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State Dept. denounces ‘rising violence’ against LGBT people worldwide

Nigeria, Uganda, Russia among countries criticized

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John Kerry, United States Department of State, LGBT, United Nations General Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade
John Kerry, United States Department of State, LGBT, United Nations General Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates in an LGBT ministerial event in New York last September during the U.N. General Assembly. (Photo courtesy of the State Department.)

LGBT rights feature prominently in the 2013 Human Rights Report the U.S. State Department released on Thursday.

The report specifically references draconian anti-gay measures that Ugandan and Nigerian lawmakers approved last year – their country’s presidents signed them into law earlier this week and last month respectively. The State Department also notes up to 200 people may remain incarcerated in Cameroon under the country’s sodomy law.

The report further highlights Russian President Vladimir Putin last June signed a bill into law that bans gay propaganda to minors.

“From Nigeria to Russia to Iran, indeed in some 80 countries the world over, LGBT communities face discriminatory laws and practices that attack their basic human dignity and undermine their safety,” said Secretary of State John Kerry as he unveiled the report in D.C. “We are seeing new laws like the Anti-Homosexuality Bill enacted by Uganda and signed into law by President Museveni earlier this week, which not only makes criminals of people for who they are, but punishes those who defend the human rights that are universal birthright.”

Kerry further stressed the aforementioned anti-gay laws “contribute to a global trend of rising violence and discrimination against LGBT persons and their supporters.”

“They are an affront to every reasonable conscience,” he said.

Individual country reports also contain LGBT-specific information.

The report notes the Indian government challenged a December ruling from the country’s highest court that recriminalized homosexuality. A Belizean LGBT advocacy group continued to challenge the Central American country’s colonial-era sodomy law in 2013.

The State Department highlighted Chilean authorities “appeared reluctant” to investigate and prosecute anti-LGBT attacks, even though the South American country’s hate crimes law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The report also noted Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, “continued to be outspoken in promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons” in Cuba in 2013. Ignacio Estrada Cepero, founder of the Cuban League Against AIDS, and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) are among those who continue to criticize Mariela Castro and her father’s government over the country’s human rights record.

“Non-government rights activists asserted that the government had not done enough to stop harassment of LGBT persons,” reads the State Department report. “Several unrecognized NGOs promoted LGBT issues and faced government criticism, not for their promotion of LGBT issues, but for their independence from official government institutions.”

Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department, on Thursday noted a group of partygoers stabbed a cross-dressing Jamaican teenager to death outside Montego Bay last July.

“LGBT conduct is criminalized in nearly 80 countries worldwide,” said Zeya. “Even when these laws are not enforced, their mere existence creates a climate of fear and sends a message to the broader population that it’s permissible to discriminate against LGBT persons in housing, in employment, in education and that it’s permissible to beat or kill or torture someone simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The State Department issued the report three days after the Obama administration announced it had begun a review of its relationship with Uganda after the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

The State Department’s Global Equality Fund since 2011 has spent more than $4 million in 25 countries to directly support LGBT advocates and underrepresented groups. USAID last April unveiled a public-private partnership with the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and other groups that will $12 million over the next four years to LGBT activist organizations in Honduras and other developing countries – the initiative’s first two trainings took place in the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Cartagena last May and August respectively.

Seven LGBT rights advocates from Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic recently visited D.C., New York, Texas and California as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Activists from Latvia, Serbia, Russia, Georgia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and other countries have traveled to the U.S. over the last year.

“We agree when Kerry said, ‘the United States government best advances its national interests when its policy choices are rooted in consistent adherence to human rights principles,” said Robyn Lieberman of Human Rights First after the State Department issued its report. “As the secretary (Kerry) said, ‘countries that deny human rights and human dignity threaten our interests, and countries that practice these rights create opportunities.’ We agree and believe that the publication of the Country Reports should serve to inform the formation of policies that can contribute to solutions that the human rights violations described in the report are so badly in need of.”

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As NYC Pride nears, ban on police seen as support for trans, BIPOC attendees

Organizers to provide ‘community-based security and first responders’

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A scene from NYC Pride in 2019. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

NYC Pride announced last month that it would no longer allow corrections and law enforcement exhibitors to participate in NYC Pride events until 2025. The decision is in accordance with NYC Pride’s commitment to create safe spaces for marginalized LGBTQ groups including BIPOC and transgender individuals at their Pride festivities.

