On June 12, 2016, the United States – and the global community – reeled in sadness, anger and despair as news emerged of a shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53 others in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. What was supposed to be a night of dancing and fun, ended in devastating loss. Thousands all over the world have come together to honor and mourn those who died on that tragic night and comfort family members and friends who lost loved ones.
This horrific tragedy highlights an alarming and important issue affecting LGBTQIA communities around the world – and that is homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and asexual persons. According to a 2011 intelligence report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), LGBT+ people are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime.
Based on the 2013 National Report on Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communitiesconducted by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and Equality Michigan, transgender women, people of color, and gay men face the highest risk of homicide, and transgender people, undocumented people, people of color and gay men face the most severe violence.
Examples of such discrimination and LGBT+ sentiments span the world – from Jamaica to Nigeria – and are supported by laws and actions that perpetuate such prejudice. Fortunately, there are several national and global organizations and initiatives fighting against violence and discrimination against LGBT+ persons, and in the process, empowering the community in promoting equity for all.
Here, Safe highlights five organizations and initiatives that are advancing LGBT+ rights around the world.
Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ)
After Angeline Jackson and her friend were kidnapped at gun-point and sexually assaulted by anti-gay rapists, Jackson became an impassioned advocate for the LGBT+ community in Jamaica. In response to the discrimination, she and countless other LGBT+ individuals face in the country, Jackson founded the Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives for lesbian, bixexual women and trans persons by creating a safe space in which they can share emotional, social and other issues they are facing without fear or judgment.
Founded in 2013, QCJ became the first-known organization locally to conduct research into the lives of lesbian and bisexual women, and also fosters the enhancement of healthcare for the LGBT+ community by bringing awareness to Jamaican constituents about HIV and human rights. During his visit to Jamaica in April 2015, President Obama commended Jackson for her efforts and revered her as a global activist for LGBT+ advocacy and rights.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
Founded in March 2004, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) is an umbrella non-governmental organization based in Kampala, Uganda, which advocates for the protection and promotion of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans. Comprised of 18 LGBT+ organizations, SMUG’s network offers services on economic empowerment, health, counseling and guidance, and other services to the LGBT+ community in Uganda.
Working closely with indigenous, regional and international human rights organizations and persons to end discrimination and injustices towards LGBT+ persons in Uganda, SMUG also implements programs for advocacy and policy change, research and documentation, capacity development, and safety and protection.
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ILGA, the largest global federation of LGBT+ organizations, promotes its agenda in various United Nations forums. A worldwide federation of 1,200 member organizations from 125 countries campaigning for lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex rights, ILGA envisions a world where the “human rights of all are respected and where everyone can live in equality and freedom; a world where global justice and equity are assured and established regardless of the people’s sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex.”
Supporting three regional structures in Africa, Asia and Latin America, ILGA annually publishes a state-sponsored homophobia report, which is a world survey of sexual orientation laws. The organization also launched the Gender Identity and Gender Expression Program, which represents trans struggles and issues at the international level, and it also supports local trans movements through its collaborative work on legal gender recognition, health and community building.
Grupo Gay da Bahia (The Gay Group of Bahia)
Founded in 1980 by Luiz Mott, the Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB) is the oldest association for the defense of the human rights for homosexuals functioning in Brazil. Organizing hundreds of conferences, roundtables, and debates throughout the country and abroad, the GGB forms part of the staff of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission and the National Association of Black and White Men Together. GGB is also directly responsible for the foundation of several groups in defense of LGBT+ rights in other states in Brazil.
National Center for Transgender Equality (TransEquality)
Based in Washington, D.C., the National Center for Transgender Equality (TransEquality) is a national social justice organization dedicated to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education advocacy. Its projects include the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative, which ensures the perspectives and priorities of transgender people of color are heard, as well as the Trans Legal Service, which helps transgender people navigate the complicated name and/or gender change process and confidently address other legal issues they may face.
Focusing on an array of issues such as anti-violence, housing, immigration, voting rights and more, TransEquality also provides resources to help the transgender community know their rights, how to file complaints of discrimination and mistreatment, and how to find legal help.
While only five organizations are featured here, there are countless LGBT+ advocacy and empowerment efforts you can get involved with around the world that are promoting a message of inclusivity, love, and most importantly, not hate.