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Rep. Kennedy leads trans rights meeting as House Dems prepare for majority

Equality Act a priority for transgender rights advocates

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Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.) led a meeting of the Congressional Transgender Task Force on Wednesday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ahead of Democrats assuming control of the U.S. House in the next Congress, the Congressional Transgender Task Force led by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) held a meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday with transgender rights supporters to outline priorities amid continuing anti-LGBT policies from the Trump administration.

The meeting was closed to the public, but Kennedy and other participants held a conference call immediately after the discussion to highlight key points, including oversight of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBT policies and advancement in the House of the Equality Act, legislation that would bar discrimination against LGBT people.

Kennedy said after the call he’s “excited” for Democrats to take the majority “and to be able to dictate, or help dictate and agenda for Congress and to put out an alternative narrative for some of the opportunities and challenges we’re confronting as a country.”

“I hope and expect that one of the primary areas of focus for the 116th Congress is going to be ensuring that every single American gets treated fairly, and a big piece of that is obviously around our LGBTQ community, particularly given the target that they have been labeled with by the Trump administration,” Kennedy said. “While the target applies to multiple aspects of the LGBTQ community, no one has been targeted like the trans community has.”

As examples, Kennedy pointed to President Trump’s transgender military ban “that was sent out by tweet,” the reported proposal within the Department of Health & Human Services to erase transgender people from federal laws, Immigration & Customs Enforcement policy that allowed Roxsana Hernández to be beaten to death while in detention and the revocation of Obama-era guidance requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.

A Kennedy aide said other attendees at the meeting aside from Kennedy were Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.).

LGBT advocates in attendance, the aide said, were Luc Athayde-Rizzaro, policy counsel for the National Center for Transgender Equality; Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center; Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer for Lambda Legal; Ian Thompson, senior legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union; Diego Miguel Sanchez, director of advocacy, policy and partnerships for PFLAG National; and David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign.

Athayde-Rizzaro said during the conference call two key questions for the new House Democratic majority in oversight of the “frankly, lawless and reckless administration” are 1) How do officials justify the anti-trans policy? and 2) What special interests and hate groups are informing this policy, and do any internal briefings and memos reflect that?

“I know that millions of Americans, including the 1.4 million transgender adults and hundreds of thousands of transgender youth in this country who have been frightened by attacks on who we are will be really be relieved to finally have a check on a president who has been nothing short of hostile to our rights and liberties,” Athayde-Rizzaro said.

Belkin spoke to Trump’s transgender military ban, warning the U.S. Supreme Court could allow the policy to go into effect at any time if the judiciary buys the claim the policy isn’t really a ban because it allows certain transgender people to serve.

“In arguing before the courts, the administration has tried to pretend that the Mattis policy is not a ban, ‘Oh, it’s just an even-handed health regulation that applies to every single service member, oh it allows transgender troops to serve,” Belkin said. “No. That’s not true. The Mattis policy is a ban. Period. Full stop. It is a ban on transgender service. It is a ban on transgender people. It is ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for transgender troops.”

Stacy said passing the Equality Act would end the “patchwork” of legal protections for LGBT people throughout the United States that currently exists in the form of state law and non-discrimination ordinances.

“We have states that have laws, states that don’t have laws, we have federal protections in that some cases have been interpreted to include protections for LGBTQ people and transgender people specifically, and others where they have not, and we really need a comprehensive solution to that problem to clarify that federal law does protect people on the basis of their gender identity as well as ensuring that those areas that are not currently protected by federal law, we add those protections,” Stacy said.

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Ohio

Trans student bathroom ban bill passes Ohio House Committee

HB 183 would require Ohio K-12 schools & colleges mandate students only use bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth

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Gender-neutral bathroom at Grant High School, Portland Oregon. (Screenshot/YouTube KGW NBC News Portland, Oregon)

By Megan Henty | COLUMBUS, Ohio – A bill that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom and locker room that matches up with their gender identity passed out of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee Wednesday by a 10-5 party line vote.

State Reps. Beth Lear, R-Galena, and Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, introduced House Bill 183 which would require Ohio K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth. It would also prohibit schools from allowing students to share overnight accommodations with the opposite sex.

HB 183 now awaits further consideration in the House, which is next scheduled to be in session April 24. 

Parents, grandparents, and school superintendents asked Bird for this bill, he said. 

The American Medical Association officially opposes policies preventing transgender individuals from accessing basic human services and public facilities consistent with gender identity.

HB 183 would not prohibit a school from having single-occupancy facilities and it would not apply to someone helping a person with a disability or a child younger than 10 years old being assisted by a parent, guardian, or family member.

State Rep. Gayle Manning, R- North Ridgeville, thought about bringing an amendment to the committee that would have carved colleges and universities out of the bill, but she decided against it. 

“I’m hopeful we will continue to have these discussions on the removal of higher ed,” she said. “The reason being, we’re talking about adults. Universities are similar to a city with the number of students that they have. Frivolous lawsuits that will increase the cost of tuition eventually and the cost of our families.” 

Manning voted in favor of the bill even though she hopes lawmakers can continue conversations to “find a better solution.”

Bird opposes taking the higher education component out of the bill. 

“The reason I oppose that is because we have college credit plus in Ohio,” he said. “We seventh graders going to college, kids in high school going to colleges and in that college environment, we got to make sure they are protected.”

