“The most difficult thing is the constant feeling that you’re being evicted from your own home. You were born here, grew up here, fell in love for the first time here — yet you’re constantly being shown the door.
The rise of queer culture we’re all feeling now offers a lot of strength, hope, and the feeling that you’re not alone.”
~ Russian queer artist and activist Slava Rusova
From the UN: UN Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Winnie Byanyima as the new Executive Director of UNAIDS. Byanyima began working for underserved communities as a member of parliament in Uganda. She went on to serve as Director of Gender and Development at UNDP and has been Executive Director of Oxfam International since 2013. Accepting the position, Byanyima applauded the "brilliant and passionate activists" she had been working with at Oxfam. She revealed that the decision to join UNAIDS was partially personal as her brother and "many comrades, friends, and relatives" were lost to AIDS.
Celebrating International Youth Day, the Independent Expert on SOGI issues, Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to an adequate standard of living and housing, Ms. Leilani Farha, released a joint statement expressing “deep concern” for LGBT and gender diverse youth around the world who face homelessness due to religious and cultural intolerance. They noted that homelessness reduces opportunities across all aspects of life leading to less education, poor physical and mental health, and few economic choices.
UN Women, UN-Globe, and OutRight International co-hosted ‘Gender Diversity Beyond Binaries’ in New York. The event, also supported by the Missions of Argentina and the Netherlands, brought together Member States, civil society, and UN leaders to discuss gender equality with the specific inclusion of trans and non-binary people. Writing for OutRight, Artie Bergren reflected on the “historic” inclusion and explained why having a seat at the table is so important. As speaker Geena Rocero of Gender Proud noted:
“Dignified and nuanced and accurate representation of trans and gender diverse people saves lives.”
The UNDP held a workshop to advance human rights and social inclusion for sexual and gender minorities in sub-Saharan Africa in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The workshop identified six pathways that can individually and collectively drive progress: influencing social norms, addressing legislation, increasing inclusive public services, strengthening democratic processes, advancing knowledge, and improving intersectionality among social movements. Although there are many challenges, workshop participants emphasized that the vision for the future can be “driven by African values of dignity, fairness, acceptance of diversity, and respect for privacy, underpinned by the concept of Ubuntu—the universal bond of a shared humanity”.
Responding to the latest mass shooting in the US, Rupert Colville, spokesman from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that hate crimes appear to be on the rise with an increase of attacks rooted in racism, xenophobia, intolerance, discrimination and white supremacy. He warned that the language used by authorities can “stigmatize and dehumanize minorities, migrants, refugees, women, LGBT [people] and the so-called other” and leave communities “vulnerable to reprisals and attacks”.
UNAIDS, UNICEF, and the WHO published a new report on ending AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa region. The report indicates that new HIV infections are concentrated among gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and the sexual partners of these groups. The full scope is unknown as criminalization, stigma, and social taboos have contributed to a limitation in data. Among the report's recommendations it notes that confidentiality is a "critical priority" and calls for "highly tailored interventions" for vulnerable individuals.
UNAIDS, the LGBT Foundation, the University of Aix-Marseille, and the University of Minnesota have extended a survey to examine happiness and quality of life of LGBTI people around the world. The survey is available in 17 languages and takes only 12 minutes to complete. Make your voice heard!
HIV, Health, and Wellness: The 10th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) took place in Mexico with thousands of participants from around the world. During the conference the WHO urged for better integration of PrEP and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) programs especially in low and middle income countries.
The WHO also announced updated recommendations for PrEP. It now endorses using “event-driven” dosing for gay men and other men who have sex with men. Calling it “2+1+1 ED-PrEP”, event-driven PrEP is defined by the WHO as taking two pills 2-24 hours before sex, a third pill 24 hours after the first two pills, and a fourth pill 48 hours after. The WHO has not changed recommendations for other populations including women, trans women, or men who have sex with women—citing lack of sufficient data that event-driven PrEP will be safe and effective for these groups.
Also at IAS 2019 a new phase three HIV vaccine trial was announced. The study, called Mosaico, will test the vaccine on trans people and cisgender gay men and other men who have sex with men across study sites in the US, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Poland.