“Effective immediately, NYC Pride will ban corrections and law enforcement exhibitors at NYC Pride events until 2025. At that time their participation will be reviewed by the Community Relations and Diversity, Accessibility, and Inclusion committees, as well as the Executive Board,” reads NYC Pride’s statement. NYC Pride is scheduled for June 27. 

To make sure that safety regulations are still adhered to at events, NYC Pride will “transition to providing increased community-based security and first responders, while simultaneously taking steps to reduce NYPD presence at events.”

Police officers being banned from participating in Pride parades and festivities is not an unfamiliar conversation to LGBTQ advocacy and activist groups in North America. In 2018, Capital Pride in D.C. announced that uniformed officers would not be allowed to march in the Pride parade. In 2019,  Pride Toronto announced that uniformed police officers would not be permitted to attend any Pride Toronto events. 

The announcement was preceded by a voting session that took place among Pride Toronto members. Global News, a Canadian news platform, reported a final result of 163-161, disallowing police participation in Pride Toronto events.

Global News also reports that Pride Toronto committed to using their $1.25 million federal grant to examine the LGBTQ community’s feelings regarding police, and to forge a way forward. 

In solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Vancouver Pride Society announced in 2020 that police officers were no longer welcome to march and exhibit during any of Vancouver Pride Society’s festivities. 

“The roots of Pride are in righteous anger, riot and uprising against police brutality. These riots against the violence of the police were led by Black and Brown trans women and queer people. The Stonewall Riots propelled gay movements from assimilationist tactics towards unapologetic Pride. These riots worked,” reads Vancouver Pride Society’s statement. 

The organization also pledged to ensure public safety by participating in calls to defund the police and “commit to learning and convening community dialogues about what these alternative forms of managing public safety look like.”

Why ban the police? The decision from NYC Pride was simple: given the law enforcement’s history of police brutality in America, there is a need to ensure that BIPOC and transgender individuals who attend Pride events can do so comfortably, without feeling vulnerable at events meant to be safe havens that allow full, unabashed identity expression and manifestation. 

“After many interactions between the police and LGBTQ community locally, [including] the passive aggressive moves between the NYPD and peaceful protestors in Washington Square Park last year, we have to look at the history,” said André Thomas, NYC Pride co-chair. “The ability to welcome Black, Brown, and trans Americans at our events is an even higher priority than for someone to be able to wear police uniform in a parade.”

It is no secret that BIPOC and transgender communities are some of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to interactions with corrections and law enforcement officers. 

Mapping Police Violence reports that in 2020, Black people constituted 28% of those killed by the police despite only constituting 13% of the country’s population. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey also reports that Black transgender people were 50% more likely to report that their interactions with police officers as suspecting them of soliciting sex work and leading to an arrest. In addition, the Movement Advancement Project reports in a 2017 study that nearly 40% of incarcerated girls identify as LGB and 85-90% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth are LGBTQ youth of color. 

With this in mind, NYC Pride’s goal is to make their events harm-and-fear-free for members of the LGBTQ community. 

To supplement the absence of corrections and law enforcement officers at NYC Pride events, the organization will provide community-based security companies and first responders who will ensure that Pride events are secure and will also be on standby in case of emergencies. 

As part of their training, the security companies are primed on how to deal with all kinds of situations including responding to an active shooter. 

“Our staff has gone through active shooter training and everything it entails including what they’re wearing and how they’re identifiable to the community,” said Thomas. “We want to ensure people that even though the NYPD may be a block away, there is still security [present] to take care of your needs.”

A lot of NYC Pride’s information regarding security measures is currently being relayed through social media and reportage from various news sources. 

“We tweeted about our meetings that we had with the NYPD to reinforce public safety after the initial news broke out of what’s been going on,” said Thomas. 

Regarding whether NYC Pride will implement this year’s model for next year’s Pride, “[NYC Pride is] figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” said Thomas. “We’re trying to do things in a hybrid model with some limited in-person and some virtual events. We’re going to figure out what to keep and what to change, and this will influence the planning and processes that we do.”

