Survey of LGBT RPCV Followers

LGBT Follower Survey 2015To take the pulse of what LGBT RPCV followers think about our mostly virtual organization, a survey was announced through our listserv as well as via Facebook and Twitter. Seventy-seven (77) people responded to the short survey (12% of our listserv membership).

Of the 77 respondents, just over 80% are returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs), with about 13% being current volunteers.

The feature of our organization most appreciated is the listserv (62.5%) followed by Facebook (51.4%) and our webpage (37.5%).

For the listserv, the top 2 postings appreciated are Learning about Peace Corps-related news and events (73.5%) and LGBT world news (67.7%). Also appreciated were learning about job postings (38.2%) and countries of assignment (30.9%).  65.7% of respondents judged that the number of listserv postings is about right, with 22.4% saying there are too many posts and 11.9% too few. When asked how we can improve the listserv, the top suggestion was to consolidate the postings into either a daily or weekly summary to cut down on the frequency of posts, and possibly including questions for discussion about the posted issues. Many suggested adding more stories of LGBT PCVs and RPCVs and to include links to all that is posted, although a current PCV asked for the opposite: to post full articles since Internet service is weak and opening links can be a challenge. A few comments commended what we are now doing.

On the mentoring program, 58.2% of respondents didn’t know such a program existed, but would be interested in participating. Very few had participated in the program either as a mentor or mentee. The few notable comments were that people had tried to participate but were never contacted and that it may be worth considering having current volunteers mentor one another. It was also suggested that RPCVs who had served in specific countries could be made available to share their experiences with those who may be going to those countries.

Key suggestions to improve the Facebook group, Twitter posts and our webpage were to close the Facebook page because having it open to the public may compromise current volunteers where host country nationals can see that they are members and to increase the number of job posts.

Other things that followers would like to see LGBT RPCV doing that would be useful:

  • Enable more connections among RPCVs such as organizing more local and regional events of interest to LGBT RPCVs, including social events and job fairs and pride events.
  • Make links to more external groups that share similar interests to ours, including working with US-based LGBT organizations to support projects.
  • Make more efforts to reach potential PCVs.
  • Explore having RPCVs visit current LGBT PCVs.

When asked about interest in becoming more involved in LGBT RPCV in leading our community, 9 people stepped forward with their contact information. No one had a specific idea about what they wanted to volunteer to do, but one respondent who has already been very active noted that he has taken part in LGBT RPCV events such as Pride celebrations and Peace Corps anniversary occasions. He said that he is “proud of our organization and its ongoing supportive involvement in Peace Corps. I consider my own service as a pivotal point in my own life that keeps me closely connected… Surely PC’s own evolving comfort and active support of LGBT volunteers has much in our organization’s existence and work…”

LGBT Follower Survey 2015

LGBT RPCVs Annual Report for 2014 – Activities and Accomplishments

Editor’s Note: These reports have been submitted to NPCA as part of our affiliation renewal with them for 2015. We have posted them on our website each year.

Electronic Infrastructure Improvements:

Website visitors

Click to enlarge

We have had an internet presence since the mid-1990s and have published hundreds of articles from LGBT volunteers about the countries where they served: about what life is like back in the states; or new adventures since their Peace Corps experience, including visits back to their countries of service. Currently our website contains about 225 timely articles from 50 countries ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe.

Our website had close to 22,000 visitors in 2014.

Our fastest growing media presence is on our Facebook group at https://facebook.com/groups/lgbrpcv/ We now have close to 250 members who are current and former volunteers, along with applicants, and nominees.

Our Yahoo Group has been in operations since the late 1990s and currently has about 630 participants and averages 40 messages a month.

Lastly we host a Twitter Feed at https://twitter.com/LGBT_RPCV  Over the last quarter of 2014 our Tweets had 12,700 views, with an average of 140 per day.

