June 9, 2021
By Jill Christianson, UNA-NCA Chair-Elect of the Board of Directors

Taking on LGBTQ+ discrimination and bias faced by youth – at the global and local levels – can be done in context with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Coffee Chat on June 1 provided insights. 

offee Chat: LGBTQ+ Rights, Global to Local

As the UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz noted that “every identity intersects with others.”  In other words, his work is centered in intersectionality.  To explain, he noted his recent statement written with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief that included 115 human rights officials, that urged religious leaders to respect the human rights of LGBT persons.  

Madrigal-Borloz addressed how the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in LGBT peoples’ lives, impacting well-being and, on a systemic level, the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.  This specifically includes  SDGs 1 - No Poverty, 3- Health and Well-Being, 4 - Education, 5 - Gender Equality, and 10 - Reduced Inequalities.  He stressed the importance of youth empowerment and engagement, including plans for a United Nations-sponsored international queer youth network that will take shape later this summer. 

Monet Umana, panelist from co-sponsor SMYAL, the local youth organization, put focus on helping LGBTQ teens thrive.  She addressed how SMYAL supports youths in “starting with ourselves” in coming to terms with internalized homophobia and racism.  SMYAL helps young people navigate the challenges of coming out, often in the context of homelessness and poverty.  Umana noted SDGs 1, 3, and 10 as having particular relevance to the youth that she empowers.  

Panelist Zach Koung, a high school senior, spoke about the impacts of bullying which began in elementary school as he encountered students who spat anti-Asian and the ‘f’ word slurs at him.  His activism is grounded in SDG 4 – Quality Education, both as the Student Member of the Howard County (MD) Board of Education and with the It Gets Better initiative supporting LGBTQ+ youth.

Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Taskforce (co-sponsor for the Coffee Chat) emphasized that that we all have an “opportunity to show up, listen, uplift, and connect.”  The families, of birth and by choice, of LGBTQ people are all also impacted by homophobia/transphobia and other biases.  Johnson and the Task Force look to the Equality Act, now in the US Senate, as a critical piece of public policy to protect all people, especially LGBTQ people.  The proposed legislation addresses public accommodation, employment and housing (SDGs 1,3,5 and 10).

This Coffee Chat is a part of the developing UNA-NCA initiative that links the Sustainable Development Goals to our realities in the DMV – the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

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