State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, vocalized his disdain for the bill before the committee voted. 

“Here we are again … taking away school districts and colleges’ ability and their leadership to make decisions that are best for providing safe, equitable access for all Ohio students,” Miller said. “I hope that this doesn’t see the floor and doesn’t see the governor’s desk.”

More than 100 people submitted opponent testimony on HB 183 and more than 30 people submitted proponent testimony. 

“We do love and care about all kids,” Bird said when asked about all the backlash the bill has received. “Me and my Republican colleagues have heard from constituents all across the state. They may not have been loud. They may not have been vocal. They may not have come with a sign to the Statehouse, but we are here representing the vast majority of Ohioans who want protections.” 

Trans advocates speak out against HB 183

Transgender advocates hosted a press conference following the House Higher Education Committee to voice their opposition to HB 183. Trans Ohio Board Member Carson Hartlage said HB 183 is harmful to all students, including cisgender students.

“Most trans non binary and gender non conforming students only begin using restrooms that align with their gender identities after they’ve experienced some form of trauma when using a restroom that aligns with their sex assigned at birth,” Hartlage said.

Thirty percent of LGBTQ+ students said they were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender, and 26% were stopped from using the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to Ohio’s 2021 state snapshot by GLSEN, which examines the school experiences of LGBTQ middle and high school students.

When looking specifically at transgender and nonbinary students, 42% were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender and 36% couldn’t use the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to the Ohio GLSEN report. 

Ohio’s first openly transgender public official and member of the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools’ Board of Education Dion Manley shared his concerns. 

“As a trans man is I’ve been going into men’s restrooms for 25 years without incident,” Manley said. “I go visit the schools on a regular basis. So these legislators want me to go into a girls restroom in the elementary school, middle school, and high school.”

Mallory Golski, civic engagement and advocacy manager at Kaleidoscope Youth Center, said how Ohio was recently at the center of history in a positive way with Monday’s eclipse.

“We’re here reflecting on how we’re at the epicenter of another piece of history,” she said. “And unfortunately, we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlike the fleeting blackout of the total solar eclipse, the history I’m talking about here today at the statehouse leaves transgender youth in the dark.”

Jeanne Ogden’s daughter would be directly impacted by this bill. Her daughter’s college classroom building does not have single-use restrooms in the building, forcing her daughter to go across the street to use the restroom. 

“These kids getting bullied and yes, their mental health is suffering,” said Ogden, the executive director of Trans Allies of Ohio. “Trans people are tired. Parents are exhausted.”

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Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Ohio Capitol Journal and is republished with permission.

The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.

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

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Los Angeles

24-year-old trans Latina Angeleno & makeup artist shot to death

“This incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence”

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Meraxes Medina/Instagram

LOS ANGELES – In a tragic incident that has shaken the community and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, Meraxes Medina, a 24-year-old transgender Latina and makeup artist, was fatally shot in Los Angeles on March 21.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Medina was found dead on the road in South Los Angeles. The LAPD said she was shot in the head and that there was evidence she was also struck by a vehicle. Friends and family have confirmed Medina’s identity, celebrating her life and mourning her untimely death, which marks another violent act against transgender individuals.

Medina, known for her work at Universal Studios and her vibrant presence on social media, had begun hormone therapy and was navigating life as an undocumented person who had faced homelessness. Despite these challenges, those close to her remembered her for her potential and the positive impact she had on those around her. Friends have expressed their grief and shock, emphasizing Medina’s kindness, talent, and the bright future they believed she deserved.

The circumstances surrounding Medina’s death reflect a larger pattern of violence targeting the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color. Advocacy groups have highlighted the disproportionate impact of gun violence on transgender individuals, noting that a significant percentage of homicides within this community involve firearms.

The incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence.

California chapters of groups with Everytown for Gun Safety released a statement underscoring Medina was at least the third transgender person killed by gun violence in the U.S.

“We cannot ignore the disproportionate impact of gun violence on our transgender and gender-expansive neighbors, especially its impact on Black trans women and trans Latinas. We must honor Meraxes’ legacy by continuing to fight to protect our transgender and gender-expansive communities not only in California, but across the country,” said Ashley Castillo, a student leader with Students Demand Action and National Organizing Board Member.

As the investigation continues, Medina’s death serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for a societal shift to ensure the safety and dignity of all individuals, regardless of gender identity. “The loss of Meraxes Medina is not only a tragedy for those who knew her but also a call to action to combat hate and violence against the transgender community,” said one activist.

“Meraxes was a young woman who deserved to live out a long and fulfilling life. At just 24-years-old, she had so much more to give. Yet again, we find ourselves honoring the life and mourning the loss of someone from our transgender community killed by gun violence, and that alarming reality should emphasize our collective need to fight against lax gun laws. We need to come together and remind everyone, especially lawmakers and politicians, that our lives are worth saving and worth living,” said Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.

Bamby Salcedo, President/CEO of The TransLatin@ Coalition, issed the following statement:  “It’s unfortunate that our sister Meraxes Medina had to perish to the ignorance and violence that we continue to experience as a community, and these are just another examples of what our lives are, and we want to ensure that we hold elected officials accountable for bettering our lives and our future.”

KABC 7 reported between 2017 and 2023, there were 263 reported homicides of transgender people in the U.S., according to the organization. A gun was used in 193 of them.

