“Serious concerns” about hostile attitudes towards human rights in the UK, including the government’s failure to reform gender recognition laws and “transphobic fear-mongering”, have been raised by international human rights group Amnesty International.
The stark rebuke of the British government comes in Amnesty’s annual reporton human rights around the world.×ADVERTISING
Policies on immigration, housing and current efforts to curtail the right to protest mean the UK is “speeding towards the cliff edge” when it comes to upholding and preserving human rights legislation.
In its 408-page report, Amnesty also condemns the Conservative government’s failure to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in September 2020 as a move that “fell short of human rights standards”.
The GRA is the 2004 law that adult trans men and women use to get legal recognition of their gender. It is widely seen as outdated, overly bureaucratic, expensive, and exclusionary of non-binary people and under 18’s.
A huge consultation into potential reforms of the GRA attracted more than 108,000 responses, with 80 per cent of respondents in favour of de-medicalising the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate, and three-quarters in favour of dropping a requirement for trans people to provide “evidence” of living in their chosen gender.
But shelving the reforms, Conservative minister for women and equalities Liz Truss claimed it was “not a priority” for transgender people.
Moreover this, Amnesty said there is “growing transphobic rhetoric and fear-mongering in the media” in the UK.
“For years, the UK has been moving in the wrong direction on human rights – but things are now getting worse at an accelerating rate,” said Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen.
“Having made mistake after lethal mistake during the pandemic, the government is now shamefully trying to strip away our right to lawfully challenge its decisions, no matter how poor they are.”
The report also highlights Britain’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, recent assaults on the right to protest, police discrimination against Black and Asian communities, and the resumed arms trade with Saudi Arabia.
“On the right to protest, on the Human Rights Act, on accountability for coronavirus deaths, on asylum, on arms sales or on trade with despots, we’re speeding toward the cliff edge,” said Allen.
Almost all young people in the UK say they would support a friend who came out to them as trans, according to new research.
The independent survey of almost 3,000 secondary school pupils found that more than half (57 per cent) already have a trans friend.
Ninety-six per cent of LGBT+ young people said they would support a friend if they came out as trans, compared with 76 per cent of non-LGBT+ young people.
Carried out for LGBT+ young people’s charity Just Like Us for Trans Day of Visibility, the survey also reveals that while 84 per cent of secondary school pupils say they would be supportive “if a close friend came out as transgender”, only 76 per cent think that the same would be true of a teacher if their pupil came out as trans.
A total of 2,934 secondary school pupils, including 1,140 LGBT+ young people, aged 11 to 18 across 375 UK schools and colleges filled in the survey in December 2020 and January 2021.
Dominic Arnall, chief executive of Just Like Us, called for schools to ensure trans young people are as welcomed at school as they are by their peers.
“We are really glad that, with this independent research, we are able to shine a light on the opinions of young people themselves and how supportive they are of their trans peers,” said Arnall. “Secondary school age young people are clearly incredibly supportive of trans people and would have no problem with a friend coming out as trans.”
He added: “We hope that this is positive motivation for parents, schools and the media at large to embrace trans and all LGBT+ young people and accept them for who they are.”
One straight pupil in Year 11 at a school in the North East said: “Being transgender isn’t really a choice. If we are close friends then we are close friends for a reason and them being trans wouldn’t change that.
“It would have no negative impact on my life so there is no reason for me to not be as supportive as possible and make them feel comfortable.”
In October, new Home Office figures showed that police investigate seven transphobic offences every single day in the UK, with the numbers having quadrupled between 2014-15 and 2019-20 – a 354 per cent increase
As anti-trans hostility increases in the UK, a report from Galop found that more than a quarter of trans people have experienced transphobia at school, college or in their place of work. As a result, 40 per cent of trans people are too afraid to go to school or work.
The Montana legislature advanced a bill Wednesday (31 March) that would give the all-clear for entities to discriminate against LGBT+ people on the basis of “religious freedom”.
The Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 215, is on track to head to the desk of Republican governor Greg Gianforte– and he’s already signalled his intent to sign it.
The bill, dubbed “dangerous” by activists, would enable service providers to deny queer residents certain goods and aid, from ordering a cake at a bakery to accessing PrEP. Supporters say this would increase legal protections for religious expression.
“The free exercise of religion [is] a fundamental right,” the proposed legislation states.
Such restrictions could soon become a reality after the House voted 61-39 to pass the legislation in its second hearing, The Montana Free Press reported.
Montana lieutenant governor, Kristen Juras, previously flagged the administration’s support of SB215, stressing that the bill is “not a license to discriminate against the LGBT [sic],” the newspaper previously reported.
