A prominent transgender activist in Colombia died on Saturday.
Laura Weinstein, director of Fundación Grupo de Acción y Apoyo a Personas Trans (GAAT), a trans rights group based in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, passed away four days after she was hospitalized with difficulty breathing.
“I have been hospitalized since yesterday because of breathing difficulties,” tweeted Weinstein on Dec. 31. “They gave me a COVID test and we are waiting for the results, but not being able to breath is something that I never wish upon anyone.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=mklavers81&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1344582721356656641&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonblade.com%2F2021%2F01%2F02%2Fprominent-transgender-activist-in-colombia-dies%2F&siteScreenName=WashBlade&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px
Wilson Castañeda Castro, director of Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBTQ advocacy group that works in areas along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, on Saturday told the Washington Blade that Weinstein’s coronavirus test came back negative.
Weinstein had previously fought cancer. Castañeda told the Blade her health had deteriorated in recent months.
“We mourn the death of GAAT Director Laura Weinstein,” tweeted Caribe Afirmativo on Saturday. “The joint work and collaborative effort for all these years forged a great friendship between us and her! We are devastated.”
Castañeda told the Blade that GAAT and Caribe Afirmativo in November requested Colombia’s National Electoral Council develop protocols to ensure trans Colombians can vote, regardless of their gender identity.
Weinstein over the last year worked with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to reduce HIV rates among Venezuelans who have migrated to Colombia. Castañeda said she worked with trans women and in particular sex workers.
Castañeda noted Weinstein a few months ago launched a campaign in Bogotá to support trans women and Venezuelan migrants. Weinstein was also among the Colombian LGBTQ activists who backed the 2016 peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that ended the country’s decades-long civil war.
“We will always remember her as a great ally, friend and tireless worker for human rights,” tweeted Colombia Diversa, another Colombian LGBTQ advocacy group.
Tatiana Piñeros, a trans woman who ran for the Colombian Senate in 2018, described Weinstein’s death to the Blade as a “big loss.” Mauricio Toro, who is the first openly gay man elected to the Colombian House of Representatives, is among those who also mourned Weinstein’s passing.
“Her fight and her inspiration will endure forever,” he tweeted.
The coronavirus pandemic was the dominant international story in 2020, but other news impacted the LGBTQ community around the world over the past year. Here are our picks for top 10 international stories of 2020.
No. 10: Anti-democracy crackdown looms over Hong Kong Gay Games
Organizers of the 2022 Gay Games that are slated to take place in Hong Kong insist the event will take place as scheduled, despite ongoing human rights abuses in the former British colony.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government continues to target pro-democracy protesters. The U.S. and other countries have criticized the crackdown.
Shiv Paul, a spokesperson for the Federation of Gay Games, which will oversee the games, in November told the Blade the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 committee has a contingency plan that will address “potential scenarios/risks such as an ongoing pandemic, social unrest or unseasonal weather events.” The games’ opening ceremony is scheduled to take place on Nov. 12, 2022.
No. 9: Sudan repeals death penalty for homosexuality
Sudan in July repealed a provision of its Penal Code that imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Article 148 of the Sudanese Penal Code from 1991 said anyone who is convicted of sodomy three times “shall be punished with death, or with life imprisonment.” Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chair of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, which was created in 2019 to govern the country on an interim basis after then-President Omar al-Bashir’s ouster, approved the removal of the death penalty provision from Article 148.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.
Lawmakers in Bhutan on Dec. 10 voted to amend portions of their country’s Penal Code that have been used to criminalize homosexuality. The amendment will become law once King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck signs it.
No. 8: Costa Rica becomes first Central American country with marriage equality
Costa Rica on May 26 became the first country in Central America to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Two women became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Costa Rica when they exchanged vows in the municipality of Heredia shortly after midnight. President Carlos Alvarado Quesada is among those who celebrated the historic milestone.
“Today we celebrate liberty, equality and democratic institutions,” tweeted Alvarado. “May empathy and love be the moral compass that allows us to move forward and build a country where everyone belongs.”
No. 7: Anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Poland draws international condemnation
The Polish government’s continued anti-LGBTQ crackdown sparked global outrage in 2020.
Police over the summer arrested Margot Szutowicz, a non-binary person, three times. One of the arrests stems from charges she allegedly damaged a truck promoting anti-LGBTQ messages and assaulted a pro-life demonstrator on June 2.
