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Deaf man gets his hearing back, first thing he hears is a proposal

Hayward Duresseau unexpectedly contracted meningitis while on vacation

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(Screenshot via Facebook)

Hayward Duresseau received the proposal of a lifetime when the first sound he heard was his partner proposing.

BuzzFeed reports that Duresseau, 27, and Kerry Kennedy, 37, were on a trip in San Francisco when Duresseau developed a headache and sensitivity to light. His symptoms worsened and he was rushed to the hospital where he learned he had contracted bacterial meningitis. He was hospitalized for weeks, lost his vision, was paralyzed from the waist down and permanently lost his hearing.

For the next six months, Duresseau and Kennedy had to learn how to communicate with each other through American Sign Language (ASL).

“I could see everything that was going on — I could communicate, but the world couldn’t communicate back with me,” Duresseau added. “He would place the ‘I love you’ sign on my leg or on my back, and that’s when I knew I could go to sleep.”

Duresseau was approved for a cochlear implant and during the recovery period Kennedy was able to plan a proposal. When the implant was turned on Duresseau learned his hearing was restored and his partner proposed.

The couple plans to wed during Mardi Gras in 2019 around the anniversary of their first date.

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Africa

Ruling that upheld Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act appealed

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law

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Uganda’s Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

KAMPALA, Uganda — 22 LGBTQ+ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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Los Angeles

LA leaders call for unity & protection for trans community

LAPD has noted a 13 percent increase in overall hate crimes, with LGBTQ+ specific hate crimes up by 33 percent

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LAPD Deputy Chief Ruby Flores speaks to reporters during a April 15, 2024 press conference. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

LOS ANGELES – Addressing a concerning escalation of threats against LGBTQ+ organizations throughout the country, leaders from TransLatin@ Coalition, the Los Angeles Police Department, and other officials gathered in a press conference to denounce acts of intimidation and to call for unity and protective measures for the trans and queer community.

A bomb threat called in to the LAPD on March 28, aimed at the TransLatin@ Coalition specifying today April 15 as the target date, has prompted an immediate and ongoing response from local authorities to ensure the safety of those at the coalition’s facilities and others. The LAPD has since been closely monitoring the site. 

The suspect, identified as Henry Nolkemper, a white 61 year old male, was arrested by LAPD shortly afterward after being observed entering his residence on West 53rd Street. The police then searched his residence. Despite the absence of explosives, he was booked under serious charges including criminal threats with a hate crime enhancement.

Nolkemper, known to have a history of mental health issues, was on parole for previous threats to the community. His parole has since been revoked and he is currently held on a one million dollar bail.

The press conference today began with remarks from Robin Toma, Executive Director of LA vs Hate, who highlighted the organization’s role as the third largest source of hate crime reporting in Los Angeles, trailing only police sources.

He also stated that LA vs Hate has reported a troubling increase in trans-specific crimes, noting that such incidents are grossly underreported, a sentiment echoed by surveys within the trans community.

Robin Toma, Executive Director of LA vs Hate, Bamby Salcedo at the podium speaking, LAPD Assistant Chief Blake Chow, & Capri Maddox, Executive Director, City of LA Civil + Human Rights & Equity Dept. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of TLC, expressed her gratitude for the continued support from various partners and emphasized the daily challenges faced by transgender individuals. “Every day a trans woman steps out of her home, it is a revolutionary act. We are people who walk with targets on our backs,” Salcedo declared, setting a tone of resilience and defiance against the threats.

Special thanks were given to Supervisor Hilda Solis and Jury Candelario, a partner from APAIT and a Filipino immigrant, who marked 35 years in America by calling the trans-related stress “chronic” in his long tenure as a social worker. Esther Lim, representing Supervisor Solis, condemned the bomb threat as an act of “cowardice” and highlighted Solis’ support through a previous $55,000 contribution to TLC and a new motion to establish LA’s first LGBTQ+ commission.

