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Say it loud: ‘I’m Black and I’m proud’

Respect the real meaning of Black Pride

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Jeffrey King is executive director of In The Meantime Men’s Group, Inc., a 20-year-old community-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich, empower, and extend the lives of inter-generational black men, respectful of sexual orientation through social, educational, health, and wellness programs and services. ITMT cultivates a safe space for African-American gay men to meet while providing a variety of services, including HIV/AIDS prevention, outreach, counseling and testing. (Photo courtesy King)

This statement is not an attack on white people. It is a statement to ALL who are sleeping while Black people are being sold out.

I’m alarmed and outraged that a small segment of the Black LGBTQ community would dare denounce their own history and ancestral struggle just to fit in, just to make someone else comfortable.

The struggle for true equality for ALL people continues not because we elect to fit in—but because people dare to stand up for what is fair and just. 

There are those within the LGBTQ community at large who would seek to neutralize the importance of LGBTQ Pride as a whole. There are those less conscious who question the importance and existence of Black LGBTQ Pride, in particular.

We will not be silent while the less conscious among us try to monetize our Black existence, our Black Pride. We will not dumb down to fit into someone else’s comfortable stereotype. We will not be ignored! We will not be neutered nor neutralized by those Blacks who dare to denounce our existence, our value, our gifts, our culture and our contributions to the world just to get in and sit behind some white door. 

We are here! Our past, present and future matters! Let us not forget that our people fought, bled and died to get us to where we are today. Let us not forget that an openly gay community organizer Bayard Rustin organized the March on Washington. It is the same strategy of nonviolent resistance that we saw used to fight for marriage equality, women’s equality, and the fight for immigrant rights in America today.

We Black and Black LGBTQ people stand on the shoulders of brilliant warriors who refused to be sold and to be sold out. We have a responsibility to stand up and be Black and Proud in our own LGBTQ community.

But first we must be honest about how far off track we’ve gone.  

I am calling on the true gatekeepers of the Los Angeles Black LGBTQ community to move beyond your memories of the At The Beach Pride celebrations and reclaim your position of not only gate-keepers of our history but as leaders of today charged with more than grabbing for a few dollars at the door. 

This year’s 4th of July celebration was nothing less than a co-opted disrespectful display of ego-driven narcissists grabbing for dollars. This year was not a reflection of OUR Pride, OUR brilliance, OUR artistry, OUR music, OUR history and ultimately OUR culture. You can call it what you want—but it was not Black Pride. 

 Next year must feature every aspect of who we are as a people. Yes, the parties will be there as long as there is a promoter who is willing to host a party.  That’s the easy part. 

But those of us who are older must ensure that our Pride includes more than a circus of nightlife parties and a parade. Let’s be clear that the “turn up” is only a small part of the PRIDE Celebration. 

So, to all woke people who will dare to STAND UP—please note that if you want to see and experience something different, you must take a seat at the table. And if the table that has been set does not accurately reflect what you desire to experience—then create your own! But make a contribution to ensuring that Black Pride 2019 is something that you can be PROUD of!

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When will LGBTQ people be safe in America?

We endure. We must. Yes, we are still afraid. But we reach for each other and embrace inspiration where we can find it

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The Sea to Sea flag section displayed in Orlando after Pulse in 2016 hanging at City Hall in Colorado Springs 2022 (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Pulse. Club Q. Everyday life for drag queens, trans and non-binary folk. When, oh, when will LGBTQ people be safe in America? When will we get to be full human beings free to create, develop and explore our authentic selves without always having to worry about making some straight person uncomfortable?

I am tired of having my life defined by other people’s prejudices. But I’m mindful, too, that I must always be on guard since — as we learned again with the mass shooting at Club Q last weekend in Colorado Springs — straight fear is fatal.

Why are straight people either unable or blindly refuse to see LGBTQs as real people. We are, collectively, like the Black people Ralph Ellison wrote about in The Invisible Man: “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

But they do see us when we celebrate, protest or die en masse. And then we are dubbed a “community,” as if we all know each other and think alike. The late singer, writer and AIDS activist Michael Callen used to say: “the gay community is a useful fiction,” because it enabled us to organize and try to get resources we needed.

That local organizing for civil rights and later to combat AIDS gave rise to the political Religious Right through Rev. Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant and the right-wing “think tanks” that considered us a convenient scapegoat and fundraising convenience, leading to the cruelty of the Reagan years and anti-gay Republican populist Patrick Buchanan — who paved the way for Donald Trump.

