Some figures, reported by the International Lesbian and Gay Association in May 2014, show there is still much to be done in the effort to attain universal rights for LGBTQ communities worldwide. Yet there has also been significant progress over the past 10 years, and this too should be acknowledged.
What progress has there been on LGBTQ rights since you established Human Rights Watch’s LGBTQ rights programme?
There’s been enormous progress globally and locally. It’s important to note that the fight for LGBTQ rights is not a Western phenomenon; many of the governments at the forefront of the defence of LGBTQ rights are from the developing world. The historic LGBTQ resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council, adopted in September 2014, was led by governments from the global south, primarily Latin America, and backed by others from all over the world, including South Africa. Even governments usually opposed to human rights enforcement, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam, supported it.
What is LGBTQ?
LGBTQ is an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more. These terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
What Does LGBTQ+ Mean?
LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), and others. The "plus" represents other sexual identities including pan-sexual and Two-Spirit. The first four letters of the acronym have been used since the 1990s, but in recent years there has been an increased awareness of the need to be inclusive of other sexual identities to offer better representation.
The acronym is used to represent a diverse range of sexualities and gender-identities, referring to anyone who is transgender and/or same/similar gender attracted.
What Does Each Letter Mean?
- L (Lesbian): A lesbian is a woman/woman-aligned person who is attracted to only people of the same/similar gender.
- G (Gay): Gay is usually a term used to refer to men/men-aligned individuals who are only attracted to people of the same/similar gender. However, lesbians can also be referred to as gay. The use of the term gay became more popular during the 1970s. Today, bisexual and pan-sexual people sometimes use gay to casually refer to themselves when they talk about their similar gender attraction.
- B (Bisexual): Bisexual indicates an attraction to all genders. The recognition of bisexual individuals is important, since there have been periods when people who identify as bi have been misunderstood as being gay. Bisexuality has included transgender, binary and non-binary individuals since the release of the "Bisexual Manifesto" in 1990.
- T (Transgender): Transgender is a term that indicates that a person's gender identity is different from the gender associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
- Q (Queer or Questioning): Though queer may be used by people as a specific identity, it is often considered an umbrella term for anyone who is non-cisgender or heterosexual. But it is also a slur. It should not be placed on all members of the community, and should only be used by cisgender and heterosexual individuals when referring to a person who explicitly identifies with it. Questioning refers to people who may be unsure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- + (Plus): The 'plus' is used to signify all of the gender identities and sexual orientations that are not specifically covered by the other five initials. An example is Two-Spirit, a pan-Indigenous American identity.
When was LGBTQ created?
From about 1988, activists began to use the initialism LGBT in the United States. Not until the 1990s within the movement did gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people gain equal respect. This spurred some organizations to adopt new names, as the GLBT Historical Society did in 1999.
How do LGBTQ rights differ around the world?
Yet, because of this global support, we’re recently witnessing an intensifying backlash. To a large degree, this is due to the greater visibility of the LGBTQ community in societies that have begun to recognize their rights. But LGBTQ people are also convenient scapegoats for embattled leaders, who are trying to rally support from more conservative sectors of their society. Whether it’s Uganda, Nigeria or Russia, the decision to scapegoat the LGBTQ community is an outcome of serious challenges to the regime, for widespread corruption or abusive authoritarianism.
The status of the LGBTQ community is a good litmus test for the status of human rights in society more broadly, precisely because it is such a vulnerable minority---similar to the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Where the rights of LGBTQ people are undermined, you can be sure that the rights of other minorities and critical members of civil society will soon also be in jeopardy.
How To Support LGBTQ Youth?
The word "ally" is a powerful one. It means someone who has your back and is on your side, because they know it's the right thing to do. In the LGBTQ movement, an "ally" describes someone who may not be LGBTQ themselves, but who are committed to equality and who speak out against discrimination.
Allies can be anyone:
- a straight classmate who sticks by a friend questioning his gender identity;
- a teacher who serves as an advisor for a gay-straight alliance (GSA);
- parents who find ways to promote respect for diversity in their child’s school;
- a counselor who is committed to making sure that LGBTQ issues are heard.
By taking steps to visibly support LGBTQ youth and their rights, allies can play a critical role in stopping and even preventing harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ youth, ensuring that schools and out-of-home care settings are safe for everybody.
Here's what you can do to be an ally to LGBTQ youth:
- Don't make assumptions about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Speak out against homophobia, transphobia and anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination.
- Speak out against the use of antigay slurs.
- Be supportive of anyone who chooses to come out.
- Attend LGBTQ events.
