Global LGBT Forum

Gayropa – Portraying the New Reality Shaped by LGBT Refugees in Europe
British photographer Bradley Secker is capturing the stories of LGBT refugees across Europe, including Noel Inglessias and Faris Cuchi Gezahegn from Ethiopia and now in Austria, in his series Gayropa.
Gayropa – Portraying the New Reality Shaped by LGBT Refugees in Europe
By:  Klaus Mueller 

Photojournalist Bradley Secker discusses his work documenting the lives of LGBT refugees in Europe

British photojournalist Bradley Secker has been working in Istanbul, Turkey and across the region for more than ten years. One of his long-term projects is a photo-led documentation of queer migration and asylum across Europe, documenting not only the difficult process of finding asylum, but also the new lives LGBT refugees build for themselves in Europe. Some of the refugees he works with are also fellows of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum.

Klaus Mueller, Chair & Founder of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum met with Secker to talk about the growing recognition for Bradley’s work, his project Gayropa in which he profiles the vastly different personal stories he captures by photo and text, and his future plans.  

Bradley, how did you come up with the title Gayropa for your new project?

“Gayropa” is a word often used by Russian authorities to refer to Europe, in a derogatory sense. By adopting the term for my project, I want to make a statement: Yes, Europe is indeed a place where LGBT people can live openly, even though it is not perfect and discrimination still exists. I want to reframe the term: Gayropa is a place where LGBT people can form their own communities, and I want to show their lives and faces. This includes the entire spectrum of LGBTI or non-binary people, and how someone defines themselves.

It is also personal for me. The stories I hear and the things I see do affect me. Collecting their stories takes time and I try to show how different refugees arrive and cope with their new environment, also of course depending on the country where they are. I am very impressed with how LGBT refugees I meet are dealing with the daily challenges of creating a life for themselves in a new country with a sense of purpose and, despite everything, joy.

In general, being LGBT often means that one has to migrate, from one small place to a bigger city, or escaping one’s country for safety reasons. I myself come from a small, dull and unwelcoming place where I was the “only gay in the village.”

After a first trip to Syria, you went back in 2010 with a focus on the situation for gay Iraqi men who had to flee from Iraq. Since your move to Turkey in 2011, you documented the story of Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian LGBT refugees. There was no editorial interest at that time. Now recognition and support seems to be growing. Can you explain?

I think the focus on LGBT human rights has become more international and because of huge numbers of refugees arriving in Europe since 2015, there is a wider interest by the public and also publishers. Social media has changed a lot, people can tell their own stories and form communities online, then bring them into actual physical spaces. It is helpful for my work as I can reach people more easily: networks are much larger than they used to be. On my first trip to Syria, it took me three months to connect. Now I can set it up remotely already through the net. My work on queer migration receives funding from the Pulitzer Center and other organizations, and also more recognition from LGBT networks like the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum.  

You also work with Fellows you met at sessions of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum , for example with Faris Cuchi Gezahegn who is a refugee from Ethiopia. Can you share how you approach people you want to profile? How do you work?

For Gayropa, it’s a mixture of people I worked with in the past, or people I contact through friends and friends of friends, or social media. I want to cover as many countries in Europe as possible, and each refugee gives a glimpse into that country.

I met Faris – who identifies as a non-binary person and is using they/them as a personal pronoun – at the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum [in 2015]. Faris comes from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and now lives in Vienna. Faris was forced to seek political asylum in Austria after attending a program in Salzburg. The offices of their LGBT group in Ethiopia had been attacked, and their security became worse and worse. Faris was granted asylum in Austria in July 2017.

So we hooked up, and I visit Faris several times during a year whenever something really relevant happens. Only with time one can build a relationship that allows me to portray a person, their house, friends, and work. I give myself a whole year to complete the Gayropa project, and maybe I need to add more time.

When I first met Faris at the Forum, our relationship was one of activists. I presented my project later and we have been in a lot of conversations about the project, online and in Vienna, to explore comfort levels.  

How do you share your work?

Gayropa is soon to be a standalone website documenting stories of LGBTIQ migration around Europe (, and already an Instagram page. I work also with various outlets like or Buzzfeed News. I hope to reach politicians and in general people who never met LGBT refugees and introduce them to the different lives of LGBT refugees. And of course our LGBT community and refugee communities.