But the proposals have deeply alarmed state and national advocacy groups.
Not only would the bill allow bakeries, bride salons and photo studios to decline to serve a queer person, it would also drastically curb access to healthcare, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana warns on its website.
Religious workplaces could refuse contraceptives coverage on their healthcare plans, pharmacies could deny birth control subscriptions, therapists could turn away LGBT+ patients and authorities could reject providing security at Pride parades, activists claim.
According to Human Rights Campaign, a top advocacy group, the bill is “so sweeping and so dangerous that under it, LGBT+ Montanans could be denied access to PrEP and PEP and other life-saving medications by pharmacies”.
“Under this bill, businesses could refuse to comply with investigations into child labour laws.”
It comes just days after Montana’s Senate inched closer to banning trans athletes from taking part in high school and college sports, AP reported.
But in an attempt to forestall federal reprisal, lawmakers amended the proposal so it would automatically be voided if the Department of Education withholds federal education funding from the state if passed.
The letter calls for an end to the ongoing discriminatory rhetoric and attacks against trans people, and serves as a proud statement of solidarity between cis and transgender women.
Signatories include A-list celebrities such as Regina King, Selena Gomez and Megan Rapinoe, as well as activists and women’s rights groups like Gloria Steinem, the Me Too Movement and Planned Parenthood.
Others who signed include Mj Rodriguez, Patricia Arquette, Judith Light, Cynthia Erivo, Anna Wintour, Chelsea Clinton, Sarah Paulson, Peppermint, Lena Dunham, Beanie Feldstein, Alison Brie, Bella Hadid, Lena Waithe, Wanda Sykes and Janelle Monáe.
“Trans women and girls have been an integral part of the fight for gender liberation. We uphold that truth and denounce the ongoing anti-transgender rhetoric and efforts we witness in various industries,”
“We acknowledge with clarity and strength that transgender women are women and that transgender girls are girls. And we believe that honouring the diversity of women’s experiences is a strength, not a detriment to the feminist cause.
“All of us deserve the same access, freedoms, and opportunities. We deserveequal access to education, employment, healthcare, housing, recreation, and public accommodations. And we must respect each person’s right to bodily autonomy and self-determination.”
The signatories highlight the “wave of bigoted governmental policies and legislation” launched this year in the form of bills banning trans healthcare and inclusion in sports. They draw parallels with past efforts to legislate cis women’s healthcare, warning: “We refuse to let youth endure that now.”
The letter calls on others to fight against these “unnecessary and unethical barriers” placed on trans women and girls by lawmakers, as well as “those who co-opt the feminist label in the name of division and hatred”.
“Our feminism must be unapologetically expansive so that we can leave the door open for future generations,” they state conclusively. You can read their letter here in full.
Half of Generation Z thinks that traditional gender roles and labels related to the gender binary are outdated, according to a refreshing new study.
As issues of gender equality continue to challenge societal norms and influence public opinion, US-based ad agency Bigeye sought to understand consumers’ perception of gendered products and advertising.ADVERTISING
For the 2021 Gender Study the agency polled 2,000 adults from a range of ages, incomes, locations, and gender identities. Questions included the kinds of clothing they wear to their opinion on gender-neutral children’s toys and education.
They found that 50 per cent of Generation Z-ers are pushing back against the gender binary, and that sentiment is even higher among Millennials at 56 percent.
More than half (51 per cent) of all respondents agreed that, in a decade, we will associate gender with stereotypical personality traits, products, and occupations much less than we do today.
“While the majority of Americans are cisgender, a significant percentage of younger generations believe the notion of identity is fluid and decidedly non-traditional,” said Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye and the leader of the research team.
“This study provides a snapshot of the broad, generational spectrum of opinions and beliefs held toward gender identity and expression within the media we consume daily through TV, ads and online platforms.
“While the majority of older generations remain skeptical of advertising’s ability to change perceptions of traditional gender roles, Gen X and younger are leading the charge and challenging brands to portray more diverse audiences and expressions.”
It seems women are more likely to embrace gender-neutrality than men, as nearly three-quarters of cis female parents encourage gender-neutral play for their children (73 percent), a figure significantly higher than cis male parents (59 per cent).
And fifth of female respondents believe that none of the consumer product categories benefit at all from being gendered.
“Toiletries are constantly gendered and it is completely unnecessary. They should be labeled with the qualities of the product and the fragrance, if any. No mention of male or female is needed,” one Gen Y respondent wrote.
