LGBT Forum - Day Two - Visibility and Inclusion




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LGBT Forum - Day Two - Visibility and Inclusion

On the second day of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Fellows share knowledge and stories Pema Dorji and Saska Wieringa at the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum

Visibility and inclusion were repeatedly cited on the second day of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, being held in Chiang Rai, Thailand in partnership with UNDP and Being LGBTI in Asia, as Fellows shared knowledge and stories in panel and working group discussions.

Can we measure LGBT inclusion?

“Invisibility is not inclusion,” declared a speaker on the opening panel “Can we measure LGBT inclusion?”, which was chaired by UNDP Policy Advisor Edmund Settle. 

If we cannot have inclusion without visibility, then one might assume that LGBT people and communities were not included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – none of the 17 SDGs explicitly mention LGBT people, communities or issues. However, as Settle pointed out, the SDGs have an inclusive “No One Left Behind” agenda, adding: “Increasing civic and political participation of LGBTI people is crucial to address inequality and discrimination in societies.” Indeed, Inclusion of LGBT voices is essential to achieve the not only the SDGs but also human rights for all peoples and communities.

Recognizing the intersectionality of LGBT issues and health, education, social care, welfare, employment, etc., is important in order to advance LGBT rights as not only is socio-economic wellbeing is key to LGBT inclusion, but these intersections can also offer an important entry point into existing, further-advanced dialogues. 

Personal visibility was also discussed by the panel as they considered not only the data that policy and lawmakers need to ensure LGBT inclusion, but also the stories than can help “change hearts and minds.”

“Being proud and out is the first step to inclusion” especially for public figures, remarked one participant, reminding the audience that there are many more LGBT people in positions of power and influence in politics, the judiciary, and media, but many of them have not come out publicly (or even privately in some cases) yet. 

However, as another participant pointed out: “Visibility can change hearts and minds, but also could put people in danger. Visibility is a personal choice.”

Greater visibility can be achieved by ensuring that LGBT people and communities share their own stories – especially those that are positive rather than reinforcing the negative narratives commonly found in the media. The stories we tell should be relatable rather than abstract.

Truth and Transformation

In-keeping with that notion of relatability, three participants generously shared their own life stories at the session. With questions from Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Chair Klaus Mueller, the three storytellers from Bhutan, Syria and the Netherlands shared their experiences of growing up LGBT; the acceptance they did or did not receive from their families, friends and wider communities; the violence, rejection and persecution they have been subject to; and how these experiences have spurred them on in their activism and helped make them the strong and resilient people they are today.

Please note, we respect the participants’ right to control over their own narrative. Short summaries of these life stories will be published with approval and agreement of the participants in question in the final session report. To receive that report, sign up here:

Knowledge Café

As well as personal stories, participants also shared knowledge on the second day of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. At six tables, participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Argentina led a “knowledge café” that saw participants cycle through and discuss topics from across the region.

Bangladesh LGBT Movement: Looking Ahead

The Bangladesh LGBT movement that was growing strong despite the law and social taboos came to a complete halt as many activists went underground and some relocated abroad after the brutal murder in April 25, 2016. There is a deafening silence prevailing among the LGBT community, which is scared, scattered and more vulnerable than ever. This discussion saw participants analyze the situation and strategize a way forward to revitalize the movement.

Intersectionality between Faith and SOGIEB and how to reconcile multiple identities

To challenge people and the communities on how they define inclusion and visibility. Does visibility only apply to people who have already coming out with their sexual identities? How about people who are not able to share their belief just because their LGBTIQ communities don't want to discuss about faith and belief? Some people are struggling with their multiple identities whether to be a good believer or express their feeling for same-sex/gender attraction. On the other hand, there are people who have already accepted themselves but are prohibited to do their religious activities when they come out or are identified as LGBT people. Furthermore, their belief are questioned when they come out and identify as LGBT. Unfortunately, this also happens in our LGBT communities who are proud of visibility and inclusion.

This discussion encouraged participants to embody their experience so that they have understanding on their authority to narrate, define themselves and also to help them to negotiate their diverse identities.

Protective legal mechanisms for LGBT families in Cambodia

Cambodia, like many countries, does not recognize same-sex marriages, which leaves gaps in legal protections for couples and their children. Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) gathered information on the LGBT communities’ legal protection needs regarding their relationships and families as well as legal recognition through a 2015 baseline study implemented in collaboration with TNS as well as through key informant interviews at RoCK’s events.

In order to respond to the stated legal protection needs of LGBT families, RoCK has initiated a project call “Declaration of Family Relationship” or DoFR as a legal protective mechanism for them. Currently, this project is implemented in ten provinces, engaging both the LGBT community members and local authorities.

Inclusion of LGBT community voice and legal environment in Gross National Happiness Country

Bhutan, the “land of happiness,” does not share Western view of heterosexuality or homosexuality. Same-sex relations are illegal, and while the law is not widely enforced, many people still live in fear of persecution and even seek health services overseas to avoid detection. But the legal and social environment is changing, as laws are to be harmonized with the Constitution that enshrines the rights of all citizens regardless of “race, sex, language, religion, politics or other status.” This discussion considered how increasing the visibility of LGBT individuals and communities in Bhutan and finding allies can ensure the LGBT community’s voice be included in this harmonization process and broader positive societal change.

Proud To Be Us Laos: A milestone event in LGBT community in Lao PDR

“Proud to Be Us Laos” is a local LGBT initiative, with meaningful involvement of LGBT community and ally organizations in Lao PDR. It's an important initial step in gaining visibility and paving the way to discuss human rights of LGBT people in the Lao PDR, and has attracted interest from many international media and support from international partners. The table discussed possible solutions how to effectively adapt advocacy efforts to a sensitive local context based on the Proud to Be Us experience in Laos.

Global and Local Advocacy: Making use of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum connects over 120 Fellows from more than 60 countries. How can those in Thailand connect with Fellows who have attended sessions in Salzburg, stay in touch with each other, and collaboratively join their voices and leverage their own networks to raise local and regional issues to the global discourse? This discussion saw the newest members of the Salzburg Global Fellowship consider existing and new ways to connect the whole Forum’s network and propose recommendations to Salzburg Global Seminar of how the network can raise awareness of LGBT issues, respond to atrocities and challenges facing the community, and advocate for LGBT rights the world over.

Trans-Asian Perspectives

Recap of this panel to come.

The fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is being held in Chiang Rai, Thailand in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Being LGBTI in Asia programme.

Funding for this joint Salzburg Global-UNDP session was generously provided to Salzburg Global Seminar through a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth to support the “Family is…” Project and through a donation by US philanthropist Michael Huffington. The Being LGBTI in Asia programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Additional session support was provided by the Austrian Embassy New Delhi, Austrian Development Cooperation, Capital Group Companies, Dreilinden gGmbH, the Elizabeth S. MacMillan Fellowship Fund, the Embassy of Canada to Thailand, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Recaps and interviews with participants will be published on a regular basis throughout the session on and You can also follow the event on social media using the hashtags #SGSlgbt and #BeingLGBTI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

*LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, terms or groups.