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Human Rights of Lesbian,

Gay, Bisexual and

Transgender persons
Conducting a Dialogue

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right of every person
to life, privacy, health and equality before the law, as well as the right to free-
dom of expression and freedom from discrimination and violence, including
torture. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are constant-
ly at risk of persecution and gross violations of their fundamental human
rights in a number of countries. Many LGBT persons fear or face imprison-
ment, torture, abuse and even murder, solely because they live in a context
that does not tolerate their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender

In most countries there are LGBT

organisations, or loosely connected Policy dialogue plays a central role in Sweden’s development cooperation,
groups and networks, striving for and the purpose of this paper is to introduce a strategy for dialogue
equal rights and opportunities. The around LGBT persons’ human rights at global, regional and country
capacity of  the organisations varies, levels.
as well as the strategies they apply.
Many work through advocacy to
change the legal system to recognise
LGBT persons’ rights, and provide Discrimination and violation of the human rights of LGBT persons have
social support and counselling. Sup- negative implications on their ability to contribute to development and
port to LGBT organisations and indi- to benefit from it. Stigma and discrimination often leave LGBT persons
viduals who defend the human rights in a situation of poverty and render them vulnerable to violence and
of  LGBT persons comes in many HIV/Aids. Living openly, or even just being perceived as, or associated
forms, including financial and politi- with, an LGBT person, many times mean risk of losing one’s employment,
cal. The EU Toolkit to Promote and Protect housing, education, and access to health care. LGBT persons must
the Enjoyment of  all Human Rights by be recognised as rights-bearers and agents that have an indisputable
LGBT People, adopted in 2010, right to participate in processes and decisions that affect their lives and
includes a number of concrete recom- society at large.
mendations on this topic.
The Policy for Global Development
(PGD) states that Sweden will con-
tinue to raise and take initiatives with 2007–2009, stated that “in those
respect to difficult and controversial countries where Sweden systematically
issues, such as the rights of LGBT includes an LGBT perspective in the
persons. Addressing the rights development cooperation, the rights
of  LGBT persons also resonates with and poverty situation for LGBT per-
Sida’s human rights based approach sons is expected to improve, and there-
and emphasises including the perspec- by increasing their opportunities and
tives of people living in poverty. Sida’s ability to influence their own deci-
Action Plan on Sexual Orientation sions.” A new action plan with similar
and Gender Identity in Swedish content is under way.
Development Cooperation,

Why are sexual orientation of  citizens. Transparency is a pre-con-

and gender identity and dition for accurate reporting on impris-
expression important onments and prosecution of LGBT
human rights issues?
When it comes to the human rights of
Sida bases its human rights LGBT persons, the accountability
based approach on four of  governments in developing countries
principles: Openess and is generally very poor. Few governments
transparency, Accountability, show willingness to make commitments
Participation and Non- to protect the human rights of LGBT
discrimination. persons. However, there are positive
examples, such as South Africa that has
one of the most protective constitutions
for LGBT people in the world; Nepal
Openness and transparency which has a third legal gender; and
A state’s silence on the existence, as Uruguay, which recently introduced
well as the rights, of  LGBT persons legislation to allow change of legal gen-
in many countries, contradicts the der. Argentina, as the first country
principles of  transparency and good in Latin America, has legalised same-
governance. There are enormous sex marriage.
challenges on accessing data related Legal norms and standards,
to LGBT groups, for example, public enshrined in the human rights instru-
health statistics, related to sexual iden- ments, should also apply to LGBT
tity or practice. Information on LGBT persons and governments should
issues is generally nonexistent, and the be held to account for the observance
dissemination of  such information of  those rights.

