Salzburg Global LGBT Forum » Overview

Humankind’s strength is its diversity. Free expression of sexuality and gender increasingly defines the societies in which we want to live in the 21st century. But progress is uneven. In 2011, the first UN Resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity was supported by over 40 countries. Yet in many others, governments still legitimize and sponsor violence against LGBT citizens through legal discrimination, condoned police violence and hate speech.  

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was formed in 2013 to establish a truly global space to reflect upon and advance the LGBT and Human Rights discussions around the world. Its signature is the international representation of leaders from diverse fields – including human rights, legal, artistic, and religious backgrounds. Founded and chaired by Dr. Klaus Mueller, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum currently connects representatives from more than 65 countries (as of February 2017).

Most recent sessions:

Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging
May 14 to 19, 2017 (Salzburg, Austria)

Building structures to support equal rights for LGBT people
Seminar and networking reception at the Embassy of Canada, Berlin, Germany, July 21, 2016

The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
October 2 to 7, 2016 (Chaing Rai, Thailand)

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: LGBT Human Rights & Social Cohesion
June 14 to 19, 2015


Related News

LGBT Forum - Engaging global communities on family
LGBT Forum - Engaging global communities on family
Nicole Bogart and Oscar Tollast 
Participants at the fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum were treated to a film premiere as they celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT).

Klaus Mueller, chair and founder of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, began proceedings on Wednesday morning by showcasing his new film, 'Family is...? A Global Conversation.'

The film includes several interviews with LBGT Forum members - a network of leaders coming from more than 70 countries - about their families of birth, their families of choice and the families they raise.

The production was made possible thanks to the support of the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth.

The film, which received a positive reaction from participants, portrays the complexities of people's lives and aims to support a global conversation on inclusive families.
Family of Birth, Family of Choice, Families we raise After the screening, participants took part in a panel discussion about families, tying in with this year's IDAHOT theme. Several panelists were asked to reveal their experience of coming out to their relatives.

One participant, from the Republic of Korea, said he was the eldest boy in his family. He came out at 18. He said, "We can't deny the fact there is a special relationship between parents and children. You can't discard of it."

The second speaker, from Japan, said a lack of positive representation in the culture made it difficult for her to come out. Aged 20, her mother said to her, "I'm afraid you like girls." She confirmed to her she was a lesbian.

Acceptance can take time. This scenario is what happened for the third speaker, whose mother began to accept him once she talked to his boyfriend. He said gay men weren't able to be very public about their relationships in his country.

Participants learned attitudes in Japan toward gay, and lesbian couples had changed drastically. Couples can have partnership certificates, buy houses, and visit each other in hospitals.

The panelist from the Republic of Korea said they were still fighting for partnership laws and same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples can include each other in their wills in the case of emergencies and can register as roommates. The panelist said gay and lesbian people existed in every era, and there was a written history of homosexuality in the country.

Participants heard there were conditions in the Republic of Korea for sexual reassignment, such as parental consent. The panelist said trans men and women who have had children aren't legally allowed to transition.

The panelists were asked several questions, including whether they ever felt pressured to get legally married elsewhere. One participant, meanwhile, wanted to learn about the legal rights in each country regarding assets for same-sex couples.

The panelist from the Republic of Korea revealed he remained in the process of coming out to his family. He told participants he didn't feel like he needed 100 percent acceptance. He said he sometimes thought: what if I gave up my family?
Concepts for social media advocacy Participants spent the remainder of the morning putting the finishing touches on their group work, which called on participants to conceptualize a social media campaign aimed at creating online conversations, rather than likes and shares. In rooms and gardens throughout Schloss Leopoldskron, participants shot videos, created animations, composed scripts, and acted out scenes to create the finished product.
 
In keeping with this year’s IDAHOT theme, each campaign revolved around the idea of family – covering topics like inclusion and acceptance.
 
The first group designed an animated graphic, designed to be shared on social media platforms, showcasing the wide-ranging image a family can have. The GIF showed the traditional male and female icons in various combinations; blue male figures, pink female figures, pink male figures, blue female figures, and the figure representing trans people, in addition to smaller child-sized icons in each color combination.
 
The group explained the animation is meant to show any combination – a straight couple with an LGBT* child, an LGBT* couple, or a trans man or woman with a child. The images rolled through a picture of a slot machine, “Because every combination is a winner,” said one group member.
 
