18/02/2022 | Writer: Ege Tekinbaş

Ege Tekinbas wrote about local governments and LGBTI+ policies on good practices #forequality.

Local Governments and LGBTI+ Policies Through Good Practice Examples Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+


The judgement most frequently encountered by those who work with local governments is perhaps “Local governments are the closest administrative unit to the public”. Although indirectly this judgement presumes that local governments know the public that it serves, and local governments are in direct communication and relationship with its public. However, in reality, this presumption may not be the case. Although local governments have begun to understand that the communities they serve are built by the coexistence of different identities and to develop services and policies in this direction, LGBTI+s[1] are one of the groups that benefit the least from this transformation, especially in conservative countries[2]. The "anti-LGBTI+ attitude documents" that started to be published in Poland in 2019 and that were adopted by dozens of local governments, are perhaps the most concrete example of this exclusionary and discriminatory approach[3]. Despite this, there is a considerable number of local governments that obliged themselves to increase the participation of LGBTI+s in the policymaking, practice, and feedback processes as equal stakeholders. These obligations reflect that there is a considerable number of local governments, who are dedicated to human rights and fundamental freedoms. This article aims to list successful policies and methods through best examples and implementation tools to support local governments in undertaking similar activities.


UNESCO Canada Commission – Implementation Tools[4] for LGBT2Q+[5] Inclusion:


This guide, prepared by the Canadian Inclusive Municipalities Coalition[6] for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is based on the United Nations conventions on human rights and fundamental freedoms and the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as examples of good practices in Canada.


The guide groups the benefits of inclusive policies for local governments under 4 categories.


The guide groups fundamental efforts and activities that are available to municipalities to take any action on producing and implementing LGBTQ2+ inclusive policies;


·      Support services tailored for residents of the cities,

·      Support programs for employees,

·      Transformation in workplace culture,

·      Transformation in recruitment practices,

·      Programs for the safety of the people living in the city,

·      Inclusive city infrastructure,

·      Community programs,

·      Consultation and participatory programs targeted to the residents of the city


The guide provides basic information about the conceptual framework to local governments based on the principle of "intersectionality". Local governments are recommended to be aware of the different discriminations that individuals with various identities of sexual orientation and gender identity intersect (i.e., migration, ethnic identity, age, language, poverty) can suffer[7].


The guide has identified 7 main areas of intervention based on the widespread discrimination and difficulties faced by LGBTQ2+. In this sense, the guide identified and developed recommendations and examples of good practices from Canada:



Communication and Participation: Municipalities should be able to communicate equally with every resident within the boundaries of local governments, and should be inclusive in communication tools and language. In line with this, data collection processes should also be inclusive and accurate. Municipalities should avoid restrictive expressions on sexual orientation and gender identities while collecting data, and provide options for individuals to express their own gender identities.


The City of Hamilton (State of Ontario) LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee assess and guides the inclusion and participation efforts of the city. With the pandemic, Committee met on online platforms and broadcast meetings on YouTube.



Crime and Law Enforcement: Given that LGBTQ2+s are systematically discriminated in their daily life, work, social relations, public spaces, schools, and the judiciary system and become targets of violence, the guide encourages local governments to cooperate with the law enforcement on crimes against LGBTQ2+ individuals and groups. The guide further recommended local governments to raise awareness about the violence against disadvantaged groups and develop community-based mechanisms to support survivors. If the law enforcement officers are not competent to address discriminatory practices, local governments are encouraged to prevent additional victimizations by playing a facilitating role in survivors' access to law enforcement, or by creating safe areas in the city.


In collaboration with the Municipality of Vancouver, Vancouver Police Department developed a policy for initial contact with transgender people. This policy aims to prevent language and behavior-based discrimination towards trans groups and individuals and aims to establish an environment of trust.



Human Resources: To fight against discrimination, municipalities should review their recruitment processes while considering the difficulties that LGBTQ2+s face in recruitment and promotion processes, and advance such processes and practices that may have visible or hidden discriminations. In this context, individuals’ freedom to self-determination should be ensured, and statements of the individuals, in this regard, should be taken as a basis. Employees should be allowed to take leave for gender reassignment surgery or similar medical needs. Transformative training and workshops on the use of sexist language and attitudes towards employees are among the actions recommended to municipalities.


