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22 January 2015 edition

Dear friends and colleagues,

From the UN:  UNAIDS and MSMGF hosted the first meeting of the 'Global Platform to Fast-Track HIV Responses among Gay Men and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men.' The Platform will provide UN agencies strategic advice on the priorities and needs of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. 

The UNHCR has announced a new comprehensive training program that will educate staff and other humanitarian workers on the specific issues LGBTI people face when fleeing persecution. 

In a first, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) called attention to Iranian LGBTI children, with committee expert Clarence Nelson noting that children are forced to undergo 'curative practices,' including hormone therapies, electroshocks, and sexual reassignment surgeries. The Iranian government's replied that homosexuality is an illness and was treated as 'gender identity disorder.' 

HIV, Health, and Wellbeing: In the Asia-Pacific region the HIV epidemic is growing fastest among young gay and bisexual men, while girls and boys between 15-19 years old account for 15% of new infections. 

In the US state of Georgia, advocates and doctors are facing an 'alarming' HIV epidemic, which they compare to 1980s New York. Experts warn stigma, especially among young gay and bisexual black men, has contributed to the epidemic.

UK experts warn that cuts to NHS sexual health services will contribute to an 'explosion' of STIs, especially syphilis and gonorrhea among men who have sex with men.

New research from the US has found that HIV prevention drug PrEP is comparable to aspirin in terms of patients' safety. And new research from the Netherlands suggests that immediately treating men who test positive for HIV would prevent 19% of new infections among gay men, and if PrEP was additionally given to 50% of those who test negative, two thirds of infections would be averted. 

The Thai Red Cross opened Thailand's first clinic to provide healthcare to transgender people. 

The Chilean Ministry of Health published instructions on healthcare for intersex children calling for an end to 'unnecessary normalization' surgeries.

Studies from the US and from Canada find that bisexuals face discrimination from society at large and exclusion from within the LGBT community, leading to worse mental health outcomes than any other sexual orientation. 

From the World of Politics: The Russian parliamentary committee for legislation has rejected a bill to ban gays and lesbians from 'coming out'. They further advised the Duma to unanimously vote against the bill in the event it reached a first reading because it is too similar to existing legislation.

In the US, 28 states permit discrimination against LGBT people and allow people to be fired, evicted, and refused business services. 

After two years of discussion, the Hong Kong government released a report on discrimination against LGBT people. However, activists were dissatisfied that the report had no recommendations for legislative changes.

Members of Parliament in the UK released a thorough report on transgender issues and called for a revision of all legal protections for transgender people. Commenting that 'no group suffers more discrimination than trans people,' committee chair Maria Miller noted:
“Almost half the population accept that gender is fluid and is not as simple as male or female. There will be a minority of people who might be uncomfortable about that, but parliament is there to represent the way that society is today.”
Italy's Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano, declared that people who use surrogacy services to become parents should be treated as sex criminals and sent to prison. He also wants to ban gay couples from 'stepchild adoption,' in which a person adopts their partner's children. 

The Politics of Union: Despite opposition, the Greek parliament approved a same-sex civil partnership law giving couples equal rights on inheritance and property issues. The bill does not include adoption rights.

In Germany, minority party leader Renate Künast used a legislative loophole to demand that the parliament debate marriage equality, despite the judicial committee's refusal to hear the issue.

In response to activists, Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama disparaged gay marriage, saying that if people of the same gender wish to marry they should move to Iceland and that 'Fiji does not need that rubbish.'

Let the Courts Decide: A court in China agreed to hear the first case on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit was filed against the Furong district civil affairs bureau after the bureau refused the plaintiff's request to marry. 

In Japan, experts are questioning whether a recent Supreme Court ruling on surnames of married couples, which defined marriage as between 'two parties,' has created an opportunity for same-sex marriage. 

The Botswana government appealed a historic ruling by the Gaborone High Court that it must recognize a local LGB rights group on grounds that the constitution does not recognize homosexuals. And in Tunisia the Court of First Instance has suspended LGBT rights group Shams (‘sun’ in Arabic) after the government filed a complaint against the NGO that claimed Shams' registered statutes did not include rights for homosexuals. 

In Lebanon, the Court of Appeals of Beirut ruled that a transgender person can change their gender in the civil registry, though the ruling only applies to people who have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

In the US, federal courts are considering whether protection of sexual orientation should be included in sex discrimination laws. The District Court of California ruled that educational institutions cannot discriminate on sexual orientation and gender, meanwhile the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has asked 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent discrimination in the workplace.  

Fear and Loathing: In Syria ISIS executed a 15 year old boy who was accused of being sexually engaged with a prominent ISIS officer. The officer was expelled to Iraq.

In India, a 15 year old student set himself on fire after suffering harassment and abuse from neighbors who saw him being intimate with another boy. Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly explains how his attempted suicide is a symptom of India's law criminalizing same-sex relations. 

In Mexico, 'Miss Gay 2015' died from internal injuries after being beaten by a group of unknown assailants outside of a nightclub. And in Pakistan a transgender person with a gunshot wound was left unattended by hospital staff for over three hours.

From El Salvador, journalist J. Lester Feder and Nicola Chávez Courtright, co-founder of AMATE--an organization documenting the local LGBT movement--explored the history of missing and murdered sex workers and transgender women

In a Malawian television interview, Eric Sambisa, leader of Southern Region Rainbow Alliance, announced he is gay and made the provocative statement that the government should give gay people rights or should kill them. Following the interview, Sambisa was detained by police and has since gone into hiding

In the Name of Religion: A world summit of Anglican leaders has concluded with 'consequences' against the US Episcopal Church including a three year suspension from participation in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal branch was punished for allowing same-sex marriages and for the ordination of an openly gay bishop.  

In the Netherlands, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Episcopal Reverend Mpho A. Tutu married her female partner Professor Marceline van Furth. The couple have planned a second ceremony in South Africa later this year.  

Orthodox priests in Romania are urging parishioners to sign a petition to change the constitution so that it explicitly excludes same-sex marriage.

In Israel members of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties did not attend the swearing in of the first openly gay parliamentarian, Amir Ohana.

In a newly published book, Pope Francis clarifies his theological stance towards LGBT people. The pope is often credited with a shift in 'tone' on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church. 

The United Church of Canada in Toronto is hosting a new initiative to outreach to LGBT youth with 'Young Queer Church,' a monthly christian worship that highlights inclusion and 'authentic living.' 

Winds of Change: In Australia the state government of Queensland announced it plans to expunge the criminal records of men convicted of homosexuality prior to its decriminalization in 1990. 

In Slovenia, leading newspaper Delo honored Jure Poglajen with the 'Person of the Year' award for the work he and his partner have contributed to support the refugee crisis. Poglajen previously campaigned for marriage equality.

Botswana artist and activist Kolanyane-Kesupile explores how the LGBTI movement in Africa has shifted from parties to human rights, and notes:
"As a proud, trans* citizen of the African continent, I have first-hand experience of how tempestuous the regional atmosphere is, and this contributes to widespread misrepresentation of LGBTI+ Africans."
From New York, former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae spoke on his efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and his hope for the future of LGBT rights across Africa.

Meanwhile, in South Africa activists marched in response to the disfigurement and murder of a young lesbian and to protest the inaction by authorities.

School Days: In Vietnam, nearly half of LGBT students reported experiencing abuse and discrimination from other students and from teachers. Now some educators are pushing for sexual and gender diversity programs, as well as improved reproductive health classes, to combat the problem.

