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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 14, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 37
International News - Scott Wittet
Section One
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International News

by Scott Wittet

CHINA REPORTS FIRST TRANS TWINS
The People's Daily of Beijing reports that China's first Transgender twin sisters are expected to complete their surgeries and have their registered gender changed to male soon.

'We will go back to our hometown in Yunnan Province for the gender-swap registry after both of us complete the surgeries,' said one of the 25-year-old sisters.

In China, a person can apply to change the gender on their identity card at a police station after surgery by showing a doctor's note.

'I am so happy about the surgeries allowing me to live as a man, which is what I have dreamed since my childhood,' said Xiaoqing, one of the twins. 'Only my parents and a few close friends know about our surgeries. It is unacceptable in a village like my hometown.'

'After finishing all the surgeries, my brother and I will move to a new city, look for a new job and start a new life. We may have girlfriends and get married.'

The twins began to realize they were different from other girls in kindergarten. They kept their shared secret from the family until they learned last year that Transgender surgeries are available in Shanghai.

The cost for surgery to change from male to female is 40,000 to 50,000 yuan, while changing from female to male, which is much more complicated, costs 60,000 yuan, or about $9,500 - the equivalent of ten months of the twins' combined salaries.

NEW ZEALAND MARRIAGE BILL ADVANCES
New Zealand lawmakers last week overwhelmingly voted in favor of a Gay marriage bill that was given impetus by President Barack Obama's public support of the issue, according to the Washington Post.

The 80-to-40 vote in front of a packed and cheering public gallery was the first of three votes Parliament must hold before the bill can become law, a process that typically takes several months and allows the public to weigh in. Only a simple majority was needed to ensure a second vote, and the two-thirds margin is a strong indication that the bill will be passed.

Should New Zealand pass the measure into law, it would become the 12th country since 2001 to recognize same-sex marriage.

Polls indicate that about two-thirds of New Zealanders support Gay marriage. It also has the support of most of the country's political leaders.

New Zealand already has in place same-sex civil union laws that confer many legal rights to Gay couples, although activists argue those laws don't give them equal social status. One important change under the proposed legislation, however, is that same-sex married couples could jointly adopt a child, something they can't do under current laws.

The proposed changes can be directly traced to Obama's May declaration in support of Gay marriage. That prompted center-right Prime Minister John Key to break his long silence on the issue by saying he was 'not personally opposed' to the idea. Then lawmaker Louisa Wall, of the opposition Labour Party, put forward a bill she previously had drafted.

Wall, 40, is openly Gay. Before turning to politics, she represented the country in netball and rugby - a background she says helps give her focus. She reports getting thousands of e-mails both supporting and opposing her stance on Gay marriage, including some hate mail.

This week, opponents of the bill presented a petition to lawmakers signed by 50,000 people. Bob McCoskrie, founder of the conservative lobby group Family First, which helped organize the petition, said civil unions go far enough in providing legal rights to same-sex couples and there's no need to, as he put it, 'redefine marriage.'

'Equality doesn't mean sameness,' he said. 'Marriage has always been about the relationship of a man and a woman because of their natural potential to have children.'

Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, and Denmark, and in six U.S. states. Several other countries, including France, are considering making it legal.

'HACKTIVISTS' ATTACK ANTI-GAY GOVERNMENT WEB SITES
Hacker groups Anonymous and TheEliteSociety have launched a joint attack against government and national websites of African countries that kill or imprison LGBT people. The operation is dubbed #OpFuckAfrica.

So far, websites in Botswana, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda have been taken down, and their databases have been leaked.

The groups promise more websites will be hacked in African states that oppress LGBT rights.

Anonymous is a loosely associated group of 'hacktivists' that originated in 2003. It strongly opposes oppression and censorship in all its forms, and has recently started to target governments which have anti-LGBT polices.

Uganda was particularly singled out for the cyber-attacks. Entities whose websites have been taken down or had their databases leaked include the Parliament of Uganda, the Prime Minister of Uganda, the Uganda Stock Exchange, the Uganda Law Society, a Ugandan national TV station, Redpepper (a daily newspaper that ran homophobic articles and outed alleged Gays in 2009), and American evangelist Scott Lively, who is linked to Uganda's proposed 'Kill the Gays' bill.

The websites of Botswana's Export Development and Investment Authority, the Sudanese stock exchange in Khartoum, and Somalia's TV Network and Gurmad company websites also were hacked.

Some LGBT rights advocates have expressed concern over these operations.

