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COMMENTARY

West Coast gets its own Blade

A vibrant voice for the LGBT community

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Los Angeles Blade, gay news, Washington BladeThe first issue of the Los Angeles Blade is a great opportunity for our sisters and brothers on the West Coast to appreciate all that nearly 50 years of East Coast publishing experience can bring to a community. With this new publication and its online availability the rest of the country will have the opportunity to appreciate the exciting things always happening in the LGBTQIA community in California. After all, we are one nation and we need to be connected and there is no better way to do that than having a Blade on both coasts.

Angelenos reading the Los Angeles Blade’s first edition need to know the history of the LGBT community has been written about and preserved on the pages of the Washington Blade, which is now in the process of being digitized for easy access by all. The New York Times dubbed the Washington Blade the “LGBT paper of record” and now the new Los Angeles Blade will be enhancing that record.

I have been honored to be a columnist for the Washington Blade for many years writing on both local and national issues from D.C. mayoral races, to Congress, presidential elections, to the ‘alternate universe’ we now find ourselves in with the Trump administration. My columns continued to appear even during the short period of time when the previous Blade owners declared bankruptcy. That was a difficult but exciting time at the Blade and for a short period the paper was actually published under the name DC Agenda. But the history and value of the Blade were recognized by the whole community, gay and straight, which supported it in every way including donating money and other resources to keep it alive. With the leadership of the three amazing people who form the current ownership team, the Blade continues to be the paper of record for the LGBT community. Lynne Brown, Kevin Naff and Brian Pitts formed Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia, and award-winning journalists like Lou Chibbaro Jr. and Chris Johnson stayed with the Blade because they understood how much the community relied on their reporting.  Together with others they ensured the paper would continue to publish and continue to write about and serve our community.

Today, our community like other minority communities, is again under attack. After eight years when we made incredible advances there are many in power who would like to turn back the clock. If they had their druthers we would go back into the closet and once again disappear. For some reason we frighten them. We face hostile members of state legislatures, governors, members of Congress and a president who says he wants to protect us then rescinds guidance from the Obama administration supporting the transgender community. We have a vice president who once suggested we take money designated to fight HIV/AIDS and shift it to support conversion therapy.

The Los Angeles Blade will afford the opportunity for new voices to be heard and for those of us in the rest of the nation to hear from those on the front lines in California. After all so many ideas and trends that start in California will eventually make their way across the nation. California is the home of 39.5 million Americans and while the Electoral College doesn’t give Californians the clout they should have this new Blade will make sure the LGBT community in California has a strong journalistic voice.

I am on the planning committee for the June 11 Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C., and it was exciting to see a FB page hosted by Brian Pendleton and others saying the annual Pride Parade in LA would be turned into a sister protest march with thousands already committed to attend. I look forward to the Los Angeles Blade covering this, and reading about what led up to it and more about it in the pages of the publication. As we meet regularly to plan the details of the national march, excitement is being built and spreading as it did with the Women’s March and sister marches are being planned around the world.

The voice of the LGBTQIA community is strong and vibrant. We will not be stopped until the members of our community, especially those who are more marginalized today, have all their rights and can live openly and safely everywhere in the world.

 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Commentary

Death of Nex Benedict hits close to home for New Jersey therapist

Their death is a manifestation of a larger issue that involves hostile rhetoric, misinformation re: gender-diverse youth & anti-LGBTQ culture

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The life of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student was brutally cut short after an altercation in a bathroom at Owasso High School in Owasso Oklahoma. (Family photo)

By Laura Hoge | UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ. – The life of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma, was brutally cut short after an altercation in a bathroom at Owasso High School.

Their untimely death should prompt a critical dialogue about the circumstances leading to such a horrifying incident. And we should not fool ourselves by thinking New Jersey is immune to the dangers that transgender and nonbinary youth face in schools and public spaces nationwide.

As many grapple with the aftermath of this terrifying hate crime, we all — Oklahoma to New Jersey to Florida — must address the systemic issues that contribute to the vulnerability of marginalized students, in particular transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming youth.

The New Jersey Safe Schools Coalition with Columbia High School Spectrum Club will hold a candlelight vigil in Nex’s memory on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. at Maplewood Town Hall, 574 Valley St.

In my role as a gender specialist and trauma therapist, addressing the aftermath of violent incidents such as these demands a process of “zooming out” from the hate crime itself and examining the unsettling realities of what other journalists have already referred to as stochastic terrorism, a term used to describe the use of mass communication, such as social media or online platforms, to incite or inspire individuals to carry out acts of terrorism without directly organizing, directing, or participating in the violent acts themselves.

The term “stochastic terrorism” carries significant weight, and grasping its meaning requires clarifying its key component: implicit communication. Implicit communication operates beneath the surface of explicit words and actions. It plays a significant role in shaping perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors while at the same time maintaining “plausible deniability.” We all have people in our lives whose attitudes toward groups of people are widely known, even if they aren’t explicitly spoken and would likely be denied. We all have felt implicit messages from our bosses, spiritual leaders, teachers, or politicians, reminding us of what is and is not acceptable in our work, faith practice, classrooms, and communities.

As we process the death of Nex Benedict, we must look at the culture in which they were living, one with a history of hostile discourse toward transgender people and influenced by social media outlets that are known purveyors of anti-trans sentiments. In the aftermath of Nex’s death, it is unsurprising that they are being misgendered and deadnamed in the community where they lived. Even amid tributes to their life, implicit messages are being sent that offer absolution to those who might be harboring guilt about their participation in a culture that could have caused something so horrific and a clear message that transgender and gender-diverse youth have no place in Owasso High, alive or dead.

While many of us would like to believe that our communities are immune to this type of violence, it is naive to think that similar acts of hate would never happen in our own schools. Anti-trans rhetoric is ubiquitous in New Jersey. It can easily be found in our Statehouse, family gatherings, and most recently in our school board meetings, where attitudes similar to the ones in Owasso were amplified in heated debates over school policy 5756 — a policy that supports transgender and nonbinary students seeking to be referred to by a different name or pronoun, and which has sparked discussions about whether schools should be obligated to inform parents of these changes.

While journalists share information about the role of Libs of TikTok and its influence on the community of Owasso, New Jersey residents need to understand that we have similar influences acting in our own backyard, like the Center for Garden State Families, Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, and others, with many of them misleading the public with deceptive and legitimate sounding names while spouting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, calling for book bans, and/or forced outing of gender diverse students. These groups explicitly advocate for parental rights and child safety, while concurrently employing implicit messaging that creates an atmosphere where transgender youth, as well as their supporters, are made to feel unsafe.

