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Will John Raspado be Phl’s newest export to the global LGBT community?

There’s never been a Mr. Gay World winner from the Philippines for the past eight years. John Fernandez Raspado, a 36-year-old online entrepreneur from Baguio City, is hoping that he will be the first Filipino to win the elusive title in Spain come May 10.

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A few days before the finale of Mr. Gay World 2017 pageant that is in progress in Madrid and Maspalomas, Spain, the Philippines’ envoy John Fernandez Raspado still enjoys a wide lead over his 20 other co-candidates in the official voting page of the contest.

If this trend goes on until the competition’s closing stages on May 10 (midnight of May 11, Manila time), then Mr. Gay World Philippines would not only receive the Mr. Gay Popularity crystal trophy—he’s already assured of a top 10 spot in the semifinal round.




As of this writing, Raspado is still on top of the Mr. Gay World online polls, with a 10.5-centimeter “horizontal gridline lead.” His closest competition, incidentally, is his roommate, Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, who trailed far behind with 2 centimeters. Meanwhile, Andrzej Berg of Poland and “home court gay hunk” Candido Arteaga of Spain are statistically tied at third spot, who both garnered one centimeter.

Filipinos around the world can still help John Raspado keep up in the game by clicking HERE  and voting once every 24 hours until 11:59 p.m. of May 10, Wednesday (Manila time).

The global pageant for gay men established in 2009 by Eric Butter, a philanthropist from Australia, and now co-managed by Dieter Sapper from Austria, chairman of the board of Mr. Gay World directors, is again looking for a gay leader who will serve as the ears and the voice of the Mr. Gay World Organization—somebody who can inspire and empower gay men worldwide.

The competition takes place for four consecutive days, and includes photo, sports, fashion show or runway and swimwear challenges. Butter, municipality of the San Bartolome de Tirajana’s Council of Equality member Amanda Cardenes, international photographer Joan Crisol, EDDY Fundacion president Manuel Rodenas, World Pride 2017 general coordinator Juan Carlos Alonso, Austrian Federal Finance Ministry officer Andrea Nägele, and Mr. Gay World 2016 Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain comprise this year’s lineup of judges.

In the past eight years that the Philippines participated in Mr. Gay World, only Christian Reyes Lacsamana was lucky enough to almost snatch the very elusive title: He won the Mister Gay Popularity, Mister Gay Social Media and Best in National Costume special awards, and finished second runner-up to Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain. Wilbert Ting Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines of 2009, is the current national director and franchise holder of Mr. Gay World in Manila.

Raspado, a 36-year-old and 6-feet-2-inch-tall entrepreneur, is engaged in online selling of health supplements. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in marketing and then acquired units in post-graduate diploma in business administration at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City. He is the youngest and the fourth child of Romulo, a retired government employee and native of Isabela, and Ma. Dolores, a former migrant worker who hails from La Union.

To prepare for the “biggest fight of his life,” he studied the videos of Mr. Gay World where his predecessors competed. Professional pageant coach Rodgil Flores of the renowned “Kagandahang Flores” beauty camp trained him months before his international assignment.

Raspado will be wearing a national costume inspired by the combination of pre-colonial and Spanish influences in the Philippines. His gold-embellished metallic head piece symbolizes the indigenous mythical demigod “Sidapa,” a great warrior and deity of the homosexuals in the country. International celebrity designer Rocky Gathercole created his Spanish matador costume which reportedly costs US$5,000, while Leo Almodal provided his formal wear for the preliminaries and finals night.

“Thank you so much guys for the ‘warm Pinoy support’. Clearly, Filipinos are the best supporters you can have [as an international pageant contestant],” Raspado said, who first achieved popularity when he became grand winner of “I Am PoGay,” a contest for handsome gay men in a noontime variety show of a major TV network three years ago.

Although he’s deemed by the pageant fans and pundits as the “winner in waiting,” if not the strongest Filipino delegate ever to compete in Mr. Gay World after Randolph Val Palma who made it to the semis in Rome, Italy, in 2014, for Raspado, neither this is the time to get lazy nor be complacent about what he can still achieve.

“I shouldn’t feel like a hero this early. Success doesn’t just happen—you need to work hard to make it happen. [And] consistency will [always] be the key in getting the victory,” he said.

