Showing posts with label International Coming Out. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Coming Out. Show all posts

March 21, 2017

LGBT’s are Coming Out in Cambodia

Cambodia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is coming out with an assertion of unprecedented pride, in stark contrast to just five years ago when discrimination and bullying were usually endured in private.
Gay groups have formed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the pink economy is proving lucrative for LGBT-friendly bars and coffee shops opening around town, alongside a fledgling gay media and entertainment industry.
Q Cambodia
Cambodia's first gay magazine, Q Cambodia, recently celebrated its second anniversary with Sorel Thongvan -- who was raised in Paris by Cambodian parents and worked for fashion labels Giorgio Armani and Alexander McQueen – as editor-in-chief.
The magazine is focused on gay friendly businesses in Phnom Penh, like the Feel Good Cafe II, and others in Siem Reap, Battambang and Kep, with frank discussions about homosexuality and the fears that are too often associated with that.
“Our cafe is not focused on gay or lesbian. The most important aspect is the quality of work. They need to be punctual. We work like a family and have fun,” said Chhay Bola, 23, a senior barista at Feel Good Cafe II.
“Customers keep coming in knowing that we have gay staff. It is not like they are going to say this coffee shop has gay people and you should not come. So I don't feel discriminate at all.”
Prejudices persists
Q Cambodia is also marketed for people like Long Malen, a lesbian and senior at the university majoring in law, who had a tough time with her family once they discovered her sexual orientation.
Q Cambodia is also marketed for people like Long Malen, a lesbian and senior at the university majoring in law, who had a tough time with her family once they discovered her sexual orientation.
Q Cambodia is also marketed for people like Long Malen, a lesbian and senior at the university majoring in law, who had a tough time with her family once they discovered her sexual orientation.
“One day, I had a meeting with my parents and they asked whether I was attracted to boys or girls? I said my inner feeling is as a boy and I that I am attracted to girls,” she said. “My parents then told me to choose; do want your family or do you prefer being who you are?”
Long Malen, who prefers to dress as a man, began promoting LGBT rights and then left home.
“People always look at the negative side of the LGBT community. It is fair to show their positive side too, and their commitment and their abilities. Moreover, if they can get the support they need from their family they can become a better person, a good student, get a job and help the family,” she said.
“I believe that what we are doing now can definitely make a change. We want to change the mindset rather than changing just people's behavior,” said Srun Srorn, founder of the group Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK).
Traditional barriers
As a conservative country, Cambodians have traditionally viewed LGBT practices as being against nature and a threat to rebuilding of the social order in the aftermath of 30 years of war which left this country's social fabric in tatters.
Many faced abuse and discrimination at home, in school, and in the workplace. Some were rejected by their families or pressured into a conventional marriage where they struggled with their sexual identity. Others were locked-up in their village homes.
Srun Srorn said reports of human rights violations and discrimination were often low because many LGBTs preferred to keep their sexual orientation a secret rather than complain to the authorities. But he said that has changed with the number of people who are openly gay increasing significantly over the last five years.
“The number of violations, both physical and mental, reported against them is now also high.” he said. “I think LGBT self-expression has improved and is now good. But human rights violations and depression caused by parents who think can they take a gay child to a village sorcerer to be “cured” – still exists.”
Royal approval
Overcoming traditional views was initially tackled by the late King Norodom Sihanouk. In 2004, he was widely applauded for lending his support to the LGBT community by coming out in favor of same sex marriage. It was a royal statement that has remained unchanged under current King Norodom Sihamoni.
Noun Sidara, coordinator of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) project, said the king’s support inspired LGBT activists to stand up and promote their rights for the first time.
Noun Sidara, coordinator of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) project, said the king’s support inspired LGBT activists to stand up and promote their rights for the first time.
Noun Sidara, coordinator of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) project, said the king’s support inspired LGBT activists to stand up and promote their rights for the first time.
“Because of the king’s speech in 2004, laws prohibiting gay marriage have been deleted. This has helped the LGBT community in dealing with prejudices. Although there are still no laws to protect LGBTs, this was a very positive sign,” Noun Sidara said.
They were tentative first steps, Srun Srorn said, which were helped along by the digital age and online communications, a Cambodian education system that has vastly improved in recent years and successful LGBTs – whether it's in business or life.
“Technology was the first factor. It helped LGBTs to come out into the open and show themselves for who they really are. I am referring to the young people who were born in the 1990s. They live in a technology-driven era that helps them to inter-connect with people around them,” he said.
This page was published on Voice of America on Tuesday 3/21

February 1, 2017

Coronation Street Star Rob Mallard Comes Out

 Coronation star Rob Mallard comes out

Coronation Street star Rob Mallard has thanked fans for their support after revealing that he is gay.

Rob, who plays Daniel Osbourne in Corrie, has spoken for the first time about his sexuality in Gay Times magazine and took to Twitter to thank people for their kind words following the article.