President Andrzej Duda in the lead up to the Polish presidential election said LGBTQ “ideology” is more harmful than communism.
Duda on June 24 met with President Trump at the White House. Duda on July 12 won re-election.
No. 6: ICE releases Blade contributor from Cuba
A Blade contributor who was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for nearly a year was released on March 4.
An immigration judge in September 2019 granted Yariel Valdés González asylum based on the persecution he suffered in Cuba because he was an independent journalist. The Board of Immigration Appeals on Feb. 28 dismissed an appeal of the judge’s ruling.
“I really feel that I am alive now,” Valdés told the Blade after he reunited with his aunt and uncle in Miami. “It is a wonderful feeling to feel free and to be able to take control of your life and above all knowing that you will not be persecuted again because of your ideas or your work.”
Valdés now lives with his boyfriend in Wilton Manors, Fla., and continues to contribute to the Blade.
No. 5: U.N. calls for global conversion therapy ban
The U.N. in July formally called for a ban on so-called conversion therapy.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, submitted a report with 130 submissions on practices and testimonies of victims who have experienced conversion therapy from civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, medical practitioners and individuals.
Germany, Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Taiwan have all banned the widely discredited practice. Maryland, D.C. and Virginia are among the U.S. jurisdictions that ban conversion therapy for minors.
A federal appeals court in November ruled bans on conversion therapy for minors in the Florida cities of Boca Raton and Palm Beach are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
No. 4: Trump policies further endanger LGBTQ migrants, asylum seekers
The Trump administration’s hardline immigration policy continued to put LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers at even more risk in 2020.
Three police officers in El Salvador who were convicted of murdering Camila Díaz Córdova, a transgender woman who the U.S. deported in 2017 after she fled anti-LGBTQ violence, were sentenced to 20 years in prison on July 28.
Activists say LGBTQ asylum seekers who are forced to await the outcome of their cases in Mexico under the Trump administration’s “return to Mexico” (MPP) policy puts them at increased risk of violence and human trafficking. A Human Rights Watch report notes the closure of the U.S.-Mexico border in March left asylum seekers “to suffer persecution in their home countries or in Mexico.
People with HIV, among other vulnerable groups, who were in ICE custody in 2020 were also at increased risk for the coronavirus as the pandemic spread throughout the U.S.
No. 3: Pope Francis publicly supports civil unions
LGBTQ Catholics and activists around the world in October welcomed Pope Francis’ public support of civil unions for same-sex couples.
Francis made the comments in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life that debuted at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, described Francis’ comments as a “historic moment” that “signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues.” Esteban Paulón, an activist in Argentina, noted Francis “in private expressed his support” for civil unions for same-sex couples during the marriage equality debate in his homeland before he became pope.
The Vatican’s tone toward LGBTQ Catholics has become more moderate under Francis’ papacy. Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged.
No. 2: Biden election celebrated around the world
President-elect Biden’s election in November renewed hopes the U.S. will once again champion LGBTQ rights abroad in an impactful way.
The incoming administration has said Biden will “immediately appoint” a special LGBTQ rights envoy at the State Department and a special coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development to handle the aforementioned issues. Biden has, among other things, also pledged to use the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Act to sanction those responsible for anti-LGBTQ rights abuses.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell led the Trump administration’s initiative that encouraged countries to decriminalize homosexuality, but many LGBTQ activists around the world remained highly skeptical of it.
“The planet is crying out for more compassionate, mature, visionary, unifying and empathetic leaders, and we now look to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to be an example,” ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis told the Blade after the election.
No. 1: Coronavirus sweeps the world
The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating impact on LGBTQ people around the world in 2020.
The vast majority of Pride celebrations took place virtually, with Global Pride drawing an audience of more than 57 million people on June 27. Ecuador is among the countries in which advocacy groups launched relief efforts to help LGBTQ people pay their rent and buy food and other basic supplies during coronavirus lockdowns.
The pandemic further exacerbated existing economic, social and racial inequalities. Efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus — such as “pico y género” rules in Panamá, Colombia and Perú that allowed people to leave their homes on certain days based on their gender — sparked criticism among transgender activists who felt they caused further discrimination based on gender identity.
Queer MPs such as Charlotte Nichols, Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake reflect a Britain where young people feel comfortable with and empowered by expressing their identities.
In December 2019, three more MPs in the House of Commons came out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual or queer, bringing the total number of out LGB MPs to a remarkable 56. Of course, Britain is still without its first transgender MP.
