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President of Tonga LGBTQ rights group murdered

Polikalepo Kefu was killed near their home on May 1

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LAPAHA, Tonga — The president of an LGBTQ rights group in Tonga was murdered on May 1. Media reports indicate Tonga Leitis Association President Polikalepo Kefu was killed near their home in Lapaha, a village on the island of Tongatapu on which the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa is located.

Deputy Tonga Police Commissioner Tevita Vailea on Monday in a statement said authorities have charged a 27-year-old man with murder.

“This is a tragic event, and our thoughts are with Mr. Kefu’s family, friends and wider community,” said Vailea.

The Tonga Leitis Association in a statement described Kefu as “a selfless humanitarian and a tireless advocate for the rights of those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.” The group also announced Cruella Tuinukuafe has been named interim president.

“In these dark and troubling times, we are reminded of Poli’s light and positive energy, and we encouraged knowing that this is when we are most needed to continue our work,” said the Tonga Leitis Association.

Amini Fonua, an openly gay Olympic swimmer from Tonga, also mourned Kefu.

“Hearing the news of Poli Kefu’s passing has left us all shocked and deeply saddened,” Fonua told the Blade on Tuesday in an email. “Poli was a beacon of light, whose smile and sense of humor touched so many lives. Poli’s work for equality and human rights is well documented through all his volunteer work and presidency at the Leitis Association. Poli was a fighter for all the voiceless LGBTQ people, not just in Tonga, but all throughout the Pacific.”

ILGA Oceania in a statement noted Kefu in February helped coordinate a virtual symposium it organized in Fiji.

“Poli was a humble gentle inspiring leader who displayed a proactive interaction with ILGA Oceania on its various projects and conferences,” said ILGA Oceania.

“In the spirit of activism and friendship, we will miss you Poli for your pro-active, strong activism, your commitment and dedication to LGBTI issues and movement throughout the kingdom of Tonga, the Pacific Islands and Oceania,” added the statement.

The Tonga Leitis Association was founded in 1992.

The organization specifically advocates on behalf of transgender and gender-variant Tongans and other members of the country’s LGBTQ community. The Tonga Leitis Association also provides health care and other services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Tonga is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Fonua during a 2017 interview with the Blade said anti-LGBTQ discrimination, homophobia and transphobia remain commonplace in his homeland.

“It is truly a devastating day when we learn that people in the Pacific are still being murdered for simply living in their truth,” said Fonua on Tuesday. “Poli’s death won’t be in vain, and we shall continue the fight for equality and equal protection under the law.”

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Africa

Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ+ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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Africa

What’s next for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa after the country’s elections?

African National Congress lost parliamentary majority on May 29

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Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to install Pride crosswalks. Activists are wondering what the outcome of South Africa's May 29 elections will mean for LGBTQ+ rights. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Walker/Pretoria Pride)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — More than 50 independent candidates and political parties participated in South Africa’s national and provincial elections that took place on May 29. The Electoral Commission of South Africa declared the results on June 2.

No independent candidate or political party managed to secure the outright parliamentary majority of more than 50 percent of the votes, which prompts the creation of a coalition government. None of the 18 political parties that managed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly wholly represented the LGBTQ+ community.

Although South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, some of the political parties that managed to secure seats in the National Assembly had signaled they would reserve these gains.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, during a January debate said the thought of dating within the same gender was unpalatable and un-African. The MK is now the country’s third largest political party after it won 14.58 percent of the vote, making it a pivotal player in the formation of a coalition government.

Dawie Nel, the executive director of OUT LGBT Well-being, said undermining the constitution is “a dangerous, misguided, and populist strategy to avoid acknowledging the failures of governance and the lack of implementation of constitutional values that are meant to improve the lives of South Africans.”

“South Africa’s constitution is celebrated as one of the most significant achievements of our transition to democracy, ensuring that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected in all aspects of life,” said Nell. 

There now seems to be an impasse on who becomes the government’s next leader because of some of the demands that political parties made before they entered into any negotiations.

Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said the best possible outcome for the preservation of LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa would be if the former governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), which garnered the most support with 40.18 percent of the vote, partners with the Democratic Alliance (DA), which finished second with 21.81 percent of the votes, to form a coalition government.

“I think it will be a good outcome for the community if the DA has some power in a coalition government,” said Walker.

Rise Mzansi, which managed to secure 0.42 percent of the votes with two seats in the National Assembly, said it will continue protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Rise Mzansi reaffirms its commitment in protecting LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, as outlined in Section 9 of our constitution,” said the party.

Zubenathi Daca, program coordinator for student employability and entrepreneurship development in Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Student Governance and Development said the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa will continue.

“The battle has not yet been won,” said Daca. “Queer people are still being killed and homophobic remarks are still being made towards us daily, and we need people who have found the confidence to voice out their dissatisfactions against how they are treated and also speak out for the voiceless.” 

“This society is ours just as it is everyone else’s,” added Daca. “We are in corporate spaces, leadership positions, and political spaces to show that we belong here, and that we are here to stay.” 