I hope that the LGBT refugees are happy with how I capture their stories.

I’m not a big believer that photojournalism can change the world. I don’t think it’s that profound. Purely and simply I think the work I’m doing will just illustrate and educate people.

But together, as a more cohesive body of work, I hope it would stand as a documentation of queer newcomers to Europe for this period that I’m covering it.

Bradley Secker was a participant at the fifth annual Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum – Home: Safety, Wellness and Belonging.

* LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is currently widely used in human rights conversations on sexual orientation and gender identity in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as exclusive of other cultural concepts, contemporary or historical, to express sexuality and gender, intersex and gender non-conforming identities.

Advancing Legal and Social Equality in South Asia
Advancing Legal and Social Equality in South Asia
By:  Salzburg Global Seminar 

Executive summary report from the latest program of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum presents key themes and discussions as well as plans for newly proposed Fellow-led projects

“Look for the rainbow in every crowd,” former Chief Justice Dipak Misra declared following India’s Supreme Court ruling to decriminalize homosexuality in September 2018. “Equality and liberty and this freedom can only be fulfilled when each one of us realizes the LGBT community has the same rights as other citizens.”

The Indian court’s decision to strike down Section 377, a colonial-era law criminalizing same-sex relationships, is just one example of the momentous advocacy work being done by LGBT communities in South Asia; a region where many of these human rights issues are at tipping point. While a region of diverse cultural and religious communities and differing levels of economic development, the progress of legal and social rights for LGBT people in South Asia will have a profound impact on the region at large and globally. 

During the sixth gathering of the Salzburg Global LGBT ForumAdvancing Legal and Social Equality in South Asia – more than 40 advocates from 17 countries met in Kathmandu, Nepal, to discuss how to enhance Asia’s underrepresented role in global LGBT dialogues, and engage individuals and institutions to create significant shifts in social attitudes and policy landscapes across the region. Appropriately, Nepal is a nation widely seen as a regional leader in progressive attitudes on sexual orientation and gender identity in South Asia. The significance of this was not lost on Forum participants, whose calls for wider social acceptance and rights were amplified by a united energy of strength and leadership.

As with all Salzburg Global LGBT Forum meetings, the gathering brought together a widely diverse group of human rights leaders spanning government, law, diplomacy, religion, media and culture, and built on the explicit goal of the Forum to further develop a network of trust, where both Fellows’ professional expertise and their life experiences are highly valued. Underlining that fundamental human rights concern us all, the Forum meeting connects queer and straight leaders who represent gender and sexual orientation in different expressions, united by their passion to advance LGBT equality globally. 

Despite – or rather thanks to – the intricate mix of nationalities, cultures and faiths represented at the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, boundaries of separation were broken as participants vowed to learn from this collective strength and resilience. “We have much in common; but we also face different challenges, and live in different contexts,” participants – now known as Fellows – were told. “Everyone has something valuable to share.”

In South Asia, several LGBT human rights issues are at a “tipping point” at which legal and/or social change could soon be possible. Gender recognition and decriminalization are two such legal tipping point issues for several countries. However even in places where legal progress on these fronts has been made (for example in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), social discrimination and violence often persist and serve to exclude LGBT individuals and their families from access to employment, health care, education and other services. Because of this, additional action is needed across South Asia to ensure full legal and social inclusion and recognition for gender and sexual minorities, with special attention to transgender and intersex communities.

The 2019 program contributed to national and regional discussions on LGBT inclusion across the South Asian region by providing a platform for open policy dialogue and debate; creating an opportunity to highlight South Asia’s unique legal, religious, and cultural history of LGBT family and community inclusion with policymakers and international organizations active in the region; and by producing multimedia products that can help illustrate the critical importance of inclusive policies.

Download, read and share the Executive Summary Report from the program to find out more.

Download as a PDF

* LGBT: 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, groups or terms, either historical or contemporary.

The 2019 program of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was held in partnership with the UNDP’s Being LGBTI in Asia and the Pacific program, and was also supported by the German Federal Foreign Ministry and the Archangel Michael Foundation, with additional support from EQUAL GROUND, The Nippon Foundation, the Korea Foundation and the Ann M. Hoefle Memorial Fellowship.  