RASPADO’S RIVALS

Mr. Gay World Philippines might be an easy pick—a favorite even before he’s stepped into the Spanish soil—but just like Raspado, there are 20 other contestants who are also dreaming to be the next Mr. Gay World.

The delegates from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, India and Indonesia

The contestants from Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and Venezuela

Here they are, in alphabetical order.

  1. Australia’s David Francis, 29, property developer and ambassador for StartOut Australia, a mental health nonprofit organization which develops an online mentoring program for younger members of LGBT community. He has his own YouTube channel and about 40,000 Instagram followers.
  2. To recover from the embarrassment that Austria had in Mr. Gay World 2015—Klaus Burkart resigned 200 days after winning the title due to “personal changes” in his life—this country in Central Europe sent another strong delegate named Miguel Pedro Dal Piaz, a 34-year-old real estate agent during weekdays and professional dancer during weekends.
  3. Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, 22, teaches sports education and dance at Thomas More University. He established many LGBT-related campaigns in the Belgian sports arena such as “Rainbow Laces for college students.” He even wrote a guidebook for the National Sports Organization on how to deal with transgenders, and now works with a European project called “Heroes of Football” alongside six national federations to end “football homophobia.” Raf is also the reigning Mr. Gay Europe.
  4. Vitor Trindade de Castro, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and self-confessed fitness fanatic from São Paulo, Brazil. Spain will always have a special place in his heart: He met his husband while vacationing in Madrid three years ago.
  5. Chile’s Juan Pedro Pavez Böhle, 29, an accountant and professional ballroom dancer. For him, joining Mr. Gay World is more of a commitment—something that transforms promise into a reality.
  6. František Pešek of Czech Republic, a 31-year-old deputy chief sales officer in a shopping and retail store in Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia. He believes that winning the Mr. Gay World title will allow him to help young gays “to come out safely.”
  7. Ecuador’s Flavio Romero Valdez, 27, arts major in a university, professional dancer and member of the National Ballet of Ecuador. He encourages everyone to remove barriers between people of different sexual orientations through his campaign, “My Best Friend is LGBT.”
  8. Joonas Nilsson of Finland, 29, obtained his restaurant degree qualification at the Turku Vocational Institute and presently works as a restaurant manager in a spa hotel.
  9. India’s Darshan Mandhana is a 31-year-old painter and human resource professional from Mumbai. A graduate of University of Pune, Darshan won the Mr. Gay India title on his third attempt.
  10. Budi Alamsyah, 29, financial services professional from Jakarta, Indonesia. He describes himself as “not perfect, but being gay is not a flaw.” Through his passion for traveling and distance running, he’s completed 37 marathons in four continents.
  11. Mexico’s Jorge Gonzales, also known as George Glezz, 24, is a chemical engineering senior at the Zacatecas Autonomy University. He works as a map engineer, stylist, professional makeup artist and franchise manager of French cosmetics.
  12. Charlie Tredway of New Zealand is a 33-year-old community outreach staffer for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. After making the courageous decision to publicly disclose his positive status on World AIDS Day in 2014, he has since dedicated his life to HIV advocacy and awareness. He even received a scholarship to attend the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.
  13. Poland’s Andrzej Berg, 28, a licensed chemist and works at the Faculty of Pharmacy of Gdansk Medical University.
  14. Jaromír Dominik Schoffer, a 40-year-old castellan or rescuer and restorer of castles and fortresses from the Slovak Republic. He considers being the eldest candidate as an asset than a liability, defining it as “youth forward.”
  15. South Africa’s Alexander Steyn, 35, is definitely a multifaceted person: He’s a qualified architect, actor, singer, songwriter, dancer, director, choreographer, voice over artist, painter and teacher. He’s joined Mister Gay South Africa pageant in 2011 but only emerged as first runner-up to Lance Weyer. His #loveALL advocacy addresses a range of issues, among them bullying and homophobia.
  16. Candido Arteaga, a 27-year-old nurse, must be hoping that lightning strikes twice for Spain. His predecessor Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga is the reigning king. If this scenario happens, this would be the second back-to-back victory in Mr. Gay World’s history—the first one was achieved by South Africans Charl van den Berg (2010) and Francois Nel (2011).
  17. Switzerland’s Marco Tornese, 32, team leader in a Swiss bank who can speak five different languages. It is interesting to note that his boyfriend, Mr. Gay World 2016 first runner-up Chris Krauel from Austria, served as his pageant coach-cum-mentor, and prepared him perfectly to hurdle all of the upcoming fast-track competitions.
  18. Touya Xia is a 22-year-old student-nurse from Taiwan. His proclamation as Mr. Gay Taiwan was held during Taipei Pride in October of last year, witnessed by 82,000 people. His country is on the verge of becoming the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and he wants to help in the process.
  19. Thailand’s Pattanajuk Vipadakul, 30, is an aesthetic doctor at a private hospital in Bangkok. Although his country’s been sending representatives to the international competition, Pattanajuk is the first-ever official Mr. Gay World Thailand titleholder.
  20. Alberto Jose Rodriguez Engifo, is a 31-year-old professional model and international missionary doctor from Caracas, Venezuela. When not treating acute and chronic illnesses or providing preventive care and health education to his patients, he struts high-fashion outfits on the runways.

