The MSMGF Speaking Out Initiative for HIV Advocates finds its voice in Honduras and Central America: Part 2


By Kieran Kennedy


The Speaking Out Initiative is run by MSMGF and focuses on addressing the health and human rights needs of MSM. It aims to support HIV advocacy efforts and leadership at the grassroots by training MSM and transgender people to protect their rights.











Edwin Hernández (ASPIDH-Arcoiris), is a gay and transgender advocate from El Salvador. S/he participated in the Speaking Out training that took place in La Ceiba Honduras in February 2013. Edwin began her advocacy in 1995 when many from her community were dying of AIDS and violence against gay people was at a very high level. Like other participants, Edwin was impressed by the practical orientation of the Speaking Out training and the inclusion of dynamic fieldwork: “The workshop puts to the test the actual tools necessary for activism, how we could make actual changes to legislation. It was spectacular. We went out into the street and worked with others.”  


Edwin described how the Speaking Out training emphasized the need for written plans to tackle the various human rights issues faced by LGBT people in El Salvador. Written plans have facilitated a more thorough and effective response to violence directed towards gay and trans* people. S/he and other activists have been able to achieve greater visibility for the murders of LGBT people by completing a plan for documentation and denunciation in both domestic and international forums.


Edwin has become a lot more systematic in her approach to advocacy in the wake of the Speaking Out training. For example, in the 2012 election held for parliamentary deputies, the only action taken on behalf of transgender rights was a press conference that did not garner a response from any of the political parties. In February 2014 during the presidential election, Edwin and other advocates attempted a different approach. S/he and other advocates spearheaded a thorough analysis of their approach for the promotion of transgender rights. They decided to seek a written commitment from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal that transgender people would not be prevented from voting by homophobic election officials who rejected their identity papers. They orchestrated a coordinated advocacy campaign involving letter-writing and radio and television appearances. They succeeded in securing a statement defending the rights of trans* people to vote from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. This statement was broadcast nationally and no judges publicly came out against the statement – a significant step toward the human rights of trans* people in El Salvador.


Advocates including Edwin are now seeking amendments to the electoral code at the national level to enshrine protections based on sexual and gender identity. Members of the LGBT community were official observers in the recent elections. The positive statement of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is an encouraging sign that these efforts will ultimately be successful. Edwin summarizes what s/he learned about effective advocacy from Speaking Out: “Write a plan, describe actions, and then take them.”


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