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Patricia Nell Warren, author of ‘The Front Runner,’ dies at 82

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Patricia Nell Warren was noticeable anywhere.

That shock of curly white hair crowning the famous Montana-born lesbian was a beacon for nervously thrilled gay men to find the writer holding court at whatever event she attended. “You saved my life,” they told “The Front Runner” author over and over until the day before her death, according to her close friend Gregory Zanfardino. He and his best friend Darryl Davis were with Warren when she died on Saturday, Feb. 9 at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica after an almost three year struggle with lung cancer.

Warren was 82.

“She was an amazing friend. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for her,” Zanfardino told the Los Angeles Blade by phone. “Up until her last moments, she was very clear. And she was constantly getting emails all the time from young people and older people who literally told her ‘The Front Runner’ saved their lives. That book still, to this day, inspires people.”

“The Front Runner” was a landmark gay novel published in 1974, five years after the Stonewall riots, one year before California officially decriminalized homosexuality; the first to print the word “gay” on the cover and the first to make the New York Times bestseller list.

 

But while it is often tagged as a “gay love story of Coach Harlan Brown and his Olympic runner Billy Sive” in the 1970s, as publisher William Morrow first framed it, Warren intended it to be broader in scope.

The Front Runner is really about how closeted, masculine, conservative Vietnam Marine veteran Harlan Brown, 39, gave up his own dream of running in the Olympics, of coaching prospective Olympic athletes at a prestigious college, of quelling his own humanity out of fear of being exposed as gay. When he and gay distance runner Billy Sive, 22, fall in love at a small New England college, the world of sports rears up against Sive representing the US in the Olympic, where he meets with a horrific end.

“[T]he book’s prose had to be the voice of a conservative ex-Marine veteran who is at war with himself.  He knows he’s gay and attracted to men, but he refuses to let himself feel, to let himself be that person he knows he is, because of his repressive Bible-taught family upbringing and military background,” Warren wrote for TheFrontRunnerMovie.com. “When Harlan finds himself falling secretly in love with Billy Sive, the conflict only intensifies and almost drives him mad, until he is finally “human” enough to give in and let himself be in love.”

After Billy is murdered in a hate crime on live TV, how can Harlan Brown go on? What becomes of him?

“One big reason why I wanted to paint the story so broadly, yet so personally, was that I hoped non-gay people would read the book as well as gay people,” Warren wrote.  “When the book was written, as well as today, stereotypes of gay males as limp-wristed liberals is embedded in people’s minds. Harlan is a crusty gay ex-Marine, a drill-sergeant kind of guy.  I wanted to confront readers with the inner reality of such a man because I know they exist.”

In fact, Zanfardino tells the Los Angeles Blade, Warren’s wish came true. Shortly before her death, Warren received an email from a straight woman who told her homophobic husband to read the book from beginning to end. Afterwards, he confessed that he never realized how people like him can hurt people. The book was a glimpse into the lives of two men who only wanted to love each other and do sports.

“The book touched hearts,” says Zanfardino.

In 2011, Warren told The Bay Area Reporter that Sive was “inspired in part by distance runner Steve Prefontaine, as well as a few closeted runners that I got to know while being involved in open distance running myself.”

Prefontaine, who was straight, helped inspire the “running boom” of the 1970s. He died tragically in a car accident when he was 24. A movie about his life starred Jared Leto, who one critic suggested  is “almost too pretty an actor to play the masculine, cocky runner.”

“I loved “The Front Runner,” Proteus Spann told the Los Angeles Blade during a discussion about his effort to get E. Lynn Harris’ “Invisible Life” made into a movie, noting that E. Lynn’s most famous character, Basil, was a professional football player.

“We’re all humans until society or we put up our flags and put a name on it. I knew of a former NFL player who frequented the Dupont Circle bars in DC. He was outed by a journalist in the early 90’s. He was cut from the team and this guy was massively masculine, great football player, star running back,” Spann said. “Was he still not a man even though he was gay? I think we get confused on the issue of masculinity and sexual identity.”

While Warren’s legacy is “The Front Runner” and the power of presenting gay men as masculine athletes and former fighting Marines, Warren’s life was more than just that book. In fact, she was her own version of an activist.

Patricia Nell Warren was born in 1936 and grew up on the Grant Kohrs cattle ranch near Deer Lodge, Montana. She started writing professionally in her teens in the 1950s, moving to New York in 1955 to attend Manhattanville College. She worked first as a copy editor, then a book editor at Reader’s Digest from 1959-1980. She married a Ukrainian emigre writer in 1960 and wrote four books of Ukranian poetry while stationed in Spain. She also wrote her first gay novel about a Spanish bullfighter’s relationship with a peasant under Franco’s fascism. “The Wild Man” would be published in in 2001 with an opening set in the gay West Hollywood bar, Numbers. Warren divorced her husband in 1973, according to a summary accompanying her papers at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.

Warren started jogging while in Spain. “For me, at age 32 in 1968, distance running started out as a personal female challenge. Indeed, the runner’s need to reach deep inside and ‘find more’ spurred my self-discovery as a woman and my consciousness-raising concerning women’s rights,” she wrote in The Advocate in Aug. 1998. 

“Only then, through running, could I finally catch up with those long-festering questions about sexual orientation. It dawned on me that sports are a major arena in which American society hard-wires ‘traditional’ notions about gender roles and orientation into its citizens,” she wrote.

