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23 year old university student becomes first non-binary mayor in Wales

“Coming out and living my true me is still the best decision I’ve ever made”

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Photo courtesy of Owen J. Hurcum (Instagram)

BANGOR, UK – This small city in Gwynedd in northwest Wales holds the distinction of being the oldest city in Wales. Now, it has earned itself a pair of new accolades, the first city in Wales to elect its youngest mayor and in fact to have the first elected non-binary gender queer mayor in the world.

Owen J Hurcum, a twenty-three year old university student, was chosen by their fellow councilors on the city’s governing council to become the mayor. The post, which is mainly ceremonial, acts as a goodwill ambassador for city in Wales and the greater UK as well as overseas.

Hurcum, who identifies as genderqueer or agender, told BBC Radio Wales Wednesday it “wasn’t a huge shock” when they were chosen to take up the reins, having served as a Bangor councilor for five years, including one term as the city’s deputy mayor. But they said it was a shock when they were initially asked to put their name forward because fellow councilors felt they would be a good representative for the city.

Their election to the office has created considerable controversy in some quarters with hateful vitriol being directed at both them and their fellow councilors. On Thursday the mayor tweeted;

“I would quickly like to point out that whilst I do indeed receive regular amounts of hate online, coming out and living my true me is still the best decision I’ve ever made and if you are thinking of doing it yourself, I promise there will be loved ones around to support you”

According to the BBC, they thanked fellow councilors for their support when facing online abuse. Noting that the city may be viewed as hardly the place one would expect to be a bastion of tolerance, they told the BBC;

“There was a trepidation because, obviously, local government has this unfair reputation of possibly being old and backwards, and I was worried that those views may come from fellow councilors.

But I have had the exact opposite. Every single councilor has been extremely supportive, and the previous mayor has called me when he has seen that I have been getting hate online, and he has said he is there if I need him. It has been really nice.”

Picture courtesy of Bangor Mayor Owen J. Hurcum

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Blinken says Biden raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin

Geneva summit between two presidents took place on June 16

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (YouTube screenshot)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said President Biden raised the Kremlin’s LGBTQ rights record with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their recent summit.

“The president pushed human rights — including LGBTQI rights — with President Putin,” Blinken told Washington Post columnist, “PBS NewsHour” contributor and host of MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show” Jonathan Capehart during a virtual Pride month discussion the Atlantic Council hosted.

Biden met with Putin on June 16 in Geneva. Blinken was among those who participated in the summit.

The White House did not say whether Biden specifically raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin. Biden told reporters after the summit that he stressed to Putin “that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view.”

“What he told President Putin is that as an American president — where for all of our challenges, many of which are manifest in recent months and recent years — this is something that is basically stamped in to our DNA and he would be abdicating his responsibility as president, as an American president, not to raise these issues,” Blinken told Capehart.

Capehart specifically asked Blinken about the case of two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia in February and returned to their homeland, even though they had fled Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

“We didn’t get into specific cases in that meeting, but he made very clear to President Putin that this is fundamentally who we and who he is and what we’ll do and will continue to do going forward,” said Blinken.

Blinken also did not say how Putin specifically responded to Biden’s decision to raise his country’s LGBTQ rights record with him. Blinken, however, did say “there was at least an acknowledgment” the U.S. will raise human rights in such meetings.

“This is what an American president should do,” said Blinken. “This is who we are and this is what we represent to the world.”

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Las iglesias en Cuba están más preocupadas por la educación sexual que por el Código de las Familias

Los adventistas publicaron una carta dirigida al presidente

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Una iglesia de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día en Santa Clara, Cuba. (Foto de Michael K. Lavers por el Washington Blade)

Tremenda Nota es el medio socio del Los Angeles Blade. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 16 de junio.

CÁRDENAS, Cuba — Una declaración oficial de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día confirma que la preocupación de algunas iglesias cristianas contrarias a los derechos LGBTI+, está más motivada por el programa de educación sexual integral aprobado por el Ministerio de Educación (Mined) que por el Código de las Familias.

Los adventistas, en una carta pública dirigida al presidente cubano Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, manifestaron estar “preocupadas” por la Resolución No. 16/2021, aprobada por el Mined el pasado 26 de febrero con el propósito de establecer un programa educativo con enfoque de género que promueve la inclusión de personas LGBTI+, entre otros temas.

La declaración adventista, aunque dice estar en “desacuerdo” con “los ajustes que se quieren hacer al Código de Familia”, solicitó puntualmente al gobierno “no exponer a nuestros niños, niñas y adolescentes a la ideología de género en las escuelas”.

