10 LGBTQI Activist Moments of 2013

At Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the last days of the year are a time to honor brave leaps forward and take stock of political set backs for LGBTQI rights activism in 2013. By no means comprehensive, we offer a brief survey of ten moments of LGBTQI activism around the globe in 2013. Join the conversation online and share more moments with us on facebook and twitter using #LGBTQIActivistMoments!

At Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the last days of the year are a time to honor brave leaps forward and take stock of political set backs for LGBTQI rights activism in 2013. By no means comprehensive, we offer a brief survey of ten moments of LGBTQI activism around the globe in 2013. Join the conversation online and share more moments with us on facebook and twitter using #LGBTQIActivistMoments!

1. Edith Windsor’s win for Marriage Equality: the Defense of Marriage Act is declared unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court. Federal recognition is afforded to same-sex marriages performed under state law. The U.S. becomes one of a handful of countries pushing same-sex marriage forward.

2. In a set back in Colombia, the nation’s same-sex marriage bill failed to pass the Senate and bypass coalition opposition led by the Attorney General. Legal ambiguity remains, however, with constitutional recognition of legal registry in effect. Couples can approach notaries or judges to marry, but their requests remain in the hands of officials who can deny them.

3. Years of policy advocacy, movement building, and direct action by LGBTQI activists of color produced hard-fought victories for immigration rights in California. The city of San Francisco passed an ordinance limiting the Secure Communities program (S-Comm), effectively reducing the threat of deportation to anyone arrested by local police. And the state of California passed the Trust Act, prohibiting local law enforcement agencies from detaining people for deportation if arrested for a minor or non-violent crime and are otherwise eligible to be released from custody.

4. New York City Council passed the Community Safety Act, winning New Yorkers protection from the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Simultaneously, Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a decision declaring stop-and-frisk as practiced by the NYPD unconstitutional. While this ruling was appealed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s administration, Mayor-Elect Bill DeBlasio has pledged to drop this appeal and it remains to be seen exactly how these new protections against police abuse will be enacted.

5. Ugandan LGBTI advocacy groups made collective strides pinpointing American evangelist involvement in anti-gay persecution in Uganda. The U.S. court case “Sexual Minorities Uganda vs. Scott Lively” moved forward while the Ugandan parliament unexpectedly passed its “Kill the Gays” bill.

6. Cuban lawmakers approve a proposal to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

7. LGBTQI activism swelled after India’s Supreme Court upheld a colonial-era law, Section 377 of India’s penal code, and recriminalized same-sex relations. The Court’s decision overruled a previous ruling of 377 as unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court, and severely set back LGBTQI human rights protections in India.

8. LGBTQI human rights activists in Russia witnessed a show of support around the winter Olympic games in Sochi. Activists called for action, reporting heightened LGBTQI violence since the Russian government passed an anti-gay propaganda law and conducted nationwide raids of nongovernmental organizations to identify “foreign agents” earlier in the year. International advocacy efforts include Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and other gay athletes joining a U.S. delegation to the Olympics.

9. In a unanimous 9-0 ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court decriminalized sex work offering constitutional protections to sex workers’ health and safety.

10. Guyana courts upheld a partial ban on cross-dressing deeming it illegal if done for “improper purposes.” LGBTQI rights groups in Guyana including Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination rallied to appeal the judgment to protect transgender people from being persecuted by 120-year-old law.


Join us at three events during EDGE Funders Alliance’s Just Giving Conference 2013 as we tackle the questions: What is to be done? And how do we do it?

2013 Just Giving Conference

Join us at three events during EDGE Funders Alliance’s Just Giving Conference 2013 as we tackle the questions: What is to be done? And how do we do it?

