December 31, 2014

2014 Photos of Pres.Obama You Might Have Missed

February 7, 2014
"This is one of those photographs that needs some explanation. The President had been meeting with Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, left, and Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness, to prep for a radio interview. At one point, the President made a comment so humorous that Jenn and Tara bent over in laughter." 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
March 4, 2014
"The President was visiting a classroom at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. A young boy was using a stethoscope during the class, and as the President was about to leave the room, the President asked him to check his heartbeat."
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
March 27, 2014
"The President talks with Pope Francis following a private audience at the Vatican." 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
April 4, 2014
"Despite the haphazard framing, I love the expressions on the President and one-year-old Lincoln Rose Smith as she learns to walk in the Oval Office. This moment happened when former Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith and her family stopped by for a departure greet and photograph with the President." 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
April 4, 2014
"Despite the haphazard framing, I love the expressions on the President and one-year-old Lincoln Rose Smith as she learns to walk in the Oval Office. This moment happened when former Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith and her family stopped by for a departure greet and photograph with the President." 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 August 29, 2014
"This view of the President reading briefing material was taken with a remote camera set up on the mantel above the fireplace in the Oval Office."
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
November 14, 2014
"The President walks to Air Force One at Naypuitaw International Airport in Burma for departure en route to Yangon." 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
December 12, 2014
"The President walks through the Ground Floor Corridor of the White House as he heads back to the Oval Office following a holiday reception." 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Looks like Indonesian Fl.8501 Final Resting Place has been Found


The search for doomed AirAsia Flight QZ8501 might soon come to an end. Indonesian officials believe a sonar-detected image of a large, dark objectfloating deep in the Java Sea is the missing airliner.
The development comes as the massive multinational search effort consisting of several ships, helicopters and planes ended its fourth day after the passenger jet with 162 aboard lost contact with air traffic control midway through its short flight Sunday between Surabaya, Indonesia, and Singapore. 
Source: CNN/Twitter
CBS News reports that it's unclear if the plane is intact. Likely proof that the plane crashed came Tuesday after there were reports of a "shadowy" object was seen floating off the coast of Boreno, not far from where the plane disappeared from radar screens. Since Tuesday, rescuers have recovered plane debris, passenger belongings and seven bodies floating near where the plane went down. 
Until the plane's black boxes are recovered, what brought the AirAsia flight down remains a mystery. If the pilot's last communication with air traffic control is any indication, stormy weather might have played a factor: Investigators are focusing on the timing of the crew's request to climb to a higher altitude to avoid bad weather as a possible factor behind the tragedy, Reuters reports.
More details of the final moments are emerging as the search continues. A body recovered Wednesday was wearing a life jacket, raising new questions about how the disaster unfolded and supporting a theory that the Airbus A320 suffered an aerodynamic stall and remained intact before hitting the water. 
The search will resume Thursday morning. 

Israel Should Stop Pink/washing” Gays and Instead Work Against Evangelical Gay Bigotry


