The first male couple on Denmark’s “Dancing with the Stars” is stirring up controversy… & winning

They have gone out of their way to respond to critics of two men dancing together on TV.


By David Castillo


LGBTQ Nation (06.11.2019) – – Jakob Fauerby and Silas Holst are making Danish TV history with their appearance together on Vild med Dans, the country’s version of the Dancing With the Stars franchise.


The pair is the first same-sex couple in the show’s 16-year history and so far they have scored the highest points in four out of eight episodes. And this Friday they’ll compete once again in a season that has surprised many, especially Fauerby himself.


“Not in my wildest dreams did I anticipate this,” said Fauerby, a Copenhagen-based actor who said that his goal all along, aside from becoming a better dancer, was to show people that same-sex dancing was something they could tolerate.


The experience, says Fauerby – best known for his membership in the satirical group PLATT-FORM – has been an “amazing rollercoaster.” Even in liberal Denmark, the news that the wildly popular show would feature two men dancing sparked controversy among some long-time fans. The criticism ranged from the ugly, like those that complained about how it was “unnatural,” to laments about how few beautiful dancing gowns the season would showcase. Many more wondered who would be “the man” and who would be “the woman.”


Through it all, Fauerby has maintained a positive outlook, confident that what he is doing is good for his fellow Danes, especially his fellow LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It was actually Fauerby’s decision to set the condition of dancing with another male.


“I had already thought that if they called me, I would ask if it was possible to dance with a man,” said Fauerby. “So, when they called and I asked, they said it was probably something they could talk about.”


A few days later he received the good news that his request could be met. Fauerby credits the producers for creating the opportunity, noting that he believes producers probably wanted to feature a same-sex couple for quite some time but that they were unsure about how to ask someone to represent the LGBTQ community. They also had to find the right professional dancer who was willing to participate.


“It’s difficult to ask someone ‘Hey do you want to be in the show, but do you want to be the LGBT representation of it?’” he said. “So, I think they just waited for someone to express the willingness to do it themselves.”


As for the dancer, they found an enthusiastic participant in Silas Holst, a Vild med Dans favorite who came back from a five-year break to dance with Fauerby.


“I am absolutely delighted, but it is even more important to me that we do well,” Holst told Danish outlet B.T.


They have indeed done quite well. In the show’s premier, they scored 18 points, placing first with the highest score of the night. The next week, they received the highest score  again with 23 points.


Watching them dance, it is no wonder that the pair has been victorious in half of the shows that have aired so far. Indeed, many of the comments from fans have pointed out that it can be sometimes hard to tell who is the professional and who is the amateur.


Throughout the competition, Fauerby has met his critics and detractors head-on. He has made the rounds on TV news shows and radio call-in shows to speak directly to his critics. But he says he understands why there are such strong feelings about it, especially in the age of streaming and on-demand.


“We are a small country of only 5.6 million people, and every Friday more than a million people tune in to watch the show and many more watch it on-demand afterward,” said Fauerby. “There are very few shows that everyone sees, and this is one of them, so there are a lot of feelings connected to it.”


So Fauerby has tried to meet these people where they are in order to understand them better, but also to let them know that he has no plans on “ruining” the show, just that he wants to do his best. Of most importance to the actor, however, is the representation his appearance brings to the LGBTQ community.


“For me, in my living room, when I dance at home, I dance with a man,” said Fauerby. “When I was a child, I never saw representation. We’re just one couple out of 160 in 16 years. So for me if a young boy, girl, or trans person has the opportunity to see that positive representation as part of a TV show that is empowering in itself.


Much of the early criticism hurled at the news centered on a fear of sexualization of the competition. It is a fear Fauerby hopes has been dashed since his debut.


“What happened after the first two shows is that people saw weren’t going to have anal sex on stage,” said Fauerby with some laughter. “It is feelings. It is sensuality. But it is not sexuality. It’s just two people dancing.”