Doctors spoke critically to Medscape about the recurring practice of relying on white, cis-gender men for HIV drug trials. For example, in the 2015 IPERGAY trial of on-demand PrEP, the demographics were 0% women, 8.5% non-white men, and 0% transgender people. Dr Linda-Gail Bekker, of the University of Cape Town noted that "we have products that haven't been tested in all types of people, even though they are going to be used in all types". Pharmaceutical companies have been trying to increase participant diversity in trials, however critics say this is not near enough.
HIV-self testing kits have been promoted as a way to engage gay men and other men who have sex with men, trans people, and other groups who face stigma when seeking care. A study presented at IAS 2019 evaluated HIV self-testing kit distribution in Kenya. Using “mystery shoppers”, researchers found many challenges with private sector providers of testing kits including stock outs, poor quality kits, and inconsistent information from providers about how to test, interpret results, and what to do if positive.
A separate study warned that HIV self-testing kits are being used by people who have already been diagnosed as HIV-positive. Researchers say that some HIV-positive people may doubt their initial test, may believe they have been “cured”, or may misunderstand “undetectable = untransmittable” messages to mean they no longer have HIV. They warn that tests taken by a HIV-positive person on antiretroviral therapy often give false-negative results and could cause a person to think they are cured.
The FHI360 HIV Linkages Project has published new tools to support addressing violence and the HIV epidemic among key populations. With support from PEPFAR, USAID, and international groups representing people who use drugs, transgender women, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and sex workers, the project developed a new program guide and three training manuals to support violence prevention and response programs. The publications build community knowledge and skills to better integrate these activities with HIV prevention, care, and treatment services.
The Southern and East African Research Collective on Health published a series of reports on violence, mental health, and access to healthcare related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The reports are based on research and collaboration with NGOs in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Kenya, eSwatini (Swaziland), and Malawi. Across the nine countries researchers found high levels of harassment, sexual and physical violence, depression, and suicide ideation. These findings are amplified among trans and gender non-conforming individuals. The researchers note that across the region LGBT+ people suffer serious rights violations leading to declines in health and vulnerability to HIV. Among their conclusions they say:
“It is clear that affirming and non-judgmental mental healthcare services for sexual and gender minority people are at least as important as HIV-related health services.”
From the World of Politics: India’s Lok Sabha, the Lower House of parliament, passed a new version of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019. The current bill removes a confusing definition of being transgender and a provision that criminalized begging—an activity some in the community are dependent on. Many object to the current bill as it provides no support for the community in politics, employment, or education. The bill must be approved by the Upper House before it goes into effect.
In Uruguay, less than 10% of voters cast a ballot on the topic of repealing a transgender rights law. At least 25% would have needed to participate in order to trigger a national referendum on the issue. The law, which was adopted in 2018, gives rights to trans adolescents and requires that 1% of staff at most government agencies be trans people.
In the Philippines, a group of lawmakers renewed calls for the passage of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression Equality Bill. Their efforts come a day after a trans woman in Quezon City was arrested after trying to use a mall bathroom—the charges were later dropped. Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said the arrest violated a city ordinance meant to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. Calling for a new nationwide law, Senator Risa Hontiveros remarked:
"It is time that we no longer let anyone from the LGBTQI community to be handcuffed, slapped, and humiliated because of their gender. It is time that we say we will stand by those who speak their truths."
In the US, the Department of Labor has proposed a new rule to allow federal contractors to “make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government” as reported by Bloomberg News and others. Advocates warned that the rule could impact LGBTQ workers, unmarried pregnant women, and non-Christian workers. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in October on whether LGBTQ employees are protected by the Civil Rights Act.
Kenya’s Statistics Bureau will include “intersex” in the gender category of the national population census. The BBC reported that Kenya is the first African country to add the category. The government established a task force on Intersex Persons in 2017. Their recommendations, made this April, included a halt to unnecessary “corrective” surgeries and the introduction of a third gender marker. Activist James Karanja noted:
“It is important to understand that unless people stop having children, there will always be children who are born intersex and those children, just like other children, have rights.”