Pinkwashing just won’t die.
No matter how many times the tactic is called out, its proponents just keep on doing it, blithely unaware of how transparently ridiculous it is — or how offensive.
So, let’s look closely at one recent example: last week’s full-page ad in the New York Times proclaiming “Hamas, ISIS, and Iran kill gays like me – in Israel, I am free,” together with supporting blog posts and Jerusalem Post puff pieces. Let’s see it for what it is, and try to explain to its backers – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s platform “This World: The Values Network” and the right-wing Zionist propagandists Stand With Us – why so many LGBT people are offended, rather than convinced, by such efforts.
Pinkwashing is trumpeting a country’s excellent record on LGBT rights as a form of propaganda. In the Israeli case, its purpose is to depict Israel as a liberal democracy – despite all that Occupation, anti-Arab discrimination, and Jews-first stuff you read about in the media. Indeed, pinkwashing usually doesn’t mention these issues, because pinkwashing’s logic is extremely blunt: we like gays, so gays (and liberals) should like us.
Now, as I have written many times before, not all Israeli gay messaging is pinkwashing. Some – I would guess most – is plain old PR meant to attract gay tourists to Tel Aviv. Which it does.
Nor are pinkwashing’s claims, themselves, entirely false. Yes, Israel has an excellent record on LGBT equality, and Iran, Egypt, and Palestine have appalling ones. Of course, pinkwashers’ data is quite selective; they rarely mention the thriving gay scene in Beirut, for example, and exaggerate the level of anti-gay violence in the West Bank. But I’ll set these quibbles aside and stipulate to their view of the facts.
Because even without debating the data, there are six reasons why pinkwashing is offensive.
You’re Manipulating Us
Let’s be honest: pinkwashing is manipulative. If you really cared about LGBT equality, you’d be out there fighting for it. You’d be opposing conservative efforts to make anti-gay “family values” a human right at the United Nations. You’d be opposing American evangelicals’ spreading of hate in Africa and Russia. You’d be ensuring access to transgender healthcare, HIV protection for sex workers, and sex education for everyone.
But pinkwashers don’t do this. They probably don’t even know about these issues. They’re only for “gay rights” when it suits their propagandistic interests. Do you see how transparently offensive this is?
You’re Usually Against Us
Worse, many pinkwashers are actually on the wrong side of history, when it comes to LGBT people. The dough-faced gay boy in Shmuley’s ad, Rennick Remley, is actually a longtime low-level Republican operative. Much of the campaign’s funding is reported to be from Sheldon Adelson, the Republican mega-donor.
These are the same Republicans who have fought for decades to render my marriage null and void, who continue to oppose nondiscrimination protections for gay people, and who are crusading, state by state, to erode LGBT equality in the name of “religious freedom.”
Oh, but those are the bad Republicans, you say. No – those are Republicans, full stop. The handful of gay Republicans like Remley are routinely drummed out of every significant party convention. Conservative evangelicals, meanwhile, make up 60% of the Republican base.
So, the same people suddenly for LGBT equality when it aligns with Israel’s interests are against LGBT equality when it conflicts with Republican ones.
A Country Can Be Pro-Gay and Anti-Human-Rights
Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: a country can be pro-gay and anti-human-rights.
I recognize that pinkwashers support Israel’s actions in the territories, its wars, and its anti-Arab policies within the Green Line. But let’s imagine someone who doesn’t – me, for example. When I balance Israel’s pro-gay policies on the human rights scale against its anti-Palestinian ones, I find the scale still tips sharply to the anti-human-rights side.
It’s not that I don’t see the pro-gay parts. I get it. And I get that other places are very bad. I just weight the Occupation, discrimination, settlements, home demolitions, Jewish State law proposals, and denial of citizenship to 2.5 million people more.
Critics of these policies are not “scapegoat[ing] Israel while pretending to care about human rights.” On the contrary, we are criticizing them because we care about human rights. We get that Israel is good on some human rights issues, and very, very bad on other ones. One does not excuse the other, and using one to distract from the other is morally irresponsible.
