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LGBTI groups condemn terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques

Gunman killed at least 49 people in city of Christchurch

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LGBTI advocacy groups have condemned the terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, that have left at 49 people dead. (Photo by Tākuta via Flickr)

LGBTI advocacy groups around the world have condemned Friday’s terrorist attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that have left at least 49 people dead.

Express, an LGBTI newspaper in Auckland, reported organizers of the Wellington International Pride Parade that was scheduled to take place in Wellington, the country’s capital, on Saturday have postponed event.

“We, like all New Zealanders, are hurting today,” said parade organizers in a Facebook post, according to Express. “We have considered long and hard about asking Wellingtonians to walk alongside us in solidarity with our friends and whanau in Christchurch; we don’t want terrorists to win, we don’t want terrorists to dictate how we live our lives.”

The 2019 ILGA World Conference is scheduled to begin in Wellington on Saturday. The organization in a tweet said it is “shocked and saddened by the news of what happened in Christchurch.”

“All our solidarity goes to the Muslim community in New Zealand and beyond,” said ILGA.

Media reports indicate a 28-year-old gunman who was born in Australia killed 41 people at a mosque near downtown Christchurch when he opened fire at around 1:40 p.m. local time. Authorities say the gunman — who reportedly live-streamed the attack on Facebook — killed seven people at a second Christchurch mosque before police arrested him.

Reports indicate 48 people were also injured in what has been described as New Zealand’s worst mass shooting.

The gunman has been charged with murder and is expected to be arraigned in a Christchurch court on Saturday. Media reports indicate police have detained two people in connection with the massacre.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday during a press conference.

Ardern said those who planned and carried out the attack have “extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.” She added they chose New Zealand “for the very fact that we are none of those things.”

“We represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it,” said Ardern. “Those values I can assure you will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

President Trump and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa Scott Brown are among those who have also condemned the attack.

“We’re heartbroken over the events in Christchurch today,” said Brown in a tweet. “We stand with our Kiwi friends and neighbors and our prayers are with you.”

Friday’s terrorist attack took place against the backdrop of continued anti-Muslim rhetoric from Trump and his supporters, including Fox News host Jeanine Pirro who sparked outrage last week with her suggestion that U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is un-American because the Somali-born congresswoman wears a hijab. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the other world leaders who have sparked criticism in recent weeks with comments that their critics contend target immigrants and other marginalized groups.

“We are heartbroken and outraged by this terrorist attack on Muslims in places of worship, and we mourn for the victims and their families,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Friday.

“Hate violence against Muslims is a global epidemic, fueled by the toxic combination of Islamaphobia and xenophobia that has led to tragedies here in the United States and in nations around the world,” he added. “While in these moments, only the attackers are directly responsible, there is broader climate of hate that encourages and inspires deadly extremism such as this. We call on politicians who traffic in dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate speech, including Donald Trump, to immediately stop the fear-mongering and divisive politics that can have deadly consequences. Now is a time to be united against hate — not engage in the ‘both sides’ rhetoric that only serves to legitimize extremists.”

Friday’s massacre took place less than three years after a gunman killed 49 people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The onePULSE Foundation, which Pulse owner Barbara Poma launched after the 2016 massacre, on its Facebook page wrote “the fear and pain experienced in New Zealand is something we in Orlando know all too well.”

“These hateful acts of terror strike us in the places where we feel most safe and accepted, and the shock of that hate is felt around the world,” said the foundation in its Facebook post. “We want the community of Christchurch to know that Orlando is holding them up today. We will stand with you during this darkest time. There are no comforting words for those who lost their loved ones, but we hope the strength we send helps you. We stand with you in your grief.”

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Congress

Netanyahu mocks gay pro-Palestinian protesters

Israeli prime minister spoke to joint session of Congress

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress on July 24, 2024. (Screen capture via NBC News)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday mocked gay pro-Palestinian protesters in a speech that he delivered to a joint session of Congress.

“Some of these protesters hold up signs proclaiming ‘Gays for Gaza,'” said Netanyahu. “They might as well hold up signs saying ‘Chickens for KFC.'”

Netanyahu spoke to Congress less than a year after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched from the Gaza Strip a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel.

The Israeli government says Hamas militants killed roughly 1,200 people on Oct. 7, 2023, including at least 260 partygoers and others at the Nova Music Festival. Dozens of people who were taken hostage on Oct. 7 remain alive in Gaza. 

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 38,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began.

The International Criminal Court on May 20 announced it plans to issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh. Karim Khan, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, said the five men have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and Israel.

Outright International and the National LGBTQ Task Force are among the groups that have publicly called for a ceasefire. ACT UP, the Audre Lorde Project, and No Pride in Genocide have organized protests against the war since Oct. 7.  

Activists march in a No Pride in Genocide march from Dupont Circle to the Human Rights Campaign on Feb. 14, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Gay U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), center, speaks with March on Israel attendees in D.C. on Nov. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gay U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), lesbian U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are among the lawmakers who refused to attend Netanyahu’s speech. 

Thousands of people have protested Netanyahu since he arrived in D.C. on Monday. 

The Associated Press reported police on Wednesday used pepper spray to disperse protesters near the Capitol after they became “violent” and “failed to obey” orders to move away from a police line. Protesters, according to the AP, also vandalized a Christopher Columbus moment in front of Union Station and set a Netanyahu effigy on fire.

Netanyahu in his speech said Iran is “funding and promoting anti-Israel protests in America.”

“When the tyrants of Tehran, who hang gays from cranes and murder women for not covering their hair, are praising, promoting, and funding you, you have officially become Tehran’s useful idiots,” he said. 

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The White House

Harris becomes the de facto 2024 Democratic Party nominee for president

Advocacy groups praise vice president, President Biden

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Vice President Kamala Harris (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Less than three days after President Joe Biden announced his decision to step off the ticket and endorsed Kamala Harris to run in his stead, the vice president had emerged as her party’s de facto pick to take on the Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.

According to data from the Associated Press, by Monday 2,868 of the nearly 4,000 delegates who represent Democratic voters had endorsed Harris, well exceeding the 50 percent threshold necessary for her to lock up the nomination, which will be made official during the Democratic National Convention next month. The first ballots will be cast between Aug. 1 and Aug. 7.

“When I announced my campaign for president, I said I intended to go out and earn this nomination,” the vice president said in a statement Monday. “Tonight, I am proud to have secured the broad support needed to become our party’s nominee,” she said, adding, “I look forward to formally accepting the nomination soon.”

Virtually all prominent Democrats whose names were floated as potential rivals quickly lined up behind Harris, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was tapped to co-chair the campaign, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member, who is considered a top contender to be her running-mate for vice president.

As of midday Wednesday, endorsements had come from over 90 percent of House Democrats, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) as well as from every Democratic governor and every Democratic U.S. senator except for Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) (who was just convicted on charges related to an international bribery scheme and announced plans to resign from Congress.)

Also supporting Harris are major organizations that are allied with the party (limited, of course, to those permitted under FEC rules to endorse political candidates). Among them are major labor unions like SEIU and IBEW, advocacy shops like Emily’s List and Gen Z for Change, and civil rights groups like UnidosUS and the Human Rights Campaign.

And in a signal of the popularity of a reconfigured Democratic ticket led by the vice president, her campaign announced that a record breaking sum in excess of $100 million was raised between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday morning with mostly small-dollar contributions from 1.1 million supporters, 60 percent of whom were first-time donors.

