LGBT Pride and Progress in International Development
When I was a young, gay rights activist more than two decades ago—the term LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) hadn’t emerged yet—I never thought I’d see the progress we’re witnessing on a truly global scale today. Now as a “seasoned” international development professional, this year’s LGBT Pride Month has a particular resonance with me.
Thanks in no small part to President Obama's memorandum directing U.S. agencies to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons and Secretary Clinton's historic speech on International Human Rights Day, we've seen an increased energy in the support for protecting the rights of LGBT people around the world.
Since the 1990s, IREX has supported scholars examining gender and LGBT-related issues, from Joan Budesa and Nicole Butterfield documenting the growing LGBT rights movement in Croatia to Darryl Hill examining violence and discrimination against Russian transgender and transsexual women, to name just a few.
Even more recently, we’ve sponsored human rights activists like Luis Melgarejo to come to the U.S. for leadership training and to collaborate with their peers at domestically focused LGBT rights organizations.
Now we’re seeing new program opportunities emerge (both private and governmental) from establishing safe houses for victims of anti-LGBT violence in Iraq to building the capacity of local LGBT organizations in Eurasia. USAID, for example, has a section of its website highlighting field mission accomplishments in support of LGBT people.
It’s amazing to witness what for me is a marriage (if you will) of my personal and professional worlds. So, in honor of LGBT Pride Month, I’d like to salute the ongoing work and dedication of activists and researchers, donors and policymakers, and all of those who labor to make a better world, one free of violence, one where each of us is able to love and grow and be truly proud of who we are.