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Stonewall UK executive; Sabbatical after extreme amount of transphobia

Anti-trans voices in the UK have been collaborating with American anti-LGBTQ religious right groups such as ADF and Heritage Foundation.

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American performing artist Mariah Carey and Jeffrey Ingold (Photo Credit: Ingold Twitter)

LONDON – The man principally responsible for press and media relations for the United Kingdom’s largest LGBTQ advocacy and charity group, Stonewall UK, announced on Twitter Monday that he is taking a year off from his position because of considerable levels of transphobic abuse leveled at the organization and the UK’s trans community.

In a series of tweets, Jeffrey Ingold wrote that “after 3.5 years, it’s become an extremely difficult climate to work in amidst a tsunami of transphobia. The hatred directed at Stonewall has taken an immense personal toll on me. While it’s nothing compared to what trans people experience, I’m burnt out and tired of the abuse”

Ingold then took aim at the media in the UK writing, “right now in this country, trans people are facing an unprecedented, coordinated campaign of vitriol & misinformation driven by large swathes of the UK media,” he then pleaded, “if you are in the media, please do more to stand up for trans people in the newsroom and publicly. This is an emergency.”

Ingold followed that with “I also ask (maybe beg) you to support trans-led & LGBT+ charities across the country. They are in the midst of a long, hard battle where those who oppose progress are doing all they can to undermine the reputation & work of these charities.”

He finished up with “I’m quite scared! So much of who I am is because of Stonewall. I know admitting weakness can hurt my career, but this is important For now I’m going to rest and not rush into anything. But I always want to talk possibilities & will be doing freelance LGBT+ consultancy & PR work.”

“On a daily basis in Britain, trans people are the target of hostile national media coverage. Charities like Stonewall are equally in the firing line simply because we are working to create a better environment for trans communities. The level of vitriol, abuse and misinformation has reached a fever pitch,” Ingold told the Blade.

“My job meant I had to be across everything that was happening and coordinating the charity’s response. That’s an incredibly heavy burden when its so negative and unrelenting, coupled with the fact that I felt, however irrationally, that I was responsible for all the bad things that were happening to trans people. Not to mention the countless times I was the target of harassment online from a number of anti-trans journalists, individuals and organizations. Enough was enough,” he said.

“I want people to understand how dire the situation is for trans people. As a cis man, I have the privilege to be able to switch off and know that I’m not directly affected. But that doesn’t mean I can or should walk away. Trans people have always been at the forefront of our fight for equality and until all of us are free, none of us are free. I’m proud of the work StonewallUK is doing, but it shouldn’t have to be so hard and so toxic,” he added.

The situation for Trans people in the UK has been grim over the past several years with adversity building on several fronts; adverse public opinion escalated by British media outlets, the courts, in Parliament, and the UK government headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which so far has failed to reform the Gender Recognition Act, removing what Trans activists and advocates deem an unnecessary burden by requiring the Trans people to get a gender dysphoria diagnosis from medical providers to change their legal status.

The GRA provides the mechanism by which adult trans men and women can change their legal gender, by applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate that can be used to obtain a new birth certificate in the correct sex.

PinkNewsUK reported that applicants must have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, be able to prove they’ve lived in their “acquired gender” for at least two years and intend to live as such for the rest of their lives.

Two separate medical reports must also be obtained by applicants: one containing details of the person’s gender dysphoria diagnosis – which is a psychiatric diagnosis, meaning it can’t be made by a GP and has to come from a gender specialist – and one containing details of any medical transition the person has gone through or is planning.

It’s a 3-5 year wait to see a gender specialist in the UK right now. At the rate the line is growing, someone trying to get an appointment today will have to wait 26 years. Functionally, the vast majority of trans people in the UK cannot get a GRA because of this fact.

This coming at a time when the Tory led government is due to consider a ban on so-called conversion therapy, called for by Queen Elizabeth in her annual speech opening Parliament earlier this month.

In May 2019, the World Health Organization stopped classifying being trans as a disorder by moving from a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” under its mental health disorders chapter to a description of “gender incongruence” under its sexual health chapter.

WHO officials said at the time that this change was made to “reduce stigma”. The Human Rights Watch said governments should “move swiftly” to reform “laws that require this now officially outdated diagnosis”.

The atmosphere of transphobic attitudes has been given public voice, especially in the UK Press by those referred to as ‘Gender Critical’ (GC), which American Trans activist and author Brynn Tannehill told the Blade Tuesday are euphemistically referred to as trans-exclusionary radical feminists or ‘TERFs’ in the United States. “UK media is overwhelmingly hostile to trans people, features many transphobic voices, and trans people have little say on their own,” she added.

