"This is part of the women's rights movement — it's impossible to separate [the LGBT community]. And I'm very proud of Kyrgyzstan that this has become possible here."
~ Bektour Iskender, Kyrgyz activist and journalist, on the inclusion of LGBT people at Kyrgyzstan's Women's March
From the UN: Victor Madrigal, the UN’s independent expert on violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has called for an end of all laws that criminalize consensual same-sex relations worldwide by 2030. Madrigal reiterated the call while speaking at the the ILGA World Conference in New Zealand:
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t ask to see a world free of criminalisation by 2030. Decriminalisation is not getting us from zero to one: it is getting us from minus one to zero.”
At the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR), the council adopted the South Africa-led resolution “Elimination of discrimination against women and girls in sport”. The resolution recognizes the intersecting forms of discrimination women and girls face when participating in sports. It notes that rules and practices which require women and girls to medically suppress their natural testosterone blood levels may violate international human rights standards. These rules impact women and girls with differences of sex development, androgen sensitivity, and naturally high levels of testosterone.
The resolution specifically called out the recent eligibility regulations published by the International Association of Athletics Federations as incompatible with human rights norms. The UNHCR called on member states to stop developing or enforcing “policies and practices that force, coerce or otherwise pressure women and girl athletes into undergoing unnecessary, humiliating and harmful medical procedures” in order to participate in women’s competitive sports. Intersex Human Rights Australia called the resolution “ground-breaking”.
The UNDP Being LGBTI in Asia and Global Affairs Canada announced a new agreement to support the “economic empowerment” of lesbian, bisexual, and trans women in the Philippines.
The World Bank collaborated with the UNDP to publish "A Set of Proposed Indicators for The LGBTI Inclusion Index" which was developed from consultations with civil society and experts across 65 subject areas. The paper suggests a series of indicators on issues of health, economic well-being, political and civil participation, education, and personal security and violence that will help measure the inclusion of LGBTI people.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: From Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a local man is the seventh known person in the world to become HIV-positive while taking PrEP. Steve Spencer had used PrEP “on demand” for six years. Plus magazine spoke to a PrEP/HIV expert about Spencer’s case and what it means for the community.
Researchers presented data at the Annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2019) which showed that people who were unaware that they were HIV-positive and used PrEP (thinking that they were HIV-negative) were significantly more likely to have some types of drug-resistant mutations of the virus.
US journalist Lenny Berstein reported on the difficulty of getting accessible PrEP to gay men and others who live in rural towns where the options for health care are limited and providers may be reluctant to discuss sexual health.
New data from the US CDC found that only about half of HIV-positive people in the country know they have HIV, are in care, and are virally suppressed or undetectable. The Kaiser Foundation released data comparing viral suppression among high-income countries. The data shows that the US has the lowest percentage of people virally suppressed while the UK, Switzerland, and Sweden have the highest percentage of virally suppressed people with HIV.
Lancet Global Health published the “the largest and most comprehensive”systematic review and meta-analysis of data from around the world on the associations between circumcision and HIV and other STIs among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Evaluating research of 119,248 men, study authors found that circumcision reduced the odds of HIV infection in low and middle income countries. Circumcision also reduced the odds of herpes among all men and reduced odds of penile HPV among HIV-infected men. A separate article in the Lancet remarked that “robust evidence” already exists showing the circumcision reduces HIV acquisition among heterosexual men. The authors reflect that these new results from gay and other men who have sex with men are “compelling” and state:
“These new data should extinguish concerns that the benefits of voluntary medical male circumcision for MSM are too ambiguous to drive programmatic action.”
From the World of Politics: The US Defense Department released its new policy for transgender people serving in the military which it says will go into effect on 12 April. The policy restricts individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving if they are “unable or unwilling to adhere” to “standards associated with their biological sex”, as reported by NBC.
The Washington Post reported that the US House voted to oppose the ban. The resolution is largely symbolic and will not force the military to reject the ban. Resolution author Rep. Joe Kennedy noted that “implementing a ban that ignores basic science, the sworn testimony of military leadership, and mountains of research” will “inject intolerance into our military, demean their sacrifice and cast doubt on our commitment to that promise”.
