"Today, a shameful history of pathologization, institutionalization, “conversion” and sterilization begins to come to a close."
Statement on the WHO update to the ICD-11 fromGATE, AKAHATA, TGEU, APTN, ILGA, Post-Soviet Trans* Coalition, Iranti.org, STP International Campaign Stop Trans Pathologization
From the UN: The WHO released the latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which provides a foundation for identifying health trends and a common language for health professionals around the world. The ICD-11 makes the significant change of removing “transsexualism” from the classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders. In its place, the term “gender incongruence” has been added to “Conditions Related to Sexual Health”. Dr. Lale Say of the WHO explained that the change will reduce stigma for trans people. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé remarked that the change will increase access to health services by trans people.
At the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who will not seek a second term, delivered his “final reflections” on universal human rights. Among his comments he noted that States must find a way to cooperate with one another, stating he “deplored” the open refusal of some States to work with the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity:
“Protecting all human beings, including the LGBTI community, is not "outside" the international legal framework; ending discrimination and violence for everyone, everywhere, is absolutely central to our principles and work.”
Ahead of his first address to the Human Rights Council, Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz said he would focus on banning “conversion therapy” and repealing discriminatory laws. His report to the Council emphasized that intersecting factors impact LGBT and gender non-conforming people differently. He also looked at “root causes” to violence, including “deeply entrenched stigma and prejudice reinforced by discriminatory laws” and the link between hate speech, hate crimes, and the media:
“Denying this fact is offensive to the dignity of those targeted, as well as the global conscience. Opposition to taking action to protect [LGBTI] defies logic and any justification.”
The 94th plenary meeting of General Assembly 72nd session addressed the implementation of the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. Secretary-General António Guterres noted that progress remains “fragile and uneven”. General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia urged for more to be done and said, “We are on the right path and should be hopeful, but never complacent.” Among the country delegates, Canada emphasized efforts to address marginalized groups, including LGBTI persons.
UNAIDS launched a new campaign “Respect and Dignity” to urge the creation of healthy, thriving communities. The campaign includes an interactive website with videos and a message board where people are encouraged to share what the message means to them.
The UNDP Being LGBTI in Asia program hosted a two-day national dialogue in Thailand to review recent achievements and ongoing challenges towards LGBTI inclusion. Over 80 representatives of civil society and faith groups, government agencies, the UN, international organizations, and media attended.
The UNDP and the International Labour Office (ILO) published a new study on LGBTI people and employment. The study found that a significant amount of people in China, the Philippines, and Thailand report being harassed, bullied, or discriminated against at work due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and sex characteristics.
The World Bank released a new study on the impact of LGBTI discrimination on economic development using field experiments in Serbia. The study found that “feminine boys” were three times more likely to be refused enrollment in public school and one in five same-sex couples were denied apartment rentals.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: As Pride month continues, the U = U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) campaign reminds the community that HIV-positive people who have undetectable viral loads are incapable of transmitting HIV. The New Zealand AIDS foundation released a humorous video to help spread the message. And UK insurance group Emerald Life released a new travel insurance policy that says that people with HIV do not need to disclose it as a pre-existing medical condition if they are on anti-viral medication and have an undetectable viral load.
During Zimbabwe's “Million Men Circumcised” event, the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. David Parirenyatwa, announced that the government has launched a PrEP campaign for those at high risk of contracting HIV.
A study from Kenya and Uganda found that early adopters of PrEP tend to be male, older, and in serodiscordant relationships.
A new study of nearly 17,000 Australian men found that condom use "rapidly" declined during the country's large publicly funded rollout of PrEP. Researchers noted that condom use decreased even among those not taking PrEP and suggested that people may perceive that there is less risk when PrEP use is high within the community.
A new US study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that many healthcare providers have “missed opportunities” to prescribe PrEP to high-risk individuals, especially women and black and Hispanic men. Meanwhile, a report published in AIDS and Behavior found that one-third of young men in the US who took PrEP discontinued it within six months. The top three reasons for discontinuing usage were described as an inability to see a doctor, insurance problems, and no longer perceiving themselves to be at risk.
A new Lancet study suggests that long-acting injectable PrEP could significantly reduce new HIV infections by making it much easier for people to adhere to a regimen.
