October 16, 2019 at 2:27 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Expanding the Blade’s mission abroad
International LGBT rights, gay news, Washington Blade
Participants in LGBT march in Santa Clara, Cuba. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Washington Blade Photo Editor Michael Key and I were on La Rampa, a street in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, on May 13, 2017, covering a march that commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Several people from D.C. approached us on the street while we were on assignment and thanked us for our work on behalf of the LGBT community. The heat and humidity in the Cuban capital on that day were stifling, but those moments solidified to us the Blade’s importance around the world.

I have reported from many parts of the world since I became a reporter at the Blade in May 2012: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Spain, Israel and the West Bank. I have also had the immense privilege of interviewing hundreds of people over the last seven years. They include a lesbian activist who runs a migrant shelter in Mexicali, Mexico; a gay hairdresser in Humacao, Puerto Rico, who lost everything in Hurricane Maria; transgender activists in El Salvador who worked as election observers; a group of human rights advocates in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, a bisexual woman who is a member of the Colombian Senate; former Costa Rican Vice President Ana Helena Chacón; San Juan (Puerto Rico) Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz; the mother of a trans Salvadoran woman who died earlier this year after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released her from custody in New Mexico and a drag queen in the Cuban city of Santiago. The Cuban government earlier this year also blocked me from entering Cuba at Havana’s José Martí International Airport for reasons that remain unknown to me.

The Blade over the last 50 years has told our community’s story. The Blade over the last 50 years has also held the powers that be accountable. The Blade now carries out this mission abroad.

Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity and government-sponsored persecution remain commonplace in many of the countries from which I have reported. The governments in many of the countries from which I have reported either turn a blind eye to these abuses or allow them to take place with impunity. Upwards of 70 countries continue to criminalize LGBT people simply because of who they are.

It is the privilege of my professional life to work with El Salvador Correspondent Ernesto Valle; Tremenda Nota, the Blade’s Cuba media partner; former Mexico Correspondent Yariel Valdés González who has been granted asylum in the U.S. and other contributors who raise visibility around these injustices through their work with the Blade.

The current White House occupant has turned his back to the expansion of human rights in the U.S. and around the world. He has also aligned himself with dictators and despots responsible for some of the world’s most egregious human rights abuses against LGBT people and other vulnerable groups. The Blade’s commitment to the LGBT community in the U.S. and around the world is therefore more important than ever.

The Blade remains at the forefront of the continued documentation of the LGBT rights movement in the U.S. and the demand for accountability. And as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, I am proud this work had expanded to countries around the world.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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