Meanwhile, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the federal district court of Washington, DC, released a 3-page notice stating that the injunction she put against the policy remains in effect and the ban cannot proceed, as reported by Reuters. However, Bloomberg reported that the Justice Department does not agree with the judge.
Also in the US, over 280 members of Congress introduced the “Equality Act” to update the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation as reported by NBC. In addition to LGBT people, the Act considers “sex” to include protections for pregnancy, childbirth, sex characteristics, and intersex traits. The Act identifies many situations that LGBTI people and those perceived to be LGBTI have experienced discrimination and specifically forbids it—including housing, the workplace, foster care and adoption, public spaces, and commercial services and goods. The Williams Institute published an analysis on how the Equality Act can impact the estimated 13 million LGBT people aged 13 and older in the country.
Although many organizations and individuals have spoken in support of the Act, there has also been opposition from some who believe it would compromise religious freedom or undermine the rights of women as reported by the Catholic News Service, Washington Blade, and others.
Germany’s Justice Ministry expanded its directive to provide compensation to more gay and bisexual men targeted by the Nazi-era law criminalizing homosexuality. Originally, the payments were authorized for men who were convicted and jailed. Now a payment will also be available for those people who were investigated and taken into custody but not convicted.
The UK Minister for Women and Equalities appointed the first National Adviser for LGBT Health and a 12-person advisory panel to focus on key issues. Sexual health and HIV consultant Dr. Michael Brady will serve as the advisor to focus on inequality in the healthcare system, improving awareness on LGBT issues and conversion therapy, and addressing access to physical and mental health services.
Meanwhile, the UK’s exit from the European Union is looming on the horizon. The group LGBT+ For a People’s Vote and Gay Star News presented to Parliament “Brexit, The LGBT Impact Assessment” examining how the needs of LGBTI people have been overlooked during Brexit negotiations. Among its points the report argues that losing the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights will have the greatest impact on the community. Urging for greater awareness of the issues, Gay Star News Director Tris Reid-Smith remarked:
“As a community we can pretend this danger isn’t looming. Or we can do what we have always done – take responsibility personally and collectively for the protection and promotion of our rights.”
Thailand held its general election on 24 March—the first election since a military coup overtook the government in 2014. Among the candidates was Pauline Ngarmpring, the country’s first trans candidate for prime minister and another 20 openly LGBT parliamentary candidates. The election results are still in flux and it is unclear which party will select the prime minister. However, the Election Commission's unofficial results show that filmmaker Tanwarin “Golf” Sukkhapisit has made history as the first non-binary person elected to the House of Representatives. Tanwarin, who identifies as “genderqueer” or “non-binary”, spoke to Coconuts Bangkok about what they plan to do with the win:
“To those that complain and say the LGBT community is asking for too much, I want to say that we’re just asking for the same amount of basic rights as an average person. We don’t want more rights than you. We just want what you have. You don’t lose anything for us to become equal.”
India’s elections will begin in April. Although hijra, trans, and other non-binary people were given the right to register as third gender voters in 2014, only a small percentage have registered to vote. For example, the state of Karnataka estimates their trans population is over 70,000 people, Telangana state estimates 90,000, and Gurugram state estimates over 8,000 people—yet only a few thousand have registered across all states. For the first time the Election Commission (EC) has appointed a trans person as one of the election ambassadors for the general election. As an ambassador, activist ShreeGauri Sawant will visit trans people, encourage them to register, and provide support at polling booths. Additionally, the EC named trans actress and model Manipur Bishesh Huirem as a “State Icon” and activist Preeti Mahant as a “district icon” to encourage awareness and participation.
Although the US presidential election is over a year away, 14 Democratic candidates are already vying for the nomination with another 13 considering a run for office. The Human Rights Campaign and UCLA announced they will host a presidential debate specifically on LGBTQ rights so candidates can discuss views and policy platforms. Candidate Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay 37-year-old married mayor from Indiana who speaks seven languages, recently shot to the top of some polls. As reported by Washington Post, he might have a chance to win.
