lgbt rights

Stop Homophobic Bullying – LGBTQIA Rights as Human Rights

Photo of 6 hands touching, each painted a different rainbow colourby Nina Verfaillie

Over the past few years media outlets from around the world have covered the ongoing harassment of the LGBTQIA community through homophobic and transphobic bullying. The stories of homophobic and transphobic bullying appear nearly every day publicizing the stories of different victims and their individual and collective experiences of harassment and disenfranchisement.

Transphobic and homophobic bullying are clear examples of how discriminatory acts of harassment and violence speak to the base vulnerabilities of us all, and violate an individual’s basic rights.

The effects of bullying are well documented. We hear about the obvious suffering and torture of individuals bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We hear documented struggles of families to find recourse and justice in their communities, schools, places of employment and courts of law. These narratives demonstrate how often bullying is documented and reported and also how consistently it is ignored, ill-handled and in some cases supported or even committed by our community leaders.

In a 2011 study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, an overwhelming majority of LGBT students reported being harassed for their gender identity or sexual orientation. The study revealed that 81.9% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students reported being verbally harassed, 38.3% reported being physically harassed and 18.3% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

That means that 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school. LGBT students are 2 to 3 times more bullied than straight hetero-normative students and LGBT teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide. That figure doubles for LGBT youth who have been rejected by their families.

The effects of bullying are damaging enough without taking into consideration what it’s like to identify with and be part of a group where being bullied because of your specific identity is a dominant experience. LGBT bullying is frequently linked with suicide and depression. There are increased reports of victims engaging in risky sexual and drug-related activities as well as experiencing social adjustment issues and other long-term health concerns. In a school environment being bullied interferes with a student’s ability to learn and perform well and can impact the ability to graduate, find a job or have a career.

Without legal protections enforced through legislative mechanisms and support and participation from academic institutions, homophobic and transphobic bullying will persist and continue to threaten human rights as a whole. Bullying and harassment that specifically targets the LGBTQIA community is a human rights issue and failure to effectively combat and prevent discriminatory bullying based on gender and sexual identities threatens all of us. The absence of justice and victims’ rights cultivates an acceptance of gender and sexual violence and the selective and therefore ineffectual enforcement of human rights and civil protections.

Human rights are the universal fundamental rights of all human beings, inalienable from the human condition. These rights are the expressed embodiments of our shared dignity as people which are to be protected, guaranteed and enjoyed.

Human rights are understood to be the same for everyone. They are intertwined in both conception and practice. Individual human rights are dependent upon each other in order to be fully protected or accessed, and no one right is fully enjoyed without the same protections and guarantees afforded to provide the enjoyment of all rights. They are held through their universality and each individual right is an expression of a larger notion of the rights of us all and the explicit dignities of personhood. Read more

Posted on by Nina Verfaillie in LGBT Leave a comment

Pope Francis Dodges Binarism and Raises Questions for All

Photo of Pope Francis in white vestments from March 2013by Jessica Mason McFadden

Let’s talk Pope for a few minutes. The figurehead’s been in the news lately, and has, I guess you could say, a fairly big circle of influence. Clearly, it’s time that we, as feminists, weigh in respectfully and thoughtfully with whatever we’ve got. I’ll begin:

When I heard the news that He had spoken of the homos, I knew very well that I would be able to divine meaning from his words. The way that I heard about it, however, still gives me a chuckle. I was in a graduate-level Religious Studies class, of all places! At the start of class, a classmate who studies broadcasting asked if any of us would like to speak about Pope Francis’ comments for his campus news opinion segment. Immediately, I wanted to speak, but there was only one problem: I didn’t know anything about what the Pope had said.

Right away, I asked what he had said and the room was filled with an incoherent mess about Pope Francis’ remarks on homosexuality, about him not wanting to comment, about him saying that homosexuality is a sin but you can be forgiven if you don’t commit homosexual acts. I felt lost in a papal abyss of homoerotic ambiguity.

We pulled up an article and I got a general idea, but still felt uninformed.  Nevertheless, I formulated a statement, suggesting that if we’re confused about what the Pope meant that we ask him directly what he meant. I also threw in a line about encouraging the Pope to allow women to serve as members of the clergy, after which I went blank from camera fright.