He said: “Thanks for all the kind words following the @GayTimesMag interview! Genuinely touched by people’s kindness.”

Oldham actor Rob, who plays Ken Barlow’s bookish son Daniel in the ITV1 soap, told Gay Times that he never planned to keep it quiet that he was gay but his only concern was that viewers wouldn’t believe his relationships with women on the show.

The actor, who came out to his friends and family at the age of 17, arrived in Weatherfield at the end of last year. His mysterious character turned up at his dad Ken’s bedside after he had suffered a stroke.

And his character will soon be seen enjoying a steamy fling with Sinead Tinker, played by Katie McGlynn, in the Underworld factory after her relationship with Chesney Brown broke down.

January 9, 2017

FA ChairmanAfter Meeting Gay Players Suggests ‘Come Out as a Group'

Greg Clarke, the Football Association chairman, has spoken to gay footballers and suggested the idea of a group of players coming out together.

Clarke said last year that he “wouldn’t recommend” a footballer coming out at the moment because of the risk they would be verbally abused, but believes several players sharing the spotlight may be the answer. “I put the message out there that if a number of top-level pros want to come out, why don’t we synchronise it? So one person doesn’t have to come out on their own,” he said in an interview with the Times newspaper.

“The Premier League, the Football League and the FA could do it at the start of the season. At the start of the season everybody thinks it is their season, the crowds are happy, the sun is shining. I was asked [recently] if football is ready for top-level pros to come out and I said I’m not sure we were.

“There was a survey which said people would support gay people in their own team, yes, but I’m worried about what they said about gay people in the other team, not that they would do bad things, but I said we should prepare well.

“I’ve been asking the gay community: ‘How can we provide more support and orchestrate it so that people get the right level of support if people want to be open about their sexuality?’. I’ve met 15 gay sports people in the last four weeks to ask their views, including footballers.

“It is very difficult to get to a representative set of gay, top-level footballers because some of them are happy with their sexuality and just don’t want anyone to know. I don’t want to be part of a process that says: ‘You’ve got to come out.’ That’s not right. People are cautious. It’s a one-way street. Once you’re out of the closet, you’re out.”

Clarke also spoke about the possibility of the next England manager coming from the BAME community. “I can see a black England manager,” he said.
Asked in particular about the Brighton manager Chris Hughton, who was born in London and played for the Republic of Ireland, Clarke replied: “Why not? It would be wonderful to see a black England manager. It would put us forward 20 years.”

He continued: “We are trying to achieve more opportunities. When I talked to Football League owners about this, I said: ‘How do you appoint managers?’ [They said]: ‘I talk to my mates, ex-players, ex-managers.’

“Who are they?’ ‘White?’ Their friends are white.

“Does that mean it would be difficult to get on your radar if you’re black?’ ‘I hadn’t thought about that.’

“It wasn’t conscious racism. But there was a realisation that: ‘Shit, we have a system that is systematically biased against black people unintentionally.’”

Clarke, meanwhile, remains optimistic about introducing a winter break into the Premier League season, but reckons England can win a major title even without one. “I am hopeful about a winter break,” he said. “It would be good for player welfare. Tired players getting injured is not morally right.

“You can get to two weeks by getting rid of a few replays, moving a few things to midweek, but medical stats show two weeks is not enough. It has to be three or four weeks to make a difference. That knocks a hell of a hole in the season.

“I think we can win a tournament without a winter break. England probably should be a consistent top-10 performer in the world, occasionally being a top-four performer, becoming a top one or two performer.” 


December 21, 2016

Tracer, Banned by Putin for Being Gay Has Come Out to All


In the comic, Tracer is trying hard to find a last-minute Christmas present for Emily – a blue/green scarf – but, as a good samaritan, she feels guilty and gives the last available scarf to another patron present at the store. Luckily, the holiday spirit works in her favour as a young girl presents her with the exact same scarf just in time for her to bring it back home.

Tracer’s exact sexual inclination is still unclear, as far is if she is a lesbian, bisexual or some other identity in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum but I doubt that much will be explicitly confirmed.

Tracer’s freshly announced sexuality has received mixed reactions. Many are still in doubt if this is merely perpetuating the “hot lesbian” trope. Basically, the argument here is that Blizzard might be taking a shortcut to LGBT representation in Overwatch.

And, there’s something to be said for stating and understating someone’s sexuality, the way The Last of Us accomplished with Bill – a character who just so happened to be a gay, but it was never sensationalised by the media.

Some have also made the argument that a more challenging paradigm shift would actually be the inclusion of gay male characters. While more gay males showcasing would be an interesting addition, it should not come at the cost of female LGBT representation, which is disproportionately low compared to male LGBT representation.

February 12, 2016

FaceBook: 'More Australians are coming out with their Profiles than ever before’

 More Australians than ever are identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex on Facebook, a new data analysis has revealed.
The LGBTI community in Australia is building momentum on the social media platform and many users are proud to express their sexuality or support, Facebook said.