As Europe prepares for the European Parliament election in May, ILGA-Europe launched two campaigns to “Come Out” in support of human rights for LGBTI people and to “Elect No Hate” to keep the elections free from intolerance and discrimination. In addition, the group has announced a series of free webinars to support and encourage LGBTI communities to get more involved and bring visibility to LGBTI issues in the elections. Register to attend the April webinars.
Writing for the New Yorker, reporter Jon Lee Anderson took an in-depth look at the election of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro who repeatedly used anti-gay rhetoric during his campaign. During the election, Anderson reports, attacks against LGBTQ people spiked including the murder of trans women by men invoking the president's name.
The Politics of Union: The Grand Court of the Cayman Islands ruled that preventing same-sex couples from the ability to marry is unconstitutional and violates their right to a private family life and their right to freedom of expression. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ordered that the law should be changed to define marriage as "the union between two people as one another's spouses". He remarked that modifying the marriage law does not threaten the institution of marriage and that “our constitutional democracy will itself be strengthened by the affirmation of the state’s obligation to respect fundamental human rights”.
Japan’s Justice Ministry reversed a deportation order against a gay Taiwanese man who has lived with his Japanese partner for 25 years. The man had filed a lawsuit claiming that if he had been a woman he would have been able to receive a spousal visa. Japan does not recognize same-sex marriages.
In Taiwan, China, the Judicial Yuan ruled in 2017 that denying couples the right to marry violates their constitutional rights. A public referendum held in November found that a majority of voters did not support marriage equality. However, the referendum cannot override the Court’s ruling. Furthermore, the Court’s two-year deadline will make marriage equality legal by default this May even if there is no legislation in place. Now the Legislature has moved forward two competing draft bills to recognize same-sex couples. One would ensure couples can register their marriage and give them rights granted to married couples, including limited adoption rights. The other would refer to same-sex couples as “family members” and limit their ability to inherit or share custody of a partner’s child, as reported by Taipei Times.
In Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam reflected on marriage equality during the Bloomberg Invest Asia summit. The government recently began issuing dependant visas for the same-sex partners of expatriates after the Court of Final Appeal ruled in favor of a British lesbian couple living in Hong Kong. At the summit, Lam emphasized that same-sex unions will not be permitted and that the issue remains controversial. However, she remains committed to “following the law” to support foreign couples coming to work in the region.
In the Mexican state of Sinaloa, state congressional leader Graciela Dominguez Nava promised that the Congress will debate a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. If it is passed, Sinaloa will be the 15th state with marriage equality. In all other Mexican states couples must petition a judge to get married.
Let the Courts Decide: Botswana’s High Court in Gaborone heard arguments challenging Sections 164 and 167 of the Penal Code that criminalizes relations between people of the same-sex. The case was filed last year and local LGBTI advocacy group LEGABIBO was named a friend of the court to assist the proceedings. At the end of the one-day hearing Judge Abednico Tafa announced that the court would not make a decision until June.
Kenya’s High Court recently announced it is not ready to deliver a decision on the constitutionality of the penal code sections that criminalize same-sex sexual relations. Justice Chacha Mwita noted that they are working hard and “will endeavour to have the decision in May”.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s Court of Appeal ruled that the “National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission” should be allowed to formally register as a nongovernmental organization. In 2015, a court ruled that the government was wrong to block the NGLHRC from registering even though the law criminalizes relations between same-sex people. The Non-Governmental Organisations Coordination Board appealed that decision. Three of the Court of Appeal judges affirmed the ruling saying that “our understanding of the objectives of the proposed NGO is the protection of persons whose sexual orientation is gay or lesbian, as well as persons who are transgender or intersex, from discrimination and other violation of their rights” and that “It is not for the promotion of the sexual acts” or to “advance pedophilia” as suggested by the Board. Presiding Judge Philip Waki added:
"The issue of LGBT is rarely discussed in public. But it cannot be doubted that it is an emotive issue. The reality is that this group does exist and we can no longer deny that. Let it go down that I will not be the first to throw a stone and harm them."