Raspado already made an impression among his countrymen as well as pageant devotees across the globe. But will the judges make that a lasting impression by giving him the satin sash embroidered with Mr. Gay World title, which they all came to claim?

John Raspado strikes a pose for selfie with his competition roommate, Raf Van Puymbroeck of Belgium, the reigning Mr. Gay Europe

The author with Mr. Gay World Philippines 2017 John Fernandez Raspado

Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon is just your average journalist who can't live without a huge plate of cheesy spaghetti, three cups of brewed coffee, and high-speed Internet every single day. A graduate of mass communication at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, he chased loads of actors, beauty queens, pop artists and even college basketball players until the wee hours of the morning to write their stories eight years. Ivan (how those close to him call him) presently works as a full-time search engine optimization copywriter and an image consultant. He splurges his take-home pay in motivational books and spends his free time touring different heritage towns in the country.

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Outrage Mag’s MDCTan recognized for ‘Art that Matters for Literature’ by Amnesty Int’l Phl

Outrage Magazine head Michael David dela Cruz Tan was cited by Amnesty International Philippines as a human rights defender whose works help bring changes to peoples’ lives, particularly via the establishment of the only LGBTQIA publication in the Philippines.

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Outrage Magazine head Michael David dela Cruz Tan was cited by Amnesty International Philippines as a human rights defender whose works help bring changes to peoples’ lives, particularly via the establishment of the only LGBTQIA publication in the Philippines.

Tan – who received “Art that Matters for Literature” – is joined by co-awardees Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender – Organization; Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC, Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender – Individual; and Lorenzo Miguel Relente, Young Outstanding Human Rights Defender.

These awards are part of “Ignite Awards for Human Rights”, given to human rights defenders (HRDs) in recognition of the impact their work bring in changing peoples’ lives through mobilization, activism, rights-based policy advocacy and art. First of its kind, it is Amnesty International Philippines’ top honor given to human rights defenders in the country.

According to Tan, getting the recognition is an honor, particularly as “it recognizes our work in highlighting the minority LGBTQIA community in the Philippines. But this also highlights that for as long as there are people whose voices are ignored/left out of conversations, those who are able to should take a stand and fight for them.”

In a statement, Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines section director said that “this season’s recipients come from varying human rights backgrounds, from press freedom and right to education to gender equality and SOGIESC rights, but they share one dedication, that is to fight for basic rights of Filipinos. They truly ignite the human rights cause, speaking up against injustices and exposing inequalities on behalf of those who, otherwise, will not be heard.”

Olano added: “Amnesty International Philippines strongly believes that our individual and collective power as a people working towards transforming and uplifting each other should be given due recognition and appreciation despite the political turmoil the country has been experiencing for a few years now. It is necessary to shine a spotlight on those individuals who continue to pave the way for collective action.”

Michael David C. Tan – who received “Art that Matters for Literature” from Amnesty International Philippines – at work while providing media coverage to members of the LGBTQIA community in Caloocan City.

The nominations for Ignite Awards 2020 was opened exactly a year ago (May 28), and it took the organization a year to finalize the nominations and vetting process together with its Selection Committee and Board of Judges chaired by Atty. Chel Diokno.

May 28 also marks Amnesty International’s 59th anniversary.