A new UK study found that men who hide their sexuality are at high risk for HIV, in part, because they are more likely to choose partners who are also non-disclosed and are likely to perceive themselves as not at risk. Researchers conclude that prevention campaigns need to be tailored for non-disclosed men who are unlikely to come in contact with outreach and prevention efforts designed for openly gay and bisexual men.
In Nigeria, despite laws that prohibit offering services to men who have sex with men, the research study TRUST (Trusted Community Center to Reduce HIV Infections by Engaging Networks of Friends and Partners to Support Safe Sex) provides clinical HIV care to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and trans people.
In the US, the CDC says that Miami, Florida has the highest new HIV infection rate per capita of any US city. Clinics and outreach campaigns are struggling amid bureaucracy to reach communities with diverse cultures and racial divides including gay men, immigrants, people who inject drugs, and homeless people.
A first of its kind gel is being tested that would prevent HIV, HPV, and herpes simplex virus. The gel has advanced to clinical trials and will be tested for both rectal and vaginal safety in both transgender and cis women and men.
In the UK, Public Health England (PHE) reported that in the last year cases of gonorrhea have increased by 22% and syphilis by 20%—reaching their highest levels in over thirty years. PHE noted that syphilis was “overwhelmingly concentrated” among gay men and other men who have sex with men.
Bermuda’s Ministry of Health issued a public warning that cases of gonorrhea have tripled while cases of chlamydia, herpes, and syphilis have continued to rise over the last year. Canada’s Alberta Health Services announced an apparent spike in cases of syphilis and gonorrhea and urged individuals of all ages to practice safe sex.
The Economist explored why sexually transmitted diseases in US, including syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, have sharply increased over the last decade.
The Medical Journal of Australia published the country’s first-ever standard of care and treatment guidelines for trans and gender diverse children and adolescents. The guidelines were written by medical experts with input from the trans community and relevant support organizations and have been endorsed by the Australian and New Zealand Professional Association for Transgender Health.
The US CDC released its Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary and Trends Report: 2007-2017. The findings showed that all teens face increased pressures; however, lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens faced particular risk for violence and poor mental health. In the last year, 47.7% of LGB seriously considered suicide and 22% of LGB had been raped compared to 5.4% of their peers.
For South Africa’s Youth Month, six LGBTQ groups responsible for the Love Not Hate campaign shared results of its national youth report. The report warns that the high levels of violence, discrimination, and sexual abuse these youths face can lead to depression and self-harm.
From the World of Politics: In Denmark, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Equal Opportunities Minister Eva Kjer Hansen launched the country’s LGBT action plan a year after promising to improve conditions for the community. The 25 million kroner (US$ 4 million) plan is a collaboration of 13 ministries and has 42 initiatives that focus on topics such as mental and physical health, employment, education, discrimination, youth and elderly, and ethnic minorities.
In the Philippines, the city of Mandaluyong passed an Ordinance to “uphold the rights of all Filipinos especially those discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE)”. The ordinance includes protections against abuse and for employment, education, and public services. Although there are 25 other cities with local anti-discrimination protections, similar bills have faced strong opposition at the national level.
In Tunisia, the Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee made several progressive recommendations to President Beji Caid Essebsi, including decriminalizing same-sex activity, abolishing the death penalty, and giving women more rights. The report specifically notes:
“The state and society have nothing to do with the sexual life amongst adults… Sexual orientations and choices of individuals are essential to private life.”
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a comprehensive report on the "targeted persecution" of LGBTI people in the Chechen Republic (Russian Federation). It thoroughly details the situation, and it offers a list of recommendations for Council of Europe member States to help protect and support victims and their communities.
In Australia, South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman announced the state is committed to removing the so-called “gay panic” defense which allows a heterosexual person accused of murder to ask for a reduced charge if they claim they were “provoked” by a non-violent "advance" by a gay person. All other Australian states ban the defense. In the US, the state of Rhode Island is considering legislation to ban defenses based on either so-called trans or gay panic. If approved by the state Senate, Rhode Island will join California and Illinois as the only places with the ban, although the American Bar Association has urged all states to de-legitimize the practice. Noting the the legislation was “common-sense” Representative Kenneth Marshall said:
“A victim is a victim, and no victim’s life is worth less than another’s because of his or her gender identity or sexuality.”
Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez installed his cabinet with 11 women and two gay men. With a majority of women, the cabinet has the highest proportion of women in the country’s history. Openly gay magistrate Fernando Grande Marlaska was appointed as the Minister of the Interior. Maxim Huerta was appointed Minister of Culture, but he quickly resigned over tax issues.