In Canada, the provincial Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that a 14-year-old trans boy can start hormone therapy against his father’s wishes. The youth, who came out in 2016, has the support of his mother, medical professionals, and his teachers to proceed with treatment. The father, who has joint custody of the child, has been preventing treatments since last summer. Trans rights advocate Adrienne Smith says the ruling should bring hope to struggling youth:
“Young trans people can take comfort that the way that they are often misgendered and deadnamed is a human rights violation and could rise to the level of being family violence.”
In the US, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a trans man has filed suit against a California hospital for canceling his planned hysterectomy only moments before the surgery was to take place. The man, Oliver Knight, later learned that the hospital reverend had made an “ethics assessment” of his case and decided to cancel the procedure. The hospital is owned by St. Joseph Health Network which operates 51 hospitals across the US. It has previously stated that it will only perform “medically necessary” hysterectomies because sterilization is morally "wrong". ACLU senior attorney Elizabeth Gill remarked:
“Gender affirming care is lifesaving and medically necessary. Transgender people are part of our community, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods and they, just like everyone else, deserve to get the health care they need.”
The ABA Justice Works Program published a report “Framework for Enhanced Responses to Bias-Motivated Violence Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression”. The framework was developed with experts including legal practitioners, psychosocial service providers, and police departments to provide practical information for those responding to bias-motivated violence. It outlines key considerations and best practices from around the world.
Regarding Religion: A group called “Catholics for Human Rights” asked the UN to revoke the Vatican’s status as a “Non-member State Permanent Observer”—a designation that allows the Vatican to participate in UN work without formal membership. In their open letter to the Secretary-General, they denounced the "global scale and magnitude of rape, sexual violence and torture perpetrated by clergy and the systematic cover-ups by Church officials". The group suggests that the observer status creates “a dangerous precedent” allowing one religious organization “to influence policies and processes that affect the lives of billions of people around the world”. It further argues that those policies “can and do result in violations” of basic rights to equality and nondiscrimination of women and girls and LGBTI people. The group published a report with case studies to back up the arguments put forth in their letter.
In Italy, the Guardian reported that 20,000 people protested an event being held by the US-based World Congress of Families. Yuri Guaiana of All Out said it was important to show Italy will not surrender to hate:
“They’ve said terrible things about homosexuality, divorce and contraception, and yet they [those involved with WCF] played the victims, saying we were attacking them simply for defending the family. This is why it’s important to protest."
An investigation from openDemocracy by Claire Provost and Mary Fitzgerald reported that 12 US-based Christian right fundamentalist organizations have contributed at least $50 million to European groups of ultra-conservative lawyers, political activists, and “family values” campaigns that object to LGBT rights, sex education, and abortion. Responding to the findings over 40 Members of Parliament have called on the EU to look into the influence of these organizations “with the greatest urgency” before the European Parliamentary elections. Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith, of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, called the findings “highly alarming”:
“No group of any kind should be able to use dark money to distort debate and to subvert democracy in Europe, least of all group such as these whose causes are deeply regressive”.
From the US, reporter Alex Kotch investigated the country’s largest donor-advised funds. Newsweek explains these funds enable donors to channel tax deductible gifts while remaining anonymous to the IRS. Kotch found that several of these funds have been contributing large amounts to organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as hate groups. In particular, tax filings from the National Christian Foundation (NCF) showed that they gave $56.1 million to 23 so-called hate groups over 3 years. Of that money over $49 million was given to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group called by Inside Philanthropy “probably the single biggest source of money fueling the pro-life and anti-LGBT movements over the past 15 years”. Speaking to Newsweek, Lisa Gilbert of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen noted that this suggests “a mechanism” to give money to unpopular causes “like going after gay rights” and an ability for donors to anonymously influence political messaging.