The journey toward Harris’s nomination began with the president’s shaky performance against Trump during the televised CNN debate on June 27, which led to a chorus of calls for the 81-year-old to step aside as polls showed he had no clear path to winning the race.

By and large, the Democratic donors, celebrities, and elected officials who pushed for a new ticket did so despite their admiration and affinity for Biden and respect for his record as president. Within the party and beyond, his decision to walk away was celebrated as a patriotic sacrifice of personal ambition for the good of the country.

After Biden backed Harris, she visited campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., on Monday, where she delivered remarks about how she will parlay her experience as a prosecutor who went after “predators” and “fraudsters” into her work arguing the case against Trump and ultimately defeating him in November.

Harris also reaffirmed her loyalty to and kinship with Biden while reassuring campaign staff, who had just weathered — by far (at least, so far) — the rockiest period of the 2024 cycle.

“I know it’s been a rollercoaster, and we’re all filled with so many mixed emotions about this,” she said, adding, “I just have to say: I love Joe Biden.”

The president, who was isolating and recovering from COVID-19 at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., called in to the event with words of support and encouragement for the team and for Harris, to whom he said, “I’m watching you, kid,” and “I love ya.”

The next day, Harris headlined a rally in the key battleground state of Wisconsin, where the reception she received was widely described as palpably energetic and enthusiastic, especially when compared to similar campaign affairs prior to the vice president’s emergence this week as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Putting aside voters’ apparent enthusiasm for her candidacy, the massive uptick in fundraising dollars, the rapid coalescence of support for her nomination from virtually the entire Democratic Party along with the various affiliated interests and entities, and the deftness with which she navigated an especially fraught conflict of which she was in the very center both personally and politically, any lingering questions about whether Harris has the full suite of skills and attributes of a top-tier candidate for national political office may have dissipated with her performances in these and other recent public appearances.

If, in fact, they persist, concerns about Harris’s ability to rise to the occasion largely stem from her 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign, which folded ahead of the Iowa caucuses amid criticism that the California Democrat failed to articulate a cohesive and authentic message about her reasons for running and her vision for America.

As San Francisco Chronicle Washington Correspondent Shira Stein said during Jake Tapper’s CNN program on Tuesday, Harris has sharpened her skills as a politician over the past four years as she has served as vice president.

The political landscape has also shifted in ways that seem more broadly favorable to her candidacy in 2024. For example, voters might be more receptive to a nominee who built her career as a smart-on-crime prosecutor now that conversations about justice in policing are less salient than they were in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder while concerns about public safety are now more ascendant.

The 2020 campaign aside, to the extent that Harris may have other handicaps — missteps while in office, controversial elements of her prosecutorial record, her perceived shortcomings as a candidate — they are, largely, already known, Stein said. “She’s been in political life for quite a long time.”

Far less clear is what the polls will look like over the months ahead as Harris reintroduces herself to voters and the dust settles from recent events that have caused tremendous upheaval in the 2024 race, including Biden’s departure from the ticket.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with members of staff at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ groups and leaders back Harris while thanking Biden

In written statements and public remarks over the past few days, LGBTQ leaders and organizations highlighted Biden and Harris’s records advancing rights and protections for the community, touted their administration’s legacy as the most pro-LGBTQ in history. (Washington Blade editor and co-owner Kevin Naff published an op-ed Wednesday titled, “Joe Biden, our fiercest ally“.)

They voiced confidence in Harris’s vision for building on that progress over the next four years and chronicled the ways in which she — in her roles as San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general, U.S. senator, and vice president — had a hand in many of the major milestones in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights that were won over the past few decades, from the legalization of same-sex marriage to ending the so-called “gay and trans panic defense.”

Several who spoke out to support Harris noted that she would be the first Black woman and the first South Asian presidential nominee to lead a major party ticket, having previously broken barriers throughout her career in elected office.

“We are deeply grateful to President Biden for his more than 50 years of public service and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said. “Today’s announcement reflects what President Biden has done his entire career and will be core to his legacy: Putting the needs of Americans and his country above his own.”

“We owe the Biden-Harris team a debt of gratitude for leading the country out of a state of chaos and constant crisis under former President Trump,” she said. “And the Human Rights Campaign endorses the tough, formidable, and experienced Vice President Kamala Harris for president. Vice President Harris has the support of millions of Americans, as primary voters have already made the decision to put her on the ticket.” 

Robinson said, “Vice President Kamala Harris is a trailblazer and has been a champion for LGBTQ+ equality for decades: from leading the fight in San Francisco against hate crimes and her work in California to end the so-called gay and transgender ‘panic defense’ to her early support for marriage equality and her leadership serving as our vice president.” 

“Convicted felon Donald Trump has already shown that he aims to destroy democracy and divide the country in his quest for power,” she said. “Vice President Kamala Harris is a true champion of unity and accountability – and will fight for a country where no one is above the law and ‘justice for all’ means something.”

HRC, Robinson wrote, “could not be prouder to endorse Vice President Kamala Harris and commit to channeling our resources and supporters to work to elect the first Black and South Asian woman president of the United States.”

LGBTQ+ Victory Institute President Annise Parker said her organization “commends President Joe Biden on leading the most progressive and inclusive presidential term in American history” under which “LGBTQ+ people have received a record number of federal appointments, including cabinet members, judges and around 14 percent of political appointments.”

“His dedication to supporting LGBTQ+ communities and championing pro-equality legislation and executive action has created the most inclusive and affirming administration our country has ever seen,” Parker said. “And, despite attacks on LGBTQ+ liberties in state governments nationwide, the Biden administration has reinforced its dedication to LGBTQ+ equality through action.”

“We are sincerely grateful for President Biden’s leadership, partnership and service to our nation,” she said. “We know we have a trusted ally in Vice President Kamala Harris who works tirelessly toward full LGBTQ+ equality.”

Noting how Harris’s identity would make her nomination historic for the party and the country, Parker said she “is an enthusiastic supporter of pro-equality policies and LGBTQ+ communities” and added that “the record-breaking LGBTQ+ inclusivity of the Biden/Harris administration will continue under Harris’ leadership” while “the possibility that someone like Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg could be her running mate is monumental.”

“The prospect of a Harris/Buttigieg ticket would be a watershed moment in our decades-long efforts to make all levels of government more inclusive and could be the most historic Presidential ticket ever in our nation,” she said.

National LGBTQ+ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Kierra Johnson said: “We are grateful for President Biden’s decades of service and allyship to LGBTQ communities — and for everything his administration has done to move our community forward. 

“At this critical moment for our democracy and our freedoms, we have both hope and excitement for Vice President Kamala Harris and what she can do for our country. We fully expect a continued commitment to always putting our communities first.

We now recommit to moving forward in the democratic process, the upcoming convention and the November elections.

The Task Force action fund calls on LGBTQ+ people and our allies to take action and engage in the political process. Only through a show of voting power in the Nov. 5 election will we begin building the democracy we deserve.”

Gay U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who on Saturday became the 36th Democrat on Capitol Hill to call for Biden to exit the race, urged the president to hand “the torch to Vice President Harris as the Democratic Party presidential nominee.”

“It has become clear to me that the demands of a modern campaign are now best met by the Vice President, who can seamlessly transition into the role of our party’s standard bearer,” he wrote.

