Untangle this week’s U.S. Supreme Court military trans ban ruling to lift some — but not all — of the injunctions against it!
And in NewsWrap: Angola sheds its “vices against nature” law, Japan top court uphold forced trans sterilization for legal identity changes, queer Brazilian lawmaker Jean Wyllys flees death threats, Hoosier Pete Buttigieg’s gay hat is tossed into the U.S. presidential ring, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of January 21, 2019
SCOTUS Trans Ban Twist!
Program #1,609 distributed 01/28/19
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Angola lawmakers decriminalize gay sex, a
Feature: The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on January 22nd lifting
Feature: Author and reviewer trade places as our Queer Life and Literature
Vanda, of Juliana fame.
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending January 26, 2019 Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor, reported this week by Wenzel Jones and Jessica Andrea
Angola has become the first country in 2019 to decriminalize same-gender sex. Lawmakers passed a bill on January 23rd to overhaul the southwestern African nation’s penal code, which was first instituted by Portuguese colonizers in 1886. The now-deleted “vices against nature” provision has historically been used against LGBTQ people.
A survey conducted in 2017 found that 61 percent of the nation’s 28 million people said that LGB people should have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, and 63 percent said transgender people should have rights.
The country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.
It was only last year that Angolan queers and their allies celebrated the first legal recognition by the government of an LGBTQ advocacy group, Iris Angola. Pink News reports that the government has now introduced legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Close to 70 countries on the planet still criminalize consensual, adult, same-gender sex – 34 of Africa’s 54 nations lead the way. Similar measures banning gay sex were overturned last year in India, and in Trinidad and Tobago, and lawmakers are currently pondering repeal of those statutes in Lebanon and Tunisia.
Japan’s Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a law that forces transgender people to get sterilized before they can legally change their gender. The four-Justice panel announced on January 24th that they had rejected a challenge to the measure’s constitutionality filed by Takakito Usui, a trans man who wanted to change the gender on his official documents without being sterilized.
The relevant statute, Law 111, was enacted in 2003. It requires any person seeking to change legal gender to have “no reproductive glands, or reproductive glands that have permanently lost function.” But the justices also acknowledged that the law is invasive and needs to be reviewed as cultural attitudes change over time. Two justices, including the presiding judge, added a separate opinion saying that, “doubts are undeniably emerging” about Law 111.
Trans people in Japan seeking gender confirmation surgeries are required to be sterile, single, with no children under 20 years of age, and are diagnosed by at least two “respected medical professionals” with “Gender Identity Disorder” – generally called “gender dysphoria” in the U.S. and U.K. Law 111 also requires the person to have “a body which appears to have parts that resemble the genital organs of those of the opposite gender.”
Usui’s attorney Tomoyasu Oyama told Agence France Presse that trans activists could use the justice’s stated reservations to pressure lawmakers into making changes. “We have been at this case for two years,” he said. And while it appears to be the end of the legal road for his client, Oyama noted that, “Every month, every six months, we can see an improved understanding of the issue by society.”
According to the findings of a groundbreaking study released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or C.D.C., one in 50 American high school students identifies as transgender, and one in three of them say that they had attempted suicide in the previous year.
The agency added transgender-related questions to its most recent survey of high school students in 10 states, conducted in 2017. It included Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Vermont, and Wisconsin, and nine large urban school districts, including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Cleveland, and Detroit.
The first trans-related study by the government agency responsible for the nation’s physical and mental health found that transgender students are frequent victims of violence on campus, or going to and from school. Trans teens are far more likely than their cis-gender peers to abuse cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and prescription opioids. Their academic achievement is also jeopardized.
The report comes as no surprise to trans activists and their allies. Amit Paley, who leads the queer teen suicide prevention group The Trevor Project, told Reuters that the report “sends the message to transgender youth that they are not alone.” He encouraged the C.D.C. to expand its scope to a wider geographical survey sample in future studies.