The “Supreme Court Photo” with Robert Arthur, Ivy Bottini, Quentin Crisp, Morris Kight, and Patricia Nell Warren taken at home of Victor Burner. 1994. (Photographer unknown; photo courtesy ONE Institute)

Warren took that consciousness-raising seriously. In 1969, she and 11 other women “outlaws crashed the Boston Marathon and ran the race without numbers, another fist was raised” in protest in the “athletes’ rights movement” that was “battling antiquated and hypocritical rules that still ran U.S. sports,” she wrote.

Warren was part of a cadre of women athletes and distance runners intent on forcing the Amateur Athletics Union to change the discriminatory rules under which women were permitted to run.

“Women had been barred from road races since 1961, as experts claimed distance running was damaging to their health and femininity. Some officials infamously warned that a woman’s uterus might fall out should she attempt to run such distances,” according to a story in the New York Times about the women runners who broke and changed the rules.

This was around the same time when proudly sexist 55-year old Bobby Riggs challenged 29-year old tennis star Billie Jean King to a nationally televised tennis match at the Houston Astrodome in 1973 known as “The Battle of the Sexes.” When King won, suddenly women athletes were taken more seriously—though King’s main issue of pay equity was still a battle.

Warren fought battles off the running course, as well. She was the plaintiffs’ spokesperson for Susan Smith v. Reader’s Digest, a landmark case that resulted in a class-action victory for women.

“I was one of 18 women who filed Title VII charges against the Reader’s Digest,” Warren told Gay Today in 2003. “It was one of several major lawsuits against the media in the 1970’s. The media were full of talented and ambitious women who had been blatantly discriminated against—the very media that kept America informed on news from the civil-rights movement!”

The Digest tried to dismiss the class-action aspect of the case. “But the federal judge – who was a woman! – didn’t buy their arguments. If the Digest had succeeded, it would have set a disastrous precedent for class actions,” she said.

Warren also worked on behalf of LGBT youth.

In 1994, she volunteered as a teacher at the West Hollywood-based EAGLES Center, a program for at-risk LGBT high school students. In 1996, she served on the LAUSD’s school Gay & Lesbian Education Commission and then in 1999, joined the Human Relations Education Commission. As a commissioner, she supported Project 10 and helped organize Youth Lobby Day, which became key in pressuring legislators during the knock-down fight for State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s AB222, the Dignity for All Students Act.

“I didn’t have a close relationship with her,” Project 10 founder Dr. Virginia Uribe tells the Los Angeles Blade. “But I admired what she did. ‘The Front Runner’ was a big influence on a lot of young people. When it came things like that, she was definitely a pioneer.”

Artist Windon Newton chats with Patricia Nell Warren at Friends of Project 10 fundraiser in Altadena. (Photo courtesy Lance Webster)

Gail Rolf, Uribe’s wife and the Education Director for the non-profit arm of Project 10, tells of how “The Front Runner” saved a student’s life.

Rolf was teaching at Alexander Hamilton High School and leading a Project 10 support group when she got word of a special education 12th grader who had attempted suicide just before Spring Break.

“He was very sweet and very conflicted about his sexuality. We sent him to see someone at Didi Hirsch (Mental Health Services) and then he came to the Project 10 support group,” Rolf says. “I had ‘The Front Runner’ paperback on the shelf so I gave it to him and told him to read it and keep the book as long as needed and then we’d talk about it. He came back weeks later with the pages folded—the book was ruined. He said, ‘This is the most fabulous book I’ve ever read. This book saved my life!”

He graduated and two years later came back to Models of Pride to say he’d come out and he was happy, Rolf says.

“We’ve lost an important voice for LGBT youth with the passing of Patricia Nell Warren. She was a fierce advocate for our youth. Her novels and many of her other work reflected that advocacy. Her writing also explored the complexity of youthful LGBT sexuality,” says Terry DeCrescenzo, former founder and executive director of Gay & Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS). “Her death silences an important voice.”

“When I came out as a gay man in 1990, my aunt gave me a copy of the Front Runner & I immediately read it. It was so influential for me & was part of my transition to fully embracing who I am. Patricia Nell Warren’s contribution to our community is a permanent one,” tweeted State Sen. Scott Wiener after Warren’s death was announced.

“It was one of the earliest books I read as a young lesbian. It was hard to find anything reflecting positively LGBTQ relationships when I came out in 1980-81. This was a jewel. Godspeed to Patricia Nell Warren,” State Sen. Toni Atkins tweeted.

Warren and Wildcat Press, the small publishing house she operated with then-business partner Tyler St. Mark, joined other plaintiffs in ACLU v. Reno and ACLU v. Reno II against the Justice Department “over right-wing federal legislation designed to promote censorship on the Internet and impede the online sale of gay and lesbian content,” her longtime friend Lance Webster says.

Webster and Warren worked with Senate Majority Leader Richard Polanco to write and pass SB1796, the Political Expression Protection Act to protect the rights of peaceful, non-violent protesters, based on an article she wrote entitled “Just Dissent.” Though the State Legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill, it was vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis.

During this time Warren not only continued to write articles, columns and books but she also joined the national LGBT site Bilerico as a blogger.

“When Patricia and I talked about our plans, she quickly volunteered to be our first new contributor. She was excited at the idea of speaking to a younger audience she didn’t know already and on issues that weren’t solely related to sports,” Bilerico co-founder Bil Browning tells the Los Angeles Blade, noting that her involvement enticed other contributors.

