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Trump’s first trans refugee seeking asylum in Sweden

Danni Askini: ‘I can be myself without fear of violence’

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Pauline Park is an LGBT and human rights activist who led the campaign for the transgender rights law enacted by the New York City Council in 2002.

The word ‘refugee’ conjures up images of people of color fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and other poor and war-torn regions of the world; someone like Danni Askini would be the last person whose image would come to mind, especially in Sweden.

She’s an attractive young blonde and would blend right in on any street in Stockholm, which is where she is now. She’s also an American citizen, born and bred; but Danni may well be the first refugee to flee persecution from Donald Trump’s homophobic and transphobic administration to a country far wealthier per capita than the United States.

Trump may be escalating his war on the LGBT community, as indicated by a memo circulating in the Department of Health & Human Services leaked to the New York Times last month that indicates an intention to try to fix a definition of gender in Title IX on sex assigned at birth. I do not believe that that attempt will ultimately succeed, but it is a clear indication of the intense animus being directed by the Trump administration — no doubt at the instigation of Christian fundamentalists in the White House — above all, Vice President Mike Pence.

“Filing for asylum in Sweden was absolutely the right thing to do… I can be myself in Sweden without fear of violence or discrimination. Migrationsverket [the Swedish Migration Agency] has reassured me that they have not found my application manifestly unfounded as a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling says that Sweden does not have a parliament-approved a list of ‘safe third countries’ (i.e. the USA) and thus they will fully examine my application. I will be going through the normal asylum process. My hearing in November is a more detailed intake hearing — however, they still view the USA as a ‘functioning democracy’ and thus, I will have an uphill battle,” Danni posted on her Facebook page on Oct. 16, adding, “I have lost everything in the USA, the price of safety was immense, and I have spent 3 months homeless and in daily terror. This was not some extravagant holiday or vacation despite posting pretty pictures.”

Lest you think Danni’s case is irrelevant to your life, consider Trump’s broadsides against the LGBT community here. Few of us are likely to have to flee for our lives as Danni has, but it is incumbent on the LGBT community and allies here in the U.S. to support Danni’s asylum case by demanding that U.S.-based and international LGBT advocacy and human rights organizations — such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — actively support her application for asylum in Sweden by demanding that Migrationsverket (the SWA) approve Danni’s application.

Sweden has taken in more refugees and migrants per capita in the last decade than any other European country, which has provoked a right-wing backlash from white nationalists and has made the government ever more cautious about taking in more migrants. Danni Askini has fled to Sweden from a country that the SWA has not heretofore considered a source of refugees. Danni’s hearing with Migrationsverket is this month, so it is urgent and imperative that those who are in a position to contact LGBT advocacy organizations, human rights organizations, members of Congress, the media (here and in Sweden) and the SWA itself do so as soon as possible.

Danni’s fate is important to me because she is a dear friend and an effective activist who has done incredibly important work on behalf of the transgender community in Washington State and nationally. But her case should be important to everyone in the U.S. LGBT community because a successful application for political asylum in Sweden would set an important legal precedent for those fleeing persecution in the U.S. for more progressive European and non-European countries, should the need ever arise for those of us now challenging the Trump administration’s attack on our community from the comfort of our homes in the United States.

 

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Not a sports fan? Celebrate Carl Nassib anyway

Nassib’s coming out will do wonders for closeted gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer youth and adults who hesitate to live authentically

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Graphic via the Los Angeles Blade

HARTFORD, Ct. – With a simple, handheld selfie video posted to Instagram Monday, Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders tackled homophobia for us all.  And for everyone who’s not a sports fan and doesn’t know football lingo, this is for you. 

This is the time to buy your first NFL jersey, the one with 94 on the front and “NASSIB” on the back. It’s the hottest seller right now

This is the time to join Nassib and everyone who’s paying it forward by donating to The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that serves LGBTQ youth in crisis with resources and a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline for everyone 24 and under. The NFL on Tuesday matched Nassib’s donation of $100,000. 