The Gender Doc organisation campaigns

for LGBT rights in Moldova

is in many cases criminalized. In states Meaningful participation

with weak institutions and weak dem- and empowerment
ocratic structures, most marginalized The right to participation is crucially
and stigmatised groups not only suffer and inextricably linked to fundamen-
from unjust treatment from the gov- tal democratic principles. Meaningful
ernmental entities but also have more participation is dependent on the real-
difficulties in accessing information isation of  several human rights.
on policies that affect their lives or on If  people are to participate in society
rights they have. in a meaningful way, they must be free
Of particular importance is infor- to organise themselves without restric-
mation on human rights violations tion (right of  association), meet with-

out impediment (right of assembly), LGBT and poverty

say what they want without intimida- Poverty is a multi-dimensional con- Dialogue, in national, regional
tion (freedom of  expression), and have cept, where lack of  resources is inter- and multilateral fora, is a
access to relevant facts (right to infor- connected with lack of  power and valuable tool for Sida
mation). influence over one’s life and society to promote the rights of LGBT
LGBT persons and LGBT human at large. In order to be able to change people. The EU “Toolkit
rights defenders are often forced ones situation, a person must enjoy to Promote and Protect the
to silence, for fear of  persecution fundamental human rights and per- Enjoyment of All Human Rights
or fear of  losing employment etc. Ver- sonal security. LGBT persons are by LGBT People”, adopted in
bal and physical violence, or threat at greater risk of  being affected 2010, is useful for practitioners
of  violence, also contributes to isola- by poverty, as heteronormativity, dis- promoting and protecting
tion from different spheres of  society. crimination and criminalisation human rights of LGBT persons.
Further, limitations in freedom infringe on LGBT persons’ rights,
of  association for LGBT organisations affect their health, their position in the
deny them the status of  civil society labour market, their educational
actors. opportunities, their political participa-
tion and their access to social networks
Non-discrimination and services.
The interconnection of  the principles
of  non-discrimination and equality Dialogue
is among the most fundamental ele-
ments of  international human rights
Possible Entry Points
law. Discrimination and inequality
may arise from legal inequalities There are a number of  possible ways
in status and entitlements or from and approaches in which the rights
social values that shape relationships of  LGBT persons can be raised.
within communities. The principle In order to hold Governments account-
of  non-discrimination entails the able, it is important that the human
importance of  looking at effects, rights of LGBT persons are included
rather than intentions. This means in the UN Universal Periodic Review
that, regardless of  the intentions processes and shadow reports. In coun-
of  policy makers, a policy regime tries where the government is unlikely
is to be considered incompatible with to take LGBT rights into considera-
human rights principles if  it has tion, networking should be supported,
a discriminatory effect on a marginal- in order to mobilise legitimate human
ised group. rights actors and potential supporters
Discrimination affects LGBT per- willing to provide information about
sons at different levels. Lack of  anti- violations of  LGBT persons’ human
discrimination legislation or complaint rights. In dialogue with governments, it
mechanisms mean that there is no is recommended that the development
protection for LGBT persons from of  studies and surveys on the living
discrimination at the workplace, in the conditions and human rights’ status
labour market, within the health care of  LGBT persons are promoted.
system, in education, in STI preven- There are a several possible entry
tion, etc. It also means that there is no points that could be used in such dia-
legal protection from sexual, verbal logues. Depending on the context, dif-
and physical violence and harassment ferent approaches may be suitable.
due to sexual orientation or gender Which entry point to use should
identity or expression. Discriminatory be discussed and anchored within the
legal systems reserve some rights for domestic LGBT community.
a heterosexual and non-trans people
such as marriage, adoption, inherit- Public Health
ance, etc. Such legal systems and Heteronormativity, discrimination,
penal codes make it impossible for and criminalisation create unequal
LGBT persons to claim the right access to health care. LGBT persons
to protection from violations and dis- may find it harder to obtain adequate
crimination as that would entail a risk and, individually tailored care.
of  persecution. In terms of  HIV prevention, LGBT
groups are usually not included