In France, the government released a draft bioethics bill that will allow lesbian and single women to undergo medically assisted reproduction in the country. Currently, this is limited to heterosexual couples. The bill would not remove a ban on surrogacy–where a woman carries a child to term for someone else. Conservative groups are opposing the measure.
Japan elected its first openly gay man to the Upper House of Parliament. Taiga Ishikawa ran on a platform of legalizing marriage equality. Kanako Otsuji was the first lesbian to be elected to the Lower House in 2017.
The Politics of Union: The Japan Federation of Bar Associations released a statement calling on the government to revise laws and grant same-sex couples the right to marry. They say over 450 people have submitted human rights complaints to the group for being unable to marry.
In Hong Kong, same-sex couples married abroad will be allowed to file joint tax returns. This follows a ruling by the Court of Final Appeal that ended a four-year legal battle. The court ruled that the government must provide spousal benefits to a civil servant who was married to his British husband in New Zealand. Meanwhile, the Equal Opportunities Commission published a report, “The Recognition And Treatment of Relationships under Hong Kong Law”, which examined 1,700 provisions across 537 ordinances and found that LGBT couples are treated differently in nearly 100 ways. Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in Hong Kong.
In China, the Beijing Guoxin Notary Public Office recognized the “mutual guardianship” between a couple of the same-sex. Guardianship agreements give individuals some of the same benefits as marriage as reported by Sixth Tone. Notary offices in Shanghai, Hubei, Nanjing and others have previously granted guardianship agreements for gay couples.
In Bulgaria, an appeals court granted an expatriate lesbian couple the right to have their marriage recognized in the country. Although they were married in France before moving to Bulgaria, officials did not accept the marriage and rejected one wife’s residency in the country. In 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that all EU countries must recognize same-sex marriages in immigration cases where at least one partner is a EU citizen.
In Peru, the Superior Court of Lima ruled that a Peruvian couple married in the US must be allowed to register in the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (Reniec). Among the arguments against the marriage, Reniec said that recognizing a marriage conducted in a foreign country would be discriminatory towards those citizens unable to travel abroad. Ruling in the couple’s favor, the court cited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) 2017 ruling that member states must recognize marriage equality. This is the third Peruvian ruling in favor of same-sex couples married abroad.
In Montenegro, the parliament failed to pass a law legalizing same-sex marriage. Local NGO Queer Montenegro thanked those who supported the law and also remarked:
“A big thank you to everyone who was against this law. Your resistance strengthens us, your hatred will never falter, slow or stop us.”
Let the Courts Decide: Across the Caribbean, several lawsuits have been filed challenging the laws that criminalize same-sex sexual relations. Barbados Todayreported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has given Barbados three months to respond to petitions challenging the laws which penalize people with up to life imprisonment. Local evangelical leader and former senator Pastor David Durant announced that the religious community is opposed to any changes and that the church planned to “make a united front” against them.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines a lawsuit was filed on behalf of two men who say they have been exiled due to their sexuality. The Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, spoke to media saying that all people should be able to have their day in court.
The laws have also been challenged in Dominica by an anonymous man who alleges that because of these laws he has faced harassment and has been physically and sexually assaulted. Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom) and The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network are filing on his behalf. Daryl Phillip, Founder of MiRiDom, said that the challenge is important for the whole of society even if they don’t recognize it:
“[S]omewhere along the line your family, your friends, your brothers, your sisters, your acquaintances will be affected by that law”.
In the US, at least 50 gay and bisexual young men are suing University of Southern California campus doctor Dennis Kelly for sexually abusing them during medical exams. The school is also named in the suit for failing to respond to complaints over the years. The is the second lawsuit against the school due to sexual assault by campus health staff—gynecologist George Tyndall was accused of sexual assault and harassment by over 700 women.
In South Africa, Judge Violet Phatshoane ruled against a man who had admitted to raping lesbian women to “correct” them. Calling the man “quite repulsive and unpardonable”, Judge Phatshoane noted:
“The gay and lesbian community ... are entitled to be who they are and express themselves in any manner they wish without fear of being ostracised and violated.”