The constitution says National Assembly members should be sworn in within two weeks of the elections. They will then meet for the first time and elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and president.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who will preside over the entire process, on Monday said the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the elections on Friday.

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Africa

LGBTQ+ Nigerians still struggle with housing discrimination and homelessness

Transphobia forced Fola Francis to flee her Ibadan home

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Fola Francis (Photo via Instagram)

By Elvis Kachi | LAGOS, Nigeria — In Nigeria, the pursuit to secure a safe and comfortable home is often fraught with challenges for many, but for the LGBTQ+ community — especially those who are openly gay — these challenges are often insurmountable. 

Some two years ago, Fola Francis, a popular transgender woman who has since passed away, had to leave her home in Ibadan and fled to Lagos due to transphobia. A now deleted video of her had gone viral on TikTok, and it got to the hands of her transphobic landlord and neighbors. They held a rally to make her leave the house, breaking into it many times. 

“I got death threats from my neighbors due to them finding out I’m a trans woman on social media when my videos went viral,” she said to the BBC. 

Francis’s experience doesn’t exist in isolation. 

“For me, all I had to do was be visibly effeminate before my neighbors began to clamp down on and force me to move out,” Damian Okpara, a student at the University of Nigeria, told the Washington Blade. 

Despite the global movement towards acceptance and equality, Nigerian society remains deeply rooted in conservative values that stigmatize and marginalize queer people; and this systemic discrimination is starkly evident in the housing sector, where visibly queer people face significant barriers and prejudices that deny them the fundamental right to safe and secure housing.

“It is nowhere in the constitution that a person should be discriminated against housing of their choice due to their sexuality,” Chizelu Emejuju, a human rights lawyer, told the Blade.

Emejuju founded Minority Watch, which is an organization that focuses on fighting for the rights of minorities, including the queer community, in Nigeria. That said, Nigeria’s legal framework is one of the most hostile in the world towards the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, passed in 2014, not only criminalizes same-sex relationships but also any public display of affection between same-sex couples. This law has legitimized widespread discrimination and has given rise to an environment where queer individuals are systematically marginalized and ostracized.

According to many, homosexuality is often viewed as a Western import, incompatible with the Nigerian values and traditions. Homophobia therefore translates into severe consequences for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in the realm of people. 

For Okpara, he’s had to leave his former home to live with a friend, even though it may mean putting both of them at risk of homelessness. 

“Although my friend’s place is more accepting of femme-boys like me, there is still the constant fear that they may switch up on us,” he said. “It’s so hard to be an effeminate man in Nigeria.” 

Okpara’s experience is a stark reminder that for many LGBTQ+ Nigerians, the search for housing is a journey marked by rejection and prejudice. Landlords and housing agents frequently deny rentals to openly queer people or those they suspect are queer. 

A common experience shared by many queer people is being evicted without notice once their sexual orientation or gender identity becomes known. Stories like that of Francis and Okpara are common — tenants, who after months of living peacefully, find themselves suddenly homeless, their belongings discarded, and their safety threatened. This precarious existence forces many into substandard living conditions, or in some cases, into homelessness.

The impact of housing discrimination on queer Nigerians is profound, extending far beyond the physical realm into deep psychological and emotional suffering. 

“Although I am introverted and need friends, I have decided to not even bring anyone into my space anymore,” Valentina Ikpazu, an entrepreneur in Lagos, told the Blade. “At this point, I would rather find other ways to be happy than be homeless.” 

The constant fear of eviction and the relentless search for a safe space create a state of perpetual anxiety and insecurity. This unstable housing situation often leads to chronic stress, depression, and other mental health issues.

The plight of LGBTQ+ people in Nigeria’s housing market exemplifies the broader struggles they face in a society that often rejects their very existence. 

“Queer people need to understand that they have a legal right to stay in a place of choice, especially if the landowners do not include clauses that are discriminatory in the earlier stages of apartment acquisition,” Emejuju said. “Even if they include clauses that are outrightly discriminatory to queer people, it can be challenged in court, as there’s no law [backing up the clauses.]”

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Elvis Kachi is a Nigerian fashion and culture journalist. He’s had in pieces featured across platforms like BBC, Thomson Reuters, Essence Magazine, Condé Nast’s Them, etc. website: www.elviskachi.com

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Qatar, Ukraine, Italy, Thailand, South Korea and Australia

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

QATAR

Manuel Guerrero Aviña (Photo(s) Credit: #QatarMustFreeManuel/X)

DOHA, Qatar — A British-Mexican man who was arrested in a Grindr sting operation has been given a six-month suspended sentence and will be deported – although the state has 30 days to launch an appeal, during which he is not allowed to leave – the BBC reports.

Manuel Guerrero Aviña, 44, was arrested on what his family are calling trumped up drug charges in Doha in February, after being lured to a fake meeting on the gay cruising app Grindr. This week, he was handed his sentence, which includes a fine of approximately $2700.

Guerrero Aviña, who has lived in Qatar for seven years and works for an airline, has told the BBC he is considering an appeal. 