Eight US states have laws that prevent schools from discussing homosexuality, including teaching about health and rights issues and from acknowledging gay students. Meanwhile, in the US state of Georgia, a private alternative school for primary and secondary students is being opened specifically for, though not exclusive to, LGBT youth. 

In Ireland a teacher will receive compensation after her principal made repeated homophobic slurs against her son. In Jamaica, controversy exploded between the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) and people both for and against gay rights after it was discovered that 800 guidance counselors refuse to council gay students. The JTA says counselors cannot be forced to provide for gay students because homosexuality is illegal. 

In New Zealand, past and present students of a prestigious secondary school accused the school of rampant homophobia. Following media coverage, headmaster Tim O'Connor released a statement promising to address the issue.

In Canada, the University of Victoria appointed the world's first chair of transgender studies, funded by US$1 million donation from trans billionaire Jennifer Pritzker.

Business and Technology: At the 2016 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting LGBT issues were featured on the official agenda for the first time. In his remarks, US Vice President Joe Biden urged business leaders to confront political leaders on LGBT issues, stating: "Culture never justifies rank, raw, discrimination or violation of human rights. There is no cultural justification.

A Chinese gaming company has bought majority ownership of gay dating app Grindr, valuing the company at $155 million. Meanwhile, in the UK police urged caution, noting that reports of crimes related to Grindr and straight dating app Tinder have surged dramatically over two years of police records.

The Netherlands Advertising Standards Board ruled that gay dating app 'Squirt' may continue to advertise in public despite numerous complaints calling the ads 'inappropriate' and 'shocking.' The board noted that the ads met the 'precautions' for 'good taste and public decency.'

Social media juggernaut Twitter has banned any speech that could incite terrorism or violence 'on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, disability, or disease.' Though some praised the action, others noted the policy does not go far enough to prevent harassment and bullying.

Sports and Culture:  The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) was fined for firing referee Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ after he came out as gay. The TFF claimed that Dinçdağ was 'unfit' for the job as his sexuality also deems him legally 'unfit' for Turkish military. And FIFA fined Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and Peru for “insulting and discriminatory chants” made by fans in an effort to be 'proactive' against homophobia. 

In Australia, game company Atari launched 'Pridefest,' the 'first LGBT-focused game that represents a passionate cause.' 

Canadian photographer Samra Habib's series “Just Me and Allah: A Queer Muslim Photo Project” documents the international Muslim LGBT experience.

From Taiwan, intersex advocate Hiker Chiu reveals the struggle for self-acceptance and finding community outside of expectations of gender. And the Guardian examined the rise of 'gender fluid' identifying young artists and celebrities, compared to theatrical or androgynous celebrities of the past, and noted that this rejection of gender binaries is more than a passing fad.

The king of theatrical and gender bending performance, artist David Bowie passed away from liver cancer only days after his 69th birthday and release of his last album. Bowie was an icon for many as he made people feel that being different "no longer meant being a victim; it meant triumphing". 

Finally, from India’s Hijra community, get 'happy' with this music video by India’s first-ever trans girl group.
Jensen Byrne
I have been going to the mountain to pray about [how to stop being gay], fasting and I came to the point that I was just starving myself…it’s something that I have tried and I have come to the point where I am saying: this is me and if I try to run away from myself, then who am I going to be?”  
~ Eric Sambisa, from Malawi 
ban ki moon Michel Sidibé UNAIDS report
Strengthening human rights for gay men and other men who have sex with men
The first meeting of a new advisory body, the Global Platform to Fast-Track HIV Responses among Gay Men and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men (Global Platform), was convened by UNAIDS and the Men Who Have Sex with Men Global Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. Through the Global Platform, members will provide strategic advice to United Nations agencies and other stakeholders on HIV programme needs and priorities for gay men and other men who have sex with men.

“To date, we have shamefully failed gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men in the global response to HIV. Establishing the first ever advisory body to the United Nations agencies and donor community devoted to this issue is an important first step in correcting the situation,” said George Ayala, Executive Director of the Men Who Have Sex with Men Global Forum. 

New infections among gay men and other men who have sex with men are increasing in all regions of the world, while access to treatment remains low in many countries. National HIV prevention and treatment programmes often fail to target gay men and other men who have sex with men. Punitive laws and policies, violence and human rights violations all fuel vulnerability to HIV. Read more via UNAIDS
UNHCR leads in LGBTI refugee, asylum seeker protection
The UN Refugee Agency is leading the way in delivering protection to LGBTI persons in forced displacement with the rolling out of a new training programme for UNHCR staff and other protection and humanitarian workers, the most comprehensive training package of its kind globally.

LGBTI persons fleeing persecution face a complex array of challenges and threats at all stages of displacement, including discrimination, prejudice, violence, difficulty accessing humanitarian services, and barriers to articulating their protection needs during asylum procedures and other interactions with protection and humanitarian actors.

The programme was developed jointly with the International Organization for Migration, IOM, and funded by the United States Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM). It covers relevant terminology, international law, communication, operational protection, conducting interviews, durable solutions, health, and refugee status determination, all with a focus on practical guidance for UNHCR and partner organizations when assisting LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers. Read more via Trust.org
Iranian Government evades the UN questions on LGBTI children
For the first time, the Committee on the Rights of the Child questioned the Iranian government about the human rights of LGBTI children. The committee completed two sessions of review on the situation of children in Iran in Geneva last week. The Iranian delegates evaded many questions during the two day sessions by delay, denial and even at times mischaracterization of Iranian law.

Clarence Nelson, one of the committee experts, raised the issue of LGBTI children in Iran citing that children had to undergo coercive measures to “correct” and “cure” their “problem”. These practices include but are not limited to unnecessary hormone therapies, electroshocks and even life-threatening sexual reassignment surgeries. Since on the first line of questioning the Iranian delegates remained silent on this issue, he raised the question again asking the delegation to comment on reports of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex children but no response was forthcoming.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran’s written reply to the Committee, the Iranian government had not even distinguished between an intersex child and a bisexual child. This action of Islamic Republic’s government shows a deep lack of scientific knowledge or perhaps adequate consideration and investigation on the part of the state. In their reply, the Islamic Republic had also explicitly mentioned that homosexuality is considered a form of illness and thus the state sanctioned treatment of “gender identity disorder” mandates sex reassignment surgeries. Read more via 6rang
Asia-Pacific’s alarming AIDS rise
There are now 220,000 adolescents living with HIV in the Asia-Pacific region, with large cities the hubs of new infections. Risky behaviour is on the rise, and policymakers need to address the problem, Wing-Sie Cheng Regional Adviser, HIV and AIDS with UNICEF, covering East Asia and the Pacific writes.

At a time when we are tantalisingly close to ending the global HIV and AIDS epidemic, a new trend gives cause for concern. Although new AIDS-related deaths are falling in most countries, they are rising among certain groups of adolescents in Asia-Pacific. The rise in new infections coincides with an increase in risky behaviour, such as multiple sexual partners and inconsistent condom use.

These trends are not limited to Asia-Pacific. In parts of Africa, AIDS is now the leading cause of death among adolescents. In Asia-Pacific, the epidemic is growing fastest among young gay and bisexual men, and the rise of mobile dating or hook-up apps play a role as enablers of risky behaviour. Gay men are now using mobile dating apps to meet up for sex and are having more casual sex with more people with the convenience of geographic tracing of the nearest sexual interest. Read more via Policy Forum
US: Atlanta’s alarming HIV/AIDS epidemic reminiscent of New York in the ’80s
Georgia ranks second among U.S. states in the rate of new HIV diagnoses, behind Louisiana, and Atlanta ranks fifth among metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.

