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Amy Siskind is keeping a list of Trump’s anti-LGBTQ moves

Tracking Trump’s lies goes viral

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The cover of the June 30 issue of The Los Angeles Blade.

Amy Siskind’s work is the kind of genius historians will refer to in the next decade as the definitive chronicler of what went wrong and how.

“Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” she likes to say.

Each day brings a bombshell that in ordinary times would dominate the news cycle for months with sweeping investigations. Trump takes to Twitter over the slightest perceived slight, promoting the fakest narrative he can spell out in 140 characters about news he wants his followers to ignore.

But that, like so much else, is just a charade that masks a whole spate of other alleged crimes and misdemeanors now under multiple investigations. While we are hyperventilating about a Tweet, something else much darker is happening.

And that’s where Siskind comes in. For the past seven months she has taken note and documented every instance of the abnormal or bizarre, spending 15-20 hours a week and talking to thousands of people to synthesize events as they happen.

She publishes her work (dubbed the “Weekly List”) chronicling the bad deeds of the Trump administration on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Medium, attracting hundreds of thousands of weekly readers. Her work has been highlighted by The Washington Post and The Independent and Siskind is considered a rising star. A NYU journalism professor called her work “thoroughly journalistic and much needed.”

Siskind said her work on Trump originated from her post-election reading about how authoritarian governments take hold — behavior that seems shocking at first quickly becomes normal.

And on LGBT rights, she has a particularly urgent message, especially if you continue to believe that Trump hasn’t really gone after the LGBTQ community.

The Blade spoke with Siskind by phone from her home in Westchester County, N.Y.

BLADE: What’s the motivating force behind your work tracking Trump’s lies and the administration’s bizarre behavior? You told The Washington Post that it developed when you read about the process of normalization, that we come to accept things that are abnormal because we get lost in this slow drift of bizarreness. So I guess my question is, what strikes you so far as the most bizarre thing that’s happened?

AMY SISKIND: Though there are too many to mention, I think what strikes me most is that we are living in a constant state of chaos. There are so many items each and every day that are, in and of themselves, shocking. In normal times these things would be individual stories that would be covered by our media for weeks or months. But, because there are so many of them, we’ve lost track of accountability for these items or being able to even remember them. As a result, we’ve in a way normalized things that in any other time in our country or in our lifetimes would be shocking and deserving of outrage around the country. We’re bombarded with so many of these each and every day we’ve become desensitized.

That’s led to a sort of acceptance because we are sort of plowed over by all that’s not normal.

Amy Siskind is a former Wall Street executive who co-founded The New Agenda, a national women’s organization devoted to improving the lives of women and girls. She is also a recognized LGBTQ activist.

BLADE: Even journalists are plowed over. There’s tacit endorsement when they do not properly challenge him.

SISKIND: The bar was set pretty low by our media. I have myself been a critic of the media early on about some journalists complimenting him for reading off a teleprompter or covering him like you would a normal candidate, talking about things like infrastructure when it was pretty obvious even before he took office that he was not going to be normal.

Even though it started out that way, I am grateful to see a shift.

I think the media has realized they are under siege now and being silenced. I see mainstream journalists beginning to form a community and protecting one another. Journalists from the right are still amplifying authoritarian messages and giving credence to “news” that’s not true news. I am starting to see change.

What The List does that our media is not able to do — because they need to cover every story as if it were a traditional administration (or in Trump’s case it’s a regime) — is give some perspective week by week about what’s happening.

What mainstream journalists are reporting is very in the moment but it doesn’t, with the exception of a few like maybe Rachel Maddow, trace back the story.

For example, The List can follow the Deutsche Bank story over weeks or months whereas most of the reporting is just “here we are in this moment and today.” So what I really hope to accomplish with The List is to access all the stories about Deutsche Bank that have happened over the last several months since I’ve been doing The List. It’s a journalistic way of tying things together that our media is not doing.

Typically, I spend 15 to 20 hours a week on each list because so many of the things I put in it are not widely seen, but to me are really important.

I spend a lot of time covering treatment of different subsets of people because that’s part of authoritarianism; I mean how you treat one then how do you treat the LGBTQ community how you treat people of different religions and people of color so I make sure to highlight things that are really not normal.

I cover the way citizens are acting but also the way the administration is acting.

BLADE: What do you make of gay Republicans and Trump supporters who say he hasn’t really done anything specifically bad to LGBTQ people?