His family has previously told the BBC that he was approached online by a man named “Gio,” who also used the screenname “Mike” on both Grindr and Tinder. Guerrero Aviña invited “Gio” to his apartment, but when he went to the lobby to let him in, police were waiting and arrested him. 

Police searched his apartment and allegedly found amphetamine and methamphetamine. They later administered a drug test which they say show evidence he had used the substances. 

Guerrero Aviña says the drugs were planted as part of a sting operation targeting queer people. Under threat of torture and without a translator or lawyer, he was coerced into signing a document written in Arabic, a language he doesn’t read, admitting his possession of the drugs.

He spent 42 days in pretrial detention before being given provisional release, during which time police attempted to coerce him into naming other queer people. 

Complicating his situation is the fact that he is HIV-positive. While in detention, guards frequently withheld his medication, which could have enabled the virus to build up a resistance to it. He ran out of his prescription, which is not available in Qatar, in April, and has had to use a local substitute.  

Several human rights groups have criticized the lack of due process in Guerrero Aviña’s case, the evidence that he was targeted for his sexual identity, and the implication that a wider crackdown on queer people is in the works. 

“”This has been about his LGBT status from the start and his desire to express that status and his identity, and that’s what this case is about,” James Lynch, co-director of the human rights organization Fair Square, told the BBC. “He’s an LGBT person and he was targeted through a dating app. You don’t do that, unless that’s the thing you are focused on.”

Qatari officials deny that Guerrero Aviña was targeted for any reason other than the possession of illegal substances.

Following Guerrero Aviña’s arrest, Grindr began displaying a warning to users in Qatar that “police are known to be making arrests on the app.”

Same-sex intercourse between men is illegal in Qatar, with potential sentences of up to three years. The law also allows a death sentence to be imposed for unmarried Muslims who have sex regardless of gender, though there are no records it has ever been carried out.

UKRAINE

Photo courtesy of Kyiv Pride 2024

KYIV, Ukraine – The Kyiv City Council denied a organizers of Kyiv Pride a permit to hold the annual human rights demonstration on the city’s metro system, citing security concerns and the need to maintain service on the subway network, the Kyiv Post reports.

Kyiv Pride organizers say they still plan to go ahead with their march in the Metro on June 16 even without a city permit. 

Kyiv has not held a Pride festival since the latest Russian invasion began in February 2022. The organizers of Kyiv Pride say they were inspired to hold their march on the Metro system by a similar event held in the war-torn eastern city Kharkiv in 2022, where the Metro was the safest place to gather during Russian bombardment.

It’s partly because the metro is used as a bomb shelter during Russian attacks that the city denied a permit for the event. The city released a statement on June 3 calling on organizers to find another venue.

“In order not to endanger the participants and passengers, and to avoid possible provocations, the city authorities cannot allow the Equality March to take place in the metro,” it said.

Organizers expect up to 500 people to take part in the Pride march this year. They’re asking participants to register in advance in order to limit the number of participants who show up at metro.

In a lengthy post on Kyiv Pride’s Facebook page, the organizers underscore the importance of holding a highly visible Pride festival, even during the upheaval of wartime. 

“It is our obligation before Ukrainian queer soldiers who are also supporting the March to ensure that they return from the frontlines to a more just legal environment,” the post says.

“Backed by society, the historic same-sex partnerships law and the law on hate crimes dropped from the Parliament’s priority list. We must seize the opportunity to remind the government that ensuring dignity and equality for all Ukrainian citizens is not a second-tier priority. Organizing an LGBTQ+ civil rights march in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian [sic] invasion is a complex and courageous endeavor.” 

ITALY

Alessandro Monterosso & Alec Sander (Photo Credit: Monterosso/Facebook)

MILAN, Italy – An Italian couple is planning to challenge social conventions even as they challenge the bonds of the earth itself, by becoming the first gay couple to get married in outer space.

Alessandro Monterosso, a 33-year-old health software entrepreneur, and Alec Sander, a 25-year-old recording artist, will exchange vows in 2025 aboard a private spaceflight offered by the US company Space Perspective. 

Space Perspective is not yet in commercial operation, but its website says it will offer bespoke experiences aboard a luxury capsule that is lifted to the edge of space by a hydrogen-filled balloon at a speed of 12 miles per hour.

Monterosso and Sander have booked a whole capsule for them and six guests at a cost of $125,000 per person, an even $1,000,000 total. They say they are not seeking sponsors.

Monterosso and Sander first met in Padua in 2017, and they dated for four years until Sander broke it off because it was difficult to date while Monterosso was still in the closet. A year later, they met up again and Monterosso asked Sander to marry him. Sander agreed, but he didn’t immediately know that his fiancé wanted to hold the wedding in space.

“I was planning the trip as a civilian, to fulfill my childhood desire to become an astronaut. When I came into contact with the aerospace agency we relied on, it came naturally to me to ask: but can I also get married in space?” Monterosso told the Corriere Della Sera newspaper.

“It seemed like such a romantic idea. I had struggled so much to accept myself as homosexual, not because I wasn’t sure, but because of the social context, and I told myself that now I would have to tell the whole world how I felt. Firstly because I know that there are many people who experience what I experienced, and then to confirm the infinite love I feel for Alec,” he says. 

