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Wins for trans candidates seen as nationwide clarion call

National implications

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From left, Virginia Delegate-elect Danica Roem (D-Prince William), Erie School Board Member-elect Tyler Titus, Minneapolis City Council Member-elect Andrea Jenkins and Palm Springs City Council Member-elect Lisa Middleton. (Roem and Jenkins photos courtesy of respective campaigns; Titus and Middleton photos courtesy Facebook)

The historic wins by transgender candidates on Tuesday are being widely interpreted to have nationwide implications, although LGBT political observers have different takes on what those conclusions are.

The most high-profile win Tuesday night was transgender journalist Danica Roem’s victory in Virginia over Del. Bob Marshall, who has a decades-long history of anti-LGBT views and this year introduced a bill that would have banned transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Other highlights include Andrea Jenkins winning a seat on the Minneapolis City Council, marking the first time an openly transgender person of color won election in the United States and the first time an out transgender candidate was elected to a city council in a major U.S. city. (The results for another transgender candidate, Phillipe Cunningham, were close but not yet final at the time of this article’s publication.)

Meanwhile, Tyler Titus won election to the Erie School Board in Pennsylvania and Lisa Middleton won election to the Palm Springs City Council.

Logan Casey, who’s transgender and a research associate at the Harvard Opinion Research Program, said the wins are important on their own for transgender visibility.

“With so few transgender people in office, everyone is important,” Casey said. “And so, there’s one level on which these wins are really important just for trans people and the LGBTQ community generally, saying that we can win elections. We can be out, and be proud and be ourselves and be successful.”

But combined with other wins for diversity, such as the election of a Sikh mayor in New Jersey, Casey said the transgender victories demonstrate identity politics might not be a losing ticket as critics have claimed.

“We’ve heard a lot of conversation in the last year in particular about the idea that too much focus on identity politics loses elections for Democrats in general,” Casey said. “I think that this is a really strong signal that this is probably not the case. We’ve seen lots of different types of candidates — not just trans candidates, but other ones running all across the country — being successful yesterday and speaking openly about the various aspects of their identities, and winning their elections.”

But with many anti-trans lawmakers in state legislatures introducing legislation that inhibit transgender people’s access to the restroom, do the wins — particularly Roem’s over Marshall in Virginia — send a message those policies will lead to defeat at the ballot?

Sean Meloy, political director for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said he thinks the transgender wins should serve as a wake-up call to lawmakers planning anti-trans policies.

“People from the White House down to school boards have been pushing anti-trans legislation, and I think that they’re going to take a moment to pause and think that the author of anti-trans legislation was just beaten by a transgender woman, and I think that’s going to give them pause,” Meloy said.

Casey, however, cautioned a lot of things were in play in the election for the 13th district seat in Virginia and the result on election night might not be about bathroom bills.

“I am inclined to say Danica didn’t win because she was trans and Marshall had introduced these bathroom bills,” Casey said. “I think Danica won because she was able to connect with constituents on local issues like transportation and things that are really important to her district, and she had a really solid ground game and was successful in fundraising. She beat Marshall because she got back to the basics and was able to connect with her voters.”

Casey, however, added the defeat of Marshall at the hands of Roem may “give caution to lawmakers about how much of an issue to make about trans issues in particular during a campaign.”

“It may not change their voting behavior, or even what bills they introduce, because that’s a very different type of legislative behavior, but in terms of how they actually go about campaigning come next year, it might provide some caution to folks who are on the ticket,” Casey said.

The wins could be a precursor for transgender victories to come. Among the winners could be Dana Beyer, who’s running for the seat in the Maryland State Senate being vacated by Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery) in his bid to become governor.

Beyer, whose attempt to challenge Madaleno for the seat proved unsuccessful, said the lessons from the transgender wins are many, but include knowing to run during a Democratic wave year.

“We’ve created enough acceptance over the past 15 years in both America, in general, and within the Democratic party, in particular, that being trans (or any of the other smaller minorities, such as Sikh) is no longer a liability, but may actually be an asset,” Beyer said.

The Democratic wins in Virginia and New Jersey were widely viewed as a stinging rebuke to President Trump and LGBT rights supporters are hopeful the trans victories carry the same message to the White House over his anti-LGBT actions.