The issue is particularly acute for young gay and bisexual black men. Grady Memorial, one of the nation’s largest public health hospitals, also found alarming numbers, through a grant-funded project that allowed its staff to offer opt-out HIV screening to all patients entering its emergency room: About half the patients diagnosed with HIV already had clinical AIDS. This means they had the virus for years and not received the sort of treatment that would prevent further deterioration of their immune systems.

“None of my colleagues [nationally] are seeing those numbers,” said Dr. Wendy Armstrong, a researcher at Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research. “It’s appalling.”

Despite the rise, the area is finding new new public- and private-sector efforts to bring the area in step with other large cities nationwide that have kept the virus and disease in check. Read more via Aljazeera
Cuts to sexual health services will lead to STI 'explosion', warn experts
Cuts to sexual health services will lead to more abortions, unplanned pregnancies and an “explosion” in sexually transmitted infections, medical experts warn. Their warning comes as Labour claims that local councils in England will spend as much as £40m less than planned this year on services such as testing and treating infections such as herpes and syphilis as a result of George Osborne’s decision to cut £200m from the public health budget.

Doctors have criticised the chancellor’s move as short-sighted and bound to increase demand for NHS care at a time when dating apps and “chemsex” are thought to be behind rising STI rates.

Some councils have already started to reduce their budget for testing people suspected to have contracted an infection such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea by as much as 36% as a result.

Diagnoses of gonorrhoea in England have gone from 16,843 in 2010 to 34,958 in 2014 – a rise of 107% – while those for syphilis are up by 63% from 2,647 to 4,317 over the same period. Those for anogenital herpes are also up, though by a much smaller amount – 7% – from 29,698 in 2010 to 31,777 in 2014, answers to parliamentary questions tabled by Labour show. Read more via the Guardian
New study says PrEP is just as safe as aspirin
A study published in the Oxford Journal’s Open Forum Infectious Diseases states that pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs are just as safe as the painkiller aspirin. While the effectiveness of PrEP for the prevention of HIV had been proven, doubts remained over possible side effects of the drug, including nausea and unintentional weight loss.

The study compared the effects to patients in 5 major research trials. According to the study: “PrEP for HIV infection favourably compares to aspirin in terms of user safety. While long-term studies are needed, providers should feel reassured about the safety of short- and medium-term PrEP for HIV infection with FTC-TDF.” Read more via GayTimes
Netherlands: Test-and-treat could slash new HIV infections among gay men
Testing men who have sex with men for HIV and immediately treating those who are HIV positive could greatly reduce new infections among the MSM population as a whole, at least in the Netherlands. Publishing their findings in Science Translational Medicine, researchers analyzed medical records data as well as genetic information about the virus in 617 recently diagnosed Dutch MSM, in order to make estimates about the likely source of their infections.

An estimated 71% of the new HIV cases transmitted from undiagnosed men, 22% from men who were diagnosed but not on treatment, 6% from men who had started treatment, and 1% of diagnosed men who had not been linked to medical care within 18 months. About 43% of the transmissions derived from men infected for less than a year.

The researchers estimated that 19% of the new HIV cases could have been averted if MSM tested annually for HIV and if those who tested positive were immediately provided treatment. Two-thirds of cases could have been averted if all men testing positive received ARVs and if Truvada as PrEP was provided to half of all men testing negative. The researchers concluded that their findings support making PrEP available worldwide. Read more via Science Magazine
Thailand: Tangerine Community Health Centre for trans-specific healthcare 
In a historic movement for transgender rights in Thailand, the Thai Red Cross Aids Research Centre, with USAid and partners, has unveiled the Tangerine Community Health Centre -- the first clinic in Thailand to provide trans-specific healthcare and counselling services.

Transgender people have been fixtures in the tourism and entertainment industries. However, stigma and discrimination have prevented them from accessing many public services. Healthcare is one of the most crucial areas they are vulnerable. 

"To be honest, we don't really need a school or a hospital especially set aside for trans. If we keep on separating, how can we coexist peacefully in society?" said Jetsada. "However, with Tangerine, I don't view it as a separation. We need Tangerine, right now, as there's not enough knowledge body within our existing healthcare system. We hope, in the future, states will adapt and apply the Tangerine model to public hospitals."  Read more via Bangkok Post
Chile: Ministry of Health to stop “normalising” interventions on intersex children
The Chilean Ministry of Health has issued instructions to its national health sector to stop “normalising” medical interventions on intersex infants and children. This guidance is a global first: the first time that a health ministry has shown leadership in taking this step without legislation or legal action. They have done this while awaiting the development of human rights-affirming treatment protocols and legislation to offer protection from discrimination on grounds of “sexual characteristics”.

The report entitled “Instructions on aspects of health care to intersex children“ instructs the ceasing of “unnecessary “normalization” treatment of intersex children, including irreversible genital surgeries, until they are old enough to decide about their bodies“, while work takes place to develop protocols that meet human rights standards. Read more via OII
North America: Are bisexuals shut out of the LGBT club?
New studies from University of Massachusetts and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto show that bi people are being excluded by both straight and gay peers. No, bisexuals don’t have twice as much sex as everyone else. But there is mounting evidence to suggest that they experience double the types of discrimination as their gay and lesbian peers.

Two studies published in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Bisexuality confirm what bi people have been saying for some time: The discrimination they face within the LGBT community is as real as the discrimination they face outside of it.  

Researcher Tangela Roberts believes that her study sheds light on a troubling but often ignored fault line within the LGBT population: “This is the thing that isn’t talked about,” she said. “It’s like airing out the dirty laundry of the supposed ‘LGBT community.’ It’s saying, ‘Look, we haven’t been acting like this community that we’re supposed to be and we need to do something about that.’” Read more via the Daily Beast
Russia: Duma Committee Comes Out Against Antigay Bill
The Russian State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State-Building has declined to endorse a controversial draft bill that would introduce fines and arrests for people who publicly express their homosexuality. The parliamentary committee advised that the Duma unanimously vote against the bill in the event it reached a first reading.

The bill, initiated by lawmakers from the Communist Party and condemned as discriminatory by human rights activists, called for fines of up to 5,000 rubles (~ $65) for publicly expressing "nontraditional sexual orientation." The bill also proposed punishing those who express homosexuality at educational or cultural institutions with arrest and up to 15 days in jail. 

Communist lawmaker Igor Nikitchuk, one of the bill’s authors, defended the legislation during a meeting of the committee, calling homosexuality a “contagious disease” and a “threat to society,” as other lawmakers snickered.

Lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov, a rare anti-Kremlin opposition politician in the State Duma, wrote that the recommendation to reject the bill was made for "formal reasons."  Read more via Radio Free Europe
US: Can states protect LGBT rights without compromising religious freedom?
Twenty-eight. That’s the number of states where it’s not against the law to discriminate against a gay person who’s looking for an apartment, applying for a job, or buying something from a store. Five more states have protections, but with exceptions: New York, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin don’t forbid discrimination against transgender people, for example, and Massachusetts and Utah don’t protect all LGBT people in all situations in which discrimination might arise.

The federal government does not protect against this kind of discrimination, either, except in limited cases. Although Democrats have proposed legislation that would change that, the chances of it successfully sliding through a Republican Congress in an election year seem slim.