The representation Fauerby has striven to showcase has also extended beyond the stage and into his family life. Just over two weeks ago, he and his husband Anders, together with their good friend Rebecca, welcomed to the world a new baby girl.


In fact, she arrived on a Friday night, which is when the show airs live. He, Anders, and Rebecca had been musing for several months about what might happen if she decided to come on a show night. After his daughter was born, he traveled to the studio to prepare for the show.


“I missed the rehearsal, arrived an hour before the show started, did a quick press conference, then got into makeup and danced the show,” he said. “We are a rainbow family, and it’s been overwhelming and amazing.”


At 42, Fauerby says one thing about this opportunity that he has found most incredible is the privilege he has to learn dance from a professional dancer.


“To learn something that you weren’t able to do before is an enormous privilege,” said Fauerby. “For several hours a day, one of the best dancers, not only in Denmark, but in the world is teaching me how to dance and that is just amazing.”


Fauerby also credits the platform the show has given him to take a stand for LGBTQ rights and visibility. The privilege to do so is not lost on him, and he has taken every opportunity he’s been given to make sure that voice is heard.


“Having this tremendous power to have access to speech, the privilege of having a voice is something I take very seriously,” he said. “And something has changed. We were standing at the Royal Theater with more than a million people watching us at home dancing the rumba. That has not been done before in Denmark.”


As for LGBTQ people outside of Denmark, Fauerby hopes that they see his participation on the show and understand just why visibility is so important and that they act.


“LGBTQ people with resources, access, and courage should know that representation is so important. That’s easy for me to say because I live in a rich country, in a democracy that works, with legislation that works, where women’s rights are in place, where gay rights are in place,” said Fauerby. “We have a lot of fights here, especially regarding transgender people, but the legislation is there. So I’m privileged, but I cannot tell someone in Saudi Arabia to go out and fight.”


“So if you live in a place where your safety isn’t jeopardized, then please go out and be visible. Show the world that being you is okay.”


Jakob Fauerby and Silas Holst will compete this in week nine of the show, which airs Friday nights at 8 p.m. on Denmark’s TV2.

Panamanians protest proposed ban on marriage equality

Amendment would define marriage as between a man and a woman.


By Cristian González Cabrera & Adolfo Berríos Riaño


HRW (06.11.2019) – On November 8, President Cortizo recommended that many of the controversial constitutional amendments be scrapped, including the one banning marriage equality. The National Assembly will revisit the constitutional reforms in the next legislative session in 2020.


“They are gay and they cannot enter,” said legislator Jairo “Bolota” Salazar on October 29 about a group of protesters outside the Panamanian National Assembly, as he barred them from entering the building.


This affront encapsulates the grievances of protesters who have taken to the streets of Panama City to protest against constitutional reforms preliminarily approved by the legislature last week. One of these would amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Panama already excludes same-sex couples from marriage under Article 26 of its Family Code. But writing discrimination into the constitution would effectively bar lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from being equal members of Panamanian society.


The past week’s protests, to which police have reportedly responded with arbitrary detentions and excessive force, address issues beyond marriage equality. Protesters are angered by legislators’ proposals to modify the national budget and even appoint a special prosecutor who could pursue charges against state attorneys that investigate them. But Representative Bolota Salazar’s homophobic comments have brought the issue of marriage front and center, with President Laurentino Cortizo condemning the comments and affirming, “We are here to serve the country and that means not turning our backs on citizens.”


The proposed constitutional reform follows a wave of regional progress on marriage equality. In 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an advisory opinion calling on states to take steps towards achieving marriage equality. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, and many Mexican states already perform same-sex marriages, with Costa Rica slated to start doing so in 2020. Enshrining anti-LGBT discrimination in its constitution would put Panama out of step with its neighbors.


While Bolota Salazar has walked back his homophobic remarks, he and fellow Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) members say they have no intention of scrapping the discriminatory proposal. Pro-equality protestors and their allies plan to maintain pressure on the president ahead of his statement on the reforms on November 7. Further legislative debates are to take place in 2020, followed by a referendum on the reforms.


