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30 January 2015 edition

Dear friends and colleagues,

From the UN: Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke out strongly against criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation while celebrating the United Nations' 70th anniversary at an event in India.

In Geneva, where the 21st session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is underway, Kenya's Attorney General Githu Muigai says his country is making progress on the rights of LGBT people despite the fact that Kenya still criminalizes same sex relations. Meanwhile, a new UN report urges Pakistan to enhance its HIV response by revising laws that target vulnerable populations, especially transgender people and gay men and other men who have sex with men. 

HIV, Health, and Well-Being: The HIV and TB Director with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health, has called for better healthcare for men who have sex with men in prison, despite the nation's laws against same-sex sexual relations. 

From China, a new report finds that transgender sex workers are among the most marginalised people, severely limiting HIV prevention and other healthcare services. In the US, meanwhile, some health officials are hoping to improve healthcare for trans people through "Trans Buddy,"a pilot program to reduce patient anxiety. And a new rigorous study in the Journal of Public Health finds that bisexual women in Europe have poorer mental health and are more likely to self-harm than lesbian and straight women.

In a progressive move the UK National Health Service has released a statement against gay 'conversion therapy' and have told staff not to provide or refer patients to those who provide the controversial therapy. Meanwhile a new report uncovers the poor sexual health education provided to US teenagers, as individual states decide what can and can't be taught about sex and sexual preference. 

Politicking: In India the first transgender mayor makes history winning the office with strong public support. And in Ireland, Minister of Health Leo Varadkar speaks publicly about his sexuality, becoming the first openly gay minister. Two Ugandan gay rights activists hope to become the first openly gay people to run for office in Uganda's 2016 elections.

The progress of equality for LGBT people continues to create an ideological culture divide across Europe, with the European Union on one side, Russia and its allies on the other, and with LGBT citizens trapped in the middle. In an in-depth report, journalist Dimiter Kenarov investigates the hope Ukrainians had that their country would start to look more like Europe. But for members of the LGBT community, things might have gotten worse. Meanwhile Kyrgyzstan is under fire from the European Parliament to drop anti-gay legislation that closely resembles Russia's law with even harsher punishments. 

Recalling the recent arrests in Egypt, German MP Volker Beck is urging western embassies to proactively "take-in" persecuted LGBT people all over the world. And American activists are urging President Obama to ban Gambian President Yahya Jammeh from entry to the US over his 'deplorable human rights record.'

Ignorance, Fear, and Loathing: In Uganda, nine suspected gay men were detained after they visited an STI clinic. In Nigeria, twelve young men were arrested for allegedly participating in a 'gay wedding.' Despite their claim to have been celebrating a birthday, they could face up to 14 years prison or even the death penalty under Nigerian law. And in the Gambia, witnesses say a man accused of homosexuality has been transferred from prison to the hospital with signs of torture. Meanwhile in the UK, gay asylum seekers must prove their sexual orientation or be denied asylum.

In Serbia, the defense ministry has forced a transgender officer to retire to protect the 'reputation' of the army. 

ISIS members in Iraq continue to spread fear after posting several images on Twitter explicitly showing the murder of two allegedly gay men who were thrown from a building in front of a crowd of onlookers. In Jamaica, a woman was viciously attacked by her neighbors because she lives with another woman and is assumed to be a lesbian. And in the US, where two transgender women of color have been killed in just nine days, both police and media continue to misgender trans victims. 

For LGBT people in Russia, their lives are legislated but they are not protected as reports show officials are quick to draft and enforce discriminatory legislation, but do little to protect them. And Hannah Stoddart, from Oxfam, urges international agencies to speak out against homophobia, saying the sector has a proud history of recognizing the connections between oppression of minorities and crucial development issues.

Religiosity: While acknowledging the tension in Barbados around LGBT equality, Anglican Reverend Davidson Bowen is urging the church to 'extend love' to homosexuals. Although Mormon leaders have made strong anti-discrimination statements in support of the gay community, journalist Samantha Allen questions the strength of the announcement. 

Meanwhile, Cardinal Raymond Burke who stirred debate last summer when he criticized Pope Francis' progressive policies is now blaming ‘feminization’ for the Catholic Church’s problems. And another first for the Pope: an Italian transgender man has told the press that he was given a private meeting with the pontiff

From South Africa, Dr. Taj Hargey is speaking out about founding the women and gay-friendly mosque and what has led him to keep the place of worship open despite violence. And LGBT people from all over are travelling to Taiwan to visit the Taoist Wei-Ming 'Rabbit' temple that celebrates the deity who watches over homosexuals.

Winds of Change: The Vietnam National Assembly is hoping to capitalize on LGBT tourism now that the new marriage equality law is in effect. For the first time, the World Economic Forum has focused on LGBT equality with a panel to discuss ways to ensure that employers help the LGBT community and other minorities feel valued in the workplace. And Former BP CEO and first openly gay chief executive, John Browne discusses Apple CEO Tim Cook and the future of LGBT in business leadership.