In California, there were 14 homicides of transgender people reported between 2018 and 2024 so far, and 37% were in Los Angeles.

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National

Day of [no] silence, a call to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ hate

GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now

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GLSEN/Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – In a move to counteract the surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, GLSEN, a leading national organization advocating for safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ youth, has announced a significant shift in its annual Day of Silence event. 

Traditionally observed as a silent protest against LGBTQ+ discrimination and bullying, this year’s event will transform into the Day of (No) Silence, calling on advocates, students, educators, and allies to actively speak out against the wave of exclusionary policies sweeping across the nation.

Scheduled for April 12, 2024, the Day of (No) Silence emerges in response to over 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures throughout the United States. The event’s reimagining encourages participants to leverage their voices, platforms, and votes to demand legislative support and protection for the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans and non-binary individuals.

“Education is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet it’s under attack by those with the  loudest voices pushing hateful agendas, using trans and queer students as pawns,” said GLSEN Executive Director, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. “From bathroom bans to book bans, the attacks on our education system are relentless and widespread. It’s on us, as adults, to rise up for every child’s right to a safe and inclusive education. That’s why this year, we refuse to remain silent. We’re rising together, using our collective voices to fight back against these injustices. While some students are silenced by censorship laws or unsafe school environments, if you can, I urge you to join us. Speak up, vote, use your platform, and support GLSEN programs. Together, let’s build a future where every student can thrive.” 

The organization has laid out a comprehensive action plan for participants to follow on April 12th, ranging from using social media platforms to share student stories and resources, participating in the National School Climate Survey, to educators creating an inclusive classroom environment through GLSEN’s Rainbow Library.

In an interview with The Blade,  GLSEN’s Director of Communications Madison Hamilton, expounded on the shift to Day of (No) Silence. “It is imperative, with the over 480 hateful anti LGBT+ bills that have been presented this year alone that we make this shift,” Hamilton said. “We have heard from students and educators in our network, telling us that they want to take action and speak out. The silent protest is just not working anymore.”

Hamilton also addressed the broader impacts of discrimination, highlighted by the tragic murder of 16-year-old nonbinary Oklahoma resident, Nex Benedict, a vivid reminder of the deadly consequences of anti-LGBTQ+ hate. GLSEN’s statement underscores the urgent need for accountability and a collective fight against extremism targeting queer and trans youth within the educational system.

“At GLESN we believe education is the cornerstone of our democracy. All this hate rhetoric leads to hate crimes. Nex was in that bathroom because politicians in Oklahoma required them to be in that bathroom,” Hamilton told The Blade, emphasizing that holding adults accountable for their hateful rhetoric against the community is imperative to creating a more inclusive society in schools and beyond. 

GLSEN offers resources for educators, including an action guide for creating supportive environments for LGBTQ+ students, and calls on allies to engage in various forms of advocacy, such as hosting events, volunteering, and fundraising, to support the cause.

As GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now. By raising our voices, we can push back against discrimination, celebrate diversity, and pave the way for a future where all students can thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

GLSEN is the nation’s leading organization dedicated to creating safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ+ students. Founded over 34 years ago, it works tirelessly to combat harassment and discrimination through education, policy advocacy, and community building.
For more information on how to participate in the Day of (No) Silence and support LGBTQ+ youth, visit www.glsen.org.

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Los Angeles County

City of Malibu backing two bills aimed at making PCH safer

Between March 11 & 17, the Malibu CPH Task Force issued 109 citations (88 for speeding & two for distracted driving)

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CHP patrol cruiser on Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) near Malibu during a traffic stop. (Photo Credit: California Highway Patrol Media Affairs)

MALIBU, Calif. – The City of Malibu is supporting efforts by officials in Sacramento to increase and ensure efforts aimed at making the Pacific Coast Highway safer for drivers and pedestrians.

In a statement a spokesperson said that as part of the City’s commitment to addressing PCH safety and ensuring public safety in the community, the City sent a delegation of officials to Sacramento to support two State traffic safety bills, SB 1297 and SB 1509. Both bills were approved by the key State Senate Transportation Committee April 9 and will continue through the legislative process.

SB 1297, introduced by Senator Allen (co-authored by Assemblymember Irwin and Senators Stern and Friedman), would expand the State’s automated speed safety pilot program to allow the City of Malibu to participate. The City has advocated for the installation of the speed camera systems on PCH that can automatically issue citations to speeding motorists as one of the steps to help improve safety on PCH.

AB 1509, the NOT in California Act, was introduced by Senator Stern (co-authored by Senators Allen, Niello, Seyarto and Umberg), and would amend the CA Vehicle Code to make convictions of driving 26 MPH or greater over the posted speed limit, a two-point violation against a person’s driver’s license.

Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart, City Manager Steve McClary, Deputy City Manager Alexis Brown gave testimony and advocated for the Bills.

They were joined by Barry Stewart, whose daughter Peyton was one of the four Pepperdine students who were tragically killed by a speeding motorist while walking on PCH in October 2023, and Michel Shane, whose 13-year-old daughter Emily was tragically killed by a motorist while walking on PCH in 2010. Shane produced the powerful, moving film “21 Miles” about the dangers of PCH in Malibu. Both gave impassioned testimony about the dangers of PCH and the urgent need to improve safety conditions on the highway.