Though Bolota Salazar shut LGBT protesters out of the National Assembly last week, legislators will have a chance to reexamine their demands in the next legislative session and make some room for them in Panamanian society.

WORLD: Facebook under fire after ads for anti-HIV drug PrEP deemed political

Instagram requires ads by LGBTQ-focused health center to go through verification process.


By André Wheeler


The Guardian (31.10.2019) – – Facebook is facing backlash after it classified advertisements for an HIV prevention drug as political advertising.


Apicha, a New York health center that caters to LGBTQ patients, said last week the tech giant initially blocked ads it tried to run on Instagram that aimed to raise awareness of PrEP, an FDA-approved anti-HIV medication sold under the brand name Truvada.


Apicha says the ads in question feature queer and trans Pacific Islander artists speaking on PrEP and its personal benefits. The ads were to be part of PrEP Aware Week – an initiative by the New York state department of health to increase usage of the drug, especially within POC and LGBTQ communities. (New cases of HIV infections are disproportionately higher among queer men of color.)


But Instagram required the ads to undergo a verification process to identify the advertiser and funding source.


The decision was confusing to those who work at Apicha. “We have been running health ads for years. We have ads running on Facebook that promote PrEP use for women, and we didn’t have any issue with those,” said Phillip Miner, Apicha’s director of grants and communication.


Over the last year, Facebook, which purchased Instagram in 2012, has adopted a verification process for political advertisers on its platforms and a broader definition of what is and isn’t political. The changes come as Facebook works to prevent a repeat of the Russian influence campaign that used its platforms to interfere in the 2016 US elections.


However, the new rules have led to seemingly apolitical ads being classified as political.


Gilead, the maker of Truvada, said efforts to promote sexual health and reduce new sexual infections require “creative and innovative solutions”.


The company voiced disapproval of Facebook’s actions. “Efforts to heighten awareness of PrEP are undermined by limiting the reach of community-based education and outreach campaigns,” Gilead wrote in a statement to the Guardian.


Facebook counts any ad that advocates for or against a social issue as a political ad. The company’s list of “social issues” includes topics like education, crime, and health.


After speaking with Facebook employees, Miner believes Apicha’s ads were considered political because they touch on health. “So anytime someone posts an ad that is health related, it should trigger this process,” he said.


But the situation may be even more complicated. Facebook’s rules state that political health ads include “discussion, debate, and/or advocacy for or against topics including but not limited to healthcare reform and access to healthcare”.


According to the company’s guide, an ad that says “We fight for everyone in our community to have access to the quality healthcare that all families deserve” is political.


Under these rules, Facebook may be deem statements like “All gay men deserve access to PrEP” political.


On Thursday, Miner informed the Guardian, after undergoing Facebook’s verification process, Apicha’s ads were now running on Instagram.


A Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian: “We allow ads that promote health care services on Facebook. We require extra steps before ads can run if they also advocate for or against certain social issues, like equal access to health care. We saw bad actors abuse these kinds of topics in 2016 so, while we don’t want to create unnecessary obstacles for people, we think it’s important to increase transparency to better protect elections on Facebook.”


The tension between Apicha and Facebook highlights how the company’s new approach towards political advertising inadvertently politicizes key aspects of LGBTQ people’s day-to-day lives.


Last year, the Washington Post examined how advertisements by LGBTQ groups – including announcements for LGBTQ youth proms, the Long Island Pride parade, and a baseball game – were being blocked.


“We do not consider all ads that relate to LGBT under this policy, but rather only those that advocate for various policies or political positions, which several of these ads do,” the company said at the time.


The renewed examinations of how Facebook’s policies can negatively affect marginalized groups comes as Democratic candidates call on Facebook to change its policies on political ads.


On Wednesday afternoon, the Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, announced the company would ban all political advertising.