Implicit intolerance is pervasive and, if it continues to proliferate without challenge, will erode the protections that this state currently offers. To counteract this, allies must remain vigilant and take explicit actions that endorse and celebrate gender-diverse experiences within our communities. This could include speaking out in favor of trans-affirmative policies at school board meetings, spreading trans-affirming messages and stories online, teaching cisgender children about gender diversity and how to be an upstander in their friend circles, and/or advocating for trans-affirming rights and recognition in government. Neglecting to engage in these actions sends its own implicit message, and tacitly sanctions the proliferation of harmful attitudes and biases.

I believe that residents in New Jersey are uniquely positioned to disrupt the transphobia that exists here. We are backed by our brand: a progressive state with laws that support inclusion. Sharing accurate information about gender diversity, as well as the experiences and challenges that transgender and nonbinary students face, can demystify misconceptions and foster life-saving empathy and understanding.

We must acknowledge that Nex’s death did not exist in a vacuum and is not an isolated incident. Their death is a manifestation of a larger issue that involves hostile rhetoric, a targeted misinformation campaign against transgender and gender-diverse youth, and a culture that permits anti-LGBTQ toxicity to proliferate.

Nex’s death is a poignant reminder of the landscape in which gender-diverse children are asked to live and grow, and which, in the case of Nex, can be deadly.

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Laura Hoge is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New Jersey. Laura is also an educator and an activist. She has worked as an adjunct at Rutgers and Montclair State, training individuals who are studying to become drug and alcohol counselors, and social workers. In addition to organizing, Laura participates in efforts throughout the state of NJ that champion equity in education and medicine for transgender children.

The preceding article was previously published by the New Jersey Monitor and is republished with permission.

New Jersey Monitor provides fair and tough reporting on the issues affecting New Jersey, from political corruption to education to criminal and social justice. We strive to hold powerful people accountable and explain how their actions affect New Jerseyans from Montague to Cape May.

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Commentary

Libs of TikTok appointed to “make schools safer,” but trans kid dies

Nex, a trans teen, dies after a year of transphobic bullying in a school targeted by the biggest anti-trans influencer. When will it end?

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Nex, (Photo from the family’s gofundme)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – The stories of transgender children being killed are among the hardest I am tasked with writing. I refer to them as stories because, regrettably, there have been multiple incidents over the past two years. Eden KnightBrianna GheyAriyanna Mitchell—names that will forever resonate with me—all young, tragically stripped of their lives in a world where individuals like them face relentless dehumanization and maltreatment by those holding power.

This week, we have yet another name to add to a list already unbearably long from the first addition… Nex, a gender-fluid transgender high school student, was brutally attacked in an Oklahoma bathroom and lost their life, only a month after Chaya Raichik of Libs Of TikTok was appointed as part of a plan to “make schools safer” in Oklahoma.

The news emerged over the weekend through a post highlighting a student allegedly assaulted by three peers in a high school bathroom at Owasso High School West Campus. This post revealed that a student named Nex had been killed, criticized the media for deadnaming them (using their old name), and noted that their transgender status was being ignored.

Now, following widespread attention drawn to Nex and their transgender status, their mother has provided more information to The Independent.

Though details about the specific incident remain sparse, we learned that Nex had been repeatedly bullied at school for being transgender and that the bullying erupted into violence toward them. In what has been described as a “physical altercation,” Nex suffered a severe head injury in a high school bathroom at the hands of three girls.

Allegedly, No ambulance was called, though Nex was taken to the hospital by their mother and was discharged. They succumbed to their head injury the next morning.

Twenty-five years ago, another LGBTQ+ student had their life taken from them too soon. Matthew Shepherd, who was horrifically beaten and left to die, also succumbed to his own severe head injuries.

His death sparked a wave of awareness about how the demonization of gay people in the 1990s led to the killing of gay youth and the fear that so many LGBTQ+ people felt during the gay panics of the 1990s and early 2000s. His death changed things forever and eventually was cited in the passing of hate crime legislation.

Many look at Nex’s death and wonder if their legacy may also shine a light on the horrific consequences of the anti-trans panic sweeping the world today, fueled by a handful of hate accounts and influencers.

According to an investigation by The Independent, Raichik targeted a teacher Nex had greatly admired through her anti-trans account, Libs of TikTok – the school was among the earliest targeted by the account. The account has since become infamous for making posts that are often followed by bomb threats and violence.

Concurrently, the state schools superintendent Ryan Walters put out a horrific video the following year calling transgender youth in bathrooms “an assault on truth” and dangerous to other kids.

He has been a fierce opponent towards LGBTQ+ people in schools, even going as far as to demand a principal be fired for being a drag queen in his time off. He has also prevented students from changing their gender markers in school records, saying that he “did not want [transgender people] thrust on our kids.”

Just last month, Walters decided to appoint Raichik of Libs of TikTok to the Department of Education’s library media panel. In the letter appointing her, Walters stated that Libs of TikTok was part of his plan to “make schools safer for kids.”

Transgender children in Oklahoma and their family members, however, watched in horror as they have now learned what “safety” really means: the violent and brutal suppression of transgender people in the state, and the death of transgender children.

How could it ever gone differently? We know that bomb threats follow Libs of TikTok posts. We know that Kiel, Wisconsin schools were shut down for a month with bomb threats after she targeted that school district over a trans kid. We know violent threats have followed posts targeting the University of South Dakota, a library in North Carolina, and even a librarian in Oklahoma’s Union Public Schools district. She posed proudly with a paper that pointed out the way violent threats follow her targets.

We are in a mass rainbow panic, and conservatives continue to turn up the temperature. Michael Knowles calls for transgender “eradication” while Matt Walsh advocates for an end to legal recognition.

Conservative legislators dehumanize transgender people and their families. Oklahoma Senator Shane Jett, just one year ago, compared the parents of transgender youth to parents who kill their children.

There is a child who was killed – Nex was their name. Embraced and cherished by an affirming family, Nex will rest beneath a tombstone etched with the name that those legislators and hate influencers sought to erase.

A name that, in a just world, would bring about change.

You can find the family’s gofundme > (here)

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

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Viewpoint

Protecting our future: Standing united against attacks on trans kids

A coalition of LGBTQ+ and allied organizations address a range of attacks on transgender youth in California

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Courtesy of trans activist Landon Richie

LOS ANGELES – As a coalition of LGBTQ+ and allied organizations, we write to address a range of attacks on transgender youth in California. In 2023 alone, states around the country introduced hundreds of bills restricting the rights of transgender young people.

California has long been one of the most inclusive and welcoming places in the nation for LGBTQ+ people, but even we are now facing a distressing surge of threats against the rights and safety of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex youth.

