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WORLD Pride events, Queensland, Costa Rica refuge, George Michael
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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The pandemic may have forced Pride organizers to cancel their planned march this year in Sarajevo, but activists say they will compensate for this loss with many other activities, noted. Preparations for the march—scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23, under the slogan "Life is not four walls"—had shown organizers that the community not only faced new health-related and epidemiological obstacles, but also older problems, including institutional resistance, discrimination, unequal treatment and homophobia. The Sarajevo Canton government had given its support for this year's march, however, with Prime Minister Mario Nenadic saying officials wanted to improve the human rights of all citizens.

Calling it "the end of the rainbow," the oldest and biggest Pride event in China, ShanghaiPRIDE, announced it is cancelling all events for the immediate future, reported. The announcement gave no reason for the cancellations, but ShanghaiPRIDE co-founder Charlene Liu was quoted in Radii China citing safety issues as driving the final decision. The first ShanghaiPRIDE event took place in 2009 as a small "celebration of acceptance and diversity" with the hopes of instilling a "sense of belonging" and to "nurture an environment of inclusion and love."

In Canada, Pride P.E.I. ( Prince Edward Island ) organizers found a silver lining after moving most of their recent festival events online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noted. Festival chair John Kimmell said the necessary accommodation for public health measures allowed for broader participation, as he personally heard from people in eight or nine countries who tuned in. In addition to a few in-person events, Pride P.E.I. hosted a variety of online conversations on topics such as sexuality and race, sobriety, and sex and disability.

Queensland has become the first state in Australia to criminalize so-called gay conversion therapy after regional lawmakers voted to make the practice illegal, Reuters reported. Under the new law, healthcare professionals could face up to 18 months in jail for attempting to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity using practices such as aversion therapy, hypnotherapy and psychoanalysis. Queensland Council for LGBTI Health President Peter Black said, "It is important that there are penalties for this dangerous and discredited practice."

The Tico Times noted that hundreds of Central Americans of sexual diversity have found refuge in Costa Rica—a conservative and religious country that has slowly taken steps to recognize the rights of the LGBTI population. "I arrived in Costa Rica in 2012 when I made the decision to flee Honduras," Dennis Castillo told AFP. Four years earlier, he had witnessed the murder of a colleague in an organization that defends the rights of sexual diversity; after filing a "hate crime" complaint, Castillo said he also suffered threats, harassment and persecution.

A permanent almost-30-foot-tall mural of gay icon and Wham! singer George Michael is coming to the London borough of Brent, PinkNews noted. The painting will be installed in Kingsbury in September as a tribute to Michael, who tragically died Christmas Day 2016 at the age of 56. Artist Dawn Mellor has been commissioned to create the artwork as part of the Brent Borough of Culture 2020 project, The Guardian reported.

Russian lawmakers recently introduced legislation that will have major implications for the country's transgender population, the Moscow Times reported. If passed, the draft law—which also seeks to ban LGBT marriage and adoption—will make it impossible for transgender people to change their gender on official documents after they have transitioned. Activists and rights groups say the law will make life for Russia's transgender population even more difficult, barring them from job opportunities, making it more difficult to marry, and encouraging transphobic harassment and violence.

Hundreds of Polish nationalists and LGBTQ-rights advocates faced off against each other on opposite sides of a street in central Warsaw on Aug. 16, Openly News reported. The nationalists burnt a rainbow flag, while the LGBT activists painted one on the street. The groups shouted abuse at each other, separated by a line of several police vans and dozens of policemen. Gay rights were part of the most recent election campaign in Poland, a staunchly Catholic country, and the issue is still divisive; anti-LGBTQ President Andrzej Duda was narrowly re-elected in July.

The Legal of Affairs Committee of the Council of States ( the upper house of Switzerland's parliament, the Federal Assembly ) postponed a vote on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, saying the committee needed to clarify that it was constitutional, according to an item that cited The assembly's lower house, the National Council, had approved the bill by a wide margin in June. Switzerland has offered civil unions for same-sex couples since 2007, but these arrangements do not offer all the rights of marriage, like the right to adopt children jointly.

In India, the founder of a large company announced the employer's new policy of giving people who menstruate 10 days of "period leave" every year—and the policy is trans-inclusive, LGBTQ Nation reported. Deepinder Goyal, the co-founder of food-delivery service Zomato, wrote in a blog post that the policy would give 10 days of leave that employees can use if the effects of menstruation—like cramps—render them unable to work. Goyal said that part of the reason for the policy was to reduce "shame or stigma" associated with periods.

Actor Garret Clayton and fiance Blake Knight have launched a YouTube channel called "A Gay in the Life," Spectrum News noted. Their goal is to interview queer people from all corners of the Earth, including countries where being openly LGBTQ+ could lead to punishment or even death. Their YouTube channel, which features new videos every Thursday, includes interviews with members of the LGBTQ+ community—such as Queer Eye co-host Tan France.

British singer Mika, who has Lebanese roots, shared in the country's grief over the recent deadly Beirut blast, Billboard noted. In a letter addressed to "My dear Lebanon, My dear Beirut," he wrote, in part, "So close to you, as you lie devastated by the apocalypse, I can't stop staring, transfixed, at the battered expressions of my brothers and sisters. In their eyes, I sense their fright, their tears." A massive warehouse explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4 killed at least 157 people and injured thousands more, devastating the city's port area.

Japan's government should pass the Equality Act ahead of next year's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Human Rights Watch ( HRW ), Athlete Ally and Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation ( J-ALL ) said, according to . The groups launched #EqualityActJapan on July 23 in support of the proposed law, which would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity.

A Chinese advertisement for Cartier has reignited discussion about the country's taboo around LGBTQ rights, noted. The French luxury jeweler released a minute-long ad to promote its wares—including its iconic Trinity ring—ahead of China's Qixi Festival on Aug. 25, the country's version of Valentine's Day. A printed version of the ad posted on the jeweler's official page on the Chinese e-commerce website Tmall features descriptive text under an image of two men who were shown cycling together in the video; the text reads, "Father and son are also friends—happily sharing life's journey." That caption raised many eyebrows on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. Homosexuality is not illegal in China and, in 2001, the authorities removed it from an official list of mental disorders.

British singer Will Young opened up about the terrifying moment 14 years ago when a group of homophobic thugs threatened to stab him and his boyfriend—because they dared to hold hands in public, PinkNews noted. The Pop Idol winner, 41, told The Sunday Times about the incident, adding that even today he still has to "think about where I feel I belong, and where I might feel unwelcome or even unsafe." Young made the revelation as he gears up to release his book To Be a Gay Man next month.

Spanish actor Antonio Banderas revealed, on his 60th birthday, that he is recovering from a positive coronavirus diagnosis, Deadline noted. The Shrek and The Mask of Zorro star posted a tweet in Spanish with the news, saying he was not suffering severe symptoms and was only feeling a little more tired than normal. Banderas was filming comedy Official Competition alongside Penélope Cruz earlier this year, before the shoot was suspended in March due to the pandemic disruption.

Streaming platform BroadwayHD has unveiled eight new titles that will be accessible for UK and Australia users, noted. They include Cats ( West End Adelphi show ), Billy Elliot ( West End show ), Miss Saigon ( West End show ), Love Never Dies ( Australian production ), The Phantom of the Opera ( Royal Albert Hall anniversary ), Les Misérables ( 2010 concert ), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ( film version ) and Jesus Christ Superstar ( 2012 arena tour ).

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