By Munahil Sultana || Contributing Writer
During last week’s Common Hour, Professor Susan Dicklitch-Nelson and Professor Kasparek of the Government Department presented their work with the F&M Global Barometers in “Canaries in the Coal Mine: Global LGBTQI+ Rights in the 21st Century.”
The F&M Global Barometers, consisting of the F&M Global Barometer of Gay Rights (GBGR®), the Global Barometer of Transgender Rights (GBTR™), and the Global Barometers’ LGBTQI+ Perception Index (GBPI) provide a global measure of LGBTQI+ human rights in 204 countries and regions.
I spoke with Professor Susan Dicklitch-Nelson and Professor Kasparek to learn more about their work and what they hope to bring to the student body:
1. What is one thing you wish students knew about the F&M Global Barometers?
Susan Dicklitch-Nelson: That the F&M Global Barometers are a product of F&M College creativity and innovation— and a liberal arts education— from faculty to students to professional staff. The FMGB are the only measure of how human rights persecuting or protecting countries are toward their sexual and gender identity minorities.
Stefanie Kasparek: I wish students knew that we all have a role to play in how safe and protected others feel. I want students to know that small acts of kindness and tolerance can go a long way in improving the lives of others, no matter what the law does. The results of the GBPI make this very clear.
2. What has been the most rewarding part of this work? What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Susan Dicklitch-Nelson: Knowing that government agencies, policy makers, activists, NGOs, and individuals actually use our work is very rewarding. In other words, a lot of academic research gets read by other academic researchers and doesn’t have an impact outside of the academy. This work does. As Professor Kasparek mentioned, reading the comments from people as far away as Iran or Afghanistan, and hearing how important having a survey asking them about their lived human rights reality is to them is frankly, very humbling. Those people are on the front lines of fighting for human rights — we are just trying to give them a voice….and help effect change!
At the same time, that is one of the challenges. It’s really hard to work day-in and day-out on human rights and to see the extent of how much individuals are suffering simply because of who they are…and who they love. This also dovetails with the current culture war, which centers LGBTQI+ people in the crosshairs. Most LGBTQI+ people are just trying to live their lives, as one person said from Cameroon, they are not trying to take away anyone’s rights— they are just fighting for their own rights, and in the process, fighting for their lives.
Stefanie Kasparek: I think the most rewarding aspect of the project is seeing people care. We have a great network of government and non-government partners who want to use the results to improve the lives of LGBTQI+ individuals on the ground. It is also really great to see how people take in the information and think about what this means for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. I believe that change has to come from the top down but also from the bottom up. So this is great. The most challenging aspect for me are the cries for help we received. It is heartbreaking how much people suffer and how helpless we are in easing their pain. A lot of academic work is abstract and allows us to investigate problems from the sidelines. This project is different.
3. How can students get involved with your work?
More practically, every year we hire Hackman scholars to work with the team. This summer, we have 2 positions available. Apply for the position. If you are a recent graduate, let us know of your interest in the project— we have consistently hired F&M graduates to work with the F&M Global Barometers team.
As a current student in Professor Dicklitch-Nelson’s Global LGBTQ+ Human Rights course, I have had the distinct pleasure of learning more about the F&M Global Barometer in a classroom setting. During this semester, I have learned more about the F&M Global Perception Index and the importance of recognizing state and social protections while understanding lived realities of these perceptions. The work of the F&M Global Barometrs is instrumental in understanding the state of LGBTQ+ human rights globally.
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Junior Munahil Sultana is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.