Across our state, far-right school board members are pushing policies that deny students access to essential historical information about LGBTQ+ people, forcibly out transgender students, and undermine the basic rights of transgender youth to use facilities and participate in school activities aligned with their gender identity. These actions jeopardize the safety of all students and undermine the fundamental values of equality and dignity that should be the bedrock of California schools.

And now, many of these same extremists are collecting signatures to advance a ballot measure that would roll back the rights of all transgender youth in California. Their hateful efforts would strip away vital civil rights protections painstakingly established for transgender youth and their families, including their rights to safely be themselves at school, participate in youth sports, access school facilities consistent with their gender identity, and receive life-saving gender-affirming care. The weight of this moment is heavy, and we share the fears and worries expressed by many Californians. 

Protecting the rights of every LGBTQ+ person, safeguarding our loved ones, and nurturing an inclusive future for transgender youth are non-negotiable. Our organizations, along with many other partners and allies, have been working tirelessly to address the harm that these attacks have on our youth, and we stand ready to take action whenever and wherever needed to protect our communities.

Nothing is more crucial to us than safeguarding your rights, your loved ones, and your children’s future. We are continuing to actively monitor the proposed ballot measure and stand ready to take any essential action necessary to prevent its advancement. Together, we will overcome these attacks on our community and pave the way for a California where every individual, regardless of gender identity, can continue to thrive in safety and dignity.

Coalition Authors: 

Tony Hoang

Executive Director, Equality California

Jodi Hicks

CEO, Planned Parenthood of California

Bamby Salcedo

President and CEO, The TransLatin@ Coalition

Camila Camaleón

President, San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center 

Ezak Perez 

Executive Director, Gender Justice LA

Kathie Moehlig

Executive Director, TransFamily Support Services

Ashley Morris

Organizing Director, ACLU of Northern California

Amanda Goad

Audrey Irmas Director, LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, ACLU of Southern California

Tai’Rance S. Kelly Sr. 
Founder/CEO, Tranz of Anarchii Inc.

Terra Russell-Slavin

Chief Impact Officer, Los Angeles LGBT Center

Imani Rupert-Gordon

Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Ebony Harper

Executive Director, California TRANscends

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Editor's Letter

A father’s grief, a nation’s shame: February 14, 2018

Valentines Day for Parkland families & survivors will always represent a hole in their hearts & unassuaged grief over those lost

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Alex Schachter (Family photo)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The seventeen students and staff who were killed February 14, 2018 in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida are being remembered today, six years later. But for their families and survivors there will always be a hole in their hearts and unassuaged grief over those lost.

The photograph I featured above is a screenshot from a mobile phone video posted to X (formerly Twitter) of one of those 17 lives cut short in that act of pure evil, Alex Schachter, who as his father Max said, “My forever 14-year-old Alex was one of them.”

“Feb. 14, 2018, was the last day I saw my son Alex Schachter alive. “I love you, have a great day in school,” were the last words I said to him. It didn’t occur to me that he could be murdered in his English class,” Max said in an essay published by NBC News last July.

In the terrible aftermath of Parkland as it is colloquially referred to, joining a growing list of mass-shootings similarly referenced by the event’s locale, Alex’s bereaved papa Max founded Safe Schools for Alex, a non-profit whose stated mission is “to provide most current school safety best practices and resources to students, parents, school districts and law enforcement so that all children can learn in a safe environment.” 

On its website Max and the family write:

Alex & Max Schachter (Family photo)

“Alex Schachter was a special little boy. He was happy and always smiling. He loved sports. Whether it was playing basketball and football or watching his favorite teams the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics he was always ready to talk smack with his friends. His tenacious defense led to several championships on the basketball court.

He worshipped his big brother Ryan. He used to let his little sister Avery play with his hair and give him massages so she could hang out with him and his friends. He used to bond with his older sister Morgan over their love of Japanese TV shows.

Alex’s love of music was constant throughout middle and high school. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and played the trombone in middle and high school. His hard work and dedication paid off when his band, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Eagle Regiment Marching Band became state champions several months before his passing.

Alex is loved and missed every day.”

Before I continue, I will stress that there are 16 other victims, families, all impacted by this horrible event, In fact, according to the Associated Press, these families, their lives, their futures were impacted by the craven evil disregard of the shooter “who calmly told a psychologist why he picked Valentine’s Day: Because no one loved him, he wanted to ruin the holiday forever for anyone associated with the school.”

I’m a Dad, a Granddad, Uncle oh and a ‘Guncle’ to countless young people but not even with all my years as a working journalist having covered these nasty evil events going back to my first, Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado on April 20, 1999, can I truly comprehend the lasting sense of loss and heartache experienced by Alex’s papa and the other families. I just cannot.

The aftermath of Parkland, in addition to Max’s non-profit, birthed a powerful young people led effort- March for Our Lives, by Marjory Stoneman Douglas students; Alfonso Calderon; Sarah Chadwick; Jaclyn Corin; Matt Deitsch; Ryan Deitsch; Sam Deitsch; X González; David Hogg; Cameron Kasky and Alex Wind among others.

Ultimately these young people also sent one of their own, a Gen Zer, to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, Florida Democratic Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost.

The nation’s shame is the fact that every damn mass-shooting spawns efforts to eradicate this vile cancer on America, gun violence, and still these efforts are bull-dozed into oblivion by the powerful gun lobby, which funds the Republican Party and its ongoing campaign to “protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans” aka do absolutely nothing to curtail the violence with common sense laws to reform current gun control.

While I remember and honour the 17 lives lost, it is because I follow Max on social media and advocate for his non-profit that today’s X post from Max just caused me to pause. Folks? Consider Max’s reality sadly shared by all of the Parkland families:

A photo of the box that contains Alex Schachter's backpack and lunch box. It's a biohazard because it has his blood on it and possibly bullet holes.A photo of the box that contains Alex Schachter’s backpack and lunch box. It’s a biohazard because it has his blood on it and possibly bullet holes. (Courtesy Max Schachter)

Alex would be 20-years-old today and in college most likely and I for one believe he would be marching alongside his schoolmates advocating for real change- not just empty promises and the ever insulting “thoughts and prayers” that populates right wing spaces and the media when these senseless evil events take place.

I’ll close this with one final thought, actually share this image from Max’ Schachter’s essay:

A photo of the poem Alex Schachter was working on when he was shot and killed inside his classroom, ripped by a bullet.A photo of the poem Alex Schachter was working on when he was shot and killed inside his classroom, ripped by a bullet. (Courtesy Max Schachter)

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Brody Levesque is the Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Blade and a veteran journalist.

