.
Finally, check out this 2017 roundup of “excellent queer writing from the internet” on topics of race, sex, gender, politics, ableism, and loneliness from Meredith Talusan, senior editor of them.