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).

Upcoming events:

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging
May 14 to 19, 2017

Most recent sessions:

Building structures to support equal rights for LGBT people

Seminar and networking reception at the Embassy of Canada, Berlin, Germany, July 21, 2016

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
October 2 to 7, 2016

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: LGBT Human Rights & Social Cohesion

June 14 to 19, 2015


Related News

Monica Pisankaneva - LGBT people are common scapegoats to blame for social issues
Monica Pisankaneva - LGBT people are common scapegoats to blame for social issues
Heather Jaber 

When it comes to various social issues like increased social spending or poverty, said Monica Pisankaneva, a participant of the latest Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, the LGBT community often becomes the scapegoat. This stems from the lack of awareness about LGBT rights, she said. “I think the understanding of the importance of LGBTI equality is still not at a very high level in the political mainstream in Bulgaria,” said the Fellow.

Pisankaneva is chairperson of the Bilitis Resource Center Foundation Bulgaria, which works for LGBT rights and inclusion in Bulgaria. She spoke of studying in Amsterdam where she became interested in minority inclusion and LGBT rights. “This is where I became an activist in spirit,” she said, “and when I got back to Bulgaria, I became an activist in practice.”

The participant also spoke of the need for political support in efforts towards bottom up change. “My experience shows that bottom up work would be effective only if there is political understanding and political leadership to pick up what the activists are trying to promote.” Rather than working in a vacuum, activists need some sort of wider understanding.

That understanding may lie in the form of alliances, she said, such as research data for evidence-based advocacy, or relationships with international organizations which support human rights efforts. This, she said, may convince political leaders that LGBT rights must be dealt with.

Monica is also project manager at the initiative Towards Inclusive of LGBTI Students and Staff School Policies, where she researches school policies in Sofia to analyze protection levels of LGBT students and staff. She then provides recommendations for more inclusive school policies. Pisankaneva also works in as philanthropy development manager at the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation, introducing new concepts of local giving. 

For more about the importance of activism and broader alliances, watch the interview below.


The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551

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Victor Yang - We need to not only sit in the bargaining chair, but shake the table
Victor Yang - We need to not only sit in the bargaining chair, but shake the table
Heather Jaber 

While many institutions claim to also work for the marginalized, the reality is that many of these people are not involved in decision-making processes, said Victor Yang, participant of the third annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion.

“Who is at the table?” asked Yang, who is a community organizer and doctoral Student at the University of Oxford UK. “What I really would like to see, and have seen achieved in the past in rare instances, are those people coming to the table empowered not only to sit in front of that bargaining chair, but also to shake it so vigorously that the table actually falls over and that there’s a radical shift and change in power structure.”

Yang shared his formative experience of growing up as a person of Chinese heritage in the American south. “Seeing how discrimination, racism, difference manifested themselves very viscerally and personally growing up planted the seeds. I didn’t have the words to talk about it, but I definitely had the emotions with which to label that.”

Yang's research relates to these feelings of difference, and looks into the lives of low-income people of color within the HIV/AIDS movement. Specifically, his work focuses on the Philadelphia chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and the impact of these types of movements in uprooting traditional hierarchies of power. 

Yang also works as a community organizer, focusing on anti-racist and street-level activism. He led academics from Oxford to launch their first summit on race equality. What is important in this type of activism, said Yang, is to make sure people are not being used as pawns or numbers for organizations, but actually "thinking about people in their own transformative potential."

To hear more about Yang's formative experiences and outlook on systems of power, watch the interview below.


The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551
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Marc Pachter - “History is a construct. A lot happened, but what do we remember from it?”
Marc Pachter - “History is a construct. A lot happened, but what do we remember from it?”
Heather Jaber 

While we often look back and accept our records of historical events as fact, we know that our understanding of history is indeed constructed. Marc Pachter, director-at-large at the Smithsonian Institute and director emeritus at the National Portrait Gallery, explained the growing readiness of some societies to start including LGBT themes within their historical narratives at the third annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum.

Pachter spoke of his experience working both with exhibitions and art acquisitions practices in The United States, and how the acceptance of LGBT themes has been grown rapidly over the last years.  “True history began with thinking of race and gender in general,” said Pachter. “It seemed to me the road was still stopping short of LGBT questions, which is also part of the reveal of what a culture is.”