The irony of gay marriage becoming legal in the United States is that it has made discrimination against LBGT people easier. For example: Many newlywed couples may be asking their employers for spousal benefits for the first time. Depending on where they live, it may or may not be illegal for that employer to respond by firing them—something that happened in a number of states in 2015. Some state legislatures have tentatively taken on this issue; Pennsylvania and Idaho, for example, both saw bills introduced in 2015.

But in many places, these efforts are complicated by a tangled political question: Should these laws make exceptions for religious individuals and organizations that object to employing and providing services to gay people? This question could produce some of the biggest political fights of 2016. Read more via the Atlantic
Hong Kong: LGBT community disappointed by long awaited report on discrimination against sexual minorities
A long-awaited report on discrimination against sexual minorities was finally released yesterday. In wording that disappointed rights activists, the report recommended “a further study” on other jurisdictions to inform “future consultation” on both legislative proposals and administrative measures. The group also called on the government to draw up a non-discrimination charter to be voluntarily adopted by employers, schools and landlords, as well as training for teachers, medical practitioners and social workers.

Hong Kong’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have for years been asking for wider recognition of their rights. But their bid for legislation to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation was dashed on the last day of the year.

“It took two years to discuss, and the conclusion is to ‘further study’ whether to hold public consultation [over whether to legislate to protect sexual minorities from discrimination]? This is unacceptable,” said Brian Leung Siu-fai, of LGBT rights group Big Love Alliance.

Chan, a People Power lawmaker, criticised the group: “The report has been toned down and is very conservative now,” said Chan. “The current administration is absolutely not sincere in launching legislative work at all.” Read more via South China Morning Post
UK: Transgender people are being let down by the government, say MPs 
Transgender issues should never be treated as a mental health problem, according to a radical parliamentary report that demands a complete overhaul of the legal protections for transgender people in the UK.

The House of Commons women and equalities committee said the government should introduce a non-binary gender option on passports, require all police officers to undergo transphobic hate crime training, and ensure transgender people cannot be excluded from single-sex institutions such as women’s refuges.

The report also insists transgender prisoners should be allowed to serve their sentence in a prison that is appropriate to their gender, says 16- and 17-year-olds should be allowed to switch their legal gender, and calls for an explicit ban on anti-transgender hate speech.

“I can think of no group that suffers more discrimination than trans people,” committee chair Maria Miller said. “We must think about the human rights of every single person who lives in our country, and at the moment the human rights of trans people are not fully protected.” Read more via Buzzfeed
Italy: Treat surrogate parents as sex offenders, says Italian minister
Italy’s interior minister has called for surrogate parents to be treated as sex offenders, as part of a broader campaign against the prime minister’s efforts to grant family rights to same-sex couples.

“We want ‘wombs for rent’ to become a universal crime. And that it is punished with prison. Just as happens for sexual crimes,” Angelino Alfano said.

The minister’s comments outline the fierce debate over family rights under way in Italy as the country prepares to give gay couples legal rights for the first time. The push for same-sex unions and stepchild adoption rights has proved perhaps the greatest challenge in the first two years of Matteo Renzi’s coalition government.

Surrogacy is illegal in Italy and punishable by steep fines and up to two years in prison, although a legal grey area has meant that couples who travel abroad for surrogacy are not prosecuted when they return home. A “family day” held in June brought hundreds of thousands of people to Rome, marching against proposed legal changes and lessons about gay families in schools. Read more via the Guardian
Greece: 26th European country to recognise same-sex partnerships
A same-sex civil union bill has passed with a wide majority in the Greek Parliament. The landmark legislation passed due to support from political parties like the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), To Potami and the Union of Centrists, along with some New Democracy members of parliament.

“This ends a period of backwardness and shame for the state, which led to our country receiving international rulings against it,” said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Instead of celebrating, though, maybe we should apologize to hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens that have been denied their rights all these years.”

The law passed recognizes same-sex unions, however campaigners have said it does not go quite far enough: “The bill does not provide equality before the law, especially in regard to adoption and custody of children, but it comes close,” LGBT campaigner Leo Kalovyrnas said. “Politicians in this country tend to hide behind the church but they, too, across the board, are homophobic.”

Comments made earlier this month by the bishop of Kalavryta sparked controversy, as he condemned homosexuals as “freaks of nature” and encouraged people to ”spit on them.”  Read more via International Business Times
German Parliament will be forced into debating marriage equality
Germany’s governing body--the Bundestag-- is being forced to discuss two proposed laws on marriage equality.

The chamber’s judicial committee refused to discuss the proposed laws for the ‘introduction of the right of marriage for people of the same gender’ on three separate occasions. Now they are being forced into the discussion because Renate Kuehnat – leading the Green Party – made use of a loophole in the proceedings that states a fraction can demand debate of an interim if it has not been discussed 10 weeks after a motion was presented.

In October, following an update on law regulating civil partnerships, numerous MPs passed a motion demanding marriage equality. Now it’s down to the speaker’s office to decide if, and if so when, the debate will be set. Read more via Gay Star News
Fiji: PM says gays should go to Iceland and stay there
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has said LGBTI people in the Pacific island nation should go to Iceland and stay there. Bainimarama was responding to Shamima Ali, co-ordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Center, who had called on the government to legalize gay marriage. 

‘Tell Shamima Ali, there will be no same-sex marriage in Fiji,’ he said in a televised interview, ‘Not in her lifetime and not in ours.’ If two women want to marry, ‘they should go and have it done in Iceland and stay and live there.’

Ali condemned Bainimarama’s statements: ‘It’s extreme homophobia and really total disrespect for a community in Fiji.' Read more via Gay Star News
China: Gay man sues for right to marry
A court has accepted China's first same-sex marriage case, lodged by a gay man against a civil affairs bureau for denying him the right to marry, in a decision hailed as a step forward for gay rights. While homosexuality is not illegal in China, and large cities have thriving gay scenes, same-sex marriage is not legal and same-sex couples have no legal protections.

A court in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, accepted the lawsuit filed by Sun Wenlin: "Our marriage law says there is the freedom to marry and gender equality. These words can be applied to same-sex marriage."

Activists said the court's acceptance of the case was significant and would likely lead to more such cases. "In China, courts often reject politically sensitive cases, so the fact that the lawsuit is accepted signals some official willingness to address discrimination against LGBT people, which is encouraging," said Maya Wang, a China researcher at New York-based group Human Rights Watch. Read more via Channel News Asia
Japan: Different-names ruling leaves door open to possibility of same-sex marriages
Last month the Supreme Court handed down its verdict on a lawsuit filed by people who objected to the Civil Code requirement that married couples be registered under one surname. The majority of the 15 judges ruled that the plaintiffs’ rights were not being violated by the law, and the media debate that followed pivoted on the question of constitutionality versus culture, or the assumption that Japan had some unusual social need for couples and their children to be identified by one name only.

Within this discussion, Sota Kimura, an associate professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University and presently one of the most in-demand media pundits when it comes to constitutional matters, brought up the wording the judges used in their decision. Kimura pointed out that this is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on a case concerning Article 24, which defines marriage as a legally binding union between two people who mutually agree to enter into that union. Although English translations of the Constitution typically describe marriage as involving “both sexes,” the word ryōsei can also be interpreted to mean “two parties,” and Kimura believes it was this interpretation the judges were stressing. While the court said there is nothing unconstitutional about compelling married couples to register under one name, they didn’t expressly limit marriage to a man and a woman.

