Tag Archives: queer

Foreign Aid and the LGBT agenda


Watching on the ODI’s live video feed last week for the panel debate “Can aid donors help support LGBT rights in developing countries?” was an interesting experience. Cat by my side and cup of tea in hand, I got my twitter feed open and my notepad to hand ready for all those key points.

For me, Elisabeth Mills (Research Fellow from the Institute of Development Studies) was the standout speaker on the panel in the first half. Like most development-centred debates, the issues other speakers were bringing up were starting to fixate purely on problems: less than 0.1% of foreign aid going to LGBT causes for example; or the overestimation of results from donors towards short-term projects dealing with systemic issues.

That’s not to say that the global backlash we are currently witnessing, in retaliation to gains made by activists across the world, should be ignored. Focusing on solutions though is what will enable us to overcome what increasingly appears to be a global movement strategised by the conservative right to use LGBT communities as scapegoats to hide other problems.

Ms Mills however presented a practical three-pronged approach which emphasised using strategic and alternative entry points, such as HIV healthcare, to circumnavigate restrictions on working with LGBT communities. In some countries particularly, promoting values is a crime…. She saw economic entry points as key to realising the everyday problems faced by LGBT individuals, whose basic needs continue to be ignored by legislation.

Elisabeth’s second point was to generate more data and monitor evidence on these types of entry points in order to encourage future funding on proven successes. Lastly, she advocated for more solidarity and partnerships – a refrain heard the world over, but unfortunately still a goal to be attained.

Part of this gap in collaboration and global unity was emphasised by Women’s rights activist, Jessica Horn when she highlighted the lack of attention given to outspoken African activists on the global stage. Part of our efforts to support the wider movement should be amplifying the voices of those speaking from experience and passion.

The other standout speaker for me, from the second half of the discussion, was Fabrice Houdart from the World Bank. Speaking from the World Bank’s position in Washington, he not only emphasised the miniscule volume of funding given to researching LGBT issues (from the World Bank, only $200,000), and hence the absence of evidence, but also the comparitive lack of non-LGBT actors involved in the LGBT movement.

Alike to the need for mainstreaming women’s rights through the inclusion of men into programmes (see my other blog post), we should be bringing people of all sexualities, genders, gender identities etc into the debate – there’s no point preaching to the converted.

Overall an informative debate, but I’d like to see how DfID’s policy documents progress in relation to this issue, particularly in regards to the post-2015 agenda. As mentioned during the discussion, sympathies previously expressed by DfID have not translated into written commitments, and so the stance UK government will take is yet to be seen.

Invite: Breaking the Binary: Release, Sharing and Discussion of the report


Yesterday, I attended this meeting with LABIA – a queer feminist women’s group, who were releasing their new report on Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth (PAGFB), and their lived experiences across Indian cities.

An extremely interesting study, a copy of which I of course purchased, presented yesterday through a series of case studies and quotations. I enjoyed listening to their explanations for the empirical methods chosen – for example taking their sample from first wanting to cover individuals not conforming to gender-normative expression, to individuals assigned gender female at birth, thus ensuring that persons self-identifying as ‘men’, ‘women’ and ‘other’ were included from a wider angle.

My notes from yesterday’s Bangalore release and discussion of the report can be read here: Breaking the Binary.


LABIA’s summary:

Breaking The Binary (2013) is a study by LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective. Based on a research initiative that began in 2009, its findings question and challenge many of our fairly basic assumptions about gender, sexuality and sex. That sounds alarming – but only until we realise that this questioning of rigid norms leads to more and more ease that allows people to live and breathe in their own skins rather than suffocate inside somebody else’s impossible boxes.

The sub-title of the study is Understanding concerns and realities of queer persons assigned gender female at birth across a spectrum of lived gender identities and yes, that’s a mouthful. A mind-tingling thought-provoking mouthful of words, which the authors are at some pains to explain and elaborate in their report – and at its release in 6 cities between 27 April and 11 May 2013. For now, suffice it to nrmsay that for this study we spoke to 50 people across the country, and it is their voices and stories that we bring to you, accompanied by our own understanding and analysis.

Through this study, we explore the circumstances of queer PAGFB who are made to, or expected to, fit into society’s norms around gender and sexuality. We look at their experiences with natal families and in school; we chart their journeys through intimate relationships and jobs; we attempt to understand what happens to them in public spaces, and how they are treated by various state agencies; we discover where they seek and find support, community, and a refuge from the violence and discrimination that mark far too many lives.

Most significantly, this research has given us new insights into gender itself, which we feel are crucial additions to the current discourse in both queer and feminist spaces. Finally, the study flags areas of particular concern, and highlights some necessary interventions.

We ourselves are amazed at the richness and complexity of our findings and are impelled by the need to share these as widely as possible with all queer and feminist groups and individuals, activists and academics, all people working specifically with LBT persons as well as broadly in the areas of gender and sexuality — and of course all of us who are interested in knowing more about our selves.