Nor, by the way, is it “scapegoating” to point out that the leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid is also the leading denier of citizenship to an occupied population. The for-us-or-against-us narrative is stupid when it comes to gays, and when it comes to supporters of Israel.
Stereotyping your Opponents
The scapegoating accusation points to pinkwashing’s tendency to distort Israel’s critics into weird caricatures that have no basis in reality. As I have said many times in these pages, I care about Israel, support Israel, and believe that organizations like Stand With Us are harming Israel. I virulently oppose Hamas – oh, and ISIS, which has nothing to do with this issue and which is actually quite different from Hamas, and an enemy of Iran. (The Israeli Right’s latest talking points are to link Hamas, ISIS, and Iran, even though at this very moment Iran is bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Do all Muslims look alike, too?)
In fact, no one is “remain[ing] silent” about the oppression these regimes are inflicting on LGBT people. Yes, many are suspicious of heaping criticism on them, for fear of being used by pinkwashing propagandists. But the notion that Israel is somehow the sole focus of human rights activists is just right-wing echo-chamber stuff. Shmuley, turn off Fox News for a minute. No one has the view this ad depicts. And it’s counterproductive to assert it.
Where are the Palestinian and Israeli LGBT People?
Even worse than stereotyping your Western opponents, though, is silencing the people you’re supposedly defending. It’s noteworthy that the poster boy of this campaign is a white, cisgender, American, Republican gay man. This campaign renders Palestinian LGBT people invisible, voiceless, and powerless.
If you were to actually listen to Israeli or Palestinian gay people, you’d hear very different stories from those of the pinkwashers.
From most Palestinian queers – certainly, every one I have ever talked to, which is probably hundreds by now – the Occupation is a far more serious issue than anti-gay persecution in the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, it’s hard to be gay in Gaza – just as it’s hard to be gay in Meah Shearim. But queer Palestinians will tell you that the regime of land confiscation, settlements, checkpoints, ID cards, building restrictions, and of course the wholesale bombing of civilian areas is a far heavier burden.
Most Israeli LGBT people, meanwhile, are on the political left. There is no single gay Israeli (or Palestinian) perspective, of course, but statistically, most oppose Netanyahu, oppose settlements, and oppose anti-Arab policies in Israel. In other words, they oppose everything that Stand With Us and Sheldon Adelson support.
Oh, and incidentally – if you’d listen to Iranian LGBT people, which I have, they’ll tell you that American propagandizing about gays makes life worse for them. It does not help gays in the Muslim world when American conservatives make demands on their behalf. Pinkwashers should shut up and listen.
What Should Gays Care About?
Finally, pinkwashing assumes a narrow-minded, parochial focus on the part of LGBT people and allies. It’s as if all gays should be like the “Israel-First” part of the Jewish community. If you’re for me, I’m for you.
In fact, many LGBT people identify more with victims of oppression than they do with oppressors who happen to be gay. Having experienced oppression in our lives, we know it – and fight it – when we see it. That’s why there are significant LGBT contingents in the #blacklivesmatter marches, in the climate justice movement, and in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Because for many of us, being LGBT means being anti-oppression.
Of course, many gay people are, indeed, Gay-Firsters. And many are right-wing Zionists. But to assume that to be pro-gay, or to be gay, necessitates that we “Speak up for Israel,” whatever that means, is to reduce LGBT experience to a narrow, tribal identity. It’s what the critic Jasbir Puar calls “homonationalism.” (You should read her, if you haven’t – which I suspect you haven’t.) It misses the vital bonds of solidarity that many queer people feel with other oppressed groups.
Not only is such me-first tribalism a low form of gay identity, I think it’s a low form of Jewish identity as well. Now there’s an idea. Maybe, instead of teaching gays how to be gay, pinkwashers might learn from us some healthier ways to be Jewish.
Contact Jay Michaelson @jaymichaelson

