A look back Ireland’s ballot box marriage equality victory five years ago!
Reports reveal European queer rights decay, gay Seoul nightspots are blamed for a COVID-19 comeback, Brazil’s Supreme Court frees gay and bi men to donate blood, all charges are dropped against the “Uganda 19” and they’re released from jail, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of May 18, 2020
Pride-in-Place & Irish Ayes!
Program #1,677 distributed 05/18/20
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Two alarming surveys released this week –
Feature: Happy 5th Anniversary, Ireland! Prime Minister Enda Kenny and
Feature: On May 31, 2020, at noon U.S. Pacific time, people around the world
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending May 16, 2020 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,reported this week by Wenzel Jones and Carole Meyers,produced by Brian DeShazor
Two new reports paint an alarming picture of stalled and deteriorating rights for LGBTQ people in Europe.
The European Union Fundamental Rights Agency’s online survey had close to 140,000 LGBTQ respondents from 27 European Union member states, along with the United Kingdom, North Macedonia, and Serbia. This week’s report was a larger follow-up to a survey conducted in 2012.
On the positive side, respondents who said they were out jumped from 36 percent in 2012 to almost half. But forty-three percent reported overt discrimination against them in the past year. Close to the same percentage said they’d been physically harassed — a six percent increase. Six in ten lesbians and gay men said that they feared verbal or physical attack if they held their same-gender partner’s hand in public.
Two in three Polish LGBTQ people and over half of French respondents said that life for them has gotten worse in the past year. Reduced intolerance was reported by more than seventy percent in Ireland, which has enjoyed marriage equality since 2015. The same goes for Malta, Europe’s first country to ban so-called “conversion therapy.”
Fundamental Rights Agency Director Michael O’Flaherty noted in the report’s introduction that the results were even more troubling in the age of COVID-19. In his words, “Too many LGBTI people continue to live in the shadows, afraid of being ridiculed, discriminated, or even attacked. Their job and healthcare difficulties may worsen due to COVID-19.” O’Flaherty urged policymakers to be more active in promoting full respect for LGBTQ rights.
A second survey about life for LGBTQ people in Europe was also released this week. The annual “Rainbow Map” issued by the European branch of the global queer advocacy group ILGA ranks 49 countries according to how easy or difficult it is to be queer.
Azerbaijan is at the bottom of the list. Turkey, Armenia, Russia, and Poland rank almost as badly. Malta tops the list for the fifth consecutive year. Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, and Spain also made the “top ten.” But the report found that there has been no positive change for LGBTQ people in the past year in almost half of the countries surveyed.
The “Rainbow Map” report also confirmed that rights in Europe for transgender people in particular were the most volatile — the biggest shifts are taking place in that population, “For better or worse”, as it said. The report praises Andorra, Belgium, the Netherlands, North Macedonia and Switzerland for advancing trans rights, but it laments that gender recognition progress has stalled in Albania, Cyprus, Finland, and Sweden.
ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis said that, “this year’s ‘Rainbow Map’ shows that equality measures are falling through the cracks in several countries, not because of lack of political and public support, but because of widespread complacency about the need for LGBTI equality measures. … There are reasons to be extremely worried that this situation will spread as political attention is immersed in the economic fall-out of COVID-19.”
South Korea is one of the few countries on earth to have responded effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic with early and widespread testing and contact tracing. But a resurgence of COVID-19 infections has been traced to Seoul nightclubs popular with the queer community, and that’s sparked a surge of homophobia in the country. Thirty-five new COVID-19 cases were reported on May 11th, the largest single-day increase in South Korea since April 9th.
Some four thousand people who patronized clubs in the area have been tested, and authorities are still trying to contact three thousand more, according to the South China Morning Post. The effort is complicated because homosexuality is still generally a taboo subject in South Korea. Gay men are reporting being harassed on dating apps. Some say they’ve been threatened with being “doxxed” out of the closet. Several online, broadcast and print journalists have added homophobic commentary to their outbreak reports. A poster on one news portal wrote, “Don’t call them [a] sexual minority community. They are merely perverts.”