Adding to the pile on many notable anti-trans voices in the UK have been publicly collaborating with anti-LGBT religious right organizations in the US such as ADF and Heritage Foundation.

Liz Truss, the UK minister for women and equalities has been under fire for what queer author and activist Amelia Abraham has said is “Truss’s failure to support trans rights and adequately reform the GRA as government had promised to”.

Adding further controversy, Kishwer Falkner, who was appointed by Truss to lead the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said it was “entirely reasonable” to challenge the biological status of trans women. Falkner was speaking after the commission intervened in the case of a woman who lost her job after colleagues complained that she was bigoted and transphobic.

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Africa

Zambia president reiterates opposition to LGBTQ+, intersex rights

Hakainde Hichilema made comments in response to anti-LGBTQ+ protest

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Dr. Brian Sampa has organized protests against LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Zambia. (Photo via Dr. Brian Sampa's Facebook page)

LUSAKA, Zambia — Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on Monday reiterated his government does not support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

In a video posted to his Facebook page on Monday, Hichilema said Zambia is a country deeply rooted in Christianity and therefore does not support same sex relations. The president’s remarks came after Dr. Brian Sampa on Sept. 15 held an anti-LGBTQ+ rights protest.

The police stopped Sampa’s protest, which was to have taken place at the State House in Lusaka, the country’s capital. Officers said he did not have the necessary permits and told him and the handful of other protesters to instead approach the country’s Gender Ministry.

“Zambia is a Christian nation it’s clear! We all agree, but sometimes we want to extract sections of our communities and say these are not Christians. Religion in diversity. Churches in diversity but one body of Christ and I want to say it is not right,” said Hichilema in his video. “I have been following what is happening in the country and to say that the new dawn government is promoting lesbian rights or gay rights that is not right. We have said it before in opposition and now in government that we do not support gay, lesbian rights as a government.” 

“The records are there,” he added. “The media houses carry those records from years back but now in the last recent days people are propagating in churches preaching about lesbian rights that is divisive you know, the new dawn government this and that it’s not right let’s focus on unity, let’s focus on materiality, things that matter for this country, our children keeping them in school matters more than the peripheral petty side of a divisive behavior.” 

Sampa, meanwhile, has said he will be leading another anti-LGBTQ+ protest under the banner #BanNdevupaNdevu (#BanBeardonBeard) on Sept. 28. He said he plans to deliver a letter to the State House pertaining to what he labelled “the rise in unnatural acts like homosexuality.”

“Our fight is non-political. It’s for Zambians regardless of your color, creed, religion or political affiliation,” said Sampa on Facebook. “The president needs to be making it clear to those ambassadors from some countries our stance about homosexuality. Here we chase ambassadors who support homosexuals because it’s criminal under our constitution. The government has got power to end all this, but we are lacking political will against homosexuality. Use the law to the latter.”

“Parents make time to talk to your children and visit them in boarding schools,” he added. “Male boarding schools are no longer safe. The homosexuals are sodomizing children as they initiate them into this bad vice.”

Sampa also posted to Facebook a picture of a bed with what appears to be human feces on sheets. Sampa said it was a result of too much anal sex and cautioned that heterosexuals should be concerned if their partner wants to engage in it.

“Before you join them no matter the amount they will offer you, remember this picture. This is a picture of a bed used by a person with fecal incontinence due to anal sex what you are seeing are feces leaking from the anus because the sphincter muscle is destroyed due to anal sex,” he said. “This is an example of a male-to-male relationship. Don’t be deceived; the anus is not a sexual organ. Would a normal person be happy to dip their penis in feces? Nobody enjoys the smell of feces unless there is some psychological problem.”

“For ladies, how to know that you are dating a homosexual,” added Sampa. “If the guy keeps demanding for anal sex make sure you report him to the police.”

Zambia criminalizes same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

A court in 2019 convicted two gay men of engaging in same-sex sexual activity and sentenced them to 15 years in prison. They received a presidential pardon in 2020 amid international pressure, but reports of discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ and intersex Zambians remain commonplace.

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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United Nations

Biden notes LGBTQ+, intersex rights in UN General Assembly speech

President stressed ‘fundamental freedoms’ at risk around the world

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President Joe Biden speaks at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the White House/Twitter)

UNITED NATIONS — President Joe Biden on Wednesday reiterated his administration’s commitment to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.