The Labour MPs Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East), Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) and Olivia Blake (Sheffield Hallam) came out as queer and bisexual. At 24, 28 and 30 years of age, they represent a new Britain where rapidly growing numbers of young people, in particular young women, now feel they have the space to identify as queer, bi or pansexual.
The average age of an MP is 52, but the average age of an queer MP is 45. Today, nine per cent of the 650 MPs identify as LGB+ but a remarkable 21 per cent of the 130 MPs aged 40 or younger say they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual or queer. When it comes to the 20-somethings who were elected in the general election of 2019 the proportion is one-third.
In contrast, only five per cent of MPs over 50 identify as queer.
This level of representation may seem surprisingly high but it reflects British society today.
Westminster is becoming a place where politicians, young and old, can express their identities honestly.
A June 2020 Ipsos-Mori poll found eight per cent of UK citizens 18 and above said they were only attracted to the same sex (gay or lesbian), three per cent said they were mostly attracted to the same sex, while four per cent were equally attracted to both sexes.
Another eight per cent said they were mostly attracted to the opposite sex but not uniformly. In sum at least 15 per cent of Britons identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, alongside another eight per cent who, in theory, could because they acknowledge their own same-sex attractions.
The growing number of people saying they are same-sex loving is driven by a younger generation who have found space to honestly express their identity.
The 33 per cent of MPs 30 years old or younger mirrors the 25 per cent of 18-30 Brits who say they are only attracted to the same sex (eight per cent), mostly attracted to the same sex (five per cent) or equally attracted to both sexes (12 per cent).
In 2020 just three-quarters of Generation Z (18-24) identify as heterosexual. Similarly, the 21 per cent of MPs under 40 who say they are LGBT+ matches the 22 per cent of Brits 18-40 who say they are same-sex attracted.
The 56 queer MPs represent parties across the political spectrum: 24 Conservatives, 21 Labour, 10 Scottish Nationalist and one Liberal Democrat.
All parties with multiple queer MPs have a broad mix of young and old but all the women MPs are Labour, SNP, or Liberal Democrat. Since Justine Greening and Margot James left the House at the last election, the Tories are without a woman in their LGBT+ caucus.
Whittome, Nichols and Blake illustrate something more about the politics of queer youth. There is evidence that bisexual/pansexual Brits are more left-wing than their gay and lesbian counterparts.
In the Ipsos-Mori 2020 poll, the gay and lesbians split equally into thirds between Tory and Labour voters and others including the Lib Dems, SNP and Greens.
But nearly half of all voters who expressed a degree of same-sex attraction (bisexual/pansexual) went for Labour and only 25 per cent for the Tories. Similarly, gay and lesbians were split 50/50 on how they voted on Brexit, half voting to remain, half voting to leave, but bisexual voters went 57 per cent for remain against only 43 per cent for leave.
Meet the 56 LGBT+ MPs sitting in the House of Commons.
Nadia Whittome, Labour, 24 Mhairi Black, SNP, 26 Jacob Young, Conservative, 27 Charlotte Nichols, Labour, 28 Elliot Colburn, Conservative, 28 Olivia Blake, Labour, 30 Antony Higginbotham, Conservative, 30 Gary Sambrook, Conservative, 31 Paul Holmes, Conservative, 32 William Wragg, Conservative, 33 Angela Crawley, SNP, 33 Dan Carden, Labour, 34 Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour, 34 Stewart McDonald, SNP, 34 Cat Smith, Labour, 35 Mark Fletcher, Conservative, 35 Kieran Mullan, Conservative, 36 Hannah Bardell, SNP, 37 Wes Streeting, Labour, 37 James Murray, Labour, 37 Chris Clarkson, Conservative, 38 Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat, 38 Stephen Morgan, Labour, 39 Luke Pollard, Labour, 40 Stephen Doughty, Labour, 40 Damien Moore, Conservative, 40 Lee Rowley, Conservative, 40 Rob Roberts, Conservative, 41 Stuart McDonald, SNP, 42 Peter Gibson, Conservative, 45 Alyn Smith, SNP, 47 Conor Burns, Conservative, 48 Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative, 48 Iain Stewart, Conservative, 48 Mark Menzies, Conservative, 49 Stuart Andrew, Conservative, 49 Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP, 49 Peter Kyle, Labour, 50 Gerald Jones, Labour, 50 Kate Osborne, Labour, 54 Joanna Cherry, SNP, 54 Neale Hanvey, SNP, 56 Steve Reed, Labour, 57 David Mundell, Conservative, 58 Chris Bryant, Labour, 58 Angela Eagle, Labour, 59 John Nicolson, SNP, 59 Ben Bradshaw, Labour, 60 Crispin Blunt, Conservative, 60 Mike Freer, Conservative, 60 Nick Gibb, Conservative, 60 Nigel Evans, Conservative, 63 Nia Griffith, Labour, 64 Nick Brown, Labour, 70 Michael Fabricant, Conservative, 70 Clive Betts, Labour, 70
Andrew Reynolds teaches politics and public policy at Princeton University and is director of Queer Politics at Princeton.