Assistant Chief Blake Chow and Deputy Chief Ruby Flores of the LAPD provided updates on the legal actions following the threat. They noted a 13 percent increase in overall hate crimes, with LGBTQ+ specific hate crimes up by 33 percent. “Behind each hate crime, there is a victim, there are families,” Flores said, urging the community to report incidents and support anti-hate education initiatives.  “These crimes affect people in ways statistics can’t reflect.” 

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The press conference also featured voices from the community like Mariana Marroquin, Associate Director of Trans Wellness, who spoke passionately about the ingrained nature of hate experienced by trans individuals from a young age, and Cari Maddox, who emphatically stated, “Hate has no home in Los Angeles.”

Mark Bayard, representing Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, affirmed the DA’s commitment to fighting hate crimes vigorously, especially in light of the upcoming election season, which often sees a spike in such incidents.

As the community grapples with this latest threat, the message from today’s conference was clear: solidarity, education, and legal protection are key to combating hate and fostering a society where transgender people can integrate fully and safely.

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U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce gender care ban

SCOTUS sides with state to allow enforcement of gender-affirming care ban for youth. Poe v. Labrador lawsuit remains ongoing.

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File photo, U.S. Supreme Court (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

By Mia Maldonado | WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed Idaho to enforce House Bill 71, a law banning Idaho youth from receiving gender-affirming care medications and surgeries.

In an opinion issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state of Idaho’s request to stay the preliminary injunction, which blocked the law from taking effect. This means the preliminary injunction now only applies to the plaintiffs involved in Poe v. Labrador — a lawsuit brought on by the families of two transgender teens in Idaho who seek gender-affirming care. 

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision enforces the gender-affirming care ban for all other transgender youth in Idaho as the lawsuit remains ongoing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador
 In this file photo, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador gives a speech at the Idaho GOP election night watch party at the Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho, on Nov. 8, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho, both of whom represent the plaintiffs, said in a press release Monday that the ruling “does not touch upon the constitutionality” of House Bill 71. The groups called Monday’s ruling an “awful result” for transgender Idaho youth and their families.

“Today’s ruling allows the state to shut down the care that thousands of families rely on while sowing further confusion and disruption,” the organizations said in the press release. “Nonetheless, today’s result only leaves us all the more determined to defeat this law in the courts entirely, making Idaho a safer state to raise every family.”

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador in a press release said the state has a duty to protect and support all children, and that he is proud of the state’s legal stance. 

“Those suffering from gender dysphoria deserve love, support and medical care rooted in biological reality,” Labrador said. “Denying the basic truth that boys and girls are biologically different hurts our kids. No one has the right to harm children, and I’m grateful that we, as the state, have the power — and duty — to protect them.”

Recap of Idaho’s House Bill 71, and what led to SCOTUS opinion

Monday’s Supreme Court decision traces back to when House Bill 71 was signed into law in April 2023.

The law makes it a felony punishable for up to 10 years for doctors to provide surgeries, puberty-blockers and hormones to transgender people under the age of 18. However, gender-affirming surgeries are not and were not performed among Idaho adults or youth before the bill was signed into law, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported

One month after it was signed into law, the families of two transgender teens sued the state in a lawsuit alleging the bill violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

In late December, just days before the law was set to take effect in the New Year, District of Idaho Judge B. Lynn Winmill blocked the law from taking effect under a preliminary injunction. In his decision, he said he found the families likely to succeed in their challenge.

The state of Idaho responded by appealing the district court’s preliminary injunction decision to the Ninth Circuit, to which the Ninth Circuit denied. The state of Idaho argued the court should at least enforce the ban for everyone except for the plaintiffs. 

After the Ninth Circuit’s denial, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office in February sent an emergency motion to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Idaho Press reported. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision agrees with the state’s request to enforce its ban on transgender health care for minors, except for the two plaintiffs.

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Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and international political economy.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Riverside County

Riverside County school district kills trans outing policy

MVUSD’s forced outing policy is identical to the Chino Unified School District policy which a judge described as “discriminatory on its face”

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Murrieta Valley Unified School District support services & administration building. (Photo Credit: Murrieta Valley Unified School District)

MURRIETA, Calif. – The Murrieta Valley Unified School District Board (MVUSD), abandoned its controversial policy that would have forced school faculty and staff to “out” trans and non-binary students to parents.