LGBTI Activists Call for Social and Legal Reforms on Zero Discrimination Day
Fatema Bhaji (center) speaks on a panel about “tipping points” for LGBTI issues in South Asia. Photo: Salzburg Global Seminar/ProVision Photography.
LGBTI Activists Call for Social and Legal Reforms on Zero Discrimination Day
By:  Louise Hallman and Ian Mungall 

Salzburg Global Fellows issue call for action on international Zero Discrimination Day

In order to end discrimination and achieve broad acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people across South Asia, coordinated and strategic advocacy efforts to advance both legal and social reforms are needed, said participants at a global forum in Kathmandu this week. 

Forty-six LGBTI advocates from 17 countries joined the week-long Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, aimed at advancing legal and social equality for LGBTI people in South Asia. The forum, held from 24 February to 1 March, was organized by Salzburg Global Seminar in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the German Federal Foreign Office.

“On this 1st of March, international Zero Discrimination Day, we must remember that in 2015 every Member State of the United Nations committed to a new vision for development – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At its heart is the inclusion and protection of the most marginalized and vulnerable,” said Renaud Meyer, Resident Representative a.i., UNDP Nepal. “Public attitudes towards LGBTI people may be becoming more accepting and tolerant, but real equality still remains elusive and conservative attitudes prevail in many countries, backed up by biased media representation.”

South Asia has witnessed significant legal progress on LGBTI rights and inclusion in recent years. In Nepal, the 2015 Constitution included protections for sexual minorities and included provisions for third gender recognition. In May 2018, Pakistan enacted the Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Act, which explicitly provides for legal gender recognition based on self-identification. Most recently, the Indian Supreme Court struck down a key component of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in September 2018, ruling that gay sex is no longer a criminal offense in the country.

These legal successes have been coupled with social progress too. Throughout the forum, participants shared stories of growing acceptance and inclusion of LGBTI people by their schools, workplaces, places of worship, local communities, families and wider society. However, challenges remain, particularly around ensuring that all LGBTI people know and are empowered to exercise their human rights, and sensitizing institutions, such as the police, health care and the media, and the wider public to recognize and implement these rights.

The Indian Supreme Court decision, in particular, has resonated across the region and advocates now have renewed hope that it will set a precedent, contributing to the elimination of stigma, discrimination and violence against LGBTI people that continues to exist in all areas of social, economic, cultural and political activity, and helping to ensure truly inclusive societies in South Asian countries.

“Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in Asia and it has a growing influence on the rest of the world. When it comes to progress on LGBTI issues, change will come from Asia,” said Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. “The forum is a place for a truly global conversation and as we see, local, regional and global efforts are increasingly connected. Right now, Asian leaders are underrepresented in global discourses on LGBTI equality. We came to South Asia to learn from Asian activists, advocates, artists and allies about the successes and setbacks in this region and to share these learnings across our global network.”

The five-day forum brought together people from various professional backgrounds to collaboratively develop new projects and campaigns to advance legal and social equality in countries across South Asia and around the world. It provided an open platform for both activists and policymakers to discuss promoting inclusive national policymaking that benefits and protects sexual and gender minorities.

The forum also had a strong focus on how humanistic storytelling through multimedia productions and leveraging the power of media can serve to destigmatize LGBTI identities. Participants worked together on developing campaigns to implement in their countries aimed at raising societal awareness and influencing policy change.

Despite long, rich histories of diverse sexual and gender identities, several countries across South Asia, including in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, still have in place colonial-era laws that prohibit same-sex relations and marginalize transgender and intersex individuals and communities. This criminalization exacerbates the stigmatization of LGBTI people in all sectors of society – from the media, to family life, in the workplace and education.

“The more visible we become, the more we will just become part of our countries’ social fabrics,” said Fatema Bhaiji, Founder and Editor of Outcast Magazine, Pakistan. “What led to our organization, Outcast, being created was that in most South Asian countries the queer community is viewed as a Western concept that they have no connection to.”

“This is why is it so hard for people to accept and so easy to marginalize LGBTI people. If people read stories that are placed in their own local context, they will be able to relate to them better and maybe, then we will have a better chance at being accepted and understood.”

