Catholic diocese banned gay valedictorian’s speech so he took matters into his own hands

Catholic diocese banned gay valedictorian's speech so he took matters into his own hands

Here are 49 pictures of beautiful Birmingham Pride Here’s 22 pictures of Pride taking over the Belgium capital 5 pop stars performing at Birmingham Pride (plus their best songs) Christian Bales continued to use his voice | Photo: WKRC At high school graduation, the valedictorian — the student with the highest academic achievements — typically delivers a speech to their class.

However, for Christian Bales, the valedictorian at the Catholic institution Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, it wasn’t such a simple matter.

An openly gay student, Bales had a speech ready to go. Then a Roman Catholic diocese in the state deemed the speech ‘too political’ and banned Bales from speaking.

That didn’t stop Bales from delivering his speech via megaphone outside graduation. ‘”The young people will win” is a mantra that I’m sure many of you have heard if you’ve been attentive to the media recently,’ Bales begins.

‘It’s a phrase that was adopted by the prolific Stoneman Douglas teenagers who are advocating for an agenda .’

Bales continues, insisting that young people have a voice.

‘Throughout the last four years at Holy Cross, I’ve learned to utilize my voice to advocate for my beliefs as an ethical individual. … Rather than allow opposition to silence us, we must utilize it as empowerment.’

The crowd, wearing rainbow ribbons in support, keeps encouraging him as Bale speaks on the lawn.

‘The young people will win because we’re finished being complacent.

‘There’s a misguided notion that wisdom is directly proportional to age, but we’re disproving that daily. Sometimes the wisest are the youngest in our lives, the ones who haven’t yet been desensitized to the atrocities of our world. Therefore, we young people must be the educators.

‘The young people must be willing to speak candidly about issues, and we mustn’t tremble in the face of the institutions that try to silence us.’ Excuses, excuses

‘School officials and representatives of the Diocese of Covington reserve the right to review and approve all student speeches to be presented in public at high school graduations,’ Diocese spokesperson Tim Fitzgerald told River City News .

He further said the speech was not turned in on time and also had ‘elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church’.

Bales, however, said students didn’t know about these deadlines.

He wondered if they banned his speech due to his sexuality or talk of the Parkland students.

‘I thought it was pretty mild. Maybe part of it was, I referenced the Stoneman Douglas teenagers. I know they have been strong advocates for gun reform, but I didn’t talk about gun reform, so I really have no idea,’ he said. ‘I expected more’

Holy Cross accepted the speech, but it was the Diocese that stepped in. Both Bales and his mother, Gillian Marksberry, thanked the school for their support.

Marksberry had less good to say about the Diocese.

‘To the Diocese, I am disappointed. I am disappointed as a parishioner. I expected more, especially when we are raising our children and supposed to, as Christians, teach tolerance and unconditional love. I’m just disappointed.’

LGBTI groups boycott conference because the USA were invited to it

LGBTI groups boycott conference because the USA were invited to it

Here are 49 pictures of beautiful Birmingham Pride Here’s 22 pictures of Pride taking over the Belgium capital DIVA for Equality boycotted events at a conference where a USA Embassy representative was present. | Photo: Facebook/DIVA for Equality Fiji feminist lesbian and queer groups accused the USA of ‘pinkwashing’ a Pacific LGBTI conference and vowed to boycott it.

A USA Embassy representative gave a speech at the Pacific Human Rights Conference in Fiji this week. The groups boycotted all sessions where he was present.

The Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network PSGDN, in partnership with DIVA for Equality FIJI and the Pacific Community (SPC) are running the Conference.

It is themed ‘My Voyage, One Ocean, Our Journey: Pacific LGBTQI Roadmap to 2030’. The conference is aimed at developing activism and advocacy for all LGBTIQ+ people in the Pacific.

The groups said they boycotted the events because US domestic and foreign policies have ‘long been deeply problematic for all people struggling for human rights and justice’.

They said it was especially bad under the administration.

‘It is farcical for US Embassy representatives to speak at this vital Pacific conference on LGBTQI human rights, at the same time as they are actively rolling back human rights in the USA on all areas of LGBTQI rights and especially reversing LGBTQI people’s rights related to public service access, transgender people’s rights in prisons, transgender people’s rights in the US Military, and much more,’ said Noelene Nabulivou of Fiji’s DIVA For Equality.

‘We will not enter the Conference today, until they leave.’ Rejecting pinkwashing

The groups said it was shocking how ‘quickly this US administration is… roll(ing) back human rights’

‘We see this happening, we reject those policies, and US Government pinkwashing at our Conference,’ Nabulivou said.