On October 6, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Tunisia raised their voices and banners in the street, amid the hundreds of demonstrators who were peacefully protesting a draft law that would drastically limit criminal accountability for the use of force by the security forces. By a cruel irony, police attacked the demonstrators, including LGBT activists, and arbitrarily arrested them.
The proposed law, if passed, would embolden security forces in their use of excessive force and send an alarming message to Tunisians, especially members of marginalized groups, already vulnerable to police misconduct, that they will not be protected from police violence.
For LGBT people, who are often excluded from government protection, the passage of this law is terrifying. Here’s why:
On August 5, Ahmed El-Tounsi, a transgender Tunisian man and founder of the trans rights organization OutCasts, thought he would bleed to death on the street.
El-Tounsi and other trans activists were walking near the French Embassy in Tunis when police officers guarding the embassy approached them and asked for their IDs. When the officers saw the mismatch between their IDs and their gender expression, and after a verbal altercation, the police physically and verbally assaulted them, the activists said.
Bloodied and humiliated, they tried to run, but additional police officers arrived and beat the activists, while inciting bystanders to join in – cursing, hitting, and dragging the activists by their clothes on the street, they told me.
“Kill them, they are sodomites,” the officers told bystanders, El-Tounsi said.
“They [private individuals] followed us into alleyways and beat us unconscious,” he said. “They snatched our phones to delete evidence of the assault, and said, ‘We will slaughter you,’ It felt like our entire country beat us that day.”
When he sought medical care at Habib Thameur Hospital, El-Tounsi was denied treatment based on his gender expression. “The doctor said, “You’re a special case, I can’t treat you here. Go somewhere else,”” El-Tounsi said.
“My chest was swollen from the beatings, I couldn’t breathe, I was bleeding profusely, I could barely stay conscious,” he said. When he went to Charles Nicole Hospital, administrative staff refused him entry after seeing his ID, and referred him to a women’s hospital, despite his self-identification as a man.
Activists took El-Tounsi to Wassila Bourguiba Hospital, which specializes in women’s health. “I’m bleeding, I’m going to die, please treat me,” El-Tounsi pleaded, but the doctor responded, “You look like a man, this is a women’s hospital.”
After he waited for hours and negotiated with the doctor, she checked El-Tounsi’s injuries while seven nurses stood around him, interrogating him about his gender identity, and addressing him with female pronouns. “They mocked me. They didn’t treat my injuries. They didn’t even give me a medical report.”
Activists turned to the courts and filed a complaint, seeking to hold police and embassy officers accountable. Several lawyers involved in the case told me that the head of a first instance court in Tunis dismissed the request to review camera footage near the embassy, which lawyers said would show the officers’ role in the assaults. The lawyers appealed in late October and await a decision.
Saif Ayadi, a social worker at Damj, a Tunis-based LGBT rights group, was there during the attacks on trans activists in August, and was among those arbitrarily arrested and beaten at the protest in October. He spoke to me about the increasing police violence against LGBT people in Tunisia, and the insurmountable dangers that would accompany the passage of the draft impunity law.
Ayadi said that in 2020, Damj provided legal assistance to LGBT people at police stations in 75 cases and responded to 98 requests for legal consultations. “These figures are five times higher than those we recorded in 2019, indicating an alarming increase in persecutions of LGBT people during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he told me.
Ayadi said that between March and September, his organization recorded 21 cases of violence against trans people in public, 10 torture cases, and 2 cases of bullying by security officers against trans people in detention facilities. There were also 12 prison sentences against trans people and gay men under articles 230, 225, and 125 of Tunisia’s penal code, which criminalize “sodomy,” “indecent behavior in public,” and “insulting a public officer,” respectively.