SISKIND: That’s an uninformed argument. I think the LGBT community is in grave danger with Trump and the overriding thing is that we are invisible to the Trump administration.

And I’ll give specific examples of ways that he is hurting our community, but the overall theme is we’re invisible that’s never good for any community.

Let’s start with the fact that there’s no recognition of LGBTQ Pride month. When we are made invisible you take away our identity. Trump is doing that by not recognizing Pride: he’s doing that by not including LGBTQ people in the Census.

That’s a really big deal and I have it in my weekly list 32 that just came out; NPR did a Freedom of Information Act request on work that was done by HUD and they said Census data was essential for the inclusion of the LGBT community to be part of the Census. Trump’s response is that they don’t think it’s appropriate to ask questions of sexual orientation and gender identity topics, which is an argument that makes us invisible.

BLADE: That Census information is used throughout government to implement civil rights protections and to ensure representation and equality.

SISKIND: Point is that if you’re invisible you don’t need protections or rights. So, you can see the path down which he is taking the nation.

Also in Week 32, his Secretary of Education DeVos said she won’t go after schools that discriminate against transgender students amongst other things. They are not going to push on the civil rights issues. That was just one week!

Not protecting transgender people is an issue. They’ve also already taken away – in certain government departments – worker protections on the basis of sexual orientation.

So when you make people invisible, you don’t need to protect them against discrimination in housing and workplace discrimination. So, in many parts of the Trump administration it’s legally acceptable to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And that’s that headline worthy!!! That should scream out with three exclamation points at the end.

People who don’t think he hasn’t done anything against LGBT people are missing the point — he’s slowly eroding our protections and making it legal to discriminate against us because of our sexual orientation and gender identity.

BLADE: It’s very much like what you said about authoritarianism — a slow erosion of normalcy.

SISKIND: Exactly! And end of rights for different subsets of people. You can see the different subsets of people that are under attack. It’s pretty much everyone that’s not white, straight, Christian and male. We can have the same conversation about ways women are being attacked or Muslim Americans or Jewish Americans or Latinos or immigrants or Black Americans or something for everybody.

BLADE: Those, of course, include LGBT people…

SISKIND: Yes, we are under assault in so many ways. Let’s talk about Gorsuch. Just this week his Supreme Court appointee argued against gay adoption. And the scariest part of that to me is that it’s not based on fact. There’s study after study showing gay and lesbian parents are actually superior parents to heterosexual parents! So, it’s not based on any factual study, it’s based on his own bias.

These are the people that Trump is bringing into power and into authority. If that doesn’t scare you! There’s now, I think eight states, since he took power that are making it illegal for gay couples to adopt.

I know California now has banned official government business travel to those eight states.

But there’s eight states — since he took power — that are making it illegal in their state for gay people to adopt. Between workplace discrimination, gay adoption, and what happened to transgender people, transgender students being excluded from protection under the Civil Rights Act and in college too. I mean, this is something that impacts the LGBTQ community.

BLADE: They have taken away the right to sue for those things.

SISKIND: Yes! They won’t pursue that under DeVos and our Department of Justice. And we’re just at the start of things!

I’m looking here at week 20. ‘Trump signed an executive order which legalizes discrimination against LGBT federal employees.’ Yes, that’s one of the two items that week. And then the Census.

But that’s really a huge thing I mean it and then in a later week you have (Commerce Secretary) Wilbur Ross removing sexual orientation and gender identification from its anti-discrimination policies. That another really big item to include in week 30.

BLADE: So much for the idea that Trump has done nothing to hurt LGBT people.

SISKIND: Yes, we are under assault and I think the community’s in great danger; he’s not going to stand up on stage and say “I am a bigot.” He’s going to slowly erode our rights and make us invisible. That’s what he is doing.

BLADE: What happens if Pence replaces Trump?

SISKIND: What’s going to happen, in either scenario, is that we’re going to be in chaos. I mean Trump isn’t getting anything done legislatively. And if he faces impeachment hearings or if he faces other criminal proceedings, nothing’s going to get done legislatively. But he still can slowly erode things.

Will Pence be any better or worse? We don’t know. We don’t know if Pence himself will be ensnared by what’s going on — I find it hard to believe he won’t be.

Regardless, I think it has to be a goal for everybody, every American. Any normal Republican is a better alternative than losing our democracy, which is what’s happening.

The basic rights that were afforded, including our voting rights and fair elections are, under Trump, under siege.

When people ask me that question you don’t know exactly how anything’s going to play out; you know it’s going to be chaos. Would I rather have Pence?

