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APA hosts ‘Cured’ filmmakers at conference

American Psychiatric Association is now headed by an out gay man

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Filmmaker Patrick Sammon at APA Conference in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy Dr. Jack Drescher)

The American Psychiatric Association shocked the purveyors of religious “decency” and morality by removing homosexuality as a mental illness from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1973. Officially designating homosexuals as “sick” and “perverted” enabled government, businesses and the institutions of society to criminalize, stigmatize, belittle, beat and brand as “evil” and “abnormal” anyone perceived as being this corporal corruption as less-than a human being.

And homosexuals internalized the horror, perpetually hiding and inflicting internal wounds of shame. But in the late 1960s, Gay Liberation activists and rational scientists fought back to reclaim the individual personal pride of being gay or lesbian. Those boisterous showy early Gay Pride parades served a personal, public and political purpose.

Nonetheless, the merchants of shame continue to peddle the scam of a “cure” for supposed homosexual perversion, despite more and more state governments outlawing the junk science of so-called “conversion therapy.” But now, one of the leaders in the fight for human dignity for LGBT people is the very group that originally gave a justification for the psychological harm—the American Psychiatric Association.

As an even clearer sign of the organization’s evolution, the APA’s CEO, Dr. Saul Levin, is gay. And they are now eager to tell the story of that dark time, according to award-winning filmmakers Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer who screened an excerpt from their in-production documentary “Cured” as part of an APA conference panel May 20 in San Francisco entitled “Community Activism Narratives in Organized Medicine: Homosexuality, Mental Health, Social Justice, and the American Psychiatric Association.”

Levin, Sammon and Singer were joined on the panel by Dr. Adrian Jacques H. Ambrose, who is with the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry team at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The American Psychiatric Association is a much different organization today than it was before 1973. Certainly that’s evidenced by the fact that it’s led by an openly gay CEO. So there’s a lot of interest within the APA to have this story told,” Sammon tells the Los Angeles Blade, noting the discussions with the APA about the film have been ongoing for more than a year.

“In sitting in on the opening plenary and various sessions during the conference, it seemed really clear that the institution, APA, is explicitly dedicated to increasing diversity, the awareness of diversity,” Bennett tells the Los Angeles Blade.

“I heard a bunch of leaders talking about wanting to be sure that psychiatrists are trained and mindful of being able to work with diverse populations,” Bennett continues. “That seems it’s an institutional goal to really be mindful of diversity in all its forms. They seem to be celebrating that their medical director and CEO, Dr. Levin, is an openly gay man and feeling like that is a genuine asset to their mission. And their president, who presided over this year’s conference is an African-American woman who was also really powerful and moving in her passionate remarks about why diversity matters.”

  Bennett noted that the APA has embraced its history and wants “to shine a spotlight on it to make it clear that psychiatry and the APA have evolved dramatically from the positions that they had held since 1952, which is when the first DSM was published which classified homosexuality as a ‘sociopathic personality disturbance.’  Now they’re looking at that as misguided and destructive.”

The documentary “Cured” shows that dark history and the process of APA’s transformation. The filmmakers intend to enter “Cured” in film festivals with its eventual broadcast on public television. One of their more recent interviews was with Gay Liberation Front co-founder Don Kilhefner who disrupted an APA aversion therapy conference in an October 1970 zap in Los Angeles that was caught on film. 

“This all is taking place in the shadow of a world where ‘conversion therapy’ is still allowed in so many states where parents can send their minor children to get ‘fixed.’ We’re hopeful that the history of this story can help illuminate the ongoing discussion about ‘conversion therapy’ and the reality that some people still use the same bad science to justify ‘conversion therapy’ today,” says Sammon. “It’s a good opportunity to spotlight the present with this story from the past.”

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Texas

High School removes LGBTQ ‘Safe Space’ stickers- students walk out

“These aren’t political stickers, they are merely a signal that a teacher has the confidence to have conversations with LGBTQ+ students”

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Photo Credit: GLSEN

IRVING, Tx. — A sizable number of the student body of a suburban Dallas, Texas high school walked out in protest after faculty members were forced to remove LGBTQ “safe space” stickers from their classroom doors.