Tunisian law does not provide a clear or accessible path to legal gender recognition for transgender people, who face systemic discrimination compounded by the incongruity between their official documents and gender expression.
Amal Ayari, a prominent advocate for women’s and LGBT rights in Tunisia, told me, “Tunisia is considered a country where rights and freedoms are protected, but such flagrant violations of citizens’ rights show that this discourse is just slogans, and is an attempt to whitewash Tunisia’s international image.”
Instead of granting more power to the police, the Tunisian government should decriminalize same-sex conduct and protect LGBT people from discrimination and police violence. The proposed bill, Number 25/2015, a shameful step backward, should not pass.
Romania’s Constitutional Court this week struck down a law parliament adopted in June 2020 that would have, among other things, banned “activities aimed at spreading gender identity theory or opinion” in educational settings. This is a positive development as the law violated Romania’s international human rights obligations, including those undertaken as a party to the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The law defined “gender identity theory” as a belief that “gender is a concept that is different than the biological sex and the two are not always the same.” The fact that gender is distinct from sex is a truism in social science and widely accepted, including by the World Health Organization and the World Medical Association.
A ban on discussing gender in education settings would unjustifiably limit students’ and teachers’ rights to free expression and to information, including about gender. The law also threatened the right to health, particularly for transgender, non-binary, and intersex children, for whom denying access to information about gender could have pernicious physical and mental health consequences. In inflicting a disproportionate discriminatory impact on transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people, the ban also violated the core principle of equality based on sex. Notably, the European Court of Human Rights has on multiple occasions affirmed the obligation to protect transgender people from discrimination.
This ruling, while not available yet in full, will reverberate beyond Romania’s borders. Politicians and idealogues peddling vague notions of a threat posed by “gender identity theory” or “gender ideology,” span other countries in the region, including Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, and elsewhere, such as in Brazil. Courts and legislators should seek to curtail policies based on this dangerous rhetoric, first propagated by the Vatican and now sustained by those who seek to undermine the rights of girls, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. Governments around the world should be trying to counter gender stereotypes and gender-based discrimination, instead of passing laws to muzzle discussions of gender in education spaces. This ruling from Romania’s highest court is a step in the right direction.
High-profile Ugandan LGBT+ rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was “violently arrested” on money laundering charges in what activists have said was “an attack on human rights defenders”.
Opiyo is well-known for representing LGBT+ people in the harshly anti-LGBT+ African country. He was arrested in a restaurant in Kampala on Tuesday (22 December), according to Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organisation of which he is executive director.
Four other lawyers were also arrested: Anthony Odur, Herbert Dakasi, Simon Peter Esomu and Tenywa Hamid.
The organisation said it was deeply concerned about the “abduction and incommunicado detention” of Opiyo.
He was reportedly arrested by more than a dozen plain-clothed men with guns at Lamaro Restaurant in the suburb of Kamwokya. He was subsequently handcuffed and blindfolded alongside the four other lawyers.
‘Brutal abduction’ of human rights advocate Nicholas Opiyo condemned.
“Chapter Four is further concerned about the safety and well-being of Mr Opiyo, considering that he is being held outside of the protection of the law,” Chapter Four said in a statement released Tuesday.
“We condemn this brutal abduction and we call upon our colleagues and partners to condemn this arbitrary violation of his personal liberty, incommunicado detention, and call for his immediate unconditional release.”
Advocates for Nicholas Opiyo were granted access to see him at 11am on Wednesday (23 December).
“I feel OK health-wise – but my captors have not told me what I am being charged with. I have done nothing wrong, and of that I am absolutely sure,” Opiyo told activists.
They should have summoned him to the police to record a statement. Instead, he was violently arrested and detained incommunicado.
Chapter Four condemned the “high-handed and brutal” arrest, saying the country’s constitution is clear that a person charged with a criminal offence should be informed immediately of the charges levelled against them.
“Nicholas Opiyo is a fearless defender of human rights. His bold, unapologetic conviction and tireless work towards upholding and defending the constitutionally guaranteed rights for all is what the country needs,” said Angelo Izama, a board member with the organisation.
“We must fight against any efforts to crucify him on the altar of evolving political circumstances because wherever human beings exist – so will inalienable human rights.”
Opiyo appeared in court on Thursday (24 December) where he was remanded custody. His case was adjourned to 28 December.