US: Trans athletes are posting victories and shaking up sports

Transgender athletes at all levels of sport are winning medals, spurring a contentious debate over the future of gendered competition.


By Christie Aschwanden


WIRED (29.10.2019) – – Transgender athletes are having a moment. At all levels of sport, they’re stepping onto the podium and into the headlines. New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard won two gold medals at the Pacific Games, and college senior CeCé Telfer became the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II national champion in the 400-meter run. Another senior, June Eastwood, has been instrumental to her cross-country team’s success. At the high school level, Terry Miller won the girls’ 200-meter dash at Connecticut’s state open championship track meet.


These recent performances are inherently praiseworthy—shining examples of what humans can accomplish with training and effort. But as more transgender athletes rise to the top of their fields, some vocal opponents are also expressing outrage at what they see as transgender athletes ruining sports for cisgendered girls and women.


These issues have come to a head in Connecticut, where a conservative Christian group called Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a legal complaint on behalf of three high school athletes who are seeking to bar transgender girls from competing in the girls category. In Connecticut, as in more than a dozen other states, high school athletes are allowed to compete in the category that matches their gender identity. According to ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb, two transgender athletes—Miller and another runner, Andraya Yearwood—“have amassed 15 different state championship titles that were once held by nine different girls across the state.” The US Department of Education’s office for civil rights is now investigating the group’s complaint.


Nowhere are the debates around transgender rights as stark as they are in sports, where the temptation to draw a hard biological line has run up against the limits of what science can offer. The outcome, at least so far, is an inconsistent mix of rules that leaves almost nothing resolved.


In the NCAA, for example, transgender women can compete on women’s teams after they’ve completed one year of testosterone suppression treatment. But the organization doesn’t place limits on what a transgender athlete’s testosterone levels can be. The International Olympic Committee has more granular rules: Transgender women can compete in the women’s category as long as their blood testosterone levels have been maintained below 10 nano moles per liter for a minimum of 12 months. Cisgender men typically have testosterone levels of 7.7 to 29.4 nano moles per liter, while premenopausal cis women are generally 1.7 nmol/L or less. Meanwhile, the governing body of track and field just adopted a 5nmol/L limit.


So which approach is most fair? “Fair is a very subjective word,” says Joanna Harper, a transgender woman, distance runner, and researcher who served on the IOC committee that developed that organization’s current rules. It boils down to whom you’re trying to be fair to, Harper says. “To billions of typical women who cannot compete with men at high levels of sport?” Or “a very repressed minority in transgender people who only want to enjoy the same things that everybody else does, including participation in sports?”


Transgender women’s performances generally decline as their testosterone does. But not every male advantage dissipates when testosterone drops. Some advantages, such as their bigger bone structure, greater lung capacity, and larger heart size remain, says Alison Heather, a physiologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Testosterone also promotes muscle memory—an ability to regain muscle mass after a period of detraining—by increasing the number of nuclei in muscles, and these added nuclei don’t go away. So transgender women have a heightened ability to build strength even after they transition, Heather says.


One way to address these issues, Heather and her colleagues wrote in an essay published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, would be to create a handicap system that uses an algorithm to account for physiological parameters such as testosterone, hemoglobin levels, height, and endurance capacity, as well as social factors like gender identity and socioeconomic status. “Such an algorithm would be analogous to the divisions in the Paralympics, and may also include paralympians,” they write. Instead of two divisions, male and female, there would be multiple ones and “athletes would be placed into a division which best mitigates unfair physical and social parameters.” The algorithm would need to be sport-specific, and Heather and her colleagues acknowledge that producing it would be a difficult task.


Another approach would be to create a third category for people who don’t fit neatly into the male/female dichotomy (including intersex people, who are born with a mix of male and female traits). Although this might sound like a simple solution, Harper says that “As a transgender person myself, I don’t want to compete in a third category, which many people would see as a freak category.” It could also limit opportunities for transgender athletes if there are not enough of them to fill out a team or category.