Buchanan’s dark, divisive “culture war” speech at the 1992 convention gave permission to the nation’s bigots to disregard the traditional boundaries of good taste and civility and take off and discard the old KKK sheets and hoods in the name of “free speech” and saving America for straight white men.

“The agenda that Clinton & Clinton would impose on America – abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units – that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America needs. It is not the kind of change America wants. And it is not the kind of change we can abide in a nation that we still call God’s country,” Buchanan said. “My friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe, and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.”

Yes, in 1991/92, Bill and Hillary Clinton were on our side: they promised to stop the massive dying and end the AIDS crisis. So yes, the “gay community” raised more than $2 million of identifiable “gay money” and created the first gay voting bloc for dark horse presidential candidate Bill Clinton. But behind the scenes, our gays at the Democratic convention had to threaten a walkout on live TV if Clinton didn’t deign to utter the words “gay and lesbian” in his acceptance speech.

I thought about this a lot as this year’s midterms approached. Since 1992, the Democratic Party has done specific outreach to the LGBTQ “community” for fundraising, engagement and get out the vote efforts. But with so much on the line – with democracy on the line – the Democrats were nowhere to be seen this year – ironically, even though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was headed by a gay guy who wound up losing his own seat.

No one was stepping up to educate our people about the issues, the candidates and why this election was so important. So my Millennial ally friend Max Huskins and I used our own money and time to produce the YouTube Race to the Midterms series, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Blade.

When I approached my potential guests, I noted how afraid so many of us were of going to a voting site and being humiliated or beaten up for being or being perceived as LGBTQ. I don’t know if my guests really understood the fear we face walking out the door each day. Perhaps that’s a lot clearer today.

And with proudly gay Jared Polis serving as Colorado governor since 2019 — it is easy to forget that Colorado Springs has been a Mecca, a haven for anti-LGBTQ Evangelical Christians since the late 1980s, with more than 100 evangelical groups headquartered there. Focus on the Family is so large, sending out 4 million pieces of mail every month, it has its own zip code, according to a 2013 NPR report.

Last Sunday, Polis called the attack on Club Q an “act of evil.”

“This was just a place of safety for people,” Polis told CNN. “It was a place where people could, in a conservative community, often get the acceptance that too many of them might not have had it at home or in their other circles and to see this occur is really just put us all in a state of shock here in Colorado and across the country.”

Across the country, indeed. And in every drag bar or club, LGBTQ people and allies are bravely refusing to back down, despite knowing there are lone gun domestic terrorists out to kill us in the name of Trump or God.

We endure. We must. Yes, we are still afraid. But we reach for each other and embrace inspiration where we can find it – such as in Jennifer Hudson’s version of Sam Cooke’s amazing 1963 song “A Change is Gonna Come.”

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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 joined Public Justice in March of 2021 to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her two rescue dogs.

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Thank you Madam Speaker: Karen Ocamb reflects on Nancy Pelosi

Whether comforting a friend with AIDS or pointing a powerful finger at Trump, Pelosi exemplifies the humble nobility of servant leadership

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Nancy Pelosi argues with former President Trump during a tense meeting of officials in the cabinet room of the White House (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Thank you, Speaker Nancy Pelosi! Let me add my gratitude to the praise that’s poured in since Pelosi announced she would stay in Congress but was not seeking re-election as Speaker to make way for a younger generation.

In typical Trumpian fashion, CA GOP colleague Kevin McCarthy rudely absented himself as commentator after commentator – including some Republicans – called Nancy Pelosi the best Speaker in American history as she gave her “future plans” speech from the Floor of the House of Representatives.

Some commentators applauded how many extraordinary pieces of legislation she got passed – key among them ObamaCare, about which Pelosi repeatedly said: “Because of the Affordable Care Act – and I hope that every woman in America understands this – being a woman is no longer a preexisting medical condition. As a mother of five children, four daughters and one son, I’m very excited about this.”

Thanks to one of those daughters, Alexandra Pelosi, who caught her mother’s brave, caring and powerful reactions during the Jan. 6th insurrection when domestic terrorists where hunting her down, the world got to watch America’s top Congressional leadership demur to the woman who is third in line of succession as she essentially served as Acting President of the United States and helped effectuate the Constitutional transition of power from Trump to Joe Biden.