in national health plans, and most acts incur harsh penalties. Laws of this
countries fail to report on MSM (men kind legitimise state sanctioned harass-
who have sex with men) indicators. ment of LGBT persons, and function
Almost universally, MSM and MTF as an excuse to deny them custody of
(male to female) transgender persons their children, the right to form an
are more affected by HIV than the organization, etc. The laws also
general population. Marginalisation, restrict the opportunities for HIV pre-
stigma, discrimination, and fear vention in the countries in question,
of  self-exposure make it more difficult and the scope for obtaining redress as
for MSM and MTF transgender per- a victim of crime. The countries that
sons to protect themselves from trans- have attracted the most international
mission, as these groups are less likely attention in recent years for applying
to access appropriate services. these laws include Iran, Cameroon,
The health of  lesbian and bisexual Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, but there
women also tends to be overlooked in have also been less publicized cases in
research and medical practice. Wom- other countries. For more details see the
en who have sex with women (WSW) collection of  land reports on
are still considered a low risk group se/?p=2517 (in Swedish).
in terms of  HIV vulnerability. How- LGBT persons all over the world
ever, the fact that HIV has low trans- face abuse, rape and murder. The root
mission in WSW practice has proven of  hate-motivated violence lies not
to be an inadequate reason to assume in the victim’s gender identity
that the group is not at risk. Some or expression or sexual orientation
women who have sex with women also or practice. Instead, it lies in the cul-
practice sex with men by choice, while tural norms of  the context in which
others are at risk because of  sexual they live. The State plays an instru-
violence, forced marriage etc. Ill- mental role in either perpetrating the
health is both a consequence of  and violence itself, legitimising violence
a strong contributory factor to mate- perpetrated by individuals, or prevent-
rial poverty and powerlessness, lack ing it through protective legislation.
of  influence and disfranchisement. Criminalising legislation gives reason
In dialogue with health ministries, to assume that violence and harass-
advocate for the inclusion of LGBT ment occur also outside of  the legisla-
groups in national health plans and tive system, since these laws have the
other national surveys. Are the groups effect that violence against LGBT per-
MTF (Male identifying himself/her- sons is legitimised and it provides
self as female) and MSM (men who a ground for extortion.
have sex with men) included In countries where LGBT persons
in National Health Strategic Plans are not mentioned in the penal code,
(NHSPs) or other prevalence studies? ‘morality laws’ may be used
Lack of  reporting on HIV prevalence as grounds for arrests, such as ‘causing
among these groups may indicate una- a public nuisance’ or ‘acts that are
wareness of  their vulnerability and contrary to good morals’. Criminalis-
even denial of  this existence. ing legislation is sometimes used
by politicians as a reason to oppose
Decriminalisation LGBT persons’ human rights.
More than 85 countries and territories Embassies could work actively for
worldwide have made homosexual decriminalisation within the frame-
acts a criminal offence. In such coun- work of  on-going human rights dia-
tries, a romantic relationship between logue and legal reform programmes.
two people of  the same sex may lead An embassy should argue for decrimi-
to a long prison sentence, lashing or, nalisation when the issue is on the
at worst, the death penalty. In the agenda. What is the official stand
United Arab Emirates, Iran, Sudan, on LGBT rights on behalf of  the gov-
Yemen and 12 Nigerian states, engag- ernment? Have politicians made any
ing voluntarily in homosexual prac- public statements? Is there state sanc-
tices is a capital offence. In Bangla- tioned violence against LGBT per-
desh, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, sons, such as imprisonments, arrests
Uganda and Zimbabwe, homosexual or executions?