In an emailed sent out Friday to parents, faculty, and staff members, school district administrators noted that the policy was reversed.

The California Department of Education found that it violated the state’s education codes and warned MVUSD that the policy “provided no educational or administrative purpose that could justify the discrimination of LGBT+ students.” The Department of Education stated the policy “singles out and is directed exclusively toward one group of students based on that group’s legally protected characteristics of identifying with or expressing a gender other than that identified at birth.”

In its email, MVUSD noted that the policy “is inconsistent with Education Code Section 220 and for this reason the mandatory notification requirements set forth in BP 5020.1 will not be implemented.”

Last month the MVUSD school board voted 3-2 to keep the forced outing policy on the books even though, according to a Press-Enterprise report, MVUSD Board President Paul Diffley was warned by the district’s law firm, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (AALRR), that “‘going ahead (with the policy) in such an environment’ could cost the district $500,000 in legal expenses.”

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After the board vote, two district educators, Jamie Goebel and Karen Poznanski, filed a complaint with the California Department of Education about the policy due to its “discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.”

“This policy not only violated the privacy and dignity of our students but also perpetuated harm and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and their families,” Poznanski told the Press Enterprise once the California Department of Education sided with the teachers last week.

MVUSD’s forced outing policy is identical to the policy passed by Chino Unified School District (CVUSD) that California Superior Court Judge Michael Sachs described as “discriminatory on its face” and placed under a preliminary injunction in October 2023. 

The lawsuit, The People of the State of California, Ex Rel. et al -v- Chino Valley Unified School District (San Bernardino County Superior Court Case No. CIVSB2317301), was introduced by California Attorney General Rob Bonta on August 28, 2023, and was placed under a temporary restraining order on September 6, 2023 prior to the October ruling.

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Oklahoma

HRC paid ad highlights Owasso LGBTQ students like Nex Benedict

Marley H. describes her experience that included bullying, harassment, anti-gay slurs–and teachers, administrators who refused to step in

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Marley H. describes an Owasso High School experience that included bullying, harassment, anti-gay slurs–and teachers and administrators who refused to step in. (Screenshot/YouTube HRC)

OWASSO, Okla. – Marley H., an Owasso High School grad and Oklahoman speaks to the culture of harassment and bullying she witnessed firsthand during her time in the Owasso school district, how it impacted her and her fellow students, and what she sees as the way forward for the district and state.

In this new video, which HRC will be promoting with a paid investment on social platforms, Marley speaks from her heart about what she and her fellow students experienced at Owasso High School, including bullying, the use of anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, harassment, and – worse still – teachers and administrators who refused to step in and disrupt this cycle of hate.

“It hurts to know that not only do your teachers personally not support you, if a student bullies you or harasses you or calls you names, they aren’t going to do anything about it,” said Marley H., who graduated from Owasso High School in 2022. “It promotes a culture where you feel like you shouldn’t report issues.”

The video’s release comes as the LGBTQ+ community marks two months since the death of Nex Benedict, a 16 year old Owasso student who died after being assaulted in their school bathroom and bullied and harassed for over a year.

In March, HRC launched “Walters Watch,” part of a high-impact accountability campaign to hold Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, accountable for his extremist rhetoric and mis-management of Oklahoma schools, contributing to the culture of bullying and harassment.

The HRC notes that “whether he is appointing far-right figures like “LibsOfTikTok” creator Chaya Raichik to state boards or demonizing teachers’ unions, Walters seems dead-set on using his role as Superintendent as a political stepping-stone rather than taking seriously his responsibility to Oklahoma students.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education informed HRC president Kelley Robinson that the department will open an investigation in response to HRC’s letter regarding Owasso Public Schools and its failure to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment that may have contributed to the tragic death of Nex Benedict.

This investigation was triggered by a formal complaint made by Robinson, who wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and asked his department to use the enforcement mechanisms at its disposal to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in the future and to help hold accountable those responsible for Nex’s tragic death.

