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From the closet to the Community

By Lesley Esteves

I am 33 years old and I live in Delhi, at the centre of numerous comforting, celebratory and ever validating queer spaces.  But I grew up in Bombay, in a time when there were no spaces for lesbian women and gay men were only beginning to carve the first visible spaces in that city.  I grew up thinking I was the only sick person on this earth who harboured a desire to touch another woman.  One day my mother brought home this Savvy magazine.  It had a story on it about Sylvie, the out gay hairdresser from Delhi.  I don’t really remember the story now, it was way back when I was in school, but I remember there was a photo of Sylvie dressed as a bride, kissing a man and I remember my reaction to that. I was horrified.  I thought, these people are freaks and that’s not what I am. I cant be these people.  I shuddered at the thought that my peers in school would tell me I’m like Sylvie.

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Uganda Civil Rights Coalition Denounces Anti-Homosexuality Bill

By Jim Burroway

A coalition of twenty-two Ugandan professional and civil rights advocacy groups have joined together to denounce (PDF: 52KB/4 pages) the barbaric Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 that was introduced before Parliament last week. The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law describes the bill as not just an “anti-homosexuality” bill, but also as “the ‘Anti Civil Society Bill,’ the ‘Anti Public Health Bill,’ or the ‘Anti-Constitution Bill,’” or more specifically, “the Anti Human Rights Bill.” And they liken the bill’s measures with some of the more repressive practices of the Idi Amin era.

The coalition points out eight specific constitutional articles which the proposed bill violates, and a long list of people who would be put at risk of serious criminal penalties should the bill pass. This list includes not only LGBT people themselves, but also parents, teachers, landlords, doctors, human rights activists, religious counselors, publishers, and even Internet cafe operators.

The proposed bill would:

  • Reaffirm the lifetime sentence currently provided upon conviction of homosexuality, and extends the definition from sexual activity to merely “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
  • Create a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” which provides for the death penalty for “repeat offenders” and for cases where the individual is HIV-positive.
  • Criminalizes all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
  • Criminalizes the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Adds a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
  • Adds an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
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Gay Humanists Warn: Vatican and Italian Government Have Blood on their Hands

London 21st October 2009

"If the Vatican and the Italian Parliament continue to block Anti-Hate Laws, then both will have blood on their hands."

- David Christmas, GALHA Secretary

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) strongly supports the demonstrations held in Rome last weekend, protesting against the refusal of the Italian Parliament to pass laws protecting people physically victimised because of their sexual orientation.

The bill, which aimed to provide a deterrent against the growing number of "hate crimes" across Italy , especially against LGBT people, was voted out by an "unholy alliance" of Right Wing and Left Wing politicians, with the strong support of the Catholic Church.

As well as acting to torpedo this bill, the Vatican, has been a key player in denying gay Italian citizens other rights, such as the right to marriage or civil partnerships, that are rapidly becoming the norm elsewhere in Western Europe.

MPs rejecting the bill argued that it would give "special rights" to gay people, violating the Italian constitution which requires equality for all. More bizarrely, and inconsistently, it was claimed that it would also offer protection to tendencies such as paedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and incest.

In response, on Sunday 18th October, protestors organised "Flash Mobs" in several key locations in Rome , acting out their own "deaths" and wearing pink triangles, to hammer home the message sent out by Parliament, that violence against gay people is not an especially urgent issue. The clear message was that, in the event of any more attacks targeting gay people, the Italian Parliament and Government will have "blood on their hands".

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A Summary Of Straight Privilege In Daily Life

The other day I found online a list of observations made by a class of heterosexual university students in the USA, asked to think about advantages held by heterosexual students over their non-heterosexual counterparts. I think they made a very good effort, and I think doing such an exercise helps to broaden the mind.

It certainly helps to show others how fortunate they are - and highlights the clear advantages straight people have over us - and thereby reveals the inequalities in society we face today. Hopefully this will show people why it is we fight for equal rights - and that we really have a few good reasons to gripe after all.

I thought about it and worked through the original posting, making some additions of my own - and this is what I came up with:

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Telling Our Stories

By Sivagami Subbaraman

[Talks given at various Washington DC Asian and S. Asian LGBTQ community organizations]

Our lives are about silences.  Our lives—as trans, as khush, as gender queer, as shiva-shakti, as bisexuals, as lesbians, and gay people –are about silences. The silence of knowing and of not-knowing.  Of acceptance and of denial.  The silences of our families and communities about all of who we are.  And then there are the silences within us–we are both silent and silenced by fear and by love: fear of our family and love of our family that holds us all in thrall.