However, the agenda setting should and bisexual women and FTM trans-
be the prerogative of the persons gender persons – are sanctioned,
affected. It must be the decision of  the or even carried out by, the victim’s
persons affected when and how own relatives. Women who do not
to bring up decriminalisation, because marry may end up being dependent
of  the risk of  backlash. As such, it is on their family, while not having any
of  strategic importance that civil soci- influence over their own life.
ety and LGBT organisations are Violence and threats of  violence
strengthened, so that they can take against family members may also
active part in bringing decriminalisa- restrict LGBT persons’ freedom and
tion up on the agenda. be an obstacle in participating openly
in activism for LGBT rights.
Non-discrimination The absence of  a legal framework
Discrimination within the labour mar- for same-sex families creates uncer-
ket affects LGBT persons’ chances tainty for children living in families
of  finding and keeping a job. Access that are considered unconventional.
to employment is particularly limited Certain LGBT issues can be
for transgender persons. brought up under the heading of  gen-
Heteronormativity and discrimina- der mainstreaming. Gender-related
tion also create unequal access to edu- violence, for instance, is a concept that Every person, regardless of sexual
cation. LGBT persons may lack the covers both men’s violence against orientation, gender identity and
support from their family and thus the women and hate-motivated violence gender expression are entitled
opportunity for further studies. School against LGBT persons. Dialogues to their rights. LGBT rights are not
can be a rough environment and between the authorities and civil soci- special rights, but the same
going to school may become impos- ety organisations, LGBT organisations human rights that should
sible for those who have suffered har- if  they exist or women’s organisations be afforded to all individuals.
assment because of  their sexuality that are LGBT inclusive, can be useful
or gender expression. fora to bring up such issues.
It can be useful to bring up the
question of  legislation and to promote FAQ
protective legislation, based on the
human rights argument, and to bring Below some FAQ and statements are
up hate-crime and hate-speech legisla- listed.
tion. Is there non-discrimination legis-
lation that gives protection on the “Why should we allow homosexuality here?”
labour market and within the school
system, on basis of  sexual orientation Homosexuality exists among all
and gender identity or expression? people and has done so since the
Do LGBT persons feel safe to report beginning of  recorded history.
assaults to the police and are their cas- It was not something invented by,
es taken seriously? nor only practised in, Western coun-
tries. The reason why it is more vis-
Social networks and family ible in Western countries is because
there generally is protective legisla-
LGBT persons often risk losing their tion that enable people to more
social networks if  their sexual orienta- openly claim equal rights.
tion or gender identity is revealed.
Even people from families that are not “Our laws are based on traditional beliefs
poor may end up in poverty if  their and should continue to reflect these. / Our
family turns their back on them. The religion forbids homosexuality/bisexuality/
family, for many the main source transgenderism, and our laws reflect our reli-
of  security, may for LGBT persons gion.”
be the single greatest threat to their
health and security. Honour-related Governments have the responsibility
violence directed at LGBT persons to safeguard the rights and freedoms
may lead to stigmatization, exclusion of  its citizens. Sometimes this means
and, at worst, death. It is not uncom- taking a proactive stand ahead of
mon that “curative” rapes – sexual public opinion. It is also the respon-
assaults intended to “convert” lesbian sibility of  the government to be