‘The USA should not be speaking at this Conference, nor others in our region. We want it made clear that we do not agree on the speaker invitation, while we strongly support this Pacific Human Rights Conference.’

‘We stand with all people struggling for their rights in USA and everywhere.

‘Pacific people will not stand by and let these acts go by, unremarked. All of our struggles are linked.’

Gay Star News has reached out to the US Embassy in Fiji for comment.

Did Rihanna help a pro-LGBTI politician become Barbados’ new president?

Did Rihanna help a pro-LGBTI politician become Barbados' new president?

Here are 49 pictures of beautiful Birmingham Pride Here’s 22 pictures of Pride taking over the Belgium capital 5 pop stars performing at Birmingham Pride (plus their best songs) Mia Mottley is Barbados’ first female president thanks to Rihanna. | Photo: Instagram The Caribbean island of Barbados has just elected its first female president and pop superstar, Rihanna, might have had something to do with it.

Mia Mottley of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won last week’s election, after a homophobic campaign from her opposition that used speculations about her sexuality in a negative campaign.

But her campaign received a healthy push after Barbados-native, Rihanna gave her a casual endorsement on Instagram.

Rihanna had commented on her good friend, Leandra Goodridge’s Instagram post claiming Mottley would be the next president.

‘Yeeeeeessssss… She deserves it!’ Rihanna replied.

That comment sent social media into overdrive with many people supporting Rihanna.

Mottley won the election in a landslide and will remain president for the next five years. She thanked the pop star for ‘all that love and support and blessings’.

Rihanna took to Instagram again to celebrate Mottley’s win.

‘Say hello to my new prime minister and most importantly the FIRST FEMALE prime minister of Barbados… the honorable Prime Minister @mamottley well deserved and about time!’ Rihanna wrote.

‘Breaking barriers and making history in so many ways!!! Congratulations ’ say hello to my new prime minister and most importantly the FIRST FEMALE prime minister of Barbados … the honorable Prime Minister @mamottley well deserved and about time! breaking barriers and making history in so many ways!!! Congratulations A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on May 25, 2018 at 8:26pm PDT Mottley’s LGBTI record

Homosexuality is illegal in Barbados which has some of the harshest laws in the world. Its sodomy laws call for life imprisonment, in a country where LGBTI people face extreme levels of discrimination and violence.

The BLP who have resumed power for the first time in ten years, does not have any official policies on LGBTI issues or same-sex marriage. But it promised to hold a referendum about marriage equality.

‘We have said that repeatedly. We believe that no 30 people (MPs) should be allowed to make decisions on issues that go to the heart of the nation’s collective values. This issue can only be determined by the outcome of a referendum,’ reads the BLP manifesto.

One of the party’s winning candidate, Cynthia Forde, said the BLD would not pursue any ‘gay agenda’.

‘Nobody in the Barbados Labour Party is interested in any same sex marriage,’ she told Barbados Today.

‘I am not interested in any man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman. That is their private life. Do what they feel like in their bedrooms, but do not bring that as part of the Barbados Labour Party’s agenda.’

But the LGBTI community is hopeful things will improve because of Mottley’s track record.

Mottley was Barbados’ Attorney General from 2001 and ordered research into laws that could help reduce new HIV cases. That research concluded that it was critical the country overturn its anti-sodomy law. But strong public opinion about the issued forced the government to stop trying to change the law.

Islamic ‘defenders’ restrain trans women in Ramadan patrol as police watch on

Islamic 'defenders' restrain trans women in Ramadan patrol as police watch on

Here are 49 pictures of beautiful Birmingham Pride Here’s 22 pictures of Pride taking over the Belgium capital A trans woman is detained and grabbed by Islamic Defenders Front. | Photo: Istimewa A group of Islamic vigilantes and local police violently restrained four trans women and lectured them about religion.

The vigilantes were members of the infamous Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). They were out on a Ramadan patrol in Cianjur in West Java, Indonesia.

FPI is a notorious far-right militant Islamic group that has the backing of political elites in Indonesia. They were on a patrol to ensure that people adhered to the laws of Ramadan when they cornered the women.

Ramadan is a holy month on the Islamic calendar where practicing Muslims abstain from all food and drink between sunrise and sunset.

Cianjur’s Police Chief, Soliyah, told media police patrolled with FPI to make sure businesses were not selling alcohol or food during the day.

‘FPI Cianjur sweeping warungs that are open during the day, Muslim or non-Muslim must respect Muslims who are fasting,’ an FPI supporter wrote on Facebook.

