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Press Release

Speak Up! Homophobia and Transphobia Are Everyone's Concerns

May 17, 2011

Oakland, Calif. -- In honor of the 7th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the U.S. Positive Women's Network (PWN), a national membership body of women living with HIV, calls on community leaders everywhere to speak up and stand up against hate and violence.

Homophobia and transphobia lead to violence and death, say experts in the field. According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, there have been 539 reported murders of transgender people in 42 countries, since January 2008. And last fall, in the U.S., a spate of reported gay teen suicides devastated the nation, many connected with vicious bullying and ostracization of gay and lesbian youth.

Pervasive bias, discrimination and violence against gay and transgender people can lead to poverty, which also increases likelihood of acquiring HIV. Difficulty securing employment because of changes to gender identity or prospective employers discrimination can make it harder for gay and transgender people to retain jobs, obtain housing, and secure high-quality health care. In addition, research has clearly shown that gay men who experience higher levels of marginalization and violence as youth are more likely to experience intimate partner violence, substance abuse and HIV infection throughout the lifespan; transgender people who reported greater levels of marginalization in a recent national survey are more likely to be HIV-positive.

According to PWN Steering Committee member Andrea Lamour Harrington in Philadelphia, "America has made women last in everything, including healthcare. Transgender women are not even counted in data collection nor our needs accounted for in most health care systems. As a transwoman it is my duty to hold our politicians and leaders accountable to make all women count."

Criminalization and discrimination fuels the HIV epidemic. Uganda's parliament came within a hair of passing a bill last week that would have made engaging in same-sex sexual acts punishable by death. But right here in the United States, there is no federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against people in the workplace for their expressed or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) continues to be marginalized in Congress.

"People cannot feel safe being themselves, loving or disclosing personal information in this type of climate. Fundamentally, this is an issue of human rights and dignity for all people. Policies and practices that enable discrimination and bias fuel the HIV epidemic," says Naina Khanna, PWN coordinator and an HIV-positive woman.

The U.S. Positive Women's Network advocates for all women in all of our diversity and is committed to addressing the impact of bias and discrimination in full partnership with the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex) community. PWN calls on women-led HIV organizations to fully commit to challenging homophobia and transphobia.

"I commend the U.S. Positive Women's Network for being a welcoming place for transgender women and for working against anti-gay and anti-trans bias and violence," said Julie Davids, a gender-queer ally of the PWN and coordinator of HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA). "Gender bias is a major root of homophobia and anti-transgender attitudes and actions, and thus all women stand to benefit when the human rights of sexual and gender minorities are honored."

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This article was provided by Positive Women's Network of the United States of America. Visit PWN-USA's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
More on Issues Affecting the LGBT Community

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