Third Goal and Other Accomplishments:

Our electronic improvements and the high number of visits to them is a sign of our strong commitment to Peace Corps third goal. We have provide and enormous amount of information to the LGBT community about joining Peace Corps, what to expect during Peace Corps service, and resources available in and out of Peace Corps to cope with homophobia and insensitivity in the developing world where Peace Corps has programs.

Cooperation with Peace Corps and other NPCA affiliates during gay pride festivals across the country:

We regularly provide written informational materials for Peace Corps staff to use during recruiting and informational events during gay pride season. We did this again in 2014 which saw an unprecedented level of Peace Corps participation in such events. Through our Yahoo Group, Facebook, Twitter and other sources we communicated such events and ways for LGBT people to participate.

We also appreciated and supported the Atlanta Area RPCV group’s participation in Atlanta’s Gay Pride parade last fall. We also contributed $325 to them which was our sponsorship of a film shown in a film festival they sponsored, Call Me Kuchu, which is a powerful documentary about the difficulties and challenges facing the LGBT community in Uganda.

LGBT RPCV – Financial Report 2014

Beginning Balance:         $3901.45

Income:

  • Dues from NPCA    $645.00

Expenses:

  • NPCA Reaffiliation   $40.00
  • Post Office Box        $128.00
  • Internet Hosting         $13.00
  • Domain renewal for nine years                  $314.91
  • AARPCV film
  • Sponsorship of film for AARPCVs    $325.00

Total Expenses:                    $820.91

Income Minus Expenses    ($175.91)

End of Year Balance:         $3725.54

2014 – The Year of Connectivity for the LGBT Peace Corps Alumni Organization

2014 was the Year of Connectivity for the LGBT Peace Corps Alumni Organization as we continued to reach people through our website, our Facebook page, our Yahoo! Groups list, and Twitter. Here is a overview of our connected presence.


Website LGBRPCV

We have had a web presence since the mid-1990s and have published hundreds of stories from queer volunteers and their friends about the countries where they serve; about what life is like back in the states; or about new adventures since the Peace Corps. Our website is hosted at http://www.lgbrpcv.org and currently contains almost 225 timely articles from 50 countries ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe. You can follow new publications on our website and we welcome comments online. If you follow your news on a blog reader (RSS) the newsfeed URL for our website is http://lgbrpcv.org/feed/. We average about 100 visitors day.

Website visitors

We had close to 22,000 visitors in 2015.

Most of our most popular posts in 2014 were written before 2014, indicating that our information remains relevant and important to our readers.

Rank

Title Publication Date
1 Is There Gay Life in Benin? May 2006
2 Placing Same-Sex Couples in Peace Corps Ukraine February 2014
3 It’s Not that Bad in Paraguay April 2012
4 Queer Volunteer? What to Expect in Morocco March 2010
5 My Friends, the Fakaleitis of Tonga

November 2006


 LGBT Peace Corps on Facebook

Our fastest growing media presence is on our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/lgbrpcv/. We now have over 237 members who are current and former volunteers, as well as friends of LGBT PC. Finds news, personal stories, job postings and the latest articles for our website here.

Lesbian__Gay__Bisexual__and_Transgender_Peace_Corps_Alumni


LGBT Peace Corps Alumni on Yahoo! Groups

Founded on December 31, 1998 is our Yahoo! Group at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/lgbrpcv/ . This site requires a membership but it is easy to request by sending an email to lgbrpcv-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. The group currently hosts 631 members and averages 40 messages a month. Members post LGBT news from around the world, job listings, and seek advice on countries of service. This is our most important tool for mentoring volunteers about to enter service so if you have a question join in the conversation.

Lesbian__Gay__Bisexual__Transgender_Peace_Corps_Volunteers_-_Yahoo_Groups


LGBT Peace Corps on Twitter

Lastly we host a Twitter Feed at https://twitter.com/LGBT_RPCV. Over the last quarter of 2014 our Tweets had 12,700 views, with an average of 140 per day.

Our most popular tweet of that period was about our very own steering committee member, Manuel Colon with 787 views. .