Turkey’s Council of State ruled that the Istanbul University hospital (Cerrahpaşa) cannot refuse to perform voluntary hysterectomies requested by trans men. In Turkey, trans men are not able to legally change their name and gender without being sterilized. Writing for Kaos GL, Emirhan Deniz Çelebi explained the history of the case and the advocacy involved in challenging the system.
The Swiss Federal Tribunal reversed a temporary ruling that would have allowed Olympian Caster Semenya to participate in the World Championship games this September. Semenya is currently appealing a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that female runners with naturally high testosterone must take medication to reduce their testosterone levels if they want to compete in race distances from 400m to a mile.
Fear and Loathing: The Regional Information Network on Violence against LGBTI People in Latin America and the Caribbean released a new report that found four LGBT+ people are murdered every day across the region. According to the report nearly 90% of murders over the last five years occurred in Mexico, Colombia, and Honduras. In Barranquilla, Colombia, activist Ariel López was killed in his home–he is the eighth LGBT activist to be killed since the beginning of 2018. Meanwhile, in Ecuador, another trans woman was killed—she is the eighth known trans woman to be murdered in the country this year.
Writing for OZY, Josefina Salomon reported on the particular dangers faced by trans women across El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Seeking asylum is increasingly difficult for trans women who often endure abuse in male detention centers for months before being deported—research from Syracuse University found that 70% of asylum claims are being rejected in the US.
Russian LGBTQ activist Yelena Grigorieva was murdered after her name and information appeared on a website promoting the torture of gay people. The website, which has listed activists and journalists as “targets” for over a year, according to the Washington Post, was blocked by authorities. Officers have arrested a suspect however the AP reported that charges have not been announced.
A survivor of the Chechen “purge” of suspected gay and bisexual men and women, Amin Dzhabrailov described in detail his experiences to writer Arvin Joaquin. Expert investigations have concluded the Chechen authorities committed torture, unlawful arrests, extrajudicial executions, and other violations against LGBT people, human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society organizations, and independent media. However, Russian authorities maintain that the accusations are “biased and groundless”.
In Indonesia, the National Police spokesman Asep Adi Saputra told media that being LGBT was “disease” and an “emergency” that must be prevented. The official Twitter account of the Indonesian Military Information Center published a comic strip that explains what the acronym LGBT refers to and then says that LGBT people transmit HIV, as reported by the Jakarta Post.
In Poland, tensions have remained high after the Law and Justice party began arguing against LGBT rights and sexuality education as a campaign issue. Participants in the first Pride event in the city of Bialystok were met with an angry and violent “mob” that far outnumbered the Pride supporters, as reported by the New York Times. The event was broken up by police with tear gas and many were injured. Across the country people rallied in support of those injured. On social media the hashtag #jestemLGBT (I am LGBT) went viral with tens of thousands of responses. Meanwhile, several hundred protested the Archbishop of Krakow who recently encouraged anti-gay rhetoric with his claims that the country was being attacked by a “rainbow plague”. Pawel Rabiej, the openly gay deputy mayor of Warsaw, stated that the government had “betrayed” LGBT people:
“Warsaw is for everyone and so should the rest of Poland [be for everyone]. Solidarity will conquer the time of contempt.”
In France, several LGBT organizations published an open letter calling on President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Édouard Philippe to proactively address the increase in homophobic violence that has continued in the country. Although groups met with officials in 2018 the groups say not enough has been done.
In Cambodia, the Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) released a new report which found that over 80% of lesbian, bisexual, and trans people interviewed were victims of emotional or physical violence from their family members.
Winds of Change: Thailand’s National Institute of Development Administration(Nida) released results from a new poll that found that acceptance of trans people has increased compared to 2015. Over 90% of those surveyed would accept a trans friend or colleague (compared to 88% in 2015); over 86% would accept a trans family member (compared to 79%); and over 54% believe trans people should be allowed to change their names (compared to 34%). Meanwhile, Bangkok Postexplored challenges Thai trans people face and why others are hesitant to support the right to legally change your name and gender.