According to Kimura, if a same-sex couple someday sues the state to have their marriage legally recognized, lawyers can use this ruling as a precedent to claim that such a union is guaranteed by the Constitution. The Constitution does not use the word danjo (men and women), so it is not manifestly apparent that the two “parties” have to be of different genders. Read more via The Japan Times
US: Federal agency urges court to include sexual orientation under sex discrimination ban
The federal agency charged with enforcing existing civil rights laws has urged a federal appeals court to rule that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In a filing at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wrote that “sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination, and such sex discrimination violates Title VII.” In supporting the appeal of Barbara Burrows, whose lawsuit against the College of Central Florida was tossed out by a trial court judge, the EEOC wrote, “The district court’s treatment of sexual orientation discrimination as distinct from sex discrimination is untenable and based on a fundamentally flawed premise.”

The move is the latest step from the EEOC and advocates in an effort to protect LGBT people from discrimination under existing civil rights law. Read more via Buzzfeed

US: Judge rules sexual orientation discrimination falls under purview of landmark Title IX law
A federal judge in California has ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation falls under the purview of the landmark Title IX law, giving a broader interpretation to the 1972 statute that prohibits sex discrimination in the nation's schools and colleges.

In his 22-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not a separate category of discrimination, but rather, such claims fall under Title IX's view of discrimination on the basis of gender or sex. 

The ruling allows two former players on the Pepperdine University women's basketball team to proceed with a lawsuit that alleges the university harassed and discriminated against them because they were dating. Read more via the Los Angeles Times

27 universities have been granted an exception allowing them to discriminate against LGBT people despite Title IX. 
Botswana: Gays return to court to fight government discrimination
LGBT rights group LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana) will return to court this month to oppose a government move to overturn a historic legal victory.

In November 2014, the Gaborone High Court ruled that the government must register LEGABIBO as an NGO after repeatedly refusing to do so. The court found that the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs’ discriminatory action was unconstitutional.

The government appealed the ruling and the case is now set to be heard again in the Gaborone High Court of Appeal on 15 January. The authorities argue that they should not have to register the organisation because Botswana’s Constitution does not recognise homosexuals. Read more via Mamba Online (alt. link)
Tunisia: Advocates urge pressure on Tunisia to spare LGBT group
International human rights advocates at Front Line Defenders issued a statement today condemning Tunisia for ordering the LGBT group Shams to suspend activities. In the process, the statement clarified the context and background of this violation of Tunisian citizens’ rights to association and free speech. 

The Tunisian government had filed a complaint accusing Shams (‘sun’ in Arabic) of violating NGO laws which led to its 30-day suspension by the Tunisian Court of First Instance on January 4. Shams, which seeks the decriminalization of gay sex acts in the northern African country, is the first group of its kind to receive official authorization from the country’s interior ministry in May 2015.

Members of the group have however been subjected to systematic smear campaigns by conservative political groups and individuals, with some members receiving death threats following public appearances in the media. Read more via 76crimes
Lebanon: Transgender court ruling erases barrier to legal recognition
Lebanon’s Court of Appeals has granted a transgender man the right to change his sex in the civil registry on account of his own gender identification, marking a step toward granting trans persons legal recognition for their status.

Under Lebanese law, trans persons must complete gender reassignment surgery to petition for a change in status. An arbiter must then rule that the surgery was done to correct a hormonal or biological disorder to allow the amendment.

“The problem is requiring the surgery before the amendment. If someone wants to go through the operation, they’re not going to be able to afford it. Most likely their parents aren’t going to pay for them. They’re going to find it hard to find a job,” Zaydan said. Read more via Daily Star
Syria: Teenager thrown from roof 'for being gay' - but the ISIS chief spared
Militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) executed a teenage boy by throwing him off a roof in Syria’s eastern city of Deir ez-Zor for being gay, local sources reported. The 15-year-old boy was arrested by ISIS militants on charges of homosexuality. 

“The horrific execution took place in front of a large crowd,” a local media activist and an eyewitness said. An informed source reported that the victim was captured “in the house of an ISIS leader." Media activist Sarai al-Din revealed the boy was accused of homosexual relations with prominent ISIS officer Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi. While the boy was executed, Abu Zaid was expelled to Iraq after being deprived of his position.

According to pro-ISIS sources, the Sharia Court in Deir ez-Zor had demanded the execution of Abu Zaid for being homosexual, but the ISIS top commanders insisted to let him join the battlefronts in Iraq instead, as the group has been recently exposed to heavy losses in battles both in Syria and Iraq. Read more via ARA
Mexico: "Miss Gay" 2015 dies after being beaten
A member of the gay and lesbian community of Nayarit, died last Thursday in the town of Ixtlan del Rio, Nayarit, after suffering a tremendous beating by unknown assailants in the town of Etzatlán, according to Jalisco Nayarit portal line.

The young man, who was originally from Ixtlan del Rio, called himself "Paloma" and last year won the title of Miss Gay Nayarit, in an event that was held at the Casino Los Fresnos, Tepic. It was reported officially by more police authorities of Jalisco, Nayarit. Read more via Provincia
El Salvador: The savior of the world watched as these trans women disappeared
El Salvador has some of the highest rates of anti-LGBT violence in the hemisphere, and trans activist named Karla Avelar recounted waves of unpunished murders over the past several decades. In 2014 alone, at least 12 women and two gay men were killed, according to media reports. There was the “Bloody June” of 2009 in which at least three trans women and two gay men were murdered. Avelar herself survived being shot in the 1990s by a serial killer who had been gunning down trans sex workers.

The ones taken from the Savior of the World were almost mythical to Avelar, who was a baby when the events occurred.

“We don’t even really know much ourselves, but a little while ago one of the survivors told us what happened and said to us, ‘Why don’t you document this, that I was a victim of that attack?’” she said. But the task seemed impossible. “There is no documentation whatsoever, no publication nor record — there is nothing.”

Avelar knew of just one witness who still survived, a woman named Paty who she said was 78 years old, a miracle in a country where violence and HIV are so widespread very few trans women survive to middle age. Read more via Buzzfeed
India: Tackling the archaic LGBT law
A 15-year-old Class XI student set himself on fire after he was caught by one of his neighbours getting intimate with a male friend.  News spread, and teasing and harassment followed. Humiliated, he locked himself in his room for two days. On Sunday, he doused himself with diesel fuel and set himself on fire. "He is unable to speak properly,” the boy’s anguished father said. “The doctors say he is out of danger but I will only believe it when my son will talk to me."

The boy’s suicide attempt is the latest, tragic reminder that much work needs to be done in India to change public attitudes and reduce hysteria over so-called traditional values. In 2010, Srinivas Ramchandra Siras, a professor at Aligarh Muslim University, committed suicide after being vilified for his consensual gay relationship.

The most urgent need is repeal of India’s archaic law criminalizing same-sex relations. Even if rarely enforced, the law, section 377 of the penal code, reinforced the idea that discrimination and other mistreatment of LGBT people was acceptable in Indian society. Read more via HRW
Pakistan: Transgender person shot, refused treatment by hospital
Adnan, a resident of Karkhano, came to the hospital with a gunshot wound. Social activists say doctors at LRH refused to come near Adnan, whose treatment was delayed for hours at the hospital.

“The incident took place within the jurisdiction of Chamkani police station,” he said. “Adnan and his friends, Sana and Bibi, were travelling in a car to Karkhano Market from Tarnab Farm when two motorcyclists opened fire on their car. Adnan was shot on the side and critically wounded.” 

