"A lot of heads were bashed in that night, a lot of people were hurt. But —they all came back for more... and more. That's when you could tell that nothing could stop us at that time, or anytime in the future."
~ Rudy, remembering Stonewall. On 28 June, 1969 police raided the gay bar Stonewall Inn prompting the Stonewall riots.
From the UN: In 2016 the UN passed a resolution that appointed an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) for a period of three years. Among the duties mandated, the expert was expected to identify root causes and raise awareness of violence and discrimination, engage in dialogue with stakeholders, and assist in the implementation of human rights measures to protect people against violence and discrimination based on sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression.
The mandate is set to expire this year unless the Human Rights Council votes to renew. Renewal is not guaranteed as there continue to be several Member States who do not support in the mandate. ARC International published a clear guide that details what the Independent Expert has accomplished and the challenges he has faced by those who have resisted his work. It argues that the mandate must be renewed. It notes that the Independent Expert is “uniquely placed” to help develop human rights standards in a manner that considers the different realities of LGBTQ people around the world.
In his final report to the Human Rights Council the current expert, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, emphasized how far there is still to go:
“[I]nformation about the lived realities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-diverse persons around the world is, at best, incomplete and fragmented; in some areas it is non-existent… [This] means that in most contexts policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, left only with personal preconceptions and prejudices or the prejudices of the people around them.”
On 3 July, a side event to the Human Rights Council 41st Session will be held to discuss “Why renew the mandate of the SOGI IE?” with a focus specifically on gender identity and human rights. The event is organized by Asia Pacific Transgender Network, GATE, ILGA World, RFSL, and Transgender Europe.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will present to the Human Rights Council “Human Rights in the Response to HIV”—a report of the two day high-level consultation cosponsored with UNAIDS convening stakeholders including Member State representatives, experts, and civil society members. Participants discussed challenges and best practices with a focus on regional and subregional issues. Synthesizing some of the ideas presented, Dainius Pūras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, noted that three policy actions should be strengthened in the response to HIV: popularizing participation, eliminating discrimination, and making use of data.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: For the first time, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of experts that reviews data and makes recommendations on health issues, issued in JAMA a recommendation that HIV-negative people who are at high risk for HIV take PrEP to prevent infection. The USPSTF describes “high risk” as gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who have sex without condoms, people whose sexual partners do not know their HIV status, and IV drug users.
From the UK, Yusef Azad of the National AIDS Trust argued that the PrEP Impact Trial, which began in 2017 to research PrEP impact, is being used to “ration” access to the drug. The trial quickly hit enrollment capacity and clinics had to turn away gay and bisexual men. Azad called the inability to access PrEP outside of the trial a “breach of human rights”:
“We are witnessing the miserable spectacle of various parts of the health system blaming each other for this debacle.”
A new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that people taking PrEP experience a loss of bone mineral density. While most patients recover, the new study suggested teens aged 15 - 19 years old may not make a full recovery.
UNAIDS featured the work of Chinese NGO Danlan Public Welfare, an advocacy group and resource platform for LGBT rights. Danlan is using its connection with international gay dating app Blued to bring HIV messaging and information on testing and treatment to the app’s over 28 million users.
In the US CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC says there is a nearly 300% increase in Hepatitis A (comparing the years 2016-2018 to 2013-2015) infections associated with homelessness, drug use, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and food contamination. The CDC is using Pride month to draw attention to the outbreaks among and gay and bisexual men with resources to locate vaccination services.
The New Zealand AIDS Foundation program “Ending HIV” launched a new campaign called “Rules of a f*ckbuddy”. The campaign uses sex-positive language to engage gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men for safer sex practices and encourage ownership of sexual health:
“This campaign is a way to inspire candid conversations about negotiating HIV prevention with f***buddies, by making them a part of the rules you’re likely already setting for the relationship.”
From the World of Politics: At the kickoff to WorldPride in New York, nearly 100 elected officials from around the world launched “The Global Equality Caucus”, an international network of parliamentarians and elected representatives aiming to tackle discrimination against LGBT+ people. The Caucus hopes to replicate the success of the Global TB Caucus by working across political party lines and forming partnerships with NGOs and international organizations. Membership is open to allies and LGBT+ legislators, parliamentary caucuses, ministers, national/regional executives, governors, and mayors. Check out their engaging launch video!