I’d met and photographed Nancy Pelosi very briefly over the years when she came to Los Angeles for an event I was covering. But after the #ResistMarch in 2018, it occurred to me that so many of the young people raising their fists in exuberant agreement with her remarks probably had no idea who she really was. I got in touch with her terrific out deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill and asked for an interview. We were slated for 15-20 minutes but she wanted to go longer.

It was May 2018. We talked about Donald Trump and his threat to democracy; the looming midterm elections; how Republicans brand her as being from San Francisco – a “coded” gay slur; the Equality Act; and her Catholicism in the context of a Church that worked hard to oppose Prop 8, calls homosexuality “intrinsically evil,” and excluded her from taking Communion in SF because of her views on abortion.

“As a Catholic, I was raised to respect every person. We’re all God’s children. In my family, there was never any question about that,” Pelosi told me. “In Baltimore, we did have a growing LGBT community—we didn’t call it that then but it was part of our lives and it was not any question that we would be any more respectful of one person than another. It wasn’t even an issue with me and I didn’t ever even describe it or associate it with Catholicism because Catholicism taught me something different. It didn’t teach me discrimination. It taught me respect. And so it prepared me very well, my Catholicism, for being a representative in San Francisco.”

“There’s no question the Catholic Church in California was a participant in Prop 8 in a negative way,” Pelosi said. “We were on the other side of that. But to me—it was their problem. It wasn’t anything that was any moral imperative to me for me to follow the Church in enshrining discrimination in the law in California.”

Ironically, in San Francisco, the Church “was more sympathetic to people when they had HIV/AIDS because they needed help then they were to people who weren’t infected. It was the strangest, strangest thing,” Pelosi said.

AIDS was – and is – deeply personal to the Speaker of the House.

“Some people criticized me for talking about AIDS on my first day in Congress (in 1987) and I realized that it was not just about getting funding for AIDS research and prevention and care but it was about ending discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS,” Pelosi told me.

More from the my cover story:

Pelosi responds viscerally when asked about losing friends. “Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. A little flower girl in my wedding. My dear, dear friends in the community in San Francisco. We were going to two funerals a day. I was visiting people in the hospital all the time and quite frankly, when I say losing people,” Pelosi says, “I lost friends because I just walked away from them because they were not treating people with HIV and AIDS with respect. They would say to me, ‘I don’t know why you hire that caterer – don’t you know that everybody there has HIV?’ And I’d say, ‘Don’t bother to come to my house anymore if that’s your attitude.’ It just changed my whole view of them.”…

“I’ll never stop missing some of my dearest dear friends from then,” she says. “Of course, we went from funerals to people saying help me make out my will because this is going to end soon, to those very same people looking for a job and then wanting to get married. So, everything has improved but I would never have thought 30 years ago when I started all this in Congress that we still wouldn’t have a cure for AIDS. We’ve improved the quality of life, we’ve sustained life. Everything is better but it’s not over, not finished.”

Whether comforting a friend with AIDS or pointing a powerful accusing finger at Trump, Nancy Pelosi exemplifies the humble nobility of servant leadership with a touch of classy swagger.

Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for representing so many of us who still haven’t found our power

Read the entire story here:

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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 joined Public Justice in March of 2021 to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her two rescue dogs.

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Never Again

The law is so broad and vague that it would affect transgender people and businesses that don’t normally host drag events

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Texas Trans youth activists & supporters in front of the Texas Capitol protesting anti-Trans legislation (Photo Credit: ACLU of Texas)

By Eric Tannehill | FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – On Tuesday November 15th, Texas Representative Jared Patterson introduced House Bill (HB) 643 which would classify any business that hosts a drag show under the state’s statutory definition of “sexually oriented businesses.” The current legal definition of “sexually oriented business” is any venue where two or more people perform nude and alcohol is allowed. 

Patterson’s bill would change this definition to include anyplace where a “performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.” The bill would also add a five-dollar cover charge to all venues where drag is allowed.

This would functionally ban drag acts in Texas, since there is little overlap in clientele between strip clubs and gay bars. Nor would venues that host drag events add a $5 cover charge when there isn’t a drag event happening. 