Another group presented a campaign using the slogan, “Is it worth the sacrifice,” showing one image of a family at dinner, and another with one family member missing. The group explained the image would address families who had pushed away loved ones who identify as LGBT*.
 
Leaning on personal experiences, one group composed a video showing LGBT* people writing down some of the hurtful things their family members had said to them after coming out. The hurtful message was then torn away to reveal a new message – one that the person would have liked to hear.
 
“Mine said ‘Get out of here,’” said one group member. “When really I would have liked to hear, ‘We accept you and support you.’”
 
The exercise was designed as a practical exercise on social media advocacy, from idea to implementation. The session continues. *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-nonconforming identities.
The fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg. It is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth. It is being supported by the Government of Canada. The Forum is a network of expertise through which conversations are facilitated to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. You can follow the event on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #SGSlgbt. For more information, please visit salzburgglobal.org/go/578.
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LGBT Forum - Seeking Home
LGBT Forum - Seeking Home
Oscar Tollast 
Participants of the fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum have been given an insight into the lives of several LGBT refugees.

Those attending Session 578 - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging, took part in two panel discussions on Tuesday morning, which examined the topic of LGBT* migration and emigration.

The first of these panel discussions asked participants to consider: Is being forced to leave home a fundamental part of being LGBT*? Moderator, Sudeshan Reddy, a communications specialist at UNICEF in South Africa, said, “For a lot of people here, home is tenuous at best and complex.”

The first speaker, working within the MENA region, asked what work could be done at a national level to push forward LGBT* rights without putting activists at risk. He suggested not enough emphasis was placed on preventing emergencies where activists were in danger. The second speaker, also from the MENA region, described how she “lost her soul” after moving to North America at the peak of her activism. She said leaving home is a sacrifice, not a privilege.

Participants heard while countries like Argentina have progressive legislation, the country itself is unprepared to take in refugees or asylum seekers. This point was made by the third speaker, who suggested no resettlement program existed and more help was needed from authorities. In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, conflicts have resulted in the displacement of citizens and among those are LGBT* people.

The final speaker acknowledged many people he knew had to leave Uganda. He asked how activists who remain could support activists who leave and help them continue their work. He remarked, “As activists, we create hope to people who have lost hope.”

After the discussion, Reddy said, “What stuck out for me was the issue of the role of the LGBT* diaspora in being a proactive force for good. What [also] resonated was the importance of not shaming those who have left, to appreciate their struggle continues outside the country as well, and they can make a meaningful difference.” LGBT refugees share their stories The second panel discussion saw several LGBT* refugees share their stories. One phone call uprooted a participant’s life. He learned two of his friends had been brutally murdered as part of a planned attack and it wasn’t safe for him to return home. The police were unable to guarantee his safety and he entered a safe house. He had to leave his country in Asia and move to the United States temporarily.

Two panelists from Africa received threats and calls to stop what they were doing after setting up an LGBTI organization. After creating a project, the reaction was overwhelming, but this led to a series of complicated events. Their house was ransacked twice, and both were running out of money after having to pay police officers bribes. Both would eventually move to Europe.

Participants also heard how one participant was forced to leave his country in the Middle East after learning about the death of his cousin. He moved to Egypt to start a new life. His father supported him for several months, but he soon ran out of money. The participant left for Jordan and then Turkey. A chance encounter in Turkey enabled him to seek asylum in Norway.

Klaus Mueller, chair and founder of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, said each panelist’s story revealed the complexity of moving to another country and how frightening the experience can be.

After the discussion, he said: “We heard stories of torture [and] long-term depression after people came to safety because they had seen people being killed. People died. They lost their friends. They lost their lives - and they had good lives before.

“I think it is important for us as a group to understand these individual stories better. All of the refugees said, ‘Before I became a refugee I actually was a human being, I had a job, I had a family, I had friends, [and] I had relationships. I’m not just a refugee, but that’s what I struggle with most at the moment.’”

Social media outreach After lunch, participants explored new ways to reach diverse communities using social media. This investigation began with a panel discussion on storytelling. This conversation looked at the power of social media, and the impact people can have by sharing multimedia and written stories.