He also discussed his involvement in introducing new exhibition themes to the National Portrait Gallery in which homosexuality was explored as one theme depicted and explored within American art. National museums in his view are no front runners, but play an important role to signal a growing consensus within society to discuss and include LGBT lives. 

What is significant, said Pachter, is not just to view the past through an LGBT lens, but to recognize that while we may be discussing these issues now, they were always present. “The history was always there,” said Pachter. “…people that were not known as gay were living their lives. So the nation needed to suddenly say, ‘Our history telling is incomplete.’”

Having these discussions through art signaled a shift of the way how American society looks and explores a more inclusive notion of its past. “So it felt both revolutionary and, happily in the end, ordinary."

Drawing on the concept of story-telling, Pachter prompted Fellows to tell their own life stories by simply asking them: "What was the world alike into which you were born?" Sharing life stories within the Global LGBT Forum is a key value of helping participants to more fully understand its other lives and cultures and find connecting themes. 

Pachter is a member of the Global LGBT Form since 2013 and was also chair of Salzburg Global Seminar session The "Telling of Lives”: Biography as a Mirror on Society in 2006, where participants discussed the formulation and influence of the biography in society.

To hear more about using art to introduce more inclusive understandings of our past, check out the interview below.
The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551
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Hyun Kyung Kim - “…at some point I became some minority in society”
Hyun Kyung Kim - “…at some point I became some minority in society”
Heather Jaber 

What does it feel like to shift from being a conservative society member to part of the minority? Hyun Kyung Kim, researcher from the Korean Society of Law and Policy on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, described realizing her sexuality and looking at societal issues in a new way.

Kyung Kim, a participant of the third annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, explained the shift from her initial career plan as an economic researcher to a human rights defender who viewed things from the perspective of minorities, such as the LGBT community, those with disabilities, or immigrants. 

“I was some conservative person before I realized my sexuality,” said Kyung Kim. “…at some point I became some minority [person] in society, and then I saw some other issues that mostly minority people can feel…”

The researcher led a group discussion at the forum, where LGBT human rights in a conservative Christian context was discussed. Recommendations from the discussion were to find tangible ways of honing in on what is important to the organizations themselves, using economic arguments, understanding data, and using human rights mechanisms.

Kyung Kim also participated in large-scale LGBT surveys in Korea, and discussed the surprising and inspiring reaction that the Korean LGBT community had in response to discussions of sexuality. “There are so many LGBT people in Korea [who want] to talk about themselves,” said Kyung Kim.

As a human rights defender, Kyung Kim also runs a website, "Tong," which provides a platform for Koreans to access international human rights documents. The website provides English-Korean translation of these articles, allowing for greater understanding and distribution of important texts. 

To hear more about Kyung Kim's new perspective on human rights, watch the interview below.


The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551
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Manisha Dhakal - How to advocate government officials to develop inclusive policies for LGBT people
Manisha Dhakal - How to advocate government officials to develop inclusive policies for LGBT people
Heather Jaber 

While some South Asian countries still adhere to colonial law against homosexuality, Nepal enjoys relatively greater freedoms as it was never colonized. While other penal codes may persecute individuals engaging in consensual same-sex relations, there may be more access points for LGBT rights in Nepal.

Manisha Dhakal, deputy director of Blue Diamond Society in Nepal, described Nepal’s relatively open environment in regard to media and political engagement, but also highlighted some barriers to LGBT rights in the country. 

At the third Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Manisha led a group discussion on working with authorities and mobilizing communities in Nepal. The Blue Diamond Society was started in 2001 to promote rights for sexual minorities. Dhakal spoke of the legal landscape and community mobilization within Nepal.

She spoke of the strategies Blue Diamond Society uses to raise awareness, such as using HIV prevention as a means to work for LGBT issues. “Within [the past 14-15 years], we changed a lot," she explained during her work shop at the gathering. "We entered in the HIV prevention program and slowly we strategized our activities into the rights issues.”

Manisha also highlighted the importance of working with those within the system to make change and described her work with religious leaders, the government, the police, judges, and parliaments to advocate for change. Sometimes the biggest obstacle, Manisha explained, is for these officials to find the time to meet with you. 

Listen to the full clip of the interview about LGBT rights issues in Nepal below.


