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Moscow police guard gays

Bucking trends, Moscow police protected gay protesters who showed up at the offices of Swissair on Oct. 1 and accused the airline of turning over Gay Pride organizer Nikolai Alexeyev to officials last month.

The gays of Moscow have often complained that police have not protected them from homophobic citizens, but there was a change afoot this time. Homophobic counter-protesters showed up at Swissair and some were violent. Police, buttressed by a heavy presence of officers, arrested two of the counter-protesters.

“Sexual minorities for the first time ever were able to demonstrate while being protected by the Russian police. I think this is a historic day,” Alexeyev said.

Protesters claim Swissair is responsible for Alekseev being denied a flight to Switzerland last month; he was subsequently detained by Russian police, and he claims they coerced him to drop a complaint against Moscow authorities.

The notoriously homophobic mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, was fired Sept. 29 by the Russian president. His replacement does not support gay issues either.

Indonesian film fest draws ire

Indonesia’s annual gay film festival was disrupted by angry protesters in Jakarta.

The festival, called Q!, showcased films about HIV/AIDS, LGBT issues and human rights at a range of venues around the city.

It was the subject of demonstrations by hard-line Islamists, who demanded that screenings be cancelled. Some protesters reportedly threatened to burn down a venue if films were shown there.

A number of events were subsequently cancelled, while organizers moved others to different venues.

The festival has been running for nine years, although this is the first time in recent years that it has been attacked. The group leading the protests was the Islamic Defenders Front, while a small group of student protesters from the University of Indonesia held demonstrations.

Q! ended Sept. 30.

Festival co-founder and director John Badalu said that increased media coverage may have sparked this year’s protests.

Tasmania OKs foreign marriages

Tasmania is to become the first Australian state to recognize gay marriages performed abroad.

They will be recognized as Tasmanian deeds of relationship, which are similar to civil partnerships.

The amendment was made to the Relationships Act and passed the upper house without opposition.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome said the change would help gay couples moving to the state.

“Couples in interstate and overseas unions should not have to re-register their relationship in order to secure the legal rights and protections most other couples take for granted,” Croome said. “It is important for Tasmanian law to respect the official, legal commitment partners make to each other, regardless of what state or country that commitment was made in.”

No marriage for trans woman

A trans woman in Hong Kong has been barred from marrying her boyfriend.

The woman, known only as “W,” was born male and transitioned several years ago. However, she is barred under city law from changing her birth certificate to female, meaning she has been unable to marry.

She began a legal fight but a court ruled against her Oct. 5.

High-court judge Andrew Cheung said there was insufficient evidence “to demonstrate a shifted societal consensus in present-day Hong Kong regarding marriage to encompass a post-operative transsexual.”

He added: “The court must not rush to substitute its own judgment in place of that of ... the government or legislature in Hong Kong.”

Most of China allows trans people to marry once they have completed transition. However, the law is different in Hong Kong. City law would allow W to marry a woman, as she would be recognized by the marriage registry as a man.

W’s lawyer, Mike Vidler, has said she will appeal.

Gay viewers criticize BBC

The British Broadcasting Corporation conducted a study about gay and lesbian representation on its shows and more than a third of gay respondents called the network’s LGBT depictions “stereotypical.”

The study asked 2,000 viewers about the BBC’s programs, and 563 respondents were lesbian, gay or bisexual. While 44 percent of the gay survey takers said the BBC’s gay portrayals were realistic, 37 percent called them stereotypical. The same proportion of respondents, 37 percent, considered the BBC’s gay depictions good or very good, and 24 percent rated them as poor.

“The publication of this very significant piece of work sends a clear signal to all our license fee payers that the BBC is committed to meaningful engagement with the audiences,” said Amanda Rice, BBC head of diversity, in a statement. “Not only is this a key priority within our diversity strategy, it is also one of the best ways we can continue to learn about what the UK’s diverse communities want and expect from the BBC.”

2 attacked at trans conference

Two trans women were attacked Sept. 30 at a transgender conference in Sweden.

The women, who were attending the third European Transgender Council in Malmo, received minor injuries in what police are treating as a transphobic assault.

Event organizers have not released their names but they are understood to be from Turkey.

The women said they were attacked after visiting a restaurant in the Bergsgarten area of Malmo. As they entered the restaurant, a couple of men started shouting transphobic abuse at them.

By the time they left, a group of six or seven men had gathered and the abuse turned from verbal to physical. The two women were pelted with eggs and received minor injuries, which were later treated in the local hospital.

The matter was reported to local police, who registered it as a hate crime. The assault is also being treated as potentially racist.

A British delegate at the conference, Natacha Kennedy, expressed shock at the incident.

“Delegates are upset — but so too are the locals,” she said. “Sweden has a very positive reputation when it comes to tolerance on transgender issues, so we were very surprised at this incident.”

The Transgender Council is a meeting of Transgender Europe, which works to improve legislation and raise awareness of trans people and issues.

Brits: Out soldiers improve Army

Following the defeat of a vote in the U.S. Senate to debate ending the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, the British Army claimed that allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve has improved its armed forces.

Col. Mark Abraham, head of diversity for the British Army, said lifting the ban on gays serving in the military in 2000 had “no notable change at all.”

“We got to the point where the policy was incompatible with military service and there was a lack of logic and evidence to support it,” he said. “We knew a lot of gay and lesbian people were serving quite successfully, and it was clear that sexual orientation wasn’t an indication of how good a soldier or officer you could be. The reality was that those serving in the army were the same people the day after we lifted the ban, so there was no notable change at all.”

Abraham contends lifting of the ban actually made the armed forces more productive.

“A lot of gay and lesbian soldiers who were in the army before the ban was lifted reported that a percentage of their efforts was spent looking over their shoulder and ensuring they weren’t going to be caught. That percentage of time can now be devoted to work and their home life, so actually they are more effective than they were before.”

S. Africa Pride draws 18,000

More than 18,000 people attended Africa’s biggest Pride celebration in Johannesburg on Oct. 4, organizers said.

Although same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination protections are legal in South Africa, many other African countries criminalize homosexuality.

The theme of this year’s parade was: “We are all African.”

Organizer Luiz de Barros said, “We are aware of the fact that LGBT people across Africa are being arrested, their human rights are under threat and it’s a growing phenomenon on the continent. South Africa having an enlightened constitution, we have a responsibility to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Africa.”

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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