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4 December 2015 edition

Dear friends and colleagues,

World AIDS Day 2015: UNAIDS launched an interactive website to mark World AIDS Day 2015. The site presents easy to navigate, comprehensive data to explore how the world can end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Check out available materials in English, French, Russian, and Spanish. 

Many leaders spoke out on the occasion, including UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé who called for 'full access to health services delivered with dignity and respect' to transgender people, as well as other key populations.' Opening the Community Village at the International Conference on AIDS in Africa, Mr. Sidibé added, 'Key populations are helping us to break the conspiracy of silence." 

UNAIDS Global Advocate Princess Tessy of Luxembourg urged schools everywhere to 'offer comprehensive sexuality education' and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova noted the need for 'gender-sensitive and age-appropriate education on sexuality and reproductive health.' 

From the UN: UNESCO published a new review 'From Insult to Inclusion' on bullying, violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the Asia-Pacific region. The review notes that in some countries four out of five LGBTI youth are subjected to bullying or violence. It offers resources to encourage readers to 'Learn, Analyse, Advocate, and Act' for change.

HIV, Health, and Well-being: In France, Minister of Health Marisol Touraine announced that PrEP will be available from mid-December, and reimbursable through the French health system from the beginning of January. In the US, a study has shown that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) dropped HIV rates dramatically among transgender women, gay men, and other men who have sex with men. Although that study did not show an increase in other STIs among participants, others are suggesting the recent rise of syphilis and other STIs could be linked to PrEP.

The UK's Human Dignity Trust and the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association warned that the criminalization of same-sex relationships worsens the HIV epidemic in Commonwealth countries, noting that the Commonwealth "accounts for over 60% of HIV cases worldwide even though it only covers 30% of the world’s population." 

HIV advocate Sarah Nakimbowa explored how Uganda's anti-gay bill has contributed to HIV prevalence in the region, speaking to local doctors, peer educators, and gay and transgender people

From China, health officials are reporting a rapid increase of HIV among gay men and young students. Calling the situation 'alarming,' the head of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, Wu Zunyou said that in some cities one out of five gay men is HIV positive. 

A comprehensive new website dedicated to the health needs of LGBTI Australians was launched. The site provides insight on special—and often taboo—topics such as drug interactions with HIV meds and hormone therapy. 

Global LGBT rights group All Out has launched a new website 'Gay Cure Watch' to track reports of gay conversion therapy and mobilise people 'around the world to fight back.' The site raised awareness to remove an iTunes 'gay cure' app and helped the shutdown of a clinic in China.

From the World of Politics: Lawmakers in Uganda unanimously passed a Non-Governmental Organization Bill that gives the government the ability to shut down NGOs and jail members if 'it is in the public interest to do so.' 

In Kenya the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has thrown out a proposal by the Republican Liberty Party to add a death penalty of public stoning to current anti-gay laws. 

Vietnam has passed a new law that will allow people who have transitioned to a new gender while abroad to register with the government, though the operation remains illegal within the country. In Norway, an ethics committee voted to stop the forced-sterilization rule for transgender people seeking legal recognition of their gender. In India, the Kerala state government passed a new policy to provide transgender and intersex people equal rights. As the first policy of its kind, the government will evaluate its implementation in 2018.

The Minister of State for Equality in Ireland announced plans to amend employment laws that currently allow religious, education, and medical institutions to discriminate against LGBT people.

The Politics of Union: Members of Parliament in Cyprus passed the Civil Cohabitation Law. The law provides a legal alternative to traditional marriage for both straight and gay couples. The Supreme Court of Bermuda has ruled that same-sex couples between a Bermudian and a foreign born person should have the same rights to residency and employment that heterosexual marriages allow.

In Slovenia, marriage equality was approved in March, however opponents gathered enough signatures to repeal the law. Under a referendum, Slovenia voters will decide in December whether or not the legislation will be thrown out

The Supreme Court of Mexico overturned a Jalisco state same-sex marriage ban and added that state authorities cannot deny benefits or "set charges related to the regulation of marriage."

On the March: After reports emerged that the Canadian government would not accept single male refugees, officials clarified that single men 'identified as vulnerable due to membership in the LGBTI community' would be allowed to be seek asylum in the country. In the UK, LGBT refugees face 'trauma' as they struggle to prove their sexuality to the Home Office in order to be granted asylum.

As LGBTI people continue to seek refuge from oppressive governments, reporter Lester Feeder profiled one man who sold his kidney to escape Iran, only to enter an overburdened refugee system in Turkey. And reporter Emmanuel Igunza investigates the experiences of LGBT Ugandan's in Kenya who are facing violence, extortion, and harassment

In the US, gay and bisexual lawmakers came under fire for voting to prevent Syrian and Iraqi refugees from coming to America. 

Let the Courts Decide: The East African Court of Justice has ruled that UNAIDS may act as amicus curiae or 'friend of the court' in a case charging the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 of violating the good governance and rule of law principles of the East African Treaty. In this role UNAIDS will be allowed to provide expertise to the court.

In Kenya two men are suing the government for forcing them to undergo invasive anal examinations to prove their sexuality, calling the procedures 'non-consensual, degrading, and therefore unconstitutional.'  

A student in China is suing the ministry of education for approving materials and textbooks that call homosexuality a 'psychological disorder.' Although China removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses in 2001, local non-profit LGBT Rights Advocacy says 42% of library available textbooks present it as a disease or abnormality.

A lesbian couple in Costa Rica may face jail time after a clerical error listing one of the women as male enabled them to get married this summer. 

In Egypt, reporter Mona Iraqi was sentenced to six months in jail for her part in orchestrating a televised raid on a bathhouse from which 26 men were arrested on debauchery charges. The men were later released due to lack of evidence.

Fear and Loathing:  From Iraq, ISIS members posted photos online showing them murdering another two men accused of being gay. A Dutch citizen and self-described fighter for the Islamic State in Syria hosted a Q&A on his blog in which he joked about throwing gay men from buildings and taking women as 'spoils of war.' The New York Times called the exchange a 'fascinating glimpse into the thinking of a Western-educated jihadist.' 

From Nigeria, correspondent Nick Schifrin presents a week-long series on the abuse and extortion LGBT Nigerians face from 'state-sponsored vigilantes, police, and public mobs.'  

In the US state of Texas, protesters gathered at police headquarters after the 12th known attack on local gay men left the victim with a cracked skull and no arrests. 

In Armenia, members of the LGBT rights organization PINK are being targeted with threats of violence and death. The Human Rights House Network has accused the authorities of staying silent and called for them to protect human rights workers.  

Across the world people honored Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th, using the opportunity to highlight the high rate of murders of trans people everywhere. In a new report Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring Project noted at least 1,700 trans and 'gender expansive' people have been murdered in the last seven years, with the highest rates in Brazil and Mexico. The US has had at least 22 homicides of trans or gender nonconforming people in 2015, the majority of whom were of transgender women of color.

In China, NGO Asia Catalyst estimates there are 4 million transgender people forced to live in secret. And in Pakistan transgender people officially have rights, but in practice continue to suffer violence, rape, and stigma.

In the Name of Religion: Pope Francis made his first trip to Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic with messages of peace and hope. Local advocates had hoped the pope would speak directly to urge that LGBT Africans should be 'treated like any other children of God.'

The first openly gay Imam in the the US has established the 'Mecca Institute,' an online school of Islam that includes tolerance and full acceptance for LGBTQ people

Winds of Change: The Turkish military has instituted a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that ends the invasive medical exams to determine sexuality. Gay men are exempt from the compulsory 12-month military term, however they face discrimination and social exclusion if they reveal themselves. 

In Serbia, the police department of Kragujevac are participating in a pilot project to support LGBT people and reduce hate crimes.

From the Ukraine, author Nikolas Kozloff captures the frustrations of the LGBT community who participated in the revolution of 2014, overthrowing President Yanukovych, only to be abandoned by the new government. As one activist states 'Look, you are not important right now. We cannot discuss gay issues. It's all about the war.' Gay Iraqi refugee Amir Ashour, founder of the first organization for Iraqi LGBT rights, argues that Iraq is excusing the human rights violations perpetrated on LGBT people because "it is fighting terrorism and it is 'normal' for a country in that situation to have such violations."

Kenyan activist and lawyer Eric Gitari took questions online and shared his experiences being publicly shamed after a local tabloid ran his picture and labeled him 'top gay.'

Across East Asia, LGBT people are finding more acceptance from within their Confucian culture, from the 80,000 attendees to Taiwan Pride, to same-sex marriage certificates in Tokyo. 

School Days: In China, where most schools only teach basic anatomy, poor sex education is being blamed for high pregnancy rates among unmarried young women and a rise in sexually transmitted disease.