The moderator of the discussion said social media provided him an online persona which allowed him to integrate into groups in a new environment. One speaker joked, “Home is where the WiFi connects automatically.” Participants learned social media could be used to shape the discussion and help people identify others in similar situations.

Participants also discussed the presence of online “trolls” and the steps tech giants are making to reduce homophobic and inappropriate content. To get the best out of Twitter, participants were encouraged to look for an interesting topic, get involved, and share their opinions.

This panel discussion led to practical work on the role of social media advocacy from idea to implementation. Participants took advantage of Schloss Leopoldskron’s historic rooms to brainstorm concepts on how to fuel conversations about family on social media to promote LGBT* advocacy. Participants divided themselves into global working groups and prepared to present their ideas to the rest of the forum on Wednesday.

The session continues. *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-nonconforming identities.
The fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg. It is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth. It is being supported by the Government of Canada. The Forum is a network of expertise through which conversations are facilitated to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. You can follow the event on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #SGSlgbt. For more information, please visit salzburgglobal.org/go/578.
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LGBT Forum - Building Home on the Rule of Law
LGBT Forum - Building Home on the Rule of Law
Oscar Tollast and Nicole Bogart 
The second day of the fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum began with law and order as participants discussed how to build a home in the countries they live. On Monday morning, participants met to take part in a panel discussion titled, “Building Home on the Rule of Law.” The discussion featured Mark Agrast, executive director of the American Society of International Law, and Monica Leonardo, a consultant for United Nations agencies and international NGOs. Nana King, project manager of Deutsche Welle Akademie in Ghana, moderated the discussion. She started the conversation by asking the panelists to describe their initial thoughts on the subject. Agrast asked participants to envision the rule of law as an ecosystem. He said, “A healthy rule of law is necessary for human rights to flourish.” He suggested a thick and thin version of the rule of law existed.
The thin version of the rule of law is the minimum requirement that government officials and citizens are bound by the law and are expected to act by it. The thick version requires governments to be subject to the law and respect human rights and LGBT* rights. It also requires people to know what the laws are, in addition to a justice system which is unbiased, just and effective. Leonardo informed participants about a gender identity law in Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico which has enabled people to have the right for their gender identity to be recognized. Changing a document has become a simple administrative procedure. This law has also provided an important step forward concerning dignity. Following this panel discussion, Leonardo said: “There’s also the possibility for that rule of law to really become the tool that enables LGBT* people to feel at home.” Truth and Transformation After conversations on the rule of law, participants attended a panel discussion titled “Life Stories: Truth and Transformation.” During this event, a multigenerational panel shared intimate details of their personal journeys and experiences of identifying as LGBT*. “We were born into a world that was not prepared for us. Tell me about the world you were born into,” said moderator Marc Pachter, Director Emeritus of the National Portrait Gallery, quoting Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Founder and Chair Klaus Mueller. The first panelist spoke candidly of her early rebellion against societal pressures facing women in her country but noted that she never questioned her attraction to the same sex. “I didn’t question it,” she said. “I thought it was interesting.”  However, the panelist spoke about her refusal to label herself saying, “For me, my sexual identity, I do not call myself a lesbian. I find that flattens my identity, as someone who doesn’t want to be labeled.” The second speaker shared a much different journey of sexual identity, noting he did not discover his bisexuality until his late twenties, and, at times struggled to accept his attraction to men. Thanks to his public life, he said he decided to come out at 50, driven, in part, by the desire to help young people struggling with their own identities. He said, “My vision of the world is a place of love, not a place of hate. If each of us gets to the point where we really know who we are, and we accept who we are, if we love ourselves we are not going to hate anyone else.” The youngest panelist shared experiences from his childhood, capturing the evolution of his parent’s acceptance of his identity. “My mom eventually asked me, ‘Do you want to be a boy or a girl?’ I said a boy,” he recalled. "If someone asks me when I discovered I was different, I say, 'I never thought I was different. I'm a normal boy.'" His family has grown to embrace his partners, including them in holiday celebrations. "That's how I knew I was accepted," he said. Speaking after the discussion, Pachter said, “We realize that there are no fixed categories; there are processes and influences, and that even though we gather together under one broad umbrella, the diversity of who is in the room, much less who is talking, is so vast that we are just beginning to learn about ourselves.” Visibility and belonging After lunch, participants took part in a Knowledge Cafe on Visibility and Belonging. Participants were able to move between six tables and discuss different topics. These themes included: Creating LGBT visibility through surveys and data; Trans people visiting doctors; Schools of Tolerance (Ally-making and ally training); Safe spaces for LGBT students at schools and universities; Creating LGBT visibility in sport; and Discrimination of HIV & LGBT communities in Sri Lanka. This activity was followed by an open forum, where participants were invited to express themselves or their work through song, texts, programs, and clips. The session continues. *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-nonconforming identities.
The fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg. It is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth. It is being supported by the Government of Canada. The Forum is a network of expertise through which conversations are facilitated to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. You can follow the event on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #SGSlgbt. For more information, please visit salzburgglobal.org/go/578.
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The decision to stay or leave home as an LGBT* person
The decision to stay or leave home as an LGBT* person
Oscar Tollast 
“It’s a human instinct to find a safe space.” This argument was one of several made as the fifth annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum started on Sunday afternoon. It featured as part of a broader discussion on a core question for some LGBT** people: should I stay or should I go?