But Monterosso and Sander have a political message behind their space wedding as well. Same-sex marriage is not legal in Italy, and its current far-right government has cracked down hard on same-sex parents.

“Couples like us are not always well regarded in Italy. In other places in the world, they are even illegal. In Russia we are considered terrorists. Well, we just want to say that it’s time to normalize everything and amplify this message as much as possible. And if it is therefore so difficult to get married on Earth, then we are going to do it in space, with a galactic wedding whose aim is precisely to normalize these loves,” Monterosso says. “The message is aimed at people, because even today we still feel eyes on us if we hold hands while walking down the street. But if people normalize, politics must adapt.”

Monterosso and Sander already have their sights set on more distant shores.

“For our 20th anniversary, we are aiming for Mars,” Monterosso says. 

THAILAND

Thai Prime Minister, Sretta Thavisin (Screenshot/YouTube CGTN)

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai Prime Minister, Sretta Thavisin marched in the annual Bangkok Pride Parade June 1 along with several members of his government, pledging to support the LGBTQ+ community’s fight for equality.

Thavisin was sworn in as prime minister last August following a contentious election in which support for LGBTQ+ rights became a major theme. His government has already made rapid progress on several key demands of the queer community.

Last December, a same-sex marriage and adoption bill passed the lower house of the Thai parliament, and it is expected to receive final approval from the Thai senate June 18. It would make Thailand the first southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, and only the third in Asia after Nepal and Taiwan.

Thavisin has also directed his government to draft a gender recognition bill that would give Thai people the right to change their legal gender or adopt a non-binary gender.

Bangkok Pride has been celebrated annually since 1999. Thailand has long been seen as a relatively LGBTQ-friendly country, but had begun to lag behind some Western countries on legal rights for LGBTQ people, particularly during the years when Thailand was ruled by a military junta starting in 2014. 

SOUTH KOREA

서울퀴어문화축제 Seoul Queer Culture Festival 2024 (Screenshot/YouTube 서울퀴어문화축제l)

SEOUL, South Korea – The 25th annual Seoul Queer Cultural Festival drew an estimated 150,000 attendees despite a ban imposed by the city council on the use of its usual venue, a victory for the country’s queer community.

The organizers of SQCF have been trying to hold their event at Soul Plaza in front of City Hall since 2015, but every year, their permit is denied by the city. Instead the festival took to the streets of Seoul’s downtown Euljiro district June 1, as they did not require a city permit to use the streets.

“We think that sending out a message of ‘queer is everywhere’ is the most important,” SQFC Organizing Committee Chairperson Yang Sun-woo told a press conference held during the festival. “My message is, do not fear. Open the closet and take a step closer.”

City authorities have repeatedly barred SQCF from booking the plaza and other city venues for events, including for academic events and talks. Recently, authorities denied permits for panel discussions on democracy and American human rights struggles at the Soeul Citizens Hall and the Soeul History Museum, claiming the events were “political” and would stoke “social conflict.”

By comparison, the city has allowed events by Christian organizations to use the plaza and other civic spaces.

The SQCF organizing committee has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission over their treatment by the city. However, South Korea lacks a national law that bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination. 

Reuters reported that a counter-protest called the “Holy Breakwater of Unified Christian Rally” attracted approximately 20,000 participants. 

서울퀴어문화축제 Seoul Queer Culture Festival 2024

AUSTRALIA

Sydney Mardi Gras 2024 (Photo Credit: Government of New South Wales)

SYDNEY, Australia – The government of New South Wales issued a historic apology this week to queer people who were persecuted under old laws that criminalized same-sex intercourse.

New South Wales decriminalized same-sex intimacy in 1984, one of the last Australian states to do so. Forty years later, it has become the last state to issue an apology for criminalizing queer people, after all other states did so in 2016 and 2017.

Delivering a speech in the state parliament, NSW Premier Chris Minns said he “recognizes and regrets this parliament’s role in enacting laws and endorsing policies of successive governments’ decisions that criminalized, persecuted and harmed people based on their sexuality and gender.

Minns’ apology acknowledged people were harmed by these laws even if they weren’t directly charged or convicted under them.

“To those who survived these terrible years, and to those who never made it through, we are truly sorry. We’re sorry for every person convicted under legislation that should never have existed. For every person that experienced fear as a result of that legislation.

“Everyone who lost a job, who lost their future, or who lost the love of family and friends. We are very sorry for every person, convicted or otherwise, who were made to live a smaller life because of these laws,” he said.

People who had been convicted under New South Wales’ old sodomy laws have been eligible to have the convictions expunged since a law change in 2014.

Minns’ government recently passed a ban on conversion therapy in March, making New South Wales the fourth jurisdiction in Australia to do so.

The state’s only openly gay MP, Independent Alex Greenwich, says that the apology has to be followed by more action to promote equality.

He’s put forward his own bill that would close a loophole in anti-discrimination law to ban discrimination by religious schools against LGBT students and teachers, and would allow trans people to change their legal gender without having to undergo a medical procedure.