FL.’s Rural Panhandle a Heaven of Support for Gay Rights and Fairness

The article below was picked up by me and other news sites, for what people in the media are figuring out now; There is always have been a lot of support for gays rights in the rural panhandle since the days of AIDS commencing to go south. I lived in that community and  there is always the hard heads mainly out of ignorance and refusing to let go of good old bigotry but the majority were and are understanding and willing to help. They knew the importance of not segregating peoples’ into classes for the reason to dehumanized some. adamfoxie publisher

Stephen Schlairet and Ozzie Russ have almost as much in common with their neighbors in the tiny Panhandle community of Chipley as the way of life that sets them apart.
They raise horses and dogs. They live on a 20-acre spread on the outskirts of town. They lend a hand for the annual back-to-school fundraiser. They help out with the United Way. They wear cowboy hats.
Schlairet and Russ are also an interracial couple. They’re gay. And they’re at the center of a heated legal battle over same-sex marriage, banned by Florida voters who put a prohibition into the state constitution six years ago.
The court fight has put Washington County, with a population of about 24,000 and with almost twice as many miles of dirt roads as paved streets, at the forefront of what some — including Schlairet and Russ — consider the most pressing civil-rights issue in the country today.
Sitting side-by-side in their spacious home, Schlairet and Russ are a typical couple in many ways. They finish each other’s sentences, and reminisce over a photo album of their commitment ceremony nearly 15 years ago, a lavish affair on a yacht in Fort Lauderdale where both men wore white tuxedos.
They moved to Chipley, home to about 2,000 residents, a decade ago after Schlairet, now retired, got a job as an administrator at a local hospital.
Their presence in what they called a “sheltered” community over the years may have helped to open hearts and minds in one of the state’s most conservative, Christian regions, if not to gay marriage, then perhaps to tolerance of a different kind of love than most of their neighbors had ever encountered before they met Schlairet and Russ.
“A lot of people have not stepped outside of this box that they live in. We’re bringing something new to them and something that’s not what they see on TV or what people tell them about who we are. I think what changed their minds about us was actually having us in their presence to see us, and hear us, and be around us. …We’ve kind of opened their eyes,” Russ said.
Schlairet, 66, and Russ, 48, said they became plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s same-sex marriage ban not only so they could be legally wed, but to help pave the way for millions of others as well.
“It isn’t just that, though. It is the validation of our relationship. It is the validation that our feelings are just as important as yours. Isn’t it Shylock in Shakespeare who says when you prick me, do I not bleed? What was he talking about? He wanted to be considered equal to other people. That’s what this is. This is a civil rights issue for us,” Schlairet, wearing a leather cowboy hat and a Harley-Davidson belt buckle, said during an interview this week at their home.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in August ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional and ordered the Washington County clerk of court to issue a marriage license to Schlairet and Russ. But Hinkle at the same time put a hold on his ruling pending appeals in other cases. Hinkle’s ruling prompted Attorney General Pam Bondi to file a series of appeals, including a request to the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the stay. The high court refused, and the stay is set to expire at the end of the day Monday, meaning that Schlairet and Russ can obtain their marriage license next week.
Washington County clerk of court Lora Bell last week filed an emergency motion with Hinkle saying she would comply with the order to allow Schlairet and Russ to wed but asking for clarification about whether she would have to issue marriage licenses to other same-sex couples.
Lawyers representing gay couples in the lawsuit argue that Hinkle’s ruling applies to all 67 counties.
Schlairet and Russ, meanwhile, say they likely won’t get married on Jan. 6 because they want time to plan a wedding, although they will obtain a marriage license, which they would have 60 days to use.
For all the attention the federal lawsuit is getting elsewhere in the state and even around the country, Washington County residents seemed almost indifferent about the case, even though the majority of those questioned Monday objected to the idea of gay marriage, almost exclusively for religious reasons.
The rural Panhandle county is peppered with hay fields interspersed with oak trees dripping Spanish moss. Churches nuzzle up to horse pastures adjacent to mobile homes or sprawling ranch homes, all in various states of repair.
A few miles down the road from Schlairet and Russ’ home, the pastor of an Assembly of God church at first refused to speak with a visitor who is not a Christian, before trying to convert her.
Outside a Wal-Mart on a drizzly, gray afternoon, most shoppers approached by The News Service of Florida who were willing to talk shared the same opinion as Larry Brese, an 80-year-old Baptist who lives in Chipley.
“It goes against the Bible,” Brese said. But when asked if the issue was dividing the community, Brese said, “I haven’t heard anybody talking about it.”
Marvin Peterson, 87, agreed.
“I don’t think the good Lord wanted them to be that way. To me, that’s not love,” Peterson said.
Viki Macys said she moved to nearby Sunny Hills three years ago from Chicago to care for her ailing father.
“It’s better to love somebody than to hate somebody,” Macys said, but added, “I don’t really believe in gayness. I just don’t. I think it’s against God.”
Beverly Harris said she was not opposed to the idea of same-sex couples getting married.
“It’s their life,” Harris said. “If they want to live like that, that’s their business. As long as they don’t make a big thing out of it in public. Who’s to judge?”
But she said that most of her neighbors did not share her view.
“I’m very open about things. I wish they were more open,” Harris said.
Despite their misgivings about gay marriage and homosexuality, the people interviewed appeared almost nonchalant about the controversy brewing in their midst.
“Judge not, lest ye be judged,” one elderly man who refused to give his name said. “Especially in a free country.”
Main Street in the historic downtown area emanates a shabby charm found in similar small towns throughout North Florida. A post office, a florist shop and a restaurant or two are squeezed in among a growing number of vacant storefronts.
Pamela Harris, the owner of “Everything Must Go” on Main Street, said she was unaware of the gay marriage lawsuit until Sunday, when she heard about it at church.
“A lot of people are upset about it,” Harris said. “I’m not upset about the fact that they want to do that. I’m upset that they’re ignorant of the word of God. It’s just an abomination to God.”
Schlairet and Russ insist they have not suffered any retribution because of the lawsuit but instead have been surprised by the support they have received, especially from parents whose children are gay or lesbian and from gay veterans.
“This is where we live. We hope to shape this community for the better in whatever little part we can do. We’re not activists. We’re not. We’re just ordinary people that saw that something that was wrong. We had an opportunity to fix it. So we said OK, put our name on it,” Schlairet said.
The couple never envisioned getting married until they were asked to join the lawsuit earlier this year, Russ said.
“We thought we were going to have the commitment ceremony, be together, live and die. It feels good to have this effect, that we’re able to make a change,” Russ said.
For Schlairet, the lawsuit is a chance to shape history.
“A lot of people during the civil-rights era had the opportunity to stand up and say something and they didn’t. This for us was an opportunity. I didn’t want to have to, when I get to the end, have to say I had a chance once in my life when I could have made a difference but I copped out. That was important to me,” he said.
by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

December 30, 2014

Im Gay But Given the Choice I would be Straight….This Community is Got to Change!

