I recognize that what we need to do, is get on with loving one another and put the judging behind us, aside. So with that journey, I recognized that it is important to embrace the community.”
~ Bermuda opposition leader Craig Cannonier explaining that his thoughts have changed and he will vote in favor of marriage equality.
From the UN: The UN Human Rights Council published the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. The Mission was appointed to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations by military and security forces in Myanmar. Among its conclusions, it found that as a “well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorise and punish” civilians, soldiers “routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape, and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men, and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights law”. Mission Expert Christopher Sidoti noted that this is the first time in this type of report that the violence against transgender persons has been clearly highlighted.
In an essay featured by Arc International, PhD candidate Kwaku Adomako explored how the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity could collaborate with leaders in Ghana. Adomako noted that with the Expert's help Ghana could clarify “vague language” in the penal code that threatens people due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
UNAIDS hosted a 3-week online consultation on HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Participants’ discussions will help shape how stigma and discrimination are measured and evaluated as it impacts people living with HIV, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: The ongoing crisis in Venezuela is having a direct impact on people living with HIV. The health care system is severely under-resourced with drastic shortages in equipment and medicine, as reported by Foreign Dispatch and others. The Pan American Health Organization reported to the WHO that the country is out of stock of over half of the antiretroviral drugs needed for HIV treatment. People must frequently travel across the border to obtain the life-saving medications. Journalist Michael Lavers spoke to some Colombian HIV/AIDS organizations who are struggling to help Venezuelans find treatment.
At the 10th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science, Dr Asa Radix presented a plenary session on the challenges trans people face around the world when seeking to prevent HIV infection. He noted that this was the first time transgender issues were showcased on the main-stage of the conference. Video of his talk and slides are now available online.
Kikonyogo Kivumbi, executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association, reported that the Ministry of Health has ordered health workers to stop identifying LGBTI people in the Health Information Management System (HIMS). Advocates are concerned that without this data LGBTI peoples’ health will not be provided for. They warn that progress toward controlling the HIV epidemic could be threatened by this change.
Writing for South China Morning Post, researcher Jason Hung shared results of his study into gay and bisexual Hong Kong Chinese men, the majority of whom hide their sexuality from family and friends. Hung examined how a “pervasive cultural taboo against homosexuality” could also be contributing to a growth in HIV infections.
M-Pact launched the fourth Global Men’s Health and Rights Survey on the health and human rights of gay men, bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men. The survey is available in ten languages.
A new study published in Science evaluated the genomes of over 470,000 individuals from the UK and the US to evaluate how genetics may impact a person’s sexuality. Researchers determined that because many different genes influence sexual behavior it is impossible to predict sexuality based on genetics alone, as reported by the New York Times and others. Some scientists have objected to the study being published because they fear the data will be misconstrued and used to discriminate. The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard published an extensive analysis of the study’s limitations and a series of essays reflecting on the meaning and purpose of the study.
UNAIDS featured South African dancer Phillip Dzwonkiewicz runner up of Mr Gay England 2018 and star of the film "Jus+ Like Me". The film explores how Dzwonkiewicz came to terms with his HIV status and how it has affected his family and friends. Dzwonkiewicz notes how important it is to be open about being a person living with HIV:
“I now live one life. I live openly and it’s a massive weight off my shoulders.”
On what would have been singer Freddie Mercury's 73rd birthday and in support of The Mercury Phoenix Trust HIV/AIDS organization, animators Esteban Bravo and Beth David released a short film set to Mercury’s “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow”. The film depicts a love story between two white blood cells one of which has been infected with HIV. The creators noted:
“The LGBT+ community fought for years for the right to proper research and healthcare, and because of that fight, millions of lives have been saved. We wanted to celebrate that victory. Through perseverance, strength, and love, our characters not only survive, but live long, healthy lives together.”
From the World of Politics: The newly formed Global Equality Caucus—an international network of parliamentarians and elected representatives aiming to tackle discrimination against LGBT+ people—announced they will hold a series of meetings in Japan to focus on the needs of people in the Asia-Pacific region. The Caucus will facilitate dialogue between politicians from across the region in order to share strategies, challenges, and successes on legislation impacting LGBT+ people.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has called for a “national convention” for LGBTQ people to express their concerns, according to Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go. Meanwhile, the government continues to debate a new Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill. Responding to claims that the bill would impede religious rights, former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said:
“It is very parochial to look at a law [that is] recognizing the rights of the marginalized sector, a law that is inclusive, as detrimental to the rights of others.”
In India, following the Madras High Court recent ruling banning unnecessary “normalizing” surgeries on intersex infants, the state government of Tamil Nadu issued an executive order banning these surgeries except in “life-threatening situations”. The government will establish a committee to evaluate any case put forward as necessary.