“I rise as the only openly gay member of the Legislative Assembly to contribute to this apology,” Greenwich said in the state parliament. “I am one of only two in this chamber’s 186-year-old history. This in itself shows how much work we need to do.”

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Comedian Rob Schneider booed off stage for transphobic jokes

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation issued an official apology saying they do not “condone, accept, endorse or share Schneider’s positions”

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Former Saturday Night Live performer Rob Schneider telling transphobic jokes at a Turning Point USA gathering in Demember 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube TPUSA)

REGINA, Canada – Former Saturday Night Live performer Rob Schneider was a somewhat popular comedic actor who seemed to have it all. But one day, he became a transphobic anti-vax crusader. And he’s just found out that being full of hate ain’t so great.

While performing at a hospital fundraiser in Regina, Saskatchewan June 1, Schneider was asked to leave the stage after multiple guests lodged complaints with organizers over his transphobic material.

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation issued an official apology Wednesday night, saying they do not “condone, accept, endorse or share Mr. Schneider’s positions.”

“While we recognize that in a free and democratic society, individuals are entitled to their views and opinions and that comedy is intended to be edgy, the content, positions and opinions expressed during Mr. Schneider’s set do not align with the values of our Foundation and team,” the statement from the HRF read.

The fundraiser was a sold-out event that raised $350,000 for the city’s hospitals.

Tynan Allen, a DEI consultant who was in the audience, says the apology isn’t enough.

“What’s missing is an action plan. I love an apology, but it doesn’t mean a lot to show that they’ve learned anything,” Allen told CBC News.

“Not only is this completely inappropriate and offensive and really filled with hatred, but it’s also the first day of Pride and we have to recognize what that means to people, especially in a hospital setting where people go through gender-affirming care… and that’s being challenged and mocked and laughed at,” Allen says.

Attendees have posted on social media that Schneider’s set was mainly rants about COVID vaccines and complaints about the existence of trans people.

“Typical transphobic dumbassery and most of it was an attempt at indoctrination rather than comedy,” said one poster on Reddit.

“The rest was kind of tame but the crowd wasn’t laughing… He was floundering bad and kept looking at his notes to try to figure out what to talk about. I think he was realizing he had burned through stories and ran out of jokes. He said he had one more story, and that’s when the host told him that they had run out of time and had to get to the after party.”

Other users expressed bewilderment that Rob Schneider was booked for a hospital fundraiser in 2024.

“People are still booking Rob Schneider for things? Does anyone actually do any research before booking people?” said one Redditer.

“Did they…not look at his Twitter feed before booking him?” said another.

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation told CBC that it booked Schneider in 2023 through an agent. Schneider’s hard-right political views have been public for over a decade

The San Francisco-born Schneider is best known as an alum of Saturday Night Live, as the star of the Deuce Bigelow films, and from his many collaborations with Adam Sandler.His hard-right political turn seems to have begun with a campaign against vaccine mandates in California schools in 2012. While he was once critical of former President Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico, citing his own marriage into a Mexican family, he claims he voted for Trump in 2016. He’s since become a fairly regular figure on Fox News, which last year aired his poorly reviewed comedy special Rob Schneider: Woke Up In America on its SVOD platform Fox Nation.

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India

Narendra Modi to form coalition government after winning Indian election

LGBTQ+ issues largely absent from campaign

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo by shganti777/Bigstock)

NEW DELHI — In a vibrant democracy like India, the anticipation surrounding election results is always palpable.

On Tuesday, the stakes were incredibly high, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. The air was thick with suspense, and social media platforms buzzed with the anxiety and hopes of millions. As the night wore on, discussions flourished, emotions ran high, and the country collectively held its breath. The results, which trickled in at their own unhurried pace, promised to shape the future landscape of India’s social and political climate.

The Election Commission on Tuesday announced the much-awaited results.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, led by its charismatic leaders, not only retained power but also strengthened its position with a clear majority. With 293 seats, the coalition comfortably surpassed the majority mark, ensuring a third consecutive term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Despite supporters’ hopes and high expectations for a resounding victory, the election results did not fully meet their aspirations. This sense of disappointment was palpable, especially considering the extensive campaigns and efforts made ahead the elections.

All the regional and national parties came together, forming the formidable Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance to challenge the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance. This INDIA alliance, a vibrant coalition of 34 parties, stood united, mostly in opposition to Modi’s policies and leadership.

The BJP has recently articulated its position on LGBTQ+ rights in India.

The government’s opposition to marriage equality in the Supreme Court highlighted their stance against nuptials for same-sex couples. By acknowledging the commitment made by the Supreme Court on issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community, however, the government did establish a dedicated committee to address them.

This committee, formed in April and chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, aims to address critical concerns that include healthcare access, pension entitlements, and property rights for LGBTQ+ people.

The inclusion of secretaries from various key ministries signifies a comprehensive approach to addressing these multifaceted challenges. The committee’s creation also underscores the government’s recognition of the LGBTQ+ community’s unique needs and its commitment to ensuring their rights and well-being are systematically addressed.