“Without her quiet voice of guidance and reassurance, I surely wouldn’t have been able to handle all of the responsibilities and attention that came with running a large site,” he says. “Her biggest commandment was to always respond to fan mail because it would make both the reader and the writer connect a little more closely.”

In 2007, Warren ran for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council. Though it was a long shot, she nonetheless did the due diligence producing astute policy analysis. That included a white paper on developing a true, single-payer comprehensive Universal Healthcare Coverage plan, as published by Smart Voter.

In it, she scrutinized the progressive healthcare system created by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom—which she compared unfavorably to SB 840, legislation proposed by out Sen. Sheila Kuehl, Chair of the Senate Health Committee.


The Lambda Literary Foundation’s 25th anniversary of Outwrite!
 in April 2013 recognizing literary pioneers Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Lillian Faderman, Katherine V. Forrest, John Rechy and Patricia Nell Warren. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Warren also had an impact on her fellow writers. Anne Stockwell, former editor in chief of The Advocate and a cancer activist, visited Warren in a Glendale rehab facility a few months ago.

“She also told me she had cancer but didn’t make a big deal of that. She was sitting up in bed with her laptop, typing away on her fourth novel in The Front Runner series—which she apparently finished a couple weeks ago,” Stockwell says.

“Patricia really lived the values of her Montana childhood,” Stockwell adds. “She didn’t wait for permission to create or publish or act. She took the heat and led. She was an extraordinary American—we say that about a lot of people, but in her case it was true—and her vision of proud gay love helped to save a lot of lives, including mine.”

Rev. Malcolm Boyd and Patricia Nell Warren (Photo by Karen Ocamb) 

Steven Reigns, West Hollywood’s first official Poet Laureate, was also impacted by Warren.

“There is still a struggle for LGBTQ representation and it was especially acute in 1974 when Warren published The Front Runner,” Reigns tells the Los Angeles Blade, who discovered the book at the St. Louis public library in 1994. “I was far from athletic and yet I identified and empathized with Billy. It also felt subversive to read this gay novel by a lesbian who, at one point, edited my mother’s favorite publications—Reader’s Digest.  The book illuminated for me that we were everywhere.”

And, he noted, “Though her imagination, she gave us mainstream representation and modeling,” including the creation of “Frontrunners” clubs worldwide.

One of the disappointments of Warren’s life was not having “The Front Runner” made into a movie. There have been so many rumors about the ups and downs of that endeavor—especially around actor Paul Newman as the first to option the work in 1975—that Warren and Zanfardino created a website devoted  to the story, the history of the movie project and the prospect of having it finally produced in the near future.

The final entry on the movie history timeline reads: “2019 – February 9th, Patricia Warren loses her battle with cancer. Literary rights (print, film and television) of all her books are now handled by her estate and are available for option, sale and production.  Interested parties should contact the executor of her estate Gregory Zanfardino [email protected].

 Patricia Nell Warren (Photo courtesy Lance Webster)

Making the movie was very much an imperative when Warren spoke with the Los Angeles Blade in Aug. 2017.

“I think it’s a good moment for a movie like that; the way the country is going, probably the timing is better than ever,” Warren said. “I’m really concerned about all the negativity about LGBT people that is going forward in the country right now, and that certainly will rebound into what we do in sports, so, I’m still hoping that it will happen.”

 

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Vermont GOP Governor signs law banning ‘gay panic defense’

With the Governor’s signature Vermont becomes the 14th state to enact a similar ban.

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Vermont State House (Capitol) (Photo Credit: State of Vermont)

MONTPELIER, VT. – Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott signed legislation Wednesday that bans use of the ‘gay panic defense” by criminal defendants.

H.128, prevents a defendant at trial or sentencing from justifying violent actions by citing a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. 

With the Governor’s signature, Vermont becomes the 14th state to enact a similar ban. (See Table from Wikipedia)

The LGBTQ+ “panic” defense strategy is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.

It is not a free-standing defense to criminal liability, but rather a legal tactic used to bolster other defenses. When a perpetrator uses an LGBTQ+ “panic” defense, they are claiming that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains—but excuses—a loss of self-control and the subsequent assault. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBTQ+ victims, this defense implies that LGBTQ+ lives are worth less than others.

One of the most recognized cases that employed the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense was that of Matthew Shepard. In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was beaten to death by two men. The men attempted to use the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense to excuse their actions. Despite widespread public protest, the defense is still being used today.

At the Federal level, Senate Bill 1137, a bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit gay and trans panic defenses has been introduced in Congress on Apr 15, 2021. This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It will typically be considered by in this case the Senate Judiciary Committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Edward “Ed” Markey, (D- MA).

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South Carolina’s capital city considers ban on conversion therapy

Conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 70 municipalities across the United States.

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The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden and Columbia City Councilmember Tameika Isaac Devine (Photo from the Facebook Page of Councilmember Devine)

COLUMBIA, SC. – The city council in a unanimous vote Tuesday granted initial approval to a new ordinance that bans the practise of conversion therapy — sometimes referred to as reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy.

The ordinance, put forward by City Councilmember Tameika Isaac Devine, defines conversion therapy as “treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”

The ordinance however does leave stipulations that allow “counseling that provides support and assistance to a person undergoing gender transition.”

According to The State, the ordinance would make it unlawful “for any provider to provide conversion therapy or reparative therapy to a minor within city limits if the provider receives compensation for such services.” The penalty would be civil, not criminal, and would carry a $500 fine.