Meanwhile, in France, the parliamentary commission tasked with reforming bioethics legislation has heard arguments from experts and intersex activists asking for a ban on unnecessary surgeries on infants. Only Portugal and Malta have instituted nation-wide bans on the practice. From Canada, CNN shared the experience of one couple urged to subject their newborn to surgery and why they decided to resist.
As Poland prepares for its October Parliamentary elections, LGBT rights continue to be a flashpoint of division. What began early this year as an effort by the Mayor of Warsaw to bring school sexuality education in line with WHO recommendations, quickly ballooned into a nation-wide talking point pushed by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). After Pride participants were met with “violent mobs”, many people spoke out to support LGBT citizens. Writing for Emerging Europe, Aleks Szczerbiak, examined how politicizing LGBT issues could prove a “risky strategy” for the party as more of the public associate them with intolerance and aggression.
In Australia, Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter released the draft of the highly anticipated Religious Discrimination Bill. Among the provisions is a section that allows health practitioners to refuse to provide a service based on their religious beliefs and a section that protects “religious speech”. The Guardian, and others, report that the bill would override all other federal and state anti-discrimination bills. Former anti-discrimination commissioner of Tasmania, Robin Banks, noted:
“People think it’s just words but I’ve dealt with people who are emotionally scarred by words, who could now be marginalized at their work, at their school or university. Religious speech is so privileged it will allow people to engage in racist, ableist, sexist anti-LGBTI speech.”
Also in Australia, the Victorian legislative council voted to amend legislation to allow trans and gender-diverse people to legally change gender. Equality Australia announced it will work next with advocates across Western Australian, Queensland, and New South Wales to change their laws in favor of gender recognition rights.
Germany’s first openly trans Member of Parliament, Tessa Ganserer, called for the government to reject reforms to the transgender recognition law of 1981 (Transssexuellengesetzes). Although the current law is considered “obsolete” and stigmatizing, the new draft law received criticism among trans activists and organizations for making gender recognition even more difficult, as reported by Buzzfeed and others.
Reuters reported that Guatemala's first openly gay congressman Aldo Davila has been receiving death threats. Among his priorities, Davila, who will take his seat in January for the leftist Winaq Movement party, plans to work for healthcare initiatives, hate crime legislation, and gender identity rights.
In Thailand, the first openly gender-queer Member of Parliament, Tanwarin “Golf” Sukkhapisit gave an emotional interview with media after parliament overwhelmingly voted against a motion to create a permanent LGBT-affairs committee. Tanwarin thanked those who supported the measure and promised to continue fighting for equal rights:
“We’re not going to uproot age-old beliefs overnight.”
The Politics of Union: In China, a representative for parliament told media that China has no plans to legalize gay marriage. Activists had hoped that China would consider the issue after Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed the same-sex marriage bill this May. Using social media, same-sex couples are encouraging one another to apply for mutual guardianship to gain some legal protections. Despite China’s official stance on marriage, some activists believe it is significant that the state-owned media has been neutral or supportive of guardianship stories.
In Mexico, the state of Oaxaca approved changes to the civil code to allow same-sex marriage. Currently, just over half of Mexican states recognize marriage equality.
In Bermuda, the leader of the Opposition, Craig Cannonier, announced that after listening to the LGBT community he has changed his opinion on marriage equality and now supports same-sex marriage:
“I recognise that what we need to do, is get on with loving one another and put the judging behind us, aside. So with that journey, I recognised that it is important to embrace the community.”
New research using data from the European Social Survey found that European countries that have legally recognized same-sex relationships have also seen an increase in acceptance of LGBT people. Meanwhile, many of those that do not have legal recognition have seen a decrease in acceptance over the 14-year period studied, as reported by Reuters.
In Switzerland, the government continued to evaluate how to legalize marriage equality. A public consultation period ended this summer showing broad support for all civil marriages. The National Legal Affairs Committee announced a new law will not include rights to fertility treatments or reproductive assistance for same-sex couples despite efforts by advocacy groups. Meanwhile, the presidents of the Federation of Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church Canton of Zurich announced their support for same-sex civil marriages. The Council of Churches also voted to accept same-sex civil marriages.
In the US, a story went viral of a Mississippi event space that cancelled a couple’s wedding plans after discovering the couple is mixed-race. On video the venue owner claimed that they would not allow gay weddings or interracial couples due to their Christian beliefs. Following social media backlash, the owner apologized; however, the Washington Post reported that many fear these situations will continue in the wake of Mississippi’s law allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay couples and trans people based on religious objections.