May 21 – 23, 2013
Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue NE | Washington, DC 20002
Click here to register

Inequities, Identities, and Power
Tuesday, May 21 | 8:30am – 10:45am
How do identity and power impact the contexts in which we operate as grant makers? How does privilege play out in our work? How can addressing institutional power imbalances contribute to deeper transformation? In progressive grant making circles, the power that is inherent in being a funder is often fraught with ambivalence. Many engaged in social change come to the work from a personal experience with the oppressive use of power. As such, building and expanding popular democratic power to actualize an inclusive and democratic global society is a central, if not explicit, goal of our work. Unfortunately, this does not mean that we – or our institutions – don’t (inadvertently) reproduce systems of oppression in how we operate. Through a series of exercises, interactive activities and group discussions, this institute will help us think about ”identities” and their intersections, around disability, sexuality, gender, race and ethnicity, class and age to name a few, in ways that can deepen our grantmaking practice. Participants will work together to identify the types of questions, interventions and collaborations that have the potential to change systems of inequity. Join us as we explore questions of identity and power in the context of philanthropy, consider how power and privilege play out in our work as grant makers, and discuss organizational and institutional practices to address power imbalances as integral to our work of social, political and economic transformation. With: Constance Cagampang Heller, Co-founder, Linked Fate Fund for Justice; Monica Enriquez-Enriquez, Program Officer, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; Diana Samarasan, Executive Director, Disability Rights Fund, Inc.

Sex Work is Work: Exploring creative strategies for promoting the economic rights of sex workers
Wednesday, May 22 | 11:15am to 1:00pm
Globally, sex workers face stigma, violence and discrimination with severe consequences for their health, economic status and human rights. Sex worker activists are often ostracized from mainstream human rights movements and funding for their organizations is extremely limited. As grantmakers interested in self-determination and autonomy, we have yet to come together to create a well-coordinated global case for sex work as an economic right and, therefore, a human right. In this session, we will hear from activists and funders about effective strategies focusing on core economic rights issues, such as the recognition of sex work as work, the decriminalization of sex work, alternative employment strategies, and the economic empowerment and social inclusion of sex workers. With: Svati Shah, New York University; Anna Kirey, Urgent Action Fund Advisor; Andrea Ritchie, Streetwise and Safe; Liz Coplen, Red Umbrella Fund.

Laws or Lives?: The Road from Legal Rights to Justice
Thursday, May 23rd | 9:30am to 11:15am
Foundations often fund advocacy to support systemic changes that will yield equity, safety, and health for marginalized communities. While this work is crucial, social movements have argued that it is not enough – feeling the constraint of the politically winnable against a backdrop of daily threats against their lives. In this session, we will use examples within the LGBT movement to explore the tensions between legal protections, implementation and the ability to thrive. We will examine two country specific case studies – Ecuador and South Africa – for insight about opportunities for moving from formal equality to lived experiences of justice. With: Andrew Park, Director of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Program at Wellspring Advisors; Mia Herndon, Global Philanthropy Project, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

May Grantee News

This month, we are featuring stories of movement building from several groups of grantee partners: Colombia Diversa, Taller de Comunicacion Mujer, and Aireana bringing visibility to lesbian human rights in the Americas; and Streetwise and Safe, Audre Lorde Project, and FIERCE challenging stop and frisk in New York City. We also report on El/La Para TransLatinas’ rally in the wake of ongoing violence in the Mission District of San Francisco.


A Historic Hearing on Lesbian Human Rights

Colombia Diversa, Taller de Comunicacion Mujer, and Aireana spoke at a historic hearing, the 147th Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 15th. The three Astraea grantee partners presented on the “Situation of the Human Rights of Lesbians in the Americas.” This marks a milestone for the groups who, respectively from Colombia, Ecuador, and Paraguay, have been advocating for five years to address regional lesbian human rights issues.

The organizations conducted policy advocacy work at the Organization of American States (OAS), which spearheads the IACHR, as part of the Coalition of LGBTTTI Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean, criticizing the heteronormative framework of women rights in the OAS and calling for inclusivity and visibility of lesbian rights within women’s rights. They also made the case for children’s rights to include lesbian girls and youth.

The groups shed important light on the disproportionate violence against lesbians, calling for specific attention to the needs of the lesbian community. They refuted the assumption that lesbians experience less violence within LGBTTTI communities. Instead, they pointed to evidence that lesbians are “invisible in all aspects,” due in large part to lack of overall reporting and documentation of violence, as well as high levels of domestic violence.