When I returned to my seat, I regretted that I did not go up with my fingers in peace signs and croon, “Sineaaaaaad” in my best Bill & Ted voice. I also regretted that I had not responded to my classmate’s question by discussing the fact that there are many, many, mannnnny homosexuals already in the church, since his question implied that homosexuals somehow exist entirely outside of it. The priesthood, in my bold but gently-intended opinion, is a largely homoerotic institution. The fact that we can speak about homosexuality as if it is outside of the church is by far the most baffling aspect of this whole is-this-or-is-this-not-controversy exchange.

Clergy aside, apparently there is still some confusion about where Pope Francis stands on contemporary political issues, but much of that has to do with our collective desire for concretes to fight, either for or against.

Thanks to his interview with Rev. Antonio Spadaro, we have a few more clues. According to my decoding, when it comes to homosexuality, Pope Francis puts the person first. Essentially, he doesn’t exactly say what the church should say to homosexuals. Instead, he poses more questions. Sure, it may be a moment of rhetorical deflection, but I like to think he’s offering a wise and high-minded response.

In not answering the question in terms of judgment, he sets an excellent example for anyone. In other words, by not condemning, he offers acceptance. He also offers depersonalized wisdom, saying, “it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” Read more

Posted on by Jessica Mason McFadden in Feminism, LGBT Leave a comment

LGBT News Recap of 2012

Now This News recaps the biggest highlights and setbacks for LGBT rights in the US and worldwide from 2012.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in LGBT Leave a comment

Sipping Tea with Candy

by Matilda Branson

“Hello madame, how are you? Which country you from?”

This is a pretty common phrase I hear when, on my days off, I get my rubber-necking tourist persona on around Kathmandu, taking in the sites, amazing temples and general hustle and bustle of what can be frankly a bloody crazy city.

Often, I’ll tend to ignore these repetitive cries from locals, as they inevitably lead to my being implored to buy their Tiger Balm or mini Buddha statuettes. This time though, the biggest concern for the day, as I wandered around with a traveller buddy of mine, was what to have for lunch – so, I decided to give this local guy the time of day.

After finding out what I did (“where you live? What you do? How long in Nepal?”), and that I work with a minority (Dalit women), he told my friend and I about himself quite openly (with the added, “Call me Candy*”) – that he was formerly involved in the Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) community and identified as transgender. But now he has a young son and family and fears discrimination against his son, so lives a “normal” Nepali life, and only cross-dresses on special occasions. Then Candy asked my friend and me home for a cup of tea with his family. Read more

Posted on by Matilda Branson in LGBT 1 Comment

Same-Sex Marriage Can Be Part of Human Nature Too

Same-Sex Marriage Cake ToppersGender Focus welcomes guest contributor Bianca. Bianca is a Calgary  blogger who loves to write. She is interested in knowledge – especially trying to understand our world in a rational way. She is currently exploring the work of biologist Jeremy Griffith, who is addressing these deeper questions and it’s explaining a lot to her! You can read a review here.

A person’s teenage years are a time of evolution. You go through a lot of changes as a result of your human nature – both emotional and physical ones. It isn’t an easy process for any person to go through. However, I had an especially difficult time because not only was I a teenager growing up in Calgary, I was a lesbian.

Calgary was probably one of the worst cities to grow up as a lesbian. Now the situation has drastically changed and Canadian society has become far more accepting, but when I was in high school I felt very alone and angry at the world. I had known I was a lesbian ever since I was twelve years old. Around that time a lot of my friends began dating, had their first kiss, and so on. I kept trying to be interested in the male qualities women were supposed to be attracted to – tall, dark, and handsome, that sort of thing, but I always found my female friends to be far more appealing in terms of their looks as well as the emotional connection it was possible to develop with a woman.

I finally gave up the charade and admitted to myself that I was a lesbian. That was the difficult part. However, the uncomfortable part was telling my family. That is why I waited three years to break the news. They were complete, by-the-book Christians, which didn’t make them the ideal audience. I thought when I told them they would be angry, but it was the complete opposite. I almost wish they were angry. They tried to reason with me, convince me that I was just confused, that what I was feeling was against human nature. I tried to counter their argument by saying that homosexuality occurs everywhere in human nature as well as the natural world. I mean, ¾ of giraffes have homosexual relationships and male penguins have been known to mate for life! This was to no avail. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT Leave a comment

Abortion Rights Are Queer Rights

This piece was originally posted at Synergy, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s student and youth network for reproductive justice blog. It was written by guest contributor Kailey Willetts. She is a UVic student journalist working in the areas of queer rights and reproductive justice. Cross-posted with permission.