The Politics of Union: Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced that his government backed legislation to introduce marriage equality. In response, 46 lawmakers drafted a marriage bill to allow gay couple full marital status, while 37 lawmakers submitted an alternative bill proposing a Constitutional change to limit marriage to a woman and man. The parliament must vote on both bills before one moves to President Milos Zeman for approval.
Let the Courts Decide: The European Court of Justice ruled that EU member states should recognize marriages performed in other EU states and grant residency permits accordingly. The case was brought forward by a Romanian man seeking residency for his husband whom he married in Brussels, even though Romania does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Bermuda's Supreme Court ruled against the government’s Domestic Partnership Act and declared invalid the parts of it that revoked marriage equality. In the latest ruling, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley said:
“Persons who passionately believe that same-sex marriages should not take place for religious or cultural reasons are entitled to have those beliefs respected and protected by law. But, in return for the law protecting their own beliefs, they cannot require the law to deprive persons who believe in same-sex marriage of respect and legal protection for their opposing beliefs.”
The Supreme Court of the Philippines heard arguments on marriage equality brought forward by two couples who had been denied wedding licenses. Although President Rodrigo Duterte has held multiple positions on the issue, co-plaintiff Jesus Falcis said the president’s discussion on the topic allows a “conducive environment” to talk about it.
In Peru, the Constitutional Court is considering an appeal from a couple suing the National Civil Registry to recognize their marriage which was performed in Mexico. The couple, well-known Peruvian economist Óscar Ugarteche and his Mexican partner Fidel Aroche, were initially granted recognition by a Lima court in 2017; however they lost on appeal due to a technicality.
The US Supreme Court narrowly sided with a Christian baker who refused to serve a gay couple. The Court's decision said that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had been "hostile" to the baker's religion when it ruled that he violated the state law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. Response to the ruling has been mixed with LGBT activists both heartened by some Justices’ comments in support of LGBT rights and others frustrated by the “dangerous encouragement to those who would deny civil rights”.
Poland’s Supreme Court ruled against a print shop employee who refused to print banners for the LGBT Business Forum. Zbigniew Ziobro, who is both the Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General, represented the employee and accused the court of standing “on the side” of violence and serving the “ideology of homosexual activists”.
Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the law societies of British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia were right to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University’s proposed law school because TWU forces students to sign a document promising not to engage in sexual intimacy, both on and off campus, unless it is within a heterosexual marriage. The court agreed that it was within the public interest that all people have equal access to the legal profession, including LGBTQ law students.
Hungary’s Constitutional Court tackled gender issues in a newly published decision. While reviewing the case of an Iranian person who was granted asylum due to Iran persecuting trans people, the court decided it is unconstitutional that no laws provide for legal gender recognition for those living permanently in Hungary. It confirmed that gender recognition and related name changes are a fundamental right and should not require medical interventions for recognition.
In the UK, a high court ruled that the government does not need to issue gender-neutral passports. Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand, Pakistan, India, Ireland, and Nepal all offer a gender-neutral option for passports.
Regarding Religion: In South Africa, Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke at the funeral of his friend and former Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Father Rowan Smith. Smith, who came out as gay in 1998, was an anti-apartheid activist and supported campaigns to end HIV and violence against LGBT people. Emeritus Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane added a call for acceptance, saying:
“We must act because we are hurting quite a sizeable number of people who are members of the churches. Because you don’t choose your sexuality. You’re born with it and therefore we need to embrace them.”
Ahead of the Catholic Church’s Synod of Bishops on Young People and World Meeting of Families, the Vatican released a new document that refers to “LGBT youth” instead of “persons with homosexual tendencies” for what appears to be the first time. Meanwhile, the Italian news agency ANSA reported that the Pope told members of Forum delle Famiglie: "It is painful to say this today: People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family," but "the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one."
Many LGBT Catholic groups have expressed frustration over the conflicting messages from the Vatican. Irish group We Are Church launched a petition asking to reform "theological language that is gravely insulting to LGBTQI people". And the group New Ways Ministry urged the Pope to meet with LGBT families as he met with survivors of sexual abuse because, they say, “[LGBT families] have long suffered from another form of clerical abuse".