In the hearing, the three organizations highlighted institutional violence, demanding the definition of torture be broadened to include torture of LBTI people in the hands of state agents, the military and other armed forces, the police, and civilians including specific attention to the horrific practice of “corrective rape” perpetuated by the police, the military, and civilians. In addition, the groups advocated for lesbianism to no longer be considered a legitimate cause for the conviction of a crime. They also demanded lesbians have rights to motherhood free from prejudice and legal obstacles to adoption.

In response to the extraordinary human rights violations of so-called “Lesbian Torture Clinics” or “rehabilitation clinics,” they demanded action to monitor and ultimately close all clinics, and called for government monitoring and accountability. Qualifying lesbianism as an addiction or a disorder, these centers subject women to torture, enforced “feminine” dress codes, electric shock, verbal harassment, forced sexual relationships with other patients of opposite sex, and cold water showers at night. Testimonies offered reports of being chained, receiving threats, experiencing sexual harassment, and being threatened with rape by health professionals. The groups pointed to the need for intervention by the OAS since women are afraid to denounce these treatments and are often forced to sign the admission contract, or are forced into “clinics” by families that sign contracts for them. Watch the groundbreaking hearing in Spanish.

FIERCEFIERCE member Lee speaks at CPR rally

New York Grantees Call for Police Reform

“Floyd vs. the City of New York,” an historic trial challenging discriminatory police practices is currently underway in New York. Communities United for Police Reform, which includes Astraea grantee partners Streetwise and Safe, Audre Lorde Project, and FIERCE, has organized a large-scale community mobilization effort around the trial. Each day, different members of the coalition pack the court to show support and monitor the trial, and organize press conferences to highlight how police misconduct affects the lives of people living in New York City. The trial painstakingly reveals how the stop and frisk policy is maintained not by hard evidence of crime prevention but by veiled NYPD “performance goals” and racial discrimination.

On March 28th, with a room packed with LGBTQI supporters, the court was forced to open a large overflow room for more community members to bear witness to the proceedings. The subsequent “Fabulous & United” press conference included powerful testimonies from trans immigrant women who have been profiled as sex workers simply for carrying condoms, queer youth of color who have been harassed, and a black gay male survivor of violence who had been stopped and frisked so often that he was unable to go to the police for help when he was assaulted. You can watch the press conference and read recent NY Times coverage of the issue. Astraea is an official organizational endorser of Communities United for Police Reform and their campaign to pass the NYC Community Safety Act.

grantee-ellaparatransActivists rally to bring awareness of transphobic violence in the Mission

El/La Para TransLatinas Speaks Out Against Violence in the Mission

In the wake of ongoing violence in the Mission District of San Francisco targeting the transgender community, El/La Para TransLatinas organized a rally on March 28th to raise awareness. The action drew public attention to transphobic and homophobic attacks in the Mission. At the rally, the group called for solidarity and support from the city, inviting the public to “come and know more about your sisters and brothers in your LGBTQQ community.”

The action received attention from city officials, local media sources including the San Francisco Examiner and the Bay Area Reporter, as well as the San Francisco Police Department. In attendance were two San Francisco Supervisors and representatives from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

El/La Para TransLatinas is an HIV prevention and human rights program for transgender Latinas, providing safe space, health education counseling, and anti-violence and harm reduction support in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Testifying on Human Rights Violations

Astraea grantee partners Colombia Diversa, Santamaría Fundación, and Red Lésbica Cattrachas testified before the 146th Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC on November 1st on the violations experienced by LGBTQI people in Colombia, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.

Astraea grantee partners Colombia Diversa, Santamaría Fundación, and Red Lésbica Cattrachas testified before the 146th Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC on November 1st on the violations experienced by LGBTQI people in Colombia, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Colombia Diversa, an LGBTQ organization based in Bogotá, Colombia, requested the IACHR hearing.