From Georgia, VOA spoke to LGBT activist Giorgi Tabagari, Orthodox Priest Levan Kutivadze, and former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze about the “culture war” surrounding LGBT rights.
From Romania, writer Marcel Gascón Barberá looked at how LGBT people are slowly becoming more visible even as the government fails to take action on a variety of issues including same-sex relationships, gender recognition, and transgender health care.
From Brazil, journalist Marcela Rodrigues spoke to trans women about the violence and harassment they experience every day of their lives. Robeyonce Lima, the first trans woman to become a lawyer in the state of Pernambuco, explained that trans women reject the government’s anti-LGBTQ ideology every day that they unapologetically occupy public space:
“The mere fact of you being present in that space—you are being political.”
In Cameroon, a new network has formed to bring together the efforts of several smaller transgender support groups. Réseau Indépendant TransAfricain (TransAfrican Independent Network) will collaborate to train people to be leaders in the community and to advocate for local trans people’s needs.
School Days: In the UK, protests continued around a curriculum meant to provide LGBT+ inclusive age-appropriate lessons on relationships and sex education. The protests began in January at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham against the “No Outsiders” equality program and soon spread to other schools. Demonstrations grew so heated that some officials chose to end the school term early to protect students. The Independent reported that hate crimes involving people under 17 years old around schools and colleges impacted by the protests increased by 52% compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, as protests continue into the new term, the BBC reported that police fear the situation is “being exploited by extremist groups”.
New Zealand Herald reported that one of the country’s oldest boys school has, for the first time, allowed a non-male student to remain enrolled in the school. Christ's College, an Anglican single-sex school in Christchurch, worked with the local group Qtopia about how best to support a student identifying as gender diverse and how to support transitioning and non-binary students in the future.
More schools around the world are exploring how uniform policies impact gender. Two US schools made headlines for their policies on female school uniforms. At a school in North Carolina, female students won the right to wear pants after a year long campaign against a skirt-only policy. And a California school banned female students from wearing skirts because, officials said, too many girls were wearing “immodest” skirts. Although parents and students held protests, the ban remains in place.
Schools in New Taipei, Taiwan, County Wicklow, Ireland, and Mexico City, Mexiconow will allow boys to wear skirts and girls to wear trousers. Meanwhile, the government of Wales in the UK issued a new set of guidelines that prevents schools from assigning required student clothes as “boys” or “girls” items. Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, noted:
"We should not be enforcing outdated ideas of what clothes are suitable for their gender, especially if it makes them wear something they feel uncomfortable wearing."
Sports and Culture: Germany's Berlin Zoo announced another gay penguin couplehave adopted an egg abandoned by a female penguin. Skipper and Ping join same-sex penguin couples adopting neglected eggs in Auckland, Munich, San Francisco, and Sydney. (Though female couples, a zookeeper in Ireland noted, will often seek a male penguin out and then raise the baby with their female partner.)
UK-based news portal Gay Star News announced it will no longer publish after eight years bringing stories on international news, health, politics, culture, and more. Founders Tris Reid-Smith and Scott Nunn said there was lack of funding and blamed looming fears about Brexit and stated that brands “wishing to ‘do’ LGBTI work” are “increasingly doing so in a tokenistic way”.
From China, one of the creators of the magazine “GaySpot” (点杂志) discussed the challenges of creating and maintaining a space for LGBT voices. The magazine now features a variety of topics around LGBT issues because:
“Awareness doesn’t equal support, but it’s a first step.”
From Liberia comes Journal Rage, a new online magazine dedicated to telling local LGBT stories with their own words.
Russian queer culture magazine O-zine and The Calvert Journal collaborated with 18 young queer artists to showcase what their experience is like in Russia today. Although participants had different goals for the future, they all shared the idea that change needs to start from them. As Masha and Masha, co-creators of the Mash Hoz company that designs explicit candles, candies, and soaps to promote body-positivity described:
“We want visibility and openness for the community, and I guess the best we can do is to try to be open and visible — to engage in activism as much as we can.”