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Letters to the Editor

Real Agency for Community Development helps LGBTQ+ Ugandans who have fled country

Yoweri Museveni signed Anti-Homosexuality Act in May 2023

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Ugandan flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Real Agency for Community Development was established by a proactive group of people who have fled persecution due to their sexual orientation in their respective districts of origin (Isingiro, Mbarara and Ntungamo) and now live in the Nakivale refugee camp where they hoped to find greater safety and freedom.

Homosexuality, however, is illegal in Uganda and they face new challenges: Arbitrary arrests, discrimination, corrective rape, kidnapping, robbery, stigma, homophobia, harassment and bullying. RACD has identified more than 123 LGBTQ Ugandans and other refugees living in the Nakivale and Oruchinga refugee camps. The organization provides them with services depending on their unique situations.

The legal and social marginalization experienced by these people results in many violations of LGBTQ persons’ liberty and threats to their safety. 

Since the beginning of this year, we have already seen three people arbitrarily arrested for being LGBTQ. Another two LGBTQ community members were brutally attacked by a gang of 10 homophobic neighbors in Kampala. One of them had his jaw shattered and had to get a surgery to insert a metal to his jaw. HIV prevention drugs and equipment are always a necessary part of the work with LGBTQ people and female sex workers. The general economic situation in Uganda is decreasing rapidly, and LGBTQ persons suffer the most. Many members reported that they pass many days without being able to obtain any food.

Please email [email protected] for more information about RACD. Donations can also be made to RACD through this GoFundMe link.

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Commentary

Readers deserve better than misinformation about trans care

In a recent response to articles criticizing misinformation in Pamela Paul’s article on detransitioners, Paul dismisses author’s reporting

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Pamela Paul appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher in December, 2023 along with transphobic Texas GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, & transphobic Jordan Peterson, Canadian psychologist, author, and media commentator. (Screenshot/YouTube HBO Real Time with Bill Maher)

Author’s note (Erin Reed): A copy of this article was submitted to the New York Times for publication in response to Pamela Paul. It was rejected, citing an internal policy on opinion pieces responding to New York Times columnists. Journalist Evan Urquhart and I have thus decided to make it freely available on our own platforms.

By Erin Reed & Evan Urquhart | WASHINGTON – On Saturday, opinion columnist Pamela Paul published a deeply misleading 4,500-word article on gender-affirming care and detransitioners in the New York Times.

While readers may be excused for taking her article as a fair representation of the science surrounding that care, transgender journalists like us immediately recognized the hallmarks of misinformation we routinely hear from right-wing groups whose mission is to oppose care for transgender people.

Within hours of the publication of Paul’s story on detransitioners, we published responses that quickly went viral, appearing on academic listservs, professional networks, and Twitter threads discussing the issue. Now, Paul has responded to our journalistic criticism directly by dismissing us as “activists,” a label that does not accurately describe the work she is responding to.

While activism in a just cause is a noble pursuit, and one of us, Erin Reed, has proudly worn that hat at times, another of us, Evan Urquhart, is a professional journalist with a decade-long career in the industry who has never participated in organizing or activism of any kind. Regardless, the word “activist” was used by Paul to create doubt about the professionalism and reliability of our journalistic work, and as such is equally misapplied for both of us.

Paul claims that “we don’t know” how many transgender people detransition. Although she is correct that studies on detransition have limitations, as virtually all studies do, Cornell University reports that transgender regret ranges from 0.3% to 3.8% in a review of over 72 studies.

Criticizing Paul for portraying regret as high is not “activism,” especially when she misleadingly states in her original article that “Studies show that around eight in 10 cases of childhood gender dysphoria resolve themselves by puberty” – numbers derived from decades-old data using outdated diagnostic guidelines that conflated effeminate gay minors with transgender youth, among other issues.

Notably, these numbers originally stem from Ken Zucker, whose clinic was shut down after an independent review determined his practices were akin to “reparative” (conversion) therapy.

It also is not “activism” to point out that it is misleading to use citations that do not back up key arguments. For instance, in both the original article and her response to us, she claims there is data to support that “detransition rates are higher than transgender advocacy groups suggest,” suggesting first that the scientific data on this topic was produced by advocacy groups when it was not, then citing a study of military prescriptions which did not examine detransition at all.

Instead, this study looked at the use of Tricare, the military insurance plan, for hormone therapy prescriptions. Because there are dozens of reasons why one would not fill hormones through Tricare, such as Trump’s trans military ban (which occurred during the study) or the desire for privacy and the use of Planned Parenthood clinics, it does not support “higher rates” of detransition at all, nor does it purport to do so. She likewise neglects to mention that the authors themselves state that “our findings are likely an underestimate of continuation rates.”

If we are accused of activism in our published responses to Pamela Paul, it is only fair to apply that label to her and some of the sources she uses as well.

For instance, Pamela Paul claims that “The Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine” is “one of the most reliable nonpartisan organizations dedicated to the field.” She relies on non-reviewed journal letters to the editor from this group in her original essay and response to us on multiple occasions as evidence of her claims.

However, what she does not reveal is that according to the Southern Policy Law Center, SEGM has received significant funding from the same sources that support the partisan Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation, organizations known for drafting anti-trans legislation. SEGM is closely linked with anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ extremist groups, a connection mapped out by the SPLC’s analysis. Its founder, William Malone, was part of an anti-trans working group in 2019 where members asserted that “god’s will” is being enacted through passing trans bans. In this group, he stated, “It might take years, but we’re going to get them.” If that is not activism, what is?

Related

Paul seeks to dismiss our criticisms of her misinformation about trans care as activism, but readers deserve better. They should be aware that every major medical organization in the United States supports gender-affirming care due to the evidence behind it.

It’s important for them to know that multiple judges have determined the evidence supporting trans care is comparable to that of most pediatric care, overturning bans on care in the United States.

Readers also deserve to understand that the narrative Paul presents about high detransition rates and stories of regret does not stem from careful journalism, but rather, anti-trans activist groups. Lastly, they should be aware that these erroneous narratives are now being used to justify legislation aimed at banning transgender “for everyone.”

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Evan Urquhart, an experienced journalist, is the Founder of Assigned Media, and a Community Manager at Slate. Assigned Media is a news site dedicated to daily coverage of anti-trans propaganda and its effects.

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Commentary

Misleading NYT anti-trans article relies on pseudoscience

The opinion piece by Pamela Paul relies on routinely debunked disinformation and gets factual information wrong about transgender care

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EIM/Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – In an article published in the opinion section of The New York Times, opinion columnist Pamela Paul wrote a 4,500-word article filled with factual errors and unfounded assumptions about transgender care and the lived experiences of transgender people.