Another gay Democrat in the California delegation, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia, told Lesley Marin of CBS News on Monday that “we’re going to unite behind Vice President Harris,” noting “the incredible record that she’s been a partner of,” which has included “lowering the price of insulin, infrastructure, investments in climate change, [and] her incredible work in protecting women’s right to choose.”

“At the same time, she’s a prosecutor,” Garcia said. “Look at her work as attorney general. She’s going to prosecute the case against Donald Trump.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), the openly gay chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, also spoke in support of Harris during an interview with CBS News Sunday, arguing that “She’s ready to win Wisconsin,” which is “one of those pivotal states” along with Michigan and Pennsylvania that “are on the top of the list” for Democrats to win in November.

Harris has “the energy to run around the state and do all the campaigning and show that contrast with” the Republican nominee who is “old” and “tired,” the congressman said, using an argument against Trump that has been rolled out by a number of Democrats following Biden’s withdrawal from the race on Sunday.

The vice president will be especially effective in relaying to voters how Trump’s appointment of three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court during his first term led to a decision revoking constitutional protections for abortion that were in place since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, Pocan said. As a result, he added, “now we are in 1849 law in Wisconsin” with respect to reproductive rights.

An ally both politically and personally

In a written statement to the Blade, Harris for President Senior Spokesperson Kevin Munoz said, “Vice President Harris has been a steadfast ally and fighter for LGBTQ+ Americans since her early days in office.”

He added, “Like President Biden, she’s never shied away from fighting for us, as demonstrated by her record throughout her time in public service, as well as being a part of the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in history. Vice President Harris has had the LBGTQ+ community’s back, and this November, we’ll have hers.”

High-profile LGBTQ officials serving in the Biden-Harris government include Buttigieg, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, and Ben LaBolt and Karine Jean-Pierre, who respectively serve as communications director and press secretary for the White House.

Two gay men who were on her staff prior to her election as vice president spoke with the Blade for a story in June that accompanied the newspaper’s exclusive interview with Harris. Munoz and Sergio Gonzales, senior advisor to Harris and the campaign, were among the six LGBTQ aides and officials who participated in a three-part profile series last year (during which time the operation in Wilmington was far leaner than it is now.)

Those who are close with the vice president (or those who follow her speeches closely) understand she has deep ties to the community and treasured relationships with LGBTQ friends and colleagues like Jim Rivaldo, a political consultant who helped elect gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk before leading Harris to victory in her first district attorney’s race in 2003.

As vice president, Harris not only shared in the credit for her administration’s pro-LGBTQ wins while maximizing representation from the community in positions of power and influence in American government, but she also found ways to signal her support through other personal, individual means.

For example, Harris in 2022 became the first sitting VP to host a Pride month celebration at the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory, which became an annual tradition under her tenure.

Rosenberg Foundation President Tim Silard, who worked under Harris when she was San Francisco district attorney, shared a statement with the Blade by text voicing his support for her candidacy.

“Vice President Harris will be the most outstanding President in my lifetime,” he said. “She has been an unwavering champion of the LGBTQ community, fighting to make all of our families safer and expanding civil rights and our opportunities to thrive.”

Silard added, “I know she will take on bullies at home and abroad and bring our nation together in new and exciting ways. I could not be prouder to support her and will do anything I can to help elect her.”

Vice President Kamala Harris makes an appearance with second gentleman Doug Emhoff at the main stage of the 2022 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
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National

Trans experiences with the internet range from ‘harrowing’ to ‘powerful’

New survey provides insights into the stakes of web use for LGBTQ adults

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(Image courtesy of LGBT Tech)

Alex, 29, would not have met their friends without the internet. While living in a small city surrounded by farmland, finding community was not always easy.

Alex tried out one of those apps for adults seeking to make friends. It turned out to be a remarkable success. “I’ve made my friend group as a direct result of using the internet,” they said, explaining that even though all the friends are trans, due to their diverse interests, “we would have been hard-pressed to have ever really run into each other by happenstance.”

Making friends online is also safer for Alex. Before they pursued HRT and surgery and looked more “visibly queer,” they were in scary situations. “I’ve had pickup trucks chase me while driving, people call out slurs while driving by me, and I’ve been shot at,” they said. 

Having the internet available for appointments, work, and social activities is fundamental to their life.

But the web was not always such a friendly place for Alex. “There’s so much hate and falsehoods out there about trans people,” they said. “It’s why it takes so long for some of us to learn about who we are.”

This dissonance is widespread within the LGBTQ community. A recent report—”ctrl+alt+lgbt: Digital Access, Usage, and Experiences of the LGBTQ+ Community”—by LGBT Tech and Data for Progress provides insight into that phenomenon. 

Shae Gardner, director of policy at LGBT Tech, explained that most of the research about the LGBTQ community’s internet use historically has focused on youth. The project aimed to fill the gap. From surveys with 1,300 people across the country, the report found that while the internet is a foundational space for LGBTQ community building and self-expression, it also comes with a high risk for bullying and harassment.  

These findings intensify when looking specifically at the data for underrepresented groups within the LGBTQ population like the transgender community, who are by far the group that faces the most harassment online, per the Anti-Defamation League. Gardner explained that the survey was over-sampled for transgender individuals intentionally. “We really wanted to understand that specific experience,” Gardner said.

The Blade interviewed five trans people about their experiences to gain insight into how different community members felt while navigating the web and specifically identified sources who do not have public platforms and therefore do not face heightened public scrutiny. Due to concern for backlash, all sources for this story spoke on condition of anonymity with gender-ambiguous names and they/them pronouns.

Four out of five of the people interviewed emphasized that the internet is a vital resource for accessing healthcare. 

Riley, 24, explained, “I have such immense dread about transitioning because I don’t want to have to interact with doctors around my identity. I feel like I don’t have access to providers who are able to understand me.”

The internet, for many, provides a safe location to access health information and care without the judgment of doctors. Kai, 23, and Cameron, 27, both shared that the internet was an important place for them to learn specifics around trans healthcare and seek out trans-friendly providers. Alex agreed and added that they have made it so all of their doctors’ appointments through tele-health.

These experiences are consistent with the larger trans community. LGBT Tech’s survey found that 70% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly healthcare. By comparison, only 41% of cisgender LGBTQ adults use the internet to find the same friendly care.

All the sources interviewed said they sought LGBTQ community online with varying degrees of success. 

Jordan, 24, said that not only is social media a good way to stay connected with people they know, but it also helps them find a broader community. “It’s nice to follow other trans and queer people whose experiences can inspire me or make me feel seen.”

Cameron emphasized that the internet provides connections to activities and communities around town. “Social media has facilitated my in-person queer and trans community,” they explained. “I learn a lot about what queer events are happening around town via social media. I have a wonderful community playing queer sports that I wouldn’t have found without the internet.”

Kai shared that it hasn’t been a successful pursuit for them: “I wish it did more than it does.” 

Per Trans Tech’s survey, transgender adults “often” use social media to connect with existing LGBTQ friends and family 41% of the time (as opposed to “sometimes” “rarely” or “never”). This is 21% more than the LGBTQ community at large. The survey also reveals that transgender adults are 20% more likely to “often” use social media to connect with new LGBTQ community than the LGBTQ community at large.

Everyone but Cameron has experienced some form of direct bullying or harassment for being transgender, either online or in person. The survey found that 83% of transgender adults have faced bullying online. By comparison, 59% of the cisgender LGBTQ community faced bullying online. 