Municipality of Winnipeg – Pride at Work: The Municipality of Winnipeg is a member of the Pride at Work initiative and made its corporate commitments to its’ LGBTQ2+ employees.



Working with Youth: Due to the risks of LGBTQ2+ youth facing discrimination in school and family life and the costly consequences of these risks, municipalities should carry out awareness-raising activities for young people, encourage mental transformation, provide protective and supportive community-based programs, and involve LTBTQ2+ youth in their decision processes. Inclusive social activities aimed at raising awareness should be included within the inclusive youth work organized by the municipalities.


Action Plan for Trans Youth – Municipality of Toronto: The Municipality of Toronto has prepared a participatory action plan to direct its efforts to support trans youth.



Studies towards the Elderly: Elderly LGBTQ2+s are one of the groups that experience the most discrimination in terms of intersectionality. Based on this need, the guide recommended municipalities to work on supporting civil society organizations and strengthen the inclusivity of the elderly care and support services provided by the municipalities.


Senior LGBTQ – 519 Program: The City of Toronto sponsored program named 519 provides older LGBTQs book clubs, recreation activities, cultural events, and specialized pride week events. This program has also several specialized support programs such as settlement support programs for migrant LGBTQ+ as well as housing and legal support programs for LGBTQ+ with different needs.



Infrastructure and Recreation: The infrastructure of the cities should address the needs of LGBTQ2+s. In this context, toilets, changing cabins, sports areas or similar common public areas should be safe and accessible, especially for trans and non-binary people. In addition to this, the guide recommends municipality personnel who work on the maintenance of public areas to receive training on discrimination, homophobia and trans exclusion.


Inclusive parks and recreational areas for trans and all gender identities – City of Vancouver: A working group under the Municipality's Parks Unit developed special programs for trans and all gender identities in public parks and pools and made interventions on the areas of discrimination by regularly recording experiences of individuals who are using these public areas.



Health: If the health services are not directly provided by municipalities, municipalities can advocate for health services to be inclusive of LGBTQ2+s. In the scope of these advocacy efforts, municipalities can facilitate the access of LGBTQ2+s to health services by providing training and group therapies to combat discrimination and marginalization for health care providers, and social workers as well as providing psychological support programs.


Ontario Rainbow Health Program: This program, run with the support of central and local governments, provides information and support on health training and access to health services to LGBTQ2+ individuals and their families.



Intersectionality in LGBTI Policies of Metropolitan Municipalities Project and Guidebook[8]


World Association of Metropolitan Municipalities (Metropolis) developed a comprehensive guidebook, which started with a project, implemented in; Montevideo (Uruguay), Barcelona (Spain), Berlin (Germany), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Mexico City (Mexico) and Medellín (Colombia) and later expanded to other metropolitan cities. As a result of having been implemented in different contexts and being resource-rich, the guidebook aims to respond to the important needs and shortcomings in LGBTI+ policies.


What is intersectionality and why is it important:


As mentioned above, intersectionality can establish a layered and nuanced platform for discrimination and exclusion as individuals and groups interlink multiple identities and characteristics. This guide lists other identity factors that may create the intersection for LGBTI+s below:


·      Social class,

·      Disability,

·      Religious and spiritual beliefs,

·      Age,

·      Ethnicity, origin


Based on the heterogeneity of the metropolitan populations, the guide states that the LGBTI+s living in the cities also have a similar dynamic of heterogeneity. Hence, the guide highlights the insufficiency and fallacy of pursuing one-size-fits-all LGBTI+ policies of local governments to prevent multi-layered discrimination.


The guide emphasizes that perceiving LGBTI+s as a homogenous single group and limiting municipalities’ LGBTI+ policymaking to a one-size-fits-all solution would further marginalize and segregate groups who experience discrimination due to their various identities. In addition to this, the guide elaborates on “pink-washing”, and raises concerns on activities that legitimize various discriminatory behavior such as xenophobia and islamophobia under LGBTI+ labelling of certain venues. In line with this, the guide calls the Municipality of Catalonia to cancel activities of certifying LGBTI+ friendly night venues, which may lead to the legitimization of discriminatory behavior under the LGBTI+ label. In this context, the guide explains that such certification method should include intersectionality and consider discrimination that individuals experience based on the different types of identities.