informed and updated on the implications of  the human Annexes

rights situation of  specific groups. International human
rights treaties and most national constitutions provide for 1. Sexual orientation and gender identity
the equal treatment under the law, which requires that and legal international Human Rights
states work to end legal discrimination on the grounds instruments and initiatives
of  sexual orientation.
The law should guarantee the same rights to everyone The UN Declaration of  Human Rights, and the Interna-
in the territory. Most countries have committed them- tional Convention on Civil and Political Rights, are built
selves to guarantee human rights for all. upon the principle of  universality. Therefore, protection
of  LGBT persons’ human rights does not require  “special
“If we accept these changes and allow homosexuality, we will open the considerations”. As is stated in the preamble of  ICCPR,
door to immorality. We will be encouraging the spread of  HIV/AIDS, “recognition of  the inherent dignity and of  the equal and
and undermine marriage, which is the cornerstone of  our society.” inalienable rights of  all members of  the human family
is the foundation of  freedom, justice and peace in the
Human rights do not depend on – and are not subject world”.
to – different interpretations of  morality. Any State that Another fundamental principle of  the Declaration of
has signed the UN Convenant on Civil and Political Human Rights is non-discrimination. Thus, there is no jus-
Rights is obliged to secure the protection of  the individu- tification for states to discriminate on the basis of  sexual ori-
al’s private life, regardless of  how the person lives. In a entation or gender identity or expression. The argument
democratic society, any interference with the right to pri- that discrimination on either of  these bases is not prohib-
vacy must have legitimate aims and originate in transpar- ited, simply because they are not mentioned in lists
ent procedures. of  grounds of  discrimination, is not valid. In several court
UNAIDS states in its operational guidelines for MSM cases, ‘other status’ has been interpreted as inclusive of  sex-
that ”even in generalized HIV epidemics, men who have ual orientation. Moreover, 66 UN member states have
sex with men are more affected by HIV than the general signed a joint statement confirming that discrimination
population”. Transmission between MSM is not a result on the grounds of  sexual orientation and gender identity
of  the sexual relation as such, but of  lack of  information are indeed covered by the Universal Declaration of  Human
about prevention, access to prevention and health care/ Rights. Yet another undisputable argument is the right
testing. The evidence from medical experts, accepted to privacy, which has been recognised as an argument
by WHO, is that it is more difficult to prevent the spread in decriminalisation processes.
of  HIV if  people who are at risk are deterred from get-
ting tested and treated, as their relationships are out- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
lawed. Recognizing the existence of  and rights of  men The following are examples of  how articles from the Uni-
who have sex with men is therefore in line with a respon- versal Declaration of  Human Rights can provide a basis for
sible response to HIV/AIDS. dialogue on LGBT persons’ Human Rights:
• ARTICLE 13 & 14: “Everyone has the right to freedom
“What do the rights of  LGBT persons have to do with poverty allevia- of  movement and residence within the borders of  each
tion?” state” and “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy
in other countries asylum from persecution” Homosexual
Poverty deprives people of  the right to determine and acts are outlawed in over 85 countries and territories,
shape their own life. Poverty affects different groups which increases the need of  LGBT persons to seek refuge.
in different ways. The socio-economic situation, ethnic This may be the last resort for someone living under the
origin, sex, politico-economic instability and climate are constant threat of  being exposed, excluded, imprisoned
just a few of  the factors that create and exacerbate pov- or executed. Likewise, in many countries same-sex rela-
erty. However, in spite of  the numerous social, political, tionships are not legally recognized, which may also be a
economic and cultural factors causing poverty, it is safe reason for migration.
to say that LGBT people are at great risk of  being affect- • ARTICLE 23: “Everyone has the right to work”.
ed by poverty, precisely because of  their sexuality or gen- In many countries LGBT persons are systematically dis-
der expression. criminated against within the labour market. This leads
Laws and norms of  society restrict and infringe on the to obstacles in terms of  provision and financial and social
rights of  LGBT people, affecting their health, their posi- independence.
tion in the labour market, their educational opportunities, • ARTICLE 25: “Everyone has the right to a standard
their political participation and their access to social net- of  living adequate for the health and well-being of  him-
works. All projects intended directly or indirectly to fight self and of  his family”. Violation of  the right not to suf-
poverty should review whether their activities maintain fer discrimination leads to a negative cycle of  restricted
or even reinforce prevailing heteronormative concepts opportunities, which in turn may lead to poverty. LGBT
of  gender and sexuality. persons’ right to health is overlooked when the health-
care system is founded on the assumption that all patients
are heterosexual.