Leading Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe has sparked public discussion in China about the transgender community after revealing she has been in a relationship with a transgender man for the past 17 years. Meanwhile the panel reviewing Thailand's constitution has announced that the new constitution will recognize a 'third gender.'  

And in the United Kingdom, LGBT community members and others are debating a plan to establish the first 'LGBT School.'

Let the Courts Decide: The Austria Constitutional Court has lifted the restrictions on gay couples wanting to adopt children, while Portugal's parliament refuses to consider LGBT adoption rights. Meanwhile, in the UK, where LGBT people have had adoption rights since 2007, a UK Family Court magistrate has been suspended for making derogatory comments about potential gay parents during court. 

Stating that it doesn't recognize homosexuality, the Botswana government is appealing a high court case that allowed a Botswana LGBT organization the right to register. And the leader of a Russian LGBT youth support group has been fined for breaking the anti-gay propaganda law. 

After refusing to hear the case this past fall, the US Supreme court has agreed to hear the case for same-sex marriage equality and the related question on whether states must recognize those marriages.

An Italian court has ruled that the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport are guilty of 'homophobic behavior' for revoking a soldier's drivers license due to his sexuality.  And in a landmark case, a French court has found Twitter users guilty of hate speech for posting anti-gay tweets that use the hashtag, #BrûlonsLesGaysSurdu 'Let's burn the gays.'

Remembrance: The suicide of trans teenager Leelah Alcorn this January has sparked discussion about how family and friends can support and understand trans people.  And on this 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell recalls the horrors faced by gay victims of the Holocaust.

Culture and Sports: American soccer player Robbie Rogers is speaking out against the Fédération Internationale de Football Association for choosing anti-gay Russia and Qatar for the next two World Cup competitions. Elsewhere, Equatorial Guinea's football team leader speaks out about gender testing after she and other teammates were forced to 'prove' they are women. 

In China, lesbians and gay men are using a new app to find each other for ‘cooperative marriages’ that will provide society approved marriages. 

Oscar nominated film Selma has brought together  LGBT and ethnic minority communities to honor the role of activists of the 1960s civil rights movement. Meanwhile, US distributors of the award winning film Pride, which tells the story of gay activists that fought for British miner's rights in the 1980s, have removed all gay references from the packaging. 

Over a thousand people staged a kiss-in at a Vienna café after the owner called a lesbian couple 'disgusting' and threw them out for kissing. 

Three new hilarious and explicitly gay-television shows are being dubbed England's 'event of the week.' And actors Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch campaign to formally pardon the 49,000 gay men who were persecuted under British law for being gay. Meanwhile, the first openly gay Nigerian actor Adebisi Alimi talks about being an advocate for LGBT people in Nigeria.

In Ecuador, a group has published Ecuador's first kids book about being trans. A new photo exhibit documents the next generation of queer youth. And in Rome, the Vatican's gay-themed art goes on display.

"I am proud to stand for the equality of all people, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. I speak out because laws criminalising consensual, adult same-sex relationships violate basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. Even if they are not enforced, these laws breed intolerance." 
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in India, Jan 12, 2015.
Anti-Sodomy Laws 'Breed Intolerance,' Says U.N. Chief
At an event marking the United Nations' 70th anniversary, Secretary General of the United Nations offered a pointed critique of laws that criminalize consensual sex between people of the same gender, notably given in a nation that recently re-enacted its own ban on so-called homosexual sodomy.

"I staunchly oppose the criminalization of homosexuality,” said Ban Ki-Moon in New Delhi, India. The Secretary General has long been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, calling on U.N. member nations to abandon antigay laws as early as 2010, and most recently introducing Austrian drag queen and Eurovision singing contest winner Conchita Wurst to the U.N. offices in Vienna last November. 

"We have to fight for the equality of all members of our human family regardless of any difference, including sexual orientation," Ban said.

Although the secretary general did not directly address antigay laws in India, the country shocked its own LGBT citizens and people around the world when the high court in 2013 reinstated a colonial-era ban on sodomy. The law technically prohibits "Carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman, or animal," and provides prison sentences of up to 10 years for offenders. His full speech can be read here.
Read More 
Zimbabwe: Health minister calls for better healthcare for men having sex in prison
Despite there being laws against gay sex in Zimbabwe, a health minister has called for better healthcare for men who have sex with men in prison. Calls were made by stakeholders in the health sector, for gay men should be included in HIV and AIDS strategies.