Tweet_Activity_analytics_for_LGBT_RPCV

Challenges to Sexual or Gender Minorities Populations

By Suzanne Marks, RPCV Togo, LGBT RCPV Steering Committee

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as of December 2014, homosexuality is known to be criminalized in 76 countries, including punishment by death in 10 countries (Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, Yemen) and in 3 countries so-called “LGBT anti-propaganda” laws restrict freedom of assembly (Nigeria, Lithuania, Russia). See map of the countries. While many of these laws were instituted during European colonial times and subsequently rarely enforced, there has been a recent resurgence in new legislation (Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe), harassment, discrimination, and violence against LGBT persons or against persons perceived to be LGBT. HRC published a report in July 2014 that lists concerns in Africa: The State of Human Rights for LGBT People in Africa, July 2014.  HRC also reports regularly on recent international news relevant to the LGBT community.  Another resource, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), advocates for the rights of LGBT persons, and provides country-level updates. . For a full listing of human rights practices by country, visit the U.S. Department of State human rights website.

Recent anti-gay legislation in many countries has been promoted by American religious extremists, who have been spreading inaccurate information about sexual and gender minorities and about HIV transmission on five continents, especially in Africa and Eastern Europe. HRC published a report called Exposed: Export of Hate that documents the activities of Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and others who have been instigating these changes. Inaccurate information that the religious extremists have promoted includes: 1) “LGBT persons recruit youth into homosexuality” and “No one is born gay.” In fact, there is substantial evidence that most same-sex attraction and gender identity are innate; 2) “Conversion therapy” can work to make persons heterosexual. All credible health organizations reject the practice of “conversion therapy,” which is ineffective and in many cases harmful; 3) “Gay men molest youth more than heterosexuals.” There is no evidence that LGBT persons engage in pedophilia more so than heterosexuals; and 4) “Same-sex parents harm children.” All credible scientific studies find that children raised by same-sex parents are as well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents. The Southern Poverty Law Center exposes hate groups and provides materials for fighting homophobia to counter the misinformation. A key resource includes Top 10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked

Some consequences of human rights abuses against sexual and gender minorities and their de-humanization have included: 1) lack of privacy due to published lists, pictures, and addresses of known or suspected LGBT persons; 2) isolation due to laws requiring the reporting of any known/suspected homosexual; 3) police harassment/brutality/abuse including home invasions and raids, 4) forced disrobement and invasive physical examinations, 5) eviction from homes, 6) “corrective” rape of LGBT females, 7) being targeted by mob justice (stoning; bombings, murders), 8) loss of children, 9) accusations of transmitting HIV, and 10) suicide. In Nigeria, where a law (1/7/2014) criminalized freedom of assembly of and association with LGBT persons, there is a report that HIV treatment has declined substantially, as people fear (because of the perception of being gay) going to clinics to receive their medication. (Mother Jones 3/2014). Moreover, HIV prevention and outreach efforts have become stymied. Also see The Economist 2014.

God Loves Uganda

God Loves Uganda Documentary Film

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has sued Scott Lively for violating international law by intentionally contributing to the persecution of Ugandan LGBT and seeking to deprive them of their basic human rights. As of January 2015, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals refused Lively’s request for case dismissal based on the First Amendment to the US Constitution, so the case will soon be heard in court. (Slate 2014)

There are a few films that poignantly portray the issues: “God Loves Uganda”highlights motivations for the actions of some religious groups. “Call Me Kuchu” is a film, mostly from the perspective of LGBT Ugandans, showing the impact of LGBT persecution and story of David Kato’s efforts to bring  international support for LGBT rights in Uganda.

