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WORLD Toronto rally, Russian activist's murder, Xavier Bettel, papal meeting
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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In Toronto, a rally promoting unity was held Sept. 28 in response to an anti-LGBTQ Christian group's march through the city's gay village, reported. The march was in response to several incidents this year where preachers, including Lynn, were detained after bringing loudspeakers into The Village and allegedly provoking fights with people nearby. Toronto Mayor John Tory, who attended the rally, said that while it was hard legally to stop the march by the Christian group, he wanted to show the city was against it.

LGBT activist Yelena Grigoryeva's body was found in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 20—with evidence she had been choked, stabbed and thrown into the bushes near her home. Police claim to have obtained a confession from a suspect, but Grigoryeva's friends are suspicious, Newsweek reported. On Aug. 2, Russia's Investigative Committee published a video confession to the murder from Aleksei Volnyanko, who reportedly had no connection to Grigoryeva. "I think it's immediately clear that this was a contract killing," Aleksandr Khmelev, a friend who doubts the confession, told Radio Free Liberty. "We've had them before."

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, on Sept. 24, became the first out head of government to speak about LGBTI-specific issues at a U.N. General Assembly, The Washington Blade reported. "Being gay is not a choice, but not accepting it is a choice," said Bettel at an U.N. LGBTI Core Group event that focused on efforts to end anti-LGBTI hate speech in social and traditional media, according to a tweet from Luxembourg's Permanent Mission to the U.N. "Homophobia is a choice and we have to fight against it!" Last year, the United States withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has emerged as a vocal champion of LGBTI rights around the world in recent years; nevertheless, the country remains a member of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis gave a high-profile private audience to a prominent U.S. Jesuit priest who has been attacked repeatedly by conservative Catholics and media outlets for ministering to LGBT people, noted. In the last two years, a number of Catholic seminaries and universities have cancelled lectures and appearances by Father James Martin—often after pressure from conservative groups. In a Tweet after meeting the pope, Martin said he "shared with him the joys and hopes, and the griefs and anxieties, of LGBT Catholics and LGBT people worldwide. I was so grateful to meet with this wonderful pastor."

Sherry Bayegan and Rezi Haghiri sold their Persian restaurant in Tehran and all their belongings and left Iran six years ago, according to a profile in The Columbus Dispatch. The couple had been under suspicion by the Iranian government for what officials called their "Western" ways, including that they were lesbians—punishable by death in Iran. Currently, Bayegan and Haghiri live together in Columbus, Ohio, and are working to get a restaurant similar to the one they had in Iran.

France moved toward allowing lesbians and single women to conceive children with medical help, setting the stage for a clash with conservatives who say it would create generations of "fatherless" kids, reported. France's lower house of parliament approved a controversial draft bioethics law in a move that has already sparked outrage from defenders of the traditional family unit—and even opponents in President Emmanuel Macron's own centrist party. The measure must also get the go-ahead from the upper house, or Senate, before it can become law.

U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to help end the criminalization of homosexuality globally, but LGBT+ rights advocates took a dim view of his speech at the United Nations, accusing him of rolling back protections at home, Reuters reported. Gay sex is illegal in 69 countries, almost half of them in Africa, where homosexuality remains largely taboo and persecution is rampant. Trump's administration has banned transgender people from the U.S. military, cut funding for HIV/AIDS research, and supported the right of medical providers and adoption agencies to deny services to LGBT+ people, among other things.

The Washington Blade reported that HIV rates among gay men in various European cities are up along with a surge in "chemsex" parties—and the PrEP advent hasn't stopped escalating numbers, Reuters Health noted, citing anecdotal evidence from intervention specialists and a 2018 study from Spain. Reuters Health said that despite much higher risks of contracting HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections ( STIs ), users search hook-up apps like Grindr for tags such as "high and horny" or "party and play" ( the more common U.S. term ) to find others wanting drug-heightened and often anonymous and/or unprotected sex.

Izaak Theo Adu—the trans son of British soul singer Sade—has spent the last six months recovering from reassignment surgery, and posted a picture of himself hugging his mother to announce that they were finally returning home, PinkNews noted. He wrote in a post dedicated to his famous mum: "It's been a long hard road but we did it!! We are coming home!!!! Thank you for staying by my side these past six months Mumma." Adu came out as trans in 2016, and has since been open on social media about his transition.

On Sept. 28, Polish Gay Pride marchers under heavy police guard defied far-right groups and conservative campaigners who hurled bottles and eggs in an attempt to block them, Yahoo! News noted, citing AFP. Some 400 supporters of LGBTQ+ rights marched through the eastern Polish city of Lublin, waving rainbow flags and banners with slogans such as "Jesus taught love" and "Homophobia threatens Polish families." Authorities used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the counter-protesters, some of whom were taken into custody.

A top Qatari World Cup official has said that transgender and gay fans would be welcomed to the 2022 tournament— but stressed that visitors would have to respect Qatari customs, Yahoo! Sports noted. Chief Executive of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Nasser al-Khater said, "I would like to assure any fan, of any gender, ( sexual ) orientation, religion, race to rest assured that Qatar is one of the most safe countries in the world—and they'll all be welcome here." Same-sex acts are actually banned in Qatar, although the law concerning transgender people is unclear.

As the Rugby World Cup got under way, a pop-up venue for LGBT and other sexual-minority fans opened in Tokyo in an initiative organizers hope to build on for next year's Olympics and beyond, Kyodo News reported. The Pride House Tokyo 2019 in the capital's Harajuku district will open through Nov. 4 to disseminate positive information about LGBT people and other sexual minorities and serve as a safe space for them during the roughly six-week-long tournament.

Out U.S. soccer athlete Megan Rapinoe recently received the FIFA award in Milan, Italy, for the women's world player of the year, Sports Illustrated noted. Rapinoe didn't have much time to give her address, but mentioned several topics, including racism in soccer. She also said, "If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ players … if everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack thereof of the lack of investment in the women's game other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me."

Also in Milan, a non-binary model silently protested Gucci's spring/summer 2020 show at Milan Fashion Week over the brand's "offensive" decision to use straitjackets in an allusion to "mental patients," noted. Ayesha Tan-Jones held up their hands to display the message, "Mental health is not fashion" while going down the runway. Tan-Jones told BuzzFeed News the decision to protest was "last-minute," and came the night before the show after another model "walked off the job" because he was "disgusted by the clothes and chose to go home."

Belgian tennis player Alison Van Uytvanck won her second title of the season, defeating Romanian athlete Sorana Cirstea at the Tashkent Open, noted. Van Uytvanck prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 after nearly two and a half hours; her first title of 2019 came with a successful defense of the Budapest crown in February. Van Uytvanck and partner Greet Minnen recently made history as the first lesbian couple to play doubles together at Wimbledon, Outsports reported.

RuPaul's Drag Race UK will debut Friday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. CT on Logo, a press release noted. The 10 competing queens will vie for the ultimate title of "UK's Next Drag Superstar." The queens competing include Baga Chipz ( London ), Blu Hydrangea ( Belfast ), Cheryl Hole ( Essex ), Crystal ( London ), Divina De Campo ( West Yorkshire ), Gothy Kendoll ( Leicester ), Scardey Kat ( Wiltshire ), Sum Ting Wong ( Birmingham ), The Vivienne ( Liverpool ) and Vinegar Strokes ( London ). RuPaul will host and judge alongside Michelle Visage, as well as newcomers Alan Carr and Graham Norton.

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