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World news: Trans initiative; Venezuelan pol; gay imam; Czech adoption
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

The Arcus Foundation and the Novo Foundation announced a five-year philanthropic initiative focused on improving the lives of transgender people worldwide, according to a press release. With lead funding from Arcus, the Global Trans Initiative will deploy grants and philanthropic resources totaling at least $20 million to transgender activists and organizations as well as work intended to ensure that all transgender people live in a world where they are recognized, valued and supported by their families and in society. Arcus will commit $15 million over the next five years toward a range of activities; NoVo will commit $1 million to the initiative, and other partners will contribute at least $4 million.

Venezuela elected Tamara Adrian as the first openly transgender member of its National Assembly, in a vote that took place Dec. 6, the Washington Blade reported. She is a member of Popular Will, a left-leaning party, and will represent the capital city, Caracas. She is reportedly the first trans person elected to such a high office anywhere in the Americas.

A gay Muslim imam in Malaysia has caused controversy in his homeland by arguing that there is no condemnation of loving relationships between people of the same sex or being homosexual, as long as the individuals involved remain celibate, Gay Star News reported. The imam, who gave his name as only "Adik," broadcast his message via the Twitter account @twt_LGBT, which is a curated account that LGBTI Malaysians use to talk anonymously about their lives and issues.

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A Czech court in Prostejov, South Moravia, recognized same-sex adoption in a landmark ruling, according to Gay Star News. The ruling came in a case involving 10-year-old twins that a Czech-French couple adopted. The Czech man and his French husband adopted the boys as newborn babies in San Francisco, where they live.

On Human Rights Day, OutRight Action International released the final video in its "Cost of Exclusion" LGBTIQ Africa series ( https://youtu.be/Dw5UTTnZQXY )—a theme that highlighted during a special United Nations Human Rights Day event on Dec. 10, according to a press release. OutRight is a co-organizer of "The Economic Cost of LGBT Exclusion" event as a member of the LGBT Core Group, a cross-regional organization of 18 countries, NGOs and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A Jamaican gay-rights activist has brought a rare legal challenge to the Caribbean island's anti-sodomy laws that criminalize sex between men, according to the Associated Press. Maurice Tomlinson, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, has filed a claim in Jamaica's Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the rarely used 1864 laws that ban anal sex and anything interpreted as "gross indecency" between men. Another Jamaican activist made headlines initiated a constitutional court challenge to the laws in 2013—but withdrew the case last year because of safety concerns.

A women's festival in Australia has come under fire for barring transgender women from attending, according to Gay Star News. The Seven Sisters Festival, which takes place outside Melbourne in March, bans pre-operative or non-operative transgender women. The festival's stance elicited a backlash on its Facebook page, which the organizers then smeared as "a provocative transgender campaign" and then deleted all comments regarding the issue.

Mozambique residents are reacting cautiously to the government's decision to do away with a colonial-era anti-gay law, according to the Associated Press. The southern African nation was now "on the right side of the history of humanity," said LAMBDA, a Mozambican LGBT-rights group. Overall, some have said it is important to recognize human rights while others said homosexuality goes against African culture.

A UN panel investigating human rights abuses in China accused that nation's security apparatus of widespread violations, including rape and the killing of prisoners in secret "black jails," McClatchyDC.com noted. The panel also said China was guilty of pressing a policy of forcibly trying to "convert" gay people, harassing lawyers and activists and torturing ethnic minorities. In a 16-page report, the U.N. Committee against Torture called the practices "deeply entrenched in the criminal[-justice] system."

The Northern Irish Health Minister has signaled that the Democratic Unionist Party ( DUP ) might allow the lifetime ban on men who have sex with men donating blood to be lifted, according to PinkNews. Northern Ireland Health Minister Simon Hamilton has requested an assessment of the latest risk levels. He requested the risk assessment from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs, and said if evidence showed that the risk had dropped, that the lifetime ban in Northern Ireland should be removed. During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s the ban was put in place, but in England, Scotland and Wales, it was partially lifted in 2011.

