Anti-Trans Bus Tour Is Not Very Welcome In Spanish Cities; Gay Rights As A Weapon In Nationalist War On Muslims; Global LGBT Recap


The Guardian had asked readers for nominations of LGBT rights activists who are making a difference; they’ve now published their LGBT change heroes for 2017. The list includes activists and political leaders from South Africa, Syria, Brazil, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, Canada, the UK and USA,

The group Parity organized an effort to have LGBT-affirming clergy offer Ash Wednesday ashes that had purple glitter mixed into them. When Parity came up with the idea of glitter ashes, some Christians, even liberal ones, objected to the concept, saying that joyful glitter doesn’t belong on Ash Wednesday, a day of repentance. Others said that asking people to choose between glitter ash and regular ash would only deepen the bitter division in many Protestant churches over homosexuality…Clergy who requested glitter ash included Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Mennonites and many more. Many were located in more conservative parts of the country — Madison, Tenn.; Bedford, Tex.; Boone, N.C.; Algona, Iowa; Richmond, Ind.; Jefferson, Ga.; Hayes, Kan.; and many more small towns across the Midwest and the South made the list, as did churches in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Marie Collins, a survivor of clerical sex abuse who had been serving on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, resigned and criticized church officials for not following through on commitments to deal with the issue of sexual abuse in the church.

CHOUTTOUHONNA, the International Festival of Feminine Arts, which will be held in Tunis in September, has put out a call for applications. From the website:

CHOUFTOUHONNA believes in an intersectional feminism and wants to be inclusive. Thereby, the festival defends an art that emphasizes women’s visions and rights, but most of all the ambition to give a space of expression to women, in their diversity.

Holland: Politician Geert Wilders uses gay rights as weapon in nationalist anti-Muslim campaign

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder, Kim Deen and Addie Schulte profile Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who in their words turned gay rights into a weapon in a war against Muslims. Wilders was a featured speaker, along with Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, at an anti-Muslim “Gays for Trump” party held in Cleveland last summer during the Republican National Convention. Wilders hopes to be the next prime minister; elections are set for March 15:

The race has been dominated by Geert Wilders, the bleached-blonde leader of the Party for Freedom who polls show could win the largest bloc of votes in parliament. His candidacy is being watched as the next test of the nationalist wave that drove Britain out of the EU and put Donald Trump in the White House.

But the race is also uniquely focused on gay rights, because Wilders has framed his crusade against Islam in part as a defense of national values in the country proud to have adopted the world’s first marriage equality law and has remained a leader on LGBT rights in the years since. And several more moderate politicians have echoed the message that Muslim immigrants threaten gay people…

Wilders’ professed support of gay rights once put him out of step with other nationalist politicians in the West, who generally have also been social conservatives. But today Wilders seems like he was just ahead of his time, with politicians from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen following his lead and saying they are defending LGBT rights by opposing Muslim immigration.

For many in the room, this is just racism dressed up in liberal drag, helping make nationalism respectable again in the West.

Mexico: activists push state to follow-up on court orders and legislate marriage equality

Activists are calling on the Congress of the state of Chihuahua to amend state laws to recognize marriage equality. Mexican activists have been pursuing a long-term strategy of having same-sex couples get injunctions, or amparos, from federal courts allowing them to get legally married. Under the Mexican governmental structure, after federal courts issue five amparos on the same topic, the local Congress has 90 days to change its laws to align them with the courts’ interpretation of the constitution.

Trinidad and Tobago: Activist challenges anti-gay laws

OutRight Action International posted an interview with Jason Jones, who has filed a legal challenge to Trinidad and Tobago’s anti-gay law. In the video, he says that homophobic religious organizations and others feel that the law entitles them to discriminate against LGBT people. He said that the legal challenge has drawn criticism from both Christian and Muslim organizations, and that he has received death threats.

Belize: Religious Right target’s ‘pandora’x box of gender-identity issues’

The Belize Prayer Network, whose website features a testimonial from US-based pastor Rick Joyner, featured a report on an evangelism campaign by the National Evangelical Association of Belize targeting the country’s youth.

We joined in order to target the Pandora’s box of gender-identity issues raised by the legalization of sodomy and the government’s revised gender policy. Already the churches’ changes to the gender policy have been approved by the government time after time. Yet every time we get the latest version back from the government, some if not all of our approved changes are missing.

Now we want to go to the public for a vote on four constitutional amendments, so that the necessary changes will be fixed beyond cabinet or judicial reach. Specifically the amendments are: (1) sex defined as male and female only. (2) Marriage as between one man and one woman only. (3) Protection of religious freedom in church education, (4) Limits on LGBT public promotion. We believe these amendments make explicit what the Constitution already implies.