“The future will be won by those countries that unleash the full potential of their populations, where women and girls can exercise equal rights, including basic reproductive rights and contribute fully to building stronger economies and more resilient societies, where religious and ethnic minorities can live their lives without harassment and contribute to the fabric of their communities, where the LGBTQ+ community, individuals live and love freely without being targeted with violence, where citizens can question and criticize their leaders without fear of reprisal,” said Biden in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

Biden specifically referenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the U.N. General Assembly ratified in 1948. Biden also noted “fundamental freedoms are at risk in every part of our world” with specific references to the Taliban’s repression of women and girls in Afghanistan, the persecution of pro-democracy activists in Myanmar and human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in China’s Xinjiang province that now former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet documented in a report her office released just before her tenure ended on Sept. 1.

Biden also sharply criticized Russia over its war against Ukraine.

“The United States will always promote human rights,” he said.

Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday spoke at a meeting of the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad, was among those who were in attendance.

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Middle East

Billed as the “Great Family Walk,” homophobic Turk groups protest

Speakers told the crowds that they were taking action to combat the “LGBT lobby,” which they alleged “has become a global problem”

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Anti-LGBTQ+ protestors gather in Saraçhane Park in the Fatih District, Istanbul to listen to Kürşat Mican (pictured) & other anti-LGBTQ+ rally organizers. (Photo Credit: Kürşat Mican/Twitter)

ISTANBUL – Despite heavy downpours mixed with light rain showers, ten thousand plus anti-LGBTQ+ protestors gathered in this ancient city and principal seaport of Turkey this past Sunday, Sept 18, protesting what organizers said was to protect their children from the “LGBTQ terrorist propaganda agenda.”

Billed as the ‘Great Family Walk’ lead organizer Kürşat Mican, speaking to the crowds gathered, demanded that the Turkish government ban all LGBTQ+ activities and shut down all LGBTQ+ organizations. The organizers were also demanding that Turkey’s parliament ban what they called LGBTQ “evil” which they claimed pervades Netflix, social media, arts and sports in the country.

Gathering at Saraçhane Park, protestors carried signs with the slogan “Protect your family and generation, the speakers in addition to Mican told the crowd that they were taking action to combat the “LGBT lobby,” which they alleged “has become a global problem.”

In a tweet Monday, Mican wrote (Translated from Turkish): “The fact that tens of thousands of people from all walks of life came together to put a stop to #LGBTdayatması [#LGBTimposition] and draw attention to the danger is an indication of how much our ‘Necip Nation’ values [Reference to Necip Fazil Kisakürek, Turkish poet, novelist, playwright, and Islamist ideologue ] his family and generation. No lobby can bring this strong will to its knees, biiznillah! [Will of Allah]

Sunday’s protests against LGBTQ rights was organized by Mican, Ersin Çelik and non-governmental organizations. The march, in which 150 non-governmental organizations participated, had a great impact organizers claimed.

Ersin Çelik, a writer for a conservative, Islamist Turkish daily newspaper, Yeni Şafak [New Dawn] has been fighting against LGBTQ rights and making efforts to what he has said on his social media accounts is to “protect young people and children from this trap,” called for the march on his social media account.

Mican and other organizers had also circulated a video prior to Sunday’s rally that showed clips from previously LGBTQ+ Pride parades, which was then also broadcast as a public service announcement by Turkish State Media, prompting an angered response from the country’s LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and activists.

Others who supported the rally included a popular female Turkish writer known by her pseudonym of Tahteşşuûr who tweeted: “LGBT looking for children to recruit! God damn you. #LGBTdayatması [#LGBTimposition]”

This year,  hundreds of LGBTQ+ people, allies, and supporters took to the streets of Istanbul this past June in defiance of the Turkish government’s ongoing 2014 ban of LGBTQ+ Pride parades and Pride Month festivities. Protestors violently clashed repeatedly with police and security forces in various neighborhoods located around the Bol Ahenk Sokak (Pedestrian Plaza) and other sections of the central downtown areas.

Government security forces arrested over 373 people and the largest Turkish LGBTQ+ activist group Ankara-based Kaos GL documented the arrests and clashes which occurred prior to the 5 p.m. planned parade kick-off in a series of Twitter posts.

Turkish Media Independent Media/News Outlet Ahval has reported that Turkey’s LGBTQ+ groups accuse the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of waging a “hate campaign” against them, encouraging violence against a vulnerable community.

Turkey has ranked second worst country in the European Union for LGBT people, scoring only above Azerbaijan, according the 2022 “Rainbow Europe” ranking compiled by Brussels-based NGO advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, ILGA-Europe.

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