Archive for the 'Guest Blogger' Category

From St Patrick’s Day to the “Anti-Gay” Laws: The Common Theme of the Invisibilization of Homosexuality

Guest Blogger:  Fabrice Houdart, President World Bank GLOBE

As St Patrick’s Day parade organizers in Boston and New York were arguing today that the parade “isn’t a sexually oriented parade” to justify banning LGBT people from marching with signs indicating their identity, I was reminded of conversations on the “anti-gay” laws in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.

The reasons why LGBT Americans are so eager to be visible in this parade is the same that drove homophobic parliamentarians to push “anti-gay” laws: visibility is key to greater acceptance of homosexuality. Tolerance of homosexuality is not only correlated with high visibility of LGBT people in the media and their communities, it is its single most important predictor even more than economic development. This transformative effect is what St Patrick’s Day parade organizers and Ugandan, Russian and Nigerian lawmakers want to avoid by locking the closet doors.

The historical tragedy and blessing for gay people is that they can avoid discrimination and violence provided they do not reveal their sexual orientation. But in exchange they must relinquish hope of progress and greater equality for their community. This was never an option for most other marginalized communities: such as racial minorities, people living with disabilities or women.

However, for LGBT people to be out in the workplace, in the medias or in community parades can have a transformative effect. The “contact theory” is now accepted as the main explanation from the sudden change of attitude towards homosexuality in the United States. As Herek and Glunt famously expressed in 1993 “heterosexual men and women who report knowing someone who is gay express generally more positive attitudes toward lesbians and gay men then do heterosexuals who lack contact experiences”.

In France or Spain, a mostly hidden gay population, particularly in very conservative workplace environments, has been a key impediment to greater acceptance. As a result France, which was well positioned culturally to be inclusive, remains today the least tolerant country in Western Europe towards homosexuals, with 28.8 per cent of the population responding that they would not want a homosexual neighbor in the World Values Survey (WVS) On the other hand, Nepal (which was not part of the WVS) where sexual minorities are increasingly visible is apparently showing clear signs of greater acceptance of homosexuals.

One of the most surprising aspects of our conversation on the “anti-gay” laws has been the perception by many that the impact of these laws is blown out of proportion and instrumentalized by western LGBT groups to their benefit. They point to the fact that there have been few reports of arrests, imprisonment and lynching. Similarly, they remind us that people who experience same-sex sexual attraction in these countries reject themselves the idea that such feelings make them “gay”.  A prominent African decision-maker – who has been silent publicly on the “anti-gay” laws passed in her own country – even called in a private conversation for patience with Africa reminding her interlocutor that it took centuries for western countries to experience this rapid rise in acceptance of homosexuality.

These arguments ignore the fact that “anti-gay” laws will actually prevent this cultural evolutionary process to even start. Ever. But beyond that, it is important to remember that this greater invisibilization is a step towards deshumanization, reinforcing the message that gays are outsiders. By deshumanizing LGBT people, politicians legitimize the violence, bullying and discrimination that many LGBT people experience everyday paving the way for a  possible more radical and systematic persecution.

I have no doubt that LGBT Americans will succeed in ensuring that the St Patrick’s Day parade becomes inclusive: it is too late in the United States to send back the LGBT community to the closet. Hopefully, the Russian community is too at the tipping point and they will find the courage and resources to overcome legal challenges. For Ugandan and Nigerian sexual minorities, the impact of the laws is tragic, reinforcing the existing widespread homophobia and annihilating hope for change.

Taking LGBT Business to the International Stage

LGBT Summit of the AmericasGuest blog post by Justin G. Nelson, Co-Founder and President of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) 

Last month, I had a chance to talk about international supply chain opportunities to a packed room of attendees at the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s National Business & Leadership Conference in Chicago. We were so honored that the conference sold-out and we had more than 500 people in attendance, including LGBT business owners, affiliate chamber leaders, allied organizations, and corporate representatives from more than 130 NGLCC partner companies.

Next week, the NGLCC will be in Colombia for the first-ever U.S. Government-certified LGBT Trade Mission to Colombia and the first-ever LGBT Summit of the Americas. We will bring together regional leaders, multinational corporate executives, leading entrepreneurs, and organizational partners like The Council for Global Equality, from across the region to discuss LGBT business imperatives.

The Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Government at large, understands the need for inclusive business models. In our meeting on August 28, Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank made clear that information on underserved business communities, be they gay, minority, women, disabled, or veteran-owned, was lacking, and that partnerships with community business organizations like the NGLCC are vital to understanding the needs of these businesses and their inclusion in wider programs – and more importantly, in the supply chain.

The NGLCC is proud of the network of LGBT Chambers of Commerce we’ve built across America and globally. We are so excited to be launching an affiliate chamber in Colombia during our trip, and as we continue to expand internationally, we know that our work with The Council for Global Equality will continue to advance the cause of LGBT equality around the world.

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT IraqisBlog Posting Written by: Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, July 2012

In March of 2012, U.S. and international media outlets reported a renewed wave of violence against LGBT individuals inside Iraq. Since that time, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) has conducted nearly 50 interviews (and counting) with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis who fear persecution and/or face serious protection concerns inside Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. About 45 interviewees identify as gay males and two are transgender persons, assigned female but identifying as male.

The Current Situation on the Ground for Gay Iraqi Men:

Protection concerns and vulnerabilities vary within the gay Iraqi community depending on whether the man is able to, or chooses to, hide any outward manifestation of his sexual orientation. Those that suppress any outward manifestation of their sexuality do not face immediate physical danger. Most are able to maintain jobs and leave their homes without facing serious protection concerns, but cite the psychological aspects of hiding a huge part of their identity as unbearable, and suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, all fear being “outed” and discovered by their families who may become suspicious of their sexual orientation because the men have never been married, or have been married but are now divorced.

Those whose sexual orientation is either known to their families or the general public face severe outward, physical harm, in addition to severe psychological trauma. A small number of the men interviewed were put under house arrest by family members after their sexual identity became known. This often includes severe beatings and intense pressure to marry in order to cover up any scandal. Other men were beaten by family members, mostly fathers and brothers, but then immediately kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go. This forced them to live house-to-house, depending on sympathetic family members or friends. Even those with relatively safe housing do not leave their homes, unless it is absolutely necessary, out of fear of being harassed, found by family members wanting to harm them or picked up by police or security forces. A large number of men have been subjected to severe sexual violence, including rape, from family members, police, security forces, and members of the larger community. Many also reported physical violence at the hands of these perpetrators, and, to a lesser extent, militant groups like Jeash Al-Mahdi or Al-Haqq. Like those who have not been “outed,” a disturbing number of gay men, with whom IRAP spoke, wished they were dead, could change their sexual orientation or be “normal.” Continue reading ‘Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis’


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