In Iran, a German reporter triggered an “audible uproar” when he asked Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif why gay people are executed in Iran. According to transcripts, Zarif replied that society has “moral principles concerning the behavior of people” and that the law must be respected and obeyed. Also present at the press conference, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made no comment. Germany’s Foreign Ministry later clarified:
"LGBTI rights are human rights. And they have always been. Everywhere. No religious, cultural or ethnic tradition justifies state persecution, especially the execution of homosexuals. In Iran and seven other countries worldwide, homosexuals face the death penalty. That is inhuman and completely unacceptable."
The US House of Representatives approved an amendment that would stop the transgender military ban by preventing the funding for it. This is not the first time the House has attempted to reverse the ban. However, CNN and others reported that the amendment is likely to be blocked by the Senate.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, stopped a bill which would have let government employees refuse to serve LGBT people if they claimed a religious objection. Rosselló had been expected to sign the bill, which had been passed by the island’s House of Representatives, but reconsidered after openly gay rockstar Ricky Martin released an open letter condemning it.
In Vietnam, the Law on Gender Affirmation did not make the list of draft laws set to be reviewed by the National Assembly—as reported by the South China Morning Post. Although the Civil Code was revised in 2015 to include the right to legally change gender markers, without legislation municipalities interpret the code differently—sometimes preventing people from obtaining legal recognition at all.
Guatemala elected to congress activist Aldo Iván Dávila Morales—the first openly gay man living with HIV to hold a seat. Sandra Morán, the first openly lesbian congressperson, was elected in 2015.
With the European Parliament elections over, ILGA-Europe announced that 215 of the 1,650 candidates who signed the “ComeOut” pledge to stand up for LGBTI rights have been elected to office. ILGA-Europe offered a list of concrete steps the new Members of Parliament, representing eight different political groups, can take to begin to fulfill their pledge.
The Human Dignity Trust released a new report that examines the impact of anti-LGBT hate crimes on Commonwealth countries. It reviews current hate crime legislation and makes recommendations on how governments can use legislation to challenge violent prejudice in society.
In the US, the New York State Legislature banned the legal strategy known as the “gay/transgender panic”—the idea that someone might murder an LGBT person in a state of temporary insanity caused by unwanted sexual advances. It is the seventh state to ban the practice. In Australia, the state of South Australia introduced a bill to remove the “gay panic” defense from the criminal code by 2020—all other Australian states have already banned it.
The Politics of Union: In a five-to-four vote Ecuador’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Ecuador previously recognized civil unions for same-sex couples but they did not have equal rights to married couples. The judges called upon the National Assembly to pass a bill modifying the marriage law and guaranteeing equal rights for all. CNN reported that the verdict will allow couples to marry before the law has been amended.
Writing for Taiwan Insight, Mei-Nu Yu and Yiching Yang explored the three different pathways activists and politicians took to legalize same-sex marriage: the courts, the legislature, the people’s vote.
Check out the Pew Research Center’s comprehensive fact sheet tracking the progress of marriage equality around the world.
Let the Courts Decide: Brazil’s Supreme Court issued a decision stating homophobia and transphobia should be considered criminal offenses. Eight of eleven judges voted to expand current anti-racism laws to include protection for LGBT+ people. Estadão reported that the ruling makes provisions for religious freedom as long as discourse does not incite hostility or violence. For example, a priest may say homosexuality is a sin but cannot defend violence against LGBT people.
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro told press that the Court was “completely wrong” and should not take legislative actions—according to the AFP. He also reiterated a desire to appoint an evangelical judge to the Supreme Court to make it more “balanced”.
In the US, many objected to the lifetime appointment of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to the District Court of Texas. Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who voted against his appointment, cited Kacsmaryk's “alarming bias against LGBTQ Americans and disregard for Supreme Court precedents”. Bloomberg reported that 75 rights groups had signed an open letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee describing Kacsmaryk as an anti-LGBT activist. Vanity Fair also reported on Kacsmaryk’s record opposing reproductive rights including access to contraception and abortion.