A Japanese primary school teacher has created her own textbook for teaching LGBT issues, following a call from the Education Ministry that schools should take measures to prevent bullying. In Australia, the Department of Education is supporting the first federally funded program to provide video lessons and classroom activities to teach about homophobia and transphobia. 

In the US, residents of an Alaskan town are protesting the public library for carrying This Book is Gay, a nonfiction book intended to make "young LGBT+ people feel less isolated and alone."

Business and Technology: Dating apps Grindr, Hornet, and Planet Romeo announced a collaboration with health agencies to support the European HIV Testing Week with free advertising for testing clinics. Demonstrating its commitment to 'sexual health,' Grindr shared results from their survey of users' experiences with PrEP. Meanwhile a report on HIV and adolescents in the Asia-Pacific region warns that these types of dating apps may be a driver in the HIV epidemic.  

UK based InterTech, a network for LGBT people in the tech industries, and Facebook are hosting a 24-hour 'hackathon' to encourage tech workers to create products that spread tolerance or promote health.

The Human Rights Campaign has released their first LGBT scorecard that takes into consideration an international business' practices across countries of operations, including nations with harsh LGBT laws. 

In the US, coffee chain Starbucks is rolling out 'Safe Place' program with the Seattle police department that will enable victims of hate crimes to stay in cafes with trained staff until police arrive.  

Sports and Culture: In South Africa, lesbian couples balance their gay identity with the expectations of their cultural traditions as they struggle to be allowed to participate in 'lobola'— the negotiation and exchange of bride price for the purpose of building relations between the couple's families. From Nigeria, podcast host Mike Daemon discusses the isolation that people face after coming out.

And the Russian edition of Maxim magazine published a list of openly gay international celebrities they have 'forgiven'—"We, men, do not consider men who love men to be men. This is the rule. But there are exceptions."
In the US the NCAA, the organization that regulates college sports, has announced it will reconsider cities to host national championships based on their protections for LGBT people. A new documentary was released about the international gay rugby world cup — the organization founded in the memory of Mark Bingham, who was killed in the terrorist attack on United Flight 93.

UK gay men's health organization GMFA released a new campaign for World AIDS Day. In the video HIV positive men read out the 'mean' messages they've been sent over dating apps and are given a chance to respond to stigma. From the US,  Celebrity Charlie Sheen revealed he is HIV positive, after a slew of tabloid speculation. Remarking on the resulting media 'hysteria,' reporter Tim Teeman called the public response a 'cruel' throwback to 1980s era discrimination.

In Germany, broadcasters were forced to revoke their nomination of singer Xavier Naidoo for international Eurovision contest after an intense public backlash over the 'homophobic' performer. 

The Academy of Motions Arts has announced it will consider trans actresses from the indy film Tangerine in their proper gender category for Oscar nominations. A new biopic about black trans activist Marsha P Johnson is offering an alternative to the summer-flop Stonewall, which faced backlash for featuring a white male protagonist. 

British actor Eddie Redmayne is winning reviews for his portrayal of LIli Elbe, one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery in Denmark in 1930, and Cate Blanchett's turn as American socialite (and secret lesbian) in 1950s has been called 'revolutionary.' 

Finally, check in with this formal for LGBTI teens in Australia, where over 120 queer young people got to experience the dance they never enjoyed at their own schools.
Eric Gitari
"While the criminal laws exist, people will feel shame, and the hypocrisy will continue. Hypocrites often look at gay men purely in terms of a sex act, not human beings who love, who work, who pay taxes."
~Eric Gitari, Kenyan lawyer who was outed by tabloids
ban ki moon Michel Sidibé UNAIDS report
Remembering World AIDS Day 2015
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé marked World AIDS Day in Zimbabwe with civil society members, people living with HIV, and other participants of the Community Village of the 18th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa.

Speaking at the opening of the village, Sidibé noted: “Key populations are helping us to break the conspiracy of silence. I commend your courage and leadership for building an inclusive and effective response to HIV.”

Visit the UNAIDS World AIDS Day 2015 website for powerful educational graphics, social media messages, and campaign material. We have what it takes to break the AIDS epidemic. Read more via UNAIDS
UNESCO: How can we go ‘From Insult to Inclusion’ for all learners? 
The majority of LGBTI youth in Asia-Pacific say they have been subjected to some form of violence or bullying in school. This can take many forms – physical, verbal, psychological or sexual abuse or social exclusion both online and off. The end result remains the same: millions of young learners throughout the Asia-Pacific region are being denied their right to an education.  The impacts can be lifelong and devastating in terms of economic and employment prospects, as well as on a personal level: Asia-Pacific studies show that up to one in three LGBTI learners report depression; up to seven in 10 report harming themselves and nearly five in 10 have attempted suicide.

“From Insult to Inclusion”, the first review of its kind to comprehensively examine these challenges in Asia-Pacific, looks at the broader legal and educational contexts in countries throughout the region related to bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and features the voices of young learners themselves and their personal stories of abuse and exclusion. Concrete steps that education sector planners, teachers, school leaders and communities throughout the region can take to address this situation are also presented. Read more via UNESCO
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HIV crisis worsened by anti-gay laws in Commonwealth countries, report warns
The persecution of millions of people in Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence is worsening the AIDS crisis, warns a major report produced for David Cameron. In what the report describes as a “British colonial legacy”, 40 out of 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise same-sex relationships. The Prime Minister should demand that the countries scrap anti-gay laws and end the persecution and punishment of millions of people. The briefing was prepared ahead of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Malta next weekend. 

Not only are rates of HIV infection higher, but the proportion of people helped by health workers is lower, it says. The prevention of HIV among gay men in countries where homosexuality is illegal is “difficult to address due to ‘double stigmatisation’ ”. Lower awareness of HIV prevention leads to men “engaging in riskier sexual behaviours”, and health providers are less willing to offer their services because of fears they could be accused of abetting criminal activity, says the report. 

Jonathan Cooper, the chief executive of the Human Dignity Trust, said: “You will never ever get the Aids crisis under control while gay men are criminalised. It’s literally not possible while gay men are shamed and stigmatised.”  Read more via the Independent
Uganda: Why are anti-gay laws contributing to HIV prevalence?
April 2009, the Parliament of Uganda passed a resolution to strengthen Laws on Homosexuality, this was a private member bill that was submitted by MP Bahati David, in October 2009.  It meant that same sex partnerships in Uganda was illegal, punishable and criminalises homosexual behaviour with prison sentences lasting up to 14 years.The offender may receive the death penalty if the person is HIV positive, that is deemed Aggravated homosexuality or the offender receives life imprisonment that is the offence of Homosexuality.

It has provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited for punishment back to Uganda, and includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non-government organisations that support gays. However, Uganda’s constitutional court overturned the tough new anti-gay laws that had been branded “Kill the gay bill” saying they had been wrongly passed by parliament. Read more via Africa Times
China: Gay men hit hard by HIV/AIDS epidemic
China has reported nearly 110,000 HIV/AIDS cases so far this year, a slight increase over last year, said the nation's top AIDS specialist. The gay male population has been hit particularly hard, accounting for more than 25% of the total.

Wu Zunyou, head of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, made the remarks on the sidelines of the ongoing 2015 National Conference on HIV/AIDS. In worse-hit cities such as Beijing and Harbin, more than 70%  of the cases reported in 2015 involved gay men, he added. Worse, young students have been hit hard in recent years by the epidemic, he said, and 70-80% of the HIV/AIDS cases detected in 2015 among them involved gay sex.

Thanks to robust intervention efforts initiated in 2003, China has a low prevalence of HIV/AIDS (0.06 percent), according to Shen Jie, deputy director of the Chinese Association of STD and AIDS Prevention and Control, which hosted the conference. "But the rapid increase of HIV cases among gay men has hardly been curbed," she said. Read more via China Daily
US: STIs are skyrocketing among gay and bi men. Is an HIV-prevention pill to blame?
The CDC announced some deeply disconcerting news: Sexually transmitted infection rates have skyrocketed over the last year, particularly among gay and bisexual men. Syphilis transmission rates are especially alarming: The CDC reports a 15.1% increase in new infections nationwide since 2013, with a stunning 83% of male cases affecting men who have sex with men.

What’s going on here? One obvious explanation could be the rise of PrEP (or Truvada), a daily pill, which, all available data indicate, fully protects against HIV infection. Early studies of PrEP showed no evidence that those who took the drug would stop using condoms. But recent surveys suggest that at least some PrEP users do indeed use condoms less regularly once they’re on the pill. Most notably, a fairly small-scale study in San Francisco found a 30% instance in STIs among PrEP users after six months—which rose to a 50% after one year.* Just as troublingly, 41% of subjects admitted to using condoms less frequently while on PrEP.

