Human Rights Commission Honors Mongolian LGBT Center

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newsbrief

The lights are bright, the food is delicious and savory, and the drinks are made to perfection. This should make you think that you’re sitting at a club or a cocktail party, but in fact you’re at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Awards, held in New York’s Landmark On The Park, a former church turned event space. You may be asking, what on earth is IGLHRC, and the answer is that it’s an organization that “works to improve the lives of those who experience discrimination and abuse because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and to achieve a world with human rights for everyone, everywhere.”

The IGLHRC held “A Celebration Of Courage” on March 7th. The award ceremony was presented to honor individuals who’ve done outstanding work, either as an individual or a group, to improve the conditions of LGBT people on a global scale. Hosted by Alan Cumming, the evening got off to a rocky start with a slight problem with the sound system. It was played off by the talented Cumming with the joke, “That’s what we get for being gay in a church.” This humor was met by chuckles from the audience.

Cumming’s warm opening was followed by a taped introduction from MSNBC talk show host and political expert, Rachel Maddow. She introduced the award’s honored guests. Journalist, author and activist Jeff Sharlet received the 2011 Outspoken Award for his work in exposing the right wing religious group The Family, and the, “kill the gays bill” in Uganda. Called so by Maddow, the title is an appropriate one.

For those who aren’t familiar, a man named David Bahati introduced a bill into the Uganda government that would make the punishment for homosexuality life in prison or death. Jeff Sharlet worked to expose Bahati’s connection to the American religious group. The Family, a group that is also involved in Republican sex scandals according to Maddow, sent missionaries who helped to build up homophobia in Uganda. “Even the most homophobic, right wing politicians have condemned the bill,” said Sharlet. “David Bahati actually said to me, ‘why should I trust you? You probably work for Rachel Maddow, and the left wing and are trying to expose me.'” The truth of course is that is exactly what Sharlet was doing. 

Sharlet is an easy going, sweet natured man, who looks utterly harmless and kind. It’s easy to believe this organization would let him so easily into their clutches. Sharlet doesn’t hold America responsible if the bill passes, but he says that The Family, “put the gun on the table.”

After a touching speech by Sharlet, a film depicting the ongoing struggle in Uganda was shown, and then the next award was presented. The Felipa de Souza Award was given to the LGBT center of Mongolia. A shocking and horrifying short film was shown depicting the lives of LGBT Mongolians. Scenes of LGBT people being beaten by men wearing the NAZI Swastika were shown, and the confessions of a Mongolian trans woman were enough to soften and hold the audience. 

After the short film, the award was presented to the center and was accepted by two of its leaders, Anaraa Nyamdorj and Munkhzaya Nergui accepted the award on the center’s behalf.  “As LGBT we live in a dire and perilous Mongolia,” said Nyamdorj. “The rise of poverty has inspired certain groups to enforce what they think are the traditional values of Mongolia. This is a mistake. Mongolia has always been a beautiful, open place. We strive towards returning Mongolia to its accepting values.”

Cary Johnson, IGLHRC’s executive director, spoke and then an internship for LGBT future leaders was introduced. Named for LGBT activist Paula Ettelbrick, the internship promises to train new LGBT leaders, and promote the next generation of activism. Alan Cumming said of the awards at the closing, “It was very inspiring, the thing I learned is how abstract our fight here can be, and to understand what we’re really fighting for, the right to live.”

 

newsbrief

The lights are bright, the food is delicious and savory, and the drinks are made to perfection. This should make you think that you’re sitting at a club or a cocktail party, but in fact you’re at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Awards, held in New York’s Landmark On The Park, a former church turned event space. You may be asking, what on earth is IGLHRC, and the answer is that it’s an organization that “works to improve the lives of those who experience discrimination and abuse because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and to achieve a world with human rights for everyone, everywhere.”