Following these reports, 25 foundations and philanthropic groups led by the Amalgamated Foundation launched a campaign called “Hate Is Not Charitable”. The campaign aims to “insert some accountability” and urge foundations to create policies that prevent donors from earmarking funds for hate groups. Alliance Defending Freedom has responded to the report and to the campaign saying, “It is appalling and offensive to compare peaceful Christian organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom with violent and racist groups”.
In February, the United Methodist Church held a special conference to decide how the church would handle LGBTQ issues going forward. At the end, participants voted to maintain a “traditional plan” that says “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”. The decision was very close, with only a 54-vote margin, however a review of the records discovered irregularity in some of the ballots casting the decision in doubt as reported by the New York Times.
Fear and Loathing: From Brunei, the Prime Minister confirmed that the country will implement changes to the penal code to enforce stricter Islamic criminal laws. The changes include punishing convicted people found guilty of adultery, sodamy, and rape with whippings and stoning to death. Celebrities and long-time activists George Clooney and Elton John called for a boycott of the nine hotels located in the UK, US, France, and Italy that are owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Acknowledging that the boycott may not change the law Clooney asked:
"But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way."
Human Rights Watch released a report on Japan that examines the legal process trans people must go through to be legally recognized. The process requires people to appeal to family court and undergo surgery to be sterilized. HRW spoke with 48 trans people from across the country in addition to legal and health experts to evaluate the impact and make recommendations for change. Although Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in January that the sterilization requirement does not violate the constitution, the ruling suggested the law needs to be reformed.
In Brazil, according to Reuters officials announced that police have charged several men with exploiting transgender women and operating a human trafficking ring. The ring, which had been active for at least 6 years, forced women into prostitution to pay for their gender transitions.
Meanwhile, also in Brazil, two former military police officers were arrested for the assassination of Marielle Franco, Rio de Janeiro’s outspoken bisexual councilwomanand internationally known human rights activist who was murdered in March of 2018. The investigation is continuing to determine if the men were hired to kill her. In a statement prosecutors remarked:
“It is incontestable that Marielle Franco was summarily executed for her political activity in the defence of the causes she defended.”
From Turkey, DW reported that a police officer was suspended from his job after 10 years service because he was gay and in an “unnatural relationship with another person”. The man said he hopes to appeal the disciplinary committee’s ruling in the court.
Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission began in January to investigate the human rights violations that occurred during the 22 year rule of President Yahya Jammeh. Professor Josh Scheinert of the University of the Gambia reflected on the “incomplete” record the commission will create because it is unlikely to include anyone willing to speak on the persecution of LGBT people. Although the Commission Deputy Executive Secretary Musu Bakoto Sawo agreed that victims were unlikely to come forward, she called the commission a “perfect time to start conversations” about the treatment of the LGBT community.
From Canada, Cami Kepke of Global News spoke to survivors of the the country’s “LGBTQ Purge”—a time between the 1950s and 1990s when the Canadian government exposed and removed suspected LGBTQ people from public service. Although in 2017 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an official apology that included $145 million for reparations to impacted individuals, Wayne Davis and Michelle Douglas told Kepke that continuing education about the Purge is an important way to tackle systemic issues of discrimination.
Reuters reported that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has intervened in the ownership of dating app Grindr. The app was taken over by Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech in deals between 2016 and 2018 that were not reviewed by CFIUS at the time. Now CFIUS says the ownership is a national security risk and leaves users’ personal data vulnerable. Sources told Reuters that Kunlun is seeking to sell Grindr LLC.
Winds of Change: The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released its annual “State-Sponsored Homophobia” reportproviding analysis of the legislation around the world that impacts people due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics. The report further illuminates the challenges people face across regions through featured essays from over 30 scholars and activists. For the first time, ILGA has also provided a section on International Human Rights Law to help people more easily understand legal developments in the field.
ILGA also held its World Conference in New Zealand bringing together over 500 people from nearly 100 countries. Among the pre-conference events were sessions on being LGBTI and indigenous, sex work, and young people. In a first, conference attendees passed a resolution to oppose all forms of the criminalization and legal oppression of sex workers.