“I understand that sexual orientation and gender identity raise sensitive cultural issues.  But cultural practices cannot justify any violation of human rights. . .  . When our fellow humans are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must speak out. . . . States bear the primary responsibility to protect human rights advocates.  I call on all States to ensure the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly that make their work possible.  When the lives of human rights advocates are endangered, we are all less secure.  When the voices of human rights advocates are silenced, justice itself is drowned out.” – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

While the situation for sexual and gender minorities has become worse in many countries, the situation, especially regarding marriage equality, has improved in some countries. As of December 2014, 18 countries permit same-sex marriage according to Freedomtomarry.org. Ireland, Chile, and Taiwan are scheduled to vote soon on marriage equality.

For sexual and gender minorities living, working in, or visiting countries where homosexuality is criminalized, it is important to be aware of the current situation for LGBT persons in the country. While the decision to be openly LGBT is left to each individual. Many persons choose to be discreet or not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity with foreign-country nationals. However, being out to your Peace Corps and other U.S. governmental colleagues is encouraged so that you can obtain needed support in talking about your family and social life. Becoming involved in advocacy for LGBT rights is welcome after you return to the U.S., but doing so while overseas as a PCV would likely need to be approved prior to any activity and might be discouraged because of security reasons.

Atlanta Area RPCVs March at Atlanta Pride

Fifty-five AARPCV members and guests showed their pride by marching with Peace Corps host country flags for the annual Atlanta Pride Parade on October 12, 2014. An estimated 300,000 people lined up on the streets to watch the event. It was AARPCV’s first time marching with our new country of service flags, and our first time marching in the Pride parade. After a dreary, wet morning, the clouds opened to reveal sunshine and blue skies. AAPCV was joined by special guest, Angie Harris of the Tennessee RPCVs. Angie, RPCV Papua New Guinea, serves as the Southeast Regional Representative on the National Peace Corps Association Board. Other AARPCV guests came from as far away as Chicago and New Jersey. The parade was streamed live online by 11Alive, who gave AARPCV an enthusiastic shoutout as we passed by.

See more photos from Atlanta Pride on their website.

October is the gayest of months in Atlanta, starting with the LGBT Out-on-Film festival, followed by the Atlanta Pride festival, AIDS Walk Atlanta, and Halloween celebrations. The LGBT community is organized and active, working to connect people to fun, philanthropy, and services. Nearly every major company in Atlanta has an LGBT organization, and there are many LGBT-specific organizations. Atlanta is in many ways an oasis for LGBT persons living in the Bible Belt South.

AARPCV recently added an LGBT Liaison to its Board: Suzanne Marks, who also serves on the National LGBT RPCV Steering Committee

The Atlanta Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (AARPCV) is a group of 300+ people who served two or more years in the U.S. Peace Corps. AARPCV’s goals are to make a difference in the lives of people here through quarterly service projects, to make a difference abroad by funding overseas projects, and to educate and socially engage its members.   Find out more at www.aarpcv.org.

AARPCV recently added an LGBT Liaison to its Board: Suzanne Marks, who also serves on the National LGBT RPCV Steering Committee (our board). The national group mentors currently serving LGBT PCVs, facilitates communication about LGBT issues faced by PCVs through its newsletter and website, informs people about international issues facing LGBT persons through its Listserv, and advocates for U.S. Peace Corps’ policies that are supportive of LGBT PCVs and staff. Find out more at  lgbprcv.org, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @lgbt_rpcv.

The Atlanta Regional Peace Corps Office had a booth, this year which AARPCV helped staff, in the Pride marketplace to recruit potential new PCVs. At least 50 interested individuals signed up for more information on Saturday alone; Sunday’s interest was even greater. The Peace Corps has had a booth at Atlanta Pride nearly every year for the past 17 years. This year 2014 was the first year that AARPCV participated in the Atlanta Pride Parade. Fifty-five plus people marched in the parade carrying flags from their Peace Corps countries of service. A local television station, 11 Alive, live-streamed the parade, including our flags’ display. AARPCV also is planning an all-day film festival, which will feature “Call me Kuchu” a film about being gay in which the National LGBT RPCVs has sponsored.

Editor’s Note;

This article is based on input from Amber Davis Collins and Suzanne Marks.

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