Dallas ABC News affiliate WFAA ABC 8 reported that hundreds of students walked out of MacArthur High School on Wednesday after students said they began noticing the stickers were being removed from the classroom doors by the administration.

Carrying rainbow flags, the students walked out protesting what they describe as targeted discrimination against the school’s LGBTQ+ students and teachers.

One teacher reported a Safe Space poster she had printed and laminated was missing from outside her classroom too. “I was freaked. The kids were freaked out,” Rachel Stonecipher, an English teacher and sponsor of the campus’ Gay Straight Alliance told CBS-DFW.

Students, she said, immediately wondered who had removed them and what message their disappearance was sending.

“I was a little scared too because I’m the only openly, very obviously gay teacher, lesbian teacher,” said Stonecipher. She and at least four other teachers signed an e-mail to the principal asking for an explanation.

In a statement released to the media, the Irving Independent School District administration said that district policy does not allow teachers to use classrooms to “transmit personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues.

“To ensure that all students feel safe regardless of background or identity, the district has developed guidelines to ensure that posters, banners, and stickers placed in classrooms, hallways, or offices are curriculum-driven and neutral in viewpoint,” the statement added.

“These aren’t political stickers, they are merely a signal that a teacher has the confidence to have conversations with LGBTQ+ students,” Stonecipher told reporters.

Irving police were at the school during the walkout as an added presence.

“We have extra resources deployed at MacArthur HS to maintain a safe environment for all,” Irving police tweeted.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Lambda Legal seeks to add two more Trans plaintiffs in West Virginia suit

Federal class-action lawsuit challenging blanket exclusion of health care for Trans people in WVA’s Medicaid & state employee health plan

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Shauntae Anderson and Leanne James (Photo Credit; Lambda Legal)

CHARLESTON, WVa. – Lambda Legal filed a motion seeking leave to add two additional plaintiffs—a Medicaid participant and a public employee—to its federal class-action lawsuit challenging West Virginia’s blanket exclusion of health care coverage for transgender people in West Virginia’s Medicaid and state employee health plans.

If granted, Shauntae Anderson, who is a Medicaid participant, and Leanne James, a public employee and Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA) member would be added as additional plaintiffs to Fain v. Crouch.

“My life as a Black transgender woman has not been easy. I suffered years of agony and desperation without appropriate care and treatment for my gender dysphoria. Like other Medicaid participants, I rely on Medicaid for health care coverage and it has been heartbreaking to hear that just because I am transgender, I can’t access coverage for care that is medically necessary. It is not only inhumane but also unjust to be singled out this way,” said plaintiff Shauntae Anderson.  

“It is deeply upsetting that I am deprived of coverage for critical and urgent health care simply because I am transgender. As a public employee and PEIA member, being denied coverage for medically necessary care that cisgender state employees have full access to is an insult to my dignity. The exclusion in the state employee health plans is a reminder to myself and other transgender state employees that we are being denied equal compensation for equal work.” said plaintiff Leanne James.

Filed last November in West Virginia’s Southern District, Fain v. Crouch is a class action lawsuit challenging blanket exclusions of coverage for gender-confirming care in West Virginia state health plans. The blanket exclusions of coverage for care are stated expressly in the health plans offered to Medicaid participants and state employees. West Virginia’s state health plans serve approximately 564,000 Medicaid participants and 15,000 state employees, some of whom are transgender. 

“The state of West Virginia continues to deny medically necessary gender-confirming health care to transgender West Virginians – via explicit and targeted exclusions. West Virginia’s ban on gender-confirming care is unconstitutional and discriminatory; it causes physical, emotional, and financial distress; and it denies transgender West Virginians basic dignity, equality, and respect. Ms. Anderson and Ms. James are just two of many transgender people in West Virginia who are being denied basic health care just because of who they are.” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the case.