I’ll deal with that option when it comes to it, but I can tell you right now we’re in danger and I don’t think there’s anything that could be any worse than what we’re currently living in.

BLADE: With the Supreme Court decision to take on the wedding cake case on the same day it basically erased the line between church and state, it’s really hard to imagine we aren’t about to face a significant setback. It looks like the threat to LGBTQ people is spreading throughout government.

SISKIND: Well, if he’s able to appoint another Supreme Court judge — we just have to pray for our Ruth Bader Ginsburg that she can stay on the bench until the 2020 election.

I worry about all of it. But I think we get sort of distracted if we just focus on what’s happening in the judicial branch because Trump is doing so much damage in the executive branch already, that people are just kind of numb to…that, I think, is the biggest purpose with what I’m doing with The List and the conversation you and I are having.

We need to raise awareness that already we are becoming invisible and that our rights are being eroded.

It’s hard to imagine exactly what will happen with the Supreme Court cases. You know, we’ve lost Scalia and gained somebody who’s maybe even further right than him.

I think probably the only issue that is NOT currently on the table is gay marriage, and that’s only because generations are so decidedly pro-gay marriage.

Everything else, though — you can be married and have every other right taken away from you, including the ability to have people make your wedding cake, host your wedding, or be discriminated against and beat up on the way back from your wedding.

I think our community has become so obsessed about the success of this one issue that we’ve forgotten about all the other issues that impact our daily living.

BLADE: This slipperiness is all playing out in the background of the Russia investigation. This is what is happening while we are all hyperventilating about Russia.

SISKIND: And that’s why every week in The List you can find all the events that are playing out.

If you put in LGBTQ it will show you all the items that have already changed. If you put in Muslim, you’ll see all the assaults on Muslim people. If you put in Black or African American, you’ll see the items about the nooses in D.C. or the gorilla mask in Tennessee this week. I’m really trying to keep a focus on every week’s list of what’s happening.

The fabric of our country is changing. We are legitimizing hate and it’s hate against everybody that’s not white, straight, Christian and male and I think there needs to be a much greater awareness within our community of the danger we’re in, what you normalize, what happened to that 17-year-old Muslim girl walking back to her mosque after having a meal at McDonald’s before starting Ramadan.

That could have been a trans student or a gay man or a woman walking down the street. It can be any of us that aren’t the same.

BLADE: Just as Trump eliminated Pride at the White House, he also eliminated Muslim celebrations.

SISKIND: He didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo either.

BLADE: He’s an equal opportunity eraser.

SISKIND: For anybody who’s not white, straight and male. But anybody in our community who is complacent is missing the boat, because you still have to be able to walk down the street each day, you have to be able to get a job, you have to be able to get housing and right now he’s making it legal to discriminate on all those things.

We can’t underestimate the danger that we are in as a community. Gay marriage is just a little piece of icing on the cake but we have to raise our children, we have to be able to work and live and be safe and all those things are under siege.

BLADE: Marriage is not safe. It they can create a system of laws that make it legal to deny you services, we are not equal.

SISKIND: Right, so it’s sort of like a tin victory! You can get married but we won’t make you your cake, we won’t host your reception.

BLADE: We won’t protect your right to your own children.

SISKIND: Right. Our community gets too hyper focused on marriage and has dropped the ball on everything else. People feel like “oh, we crossed that bridge and now it’s done,” kind of like women with abortion rights. It was 1973 and here we are in 2017 and talking about taking away Planned Parenthood.

Nothing is guaranteed. One victory on a single issue doesn’t mean everything else isn’t in danger of being rolled back. We have to remember also how far as a community we came and how quickly. I mean, this is been endemic in the women’s movement; big victories and then everyone’s like “Oh, good now everything’s done and we’re equal.”

No. It happens in every community. We have this huge victory and we like stopped agitating and stopped organizing and stopped worrying. And that’s a false hope.

We are in danger under this regime.

BLADE: How did you feel about the Resist marches across the country?

SISKIND: I marched in New York. As much as you can do in person…it’s sort of like fuel and it reinvigorates you. Our organization does a big event each year called National Girlfriends’ Networking day and so many of the young woman said to me ‘I needed this because I feel so disempowered.’

I think whatever you can do in person really is helpful.