The social media giant released data on Wednesday which showed by the end of 2015, the number of people coming out on its platform each day was double what it was at the start of the year.

Researchers said social media was also gaining momentum as a platform for the LGBTI community to connect and share.

In 2015, the topic of marriage equality was the sixth most-talked-about topic on Facebook globally and the 11th most-talked-about topic in Australia, the company said in a statement.

The analysis did not reveal the daily number of Australians coming out or total number of LGBTI Australians, but Facebook said "the total number of Australians who have come out on Facebook has risen substantially".

Facebook measured the number of LGBTI Australians by monitoring which of its 14 million Australian users changed the "interested in" field to reflect a same-gender interest, an interest in both genders, entering into a same-sex relationship, or used a custom gender.

The study said the rise in people selecting their sexuality indicated more people than ever were comfortable with identifying themselves as LGBTI.

Last year saw a 20 per cent increase in people "liking" pages classed as LGBTI, including pages advocating for gay marriage or gay news services.

Growth in page likes spiked during significant events such as the 2015 Mardi Gras, the Irish referendum in favour of same-sex marriage in May, and US supreme court decision legalising same-sex marriage in June.

More than a quarter of all supporters of the high-profile Australian LGBTI pages are now international, from more 200 countries, the data also revealed.

September 2, 2015

Australia’s “Got Talent” Greg Gould Comes Out of the Closet in a ‘Leap’

Coming out rarely takes place with one bold leap out the closet. For 2013 Australia’s Got Talent runner-up Greg Gould, it has been more like tiny footsteps – first considering himself bisexual, then coming out to his family.

With the imminent release of his debut single, Run to You, the 27-year-old is taking one of his last and final steps, by coming out to his fans.

Clean-cut and dressed in a midnight-blue dinner jacket (“blue is my colour,” he says), the singer, from the NSW central coast, comes off as boyish and animated but relaxed. “In other interviews I’ve been more nervous because I’m trying to pander to what I’m not,” he says.

When Gould was just 17 he found himself subjected to the scrutiny of Australian Idol producers, who bluntly asked if he was gay.

In other interviews I’ve been more nervous because I’m trying to pander to what I’m not
When Gould replied, “When I know, I’ll let you know” and that for now he was “label-free”, Mark Holden, the judge, told him: “To be honest, mate, let’s cut to the chase here when you say ‘I’m label-free’, that means ‘I’m gay’. It does, mate.”

Another producer advised the aspiring pop star: “Don’t be too gay.”

Gould never made it past the show’s top 40 round and left the competition feeling deeply disillusioned. “Nope, I can’t do it,” he thought. “I’m not ready to be me, let alone be in this industry.” His father encouraged him to pick up a trade and he reluctantly became a hairdresser.


“My dad was the first person I came out to,” he says, describing his father as an aggressive problem solver. Recognising that his son was troubled, they sat down one day and ran through the list of possibilities: was it school, was he doing drugs?

“And that’s when I said I thought I might be bisexual,” he says.

“His reaction was, ‘Bisexual? So you have a choice! I’m not going to make the decision for you, but if I had to make this decision between a sweaty, meaty man or a gorgeous, voluptuous woman, I know what I’d choose.’”

The singer smiles, then says: “I don’t think I made the same choice.”

It took Gould some time to realise he wasn’t bisexual, he was gay. And even more time to realise he would never be happy as a hairdresser – he was a musician.

When auditions came around for Australia’s Got Talent, it represented a second chance for Gould. He was now 25, more confident and determined not to let his sexuality eclipse his talent. Appearing alongside a six-piece band as Greg Gould and the Chase, his brassy, stage-shaking takes on Prince, Nina Simone and Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me a River took them all the way to the 2013 finals – nabbing the band the runners-up spot.

Throughout Gould’s run on the show no reference was made to his sexuality. But in the post-reality show scramble for managers and label deals, no one in the industry seemed to know what to do with him. He was consistently told to either hide his sexuality or go the opposite way – become the movement’s poster boy, be “really fabulous”.

“I’m not – ” Gould breaks into a hyper-camp impression, “Hello! I’m going to be the poster boy for gay people! … I’m not that person,” he says emphatically.

And yet, with his ambitious campaign to support marriage equality called #keeprunning (“Now is not the time to slow down, we need to keep running towards marriage equality,” he says) he is becoming a poster boy of sorts. Just without bearing the badge of a “gay musician”, merely a musician who happens to be gay.

When I hear someone say you can’t marry another man, it’s dehumanising
Greg Gould
“I’m a serious artist with real music,” he says. “I’ve got stuff I want to say, I want to sing about.” He is hoping to set an example. “You don’t have to be a certain way to be gay. And you don’t have to be a certain person to be successful.”

Among his musical influences (Tina Arena, Guy Sebastian), he greatly admires the British singer-songwriter Sam Smith, who has been frank about his sexuality and made music that has touched a wider audience. “Sam Smith is huge in Australia, so why don’t we have our own?