The San Francisco study was too small to prove that PrEP is closely correlated to decreased condom use. But combined with the new CDC report, its findings should set off alarm bells. Is San Francisco our first preview of a dangerous new PrEP culture, where many gay and bisexual men ignore the risks of STIs once a critical mass of men are on PrEP? That would be the worst-case scenario, and there’s no reason to assume it’s true. But the possibility is worth considering—and, if feasible, forestalling. Read more via Slate
France: Greenlight for PrEP
In a historic move, France has become the first country outside the USA, and the first country with a centrally-organised, reimbursable health system, to approve no-expense pre-exposure prophylaxis for people who need it. The French Minister of Health, Marisol Touraine, announced that PrEP would be available from mid-December, and reimbursable through the French health system from the beginning of January.

The positive recommendation for Truvada comes via a uniquely French health measure called a Recommendation of Temporary Use (Recommandation Temporaire d'Utilisation – RTU). This provides for drugs to be made available to people in urgent need on an ‘off-label’ basis, i.e. without a full Marketing Authorisation. RTUs are used for drugs that already have Marketing Authorisation for other uses – in this case, for HIV treatment.

Mme. Touraine said: "Given the level of efficacy of this approach, which has been recognised by all national and international scientific experts in the battle against HIV/AIDS, I take the financial responsibility for this treatment, which can contribute to complete our global strategy against HIV and AIDS, so it can be available without financial restriction.”

She added, however: "We can never say often enough that condoms are the best protection against HIV and other STIs…PrEP does not stop other STIs and, as a medicine, is not without adverse events.” Read more via AIDSmap
US: There’s a drug that prevents HIV. Let’s use it
An FDA-approved drug can prevent HIV infections, but critics have worried that having such a fallback pill can promote unsafe sex and cause HIV infections to rise. A new study proves them wrong. Reporting in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers show that providing PrEP to men who have sex with men dropped their rates of HIV dramatically. In the study, conducted at two clinics treating sexually transmitted diseases and a community health center in three different cities, 437 men and transgender women took PrEP, which consists of emtricitabine and tenofovir (together called Truvada), for nearly a year. Only two became HIV positive, but both showed extremely low blood levels of the drug, suggesting that they took only about half of their required doses.

Rates of STIs, while high, did not increase during the study period while the participants were taking PrEP. In other words, the drug did not make users more promiscuous or more reckless about their risk.

But PrEP continues to suffer from an image problem. In the months and years after it was approved, even those in the gay community, perhaps skeptical of its too-good-to-be-true promise, began denigrating those who took advantage of the drugs, labeling them Truvada whores. Well respected and early pioneers in AIDS advocacy were equally leery, seeing PrEP as a dangerous cancer that could eventually undo all the laborious work they had put into educating people about the disease and warning them about the unsafe behaviors that promote HIV. Read more via Time
Australia: This website will be a one stop shop for LGBTI health
A new website providing information on drug use in the LGBTI community has been launched, highlighting the specific experiences faced by sexual and gender diverse people. TouchBase, launched by the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) in partnership with the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and the Australian Drug Foundation, was created as a resource on drugs and places them in the context of mental and sexual health by using personal stories from those in the community.

VAC chief executive Simon Ruth said there was information specific to the LGBTI community around drugs that the site aims to address: “There are specific things we need to be aware of, such as the interactions that drugs might have with HIV medications or hormones for gender diverse people."

The site provides targeted information on drug use, mental health, and sexual health, helping to address the gaps in information for LGBTI people.

Harm Reduction Victoria president Bill O’Loughlin believes TouchBase gives a much-needed voice to drug use in the community: “The beauty of this resource is that our community organisations have framed it in our terms, and it’s really comprehensive, from cigarettes and injecting to sex and support for people in trouble." Read more via Star Observer 
New online tool launched to eradicate gay ‘cure’ therapies
Global LGBT rights organisation All Out has launched the online tool, ‘Gay Cure Watch.’ It aims to allow members and international partners to report and shut down gay “cures” in whatever form they take.

“No one should be told that their love is a disease,” said Leandro Ramos, Interim Executive Director of All Out: “The Gay ‘Cure’ Watch is a powerful tool, funded entirely by All Out members, which will allow our organisation to find out where these dangerous “treatments” are happening and get them shut down once and for all.”

All Out notes that the “outdated” and “medically unfounded” practices can cause harm to the subjects, including increasing the risk of depression and suicide.

In the UK earlier this month, Parliament debated banning the practice of gay ‘cure’ therapies for minors. UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that a future Conservative government would act to end so called “gay cure” therapy, which attempts to change the sexuality of a person, labelling the practice as “dangerous” and “profoundly wrong”. Read more via PinkNews
Uganda: Controversial NGO bill passed on eve of pope's arrival
Ugandan lawmakers unanimously passed a bill that would give authorities sweeping powers to regulate civil society, which rights groups say will "strangle" criticism of the government, just before Pope Francis arrived on a visit.

Civil society groups say the legislation gives the government unprecedented powers, including the ability to shut down non-governmental organisations and jail their members. Activist and lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said the passing of the law "strikes at the heart of civic forms of organising, restricts civic space and association rights."

Gay rights groups are particularly worried that if the bill is passed they might be targeted in a country that has previously passed tough anti-homosexuality legislation, which was later overturned on a technicality. Groups working on sensitive issues such as oil, land ownership and corruption also fear it could stifle their efforts.

But the government says the law is aimed at supporting rights groups and aid agencies.

Under the bill, Uganda's internal affairs minister and national board for NGOs have powers to supervise, approve, inspect and dissolve an organisation if "it is in the public interest to do so." Read more via AFP
Kenya: MPs throw out proposal to punish gays with death
A parliamentary team has thrown out a proposal to have a law prescribing death by public stoning to anybody found participating in homosexual acts. The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee said it does not agree with the law proposed by the Republican Liberty Party through its legal secretary, Mr Edward Onwong’a Nyakeriga.

The committee argued that the Constitution not only establishes that the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society, but is forthright that Article 45 provides that every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex.

It, however, left the window open for the matter to be determined by the larger House, saying: “The petitioner is, however, at liberty to approach any willing member or committee of the House to sponsor the proposed legislation on his behalf.” Read more via Daily Nation
Vietnam: Law change introduces transgender rights
Vietnam passed a law enshrining rights for transgender people in a move advocacy groups say paves the way for gender reassignment surgery in the authoritarian communist nation. People who want the operation, which is illegal, tend to have it done in nearby Thailand.

The new legislation will allow those who have undergone reassignment to register under their new gender. The law will come into effect early in 2017 after 282 of 366 lawmakers voted in favour.

“Individuals who undergo transgender change will have the right to register” under their new gender with “personal rights in accordance with their new sex”, reported the state-controlled VnExpress website, citing a national assembly report.

The law is an attempt to “meet the demands of a part of society … in accordance with international practice, without countering the nation’s traditions”, said the report from the Vietnamese parliament. Read more via the Guardian
India: Kerala becomes first state to unveil transgender policy 
State Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson unveiled the much awaited ‘State Policy for Transgenders in Kerala 2015’ by handing over its copy to noted transsexual-gender minority activist Akkai Padmashali during the inaugural ceremony of the first International Conference on Gender Equality.

During the inaugural ceremony, state Minister for Social Justice M K Muneer said it is for the first time that any state government is framing out a policy for transgenders. “We assure the transgenders in the state that your freedom and movement will be taken care of by the Kerala Government,” he said adding that the state has set a model for the entire country by formulating such a policy.

The policy covers all the categories of TGs, including male to female TGs and intersex people. It also emphasises the rights of the minority group to self identify themselves as man, woman or TG as stated in the Supreme Court judgement. It also ensures them equal access to social and economic opportunities, resources and services, right to equal treatment under the law, right to live life without violence and equitable right in all decision making bodies. Read more via The Indian Express
Cyprus: House passes historic civil partnerships bill
Activists broke out in applause in the House on Thursday as the plenary gave the nod to a much-anticipated bill on civil cohabitation regulating the rights and obligations couples wishing to enter into a union other than a ‘traditional’ marriage.

Despite carrying the full force of traditional unions between two persons, regulating such issues like inheritance, adoptions are forbidden for couples entering into a civil cohabitation. The prohibition – which some argued is discriminatory – applies to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples.

“This bill is not about homosexuality, rather we are voting for freedom and equality… it is about allowing an alternative union,” said DIKO MP Nicholas Papadopoulos, who was in favour. Dissenting DISY MP Andreas Themistocleous objected that the bill effectively creates a new type of marriage, which would end up changing the fabric of family life in Cyprus.

