Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag design that has become a symbol of the LGBT movement worldwide, died on March 31 in New York City.
March 31 was also International Transgender Day of Visibility. The international anti-trans bus tour and media campaign being backed by CitizenGo and the International Organization for the Family continued to draw protests in the U.S.
More than 300 people from 35 countries attended a conference last week on bolstering LGBT political engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean The gathering, covered by the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers, was held in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, where a number of religious leaders had been engaged in vocal rhetorical warfare against the openly gay former US ambassador to the country.
The New York Times profiled a number of everyday people, Muslims and Christians, who are taking part in legal challenges to the Trump administration overs its executive orders banning entry into the U.S. from a number of countries. Paul Harrison, an American man engaged to an Iranian man is among the individuals profiled:
Like the other plaintiffs, the couple veer between dread and hope with each successive legal victory, each sign that the Trump administration will not relent.
“We look at each other and we say, ‘Gosh, we don’t know whether we should laugh or cry at any given moment,’” Mr. Harrison said from Istanbul, where, unlike in Tehran, the couple is free to act like one. “Should we be happy? Should we be scared?”
Anti-LGBT group C-Fam touted its new “analysis” that shows, in their words, that “only a tiny number” of United Nations member states “are hung up on homosexuality.” C-Fam, which has organized anti-equality nations to resist recognition of LGBT equality at the UN. C-Fam charged that efforts by pro-equality nations have “undermined the entire human rights concept and led to increased distrust of human rights language from many UN member states.”
Russia: Wave of arrests and killings of gay men reported in Chechnya
More than 100 gay men have reportedly been detained, and many feared killed, in a wave of extra-judicial violence by officials in the region of Chechnya. The disappearances, confirmed by Novaya Gazeta, a Russian opposition newspaper, and reported by the New York Times on Saturday.
It began, Novaya Gazeta reported, after a Moscow-based gay rights group, GayRussia.ru, applied for permits to stage gay pride parades in four cities in Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, of which Chechnya is a part.
The group had not focused on the Muslim areas. It had been applying for permits for gay parades in provincial cities around Russia, and collecting the inevitable denials, in order to build a case about gay rights and freedom of assembly with the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France. It had applied to more than 90 municipal governments. Nikolai Alekseev, a gay rights activist coordinating this effort, told Novaya Gazeta he had chosen this tactic rather than staging risky, unsanctioned gay parades.
The group had not applied for a permit in Chechnya, but in another Muslim region in southern Russia, Kabardino-Balkaria. The mere application there — denied, as usual — had prompted an anti-gay counterdemonstration.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has allowed authorities in Muslim-majority Chechnya to impose a strict code based on their interpretation of Islam. Official attitudes toward homosexuality are reflected in the government’s response to the story:
A spokesman for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the report in a statement to Interfax on Saturday, calling the article “absolute lies and disinformation.”
“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” the spokesman, Alvi Karimov, told the news agency.
“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return,” Mr. Karimov said.
Catholic Church: Some conservatives upset by welcome to Luxembourg’s gay married prime minister
The prime minister of Luxembourg, the first European national leader who is married to a same-sex partner, was officially received by the Vatican during a meeting between the pope and EU leaders, news of which bothered some conservative Catholics. Some Catholic observers noted the contrast with the Vatican’s rejection of a gay ambassador from France. “They were welcomed by Bishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Pontifical House and Personal Secretary of Pope Benedict XVI,” complained a conservative Catholic publication. (The site also features denunciations of Francis over Amoris Laetitia, which some conservative Catholics believe is undermining church doctrine on marriage.)
Mexico: Documentary on same-sex couple’s struggle to marry; trans women embrace Santa Muerte
No Dresscode Required, a Mexican documentary about the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Baja California, won the John Schlesinger Award at the 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival in January. The couple was married in January 2015 after months of delays and refusals by local officials to approve a marriage license even thought they had received a federal court order allowing them to marry. The movie is on the festival circuit now. A trailer, in Spanish with English subtitles, is available online; it shows religious protesters opposing the marriage as well as pro-marriage-equality protesters carrying a banner that says, “Before God we are all his children and only He will judge us.”
At the Religion News Service, Stephen Woodman writes about a folk saint, Santa Muerte, who has become popular among transgender women in Mexico:
Violence against transgender women is common in Mexico, mostly because employment discrimination forces many to turn to sex work for money.
The skeleton saint — with her female form and association with death — is particularly appealing to transgender sex workers, who face the persistent threat of violent clients and transphobic hatred.
Unlike official church figures such as Our Lady of Guadalupe whose images are ethereal, Santa Muerte appeals to those with practical problems and passions living on the country’s margins. Devotees ask her for protection, even when sex work is their only occupation.
Woodman calls Santa Muerte “an example of religious syncretism, with roots in European Catholicism and Aztec beliefs.”
Condemned as satanic by the Catholic Church and frequently portrayed as a narco-cult in the media, worship of Santa Muerte is nevertheless a fast-growing new religious movement in the Americas, according to Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint.”