“He remained at the hospital for three hours,” Pakhtun Civil Society Network focal person Taimur Kamal, who had taken Adnan to the hospital, said. “However, doctors would not come close.” Kamal said both doctors and patients were uncomfortable with the idea of a transgender being provided treatment at the facility. “When we took him to the ward, patients started crying,” said Kamal. Read more via Express Tribune
Malawi: Man demands rights for fellow LGBTI Malawians, goes into hiding
In a daring and unprecedented move, a gay man in Blantyre has come out and lashed out at the ‘homophobic’ government. The man, Eric Sambisa, 26 who heads the Southern Region Rainbow Alliance, a secret grouping of mostly gay men, said this in a fateful interview in Blantyre on Wednesday that saw police crashing it and briefly taking him and this reporter into detention.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and attracts a prison sentence of 14 years. But government has suspended the law pending review on whether to decriminalise or not. 

Sambisa told the weekly newspaper that the advent of social media has simplified the networking of gays in Malawi as they are able to find partners in private groups on Facebook and WhatsApp. He says he knows about 200 gays in Blantyre and about 20 lesbians. Samisa said the situation for LGBTI people in the country had become untenable. Malawi News also carried the story and quoted Samisa as saying: “The homophobic government should either kill and eliminate gays, or give them their rights.”

Sambisa was detained briefly by the police after his interview was published online and broadcast on TV. He has now gone into hiding. Read more via Nyasa Times

Vietnam: 'Nobody helped me,' Schools remain dangerous for LGBT youth
Le Minh Triet attempted suicide when he was a seventh-grader, right after coming home from school.  For days, he had been bullied by other students. Sometimes it was name calling. Sometimes he was beaten, had soft drinks thrown at him, and locked inside a room for hours. 
"When they beat me, they insulted my parents names for having a gay son," he said. "Nobody helped me."

Similar stories of abuse and discrimination can be found among Vietnamese LGBT youth. The country has surprised many for its recent progressive stance and new policies that recognize more rights for LGBT people. Still homophobia and transphobia are palpable. 

Multiple studies in the last 3 years have found increasing high percentage of LGBT students suffering abuse. Many activists and educators said Vietnamese schools need to introduce into their curriculum programs which raise awareness about sexuality and gender identity to fight discrimination. Read more via Thanhnien News
Ireland: Teacher to be compensated over comments on gay son
A primary school has been ordered to compensate a teacher after the Equality Tribunal found she had been harassed on religious grounds and discriminated against because her son was gay.
Resource teacher Bernie Marron, who worked at the school for seven years, said the principal made a series of critical comments about her son’s sexual orientation.

Ms Marron, a non-practising Catholic, said she felt repeatedly undermined by the principal and complained to the school in September 2013. The issues, however, were not dealt with properly by the school.

Ms Marron told the tribunal she was looking for an acknowledgment that what had happened to her was wrong and sought no financial compensation. The tribunal, however, ordered the school to award her €3,000 on the basis that the case would attract a significant award of damages in the ordinary course of events.

Ms Marron said she brought the case in order to challenge a culture that allowed personal opinion and beliefs to override other people’s human rights. “I was hurt and angry by the experience. No one should be subjected to judgment about their parenting or their son’s right to be themselves,” she said. Read more via Irish Times
US: The most discriminatory laws you have never heard of
No Promo Homo laws are the most discriminatory laws you have never heard of. Hidden in education laws, they restrict the promotion of homosexuality in public school classrooms by prohibiting the teaching of homosexuality or requiring its condemnation. They exist in eight states: Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

For example Utah requires their board of education to prohibit instruction in the "advocacy of homosexuality." A more egregious Texas law requires teaching that homosexuality is "not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense." Appallingly, Texas cites the very penal law found unconstitutional in the landmark 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case.

It is clear that legislatures in some states disagree and resist homosexual rights even 10 years after the decision in Lawrence. These states have kept their discriminatory agenda on the books by burying these laws in education bills, taking advantage of their broad discretion in the area of education. These laws are not outdated; indeed they have only been around since the 1980s. Read more via the Jurist
US: Groundbreaking school for LGBT students to open
A first-of-its-kind private school in Georgia aimed at attracting LGBT youth and teachers is being established in Atlanta for students who feel bullied or not accepted in traditional schools. Pride School Atlanta is a k-12 institution designed to be an alternative for LGBT students, though the school is open to any student who believes they’re not getting the support they need for “being different.”

It is part of a small but growing group of schools popping up nationally geared toward educating LGBT youth, who feel disenfranchised from public education. Pride School would be the first of its kind in the Southeast and, according to advocates, a significant development for the LGBT movement.

Nearly 9 in 10 LGBT students report experiencing harassment within the last school year, and three in 10 report missing a class because they felt unsafe, according to rights group Georgia Equality. The group was among other advocates who lobbied state lawmakers to create legislation to reduce bullying in schools.

“I think right now what a lot of (LGBT) students face is separate but equal education in the public schools,” he said. “Because if you can’t go to the bathroom all day and you can’t use the locker room and you’re bullied in the classroom and the teachers aren’t standing up for you, you don’t have a full seat at the table.” Read more via AP
New Zealand: Grammar School tacitly acknowledges homophobia
Tacitly acknowledging that it has a culture of homophobia amongst students and possibly some staff, Auckland Grammar School has responded in an up-beat manner to allegations of on-going homophobia at the prestigious and high-achieving school.

Its brief response, which does not deny the allegations or address any of the specifics of multiple claims which are being voiced, comes after a number of gay pupils and ex-pupils posted criticisms the school's culture abuse and homophobic slurs.

Headmaster Tim O'Connor has acknowledged it is "the school’s core responsibility and an on-going exercise to promote attitudes and behaviour in its students that reflect the School’s values. This includes teaching young men sensitivity towards and acceptance of the rights of others in our diverse society." Read more via Gay NZ
Jamaica: Homosexual acts are illegal, guidance counsellors cannot break law 
The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) says it cannot call for guidance counsellors to be better trained to deal with gay students as buggery remains illegal. Norman Allen, who heads the union that represents guidance counsellors, made the comment in reaction to reports that several of the approximately 800 guidance counsellors in schools are refusing to help students identified as gay or lesbian.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Opposition Spokesperson on Education Senator Kamina Johnson Smith wrote: “I am really surprised at the reasoning here....To be clear – while buggery is unlawful, the state of homosexuality is not, nor is the state of being confused.” Read more via Jamaica Gleaner
Canada: World's first chair in transgender studies
At The University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. Prof. Aaron Devor, an internationally recognized sex- and-gender expert, will work with researchers, community activists and students to advance study into a broad range of topics that affect the lives of transgender individuals.

The professor has been appointed to what's believed to be the world's only chair in transgender studies hopes the research will clear away the myths and improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society. Read more via CTV News
Anglican: Archbishop Welby says sorry to LGBTI community for hurt and pain caused by Episcopal suspension
The archbishop of Canterbury has apologised for the “hurt and pain” the Anglican church has inflicted on LGBT people as he attempted to defend the decision to sanction the liberal US church for allowing same-sex marriage. Justin Welby’s remarks came at the end of a week-long summit of the world’s Anglican leaders, in which he sought to soothe divisions caused by the decision on Thursday to uphold a “traditional doctrine” of marriage as “between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union”.

Dozens of gay rights activists, many of them refugees from African countries, descended on Canterbury Cathedral to chant “Shame on you” where the 38 primates of the Anglican communion had been meeting to resolve deep divisions over gay rights. 