In addition to personal stories, law and policymakers need hard evidence. As participants heard in Kathmandu, the UK recently conducted the biggest survey of LGBTI people ever, giving British policymakers clear statistics on the level of prejudice, discrimination and violence LGBTI Brits have been subjected to and the impetus to act, implementing new policies such as to counter bullying in schools. But not all countries have the same political will to collect such wide-ranging data; LGBT advocates could step into this data-collection gap.

“We need data to count those who are unaccounted for and provide policymakers with the tools they need to design and implement LGBTI-inclusive laws, policies and programmes,” said Katri Kivioja, Programme Specialist at UNDP.

“The adoption of our new Constitution in 2015 was a landmark victory for the rights of sexual and gender minorities in Nepal. But implementation has so far been weak – this remains a challenge,” said Manisha Dhakal, Executive Director of the Blue Diamond Society. “True equality can only be achieved through both legal and social change. Platforms such as the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum are vital to creating the strategies needed to achieve equality for our communities across Nepal, South Asia and the world.”

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was held in partnership with UNDP’s Being LGBTI in Asia and the Pacific programme, and was supported by the German Federal Foreign Ministry and the Archangel Michael Foundation, with additional support from EQUAL GROUND, The Nippon Foundation, the Korea Foundation and the Ann M. Hoefle Memorial Fellowship.

For more information:

Louise Hallman, Strategic Communications Manager, Salzburg Global Seminar
+977 980 343 9530 / +43 660 745 9420

Ian Mungall, Programme Analyst, HIV, Health and Development, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

LGBT Rights in South Asia: What Next?
LGBT Rights in South Asia: What Next?
By:  Heng Yeh Yee 

The upcoming Salzburg Global LGBT Forum program considers the impact of the LGBT rights movement across borders, and the efforts needed to ensure legal and social acceptance

“We have to bid adieu to prejudices and empower all citizens,” said Dipak Misra, who was Chief Justice when India’s Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in September 2018. The court’s decision to strike down Section 377, a colonial-era law banning gay sex, was a watershed victory in the fight for human rights.

Progress like this, naturally, does not happen in a vacuum. India’s verdict directly referenced Nepal’s landmark ruling in 2007, which resulted in legal protection for LGBT individuals, as well as official recognition of a third gender. In subsequent years, similar legislation acknowledging a third gender was enacted in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India; Pakistan celebrated its first Trans Pride Parade just last year. Moreover, Sri Lanka and Bhutan have allowed people to change their legal gender. 

However, discrimination and abuse against the LGBT community, including transgender and intersex people, are still prevalent in the region. Even in India and Nepal, the decriminalization of homosexuality is only the first step of many in the battle for civil rights and wider acceptance. 

Elsewhere in South Asia, similar colonial-era laws prohibiting same-sex relations are found in the penal codes of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Although few cases are actually prosecuted under these laws, such criminalization contributes to the stigmatization of LGBT individuals in the media, public, and the workplace. Attempts to push for regulations that safeguard the existence of LGBT individuals in Pakistan, Maldives, and Afghanistan have to grapple with the presence of Sharia law. 

These issues and more will be addressed at the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum at its sixth program to be held in Kathmandu, Nepal, February 24 to March 1. The program, Advancing Legal and Social Equality in South Asia, again held in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Being LGBTI in Asia and the Pacific program, will consider recent legal and political developments in the region, along with how participants may engage in these shifts to mobilize societies towards legal and social acceptance of the LGBT community. 

The Forum is no stranger to highlighting region-specific challenges and solutions – a previous program in Thailand focused on the progress of the LGBT rights movement in South East Asia, giving space to voices often underrepresented in global discourse, and in 2014, the Forum met to provide advice to the German, Dutch and EU Foreign Offices on how their embassies around the world could better support LGBT human rights organizations. Nepal, the location for this year’s program, is a nation widely seen as a predecessor for progressive attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender identity within South Asia.

The six-day program shall include approximately 40 Fellows from various professional backgrounds, with a majority from South Asia. The assembly of this network will aid in forming connections between human rights defenders across nations, regions, and generations, who will then expand their collaboration in devising new projects and campaigns to help advance legal and social equality in countries across South Asia and around the world.