Anti-choicers love to connect queer people with the struggle for abortion rights in truly absurd ways. One example is this charmer from blogger, Alissa Golob:

“On an ideological level, homosexuality tends towards being individualistic; in a practical sense, profoundly sterile. Homosexuality uses sex as an instrument for self-gratifying pleasure, and cannot physically be used in the unitive and procreative way it was intended.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you find mainstream gay rights activists vehemently asserting that abortion rights are not gay rights. These are very likely the same gay rights activists solely occupied with pursuing the right to have children and parent.

While forsaking one aspect of reproductive justice that you don’t feel impacts you is shitty, it goes far beyond that. Reproductive justice in all aspects is a queer rights issue; abortion is a queer rights issue (and not because we’re “profoundly sterile”). Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT, Politics Leave a comment

Rest in Peace, David Kato

by Roxanna Bennett

(Trigger Warning for homophobic violence and coarse language)

David Kato, a gay rights activist in Uganda, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer on Wednesday, January 26. He died of his injuries en route to hospital. Police spokesperson Vincent Sekatte stated that there is no connection between homophobia and the murder, insisting that Kato was killed by ‘robbers’ who have killed ten other people in Kato’s neighborhood in the past two months.

I don’t buy it. Kato and two others had successfully sued Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone the previous year for publishing a photo of him that publicly outed him as homosexual in an article that called for all gay people to be hanged, and accused gay rights activists of recruiting youth into homosexuality. Kato secured a court injunction against any media outing homosexuals. In the current climate of homophobic hysteria in Uganda, being publicly outed effectively makes you a target for murder. Kato had received numerous death threats before his death.

Thank you, nice white people! In March 2009, a two day conference for the Family Life Network’s “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda” was held in Uganda featuring three American evangelical assholes: Missionary Scott Lively, author of the lovely tome “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brudidge, a ‘former’ gay man who leads seminars to heal homosexuals of their obvious sickness and Don Schmierer, member of Exodus International. Exodus International is one of those fun organizations that brainwash people out of homosexuality using ‘Reparative Therapy’ which many of their members have used:

“Exodus is a worldwide network of former homosexuals and the largest evangelical organization dealing with homosexuality in the world today.”

On their website, Exodus has also changed the term ‘hate crime’ to ‘thought crime’ because:

“-thought crimes laws offer more legal protection to certain citizens based on their sexual preference alone. In addition, these laws pave the way to prosecute biblical beliefs about homosexuality, instead of prosecuting illegal actions that harm others.”

These aforementioned douchebag assholes are backpedaling like crazy to distance themselves from the murder of David Kato, although it was their conference in Uganda that stirred up the current homophobic hysteria to begin with.
 According to Stephen Langa, organizer of the Ugandan conference, the focus of the meeting was ‘the gay agenda’ and the threat homosexuals pose to traditional African family and Christian values. Attendees at the conference included teachers, police officers, politicians and thousands of citizens who were told that the gay movement is an evil institution trying to replace marriage with a culture of promiscuity and that homosexual men often anally rape teenage boys. They were also treated to lectures and discussions on how to make a gay person heterosexual. For a very in-depth look at how the American Evangelical right has f*ed most of Africa with their Bush administration money and hate-mongering, read this article by Kapya Kaoma.

Shortly after the conference, a private member’s bill called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced by MP David Bahati. Even though homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, this bill, if passed, would mean the death penalty for anyone who engages in same-sex acts with people under the age of 18, the death penalty for anyone who is HIV-positive, and for the extradition of citizens who engage in homosexuality outside of Uganda. It also intends to penalize any person, company, media outlet or organization that advocates or supports the rights of LGBTQ people or knows of anyone who engages in homosexual activity and does not report it within twenty-four hours.
Under the existing law, any Ugandan found engaging in sexual activities with a member of the same gender can be imprisoned for up to 14 years. So it’s already pretty shit to be gay in Uganda. And not Uganda in particular; being homosexual is illegal in 37 countries in Africa. Thanks again, nice with people! Thanks for sharing!

Why anyone cares about who has sex with whom is beyond me. Aren’t there starving people and wars and natural disasters and fatal diseases to get upset about? How about redirecting all of that energy into solving actual problems instead of bludgeoning to death someone whose only crime was to be authentic about his sexual orientation? David Kato’s murder is sickening. Even at his funeral, attended by hundreds, a pastor started screaming at the congregation to repent and started ranting about Sodom and Gomorrah.

David Kato was brave enough to speak out against bigotry and hatred and for his courage he was beaten to death.

“It is said that the life of a brave man is always short.” – Anthony Claret


Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in LGBT, Politics 4 Comments