“We’ve heard many students at Owasso and elsewhere in Oklahoma speak truth to power and stand up against the culture of bullying and harassment fostered by people like Ryan Walters,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Marley’s story breaks our hearts as much as it angers us. There is a way forward, however. Each time someone speaks out about what they have seen, experienced, or heard, the truth becomes harder and harder to deny. The first step on the journey to healing is for Ryan Walters to go.”

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The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court hears oral arguments in SAFE Act appeal

As of last November, similar laws had been enacted in 22 states, and legal challenges have been mounted in several of them

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The Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis. (Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent).

By Debra Chandler Landis | SAINT LOUIS, Mo. – Federal appeals court judges here on Thursday heard legal counsel for the national ACLU and the U.S. Department of Justice argue that transgender minors have a constitutional right to gender-affirming care, while Arkansas’ deputy solicitor general said a state law prohibiting such care was in the best interest of youth and not discriminatory.

At issue is the 2021 Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, which bans physicians from providing gender transition treatments like hormones, puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgeries to individuals under age 18.

Four Arkansas families and two physicians, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, challenged the SAFE Act in federal court, where U.S. District Judge James Moody struck down the law in June 2023, saying, among other things, that the SAFE Act discriminated against transgender people and violated the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments. 

Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs
 Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs (second from left) and Senior Assistant Attorney General Amanda Land (third from left) leave the federal courthouse in Little Rock after the conclusion of the trial over Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for minors in December. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin appealed that decision in July 2023 to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state has argued there is no scientific evidence that children benefit from gender-affirming care and that the consequences can be harmful and often permanent for them.

Asked by the appeals judges whether the state law would ban health care providers from prescribing testosterone for conditions other than gender-affirming care treatment, Dylan Jacobs, Arkansas deputy solicitor general, said, “The statute does not prohibit that. The legislature wasn’t saying it has problems with testosterone.”

Regarding the district court’s ruling to strike down the ban on transgender care in Arkansas, Jacobs said “there are certainly risks, including sterilization” in the treatment, and noted it was not up to the district court to impose its own policy judgments.

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, deputy director for the organization’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, told the appeals court Thursday they should uphold Moody’s ruling, noting, in part, that the state law undermines constitutional guarantees of equal protection and “supplants the judgment of parents and their abilities to determine medical care.”

Griffin has said his office “is fighting to protect our state’s children from dangerous medical experimentation. Moody, in his 80-page ruling striking the Arkansas law, affirmed the testimony of medical experts who said in their testimony for the plaintiffs that gender-affirming care is safe for minors. 

The State of Arkansas, Moody wrote, “failed to prove that its interests in the safety of Arkansas adolescents from gender transitioning procedures or the medical community’s ethical decline are compelling, genuine, or even rational.”

In 2021, a letter from the American Medical Association to the National Governors Association referenced the Arkansas SAFE Act and said, in part: “Arkansas recently enacted SAFE Act and similar bills pending in several other states would insert the government into clinical decision-making and force physicians to disregard clinical guidelines.” 

Gender-affirming care for minors, the AMA said, “must be sensitive to the child’s clinical situation, nurture the child’s short and long-term development, and balance the need to preserve the child’s opportunity to make important life choices autonomously in the future.”

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals did not indicate when it might rule on the Arkansas law.

As of last November, similar laws had been enacted in 22 states, and legal challenges have been mounted in several of them. The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet taken up any of those cases.

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Debra Chandler Landis is a freelance journalist and retired University of Illinois Springfield college media adviser. She currently lives in St. Louis.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Arkansas Advocate and is republished with permission.

The Arkansas Advocate is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to tough, fair daily reporting and investigative journalism that holds public officials accountable and focuses on the relationship between the lives of Arkansans and public policy. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Political commentary & analysis

The Cass Review heralds how all trans medicine will die

In effect, the study research completely blew off the input of the people most affected by access to treatment

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UK Pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass. (Screenshot/YouTube The Times and The Sunday Times)

By Brynn Tannehill | FAIRFAX, Va. – This past week, the Cass literature review for the UK’s National Health Service for transgender youth was completed after four years in development. Although touted as independent, it was anything but. Dr. Hillary Cass consulted with far-right religious anti-trans activists like Patrick Hunter, and took cues on how to ban trans health care from Florida’s rigged process. 