Legislative discrimination, social alienation, and hate speech remain in areas which affect the safety of LGBT* people and prevent them from feeling “at home” in their countries. On Sunday afternoon, a panel discussion took place where participants shared personal anecdotes and their thoughts on the subject. This discussion kickstarted a five-day program which will involve sixty participants from all regions of the world tackling interconnected issues such as LGBT* rights, family, migration, and safety.

During this opening discussion, participants revealed what home meant to them. One participant, who resides in the United States, described “home” as a complicated thing. The participant revealed she and her partner considered moving to another country following last year’s presidential election, as there was “a lot of fear” what would happen next. She affirmed, “I think home is where they can’t kick you out.”

Another panelist, who’s in the process of moving to another country to live with her partner, told participants how she developed a high profile after becoming involved with LGBT* activism. It led her to wonder how much information people had on her. She considered, “Am I being paranoid or am I being careful and sensible?” Participants learned about the stress LGBT* activists felt in their communities and how one activist felt he had to “look strong every minute,” even when he was under attack.

Participants considered the significance of having a support network but questioned how many people could afford it. A panelist said, “To stay or not to stay is a big sacrifice, to leave your home and everything you’ve known all your life.” The same panelist said she did not want people to feel guilty for leaving, as they can continue to support the movement and provide a platform elsewhere. The point was noted, however, that people aren’t always in a position to move, even if they want to. A panelist concluded, “Safety is fragile. Even in a country where you think there’s a lot of freedom, things can change very quickly.

Angeline Jackson, executive director of Quality of Citizenship, Jamaica, moderated the discussion. She said, “I’m happy with what came out of the panelists while we were talking.

“There’s not one specific issue I want to highlight. We covered all of the things we wanted to cover. I believe the way we structured the entire session was perfect for the points to speak for themselves.”

Before this panel discussion, participants were officially welcomed by Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine, and Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Founder and Chair Klaus Mueller.

Clare said it was “wonderful” to see many familiar faces, and the location participants would be staying in was a “place with heart, soul, and an incredible history.” While Salzburg Global nears its 70th anniversary, Clare said the institution’s core values hadn’t changed. A connective tissue which runs through Salzburg Global’s work has been its commitment to the protection of human rights. Clare asked participants to abide by one rule during the session: be tough on the issues but kind on each other.

In his introductory remarks, Mueller thanked Salzburg Global for “embracing LGBT* human rights as a topic of global significance.” He told participants to consider the Forum as a “safe space” and not as a conference. Mueller said, “We are here to listen, to learn, and to build these connections.”

Discussing this year’s theme, Mueller said being part of a family is a fundamental human condition and a fundamental human right. A lot of progress has been made to embed LGBT** rights as a significant part of the global human rights agenda, but being “at home” still remains unfeasible for many LGBT** individuals.

Mueller said everyone has the right to be safe in the families they grow up with, but also in the cultures and countries in which they find themselves. This week’s conversations are guided by three larger themes: family, LGBT* migration and refugees, and wellbeing.

The discussions will focus on what needs to take place to ensure “home” can be a place of safety, and how countries can better support LGBT* refugees. The need to protect the safety, health, and wellbeing of changemakers will also be reaffirmed.

The outcomes of this session will involve listening to each other and turning findings into resources which can be shared with others. Mueller said this meeting would be a chance to take stock of what has been achieved and how the network can be extended further.