As can be seen from this example, LGBTI+ policies that do not focus on intersectionality will not cover all LGBTI+ individuals and groups, and will also carry the risk of serving an undesirable purpose such as legitimizing other discriminations.


Fundamental Thematic Areas for Municipalities:

The guide recommends local governments to identify target groups and intersectional identities, which would further identify the policy and action to be followed on ensuring equal and equitable representations of such groups in local governments. In this context, fundamental thematic areas for local governments’ policies and actions would differ as the targeted groups and identities are context-specific. However, the guide lists the most common fundamental thematic areas and recommend local governments to focus on:


·      Education,

·      Security and violent-free life,

·      Employment,

·      Art and culture,

·      Sports,

·      Health and sexual/reproductive health

·      Access and use of public spaces,

·      Participation, empowerment, and active citizenship,

·      Institutional structures


Local governments are expected to design and implement holistically inclusive policies and services based on the needs and demands of LGBTI+s, including the intersecting identities and belongings.



Case study: Rainbow in the Neighborhood


The LGBTI+ awareness training given to the Neighborhood Security team of the Police Department by Turin Municipality is a positive and exemplary case study. Within the scope of this training program, the police, who is responsible for the supervision of public spaces, received training from the municipality to address cases of homophobic abuse and harassment in schools and public areas. A portion of this training was allocated to a session, where police listened to LGBTI+’s experiences on facing different kinds of discriminations due to various identities such as gender, ethnicity, and religious beliefs. During these training sessions, LGBTI+s from different social and cultural backgrounds also shared their coming-out stories, and discussed challenges and discriminations that they faced while coming out. One of the positive outcomes of the training sessions was the mental change on prejudice and preconceptions towards LGBTI+ individuals, especially in Muslim communities.


Basic tools and principles for creating and implementing intersectional LGBTI+ policies:


Intersectional LGBTI+ policies are expected to be addressed in the planning, implementation, and monitoring processes of the local governments. In this context, the strategic plan and budget processes of local governments are important inputs. In addition to this, municipalities are recommended to set specialized action plans. The guide recommends the use of fundamental principles and tools in all planning, implementation, and monitoring-evaluation processes.


Institutional structure: As a first step, local governments are expected to incorporate the intersectional approach into their institutional structures. In addition to institutional training and awareness studies, the rotation of municipality personnel on departments that work on policymaking and services targeting to different identity politics is recommended. Lastly, analysis of the intersectional profile of the municipality personnel and prioritization of recruitment of groups and identities that are underrepresented in the municipality are among the recommended methods for active implementation of inclusive policymaking.


Communication: When interacting with residents of the city, local governments should address the differing needs of the different groups. For example, local governments should ensure that the services and policies provided are understood by all LGBTI+s regardless of educational background, ethnicity, and disability.


Berlin Lesbian Visibility Award


The Berlin Lesbian Visibility Award, organized by the Berlin Senate, aims to represent lesbians in a way that includes all their different identities and belongings. The gender star (*) which is used to remove gender identity in the sign language was identified as the symbol of the event, emphasizing that this award covers all lesbians from a wide range of identities such as disability, gender identity, ethnicity, race, social status, age, religious belief.


Participation: Similarly, it is expected that participatory structures and processes created by municipalities would address the different identities of LGBTI+s, and the experiences, needs and demands of all these different identities are included in the planning, implementation, and monitoring-evaluation processes. By doing so, the voices of under-represented and often neglected groups (i.e., elderly, or disabled LGBTI+ individuals) would be included in the participatory processes.


Toronto for All: An example for Communication and Participation


As part of the initiative promoted by the Toronto Metropolitan Municipality to raise awareness and promote dialogue among the people of the city, campaigns are carried out each year that focus on the protection of different groups (i.e., Islamophobia, trans youth, homeless people, racism, and indigenous peoples). The campaigns are based on the intersectionality of these groups and funded by the Municipal Assembly. Projects to be implemented by an advisory committee made up of civil society are determined and implemented with the funding provided by the Municipal Assembly. The messages are shared with the local communities and the residents of the city through billboards and other selected communication tools.