“When people lead in taking a stand for human rights especially in difficult situations, it emboldens many others in their struggles against injustice. Our Ignite Awardees’ commitment is all the more remarkable because of the alarming levels of repression and inequality that ordinary people are experiencing amid this pandemic. Throughout and certainly beyond the immediate crisis, these human rights defenders will continue to stand up on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society. Together, we will call on the government to ensure access to universal healthcare, housing and social security needed to survive the health and economic impacts of Covid-19, while ensuring that extraordinary restrictions on basic freedoms do not become the new normal,” Olano said.

Michael David C. Tan – also a winner for Best Investigative Report in 2006 from the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) – has continuously tried to highlight “inclusive development”.

Tan – who originated from Kidapawan City in Mindanao, southern Philippines – finished Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. In 2007, he established Outrage Magazine, which – even now – remains as the only LGBTQIA publication in the Philippines.

Among others: In 2015, he wrote “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippine Country Report” for UNDP and USAID to provide an overview on the situation of the LGBTQIA movement in the country, and where the movement is headed; and in 2018, he wrote a journalistic stylebook on LGBTQIA terminology to help media practitioners when providing coverage to the local LGBTQIA community.

Tan – also a winner for Best Investigative Report in 2006 from the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) – has continuously tried to highlight “inclusive development”. For instance, speaking at a 2019 conference on human rights and the Internet organized by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), he said that “there is a disconnect between what’s online and what’s happening on the ground. And this stresses one thing: The need to not solely rely on making it big digitally, but also go beyond the so-called ‘keyboard activism’.”

Michael David C. Tan – seen here giving SOGIESC and HIV 101 lecture to over a thousand students in Quezon Province – said that “for as long as there are people whose voices are ignored/left out of conversations, those who are able to should take a stand and fight for them.”

Along with Tan, this year’s awardees join 2018’s recipients: Sen. Leila De Lima, Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender-Individual; DAKILA Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender – Organization; Floyd Scott Tiogangco, Outstanding Young Human Rights Defender; and Cha Roque, Art that Matters for Film.

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LGBTQIA people think domestic violence is a cis-straight issue – study

A study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.”

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Members of the LGBTQIA community think domestic violence is a cis-straight issue. This is according to a study conducted by Relationships Australia New South Wales (RANSW) and ACON (formerly the AIDS Council of NSW), and was published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety.

As stated in “Developing LGBTQ programs for perpetrators and victims/survivors of domestic and family violence”, many LGBTQIA people think domestic violence is an issue only faced by people who are both cisgender and straight.

The study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.”

“In particular, many community members held the view that relationships between (LGBTQIA) people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.”

In a way, this doesn’t come as a complete surprise, considering the language and framework used when discussing DFV and IPV.

The study noted that “although DFV and IPV have received increased attention in recent years, the focus has been on addressing intimate abuse between cisgender, heterosexual people with greater attention paid to male perpetrators.”

Also, “clients and potential clients did not have a full understanding of what constitutes domestic violence and felt this term related only to physical forms of abuse.”

And so “although (LGBTQIA) perpetrator interventions, and research around them, are emergent at best, the scant literature does provide a little information which can be used
to inform program developers and clinical practice.”

The researchers also noted particular kinds of abuse not seen among cis-straight people.

For instance, there are “identity-based tactics of abuse” where the fear of exposure or outing is used as a weapon within queer relationships.

After an individual has appraised that he/she may be experiencing abuse, seeking appropriate intervention may also be challenging because of non-inclusive services currently available.

The researchers recommended the following:

  • Make LGBTQIA inclusivity training required learning for all DFV/IPV sector staff, particularly those employed in specialized DFV/IPV roles.
  • Advocate that inclusivity training be made mandatory within clinical organizations, and among police and legal professionals.
  • Develop referral pathways into LGBTQIA-friendly DFV/IPV programs for key professionals, such as court support workers and magistrates.
  • Increase representation of LGBTQIA people in promotional material about DFV/IPV.
  • Use social media platforms to increase DFV/IPV awareness in LGBTQIA communities and use these channels to engage clients for future programs.
  • Provide ongoing funding to develop, trial and implement tailored programs. Short funding cycles do not provide adequate time to populate groups within an underdeveloped community area.
  • Ensure programs respond to diverse needs within mixed LGBTQIA groups and manage transphobia and biphobia.