Examples of statements regarding the Human Rights vide information about what they explicitly entail for LGBT
of LGBT persons: people. They include information on extrajudicial execu-
A number of  international bodies have spoken out against tions, violence and torture, access to justice, privacy, non-
criminalisation of  homosexual acts. For instance, the discrimination, rights to freedom of  expression and assem-
UN Committee on Human Rights decided in the 1994 bly, employment, health, education, immigration and refu-
in the case of  Toonen v. Australia that the State of  Tasmania’s gee issues, public participation, and a variety of  other
criminalisation of  same-sex acts, contravened the interna- rights. In 2010 an Activist’s Guide that gives an introduc-
tional covenant on Civil and Political Rights. tion to the Yogyakarta Principles and their use, as well as a
The UN General Assembly Third Committee adopted report on the impact of  the Principles, was released. More
a resolution in November 2006 condemning extrajudicial information and the publications can be found on
executions on the grounds of  homosexuality. For its part,
the European Court of  human rights, in three cases dating
from 1981, 1988 and 1993, stated that “sodomy laws” con- EU Toolkit to Promote the Enjoyment of all Human
travened the European Convention on Human Rights. Rights by LGBT People
The UN Special Rapporteurs have increasingly This toolkit was published in 2010 and has the purpose
included specific reference to the Human Rights of  LGBT of  providing staff in the EU Headquarters, EU Delegations,
persons in their reports. In 1999, the Special Rapporteur Representations and Embassies with an operational set
on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, of  tools to be used in dialogue with third countries, as well
Asma Jahangir, was the first to include individual cases as with international and civil society organisations, in order
of  severe persecution of  sexual minorities in her reports to promote and protect the human rights of  LGBT persons
to the UN Commission on Human Rights. In consequence, within its external action.
some members of  the Commission accused her of  going
beyond her mandate. 2. Monitoring and evaluation
In a report from April 2010, the Special Rapporteur
on the right of  everyone to the enjoyment of  the The EU Toolkit entails a number of  indicators for tracking
highest attainable standard of  physical and men- and monitoring the human rights situation for LGBT per-
tal health, examines the relationship between the right sons in a country as well as for discovering progress or set-
to the highest attainable standard of  health and the crimi- backs. It is quite comprehensive and covers 10 basic human
nalization of  three forms of  private, adult, consensual sexu- rights principles: Right to Life; Right to freedom from torture
al behaviour among which same-sex conduct and sexual or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment; Right to equality
orientation is one. The Special Rapporteur suggests that before the law and non-discrimination; Right to privacy;
decriminalization is necessary as part of  a comprehensive Right to association; Freedom of  assembly, Freedom of  infor-
right-to-health approach. Such measures include human mation and expression, Right to work, Right to health, Rights
rights education, the participation and inclusion of  vulner- of  children.
able groups, and efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination These indicators can provide a fair picture of  the human
in respect of  these groups. rights situation for LGBT persons in a country or region.
In Europe, in applying the ‘reasonable and objective’ The analysis and strategic planning must always be context
test, the European Court of  Human Rights has con- specific. If  there is an LGBT movement, it should be
demned discrimination on the grounds of  sexual orienta- involved in political dialogue. If  there is no such movement,
tion, in considering the right to respect for private life, but this may indicate the severeness of  the situation for LGBT
not when considering the right to respect for family life. persons. However, there may be other ways of  supporting
Within the European Union, there is a general prohibi- the LGBT community on their terms, i e through health
tion on discrimination on the grounds of  sexual orientation outreach programs, HIV/AIDS prevention programs, etc.
in employment. Article 21 of  the 2000 Charter of  Fun- In terms of  the accountability of  the governments human
damental Rights of  the European Union calls for the rights commitments, active measures must be taken to ensure
prohibition of  any discrimination, on the basis of  sexual that the human rights of  LGBT persons are respected. Are
orientation. there anti-discrimination legislation, policies, and action
plans? Are there research reports on homophobic and
The Yogyakarta Principles transphobic violence? Are MSM and MTF transgender per-
The Yogyakarta Principles are a set of  legal principles sons included in national HIV/AIDS prevention strategies?
on how international law should apply to human rights viola- For participation in democratic processes as equal actors