Nassib’s former coach at Penn State, James Franklin, gave the group $10,000.

All that money, and attention, is going to help struggling queer kids, some out, many still closeted. “We’ve seen a 50% increase in our daily online donations since the announcement yesterday,” Rob Todaro, communications manager for The Trevor Project told the Los Angeles Blade. “Some of the donations even have heartwarming notes referencing Carl’s coming out, showing acceptance for LGBTQ young people, and supporting LGBTQ youth mental health. In addition, traffic to The Trevor Project’s website increased by more than 350% yesterday into today.”

So how does that help? “This donation will help us train more crisis counselors, continue to provide all of our crisis services 24/7 and for free, and expand our innovative advocacy, research, and education programs,” Todaro told the Blade. 

In his 60-second coming out video, this pro football player has done more for the LGBTQ community than anyone else this Pride Month, from pop stars to the president

And no doubt Nassib’s coming out will do wonders for closeted gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer youth and adults who hesitate to live authentically. “Young LGBTQ kids are 5x more likely than their straight friends to consider suicide,” Nassib wrote in part of his Instagram post. “Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQ kid attempting suicide by 40%.” 

This is the time to be that adult. Especially if you’re like me, and you never had an LGBTQ role model to inspire you, to encourage you to leave the closet, or at least to take the steps necessary to prepare for that first step. 

Like Nassib, I was the first one in my line of work to come out. In 2013, I was the first working journalist in American network TV news to come out as transgender. Like Nassib, I received a warm welcome from my bosses and colleagues at ABC News. But this was eight years ago, when Chaz Bono and Laverne Cox were the only prominent examples in pop culture; although I followed in the footsteps of journalism pioneers Christina Kahrl and Ina Fried, being trans was still a relatively unknown phenomenon in TV newsrooms. And the tabloids and shockjocks treated me like some kind of freak. It was a different time. 

But despite ups and many downs, I survived and am living happily. So is Collin Martin, an out professional soccer player who is the only other active pro athlete in America’s big 5 major sports of baseball, football, hockey and soccer. So are out gay retired football players Ryan O’Callaghan, Esera Tuaolo and Wade Davis and the only living out former MLB player, Billy Bean. 

And let’s not forget that there are nonbinary, lesbian, gay and trans women who are athletes who haven’t faced the same level of homophobia in their sports of soccer, basketball, roller derby, rugby and college sports. Why is it the acceptance found in women’s sports can’t also be found in those played by men? 

“The homophobia of men’s sports culture has been well documented,” the awesome Britni de la Cretaz wrote for NBC about Nassib’s coming out being seen as a turning point for male sports. “A 2018 study from the Human Rights Campaign found that 84 percent of Americans had witnessed anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in sports, and the U.S. ranks the worst when it comes to homophobia in athletics,” according to Time magazine.

But hang on. British researcher Dr. Eric Anderson argues that, as more gays like Nassib find acceptance, the times they are a’changing. 

“I have definitively shown that across the U.K., and even in the U.S., heterosexual men are valuing a softer form of masculinity. I have even showed varying rates of heterosexual men kissing one another, among 11 universities in the United States, and at universities in Australia and the UK. The very fear of even being perceived to be gay — this softer form of masculinity — is evaporating,” Anderson wrote in an op-ed in November 2020

“As sporting cultures continue to embrace social change, there has been a significant increase in elite-level lesbian, gay, and bisexual athletes who have publicly come out of the closet. Rather than rejection and ostracism from sport—as has historically been the case—these athletes have been embraced, celebrated, and propelled to stardom as symbols of sport’s ongoing transformation towards inclusion.

“I am not saying that there is no homophobia in sport. Decreasing homophobia is an uneven social movement that varies by geographical and demographic difference.

“However, it is no longer valid to argue that team sports are bastions of homophobic men, and certainly not compared to the general population. Such an assertion would be to judge them without evidence, or to extrapolate from one to the whole. This is the very nature of prejudice.”