I'm gay, but given the choice would I rather be straight?

There’s never been a better time to be a gay man, says Cristo Foufas, but the judgmental, dismissive nature of the gay community has got to stop.

“As a gay man I'd never believe being gay is wrong. But if it were a choice? I'd be straight. Which I'm sure is terribly un-PC, but honest.”
The tweet provoked some strong feelings among friends and followers, so let me explain where I was coming from. 
If you’re a single gay man, the last few years have seen a huge change in the way in which you meet men. More equality has brought more freedom, which means we don’t need to hide our sexuality away, secretly cruising parks and toilets after dark. Technology, too, has given us a new way to fulfil our urges and curb our loneliness via dating apps, the most popular of these being Grindr. 
“Dating” is, of course, the wrong word to describe the function Grindr provides, as I don’t know many men who use it to look for meaningful committed encounters. These apps aren’t used for dating at all - they’re used for sex. But increasingly, apps like these are the only way gay men meet.
Grindr is a showroom, a shop window; a chance to display your wares via a profile picture and a few words categorising the kind of guy you are. The kind of shoppers you're advertising yourself to are a fickle lot, making instant judgements and snap decisions. 
You have a few seconds at most to impress with your photo and your stats before you’re dismissed. It’s brutal. It’s awful. And I am as guilty as anyone of committing such awful brutality. 
Which is why find myself asking whether I would be so judgemental, and feel so judged by my own community, if I were straight? 
In the gay world you’re either too hairy, not hairy enough, too tall, too short, too defined, not defined enough, too camp, too smooth... the list goes on and on. It’s all just so shallow. 
And that’s aside from the label which you have to ascribe to yourself. Are you a jock (athletic)? A bear (hairy/stocky)? An otter (hairy/slimmer)? A daddy (older)? Or a twink (young/smooth)? 
Gay men have more bad labels than a branch of TK Maxx. For a community which has spent too many years fighting against discrimination, we spend an inordinate amount of discriminating against each other. 
Is the straight world like this? And if I genuinely had a choice, would I choose to live like this? 
Just to be clear, I don’t believe your sexuality is a choice, but is something you are born with. It chooses you. But that doesn’t stop me wondering "what if"? And that was the feeling behind my tweet. 
The gay community is a jungle. Why are we like that? Why are we so dismissive of those who aren’t perfect in our eyes? Why are we so abrupt? 
At the weekend I received a Grindr message. It read simply: “Big cock?” That’s the level of discourse gay men are reduced to on Grindr. I replied with a picture of the large ornamental cockerel in my garden, and was immediately blocked. 
Do straight people talk to each other like this, I wondered. Do straight people have a strict list of criteria that they will accept in a partner? I don’t believe they do. 
Is it because as gay people we grew up keeping our feelings secret and now we're making up for lost time by cutting to the chase? Do we demand perfection because for so long we felt far from perfect about ourselves? 
Has the inner shame of our upbringings, a fear of being judged by others, warped us into judgemental monsters now that our sexual desires are allowed to roam free? 
After posting my tweet, my timeline went mad. Some people agreed with me, for various reasons ("No one would choose to be a 2nd class citizen, no matter how liberal the country"), and some disagreed politely ("Totally disagree... I'm happy to be gay, would choose it if I could and think its a blessing"). 
But others were furious at my disloyalty. They felt I had demeaned the gay community to even think such a thing. 
At the other extreme, bigots would say that my question proves their point. That questioning being gay is proof enough that the gay lifestyle is wrong. 
But I stand by what I wrote. I think that the judgemental juggernaut that dominates gay culture is deeply unhealthy. It doesn't take a genius to work out that feeling judged constantly can make a person unhappy. 
Perhaps this is why gay men are twice as likely to have a mental health problem, or perhaps it even helps explain why nearly half of gay people have considered suicide. 
Don't get me wrong; there are countless wonderful things about being gay. It’s also brilliant that in 2014 we have finally got equal marriage, and that being gay continues to be "the new normal". 
But let's give each other a break. Many gay men have spent years fighting feelings of not belonging, of not being good enough. The last thing we need is other gay men sticking dumb labels on us and telling us that we're still not up to scratch. If we can move beyond that, hopefully people who are born gay won’t have to wonder whether their life would be easier if they were straight.