Initially named cohabitation agreement, the law was renamed to civil cohabitation to reflect the fact that it is not an agreement whose terms were decided by the partners, but a state of affairs regulated by law. Read more via Cyprus Mail
Bermuda: Landmark same-sex partnerships ruling
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of rights of same-sex partnerships. The landmark ruling comes as a result of a legal action brought by the Bermuda Bred Company against both the Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General. The company, which describes itself as a group of Bermudians involved in “binational relationships”, had argued that the Immigration and Protection Act had to be read in conjunction with the Human Rights Act, which does not allow discrimination on the grounds of marital status or sexual orientation.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Bred Company said they welcomed the judgment, saying: “We firmly believe in equality in these areas and in levelling the playing field for same-sex families.

“The effect of the decision is very specific: the non-Bermudian same-sex partners of Bermudians, who are in committed relationships, are entitled to live and work in Bermuda without immigration restriction. The decision does not deal with the recognition of marriage equality.

“The judgment recognises that not only is the Island’s immigration policy unlawfully discriminatory, but that it also places an unfair emotional and financial burden on gay and lesbian Bermudians in binational relationships. Such families will have the effective ability to make life plans that include Bermuda as a home." Read more via Royal Gazette
Slovenia to put gay marriage to popular vote 
Slovenians are going to hold a referendum on 20 December to decide whether to implement gay marriage legislation in the central European country. In March, gay marriage bill was passed but opponents backed by the Catholic Church have forced a referendum in an attempt to repeal the law.

The Slovenian constitutional court gave the green light for the referendum. Under Slovenian law, if a group can gather 40,000 signatures on a petition within a month, they can seek a referendum on new legislation.  If more than a third of the electorate take part and deliver a majority vote against the law, it will be scrapped. Read more via West Info
Mexico: Supreme Court overturns same-sex marriage ban
Mexico’s Supreme Court has struck down a law banning gay marriage in the state of Jalisco. Two gay couples challenged the state’s civil code after their were denied the right to marry after their applications to do so were rejected.

Nevertheless, the nation’s highest court has once again ruled that move discriminated against the LGBT community and is therefore unconstitutional. It added that state authorities could not “deny benefits to the claimants or set charges related to the regulation of marriage.”

However, same-sex marriage has not been specifically written into law, and same-sex couples may still require a judge’s approval before being wed. Read more via PinkNews
Kenya: Two men sue State for forced HIV testing and anal examination 
The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission have helped two men who were forced to undergo anal exams and testing to sue Chief Magistrate of Kwale Law Courts and DCIO, Msambweni Police Station, under whose direction the testing was done. The two men were tested at the Coast General Hospital, Mombasa, for " H.I.V., Hepatitis B and other blood works" without their consent, while undergoing police investigations.

"The forced blood testing and anal testing sought to establish whether the two male adults might have engaged in consensual adult carnal knowledge against the order of nature at the privacy of their residences in Ukunda."

According to the petition, the victims were allegedly arrested on suspicion of being gay and remanded by police at Msambweni for four days. They claimed police escorted them to the hospital where "they were forced to strip naked, lie facing upwards, lift legs into the air and cough while doctors inserted metallic objects up their rectum".

Gitari wants the court to declare that forced anal examination violates human dignity and has a "disparate impact on sexual minorities". He said the court should also declare forced medical exam a violation of the human and constitutional rights of the petitioners. Read more via the Star
UNAIDS to join Uganda's Anti Gay Law challenge as amicus curiae  
The East African Court of Justice allowing UNAIDS to join the case challenging provisions of Uganda's nullified Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 as violating the good governance and rule of law principles of the East African Treaty (Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) v Attorney General of Uganda, Reference No. 6 of 2014). 

This is the only application that has been allowed by the court in this case, as three others were rejected. This decision demonstrates the confidence many have in UNAIDS human rights works.

UNAIDS has been amicus curiae in several high-profile cases in different parts of the world. Read more
China: Homosexuality called ‘a psychological disorder’
A Chinese lesbian took the government to court over textbooks describing homosexuality as a “psychological disorder”, a landmark case in a country where discrimination remains common. Qiu Bai, 21, a student at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, brought the action against the ministry of education, demanding that it give her details of how it approved materials and how they could be changed.

Qiu's team showed AFP a manual, “Student Psychological Health”, published in 2015 by the prestigious Renmin University and distributed to students nationwide: “The most commonly encountered forms of sexual deviance are homosexuality and the sick addictions of transvestism, transsexuality, fetishism, sadism, voyeurism and exhibitionism,” it read. Other psychology textbooks had similar content.

Holding a large rainbow flag, she said she was “excited” by her “first opportunity to have a face-to-face dialogue with the ministry of education”. Supporters brandished signs outside the Fengtai district court in Beijing reading: “We want a fair judgement” and “Homosexuals must gain visibility”. Read more via AFP
Costa Rican woman able to marry her lesbian partner could face prison
When Jazmin Elizondo Arias was born in 1991, someone made a mistake and noted on her birth certificate that she was male, and no one corrected the record officially due to the drawn out administration involved.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, thanks to the simple clerical error, Ms Elizondo was able to become one half of the first gay couple to marry legally in Costa Rica – at least briefly.

The publicity prompted an unusually quick response by Civil Registry officials, who reviewed Ms Elizondo’s records, reclassified her as a woman and annulled the marriage. They also opened criminal complaints against the women and Mr Castillo, the lawyer, for allegedly performing an “impossible marriage”. 

“It’s clear the Civil Registry moved out of hate, because they not only annulled the marriage but filed this criminal complaint,” Ms Florez-Estrada said.  Read more via the Independent
Egypt: Reporter who orchestrated Cairo 'gay' bathhouse raid gets six months in jail
An Egyptian reporter who orchestrated a raid on a ‘gay’ bathhouse has been sentenced to six months in jail. Mona Iraqi was also fined EGP10,000 ($1,277; €1,207) by a Cairo court on for defamation and spreading false news.

In December last year, Iraqi tipped off police to an alleged gay hammam – which she claimed was a ‘den of male sex’ – and filmed as 33 men were arrested and paraded naked out of the bathhouse. The footage was then broadcast on the Al Kahera Walnas channel and made international headlines.

Twenty-six men, including the bathhouse owner and four employees, were tried for debauchery but later cleared due to lack of evidence. Read more via Gay Star News
Norway: No surgery mandate for sex change 
Acting on a plan drafted by Norway's ministry of health and social affairs this past April, the 13-member Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board voted to discontinue the forced-sterilization rule for transgender men and women seeking to change their gender legally and open the doors for them to receive reproduction assistance including in vitro fertilization.

While the board voted unanimously to drop forced sterilization, a minority went against extending reproductive assistance on grounds that being pregnant is associated with motherhood and a person cannot insist on being a woman and getting pregnant and be a man at the same time.

The bill also drops psychiatric and medical evaluations for children between seven and 16 years of ago who - after consulting with their parents - decide to legally change their gender. Health and social affairs minister Bent Hoie said the proposal "is historic in that it will no longer be the health service but the individual who decides if he or she has changed sex." Read more via Courthouse News Service
US: LGBT activists rally outside Dallas police HQ after another attack
Dozens of LGBT activists gathered outside Dallas Police headquarters last night to protest what they see as slow police response to the wave of crime in the Oak Lawn neighborhood, which has a prominent gay entertainment district. The protest follows another violent attack last week; the 12th in less than three months. 

Protesters carried signs that read “We Shall Rise Up” and “Justice Will Prevail.” Some waved gay pride flags, while others joined hands in silent grief for the dozen gay men who’ve been assaulted in Oak Lawn since September.

The latest victim, Geoffrey Hubbard, was beaten and robbed after leaving work. He rolled underneath a car for safety, until an off-duty officer found him. The next day, Dallas police stepped up patrols in the neighborhood. Though protesters, like Daniel Scott Cates, said the response came too late.

“It has taken two and half months of terror; it has taken blood literally running in the streets for DPD to make a visible, swift action as they did this last weekend. It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said. Read more via KERA news
Armenia: Support and protect human rights defenders
Armenian NGO PINK is being threatened and intimidated for its work on LGBT issues by sections of the public and by some political figures in Armenia. The Armenian authorities must stop this intimidation and hold those responsible to account. Human Rights House Network calls on the authorities to end their silence and inaction, and meet their obligations to protect, empower, and support human rights defenders.

In a joint letter to the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, 37 NGOs from nine Human Rights Houses have detailed instances of threats and intimidation against PINK, and raised concerns about the silence and inaction by the authorities. Armenia must counter the immediate and specific threats to PINK, and work to end the wider, long-term threat to all human rights defenders in Armenia, and prevent a climate of impunity created by silence and inaction against those who threaten and intimidate human rights defenders. 