Among the Trump administration’s policies that have undermined transgender rights are seeking to bar transgender people from the armed forces, undoing Obama-era guidance ensuring transgender kids have access to school restrooms consistent with their gender identity and dropping support for the idea Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination against transgender people.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund, said in a statement the transgender victories are symbolically important in the Trump era.

“For too long, transgender people were not involved in policy decisions, including making laws that impact us,” Keisling said. “These victories demonstrate not only the strength of democracy, but the value placed on strong candidates who stand with the people on issues of local, state and national importance. With transgender people targeted by the current Administration, it is critical that our community be represented in elected office, to ensure the progress we’ve made advancing equality is not rolled back.”

But observers aren’t holding their breath in anticipation of a change from Trump.

When asked if the transgender victories would be a signal to Trump over his anti-trans policies, Casey responded succinctly, “No.”

“I don’t think that he responds really to any individual piece of information like this, or even larger patterns,” Casey said. “I think he speaks very freely about his opinions and doesn’t seem to be much persuaded by information like this, so I think it’s less the case that Donald Trump will be persuaded or moved in his behavior as a result of these elections.”

Meloy also expressed doubt the victories would mark any change with Trump in how he treats transgender people.

“Honestly, I hope it does,” Meloy said. “I think the results from around the country last night also send a message, but this message is distinctly important for our community that while he masquerades as an ally, his policy and practice clearly shows that he is anything but, and we’re going to take the fight to people who are actively working against us.”

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Monkeypox

Right-wing media exploit monkeypox- retread anti-vax misinformation

These anti-vax talking points are intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – As monkeypox presents an ever-increasing threat to Americans, predominantly gay and bisexual men, conservative media figures are exploiting the global health emergency to stoke fears of the COVID-19 vaccine and related health measures and to attack queer men. 

These anti-vax talking points are often invoked alongside AIDS-era rhetoric intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease and gay and bisexual men as culprits in — rather than victims of — the growing outbreak. This stigmatization has already reportedly resulted in violence against gay men.

During the last week of July, the U.S. reported both the fastest rise in and highest number of monkeypox cases worldwide, leading the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency on August 4. The virus, which is endemic in certain African countries, is usually rare in Europe and the U.S. However, the virus recently found its way to men who have sex with men (MSM), where it has proliferated primarily through sexual contact. The gay community has emphasized the need to warn about the risk the virus poses to MSM while not feeding into anti-gay rhetoric that depicts gay sexuality as immoral. 

Despite this plea from those most affected by the ongoing health crisis, right-wing media quickly responded to the spread of monkeypox with homophobia – recalling the vilification that gay men experienced during the AIDS epidemic. In addition to being impacted by the latest right-wing media smear campaign risking targeted violence against LGBTQ people, queer men are also less likely to seek medical care for monkeypox in countries where their sexuality is stigmatized.

Conservative media figures invoke COVID-19 conspiracy theories and criticism of health measures in coverage of monkeypox

From early on in their coverage of the monkeypox outbreak, right-wing media figures used the story to renew efforts to sow vaccine hesitancy and undermine COVID-19 health measures. Some far-right figures have even spread conspiracy theories that falsely assert the COVID-19 vaccine is directly responsible for the monkeypox outbreak. 

On May 24, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said on her show that “the first person who lines up to get a monkeypox vaccine, I’m going to laugh in your face.” Owens then suggested the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci were involved in the spread of both diseases as part of “attempts at authoritarianism” and “globalism.” This claim coincides with the recent conservative conspiracy theory claiming the U.S. was ceding power to the WHO.

From the May 24, 2022, edition of Daily Wire’s Candace

Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought anti-vax conspiracy theorist Dr. George Fareed onto the August 8 edition of his radio show, where Fareed falsely claimed “the mass vaccination with these gene therapies, COVID vaccines, have the ability to weaken the immune system and make people more vulnerable to viral infection,” suggesting the vaccine could precipitate the spread of monkeypox. 