“Why can’t I be the next Sam Smith?” he asks. It is more than a rhetorical question. It is a challenge.

He remains frustrated by Australia’s inability to make marriage equality a legal reality. “I’m just sick of these excuses. You can put eggs in any basket but at the end of the day there are people in this country that are adding plenty of value to the community, that have so much love to give, but they’re being denied the right to marry who they love.”

And he views former prime minister Julia Gillard’s change of heart with some scepticism. “When she was in a position of power she could have done something then. I feel like it’s a little bit too late,” he says, although he acknowledges it is a positive step.

 Greg Gould and the Chase on Australia’s Got Talent
“When I hear someone say you can’t marry another man, it’s dehumanising. It’s saying, ‘We can’t give you the same certificate. We can’t credit your love the same as somebody else’s.’”

Would he like to get married one day? “Absolutely. But only if we’re all allowed to do the same thing, we all have the same rights in this country. And hey, I’m not going to be allowed to marry unless they change the law. So hurry up!”
And he adds with a wink. “So if Mr Right is out there … ”

In the meantime, Gould is busy keeping up with the seismic shifts in his career. The power romance ballad Run to You was written by American songwriters Chris Mann and Jared Lee, but Gould says was partly inspired by “the only time I’ve ever been in love” and recorded in Erina on the NSW central coast with Adam Lambert’s band. “I wanted it to be an anthem for love because at the moment we can’t have an anthem for marriage equality – we haven’t got it in this country,” he says.

Just last week Gould moved from the central coast to Sydney and, in making the decision to reveal his sexuality, feels he has broken new ground.

“My whole body had changed, my whole world felt different,” he says. “It felt like I was moving towards something really perfect.”

Monica Tan
The Guardian

August 1, 2015

Israeli Likud Party MP Comes Out Gay After Stabbings

MK Itzik Shmuli of the Zionist Union party 
MK Itzik Shmuli of the Zionist Union party came out of the closet on Friday, a day after a stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade injured six people.
 The lawmaker penned a column in the Hebrew language Yedioth Ahronoth daily, under the headline: “The knife is raised on my community.”
 “We cannot be silent any longer,” wrote Shmuli. “We cannot be silent any longer because the knife is raised on the entire LGBT community — my community — and it won’t stop there.”
The column was Shmuli’s first public comment on his sexuality, which was the subject of some speculation last December when a prominent LGBT activist urged Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to dismiss the closeted MK in his party.
In a column on the Mako news website, Gal Uchovsky had urged Herzog to wrestle with the “elephant in the room.”
Security forces reach for an ultra-Orthodox Jew attacking people with a knife during a Gay Pride parade Thursday, July 30, 2015 in central Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Security forces reach for an ultra-Orthodox Jew attacking people with a knife during the Gay Pride parade in central Jerusalem, July 30, 2015. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
“Bougie, if you view yourself as the next prime minister of Israel, you must also deal with the elephant, and suggest one of the following two options: Leave the closet, or leave the Knesset,” he wrote, using Herzog’s nickname.
“Want to stay in the closet? No problem, stay at home. Want to be a Knesset member? Then there is no closet,” he wrote. Uchovsky also termed the situation “a disgrace,” “ridiculous,” and “shameful.”
Uchovsky did not name the Shmuli by name, and asked in a postscript that readers refrain from posting the Knesset member’s name in the comments, out of respect.
The column, which Herzog reportedly refused to address, drew ire from Zionist Union MKs.
Member of Knesset Micky Rosenthal claimed at the time that Uchovsky’s column was “vulgar,” according to Channel 2. “I think he really exaggerated this time. Most of his claims, in my eyes, are unfounded,” he said.
Participants of the gay pride parade in Jerusalem flee knifeman Yishai Schlissel, July 30, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Participants of the gay pride parade in Jerusalem flee knifeman Yishai Schlissel, July 30, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Meanwhile, MK Nahman Shai urged the activist to respect the privacy of the Knesset member in question.
“A person is allowed to protect their privacy and sexual identity, as reason and common sense dictate,” he said.
Six people were stabbed Thursday at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade by an ultra-Orthodox assailant who committed the same crime 10 years ago. Yishai Schlissel had been released from prison three weeks ago. Two of the six victims, a teenage girl and a 26-year-old man, remain in serious condition.

June 15, 2015

Young Hungarian Comes Out but Recommends DADT for Other Youth

DADT= Don’t ask don’t tell U.S.’old policy with dealing with gay soldiers which was killed by the White House, Congress and the Secretary of Defense along the Brass. It meant to have gay soldiers to keep quiet about their sexuality. A great tool for abusing gay soldiers from black mailing to discharges galore.