Melanie Nathan, a South African activist now based in the U.S., blogged: 'While I support all protests against the anti-Gay Ugandan government, I fear this may cause a backlash for the LGBTI community of activists who so bravely showed their faces at Uganda Pride.'

Gay Star News contacted activists from Sexual Minorities Uganda on August 14, but so far they have chosen not to comment.

IS JAMAICA BECOMING LESS ANTI-GAY?
A recent study reveals increased support for LGBT rights in Jamaica, particularly among the younger generation, though homophobia and negative perceptions of Gays and Lesbians still present social and health challenges.

The research, by Professor Ian Boxill of the University of the West Indies, shows that almost two in every five Jamaicans believe the government is not doing enough to protect and promote the rights of LGBT persons to freedom from discrimination, violence, and other forms of harassment.

Study findings showed that people 35 and under are more likely to be 'tolerant, accepting, supportive, admiring, and appreciative of LGBT persons.'

However, the study also found that the vast majority of Jamaicans continue to have strong negative attitudes towards homosexuality.

Respondents felt that male (88%) and female (83.7%) homosexuality and Bisexuality (83.5%) were immoral.

Most respondents (76.7%) disagreed with amending the nation's 'anti-sodomy' law, which criminalizes homosexual acts in the country, and opposed a bill of rights that would offer protection for LGBT people.

The study also showed that Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Miller's statement in January that she would work to repeal anti-Gay laws had no positive effect on public opinion toward Gays, and in fact hurt her politically. Miller has since backed away from that promise.

'THAT'S SO GAY' NOT OK AT AUSSIE SCHOOL
Gay Star News reports that a South Australian high school's entire student body has signed a pledge to no longer use the word 'Gay' in a derogatory manner.

More than 800 students at Wirreanda High School in the Adelaide suburb of Morphett Vale signed the pledge on Wear It Purple Day, last Friday, becoming the second school to do so in the state.

The students all signed a banner with the slogan, 'Pledge - It's not okay to say 'It's Gay.'

Openly Gay Australian politicians have praised the pledge.

South Australia's Communities and Social Inclusion Minister Ian Hunter said he was 'immensely proud' of the Wirreanda students for taking a stand.

'When I was growing up it never would have happened but it would have made my life so much easier,' Hunter told Adelaide Now.

'Having people come out and say they're not going to tolerate & the derogatory use of the word Gay is a really powerful thing,' he added.

Hunter said he hoped students at other schools would make similar pledges but that students should be the drivers of those efforts.

Another Adelaide high school became the first to institute a similar measure earlier this year following the establishment of a Gay-straight alliance.

Wear it Purple Day is an annual observance that was started two years ago, after the death by suicide of U.S. Gay teen Tyler Clementi.

NEW MEMOIR SPOTLIGHTS GAY AFGHAN CULTURE
Columnist Nushin Arbabzadah, writing for the U.K. Guardian newspaper, reports on the new memoir of a Gay Afghani:

The first time he slept with a man, Hamid Zaher was a young Afghan with little experience of life outside the city of Kabul. His lover, an older Pakistani man, happened to be just the right type - educated, mature, and well-mannered.

The young man met the older one by accident. Hamid, like most Afghans, had family in Pakistan and while visiting his sister there, he went for a stroll in a nearby public park where the other man happened to be walking.

In his brutally honest memoir, Living in a Nightmare, Hamid writes that the older man stopped and struck up a conversation. Soon after, the two retired to a hidden bench.

The older man complimented Hamid on his beautiful eyes and asked for permission to touch and kiss them. He cautiously stroked Hamid's face and watched the young man's reaction. Far from being appalled, Hamid was flattered and already melting.

One thing led to another and for Hamid, this first experience of Gay love felt just right. It was, after all, the realization of what he had dreamed about since puberty.

Gay men exist in Afghanistan but they usually must marry and have children, leading a 'respectable' life on the surface.

Officially, Afghanistan is a strictly heterosexual, family-based society where sex outside the legal bounds of marriage is a crime punishable by imprisonment. But beneath the surface there's a murky underworld of chaotic sexuality with no clear rules or boundaries to protect the vulnerable, including Gay men.

'We fall in love easily and give our heart and soul but only to be betrayed and ridiculed,' writes one Gay blogger from Kabul.

The blogger's ex-boyfriend, who turned out to be an intelligence officer, finished their relationship by giving his ex's name and telephone number to all his male acquaintances, encouraging these random men to approach his former boyfriend for sex.

Hamid writes that if an Afghan man is outed as Gay, he is considered a disgrace to his family and runs the risk of becoming a victim of 'honor killing.'