The session continues.

*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-nonconforming identities.
The fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg. It is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth. It is being supported by the Government of Canada. The Forum is a network of expertise through which conversations are facilitated to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. You can follow the event on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #SGSlgbt. For more information, please visit salzburgglobal.org/go/578.
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LGBT Forum examines the importance of "Home - Safety, Wellness, and Belonging"
LGBT Forum examines the importance of "Home - Safety, Wellness, and Belonging"
Oscar Tollast 
Home is where the heart is. No matter where you are, home is always the place where you long to be. Having a sense of belonging, connection, and wellbeing is when we feel "at home." For many LGBT* individuals, however, being "at home" isn't possible. In some cases, they are made to feel excluded from their families, cultures, and country of origin.

While much progress has been made to embed LGBT rights as a fundamental part of the global human rights agenda, legislative discrimination, social alienation, and hate speech remain in areas of the world that affect the safety of LGBT people. Each of us has the right to live safely within the culture and countries in which we have grown up.

This year’s session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging, will bring together 60 participants to tackle the challenges as mentioned above and other issues connected to LGBT human rights. People from all regions of the world will convene at Schloss Leopoldskron between May 14 and 19 to take part in these discussions under the theme of “Home.” A select number of Fellows will then travel on to Berlin with Salzburg Global LGBT Forum founder and chair, Klaus Mueller, for an event Family Is...? - A Global Portrait on Friday, May 19.

The group as a whole will represent diverse communities and professions, bringing together artists, human rights activists, political leaders, cultural and political LGBT organizations, lawmakers and lawyers. This session will have an emphasis on younger leaders who will be at the forefront of change for much of this century.

This year’s session will address three interconnected issues: family, LGBT migration and refugees, and safety and security. Families often struggle to give LGBT children a real sense of home and safety. Much more needs to be done to ensure this doesn’t remain the status quo. While several countries recognize discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as a grounds to offer asylum, further work is needed to assist LGBT individuals once they arrive in these countries. Many of the prejudices that cause LGBT people to flee can linger in asylum centers, public housing, and the refugees’ diaspora communities. Hate speech and physical violence are a growing danger for LGBT individuals. It is important to maintain the safety and wellbeing of those fighting for LGBT human rights.

This year’s session is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth, with with further support from the Archangel Michael Foundation, Open Society Foundations, the EVZ Stiftung, the Austrian Development Cooperation, the UNDP’s Being LGBTI in Asia program and the Canadian Embassy in Vienna.  The session will continue the work of the three-year project "Family Is...?", a video series chronicling the experiences of LGBT people and the families they are born into, the families they choose, and the families they are raising. The follow-on event in Berlin is being hosted by the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth and guests will be welcomed by State Secretary Ralf Kleindiek. The event marks the culmination of a three-year collaboration between Salzburg Global Seminar and the Ministry, and Family Is...? - A Global Conversation, a short film produced from the collected interviews will receive its official premiere.

