At today’s conference at the U.S. Capitol on The Geopolitics of LGBT Rights, former Hungarian Ambassador to United States Andras Simonyi unveiled “Ambassadors for Equality”, a new initiative with over 50 ambassadors from different countries pledging their support of worldwide LGBT rights.
Their statement reads in part:
“Today in the world there are tens of millions who live a life of fear, who live in the shadow of constant harassment and humiliation, imprisonment and even death, just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. This is not right. No one should suffer simply because of whom he or she loves as an individual.
We appeal to leaders in politics, science, religion, the arts and culture, captains of industry, lawmakers, and all citizens across the globe to support the quest of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and colleagues, and future generations for acceptance, for equal treatment, dignity, and protection, and for the guaranteeing of fundamental human rights.”
The letter is signed by current and former ambassadors from the U.S., South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Simonyi — who appeared a couple times on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report — is also managing director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) think-tank at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. He told Unicorn Booty:
“A year and a half ago, I started [this] initiative along with two American ambassadors: Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Susan Komen foundation (whose son is openly gay), and the other person was Ambassador [David] Huebner who is an openly gay ambassador who represented the U.S. in New Zealand.”
“[Affirming LGBT rights] should not be seen as an American endeavor,” continued Simonyi, “because the U.S. cannot and should not do it alone because then it becomes an American thing and gets tangled in the anti-American sentiments we see in other countries. But if the U.S. and other countries hold hands for LGBT rights, then that makes a difference.”
Simonyi said that when he, Brinker and Huebner started collecting signatures, they were surprised to find that they were not able to obtain signatures from a number of countries that they “thought would be a no brainer” and yet were delighted to have the support of people like former ambassadors from Sri Lanka, Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina (a largely Muslim country). Simonyi adds that “Ambassadors for Equality” will continue to collect signatures to broaden their base of support.
The conference on LGBT geopolitics marks the first time the Institute of Current World Affairs is holding a conference on sexual minority issues. They partnered with the CTR and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to “amplify the voices of activists and researchers who are not always included in Washington policy discussions about the promotion of sexual minority rights outside of the United States,” according to event organizer Robbie Corey-Boulet, a long time LGBTI activist and international journalist.
“We wanted to have speakers from a range of geographic regions and experience working with a range of sexual minority populations (MSM, queer women, trans populations, etc.),” Corey-Boulet said. “Though many of them are currently based in the United States, most if not all have extensive field experience and are in contact with activists on the ground in their home countries/regions.”
While Corey-Boulet said that monetary and visa restrictions made it difficult for the conference (and other international LGBT symposiums) to be as accessible as he would like, he has nonetheless been encouraged by the willingness of local human rights groups to stand up for LGBTQ rights in parts of the world like West and Central Africa. He also said that queer women and trans populations in particular have been increasingly willing to make themselves visible while standing up alongside men who have sex with men.
“I do get the sense that there is a growing interest in the challenges facing sexual minority populations overseas,” Corey-Boulet responded, when asked about his opinion of U.S. LGBT media’s coverage of international issues.
“What I’d like to see more of is nuanced, country-specific coverage. Instead of reporting on homophobia in “Africa,” for example, why not report on gains and setbacks at the country level? Additionally, it would be great if journalists could expand their sources beyond the leaders of prominent sexual minority rights groups in these countries, though I understand the challenges in doing that especially for journalists who are U.S.-based.”
(image via USAID U.S. Agency for International Development)