“Finalmente, en caso de implementarse el programa de ideología de género en nuestras escuelas que este sea opcional, ya que no existen escuelas cristianas”, insistieron los adventistas.

La resolución aprobada por el Mined declara: “El respeto a la diversidad sexual, como fundamento ético y de protección de los derechos de las personas y de rechazo a prácticas y comportamientos homofóbicos, transfóbicos e inhumanos”.

La solicitud principal de la declaración adventista coincide con lo manifestado por otras denominaciones cristianas en sus recientes posiciones públicas. La Convención Bautista de Cuba Occidental, por ejemplo, también recomendó que la educación sexual sea ofrecida como una opción no obligatoria, bajo supervisión del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (Cenesex).

“Sería doloroso que muchos ciudadanos dignos se vean en la disyuntiva de no llevar a sus hijos a la escuela (asumiendo las consecuencias de ese acto de desobediencia civil) o entregarlos mansamente al bombardeo sectario de una ideología que rechazamos”, dijeron los bautistas.

La Liga Evangélica de Cuba, en su declaración publicada este 10 de junio, enfatizó en que se garantice la libertad religiosa y expresó que personas LGBTI+ “tienen derecho a luchas por sus demandas y pedir igualdad ante la ley”.

Los adventistas, en la misma línea que los metodistas, quienes solicitaron al gobierno una Ley de Cultos que refuerce la libertad religiosa, dijeron en su carta que si las autoridades finalmente legislan a favor de la igualdad LGBTI+, también proteja a quienes defienden “el punto de vista contrario a la ideología de género”, para evitar que sean acusados de homofobia “por proclamar y vivir los principios bíblicos”.

Los metodistas advirtieron sobre el peligro de “criminalizar nuestra defensa del diseño original de la familia, el matrimonio y la identidad humana”.

Las últimas declaraciones de las iglesias cristianas parecen dar como un hecho inevitable que el Código de las Familias adoptará el matrimonio LGBTI+ y se han enfocado en defender el derecho de los cristianos a profesar la fe que deseen sin ser molestados y la facultad de los padres para elegir la educación de los hijos menores de edad.

La resolución del Mined que han criticado estas iglesias, ya está en vigor. El Código de las Familias, la ley que debe resolver si el matrimonio será un derecho de las parejas LGBTI+, será presentado al parlamento en julio próximo. Después de ser aprobado por la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, será sometido a referendo.

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US condemns murder of prominent transgender activist in Guatemala

Andrea González murdered days after vice president visited country

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Andrea González (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

GUATEMALA CITY — The U.S. has condemned the murder of a prominent transgender activist in Guatemala.

Reports indicate Andrea González, executive director of Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche, a trans advocacy group, was shot to death in broad daylight on June 11 near her home in Guatemala City. Las Reinas de la Noche in a statement posted to its Twitter page mourned González.

“Reinas de la Noche is in mourning over the irreparable loss of Andrea González, a leader and activist for the human rights of trans people,” said Reinas de la Noche. “Her legacy will endure in each one of us, and her light will never be extinguished.”

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala noted González participated in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program that invites human rights activists, journalists and civil society members to the U.S. to meet with their counterparts and American officials.

Andrea González in D.C. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

González also worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala mourns the death of Andrea González,” said the embassy in a statement.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power and U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala William Popp on Wednesday visited Reina de las Noche’s headquarters to express their condolences over González’s murder.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung in a statement noted González was killed days after Cecy Ixpata, who was also affiliated with Reinas de la Noche, was killed in Salamá, the capital of Guatemala’s Baja Verapaz department.

Salamá is roughly three hours northeast of Guatemala City.

“We condemn the outrageous murders of two transgender women in Guatemala,” said Chung. “We believe all such violence must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable.” 

Chung added the murders are “particularly saddening as we celebrate the contributions of LGBTQI+ activists around the world during Pride month.”

Violence and discrimination based on gender identity remains widespread in Guatemala.

Two activists who work with LGBTQ Guatemalans and Guatemalans with HIV/AIDS are among the 18 members of Guatemala civil society who participated in a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris in Guatemala City on June 7. 

Harris has previously noted that violence based on gender identity is one of the “root causes” of migration from Guatemala and other Central American countries. State Department spokesperson Ned Price last month noted to the Blade during an interview ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia that protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers is one of the Biden administration’s global LGBTQ rights priorities.  

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