The US Episcopal church has been banned from representation on key bodies and barred from voting on issues relating to doctrine or strategy for three years. However, it will remain a member of the Anglican communion. Liberal Anglicans responded to the de facto sanctions and the reaffirmation of traditional biblical teaching on marriage with anger and dismay. At the other end of the spectrum, hardline conservative Anglicans said the statement was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough in forcing US liberals to repent.  Read more via the Guardian
Romania: Priests push for gay marriage ban
The days following Christmas have been a good opportunity for Orthodox priests across Romania to encourage parishioners to back a campaign for a change to the constitution outlawing same-sex marriage. Dozens of people attending the cathedral in Timisoara, in western Romania, queued to sign the initiative, after their Bishop, or Metropolitan, encouraged them to do so during the Christmas mass. Priests in the Iasi region, while blessing people’s houses for the Epiphany Day used the occasion to ask them to back amendments to the fundamental law, according to media reports. 

Clergy want to gather at least 500,000 signatures in order to organise a referendum proposing that the constitution describe marriage as a consensual relationship between a man and a woman alone. Currently, the constitutional article use only the words “between spouses” when referring to the marriage partners.

Church leader Patriarch Daniel said that Orthodox believers “must support the Church’s effort to protect the natural, traditional and universal family, and resist some new family models that consider the natural woman-man union only one model among others”. More than 85% of Romania’s population of 19.5 million belong to the Orthodox Church. Read more via Balkan Insight
Israel: Orthodox parties skip swearing in of first openly gay parliamentarian
Members of both Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties in the Israeli Knesset (or parliament) decided not to show up to the swearing-in of the country’s first openly gay lawmaker. Amir Ohana, who was sworn in before his partner and two children, represents the centre-right Likud party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the head of the Likud party, welcomed the new MK. "The first impression is the most important, and we were all deeply impressed with your speech. I'm happy to receive you to our ranks. You carry with you an exceptional responsibility - the welcome you received brings together this fractured house. It's a great responsibility and a great opportunity," the prime minister said.
"Amir is the first representative of the LGBT community who was elected in open primaries while who he is was completely out in the open, and he was elected by thousands of voters in the Likud primaries," Netanyahu noted. Read more via Ynet News
Catholic: Pope Francis explains ‘who am i to judge?’ quip
Pope Francis has reiterated his relatively tolerant stance towards LGBT people, offering new details about a 2013 incident where he responded to a question about gay priests by saying “who am I to judge?”

In a new book, Pope Francis is quoted talking to an Italian journalist about the famous quip, which triggered a firestorm of media coverage and speculation over whether the pontiff would alter the Catholic Church’s firm opposition to same-sex relationships. The book cites Francis as he clarifies his theological justification for taking a more tolerant stance towards LGBT people.

“On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?” the pope says in the new book, The Name of God is Mercy. “I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.”

“I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together,” Francis also says, in a possible reference to the Church’s historical stance that same-sex relationships are sinful. “You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it.” Read more via Think Progress
Canada: Calgary Young Queer Church hopes to offer safe place to worship
A project to offer a safe place for young LGBT Christians opened its doors in Calgary Sunday evening at the Parkdale United Church. Pace Anhorn, director of Young Queer Church and trans, says his faith background is complicated.

"Since I became a Christian at 14 there was always this desire, this passion inside of me for authentic living," Anhorn explained.

"It was like, the church needs to change, there is something that we need to do to revolutionize what we are doing so people can come in and go, I am accepted just as I am, and I long for that and all of the churches I went to, I didn't find that," he said. Young Queer Church hopes to change that. Read more via CBC
Botswana: LGBTI in Africa, from victims to victors
by Katlego K Kolanyane-Kesupile, ARTivist, writer, digital artist, and performer, as well as a Global Shaper. Her awards include being named 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders Award Highly Commended Runner Up.

Historically speaking, pride parades have been portrayed as festivals where athletic bodied, barely clad men gyrate to up-tempo music on glittery floats; and when night falls the festivities become a seething cornucopia of lust and drug use. This has been veiled as a chance for LGBTI+ people to celebrate life and “be free”.

Freedom, however, has many different applications. Anyone expecting such frivolous displays at the Joburg People’s Pride (which you can follow on Facebook and Twitter) would be in for grave disappointment, as was evident in the November 2015 march through down-town Johannesburg, South Africa. To anyone asking: “Can you really take the sex out of Pride and change what it means – especially in Africa?” My response is a big fat “YES!” and I’ll tell you why. Read more via World Economic Forum
Botswana: Good leadership is about people – Festus Mogae
Festus Mogae served as president of the southern African country of Botswana from 1998 to 2008. He is the recipient of several international awards, including the 2008 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. In an interview the former president shared his thoughts on gay rights, the reform of the UN Security Council, the right to protect civilians in humanitarian crises and the fight against HIV/AIDS. 

In my long interaction with LGBT groups and extensive research, I have come to the realisation that we are limited in our knowledge and must be open to new discoveries. I have been converted; I used to hold the same beliefs as my counterparts.

President Mugabe has said that he hates homosexuals and is on record as saying they are worse than pigs and dogs. That is still his position. Leadership is not always about you, it is about people and often circumstances. I call upon African leaders to open up to second generation rights.  
Read more via the UN
Australia: Queensland Government moves to expunge convictions for gay sex under historic laws
Men convicted under Queensland's historic homosexuality laws may soon have their crimes cleared, with the Palaszczuk Government taking steps to expunge historic convictions for gay sex. The sunshine state decriminalised homosexuality in 1990, but anyone charged under the laws, which made consensual homosexual acts illegal, still hold criminal convictions.

The Government has referred the issue to Queensland Law Reform Commission to consider how convictions can be removed from a person's criminal record.

Alan Raabe, 61, was one the 460 men to be convicted under the laws in Queensland. He said he has never been able to pursue his dream of teaching due to his conviction. When asked how he felt about the prospect of his conviction being expunged more than three decades later, he started crying. Read more via ABC
Slovenia: Newspaper honors gay man for refugee work 
Slovenia’s largest newspaper has named as its person of the year for 2015 a gay dentist who works with refugees. Delo honored Jure Poglajen during a ceremony in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. President Borut Pahor and the newspaper’s publisher were among those who attended the event.
Poglajen and his partner of more than four years have spent weeks providing food, water and clothing to the hundreds of refugees from Syria, Iraq and other countries who were crossing the narrow Mytilini Strait from Turkey to Lesbos.

Poglajen and his partner returned to Lesbos last fall with Adra Slovenia, a Protestant relief group that is raising funds to assist refugees who continue to flood into Europe. The two men also offered assistance to those who entered Slovenia from Croatia after Hungary closed its border with Serbia. Read more via Washington Blade
SA: Community to march over horror murder of lesbian matriculant
The horrific murder of a young lesbian woman who had just passed matric has left the LGBTI community in the Vaal Triangle up in arms. Cedric Davids, from the Young Communists’ League, said the body of Motshidisi Pascalina was discovered in an open field near her home on 18 December.

According to Davids, who spoke to Pascalina’s mother, the young woman suffered brutal injuries and disfigurement: “They tied her up – her neck and arm were tied up. They removed her eyes, breasts and vagina and set her alight,” he said. “She had just matriculated last year,” Davids added.

The YCL, together with activists from Vaal LGBTI, are holding a march to the Mafatsana Police Station to protest against crimes against LGBTI people and the perceived inaction by the local authorities.