Despite their alliance, the opposition parties approached the election with individual manifestos rather than a unified platform. This disjointed strategy meant that only two of the 34 parties made explicit commitments to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Indian National Congress, one of the major opposition parties, promised to introduce a bill that would recognize LGBTQ+ couples’ civil unions. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also pledged to enact pro-LGBTQ+ laws and underscored the need for legislative measures to protect and promote the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

The LGBTQ+ community throughout the election campaign found itself largely overlooked in the opposition parties’ public discourse. LGBTQ+ rights were conspicuously absent from Indian National Congress leaders’ campaign speeches, despite the promises they made in their platforms.

Rahul Gandhi, the prominent Indian National Congress figurehead, failed to address LGBTQ+ rights in his speeches, even in Uttar Pradesh and other states with significant LGBTQ+ populations.

Twenty-eight percent of India’s transgender population lives in Uttar Pradesh. The state, along with others with substantial LGBTQ+ communities, saw no mention of issues that are critically important to them during Gandhi’s rallies and public speeches.

This disconnect between the promises made in manifestos and the topics discussed on the campaign trail underscores a broader issue within political campaigning, where marginalized communities often struggle to find a voice. Despite the written commitments to LGBTQ+ rights, the lack of vocal support during the campaign highlights the ongoing challenges in bringing these important issues to the forefront of political debate.

Several independent LGBTQ+ candidates, in a remarkable display of political participation, entered the fray during election campaign. They include Sunaina Kinner, a trans woman who ran for office in Jharkand state’s Dhanbad constituency.

Kinner faced considerable challenges and lost the election.

She received 3,462 votes, a modest number in the face of entrenched political dynamics. The NOTA (None of the Above) option received 7,354 votes in Kinner’s constituency, indicating a substantial number of voters were dissatisfied with all available candidates.

The BJP’s election manifesto reflected a limited focus on the broader LGBTQ+ community, opting instead to highlight specific initiatives for trans people. The party has promised to improve healthcare access for them.

By promising to include trans people in health programs and offer free health insurance coverage through the prime minister’s Ayushman Bharat Scheme, the BJP aims to provide essential medical support and financial protection. This initiative could potentially improve healthcare outcomes for many trans people, ensuring they receive the necessary medical attention without the burden of financial constraints.

The brevity of the party’s mention of trans issues and the absence of broader LGBTQ+ legislation, however, indicates the party’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues.

After a key meeting of the NDA on Wednesday that the BJP led, Modi was elected party leader and will submit to President Droupadi Murmu on Friday a formal request to form the government for the third consecutive time. The INDIA alliance will sit in opposition.

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India, and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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Africa

Kenyan Supreme Court orders MP to pay LGBTQ+ activist $5,000

Peter Kaluma challenged ruling that allowed NGO to register

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Kenyan MP Peter Kaluma (Photo courtesy of Kaluma's X account)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan Supreme Court has ordered opposition MP Peter Kaluma to pay an LGBTQ+ activist around $5,000 (Ksh500,000) for challenging its ruling that allowed his former organization to register as a non-governmental organization.

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered Kaluma, who has sponsored the country’s anti-homosexuality bill, to pay former National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Executive Director Eric Gitari the amount after it dismissed his appeal of its ruling last September.

Gitari was a defendant in the case after leading the push for NGLHRC’s registration as an NGO amid opposition by the government because it championing consensual same-sex sexual relations that Kenya outlaws.

Five of the court’s seven justices, led by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu through a virtual hearing, ordered the lawmaker to pay Gitari $5,000 for time wasted and costs incurred in hearing his appeal and an additional $2,000 (Ksh200,000) for bringing the case.

The judges’ ruling comes after Kaluma in January approached the Supreme Court to dispute the Deputy Registrar’s decision to assess the appeal’s costs and the order to pay Gitari after he lost.

The MP argued the Deputy Registrar did not serve him with the ruling’s notice to pay and that he only learned about the court’s decision when Gitari’s lawyer texted him to demand the $5,000.  

Kaluma also argued the lawyer demanded that the court’s seven day timeline to challenge the payment had already expired on Nov. 14, 2023. Kaluma thus urged the Supreme Court to give him more time to challenge the Deputy Registrar’s decision. 

The Supreme Court, however, rejected Kaluma’s plea after establishing he did not tell the truth since legal filings show the Deputy Registrar served him the ruling he disputed through his official email address on Nov. 6, 2023. 

“We note that there have been numerous correspondences from the court through this court’s email address to MP Kaluma and vice versa. Notably, there was correspondence from the court on Sept. 12, 2023, and Nov. 6, 2023, to the MP via his email address,” Mwilu noted.    

The judges also noted that from the court’s records from March 9, 2023, after issuing the first ruling in the NGLHRC registration case and emailing the same to Kaluma, do not indicate his email changed

“Therefore, there is no doubt in our minds that the email address in question belongs to the applicant. We therefore come to the irresistible conclusion that Kaluma was indeed aware and was served with the impugned ruling,” Mwilu stated.  