But FPI decided to expand their patrol and targeted a group of trans women and video of the interaction has gone viral. The video shows a very large group of FPI men storming a building with the women and violently removing them.

They are forced to sit on the ground outside the building as one of the FPI men yells at them about religion.

‘This reprimand is from the conscious God. I ask, do you want to go to hell or to heaven? If you want to go to heaven then as men you must become men,’ the man says. ‘We pledge to no longer be women’

After the sermon the FPI forced the women to say a pledge that they would stop living as women.

‘Go ahead and sing, but wear macho outfits so that nobody will be attracted,’ one man says in the video.

The FPI then poured water on the women’s faces so they could remove their makeup. It was only then they were left alone.

Trans women were forced to sit outside a building and listen to a religious sermon. | Photo: YouTube Indonesia and the trans community

Being trans is not illegal in Indonesia, but as radical Islamic groups gain more power in the country, there has been a frightening crackdown on the LGBTI community.

The Islamic province of Aceh has been in the headlines for its treatment of trans women. There have been multiple examples of vigilante groups targeting trans women. One incident saw 12 trans women having their hair forcibly shaved. They were also forced to chant like men to make them more masculine.

In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, trans women have been locked up until a family members signs them out on the condition they promise to stop living as women.

West Java is also the province of Indonesia that created a taskforce specifically to monitor LGBTI people and their activities. Watch the video

Seoul just held its very first drag parade and the photos are amazing

Seoul just held its very first drag parade and the photos are amazing

Here are 49 pictures of beautiful Birmingham Pride Here’s 22 pictures of Pride taking over the Belgium capital 5 pop stars performing at Birmingham Pride (plus their best songs) The Seoul Drag Parade. | Photo: Twitter/@thepin_ch South Korea’s capital, Seoul, held its first drag parade over the weekend with about 1,000 people turning up to celebrate.

About 500 people came along to the actual parade, with another 500 or so heading the after parties that evening.

Organizers of the Seoul Drag Parade were inspired by pride parades from all around the world. But Korea’s regional queer culture festivals also inspired them.

The ultimate goal of the parade was to encourage all people to ‘use drag to go on a journey to find their identity, and become able to express their true feelings, thoughts, and style’.

Organizers were very clear that Seoul Drag Parade would not tolerate discrimination against trans people or people’s personal drag styles.

Dozens of drag queens strutted their stuff on along Itaewon, a suburb known for its nightlife and gay scene.

South Korea is one of the more conservative countries in Asia when it comes to LGBTI issues. Powerful Christian lobbies oppose any progress on same-sex marriage and the country does not have anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTI people.

‘When it comes to South Korea, human rights guarantees for sexual minorities are insufficient,’ parade organizer Yang Heezy, told AFP.

‘Today’s drag parade and more queer culture festivals should take place to bring attention to sexual minorities and help those who are not from those minorities learn more.’

Needless to say the parade and after-parties were a decadent display of color and looked like fabulous fun.

Here are some of the best photos from the 26 May event: 1.

Q. 당신에게 드랙은?
A. 정체성을 확립하는 표현 예술. 지난 26일 이태원에서 첫 <서울드랙퍼레이드>가 열렸다. — 핀치 Pinch (@thepin_ch) May 29, 2018 2.

The Seoul Drag Parade! About 500 people came — Darren Isaac Gove (@CowboyGove) May 27, 2018 3.

Seeing articles about Seoul Drag Parade from Korea, China, India, US, France, Vietnam, Nigeria, UK, Thailand, Switzerland, Congo, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Italy, Namibia, Indonesia, Australia, Cameroon, Philippines, Canada, Bangladesh, Belgium, and Zambia.. amazing — Ali 알리 (@aliveraking) May 27, 2018 4.

180526 Seoul Drag Parade I’m in love with Erica — Dragshoot (@Dragshoot_BANG) May 27, 2018 5.


180526 Seoul Drag Parade Simone • Roche the Mad Scientist — Dragshoot (@Dragshoot_BANG) May 27, 2018 7.


Gay teacher launches network to help British LGBT colleagues

Gay teacher launches network to help British LGBT colleagues

A gay teacher who fought back against advice to keep his sexuality secret by coming out in front of his whole school last year has set up a network to encourage other LGBT teachers to do the same.

Daniel Gray will launch the initiative, LGBTed , next weekend at an event where more than 100 teachers, school leaders and other educationalists will share advice on being gay or trans role models in schools. It is being supported by Nick Gibb, the schools minister, who came out to his family as gay three years ago having been in a relationship with his partner, now husband, for 29 years.