I came to the US exactly 25 years ago.  I arrived a Tamilian, a Brahmin, a Feminist, a divorced woman—each of these descriptors invoking a particular gestalt. In the years that have followed, I became the wrong “Indian,” an East Indian, a third world citizen, a woman of color, an Indian American, and most recently a S. Asian.  I was a Non-Resident Alien, and now am a Resident one; and when I go across spaces to what I still call “home,” I have become a compact, Americanized acronym: NRI—Non-Resident Indian.  My personal story is not important except as it gestures to those larger social, political and cultural landscapes that shape and reshape our identities—and the constant making and remaking of our self-markers.

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Peter Tatchell: The global struggle for queer freedom

By Peter Tatchell

Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture 2009

Delivered 13 October 2009 at Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln, UK.

It is a very great honour, and joy, to deliver the Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture 2009. Caroline was a friend and comrade. I remember her with much affection. She left us with a fine humanitarian legacy as a leading advocate of comprehensive education and better educational opportunities. She also lives on, in spirit, through her inspiring, passionate support for socialism, trade union rights, women’s equality and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) freedom. She was a true progressive, who dedicated her life, with much honour and nobility, to the upliftment of humanity. I am very proud to have known Caroline, and salute her life and work with this lecture.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have made great progress in Britain, especially in the last decade. But in large parts of the world, homophobic and transphobic oppression remains rife.

Take Jamaica, a country with which Britain has close ties. It is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth. It is not a police-state dictatorship. Yet male homosexuality is criminalised and punishable with up to 10 years hard labour. Homophobic discrimination and violence is endemic and the government refuses to take any serious action to protect LGBT Jamaicans.

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Living on the Extreme Margin: Social Exclusion of the Transgender Population (Hijra) in Bangladesh

By Sharful Islam Khan, Mohammed Iftekher Hussain, Shaila Parveen, Mahbubul Islam Bhuiyan, Gorkey Gourab, Golam Faruk Sarker, Shohael Mahmud Arafat and Joya Sikder


The transgender people (hijra), who claim to be neither male nor female, are socially excluded in Bangladesh.  This paper describes social exclusion of hijra [The term is used in this abstract both in singular and plural sense] focusing on the pathway between exclusion and sexual health. In an ethnographic study, 50 in-depth interviews with hijra, 20 key-informant interviews, and 10 focus-group discussions (FGDs), along with extensive field observations, were conducted. 

The findings revealed that hijra are located at the extreme margin of exclusion having no sociopolitical space where a hijra can lead life of a human being with dignity.  Their deprivations are grounded in non-recognition as a separate gendered human being beyond the male-female dichotomy. 

Being outside this norm has prevented them from positioning themselves in greater society with human potential and security.  They are physically, verbally, and sexually abused.  Extreme social exclusion diminishes self-esteem and sense of social responsibility. 

Before safer sex interventions can be effective in a broader scale, hijra need to be recognized as having a space on society’s gender continuum.  Hijra, as the citizens of Bangladesh and part of society’s diversity, have gender, sexual and citizenship rights, that need to be protected.

Read the full report here.

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China: Stop Police Discrimination Against Gay Men in Guangzhou

[via IGLHRC website]

The Issue

On March 30 and April 3, 2009, in Renmin Gongyuan People's Park, police officers from the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau detained and questioned 50 and 60 men, respectively, who authorities believed to be engaging in sexual activities, as well as outreach workers from the Chi Heng Foundation who were providing safe sex education as part of an HIV prevention program.  No formal charges were filed.  Then, on August 25, 2009, the police attempted to forcibly eject 100 men from the park as well as outreach workers.  The men protested this discriminatory treatment and ultimately convinced the police to leave the park.  The police justified this most recent attempt to arrest and exclude men from the park by claiming to be responding to allegations by park visitors that some men, believed to be gay, were "harassing" people and committing minor property crimes, though the targeted men themselves were also being harassed and robbed.

arvan's picture

The Evolution of "Fag" in My Life

"Fag" and  "Gay" are two words that have been in my life since I was young.  My relationship to them has changed over the years as has their impact upon me.  I have used the words and heard the words used.  I am not proud of some of what I am about to relate.  I wasn't always in the right, I didn't always do the good thing.  I am nobody's shining example of super-duper goodness and leading the charge for doing things the right way.  I suppose that maybe, I am like a lot of people: capable of learning from mistakes.

When I was a pre-teen, the word was "Sissy" and it meant "coward" or "girl" - both of which were insults to the minds of boys my age, in the neighborhood and schoolyard.  At first, I didn't even know why they were bad things, but I knew that I didn't want to be one of the kids that those names got used on.  Being called those things meant that ridicule and physical attacks would follow. 

arvan's picture

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

October 15, 2009

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

I have made a decision.  I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone.  I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility.  I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured."  Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy.  I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired.  I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people.  I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant."  I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin."  That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement.  I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric."  The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me.  I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer.  The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance.  They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression.  There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied.  That can be a resting place no longer for anyone.  An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!"  Time waits for no one.

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