How to defend LGBTI rights

Defending LGBTI rights is not only a concern for LGBTI people. It is a human rights issue that should be defended by any social justice campaigner. Even campaigns that do not specifically address discrimination and violence against LGBTI groups should ensure that they: avoid using heteronormative language or excluding the needs and interests of LGBTI people. They should also try to prevent violence against all people irrespective of sexuality. 

Addressing LGBTI rights in campaigns 

  • Draw the attention of wider society and stakeholders to the concept of universal human rights, including the respect of LGBTI rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in international law. LGBTI people are not asking for extra rights, they just want to enjoy those rights that everyone else benefits from.
  • Provide information and training for officials, police and healthcare providers about the nature and legitimacy of LGBTI work. They may be more inclined to cooperate if they know and understand the work and the reason for undertaking it. If people are trained on how to interact with and meet the needs of LGBTI people, especially in relation to health services, it will improve LGBTI’s wider accessibility to legal protection and HIV treatment.
  • Limit your work objectives to match the political space of your work. Some types of work make you more vulnerable than others, so you have to make sure your objectives match your situation and protection capacities as much as possible – for instance when engaging in policy advocacy to pressure governments to appeal laws, your own freedom and personal safety may be put at risk. 
  • Establish alliances widely with as many social sectors as possible. Find a balance between transparency in your work, to show that you have nothing to hide, and the need to avoid giving out information that could compromise your work or security.
  • Where relevant, use action-based frameworks rather than identity-based frameworks. As some individuals who practice same-sex intimacy or gender non-conformity may not identify as LGBTI, it is sometimes more effective to talk not about how people identify – as gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, etc., but about what people do – men who have sex with men, people who break gender norms, women who have sex with women, etc. Action-based frameworks that focus on what people do can be much more effective in communities that do not talk often about the LGBTI community.