A council in Canada has unanimously agreed to introduce a non-binary gender option on citizenship cards for its residents – at no extra cost.
Announcing the news on 18 December, Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand said: “We want our citizens to be themselves and not have to hide or be denied their identity.”
“We want this resolution to remind all our LGBTQ2+ citizens that you are embraced in our community and your Métis government, and we are proud of who you are,” Chartrand added.
The Manitoba Metis Federation cabinet, which governs the region of Manitoba in Canada, passed a unanimous resolution to introduce non-binary options and said that citizens who want to get new official documentation with the new non-binary gender option will be able to do so for free.
“The MMF has always encouraged our people to believe in themselves, and be proud to be themselves,” Chartrand said in a statement.
“The MMF has been on the leading edge of this topic for a number of years among Indigenous peoples,” Chartrand said. “All Canadians must have their basic human rights respected.”
Manitoba already introduced non-binary gender marker for birth and death certificates.
The new, inclusive policy for citizenship cards follows a Manitoba Human Rights Commission ruling that led to a non-binary gender option being introduced on birth and death certificates. In December 2019, Manitoba was ordered to pay $50,000 to a transgender person who was denied the right to have the gender marker on their birth certificate replaced with an “X” in.
The independent Manitoba Human Rights Commission ruled that the government’s position was discriminatory and there was nothing under the law that would prevent a third designation from being offered.
“Gender identity is a part of our concept of selfhood,” stated adjudicator Daniel Manning in the ruling.
“The practice to not allow non-binary designations of sex designation and only permit male or female designations was effectively the government refusing to acknowledge T.A.’s agency and personhood.”
He added: “The difficulties faced by trans and non-binary individuals in our society are many. Human rights tribunals have long recognised the disadvantages faced by trans people and non-binary individuals in society.”
Several other provinces already have the option to select a gender neutral marker on identity documents, including Ontario, Alberta, and Newfoundland Nova Scotia and Labrador.
The 23-year-old joined the human resources department of Banco Nación, Argentina’s leading state bank, this year. In September, President Alberto Fernández signed a decree establishing a 1 percent employment quota for transgender people in the public sector.
Only neighboring Uruguay has a comparable quota law promoting the labor inclusion of transgender people, who face discrimination in the region. According to Argentina’s LGBTQ community, 95 percent of transgender people do not have formal employment, with many forced to work in the sex industry where they face violence.
“If all the institutions implemented the trans quota, it would change a lot for many of my colleagues. It would change the quality of their lives and they would not die at 34, or 40, which is their life expectancy today,“ said Rojas, who has long, black hair and intense dark eyes.
There are no official figures on the size of the transgender community in Argentina, since it was not included in the last 2010 census. But LGBTQ organizations estimate there are 12,000 to 13,000 transgender adults in Argentina, which has a population topping 44 million.
Argentina, a pioneer in transgender rights, in 2010 enacted a marriage equality law and in 2012 it adopted an unprecedented gender identity law allowing transgender people to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex. The law also guarantees free access to sex-reassignment surgeries and hormonal treatments without prior legal or medical consent.
Rojas’ life story is similar to that faced by many other transgender people.
She came to Buenos Aires three years ago from a small town in northern Argentina, fleeing intolerance, but things were still tough in the capital and she was forced to prostitute herself.
One morning, a client invited her into his car to go to a hotel. But he strayed from the route to the hotel, took out a gun and told her “give me your wallet.”
“I didn’t know what to do,” Rojas said. “I grabbed the steering wheel and he hit me. I woke up three days later in the hospital with a facial fracture, facial reconstruction and the loss of hearing in one ear.”
After spending three months in the hospital, Rojas left sex work and became an activist for the transgender community.
She says she “feels comfortable, happy with the treatment they give me” at the bank.
Many transgender people live in the Gondolín, a building in the Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood with a blue front and painted mural of a mermaid and colored hearts. Transgender women come and go from the shared bathrooms to their rooms.
Guadalupe Olivares dons the pants, black shirt and briefcase she chose for an earlier job interview at the Ministry of Social Development.
“I think almost 100 percent of us have never had a registered job. You don’t know what a paycheck is. It’s a totally new world,” said Olivares, 33, who comes from San Juan province.
Smoking a cigarette and drinking a soda, Olivares said she submitted a lot of resumés. “When they called, I felt there was discrimination,” she said. “They didn’t tell you: ‘we’re not going to hire you as a ‘trava’ (transvestite),’ but they had that look asking why was I there.”