András Stumpf is a prominent thirty-something conservative publicist, known most for his self-assured, sometimes aggressive and always irreverently outspoken style. He sometimes reminds me of a young, rigid, right-wing libertarian, who hasn’t come to understand that the world is full of nuance, and that these complexities require some sensitivity. Mr. Stumpf, who once worked for the Heti Válasz weekly, but is now employed by Mandiner, a conservative blog and news site, contributed a piece to the Magyar Nemzet daily paper on gay rights in Hungary. He was, in part, responding to liberal publicist Zoltán Ceglédi, who noted that hundreds of thousands of Hungarians don’t enjoy full civil rights. Mr. Ceglédi was referring to the country’s LGBT community, and the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Hungary. In fact, while there had been progress made in 2009 on legalizing same sex unions, Fidesz’s constitution enacted in 2012 prohibits same-sex marriage.
Mr. Stumpf, however, offers the following solution to those in Hungary’s LGBT community:
“A gay man in Hungary has the same right to marry a woman, as a heterosexual would have. Rights relate to the individual, and liberals, of all people, should know this. If someone does not want to make use of this right, because he isn’t attracted to women, then that is understandable, but it doesn’t mean that he is being deprived of his rights simply because he can’t marry a man.”
Mr. Stumpf continued his flippant line of reasoning by adding that he isn’t going to cry discrimination, simply because he isn’t allowed to participate in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke, even if he would really like to.
“Grants and funds are being dedicated to support people coming out of the closet, as if there was any merit to declaring something in public that the public has never asked to hear about,” Mr. Stumpf added.
András Stumpf.
András Stumpf.
He then spoke of how difficult it is for him to digest the fact that Zoltán Lakner, a young and talented liberal political scientist with whom he often appeared together on television news programs, has come out as being gay. “His ability to reason is outstanding, he is smart and well-prepared. And then he decided to come out of the closet. And now, whenever we meet, I simply can’t not think of the fact that he likes guys. This doesn’t happen to disgust me, and I don’t have a problem with it, I just don’t know why I need to have this piece of information, when I don’t even know if he prefers fish soup to goulash,” observed Mr. Stumpf of his reaction to his colleague’s sexuality. I presume that had Mr. Lakner not said a word about his sexuality, but had perhaps invited Mr. Stumpf over for dinner, and introduced him to his partner, then the reaction would have been no different. Mr. Stumpf wouldn’t have been able to focus on the delicious goulash, because the only thing running through his mind would have been that his friend is gay.
So maybe the problem is less with Mr. Lakner’s decision to come out of the closet, and more with Mr. Stumpf’s discomfort around this issue.
At best, Mr. Stumpf seems to be a proponent of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. At worst, he is like many of our grandparents were on this issue thirty or forty years ago, namely: “what these people do is disgusting, but as long as they keep it a secret, and as long as they hide, I don’t really care.”
“With a little humanity and a little self-restraint, we could all live normally,” writes Mr. Stumpf of both those who publicly express their disgust with gay couples, as well as gay couples who are open about their relationship in public. “This is, after all, one of the most insignificant problems in our society, and which is only being kept on the surface by the injection of millions of dollars,” added Mr. Stumpf, implying that there is a nefarious, foreign liberal lobby deliberately pumping big money into this one issue.
A small dose of sensitivity would serve Mr. Stumpf very well.
Christopher Adam received a B.A. in history from Concordia University, an M.A. in East/Central European and Russian-Area Studies from Carleton University and a PhD in history from the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on the history of the Hungarian diaspora during the postwar period. Christopher is the founding editor of the Hungarian Free Press, as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of the Kanadai Magyar Hírlap Hungarian-language paper, which won Hungary's 2015 Free Press (Szabad Sajtó) Award. Christopher resides in Ottawa, Canada.