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Tennessee

New Tenn. law allows refusal to conduct same-sex marriages

Republicans control both chambers of the state house & have been advancing what Tennessee Equality Project called a “slate of hate” bills

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Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee signing legislation. (File photo credit: Office of the Governor)

By Rob Salerno | NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee signed a law Wednesday that allows people to refuse to solemnize a marriage if they disagree with it, a measure critics say was designed to allow officials to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages.

Bill HB 0878 adds a single section to the Tennessee Code, stating “A person shall not be required to solemnize a marriage if the person has an objection to solemnizing the marriage based on the person’s conscience or religious beliefs.” The bill was given an emergency clause, making it come into effect upon the governor’s signature.

Under existing Tennessee law, couples get a marriage license from a county clerk before having their marriage solemnized by a notary public, government official, or religious figure. Religious figures already have protections under the first amendment allowing them to deny solemnizing marriages contrary to their faith.

Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project says his organization is ready to fight the law in court.

“Half of this bill is unnecessary because clergy are already protected. The other half is discriminatory because it allows public officials to turn away couples who have obtained a valid marriage license. Public officials should serve the entire public. We would be glad to work with organizations seeking to bring a legal challenge to the law,” he says.

Tennessee Equality Project is encouraging anyone who has a public official refuse to solemnize their wedding to contact them.

The law has the potential to affect more than the LGBT community. Under the law, officials could refuse to marry interfaith or interracial couples. While couples may have the opportunity to find alternate officials to solemnize their marriages in larger cities, couples in smaller or rural communities may be forced to travel far simply to find someone willing to solemnize their legal marriage.

The bill passed the Tennesseee state house 74-22 last March and passed the state senate 27-5 on Feb 12.  Only one house Democrat supported the bill; no Republicans voted against it.

Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and have been advancing what Tennessee Equality Project has called a “slate of hate” bills this session. 

Also on Wednesday, a bill that would ban any flag but the flag of the United States or the state of Tennessee from being displayed in any school narrowly advanced out of the senate education committee. The bill is one of many copycat bills being introduced by Republican legislators attempting to ban the Pride flag in schools.

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A companion bill in the House has had an amendment added which would allow the display of certain other flags, including the flags of other countries, Native American tribes, and military flags. The Tennessean reported that during debate, the house education committee attorney said it was unclear if the Confederate flag or the Nazi flag would be banned from schools under the amended bill.

Another bill is scheduled for consideration in the senate judiciary committee that would bar the department of children’s services from requiring that foster parents support a policy on sexual orientation or gender identity that conflicts with their beliefs. The bill would essentially require the department to place queer and trans foster kids with non-affirming parents.

The legislature is also considering bills to bar trans people from using a gender-appropriate bathroom, removing the concept of “gender identity” from state law, forcibly outs trans students to their parents, and creates a separate marriage procedure for same-sex couples.

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Iowa

Iowa senate passes “blank check to discriminate” opponents say

Critics charge businesses could use the law to circumvent civil rights laws by citing religious beliefs as justification to deny services

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Iowa state capitol building in Des Moines. (Photo credit: State of Iowa)

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate passed legislation Tuesday that opponents say will be used as as a “blank check to discriminate” against LGBTQ+ Iowans and marginalized communities.

The legislation bars governments across Iowa from “substantially burdens” meaning that any action that directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or compels any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion and includes but is not limited to withholding of benefits; assessment of criminal, civil, or administrative penalties; or exclusion from governmental programs or access to governmental facilities.

The Des Moines Register noted that the legislation would say that state and local governments shall not “substantially burden” someone’s exercise of religion unless it is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and the least restrictive means of pursuing that interest.

A person, corporation, church, foundation or other entity whose exercise of religion has been burdened would have the power to go to court to seek damages or other means of redressing the harm against them.

The Republican majority-held Senate voted 31-16 along party lines with all Democrats in opposition to pass Senate File 2095, which its sponsor, state Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, told the Register: “I believe that it is time for Iowa to add a religious freedom restoration act to our code.”

The Register also reported that Republicans have consistently introduced similar religious freedom bills since taking control of the House, Senate and governor’s office in 2016, but Tuesday’s vote was the first time such a proposal has passed the Senate.

Opponents and critics charge that people or businesses could use the law to circumvent civil rights laws by citing religious beliefs as justification to deny services, housing, employment or other public accommodations to LGBTQ Iowans or other minority groups, the Register reported.

State Senator Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, the son of two married moms reflected:

“This legislation is not about restoring religious freedom at all. This legislation is about allowing some people to cite their religious beliefs to violate the basic civil rights protections that all Iowans benefit from. This bill is a direct assault on the basic idea of equal protection under the law,” said Wahls.

Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, told the Register it seems like the bill’s opponents see it as “some kind of a plot by conservative Christians to discriminate against people.” But he said the legislation would benefit people of all faiths, not just conservative Christians.

“This is not religion specific,” he said. “This is going to benefit everybody.”

The Republican Party controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and both chambers of the state legislature. The Register noted that An identical version of the bill advanced through a committee in the Iowa House. It must still pass the full chamber before it could go to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature.

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Oklahoma

White House responds to nonbinary teenager’s death

The victim’s mother told the Independent that Benedict had suffered bullying over their gender since the start of the 2023 school year

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Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma, died on Feb. 8 after a fight at their high school. (Family photo)

WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and national advocacy groups issued statements on Wednesday about the death of nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict after they were allegedly assaulted in a high school restroom.

Benedict died on Feb. 8. According to ABC News, officials investigating the incident said they will be interviewing students and staff “over the next few weeks” and plan to share findings with the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.

The victim’s mother told the Independent that Benedict had suffered bullying over their gender since the start of the 2023 school year, shortly after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill to prohibit students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates.

“Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school,” Jean-Pierre said in a post on X. “Our hearts are with Nex Benedict’s family, their friends, and their entire school community in the wake of this horrific tragedy.”

Calling Benedict’s death a “gut-wrenching tragedy that exposes the chilling reality of anti-trans hatred,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said. “We are reaching out to the DOJ, we are encouraging the community to speak out.”

Along with Robinson’s remarks, HRC’s Press Team included a link to the organization’s blog post about Benedict and a statement from Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC Transgender Justice Initiative:

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“Extremist anti-LGBTQ+ hate accounts, like online troll Chaya Raichik, the woman behind ‘Libs of TikTok’, who was recently appointed to Oklahoma’s library advisory board, are perpetuating a vile and hateful narrative that is permitting these types of public attacks,” she wrote.

State schools superintendent Ryan Walters, who last year called transgender youth using public restrooms “an assault on truth” and a danger to other kids, was responsible for naming Raichik to the library media panel.

“The assault on Nex is an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth,” Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma wrote in a joint statement.

“We are deeply troubled by reports the school failed to respond appropriately to the altercation that preceded Nex’s death and demand a thorough, open investigation into the matter,” the groups wrote.

Their statement also notes the organizations’ lawsuit challenging Oklahoma Senate Bill 615, the bathroom bill signed by Stitt last year.

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Congress

Transphobic U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene targets Adm. Levine

Greene’s post Saturday was not the first time she expressed rank anti-LGBTQ bigotry- on the House floor she misgendered the health official

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – In a post on X Saturday, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) lobbed transphobic insults at Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the highest ranking transgender government official.

The congresswoman was responding to a video posted by Levine on X, which highlighted the disproportionate harms wrought by climate change on “the physical and mental health of Black communities” along with HHS’s work addressing these issues.

“Here is a man pretending to be a woman claiming the climate is hurting black Americans more than others” Greene wrote in her post. “This is the Democrat Party. Mental illness on full display.”

The congresswoman has repeatedly targeted Levine, largely over her support for gender-affirming care — medically necessary, evidence-based interventions that are governed by clinical practice guidelines and endorsed by every mainstream scientific and medical society in the world.

Greene’s post on Saturday was not the first time she crossed the line into rank anti-LGBTQ bigotry, however.

Speaking from the House floor in November, Greene misgendered and dead-named the health official while introducing an amendment to “reduce — no, castrate” her government salary to $1.

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New York

Beverly Tillery leaving New York City Anti-Violence Project

“I am so proud of the work we have done over the last eight years, which have been some of the most difficult our community has experienced”

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Beverly Tillery of the Anti-Violence Project. (Photo by Chris Tuttle)

NEW YORK CITY – After eight years of serving as executive director, Beverly Tillery announced on Tuesday that she will be leaving the New York-based Anti-Violence Project, America’s largest support and advocacy organization for LGBTQ survivors of violence.

“I am so proud of the work we have done over the last eight years, years which have been some of the most difficult our community has experienced in decades,” she said in a statement. Despite the steady increase in threats since the start of her tenure, Tillery said, “we helped our communities respond to the increases in hate violence attacks and came together with other targeted communities to protect each other.”