However, the law is so broad and vague that it would affect transgender people and businesses that don’t normally host drag events. Under this law if a transgender person does any sort of performance at any location where alcohol is allowed, it will fall afoul of the law. Here are just a few of the sorts of things that would be illegal under this proposed law:

  • A transgender soldier from Fort Bliss singing the National Anthem before a basketball game at the University of Texas El Paso
  • A bring-your-own-beer performance of Twelfth Night at a Shakespeare in the Park festival
  • A screening of the 1959 movie “Some Like it Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon at an Alamo Draft House movie theater
  • A transgender person singing Karaoke after work with friends
  • A performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Beethoven’s 9th Symphony where drinks are served at intermission, and the third-cellist happens to be transgender
  • Any performance by the band “Against Me!” (with lead singer Laura Jane Grace) or gender non-conforming artist Harry Styles in the state of Texas at a venue where alcohol is allowed
  • A local theater performance of the 1938 play “Our Town”, where one of the extras in the graveyard scene is transgender.

The definition of performance is so broad that it could technically be anything where people watch a transgender person do anything: if two people holding a beer watched Laura Jane Grace play solitaire in her street clothes it would qualify as a drag event under this law.

According to Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard law school, the purpose of this law isn’t to get a lot of convictions, but to have “a chilling effect on the LGBT community”. It would make businesses of all types unable or unwilling to host drag shows, as well as make others reluctant to let transgender people use the facilities, such as a karaoke bar refusing to let anyone who looks gender non-conforming in any way into the facility. 

The other side of it is to make transgender people afraid to participate in public activities. For example, would a hypothetical trans person risk violating the law to continue performing for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra? Would the orchestra let them continue to perform? Would the trans person who is an extra in a community theater project risk being charged with a crime to just silently stand on-stage for half an hour?

The law’s being broad and overly vague is a feature, not a bug. It is part of the goal of making life for transgender people so difficult and unpleasant that they will leave. This was the initial goal in Germany, where Jews were both encouraged and allowed to leave in the early days of the Third Reich. Hundreds of thousands sold their possessions and fled between 1933 and 1939. One of the earliest things Germany did to “encourage” them to leave was a law passed in early 1934 that banned Jewish performers from appearing on stage or on-screen. It’s also worth noting that Texas has led the charge on banning transgender people from participating in athletics while insisting they can get their own leagues, (which Germany did with Jewish athletes prior to the 1936 Olympics).

It is uncertain if this bill will ever get a hearing, given it has no co-sponsors yet. Even if it does pass, not every law enforcement official, from police, to judges, to Attorney Generals will be willing to enforce it to its illogical conclusion (e.g. prosecuting the extra in “Our Town”). And if they do try to enforce it, there’s no guarantee that it will survive judicial scrutiny under the 1st and 14th Amendments. But it shows intent, and a way forward for other states looking to “encourage” transgender people to leave, thereby minimizing their population. Tennessee has introduced its own bill, which is also broad and vague enough to charge transgender people with felonies.

The fact that so many states are ready to go down this road, and what we know lies at the end of it, should be a giant red flag for anyone who means it when they say, “never again.”   

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Eric Tannehill is a twenty-something queer activist and university student.

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Commentary

Observations on the Brazilian, U.S. elections

Polls in both countries proved inaccurate

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The U.S. midterms took place on Nov. 8. Brazil's elections took place last month. (Image by alexandrabykova/Bigstock)

BRASÍLIA, Brazil / STEVENSVILLE, Md. — I was sitting in my hotel room in Brasília, the Brazilian capital, at 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 when the polls closed. The area around my hotel was quiet as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal began to post the election results on their website. Brazilian television stations continued their live coverage of the election that largely focused on whether former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would defeat incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. I was nibbling on KIND Dark Chocolate Whole Grain Clusters that I had bought at Dulles two days earlier before I flew to Brazil and sipping a glass of Brahma beer that I had poured for myself while refreshing the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s website and listening to the reporters talk about the results. I was nervous because Bolsonaro was ahead. 

I left my room at around 7 p.m. to get some dinner at a nearby mall. I ordered sushi from a restaurant in the food court. Bolsonaro was still ahead of Da Silva when I returned to my room at around 7:45 p.m., but the margin between the two men had narrowed. Da Silva soon took the lead, but it soon became clear that he and Bolsonaro would face each other in a runoff because neither of them had received at least 50 percent of the vote.

Da Silva defeated Bolsonaro in the second round of the presidential election that took place on Oct. 30. The U.S. midterm elections took place nine days later.

Banners in support of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and members of his Workers’ Party in the lobby of a PT office in Brasília, Brazil, on Oct. 1, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Jair Bolsonaro supporters hold a banner near the Brazilian Congress in Brasília, Brazil, on Oct. 1, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

I arrived at Heather Mizeur’s election night party at the Kent Island Resort in Stevensville, Md., shortly before polls in Maryland closed at 8 p.m. Mizeur less than three hours later told her supporters that her bid to unseat Republican Congressman Andy Harris had come up short. The so-called red wave that so many pundits and polls predicted would elect Republicans across the country also failed to materialize.