February 25, 2015

The Bosnian Coming Out Story

Photo: Lejla Huremovic, Trans remembrance dayOn May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases. Nevertheless, even though most of the Member States that makeup the WHO are committed to fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, some Member States remain hesitant to fully implement the necessary measures that guarantee efficient protection, thus creating the chance of violence and discrimination against the Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Trans (LGBT) community.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is one of those WHO Member States in which LGBT persons are still subject to stigma and discrimination. This small country of 3,871,643 inhabitants is composed of three main ethnic groups: 48% of Bosniaks, 37.1% Serb, and 14.3% of Croats. Since the end of the war in 1995 and the Dayton Peace Agreement, BiH is divided between the Brcko District and two entities, the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina (FBiH), the Bosniak Croat entity, and the Republika Srpska (RS), made up mostly by Bosnian Serbs. Both entities legalized homosexual relationships between 1998 and 2000, making the early 2000’s a source of new hope for the LGBT community.
In 2003, the law on gender equality, which prohibits discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation without explicit mention of homosexuality or gender, was adopted at the national level. The adoption of gender equality laws saw the first associations of activists and supporters of LGBT rights begin to emerge in BiH, not knowing that this wave of hope was soon to be crushed by violence.
The Queer Sarajevo Festival, one of the first events ever in BiH with the aim to increase visibility of the LGBT community, was organized in September 2008. The choice of the date was immediately highly criticized due to the simultaneous Ramadan celebrations. Numerous events were supposed to be held during the five-day festival. However, organizers were forced to cancel at the end of the first day, due to an attack from a group of Wahhabis and hooligans, who assaulted several participants and injured eight people, including policemen.
Ever since, the LGBT community is almost invisible and every event organized to increase their visibility is subject to threats, threats that often lead to violence. Over time, and regardless of the progress made by neighboring countries such as Croatia––which recently legalized civil union for same sex couples—the situation in BiH has not improved. Recently, on February 1, 2014, a group of masked men attacked people attending the Merlinka Festival in the Art Cinema Kriterion, showing that very little has changed since the violent events in 2008. Even more alarming is that surveys from 2013 revealed that 59.5% of Bosnians consider sex change repulsive and that 56.5% of the respondents believe, “homosexuality must be cured.” In the light of this survey and the general climate of misunderstanding and violence in BiH, a question arises: is it possible for people from the LGBT community to live an open life in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Being born in a world where society expects you to be heterosexual, falling out of that “norm” implies that homosexuals must “come out.” As defined in the “Pink Report” (2014), the “concept of coming out’ derived from the phrase ‘coming out of the closet,”, is routinely used to describe public or open declarations and affirmation of one’s (homo)sexual orientation”.
Niki, Selma[*], and Aleks, are three young Bosnians living in Sarajevo who agreed to share their personal coming out stories.
Niki is a Bosnian LGBT activist and identifies as queer. She realized her identity at an early age and understood when she was 5 years old that she couldn’t see herself “in the man-woman concept.” Growing up “[she] could cope with that understanding that gender normativity is a social construct and that it is perfectly fine to be out of any ‘box’.”
“I was 14 when I came out to my parents and I felt pretty lost because of the challenge of coming out to myself. In the end, it wasn’t a big deal as my parents fully supported me. It was not always easy and I have not always chosen to come out. For instance when I was involved in working in academia and private companies I never addressed that ‘issue’ in order to prevent worst case scenarios such as being fired for any reason.”
Selma is also a LGBT activist who came out as a lesbian before realizing that she can be attracted to people “with genders other than male and female” and thus, identifies now as pansexual. Being part of a very religious family means coming out is an even harder step for her.
“My parents don’t know anything. I’m pretty much out in college, and with my friends. When it comes to family I am out to my sister and a cousin. My parents are deeply religious and both have been physically violent towards me. I won’t be coming out anytime soon to them, as I don’t feel like that is a safe environment… I am tired of leading a double life and I just want to be who I am.”
This feeling of insecurity is dominant within the LGBT community, especially for women. Indeed, violence against lesbians is common in BiH and “lesbians aged 20 to 30 are the most exposed to discrimination, with 74% of this age group having experienced some form of discrimination.” Trans-phobia is also a big issue in the country explains Aleks, a LGBT activist and leading figure of the trans*[1] community in the Balkans.
“I have experienced both trans-phobia and homophobia. I was beaten up a lot of times. There was a lot of verbal and psychological violence related to my gender identity. It’s hard to pick one example, since there are a lot of them unfortunately,” Aleks explains. “Coming out as a trans* person differs from other coming outs. A trans* person who starts hormonal therapy and undergoes surgery has no choice but to ‘come out’ since physical changes are inevitable.”
Aleks came out as a trans* person when he was 22 years old, asking people to use the pronoun “he” when referring to him. According to him, coming out is important, as it is still a political act in Bosnia.
“I personally don’t like labels but it’s extremely important for political reasons and the visibility of the trans* community. It’s not easy to come out to your family and friends, especially when you live in a very conservative, patriarchal and heteronormative society. There is a lot of violence and hatred towards the LGBT community so people don’t feel safe or are afraid to be rejected and kicked out from their home. Even though it is a very important step as people can finally be themselves and fight for their rights.”
Within the context of a deeply patriarchal society lacking political maturity with regard to the inclusion of ethnic and other minorities, such as Roma, Jews and disabled people; LGBT issues seem to be on the very margin of socio-political visibility and acceptance. Due to the societies’ repressive mechanisms and institutionalized discrimination—embodied in law, healthcare and education—being ‘out’ in BiH implies several risks at personal and social level.
Nevertheless, LGBT activists in BiH are emphasizing the political perspective and importance of coming out in their country, pointing out the fact that it should be considered as a political act rather than a personal issue. By affirming their identity, brave and confident Bosnian LGBT people and activists make themselves vulnerable to violence but also help the community to become more visible and encourage others to come out and join the battle against discrimination. Unfortunately, there is a long way to go considering the fact that the country is still struggling with basic post-conflict issues such as poverty, ethno-nationalism and corruption.
Author: Chloé Gaillard
Photo: Lejla Huremović

[1] Trans*” (with an asterisk) is a term regrouping all of the identities within the spectrum of gender identity. The asterisk stands to include all non-cisgender gender identities (ex : transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderless, agender, non-gendered…).
[*] Names have been changed.