Upheld Convictions but Reduced Terms for Gays Arrested in Egypt

 Eight people sentenced to three years in jail after joining an illegal gay wedding ceremony are seen behind the bars in Cairo, Egypt, on November 1, 2014. The men were found guilty of spreading 'indecent images' and 'inciting debauchery' over a video that appeared to show them celebrating a gay marriage in Cairo. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Eight people sentenced to three years in jail after joining an illegal gay wedding ceremony are seen behind the bars in Cairo, Egypt, on November 1, 2014. The men were found guilty of “inciting debauchery” over a video that appeared to show them celebrating a gay marriage in Cairo. Credit: Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday upheld the convictions but reduced the sentences of eight men who appeared in a same-sex wedding video.
Last month, the men were convicted of “inciting debauchery” and sentenced to three-year prison terms after a video surfaced online of them at what appeared to be a gay wedding, the Associated Press reported. The sentences were cut to one year.
“Over the years, Egyptian authorities have repeatedly arrested, tortured, and detained men suspected of consensual homosexual conduct,” Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement following the arrests of seven of the men in September.
“These arrests represent another assault on fundamental human rights and reflect the Egyptian government’s growing disdain for the rule of law,” Reid said.
All of the men have consistently denied the charges.
Same-sex marriage is illegal in Egypt and while homosexuality is not an offense, in a country dominated by conservative Muslim values, gays have been charged with violating laws of morality, Reuters reported.
The most recent and high profile of these cases occurred in 2001. Known as the Queen Boat Trials, more than 50 men were arrested and charged with “habitual practice of debauchery,” after being detained on a cruise ship discotheque. Others were also charged with “contempt of heavenly religions.”
Nearly half of the men in the Queen Boat Trials were convicted, and served sentences ranging from two to five years.
Gay rights activists say that at least 150 men in Egypt have been arrested in connection to alleged homosexual behavior in the last 18 months.