According to the California Highway Patrol, between March 11 and 17, the Malibu CPH Task Force issued 109 citations (88 for speeding; two for distracted driving; one for a seatbelt violation; and 18 for equipment violations). Four verbal warning were issued. One driver was stopped for speeding, and was arrested for DUI. Year-to-date, the CHP Malibu Taskforce has issued 721 citations. 

The City Council on March 25 approved sending a letter urging Governor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, LA County Sheriff Robert Luna, California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin, and Caltrans Director Tony Tavares to work collaboratively to make changes to the State Vehicle Code to help address PCH safety. The changes include: 

  • Anybody who exceeds 100 MPH shall lose their driver’s license for three months, and anybody who exceeds 100 MPH more than once in a 12-month period shall lose their driver’s license for six months.
  • Anybody who exceeds twice the posted speed limit shall lose their driver’s license for one month, and anybody who exceeds twice the posted speed limit more than once in a 12-month period shall lose their driver’s license for two months. 
  • The loss of license in these instances shall be mandatory not discretionary.

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Southern California

Triple A: Gas prices continue upward by double digits

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.41, which is 21 cents higher than a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Southern California gas prices increased by about two cents a day in the last week, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.41, which is 21 cents higher than a week ago. The average national price is $3.63, which is six cents higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.36 per gallon, which is 13 cents more than last week, 42 cents higher than last month, and 42 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.34, which is 13 cents higher than last week, 42 cents higher than last month, and 41 cents higher than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.31, which is 12 cents higher than last week, 40 cents higher than last month, and 42 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.27, which is 14 cents higher than last week, 46 cents higher than last month and 44 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.24 average price is 17 cents more than last week, 43 cents more than last month, and 37 cents higher than a year ago today.

“Some additional refinery outages have further reduced fuel production and increased pump prices, and Oil Price Information Service reports that imported gasoline has been ordered and should arrive later this month or in early May,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe.

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on April 11, averages are:

socal blue gas chart 4-10-24
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South America

Convicted killer in Daniel Zamudio murder in Chile seeks parole

Zamudio’s death in March 2012 sparked outrage across Chile & prompted lawmakers to pass a hate crimes & anti-discrimination bill

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Daniel Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Vera)

By Esteban Rioseco | SANTIAGO, Chile — One of the four men convicted of murdering a young gay man in the Chilean capital in 2012 is seeking parole.

Raúl López Fuentes in 2013 received a 15-year prison sentence after he was convicted of killing Daniel Zamudio.

Zamudio was a young Chilean man who became a symbol of the fight against homophobic violence in his country and around the world after López and three other young men with alleged ties to a neo-Nazi group beat him for several hours in Santiago’s San Borja Park on March 2, 2012. Zamudio succumbed to his injuries a few weeks later.

The attack sparked widespread outage in Chile and prompted a debate over homophobia in the country that highlighted the absence of an anti-discrimination law. Lawmakers in the months after Zamudio’s murder passed a law that bears Zamudio’s name.

Patricio Ahumada received a life sentence, while López and Alejandro Angulo Tapia are serving 15 years in prison. Fabían Mora Mora received a 7-year prison sentence.

López has asked the Seventh Santiago Guarantee Court to serve the last three years of his sentence on parole. Zamudio’s family and Jaime Silva, their lawyer who works with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, oppose the request.

Movilh represented Zamudio’s family after his murder.

Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera, during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade said López’s petition “provoked all the anguish, all the commotion of his time.” 

“It was very cruel because in fact two days before we were at Daniel’s grave, where it was 12 years since his death and the beating,” said Vera. “He really does not deserve it.”

“We have gone through very difficult moments,” she added.

The mother, who later created a foundation to eradicate discrimination in Chile, was emphatic in indicating that she and her family “do not accept the release of this guy because he is a danger to society and a danger to ourselves.” 

“At the last hearing where they were sentenced, they told us that we are going to remember them when they get out,” said Vera. “They threatened us with death. There is a video circulating on social networks where they were in front of me and they laughed and made fun of me. They told me that I remembered that I had three more children.”

Regarding the possibility that the Chilean justice system will allow López to serve the remaining three years of his sentence on parole, Vera said “with the benefits here in Chile, which is like a revolving door where murderers come and go, it can happen.” 

“In any case, I don’t pretend, I don’t accept and I don’t want (López) to get out, I don’t want (López) to get out there,” she said. “We are fighting for him not to get out there because I don’t want him to get out there. And for me it is not like that, they have to serve the sentence as it stands.”

LGBTQ Chileans have secured additional rights since the Zamudio Law took effect. These include marriage equality and protections for transgender people. Advocacy groups, however, maintain lawmakers should improve the Zamudio Law.

“We are advocating for it to be a firmer law, with more strength and more condemnation,” said Vera.

When asked by the Washington Blade about what she would like to see improved, she indicated “the law should be for all these criminals with life imprisonment.”

Daniel Zamudio’s death in March 2012 sparked outrage across Chile and prompted lawmakers to pass a hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill. (Photo courtesy of Fundación Daniel Zamudio.)

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Photo Credit: Movilh

Esteban Rioseco is a Chilean digital communicator, LGBT rights activist and politician. He was spokesperson and executive president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh). He is currently a Latin American correspondent for the Washington Blade.