AVP Board Chair Stephanie K. Blackwood credited Tillery with helping to grow the group into “an organization that is poised for a national role,” recognized for its “model support services to survivors and their families, innovative policy and advocacy work and impactful community organizing.”

Recent advocacy work has included educating policymakers and leaders about the escalating threats and attacks against LGBTQ spaces, following the group’s issuance of its comprehensive survey and corresponding report titled, “Under Attack: 2022 LGBTQ+ Safe Spaces National Needs Assessment.”

Tillery spoke with the Washington Blade in October about AVP’s meetings with the White House, top officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health, and congressional offices.

The group plans to begin the search for a new executive director next month. Tillery’s last day will be July 31.

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U.S. State Department

Former State Department spokesperson named UN ambassador’s deputy

Ned Price is gay

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Former State Department spokesperson Ned Price, center, speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Institute's International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 3, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield has announced former State Department spokesperson Ned Price will manage her D.C. office.

Thomas-Greenfield in a statement to Politico on Feb. 16 said Price’s “judgment and expertise will be a tremendous asset to me and the entire USUN team.” Price, who is gay, in a post to his personal X account acknowledged his appointment.

“I am grateful to (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield), (Secretary of State Antony Blinken) and my colleagues across the administration for the opportunity to help promote America’s interests and values in the U.N. and broader multilateral system together with our allies and partners,” wrote Price.

Price on Jan. 20, 2021, became the first openly gay State Department spokesperson. He stepped down in March 2023 in order to become a senior advisor to Blinken.

Price was previously a senior communications official for the National Security Council and worked at the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma non-binary high schooler dies after physical altercation

The school district has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik

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16-year-old non-binary Nex (Dagny) Benedict died from injuries suffered in a physical altercation at Owasso High School on February 7th, 2024. (Family Photo)

OWASSO, Okla. – Located in Tulsa County on U.S. Highway 169 six miles north of Tulsa’s city limits, this city of 39,328 persons is grappling with conflict and accusations after Nex (Dagny) Benedict, a 16-year-old Owasso High School non-binary sophomore, died after a physical fight in a restroom at the school.

However, according to school officials there was no notification or staff awareness of the fight until the young student had been taken to hospital and later died. The Owasso Police Department is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the student’s death.

According to the local newspaper, the Owasso Reporter:

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, around 3:30 p.m., police were called to Bailey Medical Center by the parent of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who allegedly had a physical altercation at the campus earlier that day, according to the police report.

It states that no initial report of the fight was made to police prior to their admission to Bailey, although information was taken by a school resource officer at the hospital.

On Thursday evening, police were made aware that the student was rushed back to the hospital where they were pronounced dead from a medical episode, the report states.

Editor’s note. The following report is from KJRH-TV News 2 which does use pronouns other than those used by non-binary persons. Those have been placed in brackets for clarity.

KJRH-TV News 2 in neighboring Tulsa reported that a person knowledgeable of the events leading to the teen’s death, who claimed to be the mother of the victim’s best friend, told the station regarding the teen’s death:

“I think complications from brain trauma, head trauma, is what caused it,” she said.

The woman wouldn’t say the victim’s name but said [she] was a sophomore. She said the victim was outgoing and loyal once they got comfortable and was not afraid to be outspoken. The woman said three older girls were beating on the victim and her daughter in the girl’s bathroom.

“I know at one point, one of the girls was pretty much repeatedly beating [their] head across the floor,” she said. That’s when [they said] a teacher walked in and broke it up.

“[They] couldn’t walk to the nurses’ station on [their] own, and staff didn’t call the ambulance, which amazes me,” she said.

The woman told 2 News the victim’s grandmother, who [they] primarily lived with, brought [them] to the hospital after the fight. She said the victim was released that evening but was brought back the next day and died.

KJRH-TV News 2 reached out multiple times along with other media outlets to Owasso Public Schools. A School district spokesperson responded saying there would be no comment “because this is an active police investigation.”

The Owasso Police Department also declined to comment except for noting investigators still don’t know if the fight was related to the teen’s death or if a separate medical issue was the cause. OPD said they’re waiting on the corner-medical examiner’s report before releasing more information.

Owasso Public Schools released this statement about the student’s death:

“The Owasso Police Department has notified district leaders of the death of an Owasso High School student. The student’s name and cause of death have not yet been made public. As this is an active police investigation, we will have no additional comment at this time. Further inquiries should be directed to the Owasso Police Department.”

“The district will have additional counselors at the school to provide support to students and staff beginning on Friday.”