- Read, learn about and discuss LGBTQ issues and the rights of LGBTQ students.
- Wear or display LGBTQ-friendly buttons, stickers or posters.
- If you witness anti-LGBTQ harassment or discrimination, report it in writing to the school principal.
- Stand up for your LGBTQ friends, and voice your support for their being treated with respect and acceptance.
- Help form a GSA.
- Support friends in their decision to bring a same-sex date to the prom or other social events.
- Advocate for my school to adopt and enforce a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Request books by LGBTQ authors and about LGBTQ people and issues for the school library.
Faculty and Staff
- Make your classroom a safe space where antigay language is not tolerated.
- Advocate for your school to adopt and enforce a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Request books by LGBT authors and about LGBT people and issues for the school library.
- Consider being an advisor for a GSA.
- Ensure school events include everyone.
- Create an inclusive curriculum that highlights the contributions of LGBT individuals.
- Create displays and/or lesson plans about LGBT History Month.
Parents and Family Members
- Support your children and their friends who question their sexuality or identify as LGBTQ.
- Be available to meet with school faculty or staff about these issues.
- Help your children or their friends file complaints about discrimination or harassment.
- Help organize events like celebrations for LGBTQ History Month.
- Hold your child’s school accountable for violating the school district’s nondiscrimination policy or state laws. To learn about antibullying laws in your state, click here.
If you’ve done any of these things, then you’re already an ally—keep up the good work! If you haven’t, now is a great time to start.
When we think of BDSM, most of us automatically assume a straight couple who have switched up their normative gender roles. In those relationships, women take psychological control over men, and they inflict physical pain. They either do it by whipping mischievous boys or stepping on them in leather boots. Those who passionately oppose the kink community and LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) would think this was just a way for a closeted gay dude not to disappoint his war veteran dad.
LGBTQ Community and early BDSM Movement
The BDSM movement and the LGBTQ community had one thing in common in the 20th century — public opinion considered them (morally) wrong. Nevertheless, BDSM was still a straight thing. But as the wild 80s arrived, people became more sexually exploratory. Many facilities, such as swinger and kink clubs, became more and more present. Fetishes were no longer a sign of mental derangement, rather just sexual preferences we as individuals have. With BDSM, people challenge the normative way of having sex, during which a male puts his sword into a female sheath. Suddenly, we had a growing number of straight men who liked to be submissive (bottoms). They would let a dominant girl (top) take matters (and whips) into her hands.
BDSM and today's LGBTQ community
As we’ve already said, BDSM is more accepted in today’s society. Although many still consider it taboo, people don’t frown upon it as they used to. Nowadays, people are more open about their kinkiness and sexual preferences. As is the case with the LGBTQ community, there are more people who don’t feel the need to hide the fact that they like something different from the norm. However, even within the LGBTQ community, there’s some stigma about BDSM practitioners, and you can find many confessions online about how hard it is to find an S&M partner for a queer BDSM person.
Even if that is still the case, it’s obvious that there’s a lot less condemnation today if you’re into S&M. These days, pretty much in every major city, you will find a plethora of gay bars and kink clubs where you can find and chat with like-minded people. As we’ve mentioned before, there’s a school of thought, if you will, that kink should be regarded as a separate sexual orientation (renaming the community to LGBTQK+). The idea behind it is that it’s specific enough to merit its own category. People who agree with this state that kink is as individualistic as transgender. When you break it down, a transsexual having sex with someone can be regarded as either gay or lesbian, similarly to BDSM sex practices. However, the majority still find it to be a fetish, something that differs from the norm.
Benefits To The LGBGT Community
As we’ve mentioned before, BDSM has helped dramatically with the rise in popularity (and safety) of the LGBTQ community. Perhaps the most significant contribution was that it brought the idea of non-normative sex being a perfectly normal thing. As a fetish, BDSM is something people grow into. None of us is into the same stuff they were into when we were 11 and started touching ourselves. The fact is, so many people are into BDSM. That makes non-normative sex less of a taboo and more of an everyday taste.
So if this particular form of non-vanilla sexuality is not weird and “unnatural,” why would any other be? Today, people are less afraid to explore their desires. Now, you have successful businessmen wearing tights and bras, becoming drag queens, and just doing what they feel like doing. Thanks to the evolution of plastic surgery, many are able to go through gender-changing procedures. Subsequently, the transgender BDSM scene has also been on the rise in recent years.
That (perhaps inadvertently) benefits the LGBTQ community. Differences in sexuality are becoming less and less of a dividing point between queer people and straight mainstream.