The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551
READ MORE...
Michael Kirby - Law can be a hindrance, but also an opportunity
Michael Kirby - Law can be a hindrance, but also an opportunity
Heather Jaber 

Participants at the third annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum had the chance to gain rare insight from the first Australian High Court judge to come out as gay. Michael Kirby spoke with Fellows about his experience coming out and the law as both an obstacle and opportunity for the LGBT rights movement.

At this year’s instalment, Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion, Kirby shared his personal experience growing up as a homosexual in suburban Sydney, knowing that societally, “it was not a good thing.” He adhered to social norms, thus missing out on significant life experiences. “I was playing the game in a way that society had imposed on me,” he said to the Fellows. “I was the one that deserved an apology. I was the one that was forced to hide reality.” 

The former judge came out in 1999, he has spoken openly about growing up in a society unaccepting of homosexuality. He has since been an advocate for not only gay rights, but human rights in general. Most recently, he was appointed chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea.

Kirby, who is also vice-president of vice-chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association, spoke with Dr. Klaus Mueller, chair of the forum, about LGBT rights from a legal perspective. “The law has often been an oppressor of LGBT people…but as we discovered with the HIV epidemic, law can also be a supporter of new thinking and new directions.” He touched on the HIV epidemic and reaching out to engage with people to overcome hostility.

The former judge also discussed his own experience growing up with the knowledge that the laws and attitudes at the time were discriminatory, but that change has occurred at a surprising rate. “The attitudes were irrational; they were unscientific,” said Kirby. “They had to change, but the pace of change has been extraordinary.”

In many countries, said Kirby, the law is not making the same strides. Although there are significant movements taking place, Kirby urged movement leaders to recognize that not everyone will share their concerns. Still, it’s important to remain grounded and gain from others’ strength, he said. “This is therefore a kind of globalism, but with a reality check.”

Kirby has worked with various United Nations agencies and is a longtime Fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar, having attended sessions on biotechnology, telecommunications, and international crime response. 

To read more about the life stories of Kirby and other Fellows, check out the session report below.


The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551

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Ralf Kleindiek - "It is a very serious matter of discrimination if we define family as a closed unit"
Ralf Kleindiek - "It is a very serious matter of discrimination if we define family as a closed unit"
Heather Jaber 

As LGBT issues have been gaining global awareness, it is important to engage in discussion from both cultural and political perspectives. Ralf Kleindiek, state secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Woman and Youth, discussed inclusive conceptions of family and their relevance for LGBT people at the third annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. 

The implication of family definitions for exclusion and discrimination has been an issue for the Global LGBT Forum since its foundation in 2013. During its session in Berlin 2014, the topic brought the Forum together with Dr. Kleindiek who invited the Forum to a discussion at the German Ministry for Family Affairs. This year, Kleindiek joined the session in Salzburg to introduce a video series called "Family is...?" where members of the Global LGBT Forum share their experiences of what family means to them. The project, funded by the Ministry,  is an on-going three year collaboration with the Global LGBT Forum. 

Kleindiek emphasized the importance of inclusive family policies and the importance of symbols in politics to further discussions of LGBT issues. "For most people, family is a crucial part of their lives, of their identities," Kleindiek explained. "This project with the Global LGBT Forum helps us to portray the complexities of our lives, including those of our families by birth and choice."

On notions of family, the state secretary spoke of the need to move away from restrictive definitions. "It is important that we have a very wide interpretation of what family is...It is a very serious matter of discrimination if we define family as a closed unit."

In an interview with Klaus Mueller, founder and chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Kleindiek discussed family as a place of support independently from sexual identity. “For me personally, family is a place where I can be, where I know someone is helping and supporting me if it’s necessary, and where I help and support my parts of the family when it’s necessary.”

Kleindiek also addressed the importance of ministerial support for all people living in families. “For us, it’s important to make the different situations visible, and the problems too,” he said. “I hope we will see in which situations the people in different countries are living, in Europe, but also in other parts of our world.”

Prior to his current position, Kleindiek was Secretary of State for Justice and Gender Equality in Hamburg; Head of the Central Directorate-General and IT Commissioner of the Federal Ministry of Justice; Head of Directorate and head of the Executive Staff at the Federal Ministry of Justice, and Head of office for the German Federal Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries.

Check out the discussion between Klaus Mueller and Ralf Kleindiek in this year's report from the third annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum.


The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551

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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