The United States government is now instructing its embassies to advocate for LGBTQ
rights, even in countries that aren’t particularly welcoming to the queer community.
At a Deutsche Bank and IBM pride lunch in the city of London, newly appointed international
envoy Randy Berry explained that the US is approaching the advancement of LGBTQ rights
abroad with a new fervor. Berry, who’s in the midst of his tenth week as the US Special Envoy
for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, informed the room of business leaders that this new
mission has the full support of both President Obama and US Secretary of State John
“When I travel around and consult with our embassies and consulates abroad, we have a
constant conversation about making sure embassies overseas are reflecting American cultures
and American values,” expressed Berry.
While Berry stressed the importance of addressing and promoting LGBTQ rights, he
acknowledged that this new focus is not a simple one. Specifically, Berry pointed out that the
political climates of certain nations aren’t conducive to productive conversations about LGBTQ
issues. However, Berry explained that in those regions, addressing the rights of oppressed
minorities is even more important.
“Frankly speaking that’s sometimes a challenge. We do have diplomatic missions
sometimes who are loathed to take on this issue for us – in the Middle East, in some places in
Africa,” said Berry. “They believe it is too sensitive or the time is not right or there are too many
other things going on in their portfolio.” He went on to add, “Our conversation is there is never a
wrong time to engage on a fundamental human rights issue and to counter to the notion that
you can’t talk about the rights of the community, if you are talking to a country about security
policy or about any other element of the relationship. It doesn’t detract in any way.”
Berry spoke about how this moment in history represents a turning point for the LGBTQ ––
how public opinion and legislation have combined to make life so much better for so many
members of the community. Berry also explained how much the cultural climate had changed
since his early days at the State Department.
“When I joined the diplomatic service 20 years ago, it was just after the demise of the State
Department’s version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. If you were a diplomat and you were found to be
gay, you would lose your security clearance because you were thought to be blackmailable –
even if you were open about your sexual orientation,” conveyed Berry.
Berry proceeded to communicate how proud he is of both the progress the Department has
made and how his career has advanced because of it. “To go from that starting point 23 years
ago, to when I am now being paid by the US government to travel around the world and talk
about these things – I have a pretty great job.”
Adreanna Nattiel is a writer, activist, and queer feminist based in Atlanta, GA. Her primary interest is media and pop culture studies and how they intersect with body politics for people of color. She is a real-life witch, aspiring cat lady, and horror junkie. Her plan is to take over the world, one flawless brow at a time.