The Salzburg session will enable participants to exchange ideas and learn from one another. The session will also help to raise awareness of the progress and remaining challenges for LGBT rights around the world, and participants will identify concrete steps to advance positive change. To help transform words into action, the Forum will include skills workshops relevant to participants’ wants and needs. Participants will learn storytelling techniques and how social media can be used to reach diverse communities. Participants can take away these skills to share with others from their local LGBT and human rights communities. The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum will continue to provide participants a safe, welcoming retreat with the opportunity to recharge and speak freely. *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-nonconforming identities.
The fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg. It is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth. The Forum is a network of expertise through which conversations are facilitated to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. You can follow the event on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #SGSlgbt. For more information, please visit salzburgglobal.org/go/578.
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Report now online - The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
Report now online - The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
Louise Hallman 
The report from our fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion is now available online to download, read and share. The report was produced following the 2016 session held in Chiang Rai, Thailand - the Forum's first session to be held outside of Europe. The session was held in Asia in an effort to amplify Asian voices often overlooked in the global LGBT discourse. Speaking at the session, Salzburg Global LGBT Forum founder and chair, Klaus Mueller, said: “If Asian societies do not advance on LGBT rights, the global LGBT community will not move forward.” He added: “The Forum is aware of the strong Western discourse in LGBT human rights, and the under-representation of Asian voices within that global discourse.”
The 2016 session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was held in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Being LGBTI in Asia program, a regional program supported by the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The session was also supported by Austrian Development Cooperation, the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Michael Huffington, and the foreign offices of Sweden, Canada and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Forum this year brought together 58 Fellows and staff representing 33 countries, bringing the Forum's representation to 65 countries. The report covers all five days of the Chiang Rai program, as well as giving an overview of the previous years' sessions, detailing the work under-taken since the end of the October 2016 session, and offering insights to how the Forum will continue in the years to come. The 2016 program had four interrelated themes. The topic of Family encouraged participants to talk about the challenges LGBT communities face regarding family rights, social acceptance, and how family is perceived, defined and lived across our different identities. Continuing the dialogue started in the previous year’s session, Storytelling conversations helped writers, filmmakers, photographers, activists, and policymakers to exchange ideas and expertise on the work they produce, the messages they share, and the audiences they hope to reach. Strengthening International Connections is a key theme of the Forum, and one goal is to deepen the relationship between LGBT human rights groups and foreign embassies, governments, and international organizations which provide logistical, financial and network support to LGBT human rights groups. Transgender Asian Perspectives were discussed with particular attention given to the ongoing legal and social changes affecting transgender populations in Asia. 
Download the report as a PDF (lo-res)
Request a print or hi-res electronic copy
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Thilaga Sulathireh on increasing support for LGBTQ community in Malaysia
Thilaga Sulathireh on increasing support for LGBTQ community in Malaysia
Andrea Abellan 
Salzburg Global Fellow and Justice for Sisters co-founder Thilaga Sulathireh has suggested more people in Malaysia are speaking out against the discrimination members of the LGBTQ community face.
Sulathireh, 30, speaking to star2.com, said a lot of cisgender and heterosexual people were now speaking out against discrimination, which highlighted a “positive step in our activism.”
She said: “There are limitations in Malaysia when it comes to talking about gender identity. Yet, people want to talk about it now. This is really encouraging and something we cherish.
“Take the recent murder of Sameera (in Kuantan recently) as an example… there was a huge public outcry not just within the trans community but from the general public.”
Sulathireh’s activism began at a very young age. As a teenager, she participated as a volunteer at the Malaysian Aids Council (MAC) where she worked with HIV support groups, an experience that made her aware of gender-related concerns. 
In 2010, she founded the organization Justice for Sisters. Through this association, Sulathireh and her team seek to provide a bigger visibility of the transgender community, pursuing social integration.
She has taken part in several Salzburg Global events. In 2013 she participated in the inaugural session of the LGBT Forum, Human Rights: New Challenges, Next Steps. This first meeting resulted in The Salzburg Statement of the Global LGBT Forum, a document summarizing the thoughts shared by the 60 participants on how to move forward on LGBT rights. 
Sulathireh also took part in the fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum convened in Thailand in 2016. The latter aimed to boost the dialogue on LGBT rights in Asia and touched on different topics such as family-related issues and new forms of storytelling with a particular focus on transgender-Asian perspectives.
Sexual relations between people of the same sex are still banned in Malaysia. Certain acts such as wearing clothes from the “opposite” sex are also criminalized. These type of laws mean members of the LGTBQ community remain vulnerable and unprotected against violence and discrimination.
Sulathireh told star2.com raising public awareness on issues faced by the LGBTQ community is an integral part of her work. 
Speaking to the lifestyle portal, she said, “Trans people face a series of discrimination at work… right from the interview process to their experiences at the workplace. There are not many employment opportunities for them which forces them to do sex work, and this leads to them being discriminated yet again.
“With more public awareness, hopefully there will be more job opportunities for them.”
To read Sulathireh’s interview in full, please click here. 
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NEWSLETTER

 

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VIDEOS

 

In the lead up to our fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, we're sharing videos from our session in Chiang Rai, Thailand last year.

This week's theme is ASIA

Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Klaus Mueller explains why the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum met in Asia

Laurindo Garcia on the diversity and complexity of LGBT lives in Asia

Bao Chau Nguyen and Seakley Pipi Say on being happy & transgender

Thilaga Sulathireh on LGBT communities in Asia

Passang Dorji on coming out on TV in Bhutan and the progress made in his country since then

Cha Roque about being a lesbian filmmaker

Pema Dorji on being bullied in school