As for future Prides, Thomas wants everyone to remember this: “It’s always someone’s first Pride, and so, you want to be able to give someone that special experience. So, for future Prides, we’ll be working on greater inclusivity and representation.”

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National LGBTQ Task Force welcomes new leadership

Mayra Hidalgo Salazar named deputy executive director

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Mayra Hidalgo Salazar is the new deputy executive director of the Task Force. (Photo courtesy Task Force)

Earlier this month, the National LGBTQ Task Force named Mayra Hidalgo Salazar as its new Deputy Executive Director. Hidalgo Salazar joined the then newly appointed Executive Director Kierra Johnson as part of the Task Force’s new and growing leadership team that will continue to advocate for LGBTQ individuals across the country while paying close attention to intersectionality as a crucial component of LGBTQ activism. 

As part of a statement released by the Task Force, Hidalgo Salazar said, “I am overjoyed to stand on the shoulders of the giants, elders in our movement who started the National LGBTQ Task Force over 40 years ago. The seeds that the Task Force has planted in training and developing LGBTQ+ leaders for nearly 5 decades are in full bloom.”

As Hidalgo Salazar embarks on this new journey, it is clearer for her that fighting for LGBTQ rights is important now more than ever. 

Hidalgo Salazar was introduced to LGBTQ activism at age 17. She worked on the Trail of Dreams in 2010, a 1,500-mile walk from Miami to Washington, D.C., in support of immigrant rights. The Trail of Dreams’s goal, according to Amnesty International, was to “[raise] awareness about broken U.S. immigration laws and to demand fair and humane immigration law and policy.” 

During her time working on this campaign, Hidalgo Salazar became more personally acquainted with the concept of intersectionality, in addition to her basic academic understanding of the concept. 

“Before I could really understand what intersectionality meant…this campaign really showed me, in action, a great example of what it looks like to support people and support our community, which is not living single-issue lives,” said Hidalgo Salazar. “Two of the walkers [at the Trail of Dreams] were actually a queer couple: Isabel Sousa Rodriguez and Felipe Matos, and, it’s interesting because all of the demands that the campaign was making people really understood them as solely immigrant rights or immigrant justice issues.”

This realization, showed Hidalgo Salazar that to adequately advocate for the LGBTQ community, activists must recognize that LGBTQ individuals inhabit multiple identities, such as undocumented immigration status, that shape their realities as members of the queer community. 

Being a young activist did not come without its challenges for Hidalgo Salazar. She acknowledges that while passionate about her work, she was not prepared for the emotional baggage that accompanies leadership. 

“I will say that now at 29, I can recognize that I wasn’t emotionally prepared for a lot of things leadership would bring my way,” said Hidalgo Salazar. “I was part of the first generation of undocumented people in Florida that started coming out publicly, and it was a very different time for immigrant justice than it is now.”

Hidalgo Salazar further remarked, “There were so many people who were afraid and even outraged, people who said ‘No don’t do that; you can’t do that; you’re putting yourself at risk; you’re putting yourself and your family in danger’ and, I think so many of us were at a place where our current existence was unbearable.”

Hidalgo Salazar is grateful that she did not let those remarks cloud her vision and stand in the way of the work she was doing. Given this, her main advice to young and upcoming activists is to “actively listen and carve your own path” amid people whose relationship to risk will force them to impose their problems on young activists. Simultaneously, she also believes in practicing self-care as it establishes longevity within the activism world.

“I can’t tell you how many gifted, incredible organizers I know who have burned out before they were even 25. There’s environmental reasons for this and also, it’s about how we hold — or don’t — our boundaries. So, self-care is really important,” said Hidalgo Salazar. 

Spearheading new era of leadership

As Hidalgo Salazar embarks on her new role with the LGBTQ Task Force, one of the goals at the forefront of her mind is to “level-up” the work that has already been done by her predecessors and existing leaders within the LGBTQ activism space. 

“I think [that in] any role I undertake, it’s super important that I’m building a bench, that I am leveling up the existing leaders. That’s just important for me when I think about the longevity of this work and really building a culture of passing on the torch and normalizing it,” said Hidalgo Salazar. 

