October 28, 2020 at 9:02 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBTQ activists around the world fear Trump second term
(Photo public domain)

Activists around the world say President Trump’s reelection would constitute a serious setback for the global LGBTQ rights movement.

Ricardo Sales, founder of Mais Diversidade, a São Paulo-based consultancy that promotes diversity and inclusion throughout Latin America, on Tuesday told the Washington Blade during a Zoom interview that he checks Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog several times a day to see the latest poll results in the U.S. presidential election.

The blog as of 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday predicts Joe Biden has an 88 percent chance of defeating Trump.

“I’m very, very, very anxious about the results of this election because what happens in the U.S. influences so much what happens in Brazil,” said Sales.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a close Trump ally, has been sharply criticized over his rhetoric against LGBTQ Brazilians and other marginalized groups since he took office in 2019. Bolsonaro, like Trump, have also faced serious questions over his government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Bolsonaro and Trump have contracted the disease.

“If Trump wins, unfortunately, I have no good feelings at all because if Trump wins, I think Mr. Bolsonaro will be re-elected in two years,” said Sales.

Ricardo Sales, founder of Mais Diversidade, a Brazilian consultancy that promotes diversity and inclusion. (Photo courtesy of Ricardo Sales)

Other activists around the world with whom the Blade spoke for this story also expressed concern over the prospect of Trump’s reelection.

Anjeelee Beegun is the director of Collectif Arc-En-Ciel, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Mauritius, an island country in the Indian Ocean. She, like Sales, are among the activists from around the world who participated in this year’s Human Rights Campaign Global Innovative Advocacy Summit, which took place virtually because of the pandemic.

Beegun on Tuesday told the Blade during a Zoom interview that LGBTQ rights activists in Mauritius are following the presidential election “with interest.”

“People look up to other countries, look up to the West to see what is happening,” she said. “And when you see that in all these countries that we consider as developed countries that they are saying we should oppose LGBTQ people, you are kind of worried about what messages the general population is receiving when they see a developed country like America is refusing LGBT persons, then why should we accept that.”

A Pride march in Mauritius (Photo courtesy of Anjeelee Beegun of Collectif Arc-En-Ciel)

Impact of Trump decriminalization initiative questioned

The White House in 2019 tapped then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Grenell — one of five openly gay ambassadors under the Trump administration — and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Knight Craft later that year organized an event on the sidelines of a U.N. Security Council meeting that focused on efforts to make homosexuality legal around the world.

ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis on Tuesday during a telephone interview with the Blade from Richmond, Va., questioned the campaign’s effectiveness. Du Plessis also said there “has been nothing but concern during the last four years of the U.S. administration for LGBTIQ rights.”

“Trump or the administration has had a huge impact on unleashing hate, unleashing intolerance well beyond America’s borders,” he said.

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern agreed.

“Another Trump administration would mean more funding for U.S.-based right-wing organizations to spread homophobia and transphobia globally,” she said on Monday in a statement to the Blade. “It would mean more opposition to life-saving global institutions that serve LGBTIQ people, like the World Health Organization. It would mean more examples of the U.S. forging coalitions to oppose social justice movements and equal recognition of the family with some of the most conservative countries in the world.”

“Positions across U.S. foreign policy have been filled with conservative political appointees,” added Stern. “This means that if Trump is re-elected, we can assume that the politics will be what they were in the first term, but on steroids.”

Beegun and Sales spoke with the Blade hours after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s ceremonial swearing-in at the White House. They both noted the highly partisan confirmation process that took place weeks after the-late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s died.

“It was something we are used to seeing in Latin America unfortunately, but I did not think we would see that in the U.S.,” said Sales, referring to Barrett’s rushed confirmation. “What you do in the U.S. affects the whole world.”

A spectator at the 2017 World Pride parade in Madrid highlights his opposition to President Trump. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Matthew Blaise is a non-binary queer activist in Lagos, Nigeria. They are among those who are participating in protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigeria Police Force known by the acronym SARS that is responsible for widespread human rights abuses in the country.

Blaise on Monday told the Blade via Facebook that Nigerians “rejoiced” when the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender people under the Affordable Care Act.

“It is crazy that most Nigerians look up to the U.S. for direction, and emulate them,” said Blaise. “I know this is likely due to vestiges of colonialism and racism, the idea that they are superior. So, whatever happens in the U.S. greatly affects us in Nigeria.”

“If Trump gets re-elected, it will affect the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria negatively,” they added. “Fellow citizens would be more hostile to us because now they have both foreign and domestic governments backing their agenda of hate.”

Biden victory ‘would reignite hope’

Beegun told the Blade that Mauritians closely followed President Obama’s election in 2008.

The promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during Obama’s second term. Bianca Rodríguez, director of COMCAVIS Trans, a trans advocacy group in El Salvador, noted to the Blade that Obama “did more for the U.S. and had a good record with the LGBTI community.”

“It is logical to think that Biden will maintain the same line,” said Rodríguez.

United Nations LGBT Core Group, gay news, Washington Blade
Then-Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a U.N. LGBTI Core Group event in New York on Sept. 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Stern told the Blade that OutRight Action International “can expect to see LGBTIQ rights become a priority to the U.S. government at home and abroad again” if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the election. Sally Goldner — a veteran transgender, bisexual and pansexual activist in Melbourne, Australia — agreed.

“My first thought is that people, whether consciously and/or subconsciously, do follow the example of those in positions of ‘power’ and influence,” Goldner told the Blade in an email. “So, if Biden wins, one would hope there would be greater respect for LGBTQ (I+) rights abroad, which might at a minimum be a buffer against social conservatism around the world.”

Goldner added she hopes Biden’s election may help reduce the number of trans women of color who have been killed in the U.S.

Peter Tatchell, a prominent British activist, on Monday in an email to the Blade noted Biden over the last decade “has been a strong ally of the LGBT+ community.” Tatchell added the former U.S. vice president “is committed to support the international LGBT+ struggle.”

“His victory would reignite hope that the U.S. will become a global champion against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexphobia,” Tatchell told the Blade.

Du Plessis largely agreed, although he cautioned the world is “at a different place now than it was” four years ago when Obama and Biden left office.

“One thing that we did appreciate about the Obama administration is that there was a genuine, meaningful exchange with defenders on the ground to say how can we be helpful, how can we use the vast resources and networks of the U.S. government to help bring about change in your country which is going to be long-term, sustainable and safe for you,” said du Plessis. “That tone and that type of leadership is what is desperately needed globally at the moment.”

“I cannot tell you how much that would be welcomed,” he added. “It would be hugely welcomed.”

Ernesto Valle contributed to this article from San Salvador, El Salvador.

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

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