For all the hand-wringing about transgender women ruining women’s sport, so far there’s little evidence of that happening. Although CeCé Telfer and June Eastwood garnered attention for their outstanding performances on women’s collegiate running teams, they are hardly the only transgender athletes in the NCAA. Helen Carroll is a LGBTQ sports advocate who worked on the NCAA transgender handbook. Through her advocacy work, she has interacted extensively with transgender athletes and she estimates there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 to 200 transgender athletes currently competing in NCAA sports. Most of them “you don’t hear a thing about,” she says, because their participation hasn’t caused controversy.


Sport can be a life-saver for transgender people, who are at high risk of suicide, Carroll says. “They’ve been fighting themselves and feeling like they were in the wrong body, and sport gives them a place to be happy about their body and what it can do.”


Where to draw the line between inclusiveness for transgender athletes and fairness for cis ones is an ethical question that ultimately requires value judgements that can only be informed, not decided, by science. Even basic notions of a level playing field aren’t easy to codify. Which means that at some point the question of who is a woman becomes a cultural inquiry: How athletically outstanding can a girl or woman be before we no longer see her as female?

WORLD: UN treaty bodies advance LGBTI rights

The UN treaty bodies are increasingly scrutinizing states’ treatment of LGBTI persons, and this is having positive local impact.


By Kseniya Kirichenko


OpenGlobalRights (22.10.2019) – – Currently, there are nine core international human rights treaties, but none of them explicitly mentions sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) or the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Of course, most of the treaties were adopted long ago when the LGBTI human rights discourse was yet to be developed. But it is also true that so long as 70 UN Member States still criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts, it would be difficult to amend the treaties.


At the same time, the interpretation and application of these nine international treaties by the treaty bodies has taken into account that social relations and legislative and political practices are changing at the local and regional level. Although the treaties don’t mention SOGIESC or LGBTI, each of the Committees has referred to these terms in their documents.


Over the last five years, the number of references to SOGIESC/LGBTI by all treaty bodies in their concluding observations (recommendations they make to states when considering state reports) has increased two and a half times from 54 references in 2014, to 138 in 2018. In 2016–2018, such references were included in half of the concluding observations, and the UN Human Rights Committee considered LGBTI issues in its reviews of every state in 2017 and 2018.


Further, the references to trans people have more than doubled (from 48 in 2014 to 104 in 2018), and the stand-alone references to specific problems of trans people (e.g. legal gender recognition or access to hormone therapy) have more than tripled (from 7 in 2014 to 24 in 2018).


The treaty bodies have taken into account that social relations and legislative and political practices are changing at the local and regional level.


The changes related to the human rights of intersex people are even more substantial. The references to intersex people have increased more than five times (from 14 in 2014 to 74 in 2018), and the stand-alone references to specific problems of intersex people (primarily, forcible surgeries on children) have increased from zero in 2014 to 15 in 2018.


The intersectional approach developed by the treaty bodies is another trend indicative of their deeper understanding of LGBTI human rights: for example, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women referred to the issue of so-called “corrective rape” of lesbian women, and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities analyzed the situation of LGBTI people living with disabilities and the problem of “conversion therapy”.


The treaty bodies’ jurisprudence in deciding individual cases has also considerably evolved in analyzing the situation of LGBTI people. In 1992, the UN Human Rights Committee considered for the first time a state’s violation of its international obligations pertaining to sexual orientation in the case Toonen v. Australia. The Committee found that criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual acts violated the right to privacy. The decision marked a turning point not only in the understanding of human rights at the UN level, but also in the evolution of national legislation and jurisprudence in many countries from India to South Africa, and from Fiji to Colombia.


Today, three treaty bodies have already ruled on LGBTI-related cases, and the total number of decisions has amounted to 30 (of which 23 were handed down over the past 10 years and 16 over the past five years). More individual complaints are still pending.


Significant changes were made possible because of the voices and energy of LGBTI activists.