At the event, which will coincide with the 30th anniversary of section 28 , the notorious piece of legislation that banned local authorities from “promoting homosexuality”, teachers will receive training in being LGBT advocates and tackling homophobia.

“The aim is to be the role models we needed when we were at school,” said Gray, who co-founded LGBTed to provide support to teachers. “I remember being at school during section 28 and I remember how horrible it was to be bullied the way that I was. I was told by my teachers it’s just something that you have to deal with.”

Until February last year Gray had not discussed his sexuality at work, but to mark LGBT history month he came out to more than 1,000 students at a school assembly. “Most didn’t bat an eyelid. There were no cheers, no drama or anything like that,” he said, but it delivered a crucial message. “Young people who I’d never spoken to before started approaching me and having conversations with me. One student came over to me and said ‘oh my God sir, your assembly changed my life’, and scuttled away. It’s little moments like that that you don’t get in your career if you don’t open yourself up as a visible role model and lead by example.”

Almost half of LGBT pupils in Britain’s schools are bullied for their sexuality, according to research published last year by the charity Stonewall. It has warned of alarmingly high rates of poor mental health among LGBT students: four in five young trans people have self-harmed, according to the charity, while 45% have attempted suicide.

Teaching is behind many other professions in supporting LGBT equality, said Hannah Jepson, co-founder of LGBTed, who added that schools were still recovering from the legacy of section 28. “There’s still a taboo where people conflate sexuality with sex,” she said. “Also the education sector is so big and there are so many different areas – you’ve got teaching schools, academies, local governments. It’s certainly not a system that’s working cohesively together.”

Gray said he had received the support of his headteacher, colleagues and the vast majority of parents – but that not all schools were as inclusive.

The experience of LGBT staff varies widely, according to David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust and an advocate for LGBT teachers. “I heard the other day about a headteacher who said, ‘I was going to announce my same-sex marriage to colleagues but the local authority, said oh no I don’t think you should do that’. I was recently contacted by someone who is on initial teacher training who was told quite explicitly, ‘don’t mention anything, you’ll cause yourself problems’. It’s definitely a mixed picture still.”

Gibb, who will give a video address at the launch, praised the event. “Through initiatives such as the leadership equality and diversity fund , we are supporting schools to increase the diversity of leaders,” he added.

• In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at

Man killed after Oklahoma restaurant shooting known to police, LGBT groups say

Man killed after Oklahoma restaurant shooting known to police, LGBT groups say

A man suspected of shooting three people in an Oklahoma City restaurant on Thursday night came to the attention of local police in January, after he posted hundreds of fliers across the city in which he warned of “demons in cloned transexual (sic) bodies” and asked people to visit his YouTube channel. Parkland survivor David Hogg aims to ‘create the NRA – except for the opposite issues’

Read more Such behavior by the suspected shooter, reported in January by local LGBT advocates, raises questions about whether a more proactive law enforcement reaction might have prevented yet another public shooting. On Friday, a police spokesman said then the man’s only interaction with the police was over a domestic incident 15 years before.

The incident also renewed debate over whether states should make it easier for civilians to carry guns without a permit, a measure gun rights organizations say would make it easier for civilians to respond to random attacks. Earlier this month, Oklahoma’s Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed adults to carry handguns without a permit, angering gun rights advocates.

Authorities said Alexander Tilghman, 28, and a legal gun owner, opened fire at Louie’s On The Lake during dinner service. Three people were wounded and one man was injured trying to escape. The gunman was shot dead by two bystanders.

Troy Stevenson, director of the LGBT rights group Freedom Oklahoma , said Tilghman was the same man who distributed flyers across Oklahoma City earlier this year, warning of demons taking over people’s bodies. The LGBT publication The Gayly interviewed Tilghman, who said he was “trying to find real people out there. Everywhere I go, there is nothing but fake people”.

The Gayly said it discussed Tilghman twice with the local police department, which sent an officer to its office to request an interview transcript and a statement. The Gayly reported that a public information officer said : “This guy needs to be on our radar.”

Speaking after the shooting, Oklahoma City police captain Bo Mathews said the only interaction police had with Tilghman was during a domestic assault and battery call when Tilghman was 13. A police report from that incident, in 2003, indicated Tilghman was arrested after his mother told police he punched her several times in a dispute over a vacuum cleaner. Investigators were trying to determine a motive behind the restaurant attack, Mathews said.

A Facebook page police said belonged to Tilghman contained a video in which he claimed his television was possessed by the devil. The page used the same profile photo as a YouTube channel on which a man who appeared to be Tilghman described demons possessing his TV and being surrounded by computers. The man begged for help from “a real human”, saying he was suicidal, lonely and “really losing it”.