Let the Courts Decide: The Philippines Supreme Court dismissed a case for marriage equality on technical grounds. Justice Lucas Bersamin noted that the petitioner had not himself filed for a marriage license and so could not sue the Civil Registrar. Meanwhile, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen suggested it was not time for a court decision:
“Often public reason needs to be first shaped through the crucible of campaigns and advocacies within our political forums before it is sharpened for judicial fiat.”
Kosovo’s Court of Appeals ruled that a trans citizen can officially change their name and gender in the Civil Status Register, as reported by the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey.
In the US, activists cheered when a District Court ruled that a Virginia school policy banning trans students from using bathrooms matching their gender is unconstitutional. The case began in 2015 and the student at its center graduated two years ago. The school board continues to stand by the ban and has filed with the Court of Appeals.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will hear a case brought forward about a Northern Ireland bakery that refused to make a cake with “support gay marriage” written on it. The UK Supreme Court previously found in favor of the bakery, ruling that the bakery had the right “not to express an opinion”.
LGBTQ content creators filed a class action lawsuit against YouTube and Google for allegedly censoring videos. The censorship prevents LGBTQ channels from being found through YouTube’s search engine and “demonetises” videos—preventing creators from making ad revenue from posts. YouTube denied censoring the plaintiffs, which includes education channels, sex ed, transgender information, and lifestyle videos. The company previously promised to fix the algorithm that it admitted was unfairly filtering content.
Regarding Religion: In Poland, veterans of World War II’s Warsaw Uprising released a statement condemning the anti-LGBTQ remarks made by Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski during a Mass on the anniversary of the Uprising:
"We do not know how many of our friends there were to whom the Creator gave the characteristics referred to today as LGBT. We only know that they were among us, fought and died. And they deserve memory, respect and prayer".
Writing for America, Rev. James Martin, S.J. explored what it would mean for the Catholic Church to welcome LGBT Catholics. He showcased how acceptance goes hand in hand with the gospel by highlighting the works of theologian and professor Rev. Bryan Massingale, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, and a new ministry spearheaded by young Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
In Greece, ultra-conservative Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta announced his resignation. Earlier this year the Bishop was convicted of public incitement to violence for hate speech directed at gay people. Speaking to the media, he said he had no regrets and regarded his conviction as “a medal”.
Fear and Loathing: OutRight Action International released a new report documenting the global reach of “conversion therapy” including all practices attempting to change, suppress, or “divert” one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The report draws from surveys, in depth interviews, expert consultations, and an extensive literature review. It found that these practices occur nearly everywhere in the world and that most perpetrators are acting in the name of religion or pseudo-healthcare. Only Malta, Brazil, Ecuador, and Taiwan have banned conversion therapies nation-wide (10 others have partial or subnational bans).
From China, a new comprehensive study conducted by the Beijing LGBT Center found that one in five trans teens have been subjected to conversion therapy. Writing for Open Democracy, Carmen Graterol spoke to survivors in Mexico of conversion therapy tactics and discussed efforts to make these practices illegal. From the US, journalist Michael Majchrowicz profiled the founder of “Hope for Wholeness”—one of the country’s largest conversion therapy programs—who recently disavowed the practice and came out as gay himself.
Human Rights Watched published a new report on Lebanon and the discrimination trans women and trans asylum seekers face in the country. The report, based on the testimonies of 50 trans women, found that women face violence and systematic discrimination in education, employment, housing, and healthcare.
Writing for the Telegraph, Anna Pujol-Mazzini looked at how social media has spread anti-LGBT messages and has driven an increase of violent hate crimes against LGBT people in Mali. One trans person explained that the public sentiment forces people to hide:
“Society is a lot more suspicious: all you have to do is to look a bit effeminate, a bit too masculine. Everyone fears for their lives at the moment.”
For the Guardian, reporter Josh Taylor explored how some mainstream Australian media has become increasingly “biased, emotive, and is not based on fact” towards transgender issues. According to chief executive of the LGBTIQA+ suicide prevention service Switchboard, Joe Ball, the coverage, has created an “authorizing environment” for people to target gay and transgender people.
Winds of Change: The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition and the Rustin Fund for Global Equality have launched a relief fund to raise money for LGBT persons and their families displaced by hurricane Dorian. Speaking to Washington Blade, Alexus D'Marco of the Bahamas Organization of LGBTI Affairs discussed what is being done to help people impacted by the storm.
Writing for Reuters, Annie Banerji looked at how the LGBT+ community of India has progressed in the year following the Supreme Court’s historic decision striking down Section 377—the law that criminalized consensual gay sex. This past year LGBT+ issues have become more visible with many calling for new anti-discrimination laws, gender-neutral protections that include men, trans, and intersex people, and support for education and employment. Hindustan Times published a photographic timeline of how the law was struck down.