Launched in 2013, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum has brought together over 150 Fellows from more than 70 countries who work for the advancement of LGBT and human rights. “Together with Salzburg Global, I conceived the Forum as a safe space to curate a truly global conversation on LGBT equality among diverse leaders from human rights, legal, artistic, and religious backgrounds,” wrote Founder and Chair of the Forum, Dr. Klaus Mueller. 

“Fundamental human rights concern us all. The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum brings together queer and straight, representing gender in many expressions, in short: people with overlapping, changing identities. Whether homo-, bi- or heterosexual, cis-, inter- or transgender, our diverse backgrounds and lives are connected by our shared interest to advance LGBT equality globally.”

The Forum aims to create an open platform for discussion that will result in the promotion of inclusive policymaking at a national level, which should benefit and protect gender and sexual minorities. 

In Nepal, there will also be a focus on how humanistic storytelling through multimedia productions may serve to destigmatize LGBT identities, sharing the narratives of these marginalized voices with wider society. Videos produced by and with Fellows of the Forum will be shared online in the coming months.

As in 2016 in Thailand, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is being held in partnership with the UNDP’s Being LGBTI in Asia and the Pacific program, and is this year also supported by long-time supporters of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, the German Federal Foreign Ministry and the Archangel Michael Foundation, with additional support from EQUAL GROUND, The Nippon Foundation, the Korea Foundation and the Ann M. Hoefle Memorial Fellowship.  

* LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. We use this term as it is widely used in human rights conversations on sexual orientation and gender identity in many parts of the world. We wish it to be read as inclusive of other cultural concepts that express sexuality and gender, intersex and gender-nonconforming identities.

Sridhar Rangayan – My Film is Not Just a Coming Out Film, It’s a Film About the Subjugation Women Face in Patriarchal Societies
Sridhar Rangayan pictured at Salzburg Global Seminar in 2015 during the first-ever program of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum
Sridhar Rangayan – My Film is Not Just a Coming Out Film, It’s a Film About the Subjugation Women Face in Patriarchal Societies
By:  Oscar Tollast 

Filmmaker discusses his latest film Evening Shadows and the impact the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum has had on his career

Sridhar Rangayan has given a voice to social issues in India for more than two decades. The filmmaker, writer, activist, and festival director has won multiple awards all over the world and is someone at the forefront of the queer cinema movement. Earlier this year, he presented at TEDxNITKSurathkal, at his alumni college, discussing his journey to coming out proud and accepting his individuality. Rangayan, a participant at the first ever program of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, recently spoke with Salzburg Global to discuss his latest film.

Salzburg Global spoke with Rangayan prior to India’s Supreme Court overturning a colonial-era law known as section 377 – a victory for India’s LGBT community. This decision has decriminalized same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults in private. Following this historic ruling, Rangayan got in touch with Salzburg Global again to add his thoughts.

Rangayan said, “The Supreme Court verdict reading down the colonial law Sec 377, and thereby decriminalizing same-sex sexual relations between two consenting adults in private, is a historic decision by the highest court in India. The judgement far exceeded our expectations - the wordings in the judgement by all the judges, and also the firewalls they have built so no one can challenge the decision ever - these made the entire LGBTQ community very elated. It is still sinking in, that we are now living in a free India and not considered criminals because of our sexual orientation. It would impact the coming generations of LGBTQ youth and pave way for other rights - marriage rights, inheritance and adoption rights.

“The change in law is just the first step, because in India we have to work towards changing social mindsets. We would have to put into motion numerous advocacy projects and my work is cut out to make more films like Evening Shadows and fight to have them seen by a large audience.”

The Q&A with Rangayan below has been edited for length and clarity.

Salzburg Global: Can you explain the thought process behind Evening Shadows and what inspired the story?

Sridhar Rangayan: We always felt that there was no mainstream film that youngsters can show their parents as a means of helping them understand their true feelings and also for families to understand more about their LGBTQ children…

Evening Shadows is a personal story of one family that is coming to terms with the challenges of acceptance, but the story is universal in its sensibility and emotional reach. The film is more than a coming out film. It is about a woman steeped in traditions and conservative social mores, standing up for her son against all the odds. Evening Shadows is a film of hope and courage. The film has been made with a simple, heartfelt narrative with no auteur flourishes so it can appeal to a large family audience in India and across the world.