Dr Owen Mugurungi, the HIV and TB director at the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health said it would be disastrous to ignore the fact that men have gay sex in prisons.
“We might want to deny that men have sex with men but we know that in prisons that thing does happen,” he said. Read More
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Kenya is making progress on gay rights, says AG Githu Muigai 
Speaking at the 21st Universal Periodic Review, at the United Nations, Attorney General Githu Muigai said that Kenya has made progress on rights of the country’s gay community.

As Kenya’s human rights records is being assessed, the Attorney General was responding to recommendations made by Slovenia, Sweden, Brazil, and Chile that Kenya should decriminalize same sex relations and adopt non-discrimination law covering Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)

"It is not Government policy to discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity," Githu said Despite these statements, same sex relations remain criminalized in Kenya.
Read More
New UN report calls for changes to legal environment to enhance HIV response in Pakistan
A new report, jointly released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Country Team and the National AIDS Control Programme of Pakistan, calls for adoption and revision of laws and policies to create a more effective national HIV response that will mitigate the impact of HIV and promote and protect the human rights of key populations and vulnerable groups, particularly men who have sex with men and transgender people. 
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Trans Buddy Program to Support LGBT Patients
Fear of being stigmatized by healthcare professionals is a barrier for many patients who are members of the LGBT community — it’s one of the most-reported reasons transgender individuals do not go to the doctor.

A peer advocacy volunteer group at Vanderbilt University Medical Center plans to change that through a pilot program called Trans Buddy. Program founder, Kale Edmiston said: “I want transgender patients to know that they can come to Vanderbilt and be treated with respect. Through Trans Buddy, patients will have the support of someone they can relate to and trust.”

Trans Buddy will provide support services during primary care, clinic, and specialty appointments as well as have an on-call service for emergent care. Read More
Bisexual women are more likely to self-harm than lesbians
A new study published in the Journal of Public Health has claimed  bisexual women were 65% more likely to report eating problems and 37% were more likely to self-harm than lesbians.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also found they were more likely to have suffered from depression and anxiety than lesbians. Read More
Despite Legal Gay Marriage These US States Forbid Teaching About Gay Sex
This month the US Supreme Court announced it would decide in the current term whether all 50 states must allow same-sex couples to marry. But while legal gay marriage has spread rapidly over the last several years, sex education laws in many states remain in the Dark Ages—even in states where gay marriage is allowed.

Sex education is only mandated for middle or high schoolers in 22 states, but almost every state in the nation has policies governing what teachers should emphasize or avoid if they teach sex ed. In 20 states, this means spelling out how teachers should cover homosexuality: 9 states require that information on sexual orientation be "inclusive," while 11 states have either pro-heterosexual or anti-homosexual biases. Read More
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Leo Varadkar becomes Ireland’s first openly gay minister
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has come out publicly saying, “I am a gay man, it’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know but isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before.” 

While confirming that the decision to go public about his sexuality had lifted a weight off his shoulders, Mr Varadkar admitted that some people in the Fine Gael party may judge him, but that it was an important precedent to set for future politicians. Read More
Europe’s New Gay Cold War
An old new power struggle is underway in Europe. With Russia on one side and the United States and the European Union on the other, the struggle is geopolitical—in Ukraine, violently so. But it is also ideological, a clash of values and cultures at the heart of which is the question of whether societies should integrate or ostracize their LGBTQ citizens. It is Europe’s new gay Cold War.
Read More
In Depth: Dashed Hopes in Gay Ukraine
Ukrainians thought that, post-Maidan, their country would start to look more like Europe. But for members of the LGBT community, things may have even gotten worse. 

“I believe we are in between two evils: Russian homophobic culture and Ukrainian homophobic intolerance,” says Olena Semenova, an LGBT activist.

The Ukrainian gay and lesbian community is large and vibrant, especially in Kiev, where gay clubs and bars operate in relative peace. But many of its members prefer to remain closeted. Homophobia in Ukraine is pervasive and deep-rooted, sharing many parallels with Russia’s. Read More
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European Parliament urges Kyrgyzstan to drop anti-LGBTI bill
In a resolution adopted today, the European Parliament calls on Kyrgyzstan to reject a bill which would censor information on LGBTI issues. The draft law would punish the dissemination of information “aimed at forming positive attitudes toward non-traditional sexual relations.”

The Kyrgyz bill closely resembles the Russian anti-propaganda law, but foresees harsher punishments: persons found ‘guilty’ face up to one year imprisonment.

The European Parliament - acknowledging general democratic progress in the country – calls on the Kyrgyz Parliament to reject the bill, and urges politicians to refrain from hate speech against LGBTI people. Read More
India's first transgender mayor wins election by over 4000 votes
History has been made in India after a transgender candidate won a mayoral election in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh Municipal Corporation. Independent candidate Madhu Kinnar defeated her opposition by 4357 votes on 4 January, beating the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Mahaveer Guruji to become mayor of Raigarh.

