International News: Trans pride at the highest peaks

Erin Parisi, a trans mountain climber, has set herself on a journey of international trans pride. She intends to fly the trans flag from the peaks of the seven highest mountains in the world. 

“It just made a lot of sense,” she told NBC News Jan. 5. “Going to the highest point on any land and being able to say who you are and tell the world that you’re proud of who you are, where you can’t be accused of hiding or you can’t be shoved into the shadows, spoke to my soul.”

At the new year, Parisi ascended Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica, at 16,067 feet above sea level. From there she was photographed waving a trans Pride flag. Parisi has now ascended five of the seven highest summits: Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua in Argentina and Vinson Massif. 

NBC News reports Parisi, 45, plans to attempt Denali in Alaska, the highest peak in North America, this summer. She will then ascend Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, in the Himalayas in Asia. Parisi has planned that climb in 2023 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. 

During her Everest ascent, Parisi said she wants to celebrate the life of Jan Morris, a trans woman travel writer and historian who chronicled Hillary and Tenzing’s journey. 

Global Respect Act

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Global Respect Act to Congress in the Senate. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), an out gay man, introduced the bill in the House.

The bill “imposes visa-blocking sanctions on foreign persons responsible for or complicit in violating the human rights of individuals due to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. The President shall report and periodically update a list of foreign persons responsible for such human rights violations and apply sanctions accordingly.”

The bill also states that the “Department of State shall designate at least one senior officer who shall be responsible for tracking violence and discrimination against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics in foreign countries.”

According to a summary, the bill imposes visa-blocking sanctions on “foreign persons responsible for or complicit in violating the human rights of individuals due to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics.”

Israel surrogacy ban rescinded

On January 4, Israel rescinded its policy banning same-sex couples and single men from becoming parents through surrogacy. The Supreme Court ruled that the surrogacy ban for same-sex couples and single men violated their rights and must be lifted.

“It is a historic day for the LGBTQ struggle in Israel,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said at a news conference. Horowitz said the Ministry had issued the policy granting equal access for all to surrogate pregnancy.

Surrogacy had long been available to heterosexual couples and single women.

U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon

On December 18, the Senate confirmed Biden’s nominee Christopher John Lamora, a gay man and career Foreign Service officer, as ambassador to Cameroon. It was the first appointment of an LGBTQ ambassador by the administration.

Lamora is a longtime member of the Senior Foreign Service and is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana. Lamora worked with the U.S. Consulate General in Douala, Cameroon.

As PGN has reported previously, Cameroon has a documented history of abuse of LGBT+ people. Human Rights Watch said this puts LGBT people at a heightened risk of being mistreated, tortured, and assaulted without any consequences.

USAID coordinator appointed

In December, the Biden administration appointed Jay Gilliam, a Black gay man, as the United States Agency for International Development’s new Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator. In this role Gilliam will promote LGBT+ rights globally. Gilliam was formerly director of the Human Rights Campaign’s global program and worked at USAID from 2012-2016.

Gilliam gave an extensive interview with USAID, published in Medium. Gilliam described his new position as one that “will ensure we are making tangible progress on the Presidential Memorandum to mandate that USAID and all agencies involved in foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ people and [support ] USAID Administrator Samantha Power’s vision for LGBTQI+ inclusive development.” 

Previously, the Trump administration had used USAID to align with anti-LGBT+ forces globally.

LGBT+ rights in 2022

As 2021 ended and 2022 began, circumstances for LGBT+ people continued to look bleak in much of the world, most notably in Africa, Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe. 

Under President Biden in 2021 the U.S. began a slow but steady shift in foreign policy to embrace and accommodate LGBT+ rights and to clarify that the anti-LGBT+ policies of the Trump administration would not be continued. A notable step in that direction was Biden’s appointment of Jessica Stern to be the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons at the Department of State. 

In a statement, the White House declared the appointment “a role critical to ensuring that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world. The Special Envoy will play a vital role in leading implementation of the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World.” 

The White House said, “At a time when the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons are increasingly threatened in all regions of the world, the Special Envoy will bring together like-minded governments, civil society organizations, corporations and international organizations to uphold  dignity and equality for all.”  

As Executive Director of OutRight Action International in New York City, Stern specializes in gender, sexuality and human rights globally. At OutRight, she has supported the legal registration of LGBTIQ organizations globally, helped secure the mandate of the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, expanded the UN General Assembly resolution to include gender identity, and co-founded the UN LGBTI Core Group.  

Stern’s writing has been cited by the Indian Supreme Court in its seminal judgment decriminalizing same-sex relations and been featured in The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Security (2019). She is an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs.The appointment of Stern was a significant step by the Biden administration. In addition, Biden spoke out declaratively against anti-LGBT+ policies internationally at the UN General Assembly.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.