SG: When did the thought emerge to push ahead with the project and how long did it take to film?

SR: Fortuitously, our first film The Pink Mirror (Gulabi Aaina) made in 2002 got sold to Netflix, and we came into some money which we decided to invest in Evening Shadows… Then we started crowdfunding for the project. We received amazing support from 180-plus contributors across the world. This support gave us the necessary impetus to push forward with the production of the film.

It took us about a year and a half to complete production and post-production. It was really amazing to get permission to shoot at the places we had visualized the film being set – the charming small town, the riverbank, the centuries-old temples… excavated from under the sand, the roads winding between paddy fields… some of them being archaeological monuments, which is a treat for the audiences…

SG: Regarding the feedback you’ve received so far, has there been a particular review that’s stood out or a comment that’s been made which has been stuck in your mind?

SR: The screening of Evening Shadows at KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival in May 2018 was one of the most amazing. It was the closing film, and it was a home audience, but the reaction far exceeded our expectations. There were some 1,100 people in the theater, and they clapped, cheered, cried, and emotionally reacted to almost every dialogue in the film. It was an uproar, a rollercoaster of emotions that crescendoed and filled the huge art deco theater. It gave us all goosebumps; it still does.

Another very touching moment was - though sad - when a young Indian youth came up to me after the screening at Toronto and said, “I wish my mother was as understanding and accepting as the mother in your film. I have come out to her three years ago, and she hasn’t accepted me yet.” He hugged me and cried. I tried to assure him that Bollywood films have happy endings in a short span of time, but in life, happy endings may take a long time. I asked him to continue conversations with his mother gently and keep his hopes up.

SG: What messages do you hope audience members will take away from Evening Shadows?

SR: Evening Shadows is not just a coming out film of a gay youth, but also a film about the subjugation a woman faces within a patriarchal society… believe me, a dominant patriarchal mindset exists not only in Asian countries but also in many other cultures. The film is as much about women empowerment as it is about LGBTQ right to love. Most of the audience members are taking back this message, and we are glad. We would also like to underline the idea that the film is about the divide between two generations and their thoughts and ideas; how so many misunderstandings can arise from not accepting others’ points of view.

SG: Congratulations on the awards you’ve won for the film. What does it mean to have the film recognized and celebrated in different parts of the world?

SR: The awards are recognition of the narrative and technical excellence of our film Evening Shadows. They do mean a lot to the entire team as all of us have put in hard work and passion into this film. But the feedback and reactions by the audiences across the world have been the best awards we will always treasure. From an 80-year-old gay man in Kansas City, who has had an uphill struggle coming out in the ‘30s, to a young 18-year-old boy in Bengaluru who still faces similar challenges in India, the smiles, the tears and the hugs they have given are the best awards one can aspire for… the highest award is the thanks expressed by parents of LGBTQ children who watch the film and decide to embrace the child.

SG: When creating the film, was facilitating Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents support group something you anticipated doing?

SR: Evening Shadows, being a film about a son coming out and the challenges his mother faces in understanding him, the focus was always about the film being a support to parents and families. Facilitating a support group was a natural extension of this mission. Even when we began crowdfunding the film’s production, we had mentioned that we would earmark 10 percent of the money we raise to support the formation of a parents’ group… even as we progressed with the production of the film, we started the process of facilitating the group.

The Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents’ group – started off with a first-of-its-kind closed door daylong structured workshop with parents to chalk out what they thought were the challenges faced by parents and how a support group can help address these. The aims and objectives of the group and its mission statement emerged from this workshop formulated by the parents themselves.

SG: Please could you tell us about your experience at the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. What can you remember from your program, and what impact did it have on you?

SR: My participation at the first-ever Salzburg Global LGBT Forum program in 2013 couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. It was a time when I had founded the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival and was building a good foundation for the festival, which now over nine years has become not only South Asia’s biggest LGBTQ film festival but also an important mainstream event in Mumbai’s cultural calendar.