Devine told The State’s journalist Chris Trainor that a prohibition on conversion therapy for minors is recommended by the national Human Rights Commission and leading LGBTQ organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and PFLAG.

“We felt like this was very important as we talk about equality within the city,” Devine told The State. “It’s not just racial equality, it cuts across all lines. We wanted to move forward with this.”

The City’s Council passed the ordinance on its first reading on the item on Tuesday, with final approval likely to be considered later this month.

The Williams Institute estimates that 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S. have received “conversion therapy,” 350,000 of whom suffered the experience as adolescents. Most medical and psychological professional associations strongly oppose “conversion therapy” as illegitimate. 

The American Psychological Association has opposed the practice since 1998, arguing that there is “no credible evidence” such procedures proffered by adherents of the so-called therapy could change sexual orientation.

Conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 70 municipalities across the United States. California was first to do so in 2012.

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Born This Way Foundation and Harris Poll find youth of color receiving less kindness

According to the survey’s research results, there is an undeniable link to how kindness contributes to many aspects of mental wellness

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BOSTON, MA. – The Born This Way Foundation announced Monday the results of a survey of over 2,000 young people ages 13 to 24 in the United States, exploring how young people define kindness and the impact on their mental wellness.

The survey, which ran from January 29, 2021 to February 12, 2021, had results showed that nonwhite and LGBTQ+ youths are less likely to hear kind words and thoughts or actions than their cisgender white peers — even from themselves.

According to the survey’s research results, there is an undeniable link to how kindness contributes to many aspects of mental wellness, from helping young people feel safe, confident, and less alone to changing the trajectory of their day and even their desire to stay alive.

They also reveal that based on one’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and financial security, young people experience and witness kindness in varying frequencies, which could have further implications on their respective mental wellness.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Most young people say experiencing more kindness would improve their mental wellness—be it from others (73%), themselves (74%), or observed in the world around them (71%).

  • The acts of kindness young people most commonly say would have the biggest impact on their mental wellness are having someone who: listens when they have a problem (85% say it would have a big/moderate impact), believes in them and encourages them to do their best (83%), and checks in on them or asks if they’re doing OK (80%).

  • White youth are more likely than Black, Indigenous, and youth of color to say they experience certain acts of kindness. White youth are far more likely to have someone who believes in them and encourages them to do their best, goes out of their way to show they care, or listens when they have a problem.

  • Transgender and non-binary youth* say that the act of introducing yourself using pronouns is among the top acts that would have a big improvement on mental wellness. (*Note: Small sample size [n=45]. Results should be interpreted as qualitative in nature.)

  • Three quarters of young people are coping very (19%) or somewhat well (56%), and those who are, are much more likely than those who are not to say they regularly experience and witness acts of kindness, have people in their life who care about them, understand them, or that they can talk to if they have problems, say they have a place they can go (in real life or online) where they feel like they belong, and have found ways to thrive in the past year, ultimately giving insight into the keys to coping with crisis.

The Born This Way Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2012 by American musical singer-songwriter artist and LGBTQ/Human Rights activist Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta.

The full report is available below:

https://www.slideshare.net/btwfoundation/kindness-is-action-report

https://www.slideshare.net/btwfoundation/kindness-is-action-report

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Lambda Legal, ACLU, and ACLU of Alabama to Challenge State Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Youth

The bills are an effort to block potentially lifesaving health care for transgender young people

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Alabama State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY, AL. – In a joint statement released Wednesday afternoon, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, and Cooley LLP announced their plans to file a legal challenge to proposed legislation in Alabama that, as currently written, would criminalize medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth with up to 10 years in prison.

The bills are an effort to block potentially lifesaving health care for transgender young people. With the legislative session soon coming to a close, SB10 is one of several bills the House is still considering, and if passed would come on the heels of another anti-trans bill, HB391, which Governor Kay Ivey signed into law.

“The proposed legislation is unconstitutional in multiple respects, as we will forcefully argue in court,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP. 

Two companion bills, House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 10, are pending in the Alabama Legislature. Both bills would criminalize doctors or medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth under 19 years, carrying severe criminal penalties that could result in fines and even require jail time.

“If Alabama lawmakers insist on passing this cruel, dangerous, and unconstitutional legislation into law, the state will immediately have a lawsuit to deal with,” said Carl Charles, staff attorney for Lambda Legal. “The Alabama Legislature and Governor Kay Ivey need to consider the time and resources they will invest, not to mention the stain of discrimination that often means lost opportunity and investment and ask themselves if targeting the health care of children is truly worth it because we are prepared to make that investment in order to protect transgender youth, their families, and their doctors, in Alabama.”

The bills as drafted are also so broad that they can be read to include criminal penalties for parents and guardians who support transgender young people. SB10 is on the House calendar for this Thursday, and if passed, would come less than a week after Governor Kay Ivey signed another anti-trans bill HB391 into law.

“If passed and signed into law, Alabama will have the most deadly, sweeping and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “Science and medicine are clear: That the way to reduce harm to trans youth is to provide them with gender-affirming health care where it is medically indicated. This bill takes that life-saving treatment option off the table and makes it a felony. Moving forward with this bill will be deadly for trans youth, push doctors out of a state that has a shortage of medical providers, hurt Alabama’s economy, and subject the state to costly litigation.”

Medical organizations and doctors have consistently opposed these bills. Studies consistently show that transgender children who receive gender-affirming care such as puberty-delaying medication, hormones, or both when they are young have better mental health outcomes and report fewer cases of depression, self-harm, and suicide or attempted suicide.