The event took place only days following the tragic terrorist attack against two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques. Reflecting on the tragedy, Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, Co-Secretaries General of ILGA said:
“We mourn with you and all the people of Aotearoa and the world for the horrific loss in Christchurch last week. We stand in solidarity, sorrow and love with the Muslim community here. Queer people are not strangers to hate: they are us; and we are you. In the gloom, in the darkness, in the storm: we will shine a light for you.”
Other local New Zealand LGBTI groups chose to delay Pride events scheduled the same weekend as the tragedy out of respect for the 50 people who were killed and the dozens more who were injured. The groups Wellington International Pride Parade, Out in the Park, and Pride Hīkoi expressed concern that they would divert emergency services away from protecting the Muslim community. As Out Wellington added:
“Like you, Out Wellington Inc’ are devastated by the horror that unfolded in Christchurch today, our thoughts and love are with all of our Muslim whānau [family], their whānau, communities and the people of Christchurch."
The South African based group Accountability International published a series of interviews with LGBTQI and gender nonconforming Africans and their allies to document the knowledge and experiences the community share that largely go unacknowledged. They asked the questions: What does accountability towards LGBTIQ and gender nonconforming Africans look like? What are the major challenges that LGBTQI face? And What is the role of allies and funding partners? Capturing their responses in their own words, the reports serve as a guide for movement building.
From Guinea-Bissau, reporter Nellie Peyton spoke to members of “Big Mama Fountain”, a group of gay men and trans women who do not try to hide their sexuality or gender identity through the way they dress and act in public. Guinea-Bissau dropped criminalizing sections when their Penal Code was rewritten in 1993; however, people continue to face discrimination and sometimes violence. As member Da Costa said:
"Big Mama Fountain has helped many gays who used to be embarrassed or used to hide. We dress up to show those who may be hiding themselves that it is normal.”
In the US, author Samantha Allen wrote about how a slew of new non-discrimination city-ordinances in conservative states have created “pockets of LGBT acceptance”where people feel comfortable being themselves. Allen suggests that with greater acceptance and more people coming out:
“America’s queer center of gravity is moving toward the middle.”
Writer Trish Bendix explored the rising trend of “sober queer spaces” that provide an alternative to the traditional gay bar for LGBTQ people to gather. Cafes, bookshops, bakeries, open studios—around the country queer people are finding places and ways to connect that feel comfortable and safe. Virginia Bauman, co-owner of the space “Cuties”, reflected:
“We just need spaces to be.”
On the March: The Moscow LGBT group “Stimul” released a video showcasing the work they do to provide legal assistance and shelter to LGBT refugees who come to the country. Check it out!
In the UK, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee issued a report stating that the government should recognize LGBTQI+ asylum seekers are “vulnerable” to harm in immigration detention centers. The report further examined the government’s policies to safeguard LGBTQI and other “Adults at Risk”. A spokesman told Reuters:
“Detention is an important part of our immigration system – but it must be fair, humane and used only when absolutely necessary.”
In Kenya, journalist Max Bearak spoke to some of the 20 LGBT refugees who were arrested for protesting asylum conditions outside of the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nairobi. UNHCR has provided counseling and legal advice to the detainees. Meanwhile, Mbazira Moses, leader of the Refugee Flag Kenya advocacy group promised to go on a hunger strikeuntil those in prison are released.
Writing for AfroPunk, Joshua Allen described his time in Mexico City with a caravan of over 100 LGBTQ migrants on the path for asylum. As they described to Allen the horrors they were escaping from, they told him that the thousands leaving their homelands would not stop until “all people are free to survive and thrive”. Reflecting on their situation, Allen remarked:
“A group of people I expected to be hopeless displayed a mind-numbing sense of optimism and kindness.”