The win is a historic occasion for the LGBT population in Raigarh, which lies west of the India-Bangladesh border. However homosexuality still remains a criminal offence in India, with those caught in sexual acts imprisoned. Read More
Activists want Gambia’s president banned from USA
A coalition of fourteen organisations joined forces to write to President Obama requesting the United States hold “President Yahya Jammeh and his associates accountable for their deplorable human rights record,” particularly with regard to LGBT people in the Gambia.

Their letter stated: “It is not too late for the United States to send President Jammeh and his regime a clear and unequivocal message: human rights violations will not be tolerated, and the U.S. government will respond with actions, as well as with strong condemnation.” Read More
Two gay activists announce plans to run in the 2016 Uganda elections
Two LGBTI rights activists have made public their intentions to run for political office in the upcoming 2016 elections. Moses Kimbugwe, currently the Programs Director at Spectrum Uganda and Mboode Willy Senior, a gay activist, have announced that they will be running for elective office and have started online campaigns.

The announcements bring to mind the daring efforts of Kenya’s LGBTI activist, David Kuria, who announced he would be running for the 2012 Kiambu Senatorial seat. However, a few months to the elections, Kuria stopped campaigning allegedly over threats he received on account of his sexuality. Read More
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Germany's call to action: Western embassies should take in persecuted homosexuals
The sentences for eight men charged with attending a homosexual wedding in Egypt have been reduced. Volker Beck of the German Green Party told DW that the West should do more to help persecuted homosexuals. Read More
Graphic Photos On Twitter, ISIS Members Record and Tout Executions of Gay Men
The attacks, which also include the stoning of an adulterer, appear to have taken place in Mosul and were distributed by ISIS social media accounts.

These are obscene images. They depict two men thrown from the roof of a building as a crowd watches them fall to their deaths, and they purport to show the Islamic State (or ISIS) carrying out public executions before an audience in Iraq’s Nineveh province.

The two victims’ alleged crimes? They are believed to be gay. Read More
Twitter Users in France Convicted For Inciting Violence Against LGBT Community
In France, three Twitter users have been fined for using the hashtag #BrûlonsLesGaysSurdu, or “Let’s burn the gays.” It is the first time France has handed down court convictions for anti-gay tweets.

The case was brought by the French LGBT charity Comité IDAHO, which filed a complaint against the three Twitter users, accusing them of inciting hatred and violence on the basis of sexual orientation. The group called the convictions a “significant victory.” Read More
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Two Transgender Women Of Color Killed Within Nine Days
Two transgender women of color who were killed within a week and a half this month — one in Virginia and another in Texas — are highlighting a trend amid a national epidemic of transgender homicides: police and media misgendering the victims as men. One article in Virginia also hit a nerve with LGBT advocates by dwelling on prostitution, even though prostitution had no apparent connection to the homicide. Read More
Jamaica: Woman chopped viciously, allegedly by neighbour after she is assumed to be a lesbian
A young woman was chopped by her neighbour who believed her to be a lesbian because she lives with another woman.

Questioned as to whether there was any truth to the assumptions, she responded: "But me being a lesbian or not being a lesbian has nothing to do with me being chopped and that's what this is about. My sexuality has nothing to do with it, whether or not I am straight or gay, people can assume; I have nothing to say, no comment on that." Read More
Uganda: 9 gay men threatened by mob, arrested by police
Nine young gay men have been released after being held in police custody for five days in western Uganda.Without knowing it, the men had put their lives in jeopardy by visiting an STI screening clinic, which attracted the attention of a homophobic mob.

Police at first detained the men on Jan. 15 to protect them from the mob, which threatened to beat or kill them. Once they were in custody, police began considering filing sodomy charges against them. Read More
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Gambian Man Accused Of Homosexuality Bore Signs of Torture, May Be Executed
Alieu Sarr, accused of being gay man, was arrested some weeks ago by the country's widely feared National Intelligence Agency, the NIA. He  has been hospitalized amid tortures he suffered in the hands of state agents, according to witnesses. Sarr was among the dozens of alleged homosexuals recently rounded up by the NIA.  

"Landlords, bar, restaurants, and hotels owners, amongst others, should also take responsibility to monitor extra activities that happen in their environment. The act is illegal and we will leave no stone unturned to ensuring that it is not practiced in The Gambia. Whoever is caught will face prosecution," the pro-government Daily Observer reported. Read More
Twelve Young Men Arrested in Nigeria for Holding a 'Gay Wedding' 
Fariq Maidguri, 18, and Abba Mohammed, 25, who was not caught, are accused of attempting to hold a ceremony for their relationship. The suspects, most of them teenagers, were arrested by the Islamic state police Hisbah on the outskirts on the northern city of Kano. In the northern Nigerian states, under Sharia law, homosexuality is punishable by death. 