“The Alabama Legislature has been down this road before, wasting taxpayer time and money to pass unconstitutional bills that they know will get taken to court. This year seems to be no different,” said Kaitlin Welborn, staff attorney for ACLU of Alabama. “Transgender youth have the constitutional right to access necessary healthcare, just like everyone else. If the state tries to take that healthcare away, we’ll see them in court.”

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Biden nominates a lesbian and a transwoman to high-ranking Pentagon posts

Biden is set to nominate two members of the LGBTQ community with a background in LGBTQ rights

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Brenda Sue Fulton and Shawn Skelley (Photo of Fulton public domain; photo of Skelley courtesy Skelley)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is set to nominate two members of the LGBTQ community with a background in LGBTQ rights for high-ranking civilian positions at the Defense Department, the White House announced on Friday.

Brenda Sue Fulton, a lesbian activist who fought for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and transgender military service, is set to obtain the nomination as assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, which would make her an adviser for U.S. military personnel affairs.

Shawn Skelly, a transgender national security expert who served on Biden’s transition team after the inauguration is on the other hand set to obtain the nomination of assistant secretary of defense for readiness, which overseas U.S. military force and health affairs.

Skelly, who served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for 20 years as a Naval Flight Officer, is also co-founder of Out in National Security, an affinity group for LGBTQ national security experts and officials,

Luke Scheusener, a fellow co-founder of Out in National Security, hailed the news of Skelly’s nomination in a statement.

“Shawn is first and foremost a public servant,” Scheusener said. “She has dedicated her life to serving the United States in and out of uniform. That extends to her decision to co-found and President of ONS. She has been a stalwart advocate for our community and for LGBTQIA+ national security professionals.”

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Little hope for Trans youth under siege by Republicans

Fear, anger, outrage, and exasperation are now the experiences daily for Trans Americans

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Landon Richie speaking at the Texas State Capitol Building during a rally for LGBTQ rights. (Photo Credit: Landon Richie via Facebook)

HOUSTON, TX. – The thousand-yard stare is rapidly afflicting many members of the Transgender community in the United States these days, especially Trans youth and their parents.

That phrase, often used to describe the blank, unfocused gaze of combatants who have become emotionally detached from the horrors around them, sadly fits most Trans people.

It is a war without bullets, bombs and artillery shells, but it is a war nonetheless being waged against a fractional percentage minority in America ironically by another minority, only one that is well funded and politically powerful backed by religious zealots and extremists.

Fear, anger, outrage, and exasperation are now the experiences daily for Trans Americans of every age as they confront what has been a virtual tsunami of legislative actions in twenty-five states specifically targeting their existence, as Republican lawmakers work to limit medical care, participation in sports, or limit their being able to self determine their own gender identity.

In a published commentary this week, an 18 year-old trans male from Virginia pointed out;

“A lot of anti- trans bills targeting people like me passed recently and more are being proposed. Republicans have decided that the most important thing to do in the middle of a pandemic is to take away life-saving treatment from children and ban them from playing sports,” Eric Tannehill said.

“This has been painful for me. It’s like watching a murder in slow motion. I see what they’re doing and recognize that it’s going to get people killed and there’s nothing I can do but just watch as they target kids like me with a smile on their face and a Bible in hand,” he added.

The soft voice on the phone is weary filled with mixed tones of anger and disgust but also apprehension. “There’s so many of these bills,” 18 year-old Landon Richie tells the Blade. Richie, a college freshman in the metropolitan Houston area has been invested in the fight for Trans rights in Texas since he first came out as an young child.

“I’ve been very lucky to have had my parents’ support especially with my medical care. I’m on hormones, I had ‘top’ surgery- but if they pass both House Bill 1399 and Senate Bill 1311 I have a younger sibling who identifies as non-binary and they would be blocked from receiving medical care,” he said. “We don’t know what we (as a family) are going to do- I mean there are other families who are talking about moving away. [from Texas]”

HB 1399 prohibit health care providers and physicians from performing gender confirmation surgery or prescribing, administering or supplying puberty blockers or hormone treatment to anyone under the age of 18.  SB1311 would revoke the medical license of health care providers and physicians who perform such procedures or prescribe such drugs or hormones to people younger than 18. 

As these bills work their way through the Texas statehouse, the ACLU reports that in 14 other states, lawmakers are also pushing laws that bans or severely restrictions on transition care for trans youth under 18.

The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law warns that 45,100 trans youth are at risk of loss of gender-affirming medical care.

Most of these bills propose to make it a crime or a cause for professional discipline for medical providers to deliver gender-affirming care to minors. Bills in Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas also include penalties for parents who encourage or facilitate minors’ access to gender-affirming medical care.

In three other states—Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina—school employees would be prohibited from withholding information about a child being transgender from that child’s parents, while a similar requirement proposed in North Carolina would apply to all state employees.

The bill passed in Arkansas, and bills under consideration in Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee, would allow individuals to file civil suits for damages against medical providers who violate these laws.

Bills in Arkansas and Montana provide mechanisms for the state Attorneys General to file suit against medical providers to enforce compliance. 

“I can’t see not being able to transition- I mean having to live with non-support?” Richie said. “I can tell you that if I had not had the support of my parents and well, if I hadn’t been able to transition- I may not even be here, nothing is more terrifying for a Trans kid than being out and not able to transition,” he added.