A man who identified himself as Tilghman’s brother told television station KOCO Tilghman needed treatment, saying: “Nobody reached out to him, you know. He was crying for help.”

Flyers with similar messages to those posted in January were plastered all over a vehicle that Tilghman drove, said Ryan Beaulac, who said he frequently saw Tilghman at his apartment complex in north-west Oklahoma City. Beaulac said he saw Tilghman acting strangely on Wednesday night.

“He was twitchy, grabbing his hair and acting weird,” the 35-year-old said. “I was uncomfortable and definitely wanted to get away from him.”

Tilghman was licensed as an armed security guard and was legally authorized to carry a firearm, said Gerald Konkler, general counsel for the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training , which certifies law enforcement officers and other armed personnel across the state. Obtaining such a license requires a background check and at least 72 hours of training.

Mathews said the shooting appeared to be random but noted that Tilghman drove to the restaurant and wore protective gear for his ears and eyes.

“It looked like his mind was made up that he was going to discharge his firearm once he got there,” Mathews said. The investigation was ongoing he said, confirming that Tilghman’s mental health was being looked into.

Police said Tilghman was armed with a pistol. A 39-year-old woman and two girls were shot and wounded and a man broke his arm while trying to escape. All four victims were in good condition, police said on Friday.

Mathews, the police spokesman, praised the two people who retrieved firearms from their vehicles and “were able to shoot the suspect and put an end to a very dangerous situation”. Indiana teacher threw basketball to avert school shooter, witness says

Read more A woman who answered the phone at the home believed to belong to Tilghman’s mother declined to comment when contacted by the Associated Press.

The National Rifle Association said in a tweet on Friday that the shooting was an example of “how the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

In Indianapolis on Friday, a witness said an unarmed science teacher disarmed a student who shot and wounded the teacher and another student. The witness told ABC News the teacher, Jason Seaman, threw a basketball at the gunman before swatting the gun away.

In April in Nashville, Tennessee, unarmed restaurant patron James Shaw Jr wrestled an assault-style rifle away from a gunman at a Waffle House restaurant. Four people were killed in that shooting.

In its Friday tweet, the NRA also criticised Governor Mary Fallin, for blocking the “constitutional carry” bill.

LGBT Pride Month 2018: What to know about its history, events, parades

LGBT Pride Month 2018: What to know about its history, events, parades

Every summer in the United States, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) community and allies come together for a month-long celebration of love, diversity, acceptance and unashamed self-pride.

Here’s everything you need to know about LGBT Pride Month. What is LGBT Pride Month?

The commemorative month is meant to recognize the sweeping impact that LGBT individuals, advocates and allies have on history in the U.S. and around the globe, according to the Library of Congress Participants in the annual New York Gay Pride Parade march in the West Village in Manhattan, June 25, 2017 in New York City. When is it?

LGBT Pride Month is celebrated every year in June, with a series of events and parades taking place across the nation. Anthony Rubio holds onto his costumed dogs as he walks along Fifth Avenue during the New York City Pride Parade, June 26, 2016, in New York. Why is it in June?

The month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the riots held by members of the LGBT community against a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969.

The so-called Stonewall riots were a "tipping point" for the gay liberation movement in the United States, according to the Library of Congress. The uproar also paved the way for the modern fight for LGBT rights.

Previous presidents of the United States have, on several occasions, officially declared June as LGBT Pride Month. Ahley Newman, of Boise, waves a rainbow flag during the Boise Pride Festival, June 18, 2016 outside the Idaho State Capitol Building in Boise, Idaho. community. How do people celebrate LGBT Pride Month?

LGBT Pride Month events draw millions of participants from around the world each year. Today, the month-long celebrations include pride parades, marches, parties, concerts, workshops and symposiums across the nation.

Memorials are also often held for members of the LGBT community who have lost their lives to hate crimes or HIV /AIDS. SLIDESHOW: Key Moments in Fight for Gay Rights The rainbow LGBT flag is prominently displayed throughout the month. Gilbert Baker, an American artist, gay rights activist and U.S. Army veteran, created the flag in 1978 as a new symbol for the gay and lesbian political movement, at the suggestion of his friends and colleagues, including Harvey Milk, a San Francisco city supervisor and the first openly gay elected official in California. Milk was assassinated later that year.

According to Baker’s website , the colors of the LGBT flag each have a meaning: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony and violet for spirit.