Heather Mizeur speaks to supporters in Stevensville, Md., on Nov. 8, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Each country is different and the way they conduct their elections is difficult. I cannot, however, help but compare the Brazilian election and the U.S. midterms. Here are a few observations from a reporter who covered them both.

• Polls ahead of the first round of Brazil’s presidential election predicted Da Silva would defeat Bolsonaro in the first round. Polls and pundits ahead of the U.S. midterms, as previously noted, predicted Republicans would defeat Democrats across the country. Both scenarios did not happen.

• Bolsonaro ahead of Brazil’s presidential election sought to discredit the country’s electoral system. Bolsonaro did not concede to Da Silva after he lost. Former President Donald Trump continues to insist he won the 2020 presidential election. Trump also instigated the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection that took place as lawmakers were beginning to certify the Electoral College results.

• Cláudio Nascimento, president of Grupo Arco-Íris de Cidadania LGBT, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group in Rio de Janeiro, on Oct. 9 told me during an interview at his office that Bolsonaro would “destroy democracy”in Brazil if he were reelected. Mizeur in July described Harris as a “traitor to our nation” after the Jan. 6 committee disclosed he attended a meeting with Trump that focused on how he could remain in office after he lost to now President Joe Biden. 

• Voters in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte on Oct. 2 elected two Transgender women — Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert respectively — to the Brazilian Congress. Openly gay Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leite on Oct. 30 won re-election when he defeated former Bolsonaro Chief-of-Staff Onyx Lorenzoni in a runoff. LGBTQ Victory Fund President Annise Parker in a Nov. 10 statement noted 436 openly LGBTQ+ candidates across the country won their races. (One of them, openly gay New Hampshire Congressman Chris Pappas, who represents my mother, defeated Republican Karoline Leavitt in the state’s 1st Congressional District by a 54-46 percent margin.)

Brazil and the U.S. are different countries, but they both have democracies that must be defended. Brazilians and Americans did just that through their votes.

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Editor's Letter

Supporting the community, Transgender Awareness Week 2022

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings making sure their voices are heard & shared

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Underlying images of Trans activists Landon Richie and Rosalynn Montoya courtesy of Richie/Montoya

LOS ANGELES – Transgender Awareness Week, observed November 13 to November 19, is a one-week celebration leading up to the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), November 20, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence.

It must, however, represent more than just a journalistic or even an activist/advocacy organization’s effort to support and sustain the trans, queer, gender non-binary or gender non-conforming global community. This week needs to be so much more than perfunctory acknowledgement of this misaligned and persecuted segment of humanity.

This week, this publication and others in queer and mainstream media must tell the stories outlining the very humanity of trans people and urge others to celebrate the diversity and the impact of the significant contributions that trans people make for the betterment of all globally.

Trans people are human- period, or “full stop.” Look at the incredible contributions that trans people make to enhance the lives of humanity on this planet that we all share. Just a short list of a few examples:

Dr. Rachel Levine, Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service and the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Levin has spent her entire career as a physician focused on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ medicine.

Laverne Cox, actress, model, and LGBTQ+ equality rights activist. One of the most well-known trans actors and Black transgender celebrities, Cox has ‘kept it real’ as demonstrated by her words and public advocacy serving as a role model for youth.

Patricio Manuel, boxer and champion athlete. Manuel long struggled with his gender identity, rejecting the many ways society and his family forced him to live as a girl and in the end he overcame his gender dysphoria.

Elle Hearns, a transgender rights activist and the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Elle serves as a visible reminder of the power of advocacy at a grass-roots level.

Abel Liu, an accomplished student at the University of Virginia who is an Echols Scholar as well as a Truman Scholar. Abel is the first openly transgender and first Chinese-American student to be elected as Student Council president at a major institution of higher education.

Sarah McBride, Sarah was just reelected as Delaware’s Senator from the First State Senate District. She’s spent her life fighting for dignity, equality, and a level playing field for everyone as human beings.

These are just but a few limited choices of the literal tens of thousands of noteworthy Trans people whose lives and talents enrich this nation and globally making a difference every single day. Trans people are sheriffs, EMTs, firefighters, pilots, teachers, comedians; they are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, sons and daughters. Every single one a vital part of the whole.