On Oct. 22, 2015, together with Vicente Medel, he celebrated the first gay civil union in Chile in the province of Concepción.

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European Union

Out gay Polish government minister represents change of course

He is a lawyer who worked for the Campaign Against Homophobia, a Polish LGBTQ rights group, for several years before he entered politics

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Deputy Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek. (Photo Credit: Śmiszek/Instagram)

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s only openly gay Cabinet minister on Tuesday spoke with the Washington Blade about the fight for LGBTQ rights in his country, Ukraine and U.S. politics.

Deputy Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek assumed his post last Dec. 13 after Donald Tusk became prime minister. 

The Civil Coalition, a group of opposition parties that Tusk leads, two months earlier won a majority of seats in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament. President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the conservative Law and Justice party who opposes LGBTQ rights, remains in office as part of the governing coalition.

Śmiszek, a member of the New Left party, has been a member of the Sejm since 2019.

He was born Stalową Wola, a city in southeastern Poland that is close to the country’s borders with Ukraine and Slovakia. Śmiszek now represents Wrocław, the country’s third largest city that is located in southwestern Poland.

He is a lawyer who worked for the Campaign Against Homophobia, a Polish LGBTQ rights group, for several years before he entered politics. Śmiszek’s partner is former MP Robert Biedroń, who is now a member of the European Parliament.

From left: Polish MEP Robert Biedroń and Deputy Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek. (Photo courtesy of Śmiszek’s Instagram page)

Śmiszek noted to the Blade during an interview in his office that the Justice Ministry has introduced a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Poland’s hate speech and hate crimes laws.

The Council of Ministers, which includes members of Tusk’s Cabinet, is expected to approve the proposal in the coming weeks. Śmiszek said MPs will support the measure, even though critics say it would limit free speech.

“It was quite natural for us, I would say, to agree on that,” he told the Blade. “We all witnessed all these statements and horrible actions towards LGBT (people during the previous government.)”

Duda became Poland’s president in 2015.

He said before he defeated Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski in the country’s 2020 presidential election that LGBTQ “ideology” is more dangerous than communism. Duda has also claimed LGBTQ Poles are “a threat to the family” and “want to sexualize children.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda (PBS News Hour YouTube screenshot)

More than 100 municipalities across Poland ahead of the election adopted resolutions that declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.”

The Law and Justice Party and Poland’s influential Roman Catholic Church supported them, while the European Union cut funding to municipalities that adopted them. The Warsaw Voivodship Administrative Court on Feb. 6 struck down the country’s final “LGBT-free zone” resolution that Mordy, a town in Siedlce County in eastern Poland that is roughly half way between Warsaw and the Belarusian border, adopted in 2019.

Tusk has indicated his support of a civil partnership bill, but Śmiszek conceded it will be a “huge” challenge to secure passage in parliament because it is not an official part of the coalition government’s manifesto. 

Śmiszek noted Poland has dropped its opposition to the case of a transgender man who filed a lawsuit in the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg after Romania refused to recognize his legal name and gender change that he received in the U.K. 

“We are trying not only to change the legal situation of LGBTI folks here in this country, but also we are taking a completely new approach, also of Poland, as a member of the European Union,” he said.

The Justice Ministry last month for the first time with LGBTQ activists.

Śmiszek said former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, a member of the right-wing Sovereign Poland party, wrote many of the previous government’s proposals that targeted LGBTQ people and women. Śmiszek further described the ministry before the current government took office as a “governmental center of anti-LGBTI actions.”

“That was a very moving meeting that after eight years of hatred that was produced here in this ministry,” he said.

Śmiszek pointed out Duda’s first presidential veto was a bill that would have made the process through which transgender Poles could undergo gender-affirming surgery easier. Śmiszek said the new government wants “to make the lives of trans people a bit better and bearable in terms of relations with the state and with relations with the administration,” but conceded it “is difficult.” He also said Duda, the Constitutional Tribunal and the Catholic Church remain barriers to the advancement of LGBTQ rights.

“We are not starting from scratch in terms of new initiatives,” Śmiszek told the Blade. “We are getting back to the good solutions.”

“However, we are fully aware that there are plenty of conservative anchors and blockages in the institutional architecture,” he added.

Śmiszek also said his sexual orientation is not an issue to Tusk, to his fellow ministers and MPs.

“I haven’t heard any discussion or hesitation about should we have this guy in the ministry or not,” he said. “My sexual orientation is not an issue at all.”

A picture of Polish-born Pope John Paul II inside St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Kraków, Poland. The Roman Catholic Church remains a powerful institution in Poland. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Poland knows Russia ‘very well’

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine.

Śmiszek noted upwards of 2 million Ukrainians sought refuge in Poland, and many of them have remained in the country.

“Polish society passed its exam in terms of humanitarian aid and compassion for those who are victims of this aggressive war of Russia,” said Śmiszek.

A Russian missile on Nov. 15, 2022, killed two people in Przewodów, a village Hrubieszów County that is on the Ukrainian border. Another Russian missile on March 24 briefly entered Polish airspace near Oserdów, a village that is less than five miles away from Przewodów.

Śmiszek told the Blade he is increasingly concerned the war will spread to the Baltic countries — Lithuania, which borders Poland, and Latvia and Estonia — and to Poland itself. 

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea also borders Poland.

 “We are observing now, especially during the last few months, that something is going to happen,” he said.