In the case of Texas, Richie says he is aggravated by the fact that lawmakers aren’t listening to experts, medical experts, counselors, and even trans youth who have been testifying in front of both Representatives and Senators in the various committees. “They don’t care, they listen to some bogus groups like the “American College of Pediatricians” which isn’t credible,” he angrily stated.

The ACP is a small group of physicians that left The American Academy of Pediatrics after the AAP released a 2002 policy statement explaining that gay parents pose no risk to adopted children. The Southern Poverty Law Center has repeatedly labeled the ACP as an anti-LGBT hate group that promotes false claims and misleading scientific reports.

“Texas will be uninhabitable for Trans kids if they pass all these bad bills,” he said.

Medical experts agree that should this legislative tsunami pass into law, the mental health toll of gender dysphoria and social marginalization will produce spikes in youth suicides and other psychological trauma. 

In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Marjan Linnell, a general pediatrician explained that puberty suppression treatment has been used for decades to prevent children from going through puberty too soon. Once those children reach an appropriate age, their treatment stops and natural puberty occurs. Linnell said the same is true for transgender children, for whom puberty can often exacerbate poor mental health.

“The point is to have a reversible treatment that can give them some time,” she said. “That not only helps to gain some time to make sure we’re making an appropriate and best practice medical decision for these kids and families, but we also know it can be incredibly important for preserving the mental health of our kids that are going through gender affirming care.”

In Orange County California, the mother of an 11 and a half year old trans daughter, who asked to not be identified, relayed in a phone call to the Blade that the impact on Trans youth even in affirming states like California is horrific.

“She asked me if she was going to be safe. Like most kids who follow the news she panicked- kids think globally she has friends in Texas, she thought ‘the government’ would take away her rights,” the mother said.

NBC’s Jo Yurcaba reported Monday that George and Emily Spurrier are leaving their home of 16 years in central Arkansas due to a new law that will ban the health care that they say their 17-year-old transgender son needs.

Emily Spurrier said when her son heard the news, he sat in her car and cried for an hour.

“It was just kind of a wave of emotions, thinking about moving and then him worrying about some friends that he has here in the Little Rock area,” she said. “And then just the thought that this is really the only place he ever remembers living.”

Richie tells the Blade that worst part of this entire mess is being targeted by Republicans for what he sees as an immutable part of his existence as a human being.

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Miscellaneous

Oklahoma House GOP passes ‘sports for girls not trans girls’ bill

This is an unnecessary and hateful bill

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Oklahoma State Capitol Building (Official State Photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK. – The Oklahoma House of Representatives Monday passed an amended version of State Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) which states: “Athletic teams designated for ‘females,’ ‘women’ or ‘girls’ shall not be open to students of the male sex.” SB 2 passed the GOP-controlled House in a 73-19 vote along party lines.

The bill specifically targets trans females as it was was amended with a provision that would require parents to sign an affidavit “acknowledging the biological sex of the student at birth” in order for a child to participate in youth sports.

“I do not want any person to leave here thinking that the design of this bill is to be cruel or to be mean to a group of children,” said Rep. Toni. Hasenbeck, the bill’s author to the Daily Oklahoman. “It is simply to protect the rights of young women so they do not have to compete against males, who are biologically and physiologically better able to run (and) jump higher and faster.” 

Former Oklahoma State Senator Allison Ikley-Freeman, the Behavioral Health Coordinator for the Dennis R Neill Equality Center in Tulsa told the Blade that the legislation would apply to public, charter, or private schools although there was a provision that trans-girls could play on ‘Co-Ed’ teams and sports which she said “wasn’t really a thing in the state’s schools.”

“This is an unnecessary and hateful bill,” Ikley-Freeman told the Blade. A former legislative colleague, Democratic House Representative Monroe Nichols who represents House District 72 (Tulsa)  said SB 2, referred to officially as the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” will worsen high rates of violence against the trans residents in the state. 

“Bills like this are just the latest example of this anti-transgender stigma that does nothing to save women’s sports, but it does lead to increased risk factors and creates a culture of violence and fear in the lives of the folks who are targeted in this bill,” he said. 

Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, said state lawmakers should be focused on creating a safe space for all Oklahoma children to grow and thrive. Turner is the nation’s first nonbinary state lawmaker and appeared disheartened as the debate in the Senate yesterday progressed, the the Daily Oklahoman reported.  

“We are not providing a safe and welcoming place for our children,” Turner said. “We are not providing a place for people to civically engage in a way that they feel seen and heard. You’re not providing a place where I feel comfortable.”

Former Senator Ikley-Freeman told the Blade that the legislation will now head back to the Senate for a reconciliation process after which it will go to the Senate floor for a vote and then on to Republican Governor John K. Stitt for his signature.

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AIDS and HIV

New CDC data says people with HIV at high risk for intimate partner violence

There were also significant differences based on gender and sexual identity

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CDC Headquarters building, Atlanta, Georgia (Blade file photo)

ATLANTA, GA. – New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that one in four adults with HIV in the United States has experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), which disproportionately affects women and LGBTQ populations.

Further, people with HIV who experienced IPV in the past 12 months were more likely to engage in behaviors associated with elevated HIV transmission risk, were less likely to be engaged in routine HIV care and more likely to seek emergency care services and have poor HIV clinical outcomes. The findings are reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier.

Lead Investigator Ansley B. Lemons-Lyn, MPH, and colleagues from the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in Atlanta, GA, USA, used data from the Medical Monitoring Project, an annual survey used to produce national estimates of sociodemographic, behavioral, and clinical characteristics of adults diagnosed with HIV.