In another positive finding, LGBT+ participants were more likely to have faith in the next generation, with 82 per cent of queer millennials and 88 per cent of queer Boomers believing that Gen Z is better educated about non-binaryand transgender identities.
The LGBT+ community is made up of a diverse group of people from all over the world, and their stories are often overlooked in history books.
PinkNews spoke to ambassadors and workers from LGBT+ youth charity Just Like Us about the historical figures they wished they had learned about in school, from the past to the present.
Anne Lister, English landowner and diarist
Rita Leci, 21, said she learned about Anne Lister by watching the historical BBC drama Gentleman Jack. Lister is often heralded as the “first modern lesbian” as she took charge of her family’s estate and lived openly as a lesbian with her partner.
“I’ve always found her story really inspirational as she chose to go against society’s expectations by becoming a businesswoman and by choosing to be happy with someone she loves in a time when this was seriously frowned upon,” Levis said.
She explained Lister’s story “makes me realise that we are really lucky in a lot of ways, as women nowadays in the UK, to be able to pursue whatever career we like and to love and live with whomever we choose”.
Andy Warhol, American artist, film director and producer
Ramses, 25, said it took “me lots of additional reading” to discover Andy Warhol’s sexuality, despite the artist being mentioned during his modern art studies. Warhol was one of the first American artists to be gay, and his “Factory” – his studio – was a safe space for LGBT+ people, including transwomen.
“Learning about him in school would have shown me you could be LGBT+ and still be successful and famous, even in a period when discrimination was common and violent,” Ramses said. “His early drawings, movies, photographs and the community he created are a testament to the gay rights movement and an incredible contribution to LGBT+ history worldwide.”
As a trans gay man, Ramses shared that the way Warhol shaped the LGBT+ community “inspired me to get in touch with my own, creating a safe space for young LGBT+ people”.SPONSORED CONTENT
Even if you consider yourself to be in good health, it’s important to keep up with…
Alan Turing, English mathematician, computer scientist and logician
Both Roan Maclean, 23, and Daniel Mayor, 22, wished they had learned more about mathematician and World War II historical figure Alan Turing. Turing was a key member of the Allied forces cracking the Enigma Code, and he has been credited as being the father of modern computing.
“To be taught about LGBT+ history, especially ones that are at the top of their field and doing groundbreaking at the time work would have been amazing,” Mclean said. “It would have shown younger me that anything is possible.”
Mayor said he had learned about Turing’s contributions to modern computing, but nothing was said about him being gay or the way he was persecuted because of his sexuality. Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, and he died by suicide in 1954.
Mayor said it would have been “very powerful” if he knew that an LGBT+ person like Turing had such an “amazing impact on the world”.
Jack Bee Garland, author, journalist and nurse
Like many people, Emma Fay, director of education at Just Like Us, admitted to having not realised that “trans people had existed throughout history”. Fay said it was a “real awakening” to “discover the people out there who are bringing trans history to light and busting the often-repeated myth that we don’t know anything about it”.
“In particular, I wish I’d known about Jack Bee Garland, who I learned about for the first time recently while reading CN Lester’s book Trans Like Me,” Fay said. “That book has had a huge influence on how I understand gender and introduced me to loads of interesting trans people throughout time.”
Jack Bee Garland was born in San Francisco in 1869 and lived as a male in the city’s Tenderloin District. Garland adopted the male identity of Beebe Beam and accompanied the US Army to the Philippines in 1899 to participate in the Philippine War. When Garland became sick and was “found out”, his fellow soldiers were incredible allies, chipping in money to help him, helping him escape and even breaking him out of prison.
“It’s such an amazing piece of history that I wish I’d learned about at school,” Fay said.
Marsha P Johnson, American queer liberation activist
Jemima Churchhouse, 23, said she would have liked to have learned about Marsha P Johnson at school. Johnson was an outspoken, revolutionary Black trans woman who co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organisation that provided housing to homeless LGBT+ youth and sex workers in New York in the 1970s.
Johnson was a popular figure in New York City’s gay art scene, even modelling for Andy Warhol, and she was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. As trans rights are hotly debated in the UK and worldwide, Churchhouse said it was essential “that we remember that trans people such as Marsha have always fought alongside LGB+ people for our rights”.
“I wish I’d been taught that trans women, and especially trans women of colour, have always been at the forefront of the Gay Liberation movement,” Churchhouse said. “I’m so grateful to all of the LGBT+ people who came before me and have helped allow me to live freely and authentically.”
DJ Ritu, radio presenter and activist
Taz Rasul, director of volunteering at Just Like Us, said she would have liked to have learned about DJ Rita as a teenager. She explained: “15-year-old me was fine with my sexuality, but embarrassed about being Asian. Asians weren’t cool or relevant.”