A report by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People published in December said “the vast majority of trans women in the region have sex work as their sole economic and subsistence livelihood.”
It goes on to say: In Latin America and the Caribbean transgender people have their right to work violated along with all their human rights, and this takes place “in a context of extreme violence.”
There have been advances in Argentina. This year, Diana Zurco became the first transgender presenter of Argentine television news, Mara Gómez was authorized by the Argentine Football Association to play in the professional women’s league and soprano María Castillo de Lima was the first transgender artist to go on stage at Teatro Colón.
However, the gap between the equality established by law and the real one remains large, warned Ese Montenegro, a male transgender activist hired as an adviser to the Chamber of Deputies’ women’s and diversity commission.
“We lack a lot, we lack education and political decision. We lack material and symbolic resources. There is a violence that is structural,” he said.
Lawmakers in Switzerland on Friday gave final approval to a marriage equality bill first introduced seven years ago.
The “Marriage for All” legislation passed in the National Council, which is the Federal Assembly’s lower house, by a 136-48 vote margin, even with the conservative Swiss People’s Party holding a 53-seat majority. The Council of States, the Federal Assembly’s upper house, approved the bill by a 24-11 vote margin.
“Yes!” the Swiss Rainbow Families Association tweeted following Friday’s vote, which also grants the country’s lesbian couples access to sperm donation, a sticking point for the bill’s conservative opponents.
Maria von Känel, vice president of the Swiss Rainbow Families Association, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday that a referendum challenge to the new law is expected, but should fail to gain much public support.
A survey that Pink Cross, a Swiss LGBTQ advocacy group, conducted in February found 81 percent of Swiss voters support same-sex marriage, including 67 percent of respondents who said they are members of the Swiss People’s Party.
ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel also told the Blade that her organization supports Switzerland’s hard-fought vote, which now aligns them with most of western Europe in terms of marriage equality, but noted “rainbow families” still face challenges.
Von Känel said the next step is to challenge barriers to same-sex parents to adopting children, particularly those born abroad.
A Scottish man has said he “hated everything” about himself after enduring six years of conversion therapy and “exorcisms” to make him straight.
Justin Beck, 36, told STV that he grew up in a religious family but moved church aged 17 because he wanted to make himself straight.
In his new church, he was put through traumatising conversion therapy that lasted six years, before he finally realised that it was not working when he was 23.
“I would put myself forward for healing every Sunday, then that would ramp up to things like exorcisms to have demons cast out of me and being anointed with oil, so from 17 to 23 that was like six years of just constantly going through that,” Beck said.
He said he was told constantly by church leaders that he had to “have faith” in order for the pseudoscientific practice to work.
“The line that I was given all the time was you just have to have faith, you just have to have faith. So then from 17 to 23 and then at 23 realising this is not working, and then to be told you just don’t have enough faith, was a massive slap in the face,” he said.
Beck’s life was torn apart by conversion therapy, and he was left hating everything about himself, his self-esteem in shreds.
“By the time I was 23 I had absolutely zero self-esteem, I hated myself, I hated everything about myself, I would walk with my head down, I wouldn’t look in mirrors or windows, I hated everything about myself.
“It was a lot to then try and pull myself back together and rebuild my life.”
Religious leaders have called for conversion therapy to be banned.
More than 370 religious leaders from 35 countries, including Desmond Tutu, signed a pledge as part of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ lives calling for the dangerous practice to be outlawed.
The powerful declaration declared that LGBT+ people are “a precious part of creation and are part of the natural order” and said queer people should be “treated equally under the law”.
Conversion therapy is widely considered to be a dangerous and harmful form of pseudoscience largely propagated be religious extremists.
The practice has been condemned by various health and psychiatry bodies across the world, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry.
A survey conducted by the Ozanne Foundation in 2019 found that one in five survivors of conversion therapy in the UK later attempted suicide, while two in five said they had suicidal thoughts after undergoing the harmful practice.
Meanwhile, less than a third of those surveyed said they went on to “lead a happy and fulfilled life”.
Despite this, conversion therapy continues to be popular among conservative Christian groups across the world, with many pushing the false narrative on LGBT+ youth that their identities are wrong and can be changed.
Conversion therapy has been banned in some parts of the world, but remains legal in the UK – despite the Conservative party’s repeated pledges to outlaw the practice.