Baker died at the age of 65 on March 31, 2017, though his rainbow flag remains an iconic, powerful symbol for LGBT pride. Thousands of people take part in the annual New York Gay Pride Parade in Fifth Avenue on June 25, 2017 in New York. Where will LGBT Pride Month events take place this year?

A slew of official events will be held in various cities across the nation throughout the month of June. Here are some of the more prominent celebrations. The 2018 LA Pride Festival will be held in West Hollywood Park on June 9 and 10, beginning at noon local time. Singers Kehlani and Tove Lo will headline the event, along with a diverse lineup of other musicians and performers.

The 2018 LA Pride Parade will take place on June 10, starting at 11 a.m. local time along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

San Francisco

SF Pride will host two days of community engagement and entertainment at the Civic Center Plaza on June 23, starting at noon local time, and on June 24, beginning at 11 a.m. local time.

The SF Pride Parade will take place on June 24, beginning at 10:30 a.m. local time along Market Street.

SF Pride’s official VIP party, Under the Rotunda , will be held at City Hall on June 24 at 2 p.m. local time.

New York City

NYC Pride’s first ever Human Rights Conference will be held at SUNY Global Center on June 14 at 8 a.m. local time

The Pride Luminaries Brunch will take place at David Burke Kitchen on June 17 at noon local time.

OutCinema , a three-day event celebrating LGBT pride and community on film, will have specially curated screenings followed by Q&As and open-bar after parties at SVA Theatre on June 18 at 6:45 p.m. local time.

The LGBT Community Center’s Garden Party at Hudson River Park’s Pier 84 will feature a diverse selection of tastings from restaurants around New York City on June 18 at 6 p.m. local time.

Family Movie Night , one of the only free NYC Pride events for families and children, will show Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast" at Hudson River Park’s Pier 45 on June 19 at 6:30 p.m. local time.

NYC Pride and God’s Love We Deliver will host a fundraiser, Savor Pride , where renowned LGBT and ally chefs will cook five different dishes while providing in-depth demonstrations, discussions and tastings on June 21, starting at 6 p.m. local time.

The NYC Pride Rally will take place at the historic Stonewall National Monument on June 22 at 5 p.m. local time.

NYC Pride weekend kicks off in leather with a night party, Fantasy: Leather Edition , at Slate on June 22 at 10 p.m. local time.

NYC Pride will host its first Cosplay event aboard a sunset cruise that embarks from Hudson River Park’s Pier 40 on June 22 at 7 p.m. local time.

The VIP Rooftop Party will be take place with plenty of dancing and spectacular views at Hudson Terrace on June 23, starting at 2 p.m. local time.

NYC Pride’s largest female identified event, Teaze HER , will be held at The D.L. on June 23, beginning at 5 p.m. local time.

NYC Pride’s Masterbeat event will transform the legendary Hammerstein Ballroom into a mega-club on June 23 at 10 p.m. local time.

Tove Lo and Kylie Minogue will be among the artists performing for this year’s Pride Island at Hudson River Park’s Pier 97 on June 23 and 24, beginning at 2 p.m. local time.

LGBT youth and their friends can enjoy interactive experiences, games and entertainment at Youth Pride at 14th Street Park on June 23 at noon local time.

The annual NYC Pride March on June 24 will begin at 7th Avenue and 16th Street at noon local time.

PrideFest will ring in its 25th year as the annual LGBT street fair at University Place between 13th Street and Waverly Place on June 24 at 11 a.m. local time.

Women can eat, drink, dance and mingle during Femme Fatale , the exclusive rooftop party for women, at Hudson Terrace on June 24 at 4 p.m. local time.

Lebanon’s LGBT Scene Still Vibrant Despite Recent Crackdown

Lebanon's LGBT Scene Still Vibrant Despite Recent Crackdown

It took him more than two months to prepare, coming up with the concept, assembling his outfit and rehearsing. Then on the big night, a five-hour session putting on makeup. The very last step, he slid on the red lace gloves with 4-inch (10-centimeter) red fingernails that he had specially ordered from the United States.

Elias was transformed into Melanie Coxxx. She was ready for her most important show: The largest drag ball in Lebanon.

Because this is Lebanon , where homosexuality and dressing as the opposite gender are against the law, he sat in the back of his mother’s car with darkened windows, a scarf over his head, for the drive from his home just outside Beirut to the club.

That didn’t unnerve Coxxx. Elias says his character, inspired by transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox, is “fearless.”