February 22, 2015

Coming Out Short Video Gets Moore than 100 Million Chinese Hits


Same-sex couple Zhang Yi (R) and Hai Bei pose for their wedding photographs at Qianmen street on Valentine's Day in Beijing February 14, 2009. For a number of Beijing's gay and lesbian community, Valentine's Day is not just a day to celebrate loving relationships, but also an ideal time to campaign for same-sex marriages and the acceptance of homosexuality in China.  

“When are you going to get married?” is the dreaded question that single Chinese don’t want to hear when they go home to their parents for the Lunar New Year celebration.
Among heterosexual males, because of the gender imbalance, there are fewer females than males, which makes finding a girlfriend more challenging. For gays and lesbians, it’s more a matter of first coming out to their family and then waiting for their acceptance of their choice.
Anticipating this annual dilemma of young adults and their parents, the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) just released a video about coming out and coming home, with the Lunar New Year as the background.
The six-minute, 46-second video has become viral with over 108 million clicks on the website, according to the Wall Street Journal. In YouTube, where it was reposted, it has almost 400,000 views.
Titled “Coming Home – Celebrating Chinese New Year” or “Huijia” in Chinese, the professionally made poignant film is one which many gay Chinese could relate.
It showed the parents in denial after their only child comes out and admits he is gay. Then they told not to come home anymore for future Lunar New Year celebrations. However, after a few years, the parents relented and finally accepted their son and asked him to join them again for the 2015 Lunar New Year.
Hu Zhijun, cofounder of PLFAG in China, said he hopes that the video could help young Chinese gays deal with the issue as they go home for the biggest holiday in China.
Hu said that to produce the video, which costs US$1,600, the LGBT group received online donations. He said the aim of the video is to increase awareness among Chinese about homosexuality since it is still a common belief in the Asian giant that being gay is an ailment which needs treatment or “just a lifestyle that people can choose to change.”

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February 12, 2015

One of the Most Popular TV stars in Russia Comes out Gay


One of the most popular stars on Russian television has come out as gay — a move that could destroy his career there and put his life at risk.
Odin Biron, 30, is a heartthrob in Russia thanks to his role as Phil Richards, an American doctor trying to adjust to life in Russia, on the medical sitcom Interns
“I’ve never lied,” the Minnesota native told New York. “Journalists ask, ‘What do you think of Russian women?’ ‘Well Russian women are beautiful.’ ‘Do you have a girlfriend right now?” ‘No, I don’t.'”
Biron said although his close friends and family have known about his sexuality for a long time, this is the first time he’s discussed it publicly.
He has been dating a Kazakhstani filmmaker for about a year.
Russia passed anti-gay legislation in 2013 that prohibits public endorsements or expressions of homosexuality. Gays and lesbian are routinely assaulted, murdered and imprisoned in the country.
Biron’s Interns co-star Ivan Okhlobystin, 48, is outspoken in his condemnation of gay people, even declaring last year he would burn them alive.
“I wanted to go to the station and make a statement that I would no longer work there if Ivan Okhlobystin’s going to be working at this station,” Biron told New York.
He decided against it, figuring he could achieve more by remaining in the spotlight.
On Tuesday, Okhlobystin reacted to his co-star’s coming out. On Twitter, he called Biron “a sodomite” and said he banged his head against the wall “and cursed fate.” 
Fans had mixed reactions on Twitter. Many used anti-gay slurs against him but some offered their support. One religious group tweeted an offer to help “cure” him.
Production of the sixth season of Interns is scheduled to get underway in a few weeks. It is not yet known if Biron, currently starring in Dead Souls at a Russian theatre, will be back.
BELOW: Watch a commercial for Interns.