The results were predictable: it effectively recommends banning transition related care for anyone under the age of 25. Because of backlogs in the NHS system, this means that transgender people cannot even begin applying for care until they are 25 and will likely have to wait until they are 35, even if they have had a transgender identity since an early age. It also recommends a ban on social transitions, and any sort of social affirmation.

It arrived at these conclusions by disregaringd any studies deemed “low quality”—that is, any study that wasn’t a randomized control trial and wasn’t double-0blinded. This sets an impossible standard: you cannot double blind a study where both the patient and the doctor will notice the physiological changes that come with taking the drug (or getting the surgery). The Cass review also failed to include their own findings that none of the approximately patients reviewed were unhappy with the treatments, and only 8 detransitioned.

In effect, they completely blew off the input of the people most affected by access to treatment.

It’s also very difficult to get an randomized control trial study approved for youth, if the available evidence says a lack of treatment is likely to increase the risk of suicide. No IRB will sign off on something that is likely to turn into an LD50 study (kills half (50%) of the test subjects exposed to it). 

Using this method, the Cass review was able to exclude well over a hundred studies on transgender youth health care and declare that there was no evidence supporting affirming care. It then recommended a “treatment” for which there is no evidence (talk therapy for 20 years, and hoping it goes away before the patient unalives themselves). 

Sound like conversion therapy? Yes, that’s basically what it is. Hard stop.

You might think, “Oh, this is just the United Kingdom,” and that it doesn’t affect you. But it does. We have concrete evidence that Cass was coordinating with Ron DeSantis appointees, who in turn were selected for their religious fervor and connections with anti-LGBT hate groups in the US like the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Cass review illustrates how they are planning to end access to transgender health care for all adults in the US.

Basically, the process is to get a decision-making body (like the FDA) to commission a “review” of the evidence for health care for trans adults. The reviewers will be people who already know the outcome they want and who are only interested in p-hacking their way to a non-conclusion. The formula looks like this:

  • Do a lit review.
  • Find filters that excludes all of the evidence in support of health care for trans people (i.e. requiring RCT and double-blind for inclusion).
  • Declare that there is no evidence for transition related care.
  • Recommend “neutral” interventions like talk therapy, when there’s no evidence this works.
  • The FDA or state medical boards use the phony lit review to justify bans on the use of any off-label treatments for gender dysphoria, along with any gender confirmation surgeries.

With the death of Roe v. Wade, this is entirely legal. SCOTUS won’t stop it; they’re likely to uphold the decision-making authority of supposedly neutral medical authorities, and the lit reviews commissioned by them. If Trump is elected, this will happen nation-wide. If he isn’t, we’re going to see roughly 25 states eventually ban health care for trans adults the way they did  to trans youth. 

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The mass migration of trans people will become a stampede. They will flee either to blue states or seek asylum elsewhere. Transgender people will go back to the bad old days of self-medication, buying drugs from Vanuatu, and back-alley orchiectomies. The trans community won’t disappear merely because of this, but it’s part of the overall plan to “eradicate transgenderism” in the United States. Between banning access to care, making it a crime to appear in public dressed in accordance with your gender identity, mandating conversion therapy, de-recognizing transgender people and invalidating their IDs, kicking them out of the military, revoking their clearances, segregating them from the population by banning them from public places, and Trump promising internment camps capable of “processing” millions of people (including political enemies), the strategy for how the trans community in the US could be disappeared like it’s 1942 is coming into extremely sharp focus.

It won’t happen all at once. But the Cass review shows us how they plan on justifying the initial rules and regulations with the goal of making trans people flee, because most of the tuned-in trans will see the writing on the wall. The Cass review fulfills the same role as race science: it’s meant to justify the horrors that come next.

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Brynn Tannehill is a senior analyst at a Washington D.C. area think-tank, and is the author of “American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy.”