On Feb. 15, after a service was held at Mowery Funeral Service Chapel, Benedict was buried at Ridgelawn Cemetery in Collinsville.

LGBTQ+ advocates and others are angered by the death, the misgendering in local media and the fact that the school district, which has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik, seems unable to grapple with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.

Raichik was named to sit on an Oklahoma committee reviewing school library content by far-right leaning State Superintendent of schools Ryan Walters.

In 2022, Raichik targeted a now former Owasso 8th grade teacher for speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ students who lacked acceptance from their parents. That teacher, Tyler Wrynn, was labeled a ‘groomer’ and a predator in social media posts.

According to LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, Raichik’s endless targeting only seems to encourage more violence against LGBTQ+ youth.

Lance Preston, the CEO of the Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project, which has been working to assist queer youth in the state, posted a video expressing his frustration and anger over this death and the other anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

 

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District of Columbia

After queer safe space pled for help, community rallied to rescue

“AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe”

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As You Are bar in March 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Less than a week after the D.C. LGBTQ café and bar As You Are located in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill issued a GoFundMe appeal on Feb. 5 seeking emergency financial support to prevent it from closing, the popular business reached its goal of $150,000 to get out of debt.

And as of Sunday night, the fundraising appeal had pulled in $171,471 from more than 3,000 individual donations, according to As You Are’s GoFundMe site.

In comments posted on the GoFundMe site, many of the donors said they were motivated to contribute to As You Are because they view it as a special, safe space that offers a welcoming, accepting place for them and their LGBTQ friends or family members.

In their GoFundMe message, As You Are co-owners Jo McDaniel and Rachel “Coach” Pike describe how they view their business as offering community center type programming beyond just a bar and café.

“AYA is a café, bar and dance floor that hosts diverse programming nearly every night of the week, including social sport leagues, Queer youth socials, weekly karaoke, book clubs, open mics, Queer author events, dance parties and much more,” the two said in their message.

“We have faced some particularly tall and costly hurdles that have set us back significantly since the beginning,” the two said in their GoFundMe message. “As we are tapping every resource we can imagine with creativity and open minds we need urgent assistance,” they said. 

“Rach and Jo are truly loved, and AYA is so important to so many people and everyone knew that,” said gay D.C. civic activist Mike Silverstein, who is one of the GoFundMe donors. “The response was absolutely amazing,” Silverstein said. “From every part of our community. People put everything aside, worked together and focused on saving a space that means so much.”

As You Are opened for business in March 2022. McDaniel and Pike have said the financial problems were caused, in part, by a delay in their planned opening due to complications associated with getting their required occupancy permit from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The two said negotiations with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which demanded certain soundproofing structures be installed for the interior walls of their building, also added to the delay and increased costs.

Like other bars and restaurants across the city, McDaniel and Pike said their rent became a financial burden during a slow period for business last summer. They told the Washington Blade their landlord declined a request to renegotiate the lease to make an allowance based on sales. The two told the Washington Post that their rent is $27,000 per month, which they had to begin paying before they were able to open for business, and they spent $40,000 on soundproofing the walls, all of which contributed to a debt of about $150,000.

McDaniel and Pike, who spoke to the Blade at the time they launched their GoFundMe appeal, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the success of their fundraising and their future plans for As You Are. They told the Post now that they are no longer in debt, they plan to take up several offers of financial advice and they’re looking into possibly buying a property rather than renting. They said they also plan to apply for D.C. government business grants now that they have caught up on back tax payments.

Among those who posted comments on the As You Are GoFundMe site after making a contribution was Megan Mowery, who wrote, “AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe.” Mowrey added, “The programming AYA puts on absolutely has something for everyone. I love you AYA!!!”

Helena Chaves, another donor, stated in a GoFundMe post, “As You Are has been a monumental addition to the LGBTQIA+ community in Washington, D.C. They hold so many events and fundraisers, provide beautiful accommodations for us disabled folk, and have protocols in place to diminish harassment in the space.” 

Among the larger donors shown on the As You Are GoFundMe site is the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride festival and parade, which donated $2,500. 

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New York

Exorcism of “any remaining evil spirits” after trans funeral urged

Gentili is the first out trans person & outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick’s

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Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrating a Mass inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Mid-town Manhattan. (Photo Credit: Archdiocese of New York)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Outraged reaction is building from some Catholics over the funeral services for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, which were held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday.

