Tuesday, March 14, 2017
LBTQ (In)visibility: Putting Queer Issues on the Agenda at CSW61
At a panel hosted by the Fundación Arcoiris (Rainbow Foundation), a LGBT non profit based in Mexico, a woman with short silver hair and blue reading glasses stood up to express her outrage that the economic challenges that LBTQ women face in the workplace are not addressed in the proposed conclusions of the 61st CSW. Upon hearing this, I blinked several times and quickly pulled up the document on my phone. I had read it before, and hadn’t noticed that LBTQ women had not been acknowledged in the document, which covers issues ranging from human trafficking, representation in STEM fields, to immigration. There is also no mention of the rights of LBT women in CEDAW. This oversight is infuriating in light of the wave of anti-LGBT laws being passed by national governments across the globe, particularly in Eastern European and African countries. The federal United States government still provides no legal protection for LGBT Americans in employment and education. In North Carolina, I could be fired for being queer. This has real economic consequences for LBTQ women that are not being addressed by the UN CSW.
Yesterday I attended two parallel events relating to the challenges facing LBT women around the globe. While I have a good understanding of what LGBT organizing looks like in the US, I was completely unfamiliar with what LBT activists were doing in other countries.
At the first panel, hosted by the American Jewish World Service, an activist from China described her efforts to organize queer women, primarily in the form of campus organizations and consciousness-raising groups, since direct actions like marches are not an option in China. In addition to grassroots organizing, activists in China are litigating a case in protest of the dismissal of a trans man from his job with some encouraging results. There is also an effort to ensure that new domestic violence laws are implemented in a way that includes LBQ couples. A “transfeminist” activist from Fiji discussed the relationship between colonialism and anti-LGBT laws.
The next panel I attended addressed the barriers to LBT women in the workplace. The representative from Fundación Arcoiris shared the results of their survey of lesbian women in 7 Mexican states and discussed their effort to get funding to do a larger survey. The survey revealed that many lesbians in Mexico do not feel safe in their place of work. Another activist from China reported that the gender wage gap has been growing in recent years, in part as a result of the growth of the private sector, the prevalence of service jobs, and an increase in demand for care work as a result of the increasing average age in China. A queer Lebanese organizer expressed frustration with the tendency of gay men to co-opt the contributions of queer women to the movement and the domination of men in LGBT spaces.
There were two CSW side events relating to LBTQ women. One addressed the barriers to LBT women in the workplace and the other examined the legal issues facing transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals. Unfortunately, I had to rehearse for a panel I will be speaking at hosted by GLI during the first side event. I was torn between the second one and the launch of the equal pay platform event in the general assembly hall. Ultimately, I chose to attend the equal pay event because I wanted to gain a more global sense of the gender pay gap and did not want to pass up the opportunity to see the general assembly floor. As part of the event, Abby Wambach, the US soccer player who set the world record for the most international goals scored, explained why she decided to challenge the unequal compensation of men’s and women’s sports teams. She explained that she felt compelled to take action on behalf of her step daughter in hopes that by the time she enters the work force, she will be guaranteed equal pay. One thing that struck me in light of the revelations earlier in the day is that Abby Wambach did not mention how her queer identity impacted her experiences, though she is somewhat of a lesbian icon.
The UN CSW’s goal is to raise the standards by which countries will be judged. While the CSW remains silent on LBTQ issues, countries face no pressure from international leaders to guarantee the rights of queer women.
*For more pictures from the conference, follow me on Twitter! (@willingham_zoe)*