“Technology is only as good as its application. And this is the other side of the dual-edged sword,” said Gardner. 

Gardner explained that the online and in-person harassment was mirrored. “The experiences of anti-LGBTQ bullying were very high, both for LGBTQ+ individuals and especially for trans individuals, but those numbers were nearly equitable to the experiences that that they have in the real world with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying,” she said. The survey found that 82% of transgender adults faced bullying in person.

The survey found despite the comparable levels of harassment and high levels of misinformation (93% of transgender adults saw anti-LGBTQ misinformation online), respondents overwhelmingly felt safe online—67% of trans adults and 76% of cisgender LGBTQ adults. 

When she compared this phenomenon to her life, Gardner wasn’t surprised. “The harassment that I have faced online has certainly felt less immediately threatening than what I’ve faced in person. The mental toll it takes is significant, but I would argue individuals probably have an easier time getting away from it.”

That doesn’t stop Gardner from noting, “We need to be fighting [harassment] in both places.” 

She explained that, “when we are staring down the barrel of record-setting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation yet again, it is so integral to keep fighting for digital spaces to be as safe as possible.”

Regardless of its safety, it is a space that is a constant for many. “I use the internet constantly,” said Alex. “I use the internet a lot at work since I have a desk job,” said Jordan.

When reflecting on the internet, Riley summed up the tensions they experience. “It can be harrowing often but simultaneously it’s where I feel a sense of community and access.”

(This story is part of the Digital Equity Local Voices Fellowship lab through News is Out. The lab initiative is made possible with support from Comcast NBCUniversal.)

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California

Villaraigosa announces bid for Calif. governor in 2026

Former Los Angeles mayor has long supported LGBTQ rights

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Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced on Tuesday his candidacy for California governor in the 2026 election, joining an expanding roster of contenders vying to succeed Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

The former mayor has a long track record in support of the LGBTQ community, even preceding his declaration as chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention that he favored a same-sex marriage legalization plank in the party’s platform, support that ultimately led to support from the Vice President Biden and later President Barack Obama.

Villaraigosa, who previously ran for governor in 2018 and finished third in the primary behind Newsom and Republican John Cox, brings a long history in California politics, having served as Assembly speaker, a Los Angeles City Council member, and the city’s mayor.

Villaraigosa, 71, has maintained a presence in state politics despite leaving elected office in 2013. 

His campaign is positioning him as a seasoned “problem solver,” with a focus on the state budget, education, and reducing costs for small businesses and middle-class families. 

“We have serious problems, and money alone won’t fix them,” Villaraigosa stated. “We need to focus on better outcomes, fixing what’s broken, and investing in what works. I’m a problem solver, and with your support, that’s exactly what I’ll do as governor.”

In his campaign video, Villaraigosa highlighted his achievements as mayor and Assembly speaker, emphasizing his experience in bipartisan legislation and a tough stance on crime, which is anticipated to be a central issue in the 2026 election. His tenure as mayor was marked by significant restructuring of the Los Angeles Police Department and efforts to improve the city’s education system.

Villaraigosa joins a crowded Democratic field that includes Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, former Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and former state Controller Betty Yee. Attorney General Rob Bonta is also considering a run, though he has indicated he will decide after the November election. 

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has not ruled out a bid but has not provided a definitive answer.

The race remains wide open, although Kounalakis has already amassed significant campaign funds, with her campaign reporting over $9 million on hand. Current Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and Congresswoman Katie Porter are among the names rumored to potentially join the race later.

Newsom’s tenure will conclude in early 2027, setting the stage for a competitive race to replace him. Villaraigosa’s entry into the race signals a significant development, given his extensive background in state and local governance and his focus on pragmatic solutions for California’s pressing issues.

The 2026 gubernatorial election will be Villaraigosa’s second attempt at the state’s highest office. 

Villaraigosa’s dedication to diverse and inclusive leadership is evident through his ongoing recognition of leaders who champion these values. As recently as Jan. 18, the Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award was presented to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria at the 37th Tribute to Mayors Signature Event. 

The award, given annually by the Latino Leaders Network, honors mayors from cities with significant Latino populations who have shown a commitment to uniting diverse communities.

“Getting an award in Mayor Villaraigosa’s name is really meaningful to me,” Gloria stated. “I was the nerdy kid who would watch C-SPAN and read the newspaper when I was young. Seeing a charismatic and energetic leader like Villaraigosa made me believe I could achieve similar goals in public service.”

Villaraigosa, who grew up in East Los Angeles during the 1950s and 1960s when sexism and homophobia pervaded the culture, has a track record fighting for LGBTQ issues.

“I think it’s prevalent in every community but in the Latino community, one could argue, it was even more prevalent, more extreme in terms of sexism and homophobia,” Villaraigosa told Karen Ocamb in a 2018 interview for Los Angeles Blade.

“I grew up with a mom that was very progressive and a victim of domestic violence. I grew up in a home with alcoholism and a father who left three terrorized kids,” explaining his outlook.

“I’m not running for anything else,” said Villaraigosa. “So, a popularity contest is not what I’m looking for. You’re never gonna see Antonio Villaraigosa — candidate for president or vice president. I want to be a damn good governor.”

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California

Calif. transgender student laws draws backlash 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed bill on July 15

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Gov. Gavin Newsom (Courtesy photo)

BY DIANA LAMBERT AND MONICA VELEZ | LAist — A trailblazing state law prohibiting California school boards from passing resolutions that require teachers and school staff to notify parents if they believe a child is transgender isn’t likely to put an end to this polarizing issue.

The Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth, or SAFETY Act, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 15. It will prohibit school districts from requiring staff to disclose to parents’ information related to a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and will protect school staff from retaliation if they refuse to notify parents of a child’s gender preference. The legislation, which will go into effect Jan. 1, also provides additional resources and support for LGBTQ students at junior high and high schools.

“California is the first state to pass a law explicitly prohibiting school districts from enacting forced outing policies in the nation,” said Mike Blount, spokesperson for the author of the bill, Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego).

The legislation was passed in response to the more than a dozen California school boards that proposed or passed parental notification policies in just over a year. The policies require school staff to inform parents if a child asks to use a name or pronoun different from the one assigned at birth, or if they engage in activities and use facilities designed for the opposite sex. At least seven California school districts passed the controversial policies, often after heated public debate.

First lawsuit filed
By Tuesday evening, the conservative nonprofit Liberty Justice Center said it had filed a lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of Chino Valley Unified, which passed a parental notification policy last year.

“School officials do not have the right to keep secrets from parents, but parents do have a constitutional right to know what their minor children are doing at school,” said Emily Rae, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center in a press release. “Parents are the legal guardians of their children, not Gov. Newsom, Attorney General (Rob) Bonta, or Supt. (Tony) Thurmond. We will continue to defend parents’ rights and children’s well-being by challenging invasive laws like AB 1955 in court, at no cost to taxpayers.”

Other opponents, including Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) indicated that the issue will be settled in court. He is “committed to challenging the bill in court, and he’s confident he’s on the right side constitutionally,” said Shawn Lewis, Essayli’s chief of staff. Essayli plans to work with a coalition of advocates to challenge the bill, Lewis said.

Election issue
Parental rights is the overarching issue for the Republican Party, but right now it is focused on the parental notification issue, Essayli said in an August interview with EdSource. “This is an issue we want to run on in 2024,” he said.