Hidalgo Salazar will also support Kierra Johnson’s vision to build the Task Force’s organizing efforts, and better train, support, and defend local grassroots power. Having worked with undocumented youth at United We Dream  as the development director, Hidalgo Salazar understands the importance of having an organized front of directly impacted people ready to mobilize and hold those in power accountable.

“The Task Force used to have a field organizing team that was in the double digits in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Right now, our organizing team is three people, and as we’ve seen these past four years, no one advancement and policy is actually ensured unless we have an organized base of grassroots leaders,” said Hidalgo Salazar. “So, part of what Kierra Johnson is wanting to settle down at the Task Force is really building out [our] local organizing arm.” 

In addition to this, Hidalgo Salazar brings a deep understanding of America as it exists today and how integral youth are to mobilizing masses to demand change. She is aware of the power and fervor Generation Z possesses and how this passion has become one of the main driving forces of modern day activism. 

“[Young people] are at the forefront of social change across so many different issues from climate change, to immigrant justice, to uprisings against police brutality, and so many more,” said Hidalgo Salazar. “We are forging a future for ourselves and we’re inviting people to come with us; and we’re going [in full force].” 

Ultimately, Hidalgo Salazar’s work will be aimed at preserving and continuing the tradition at the Task Force of approaching LGBTQ activism and advocacy with a strong consciousness surrounding intersectionality, a tradition that she appreciates. 

“I think the Task Force has done such an amazing job at really focusing not just on how different genders and sexualities are criminalized, but also working from this place of really innovating and creating a space where folks can enter a sex-positive framework really young,” said Hidalgo Salazar. 

Hidalgo Salazar’s modus operandi will focus on participating in an exercise where LGBTQ individuals outline and work toward what they would like their liberation to look like. 

“I think it’s about being able to articulate the alternative worlds we want to live in. And when I think about intersectionality at the Task Force, we have the first-ever Black bisexual woman and the first woman with an undocumented immigrant experience in leadership,” said Hidalgo Salazar. “So, there’s so much opportunity for us to really leverage our own stories so that more people that maybe didn’t see themselves as part of the LGBTQ movement per se, can see this work as relatable.” 

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476,000 U.S. transgender adults no IDs with correct gender marker

20 states and DC allow a gender marker of “X” on driver’s licenses, and 13 states allow an “X” gender marker on birth certificates

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Photo Credit: State of California Department of Motor Vehicles

LOS ANGELES – An estimated 476,000 transgender adults in the U.S. are without any form of identification with the correct gender marker, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law. Michigan has the highest percentage of transgender adults without an ID that lists the correct gender (78%), and Delaware has the lowest (31%).

Using data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), researchers estimated the number of transgender people nationally and by state without accurate IDs and examined the relationship between state-level policies and having accurate IDs.

Findings show that transgender people in states with the fewest policy barriers to updating their gender marker are significantly more likely to have accurate birth certificates and driver’s licenses than those in states with the most barriers. States with the most burdensome requirements may require proof of gender-affirming surgical care to update a gender maker. States with less burdensome requirements may require individuals to fill out specified forms or submit an affidavit.

“Having inaccurate IDs can lead to harassment and discrimination for transgender people, which can negatively impact mental health,” said lead author Jody L. Herman, Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “State and federal policymakers should enact policies that make gender marker changes on IDs less burdensome and more accessible for transgender people.”  

KEY FINDINGS

  • 55% of respondents to the 2015 USTS did not have any IDs with the correct gender marker.
  • In states with the fewest policy barriers, 47% of transgender people have corrected the gender markers on their driver’s licenses, compared to 26% of those living in states with the most policy barriers.
  • In states with the fewest policy barriers, 16% of transgender people have corrected the gender markers on their birth certificates, compared to 8% of those in states with the most policy barriers.
  • 26% of transgender people with an incorrect gender marker on their driver’s license had the name or gender on their ID questioned by TSA officers, compared to 9% of those with the correct gender marker.
  • 18% of those with an incorrect gender marker on their passport had the name or gender on their ID questioned by TSA officers, compared to 6% of those with the correct gender marker.
  • Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia allow a gender marker of “X” on driver’s licenses, and 13 states allow an “X” gender marker on birth certificates.

Read the report

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