In 1994, when now-Supervisor Sheila Kuehl made history becoming California’s first openly LGBT person elected to the State Assembly, she and the late transgender activist and AIDS Diva Connie Norman were friends. Kuehl’s stand with the trans community became deeper, more personal, stemming from a deep commitment to dignity and equality.
“The administration in Washington DC consistently ignores the fact that this country was founded on the principles of liberty and equality for all Americans. What they ignore, we underscore. LA County will not simply stand by and watch the White House erase more than one million trans Americans. We say no,” Kuehl told the Los Angeles Blade.
On Oct. 30, Kuehl and Supervisor Janice Hahn passed a motion to send a letter to Alex M. Azar II, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, from the five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors—who represent more than 10 million people—condemning the Trump administration’s proposed gender policy change “to redefine the definition of gender under Title IX as a person’s biological sex as it was assigned at birth. This move would be a cruel and unnecessary affront to trans people, laced with bigotry and intolerance,” Kuehl said in a press release.
“These actions are a part of the Trump administration’s crusade to erase trans and non-binary people from society and render them invisible. It would require the Departments of Education, Justice, and Labor to adopt the new definition of gender in all their policies and regulations.”
But while Kuehl is highly regarded by the trans community, to some such grand gestures feel less meaningful in light of daily discrimination.
“It is nice that the office of Supervisor Kuehl is willing to introduce this resolution. But we as a community are tired of lip service. We want tangible actions. We want for the county to intentionally invest in our community” in addition to HIV funding, Bamby Salcedo, founder of the TransLatin@ Coalition, told the Los Angeles Blade. “I am just frustrated because resolutions and commendations are not going to solve the social conditions of our community.”
One inexplicable example: on Oct. 12, LA Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo sentenced Nicol Shakhnazaryan to 30 days of community service—already served—and 2 ½ years of probation, despite his conviction for violently beating a trans woman in June 2013, CBS 2 News reported. Shakhnazaryan, 26, and four other men were caught on security tape assaulting then-22-year-old Vivien Diego in Hollywood. She suffered a broken jaw, shattered cheekbone, two cracked ribs and a loss of hearing. She was hospitalized for seven days. After the sentencing hearing, she told reporters she still suffers from mental and emotional trauma—but her attackers escape jail.