“Mexican Catholics and evangelicals tend to view transgenderism as a lifestyle choice,” said Chesnut. “But the fact that Santa Muerte is outside the orbit of both evangelical and Catholic Christianity makes her much more appealing. It’s much easier for followers to feel that she’s not going to be judgmental.”
In contrast, many transgender women feel rejected by mainstream churches. …
The Rev. Hugo Valdemar Romero, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, said the church does not abandon or excommunicate transgender people. But he does believe they suffer from pathology.
“Of course it is not acceptable for someone to violate their own biology,” he said. “Nature is very clear. There are men and there are women.”
As for Santa Muerte, Romero considers it a heretical cult. …
Despite the church’s condemnation, many Santa Muerte devotees describe themselves as Catholic.
Austria: Some activists prefer modern civil partnerships to marriage
Gay Star News reports that members of the Homosexual Initiative Vienna (HOSI) said that same-sex couples are better off remaining in civil partnerships under current law than seeking to be legally married:
‘The now remaining legal differences are either, in practice, of very little meaning or expressly wanted by the HOSI Vienna,’ said Lui Fidelsberger, chairperson of HOSI, in a statement.
‘After step child and general adoption, as well as access to reproductive medicine, have already been extended towards reigstered partnerships (and to same-sex long-term relationships), gays and lesbians with civil partnerships now have, in our opinion, access to a better legal standing compared to marriage.’
Fidelsberger argues the civil partnership law is the far better one, because it is written in modern language.
But, more importantly, she says it does better than the antiquated and often-amended marriage laws when it comes to fulfilling the demands of a modern relationship where both partners have equal rights.
‘Because of this we don’t want to swap civil partnerships for marriage in its current form,’ she said.
‘It would be downright crazy to, for example, apply the stricter divorce rules to civil partnerships!
The group is advocating for reform of marriage and divorce laws.
Indonesia: Scholars calculate cost of LGBT exclusion; urge French president to press human rights
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law published “LGBT Exclusion in Indonesia and Its Economic Effects.” As we reported, last year witnessed a wave of anti-LGBT rhetoric and action by religious and political leaders. The report by M.V. Lee Badgett, Amira Hasenbush and Winston Ekaprasetia Luhur, estimates that the cost to the Indonesian economy of attitudes and policies that prevent LGBT people from full participation in the country’s social and economic life could be $12 billion or more annually.
Human Rights Watch published an open letter to French President François Hollande urging him to raise the issue of LGBT human rights during his visit to Indonesia:
Specifically, we ask that you press President Jokowi to… publicly condemn all major incidents of anti-LGBT violence and harassment.
‘Direct the Indonesian police internal affairs division to investigate incidents of police collusion with militant Islamist groups in attacks on LGBT people and activists, and hold those responsible accountable.
‘Order all ministries to rescind anti-LGBT edicts, and ask the Ministry of Health to publicly reject the assertion by the Indonesian Psychiatric Association that homosexuality is a diagnosable mental health condition.’
Jamaica: Interviews with two major activists
Outright Action International published an interview with F.J. Genus of TransWave Jamaica that was conducted during the recent UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Outright also published an interview with LGBT and women’s rights activist Latoya Nugent, who was granted bail after being arrested on March 13 under the country’s cybermines law. According to Outright, Nugent “was arrested for publicly posting the names of purported sexual predators on Facebook, who in turn filed a formal complaint to the police for her ‘malicious’ intent.” Nugent said her case suggests that the wording of the law “leaves too much room for abuse” in the form of “essentially muscling human rights defenders.”
Germany: Muslim parents object to gay day-care teacher
Der Tagesspiegel reports on Muslim parents protesting the employment of a gay man as a beloved teacher at a Beriln day-care center. The story describes a clash of two worlds. “The parents come from the Arab region, from Russia, Turkey, from Romania,” the story says, quoting the teacher saying “For some of them, a homosexual is automatically a child molester.”
Seventh Day Adventists: Scholars document ‘despair’ of LGBT youth; documentaries give them voice
A husband-and-wife couple, Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer released in March the second installment of “Outspoken,” a planned ten-part series of short documentaries “featuring the stories of LGBT+ Adventists.” The first segment was released in February.
Spectrum also reported on a study carried out by four professors at Andrews University who surveyed hundreds of LGBT+ adults who were raised Adventist. According to an interview, they were “shocked” by the “level of despair among those who had grown up as Adventists.”
Islamic State: Reports that Mosul youth killed over homosexuality charges
According to news reports, ISIS sentenced a youth in Mosul to death on charges of homosexuality; he was reportedly thrown from a building and stoned.
Spain: Valencia passes gender identity law
The parliament of Valencia passed a gender identity law meant to guarantee self-determination and equal rights for transgender people.
China: LGBT students face bullying, get little support, says a report
At Sixth Tone, Fan Yiying wrote about the prevalence of bullying and lack of support for Chinese LGBT students at all levels, from primary school through college.
Singapore: Local businesses support pride celebration after govt bans foreign financial support
PinkNews reports that 50 local businesses stepped up to provide funding for this summer’s Pink Dot rally, the country’s LGBT pride event, after the government banned the event from receiving money from foreign groups. Google, Facebook and Twitter had been major donors.