Śmiszek acknowledged Ukraine in recent months has suffered setbacks on the battlefield, and the U.S. “is not very open to providing any help.”

“You can see Trump, what he is saying. You can also see some Western countries that are still hesitating,” he said. “This is a growing, unspoken emotion within Polish society that something is going to happen, the war will knock on our doors soon, in the next couple of years, and we are the second or third target of Putin if he’s not stopped by the united West.”

Śmiszek added Poland knows the Russians “very well.”

“That is why this is not something unusual when a Pole thinks about Russians invading our country,” he said. “It’s happened before.”

Tusk and Duda last month met with President Joe Biden at the White House in the hopes that Congress would pass a Ukraine funding bill. Śmiszek while speaking to the Blade criticized the delay.

“I know that they are trying to build their popularity, saying we should not spend billions of dollars for the wars that do not concern us and Russia will never attack us, blah, blah, blah,” he said. “In a way I do understand this rhetoric, but I don’t understand … it’s really a short-sighted approach.” 

“I really count on changing the approach of the U.S. because this is really a huge threat to world democracy, to human rights and we always perceive the U.S. as a kind of element of guarantees for democracy around the world,” added Śmiszek. “This time the U.S. is not passing its exam, especially the conservative part of American politics.”

A Pride commemoration in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women’s Association)

Śmiszek said Poland will continue to work with the U.S., regardless of who wins this year’s presidential election. He did, however, express concerns over former President Trump based on his positions on LGBTQ and reproductive rights, his U.S. Supreme Court nominees and Ukraine.

“This is kind of worrying,” said Śmiszek. “This kind of approach to fundamental issues very relevant to the stability of the world is now in the hands of the guy who you cannot predict what his decisions will be when the time comes and it will be a need for taking very serious decisions concerning the stability of the world.” 

“He portrays himself as quite unstable I would say in terms of values he wants to defend,” he added.

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Louisiana

Severe weather doesn’t stop GOP anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Louisiana

As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity- a legislative committee met & quietly advanced anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

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As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity in Louisiana Wednesday, a legislative committee met and quietly advanced two pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. (Allison Allsop/Louisiana Illuminator)

By Piper Hutchinson | BATON ROUGUE, La. – As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity in Louisiana Wednesday, a legislative committee met and quietly advanced two pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

The Louisiana House Committee on Education advanced House Bill 121 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, which prohibits the use of transgender and nonbinary youth’s chosen names and pronouns in public K-12 schools without parental permission, along a party line 9-3 vote. 

House Bill 122 by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haugton, which limits discussion of gender and sexuality in public K-12 schools, also advanced on a 9-3 vote, with Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, joining Democrats in opposing the bill.   

The Legislature approved both bills last year. Then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed them, and Republicans were unable to overturn his action. A representative for Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, filed a card in support of both Crews’ and Horton’s bills. 

Committee hearings on the same bills in previous years stretched on for hours with extensive public testimony, primarily from LGBTQ+ youth, but Wednesday’s hearing moved at an unusually fast clip, with many advocates stuck at home. 

The committee was scheduled to meet at noon, an hour before a tornado watch expired for Baton Rouge. Tornadoes had touched down in Slidell and Lake Charles in the morning, and flooding and storm debris blocked roads across the state. 

Just four people testified against the bills Wednesday. By comparison, more than 40 people testified against the same bills in 2023, and over 300 more filed cards in opposition but did not speak. 

The Louisiana Senate decided late Tuesday afternoon to cancel its committee meetings the next day to avoid the hazardous weather. Senators aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until Monday.

The House of Representatives canceled all but two of its six scheduled committee meetings, In addition to Education, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee also met at noon to discuss several election-related bills  

Advocates with Forum For Equality, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, called on House Speaker Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, to cancel the two committee hearings.

Crews’ bill would require teachers and other school personnel to use a student’s given name and pronouns that align with their birth sex unless a student has permission from their parents to use their chosen name. 

Teachers would be allowed to disregard a parent’s choice to respect their transgender or nonbinary child’s preferred name and pronouns if they have religious opposition to doing so. 

Freiberg noted this double standard during the hearing, pointing out the bill was touted as a parental rights bill but allowed a parent’s choice to be invalidated. 

In an interview after the hearing, Crews said that while his bill supports parental rights, parents should not be able to eclipse somebody else’s religious rights. 

His bill does not have an exception for those who have a religious opposition to deadnaming or misgendering students. 

Deadnaming is when someone uses a transgender or nonbinary individual’s birth name, or “dead name,” against their wishes. Misgendering occurs when someone refers to an individual as a gender that they do not identify. 

At the core of Crews’ proposal is his belief that parents have the right to know whether their children are transgender. Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community say the bill would force transgender youth to out themselves to their parents or else be deadnamed and misgendered at school. They have raised concerns about what happens when parents find out — and don’t approve.

A survey from the Trevor Project found 38% of transgender women, 39% of transgender men and 35% of nonbinary youth have experienced homelessness as a result of parental rejection. 

Horton’s bill is similar to a Florida law referred to by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Her proposal is much broader and would apply to K-12 grades, whereas Florida’s law applies only to early grade students. 

Florida recently settled a lawsuit over the law filed by civil rights activists. As part of the agreement, students and teachers are permitted to discuss gender and sexuality as long as  it is not part of classroom instruction. 

