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Anti-gay views rampant in Dominican Republic

‘Ex-gay’ therapy remains popular

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Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade
Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade

David, a victim of the abusive practices employed at Escuela Caribe as depicted in the documentary ‘Kidnapped for Christ.’ (Photo by Katrina Marcinowski)

Anti-LGBT religious leaders remain influential in the Dominican Republic in spite of local advocacy efforts that have grown more visible in recent years.

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo last month told a Dominican newspaper that gay U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. James “Wally” Brewster “should take his pride elsewhere,” after he and his husband, Bob Satawake, released a video to celebrate Pride month. He described the gay U.S. ambassador as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a June 2013 press conference after President Obama nominated him with the apparent approval of Dominican President Danilo Medina.

Rev. Luís Rosario of the Santo Domingo Youth Ministry has described Brewster as a “bad example” for Dominican society and families. Rev. Cristóbal Cardozo of the Dominican Evangelical Fraternity and other religious leaders also opposed the former Human Rights Campaign board member’s nomination.

“We are defending a person who is homosexual, that is gay and has come to occupy his country’s public position in the Dominican Republic,” Deivis Ventura of the Amigos Siempre Amigos Network of Volunteers told the Washington Blade during a March interview at his Santo Domingo home that more than a dozen other Dominican LGBT rights advocates also attended. “We are defending the right that we have to occupy public positions equally as gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people.”

Ventura and other Dominican LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken in recent months have pointed out that Brewster has made their efforts more visible through increased media coverage and debate of gay-specific issues in the country. Anti-LGBT discrimination, a lack of support from the government and persistent health and educational disparities are among the myriad issues they continue to confront.

López in 2010 described Parque Duarte in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City where hundreds of LGBT Dominicans gather on weekend nights as “a space where all types of insolences and vulgarities abound.” He and some neighbors have unsuccessfully tried to ban them from the square that is across the street from a church.

Ventura told the Blade last week that Dominican psychiatrists practicing so-called “reparative therapy” is becoming more common.

José Dunker Lambert, a psychiatrist and family therapist, on June 18 published on his website a list of 10 reasons “to treat homosexuality.” These include the arguments that homosexuality is a “social deviation” and “learned conduct.”

Dunker, Dominican Sexology Society President Martha Arredondo Soriano and Amigos Siempre Amigos Executive Director Leonardo Sánchez in April debated in a Dominican newspaper the topic of whether homosexuality is a choice.

“A person who has a homosexual orientation, who feels attracted to people of the same sex, in any given moment can decide to not exercise their true orientation,” Arredondo says. “But the science is clear and comes with evidence: Sexual orientations cannot be changed.”

“Kidnapped for Christ,” a documentary co-produced by Lance Bass that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival features Escuela Caribe, a Christian boarding school near the city of Jarabacoa in the country’s mountainous interior. The institution that an Indiana-based Evangelical organization opened in 1972 subjected students to physical abuse and other forms of punishment that included forced labor and “conversion therapy.”

Ventura noted to the Blade that fundamentalist Christian churches in the U.S. fund Escuela Caribe — which closed in 2012 and reopened under a new name — and similar institutions in the Dominican Republic.

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Virginia

Va. lieutenant governor misgenders Danica Roem

Manassas Democrat is first trans person elected to state Senate

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Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears speaks at CPAC in 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears on Monday misgendered state Sen. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on the Virginia Senate floor.

WVTF Richmond Bureau Chief Brad Kutner in an X post said Earle-Sears, who is a Republican, referred to Roem, who is a transgender woman, as “sir” during a debate on House Bill 964, which would allow attorneys to serve as the executive director of the Virginia Board of Medicine. 

Kutner said the Senate went “recess twice after reportedly ‘Sears refused to apologize.'”

“I’m not here to upset anyone, I’m here to do the job the people of Virginia have called me to do,” Earle-Sears later said, according to Kutner.

Roem in 2018 became the first trans person seated in a state legislature in the country when she assumed her seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Voters in the 30th Senate District last November elected her to the Senate. Roem is the first trans person seated in the chamber.

The Washington Blade on Monday reached out to Roem, but she declined comment.

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South America

Argentina’s former special envoy for LGBTQ rights criticizes new government

Alba Rueda resigned before President Javier Milei took office

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Alba Rueda (Photo courtesy of Alba Rueda)

Argentina’s former Special Representative on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade discussed recent setbacks in LGBTQ rights in the country. 

Alba Rueda, a transgender woman who held the position in former President Alberto Fernández’s administration, revealed the challenges and risks faced by the queer community in the South American country in which 57.4 percent of the population lives in poverty, which is the highest rate in 20 years. The Catholic University of Argentina’s Observatory of Social Debt also notes Argentina began 2024 with a 20.6 percent inflation rate; this figure is 254.2 percent from year-to-year.

