Persecutes LGBT People in China

10 outstanding activists in the international fight for LGBTQ + rights

June 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which are widely considered to be the birth of the Pride movement. The riots broke out in the streets of Manhattan in 1969 after police cracked down on LGBTQ + community hangouts - particularly on June 28th when they raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. It was enough for the queer community: They fought back, threw stones and marched through the streets.

Stonewall is seen as a turning point for LGBTQ + rights, but half a century later there is still a lot to be fought for. We tell the stories of ten activists from all over the world who today - if no longer with stones, but with words - actively and persistently campaign against homophobia and transphobia.

Mazharul Islam, Bangladesh

Every year on April 25th, gay activist Mazharul Islam holds a protest outside the Bangladesh Embassy in London. In 2018 he was assisted by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, this year some of his friends from the international LGBTQ + community in Bangladesh joined him - and for next year he hopes that more people will join. The protest calls for justice after his friends Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were killed in a machete attack by Islamic extremists in 2016. Two days after their murders, Mazharul Islam was forced to leave Bangladesh because his life was threatened.

Mazharul Islam (l.) And Peter Tatchell (r.) At the protest on April 25, 2018 in front of the Bangladesh embassy

Islam grew up in a small village near Dhaka. He was taught by his mosque and community that homosexuality was a sin. He knew he was somehow different, but didn't discover that a "gay world" even existed when he started using the Internet at the age of 18. In 2002, while studying, he joined the Boys of Bangladesh, then a very small friends-only Yahoo group for gay men that grew over the next decade, attracting hundreds of members and organizing meetings for the LGBTQ + community . Here he meets Xulhaz Mannan.

"Xulhaz was the founder of Roopbaan, Bangladesh's only LGBTQ + magazine. I met him in 2006 or 2007," recalls Islam. "He was very popular with his friends. He once gave us his office to celebrate the Bengali New Year because we were struggling to find a safe place to celebrate together. Xulhaz and I were together a lot in our 20s at Dhanmondi Lake near Dhaka. The first time I saw an ocean, I was with him, and we visited the longest mangrove forest in the world together. We were like family. "

In 2015, Islam began receiving anonymous threatening messages about its sexuality but was unable to report this to the police as homosexuality was - and still is - a crime in Bangladesh. Fortunately, his company, a global accounting firm, offered him a security service for his commute. When he got the call that Mannan and Tonoy had been killed, he was in a grocery store. "I went straight back home and locked myself in with a friend of mine. We turned on the TV and saw the murders on the news and wondered if they would come for us too. It was a sleepless night." The next day he was staying with a friend, the day after he was taken to a secret hiding place by US Embassy officials, and the day after a bulletproof car transported him to the airport, where he flew to Sri Lanka and later to the UK. Mazharul is now leading a tour of London on queer migration, focusing on the LGBTQ + history of Bangladesh. He continues to advocate justice for his friends and works with a charity in Bangladesh to provide safe homes for people who live in fear of violence or are abandoned by their families.

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LaLa Zannell, USA

"The bad thing is when I come to work and a trans woman has been killed. If it's someone you know personally, it's harder, but then there are those you don't know, those who don't have a community. At At work, I hear about domestic violence, sexual violence, police violence, hate violence ... I have to try to balance when to feel and when not to numb what is going on for me personally as a trans person or a black woman It's a lot of emotional work in the workplace. "

I have to try to balance when to feel and when not to numb what is going on for me personally as a trans person or a black woman.

LaLa Zannell is a trans activist living in America who is on the front lines in the fight against transphobia. As the American Civil Liberties Union's Trans Justice Campaign Manager, she works with the trans community to help create new, strong personalities who "have the tools, confidence, and courage to effectively stand up for their own rights." . Until recently, she was also the organizer of the Anti-Violence Project, a New York-based charity that, among other things, works with a national coalition to prosecute the murders of LGBTQ + people in the United States (which are not documented by any central law enforcement agency) . There were 52 hate murders of LGBTQ + people in America in 2017, up from 28 murders in 2016 (apart from those related to the Pulse nightclub massacre). Of the deaths in 2017, 71 percent of the people killed were People of Color (PoC), 67 percent were 35 years old or younger, and 42 percent were trans women and women of color.

© Alamy

The increase coincides with when Donald Trump took office. Since 2017, the president has reignited discussions about bathroom regulations, reintroduced a transgender ban for the military and proposed a bill that would define gender as fixed and unchangeable. "People say Trump did this, Trump did that, blame Trump - but the hatred already existed, it just opened the door and gave permission to be even more hateful," says Zannell. "This country has always been patriarchal and racist, it only enforces this on a political level. We are now approaching 50 years of Stonewall and not much has changed here since then."

People say Trump did this, Trump did that, blame Trump - but the hatred already existed, it just opened the door and gave permission to be even more hateful.

Zanele Muholi, South Africa

"I make art, but I'm a visual activist," says Zanele Muholi. "I use visuals to advance a political agenda, to portray those who are often overlooked or excluded from the norms of African sexuality. There is a tendency to exclude LGBTQ + identities from the history of the African continent whenever I enter art spaces or take photos, I want to make a statement and undo what other people like to twist. I want my photos to say: "We, the 'sexual minorities', are not deviant, criminal members of society "We are creative thinkers and we contribute to the economy, we are much more than what haters see."

