UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon attended and opened the conversation. He noted that around the world, LGBT people are targeted, attacked and in some cases killed. He made a specific point to note that, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else,” and urged the United Nations to lead by example.
Secretary Ban was joined by not one, but two pop superstars, from two different continents. Ricky Martin, who has been honored with the Vito Russo Award by GLAAD in 2011 sat to General Ban’s left.
He spoke about his coming out experience being a healthy and positive experience for him and for his family. Martin also made a point of acknowledging the work of LGBT advocacy around the world, “I want to thank the activists who opened the doors for people like me and families like mine.”
Additionally, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the “The Princess of Africa”, addressed the crowd as a woman who struggled against Apartheid in South Africa, a singing superstar, and as a mother. “Why should I sit back when there is so much injustice against my ordinary brothers and sisters?” She spoke about loving her child unconditionally, regardless of who they love. She also spoke about the terrors of a practice known as “corrective rape” that has been committed against lesbian women in an attempt to make them straight.
Additionally, we heard from LGBT advocates from various parts of the world. Olena Shevchenko spoke about Ukraine’s anti-homosexuality propaganda law, which could likely censor LGBT-inclusive media, LGBT advocates and human rights defenders.
Gift Trapence spoke about legal and societal improvements in Malawi since 2010, when a gay couple was imprisoned for getting married to one another. Since then, the country has made moves to drop its laws against LGBT people.
Blas Randi celebrated the new transgender protections law in Argentina, which transgender people the authority to identify themselves as a particular gender. Transgender people in Argentina may now change their name and gender marker on public documents without having undergone gender-reassignment surgery and without approval from a doctor or judge.
The celebration closed with a video by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who called on all governments to protect people against discrimination and to “decriminalize same-sex love”. He noted the improvements that he has seen, but urges vigilance against abuses against LGBT people.
During International Human Rights Day, GLAAD has been alerting the media to anti-transgender violence around the world, as well as urging the media to cover the draconian “kill the gays bill” in Uganda. We will continue to work with LGBT and human rights organizations to protect LGBT people around the world.