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire Senate tables anti-trans bill

“We hope that they will uphold the same rights when they vote on HB 396, a bill that would also allow discrimination”

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The State House, located in Concord houses the General Court, Governor, Senate, & House. (Photo Credit: State of New Hampshire)

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire State Senate last week unanimously voted to table a bill that would have rolled back some of the nondiscrimination protections that outlaw discrimination against transgender people in public spaces. This effectively stops the bill from moving forward. 

The bill, SB 562, would have rolled back key provisions of the 2018 law against discrimination that was updated to include transgender people and promoting the exclusion of transgender people from sports including recreational leagues, as well as restrooms. SB 562 would also subject transgender people to carceral settings where they would be more likely to face violence on the basis of their gender identity. 

“In 2018, I was proud to have managed the campaign that made New Hampshire the first-ever state to pass nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public spaces,” said Linds Jakows, founder of 603 Equality. “Today, the NH State Senate rightly took a stand against discrimination in voting down SB 562. But it’s not over yet – they must again say no to discrimination when HB 396, which is nearly identical to SB 562, comes to the State Senate floor for a vote.” 

“In 2019 Governor Sununu signed a law that extended New Hampshire’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections to public schools, bolstering the rights that all public school students have to equal educational opportunities,” said Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director with Granite State Progress. “All students, including those who are transgender, must be treated with dignity and respect as they are in order to have a safe learning environment. We thank the NH State Senate for standing up for that right today, and expect them to do the same when they vote on HB 396.”

“NH has a long and proud tradition of creating communities where every child can thrive,” said Heidi Carrington Heath, Executive Director of Seacoast Outright. “LGBTQ+ youth deserve safe schools, healthy communities, and opportunities for joy and participation just like their peers. We are thankful that today the NH State Senate stood up for their right to live free, and be fully who they are at home, at school, and every space in between. That is what it means to build a brighter future where everyone is understood, valued, and protected.”

“In 2018, a strong bipartisan majority passed a law signed by Governor Sununu to protect transgender Granite Staters from discrimination. Today, the Senate rejected a cruel bill that would have written discrimination into the law,” said Chris Erchull, Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “This vote affirms the New Hampshire value that everyone deserves the same opportunity to live their lives on fair terms, free from discrimination. I hope the Senate will take the same stand when they vote on a nearly identical bill, HB 396.”

“NH has protected the rights of all of its residents in the past and despite multiple threats to those rights this legislative session, we are grateful to see the NH State Senate uphold those rights by voting against SB 562,” said Grace Murray, Political Director of NH Youth Movement. “We hope that they will take the same stance and uphold the same rights when they vote on HB 396, a bill that would also allow discrimination against trans people. No person should be discriminated against based on who they are.”

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Political commentary & analysis

EU elections, empowering queer women & need for safe spaces

It’s not only a matter of choice to preserve; it is a commitment to a world where everyone has the right to be safe, heard & celebrated

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The European Parliament is one of the legislative bodies of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Its headquarters is located in Strasbourg, France. (Photo Credit: Press & Media Relations, EU Parliament)

By Amber Laenen | WASHINGTON – As the European Union anticipates the upcoming elections in June, a disconcerting wave of transphobic rhetoric has swept across the continent, notably in 21 EU member states, according to a recent report by ILGA-Europe.

The 13th Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTQ People in Europe and Central Asia stresses the alarming rise in hate speech targeting the LGBTQ and intersex community. This growth in negativity — which particularly is directed at transgender people — raises profound concerns about the state of inclusivity, human rights and democracy within the EU. 

The alarming surge of transphobia in European politics

According to the report, there is a trend of hate speech coming  from politicians across 32 European countries of which 21 being EU member states. Painting a stark picture of the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community. In a staggering list that includes Austria, Germany, Spain and others, politicians have increasingly weaponized anti-trans rhetoric. Exploiting children is a tactic often used as part of scare strategies to create opposition to trans minors’ access to healthcare and educational facilities, extending this divisive approach to a broader trend where politicians argue that restricting information about LGBTQ people is a necessity to protect minors.

The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government over the last decade has cracked down on LGBTQ rights in the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The rise in transphobic rhetoric is not only confined to politics but it has other tangible consequences. The report highlights a concerning escalation in suicide rates and mental health issues, particularly in LGBTQ youth. Violent protests outside schools and libraries have created unsafe environments, adding to the growing list of challenges faced by the community.