The South African artist, who presented her work at the Venice Biennale in 2019, has been taking captivating self-portraits and portraits of the LGBTQ + community for almost 20 years. She started her photography in the late 1990s while also working for a non-profit organization called Behind the Mask that worked on LGBTQ + issues in Africa. From 2007 to 2009, she wrote her master's thesis on the history of black lesbians in Africa, shedding light on issues such as lack of access and representation in art and sport, as well as the widespread problem of "corrective rape" and other hate crimes in which lesbian women become infected with HIV can. "Most of the studies before this work were theoretical, but I was written as an insider, not from the outside. I spoke as a black person ... Everything I do and am has to do with my personality. Everything I do is to make the invisible visible. "

Everything I do and am has to do with my personality. All I do is make the invisible visible.

Since then, Muholi has worked hard to maintain her position as an internationally recognized photographer in a still predominant way whiteto consolidate the masculine landscape, and it helps others achieve the same. Through her organization she runs a mentoring and scholarship program for young people who mainly identify as LGBTQ +. "I'm opening my home in Durban to make it a safe place for young artists, writers, poets and journalists; and we have an artist residency in Johannesburg. But it doesn't end with me - we want to make sure that the next generation is prepared, competent, open-minded and knows how to deal with the struggles and trauma of the world. "

When asked what changes she would like to see in South Africa with regard to LGBTQ + rights, she calls for more transparency and understanding. "I think I made sure that LGBTQ + voices are part of history and become part of the curriculum at different universities. But if I could drive further changes, I would have a photography festival that gives LGBTQ + people the opportunity to to present themselves and share their life stories. And also film festivals! Let us exist every day, every week, every month until those who do not understand our existence that we are human like everyone else. That's where it starts to ask: Who are we? If we can't write our own stories, who can? No one can do it better than us. "

Geraldine Roman, Philippines

Geraldine Roman is the Philippines' first Trans-Congresswoman and was elected to office in 2016. Every day she fights to change laws locally and nationally, focusing on the rights of LGBTQ + people. Her current priorities are to enforce anti-discrimination legislation and laws that enable civil partnerships. She believes that same-sex marriages in the predominantly Catholic Philippines will no longer take place within this generation.

Geraldine Roman, the Philippines' first transgender politician

© Rex Features

However, she also says, "An anti-discrimination law would legally protect LGBTQ + people. I know so many factory workers who have their hair cut - what does hair length have to do with the ability to do a job? I know so many same-sex people Couples whose children are turned down by private schools because of their parents' sexuality and so many LGBTQ + people who are not receiving health care when health care is a fundamental right for everyone, "she explains.

I know so many same-sex couples whose children are turned down by private schools because of their parents' sexuality, and so many LGBTQ + people who do not receive health care when health care is a fundamental right for everyone.

On a personal level, anti-discrimination law would have meant that when she ran for office, Roman would have been protected from the insults she had to hear about her gender identity. But all in all, she says, she is "one of the privileged few" because her family has accepted her. There are some progressive politicians in this one, she calls them a "thinking family": "They have traveled around, they have questioned things. If you don't leave your country, you can't look beyond your culture. You will forced to think like a robot, you can't look outside of black and white and into the gray area. " As someone who has worked as a journalist in Spain for two decades, she has also had the privilege of experiencing more advanced cultures. Your goal now is to carry these values ​​with you to the Philippines in the hope that one day other LGBTQ + people will be able to lead smoother lives and occupy positions of power like them.

Dmitry Kozachenko and Sasha Kazantseva, Russia

Dmitry Kozachenko is a 21-year-old gay journalist who was born and raised in Donetsk, the Ukrainian war zone, and now lives in Russia. Sasha Kazantseva is 32 years old, identifies as a lesbian, works as a sex educator, blogger and queer author and lives in Saint Petersburg. "I met Sasha in the summer of 2018. I have read her blog 'Washed Hands' for a long time and I was very inspired by her content on lesbian culture," explains Kozachenko. "Sasha is part of a small group of women in Russia who are not afraid to publicly demystify the lives of lesbians and educate them about lesbian sex."

© Dasha Tchainki

In July 2018, Kozachenko contacted her about his project O-zine, a platform that highlights queer artists and shares inspiring stories from queer people across Russia. And Kazantseva took the opportunity. "In the beginning there was very little information about LGBTQ + culture in Russian mass media, and almost everything that could be found was about human rights abuses and hate crimes," she explains. "These topics are incredibly important, but when you're queer and you can't find anything other than crime news, it's hard. So we wanted to create a lifestyle outlet that would report on cool projects by queer people in Russia - our art, our daily life Life, sex and relationships - and that would introduce us to each other. "

To begin with, there was very little information about LGBTQ + culture in the Russian mass media, and almost everything that could be found related to human rights abuses and hate crimes. These topics are incredibly important, but when you're queer and you can't find anything other than crime news, it's hard.