Do you count yourself as a ‘normal person’? In a world of extreme views, people getting far too much airtime for being one level nastier about whole groups of people than someone else (and yeah we know, it’s literally just politicians) do you ever feel like all the normal people are being forgotten?
You can probably categorise the idea of a ‘normal person’ into people like yourself, your friends, your family and anyone else who just think normally about other people. You know, boring normal stuff like accepting other people for who they are because it doesn’t affect your life in the slightest, not getting offended just because other people aren’t exactly like you, making an effort to stay educated and open-minded, and not having – let alone sharing – insanely offensive views that judge people literally for just being who they want to be. That kind of stuff. Normal stuff.
Does your country represent all that? More specifically, does it represent all that for the LGBTQ+ community? While nowhere is perfect (hello, Russia), some countries are obviously more progressive than others when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. But you might be surprised at the laws that still aren’t being tackled.
Here’s proof that even the most self-proclaimed ‘LGBTQ+ friendly’ places still have a way to go:
While Canada has got a progressive rep, that doesn’t stretch to children who are born intersex, yet. The country is “falling behind the rest of the world” on legal protections of human rights for intersex people, accrding to LGBTQ+ rights lawyer R. Douglas Elliott1. Canada’s Criminal Code currently allows nonconsensual, cosmetic surgeries on intersex infants against the recommendations of International Human Rights law.2 That needs to change.
Six years ago, Australia amended its existing 1984 Sex Discrimination Act to make sure it prohibited discrimination of people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. So far so good. But it’s not all positive, now. A recent bill to amend the act – to remove the capacity for religious schools to directly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students based on their status – is ‘not proceeding’3. Which means there’s more to do.
If you’re LGBTQ+ in the USA, your experience depends so much on which state you live in. While New York and California are proudly progressive, Tennessee is trying to pass six anti-LGBTQ+ bills, known as the ‘slate of hate,’ which includes the right to defend anti-transgender school policies. Now it’s planning to make it easier for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples on religious grounds4. Trump’s already let this happen in South Carolina by waiving an Obama regulation. We need about four Obamas in the world right now.
And in Europe…
There’s a ‘Rainbow Index’ that rates European countries on its LBGTQ+ laws and policies, and it’s bad news for the UK. It’s dropped from first place to 8th place on the list by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe). Even though Theresa May launched an LGBTQ+ ‘action plan’ in 2018, the UK still falls down. Case in point: The 2004 Gender Recognition Law – while there are plans to reform it – requires trans people to receive a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – which is treated as a mental illness – and it has been criticised for being dehumanising and bureaucratic. See the full UK LGBTQ+ report here.
If, whenever you see the words ‘The Netherlands,’ you think of sexually liberated Amsterdam you’re not alone. But while the city has a reputation for being sexually educated and open, the country’s laws don’t stack up. It’s 12th on the Rainbow Index. The first thing it needs to improve is its hate crime laws. While you can be charged with the crime of hate speech, the Netherlands still needs to introduce ‘policies that explicitly cover all bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.’ Which we find really surprising. Like the UK, it also falls behind with gender recognition, requiring a disorder diagnosis/ psychological opinion before a gender can be legally recognised. See the full Netherlands LGBTQ+ report here.
Sweden was the first country in the world to allow the legal change of gender identity (in 1972), which is kind of amazing. But it is still only 10th on the Rainbow index. It gets a thumbs down for not having an adequate Equality Action Plan for gender identity progress – it was criticised for ‘serious flaws and shortcomings,’ with ‘no time span or clear allocated responsibility’ indicated. See the full Sweden LGBTQ+ report here.
For an update on how the above LBGTQ+ laws and more are progressing in Europe, search any European country’s name in the annual ILGA report.
The fight for LGBTQ+ rights goes on.
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