“She is the person that makes me more alive, more powerful,” Elias said. “When I put everything on… I take the courage (from her). (She is) guiding me to go out and just perform.” Elias, 24, who goes by the stage name of Melanie Coxxx, applies make-up before performing in a Sunday drag queen show, called the drag ball, during Beirut Pride week at his home in Tabarja, Lebanon. Elias has come a long way. His journey was full of rejection, protest and finally limited acceptance. His larger family still shuns him, and he has lost a few friends. But his mother and father came to accept him, and Elias has been openly gay for six years. Last year, he had his first drag show. Still, he asked that his last name not be published out of concern for his safety.

Lebanon’s LGBT community has had a similar journey. For over a decade, it has focused on activism to combat discrimination and abuse, making startling gains and even opening some space in the mainstream. The community is the most vibrant and open in the Arab world.

But there is a constant dance between authorities and the community over lines and limits. Last week, it appeared to be a step too far when Pride celebrations were held in Beirut. The widely advertised events came just before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. After a few events were held, including the drag ball, authorities reacted.

Organizer Hadi Damien was briefly detained. Authorities forced him to sign a pledge not to convene the remaining events or face prosecution for promoting debauchery and violating public morality. As a result, some public parties and events were cancelled. Other more low-key events went on, including workshops and readings, though under a cloud of fear of police raids.

Still, “we are moving forward not backward,” said Georges Azzi, a founding member of Lebanon’s Helem, the region’s first LGBT advocacy group. Members of Lebanon’s pioneering LBGT advocacy group Helem or dream speak during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, May 17, 2018. “There is a feeling that we are getting stronger, and there is a backlash from the conservative organizations,” he said.

The crackdown reignited long-running debates within Lebanon’s LGBT community between those who want to celebrate Pride and those who say the focus is still needed on activism and protest to force change.

Since 2005, activists have commemorated the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on May 17, mostly with protests, readings, workshops and cultural events. But the exuberant, highly public approach of the Pride celebrations seems to have drawn authorities’ ire, said Azzi. Last year, there was an attempt to hold a Pride Week, the first ever in an Arab city, but authorities forced some of its events to be called off, including a street parade.

After his release, Damien argued that “ Beirut Pride is changing the discourse, taking things to another level.”

The approach, he said, expanded the circle beyond LGBT activists to include politicians, investors and even security officials and away from “attacking people in power.” The Beirut Pride Facebook page lists politicians friendly to gay rights.

But Damien got some heat from activists who said signing the pledge set a precedent, and amounted to cooperating with authorities. Critics also said Damien is ignoring their years of hard work.

“We can’t thank the system,” said Joseph Aoun, a member of Helem. He said the focus has to always be on the security and safety of the LGBT community, particularly the most vulnerable. Elias, 24, who goes by the stage name of Melanie Coxxx, right, performs during a Sunday drag queen show, called the drag ball, during Beirut Pride week, Beirut, Lebanon. May 13, 2018. Since first raising a rainbow flag in a 2003 protest, activists and civil society have steadily raised the bar.

Law 534, which criminalizes homosexuality as an “act against nature” remains on the books despite efforts to abolish it. At least 76 people were arrested under it in 2016. But more and more often prosecutors release those arrested rather than sending them to court. Four times in past years, courts have refused to apply Law 534, giving defense lawyers a basis to have cases thrown out.

Police stations and doctors have barred the use of anal exams for arrested gays after a public uproar following a mass arrest in 2012.

After lobbying by activists, five lawmakers in the newly elected 128-member parliament have vowed to support LGBT rights and called for decriminalizing homosexuality, Azzi said. The debate over LGBT rights has become part of the mainstream, featuring in TV shows and media reports.

Since Helem’s founding in 2005, there are now at least a half dozen other active LGBT advocacy groups. Lebanon boasts openly gay bars and clubs. Its activists are proud to have introduced, in collaboration with Palestinians, a new, positive Arabic word for homosexual, “mithli,” to replace the more common, derogatory term, “shazz,” or “deviant.” Lebanon also created an Arabic equivalent for the acronym LGBT: “The Meem Movement,” from the letter ‘M’ in Arabic, which begins the words for homosexual, transgender, bisexual and questioning.

Lebanon’s relative tolerance emerges in part from its sectarian and ethnic diversity. Despite tensions, no one group is strong enough to impose its will, and people are forced to recognize others to a degree. That has made for greater freedom of press, expression and activism than elsewhere in the region.

It is a dramatic contrast to other Arab nations, where even discussing LGBT rights is beyond the pale and media relentlessly demonize the community. Last year, Egyptian police arrested dozens after fans unfurled a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo by a Lebanese band whose lead singer is openly gay.