Rasul said learning about a broadcaster and activist like DJ Ritu “might have forced open my view of who Asians are a little earlier in my life”. Ritu is a British Asian lesbian who helped run the UK’s first South Asian lesbian and gay group in the 1980s. Rasul said: “If my school had made LGBT+ people of every colour visible to me, I might have embraced every part of myself with pride.”
Dr Ben Barres, American neurobiologist
Dr Ben Barres was a neurobiologist at Standford University, and he became the first openly transgender scientist in the National Academy of Scientists in 2013. As a trans man, Krystof, 22, said he found “comfort and confidence” in Dr Barres story, “knowing that he has not only survived and thrived”.
Dr Barres transitioned in 1997, in the middle of his career, and he was appointed the chair of neurobiology at Stanford’s school of medicine. Krystof said Dr Barre’s story and career made the “idea of coming out” less scary because “I knew there was someone like me before”.
“It is important to see representation and for schools to teach about LGBT+ figures in all fields,” Krystof said.
Audre Lorde, American writer, feminist and civil rights activist
Dominic Arnall, chief executive of Just Like Us, said he had first read Audre Lorde‘s collection of essays Sister Outsider while he was working on a project on supporting LGBT+ rights activists in Russia. He said he became “completely enamoured by her writing style”.
“She wrote both with a profound wisdom and an innate understanding of the human condition and the systems that we operate in,” Arnall said. “Lorde had an ability to see a particular situation from many angles at the same time, drawing you to question what you already knew, including the systems by which you knew it.”
The self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior poet” is best known for writings reflecting her hatred of racial and sexual prejudice. Lorde dedicated her life and creative works to confronting and addressing social injustices including racism, homophobia, sexism, classism and capitalism.
Arnall said he’s sent copies of Sister Outsiders to colleagues, friends and even his mother. He added: “It was a permanent fixture in my bag, in one instance finishing it only to start back at the beginning again, needing to ensure some detail had not escaped my memory.”
School Diversity Week is the annual celebration of LGBT+ inclusion in education run by charity Just Like Us. Schools and colleges in the UK can sign up now to take part ahead of 21 – 25 June – last year schools representing 1.9 million young people took part. Just Like Us also runs school talks and provides free home learning resources for parents.
A man from Malaysia has won a landmark ruling against an Islamic gay sex ban, raising hopes for greater LGBT+ rights in the country.
The Muslim man – whose name has been withheld by his lawyer to protect his identity – filed the lawsuit after he was arrested in the central Selangor state of Malaysia in 2018 for attempting gay sex. He denied the allegation.
Same-sex acts are illegal in Malaysia, although convictions are rare. All 13 states and the federal territory in Malaysia criminalise same-sex relations and gender nonconformity. The federal penal code also punishes any form of anal or oral sex with up to 20 years in prison and mandatory caning.
In an unanimous decision, Malaysia’s top court ruled that the Islamic provision used in Selangor was unconstitutional, and authorities had no power to enact the law which bans sex “against the order of nature”.
The nine-judge panel ruled Selangor’s enactment of the anti-gay law was ultra vires, or beyond the state’s power, because under Malaysia’s constitution only the federal government may legislate some aspects of criminal law.
‘One small, but significant step forward’
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement the federal court’s ruling is “one small but significant step forward” for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. The HRW said: “In the face of pervasive anti-LGBT+ discourse, law and policy, Malaysian activists are taking steps to whittle away at institutionalised discrimination.”
The man involved in the legal challenge was among 11 men arrested on charges of “attempting” gay sex from a 2018 raid on a private residence in Selangor. In November 2019, a court convicted five of the men and sentenced them to fines, imprisonment and six strokes of the cane each.
Malaysia’s state laws are notorious for their persecution of LGBT+ people, especially trans women
Last year, the religious affairs minister gave “full license” for Malaysian police to arrest and detain trans people. Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri announced on social media that he had given the religious police “full licence to carry out its enforcement actions” against transgender people in Malaysia.
He elaborated that his order goes beyond arrests, but also allows police to subject trans people to “religious education” so that they will “return to the right path”.
More recently, Malaysia’s deputy religious affairs minister proposed to increase criminal penalties against LGBT+ people. Deputy minister for religious affairs Ahmad Marzuk Shaary has proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355) which would allow state courts to enact harsher sentences for same-sex conduct than the current maximum sentence permitted under federal law.