The far-reaching impact of demonization by politicians and the introduction of restrictive legislation underscores the need for urgent action. Hate speech is not merely an affront to people’s rights, it is an assault on the very core values upon which the EU was founded. As ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel notes, human rights, especially those of LGBTQ people, are facing a significant challenge from far-right forces. The exploitation of LGBTQ rights to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law highlights the divisive nature of the current political landscape. 

As ILGA-Europe prepares to launch the “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign in response to these alarming trends, the need for visible and supportive queer female spaces is more apparent than ever. The campaign, seeking commitments from European Parliament candidates to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, underscores the urgency of safeguarding human rights, democracy and freedom. 

The crucial role of queer women in European elections

Belgium, amid this backdrop of rising transphobia, is preparing for the European elections on June 9, 2024. The importance of this electoral process cannot be overstated, especially for queer women. With citizens aged 16 and above casting their votes to elect 22 members of the European Parliament (MEPs), it’s a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ community.

The voting process in Belgium follows EU law, utilizing a proportional representation system. Voters choose one party, either by marking the box above the party list or selecting individual candidates on the list. The total ballot forms for each party determine seat distribution, and preferential votes then decide which candidates secure a seat in the European Parliament.

Educated voting in the European elections is essential to queer women and the importance cannot be stressed enough. Throughout history they have faced unique battles, but this community holds the power to shape policies that directly influence their lives. By engaging in the democratic process, queer women can actively challenge the current surge in hate speech towards trans people by voting for electing representatives who actively advocate for LGBTQ rights. 

Representation is more than a mere buzzword. It matters. Understanding candidates’ positions on LGBTQ issues is key and requires educating oneself on candidates’ stances as to allow queer women to vote for representatives who genuinely champion LGBTQ rights. A diverse and inclusive representation ensures that the concerns and voices of the queer community are not just heard but which are acted upon. Decisions within the European Parliament influence policies ranging from anti-discrimination laws to access to healthcare. An informed vote makes sure that legislation promotes equality, acceptance and the protection of LGBTQ rights.

By being educated on the European elections and its candidates, queer women embark on a journey of self-empowerment. By supporting candidates who prioritize inclusive curricula, they contribute to addressing LGBTQ history, health and rights, encouraging a more accepting future.

The undeniable need for physical queer women spaces

Since the European elections are nearing, the importance of physical spaces for queer women to gather and discuss voting and the candidates becomes increasingly evident. While online spaces offer the chance to connect and discuss, they come with their own unique challenges, including the spread of misinformation and miscommunication. In navigating the democratic landscape, the value of in-person gatherings for education and discussion cannot be stressed enough.

The world is saturated with digital information, and misinformation can easily infiltrate online spaces. Physical gatherings allow for a more controlled environment with direct feedback from peers, where queer women can share accurate and reliable information, ensuring a more nuanced understanding of candidates, policies and the electoral process. 

In the lead-up to the European elections, we have to recognize that physical spaces for queer women are crucial. They do not only combat misinformation, disinformation and miscommunication but also serve as a vital space for shared learning. In-person gatherings create the foundation for an informed and engaged electorate, promoting a collective voice that resonates in the democratic process. The power of change lies not just in our votes but in the shared wisdom and unity forged in the physical spaces we create together.

The plight of the Crazy Circle and the call for investment in queer women spaces

After the closing of Brussels’ iconic Crazy Circle, a feminist queer space that has served as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, it becomes increasingly evident that the struggle for queer women-only spaces in Belgium is a critical issue demanding our attention.

For the past five years, Crazy Circle has been a testament to the resilience of the LGBTQ community, creating a safe and celebratory space for queer women and their allies. However, its closure after the previous management leaving for unknown reasons and current fundraising attempt by the new owners to reopen highlight the challenges faced by such spaces in Belgium. These establishments play a vital role not only as social hubs but as catalysts for education, empowerment and advocacy. Fortunately for the new owners they recently reached their fundraising goals and raised over 50,000 euros to reopen Crazy Circle. 