Lebanese police have avoided such heavy-handed mass sweeps since 2012. Pressure has forced authorities to stay within “mainstream red lines,” said Sahar Mandour, Amnesty International’s Lebanon researcher. Elias, 24, who goes by the stage name of Melanie Coxxx, smokes a cigarette before performing in a Sunday drag queen show, called the drag ball, during Beirut Pride week, Beirut, May 13, 2018. Drag queen Emma Gration poses for a picture before performs during a Sunday drag queen show, called the drag ball, during Beirut Pride week, north of the capital Beirut, Lebanon, May 13, 2018. But the security forces find other ways. Forcing Damien to sign the pledge was a new method, for example, aimed at making the cancellations seem voluntary.

And there are signs police are tightening the reins in other ways. Recently two night clubs were temporarily shut down — one because dancers performed partially nude, the other because a dance song featured a Quranic verse. Two popular TV talk show hosts were charged with insulting the judiciary and the president because of material on their shows.

Elias was dismissive of the divisions in the LGBT community. More straight people are accepting now, he said, and it’s the authorities who are “just afraid that it will boom more.”

“I don’t feel that anything scares me,” he said. “To be accepted is simply freedom.”

Elias came out to his mother, Valerie, when he was 18. A relative was taunting him, and suddenly Elias burst out at her: “You know I’m gay. If you have a problem with that, don’t look at me.”

Valerie said she was shocked. At first, she couldn’t look at her son. She and Elias’ father sent him to stay with his grandparents in the mountains, took away his phone and laptop and cut him off from friends they blamed for his sexuality.

It took her two years to come to terms. What finally tipped her was her family’s treatment of Elias. They said he was sick and needed treatment, or was possessed by demons and needed an exorcism. Elias, 24, who goes by the stage name of Melanie Coxxx hugs his mother Valerie at a restaurant during the launch event of Beirut Pride week in Beirut, Lebanon, May 12, 2018. “They made me sick. They didn’t help me,” she said. She also feared for Elias’ safety. She keeps close to him.

“He didn’t choose to come to this world. He didn’t choose his religion. He didn’t choose his gender. He didn’t choose his society or home,” she said. “Should I also deprive him of the right to choose how to live his life?”

Valerie’s larger family has not yet accepted Elias. At the launch of Pride week, she joined him at an event bringing parents who support their LGBT children to meet society and the media.

As Elias prepared for the ball, Valerie was there, helping him dress. She wore a “Proud Mama Coxxx” T-shirt to the show.

He says his drag show is as political as it is artistic.

“It is a big in-your-face to society that you can be whoever you want,” he said.

One of the ball’s four judges was Vivacious, a drag performer from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Coxxx mesmerized the audience in full splendor with a red furry coat and red cap. To cheers, she pulled off her cap for her big reveal: dark painted veins running over her skull, painted with help from a professional makeup artist. She strutted up and down the runway in her high heels and displayed her long, brilliant red nails. Coxxx won second prize in the “Club Kid” category.

Then with a change out of the Coxxx persona, Elias was back on stage for the lip-sync category.

In torn jean shorts and a blond wig, he rocked the room with a performance of Kelly Clarkson’s “People like Us” — specially chosen for its empowering lyrics.

“Keep your head up, nothing lasts forever. Here’s to the damned, to the lost and forgotten,” he lip-synced.

He raised a banner reading “Queer Power.” The crowd erupted.

LGBT rights are not negotiable: equality and equity now!

LGBT rights are not negotiable: equality and equity now!

May 14 is marked as the international day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. Common to all three words, the “phobia”, is the aversion and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or sexual identity. May 14 therefore marks our common fight for LGBT rights, equity and awareness.

With few exceptions, Europe has a long way to go in its respect for LGBT rights and in its guarantee of LGBT equality. The annual report of IGLA-Europe shows a divided Europe: on average, north-west Europe has developed a very positive ‘social climate’ against LGBT people, but in the south-east, human rights violations remain prevalent.

However, Europe has been making substantial progress. OECD’s report on LGBT inclusiveness shows a significant increase in almost all countries, compared to just a couple decades ago. This would have been good news if all countries were on a positive trajectory. But Greece, the country hit the hardest by neoliberal policies, exhibited a strong decline in homosexuality acceptance rates!

At DiEM25, we believe in equal rights for all people — and we believe that LGBT rights will always remain in jeopardy as long as racism and discrimination are cultivated by austerity and anti-democratic repression. All of these problems are interconnected: we need to fight for holistic, commonly-developed, progressive agendas and reforms throughout Europe — to restore democracy and achieve equity and full equality, irrespective of sexual orientation or sexual identity. Join us !

Do you want to be informed of DiEM25’s actions? Sign up here.