President Javier Milei took office in December.

“We received a request from our president at the time, Alberto Fernández, that we submit our resignation as part of the team that integrates the presidency,” Rueda told the Washington Blade.

Rueda explained she “resigned on Nov. 28, a few days before, to make it effective on Dec. 10 with the new government and since then, since Milei, the presidency and the chancellor, Daniela Elena Mondino, took office, (her post) was eliminated. It was already foreseeable according to Milei’s statements about closing the offices on gender perspective.”

“Our special representation was closed. My colleagues were redirected to other areas,” Rueda explained. “The person who accompanied me in political terms resigned with me, so the two of us left on Dec. 10, and the rest of the technical staff was relocated within the Foreign Ministry.” 

The former ambassador described how the closure of her position and the elimination of the Women, Gender and Diversity Ministry represent a significant setback in the protection of LGBTQ rights in Argentina. She stressed that while the country was a pioneer in passing progressive laws for the LGBTQ community, the lack of effective implementation and declining government commitment are jeopardizing these advances. 

“We argued that it had been a long time since very significant laws were passed in our country and that they had to be translated into national and local public policies,” she explained. “LGBTIQ+ people not only have to be protected formally in the law, but we have to change and modify the living conditions of our community that has experienced discrimination, violence and persecution for many years.”

She added “to change that culture, there needs to be not only a formal framework, but functioning democratic institutions” 

“This elimination has a direct affectation to the rights of LGBTIQ+ people,” said Rueda.

The interview revealed how Milei’s government has dismantled institutions and policies designed to protect queer people. 

“We created, for example, a program that was the first program at the national level that was an assistance program for trans people,” Rueda said. “This program of accompaniment for the protection of their rights was in the sub-secretariat and provided economic support and was working on solving all the procedures related to access to education, health, employment, issues related to substantive issues.”

Rueda highlighted that recent political decisions are not only curtailing LGBTQ rights, but are also directly affecting the community, especially those who are economically vulnerable. The elimination of assistance programs and lack of legal protections are leaving many LGBTQ people in a vulnerable position.

“Economic rights have been affected, as is the inflationary process and the inflationary decisions of this last month are directly affecting the middle class, lower middle class and the most impoverished sectors,” said Rueda. “It directly affects not only economic rights of the LGBTIQ+ population that belongs to these classes, but also affects rights that are not being worked within the framework or promoted within public policies.”

Rueda also raised concerns about a possible increase in violence towards LGBTQ people in Argentina, comparable to what has been observed in other countries under hostile political leadership. Rueda stated incidents of violence have already been recorded and that the current political climate is fueling discrimination and hatred towards the LGBTQ community.

“It started during the campaign, and I think that during the whole last year we saw how effectively, punctually in social networks and in the public space there was a whole attack on LGBTQ+ people,” she said. “Let’s not forget during the campaign that the main candidates who are the president, the vice president and the chancellor expressed themselves in the wrong way, generating with their ignorance a completely wrong message in the media, amplifying these messages that directly affect the rights of LGBTQ+ people.”

Rueda recalled the vice president “expressed in her campaign that for her it was not necessary to call marriage a union of people of the same sex … that was the civil union and saying that marriage was a figure associated with religious aspects.”

While Milei “in an interview also during the presidential campaign, said that he did not care if people want to have sex with other people of the same sex or with animals, such as elephants, equating and putting on the same level the consensual relations of people of the same sex over 18 as zoophilia.”

The situation has reached the point that different WhatsApp groups created to seek help during the COVID-19 pandemic became active again because of the interruption of the National Social Protection Plan and changes to an employment program that made vulnerable trans people in Argentina more at-risk.

“We are in a bad moment for the rights and quality of life of LGBTQ+ people,” Rueda said.

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Texas

Abbott tells UN to ‘pound sand’ amid criticism of anti-LGBTQ policies in Texas

Governor signed seven anti-LGBTQ laws last year

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Texas Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs the “Save Women’s Sports Act” on Aug. 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday dismissed news coverage of a letter issued last month to the United Nations that expressed alarm over the “deteriorating human rights situation” for LGBTQ people in the Lone Star State.

Signed by Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law Human Rights Clinic, the letter details how Texas legislators introduced 141 bills targeting the LGBTQ community, passing seven into law.

“The UN can go pound sand,” Abbott wrote in a post on X.

In 2023, the governor signed a ban on gender affirming care for transgender youth, a ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at public universities, a ban on transgender athletes competing in college sports, a law allowing schools to use religious chaplains for counseling services, a ban on “sexually oriented performances” on public property accessible to minors (which targets drag shows), a law allowing schools to restrict LGBTQ books, and a ban on nondiscrimination ordinances by local governments.

The groups argued in their letter that these policies constitute a “systemic discriminatory policy” in violation of international human rights laws, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty whose tenets are enforced by the UN Human Rights Committee.

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