You may have heard of Abby and Brittany Hensel before, either on Oprah, in Time…
Act 355 limits the sentences that can be imposed by Sharia courts. The current sentence under the act includes three-year imprisonment, a fine of RM5,000 (£905) and six strokes with a cane.
However, Marzuk said this punishment was “not giving much effect on the group of people”. He said: “All state religious agencies and enforcers have been instructed to take action against those [LGBT+ people] who do not behave accordingly.”
The men were left “in mortal danger”, after their lawyer followed them to Chechnya and found they were being “pressured” to refuse legal representation.
Now, the Russian LGBT Network has been informed that the men are being held on the terrorism charge of aiding an illegal armed group.
The network said in a statement: “The investigation, however, did not provide objective evidence of the guilt of Ismail Isaev and Salekh Magamadov.”
On 8 February, the European Court of Human Rights “ordered Russia to explain the reasons for the detention of Magamadov and Isaev, to admit independent lawyers, medical workers, and their next of kin to them”.
But despite the order, legal representatives were not able to see their clients.
Sayputy Isaev, the 17-year-old’s father, said he was beaten and “blackmailed with the life of his son” if he did not sign a statement on the minor’s behalf to refuse a lawyer.
Magamadov and Isayev’s case is currently being considered, and they could face up to 15 years in prison in Chechnya. The men themselves said that “they had to sign statements and testimonies under threats and pressure”.
They are currently being held in SIZO no. 2, a pre-trial detention centre in Grozny, Chechnya.
You may have heard of Abby and Brittany Hensel before, either on Oprah, in Time…
In 2017, reports began to emerge of a “gay purge” in Chechnya, involving mass detention, abductions, torture and abuse of human rights against the LGBT+ community. Reports of such atrocities have continued in the years since.
The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadryov, has denied the reports as well the existence of any LGBT+ people in the region. He was hit with sanctions by the US government in July 2020 over the atrocities.
The UK government also ordered strict sanctions to be placed upon three top Chechen officials charged with torturing LGBT+ people in the region’s “gay purge” in December 2020.
“My first thought was, f**k you,” he said. “My second was, ‘What if there’s a gay kid that looks up to him? What if they see this? What if this gives more fodder to the bullies?’”
On the heels of this came his third thought: “I have to tell the Steelers’ story.”
Two years later Eammon’s done just that with a new documentary about the King’s Cross Steelers – the world’s first gay rugby club.
Debuting at the Glasgow Film Festival this week, Steelers follows the iconic London club as it challenges conventional perceptions around sexuality, gender and masculinity in sport, just by existing.
When the Steelers first formed in 1995 there was nothing else like them on the rugby landscape. It was the peak of the AIDS crisis and few straight teams would even agree to meet them on the pitch. Some ignored the invitation, believing it was an April Fool’s joke.
You may have heard of Abby and Brittany Hensel before, either on Oprah, in Time…
“When I was growing up, sport in general was always this hyper-masculine environment,” he said. “For whatever reason, the kids at school worked out that I was gay before I even knew it. That meant I was the butt of the jokes in every sports class or rugby match.
“They played up to all the stereotypes, that gay people have limp wrists and can’t throw a ball, so I was never really given the opportunity to succeed or to practice or to belong in a sporting environment.”
The bullying grew so bad that by the time he reached his senior year he was skipping every sports class. “By the end I absolutely hated it, passionately hated it you could say. And that was a real shame,” he said.
Those scars will never go away, but Eammon found something of an antidote with the Steelers, a team that gave him a space to fail and learn and improve, and gradually fall in love with sports again.
His experience is echoed by so many of his teammates, who speak candidly about their struggles with mental health and the salvation they’ve found with the club. For some – Eammon included – the Steelers has quite literally been a lifesaver.
“I got to the point where I wrote a goodbye note. That’s how low my depression had got,” he revealed. “And that was all a result of people’s words. They do have impact.”
Nearly three decades after it began the Steelers is a thriving, joyful celebration of masculinity in all its forms. And it’s no longer alone: there are now 80 gay and inclusive rugby clubs around the world, not to mention a bona fide gay rugby league.
But Israel Folau’s comments serve as an inescapable reminder of the homophobia that remains.
This painful truth underscores the whole documentary, which nonetheless manages to be a heartwarming success story, one Eammon hopes will serve as a vital counterpoint to the bigotry.
“Sportsmen and sportswomen, they’re like the modern day gladiators: they are role models in our society,” he said. “What they say and do matters because people do look up to them.
“I think the fact that that there aren’t many openly gay players in any league of professional sport for men just shows that we still do have a long way to go. And I hope that my film is one step towards where we need to be as a society.”