So even if you don’t know the difference between a goalpost and a foul pole, or how a touchdown differs from a home run, embrace Carl Nassib and celebrate his coming out. For what he is doing for football is something that someday may make the closet merely a place to keep our clothes.

Dawn Ennis is a senior reporter and the Sports writer for the LA Blade. Ennis is the professor of Sports Journalism in the Journalism and Communications Media Studies Department at the University of Hartford, Connecticut.

In addition she has written as a contributor for Forbes, The Daily Beast, CT Voice, and as a broadcast anchor on Rise Up with Dawn Ennis on WHCI (West Hartford Community Interactive  television-cable-YouTube) and CT Voice OutLoud on WTNH- TV plus as a freelance reporter for GLAAD Media and Star Trek dot com.

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It’s time to prioritize the plight of trans and queer refugees

In order for the United States to truly be a safe place for persecuted LGBTQ+ people, immigration reform alone is not enough

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By Jamie Sgarro | NEW YORK – Every year, on June 20th, World Refugee Day overlaps with LGBTQ+ Pride Month. This day presents an opportunity to raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees, and to demand action to reestablish the United States as a safe harbor for the thousands of persecuted LGBTQ+ people who seek refuge here every year.   

When the U.S. presidential election was called for Joe Biden, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. During its first 100 days in office, the Biden-Harris administration has slowly begun to undo Trump’s legacy of hate on LGBTQ+ rights and immigration. As the founder of a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ+ asylum and a newly “out” trans person, I am encouraged by the administration’s early efforts, but I also recognize that there is still much more work to be done.   

So far, in support of LGBTQ+ rights, the administration has urged Congress to pass the Equality Act, committed to advocating for LGBTQ+ equality abroad, issued the first presidential proclamation recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility, and signed an executive order repealing the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. The new administration has also begun to unwind Trump’s immigration policies by ceasing new enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols policy its first day in office before formally ending the policy in June, reversing Trump’s “Muslim ban”, and eliminating Trump’s historically-low limits on refugee resettlement. 

But, despite this incremental progress, we must hold the new administration accountable for its promises not yet achieved. The administration’s action—or lack thereof—on both LGBTQ+ and immigration issues have life-or-death ramifications for persecuted trans and queer people. For example, since taking office, President Biden has enforced Title 42, a Trump-era policy that has resulted in most asylum seekers being turned away at the southern border without the opportunity to apply for protections in the U.S. According to WOLA, since March 2020, this policy has expelled more than 750,000 undocumented migrants apprehended at the border back to Mexico or their home countries. President Biden’s reversal of the Migrant Protection Protocols policy (known as “Remain in Mexico”) has also stranded over 30,000 asylum seekers whose claims were denied or dismissed under the policy in Mexico. LGBTQ+ asylum seekers cannot wait safely in Mexico and are at risk of murder upon deportation to their home countries.    

Additionally, while immigration enforcement has decreased under the new administration, President Biden has continued to detain LGBTQ+ immigrants. The U.S. detention system is dangerous, even lethal, for LGBTQ+ individuals (especially trans women). According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, LGBTQ+ immigrants held at federal detention centers are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees. In this context, anything less than the immediate release of every transgender, gender nonconforming and queer person from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention centers is insufficient. Fleeing persecution to live authentically should never result in arbitrary imprisonment.    

In order for the United States to truly be a safe place for persecuted LGBTQ+ people, immigration reform alone is not enough. The administration must also ensure that all LGBTQ+ people have full equality under the law and the freedom to safely walk down the street. Although America has made significant strides in the right direction on LGBTQ+ rights —from increased representation in media to the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling banning workplace discrimination against gay and transgender employees —our country still falls short of social acceptance in many communities and still lacks federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in critical areas including housing, education, federal funding, public accommodations, credit, and the opportunity to serve on a jury. Trans women of color continue to face a deadly epidemic of violence, and trans youth can still be subjected to psychologically-damaging conversion therapy in 25 states.  