Brazil’s Anglican Episcopal Church held its General Synod during which it voted overwhelmingly to allow same-sex marriages in the church. Although the global Anglican Communion punished the US Episcopal Church when it approved same-sex marriage, it has not indicated it will similarly sanction Brazil. Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Nigeria expressed disappointment with Brazil, but he urged Anglicans to "work out how to maintain unity". And, although the global body does not support gay marriage, he emphasized that:
It is important to stress the Communion’s strong opposition to the criminalization of LGBTIQ+ people.”
The Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced it will begin collecting information on “same-sex parents and same-sex couples” in its genealogical database “FamilySearch”.
Fear and Loathing: Nigerian website NoStringsNG reported that police raided a hotel club in the Delta State. Witnesses said they beat and harassed the over 100 men and women in the club and arrested many on allegations of homosexuality.
Reporting from Egypt, journalist Allison Washington reflected on the dangers her trans colleagues face from police in Egypt, Jordan, UK, and the US.
From Morocco, Professor Moha Ennaji wrote about how LGBTI Moroccans carefully navigate their personal and professional lives to avoid danger of violence from both the public and the police.
Writing on Brazil, journalist and PhD candidate Jaimee Swift wrote about “misogynoir”, a term describing anti-Black racist misogyny, and the pervasiveness of “transmisogynoir”, describing oppression and violence against black trans women. Although Brazil has the highest rates of reported trans-related murders in the world, Swift also emphasized the activism among Black Brazilian trans women that makes them “important socio-political agents of radical change and resistance in the Black Diaspora”.
Writing from Thailand, Rina Chandran explored the issue of young boys and men, aged 14 to 24, who are caught in the world of sex trafficking and slavery. Alezandra Russell, founder of non-profit Urban Light, argued that boys are vastly overlooked:
“Why does this not shock and enrage people as much as it does when it’s girls? They are no less vulnerable and abused than girls who are trafficked into sex work. Yet it is much more hidden, so there’s much less sympathy and far fewer resources for boys.”
Winds of Change: Reflecting on Pride month, The New York Times explored the recent trends of LGBTQ issues across the world including efforts to decriminalize same-sex relations in Botswana, India, Kenya, and Trinidad and Tobago, police-led violent campaigns in Azerbaijan, Uganda, and Indonesia, and how local laws impact acceptance in the US.
From the US, Buzzfeed News and Whitman Insight Strategies conducted a comprehensive survey among nearly 900 self-identifying LGBTQ on their beliefs, priorities, and identities. Despite facing similar types of discrimination, the poll showed that LGBTQ across the US have “starkly different” experiences. It also identified changing gun laws as respondents’ top issue, followed by healthcare, LGBTQ rights, and employment.
Thai LGBT activist Thanita Wongprasert discussed with journalist and disability activist Nalutporn Krairiksh how the movements overlap and how recognizing shared experiences of stigma, exclusion, and discrimination can empower both communities.
US journalist Jon Shadel explored how LGBTQ+ activists have led a movement to fight gun violence. As Valerie Jean-Charles, a spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety, told him:
“When we talk about queer liberation, trans liberation or black liberation, gun violence prevention has to be in that equation because there are people out there who don’t think we deserve to live.”
Irish journalist Brian O’Flynn talked to five leading queer activists about the overlap of LGBT and feminist issues and how the fight for marriage equality built momentum to end Ireland’s abortion ban. Author Una Mullally noted that queer people are used to “our bodies [being] political battlegrounds” and remarked on the number of gay men canvassing for abortion rights:
“It’s funny because abortion obviously disproportionately affects straight women, but it’s more than that; it’s about being allowed to be free in your society.”
US editor and visual journalist Jamal Jordan highlighted the importance of race and representation in the LGBTQ community. In his piece for the New York Times, he set out to “give a gift to my younger self: the imagery of queer love I’ve never seen. Queer love in color.”
In Guinea-Bissau, West-African based photojournalist Ricci Shryock spoke to LGBTQ people who are inspiring each other to live openly, despite laws in neighboring countries that criminalize same-sex activity.
ILGA-Europe released a new position paper on the rights of LGBTI sex workers. The paper calls for policies to improve social inclusion to ensure LGBTI have economic options for survival, for decriminalization of consensual, non-coerced sex work, and for more inclusion of LGBTI sex worker voices in all aspects of the LGBTI movement.
On the March: Author Masha Gessen spoke to Iranian LGBT refugees stuck in limbo in Turkey who dared to protest for help, despite local policies that ban protests. Unable to return to their home countries where being LGBT leads to criminalization and violence, refugees say that UN and other resettlement operations tell them that due to shifting world politics: “There is no country for you”.