A Women’s Day march held in Kyrgyzstan sparked parliamentary debate over whether civil society groups need to be better contained. Some parliament members accused the march, which Radio Free Europe reported included a small group of LGBT participants, of “disgracing” the country and “damaging” the concept of the traditional family. Activists defended the march and participant Bektour Iskender contended that sexual minorities had participated in the past, but that opponents only just noticed. Adding that lesbians and trans girls face “tremendous violence” in the country, Iskender argued:
"This is part of the women's rights movement -- it's impossible to separate [the LGBT community]. And I'm very proud of Kyrgyzstan that this has become possible here."
In Russia’s Far Eastern District, a youth arts festival was cancelled by local officials who accused the director of “attempting to illegally hold an LGBT event”. Organizers said officials believed a theatrical play called “Blue and Pink” was LGBT propaganda. Director Yulia Tsvetkova wrote:
“I have only one question, why is someone so intent on sabotaging our small and peaceful youth festival. Can it be that youth activism so frightens our authorities?”
School Days: In Indonesia, students protested after North Sumatra University (USU) dismissed the entire editorial board of the school's news website. School officials had demanded that a story about a woman who falls in love with another woman be removed because it contained "pornography" and promoted homosexuality; however, the students refused. USU then canceled a literary forum organized to discuss the story.
In the UK, at least five schools in Birmingham suspended indefinitely a programmeant to teach about diversity and inclusion which included age-appropriate information on LGBT+ rights, gender identity, race, and religion. Parents at Parkfield Community School demonstrated in protest of the "No Outsiders" project. Head of the charity Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Reverend Stephen Terry responded to the news with disappointment:
“Parents are entitled to their views on sexuality and morality, and to set these beliefs before their children. A school’s task is to set out different views and approaches in society, with an overall duty to tackle prejudice and foster good relations between people of different characteristics. Teachers should be actively supported in this regard, not undermined.”
In Japan, new primary school textbooks have been certified that include discussion about gender identity and being attracted to the same sex. NHK reported that this is a first for official textbooks, although Tokyo-based publishers have been printing a handful of children's books with LGBTQ themes to expose children and teachers to different viewpoints.
In the US, Equality Arizona with the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed suit on behalf of unnamed students against the Arizona government over a state law that bans schools from HIV and sex education that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle, portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle, or suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex". The groups say the law "demeans and dismisses" LGBTQ students and creates a "toxic school environment".
Sports and Culture: VICE Broadly announced a new stock photo library to showcase the diversity of the trans and non-binary community. “The Gender Spectrum Collection: Stock Photos Beyond the Binary” includes people from across races and genders organized in a variety of themes including work, relationships, technology, health, lifestyle, and moods. Editor in chief Lindsay Schrupp commented:
“We really wanted to show that trans people are real people with fully lived lives.”
The 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards were held in the US to recognize accurate and inclusive representation of LGBTQ people and issues. Among the many celebrities to attends, superstar Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z were presented with the Vanguard Award. In an emotional acceptance speech, Jay-Z spoke of his mother who recently came out as a lesbian while Beyoncé dedicated the award to her late Uncle Johnny who died with HIV. Also celebrated was the cartoon "Steven Universe"—the first-ever animated series to win the Outstanding Kids & Family Programming Award.
In Myanmar, LGBT makeup artists, florists, fashion designers, dancers, performers and rights activists met for a two-day conference to discuss the representation of LGBT people in film. Participants created five main suggestions for the industry including asking the Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation to create a policy to end the propagation of “misrepresentational LGBT characters”. Social influencer and openly LGBT person Dee Dee, added:
“Cigarette smoking is censored here, so discrimination should be as well.”
Japanese soccer player Shiho Shimoyamada has come out as gay to send a “powerful message”. Shimoyamada, who plays for the German league, said she hopes to normalize the presence of LGBT people in Japan’s sports community ahead of the 2020 Olympics:
“Once you share your feelings with the company you keep, sports will become even more fun.”
Openly gay triathlete champion Jack Bristow spoke with the BBC’s “LGBT Sport Podcast” about the Olympics, the financial costs of competing in the triathlon world, and being an LGBT+ role model. Check out his conversation!
Top photo by Rochelle Brown