2014 a Year of Deaths for the LGBT World Community

From mass arrests in Egypt and Lebanon to executions in Syria and Iran, 2014 was a largely acidic year for LGBT Middle Easterners, who are subject to some of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws and societal attitudes.
Yet amid the reports of persecution, there was good news for the community, mainly from Israel and Turkey, the two Middle Eastern countries with most legal protections for LGBT citizens – with one hopeful headline out of Lebanon, too. 
Islamic State / Suspected homosexuals stoned to death, thrown off building
In December, ISIS released graphic photos showing a man being thrown off a building, along with a statement reading: “The Islamic court in Wilayet al-Furat decided that a man who has practiced sodomy must be thrown off the highest point in the city.” The man’s body was then pictured lying lifeless surrounded by bricks; it was unclear whether he died from the fall or was then stoned to death. The previous month, Islamic State jihadists reportedly stoned to death two Syrian men, claiming clips on the first man's cell phone showed him "practicing indecent acts with males." 
Screenshot of ISIS militants throwing a man accused of being gay off a building in Iraq, Dec. 2014.
Israel / An LGBT haven – albeit imperfect
For those looking for upbeat headlines, Israel did not disappoint. Multiple gay pride parades were held across the country in 2014, with the flagship Tel Aviv Pride parade drawing 100,000 people, and Jerusalem marking its 13th such event. The Health Ministry came out against gay conversion therapy and then Health Minister Yael German spearheaded a bill equalizing surrogacy rights for gay couples. In September, Israel got its first openly gay congregational Conservative rabbi, and in November, Israel began issuing ID cards that allows people to list two fathers or mothers. Also, after a two-year hiatus, a sex-change surgeon specialist began operating in the country.
Dancers perform during Tel Aviv's gay pride parade, 2014. Photo by AP
A gay couple and their child pictured at Jerusalem’s 2014 gay pride event. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
There were also incidents of anti-LGBT violence, including the assault of a transgender woman by a group of teenagers, and an attack on a gay man in Be’er Sheva, in which the victim accused police of ignoring his injuries. In May, the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan, a city adjoining Tel Aviv, ruled against renting an apartment to lesbians. And, like previous years, Israel stood accused of 'pinkwashing.'
Iran / Homosexuals coerced to undergo sex changes, ‘immoral villains’ hanged
At Iran's UN Human Rights Council review in New York City, representative Mohammed Javad Larijani stated that Tehran will not recognize a “lifestyle” (that is, homosexuality) under the banner of universal rights. Apparently: In August, the Iran Human Rights group reported that two men were hanged in the southern city of Shiraz on the charge of sodomy. Then in September, BBC Persian reported that gay Iranians are being pressured into having gender reassignment surgery as to ‘cure’ them of their homosexuality.  
The Gulf / Whipped and jailed for being gay
Across the Gulf, no executions of alleged homosexuals were reported but arrests abounded. In Saudi Arabia, following entrapment by the kingdom’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a 24-year-old man was reportedly sentenced to three years in prison and 450 lashes for ‘cruising’ Twitter for men. In November, a man was reportedly jailed for three years for allegedly posting nude photos of himself on social media. In neighboring Kuwait, authorities reportedly arrested 23 “cross-dressers and homosexuals” in October after raiding a “wild party” held in a chalet, and in December, local media reported that authorities had arrested an Iranian man and Kuwaiti transgender person for kissing in a “morally offensive” video. 
Turkey / A year of firsts
All was not dark in the Muslim Middle East, however. Though Turkey’s ruling Islamist AKP’s grip on power seems perhaps firmer than ever, there were numerous reasons for LGBT Turks to smile in 2014. Chief among them was the Constitutional Court’s ruling that calling gays and lesbians “perverts” constitutes hate speech, after news site referred to Sinem Hun from an Ankara-based LGBT right organization as “the lawyer of the association of the perverts called Kaos GL.”
Istanbul Pride, 2014. Photo by Lubunya/Wikimedia Commons
In what is hailed as the Muslim world’s largest gay parade, around 100,000 people turned out for Istanbul Pride in June – a similar number to the march staged in Tel Aviv. Turkey’s first transexual beauty contest was also held during the June celebrations. In August, the country’s first gay lifestyle magazine hit the shelves, and in September, Turkey’s first ‘gay marriage’ was held (though only a symbolic one). In yet another first, Turkey’s parliament hosted a press conference to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, dedicated to the victims of transphobic violence.   
Ekin Keser and Emrullah Tuzun, who held a symbolic marriage in September. Screenshot from
Screenshot from of the winner of Turkey's first transexual beauty contest winner.
Bad news?  In September, the country’s first openly transexual reporter was fired from a TV station for reported ‘dress code’ violations. Also,, a global dating service, was banned by the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate, joining other blocked LGBT sites.
Egypt / Al-Sissi’s war on ‘debauchery’ heats up
In the Middle East’s most populous country, 2014 saw a much reported anti-gay crackdown under the Al-Sissi regime. Homosexuality is legal in Egypt but men suspected of being gay are subject to arrest on charges of “debauchery,” and around 150 men total were estimated to have been arrested under related charges over the year. In September, eight men were arrested for staging a ‘gay wedding’ on a Cairo boat on the Nile, and were sentenced the following month to three years in prison (which was later reduced to one year). Most recently, 26 men were arrested for allegedly participating in a gay bath house orgy in December.
Eight Egyptian men convicted for 'inciting debauchery' following their appearance in a video of an alleged same-sex wedding party on a Nile boat cover their faces in the defendant's cage. AFP photo

 Lebanon / Mass arrests and ‘anal testing’ – but one judge makes a stand
Though widely considered one of the more liberal Arab countries, police from Lebanon’s Moral Protection Bureau arrested 36 men in a Beirut adult cinema in July for allegedly meeting to engage in same-sex relations. Less than two weeks later, another 27 men were detained in an alleged gay bathhouse. Both groups of detainees were reported to have being subjected to ‘anal testing,’ a procedure intended to ‘prove’ a person’s engagement in anal sex, and therefore, their homosexuality. However, one positive headline did emerge out of the Land of Cedars: A judge ruled that homosexual relations do not contradict “the laws of nature,” and therefore cannot be deemed a criminal offense. 

There's much more out there - both reported and unreported. Being gay involves daily fear of assault, arrest and even death throughout much of the region. But among the horrors, as we saw, there are also signs of hope for the Middle Eastern LGBT community.
May 2015 bring more good news.

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