“This is not the first crime reported against the LGBTI in the area. There are also two rape cases which have not seen the perpetrators being brought to book,” said Davids. “We are not going to allow people to harm other females because of their gender identity and sexual expression.” Read more via Mamba Online
Switzerland: Global LGBTI rights to be discussed at Davos 2016
LGBT issues have made it onto the official agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos for the first time. LGBT issues have been slowly making an appearance in the past couple of years, with the topic touched on in private discussions behind closed-doors as part of what I call the Davos Fringe and passing mentions on Davos panels around more general discussions of diversity and inclusion.

Topics don’t get added to the agenda lightly. New issues must have global importance and there must be high profile senior executives willing to talk about them on a pubic stage. The 2016 agenda includes two public sessions with a clear LGBT focus, signalling that LGBT issues have come to the fore with champions who are ready to speak clearly and openly on the topic.

There is a feeling among parts of the business community that through their global presence, with strong policies across their entire workforces around the world, and the ability to use their economic clout to influence governments, they can play a positive role either through acting as a role model or by using their soft power to encourage greater levels of acceptance and equal rights for LGBT people in countries where rights are not enshrined. Read more via BBC

Davos 2016: US Vice President Joe Biden urges world business leaders to do more for LGBT rights
Speaking at WEF, Joe Biden has urged business leaders to do more to promote the rights of LGBT people in the workplace. The Democrat said: "When it comes to LGBT rights in workplace, the world is looking to you. I know that sounds like hyperbole, sounds like an exaggeration. But they look to you. You have more impact than anything the federal government has done, or the Supreme Court of the United States has done, or that Barack Obama or Joe Biden have done lighting up the White House. You have more impact. You have more impact in countries around the world than we do on those social issues".

Speaking to a number of business leaders from companies including Microsoft, Google and Coca-Cola, the 73-year-old also addressed issues of human rights and discrimination around the world.

He said: "Mistreated by cops, denial of health care, isolation – always in the name of culture. Culture never justifies rank, war, discrimination or violation of human rights. There is no cultural justification – none, none, none. And think of the countries behind 'this is our culture'. Watch his remarks via IBT
China: Gay dating app Grindr gets $93-million investment from Chinese company
Grindr has handed majority ownership to Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun World Wide Technology Co. for $93 million, valuing the Hollywood start-up at $155 million post-investment.

The app has become a go-to hookup app for men looking for same-sex relationships, getting about 2 million daily users. But the company has sought to play a bigger role, beyond matchmaking, in the lives of its users and the investment is aimed at accelerating that process. Grindr, launched in 2009, also has faced competition from apps like Scruff and Tinder since then.

The investment is noteworthy because Chinese authorities do not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions, and being publicly gay remains taboo in China. But Chinese gay rights activists have scored some recent victories, and the increased pressure may begin to open some doors. Read more via LA Times
UK: Crimes linked to Tinder and Grindr increase seven fold
Crimes linked to dating apps Tinder and Grindr, including rape, child sex grooming and attempted murder, have increased seven fold in just two year. More than 400 offences with a connection to users of the apps were reported to police last year and campaigners warned many more could go unreported.

Andy Cooke, deputy chief constable of Merseyside Police national police lead on violence and public protection, said: "The rising popularity of online dating apps and websites has contributed to an increase in the number of recorded crimes. We strongly encourage users to report offences and seek support if they become a victim of any type of crime.

Gay and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "Closeted gay and bisexual men who use Grindr may be especially vulnerable to targeting because criminals know they will be less likely to report crimes to the police. I suspect these figures are just the tip of the iceberg." Read more via Telegraph
Netherlands:  Advertising watchdog defends gay hook-up ads at train stations
Adverts for a gay hook-up app will not be banned in the Netherlands, despite a number of complaints. Gay cruising app Squirt had put up the large signs and posters at major train stations across Rotterdam, Amsterdam Utrecht and The Hague. 

Despite a number of complaints, the Advertising Standards Board has ruled in favour of the site – and will allow the campaign to continue.  One complainant claimed that the ad was designed to entice children into visiting the website, while a third said it was “truly sickening and shocking”.
The ASB found that the ads met “the necessary precautions… in the context of good taste and public decency.”

The app’s ads were previously removed from trains in Canada – after the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) claimed they encouraged gay commuters to “break the law”. TTC spokesperson Danny Nicholson said: “The ad was taken down as it promoted sex in public places, which is against the law.” Read more via PinkNews
How Twitter quietly banned hate speech last year
Seven years ago, Twitter began its rise to prominence by billing itself as a space where people could speak freely because nobody was censored. The company's rules enshrined this ideal, promising "we do not actively monitor and will not censor user content, except in limited circumstances." But in 2015 all of that changed.

There were changes in Twitter's rules here and there before 2015, usually to make it easier for the company to ban people engaging in spam and fraud. But as more high-profile Twitter users began to experience abuse and harassment firsthand, the company began to reverse its earlier policies.

Without ever touching the language in its rules page, Twitter began to add links out to other documents that explained the "limited circumstances" that could lead to censorship. In March, the company banned revenge porn. In April, they banned any speech that could incite terrorism, or violence against people "on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability."

Essentially, writes Jeong, they banned hate speech. Read more via Ars Technica
Australia: Atari launches new LGBT game ahead of worldwide release
An original mobile LGBTI game inspired by pride marches around the world was recently launched by Atari in Australia ahead of its worldwide launch. Pridefest sees players work through missions as the mayor of a city that has lost all of its fun and colour overnight.

Atari chief executive Fred Chesnais said the game was inspired by the LGBTI community and aims to bring their colourful atmosphere and inclusive spirit to a game for the first time: “Pridefest provides the first LGBT-focused game that represents a passionate cause...Pridefest is designed to emulate that sense of joy and fanfare year-round through a social-sim mobile game."

“Our vision for Pridefest is that it can also become a means for isolated LGBT individuals lacking a supportive LGBT network to come together in a safe, welcoming, and fun atmosphere.”

Chesnais said the gaming landscape has changed in recent years around LGBT representation: “GaymerX [queer gaming convention] is in its third year now and growing, which speaks volumes to the number of gamers out there that are interested in playing games that include characters or themes specifically relevant and relatable to the LGBT community.” Read more via Star Observer
Taiwan: "We Are Not Monsters. We Are Full of Love."
Monster. The words on the medical record, scrawled in a doctor’s messy English script, said “pseudo hermaphrodite.” But what 18-year-old Hiker Chiu read on the paper was monster. 

Hiker’s parents finally told her/him that s/he was born both male and female—the word intersex never came up. Read more via Alturi
LGBT People Reveal Why David Bowie Was So Important To Them
On Monday, LGBT people celebrated the scope of Bowie’s identity revolution by paying tribute to an artist who proved that to give gender constraints the middle finger was the ultimate liberation. To be different no longer meant being a victim; it meant triumphing.

“He was an artist that made me feel OK to be trans, bi, and an outsider.” Read more via Buzzfeed
Desmond Tutu’s daughter Rev. Mpho A. Tutu marries female partner, Professor Marceline van Furth Read more
Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay and Peru fined over homophobic chants Read more
Gender fluidity went pop in 2015 as more artists choose not to identify in gender binaries– and it's not just a phase Read more
India's Hijra women are getting happy about trans rights in a new YouTube video Read more
Turkish FA ordered to compensate referee who lost licence for being gay Read more
LGBT Muslims speak out: ‘I feel like I should not exist’ Read more
Equal Eyes is edited by Christina Dideriksen and Richard Burzynski. The views presented here do not necessarily represent the view of UNAIDS or its Cosponsors.
All stories and photographs linked within are the property of the original publishers.
Equal Eyes Copyright © 2016 Richard Burzynski, All rights reserved.

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