Although the article is presented as a piece on detransitioners, the interviews serve as vehicles through which Paul packages inaccuracies and disinformation with faulty citations and claims that are not supported by the evidence she presents.

The article is the latest in a series published by The New York Times to do so, and a simple fact check of the claims presented easily debunks the article’s central premises as highly misleading.

It is notable that this is not the first time Paul has waded into LGBTQ+ issues with the seeming goal of covering for anti-LGBTQ+ policies. Previously, she wrote an article criticizing LGBTQ+ organizations for the use of the word “queer,” a word that many LGBTQ+ people use to describe themselves.

She has written articles accusing transgender people of “erasing women.” However, this article is certainly her longest and most in depth attempt to tackle transgender issues; in doing so, she misses the mark.

Claim: Rapid onset gender dysphoria and transgender social contagion is making people trans.

Fact: Rapid onset gender dysphoria and transgender social contagion is not a validated theory, has been widely debunked as pseudoscience by major medical organizations.

“Most of her patients now, she said, have no history of childhood gender dysphoria. Others refer to this phenomenon, with some controversy, as rapid onset gender dysphoria, in which adolescents, particularly tween and teenage girls, express gender dysphoria despite never having done so when they were younger. Frequently, they have mental health issues unrelated to gender. While professional associations say there is a lack of quality research on rapid onset gender dysphoria, several researchers have documented the phenomenon, and many health care providers have seen evidence of it in their practices.”

At the beginning of the article, Paul discusses “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” and “social contagion” as potential reasons for the apparent increase in transgender individuals in recent years, raising concerns that these individuals will detransition.

However, her sources clearly contradict her premise. Her first source, used to support “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,” is an article that has been retracted. Then she turns to Lisa Littman, who’s original paper on the topic was immediately withdrawn with an apology by the journal for correction after the data collection methods were revealed, with the republication stating that the research “does not validate the phenomenon” of transgender social contagion. Littman is notably one of the only researchers to argue for the theory, which has been repeatedly dismissed for lacking factual support and for recruiting subjects from anti-trans websites.

Recently, unable to validate the theory, she collaborated with Leor Sapir, who lacks a background in transgender mental health care and works at the anti-trans Manhattan Institute, to broaden the definition of “Rapid” so that even a period of two to four years could be considered rapid. She then published it in a journal run by Ken Zucker, an anti-trans “expert” whose clinic was closed following accusations of conversion therapy.

The second set of links, claiming to show “several researchers” documenting the phenomenon, actually refers to only three researchers, not “several.” These “researchers” include Lisa Littman’s personal website, a retracted article by Michael Bailey (Lisa Littman’s treasurer), and another article by Lisa Littman herself. The data sources used for the “documented phenomenon” are the anti-trans website Transgender Trend and a SurveyMonkey poll distributed on Reddit and Twitter.

The only source that correctly represents the consensus is the source showing that professional organizations oppose ROGD as pseudoscientific. In a letter from over 60 psychological organizations, the coalition for the Advancement & Application of Psychological Science calls for the elimination of the term, stating, “There are no sound empirical studies of ROGD” and “there is no evidence that ROGD aligns with the lived experiences of transgender children and adolescents.” Paul, however, simply and misleadingly presents this letter as the organization stating “there is not enough quality research.”

study in the prestigious journal Pediatrics entirely debunked the concept of ROGD, determining that most transgender people know their gender identity for years before they come out and seek treatment for gender dysphoria. When transgender people finally do come out, many are overjoyed to finally reveal their true self to the world around them – to others, however, the process may seem “rapid.”

To ascertain whether transgender identification occurs “rapidly,” researchers directly asked transgender teenagers: “How long have you known you were transgender?” They discovered that on average, transgender people know their gender identity for four years before first coming out and presenting for treatment.

Claim: Stephanie Winn, a “licensed marriage and family therapist,” spoke out in favor of “approach gender dysphoria in a more considered way” but then was “investigated” for conversion therapy.

Fact: Stephanie Winn suggested the treatment of transgender youth with acupuncture to “see if they like having needles put in them” and stating it could “help spark desistance.” She also pushed the idea that transgender men should be estrogen to make them feel more feminine.

“They have good reasons to be wary. Stephanie Winn, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Oregon, was trained in gender-affirming care and treated multiple transgender patients. But in 2020, after coming across detransition videos online, she began to doubt the gender-affirming model. In 2021 she spoke out in favor of approaching gender dysphoria in a more considered way, urging others in the field to pay attention to detransitioners, people who no longer consider themselves transgender after undergoing medical or surgical interventions. She has since been attacked by transgender activists. Some threatened to send complaints to her licensing board saying that she was trying to make trans kids change their minds through conversion therapy.

In April 2022, the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists told Winn that she was under investigation. Her case was ultimately dismissed, but Winn no longer treats minors and practices only online, where many of her patients are worried parents of trans-identifying children.”

Paul then attempts to take readers through to other researchers who are, presumably, being “unfairly treated” for their “unorthodox” views on transgender people. One of those people is Stephanie Winn, who she presents as a “licensed marriage and family therapist” in Oregon. She claims that Winn simply spoke out “in favor of approaching gender dysphoria in a more considered way” and was attacked for this. A simple click on Paul’s link, however, shows how this is a highly misleading claim and misrepresents the brutality of what Winn was proposing.

In the thread linked by Paul, Winn muses that transgender men have a “sense of being less feminine” and could be made to feel more feminine by giving them estrogen. There is absolutely no research behind this claim, and in fact, giving transgender people the hormone of their assigned sex at birth has been tried in the past with disastrous effects.

In a paper published in 1967 by Harry Benjamin, one of the first major researchers into transgender care, he stated: “I have heard rather frequently in the patient’s history that androgen had been used in the past in an attempt to cure the transsexualism by masculinization. It is the wrong treatment. It aggravates the condition by increasing libido without changing its character or direction. Androgen is contraindicated.”

Winn has also advocated for the treatment of transgender youth with acupuncture, stating, “they can see how they like having needles put in them.”

Stephanie Winn has not been investigated or attacked simply for “approaching gender dysphoria in a more considered way.” Rather, attacks on Winn are linked to extremely cruel suggestions and musings around how transgender youth should be dealt using cruel, coercive, and painful conversion therapy techniques.

Claim: Transgender people may actually just be gay, and transitioning is a form of “conversion therapy.”

Fact: Gender and sexuality are different, many transgender people identify as gay or bisexual after transition, and gay acceptance is higher than trans acceptance.