A study released last week by the Williams Institute at U.C.L.A. found that states with LGBTQ-inclusive anti-bullying laws had lower rates of queer teen suicide than states without such protections.
An activist in Singapore is hoping to use the overturning by India’s Supreme Court of that nation’s anti-queer sex law Penal Code Section 377 to fight a similar statute there. Bryan Choong filed a legal challenge this week to Singapore’s Section 377A, arguing that the British colonial-era law is unconstitutional. The Southeast Asian city-state’s Supreme Court has rejected earlier challenges, the most recent in 2014. Choong’s lawsuit, which he filed in November but only came to light this week, cites Singapore’s constitutional guarantees of personal liberty, equal protection, and freedom of speech and expression.
A spokesperson for the target of the legal action, Singapore’s Attorney-General, declined comment “as the matter is now before the courts.”
Public opinion polls show a slow but steady increase in public acceptance of same-gender relationships, with younger people leading the way. In the most recent survey, 55 percent of respondents under the age of 24 agreed that adult Singaporeans “should be able to engage in” consensual same-gender sex, and 30 percent supported the repeal of Section 377A.
This is the second lawsuit filed against the anti-queer sex law in Singapore’s high court. In his pending challenge, filed four days after India’s repeal was announced, entertainer Johnson Ong Ming, who goes by the stage name DJ Big Kid, calls Singapore’s statute “absurd and arbitrary.”
Court challenges to anti-gay sex laws are also pending in Jamaica and Kenya.
In other news, Brazil’s only openly queer lawmaker Jean Wyllys has resigned from Congress and fled the country.
The leftist politician, who was re-elected in October to a third term, told reporters that threats on his life had escalated since the election of self-avowed “proud homophobe” Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency. “For the future of this cause,” Wyllys said, “I need to be alive. I do not want to be a martyr.”
Wyllys rose to fame as the winner of the fifth season of TV’s Big Brother Brazil in 2005. He had served in parliament since 2011. Wyllys said that he plans now to study for his doctorate while in exile, but would not say where. He said what drove him to flee the country wasn’t the election of Bolsonaro. “It was the increase in violence after he was elected,” he said.
But LGBTQ Brazilians have not lost their only out lawmaker. According to the New York Times, Wyllys will be replaced by David Miranda, an openly gay City Councilman in Rio de Janiero. He’s the husband of American investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald. Miranda taunted Bolsonaro in a tweet late this week. “Check your emotions,” he wrote. “One LGBT is leaving, but another is entering. See you in Brasília.”
And finally …
[sound: “Hi, I’m Pete Buttigieg and I’m mayor of the city of South Bend Indiana. And I’m so excited to share with fellow members of the LGBTQ community, and the Victory Fund, that today I’m launching an exploratory committee to run for president of the United States.”]
That’s the 37-year-old mayor with a difficult-to-pronounce last name, in a video posted by the queer-candidate-supporting Victory Fund. “Mayor Pete,” as he’s known around town, is already making the cable news circuit — well, maybe not Fox, so far as we know – as a legitimate presidential candidate.
[sound: “I’m mindful of the historic nature of a potential candidacy seeking to be the first ever out nominee of a major party in American presidential politics. I know what this kind of representation means and how much it matters partly because I grew up in Indiana. Mike Pence was the governor of our state when I came out publicly during a re-election campaign for mayor and when I joined the military Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still the law of the land. I’ve seen how much leadership matters and I’ve seen the kind of changes that can happen too. But they don’t happen on their own. This is so important especially for my generation. I belong to a generation that provided most of the troops in the wars after 9/11, that’s going to be experiencing climate change in an extremely serious way. It’s the generation that stands to be the first to make less than our parents if something doesn’t change but also the first generation to know marriage equality is the norm and perhaps the first generation where someone can announce a campaign for president with his husband at his side.”]
In an already crowded field of Democratic Party contenders, Pete’s probably got the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell. Then again, look who’s president now:
[Trump soundbite: “The worst tragedy in the history of this country!”]
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