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Organization for American States backs anti-discrimination resolution

Advocates applaud inclusion of LGBT-specific language

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Wilson Castañera, Colombia, Caribe Afirmativo, gay news, Washington Blade
Wilson Castañera, Colombia, Caribe Afirmativo, gay news, Washington Blade

Wilson Castañeda of the Colombian LBGT advocacy group Caribe Afirmativo. attended the OAS meeting in Guatemala. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Organization of American States on June 5 adopted an anti-discrimination resolution that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“Every human being is equal under the law and has the right to equal protection against all forms of discrimination and intolerance in whatever aspect of public or private life,” it reads.

The resolution the OAS adopted during its annual meeting that took place in Antigua, Guatemala, also said member countries have an obligation to prevent “all acts and demonstrations of discrimination and intolerance.” These include hate and bias-motivated violence and using the Internet and other media to incite “hate, discrimination and intolerance” against marginalized groups.

OAS delegates approved a second resolution that calls upon the organization’s 35 member countries to promote and protect the human rights of those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. They also approved a third resolution that urged nations to stop discrimination based on race.

Anti-LGBT discrimination and especially violence remain serious problems in the hemisphere in spite of recent advances on same-sex marriage and other issues in countries that include Brazil and Uruguay.

A report that Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT rights group, released last month indicates 58 of the reported 280 LGBT Colombians who were murdered between 2011-2012 were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. A separate report from the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women (REDLACTRANS) notes 61 transgender women in Colombia have been reported murdered between 2005-2011.

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) said at least 30 gay men have been murdered in the Caribbean country between 1997 and 2004.

The U.S. State Department has spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Jamaica and other countries that include Honduras and Perú.

The Jamaica Supreme Court later this month is scheduled to hear the first domestic challenge to the island’s anti-sodomy law. The Belize Supreme Court last month heard a case that gay advocate Caleb Orozco filed against the former British colony’s statute that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults.

Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados are among the nine other English-speaking Caribbean countries in which anti-sodomy laws remain on the books.

Wilson Castañeda Castro, director of Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group that works in cities along the country’s Caribbean coast, attended the OAS meeting in Guatemala.

He told the Washington Blade earlier this week his group welcomes the anti-discrimination resolutions.

“This has been a triumph for the region’s LGBT and Afro-descendent movement,” Castañeda said.

Jaime Parada Hoyl, who became the first openly gay political candidate elected in Chile last October when he won a seat on the municipal council in a wealthy enclave in Santiago, the country’s capital, described the resolutions to the Blade as “historic.”

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Victory Fund honors gay Guatemalan congressman at D.C. conference

Aldo Dávila a vocal critic of country’s government

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Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila speaks at the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference after he received the Global Trailblazer Award. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Victory Fund on Friday honored an openly gay Guatemalan congressman who has faced death threats because of his efforts to fight corruption in his country.

Dávila — a member of the Winaq movement, a leftist party founded by Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner — in 2019 became the first openly gay man elected to Guatemala’s congress. Dávila, who also lives with HIV, had previously been the executive director of Asociación Gente Positiva, a Guatemala City-based HIV/AIDS service organization.

Supporters of President Alejandro Giammattei have lodged several formal complaints against Dávila after he publicly criticized the government over corruption, its response to the pandemic and other issues.

Three men on April 19 approached Dávila’s vehicle near Guatemala’s National Library and tried to rob him. One of Dávila’s bodyguards shot one of the men, but the two other assailants fled the scene before police officers and passersby arrived.

Dávila told the Washington Blade in September during an interview at a Guatemala City hotel that he and his partner installed cameras in their apartment after someone killed their dog.

Two female police officers who arrived at the hotel with Dávila sat in the lobby while he spoke with the Blade. The government a few weeks later reduced his security detail.

“Guatemala is living through the worst democratic crisis in the last 40 years,” said Dávila after he accepted the Victory Fund’s Global Trailblazer Award at its 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that is taking place in-person at the JW Marriott in downtown D.C. “Guatemala right now is being paralyzed by corruption and impunity and my voice is uncomfortable because of this.”

Dávila became emotional at the end of his remarks.

“I will keep fighting for our rights,” he said.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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