Horton’s bill would not just apply to classroom instruction. It also prohibits “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity” during any extracurricular and athletics events, meaning it could potentially hinder student chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance and other LGBTQ+ student organizations. 

Horton said she didn’t believe teachers should discuss their “lifestyle choices” with students and made reference to a Caddo Parish teacher who she said bragged about confusing children with their sexual orientation. 

As written, the bill would also prevent discussion of heterosexuality and the cisgender identity. 

The bills will next be discussed by the full House of Representatives. 

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Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished by permission.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence.

Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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Political commentary & analysis

Transphobic report by UK pediatrician Hilary Cass released

The report calls for restrictions on trans care, social transition including trans adults up to 25 from adult trans healthcare in Britain

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

By Erin Reed | LONDON, UK – On Tuesday evening, Dr. Hilary Cass released a final report commissioned by the British/UK National Health Service (NHS), widely expected to target gender-affirming care. The report met these expectations, calling for restrictions on gender-affirming care and social transition, and even advocated for blocking transgender adults under the age of 25 from entering adult care.

To justify these recommendations, the review dismissed over 100 studies on the efficacy of transgender care as not suitably high quality, applying standards that are unattainable and not required of most other pediatric medicine.

Conducted in a manner similar to the anti-trans review by the DeSantis-handpicked Board of Medicine in Florida, which Cass reportedly collaborated on, the report and its reviews are likely to underpin further crackdowns on trans care globally.

The 388-page report featured 32 recommendations on how transgender care should be conducted within NHS England. It incorrectly claims that there is “no good evidence” supporting transgender care and calls for restrictions on trans care for individuals under the age of 18, although it does not advocate for an outright ban.

The report endorses the idea that being transgender may be caused by anxiety, depression, and OCD issues, despite the American Psychological Association, the largest psychological association in the world, rebutting this as lacking evidence.

It also claims that transgender individuals can be “influenced” into being trans, a nod to the discredited theory of social contagion and rapid onset gender dysphoria, rejected by over 60 mental health organizations.

Lastly, it seemingly endorses restrictions on transgender people under the age of 25, stating that they should not be allowed to progress into adult care clinics.

To support these recommendations, the report was released alongside “reviews” of the evidence surrounding transgender care, using these reviews to assert that there is “no good evidence” for gender-affirming care.

A closer inspection of the reviews released alongside the Cass report reveals that 101 out of 103 studies on gender-affirming care were dismissed for not being of “sufficiently high quality,” based on the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale—a subjective scale criticized for its flaws and potential unreliability due to a high risk of bias.

This critique is particularly significant given the contentious political nature of the subject and connections between reviewers, Cass, and anti-trans organizations.

The Cass Review seems to have emulated the Florida Review, which employed a similar method to justify bans on trans care in the state—a process criticized as politically motivated by the Human Rights Campaign.

Notably, Hilary Cass met with Patrick Hunter, a member of the anti-trans Catholic Medical Association who played a significant role in the development of the Florida Review and Standards of Care under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

Patrick Hunter was chosen specifically by the governor, who has exhibited fierce opposition towards LGBTQ+ and especially transgender people, and then immediately got to work on targeting transgender care. The Florida review was purportedly designed and manipulated with the intention of having “care effectively banned” from the outset, as revealed by court documents.

The Florida Review was slammed by Yale Researchers as “not a serious scientific analysis, but rather, a document crafted to serve a political agenda,” and much of their full critique is applicable to the Cass Review as well.

In those meetings, Cass apparently took interest in Florida’s anti-trans expert report, according to emails from trial exhibits uncovered by transgender researcher Zinnia Jones, such as this email confirming that a meeting took place:

Paul,

See attached information sent to me from the Cass Review. I forgot to mention that they were very interested in the Florida evidence review, especially the report from McMaster University. She recognized the work done at that institution under the leadership of Gordon Guyatt. At Dr. Cass’s request, I sent them a copy of the Florida evidence review.

Notably, Patrick Hunter has been identified as part of a network of anti-trans experts who seek to roll back gains for queer and trans rights by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and both the Florida Review and the Cass Review serve those functions.

One of the most controversial sections of the Cass Review addresses social transition, with the review recommending that individuals considering social transition “be seen as early as possible” by clinical professionals. It claims that social transition could “change the outcome of gender identity development,” a statement that notably lacks the validation or evidence level that the review demands of transgender care.

Significantly, there has been discussion about prohibiting social transition in schools, even with parental consent. A recent bill proposed by former Prime Minister Liz Truss would have prevented public officials from using language or treating a child “in a manner inconsistent with their sex,” leaving unclear how individuals should be treated differently based on their sex.

The Cass Review also touches on gendered toys, suggesting that preferences like trucks for boys and dolls for girls might have a biological basis, despite significant controversy over such claims, with a recent study casting doubt on earlier monkey studies used to justify biological differences in toy preferences.

“A common assumption is that toy choice and other gender role behaviours are solely a result of social influences; for example, that boys will only be given trucks and girls will only be given dolls to play with. Although this is partially true, there is evidence for prenatal and postnatal hormonal influence on these behaviours,” writes Cass in the report.

To support arguments around potentially high detransition/desistance rates, Cass repeatedly cites Ken Zucker, including the often-challenged “85%” rate from his research. Notably, Zucker has recommended that parents withhold “wrongly-gendered” toys from their children as a strategy to change their gender identity.