tions based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expres- in society, LGBT organisations must have the legitimacy
sion. A group of  human rights experts from 25 countries for- and ability to give a voice to the LGBT community, e.g.
mulated these principles, which were adopted at a meeting by participating in public dialogues, without fear of  perse-
in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. cution. Are there laws that constrain the freedom of  infor-
The Yogyakarta Principles are very helpful guidelines mation and expression? Are there limitations in the Free-
in applying the principles of  human rights to issues of  sexu- dom of  Assembly and Right to Association? (If  there is leg-
al orientation and gender identity and expression, as they islation against pornography, can this be use to prevent dis-
make the human rights principles more tangible and pro- tribution of  LGBT friendly materials or educational
materials about sexuality, depending on the legal definition • Transvestism: Originating in a sense that the role of  one’s
of  pornography.) Freedom of  Assembly and Right to Asso- own gender is too narrow, transvestism is a way of  coun-
ciation are usually constrained for LGBT communities, terbalancing the gender role to which one has been
with reference to a criminalising legislation, meaning that acclimatized, by using attributes and symbols culturally
the organisations can be outlawed or denied registration, defined as “female” or “male”.
because their agenda is contrary to a legislation that crimi- • Drag: Using appearance and behaviour to exaggerate
nalises homosexual acts. typical characteristics of  conventional gender roles.
A male role is often called a drag king, and the female
3. List of common LGBT concepts counterpart a drag queen.
LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, is an Intersexualism is a general term used for a variety of  con-
umbrella term for sexual orientation, gender identity and ditions in which a person is born with a reproductive
gender expression. The term has been developed in a West- or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical defi-
ern, 20th-century context and in many parts of  the world, nitions of  female or male. Intersex anatomy doesn’t always
other terms are used. However, LGBT has come to be show up at birth, and sometimes a person is found to have
an internationally valid term, even if  its implications vary intersex anatomy when she or he reaches the age
in different contexts. Some organizations have added the of  puberty.
letters Q and I (queer and/or intersex).
The Heteronorm
Homosexuality Heteronormativity is the institutionalisation of the idea that
The ability to love and/or be sexually attracted to a mem- only heterosexuality is normal, and only particular kinds of
ber of  the same sex. heterosexual relations are normal.
In English, the term “gay” is often used to describe
a homosexual man, and “lesbian” is used for a homosexual Identity vs. behaviour
woman. People who have sex with others of  the same sex do not
necessarily identify themselves as gay, lesbian (homosexual)
Bisexuality or bisexual. The term LGBT is a way of  describing sexual- SIDA61258en. Department for Empowerment (Democracy, Human Rights and Gender Equality)
The ability to be sexually attracted to and/or love someone ity and gender expression in relation to human rights in the
irrespective of  sex. social, civil, political, cultural and economic spheres. The
There may be a distinction between how a person feels term LGBT covers both identity and expression, but peo-
(what identity they have) and how they live (with a man or ple’s sexual practices are not always reflected in their iden-
a woman). Living with a person of  the opposite sex doesn’t tity. Two terms sometimes used are MSM (men who have
automatically mean that a person is hetero­sexual. sex with men) and WSW (women who have sex with wom-
en). This avoids mentioning what are perceived as set iden-
Transgender tities. Men who have sex with men and women who have
Since transgender is an umbrella term, it’s important to be sex with women do not necessarily define themselves
aware that there are many different ways in which a person as homosexual or bisexual, or feel any solidarity with oth-
can be transgender. Transgenderism is all about gender ers who identify themselves as LGBT.
identity and expression, rather than primarily about sexual- It’s important to bear in mind that the identities
ity. Transgender people may be homosexual, bisexual embraced by the term do not manifest themselves in the
or heterosexual. same way worldwide, and that categories change with time
• Transgender or intergender: A term describing people who and place.
see their gender identity as transcending the simple Local contexts, with their specific cultural codes and
male–female divide. practices, are all different and must always be considered
• Transsexualism: A deeply rooted sense of  not belonging when dealing with LGBT issues internationally.
in the body you were born with and the identity you
have been legally assigned.


Find more information, references,

and web links that may be useful in your
dialogue on rights of LGBT persons:


Address: SE-105 25 Stockholm, Sweden.
Visiting address: Valhallavägen 199.
Phone: +46 (0)8-698 50 00. Fax: +46 (0)8-20 88 64.