Regarding Religion: The Catholic Herald reported that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will soon publish another document on gender and so-called “gender theory”. It is said that the document will provide more in-depth text than the recently published “Male and Female He Created Them”—a guide that has caused division for its negative views on transgender people and gay marriage.
In the US, the Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis decreed that the Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be identified by the archdiocese as a Catholic institution after school leaders refused to fire a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, in the same city, the Cathedral High School chose to fire a gay teacher and keep in the archdiocese’s good graces. Cathedral administrators said it was “an agonizing decision” but that the archdiocese made it clear that retaining the teacher would “result in forfeiting our Catholic identity”. New Ways Ministry, who has collected the stories of over 80 Catholic institution employees who have lost their jobs over LGBTQ issues, applauded Brebeuf Jesuit high school for choosing “the path of conscience, integrity, and justice”.
For the UK’s Metro, Afshan D'souza-Lodhi wrote about facing her fears and finding a partner as a queer Muslim:
“For me to find love I must wade through the homophobes and the Islamophobes and the sexists and the racists and then, maybe, I’ll find someone who will stand beside me during protests and wipe my face when bigots spit on me.”
Winds of Change: From Turkey, Lester Feder interviewed Majid and Ahlam, two people who secretly helped save gay people from ISIS. Working with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) they documented the accounts of LGBT people and others who were tortured. OWFI hopes these accounts can be used to charge ISIS leaders with war crimes for persecuting LGBT people. Legal adviser Lisa Davis acknowledged that it is unlikely to have these crimes prosecuted in Iraq; however, with the UN Security Council’s aid:
“We must create a historical memory so that history doesn’t forget what happens to LGBT people in conflict. What we want to do is to change the discourse of LGBT crimes in the world.”
Author Nathaniel Frank explored the question: should marriage equality be sought and celebrated in the modern LGBT movement? The debate, he explained, stems from an idea that the LGBT movement should “throw off repressive norms” instead of seeking to assimilate into the norms codified by affluent cisgender white people. However, Frank argued that—in addition to giving US LGBT people access to over 1,000 benefits exclusive to marriage—the activism also “helped upend repressive attitudes about sex” which supported the reproductive rights movement and challenged the norms of gender expectations.
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that legalization of marriage in the US did accelerate a reduction in antigay bias. However, researchers offered a caveat—in US states that did not legalize marriage on their own but were forced to do so through the Supreme Court decision, there was a "backlash" effect with "increased antigay bias". The researchers noted that the impact of legalizing gay marriage on LGBTQ bias in other countries remains unknown.
Nigerian activist Olumide Femi Makanjuola spoke with Business Insider about fighting for women and LGBTQ people. Reflecting on Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, he emphasized that not all gay people want to get married. Instead, people need policies that promote inclusivity and acceptance.
Italian trans activist Daniela Lourdes Falanga talked about escaping the expectations that—as her father’s only ‘son’—she would take over the family crime business. Instead, Falanga channeled her efforts to support those most marginalized especially trans sex workers and prisoners. Check out her TEDx Talk.
From Mexico, Grecia Herrera spoke about running Respettrans Chihuahua—a nonprofit that provides temporary housing to trans migrants who want to seek asylum in the US. Herrera said she was moved to start the group after learning a trans woman—Roxsana Hernandez—died in a US immigration detention facility.
Fear and Loathing: In the US, the American Medical Association issued a warning that there is an “epidemic of violence against the transgender community” that especially targets trans women of color. The AMA adopted a policy to address the epidemic that includes partnerships with other medical associations, legislatures, and law enforcement. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 10 known trans people have been murdered in 2019. Zoe Spears, one of the latest trans black women to be killed, was identified by trans advocate and friend Ruby Corado. As leader of an LGBT community center, Corado sees violence against trans people regularly and worries that there is an air of impunity around the crimes.
Author Masha Green explored why LGBT people choose to stay in Russia despite an environment of fear encouraged by restrictive laws that punish “gay propaganda”. In her New Yorker article, Green reflected on why having children and a family has prompted people to stay even as the government threatens to take their children away.