[NEAB Vice President Scott Stirm] also reported that the new Trump administration in Washington has committed to appoint a pro-family values US ambassador to Belize. That is what our recent petition, signed by almost 200 pastors, had requested. We needed such an ambassador in place of the pro-LGBT ambassador who had just stepped down.

Spain: Conservative Catholic group runs into opposition with anti-trans bus tour

HazteOir, the right-wing group whose president Ignacio Arsuaga is closely allied with anti-LGBT activists in the U.S. and globally, has launched a bus tour with a bright orange bus with a message being promoted by social conservative around the globe: there is not such thing as transgender identity. The bus reads, “Boys have penises. Girls Have Vulvas. Don’t be fooled.” Another message: “If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you will continue to be one.”

Activists and city officials around the country denounced the bus. The BBC reported that the Madrid City Council acted to force the bus off city streets. Barcelona’s mayor and city council have warned the bus to stay away.

Finland: Marriage equality goes into effect

Marriage law became officially gender neutral on March 1; same-sex couples previously registered as domestic partners by apply to a local magistrate to transform their partnership into a legal marriage.

Lebanon: Activists prepare for LGBT health week

LGBT Health Week starts on Saturday, March 11. This year’s theme is “Marginalization is bad for health.

United Kingdom: UK tells gay asylum seekers to go back to Afghanistan and pretend to be straight

The government recently suggested that gay Afghan refugees whose asylum claims have been rejected should hide their sexual orientation when they are returned to Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch calls LGBT asylum seekers from Afghanistan “among the most vulnerable,” noting, “To be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in Afghanistan is to risk abuse, even death.”

Guyana: Court says being trans not a crime, but laws used against them still on the books

The Court of Appeal confirmed a judge’s ruling that “the expression of one’s gender identity as a trans person is not in and of itself a crime,” but also upheld an 1893 law that forbids cross-dressing in public for any “improper purpose.” A trans activist said allowing such a vague provision to remain in place “allows police officers and other law enforcement to interpret the provisions to give effect to their own prejudices.” A report from the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) said that activists “intend to appeal this ruling to the Caribbean Court of Justice.”

Saudi Arabia: Police arrest 35 men

Police in Riyadh reportedly arrested 35 Pakistani men they said were gathering in a public restroom south of the city.

India: New report calls for decriminalization, so does gay prince

The International Commission of Jurists published the in-depth report: “Unnatural Offenses Obstacles to Justice in India Based on Sexual Orientation.” From its conclusion:

In describing the challenges that queer persons in India face while accessing justice, this report makes a number of arguments: First – laws which must guarantee and facilitate the full range of queer persons’ human rights, instead, operate to hinder or inhibit queer persons from accessing justice and seeking redress. Second – The attitude and behavior of police is one of the biggest barriers to queer persons’ access to the justice system in India. Not only do police officers commit acts of violence and discrimination against queer people, but they also refuse to file complaints by queer persons as a result of their bias or stereotypes. Third – the lack of queer friendly lawyer networks, combined with the range of challenges lawyers face and the biases of officials in the formal system, add to difficulties queer persons face while trying to access the justice system. The manner in which the legal and justice system operate in India is inconsistent with the obligations that the Indian state has under international human rights law to prevent violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Manvendra Singh, a 40-year-old gay man described as “India’s first openly gay prince,” is urging the decriminalization of homosexuality.

Israel: Gay couple part of military ad campaign

A social media campaign by the Air Force celebrating the families of career members included Capt. Adir Gabbai and his husband Din as well as their dog.

Central America: Profile of Central American LGBT refugees

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers writes from El Salvador about LGBT migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America.

Japan: Report on scope of school bullying

According to a survey by a nursing school professor in Osaka. “More than half of LGBT people in Japan were bullied in school and nearly 70 percent of them said their teachers did not help them at all.

Canada: Government not so liberal when it comes to LGBT refugees?

In the DailyXtra, Arshy Mann criticizes the Canadian government for turning its back on LGBT Iranian refugees who had made it as far as Turkey and, until a recent change in policy, had been hoping to make it to Canada.

Egypt: One of hardest place to be gay

On the Guardian’s list of “the most difficult places in the world to be gay or transgender,” Egypt is declared the “biggest jailer of gay men.”  Aya Nader notes in Egyptian Streets: “In July, Egypt’s permanent delegate to the United Nations said that Egypt will not comply with any pro-homosexual resolutions passed by the United Nations.”

Hungary: Mayor pushing anti-gay, anti-Muslim enclave

TIME reports on László Toroczkai, right-wing mayor of Ásotthalom who has banned burka wearing, mosque-building, and the Muslim call to prayer. The town also gays “gay propaganda.”

Argentina: UN expert to study anti-LGBT discrimination and violence

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the Thai diplomat and UN independent expert charged with investigating violence and discrimination against LGBT people, is in the middle of a ten-day trip to Argentina to assess the situation there.