The newly passed legislation also resulted in a flurry of press releases and social media comments from opponents and supporters. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in, calling the new law the “final straw” in his decision to move the headquarters for X, formerly known as Twitter, to Texas.

“I did make it clear to Gov. Newsom about a year ago that laws of this nature would force families and companies to leave California to protect their children,” Musk wrote on X.

Proponents of the parental notification policies have said that parents have the right to know what is going on with their children at school and that minors do not have a right to privacy. Opponents say these policies could endanger already vulnerable students who should be able to decide when they want to come out to their parents.

Chino Valley Unified in San Bernardino County, Murrieta Valley Unified, and Temecula Valley Unified in Riverside County, in Orange County, in Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County, and Rocklin Unified and Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District in Placer County are among the districts that have passed parental notification policies.

California’s parental notification board policies have their origin in Assembly Bill 1314, proposed by Essayli, which was denied a committee hearing at the state Capitol last year. After that, Essayli, parents’ rights groups and attorneys wrote a model board policy for school boards.

On Monday, Essayli released a statement about the new law: “Today, Gov. Gavin Newsom defied parents’ constitutional and God-given right to raise their children by signing AB 1955 which codifies the government’s authority to keep secrets from parents,” he said. “AB 1955 endangers children by excluding parents from important matters impacting their child’s health and welfare at school. Governor Newsom signing AB 1955 is both immoral and unconstitutional, and we will challenge it in court to stop the government from keeping secrets from parents.”

Eight states have passed laws requiring school districts to inform parents if their children ask to use names or pronouns associated with another gender, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

LGBTQ rights threatened
School parental notification policies have impacted the mental health of LGBTQ students and can lead to bullying, harassment, and discrimination, according to a press release from Ward’s office.

“Politically motivated attacks on the rights, safety, and dignity of transgender, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ youth are on the rise nationwide, including in California,” said Ward, who introduced the legislation along with the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

“While some school districts have adopted policies to forcibly out students, the SAFETY Act ensures that discussions about gender identity remain a private matter within the family,” he said. “As a parent, I urge all parents to talk to their children, listen to them, and love them unconditionally for who they are.”

The California Teachers Association and its members have been major opponents of parental notification policies, saying that they drive a wedge between educators and students, and endanger already vulnerable students. Teachers working in districts with parental notification policies have worried they could lose their jobs if they do not comply with the district requirement or end up in court if they disobey federal and state laws and policies.

“This historic legislation will strengthen existing protections against forced outing and allow educators to continue to create a safe learning environment where all students feel accepted, nurtured, and encouraged to pursue their dreams,” said California Teachers Association President David Goldberg. “As educators, we are charged with providing a high-quality education to every student. No educator should experience retaliation or have their livelihood jeopardized for following the law and providing safe and supportive learning environments for our students.”

Policies spawn lawsuits
Attorney General Rob Bonta has said parental notification policies break California state law and violate students’ civil rights and their right to privacy. He issued warnings to districts and filed a lawsuit against Chino Valley Unified in San Bernardino County last year.

A lawsuit was also filed against Temecula Valley Unified by a coalition of students, teachers and parents who oppose the district’s parental notification policy, along with a policy that bans “critical race theory.”

California courts have had differing opinions. In San Diego, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez last year ruled that Escondido Union School District violated parents’ rights when it followed California state policy and allowed students to decide whether to tell their parents they identify as transgender.

In Sacramento earlier that year, U.S. District Judge John Mendez dismissed a lawsuit against Chico Unified. The suit claimed that district policies allowed school staff “to socially transition” students and prohibited staff from informing parents of the change. Mendez said students have a right to tell their parents about their gender and sexuality on their own terms.

The new law will also require districts to provide support or affinity groups and safe spaces for LGBTQ students; anti-bullying and harassment policies and complaint procedures; counseling services; anti-bias or other training to support LGBTQ students and their families; suicide prevention policies and procedures; and access to community-based organizations to support LGBTQ students as well as local physical and mental health providers with experience in treating and supporting families of LGBTQ youth.

California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus Chair Susan Eggman said the legislation reaffirms California’s position as a leader and safe haven for LGBTQ youth.

“I am also deeply grateful for all the parents, teachers, youth, LGBTQ+ leaders, and so many other groups who came together to support this bill,” Eggman said. “Their support reaffirmed what this caucus already knew: Safe and supportive schools for all our children should be our top priority. And at the end of the day, that’s what this bill does, ensures our K-12 campuses remain safe and affirming places for our youth no matter how they identify.”

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UN officials reiterate calls for countries to decriminalize homosexuality

Volker Türk and Winnie Byanyima issued statement before global AIDS conference

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UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. (Screen capture via Kellogg Institute YouTube)

The U.N. human rights chief and UNAIDS’s executive director have reiterated their calls for countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“Laws criminalizing LGBTQ+ people must be consigned to history,” said Volker Türk and Winnie Byanyima in a statement they released on July 19.

The 25th International AIDS Conference began in Munich on Monday.

The statement notes Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Gabon, India, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Palau, St. Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago over the last decade have repealed laws that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Namibian High Court on June 21 struck down the country’s Apartheid-era sodomy laws. 

Dominica’s High Court of Justice in April ruled provisions of the country’s Sexual Offenses Act that criminalized anal sex and “gross indecency” were unconstitutional. Justice Kimberly Cenac-Phulgence in the decision said “the laws commonly known as buggery and gross indecency laws, contravenes the constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica, namely the right to liberty, freedom of expression, and protection of personal privacy.”

Burkina Faso’s military government earlier this month said it plans to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country. Ugandan activists continue to challenge their country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.  

Activists maintain criminalization laws harm people with HIV/AIDS, among other groups. Türk and Byanyima in their statement say these statutes “harm public health.”

“Criminalization of LGBTQ+ people generates justified fear amongst people who need access to health services, and amongst the frontline workers who provide those services,” they said.

“In criminalizing countries, there is decreased provision and uptake of HIV prevention services, and decreased uptake of HIV care and treatment services,” added Türk and Byanyima.

They conclude the “decriminalization of LGBTQ+ people is vital for protecting everyone’s human rights and everyone’s health.”

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Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

South Korean Supreme Court upholds same-sex couples’ health benefits

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

SOUTH KOREA
The South Korean Supreme Court delivered a victory for same-sex couples last week, upholding a lower court ruling that found same-sex couples must be given equal access to benefits under the country’s National Health Insurance Service.

The ruling is a landmark as the first legal recognition of same-sex couples in the East Asian nation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the NHIS refusal to provide spousal benefits to same-sex couples was unconstitutional discrimination. The ruling is final.

The case was filed by a gay couple, So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, in 2021 after the NHIS revoked So’s registration as a dependent of Kim and imposed a new premium. So and Kim had been a couple since 2017 and had held a marriage ceremony in 2019.

The NHIS allows married or common-law heterosexual couples to register as dependents in employer-backed insurance but had no policy recognizing same-sex couples.

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled for the NHIS in 2022, but the following year that decision was overturned by the Seoul High Court, which ruled for the couple that the denial was discriminatory.

“When I listened to the verdict, I was so moved that I couldn’t hold back my tears,” So told reporters outside the court. “It took four years to earn this dependent status. We need to fight harder to legalize same-sex marriage going forward.”

The advocacy group Marriage for All Korea said in a statement that the decision was just a first step.

“This decision brings hope to other same-sex couples living in Korean society and is a huge milestone toward marriage equality and equal citizenship for LGBTQ people. However, same-sex couples who are not legally recognized in their marriage still experience various forms of discrimination,” the statement says.