The loss of a space like this underscores the broader struggle faced by queer women-only spaces in Belgium. Beyond being social hubs, these spaces are vital agents of change, providing a haven for education, empowerment and advocacy. We must recognize that our commitment to the LGBTQ community extends beyond words.

The “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign by ILGA-Europe serves as a proactive response to the alarming trends in hate speech. It calls for clear political commitments on safeguarding human rights, democracy and freedom from candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in June. Belgium, with its own elections on the horizon, stands at a crossroads where the choices made will resonate far beyond its borders.

If we want to inform queer females about campaigns like “Come Out 4 Europe” we need spaces like the Crazy Circle. Its closure is a stark reminder of the fragility of these vital spaces. It’s a call to action, urging us to invest more in preserving and expanding queer women-only spaces. The struggle faced by Crazy Circle is not an isolated incident; it reflects a broader challenge that demands a collective response all over the world. 

By fighting to preserve and expand queer women-only spaces, we are not merely safeguarding physical venues. We are investing in the education, empowerment and advocacy of the LGBTQ community. These spaces are not mere bars or gathering spots; they are crucial agents of change and empowerment.

Building a future of inclusivity

As we see what happened to Crazy Circle in Belgium, let us use this moment as a catalyst for change. It is time to rally together behind existing queer women spaces, ensuring their survival and actively working towards expanding and creating new ones. By doing so we empower individuals to educate, advocate, and, most importantly, vote for a future where safety, equality and acceptance prevail for all members of the LGBTQ community. It’s not only a matter of choice to preserve these spaces; it is a commitment to a world where everyone has the right to be safe, heard and celebrated. 

In navigating the complex tapestry of the European elections, the empowerment of queer women spaces through informed voting and the preservation of physical queer women spaces become integral threads. As we stand on the precipice of change, our choices today will shape the inclusive and accepting future we envision. Together, let us weave a tapestry that celebrates diversity, protects human rights and builds a future where every voice, especially those of queer women, is not just heard but cherished.

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Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

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Africa

Congolese bill would criminalize LGBTQ+ people

Constant Mutamba’s measure seen as distraction from country’s long-standing problems

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Congolese MP Constant Mutamba (Photo courtesy of Mutamba's X account)

KINSHASA, Congo — A member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly who is a leader of the country’s opposition party has introduced a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ+ people.

Part of the bill that Constant Mutamba, leader of the Dynamic Progressive Revolutionary Opposition platform, has put forth states anyone who “commits a homosexual act (including acts and gestures) will be liable to a 5- or 10-year prison sentence.”

The country in recent years has seen government leaders and civic society target the community with anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority last June cautioned the media against showing LGBTQ+-specific conversations. Several activists have criticized Mutamba’s bill, saying it seeks to move attention away from governance, service delivery and other pertinent issues in the country.

Sirius Tekasala, a human rights activist, said a person’s sexual orientation does not impact issues of governance.

“The proposed bill does not go in the direction of improving the socio-economic life of the Congolese people,” said Tekasala. “It’s not homosexuals who prevent you from doing your job well or from breathing. This is a violation of human rights.”

Mbuela Mbadu Dieudonné, a social analyst and trade unionist, said the bill is just a way of deviating people from the pertinent issues.

“He should suggest how to get the Congolese people out of this precariousness of life which is growing on a daily basis,” said Dieudonné. “When we don’t know the real problems of the Congolese people, he sets himself up as the great director of scenes to distract the Congolese people.”

Many Congolese, however, seem to support the bill and have applauded Mutamba for drafting it.

This is not the first time that such kind of a bill has been drafted.

An anti-homosexuality bill introduced in 2010 would have sentenced people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations to between three and five years in prison. The measure, however, did not become law.

Mutamba’s bill, however, may pass with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in effect. The country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month upheld it. Burundi, Tanzania and other neighboring countries are also considering similar measures.

Many Congolese people view LGBTQ+ rights as a Western phenomenon that disregards their religious and cultural beliefs. LGBTQ+ Congolese are among those who have fled the country and sought refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and other places.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not criminalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

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