Gay men and women often told me they fear that same-sex-attracted kids, especially effeminate boys and tomboy girls who are gender nonconforming, will be transitioned during a normal phase of childhood and before sexual maturation — and that gender ideology can mask and even abet homophobia.

“I transitioned because I didn’t want to be gay,” Kasey Emerick, a 23-year-old woman and detransitioner from Pennsylvania, told me. Raised in a conservative Christian church, she said, “I believed homosexuality was a sin.”

The claim that transgender people are “actually just gay” is one that has been made repeatedly by those opposed to gender affirming care, and one that has been repeatedly debunked. Paul wades into this claim by featuring Kasey Emerick, who claims that “believing homosexuality was a sin” played into her transition.

Factually, though, attitudes towards transgender people tend to be “significantly more negative” according to an article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. This contributes to a much higher rate of violence and discrimination. Many transgender people, such as celebrity Laverne Cox, report that the most common response to coming out is, “couldn’t you have just been gay?”

According to the 2012 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, most transgender people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer after transition. If transition was being used to “cure” being gay, it is a startlingly ineffective cure.

Claim: 80% of transgender individuals desist from being transgender if they go through puberty without intervention, and another study suggests that 30% of individuals stop taking hormone therapy medication.

Fact: Detransition rates are estimated to be between 1-4%. The study citing an 80% detransition rate is based on faulty outdated data, using criteria no longer in use. Furthermore, the study indicating a 30% discontinuation rate is based on military families not refilling their prescriptions through Tricare, rather than actual discontinuation of hormone therapy.

Studies show that around eight in 10 cases of childhood gender dysphoria resolve themselves by puberty and 30 percent of people on hormone therapy discontinue its use within four years, though the effects, including infertility, are often irreversible.

The claim that 80% of transgender youth detransition has been widely debunked and is contradicted by modern research, which indicates regret and detransition rates of 1-4%, according to a review of newer peer-reviewed studies by Cornell University. Recent studies reveal that 97.5% of transgender youth maintain a stable gender identity after five years.

The older article Paul references is a journal article in a publication with a very low impact factor; this article does not provide new data, and instead discusses the same two outdated sources commonly associated with the exaggerated “80% detransition rate” claim: Kenneth Zucker’s research from the 1990s on detransition, which uses outdated diagnostic criteria for “gender identity disorder” that misclassified feminine gay men as “disordered,” and Steensma’s studies from 2011/2013, known for similar methodological shortcomings.

Both of these studies share a similar problem that explains why the numbers are so different when compared to modern studies around transgender care: they utilize outdated criteria for “gender identity disorder,” which misclassified tomboys, masculine lesbians, and effeminate gay men as “disordered.” Notably, Zucker advocated for conversion therapy, arguing that “a homosexual lifestyle in a fundamentally unaccepting culture simply creates unnecessary social difficulties.” He also employed techniques aimed at coercing trans kids to conform to their assigned sex at birth, such as withholding cross-gender toys and advising parents “not to give in” to their trans youth’s desires to wear clothing that aligns with their gender identity.

The old criteria noted that to be diagnosed with “gender identity disorder,” you did not need to desire to be “the other sex.” Instead, the disorder was about gendered behavior that was deemed “too masculine” or “too feminine” by society, and purposefully included gay people who didn’t “act man or woman enough.” The new criteria, however, require the transgender youth to desire or insist to be the other sex.

Steensma’s 2011 and 2013 studies had similar issues in his research, which in some ways had even worse methodological flaws. Steensma used the old criteria, which is not the way that gender dysphoria is diagnosed today. Worse, the two studies classified every youth who did not return to the clinic as having “desisted” or “detransitioned” with no long term follow-up. Half of the participants in the studies did not return and all were classified as having “desisted.”

The sample sizes were tiny at the getgo – only 53 people were in the first study and 127 in the second study. Given the fact that a large portion if not the majority of Steensma’s patients were classified under decades old criteria and assumed permanently detransitioned simply for refusing to follow up, these studies cannot be used to make any reasonable claim of high desistance rates.

The last study that Paul refers to is a study released two years ago on military continuance of care. That study looked at all hormone therapy distributed under the military Tricare health insurance plan and determined that 30% of people stopped receiving their hormones through Tricare. What the study does not do, as Paul claims, is support the idea that “30% of people discontinued hormone therapy.” In fact, there are many reasons why people would no longer fill their hormone therapy through a military Tricare plan, especially towards the end of the study in 2017-2018:

  • The Trump administration began targeting transgender servicemembers, and many transgender servicemembers likely stopped filling their hormone prescriptions through Tricare for themselves or their family members, fearing being targeted.
  • Tricare has notoriously poor transgender care coverage, as evidenced by many military members responding to a thread discussing the results of this study, and many transgender servicemembers may opt to get their medication through a low cost alternative such as Planned Parenthood
  • Hormone therapy can be discontinued for surgery, fertility and pregnancy planning, and many other purposes.
  • Some nonbinary patients may obtain all the results they wish from hormone therapy before discontinuing, desiring no future results.
  • Transgender people may simply have not filled the medication through insurance and instead utilized online pharmacies, which have grown increasingly popular.
  • Transgender patients can easily fill prescriptions through GoodRX plans, which would allow them more privacy.
  • Transgender people may have been forced off care by military decisions

Even the authors of the article themselves state that they likely overestimate discontinuation:

“We only collected information on medication refills obtained using a single insurance plan. If patients elected to pay out of pocket for hormones, accessed hormones through nonmedical channels, or used a different insurance plan to pay for treatment before and/or after obtaining gender-affirming hormones using TRICARE insurance, we did not capture this information. This means that our findings are likely an underestimate continuation rates among transgender patients.”

There are many more factual errors contained within Paul’s article; it is 4,500 words long and covers virtually every anti-trans claim made in legislative hearings across the United States. Many advocates for transgender people, medical experts, and journalists have weighed in to cover other aspects of Paul’s piece. You can find those here:

Editor’s Note: Originally, the article read that Paul relied on a study by Lisa Littman that was retracted. This is corrected to read that Paul cited a separate study, which was itself retracted. Littman’s study was removed and republished with a correction noting that her research “does not validate the phenomenon” of social contagion with an apology from the journal.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Commentary

Epic smear of Royal LGBTQ+ ally Amar Singh is dangerous

Why Graydon Carter’s fact-checking failure matters- Apparently, Air Mail doesn’t care. They’ve let inaccuracies stand to bring down a royal

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(Photo courtesy Amar Singh)

By Karen Ocamb | LONDON, UK – The rich, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a 1925 essay, “are different from you and me.” That gap creates a persistent itch of snarky curiosity about how the other half lives. But often embedded in that perception is a belief that One Percenters need to be taken down a peg. 

