One Equal World

Archive for the ‘news’ Category

A mass gathering of protestors in Taiwan who are holding signs in favor of marriage equality.

Protestors gather in Taiwan to voice their support for marriage equality.
Photo credit: weniliou / Shutterstock

Chi Chia-Wei spent more than five months in jail in 1986 for publicly being out as a gay man. That was when Taiwan was under martial law, and he secured a pardon before the year was out, but that was only the beginning of his fight for actual justice. In the 30 years since then, Chia-Wei has campaigned for gay rights in Taiwan, leading petitions and lawsuits against the island nation’s evolving government.

His work has finally borne fruit. In a ruling that may set a brand new precedent for Asia, Taiwan’s constitutional court announced on Wednesday, May 24th, that laws against same-sex marriage have been found unconstitutional. The legislature has two years to amend their Civil Code to reflect the decision or to pass laws specifically regarding same-sex marriages. If they fail to do so, those marriages will be legalized by default.

The justice’s wording called sexual orientation an “immutable characteristic that is resistant to change,” and therefore laws against same-sex relationships violate the personal freedom and protections of everybody.

While Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, has shown only lukewarm support for the cause and there have been outspoken rallies against it, the general atmosphere around this decision is not one of surprise. In 2013, the marriage of two transgender women was upheld. In 2015, the most recent year Chi applied for permission to marry his committed partner, the legislature was already considering changing Taiwan’s Civil Code, which they are now obligated to do.

Chi and many others are going to remain active in the legislative process surrounding the new decision. They are adamant that it is the Civil Code which must be amended, rather than a separate marriage law for same-sex couples.

“In Asia, every country’s situation is different,” Chi said after the announcement. “But this should certainly offer some encouragement to different societies to consider following in Taiwan’s footsteps and giving gays and lesbians the right to marry.”

The YouTube logo.

Image credit: rvlsoft/ Shutterstock

In its constant push to make YouTube into a mainstream, profit-generating machine, Google has (hopefully inadvertently) started blocking content by LGBTQ+ creators. The introduction of a “restricted mode” for the service is designed to make it more “family friendly,” allowing parents to feel better about their kids poking around YouTube, which can contain a lot of profanity, hate speech, and nudity.

The problem is that somehow or another, the system used to define what is restricted has flagged some videos from LGBTQ+ content creators. The implication seems to be that content by and for LGBTQ+ people isn’t “family friendly,” an outmoded way of thinking for sure.

According to Tyler Oakley, a gay content creator, YouTube is “often the first place many LGBTQ+ youth around the world see themselves and their stories shared and celebrated.” Representation, whether of the LGBTQ+ community or other marginalized groups, is hard to come by in mainstream media.

For the most part, YouTube has, until some recent changes, been a place where anyone can post content and be seen. And while it’s still true that anyone can post content, it appears that not everyone is being seen. This comes at a time when LGBTQ+ visibility is more important than ever before.

For the record, Google has never taken an outward stance against diversity or the LGBTQ+ crowd, so it’s unlikely that the system is flagging such videos intentionally. The system uses “community flagging” and other signals to filter out content. There are literally millions of videos on the platform, so Google uses a software system to streamline the process.

But YouTube is also a place where bigots gather, so it’s entirely possible that somebody figured out that those videos could be blocked by flagging them as inappropriate. It wouldn’t be the first time that trolls abused a system to punish people they don’t like.

An elderly woman at a gay pride festival.

An elderly woman takes part in a gay pride parade.
Photo credit: Ivan Bandura at Flickr Creative Commons.

There are roughly 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and that number of expected to hit 5 million by the year 2060. So why is it that a recent study from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work is the first to actually study this population?

The longitudinal study, called Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, Sexuality/Gender Study, interviewed 2,450 adults aged 50 to 100. The study investigated factors such as race and ethnicity, relationship status, resiliency among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men, and transgender people who served in the military. Researchers found “higher rates of disability, cardiovascular disease, depression and social isolation” among this population, compared to other people in the same age group.

Studies like this are important because they help shed light on an underrepresented population. While the LGBTQ+ rights movement has scored some victories in recent years, the primary focus has been on the younger population. We have to remember that older people should be included in this movement as well. If anything, they should be front and center of it, considering that the previous generations paved the way for the rights we have today.

But we also need to remain cognizant of the fact that populations experience aging (and the medical, emotional, and psychological affects thereof) in different ways. That’s why it’s important to study populations through various lenses and remember that being gay and being old are not mutually exclusive. Information from studies like this allow us to better address the problems of the population in question and also allow us to better plan for the future. Everyone stands to benefit from this type of work, considering that we’re all going to get old someday.

Two signs leading in opposite directions. One reads, "Republicans" the other reads, "Democrats."

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The phrase “religious freedom” makes the LGBTQ+ community cringe. But that’s understandable given that religious freedom is often used as an excuse to freely discriminate against queer people.

While conservatives normally take the flak for this, it’s important to note that not all conservatives agree with religious freedom laws. Conservatives are often unfairly cast as “extreme right-wingers” when not all of them fit this bill. Surely, this is a concept that liberals can sympathize with, considering that Democrats face their own stereotypes.

That’s why Robin Fretwell Wilson, Director of the Family Law and Policy Program at the University of Illinois College of Law, organized a meeting to try and bridge the divide between the left and the right. The meeting, hosted at Yale University, was meant to get the dialogue started around how to approach religious freedom laws.

Wilson organized the meeting because he believes that “reasonable people in the middle” get drowned out by the constant bickering between the left and the right. He figured if he could bring both Democrats and Republicans together, they could find some common ground.

But Wilson was wrong.