It is believed that Gentili is the first out transgender person and outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick’s, which has historically not been a friendly institution to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported the pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City said the church has offered a Mass of Reparation after a controversial irreverent funeral service was held. Over 1400 mourners came to memorialize and honor Gentili at St. Patrick’s in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. It is the seat of the Archbishop of New York as well as a parish church.

CNA went on to misgender Gentili reporting that [Gentili] was a major fundraiser for transgender causes and was a man who identified as a woman.

CNA also noted that the queer organizers reportedly did not disclose to St. Patrick’s that Gentili, who died Feb. 6 at age 52, was a [biological man] who identified as a woman.

“I kept it under wraps,” Ceyeye Doroshow, the Gentili’s funeral services organizer, told The New York Times, CNA pointed out.

Throughout the liturgy, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, referred to Gentili with feminine pronouns and described the trans-identifying man as “our sister,” CNA reported adding; Additionally, during the prayers of the faithful, the reader prayed for so-called gender-affirming health care, while attendees frequently and approvingly referred to Gentili as the “mother of whores.”

This past Saturday, Rev. Enrique Salvo, the Pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, issued a statement:

“Thanks to so many who have let us know they share our outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this week. The Cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way. That such a scandal occurred at “America’s Parish Church” makes it worse; that it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual forty–day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us. 

“At the Cardinal’s directive, we have offered an appropriate Mass of Reparation.”

New York journalist Joe Jervis reported the far-right Catholic site LifeSiteNews has launched a petition calling on Cardinal Timothy Dolan to hold an exorcism of “any remaining evil spirits” still hanging around St. Patrick’s since the funeral.

Online, the CatholicVote community of religious extremists posted to X (formerly Twitter):

Vehemently extremist anti-LGBTQ+ Catholic League head Bill Donohue raged:

“Gentili is a man who falsely claimed to be a woman. He was an illegal alien, a drug addict, prostitute, trans activist and atheist.

At the service, many of those in attendance dressed as hookers, danced in the aisles, sang “Ave Cecilia” when “Ave Maria” was sung, and shouted, “St. Cecilia, Mother Of All Whores.”

The presiding priest, Fr. Edward Dougherty, falsely declared Gentili to be a woman, referring to him as “our sister.” Fr. James Martin, an LGBT advocate, was delighted with the event, saying the trans activists are “as much a part of the church as anyone else.”

“Many are wondering how this profane service could have happened. It happened because it was held under false pretenses,” Donohue angrily posted.

Her funeral service was both somber and celebratory of Gentili’s lasting impact on the LGBTQ+ community in New York City and across the country, with mourners chanting “Cecilia” in her honor.

Related

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. As the founder of Transgender Equity consulting and a beloved mother to countless queer, trans, and immigrant individuals in New York City, her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels.

The vibrant ceremony included a performance from actor Billy Porter and speeches from chosen family, including trans activists Ceyenne Doroshow, Liaam Winslet, and Gentili’s partner, Peter Scotto. Notably, celebrities in attendance included, Sara Ramirez, Indya Moore, Peppermint, Raquel Willis, Ryan McGinley, and more.

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New York

Libs of TikTok angered over Kleenex® & Disney Pride sponsorship

Why do companies need to find every possible avenue to force this agenda? Because Satan wants evil to be normalized, & this agenda is evil

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(Screenshot/YouTube Kleenex® Thailand)

BROOKLYN, N.Y – Perpetually outraged Libs of TikTok’s far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist creator Chaya Raichik expressed anger over a partnership between Kleenex® Brand and the Disney corporation for their Thailand Pride sponsorship.

Thailand Pride had occurred seven months previously in June of 2023, although apparently Raichik was just now made aware of that fact.

Both the Walt Disney Company and Kleenex® Brand’s parent company Kimberly-Clark foster a safe and welcoming environment for their LGBTQ+ employees as noted by the annual Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI).

Also leading the charge, the Independent Journal Review, a right-wing American news and opinion website based in Alexandria, Virginia which reported:

Disney seems to constantly believe it needs to be involved with the LGBTQ crowd, this time partnering up with Kleenex® to feature rainbow versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on tissue containers. The new collection was launched in a [Thai] commercial that featured footage from ‘pride’ parades where both men and women can be seen dressed scantily in public.

The IJR then noted:

Why is this the case? Why do these companies need to find every possible avenue they can to force this agenda on consumers — even if it hurts their business as it did with Bud Light Because Satan wants evil to be normalized, and this agenda is evil.

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