Analysts estimated the prevalence of respondents who had ever experienced IPV and those who experienced IPV within the last 12 months and compared that with sociodemographic information, behavioral characteristics, clinical outcomes, and the use of emergency or inpatient medical services in the past year.

Among individuals with HIV, 26.3 percent had at least one experience of IPV. Significant differences were found by race/ethnicity and age; 35.6 percent of women, 28.9 percent of transgender people, and 23.2 percent of men had experienced IPV.

There were also significant differences based on gender and sexual identity. Although women overall experienced the highest prevalence of IPV, bisexual women experienced the highest proportion (51.5 percent) compared with all gender and sexual identity groups.

Overall, 4.4 percent of people with HIV had experienced IPV in the last 12 months. Statistically significant differences were found by sociodemographic characteristics, such as age and gender/sexual identify but not by race/ethnicity or gender identity.

The study found that compared with individuals with HIV who did not experience IPV in the last 12 months, those who did engaged in riskier behavior such as binge drinking, use of injection drugs, and transactional sex. They were more likely to report not receiving additional needed services.

These findings suggest that screening people with HIV for IPV and linking them to services, not only during HIV testing but also during routine HIV care, is important.

A higher proportion of individuals reporting IPV in the last 12 months were not receiving HIV medical care, were not taking antiretroviral therapy, and were more likely to miss HIV-related medical appointments. They were also more likely to have more than one emergency room visit or hospital admission in the past 12 months.

The study suggests that when IPV is identified, the safety and health of people with HIV can be improved with supportive services. IPV is preventable, especially when efforts begin early. The investigators note that most IPV and protection programs are tailored for heterosexual women. Given the extent to which the study found risk to other gender/sexual identity groups and racial/ethnic minorities, investigators suggest that programming should be tailored for marginalized groups.

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History

Anti-LGBTQ activist Judith Reisman dies at age 86

There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles

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Screenshot via JoeMyGod

Editor’s note: Judith Ann Reisman was a vocal opponent of women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and known for her criticism and condemnation of the work in sexual studies of Dr. Alfred Kinsey. Reisman, a prominent conservative, has been referred to as the “founder of the modern anti-Kinsey movement.”  New York-based LGBTQ journalist, activist and blogger Joe Jervis covered her for over a decade on his widely popular blogsite Joe.My.God.

By Joe Jervis | Longtime JMG readers will recall Reisman’s anti-LGBT claims as a regular feature here going back a decade or so. There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles:

We know that pedophilia, which was the original Greek they say it’s ‘love of’ but of course it isn’t, it’s ‘lust for’ boys. And there’s a strong, clear, cross-cultural, historical reality, people don’t want to do deal with, but the propaganda has been loud and strong to deny the fact, the aim of homosexual males and now increasingly females is not to have sex with other old guys and get married but to obtain sex with as many boys as possible. That’s the reality.

There was the time she called for a class action suit against groups that advocate for safer sex:

The reality is that condoms are manufactured and approved every day for natural, vaginal sex, not anal “sex.” They are not effectively designed to protect from disease those people who engage in sodomy. Such a lawsuit should target the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Planned Parenthood and a myriad of teachers and school systems, too many to count, that have taught that anal “sex” (traditionally termed “sodomy” or “buggery” under British-based legal codes) as not so different than natural coitus. Due to the lies that have told, people who practiced sodomy are under the tragically mistaken notion that a condom is effective protection from disease.

There was the time she went to Jamaica to advocate for keeping homosexuality criminalized:

American Religious Right leaders Mat Staver and Judith Reisman are scheduled to be featured speakers at a conference in Jamaica this weekend hosted by a group that has been working to preserve the country’s criminal ban on consensual gay sex. The annual conference, hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, will focus on how “[c]ontemporary society has become increasingly hostile to the traditional definitions of marriage and family” and Staver.

There was the time she blamed the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on a rise in reported sexual assaults in the military:

Why is the best-kept military secret that most soldierly sexual assaults are now definitively homo, not heterosexual, male-on-male sexual exploitation? While men are statistically more loathe to report their sexual victimization than are women, 10,700 male soldiers, sailors and airmen in 2010 actually reported their sexual assaults. What this means is not totally clear, since men are cannot technically be raped, despite the term being regularly used in the recent hearings on the matter.

There was the time she compared activists against school bullying to Hitler Youth:

Both the GLSEN youth and the Hitler Youth were trained to be revolutionary leaders of the brave new world order. GLSEN school clubs and their teacher sponsor/trainers are now funded by major corporations and by some state funds. GLESN’s Day of Silence and “GAY ALLY!” pledge cards for kindergartners and other children (left) are direct assaults on traditional parental, American values. German children’s literature historians document Hitler’s pioneering ban of both the Ten Commandments and biblical stories from Nazi school texts in favor of coarse and violent tales that ridiculed religious believers and their values.

There was the time she was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League:

Holocaust analogies generate headlines and get attention, they do little in the service of truth, history or memory. When [Peter] LaBarbera and Reisman suggest that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are “demonizing [Christians] like the Nazis used to do to the Jews,” they undermine the historical truth of the Holocaust as a singular event in human history that led to the murder of six million Jews and millions of others. Holocaust comparisons are deeply offensive and trivialize and distort the history and meaning of the Holocaust.