Wilson is a leader in what has been deemed the “Fairness for All” camp. In short, he works alongside lawmakers and politicians to try and reach compromises. But what he found was that even when he proposed a law that was catered to both parties’ interests, someone always objected. Either a conservative didn’t find it to be protective enough of their religious beliefs, or a liberal didn’t find it to be protective enough of their civil liberties.

It’s a lose-lose situation.

But Wilson is going to keep trying, especially because he knows that conflict is inevitable. He fully realizes that he won’t be able to please everyone, he only hopes to please the majority of the people who find themselves caught in the middle of the political divide.

An image that reads, "stop sexual assault."

Image credit: Shutterstock

Dr. Candice Bridge is a chemistry professor at the University of Central Florida who was recently awarded a $324,000 grant to research alternative methods of investigating sexual assault. Sexual assault has been a huge focal point in the media lately. Reports have shown that a vast number of rape kits remain untested due to lack of DNA evidence.

Unfortunately, lack of DNA is precisely why lots of rapists and sexual assailants walk free. But Dr. Bridge is trying to change that. Dr. Bridge is researching ways to investigate sexual assault and prove the guilt of perpetrators without relying on DNA samples from semen or blood.

But sexual assault is a far more complex crime than the stereotypical image of a violent rapist hiding in an alleyway. It is a pervasive problem, and one that is routinely ignored, covered up, or simply forgotten by universities, municipalities, and voters.

As we move into a presidential administration that obviously doesn’t see sexual assault as a crime, Dr. Bridge’s work will be essential to helping women get the justice they deserve. It’s going to be a struggle, but it is one that Dr. Bridge is fully equipped to handle.

You see, Dr. Bridge was the first black woman to teach chemistry at the University of Central Florida, and was one of the first people to receive a PhD in forensics here in the United States. The STEM fields, despite a lot of talk about opening doors to women and people of color, haven’t exactly deconstructed their racial or gender biases.

In 2002, only eight black women received PhDs in computer sciences, and by 2012, that number had risen to only 16. Almost half of all black or Latina women in the STEM field have been mistaken for custodial or support staff. Dr. Bridge is someone that a lot of people can and should look up to, and she’s using what access she has to power to make the world a better place.

The state of California in rainbow colors.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The state of California has made it quite clear over the last few years that they will not tolerate bigotry or discrimination. The Golden State is working to push equality past their own borders. California recently issued travel bans for states that write anti-LGBT+ discrimination into law.

So to clarify: Assembly Bill 1887 makes it so that one cannot travel to North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, or Kansas on tax payer money. That means that state funded or state sponsored travel to those state has now been banned. Those states in particular are banned because each has passed laws that directly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

For example, Tennessee recently passed a law that allows counselors to turn away LGBTQ+ people with mental health illnesses. Mississippi allows individuals, companies, or religious organizations to deny services to anyone (not just LGBTQ+ people) who offend their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” And Kansas? Well, Governor Sam Brownback just recently signed a bill into law that allows campus religious groups to deny membership to LGBTQ+ students and faculty.

But California won’t have any of it. While the ban on state sponsored travel to those states probably won’t pummel their economies into submission, it’s likely to at least have an impact. But regardless, it’s more about the intent. California is literally doing everything in its power to create a more just and equal society.

When North Carolina passed HB 2 (which the state’s new Democratic governor is doing everything he can to repeal) a number of states, sports organizations, and businesses withdrew their support by deciding not to host events or expand business there. The American people, as well as a number of state and local governments, have made it abundantly clear that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people will no longer be tolerated. The future is definitely looking brighter for LGBTQ+ people.

A bronze statue of a lion sitting outside of HSBC bank in Hong Kong.

CC courtesy of Ronald Woan on Flickr.

Who knew that lion statues could cause so much controversy? In Hong Kong, an iconic pair of lions sits out front of the HSBC bank. Traditionally, they’ve been featured in bronze. But on November 30, 2016, HSBC introduced two new replicas painted in rainbow colors. The colors were intended to reflect the bank’s pro-LGBT stance.

So far, the lions have been a pretty big hit among Chinese progressives. Many people have been posing for pictures alongside the statues. Rights activists have even praised the bank for taking such a firm stance on equality.

But not everyone was enthusiastic about the lions. As you can imagine, it caused quite the uproar among conservative groups. Much like the U.S., Hong Kong is pretty divided when it comes to LGBT rights.

For example, a 2011 survey reveals that 22% of Chinese respondents were “not accepting” of lesbian, gay, and transgender people. An additional 21% were “unsure” or “ambivalent” on the issue. But most upsetting is the fact that 25% of respondents said it was “acceptable” or “sometimes acceptable” to refuse to offer a job to an LGBT person.

Several pro-family groups have publicly voiced their disdain for the lions. The Family Schools Sodo Concern Group, Parents for the Family Association, and Overturning LGBT Agenda have teamed up to release a joint statement. The statement accuses HSBC of “trampling on the existing family values of Hong Kong.”

In an interview with BBC News, Roger Wong from the Family Schools Sodo Concern Group said:

“The lions are an icon of Hong Kong. A lot of Hong Kongers have a certain affection for them and it’s not right that they are projecting meanings on to them that a lot of people may disagree with. The male lions represent the stability and power of the bank. By adding a rainbow on the lions—does that mean they’re homosexual? I find that objectionable, and they don’t look that aesthetically good either.”

But HSBC has shown no signs of backing down.

“Understanding and embracing everyone’s unique perspectives, beliefs and experiences is core to HSBC’s values. This campaign demonstrates our commitment to achieving a truly open and diverse working environment,” said Kevin Martin, HSBC Group General Manager.

You go, HSBC! You may not have everyone’s support, but you certainly have ours.