HRHN wrote a letter of concern to the Armenian authorities in September 2013, condemning ongoing smear campaigns against organisations working on gender issues, and urging the authorities to protect human rights defenders. Read more via Human Rights House
A Dutch ISIS Fighter Takes Questions on Tumblr
Usually, by the time the public learns the names and biographies of Islamic State militants, or radicals from other groups who attack civilians, they are already dead, and so unable to speak for themselves, except occasionally in the ritualized form of martyrdom videos or manifestoes posted online. This week, however, a Dutch citizen who says he is fighting on behalf of the Islamic State in Syria, and who documents his life in the self-proclaimed caliphate on Tumblr, has been taking questions from readers.

Israfil Yilmaz, who is of Turkish descent and who abandoned a career in the Royal Netherlands Army in 2013 to join Islamist rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, has turned to Tumblr since his accounts on Instagram, Ask.fm and Twitter were suspended.

The exchanges reveal that the former soldier is well aware of his notoriety back home in the Netherlands. Asked his age recently, he referred his questioner to the Dutch government’s list of banned terrorists, to which his full name and details of his birth — Salih Yahya Gazali Yilmaz, born on Sept. 29, 1987, in Brunei — had been added just the week before. Read more via New York Times
Iraq: 2 blindfolded men thrown off a roof in Fallujah for being gay 
The Islamic State (Isis) terrorists have released a new photo report from the Iraqi city of Fallujah, showing the execution of two men, "punished" for being homosexuals. The photo report released on social media on Monday by Isis supporters shows two blindfolded men being thrown off a roof in Fallujah on charges of "sodomy."

The images shows an Isis Sharia judge reading out their crimes before a crowd of onlookers while the two gay men stand on the roof of a high-rise. After the reading out of the verdict, the Isis fighters throw down the two men, one by one as the crowd looks on in horror. Read more via International Business Times (disturbing images)
Nigeria: Gay people face beatings, harsh prison sentences, even death
Nigeria made same-sex marriage and gay rights activism illegal last January. Since then, gay Nigerians say abuse and extortion have become commonplace by state-sponsored vigilantes, police and public mobs. As part of a week-long series "Nigeria: Pain and Promise," special correspondent Nick Schifrin reports on the threats and violence that LGBT citizens face in that country. Watch the report
China: Transgender people forced to hide behind their secrets
At home her son still calls her daddy, at work she dresses in a masculine style, but this Chinese person has a “little secret” — she was born male, but is not any more. She had long identified as a woman, and suffered from depression after starting a family, opting in the end to have a surgical sex change.

“I had wanted to kill myself, but then I decided I should do something — if I die, I’d rather die on the operating table,” she added. Chinese society remains deeply traditional in many respects so in public she still has to hide her new identity and does not want her name or occupation revealed, for fear of any negative consequences. Now she tries to help others in her position, running an online network from her home to connect transgender individuals with each other and professionals such as doctors, psychiatrists and lawyers — who can help with divorces.

Sexually ambiguous characters have a long history in Chinese art and literature, but being transgender is still classified as a mental illness in the country —homosexuality was removed from the category in 2001 —although sex reassignment surgery is legal.

Transgender issues were given unusual prominence in China last year when the country’s most famous sexologist, Li Yinhe, announced she had been living for 17 years with a partner who was born female but identifies as a man, referring to him as her “husband” and stressing she sees herself as heterosexual. Read more via Japan Times
Pakistan: Officially recognized but publicly shamed
One Friday night earlier this year, a nervous but meticulously made-up crowd of transgender women sat in the upper circle of the smart Al Hamra Arts complex in Lahore, Pakistan. Bored with waiting for the performance to begin, one and then all of them stood up to take in a better view of the surroundings. The rest of the audience gawked at the sight before them: Pakistani transgender women are ordinarily found dancing at tawdry wedding parties or turning tricks. Certainly never as patrons at an upscale theatre.

That night, however, they were to be centre stage, performing "Theesri Dhun" ("Third Tune"), a rare and unique dramatization of real-life transgender stories. With harrowing tales of rape, police brutality and social stigma, it made for sombre viewing.

It also shed a light on Pakistan's complicated and disturbing LGBT rights landscape, where trans people technically enjoy better rights than in many places around the world, but in practice face violence and stigma. Even so, they are worlds ahead of Pakistani gay men, who are outlawed, brutalized and even murdered with no recourse to protection. 

While trans women are the success story amongst LGBT Pakistanis, their counterparts, transgender men — people born biologically female but who identify as male — barely register on the national conscience. Technically they should also be able to register as third gender but none has ever attempted it. Read more via Vice News
African gays make simple request to pope: preach tolerance
African gays who often face persecution in the streets and sometimes prosecution in courts have a simple plea for Pope Francis ahead of his first visit to the continent: bring a message of tolerance even if you will not bless our sexuality.

Francis traveled to Kenya and Uganda, where many conservative Christians bristle at the idea of the West forcing its morality on them, especially when it comes to gays and lesbians. He also visited conflict-torn Central African Republic.

"I would like the Pope to at least make people know that being LGBT is not a curse," said Jackson Mukasa, 20, a Ugandan in Kampala who was imprisoned last year on suspicion of committing homosexual acts, before charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Read more via Reuters
Ireland: End exemptions to LGBT equality law for schools and hospitals
Fresh off of the country’s first same-sex weddings, Ireland’s government is pushing forward with more changes – amending LGBT equality law exemptions for schools and hospitals.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the Minister of State for Equality, confirmed plans to push ahead with a bill this week that will alter the state’s Employment Equality Act. Section 37 of the existing law grants specific exemptions from sections protecting LGBT people to “religious, educational or medical institutions” – permitting them to discriminate “in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution”.

However, the TD pledged: “As marriage equality becomes a reality today, on Wednesday we amend Section 37 to end LGBT & other discrimination in schools & hospitals.” He said: “Marriage equality was a wonderful achievement, and Ireland should be very proud of being the first country to bring in marriage equality by popular vote. But if you’re 13 years of age, and you’re just coming out and you’re nervous, marriage equality might feel a very long way away." Read more via PinkNews
Openly gay Imam creates online school for LGBTQ-friendly islamic philosophy
13 years ago, Washington, DC-based Muslim religious leader Daayiee Abdullah was asked to conduct a funeral for a man who had died of AIDS. "Several imams had been approached about this but wouldn't do it," he said. "Since I believe everyone has the right to religious rites, I did not hesitate to officiate."

This seemingly benign act attracted enmity from critics worldwide, but Abdullah did not flinch. Instead, as the first openly gay imam in the US, he became even more outspoken, advocating not only religious access for people with HIV and AIDS, but also mixed-gender worship, support for reproductive justice, full acceptance of LGBTQ people in Muslim communities, LGBTQ inclusion in Muslim liturgy and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. His positions, he says, are firmly rooted in the Quran, and he references the earliest Chinese and Arabic translations to support his assertions - books he's read in their original languages.

This stance - that the written word is open to interpretation and can be made relevant to contemporary life - has rankled many Muslim leaders. But their criticism has neither silenced him nor kept him from contesting homophobic, racist or sexist commentary. In fact, they've inspired him to establish the MECCA Institute, an online school and think tank that will, by the fall of 2016, offer classes in modern-day explication of Islamic philosophy and tenets. Read more via Truthout
Serbia: Police helpline for LGBT people
The Police Department in Kragujevac is the first in Serbia to initiate a pilot project to support LGBT people and their families. THe program includes a hotline to which people can report hate crimes, violence and discrimination. 

"These crimes are extremely important... because if we do not know what is happening and do not act in a timely manner, the victim suffers. LGBT people should be encouraged to report crimes because of our common goal of combating every form of discrimination."  says Inspector John Jeremic.

It is estimated that 64% of these people have experienced some form of violence, while only 8% reported that discrimination. Victims will talk police officers who have undergone adequate training. The next step is to create a Facebook profile, also to communicate and help people of different sexual orientation. Read more via Gay Echo
Turkey: Gays seeking military exemption no longer need to provide visual proof of their homosexuality
Turkey makes it difficult for potential conscriptees to avoid the draft, generally making exceptions only for those who are sick, disabled or homosexual. To receive an exemption based on their sexuality, men must publicly declare they are gay — a declaration that ensures discrimination will follow them for the rest of their lives. It's either that, or they must successfully hide their gay identity for a year.

As if that isn't bad enough, until last week, to receive the exemption men also had to prove their homosexuality by undergoing nude examinations and submitting photos of themselves engaged in homosexual intercourse.

Last week, however, the military silently amended the most controversial provisions in the regulation. Doctors will now merely observe the behaviors homosexuals display and the verbal declarations they make. In other words, a homosexual can choose to disclose or not to disclose his identity. If he does, this declaration will constitute the sole basis for the doctor's decision. The change represents a major step toward aligning Turkey's military with the norms for basic human rights. Read more via Al-Monitor
Tokyo to Taipei, a growing acceptance for LGBT people
When it come to homosexuality, the Confucian cultures of East Asia can be quite conservative, though they don't share the religious or moral objections of Judeo-Christian-Islamic countries. But across a region becoming steadily more urban and cosmopolitan, LGBT communities are experiencing a changes in attitudes and a greater legal recognition that echoes the trend in the West towards much greater acceptance of equality. 

