November 10, 2020 at 2:23 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Activists around the world celebrate Biden-Harris victory
election 2020, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Activists around the world are celebrating the election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in a statement said “the outcome of this election has far-reaching implications for LGBTIQ people globally.”

ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis was with his husband in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 7 when the Associated Press and television networks declared Biden and Harris had won the election. Du Plessis on Monday told the Washington Blade that LGBTQ people around the world over the last four years “have been subject to increased hate that has been unleashed in copy-cat imitation of the poor presidential leadership in the United States” and “have experienced first-hand what happens when society is encouraged to bully, shame, mock, harm and belittle others who are different.”

“The citizens of the United States have this week voted—albeit closely—to reject this kind of leadership,” said du Plessis. “The planet is crying out for more compassionate, mature, visionary, unifying and empathetic leaders, and we now look to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to be an example.”

Hila Peer, chair of the Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, also celebrated the election of Biden and Harris.

“We are celebrating with the U.S. LGBTQ+ community for one that seems to place human rights and in that LGBTQ+ rights as one of great importance,” Peer told the Blade from Tel Aviv. “I hope the winds of positive change will be obvious soon across the U.S. and from there will send ripples of progressives (sic) and true equality to the world-at-large and Israel.”

Tiziana Fisichella, coordinator of Milan Pride in Italy, agreed.

“We are so happy for America,” proclaimed Fisichella on Tuesday in a WhatsApp message to the Blade. “New President-elect Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be tasked with restoring social justice and democracy to the U.S.”

Leandro Rodríguez, an activist in Cuba who is a vocal critic of his country’s government, on Monday told the Blade that Biden’s public support of LGBTQ rights is a sign of “hope.” Danilo Manzano, director of Diálogo Diverso, a group that is based in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, said the election results mean the U.S. will become a “more just, less discriminatory and much more equal country.”  

The promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during President Obama’s second term.

Biden in 2016 described LGBTQ rights as the “civil rights issue of our time” when he spoke at a U.N. LGBTI Core Group event that took place on the sidelines of that year’s U.N. General Assembly. Caleb Orozco, an activist in Belize who successfully challenged his country’s colonial-era sodomy law, on Sunday recalled meeting Biden at the event.

“I got an unplanned, but welcomed hug as I was aware of his pain as a father who lost his son to cancer,” Orozco told the Blade in an email.

“During the meeting he waved his pencil at me and I was left shocked because I did not realize he was speaking to me,” he further recalled. “A man with so much loss in his life can become remarkable in leadership, shaped by personal pain.”

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The U.S. Embassy in Cuba in 2016 flew the Pride flag in commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba).

The White House in 2019 launched an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Trump named five openly gay ambassadors, but activists with whom the Blade has spoken after the election sharply criticized the outgoing administration over myriad other issues that include the repeal of legal protections for transgender Americans and its hardline immigration policy.

The U.S. in 2018 withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, on Monday during a telephone interview from his native Costa Rica noted to the Blade that the council gives him his mandate. Madrigal-Borloz also said he was “glad to congratulate all of you on the election of the 46th president and I very much look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration in the furtherance of U.S. support in relation to global furtherance of LGBT issues.”

“There’s a reason why explicit and unambiguous political statements are important and that is because they do have an impact all across the world,” he said when the Blade asked him about the impact the Biden-Harris administration will have on countries with anti-LGBTQ human rights records. “While that is true of any political leadership, it is especially true of the United States given that it is, of course, a global power around the world.”

African Women for Sexual Health and Gender Justice (AWOSHe) Managing Director Hazel Mokgathi, who is based in Botswana, on Monday told the Blade the Biden-Harris administration has pledged to lift the so-called global gag rule, which prevents the U.S. from funding international organizations that provide abortions. Mokgathi also noted Biden in his victory speech specifically mentioned trans people.

“That was very moving for me as a transgender leader, because that on its own has ripple effects to the rest of the world leaders—and including my very own president of Botswana—to protect and acknowledge underserved communities in their own countries,” she said.

African Women for Sexual Health and Gender (AWOSHe) Managing Director Hazel Mokgathi. (Photo courtesy of Hazel Mokgathi)

Glenroy Murray, director of strategy and impact for J-FLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Jamaica, on Monday said he “was pleasantly shocked that the Biden-Harris campaign won out.”

“The Jamaican in me is claiming this victory as a victory for us in the small way,” added Murray. “The USA has positioned themselves as a global leader for LGBT rights and in the last four years that status fell into doubt, particularly from the eyes of an LGBTQ person of color from the Global South.”

Transgender activist in India pays tribute to Harris

Harris’ father, Donald Harris, was born in Jamaica. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in India. Harris is the first woman, first Black person and first American of South Asian descent elected vice president.

Meera Parida is a member of India’s National Council for Transgender Persons. She is also the state secretary for the Biju Janata Dal, a socialist party that governs India’s Odisha state.

“Being an Indian, I feel proud myself to see a lady of Indian origin being elected,” Parida told the Blade.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at a rally in Dallas on Oct. 30, 2020. Her mother was born in India. (Photo courtesy of James “Wally” Brewster)

Dédé Oetomo, founder of Gaya Nusantara, an Indonesian LGBTQ rights group, on Tuesday also noted Harris’ background when he discussed the election results.

“The reaction among Indonesian LGBTQ folks is one of hope and excitement, given Mr. Biden’s track record in advocating for LGBTQ human rights when he was vice president,” Oetomo told the Blade from the Indonesian city of Surabaya. “There has also been excitement about a half Asian vice president-elect.”

Biden ‘hardly revolutionary’

Elias Jahshan is the former editor of the Star Observer, an LGBTQ newspaper in Australia. Jahshan is also a gay man of Arab descent who now lives in London.

Jahshan on Monday told the Blade he “felt massive relief when Trump lost the election.”

“He is quite possibly the worst kind of leader, by Western democratic standards, for LGBTQ people—especially for the trans community and queer people of color,” he said. “He is absolutely toxic in so many ways. Good riddance that he won’t be around for another term.”

Jahshan described Biden as “a step in the right direction,” especially on LGBTQ rights, but he added his position is “hardly revolutionary.” Jahshan told the Blade that he is “not holding my breath in Biden doing anything to bring about genuine equality and freedoms for Palestinians who lives in the West Bank or Gaza.”

“Time after time we’ve seen both Democrat and Republican leaders use their imperialist powers to reward countries that pander to their exceptionalism, regardless whether they’re dictatorships or not,” he said. “Israel is an example of this—as are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Palestinians are always thrown under the bus, and this includes LGBTQ Palestinians.”

The separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank as seen from a gas station in Bethlehem, West Bank, on Nov. 12, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

OutRight Action International’s statement did not refer to the Israeli government’s policies towards the Palestinians, but it did include a list of policy changes the organization would like the Biden-Harris administration to make. These include the appointment of a special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, which the Obama administration created, and the removal of religious exemptions from U.S. policies.

“OutRight looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to reestablish respect for LGBTIQ rights through U.S. foreign policy,” said Stern. “We will also hold the Biden-Harris administration accountable for an intersectional human rights agenda that values LGBTIQ people, people of color, immigrants, women and other vulnerable groups.”

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

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