Here on the staff of the Los Angeles Blade, journalist Dawn Ennis and LA Blade columnist and political analyst Brynn Tannehill lend their voices reporting and commenting on issues that impact all of us.

The bottom line is that without the contributions of transgender people, there would be a gap, a virtual emptiness in the rich diversity of humanity if you will. This week we need to celebrate, uplift, and yes, also mourn the lives of trans people lost to murder or suicide because of the promise that might have been.

We must fight against those who work to strip trans people of their dignity and their very right to exist. These last few years has seen a litany, a plethora of legislative efforts to erase trans rights from healthcare, sports, and even banning books that dare to mention trans people.

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings, making sure their voices are heard and shared. Trans rights ARE human rights.

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Troy Masters is publisher and Brody Levesque is editor of the Los Angeles Blade

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Trans people: Let’s show this country who we are

“If you’re trans or nonbinary, we urge you to take the U.S. Trans Survey before it closes on its new deadline of December 5”

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Texas Trans activist & Gender Cool Project Leader Landon Richie in Chicago for Pride 2019 (Photo Credit: Landon Richie)

By Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen | WASHINGTON – We have a political climate that has exploded with anti-trans legislation, policy, and rhetoric. In the leadup to last week’s election, TV ads and political mailers spread lies about trans people, denigrating our community and stoking fear in people who simply don’t understand what it means to be trans.

Now, when there is a glaring spotlight on trans people in America, we have an opportunity to show the country who we are. Telling the truth about what it means to be trans, using real data, can counter the misinformation being spread about our community. It is important that we tell our own stories and that we are heard loud and clear.

Right now, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and partners are conducting the U.S. Trans Survey, the largest ever national survey of the lives and experiences of transgender people. Whether you’re trans, nonbinary, or otherwise not cisgender, the time is now to take the U.S. Trans Survey before it closes. The last survey was conducted in 2015, and a lot has changed since then.

Visit www.ustranssurvey.org to learn more and take the survey today!

Since 2015, many states have advanced policies that ban gender-affirming care or ban trans youth from playing sports. Others have made it easier to change the gender marker on our identification to match who we are. Violence against trans people has gone up over the past several years, and we know from the data that Black trans women face a disproportionate amount of that violence.

Next week, Trans Awareness Week, we honor the loved ones we’ve lost to violence and celebrate those who are still here. We speak up loudly about the disparities we face in hopes that others will see and understand. We lift up the voices of the most marginalized in our community, understanding that together, we will all rise.

Much of the political focus right now is on trans youth – their right to transition-related care, their right to play sports with their friends, and their right to use the restroom. Now, more than ever, it is important to hear from young people about their experiences. That’s why this time around, youth as young as 16 years old can take the survey and share their stories.

There is a concerted effort by certain politicians and political organizations to deny that trans people are real. There is a false narrative that trans youth are “too young” to know that they’re trans, that people who transition at a young age, whether socially or medically, later regret it. 

But we know from the data that this narrative is simply not true. A study came out in May this year revealing that for young people who socially transitioned, only two percent of them “detransitioned,” or went back to identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth. And another study published just last month found that at 98% of youth who were prescribed puberty blockers went on to be prescribed hormone replacement therapy after turning 18. Meaning, trans youth continued to be trans.

This is the importance of research. And we need this research to inform the decision makers, educators, elected officials, health care providers, and the general public about who we are and what we experience in life.

We know that trans people exist and that our lives and experiences are valid. By making this the largest trans survey in U.S. history, we can show that how strong, diverse, and how real of a community we have. And we aren’t just young people in New York and California; trans people from Wyoming to Alaska, from youth to elders; trans folks who are Indigenous, Black, Latine, white, multiracial. Every voice must be represented in the U.S. Trans Survey.

The survey in some places covers some heavy topics: mental health, experiences with religious institutions, and experiences with the police. But it also helps us reveal answers to questions like: Has having access to transition-related care improved your life? How has coming out as trans affected your mental health? Does your family accept who you are, and how does that impact you?

There are hundreds of questions in the survey to examine the details of our lives, so we recommend setting aside about an hour to take it. Tens of thousands of you already have, but we know our community is even larger. There is strength in numbers, and the more people who take the U.S. Trans Survey, the harder it is to deny that we exist and that we are real.

If you’re trans or nonbinary, I urge you to take the U.S. Trans Survey before it closes on its new deadline of December 5. Let’s show this country who we are. Let’s show them that we won’t go away.

Visit www.ustranssurvey.org to learn more and take the survey today.

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Courtesy of Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

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