“We admire Ms. Anderson and Ms. James for stepping forward and joining our original plaintiffs in this lawsuit,” said Nicole Schladt, Associate Attorney at Nichols Kaster, PLLP. “Together, we seek an end to healthcare discrimination in West Virginia.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Lawsuits against Ohio State over sexual predator sports doctor tossed

“The judge just threw 300 survivors in a trash can,” Steve Snyder-Hill said then adding, “a trash can with an OSU logo on it”

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Screenshot via WBNS-TV, CBS News 10, Columbus, Ohio

COLUMBUS, Oh. – A Federal judge Wednesday dismissed hundreds of pending lawsuits against Ohio State University, (OSU) in cases related to a former OSU sports team doctor Richard Strauss, who had sexually molested young male athletes and other students for twenty years.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson of the Southern District of Ohio wrote;

It is beyond dispute that Plaintiffs, as well as hundreds of other former students, suffered unspeakable sexual abuse by Strauss. It is also true that many Plaintiffs and other students complained of Strauss’s abuse over the years and yet medical doctors, athletic directors, head and assistant coaches, athletic trainers, and program directors failed to protect these victims from Strauss’s predation.”

According to Judge Watson he dismissed the cases because the statute of limitations for criminal rape cases in Ohio is 20 years to report for criminal prosecution or otherwise have legal proceedings initiated.

“If there is a viable path forward for Plaintiffs on their claim against Ohio State, it starts with the legislature rather than the judiciary,” Watson wrote.

Taking aim at Ohio lawmakers Watson noted; ““At all times since the filing of these cases, the Ohio legislature, has the power, but not the will, to change the statute of limitations.” The legislature can provide a “path forward for Plaintiffs on their claim against Ohio State.”

Strauss preyed on hundreds of young men from the time of his employment at OSU in 1978 until he retired in 1998, and allegations about his misconduct didn’t become public until an ex-wrestler named Mike DiSabato spoke out in 2018, years after Strauss’ death by suicide in 2005.

The former athletes were represented by several legal teams including Washington D.C./Oakland, California-based legal advocacy group Public Justice.

Today’s ruling is not only deeply disappointing,” the legal team said in reaction to the ruling today, “but also sends a disturbing message that the very real challenges sexual abuse survivors often face in understanding what has happened to them – and who enabled the abuse they experienced – is irrelevant when they ultimately ask for the court’s help in holding abusive people and institutions accountable.

OSU spent decades denying, hiding, and evading the truth about its role in concealing the abuse that happened on its watch. Today’s ruling punishes survivors already traumatized by the university’s callous campaign of deception. The court’s decision cannot, and must not, be the final word in the survivors’ journey towards justice.”

The case against OSU brought widespread attention as one of the cases involved Strauss victim Steve Snyder-Hill, a prominent LGBTQ activist and a U.S. Army veteran. Upon hearing of Watson’s ruling, a palpably angered Snyder-Hill told several media outlets; “The judge just threw 300 survivors in a trash can,” he said adding, “a trash can with an OSU logo on it.”

Steve Snyder-Hill (Screen shot via WCMH-TV, NBC 4 Columbus, Ohio)

NBC News had reported on the case and profiled Snyder-Hill in 2019:

[…] In the years following the alleged assault, Snyder-Hill would go on to serve in the Iraq War, publicly fight against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and become an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage. He and his husband, Josh, married in 2011 in Washington, D.C., in front of the tombstone of Leonard Matlovich, a Vietnam War veteran who had been discharged by the Air Force for being gay. The couple were involved in a lawsuit filed by Service Members Legal Defense Network that challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the military from giving benefits to legally married same-sex couples, and successfully fought in court to have their surnames combined in Ohio.

Snyder-Hill was unexpectedly thrust into the media spotlight in 2011 after submitting a question during the Republican presidential debate about whether the candidates would reverse the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Some members of the audience booed Snyder-Hill, who submitted his question by video from his military base in Iraq. That an active-duty soldier in uniform would be booed during a presidential debate shocked and angered many Americans during a time when acceptance for same-sex marriage was mounting. […]

The publicity over the OSU cases also ensnared conservative right-wing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), renewing questions over his failure to stop Strauss from molesting former wrestlers Jordan had coached more than two decades ago at OSU. Jordan was accused of that neglect in 2018 by those former wrestlers.

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