“The lengthy and arduous lawsuits that same-sex couples must endure to gain single rights as a spouse, as seen in this case, should no longer be necessary. Fundamentally, we will continue to push for a broader marriage equality movement to eliminate all institutional discrimination that hinders same-sex couples from legally marrying and fully enjoying their rights as spouses, and for LGBTQ people in Korea to enjoy equal citizenship.”

Several bills to recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions and to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people have been introduced by opposition members in South Korea’s parliament over the years, but none has progressed.

So Sung-uk and his partner Kim Yong-min. (Photo courtesy of marriageforall.kr)

LITHUANIA
A final attempt to pass a long-stalled civil union bill before the end of the current session of Parliament came to an anticlimactic end on July 18, as the government withdrew the bill from the agenda before the final day session began.

The civil union bill had long been a bone of contention in the fractious governing coalition whose largest party is the conservative Homeland Union and includes the more progressive Freedom Party, which had made the bill a priority.

The bill passed through two readings in parliament in part with the support of leftist opposition parties, but when the opposition withdrew their support of the bill — in part to deny the government a win on the issue — the coalition no longer had enough votes to get it passed, as a segment of the Homeland Union opposed it.

Over the past month, the Freedom Party had attempted to strong-arm the Homeland Union holdouts into supporting the bill, by threatening to block Lithuania’s appointment of a European commissioner unless the party supported the bill.

In the last few days of parliament’s session before the legislature is dissolved for October elections, it seemed that the parties had come to an agreement, and the civil union bill was going to be put on the agenda for a final vote on the final day of the session.

But the opposition Social Democrats refused to play ball, once again preferring to deny the government a victory on the file, even though the Social Democrats had campaigned on supporting civil unions in the past. Without their votes, the bill would be doomed to fail.

The government withdrew the bill from the agenda rather than allow it to fail. This will allow the bill to be brought back by the new parliament in October, rather than starting the process over again.

Despite the bill’s withdrawal, anti-LGBTQ protesters met outside the parliament and burned rainbow flags. Vilnius police said they are investigating potential charges of incitement to hatred.

The two-round parliamentary election is scheduled for Oct. 13 and Oct. 27, and polling shows the Social Democrats currently hold a wide lead.

Lithuania is one of only five European Union countries that do not recognize same-sex unions. The others are Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Poland, the latter of which has proposed a civil union bill that its government hopes to pass in the fall.

UNITED KINGDOM
The newly elected Labour government under Prime Minister Keir Starmer included a ban on conversion therapy in the King’s Speech that opened parliament on July 17, indicating that the bill will be a priority item during the session.

The King’s Speech is a tradition in UK politics, where the monarch reads a speech prepared by the government outlining its priorities for the upcoming session of parliament, usually lasting about a year.

During the election campaign, Starmer had pledged to back a transgender-inclusive ban on the abusive practice of conversion therapy, an issue which has become a political lightning rod in the UK over the past decade as a wave of anti-trans hysteria has gripped the media and much of the political class.

The previous Conservative government had pledged to ban conversion therapy six years ago but failed to bring a bill forward after floating the idea that the bill would allow conversion therapy for trans youth.

The UK LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall praised the commitment to a conversion therapy ban in a statement.

“We welcome the new government’s commitment to banning conversion practices. Each day that these abusive practices remain legal, our communities are put at risk,” the statement says. “The government needs to urgently publish a comprehensive bill to ban these abhorrent practices once and for all.”

But the new government’s approach to trans issues is not entirely praiseworthy.

Two weeks ago, new Labour Secretary of State for Health Wes Streeting announced that his government was defending and extending a ban on puberty blockers for trans youth that was put in place by the Conservatives. That action has been denounced by trans activists and legal experts.

JAPAN
A trans woman is suing for the right to change her legal gender without first divorcing her wife, in a challenge to the nation’s laws surrounding both same-sex marriage and gender recognition.

The woman, who has not been identified, is in her 50s and has been in a long-term marriage to her wife, who is in her 40s, and neither partner wants to divorce. While she has legally changed her name to a woman’s name, her identification still lists her as “male,” which forces her to have uncomfortable conversations outing her trans status whenever she needs to show official documents.

Since 2003, it has been possible for trans people to update their legal gender in Japan, but only if they are unmarried. That essentially forces any married trans person to divorce their partner if they want to update their gender.

In 2010, the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the requirement that trans people be unmarried to update their legal gender, calling the situation “reasonable” and saying it did not violate the constitution.

But the woman’s lawyers believe the legal situation has changed.

Since 2021, several district courts across Japan have found that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. While that has not yet legalized same-sex marriage, these cases will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court. If the court agrees with the lower courts that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, then it should also find the divorce requirement for trans people to be unconstitutional.

Yoko Mizutani, one of the woman’s lawyers, says this case may also contribute to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“Many of those concerned have resigned to the notion that if same-sex marriages are not recognized, the unmarried requirement of the act will not change. If we win this petition, it could also help resolve the issue of same-sex marriage.”

SPAIN
The Constitutional Court has provisionally blocked an anti-LGBTQ law passed by the government of the Madrid Community that stripped a number of legal protections from LGBTQ people; citing constitutional, discriminatory, and jurisdictional issues.

Last year, the local government, which is led by the right-wing People’s Party and supported by the far-right Vox party, passed a bill that stripped legal recognition of trans youth, stopped allowing legal gender change without a medical diagnosis, allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination and authorized conversion therapy.

Despite these legal protections being stripped at the local level, national laws still afforded LGBTQ people all of these rights and protections.

The national government, which is currently led by the left-wing People’s Socialist Party, filed for the injunction against the law, which it called unconstitutional, which the Constitutional Court has accepted.

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Philadelphia health providers bring trans-affirming surgery to Argentina

Temple University Hospital doctors recently traveled to Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires, Argentina (Bigstock photo)

Philadelphia Gay News published this article on July 18. The Los Angeles Blade is publishing it with permission.

BY LAUREN ROWELLO | Argentina is known for implementing some of the most comprehensive federal laws to protect and affirm transgender people. In 2012, the country became the first to pass legislation that gives its trans citizens the right to be recognized and treated in accordance with their gender identities — and the right to develop a sense of personhood associated with this experience.

This law gave Argentines the right to change their legal documents to display accurate gender markers and updated names — something many trans people in the U.S. are still unable to pursue because of differences in state laws regarding the matter. Among various other rights — including confidentiality — the legislation also grants trans people in Argentina the right to access comprehensive hormone therapies and gender-affirming surgeries.

But the right to pursue authenticity doesn’t mean trans-competent care is readily available. That’s why Dr. Alireza Hamidian Jahromi, MD, director of the gender affirmation surgery program at Temple University Hospital, is passionate about collaborating with providers across borders.

He recently traveled to Buenos Aires with Dr. Michael Metro, MD, director of reconstructive urology at Temple University Hospital, to jointly perform the first-ever penile inversion vaginoplasty in Argentina.

“A lot of teaching and training has to happen before you can perform a surgery,” Hamidian Jahromi underlined, noting that resources — including access to trans-specific training — can be limited in some areas, especially for genital reconstructions or “bottom” surgeries.