The court further noted Kaluma did not provide a good reason for not challenging the Deputy Registrar’s decision within the statutory timelines.

“Further, the applicant has not met any of the conditions to convince this court to exercise its discretion in his favor,” Mwilu ruled.   

Her affirmation on behalf of the court to decline to hear Kaluma’s attempt to delay paying Gitari brought the matter to an end. Kaluma is now required to comply with the order without any delay or risk further legal action.   

Kaluma, who was not a party to the Supreme Court’s hearings in the NGLHRC case, lost his appeal last Sept. 12. The judges cited the MP’s filing his application beyond the stipulated timelines and for not being a party to the case during the initial hearings.

“In our view, the application is a disguised appeal from this court’s judgment and does not fall within the confines of the parameters prescribed for review by statute and applicable case law. Therefore, the application stands dismissed,” the court ruled. “On costs, the applicant is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of parliament. He ought to have known that his application was misconceived. He must consequently bear the costs thereof.”

The judges, while allowing NGLHRC to register as an NGO, stated it would be unconstitutional to limit the right to associate, through denial of registration of an association based on the applicants’ sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court’s ruling — which LGBTQ+ activists received with joy and anti-LGBTQ+ campaigners, clerics and politicians condemned — came 10 years later after Gitari challenged the Kenya NGOs Coordination Board in lower courts for refusing to register NGLHRC.   

He brought the case in 2013.

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South America

Chilean lawmakers reject proposed nondiscrimination law reforms

The proposed reform’s rejection represents a significant setback in the fight for nondiscrimination and equal rights in Chile

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Transgender Chilean Congresswoman Emilia Schneider, center, speaks to reporters on June 4, 2024, after the country's Chamber of Deputies rejected proposed reforms to the country's Anti-Discrimination Law. (Photo courtesy of Emilia Schneider)

By Esteban Rioseco | VALPARAÍSO, Chile – A political earthquake took place in Chile on Tuesday when the Chamber of Deputies rejected proposed reforms to the country’s nondiscrimination law.

The proposed reforms’ objective is “to strengthen the prevention of discrimination and to promote and guarantee in a better way the principle of equality.” Lawmakers in 2012 approved the law, also called the Zamudio Law, named in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a gay 24-year-old man who lost his life after a group of neo-Nazis attacked him in San Borja Park in Santiago, the country’s capital.

Lawmakers by a 69-63 vote margin rejected the proposed reform that President Gabriel Boric’s government introduced. Thirteen deputies abstained.

The Chilean Senate has already approved the proposal. A commission of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress will now consider it.

Most ruling party members supported the bill, while the opposition rejected it as a block.

Congressman Cristóbal Urruticoechea, who is a close Republican Party ally, defended his vote against the bill. 

“Of course we must respect the deviation of others, but it does not have to be an obligation to applaud them or to tell our children that there are more than two types of sexes, because that is not discrimination,” he said.

Emilia Schneider, the country’s first transgender congresswoman, said “unfortunately the majority of the House (of Deputies) has rejected the protection of victims of discrimination.” 

“This is not understandable, it is unacceptable and we are here with a group of civil society organizations to call upon the majority of parliamentarians to reconsider so that we can fix this disaster in the mixed commission,” she said. “We have been waiting a long time for a reform to the Anti-Discrimination Law. We have been waiting a long time for an institutional framework that promotes equality and inclusion in our country because today lives continue to be lost due to discrimination and we cannot continue to tolerate that.” 

“Unfortunately, today the Chamber of Deputies is once again turning its back on the citizenry,” added Schneider.    

Rolando Jiménez, director of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, the country’s main queer organization known by the acronym Movilh, in a statement said “today we went back to the past, to the 90s, to the darkest moments for LGBTQ+ people and discriminated sectors.” 

“Far-right congressmen went to the extreme of describing LGBTQ+ people as deviants during the debate in the Chamber,” he said. “We are in the presence of the worst legislative scenario for nondiscrimination of which we have ever had record. It is, by all accounts, a civilizational setback.”

María José Cumplido, the executive director of Fundación Iguales, another Chilean advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that “lies were installed” during the debate.

“This is not a bad law,” she said. “It is a law that follows international standards that prevent discrimination and that improves people’s quality of life.”

“We have been talking about security and discrimination for years, it is a security problem that hundreds and thousands of people live with,” added Cumplido. “We want this project to continue advancing so that the State can prevent discrimination and that people can choose their life projects in freedom.” 

‘We will continue the fight’

The proposed reform’s rejection represents a significant setback in the fight for nondiscrimination and equal rights in Chile. 

The proposal sought to establish an anti-discrimination institutional framework, as well as to broaden the possibilities of compensation for victims of discrimination. It also sought to raise the maximum fines for discriminatory acts and to strengthen the State’s anti-discrimination policies.

“We will not lower our flags,” said Jiménez. “We will continue the fight in the Joint Commission.” 

Movilh has urged LGBTQ Chileans and families to protest against the vote during the annual Santiago Pride march that will take place on June 29.

