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Where we’ve been. Where we are. Where we’re headed.

That, in a gist, is how I perceive San Francisco’s “LGBTQIA central”, Castro District to be. It celebrates where we are now by paying (some) attention to our shared past; but it also highlights the areas where our community needs to act (and act fast) before we can truly say that we have Pride.

Castro District is a neighborhood in Eureka Valley in San Francisco, California. It was named after José Castro (1808–1860), who opposed US rule in California in the 19th century. As one of the very first gay neighborhoods in the US, it actually became LGBTQIA-centric starting only the late 1960s, aided by the hippie and free love movements in neighboring Haight-Ashbury district.

By the 1970s, it was already an upscale gay community (first mitigated by people’s movement here before it became the prime spot that it is now).

Castro’s influences in the (global) LGBTQIA community are numerous.

Harvey Milk was from here; in 1973, he opened a camera store here, Castro Camera, and he also began his political involvement as a gay activist here. So this place sorta helped exemplify LGBTQIA political involvement, particularly at a time when we had even harder times.

Then in the 1980s, the area was hit hard by the HIV and AIDS crisis. This is a defining moment for the LGBTQIA community (with HIV “blamed” on gay people, and with the American government not lifting a hand to do something/anything about this sitch then), so this helped galvanize the (particularly) gay community.

Castro also shows cracks in the rainbow. Perhaps most apparent is the blatant commercialization of Pride. In Castro, everything LGBTQIA-related can be bought.

And then there are some of our stereotypical concepts of “beauty”, which surfaced from Castro. The one that immediately comes to mind is the “Castro clone” that exemplified butchness and masculinity; to date, this idiotic penchant for “straight-acting and straight-looking” continues…

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Truly, nowadays, Castro is a “living” reminder of the LGBTQIA community’s history.

But Castro also shows cracks in the rainbow.

Perhaps most apparent is the blatant commercialization of Pride. In Castro, everything LGBTQIA-related can be bought.

This – not surprisingly – highlights the social stratification within the LGBTQIA community. Exactly because the we’re talking moolah, and because not everyone has this, the social classes that divide the community is highlighted. Even the nearby LGBT Center isn’t immune to this, with some LGBTQIA people critical of it (supposedly) for being elitist.

Then there’s the leaving behind of members of the LGBTQIA community. For instance, in San Francisco, the homeless population is approximately 7,499 – 29% of them identify as LGBT; and 11% of them have HIV or AIDS. If you want to see some of them, try waking up early – like 6.00AM or so – and take a walk along Castro Street to see them, living in the midst of the trash from the partying that happened the night before.

Castro has long become a tourist trap that highlights “progressive LGBTQIA community” a la America. And – as such – it can’t be denied how it’s a good reminder that we’ve (well, at least ‘they’ have) made progress.

But it also stresses – for me – that so much more still needs to be done…

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

Travel

China’s ban on online LGBTI content deemed lawful

A court in Beijing, China ruled on October 23 that the country’s ban on online LGBTI content was lawful.

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Photo by Li Yang from Unsplash.com

Backward step in China.

A court in Beijing, China ruled on October 23 that the country’s ban on online LGBTI content was lawful. This was first reported by GayStarNews.com.

In January, Fan Chunlin challenged China Netcasting Service Association’s (CNSA) June 2017 decision to label homosexuality “abnormal sexual behavior” and ban it from China’s internet. Fan filed a case with the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court.

But in the last week of October, the court ruled against the 30-year-old Fan from Shanghai.
Banning LGBT-related content has been making news in China.

In July 2017, China also banned gay content from the internet, with the regulator calling it “abnormal”. As published by the China Netcasting Services Association, the regulation censors online content ranging from movies and documentaries to cartoons and educational videos. The new rules “will edit or ban content if it displays ‘abnormal sexual behaviors’.”

Along with LGBT content, also to be removed are those that promote ‘luxurious lifestyles’, show ‘violent and criminal processes in details’, or demonstrate ‘obscenity’ including masturbation.