In my opinion, that’s what is happening to LGBTQ+ ally Amar Singh, his family and his former girlfriend after an 12,799-word hit piece was posted in the digital magazine Air Mail, run by former Vanity Fair guru Graydon Carter. (I am not linking to the Air Mail story to avoid spreading misinformation.) 

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Amar Singh in his London gallery for 2017 LA Blade story. (Photo courtesy Amar Singh)

I met Amar Singh, then-28, in 2017 at SoHo House in West Hollywood and profiled him for the Los Angeles Blade, focused on the straight Indian royal’s LGBTQ+ activism.  “There are three tiers of suppression: female, LGBT, and caste—which is actually meant to be illegal but prevails very heavily in India,” said Singh, a member of the erstwhile Kapurthala Royal Family. He used his art gallery in London to showcase women, minority, and LGBTQ artists. 

“I’m a passionate individual who truly despises that there are human rights atrocities which are carried on a daily basis,” Amar said. “I’ve lost my cool in the past when meeting individuals who’ve said to me — and there have been many — ‘gay people deserve to die. Gay people must be locked up.’ Same thing for women.” 

It’s the immature flip side of that passion that launched the Air Mail screed. 

During the summer of 2023, Amar dated Liza, a 24-year-old Swedish woman he’d met online. It was a big deal. As happens with many rich, famous, and important people, he guarded his heart, wondering if lovers cared about him for who he was — or for his money and title. 

When Amar discovered his girlfriend had gaslit him and cheated, he wanted payback. He was encouraged by an acquaintance whose wife worked for Air Mail. Thus began a month of exaggerations and attacks by both Amar and his girlfriend — an emotional version of the film “The War of the Roses.”   

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Coming to his senses, Amar felt humiliated and ashamed by his behavior — having at one point blasted his ex over the phone as fat and inexcusably using the “C” word. He apologized to her, she apologized to him, and they recognized they still cared for each other. They tried to retract all the exaggerations, with Amar offering to compensate the writer for the time wasted and the paycheck she presumably would forfeit by dropping the story. She later called that a “bribe.” 

But the writers seemed intent on doing the story as if bringing down a royal activist would please Air Mail’s audience of “affluent intelligentsia.” 

Amar and Liza panicked, saying the story they gave the writers was for a film, “Thirst for Fiction.”

“When the journalists hounded my family, friends and Liza’s family with calls,” Amar says, “we panicked and just told them everything was for a movie. That was not true, foolish and due to extreme mental duress of our families calling us in tears.” 

On Oct. 19, 2023, Air Mail posted the story, which takes 47 minutes to read. What started out as “a cautionary tale of online dating among the 0.1 percent became something else,” Hannah Ghorashi writes beginning a story that features her and editor George Pendle as victims. 

There are only two mentions of online dating. There is no cautionary tale. Five minutes in, the reader asks: “who are these people and why should I care about them?”

But then they attempt to ruin Amar’s reputation. The story of broken-hearted ex-lovers using the media to get back at each other evolved into a mean girl frame that apparently incited threats of violence. 

“This 12,000-word smear campaign against me in an attempt to affect my human rights work which questions my family, my heritage, my education, my life’s work is completely unjustified,” says Amar. “Yes, I messed up in my personal life. But I still care about my ex-girlfriend and these personal mistakes do not warrant attacks against my family and human rights work which positively impacts thousands of LGBT+ individuals, women and children.”

On Jan. 8, 2024, Singh posted a long response on Instagram, with checkable refutations of the inaccuracies and allegations in the Air Mail story:  

–“One of the reasons I am publishing this statement now is that Air Mail’s article has been and is being actively used to cause harm to my family and me. Due to the article I have been threatened, blackmailed three times, experienced racism, threatened with violence, people have visited our properties, my 60-year-old mother has been threatened with violence and yesterday on January 7th, 2024 my parents home was defaced with red paint by one of the individuals black mailing me and stating they will make up stories to Air Mail unless I pay them. The police have been notified.” —

What prompted these actions now? One possibility is that the story was among google searches after the recent release of court documents regarding pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his sex-trafficking accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell. A Jan. 5 New York Post headline shouted: “Jeffrey Epstein went to Vanity Fair’s office to suppress truth about his crimes — not Bill Clinton.” A search reveals numerous conflicting articles about whether Graydon Carter edited out stories from two Epstein survivors in an article by Vanity Fair writer Vicky Ward. A 2022 deep dive by Isaac Chotiner in The New Yorker concludes that Ward was lying. However, a July 10, 2019 detailed report by Kim Masters in the Hollywood Reporter says Carter “nipped and tucked and altered” Masters’ own pieces when she worked at Vanity Fair. 

Carter’s response to Masters is pertinent here: “Anyone who is familiar with the editing process of a big magazine like Vanity Fair would know that the story the writer turns in goes through numerous layers of editing, fact-checking, and legal review….[the Epstein aspect] did not meet our legal and editorial standards” of having three on-the-record sources for each allegation. 

But the story about Amar and his ex-girlfriend in Carter’s Air Mail fails to provide three independent, on-the-record sources for each allegation and apparently ignored evidence and receipts provided before publication. 

Instead, Pendle disparages other media coverage of Amar, including 3 stories in Vanity Fair, the New York Times (“The Indian Prince Who Supports Gay Rights and the Arts”), Elle, ArtNet, and 2 stories in Forbes including 30 Under 30/ Europe 2019, which noted that the gallery “made more than $3 million in 2018.” 

“I almost felt sorry for Amar. Magazines and newspapers had written about him in the past without challenging anything he had told them. He had said he was donating millions of dollars to this organization or using his massive funds to help with that museum, and it was published as the truth,” Pendle writes. “Here was a progressive Indian royal who could speak the language of L.G.B.T.Q.+ and women’s rights while promising huge donations to photogenic charities. It was the sort of exotic philanthro-porn that no one—not even AIR MAIL—could resist.”

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Portrait by eminent Black artist Renee Cox of Amar Singh wearing a Pride flag to celebrate LGBTQ+ allyship (Photo courtesy Renee Cox)

“Exotic philanthro-porn”? I’ve seen each link and checked each receipt from charities and museums for contributions and art work (including nonbinary Indigenous Chamorro artist Gisela McDaniel, Mosie Romney, Renee Cox to LACMA, a Lina Iris Viktor to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and another to the Crocker in Sacramento). It looks like Amar donated more than $3 million worth of art (to date) by LGBTQ, women and minority artists to numerous museums. 