Seventeen LGBTQ rights groups have banded together as “Queer Action Against COVID-19” to fight the escalating stigma. Activist Sung-Uk So told the Washington Blade that the task force is tracking any human rights violations, “directly cooperating with Seoul City and the government”.
A ruling by Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court has lifted the country’s ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men. Previously those donors had to have been celibate for 12 months to qualify. The Court voted 7-to-4 to lift the restriction entirely. Justice Edson Fachin wrote that the 12-month rule was “based on prejudice and discrimination.” The case was accepted by the high court in 2016, but it inexplicably took the judges four years to issue their May 8th ruling.
Brazil has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Latin America. President Jair Bolsonaro has added consistently downplaying the pandemic to his ”super macho” misogynistic, racist, homophobic persona. Like his model, “The Donald Trump of the Tropics” mocks measures designed to curb its spread.
Chilé, Hungary, and Italy are among the countries that also allow sexually active gay and bisexual men to donate blood without a deferral period. Australia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, and the U.S. have reduced their celibacy periods to three months – which equality activists point out is still scientifically and medically unnecessary.
The “Uganda 19” have finally been allowed to meet with lawyers. The 13 gay men, two bisexual men, and four transgender women have been in jail since the March 29th raid on a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. They’re each charged with violating COVID-19 lockdown rules banning gatherings of more than 10 people. However activists charge that only queer gathering places are being targeted for that violation. Uganda is one of the most notoriously anti-queer countries on the continent, if not the world. The televised raid dramatically outed many of the arrestees, and the local mayor was shown caning one of them. It’s not known if any of the defendants have actually tested positive for coronavirus.
Judge Michael Elubu finally ruled on May 13th that the defendants have the right to legal counsel in order to prepare a defense before trial. It was scheduled to begin five days later.
Human Rights Watch is among several advocacy groups urging the “Uganda 19’s” release. Africa Director Mausi Segun said in a statement that “It is not a crime to be homeless and live in a shelter, and the ongoing detention of the shelter residents is arbitrary, abusive, and contrary to public health.”
The queer community is mourning a number of prominent deaths this past week. Among them was Aimee Stephens, the transgender plaintiff in one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s LGBTQ “right to work” cases. Oral arguments on whether or not workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is legal were heard last October. A decision is expected sometime in June. Stephens had kidney disease for a number of years and required regular dialysis. She was just 59 years old. “NBC News” reported that Stephens’ estate should automatically become the plaintiff in the still pending Supreme Court case.
Siegfried and Roy’s animal and magic act thrilled Las Vegas audiences for years. A gay relationship between the two was almost assumed, though rarely if ever discussed. After famously surviving an attack by one of his own tigers in 2003, Roy Horn became yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic on May 8th. He was 75. Siegfried Fischbacher said in a statement that, “I have lost my best friend.”
Finally, another flamboyant performer who described himself as “The King and Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” has also ascended to his heavenly throne.
“Little Richard” Penniman died on May 8th at the age of 87 of bone cancer.
Little Richard rewrote the original risqué lyrics to a song about gay sex to create his first big hit, “Tutti Frutti” in 1955.
[:06 of the song, which fades out under:]
Little Richard had a problematic history with his queer identity. He had a reportedly lustful gay youth, and embraced his feminine side on stage. Later in life, he rejected same-gender love, and for a while preached against it as an evangelical Christian minister. He married a woman and adopted a son. Then in 2012 [twenty-twelve] he told GQ, “We are all both male and female. Sex to me is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for.”
[:03 “Womp bop a loo bomp a loom bam boom!”]
THIS JUST IN!
(reported by GREG GORDON)
May 18th: All charges against the “Uganda 19” have been dropped, and all the detainees have been released — this according to a Twitter announcement from the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, the group that finally won legal counsel for the homeless LGBTQ youth. We’ll have more on this breaking story next time on This Way Out.
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