Marcela Sa´nchez Buitrago
Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, director of Colombia Diversa, organized the hearing at the IACHR

At the hearing, speakers representing the three organizations reported on the high homicide rates faced by LGBTQI people in their countries, where citizens already struggle with militarization, civil wars, racism, and life under the rule of authoritarian governments. Between 2006 and 2011, there have been 542 homicides of LGBT people in Colombia and 76 in Honduras. Violence against transgender people in particular is on the rise. Authorities often fail to investigate these crimes, labeling them “crimes of passion” rather than human rights violations, and they are subsequently frequently left unsolved. When there is a follow up, the investigations are cursory and lack due diligence. The speakers urged the IACHR to push states to refer to the murder of LGBTQI citizens as hate crimes caused by prejudice, homophobia, transphobia, ignorance, and institutionalized discrimination.

Astraea’s grantee partners asked the IACHR to produce yearly reports on the situation of LGBTQI people in their countries, to hold further hearings for countries to report on conditions, and to pressure local governments to promote laws that favor LGBTQI equality. Additionally, the speakers requested that IACHR intervene to request that states legitimize LGBTQI civil society organizations, and that chosen family members, rather than or in addition to blood relatives, are able to represent victims of hate crimes.

IACHRThe organizations present also called attention to the need for more protections to human rights defenders in the region. They reported that in the few cases where they were able to bring hate crime cases to court, the perpetrators of violence remained free and were not held accountable. This creates additional risk for both defenders and LGBTQI community members.

Finally, in response to court judges referring to transgender women with incorrect gender pronouns, the speakers asked the commission to insist government officials receive training in interacting with LGBTQI communities with respect and dignity.

Following are the demands made of the IACHR and of the individual states.

Demands made to the IACHR’s Unit for the Rights of LGBTI people:
1. To identify how violence against LGBTI people is institutionalized through social, cultural and political practices and how it makes LGBTI people more vulnerable to homicides. To propose preventive and protective mechanisms to avoid violence against LGBTI people.

2. To identify and name homicides of LGBTI people as crimes based on prejudice and bias and to ask member states to respect and guarantee LGBTI rights and to prevent more homicides.

3. To conduct visits to different countries to be able to report on the situation described in the hearing, including the contexts in which the killings occur and the institutionalized impunity.

4. To include a chapter on the situation of the rights of LGBTI people in the Commission’s Annual Report.

5. To include in the Commission’s security procedures a criteria to help prioritize the rights of LGBTI people.

6. To establish a mechanism to monitor the situation of the rights of LGBTI people, including periodic reporting requirements for States, regularly convening hearings for organizations and victims to make statements.

7. To include in the prevention criteria, specific protections for LGBTI people for States to implement.

Demands for States:
1. To promote laws that guarantee equality for LGBTI people and to exclude rules that criminalize or discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity or that foster impunity for crimes based on prejudice.

2. To review the social, cultural, and institutional practices and procedures that act as barriers to the legal frameworks that seek to prevent and punish violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, making effective the sanctions related to these practices.

3. As part of the promotion of a culture of respect towards LGBT people, to implement a comprehensive information system that facilitates the coordination and unification of criteria and variables (which take into account the rights and vulnerabilities) in all instances of States to address the under-reporting of cases of violence against LGBTI people, including homicides.

4. To implement an internal, proper and complete training to be able to recognize the diverse sexual and gender identities and their specific vulnerabilities.

5. To create units and specialized research teams that have expertise on LGBTI issues and are able to treat the homicides of LGBTI people and the larger context affecting LGBTI people properly in order to implement appropriate charges to homicide on the grounds of prejudice.

6. To grant legal representation to human rights organizations and chosen family members of victims of homicide, so they can access justice to help end impunity.

7. To adjust their protection mechanisms taking into account the specificities of the various gender and sexual identities. Immediate protection mechanisms are needed.

Miriam and Vincent’s Birthday Justice Social

Astraea Board Member Miriam Perez and Astraea supporter Vincent Villano are coordinating a joint birthday Justice Social!  The evening will feature food, music and entertainment to benefit the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

Saturday, May 22

7:30 – 10:00 PM

Home of Miriam Perez

Washington, D.C.

For more information or to host your own Justice Social, contact our Events Manager at 212-529-8021 x14 or events@astraeafoundation.org.