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Photo Credit: Movilh

Esteban Rioseco is a Chilean digital communicator, LGBT rights activist and politician. He was spokesperson and executive president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh). He is currently a Latin American correspondent for the Washington Blade.

On Oct. 22, 2015, together with Vicente Medel, he celebrated the first gay civil union in Chile in the province of Concepción.

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Mexico

Claudia Sheinbaum makes history as Mexico’s first female president

LGBTQ+ officials throughout Latin America applaud milestone

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Mexican President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum (Photo via Claudia Sheinbaum's X page)

MEXICO CITY — Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum on Sunday became the first woman elected president of Mexico.

Sheinbaum, a scientist who is a member of outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s leftist Morena party, defeated Xóchitl Gálvez of the opposition National Action Party and Jorge Álvarez Máynez of the Citizens’ Movement. She will also be Mexico’s first Jewish president.

“Thank you to the people of Mexico,” said Sheinbaum on her X account. “This is your triumph, this June 2 we once again made history.”

Mexican voters elected Sheinbaum less than a year after Mexico City hosted an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights conference that the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-sponsored. The election also took place against the backdrop of rampant cartel violence in Michoacán and other Mexican states. 

Sheinbaum before the election released a policy paper that reiterated her support for LGBTQ+ rights in Mexico. The platform, among other things, reiterated “absolute respect for diverse gender identities” and pledged to create “public policies to (end impunity) and to eradicate hate crimes and violence against LGBTIQ+ communities because of gender and sexual orientation.”

“Without diversity, there is no democracy,” read the paper.

(Courtesy photo)

Mexican Congresswoman Salma Luévano, who is transgender, is among those who congratulated Sheinbaum. Claudia López, the former mayor of the Colombian capital of Bogotá who is a lesbian, in a post to her X account described Sheinbaum’s election as a “cultural and political transformation” for Mexico.

“Claudia Sheinbaum has on her shoulders the largest popular mandate in Mexican history and the necessary institutional equilibrium that depends so much on her talent and style of leadership,” said López. “I am sure that her human, professional, scientific training and her feminine empathy will allow her to honor history and her role in it.”

The Washington Blade will update this article.

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Canada

Toronto mayor & Canada’s Drag Race star unveil art installation

“This pathway is where people walked for the first Pride. This is where people walked in the 1930s at the start of the modern queer community”

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Canada’s Drag Race star Jada Shada Hudson accompanied Olivia Chow, the mayor of Toronto and others for the dedication of the 600 meters long LGBTQ+ Rainbow Pride flag walk on Toronto Islands at Hanlan's Point. (Photo Credit: Office of the Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

TORONTO, Canada – Accompanied by Canada’s Drag Race star Jada Shada Hudson and other prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community in Ontario, Toronto mayor Mayor Olivia Chow unveiled a significant art installation just before Pride Month kicks off on a bike and footpath on at Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands.

The art installation by renowned queer artist Travis Myers at nearly 600 meters [2,000 feet] long is the longest continuous display of a Pride Flag in the country. Mayor Olivia Chow noted in her post on X (formerly Twitter) regarding the May 25th dedication:

“Hanlan’s has been an important gathering place for the 2SLGBTQI+ community for 80 years. I was honoured to help cut the ribbon and take a stroll along the world’s longest Rainbow Road to celebrate the queer history – and future – of Hanlan’s Point.”

Toronto Pride noted that Hanlan’s Point holds significant historical value as the site of Canada’s inaugural Pride celebration in 1971, making it one of the ten oldest surviving queer spaces in the world, and Canada’s oldest.

Now Toronto magazine journalist Anushka Yadav reported that in May 2023,  city council passed a motion, officially recognizing the eight decades of queer history, community, and the importance of place making at Hanlan’s Point Beach.

More recently, in March 2024, the council authorized the General Manager of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation to accept an in-kind donation of up to $200,000 from Pride Toronto. This generous contribution is earmarked for the enhancement of Beach Road near Hanlan’s Point Beach. 

In a statement released by the walkway art’s creator and artist Travis Myers, he said:

“Over the last couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the hidden history of this place and work to share it with others. I’ve also connected with so, so many people in Toronto’s queer community to learn what makes this space special for them.”

“But through that process, I’ve also heard from queer people who have been made to feel unsafe or unsupported. People who have been hurt mentally, physically, and emotionally. Stories that have broken my heart into a thousand pieces.”

“I know how that feels. Their pain is my pain.”

Reflecting on the purpose and statement the art installation makes Myers noted:

[The footpath walkway is] “to help people feel bolder in their sense of belonging. A way that geography can reflect back community. Something to empower them with every step to feel like they deserve to be here. That they deserve to be themselves.”

“This pathway is where people walked for the first Pride in Canada back in 1971. This is where people walked in the 1930s at the start of the modern queer community as we know it. And this is where we walk now.”

“As much as I wish it could be, this isn’t a force field that can protect people against violence, or the history books where queer history should be written. But it’s a start.”

Myers added that he hoped the people who use the pathway “feel like there are people walking with you. The forebears who fought for our rights. The ones who fought so we could be free. The ones who weren’t as lucky. And the ones yet to come, in search of community.”

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