Some of the ideas that all of us participants shared brought in a focus for the work I was doing. It also brought a lot of clarity to the two LGBTQ documentary films I was working on – Purple Skies and Breaking Free. Purple Skies about the Indian LBT community was completed in 2014 and went to play at many festivals and, more importantly, became the first-ever lesbian-themed film to be shown on Doordarshan, India’s national television network. My other film, Breaking Free, about the law section 377 and the Indian LGBT community was completed in 2015 and, among several awards, also won the National Award for Best Editing from the Government of India. These couldn’t have been possible but for the learnings at the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum about how important it is to work with the governments, policymakers, and stakeholders – instead of trying to work in opposition.

The diversity of the participants and the spectrum of the experiences make the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum unique and very useful in formulating a broader view of LGBTQ movements across the world. The other learning was about the intersectionality of religion and sexuality, which many participants from different faiths expressed so clearly at the program – how it is important to synergize the two so as to lead a fulfilling and peaceful life.

This learning will form the basis of my next feature film Songs of Eternal Love… of course, most importantly, the amazing location of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum offered a tranquil atmosphere to meditate upon one’s work and more crucially about one’s life.

Salzburg Global Fellow Cha Roque Wins Amnesty International Award
Cha Roque speaking at Salzburg Global Seminar
Salzburg Global Fellow Cha Roque Wins Amnesty International Award
By:  Oscar Tollast 

Filmmaker recognized as human rights defender bringing impact through their work

Salzburg Global Fellow Cha Roque has spoken of her delight after winning one of Amnesty International Philippines’ first-ever human rights awards.

Roque, a multi-time Fellow of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, was recently awarded an Ignite Award for Art that Matters for Film. She was one of four winners recognized as human rights defenders bringing about impact through their work by changing peoples’ lives.

Other categories included Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender – Individual, Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender – Organization, and Outstanding Young Human Rights Defender.

This is the first awarding season of the Ignite Awards for Human Rights. The awards aim to accord human rights defenders with the highest regard for the work they do and serve as a tool by showing ordinary people can do extraordinary work.

Speaking with Salzburg Global, Roque said, “I was literally in disbelief when I found out about being nominated… I am more of an advocacy filmmaker, and my films haven’t been making the rounds in local, big festivals. I also know a lot of other advocacy filmmakers whom I look up to, and I believe that their years in making advocacy films makes them more deserving… nonetheless, I felt very honored to be nominated and to win the award.”

Some of Roque’s notable films include Slay, What I Would’ve Told My Daughter if I Knew What to Say Back Then, and Hapag (Dining Table).

Roque said, “In my LGBT-themed films, I wanted to tell the audience that LGBT people are the same as everyone else. My films are always focused on the exposition that as humans, we share the same sentiments, the same heartbreaks, the same joys, [and] the same hopes.

“My LGBT-themed films have always been a reflection of my triumphs and struggles as a lesbian mom, and I wanted to use film to make people realize that we are not different from them and that we deserve the same rights that other people have.

“For my other films, which are also mostly political and about my advocacies, I wanted to emphasize how art and film are powerful in advocacies and how they can make a difference in the way people see things.”

Roque sat down with Sudeshan Reddy at the Salzburg Global program, The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion, in October 2016, to discuss her experience as a filmmaker. She revealed the responsibility she felt she had telling the stories of fellow LGBT people.

Commenting on this program, Roque said, “It was during my first Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, in Chiang Rai, when I realized how much my films can make an impact. I have always believed that art and advocacy are very powerful when combined, but I’ve had doubts about my own films. Salzburg made me realize that my voice is as important as the voice of award-winning filmmakers. It was actually just months after that Forum when I made four films.”

In addition to this program, Roque visited Salzburg Global last summer to take part in the Forum’s follow-on program, Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging. Roque said she had met very inspiring people who have influenced her as a person and filmmaker.

Roque said, “Seeing people who share the same energy towards issues I strongly believe in motivated me to keep on making films - no matter how difficult. I did not only learn a lot from the Forum, [but] I also gained new friends who I still communicate and collaborate with until now.

“Salzburg also opened doors to a lot of opportunities for me - from meeting like-minded people to having my film premiere in the session in Austria. It is just right that I share my award with my Salzburg Fellows because I wouldn't be the person and filmmaker I am now if I have not been exposed to them.”