Far-right blog American Greatness posted an article on August 3 promoting the work of Shmuel Shapira, an Israeli scientist pushing similar claims as Fareed. The article claimed “Twitter censored Shapira” after the platform flagged a tweet of his as misinformation. Shapira’s tweet read, “It is well established the mRNA vaccines affect the natural immune system. A monkey pox outbreak following massive covid vaccination: Is not a coincidence.”

Right-wing media figures have also taken advantage of the recent health crisis to reignite their crusade against public health measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative commentators claim that a double standard exists between government reactions to monkeypox and COVID-19, ignoring differences in how the two diseases spread. 

Podcaster Steven Crowder, amid a longer homophobic rant suggesting gay men were engaging in bestiality, claimed on August 2 that COVID-19 health measures were “politically motivated” and that masking and social distancing “didn’t make any difference whatsoever.” Crowder then contrasted those measures with the fact that Pride events still took place this year despite the spread of monkeypox, saying, “They won’t even cancel their gay San Francisco fuckfest.”

From the August 2, 2022, edition of Louder with Crowder, streamed on YouTube

An article for The Federalist titled “Americans Lost Fundamental Freedoms During Covid — But Halting Gay Orgies To Stop Monkeypox Is Too Far?” bemoaned COVID lockdowns and claimed, “We shut down the world for a virus that had no traceable transmission, it was entirely random. It really isn’t too much to ask for gay men to stop engaging in orgies and public sex events for their ‘mental health,’ their ‘self-esteem,’ and to continue ‘having fun.’”

On Twitter, right-wing personalities expressed a similar sentiment. 

Alt-right troll Mike Cernovich tweeted his criticism of public health advocate Dr. Gregg Gonsalves:

Far-right YouTuber Ian Miles Cheong continued his online anti-gay tirade on monkeypox:

Right-wing radio host Dan O’Donnell similarly tweeted:

Gay men are targeted with violence while right-wing media continues to depict them as threats

After the first cases of monkeypox were found among children in the U.S., LGBTQ advocates reported right-wing figures were using the news to falsely claim that gay men were guilty of abuse. This was a part of a larger attempt by right-wing media to use the monkeypox outbreak to depict LGBTQ people as a threat to society. By attempting to evoke the sort of stigmatizing rhetoric pushed during the AIDS epidemic that frames the MSM community as vectors of disease, right-wing media is feeding a culture of prejudice that has already resulted in violence against gay men. 

The above-mentioned article from The Federalist fearmongered that “as gay men spread the virus within their population at startling rates, the chances of it escaping into the mundane world through close contact in stores, crowded streets, or buses increases,” claiming that gay and bisexual men were spreading the disease through “truly selfish behavior [that] is endangering the rest of us.”

Right-wing talk show host Erick Erickson tweeted, “‘My orgy doesn’t affect you,’ said the man who spread monkeypox to the lady who worked at the gas station. Two weeks of no orgies to stop the spread is just too much to ask.”

On Hannity’s August 8 radio show, guest Dr. Brian Tyson said the virus would “spread to the heterosexual community if we don’t get a handle on the gay community to stop the transmission,” and claimed “the CDC and the NIH, they’re afraid to come out and tell the gay community to stop having intercourse until this pandemic goes away.”

On the August 5 edition of his show, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk characterized the government response to monkeypox as an attempt to avoid offending “the alphabet mafia” of the LGBTQ community, saying, “You can’t go after the gay community for maybe doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” before declaring he would “not live through another lockdown or an erosion of our civil liberties by a corrupt or usurpatious government because we’re afraid to offend people. Don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.”

From the August 5, 2022, edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, streamed on YouTube   

The effects of right-wing media’s misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine put their audience at serious risk. However, these conservative figures are now jeopardizing the health of millions of LGBTQ Americans as well by seeking to stigmatize their sexuality during a public health crisis.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Politics

Florida school removes posters of Black heroes, teacher resigns in protest

“DeSantis’s culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price”

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O.J. Semmes Elementary School, Pensacola, Florida/Facebook

PENSACOLA – A career special education teacher in Escambia County, Florida resigned this past week just as classes were scheduled to start after a Escambia County Public School District staffer removed posters and pictures of historically significant Black Americans from his classroom.