'To get married and have children is not enough to live up to the Afghan ideal. A man has to be tough and masculine, rich and powerful. More importantly, he has to father many sons and raise them as obedient foot-soldiers under his command. That's the kind of man who is envied in Afghan society.'

Needless to say, far from aspiring to this ideal, Gay Afghans dread the prospect of marriage, postponing it as long as possible.

For Hamid, leading the dishonest life of a married heterosexual man was out of the question. He fled his country and endured years of hardship in Iran and Turkey to escape the tyranny of Afghan conformism.

Hamid finally settled in Canada, where he wrote his book. It was there that he met online the man he would have become had he not fled Afghanistan. This other man, also Gay, had married and fathered four children.

'What bitter life it is to have just one longing and to never, not even for a day, have this longing fulfilled,' wrote the other man from an office in Kabul. For Hamid, these words were enough to clarify which one of the two had made the right decision.

UGANDA QUASHES PRO-GAY PLAY
A play that highlights the difficulties of being Gay in Uganda was forced to abandon its run at the National Theatre of Uganda, in Kampala, before it had started. Then its British producer, David Cecil, was charged with disobeying 'lawful orders' when the show was performed in two smaller venues.

The River and the Mountain, which tells the story of a young businessman coming to terms with being Gay in a climate of homophobia, was due to be performed two weeks ago, but then regulators intervened.

The play provoked controversy not only for its sympathetic portrayal of Gay people, but also because it suggests that much of the public anger and hatred of Gay people in the country has been whipped up by politicians and religious leaders for their own purposes.

Its British playwright, Beau Hopkins, said he had hoped the play would promote discussion about homosexuality. 'The aim of the play was for it to be discussed by those who saw it and in the local media,' Hopkins said.

The production was halted by the national Media Council, which told producers a day before it was to open that the script needed to be cleared by authorities - not normally a requirement for theatrical productions. But the council's Pius Mwinganisa told the Guardian this was standard practice and was not politically motivated.

Christopher Senyonjo, a bishop who was thrown out of the Church of Uganda in March 2006 in part because of his vocal support for the Gay community, criticized the decision. 'This play helps people understand that Gay people should be understood rather than rejected out of hand,' he said.

The Ugandan Ethics Minister said that play was not granted clearance because it 'justified the promotion of homosexuality.'

Cecil's lawyer, John Francis Onyango, explained, 'The offense of disobedience of lawful orders carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. There is no option for a fine, so if convicted it would be a jail term. However I am confident we can win the case. They must conclusively establish that this was disobedience, rather than the chance that the letter was misunderstood.'

IRAN BLAMES JEWS FOR HOMOSEXUALITY
A state-sponsored newspaper in Iran has published a document claiming to have uncovered a secret plot by Jews, particularly in the U.S. and U.K., to spread homosexuality worldwide, reports Pink News.

The Huffington Post reported that the document, published by Mashregh news agency and titled 'Introduction to the Overt and Covert Aspects of Spreading Homosexuality in the World,' details the uncovering of a secret plan by 'Jewish financial and human capital, along with the West, particularly America and Britain.'

It also said blamed the U.S. film industry and 'Jewish universities' for 'teaching homosexuality,' claiming that such teaching is 'mandatory for all students in California schools.'

Healthcare systems in the West also were blamed, as, according to the article, if they cared about LGBT people, they should provide medical 'cures' for homosexuality.

In an article for the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh said the document 'legitimizes the execution of Gays in Iran - they made a text not only to ridicule the West but to provide a reason why Iran executes Gays.'

Iranian authorities announced in June that they had shut down a prominent publishing house in Tehran because of its 'promotion of homosexuality, incest, and sexual relations between men and women outside marriage.'

AMBASSADOR REVIVES GAY DEBATE IN GHANA
The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum, says the country needs an open, respectful dialogue on the issue of Gay rights.

According to Ghanaweb, earlier this year the subject attracted controversy when some Western governments suggested African countries might have to review their stance on homosexuality if they want continued economic support.

Mr. Teitelbaum was addressing journalists during his final official media interaction this week when he stated, 'It is not for me to tell Ghanaians how to think or how to act, but what I would say is that I really do believe that Ghanaians, first and foremost & accept the idea of respecting people's fundamental rights.'

He added, 'You have these incidents of Gay bashing and this talk about corrective rape, where people rape women because they are Lesbians. I think it is not OK. It is not OK to oppress people because of the life they choose to live.'

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