Entertainment Reporter  Global News

December 29, 2014

First Gay Nigerian Actor Comes Out, Adebisi Alimi

Adebisi Alimi, an actor-turned-activist, was the first person ever to come out as gay on Nigerian television. He now shares his story when he speaks up for the rights of the LGBT community.
Adebisi Alimi, an actor-turned-activist, was the first person ever to come out as gay on Nigerian television. He now shares his story when he speaks up for the rights of the LGBT community.
Claire Eggers/NPR
Adebisi Alimi is the first person ever to come out as gay on Nigerian television. But that wasn't what the 29-year-old wanted to be known for back in 2004.
Alimi's acting career was just starting to take off when his sexuality stole the spotlight. The student newspaper at University of Lagos, where he was studying theater, threatened to publish a photo of him with his then-boyfriend. So Alimi beat them to the punch. He went on "New Dawn with Funmi," one of the most popular talk shows in Nigeria, and challenged a long-held belief that homosexuality was brought to Africa by white colonizers. That was also the year Alimi was diagnosed with HIV.
Suddenly, his home country no longer saw him as a rising star. Alimi lost his roles on TV and on stage, many of his friends shunned him and the police even arrested him on unexplained charges. In 2007, things got worse. He was detained at the airport on his way back from the United Kingdom, where he gave an interview to BBC Network Africa, and was released two days later. Then a group of men entered his home and attempted to kill him. Alimi fled to the U.K. and hasn't been back to Nigeria since.
But Alimi says, "My story is not a story of a victim; it's a human story." Without it, he says, he wouldn't be the outspoken activist he is today.
Now 40, Alimi shares his story when he speaks out for the rights of gay black and African men. He's the founder of Bisi Consultancy, an organization that develops social policy recommendations based on HIV research on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. For his birthday on Jan. 17, Alimi has also started a campaign called 40four40 to raise 40,000 pounds — or about $62,000 USD — for four LGBT charities.
Previously, he founded the Independent Project For Equal Rights-Nigeria, a nonprofit for LGBT youth, and helped set up the U.K.’s first international LGBT organization, Kaleidoscope Diversity Trust
And while he's no longer living in Nigeria, Alimi is deeply affected by the country's anti-gay law passed in January. The law mandates a 14-year prison sentence for those who marry someone of the same sex and 10 years for anyone who, directly or indirectly, supports LGBT organizations.
Alimi was in Washington, D.C. last month for the 2015 Aspen New Voices Fellowship. Asked about his thoughts on the law, he says that, in a way, "I'm happy about it."
Why are you happy about Nigeria's harsh anti-gay law?
I see the law as a catalyst for change for good in Nigeria. You don't understand what it is like to fight a beast that you cannot see. Before the signing of that law, between 95 and 98 percent of Nigerians were in support of it. The latest poll says 88 percent of Nigerians now support the law. That's a 10 percent drop. Some people who are not LGBT are now saying, "Did we just support a law that criminalizes people ... for falling in love?" [When] you see that your uncle or cousin is gay, it kind of changes the conversation.
Speaking of family, how does your family feel about your identity?
I'm in a relationship that I can't talk to my parents about — it's like a big elephant in the room. But [the fact that] they want to accept me [as gay] is a form of support.
I was diagnosed [with HIV] in 2004, and I've never discussed it with my parents. This is my personal life, and I don't want them to get involved with it. Many times when I struggle with the challenges of being gay and being [HIV] positive, even living in diaspora and so many other things, I just really want to have somebody I can cry to who has blood lineage but I just said no.
So who is in your support network?
Mostly close friends. Many times it's people I don't know. I remember one incident when I was at my university. I was going back to my room at night and I was stopped by two guys. They were making very derogatory statements and becoming really aggressive. There was a [student] coming. So I raised my voice: "What did I do to you, why are you guys so frustrated with me?" ]The student] stopped and said, "What's going on?" I told her these guys were attacking me, and they said, "Oh he's gay, he's a faggot." She just looked at them and said, "What if he's a faggot? What's your problem?" She stood up to them. These are the unsung heroes of my existence because anything could have happened that night.
Back in 2007, a group of guys tried to kill you and that's when you fled the country. But did you ever want to leave Nigeria before then?
I was lucky enough to go through a 2-hour ordeal of being beaten and almost being shot in the head and escaping. If those guys are still alive, they might have read one or two of my interviews. I wonder how they feel that they almost killed me. But I felt that leaving was never a choice until my mother said, "Do you still have reason [to stay]? I think you should leave." 
How did you react when when you were diagnosed with HIV?
 By 2001 I started working in HIV prevention because I lost my best friend [to the disease]. So I was kind of aware. That was why my diagnosis was a shock to me. I broke down and started crying and thought like this is the end of my life because I have seen my friends die. It's such a big thing that even within the gay community, if you're positive, that's the end of it. Nobody wants to talk to you or date you, but you become the story everyone wants to talk about. So I didn't tell anybody. I carried it for three years before leaving Nigeria. I didn't start medication until 2009.
If you had known about the treatments and support for HIV then, would you have reacted differently?
No, because then I might still be in Nigeria. And I still wouldn't want to talk about it because it would still be a death sentence. Treatment is a big challenge and people [in Nigeria] still don't have access to it. And the support system is still not there because of the stigma against gay men — it's a belief that [HIV] is a punishment from God. So it's very difficult to exist with that system.
How would you assess the progress across Africa in providing HIV treatment?
We are still betraying generations when it comes to HIV prevention and treatment. Many people still need access to this treatment and we still have children being born with the virus when we know we can prevent it. We're lacking political willpower and funding to HIV projects. It has become a political game.
Being an advocate gives you a different kind of stage than acting does. If you had a choice, would you go back in to acting?
I think I studied theater because I was pretty much a drama queen [laughs]. Acting is my biggest passion. The unfortunate thing is that it's something I would never touch again because it left a big scar in my life. Even when I did try to go back to acting, I kept thinking, "If you keep doing this, you're going to bring up media interest again." I have media interest now but it's very humane. It's not about who I kissed last night or who I'm hanging out with.
So you're done with theater?
If there's anything I want to go back to, it's acting. I want to be back on stage dancing and acting, but Im also very scared of it. 

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