Last weekend some 80,000 people from around East Asia converged on Taipei for the Oct. 31 Taiwan Pride parade, the biggest such event in the region. It was followed by a record 10,000 marchers in the Hong Kong Pride Parade. In Japan, that same November evening saw the broadcast of “Transit Girls,” the first TV drama here about a lesbian couple.

To be sure, for many LGBTs in a region imbued with the Confucian ideals of filial respect and saving face, the toughest battles remain within families. Still, the overall shift seems clear across this diverse region, and is partly due to the influence of the West, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US and Ireland. Local media portrayed these changes as a progressive trend that the rest of the world will inevitably follow. Read more via Christian Science Monitor
Iraq: 'Being gay isn't as sexy as ISIS': one young man's fight for rights
"Being gay isn't as sexy as ISIS. So no-one pays us any attention."--These are the words of Amir Ashour, a 25-year-old Iraqi and founder of IraQueer.

Amir left behind his home and family a year ago and is currently living in Sweden. There, he hopes to register and expand his charity, as it is illegal to do so in Iraq. He has received multiple threats from both officials and his friends because of who he is and the work he does.

One of the main threats to the queer community in Iraq, Amir explains, is the armed militias in Baghdad and other cities: “The main one that has been practising all the killing campaigns in Iraq actually announced a partnership with our government a few months ago, under the name of ‘fighting ISIS’. The last campaign we documented was in January this year, while in July 2014, [the militia] killed 35 gay people and sex workers in one day. Not even one report was made about that."

And, Amir adds, that’s just the numbers they’re aware of. “How many more people have just disappeared? Especially with what’s happening with ISIS and people being displaced.. We can’t keep track. And the government is making it impossible for civil society organisations to run safe houses. If an organisation wants to do that, then they are charged with running brothels and prostitution.”

“Even if homosexuality is against religion and Islam is the main force of law in Iraq, killing is illegal. That is not something people can debate and argue.” Read more via Huffington Post
Ukraine: Stop harassing us over oppressed minorities --- we're too busy fighting Russia 
Though it's not commonly known, Ukraine's LGBT community played a significant role in the Maidan revolution which toppled the unpopular government of Viktor Yanukovych some two years ago. Careful not to upset or alienate conservative nationalist elements at the Maidan, LGBT protesters made a tactical decision not to promote their cause openly. According to EU Observer, the LGBT community refrained from brandishing its own slogans and banners lest it provoke homophobic violence. The Observer remarks that "during the revolution, the LGBT community behaved courageously, but also pragmatically: it didn't champion the rights of the gay minority in order not to split Maidan into liberal and illiberal factions."

In the wake of Maidan, however, many within the LGBT community feel betrayed by the very revolution which they helped to spearhead. In Ukraine, all the current talk is about repelling Vladimir Putin and Russian-backed separatists, rather than adhering to liberal-minded values. It's a rather ironic coda to the Maidan, which was initially driven forward by pro-Western and progressive aspirations. Judging from recent events, however, it would appear that Maidan's liberal credo was rather superficial and merely skin deep.

Recently, many conservative Ukrainians seem to be falling back on a common refrain: don't resort to criticism of our country's internal politics, for such "divisive" tactics will only serve to embolden Vladimir Putin. Though these claims rely on a dubious and false equivalency, such arguments seem to be gaining some traction, as my own experience may attest. What is more, political elites have desperately sought to outmaneuver the LGBT community by playing the nationalist card. Read more via Huffington Post
Activist outed as a 'top gay' by a Kenyan tabloid answers your questions
Lawyer Eric Gitari shares his experiences of being harassed, publicly shamed and fighting for LGBT rights. In May a leading Kenyan tabloid, Citizen, ran a picture of Eric Gitari and nine of his compatriots on their front page. The news splash? They were were being outed as “top gays”.

Life in Kenya is not easy for the LGBT community, who have to contend with daily stigma, the threat of mob violence and lengthy prison sentences. Gitari, who is a lawyer and human rights activist, is undeterred by this and recently secured a major legal victory for the community.

After a long fight, Kenya’s high court ruled that his organisation, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, could be formally registered in Kenya. This paved the way for similar organisations also supporting the community to follow suit.

Shortly afterwards, Citizen ran their front page. The next battle on Gitari’s hands is a lawsuit he has filed against the state over forced HIV testing and anal examinations, which the government says can determine men’s sexuality. Read more via the Guardian
Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance around the globe
On November 20, LGBT and allied people will gather to honor Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR is an annual event that gives communities an opportunity to come together and remember transgender people, gender-expansive individuals, and those perceived to be transgender who have been murdered because of hate.

Several transgender women have been killed in Argentina in the past few months, including transgender activist Diana Sacayán. It’s been reported that transgender people have been murdered in El Salvador and most recently, a transgender man in Japan was brutally murdered.

Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project reported that at least 1,700 transgender and gender-expansive people were killed in the last seven years. Brazil and Mexico have the highest number of reported murders of transgender and gender-expansive people. Despite these tragedies, HRC’s Equality Rising report also details progress being made by the transgender and intersex advocates to end discrimination, harassment and violence. Read more via Human Rights Campaign
US: Tipping point or state of emergency? Real talk about transgender women of color
While the scales have tipped for some transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) individuals, notably those with access to wealth or those that fit a mainstream beauty ideal, the rest are left behind. Members of TGNC communities of color are having a different discussion. In panels and forums, on social media, in conversation, they are saying, “The transgender tipping point is crushing us.”

The notion that we as a society have arrived at a time and place in which TGNC people have gained equality is misleading. It creates an illusion of safety, reinforcing a binary gender system and excluding TGNC people at the margins—those most deeply affected by the intersections of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty. The “transgender community” is not one community but many communities. Recent advancements in legislation and health care have greatly benefited some, but the progress is not equally distributed, and the increased visibility does not equal acceptance, which is clear when we consider the realities of many Black and Latina TGNC women’s lives.

Barely one year after being featured in TIME, Laverne Cox herself declared a “state of emergency” for TGNC people. And this is why... Read more via Psychology Benefits
Japan: Teacher helps fill school void on LGBT issues
Despite rising sensitivity toward sexual minorities in Japan, schools have a long way to go to improve the environment for LGBT students. But an elementary school teacher from Mie Prefecture hopes her efforts will result in change.

Takako Ogura, 57, a teacher at a public grade school in the town of Meiwa, has introduced her own textbook to teach students about gender identity disorders and related issues in her health and physical education classes. According to a recent survey by advertising giant Dentsu Inc., 1 in 13, or 7.6 percent, of 70,000 people polled consider themselves part of the LGBT community. 

To address the situation, the education ministry in April issued a notice calling on all elementary, junior high and high schools to take measures to prevent bullying and discrimination against LGBT students. Ministry officials, however, admit that school textbooks lack information to encourage students to deepen their understanding on the issue. Read more via Japan Times
China: Dream of the bed chamber
“Sex, sex, sexual intercourse, penis, penis, vagina.” More than 150 undergraduates are sitting in a lecture hall at China Agricultural University in Beijing, shouting loudly. Many are sexually active, yet for most it is the first sex education class they have attended.

Their instructor hopes that shouting such words will help youngsters talk more openly about sex. Lu Zhongbao, a 24-year-old student, says he was told as a child that he “emerged from a rock”. When he started having sex with his university girlfriend he had little idea about contraception. This evening he arrived an hour early armed with another question: will masturbating damage his health?

It is not just China’s economy that has loosened up since 1979. The country is in the midst of a sexual revolution. But a lack of sex education means that many are not protecting themselves, resulting in soaring abortion rates and a rise in sexually transmitted diseases. Education on the subject is compulsory in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—societies that have some cultural similarities with China. But most Chinese schools teach only basic anatomy.

Where classes happen, most students are merely given a textbook. “Happy Middle School Students”, written for 12- to 15-year-olds in 2006 and still widely used, refers to sperm meeting egg without describing the mechanics of intercourse. A more explicit volume for primary-school pupils published in 2011, which did explain how sperm were delivered, was criticised for being pornographic. Read more via The Economist
Australia: Safe Schools Coalition and Minus 18 launch LGBTI lessons for teachers
It was a crush on the singer Pink that made Jaimee​ realise she was different to other girls in her Year 8 class. Now 17 years old, it has been four years since she came out to her classmates as gay. It was a terrifying experience. "Lesbian or gay or trans people had never been talked about in a positive light in year 7 or 8. It had always been, 'don't be such a lezzo' or' that's so gay'," she said. "That really scared me and it made me feel quite anxious because I felt like I was holding in this big secret and I couldn't talk to anyone about it for fear of being shunned."