And let’s close with this notation from Rational Wiki:

Reisman is a supporter of Scott Lively and his completely insane screed, The Pink Swastika. She has claimed that she believes that a homosexual movement in Germany gave rise to the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. She enthusiastically and unconditionally endorses criminalization of homosexuality, despite the fact that homosexuals were were one of the Nazis’ target groups for annihilation. Reisman has claimed that the homosexuals employ recruitment techniques that rival those of the United States Marine Corps to transform innocent children into raving homosexuals.

Reisman, passed away on Friday, April 9, 2021, two days before her 86th birthday. From the magazine of the far-right John Birch Society:

Like Judith the Biblical heroine, Dr. Reisman was fearless and stood against the great powers of the world in our time. When her countrymen were ready to surrender to the mighty Assyrian army, the Biblical Judith, trusting in God, walked into the enemy camp — and walked out with the head of Holofernes, the Assyrian general, thus saving her people. Likewise, Judith Reisman repeatedly, over the past several decades, strode into many hostile enemy camps around the world — colleges, universities, legislative bodies, media outlets — to speak truth to power and to expose vile works of darkness.

Joseph “Joe” Jervis  is an American blogger and writer based out of New York City. He is the author of Joe.My.God., a personal blog which, since he first posted on April 27, 2004, has primarily covered LGBT news and opinion.

The preceding article was originally published at Joe.My.God and republished by permission.

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Coronavirus

Disney plans to reopen Anaheim theme parks April 30- COVID cases decreasing

The 7 day average number of daily cases has decreased

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Josh D’Amaro courtesy of the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products division

BURBANK – The Walt Disney Company’s Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products division announced Wednesday that it is set to reopen its two Anaheim attractions, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, on April 30.

The two properties which were shuttered a year go on March 14 will open 10 months after the entertainment giant reopened its four theme parks including its flagship Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida.

The coronavirus pandemic closures forced Disney to a massive reduction in its workforce laying off off 32,000 employees over the past year, most of them in the theme-park unit.

The Chairman of the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products division, Josh D’Amaro, had announced last September that “In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic – exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen – we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits.”

At the outset of the pandemic in March Disney had furloughed nearly its entire workforce of 100,000. D’Amaro then noted, “approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part-time. We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are among the last of the company’s properties to welcome back customers. While Disney’s Paris resort is still shuttered, the four theme parks in Florida have been open since July with social-distancing precautions limiting attendance to about 35% of capacity.

Disney also announced Wednesday the company plans to reopen its hotels in phases, with Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa set to reopen on April 29, Disney Vacation Club Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa on May 2, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel at a later date.

The Disney announcement comes as Los Angeles County recently moved to the red tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy that allowed the County to reopen several key sectors yesterday including, on-site learning for students in grades 7 through 12, museums, indoor dinning at restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters with required safety measures in place including masking and distancing requirements.

A spokesperson for The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said that the County must remain in the red tier for three consecutive weeks before moving to the less restrictive orange tier even if the County’s metrics align earlier with the orange tier.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

L.A. County’s daily case rate must be at or below 3.9 new cases per 100,000 people and the County’s test positivity rate must be at or below 4.9% for two consecutive weeks to qualify for the orange tier.

In a written statement LA County Public health noted that Healthcare Worker and Skilled Nursing Home cases had significantly declined as vaccinations increase. On Wednesday the County reported 75 new deaths and 897 new positive cases of confirmed COVID-19.

The seven-day average number of daily cases by episode date has decreased to 524 new cases per day as of March 9; the lowest since April 2 of last year.

There are 857 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 28% of these people are in the ICU. Average daily hospitalizations are now under 1,000, at pre-surge early-November levels.

To date, Public Health has confirmed a total of 55 cases of COVID-19 U.K. variant, two cases of the B.1.525 variant, which was also first identified in the U.K., 21 cases of the New York variant and 1 case of the P.2 variant from Brazil in Los Angeles County. There have been no cases identified of the South African variant.

Vaccinations coupled with COVID-19 safety protocols continue to play a major role in the reduction of the caseloads. Currently, 79% of skilled nursing home staff and 78% of residents received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 74% of all staff and 69% of residents received their second dose and are fully vaccinated.

“It’s important to note that there is high turnover rate among residents in these facilities, and this number only reflects rates among current residents, not the total number of residents who have been vaccinated,” a Public Health spokesperson said.

When the vaccine first was administered to residents at skilled nursing homes in L.A. County in late December, the average daily number of cases was over 200 a day and has dropped to 3 a day as of March 9. 

“This is excellent evidence that these vaccines are working and adding a much-needed layer of protection among those with significant exposures, our healthcare workers, and those most vulnerable, our residents at skilled nursing facilities,” the spokesperson added.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

Currently, residents who are eligible for the vaccine include residents who are age 65 and older and  residents of LA County with certain underlying health conditions or disability that make them at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19 or make their care very difficult if they were to become infected with COVID-19.

Workers either living or working in LA County eligible for vaccine include the following categories: residents and staff at long-term care healthcare, education, food and agriculture, emergency services and law enforcement and first responders.  Also included in the new categories by the State are transportation workers, janitors and custodians, utility workers and childcare workers.

People who are living in residential settings where there is an increased risk of transmission are also eligible to be vaccinated.  These include people living in long-term care facilities, people who are experiencing homelessness who are living in a shelter or are likely to live in a shelter, people living in residential treatment programs for behavioral health or substance use disorders, and people who are incarcerated.

Visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com  (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com  (Spanish) for more information on who is eligible, how to make an appointment if it is your turn, and what verifications you will need when you show up for your vaccine.  Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

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