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Travel

Tanzania’s anti-gay initiatives worsening HIV situation

Key populations are particularly at risk of HIV infection. While national prevalence among adults in Tanzania is 4.5%, 17.6% of the country’s men who have sex with men are living with HIV.

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Photo by jambogyuri from Pixabay.com

Identified as a major barrier to ending AIDS, homophobia, the irrational hatred, intolerance, and fear of LGBT people, is worsening the HIV situation in Tanzania.

On 31 October 2018, the Regional Commissioner for the capital city, Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, announced the creation of a task force to identify and arrest people suspected of being gay and he appealed to the public to identify and report them. This follows a broader pattern of arrests and state-sponsored harassment of LGBT Tanzanians that includes the forced closure of HIV clinics accused of promoting homosexuality. In the wake of this announcement, 10 people were unjustly arrested in Zanzibar on spurious charges.

These actions are contrary to Tanzania’s stated commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. In its National Guideline for Comprehensive Package of HIV Interventions for Key Populations from 2014, the government declares: “To ensure an effective and sustainable response to HIV there is a need to reach out to KPs (key populations) with a comprehensive package of prevention, treatment, care, support interventions and other public health services.” It goes on to acknowledge: “Public discussion of MSM elicits strong reactions of fear, hatred and disgust. MSM and transgender people have remained largely invisible to many of the ongoing interventions for HIV prevention, treatment and care.”

Key populations are particularly at risk of HIV infection. While national prevalence among adults in Tanzania is 4.5%, 17.6% of the country’s men who have sex with men are living with HIV.

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On behalf of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the IAS Governing Council Africa Regional Representatives expressed “grave concern regarding the reported anti-gay initiative underway in Tanzania.”

The IAS Governing Council Africa Regional Representatives added: “Institutionalized discrimination, such as the public scapegoating now occurring in Tanzania, drives many people away from the services that can save their lives. The climate of fear created by such stigmatizing official actions undermines the ability of HIV programs to reach those in greatest need. Barring vulnerable communities from specialized services that play a critical role in linking them to essential HIV services leaves them with few options for accessing lifesaving and medications and information.”

Tanzania is said to have made some important gains in its response to HIV, with new infections dropping by 22% from 2010 to 2016 and AIDS-related deaths dropping by 54%. Indeed, its national guidelines – based on the principle that “services and programs implemented are non-stigmatizing, non-discriminatory, accessible, acceptable, affordable and equitable for all” and that “the legal, policy, and social environment [should] allow access by KP to available health services” – exemplify this capacity. The epidemic among key populations including gay men and other men who have sex with men, however, continues unabated.

“Now is the time for Tanzania’s government to take seriously its human rights-related responsibilities as stewards of the public health. As colleagues in the global HIV response, we call on Tanzania to end this initiative that threatens to hobble the national HIV response at a moment of such promise. We plead that our colleagues in Tanzania heed their own government’s advice – stated so clearly in its national guidelines – and commit to providing equitable, unobstructed access to high-quality, non-stigmatizing prevention, treatment and care services to all communities, including gay and other men who have sex with men,” IAS Governing Council Africa Regional Representatives ended.

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NEWSMAKERS

Malaysian Prime Minister stresses his government’s rejection of LGBT rights

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad voiced his government’s rejection of LGBT rights. “Sometimes Asians accept Western values without questioning,” he said. “We should be free not to change our values according to their wishes.”

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IMAGE DETAIL FROM ZUKIMAN MOHAMAD FROM PEXEL.COM

Strong(est) erroneous rebuke of LGBT community.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad voiced his government’s rejection of LGBT rights. Speaking in Chulalongkorn Univeristy, the 93-year-old Mohamad said that “at this moment, we don’t accept LGBT,” adding that LGBT rights are incompatible with the “institution of marriage and institution of family.”

In particular, Mohamad irrationally used the debunked “being LGBT is Western” argument.

“Sometimes Asians accept Western values without questioning,” he said. “We should be free not to change our values according to their wishes.”