“As you can see from their appearance and the way they looked, there is every element of homosexuality in them. We have arrested 12 of them, but Abba Mubammed escaped arrest and maybe we would have arrested more,” Shiekh Aminu Daurawa told newsmen. Faruq Maiduguri however told pressmen that he was only celebrating his birthday, denying the allegations that he was wedding his gay partner. Read More
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For LGBTQ Russians, Too Much and Too Little Law
 In recent weeks, Russian authorities have shown their unwillingness to enforce legislation when LGBTQ life is involved. Anti-gay activist Timur Isayev is alleged to have gotten 29 teachers fired for being gay by collecting and sending “evidence” to their employers. 

What recent weeks have really shown is that there is both too much and too little law for LGBTQ citizens and residents of Russia. Their lives are legislated, but they are not protected. Russian officials put the gay community under a microscope while drafting discriminatory laws, but turn away from them when it comes to enforcing pre-existing ones that are intended to protect the lives of all Russians. Read More
Editorial: Why gay rights is a development issue in Africa, and aid agencies should speak up
The question often facing development agencies is whether or not to wade into a controversial debate on a country level, which could aggravate the authorities that give them their license to operate, when promoting gay rights is often not perceived to be ‘mission critical’ to their job – delivering services, running development programmes etc. Read More 
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Serbian transgender army officer was forced to retire, says rights group
A rights group has accused Serbia’s defence ministry of discrimination over the forced retirement of a veteran officer whose transgender identity was deemed a threat to the reputation of the army.

The Balkan country, which aspires to one day join the European Union, is under pressure to promote greater tolerance for minorities within a strongly conservative society. Read More
Asylum seeker must prove he is gay to stay in the UK
A man who is seeking asylum in the UK has told how he must “prove” his claim to be gay in order to remain in his Leicester home.  John Ssenkindu fears he could be jailed for life or killed if he is forced to return to Uganda – a country with notoriously homophobic laws.

In 2013, more than 20,000 people applied for asylum in the UK. Of those cases, a total of 283 people did so on the grounds they were gay or bisexual and faced persecution. Of those cases, 113 people were granted asylum. People who were refused leave to remain in the UK tended to be from countries where the Home Office believed they could live “discreetly” or because officials did not believe the applicants’ claims about their sexual orientation. Read More
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Barbados Reverend challenges: Extend love to homosexuals
Stop judging and getting “bogged down in the whole hell and damnation thing” and extend love to the homosexual community. That is the message an Anglican priest, Reverend Davidson Bowen, is sending to the church. 

The clergyman’s view on the controversial matter comes amid calls by members of Barbados’ lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community for more recognition, including the passage of gender-neutral legislation. Reverend Bowen acknowledged the sensitivity surrounding the issue, but stressed that people who do not support homosexuality should also be respected. Read More
Taiwan's Wei-Ming 'Rabbit' Temple Draws Gay Community
Wei-ming temple is a house of Taoist worship with a twist - almost all of its congregants are gay. The shrine, down a narrow alleyway in a bustling district of New Taipei City, is dedicated to a deity who has watched over homosexuals for four centuries.

"In Chinese history, 'rabbit' was a derogatory term for homosexuals," said Lu Wei-ming, who founded the temple in 2006, at a time gays were excluded from most religious ceremonies. Lu, who has taken a vow of celibacy and declined to answer questions about his sexuality, said he wanted to create a welcoming environment for a flock that had long been ostracized.

"This was a group with no one to look after them, and I wanted to fill that void," said the 28-year-old priest, adding that Wei-ming is the world's only shrine for homosexuals. Read More
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Former highest-ranking U.S. cardinal blames ‘feminization’ for the Catholic Church’s problems
Cardinal Raymond Burke became the highest-ranking American in the Vatican during the tenure of former Pope Benedict on the strength of unabashed conservatism. But as soon as Pope Francis arrived on the scene, that same conservatism turned divisive when Burke criticized Francis’s progressive policies. Notably, Cardinal Burke led the dispute against Pope Francis's more inclusive language towards LGBT people before he was removed from duty. 

Now Burke is making headlines again with a published manifesto that blames women and the 'feminization' of the church for the problems in the Catholic church. Read More
Pope Francis Reported To Have Met With Transgender Man At The Vatican
Pope Francis reportedly held a private audience with a transgender man, in what would be a first for his papal record. Diego Neria Lejárraga, who underwent sex-reassignment surgery and was rejected by his religious community, claims he reached out to the Pope in December and received a call from the pontiff on Christmas Eve. Lejárraga and his fiancee say they met with Pope Francis in his Vatican residence.

The Press Office of the Holy See says there is no information about the alleged meeting. Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry which advocates for LGBT Catholics, said he wondered at the Vatican's silence on the reported meeting. 