This isn’t the first time DFV and IPV within the LGBTQIA community was tackled – even if it remains to be under-researched, and not widely tackled within the LGBTQIA community. In 2018, for instance, a study found that nearly half of men in same-sex couples suffered some form of abuse at the hands of their partner, according to a study that surveyed 320 men (160 male couples) in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago in the US to measure emotional abuse, controlling behaviors, monitoring of partners, and HIV-related abuse.

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LGB individuals have less contact with, and live geographically farther from siblings

LGB individuals had less frequent contact with, and lived geographically farther from their siblings. The pattern of effects was similar for bisexual and gay or lesbian individuals, and stronger for male than female sexual minority individuals.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual people tend to live geographically farther away from their brothers and sisters, and have less less frequent contact with them. This is according to new research from Australia, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study – “Sexual Orientation, Geographic Proximity, and Contact Frequency Between Adult Siblings“, authored by Francisco Perales and Stefanie Plage – suggests that (no surprise here) sexual stigma is a reason why this is so, as it can harm family relationships.

To compare the closeness of sibling relations between individuals with different sexual orientations, the study used data from an Australian national survey (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey). The researchers analyzed data from 13,252 individuals with 35,622 individual‐sibling pairs.

Key results indicated that — when compared with heterosexual individuals — LGB individuals had less frequent contact with, and lived geographically farther from their siblings. The pattern of effects was similar for bisexual and gay or lesbian individuals, and stronger for male than female sexual minority individuals.

According to the researchers, the findings are consistent with theoretical perspectives highlighting the unique barriers to socioeconomic inclusion experienced by individuals from sexual minorities. They suggest that these barriers begin within the nuclear family.

As quoted by PsyPost, study author Perales said: “We know that people who identify as LGB tend to experience poorer outcomes across life domains than heterosexual people… The dominant explanation for this is that these individuals receive lower levels of social support from their family and the broader community. This is because non-heterosexuality remains a stigmatized and not fully accepted social status.”

Family support – or its lack – is an important issue for members of the LGBTQIA community. A 2016 study, for instance, noted that more than 42% of the individuals who self-identified as transgender or gender nonconforming reported a suicide attempt, and over 26% had misused drugs or alcohol to cope with transgender-related discrimination. After controlling for age, race/ethnicity, sex assigned at birth, binary gender identity, income, education, and employment status, family rejection was associated with increased odds of both behaviors. Odds increased significantly with increasing levels of family rejection.

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Tech-related jealousy is real… including LGBTQIAs

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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Social media can be a source of jealousy and uncertainty in relationships – especially for younger adults.

This is according to a Pew Research Center study (with the survey conducted in October 2019, though the study was only released recently) that found that, indeed, many people encounter tech-related struggles with their significant others.

In “Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age”, Pew Research Center noted that “younger people value social media as a place to share how much they care about their partner or to keep up with what’s going on in their partner’s life.” However, “they also acknowledge some of the downsides that these sites can have on relationships.”

Twenty-three percent (23%) of adults with partners who use social media say they have felt jealous or unsure about their relationship because of the way their current spouse or partner interacts with other people on social media.

Now get this: the number is higher among those in younger age groups.

Among partnered adults whose significant other uses social media, 34% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 26% of those ages 30 to 49 say they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media. This is definitely higher than the 19% of those aged 50 to 64 who say this, and 4% of those ages 65 and up.

The insecurity is also common among those not married – i.e. 37% of unmarried adults with partners who are social media users say they have felt this way about their current partner, while only 17% of married people say the same.

Women are reportedly more likely to express displeasure with how their significant other interacts with others on social media (29% vs. 17% for men).

Meanwhile, college graduates are less likely to report having felt this way than those with some college experience or a high school degree or less.

And yes, LGBTQIA community members are no different.

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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For people in diverse areas, community identity supersedes racial, ethnic differences

Social diversity challenges people to think in new ways, and those people end up seeing other social groups as more similar. This is associated with more positive attitudes toward other groups and positive well-being outcomes.

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In an increasingly polarized world, many see people who are different from them as “outsiders,” or even a threat. Yet, around the world, this tends to be more common in traditionally homogenous societies, according to a series of studies led by Princeton University.

The analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people living in more diverse areas were more likely to perceive themselves and others as being part of the same local community — e.g., New Yorkers — regardless of ethnic and cultural differences. This finding held true globally, nationally, and individually. People living in more homogeneous areas, however, maintain racial, ethnic and religious stereotypes that are less accepting of people outside of that identity.