Jaimee is one of seven lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) young people telling their story as part of a groundbreaking teacher's resource to be used in year 7 and 8 classrooms. All of Us is the first resource of its kind to be funded by the federal government's Department of Education, and will be available to all schools in both the public and private sector.

Commissioned by LGBTI youth group Minus 18 and Safe Schools Coalition Australia – which has more than 470 member schools dedicated to making classrooms more inclusive and reducing bullying against same-sex attracted and gender diverse students -  it will form part of the health and physical education curriculum. Read more via Sydney Morning Herald 
US: 'This Book Is Gay,' LGBT book for teens, is challenged Alaska
A book intended for LGBT young adults is being challenged in the Wasilla, Alaska, public library by residents who want to see it reshelved or removed, reports the Alaska Dispatch News.

James Dawson's "This Book Is Gay" is currently shelved in the library's juvenile nonfiction section. Wasilla resident Vanessa Campbell petitioned for the book to be moved to the adult section after her 10-year-old son came across the book, which contains profanity and sexually explicit passages. The library's director, Kathy Martin-Albright, declined to move the book, and the Campbell family is appealing her decision.

According to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Wasilla residents attacked the book at a Wasilla City Council meeting. Emily Hardy, who opposes the book being in the juvenile section, said: "I can't imagine what kind of person would order that material and want to make it readily available for children. That is straight-up pedophile kind of behavior."

Several schoolchildren attended the meeting, telling the city council that "they didn't want 'gay books' or books about gay people in the library at all." Read more via Alaska Dispatch
Canada: Government to accept gay Syrian refugees
The Canadian Liberal government announced it will sponsor queer men as part of its pledge to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees — though it’s asking local groups for help.

In a media briefing, officials said the government will make it a priority to sponsor classes of people which includes “single adult men only if identified as vulnerable due to membership in LGBTI community.” Other priority groups include people who are “members of the LGBTI community,” as well as “women at risk” and “complete families.” Officials say they’ve consistently prioritized those groups of Syrians since 2013.

The announcement comes after conflicting media reports that the government would not be taking in single young men.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said it’s important the government prioritize “those who are facing immediate threats of genocide,” including LGBT Syrians. Rempel argued their plight shows why the Liberal government should reverse its plan to pull out of airstrikes against ISIS. Read more via DailyXtra
Iran: This gay man sold a kidney to escape to Turkey
There was only one way Danial could think of to get out of Iran: He would have to sell his kidney. Danial risked his life to get to Turkey, trusting that the refugee system would look after him when he got there. Instead, it was just the beginning of his problems. 

His situation felt hopeless. His mother had confronted him about being gay one December morning in 2013. By noon he had fled the family home, taking nothing but the clothes on his back and 50,000 rials — about $2 — in his pocket. 

“I had no way forward, no way backwards — I just wanted to escape from that place,” Danial said. For most Iranians, getting to Turkey would be as simple as buying a plane ticket, which can cost less than $200; a few hundred LGBT Iranians make this trip every year because it’s an easy jumping-off point to a new life in the West. Iranian passport holders don’t need a visa to enter Turkey, and the United Nations fast-tracks LGBT refugees for resettlement because it considers them especially vulnerable.

But Danial couldn’t get an Iranian passport. He was the son of an Afghan. Read more via Buzzfeed
Kenya: Gay Ugandans regret fleeing
Hundreds of people in Uganda's LGBT community have fled the country to escape homophobia and persecution. But many are now stuck in Kenya where the situation is not much better. Even the UNHCR - the very group tasked with protected LGBT people - has admitted its own staff are hostile. The deputy head of protection for UNHCR told me that staff have said that as Christians they could not work with, or talk to, a gay man.

Some of the Ugandans I spoke to also told me this discrimination from UNHCR staff has led to delays in determining their refugee status, making them live with uncertainty about their future.

"In Uganda we were unsafe and here it's the same," said Blessed, not his real name.
He was a church pastor in Uganda and fled to Kakuma 18 months ago after his name was published in a local newspaper, which said he was gay. He received death threats and had to leave his family behind. "I don't know if I will ever see them again," he said.
"First I have to survive being here and then maybe one day I can entertain that thought."

The Ugandans have to sleep in shifts - taking it in turns to guard their compounds at night, after an attempt this year to burn it down. And that is not the only threat they have received. A few weeks back, hate leaflets were circulated around the camp asking people not to mix with the LGBT community there. Read more via the BBC
US: How these gay and bisexual members of congress sold out desperate LGBT Syrian refugees
"Our people are being thrown off buildings and they're stoned to death," Neil Grungras, the executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration, told me this week, speaking about the plight of LGBT people in the grip of ISIS in Syria. The photos and videos of gruesome atrocities committed against them have gone viral around the world, with reports of men executed on the charge of engaging in sodomy. Michael Lavers at The Washington Blade has done a great deal of reporting on this ghastly reality, quoting leaders of LGBT refugee support groups and others who discuss blood-curdling reports of violence by ISIS. 

"You couldn't get more desperate," Grugras said. "You couldn't get a situation that's more shouting for justice." Those LGBT Syrians that do make it to Turkey or elsewhere as refugees seeking permanent, new homes, find themselves with little support, he said, facing rampant anti-gay discrimination, police brutality and poverty, often forced into sex work and put in dangerous situations.

These stories are among the many reasons why an intense backlash continues against gay and bisexual Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House -- Jared Polis of Colorado, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- who cowardly voted last week with the GOP and 44 other Democrats for the SAFE Act, a bill that, according to many refugee experts, would effectively shut down an already overburdened vetting process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees that takes up to two years. Read more via Huffington Post
UK: How do you prove you are gay? A culture of disbelief is traumatising asylum seekers
Ugandan man, Robert Kityo, was denied asylum last week on the basis that the Home Office wasn’t sufficiently convinced that he was gay. The question of evidence is the problem facing gay men and lesbians seeking protection in the UK because of persecution due to their sexuality. 

It used to be the case that claims for asylum from gay men and lesbians were refused as the Home Office reasoned claimants could return to their home countries and just be discreet: refrain from same-sex relationships and hide their sexuality.

It took a case at the supreme court to overturn this. In the same way as you cannot be expected to hide your religion, the court said you couldn’t be expected to hide your sexuality. Since then, the Home Office has changed tack in the way it refuses these asylum claims. Instead of telling applicants to be discreet, it just doesn’t believe them when they say they are gay.

So how do you prove you are gay? No one arrives in the UK with a certificate stating their sexuality, just as no one in the UK has such a certificate. Instead applicants have to rely on the believability of their oral testimony at their Home Office interview. Read more via the Guardian
Grindr and other hook-up apps offer free adverts to HIV testing service 
Three dating apps popular with gay and bisexual men – Grindr, Hornet and Planet Romeo – have announced that they are to host free advertising to promote a new, mobile-optimized European HIV Test Finder.

The test finder was devised by Aidsmap and lists over 2,000 HIV testing centers and clinics in all 28 EU countries. The initiative has been organized by a pan-country group of HIV organizations, including Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK, Soak Aids in the Netherlands and RSFL (Sweden), the European Centre of Disease Prevention, among others.

Dr Andrew Amato-Gauci, Head of the ECDC Programme on HIV/AIDS, STI and viral hepatitis said in a statement: ‘Across Europe, 47 per cent of newly reported HIV cases are diagnosed late although we know that those tested early are a lot less likely to pass the virus on to others because of both lower infectivity when on treatment and changes in sexual and drug injecting behavior.

‘Whether on your computer or on your mobile phone, with the European HIV Test Finder it will only take you a few seconds to locate a testing site near you – wherever you are in Europe.” Read more via Gay Star News
Grindr and World AIDS Day 2015
When we created Grindr for Equality, we envisioned education and support for sexual health in addition to our work for LGBTQ rights. Today, World AIDS Day, we proudly recommit to these efforts, which exist in a four-pronged plan for your health. In the latter half of 2015, we took a deep dive into the third piece of this plan, as we sought to understand our users’ experience with pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

So along with our partners at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) and with help from theCenter for Disease Control and the Gilead science team, we fielded a survey and heard from Grindr users who shared their experiences. We’re very excited here to be able to share a little bit of what we found. Read more via Grindr
Asia: Global HIV targets ‘could be derailed’ by hook up apps
A new UN report cites the boom in hook-up apps as one of the drivers of a worsening HIV epidemic in Asia. The report found that HIV infections had surged among young people, aged 10-19, in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Analysing data from Thailand, it notes: “Bangkok’s intensifying HIV epidemic among young MSM is largely a result of extensive sexual risk-taking, a higher number of partners, overall increased biological vulnerability through unprotected anal sex with an HIV positive partner, low uptake of HIV testing, and an earlier age of first sex – frequently in the low to mid-teens.