"The Vatican's reluctance to verify the meeting is another indication of why I don't think their attitude can yet be called 'acceptance,'" said DeBernardo. Read More
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The British Muslim Who Founded a Controversial Gay-Friendly Mosque
Dr. Taj Hargey is a radical, but also a fundamentalist. He points out, Islam is about the Qur'an, and it is from the Qur'an that he will preach, ignoring all the other footnotes beloved of modern clerics. All of that stuff, he says, has no pertinence to the Qur'an: It's a book that rejects violence, doesn't mention the burqa, embraces a role for women, and doesn't explicitly ban images of Muhammad or encourage Muslims to murder satirical cartoonists.

Hargey took part of his salary as an Oxford don and started his own mosque in South Africa late last year. The place of worship, he says—unlike most around the world—is both gay-friendly and woman-friendly. Which is exactly why he's not getting on so well within the local community of sects, imams, and governing councils. His "Open Mosque" in Cape Town has been firebombed three times since it commenced operations in September. "They also tried to drive a 4x4 through the doors... but for me, right now, the project is about holding on," he tells me.  Read More
Vietnam Taking Lead in Gay Rights
Vietnam’s new marriage law, which went into effect New Year’s Day, abolished regulations that “prohibit marriage between people of the same sex” and abolished fines that were imposed on homosexual weddings.

The revised law, places the communist country at the forefront of countries in Asia becoming more accepting of gay people. The National Assembly’s move is expected to attract more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers and boost Vietnam’s $9 billion tourism industry.

“This makes Vietnam a leader in Asia,” said Jamie Gillen, a researcher of culture geography at National University of Singapore. “Singapore just reaffirmed its ban on homosexual behaviors. Vietnam is trying to pitch itself as a tolerant and safe country.” Read More
Mormons Seek Golden Mean Between Gay Rights and Religious Beliefs
At a rare news conference at church headquarters in Salt Lake City, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints forcefully condemned discrimination against gays and vowed to support nondiscrimination laws — like one proposed in Utah — to protect people from being denied jobs or housing because of their sexual orientation. But they also called for these same laws, or others, to protect the rights of people who say their beliefs compel them to oppose homosexuality or to refuse service to gay couples.  Read More

Editorial: The Mormon Church’s Gay Rights Charade
Mormon journalist Samantha Allen reviews the church's history on non-discrimination, finding questionable the church leaders' recent announcement on LGBT equality. Read More
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Transgender sex workers among China’s most marginalised people
New report, "My life is too dark to see the light-- A Survey of the Living Conditions of Transgender Female Sex Workers in Beijing and Shanghai" documents the daily reality for transgender female sex workers in Beijing and Shanghai. 

The report noted, by 2020 transgender women and men who have sex with men will most likely constitute the majority of all new HIV infections in the Asia-Pacific region. However, the research found that most services for transgender populations in China are only included as part of MSM programming. This is not only at odds with the gender identity of transgender women, but has served to limit attention and resources to the HIV-related needs of transgender people. It has also prevented the development of effective public health interventions for this population. Read More
NHS staff told to stop helping patients get gay conversion therapy
The agreement, The Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK, makes it clear that NHS England, the organisation which has day-to-day responsibility for running the National Health Service, "does not endorse or support conversion therapy" and will make this clear to staff.

It essentially means GPs will not be able to refer patients for gay therapy and that no-one employed by the NHS can provide it. Read More
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Editorial: Tim Cook and the Way Ahead
For a man so famously private, Tim Cook's decision to reveal a very personal part of himself was not an insubstantial decision for the CEO of one of the world’s most valuable companies. Given the remarkable advances in civil rights, it’s notable that the corner office suite is one of the last remaining frontiers for LGBT people. And it’s clear that financial performance isn’t the only measure by which CEOs are evaluated. Is Cook an anomaly, or will the next wave in corporate culture be one in which the professional meets the personal, in the name of good business? Read More
Debates at Davos Get Around to Gay Rights
This year, for the first time, the World Economic Forum is addressing the issue of gay and lesbian rights on the formal agenda for Davos.  Still, the topic looks buried on the Davos program. It seems to have been included mainly because of pressure applied by a pair of activist hedge fund managers who usually wage their wars against companies, but have made a cause of defending the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

It is not too hard to decipher why the topic might have been forbidden at Davos in the past. After all, the guest list is filled with officials from countries like Russia, Nigeria and Uganda whose records on human rights for the gay and transgender community are repressive and sometimes even violent. In Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — countries with officials in attendance in Davos — same-sex conduct is punishable by death. Read More
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Russia: Leader of LGBT Teen Support Group Fined for Disseminating 'Gay Propaganda'
Yelena Klimova, the founder of an online support group for LGBT teenagers, has been fined 50,000 rubles ($780) for violating Russia's controversial law against the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors."

