Celebrating International Lesbian Day

LGBTIQ+ History Month Series

Today is International Lesbian Day. So it’s fitting that the first post of our series for LGBTIQ+ History Month should feature two queer women – Tina Dixson and Andrea M. Ayala, two incredible activists who have dedicated to working towards the visibility of LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced people.

Words hold enormous power. Through words and names we come into being and get recorded in history. Often such words as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer are intentionally erased from documents. In this post we are exemplifying this with the Global Compact on Refugees that failed to mention LGBTIQ+ people. 

In the opening remarks at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum, António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, said that “Global Compact on Refugees gives us the blueprint”. He invited countries to be bold and concrete in the pledges they will make. “This is a moment for ambition”, he said, “The Global Compact on Refugees is our collective achievement and our collective responsibility.”

During the negotiation process with countries, LGBTIQ+ as an umbrella term never made it to the final text of the Global Compact on Refugees. The collective effort for refugees was achieved, but the specific needs of our LGBTIQ+ community were erased from the document. The lives of LGBTIQ+ persons were left at risk of violence at every minute.

In the light of this we want to acknowledge the important work and bravery of LGBTIQ+ activists who speak out loud. We want to say that we see your tireless work and sacrifice that you are making for the greater good of our community. Today we want to admire the work of Tina Dixson and Andrea M. Ayala during the first Global Refugee Forum in 2019.

In 2017 Tina Dixson was one the first refugee women to be at the Gender audit team lead by the UNSW Forced Migration Research Network and tasked with helping create gender-responsive Global Compact on Refugees. When she couldn’t participate in work of the Gender audit team she suggested taking Andrea M. Ayala on board. We knew that everyone would benefit from her expertise and enthusiasm.

In 2019, during the first Global Refugee Forum, these two wonderful persons delivered their speech at the Closing plenary in the Assembly Hall in front of all UN member states. They broke the silence.

Andrea Ayala Melendez said:

“we must include lesbian, trans, and queer women who are also victims from this systematic violence against refugee women.”

Tina Dixson closed with the joint refugee statement saying:

“We must [also] ensure inclusion of diverse groups within refugee communities such as LGBTIQ+ people and people with disabilities whose experiences are being constantly erased. Such erasure is violence that prevents people from living their lives to the fullest potential. We cannot claim that everyone counts, when we deny their human rights. For everyone to count, words must translate into actions”.

With the absence of LGBTIQ+ people in the text of the Global Compact on Refugees, the lives of LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced people were recorded through the work of Tina and Andrea at the Global Refugee Forum 2019. 

Thank you for making our lives count and visible.