However, the ultimate goal goes beyond the evolution of the UN’s discourse per se, and includes promoting changes at the local level that will impact individual lives. In recent years, we have seen many examples where recommendations by the treaty bodies led to actual transformations at the local level.


For example, Russian trans activists submitted their report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and participated in its session in Geneva in 2017. As a result, the Committee issued its first recommendation to Russia on the need for legal gender recognition for trans people. This recommendation resulted in certain shifts in Russia: a political party included the matter in its agenda, and, more importantly, the Russian Health Ministry adopted a new protocol for legal gender recognition that allowed trans individuals to change identity documents without having to undergo gender reassignment surgery.


Those active in the LGBTI movement must maintain our agency even when we are criminalized, discriminated against, subjected to violence or excluded. By doing so, we transform our traumatic experiences into power and thus actively alter the space around us and become visible. I believe that such an approach is important at any level, including the universal system of human rights or the UN treaty bodies. The significant changes I mentioned above were made possible because of the voices and energy of all those LGBTI activists who communicated with the treaty bodies, gathered information, submitted reports and worked on the implementation of the recommendations.


Yet, many issues are yet to be resolved, especially for more vulnerable groups within the community. The treaty bodies need to better understand the specific problems of certain groups within the LGBTI community: for example, no recommendations have been made regarding bisexual people. A clearer legal framework to protect those suffering from multiple forms of discrimination is required. We are still waiting for the treaty body decisions on complaints arising from hate crimes against LGBTI people—they must recognize the obligation on states to ensure effective investigations of such cases.


Everyone has human rights, and every one of us can influence this system through our experiences. I believe that we can achieve more. The UN treaty bodies are critical and could be even more effective by strengthening their mechanisms to monitor the implementation of their recommendations.

Northern Ireland strikes victory for equality

Legal green light for abortion services, same-sex marriage only a first step.


By Philippa H Stewart


HRW (24.10.2019) – – Clocks over Northern Ireland were counting down as the region prepared for a leap toward furthering equality.


At midnight on Monday (21.10.2019), legislation came into force that decriminalized abortion and legalized same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.


The celebrations were widespread – on Twitter, people posted photographs of countdown clocks, and women’s rights campaigners took to the streets to celebrate.


According to the legislation, same-sex weddings will be able to take place starting February 2020. The government has until April 2020 to put in place the types of abortion services available in other parts of the country. In the meantime, it must cover the costs for women from Northern Ireland who travel to other parts of the United Kingdom for services.


These changes came about when campaigners leveraged the fact that Northern Ireland’s own governing Assembly hadn’t convened since early 2017 to push for legal reform via Westminster. While adopting legislation regulating Westminster’s legal power in Northern Ireland during the power vacuum, UK MPs included amendments that extended rights to marriage equality and access to abortion to Northern Ireland.


The Northern Ireland Assembly had until October 21 to convene if it wanted to block the amendments taking effect. That didn’t happen, despite last-ditch efforts by some of the region’s socially conservative politicians. This resistance could be a sign of things to come, with the political will to make it possible to exercise these rights in doubt.


Marriage equality requires marriage licenses as well as people to conduct ceremonies, make cakes, and provide venues. Safe abortions means not only access to abortion services, but also counselling, advice, education, and aftercare.


Human Rights Watch has seen that legal changes are not enough to ensure acceptance.


In the United States, celebrations over marriage equality in 2015 were followed by a series of stories about people refusing to provide wedding services, as well as same-sex couples struggling to adopt. Marriage equality needs antidiscrimination laws to back it up.


Increasing access to abortion is sometimes thwarted by allowing health care providers overly broad claims to conscientious objection that result in refusals to perform the procedure. Comprehensive reproductive rights also require comprehensive sexuality education for children, including how to avoid pregnancy and options they have in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. Too many governments, including the one in Northern Ireland, fail to provide this.


The next few months will be telling for Northern Ireland, and after the celebrations fade, campaigners will need to keep checking that what they fought so hard for comes to fruition.