Of special note is the focus on those from ages 17-25. The Cass review states that transgender people should not be transferred into adult care until age 25. Among its rationale for doing so is that those who have been waiting for youth care, with waitlists often being over 5 years long, have that waiting time counted towards the wait for adult services.

Instead, the review proposes a “follow through” service, declaring transgender 17-25 year old’s as “vulnerable.” It is uncertain what level of restrictions this follow through service would have.

Within a day of the publication of the Cass Review, it appears that those concerns were well warranted. NHS England announced that it would be launching a review into “the operation and delivery of adult GDCs” in a report released by The Guardian.

The decision to launch a review into adult care was justified by “concerns put to the [Cass] review team by current and former staff working in the adult gender clinics about clinical practice, particularly in regard to individuals with complex co-presentations and undiagnosed conditions.”

Immediately after the release of the Cass Review, experts in transgender healthcare from around the world voiced their opposition to its findings. Dr. Portia Predny, Vice President of the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health, criticized the findings and recommendations as “at odds with the current evidence base, expert consensus, and the majority of clinical guidelines worldwide.”

Similarly, a statement from the Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa condemned the review, noting, “The Review commissioned several systematic reviews into gender-affirming care by the University of York, but appears to have ignored a significant number of studies demonstrating the benefits of gender-affirming care. In one review, 101 out of 103 studies were dismissed.”

It is important to note that gender affirming care saves lives, and there is plenty of evidence to show for it. Numerous studies have demonstrated that gender-affirming care significantly reduces suicidality, with some showing a decrease in suicidality by up to 73%.

A review compiled by Cornell University, which compiled over 50 journal articles on the topic, shows the efficacy of transgender care. These findings were echoed recently in an article published by the Journal of Adolescent Health, which found that puberty blockers dramatically lowered depression and anxiety.

All of these studies and more have led to The Lancet, a medical journal with international acclaim, to publish a letter stating that gender affirming care is lifesaving preventative care. The largest and most influential medical organizations support trans care.

A recent and historic policy resolution passed overwhelmingly by the American Psychological Association, the largest psychological organization in the world, states that gender affirming care is a medical necessity and that being trans is not “caused” by things like autism and PTSD.

While the full impact of the Cass Review will not be known for some time, it is likely to significantly affect England, where transgender care is already heavily gatekept with extremely long waitlists.

Additionally, it is probable that anti-trans organizations in the United States will cite the review to justify further bans on care. However, similar to other “reviews” conducted in countries or states like Florida, where transgender medical rights are under attack, the review is unlikely to be given much credence by many United States judges, legislators in states without significant political opposition to care, and medical organizations that have remained steadfast in combating anti-trans disinformation.

Nevertheless, worldwide, the Cass Review carries forward the same types of attacks advanced in Florida, and could have significant negative impacts on transgender people globally should their recommendations be put into effect.

NHS gender review: “toxic conversation is problem”

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Los Angeles

LAPD monitoring threats against TransLatin@ Coalition

“These acts of violence underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to protect and uplift the most vulnerable among us”

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Los Angeles Police Department vehicles responding to a call for service. (Los Angeles Blade/LAPD file photo)

LOS ANGELES – In a concerning escalation of threats against LGBTQIA+ organizations throughout the country, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed that a bomb threat was called in to the department on March 28, aimed at the TransLatin@ Coalition (TLC), a vanguard organization for Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex (TGI) Latinx communities.

The threat, specifying 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. The LAPD has since been closely monitoring the site. 

This recent threat comes at a time when the TLC, alongside other organizations within the LGBTQIA+ community, faces increasing hostility, underscored by a series of bomb threats and hate mail aimed at destabilizing the work and well-being of TGI Latinx individuals.

In response to the threat, Bamby Salcedo, the President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition has amplified security measures at TLC and reinforced the importance of emergency preparedness among the staff, emphasizing the coalition’s dedication to fostering a secure and supportive environment despite the daunting challenges posed by such threats.

The bomb threats have been accompanied by hate mail, filled with vitriolic anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and attacks on the Democratic Party, aimed at undermining the coalition’s mission and intimidating its leadership, including Salcedo and Vice President/COO Maria Roman Taylorson.

Despite these attempts to sow fear, the TransLatin@ Coalition stands firm in its mission. “We refuse to be silenced or intimidated,” Salcedo said.

The organization continues to call for unity and action, urging the public to stand in solidarity with TGI communities, report threats or violence, and advocate for greater acceptance and understanding of TGI identities.

The coalition’s commitment to the rights, empowerment, and well-being of TGI Latinx individuals in the United States remains unwavering. Through advocacy, education, and community organizing, the TLC addresses the unique challenges and systemic injustices faced by this community, emphasizing the intersectionality of race and economic status.

As the TLC navigates through these trying times, they have also taken to social media to call for support and positivity, highlighting the unexpected financial strain of heightened security measures. 

This recent threat against the TLC occurs amidst a broader climate of heightened animosity towards the LGBTQIA+ community, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC’s documentation of fatal violence against transgender and gender-expansive individuals in 2024 alone paints a grim picture of the dangers faced by the community.

“These acts of violence and discrimination underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to protect and uplift the most vulnerable among us,” HRC noted.

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