Reflecting on her latest award, Roque said, “As an advocate and as an artist, there are times when I question myself and get tired of what I do. This award is yet another reminder for me on why I make films, why I tell stories. This served as an inspiration and also a challenge to keep on making films that will tell about [the] triumphs and struggles of people.”

Roque is now raising funds for her next LGBT-themed film entitled White TransLady. It is an experimental film about a transwoman who gets discriminated in the afterlife and finds a family in the most unexpected place. You can get in touch with her and learn more about her films through her website.

Salzburg Global Fellow Danny Ramadan Wins Canadian Authors Book Award
Salzburg Global Fellow Danny Ramadan Wins Canadian Authors Book Award
By:  Salzburg Global Seminar 

Syrian-Canadian author speaks to Salzburg Global about his latest success and the impact of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum

Salzburg Global Fellow Danny Ramadan has received another accolade for his latest book, The Clothesline Swing.

Ramadan, who has previously attended two programs of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, recently won the 2018 Fred Kerner Book Award, which is given each year by the Canadian Authors Association.

This tale takes place during the aftermath of the Arab Spring and tells the story of two lovers anchored to the memory of a dying Syria. The book has already been widely acclaimed and was named among the Best Books of 2017 by the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. It also received an Independent Publisher Gold Medal in the category of LGBT Fiction.

Ramadan is a a Syrian-Canadian author, storyteller and LGBTQ refugees activist. Born in Syria, Ramadan moved to Vancouver, Canada in September 2014. During the Salzburg Global program, The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion, Ramadan discussed his experiences as a gay refugee and his search to find a place to belong.

After winning his latest award, Salzburg Global caught up with Danny to discuss his reaction, the messages he wants his readers to take away, and his experience as a Fellow of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. Read our Q&A below.

SG: Congratulations on winning the Fred Kerner Book Award. What were your first thoughts when you found out you had won?

DR: I was completely floored when I found out I won that award. Being recognized for my art is the highest form of recognition I can think of. It says that my art, despite it being about characters on the margins, and being an unconventional form of storytelling, can still hold value in my new community here in Canada.

SG: Was it a surprise to be featured on the shortlist? Did you have any expectations when you first published the book?

DR: When I published the book, I wished the best for it but knew that my expectations might be too high. I'm thankful the book won this award, and one more award, as well as was featured in multiple shortlists and best books of 2017 lists. It honestly came as both a confirmation that I'm on the right track and a surprise that my work as an author can hold value for others who don't necessarily share the same lived experiences with me.
SG: What was the drive behind writing a book and how did you find that process? Is it a skill that came naturally to you?

DR: I have always thought of myself as an author. If we queer people are superheroes, my superpower was my ability to write. It always felt natural and comfortable for me to write. If anything, my storytelling skills are the reason I managed to leave a mark in all aspects of my life as an activist or a journalist. I was driven to write this book because there were stories that I found unique to the experiences of queer Syrian refugees that I believed should be told, and I didn't even know if those stories will be read by anyone else other than me, so having this opportunity for those stories to be shared means the world to me.

SG: What message(s) do you want readers to take away from The Clothesline Swing?

DR: I think the main message behind the story of The Clothesline Swing is that there is a lot of resilience in the spirits of queer refugees everywhere. Their stories are not that of hardship, but also of survival and finding love and being true to who they are; as well as finding paths to accomplish their dreams both as humans but also as humans who are marginalized and second-rate in many communities around the world.

SG: You’ve received excellent feedback so far, but has there been a particular piece of feedback or a review you’ve received that sticks in your mind?

DR: Being shortlisted for the Lambda awards was a highlight in my life and the best accomplishment I've ever managed to achieve. I've known about the awards since I was a unique fella back in Syria, and I dreamed one day of winning one. I can now say I was shortlisted for that prestigious award and who knows, maybe I win it with my next book.

SG: How would you describe your experience as a participant of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum? What impact has it had on you?

DR: How to describe a life-changing event that truly affected me positively throughout the years it followed? This is too difficult. I have met folks that I learned so much from, and people that I connected with on spiritual and meaningful ways. I've seen stories unfold in front of my eyes on the panels that means so much to me. I'm a witness for this Forum, and it made me a better person for sure.

Danny Ramadan has attended two Salzburg Global programs. This includes The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion (2016) and Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging (2017).

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