The first few months of the Trump administration have been hard on LGBTQ Americans, to say the least. Yet for members of our global community, the new administration’s anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and antidemocratic policies and rhetoric are equally distressing. Many LGBTQ people around the world live in places where there are few to no legal protections, draconian civil or criminal penalties for being LGBTQ, and sometimes even threats of violence or death.
That is why the Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organization in the U.S., remains committed to advancing equality globally. In fact, without a champion in the White House, our work in support of global equality is even more important. This week, we are bringing 30 LGBTQ leaders from around the world to Washington, D.C., for HRC’s Global Innovative Advocacy Summit.
At the summit, these leaders will share their approaches to advocacy, learn from each other, and return home with renewed energy to continue their important work.
These innovators represent every region of the world and the spectrum of LGBTQ identities. They are also engaging in a variety of advocacy work — from corporate engagement and strategic litigation to building community through the arts. Each of them is an inspiration, a profile in courage.
Gabriel de la Cruz Soler, a global innovator from Peru, has utilized his artistic talents to promote acceptance and inclusion in a country where, according to the U.S. Department of State, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is widespread, culturally sanctioned, and largely underreported.
In 2014, Gabriel launched a public awareness campaign, No Tengo Miedo, modeled after the popular photo blog Humans of New York. He collected 400 stories from Peruvian LGBTQ people to raise the profiles of their lives and experiences.
Gabriel also used this campaign to engage political parties, persuading them to include LGBTQ issues in their platforms. As a result of the campaign, eight mayoral candidates publicly committed to developing policies to protect LGBTQ people from violence, and eight political parties now address LGBTQ issues in their platforms.
Owen, a global innovator from Nigeria, has used soccer to boost the self-confidence of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender girls and women. This effort is occurring in a country where same-sex activities are criminalized, and where, in the northern part of the country, archaic religious laws call for whipping and even death by stoning. Yet in this environment, Owen brings together LBT women each year not only to play soccer but also to empower them to fight for the repeal of laws and practices that violate the rights of women and LGBTQ people.
These are just two of the 30 innovators who are doing incredible work in places where being out is challenging or even very dangerous. We are excited that these advocates are joining us this week to learn from HRC and each other about innovative methods of advocacy that have improved the lives of LGBTQ people. And we know there is so much we can learn from them as we face our own political challenges with a president who prioritizes his own power over democratic institutions and the people he governs.
Now — more than ever — we must be listening to each other and combining our strengths to fight for the human rights of LGBTQ people everywhere. Love will trump hate. These are more than words that inspire us on a T-shirt or sign, but a profound belief in the power of we and the dignity of all. These words drive our action — to reach across borders and divisions, create coalitions, and mobilize the majority that we know believes in a world where no one should have to live in fear because of who they are or who they love.
Follow the activities of the summit online at #HRCGlobalSummit.
MARY BETH MAXWELL is HRC’s senior vice president for programs, research, and training. HRC Global seeks to leverage HRC’s substantial domestic knowledge, expertise and resources to have an impact around the world by supporting the efforts of LGBTQ organizations and advocates abroad. Read more about HRC Global here.