In May 2018, Malaysia started to block Internet access to public information about HIV/AIDS and LGBT travel. On May 4, Sinar Project, a Malaysian media watchdog, reported the country’s first known online censorship of an LGBT-specific community travel website, Utopia-Asia.com, which TMNet, a Malaysian Internet Service provider, began blocking in April without explanation. Ooni Explorer, a global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation on the Internet, found that TMNet was engaging in DNS tampering by re-routing Utopia Asia’s domain name to display a false notice and deceive customers in Malaysia into thinking those resources no longer existed.

Malaysia begins blocking online HIV and AIDS, LGBT travel information

But anti-LGBT efforts have long been noted in Malaysia. In 2015, the Justice for Sisters criticized arrests made following the decision by the country’s Federal Court on Section 66, triggering a wave of fear among the transgender community to freely move. This development affects LGBT of various countries – e.g. on October 21, three transpinays were arrested in Terengganu in a raid by the immigration department after undercover clients solicited sex from them (the three are currently detained at the Ajil immigration depot, and may be jailed or fined if found guilty).

Malaysia as a study of increasing violence against transwomen in APAC

Sodomy is still a crime in Malaysia, where the dominant religion is Islam.

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Two men linked to LGBT Facebook page arrested in Indonesia

Indonesian police arrested two men who allegedly operated a Facebook account to facilitate meet-ups for gay people and other sex-related services. The case marks the first police crackdown on online LGBT groups in this conservative country.

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Photo by 'Capturing the human heart.' from Unsplash.com

Indonesia’s LGBT crackdown continues.

Indonesian police arrested two men who allegedly operated a Facebook account to facilitate meet-ups for gay people and other sex-related services. The two men being now held were allegedly managing a Facebook page named “Gay Bandung Indonesia” since 2015, which has 4,093 members.

According to Hari Brata, the deputy director at the West Java police directorate of special crimes, the suspects (who were identified by their initials IS and IH) were charged with “breaking electronic information law by creating and transmitting pornographic content”.

Specifically, the suspects were charged under Article 27, Point 1 of the Electronic Transactions and Information (ITE) Law on transmitting and spreading electronic information containing immorality. The law carries a maximum sentence of six years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of one billion rupiah.

The case marks the first police crackdown on online LGBT groups.

Consensual same-sex sexual intercourse is actually legal in Indonesia, except the provinces of Aceh and for Muslims in the city of Palembang in South Sumatra. But the conservative country is known for anti-LGBT attacks, with raids of LGBT-related venues common, as well as public caning of members of the LGBT community.

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Travel

Law granting rights to trans people passed in Uruguay

The law will grant trans people the right to get an operation that matches their sexual identity. This will be paid by the Uruguayan state, along with provision of hormone treatments.

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Image detail by Paz Arando from Unsplash.com

A law that guarantees rights to the transgender community was passed by Uruguay’s Congress, coming at the heels of a similar legal measure already passing the Senate of the South American country.

When properly signed, the law will grant trans people the right to get an operation that matches their sexual identity. This will be paid by the Uruguayan state, along with provision of hormone treatments.

The law also ensures a minimum number of trans people are given public jobs in the next 15 years. Specifically, it mandates that 1 percent of government jobs be reserved for trans people; just as it eyes to establishes a pension to compensate trans people who were persecuted during Uruguay’s 1973-1985 military dictatorship.

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Travel

Bill signed to add gender ‘X’ to birth certificates in New York

Beginning January 1 in New York City, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people can choose to change their gender to “X” on official city documents by submitting their own affidavit.

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Beginning January 1 in New York City, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people can choose to change their gender to “X” on official city documents by submitting their own affidavit.

This comes after New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio signed a new law adding the ability to select a third gender on birth certificates without needing a letter from a health-care provider.

According toDe Blasio, “New Yorkers should be free to tell their government who they are, not the other way around. You be you. Live your truth. And know that New York City will have your back.”

With this development, New York follows the states of California, Washington, New Jersey and Oregon in passing such legislation.

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