Founded in March 2013, Deti-404 (Children-404) strives to provide Russia's LGBT teenagers with a safe space where they can receive support from professional psychologists or share their experiences with bullying and homophobia. Read More
UK's First 'LGBT School' In Manchester... Is It Needed?
The first school in Britain for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people could open its doors within the next three years. Based in the centre of Manchester, the specialist state school plans to take 40 full-time students from across the area and will offer up to 20 part-time places for young people who want to continue attending a mainstream school.

“This is about saving lives,” said Amelia Lee, strategic director for LGBT Youth North West, the youth work charity behind the plans. "It wouldn’t be a gay school. We would be an alternative educational provision to support children with emotional needs." In the main, there's been a resounding lack of support for what has been dubbed 'Britain's first gay school'. Read More
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Sexologist’s relationship with transgender man spurs discussion in China
A leading Chinese sexologist’s revelation that she’s been living with a transgender man for 17 years has sparked a rare public discussion about China’s largely invisible and marginalized transgender community.

Li Yinhe made the relationship public on her blog, which was read more than 200,000 times within 24 hours. The blog became a hot topic on China’s Twitter-like site Weibo, getting nearly 3 million hits as it spurred spirited discussions not only about Li’s nonconventional relationship, but also about transgender Chinese in general.

Chinese are increasingly liberal with heterosexual relationships, but still hold deep prejudices against sexual minorities despite government efforts to achieve equality. As an obscure group in the already socially marginal LGBT community, transgender Chinese get even less attention and understanding from the public. Read More
Thailand to recognize 'third gender' in new constitution
Thailand's constitution will include the term "third gender" for the first time, a member of a panel drafting a new charter said, in a move to empower transgender and gay communities and ensure them fairer legal treatment. Thailand has a large gay community, but remains largely conservative, although homosexual, transgender and transsexual people play key roles in its entertainment industry. Read More
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The US Supremes take the plunge
TWO decades ago, hardly anyone imagined that gay couples could wed. This year, America's Supreme Court looks ever more likely to declare same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right. On January 16th the court agreed to consider this explosive question, and also the related one of whether states must recognise same-sex marriages performed in other states.

A Sixth Circuit Court decision upholding four state bans on gay nuptials in November is what nudged the justices to jump in. Four earlier circuit court decisions had gone the other way—knocking down gay marriage bans on the basis of US v Windsor, a 2013 case in which the Supremes invalidated the core of Bill Clinton's Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred the federal government from recognising gay wedlock. Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s ruling at the Sixth read Windsor differently and created a split that only the Supremes can resolve. Read More
Botswana to appeal gay rights group ruling
The Botswana government is appealing a high court case which gave Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (Legabido) the right to register as an organisation. In papers filed before the court of appeal, the government's lawyers argued that its constitution did not recognise homosexuality. The Government wants the high court ruling to be set aside. Read More
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Italian court rules in favor of man who lost driving licence for being gay
Sicilian Danilo Giuffrida informed doctors of his sexuality during a medical visit tied to his military service. Months later a return medical visit deemed he was “troubled by his sexual identity”, and his driving licence was suspended.

The case was dragged through three courts until Italy’s highest court ruled that Giuffrida’s privacy had been violated by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, which were also found guilty of discriminating against him. Due to the “gravity of the offense”, the Court of Cassation ordered the ministries to pay Giuffrida compensation for the “homophobic behaviour”. The exact sum is yet to be determined although could reach €100,000, Italian media reported. Read More
Austria Lifts Adoption Restrictions for Gay Couples
Austria's Constitutional Court has ruled that gay couples have the same right as heterosexuals to adopt children. Before the decision Wednesday, gay partners could adopt a child only if one of them was the child's biological parent. Read More
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Portugal:  Gay adoption receives parliamentary no
A series of proposals from the opposition parties to open the way for the adoption of children by those in same sex marriages were turned down by the Portuguese parliament. Whilst the main opposition Socialist Party voted almost entirely in favour of the measures proposed, in conjunction with the Communist Party, Block of the Left and the Greens with their respective relatively fringe representation, they were defeated by the coalition government members of the Popular Party and especially the main Social Democrat Party and despite the latter allowing its MPs a free vote on the issue. Read More
UK: Family Court magistrate suspended after objecting to gay parents
Richard Page, magistrate in the Family Court, has been suspended after he objected to a gay couple being permitted to adopt a child. He insisted during an adoption case that it would be better for a child to be placed “with a mother and father” than with their prospective parents, who are gay.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office issued a reprimand, stating “Mr Page, whilst sitting in the Family Court, was found to have been influenced by his religious beliefs and not by the evidence." Laws in the UK have permitted gay couples to adopt since 2007. Read More
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Protest in Vienna after café ejects kissing lesbian couple
More than a thousand people joined a gay rights protest in Vienna on Friday after a lesbian couple were thrown out of a café for kissing in public. One of the women expelled, Anastasia Lopez, told the rally: “I wanted to speak to the owner and she told us that what we were doing was disgusting and that she was disgusted by us, that what we were doing belonged in a brothel and not a traditional Viennese café.”