Case Studies from Council of Europe Member States[9]:

The Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities released "The Role of Local and Regional Authorities in Protecting LGBTI Individuals in the Scope of Rising Anti-LGBTI Hate Speech and Discrimination" in January 2021. In the scope of this report and its’ recommendations, local governments recently started sharing information on experiences and best practices, which develops further recommendations to central, regional, and local governments. The example of good practices of local governments on LGBTI+ policies and practices can be summarized in three main groups.


Inter-municipal cooperation, sister city practices and networks: Municipalities can create various opportunities and benefits on LGBTI+ rights by cooperating with other municipalities and implementing sister city practices. For example, they can share their experience and knowledge by sharing good practices and policies on LGBTI+ rights with sister cities. In addition, they can strengthen their civil and local government networks by inviting local government employees and civil society representatives from sister cities for information-sharing. Finally, municipalities that experience security threats during Pride Weeks can send their resident activists, representatives of civil society organizations and local employees who focus on LGBTI+ rights, to the Pride Weeks organized by the sister cities, which would also cultivate international LGBTI+ solidarity. Similarly, different municipalities can cooperate their efforts on supporting certain policies and establishing thematic networks. In addition, the termination of sister city relations with Polish local governments, who have signed anti-LGBTI+ policies, is an important example in terms of political solidarity against discrimination.


RE. A. DY Network - Italy: A good example of cooperation between local and regional authorities is the Italian RE.A.DY Network. In 2006, the Rome and Turin City Councils launched RE.A.DY, a network of public administrations dealing specifically with anti-discrimination policies on sexual orientation and gender identity. The network, which has expanded since its inception, now has seventy-three partners across Italy, including five regional governments, eleven provinces, fifty municipal councils, three municipal districts, three provincial equality bodies and a local government association. Network partners share policies and best practices to promote social inclusion of LGBTI+s as well as promoting administrative actions and regulations that protect vulnerable groups against discrimination. In the absence of national legislation and policies, Italian local and regional governments have led through this network to improve the lives of LGBTI+s who live under their administration.


Rainbow Cities Network – The Netherlands: Launched in May 2013, members of the Network exchange ideas on good practices, collaborate on projects and share materials on advocacy. The City of Amsterdam LGBTI+ Unit and the Netherlands Center for Social Development are responsible for coordinating the Network that is supported by the Dutch Government. Officials representing the Rainbow Cities maintain communication and coordination through annual meetings and other communication tools such as email lists. Any city or region that has or intends to develop an active LGBTI+ policy can become a member of this unofficial network.


Cologne Pride Festival - Germany: In July 2019, the city of Cologne hosted a 4-day festival attended by activists from six of Cologne's twenty-two sister cities during the Cologne Pride Parade. These cities are Istanbul (Turkey), Katowice (Poland), Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Tel Aviv (Israel), Liverpool (England) and Barcelona (Spain). The main theme of the festival was “pride activists and the history of [sister cities] pride movements”. Cologne's sister cities later invited the Mayor of Cologne to their local pride events, including Katowice (Poland) and Cluj (Romania). This project showing international solidarity was important proof that cooperation between local and regional governments is necessary to promote and protect LGBTI+ rights.


Support to Civil Society: The Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities recommended local governments to support civil society organizations that provide services to LGBTI+s who are particularly face intense discrimination risks. At this recommendation report, good practices on shelter support, psycho-social support, legal counselling and support for violence prevention, protection from violence on LGBTI+s stands out.


GERMANY: In Berlin, the Schwulenberatung Association provides shelter capacity for around 100 LGBTI+ migrants. The Health and Social Affairs Department of the Municipality facilitated the establishment of this center with the arrangements it made in the city's zoning plan.


BELGIUM: In 2018, with the support of the Municipality of Brussels, a shelter was created to provide support and temporary accommodation to young people who have been rejected by their families based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The shelters provide accommodation to people aged 18 to 25 for up to three months. In addition to this, the initiative also provides support on health, social and judicial, socio-cultural, education and employment, and long-term housing. The Ministry of Education of the Flanders Region has been supporting the efforts of NGOs to raise awareness on LGBTI+ issues at schools since 1999. Since 2003, the ministry has systematically supported the LGBTI+ focused NGO, Cavaria, to develop a long-term and comprehensive approach.