From Nigeria, The Initiative for Equality Rights (TIERS) published results of a new survey that found public perceptions about LGBTQI people have become more accepting over the last two years. Among their findings: more respondents believe queer people should have equal rights (27% in 2019 vs 17% in 2017); more would accept a gay family member (30% in 2019 vs 13% in 2017); and support for the law criminalizing gay people dropped (only 57% supported in 2019 vs 75% in 2017).
LGBT activists from Serbia and Kosovo talked to Komitid about exchanging advice, supporting each other, and joining forces for projects despite the tensions between the two countries that keep many others divided.
The US Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in Brooklyn, New York hosted “J’ouvert”, an event to bring together Jamaican and US LGBTQ communities to showcase “queer visibility in food and culture”. The event included discussions on entrepreneurship, immigration, privilege, and the anxiety of being rejected by others.
Journalist Kim Harrisberg spoke to LGBT “sangomas” of South Africa. These traditional healers and shamans commune with ancestral spirits to provide guidance and counseling to clients. Simphiwe Mahlaba of the African National Healers Association noted:
“We have no problem registering gay traditional healers. As long as they are true to their ancestral beliefs, then we are happy to live side-by-side with them.”
Accountability International is seeking nominations of individuals or organizations for the Accountability International Leadership Award that have “played an exceptional role in promoting accountability in the international response to human rights and inclusive sustainable development”.
APCOM’s third annual HERO Awards will be awarded in Thailand this fall to celebrate HIV and LGBT leaders from across the Asia-Pacific community. APCOM is seeking nominations of individuals who have made significant contributions to the health and rights of LGBTI people and people affected by HIV.
On the March: The first ever Pride parade in Bosnia-Herzegovina was held in Sarajevo. Due to security concerns, over 1,000 police were placed to protect the event, as reported by Reuters. Thousands of participants paraded peacefully despite concerns.
In Honduras, around 450 people marched in San Pedro Sula's Pride event. Human Rights Watch looked at the "extraordinary levels of violence" the community has been facing.
In the UK, new figures from the Home Office revealed that it has refused at least 3,100 asylum claims from LGBT people coming from primarily Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria between 2016 and 2018. Writing for The Conversation, researcher Alex Powell shared his investigation into how the Home Office treats LGBTQ asylum seekers.
From Canada, gay asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East shared what led them to flee their homelands and how they have worked with local groups to build new networks of support. For Passport magazine, writer Bill Strubbe shared his journey that began in 2016 to personally help Alaa Saleh—an Iraqi gay man hoping to find asylum. TeenVogue highlighted the “layered marginalization” LGBTQ asylum seekers face and the work being done by four different organizations to help them.
With support from Gateway Health Institute and Frontline AIDS, the group WoZALife provides information to African LGBTIQ+ people hoping to seek asylum in South Africa. The site provides general legal information, links to organizations that assist asylum seekers, as well as general information that is important for people to know about accessing healthcare, employment, and education.
Sports and Culture: In an interview which has gone viral, Nigerian-born rapper and activist Jidenna discussed homophobia among the Black community. Jidenna argued against the notion that being gay is unnatural or “un-African”. Listing some examples of gay people throughout Africa’s history, he notes:
“There was never a time where this didn’t exist. Or where it was just hands down that homosexuals were wrong. That’s not actually an African thing, which means it’s not a Black thing.”
During the 19th International Book Biennial in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mayor Marcelo Crivella ordered municipal guards to seize a Marvel comic book featuring a gay couple kissing and any other books with “pornographic material”. The backlash has been swift. YouTube celebrity Felipe Neto bought 14,000 copies of LGBT-themed books and had them distributed for free. Brazil’s largest newspaper published the illustration that started the attempt at censorship on their front page. Attorney General Raquel Dodge challenged the Mayor’s efforts in the court and the judge stopped any books from being removed. The Mayor’s office said they will appeal the decision.
Author Benjamin Law’s new book Growing up Queer in Australia features stories and conversations from 52 LGBTIQA+ people “spanning diverse places, eras, ethnicities, and experiences” that he wishes he had as a child. Law stresses that as much as queer people share experiences of marginalization, it is important to acknowledge people’s discrete histories:
“Our capacity to stay curious and listen to each other’s stories is paramount. Embracing difference —rather than relying on simplistic platitudes like ‘we’re all the same’—is how we learn to forge respect. In any case, sameness is boring. Sameness is the opposite of diversity. And sameness has never been a prerequisite for queer equality.”
Top photo by Shalom Mwenesi