The BBC News Arabic released data collected by the Arab Barometer research network on Arab people’s opinions on a range of issues. Using a survey of over 25,000 people across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories, one of the findings was that acceptance of homosexuality varies greatly—Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Palestine ranged between 5-7% that accept being gay, while Algerians (26%), Moroccans (21%), and Sudanese (17%) were more accepting.
Human Rights Watch and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) released a new video to address the myths and stereotypes that exist around LGBT people. Some of the people featured in the video talked to HRW about how these myths have impacted their lives.
On the March: In São Paulo, Brazil, organizers say over 3 million people attendedthe 23rd annual LGBTI+ Pride Parade celebrating both “50 Years of Stonewall” and Brazil’s Supreme Court ruling that criminalizes homophobia and transphobia.
In Tbilisi, Georgia, organizers of the “March of Dignity” decided to delay the first ever Pride march in Tbilisi. The event was to cap off a week of activities successfully held to raise LGBT awareness. However, the day before the march, police used tear gas and rubber bullets against an unrelated crowd. Organizers, who have previously received death threats, feared the tensions were too high to keep participants safe.
In Kiev, Ukraine, over 8,000 people marched for Pride in what the AFP said was the biggest Pride march yet for the country. Participants were joined by a group of military veterans who said they were there to help protect participants from anti-LGBT demonstrators also in attendance.
In Amritsar, India, a group of teenagers organized the city’s first Pride march. The teens hoped the event would be an “evolution” to break the cycle of isolation local LGBT people face. Though, as The Times of India described, the public was more “bemused” and displeased when they Googled what the rainbows stood for.
In Surrey, Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police held a presentation and, for the first time, hoisted a rainbow flag to celebrate Pride. During the event a “chaotic and angry scene” broke out—as reported by the CBC—between LGBT supporters and counter-protesters. Tensions have been high in the area since demonstrations have picked up for and against the province’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI 123) curriculum.
In the US, LGBTQ+ Google employees published an open letter to San Francisco Pride organizers asking them to remove Google's sponsorship. Employees have been frustrated with company policies especially for permitting bullying and hate speech on the YouTube (owned by Google). Speaking to The Verge, employees said some have been targeted for speaking out. Google issued an internal memo banning employees from participating in Pride with the Google group if they "express a message contradictory to the one Google is expressing"—for example, protesting company policy—as reported by the Daily Beast.
Sports and Culture: Openly trans celebrity, best-selling author, TV producer, and activist Janet Mock signed a three year multimillion-dollar contract with Netflix to produce TV and feature film projects. Mock will become the first out trans woman to “call the creative shots at a major content company”. Mock is also a producer and writer on the award-winning TV drama “Pose” which has just been renewed for a third season and tells the story of LGBTQ people—played by openly LGBTQ actors—in New York City during the dawn of the AIDS crisis. Describing the impact of the show, executive producer Ryan Murphy promised:
“ I feel like LGBTQ history is so important and so undocumented. Millions of people will now learn about this and be outraged.”
Filmmaker PJ Raval discussed his film “Call Her Ganda” about Jennifer Laude, a trans woman who was murdered by a US marine in the Philippines in 2014. The film will be available via PBS and reviewer Jennifer Lee described:
“It will evoke feelings of heartbreak and frustration, particularly in parents, as viewers watch [her mother] relentlessly seeking justice for her daughter as she encounters continuous roadblocks along the way.”
Writing for the Moscow Times, journalist Pavel Lobkov looked back on his experience being forced into conversion therapy as a teenager.
In China, Sixth Tone spoke to elderly LGBT people who are using livestream video feature on the dating app Blued to counter loneliness and reach out to the community.
Hornet looked at the history of LGBTQ “Zine culture”—small circulation, self-published magazines that give artists the ability to share uncensored works with the community. While the zines were prominent in the 70s and 80s, today queer zines continue to thrive as a source of authenticity and exploration. As Adrian Lourie, editor-in-chief of “meat”, said:
“It’s definitely seen as an important addition to the shelves of quite a few of the ever-dwindling number of gay bookstores.”
From South Africa, Mamba Online released the latest episode of the web series WQMD (We’re Queer My Dear). In the episode the panel of actors, entrepreneurs, and performers discuss their own experiences with bullying. Previous episodes have looked at acceptance, equality, and religious intolerance. Check it out!
Banner Photo by JR Korpa