For instance, in 2012 — the year Argentina’s trans-affirming legislation was passed — the U.S. had only six surgeons performing genital reconstruction surgeries. A lack of surgeons greatly limits a surgery’s availability. Today, more doctors are starting to learn about and perform these procedures in the U.S. — but insurance does not always cover them and some state laws are attempting to further limit people’s ability to pursue them.

To overcome the unique hurdles and barriers that each country faces, Hamidian Jahromi — who is on the central committee for certification and mentorship at WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) — urged advocates to not only raise awareness of trans people and their needs but also to push for stronger and more accessible training and education for healthcare providers.

“[Surgeons] specifically have to go through a special training in order to know how to bring their skills together to be able to align them with the patient’s specific need,” Hamidian Jahromi said, adding that a specialization in gender-affirming surgery requires many years of training to develop expertise.

Exposure to and experience in a variety of related fields — such studying and collaborating closely with both urology and plastics — is necessary, and finding programs and professionals to study under can be an additional challenge.

The first trans-specific surgical fellowship in the U.S. didn’t open until 2017. It took more than nine years of education — along with additional surgical experience completed in Europe — for Hamidian Jahromi to become fellowship trained and specialized in trans-specific surgical interventions.

It takes a lot of time and intentional effort to build a comprehensive program that can competently and efficiently meet the needs of its patients. A lack of appropriate training can and has led to botched procedures, infections, and other disastrous outcomes.

Fortunately, there are more resources for learning and honing these skills across the United States than there were in the past. Hamidian Jahromi, who is the assistant professor of Plastic and Reconstructive and Gender Affirming Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, often trains surgeons, fellows and residents here in Philadelphia today.

Continued learning is not only key to the development of trans-specific programs and new providers. Trans-competent experts rely on information-sharing between professionals to constantly challenge themselves in new ways with the hope of improving their skills, advancing their understanding of best practices, and implementing new techniques in how to better care for trans people.

Because of this desire and ability to share and exchange skills, Hamidian Jahromi was able to observe the surgeries and study with colleagues at NYU — who pioneered a robotics-assisted peritoneal flap vaginoplasty, which is more minimally invasive than traditional methods. Temple is now one of just a handful of programs to offer surgeries using this technique.

It’s just one of various modalities used to help Hamidian Jahromi’s patients achieve their goals.

“A lot of [needs] could be different in every patient,” Hamidian Jahromi explained about the differing challenges, unique experiences and individual perspectives of each patient — who all have a different idea about what a positive outcome will look like for them. “And that’s actually a welcome part of these kinds of surgeries for me — because you have to see the patient, you have to see the world through their eyes, you have to try to understand.”

“I also have to mention that a lot of these surgeries need more than one surgeon at the time of the surgery. It’s multi-speciality,” he added, explaining that teams of experts in those related fields often work together to achieve the best outcomes. “So when I’m standing here in front of you, I’m standing on a pillar of different members of my team that all work together very closely in order to create a success story for each individual patient. It’s a whole team’s work.”

Hamidian Jahromi, who is cisgender, was drawn to trans healthcare because he appreciated the opportunity to make such a positive difference in the lives of patients and to develop longer relationships with each person he supports.

“When you put together the happiness and the help you’re providing for the patients, I’m very well-rewarded every day,” he added.

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Politics

Joe Biden to ‘stand down’ from 2024 presidential race

Announcement comes amid growing pressure from Democrats to step aside

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Pride celebration on June 10, 2023, at the White House. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

President Joe Biden on Sunday announced he will “stand down” from the 2024 presidential ticket.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your president,” he said in a statement he posted to X. “And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term.”

Biden said he will speak to the country “later this week in more detail about my decision.”

The president in his statement specifically thanked Vice President Kamala Harris, describing her as an “extraordinary partner in all this work.” Biden in a second statement endorsed her.

The move comes after weeks of pressure from Democratic leaders, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who met privately with the president to urge him to step aside because he had no clear path to beating the Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Doubts among Democrats were crystalized by Biden’s poor performance in his televised debate against Trump on June 27, which led prominent donors including actor George Clooney to urge the party to replace him. They were followed by a steady trickle of elected Democrats.

“We are deeply grateful to President Biden for his more than 50 years of public service and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects his legacy and what President Biden has done his entire career: put the needs of Americans and his country above his own. We owe the Biden-Harris team a debt of gratitude for leading the country out of a state of chaos and constant crisis under former President Trump.”

“The Biden-Harris administration has been the most pro-LGBTQ+ equality administration in history: assembling the most diverse administration, signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law to protect against attacks on marriage equality, and taking important steps to protect our transgender community and LGBTQ+ students,” added Robinson. “President Biden and Vice President Harris have worked closely with HRC and others to get things done and move us closer to equality. We look forward to hearing President Biden address the nation later this week.”

Los Angeles reacts, backs Harris

Reaction was swift and supportive in Los Angeles, where Harris has long been a popular figure.

During her 2020 run for president, Harris made the LGBTQ fundraising rounds and raised large sums of money, most notably during a private event at the home of David Cooley, the then- owner of the Abbey. Cooley agreed to host at his home after Harris popped in unexpectedly at the famous bar while campaigning.

Just this week she toured Los Angeles with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and then traveled with him to a swank fundraiser in Provincetown, Mass., that brought the financial elite of Los Angeles together.

The Biden-Harris Provincetown fundraiser was co-hosted by noted Angelenos, including Creative Artists Agency partner Joe Machota and his husband Michael Russell, along with Bryan Rafanelli and Abbey owner Tristan Schukraft, raising more $2 million for the Biden-Harris reelection campaign.

That, coupled with today’s announcement, indicates the vice president will have no trouble raising funds from the LGBTQ community and Hollywood as a presidential candidate.

LGBTQ elected officials and other LGBTQ community leaders were ecstatic about today’s events:

“I’m excited to support Vice President Harris and look forward to continuing the progressive legacy she championed alongside President Joe Biden,” West Hollywood Mayor John Erickson told the Los Angeles Blade. “VP Harris is a longtime champion of LGBTQ+ rights and access to abortion, and we need her leadership in the White House.”  

“Every election, we say: ‘This is the most important election,’ and this time, we really need people to understand that it is,” he continued. “We are at the moment in history where we either will defeat the evil being presented by the other side of the aisle or choose to embrace what this country is really all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.” 

Wilson Cruz, chair of the GLSEN board of directors, said he is “so grateful to President Biden for, once again and always, putting the nation and its needs before his own. A statement we can never make about the Republican nominee. “

“Kamala Harris, he said, is the future. She is the embodiment of the promise of America. As a California resident, I wholeheartedly supported and then voted for her at every opportunity. As we will see when she prosecuted the case against felon and his VP lackey, she is more than qualified, fit and ready for this fight.”

Cruz said he sees Harris as a “unrelentingly vocal and visible ally” and believes she will “build the most supportive administration the LGBTQ community has ever seen.”

“I will do anything and everything the campaign believes I will be useful in doing,” Cruz told Blade.

“I’m going to get LGBTQ and people of color out to vote in order to protect this democracy, protect a woman’s bodily autonomy and defend and secure the rights of LGBTQ people across this country,” he said, adding “let’s go!”

Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang, in a statement that focused on Biden, said his organization is “eternally grateful to President Joe Biden for his lifetime service to our country, and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community.”