Refugee organizations in Kenya and Uganda have united to launch Refugee Coalition of East Africa (RefCEA), a refugee-led community based group advocating for LGBTI refugees in East Africa. Check out RefCEA's video as they call to mark June 27th as “International LGBTI Refugee Day”.
In Kenya, around 600 people participated in the first Pride event held at the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Organizers hoped the event would promote unity and help others at the camp know “we are of no harm, we are human like any of them”. Although the event was successful, some fear backlash after violent threatening messages were “pinned all over camp”.
In Ukraine, around 5,000 people participated in the Kiev Pride march. Although previous marches ended in violence, this year police protected participants from over 150 “far-right” protesters who attempted to block the route. At least 56 were detained at the march and more were apprehended in a second altercation.
In the US, the Los Angeles Pride festival was shut down by police helicopters and officers in riot gear when officials say the event reached maximum capacity with a crowd of nearly 100,000. Many took to Twitter to express their fear of both police and the crowds and organizers apologized for over-selling tickets.
Writing from Timor-Leste, Sophie Raynor explored the courage behind the long pushto develop the nation’s first major LGBTQ Pride event in 2017.
Poland hosted a record 12 Pride marches this year, including in several “conservative strongholds”. After previous Pride monuments over the years were vandalized and burned down, this year Warsaw unveiled a rainbow monument made of light and water as an “unbreakable symbol of love, peace, LGBT rights and equality”.
School Days: A Malawian radio station has launched “Umoyo Wabwino” (“Better Life”), a live radio show for young people to openly discuss sexuality and HIV. South African LGBTQ+ youth discussed the issues that they feel are neglected by society, including gender identity, discrimination within the LGBTQ community, sex education, and family. And in the UK, members of one of the only two LGBT youth clubs in all of North Wales spoke about the importance of community, especially in rural areas.
US-based organization GLAAD launched “Amp Your Voice”, a campaign to encourage LGBTQ youth to register to vote and to speak out and take action on the issues most important to them.
More Japanese schools continue to adopt gender-neutral uniforms in a specific effort to support LGBT students. The changes are supported by the Ministry of Education who, in 2015, encouraged schools to support gender minority students and their concerns with clothing, bathroom use, and activities. In Australia, South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent condemned private schools for gendered uniforms that “perpetuate damaging stereotypes”.
UK lawyer Molly Mulready discussed her struggle to let her son represent himself at school openly— clothes, pronouns, and all—despite her fears that he would be bullied and face the hardships trans people face around the world:
“If you could avoid all that and happily pretend you’re a girl when you know you’re a boy – why wouldn’t you? “Mum, if I could, I probably would, but I can’t because it isn’t who I am. And there’s the rub – it’s not a choice, it’s a truth. And it can be wonderful.”
Sports and Culture: The World Cup has proceeded with few reported incidents impacting the LGBTQ community despite Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws. On the first day of the Cup, UK activist Peter Tatchell was arrested for protesting human rights abuses in Chechnya. A gay French couple were reportedly hospitalized after being attacked. And FIFA fined Mexico $10,000 because Mexican fans chanted a homophobic slur during its opening game. Organization “Coming Out” is maintaining a hotline during the Cup to try and protect LGBTQ residents and tourists. The hotline connects those who have been refused services, arrested, or threatened to a team of Russian and English speaking lawyers and psychologists.
In India, a new smartphone app called The Delta Connect helps people find LGBT inclusive venues and businesses.
UK rock band The 1975 helped raise £50,000 to build a new LGBTQ+ community center in London. The new HBO documentary “Believer” follows rock singer Dan Reynolds’ efforts to encourage Mormons to accept the LGBTQ community and protect LGBTQ youth from suicide and depression.
The new television drama “Pose” is making history as the first show to feature the largest cast of trans actors to appear as series regulars. The US show follows members of the “house/ball scene” as AIDS was unfolding in 1980s New York City and will soon be available in Europe.
Finally, check out the trailer for openly gay Australian comic Hannah Gadsby's new special that has been called a "game changer" for comedy. In her stand-up, she weaves her story of gender, sexual identity, and violent trauma with humor and passion. Gadsby declares that she can no longer use self-deprecating humor because when you live at the margins “it is not humility, it’s humiliation”:
“I simply won’t do that anymore, not to myself or anybody who identifies with me.”