“This is a hopeful and optimistic message, showing that people can get used to anything. In other words, the ‘melting pot’ lives,” said Susan Fiske, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, who conducted the study with Princeton Ph.D. student Xuechunzi Bai, and Miguel Ramos, a former postdoctoral researcher at Princeton now at the University of Birmingham.

Fiske added: “They can adapt to being in quarantine, or living in a neighborhood with different people. What probably disrupts this process, however, are divisive political leaders who purposefully try to agitate or polarize, and exaggerate the differences between people.”

The researchers began the study with conflicting hypotheses. Fiske thought the more diversity you have, the more you realize how different everyone is, but Ramos thought the opposite — that diversity could bring people together. Ramos based his hypothesis on work he’d published with Princeton professor Doug Massey that found that people adapt to diversity over time. This, coupled with Bai and Fiske’s work on mental maps of stereotypes, motivated the work.

The authors analyzed a range of sources comprising data from 46 countries around the world, data from 50 states in the U.S., and longitudinal data from American university students who were followed during the entire period of their time in college.

In the worldwide study, participants were asked to list up to 20 different social groups they could spontaneously recall. They then ranked each group on competence and warmth, two key variables in shaping stereotypes, according to Fiske. The scores were combined, revealing what the researchers called “stereotype dispersion,” or differentiation, between ethnic groups.

A similar methodology was followed in the U.S. study, which asked more than 1,500 participants online to rate 20 immigrant groups on competence and warmth. They were then instructed to describe their perceived diversity of their home state on a five-point scale. Like the first study, the researchers combined the scores to calculate the stereotype dispersion between states.

In the third and final study, the researchers turned their focus to American college students who were asked questions about campus diversity and perceived stereotypes for Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. They were also asked questions about life satisfaction and well-being. The scores were again combined.

Across all three studies, the findings held consistent: Social diversity challenges people to think in new ways, and those people end up seeing other social groups as more similar. This is associated with more positive attitudes toward other groups and positive well-being outcomes. The researchers say this is an optimistic finding, especially during uncertain times.

“If you can gather people together, you can encourage cooperation and equal status,” Fiske said. “It’s not going to happen everywhere, and it’s a delicate situation to set up, but the idea that mere exposure to diversity can improve relationships is hopeful news.”

The paper, “As diversity increases, people paradoxically perceive social groups as more similar”, appeared in PNAS.

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Use of religious beliefs to justify rights violations must be outlawed – UN expert

States have an obligation to guarantee to everyone, including women, girls and LGBT+ people, an equal right to freedom of religion or belief, including by creating an enabling environment where pluralist and progressive self-understandings can manifest.

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Laws underpinned by religious conviction that discriminate against women and members of the LGBTQIA community should be repealed, just as gender-based violence carried out in the name of religion by non-State groups should also be addressed.

This is according to Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, who submitted a report to the Human Rights Council.

“I firmly reject any claim that religious beliefs can be invoked as a legitimate ‘justification’ for violence or discrimination against women, girls or LGBT+ people”, said Shaheed, who noted that “the right to freedom of religion protects individuals and not religions as such.”

In his report, the UN expert urges States to particularly repeal gender-based discrimination laws, including those enacted with reference to religious considerations that criminalize adultery; criminalize persons on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity; criminalize abortion in all cases; and facilitate religious practices that violate human rights.

The independent expert also expressed deep concern at the rise in political campaigns, and those carried out by religious institutions and their followers, which invoke religious freedom to seek to rollback human rights that are, he said, fundamental to gender equality, at both national and international levels.

“Women and LGBT+ people experience discrimination and violence inflicted in the name of religion by State and non-State actors that impedes their ability to fully enjoy their human rights, including their right to freedom of religion or belief,” said Shaheed.

For Shaheed, “religious communities are not monolithic. In many religions, a plurality of self-understandings exists, some of which may be more committed than others to advancing gender equality and non-discrimination.” And “while religious organizations are entitled to autonomy in the administration of their affairs, such deference should be extended within a holistic conception of rights grounded in the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and inalienability of all human rights.”

As such, “States have an obligation to guarantee to everyone, including women, girls and LGBT+ people, an equal right to freedom of religion or belief, including by creating an enabling environment where pluralist and progressive self-understandings can manifest,” Shaheed said.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what are known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The appointed experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve entirely in their individual capacity.

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