The decision by the shop’s owner sparked a storm on social media and a few locked lips in solidarity. Read More
Seeking a lesbian wife: pressured Chinese gays turn to online dating for ‘cooperative marriage’
A mobile number and a few personal details: those were all Beijinger Bill Zhong needed to register for an account on dating app Queers, which within minutes connected him to a network of more than 4,000 lesbians seeking a gay partner for “cooperative marriage”.

The marital arrangement, called “xinghun” in Chinese, is done between a gay man and lesbian woman to appease their conservative parents and conceal their sexual orientation. 

“If marriage were not considered mandatory on mainland China, and people were not stigmatised for staying single, xinghun would not be necessary [for the homosexual community],” said founder Lin Hai. Read More
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Gay victims of the Holocaust, we will remember you
'We must exterminate these [homosexuals] root and branch...We can't permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated.' With these chilling words, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, set out the Nazi master plan for the sexual cleansing of the Aryan race.

From 1933-1945, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 men were arrested under paragraph 175 for the crime of homosexuality. Some were tried and sentenced in the courts; others were sent direct to concentration camps without any trial or formal sentence. The death rate of gay prisoners in the camps was over 50 per cent, the highest among non-Jewish victims. Read More
The transgender life: What to know, say and understand
The suicide of a transgender teen in Ohio sparked an intensely emotional reaction across social media which shows no sign of letting up. Born as Josh Alcorn, the teen signed an online suicide note as Leelah. Leelah explained that she always felt like a girl and wanted her parents to accept that. They did not, mother Carla Alcorn told CNN, for religious reasons. Though she loved her child, the mother struggled to wrap her mind around what transgender means.

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights," Leelah pleaded in her note. "My death needs to be counted." Read More
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Genoveva Anonma: 'I had to strip naked to prove I was a woman'
In 2008, Equatorial Guinea's Women's football team captain, Genoveva Anonma was forced to strip in front of officials from the Confederation of African Football to prove she is female. The humiliating experience did not end there as her Nigerian competitors accused Anonma and two teammates of being men during the 2011 Women's World Cup. To defuse the controversy, Equatorial Guinea dropped the other two players, sisters Salimata and Bilguisa Simpore, from the team. Anonma now speaks out about gender testing. Read More
Robbie Rogers: FIFA fails to support gays
Robbie Rogers is proving himself to be a true role model — not only is he the only openly gay professional soccer player, he stands up loudly for what's right.

In a new essay, Rogers takes FIFA, the sport's international governing body, to task for choosing Russia and Qatar as the hosts of the next World Cups, to be held in 2018 and 2022, respectively. Awarding two nations that criminalize same-sex activity or supposed gay "propaganda" sends a message that FIFA doesn't care about LGBT players or fans, he writes. Read More
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Selma is making a new generation of LGBTI activists stand up 
If Bayard Rustin were alive today he certainly would have been proud as LGBTI communities held discussions on the Oscar-nominated civil right movie Selma. Flashback Sunday, a social group for LGBTQ Elders of Color and their friends, and the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC) convened the event between generations of LGBTI activists. Folks who were active during 1960’s civil rights era and today’s Black Lives Matter activists met at Emmanuel Church in Boston on Monday, as a way of honoring the 29th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day.

Selma is about King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights for African Americans in the South. Rustin was an integral part of King’s efforts that Ava DuVernay’s film depicts. A lot of what Rustin endured and learned as an openly gay activist is still with those unsung LGBTI activists of King’s era.  Read More
The Vatican’s Gay Art Goes on Display
As Pope Francis leads a softening of homophobic attitudes from within the Vatican, tour groups will soon see the gay-themed art on display there. Quiiky, an LGBT-oriented travel group, is looking to capitalize on the Vatican’s newfound tolerance. Their guided tours discuss the Vatican’s art collection through the gay lens in which they were most likely created. Read More
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US distributors of Pride remove all gay references on DVD cover Read More
Cucumber, Banana and Tofu review – ‘gloriously, triumphantly, explicitly gay and the television event of the week’ 3 UK shows from Russell T Davies that are dead funny and very, very human Read More
“Benedicto se siente niña” (Benedict feels a girl) A group in Ecuador publishes the first kids book about being transgender Read More
Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry campaign to pardon gay men convicted with Imitation Game codebreaker Alan Turing Read More
Smashing Gender Binaries With The Queer Kids Of Today photo series “Queer Kids” documents a new generation of queer youth across the U.S. and in Europe. Read More
Adebisi Alimi: Gay Nigerian Actor Puts His Sexuality In The Spotlight 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 © 2015 Richard Burzynski, All rights reserved.

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