“As he has throughout his more than half a century in elected office, President Biden has put what is best for America above all else,” said Hoang. “During his time in the White House, President Biden pushed forward a proactive agenda that opens doors and levels the playing field for all LGBTQ+ Americans, while defending against attacks from far-right extremists seeking to roll back our hard-fought rights. Our community owes President Biden a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

“As vice president under President Barack Obama, he was one of that administration’s earliest voices in support of marriage equality, and as president he has led the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in history,” he added. “From overturning a discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military, to signing the Respect for Marriage Act, to strengthening protections for LGBTQ+ people, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the betterment of all LGBTQ+ Americans. Additionally, President Biden tapped members of the LGBTQ+ community to serve key roles in his cabinet, including Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation and Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine — the first out transgender Cabinet official in American history — as Assistant Secretary of Health, and nominated hundreds of pro-equality federal and district judges.

Moving forward, our primary objective must be defeating Donald Trump and JD Vance this November. Both candidates pose an existential threat to democracy, evidenced by their support of extremist agendas such as Project 2025 — which spells out in chilling detail processes to dismantle governmental checks and balances, reverse all progress made by LGBTQ+ people, and threaten reproductive choice and bodily autonomy.

At a time of unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and hate violence directed at our community, it is more important than ever before to have strong champions for LGBTQ+ equality in the White House. In the coming days, we will reevaluate the organization’s endorsement for president. Equality California remains committed to getting out the vote this November to ensure that pro-equality champions are elected up and down the ballot to continue building a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all people.”

West Hollywood Councilmember and former Mayor Sepi Shyne thanked Biden “for his many years of service to our country and his legacy on LGBTQ+ rights, especially his vital role in supporting gay marriage when he was VP.”

“He has been a champion for us,” she said, adding, “I am in full support of his decision to step down and endorse vice president Harris as the Democratic nominee for president.”

Shyne states that she “fully supports VP Harris and has faith she will win.”

“This is an incredibly important moment for us all to unite for justice, women, LGBTQ+ rights, diversity, common sense, democracy, and our human rights,” she said. “When we stand together we win. I am with VP Kamala Harris all the way.”

Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner said “the Biden-Harris Administration is the most pro-LGBTQ+ in United States history. I am grateful to President Biden for his commitment to our community and applaud his service to our country.”

He added “the nation is facing an unprecedented time and we continue to face dangerous inflection points targeting LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive justice, and so much more. This November, we need candidates who will not abandon our interests on the ballot and instead keep a steadfast commitment to the issues facing LGBTQ+ Americans.” 

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang told the Blade that “President Biden‘s announcement that he won’t seek reelection is a moment in history won’t be forgotten for time immemorial.” He noted “it is an example of the highest standard of pure statesmanship.”

Prang also said “the president’s action marks an amazing half century political career that began as one of the youngest senators in the nation and is now ending as its oldest president.”

“Under his steady calm but strong guidance the Biden–Harris administration led our nation through the COVID pandemic while he rebuilt our manufacturing arm here at home,” he said. “Leading the way was his work to return the manufacturing of the computer chip here in our great nation.”

Prang also points out “he fought for investment both at home and globally that created hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will steer the country into a stronger industrial well that could charge our economic recovery.”

Prang thanked the president for his legacy of selfless public service

Troy Masters contributed to this story.

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Politics

Log Cabin Republicans host GOP candidates in tight congressional races

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (D-Calif.)

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U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Republican congressional candidates in some of the most anticipated races of the 2024 cycle delivered remarks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Milwaukee’s Discovery World Art and Science Museum on Wednesday.

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), a 31-year incumbent with an anti-LGBTQ voting record who is narrowly trailing gay Democratic challenger Will Rollins, and Eric Hovde, an entrepreneur vying to unseat the first openly gay U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Nick Meade, president of LCR Coachella Valley, introduced the California congressman by acknowledging that Calvert “didn’t have the most loving relationship vote-wise for our community” when his district was redrawn to include Palm Springs in 2022.

“We met with Ken,” Meade said. “We met with him again. And he showed up again. And he showed up again. We asked him to come to events and he showed up to the events. We asked if he would support us financially. He did it and then he did it again. He continues to show up.”

Eventually, Calvert joined 46 other House Republicans in endorsing the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex and interracial couples and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2022.

Meade explained that directly after the floor vote in July, the congressman passed Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran a slip of paper on which he had written the number “47,” telling the conservative LGBTQ leader “this is for you guys.”

Addressing his remarks to Calvert, Meade said, “I know, as humble as you are, you say you didn’t whip votes, but there are a lot of your friends close to our jurisdiction, your [congressional district] that voted for it as well. I will never forget that.”

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in our party, and one of those things is just that, as Nick was pointing out, that we were able to pass the gay marriage initiative on the floor,” Calvert said. “That was a good day.”

The congressman then discussed the importance of providing for the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. “Everyone who serves in the military should be treated equally,” he said.

“It was refreshing to see the Log Cabin Republicans admit that Ken Calvert had never met a gay Republican until he decided he needed their support to win his new congressional district,” Rollins said in an emailed statement to the Washington Blade.

“But Ken might’ve forgotten to tell them that he voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill, voted to defund LGBTQ senior centers, and just tried to make it harder for the spouses of LGBTQ military personnel killed in combat to collect survivor benefits.”

When introducing Hovde later in the program, Moran said, “Here in Wisconsin, we have a lesbian senator who’s a Democrat, who has been voting in lockstep consistently with President Biden, who has been making it worse for the lives of LGBT families, business owners, [and] service members, not only here, but also abroad.”

Senate candidate Eric Hovde speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Baldwin should not expect the community to line up behind her reelection effort, Moran said, because gay voters “are not just voting on gay issues.”

Hovde told the audience he was “proud” that they had not “gotten caught up in the identity politics that the left has been pushing, you know, based on your race, your sexuality, your income level, your religion.”

“They want to try to drive a narrative and say you have to vote one way when you’re talking about issues that affect everybody,” he said.

The businessman then pivoted to voice his support for Log Cabin Republicans’ positions on transgender issues that were outlined earlier by Moran — specifically, opposition to irreversible gender-affirming medical interventions for patients younger than 18 and bans prohibiting trans girls and women from competing against girls and women in sports.

In recent years, athletics have provided opportunities for girls that were not available in generations past, he said, so “I’m thankful that you are using, just, a common-sense approach to these issues because that’s where most Americans stand.”

“Men shouldn’t be playing and girls sports — period,” Hovde said, adding, “That doesn’t mean that we’re against transgender people.”

The Republican hopeful noted, “we don’t let people drive before the age of 16” and “we don’t let them drink alcohol till 21” so the idea that “we’re gonna push or allow them to change their gender at 13, 14, 12” is “insanity.”

Baldwin, Hovde said, is divisive for claiming that former President Donald Trump is “one of the most dangerous men with a dark soul,” and the Democratic senator is a “rubber stamp for the progressive socialist left” as evidenced by her refusal to confirm Ric Grenell’s nomination, during the Trump administration, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany (a post for which he was confirmed by vote of 56-42.)

Hovde called Grenell, who also served as acting director of national intelligence and special presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations, “a super competent man with great foreign policy chops” and “exactly who you want serving in government.”

“As the first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin didn’t run to make history, she ran to make a difference,” said Baldwin campaign spokeswoman Jackie Rosa. “And she’s proud of the difference she’s made to create jobs, lower health care costs, defend our freedoms, and improve the lives of millions of Wisconsinites.”

“Eric Hovde has to rely on divisive and false rhetoric about Tammy because he knows he doesn’t hold a candle to her legislative record,” she said.

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