A 4-year-old boy is going to the European Court of Human Rights after Switzerland ruled his two dads cannot both be registered as his parents—and he's hired a top lawyer with a history of winning such cases, Gay Star News reported. His dads conceived their child with the help of an anonymous egg donor and a surrogate in California. They are now suing for discrimination and intrusion into private and family matters because Swiss authorities are failing to recognize both men as the legal parents. Representing the child is Helmut Graupner, an Austrian lawyer and president of the LGBTI organization Rechtskommittee Lambda.

In Canada, the Nova Scotia government apologized to the friends and family of a prominent gay-rights activist who was beaten to death outside a Halifax bar, promising that lessons will be learned from what happened to Raymond Taavel, The National Post noted. "His death will not be in vain," Leo Glavine, minister of health and wellness, told the legislature. "We are determined to ensure that positive change comes from this terrible tragedy." Andre Denny, a patient deemed not criminally responsible for his own actions, killed Taavel in 2012; Denny pled guilty to manslaughter in Taavel's death in November and will be sentenced in January.

In Britain, gay bodybuilder Marcel Schoeman risked his life to save a woman from a potentially violent attack, according to PinkNews. Schoeman was on his way to the gym when he witnessed the woman being shouted at by a man from a car. "He was a bully. She was saying, 'Leave me alone'. He blocked her way," Schoeman told the London Evening Standard. "He started to get out of the car. He was being aggressive. It felt very dangerous. I said 'You are disgusting'." Schoeman added that the man then hurled a number of homophobic slurs at him before driving off.

British boxer Tyson Fury's highly controversial comments about homosexuality were probed by police—but will not face a criminal charge after saying homosexuality will lead to the "end of days," Gay Star News reported. The new world heavyweight champion sparked outrage during an interview with the Mail. Fury—who defeated Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf, Germany—appeared to link abortion and homosexuality with pedophilia, leading to huge criticism from across the sport. Also, a Change.org petition calling for the BBC to remove Tyson Fury from its short list of Sports Personality of the Year 2015 in the British Sports Awards has garnered more than 125,000 signatures, LGBTQ Nation noted.

In a related development, the BBC has suspended a gay news reporter who said he was "ashamed" to work for the company after Tyson Fury was nominated as its Sports Personality of the Year, The Daily Mail reported. Award-winning television journalist Andy West claimed he was suspended after voicing his opinion against the World Heavyweight champion's inclusion on the contest's short list. On Twitter, he posted, "I can't say more but, as of yesterday, I am suspended by the BBC pending investigation. I made my bed; now I have time to lie in it!"

The MTV India relationship show The Big F recently aired a storyline featuring the first lesbian kiss to air on national television, according to Curve Magazine. The episode, titled "I Kissed A Girl," features young design student Sharmisha, who is confused about her sexuality and teased by her friends for being single. She meets young model Madhurima, falls in love and learns to accept her attraction to women. Big F director Abhijeet Das has said that reactions to the kiss have been mixed.

The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association announced that Marriott International has been named a global partner, placing the company in an elite group of global brands that have committed to year-round support for the association and LGBT-welcoming travel, according to a press release. The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, last year, named Marriott International its corporation of the year.

Geordie Shore cast member Nathan Henry has spent the better part of two seasons living in front of reality show cameras as a bisexual man, but the 24-year-old star reveals he'll be clarifying his sexuality and coming out as gay in an upcoming episode, according to NewNowNext.com. Henry made a splash in his first season of the Shore, an MTV UK series often described as "the UK's Jersey Shore," as the series' first bisexual man.

Santa has gotten a stylish remake, at least in Canada. According to Today.com, at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto, model Paul Mason has been a hit as a slimmed-down, hipster version of Kris Kringle in skinny jeans. This is the second year that Mason has played Fashion Santa, and he is looking to make some money for charity while making people smile. For every picture taken with Fashion Santa that is shared with the hashtag #YorkdaleFashionSanta, the shopping center is donating $1 to SickKids Foundation—up to a maximum of $10,000.

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