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 is already the worst year in recent history for state legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ rights. So far, 17 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been enacted. This coordinated legislative effort particularly targets the transgender community. These attacks are damaging to all trans people but are perhaps especially cruel for trans refugees who have courageously fled persecution in pursuit of a better life. Upon arrival in the United States, LGBTQ+ refugees deserve to be met with compassion, not an onslaught of discriminatory legislation and rhetoric.  

It is time for America to prioritize welcoming trans and queer refugees. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live authentically without fear.

 

Jamie Sgarro is the co-founder of AsylumConnect, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing the world’s first web and mobile resource platform for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution.

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OAN’s anti-LGBTQ hate supported by cable & streaming services

OAN reportedly relies on subscriber fees, also known as carriage fees, rather than advertising as a prime revenue source

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Graphic via Media Matters for America

By Beatrice Mount & Alex Paterson | WASHINGTON – The right wing conspiracy theory One America News channel regularly uses extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, combating what it has called “militant LGBTQ recruitment” strategies.

OAN’s baseless fearmongering about Drag Queen Story Hour, Demi Lovato’s gender identity, and transgender athletes, however, is being financially supported by cable companies and streaming services that claim to be celebrating LGBTQ people and Pride month.

Rather than relying on “advertising as a prime revenue source,” OAN reportedly relies on subscriber fees, also known as carriage fees, as its primary funding source. Verizon and DirecTV (and its parent company, AT&T) pay OAN subscriber fees in exchange for the network being available to their customers, whose subscription costs pay for OAN. While it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much revenue these cable contracts generate, Bloomberg previously reported that OAN “gets paid about 15 cents per subscriber by the companies.” 

OAN also generates revenue through subscriber fees via its streaming app, which charges its subscribers $4.99 per month and is available to download on RokuAmazon FireGoogle Play, and Apple TV. In exchange for hosting OAN in their channel libraries, these companies reportedly take a percentage of that subscription fee. For example, according to Yahoo Finance and The Motley Fool, Roku takes 20% of subscription fees, and Apple TV takes 30% during the first year and 15% in subsequent years. 

These companies have all celebrated Pride month through statements and social media support, including VerizonAmazonGoogleAppleRoku, and DirecTv and its parent company AT&T. However, these companies also enable OAN to maintain a steady income, even though the network is in direct opposition to their corporate commitments to the LGBTQ community.

What’s more, OAN’s hateful rhetoric adds fuel to the rising attacks on LGBTQ people, particularly trans people: Anti-trans violence in the U.S. has reached record high levelshate crimes targeting LGBTQ people are on the rise, and state legislatures have proposed over 100 bills to restrict trans rights so far in 2021 alone. 

OAN hosts and guests regularly spread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and misinformation, particularly targeting trans people

In the days leading up and following the first day of Pride Month in June, some of OAN’s most prominent hosts — Kara McKinney, Stephanie Hamill, and Dan Ball — and their guests have regularly used the platform to fearmonger about LGBTQ people, including claiming that Pride “is a really sad indicator of just how far the cultural rot has gone.” Here are some of the worst examples:

Tipping Point with Kara McKinney

  • On May 20, McKinney suggested that “militant LGBTQ recruitment” has caused more young people to identify as LGBTQ. She also claimed PBS programming that featured Drag Queen Story Hour was “radical LGBTQ propaganda” and a ”mockery and caricature of true womanhood, basically the gender equivalent of blackface or cultural appropriation.”
  • Later in that same segment, McKinney was joined by RedState’s Brandon Morse, who claimed that PBS is “introducing what is actually a mental illness” to kids through covering Drag Queen Story Hour in order “to make good little soldiers for the hard-left, progressive agenda,” comparing it to “the sexual abuse of our children.” He also said that being trans is “a trend, and when this trend wears off the people who actually submitted these kids, pressured them — all the celebrities who signed up for it and pushed it on them, the corporations who signed on and pushed it on them — none of these people are going to look good in the long run, and I can’t wait for that day to come.”
  • On May 24, McKinney asserted that people who affirm trans youth are “leading young people, especially those suffering from mental illness and who are typically being raised in unstable households, into a life of gender confusion.” 
  • In that same edition of Tipping Point, Morse said that being trans is a “trend” and compared it to “the emo craze, the scene kids, you know, all these people dressing in weird ways to try to stand out.” He also claimed that as “abortions are becoming harder and harder to get for Planned Parenthood to perform, they’re moving toward … gender transition treatments” and pushing trans youth “into this weird LGBT-centric agenda that forces them to do something that they can’t take back years later.”
  • On June 1, McKinney commemorated Pride month by proclaiming, “We of course pray for those suffering with same-sex attraction,” and she equated being LGBTQ to a “sin” and a “vice.” She also lamented that “for being a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the fact that we dedicate an entire month to one of the seven deadly sins, which is pride, the cause in many ways of the fall itself, is a really sad indicator of just how far the cultural rot has gone.” 
  • Later in that same episode, far-right pastor Jesse Lee Peterson said people should celebrate “white history month” instead of “perverted” LGBTQ Pride. He also asserted that “Christians must stand up and fight against evil” and questioned, “What’s happy about being perverted?”

In Focus with Stephanie Hamill

  • On May 20, one day after singer Demi Lovato came out as nonbinary and announced they will now use gender-neutral “they/them” pronouns, Hamill suggested they were “desperately trying to stay relevant.” Turning Point USA’s Alex Clark claimed that “the ultimate magic eraser for bad PR is to change your sexual orientation or your gender identity” and accused Lovato of being “severely mentally ill.” (Hamill and her guest also repeatedly misgendered Lovato the following day.)
  • During a May 28 appearance on In Focus, Terry Schilling, the executive director of anti-LGBTQ group the American Principles Projectcalled for a “ban” on best practice health care for trans youth and claimed such care is “absolutely insane” and “all meant to destroy us as human beings.”
  • Later in that segment, during a rant about Kellogg’s Pride-themed cereal, Hamill said that “kids are getting bombarded with liberal propaganda,” and Schilling questioned if LGBTQ advocates “didn’t have the billions of dollars a year that they spend in this movement, what percentage of Americans would identify as LGBT or have some type of confusion about their gender? My guess is that it won’t be that many.”
  • In a June 1 segment with the right-wing Libertas Institute’s Emma Phillips, Hamill complained that Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues is “pushing the drag culture so hard on kids” and claimed that “we see this kind of indoctrination going on in schools, the anti-American agenda, too.” Phillips said that “parents have been posting on social media, ‘My child just learned that Jesus is nonbinary,’ and it’s like this laundry list of insane things that kids are being exposed to.”
  • On June 2, in an apparent violation of a court-issued gag order, Jeff Younger, a father in a high-profile Texas child custody dispute, joined Hamill to spread anti-trans rhetoric about his trans child’s “abnormal gender expression.”

Real America with Dan Ball

  • On June 8, while defending a Loudoun County, Virginia, public school teacher who refused to refer to trans students by their correct name and pronouns, Ball claimed that affirming trans youth is participating in “pronoun garbage.”
  • Ball has also repeatedly denigrated prominent trans people. He has misgendered and deadnamed U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. Ball also ridiculed Caitlyn Jenner, saying she was “dick-tator-less,” while his guests, far-right commentators the Hodgetwins, said being trans is “just a wardrobe” and a “bizarre lifestyle.”

Beatrice Mount is a media analyst and researcher for Media Matters for America. She’s a George Washington University Graduate with a degree in gender studies and political science.

Alex Paterson is a researcher for the LGBTQ program at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2019. Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montana State University and has a background in LGBTQ advocacy, including previous work at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The preceding commentary and analysis was published by Media Matters and is republished by permission.

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