Creating an environment for dialogue and providing visibility: The Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities underlines that one of the most fundamental duties of local governments on LGBTI+ policies is to provide an environment of dialogue and increase the visibility of LGBTI+s. In this respect, the studies carried out within the scope of Pride Week sets out good practices on policy and attitude documents, strategy documents, awareness-raising activities, and cultural activities.


SLOVENIA: Ljubljana City Council is committed to supporting programs of NGOs and several stakeholders. These support programs include awareness-raising activities for the families of LGBTI+s, awareness-raising initiatives at schools, and training programs to promote the participation of LGBTI+s in public institutions.


DENMARK: The Copenhagen Pride Parade, a week-long festival in Copenhagen culminating in the Pride Parade, is one of the oldest annual LGBTI+ film festivals in the world. Aiming to challenge and explore stereotypes, influence contemporary gender debate, and increase the visibility of LGBTI+ stories in the media, film screenings are held in different halls of the city for up to 10 days during the festival.


GEORGIA: On the occasion of May 17, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in 2018, the Mayor of Tbilisi stated, “Everyone has the opportunity to express their opinion in our country and in our city. It is part of democracy, so no one's rights can be restricted”.


Conclusion: Common Practices and Principles


The 3 different best practice guides discussed in this article develop suggestions and tools from different perspectives for local governments' LGBTI+ policies, which have consensus on the adaption of the frameworks of fundamental rules and principles. The wary application of these rules and principles by local governments during the establishment, implementation, and monitoring & evaluation processes of LGBTI+ policies have key significance in achieving the successes of the good practice examples discussed in this article.


Policy and attitude documents: The institutional and inclusive steps that local governments who create and implement LGBTI+ policies can take is to share their (organizational) attitudes in platforms that are accessible to the public, with languages, tools and structures that are understandable and accessible for different individuals and groups at different intersections. Clear messaging of mayors and other high-ranking municipal officials is also noted as a good attitude indicator.


Visibility: Local governments who plan and implement LGBTI+ policies are expected to increase visibility of LGBTI+s in public. While Pride Week is an important tool for visibility, LGBTI+ Advisory Boards, the use of the colors of the rainbow, the LGBTI+ flag throughout the city and avoiding gender-based language and symbols in public are also other tools and practices that would facilitate the visibility of LGBTI+s in public spaces.


Participation and Intersectionality: As mentioned above, local governments are expected to ensure the active and equal participation of LGBTI+s in their processes. While doing so, local governments should ensure that various identities among LGBTI+s are represented. In this context, the policies created and implemented should also address the needs of intersectionality.


LGBTI+ Friendly Data Analysis: The first step in policymaking and design is to collect and analyze data that is disaggregated by gender and other affiliations. However, gender identity and sexual orientation are largely excluded from data collection processes. When gender related information is collected, the flexibility of data collection should allow individuals to express their gender identity.


Internal functioning, institutional structures, and support to personnel: The common ground of almost all good practice examples is the establishment of specialized units in municipalities to plan and implement LGBTI+ policies and activities. In addition to this, providing inclusive training to municipality personnel, preventing discrimination and violations of rights against LGBTI+ employees and conducting regular internal audits are fundamental duties of municipalities in creating work environments where openly LGBTI+ employees can express their sexual orientation and gender identities freely, without any oppression, harassment, and violation of rights.


In summary, the good practices that are discussed above reflect that local governments are responsible for creating cities where all citizens feel belonging, free, and safe through LGBTI+ policies and services. This responsibility is not a choice for local governments, but an obligation in the context of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Translation: Yiğit Mahmutoğlu


*This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Kaos GL Association and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.


[1] Human Rights Council, 29. Panel, 4 May 2015.

[2] United Nations (2015). “Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity: Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”.

[3] Greime, Reid (2021). “Global Trends in LGBT Rights During the Covid-19 Pandemic”. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/24/global-trends-lgbt-rights-during-covid-19-pandemic

[4] The abbreviation LGBTQ2+ is used to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two-spirited and other identities, while the "two-spirit" identity means having both a masculine and a feminine spirit that is more prevalent in local Canadian communities.

[7] Principle of intersectionality is described in the following section.

Tags: human rights