"We are open and willing to work with the Trump Administration because there is a greater good and a greater goal in mind and that is to ensure equality and dignity for all human beings regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
LGBTIQ activists from Iraq, Lebanon, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia, Sweden, Thailand, and USA gathered at the office of OutRight Action International, formerly the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in New York City, to discuss the impact of the incoming Trump Administration and urge the President-elect and his administration to maintain US commitment to protecting the human rights of LGBTIQ people globally.
Under the Obama administration, the United States has shown unprecedented commitment to promoting the human rights of LGBTIQ people internationally, including by issuing a presidential memorandum to advancing LGBT human rights globally, creating the Global Equality Fund to financially support LGBTIQ rights internationally, and by appointing the first-ever Special Envoy for LGBTI Rights.
Activists commented that support from US Embassies to LGBTIQ groups in countries often hostile towards LGBTIQ rights has been especially important to increasing visibility and understanding of human rights for vulnerable communities.
Amir Ashour, founder of Iraq's only LGBT+ organization, IraQueer, said,
"In a country like Iraq where the State Department has provided help to LGBTIQ people, there is virtually nowhere else to turn for support. The US must sustain efforts on the international level and at the UN because it is often the only platform to advocate for country level change since it is almost impossible to do any advocacy inside Iraq."
Activists also highlighted that safeguarding LGBTIQ rights cannot be seen as an isolated issue and must be understood in broader human rights and democracy contexts.
Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, of Equal Ground in Sri Lanka, commented,
"The leadership of the US in good governance practices and democratic principles has had influence on the political paradigm shift in Sri Lanka. President-elect Trump and his administration must maintain this leadership and safeguard the principles of democracy and human rights, especially for populations that are most vulnerable like LGBTIQ people who still face violence and discrimination everywhere."
Apart from improving LGBTIQ rights through bilateral relationships, activists also highlighted that the incoming administration must maintain ground at the international level, namely at the United Nations, where conservative pushback against LGBTIQ issues has also been increasing.
"The US has played a paramount role in shaping positive human rights developments at the UN. We, as a society, cannot afford to backtrack from this, and continued US commitment at the UN is key to sustaining this positive momentum," commented Paisarn Likhitpreechakul, Board Member of FORSOGI organization, Thailand.
While the activists voiced their concern about possible negative policies of the incoming administration they also expressed willingness and commitment to engage with the incoming administration, noting that collaboration is key in promoting a global human rights agenda which protects LGBTIQ people everywhere.
Steve Letsike, Co-Chair of the South African National AIDS Council, said,
"Working with the incoming US administration will not be any more difficult than what many of us already experience in our own regions. We are open and willing to work with the Trump Administration because there is a greater good and a greater goal in mind and that is to ensure equality and dignity for all human beings regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
The conversation concluded with a message by Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, who said,
"I have hope and confidence in the American people to continue elevating and responding to the struggles of people beyond US borders and investing in protecting the lives of activists around the world. There is a framework of international solidarity in place, one that cannot be easily broken. We have stepped up into this brilliant, strong, and resilient global LGBTIQ movement and we will not move backwards."
December 10, is International Human Rights Day which commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. OutSummit (www.outsummit.org) is a one-day conference on global LGBTIQ issues taking place in New York City.
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The LGBT pride flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. It was originally called the Freedom Flag and was comprised of 8 colored stripes, each denoting a different meaning.