“The explosion of smartphone gay dating apps has expanded the options for casual spontaneous sex as never before – mobile app users in the same vicinity (if not the same street) can locate each other and arrange an immediate sexual encounter with a few screen touches.” Read more via PinkNews
Some top-ranked companies on LGBT scorecard work in harshly anti-LGBT nations
Companies doing business in countries with harsh anti-LGBT laws are among the top scorers in the Human Rights Campaign’s first ever corporate LGBT scorecard to consider international operations alongside domestic ones. HRC launches its 14th annual Corporate Equality Index, which scores hundreds of companies on measures like health insurance coverage for transgender workers and employee benefits for employees’ same-sex partners. 

Only one area that employers were scored on this year actually applied to work overseas: whether the company has a nondiscrimination policy covering LGBT workers that applies throughout its global operations. Some of the companies that met this requirement have operations in countries that not only make same-sex relationships or wearing non-gender conforming clothing illegal, but actively seek out LGBT people for arrest, have extreme jail sentences or flogging as penalties, or criminalize support for LGBT rights.

In such countries, invoking a company’s nondiscrimination protections might require LGBT employees to out themselves to company officers in a way that could expose them to arrest or extortion. That could mean policies on paper have little effect on the ground, or might force companies into difficult confrontations with local governments. Read more via Buzzfeed
UK: LGBT tech workers to gather at Facebook to ‘MakeStuffBetter’
InterTech, the UK-based LGBT network for those who work in the tech industries, have announced that its next event will be a #MakeStuffBetter Holiday Hackathon at the offices of Facebook in Euston, London.

The 24-hour event will run from on Saturday 12 December. They’re wanting tech workers who can aid in the creation of products that may spread tolerance, promote health or create awareness.

Previous hackathons have led to the creation of the LGBT Whip, a website that allows you to check on the voting record of MPs, and online, stereotype-questioning game Hansel in Distress. Read more via Gay Star News
US: Safe place program rolls out to Starbucks stores in Seattle
One of the first things Jim Ritter did when he became LGBTQ liaison officer for the Seattle Police Department earlier this year was to page through reports of hate crimes. The numbers indicated a possible modest uptick in attacks and menacing behavior aimed at the gay community. Anecdotally, however, Ritter was encountering something very different.

“I’m getting calls from people saying it had happened to them or their friends,” Ritter recalled. “I’m getting calls from people and they’re not matching up with the reports I have. I’d say, ‘Well, did you report these?’ and they’d say no. It was clear to me that this was a huge problem for us, because if we don’t know about it we can’t devote resources to it.”

That realization that hate crimes were more frequent than the numbers indicated prompted Ritter to create the Seattle Police Department Safe Place program. Designed to identify plentiful safe and secure places for victims of anti-LGBTQ-related crimes and harassment, SPD Safe Place’s mission is intentionally uncomplicated. Window clings with the program’s rainbow logo are circulated to Seattle area businesses and public facilities identifying them as places where staff who’ve received SPD Safe Place training will call 911 and allow victims to remain on the premises until police arrive. Read more via Starbucks
South Africa: Lobola from a gay perspective
Not only did loving couple Sape ‘Moude’ Maodi and Antoinette ‘Vaivi’ Swartz have to overcome prejudice against their relationship because they are both women, but the issue of paying lobola once they decided to get married was another challenge for them and their families.

Lobola is traditionally considered to be an exchange between a man and a woman and their families, with the woman often being the recipient of the lobola. Ten years after the decision to legalise gay marriage in South Africa, there appears to be a slight shift in some traditional circles around homosexuality. Prof Pitika Ntuli at Tshwane University of Technology said that being gay does not exclude one from being African. “If you look at isangoma, you see that homosexual practises are common,” he said.

Sape and Vaivi wished from the start of their relationship in 2009, to express their love publicly and do so in a traditional way that reflects their culture. On the day of the lobola negotiations in 2012, Sape’s family acknowledged to the ancestors that what was happening was something new, reassured them they have seen two women and admitted they were yet to learn. Read more via the Citizen
Nigeria: Coming out, ‘Hate, isolation, loneliness may come’
Among trends that produce change, the process of coming out is one that can subtly persuade a society of the importance of recognizing the human rights of LGBTI people. When enough friends, colleagues, family members and celebrities come out, fear and hatred of LGBTI people tend to dissolve.

But for an individual, coming out can be risky, especially in an intensely homophobic country. Mike Daemon, host of the Nigeria-based No Strings podcasts, highlights those risks in the podcasts’ latest episode, titled “Should I come out?”

“It’s a life-changing decision,” he says of coming out. But “how safe will you be when this decision is finally made?” Some Nigerian parents have turned a son over to police after learning that he is gay, he says. Read more via 76Crimes
US: The cruel HIV stalking of Charlie Sheen takes us back to the ignorant 1980s
Charlie Sheen has officially come out as HIV positive. He was forced to do so in the wake of shrill tabloid reporting that harkened back to the worst HIV-related ignorance and bullying of the 1980s.

It feels like the 1980s, because of the nature of the speculation, which is purely prurient about Sheen basically being a man-slut, and how many people he has infected with HIV—and how knowingly has he done so, without disclosing his status to them. Suddenly, in my mind, Sheen seems like the kind of hunted man Rock Hudson became, as cameras followed him being shuttled on and off planes as he became sicker and sicker. The media likes nothing more than an ailing star—even better if HIV and AIDS means the story gets front-loaded with all kinds of judgment about their “lifestyle,” sexual and otherwise.

This obviously takes it as a given that Sheen’s right to privacy has been thoroughly trampled, and that this is somehow acceptable: He has been smoked out of the closet. The Enquirer, seeing their scoop slip through their fingers, has a feverish front page, the result of much investigation, which promises to expose the “Ex-Lovers’ Horror—Did He Infect Them?” Plus: “He’s Slept With Thousands of Women—And Men!”

The headline is a throwback too—to conflating HIV, a virus, and AIDS, the disease that it can lead to, although much less frequently today than it did back then because of advances in HIV drug treatment, which Sheen himself has reportedly started. Read more via The Daily Beast
US: College sports officials will reconsider cities chosen to host championships
Amid a national debate over civil rights protections based on sexual orientation, the Indianapolis-based NCAA apparently will reconsider sites already chosen to host its championships — including Indianapolis, the NCAA announced.

“We’ll continue to review current events in all cities bidding on NCAA championships and events, as well as cities that have already been named as future host sites, such as Indianapolis,” Bob Williams, NCAA senior vice president for communications, wrote. Requests to speak to NCAA leaders for more information were denied.

Among the Indianapolis events that could be in jeopardy is the NCAA’s richest showcase — the men’s basketball Final Four — slated to return to the city in 2021. The same event held here this year pumped an estimated $71 million into the local economy, according to Visit Indy. Indianapolis also is scheduled to host first- and second-round games in the 2017 men’s basketball tournament.

The NCAA statement about future and scheduled sites comes after Houston voters this month repealed an ordinance that banned discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Read more via IndyStar
Russia: A List Of “Gays We Respect”
In an article headlined “Gays We Respect,” the Russian edition of men’s magazine Maxim has “forgiven” a list of famous actors, authors and musicians for their sexual orientation, including Ian McKellen and Neal Patrick Harris.

“We, men, do not consider men who love men to be men. This is the rule,” the introduction to the post reads. “But there are exceptions. There are gays who have earned our respect and the right to remain real men in our eyes.” 

An editor at Maxim’s Russian edition told BuzzFeed News Nov. 26 “our position is clearly formulated in the introduction to the article.” Alexander Malenkov, the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Maxim, told the Russian News Service Nov. 30, “This is a joke article. It says so in it.” Nowhere in the text is it made clear that the article is meant to be a parody. The magazine has updated the post with a link added to the introduction, placed on the word “gays,” which leads to an article from 2013 about homosexuality.

“We are deeply disturbed by the article in Maxim Russia and fully condemn it,” a spokesperson for Maxim said. Read more via Buzzfeed
Back to top
Germany withdraws ‘homophobic’ Eurovision nomination
Xavier Naidoo will no longer represent Germany in next year’s competition after the public backlash led to a reevaluation of the nomination.  “It was certain that he’d polarise, but we were surprised by the forceful reactions. We misjudged this,” German broadcast coordinator said. Read more
Watch HIV+ guys read messages they got on Grindr Read more
Academy to consider trans actresses in their proper gender category Read more
Gay rugby documentary “Scrum” Read more
New Marsha P Johnson biopic praised as ‘real Stonewall story’ Read more
In its honesty and beauty, 'Carol' is a revolutionary piece of filmmaking Read more
'The Danish Girl,' about a transgender pioneer Read more
Australia: This is what happens at a formal for LGBT teens 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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