The Air Mail authors also seemed to fudge quotes. For example, they write: “But to the critic and artist Kenny Schachter, Amar was a ‘fake aristocrat’ who frequently boasted about and overinflated his accomplishments in the art world. Others, who wished to remain anonymous, were similarly skeptical, claiming Amar’s work with the L.G.B.T.Q.+ movement was simply a way for him to ingratiate himself further into the art world.”

On Oct. 28, 2023, Schacter wrote Amar a horrified email:

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(Screenshot email from artist Kenny Schachter)

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Royal Amar Singh with Ravi Kant, Advocate in the Supreme Court of India
(Photo courtesy Amar Singh)

The story mentions “crusading Indian lawyer Ravi Kant” – who is actually an Advocate in the Supreme Court of India fighting LGBTQ “conversion therapy.” Kant also validated his work with Amar:  

“I was very impressed with the passion you brought in to the issue of conversion therapy happening on children and the need to work to stop this inhuman practice,” Kant wrote to Amar on Oct. 29, 2023. “Amar you have been very considerate for standing by and supporting this legal research work on this very important area.” 

And then there’s Liza. “The way she was portrayed by Air Mail following us correcting their story is utterly untrue,” says Amar.  

“In my relationship with Amar, we both messed up,” Liza says. “I made some bad choices like cheating and gaslighting, and I deeply believe that his words to me were merely a response to my behavior. All good that he has done and the kind person he is should not be overpowered by a few minutes of responsiveness to my actions. There is no one on this earth who can, with their hand on the heart, say that they have never said things they don’t mean when angry and hurt.”

Apparently, Air Mail doesn’t care. They’ve let inaccuracies stand to bring down a royal. So much for “intelligentsia.” 

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Karen Ocamb is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

Ocamb started in LGBTQ+ media in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ+ data collection during the COVID pandemic.

Since leaving the LA Blade Ocamb continues to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her rescue dog Pepper.

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Editor's Letter

Congratulations WeHo Mayor Erickson & Vice-Mayor Byers

WeHo City Councilmembers serve for four years and are elected at large. The Council annually selects members to serve as Mayor & Vice-Mayor

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Mayor John M. Erickson signing his paperwork designating his office. (Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

LOS ANGELES – The publisher, editor, staff, and contributors of the Los Angeles Blade extend their congratulations and best wishes to the newly-sworn in Mayor John M. Erickson and Vice-Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers of the City of West Hollywood.

The pair was sworn in during the city council meeting on Tuesday, January 16, 2024.

Vice-Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers being sworn in on January 16, 2024.
Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood

Former City of West Hollywood Mayor and former City Council member, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Lindsey P. Horvath was also in attendance.

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Viewpoint

Rising voices, unifying forces: Two Trans-led organizations will merge to confront a new era of attacks

NCTE and TLDEF to create Advocates for Trans Equality

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From left: Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Andrea Hong Marra and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen (Photo courtesy of TLDEF, National Center for Transgender Equality)

BY ANDREA HONG MARRA AND RODRIGO HENG-LEHTINEN — In human rights movements, there are moments when the world seems to turn upside down, and advocates find themselves staring at a reality far harsher and more threatening than they seem equipped to combat. 

For us, leaders of two organizations focused on protecting and advancing the rights of Transgender people, one of those moments occurred on Feb. 21, 2022, when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion that allowing Transgender children to receive medically necessary care was tantamount to child abuse under state law. Governor Greg Abbott piled on, urging citizens to report their suspicions of minors receiving this essential healthcare.

Attacks on the rights of Trans people — and especially Trans children — were, of course, not new. Since 2016, we have seen a steadily increasing wave of anti-Trans bills in state legislatures around the country, fueling a barrage of anti-Trans rhetoric and misinformation, as well as rising violence against Trans people.

But this was next level: An undemocratic and draconian assault on Trans families. Our families.

It was also, we realized, a moment of deep reckoning for the Trans rights movement. Our opponents were outgunning us, outspending us, and essentially doing everything in their power to dehumanize Trans people — along with all LGBTQ+ people — in the eyes of the American public. 

It was a moment that demanded a bold response. 

Within days, the two of us met in person to articulate that response. Our organizations have a long history of working together and informing and strengthening each other’s work. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is the leading voice for Trans rights in Washington, D.C. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) is the preeminent legal advocacy group for Trans people facing discrimination.

Both our organizations had grown tremendously over the years. Both, in fact, were the strongest they’d ever been and were doing great work.

Yet we did not have an immediate answer to the level of escalation in Texas. 

We realized we could do much, much more together than we could separately. With unanimous consent from both of our boards, we decided to merge our two organizations into a single powerful force on behalf of Trans people in America. The merger, which becomes official this summer, will create Advocates for Trans Equality (A4TE), a Trans-led national organization with double the resources, double the brilliance and experience, and double the fierce commitment to justice for all Trans people.

With this merger, we will have the power to take bigger, bolder steps to secure Trans equality, which is what this is all about. It is not about saving money or eliminating redundancies. Everyone is keeping their job, and we will continue providing — and strengthening — the life-saving work that NCTE and TLDEF have led these past two decades. We will build upon each other’s strengths to advance human rights for all Trans people.

We are the first generation to wrestle with Trans rights as part of the public discourse. This was simply not happening 20 years ago, even while gay rights were moving ahead. But here we are, and we have a window of perhaps five to 10 years, while public opinion is still flexible, to win the hearts and minds of the American people. 

And that’s where A4TE comes in. Together, we will be twice as loud. This merger is about galvanizing our advocacy power on behalf of Trans people, marshaling our diverse strengths, and ensuring Trans people have a real opportunity to participate and succeed in American life. Right now we have a unique opportunity to turn the tide of anti-Trans propaganda and legislation.

It’s also about solidifying leadership by Trans people for Trans people. The need for Trans leadership has never been greater. The two of us will work together with each other and a senior leadership team to oversee this new organization. Notably, we are both Trans leaders of color, which matters because Trans people of color experience greater discrimination and violence. We stand ready to pick up the mantles of our founding mothers, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, Monica Roberts and so many more and build on the efforts of the many LGBTQ+ and Trans advocacy organizations working across the country. We will show up for the Trans community by leading a modern-day movement to protect and advance the rights of all Trans people. 

Paxton’s legal opinion turned out to be a political ploy to help him win re-election amid allegations of bribery and corruption. But that’s not to say we won’t see a repeat of what happened in Texas, there or somewhere else, with potentially greater repercussions.

The difference is that now we are prepared. We are Advocates for Trans Equality. We are ready to lead the fight against Trans oppression. We believe in a future where Trans people are no less than equal and we won’t stop fighting until that future is here.

Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra (she/her) is the executive director of Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. 

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen (he/him) is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. 

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