Michael James, 61, who has taught special ed classes for the past fifteen years told Pensacola News Journal reporter Colin Warren-Hicks in an interview this week that he had emailed a letter to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed the pictures citing the images as being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

Michael James
Courtesy of Michael James

“It really floored me,” James told the News Journal. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.”

James chose the board’s theme because the majority of the students and the residents in the neighborhoods that surround O.J. Semmes are Black, and he wanted to motivate his students with inspirational leaders they could easily look up to and see themselves.

The Pensacola News Journal reported that Escambia County Public Schools Superintendent Tim Smith  said that “teachers are permitted to decorate their classrooms with educational materials and he was unaware of any policies that would prohibit a teacher from displaying pictures of inspirational American heroes on their walls.”

Smith said a full investigation of the incident, which he called an “anomaly,” has been launched.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, (D-FL 13th District) who is running to secure the Democratic Party nomination to oust DeSantis in the November elections took aim at the sitting governor in a Facebook post:

On Wednesday afternoon the Congressman expanded his remarks saying:

“This is the sad reality of Ron DeSantis’ Florida — a teacher, in a predominantly Black community, comes into their classroom to see posters of historically Black American heroes, including President (Barack) Obama, taken down for being ‘inappropriate,’ Crist said in a statement. “DeSantis’ culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price.”

Florida Politics reported that the controversy comes as the first Florida schools, including Escambia County schools, begin their first academic year under legislation signed by DeSantis that targets “critical race theory.”

Among other rules, the law prohibit lessons teaching students that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

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Log Cabin GOP compares FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago to Stonewall

In February, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records

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former President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan stand in the main entrance to Trump's exclusive private club & Florida residence Mar-A-Lago on April 17, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

WASHINGTON – As the outraged fallout continued in Republican Party circles Tuesday, after special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant Monday at the South Florida estate of former President Donald Trump, the LGBTQ political group Log Cabin Republicans, (LCR) joined the growing chorus on the right angered by the search.

“Just as the patrons of Stonewall were not intimidated by police, we will not be intimidated by the weaponization of the FBI and DoJ against President Trump or his home, Mar-A-Lago… …where (as we announced hours ago) we will be holding our annual gala later this year!” the group tweeted Monday after news of the search broke.

Reaction to the LCR tweet was swift ranging to from disgust as expressed by LGBTQ writer and radio host Rob Watson to outright anger as noted by former Advocate editor and LGBTQ journalist Matthew Breen.

The FBI’s action was described as unprecedented by legal experts and analysts, however the execution of the search warrant underscores the fact that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will order investigations into criminal wrong doing to include the former president.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have dismissed the FBI search as politically motivated.

While a copy of the search warrant was delivered to Trump’s attorneys, little is known about the predicate probable cause found significant enough that a federal judge authorised the search. The affidavit which is the foundational document showing that a crime had been committed and that evidence would likely be found during the search provided to the judge to make that determination has not been made public.

A Justice Department source told the Blade that last January Trump had been found in possession of 15 boxes of materials at his Florida home, which he relinquished to staff from the National Archives amid concerns he may have violated the Presidential Records Act, (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22).

A certain portion of the paperwork that Trump had in his possession was classified which the Justice Department official noted is by itself criminal in nature.

In February, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records. The National Archives said some of the documents Trump turned over to them had been ripped up and taped back together CBS News noted.

It remains to be seen whether the search will lead to criminal charges against the former president or anyone in his immediate orbit, but former prosecutors noted there are serious penalties for violating public records laws the Hill reported Tuesday.

“Highly classified information is treated that way because of its extreme sensitivity. There is a whole range of material that is really a crown jewel, national security, high-consequence sequence. And if that’s what a person carried away rather than leaving it in the hands of the government and complying with the Presidential Records Act, that’s a gravely serious matter,” said John Barrett, a former federal prosecutor who worked for the independent counsel investigating the Iran-contra scandal and served in the DOJ inspector general’s office.

The former president had issued a lengthy statement Monday evening in which he called the raid an “attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.”

The House GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy promised retribution in a tweet should his party retake control of Congress in the Fall midterm elections:

The Justice Department and the FBI both declined to comment.

Former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Home Being Searched Causes Immediate Political Fallout:

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