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Queer Liberation March retraces route of world’s first Pride march

Organizers say ‘alternative’ march may become annual event in NYC

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Millions descended on NYC last weekend. Two marches were among the activities that were held. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

The Queer Liberation March, the second of two marches in New York City on Sunday that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, drew more than 45,000 marchers according to one of its lead organizers.

Longtime lesbian activist Ann Northrop, who is among the leaders of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, which organized the Queer Liberation March as an alternative to the official New York City Pride March, said organizers believe the Queer march was highly successful and are considering making it an annual Pride event.

The march followed the same route that the world’s first ever LGBT Pride march took in June 1970. It was organized by activists who were inspired by the now famous Stonewall Riots that erupted in New York’s Greenwich Village in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar on June 28, 1969.

That first march was named the Christopher Street Day Liberation March after the street where the Stonewall Inn is located and where the rioting began and continued for several days and that has been credited with launching the modern LGBT rights movement.

Northrop and others involved with the Reclaim Pride Coalition said they wanted the Queer Liberation March to retrace the route of the 1970 march, which travelled from the site of the Stonewall Inn to Central Park, where a rally was held, and using 6th Avenue to reach the park.

Organizers of Sunday’s Queer Liberation March and its own rally held in Central Park noted they chose not to allow floats, including the large corporate sponsored floats that participated in the official New York City Pride March, saying such displays were not in keeping with the atmosphere of protest and rebellion associated with Stonewall.

“This exceeds our wildest expectations,” Northrop told the Blade at the rally. “This was spectacular, and we’re thrilled that everybody took the leap of faith with us to come out, because this was a whole new thing,” she said.

“And we just organized it from the ground up. And we had no idea how many would put themselves on the line and show up. And they did,” Northrop said. “They did with full hearts and they did with total creativity.”

Among the speakers at the rally held in Central Park’s Great Lawn was Larry Kramer, the playwright and nationally recognized gay and AIDS activist who co-founded the AIDS protest group ACT UP.

Kramer, who appeared on a stage set up at the rally site in a wheelchair, gave a pessimistic view of the state of the nation’s fight against AIDS and anti-LGBT oppression and bias close to 40 years after he began that fight in the early 1980s.

“There is no cure for this plague,” Kramer told the rally. “Too many among us still get infected. We have become too complacent with PrEP,” he said, referring to the HIV prevention drug. “We search for a cure and we’re still in the Stone Age. The treatments we have are woefully expensive and come with troublesome side effects. And their manufacturers are holding us up to ransom,” he said.

“I almost died three times,” said Kramer. “I started a couple of organizations to fight against the plague. In the end, we failed. I certainly feel that I failed.”

That comment drew shouts from people in the audience saying, “No you haven’t” and “We love you.”

Kramer responded calling on the LGBT community to “fight back” against what he called a current dangerous political climate.

“If you love being gay as much as I do, fight back,” he said. “Our world needs every bit of help it can get, because I do not see enough of us fighting this fight and performing our duty,” said Kramer, adding: “Please all of you do your duty of opposition in these dark and dangerous days.”

Larry Kramer at the 2019 Queer Liberation March. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Kramer was joined on stage by more than a dozen activists, with some displaying ACT UP signs and who chanted the slogan that Kramer and his 1980s era activists coined at numerous protests: “Act Up! Fight back! Fight AIDS!”

Transgender activists Sasha Alexander and Olympia Sudan were among more than a dozen other speakers at the rally who reminded the gathering of the violence and threats faced by transgender people, especially transgender women of color.

The two joined other speakers, both trans and cisgender, in calling on the LGBT community and the public at large to remember and give credit to the late Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women of color who played an important role in the Stonewall riots and subsequent organizing for LGBT rights.

Several speakers called for he decriminalization of sex work, saying the current criminalization of prostitution adversely impacts trans women of color who are forced into sex work as a means of economic survival due to job discrimination.

The lesbian singing group Betty was among the singers and other artists performing at the rally.

Northrop said the city’s parks department required that the rally take place in the Great Lawn, which is located one mile from where the march entered Central Park at 6th Avenue, making the total length of the march four miles. She said organizers will consider shortening the march if organizers decide to hold the Queer Liberation March again next year and in subsequent years.

“Everyone’s talking about it,” she said in discussing whether another Queer march should take place. “Now that we’ve seen this become a reality and people can believe it’s possible I hope then we would just grow bigger and bigger every year and that the corporate takeover of Pride would gradually phase out.”

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Michigan

School board candidate uses Pride flag as a hated Nazi symbol

“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post on Trump’s Truth Social platform

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

ROCKFORD, Mi. – A candidate for a seat on the Rockford, Michigan school board in this town of approximately 6,000, located ten miles north of Grand Rapids, went onto far-right social media platform Truth Social founded by former President Trump and shared a graphic collage of the Progress Pride flag converted into a Nazi-style swastika.

“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post.

Ladyman has a long and documented social media history of denigrating the LGBTQ+ community. In one post he depicted himself carrying an assault style rifle with the caption; ” I like exercising my Liberty like a drag queen exercises their sexuality.”

Ladyman, who has a business executive profile on LinkedIn as an account executive for ArjoHuntleigh, a global medical technology company, lists himself as an ‘America First’ adherent and opposed emergency measures taken by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, shown in a social media post open carrying an assault-style rifle standing with anti-Whitmer protestors in May of 2020.

In another recent post Ladyman referred to LGBTQ equality rights and community history as “grooming:”

WXMI-TV FOX 17 in Grand Rapids noted that the Nazi Progress Pride Flag image was sharply criticized by members of the Jewish community, LGBTQ people, as well as local leaders, including Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Steven Matthews, who said that the image made him feel “angry.”

“It’s a symbol that I don’t think represents who we are as a community and anybody who would use it I don’t think represents who we are as a community,” Matthews told Fox 17.

Ladyman, whose political ad states that he “will never go along with unconstitutional mandates, medical tyranny or the woke agenda,” didn’t back down when asked to comment on the backlash.

“While I was hoping the outrage would encourage people to do their research into this flag, I would like to state for the record that this image was not created by me,” he said in a written statement to WXMI-TV, after declining to appear on an on-camera interview.

Ladyman — a self-described “pro-God, pro-country and pro-Constitution school board candidate [who] will continue to fight for excellent education in schools without this sexual indoctrination” — credited the image to the British actor and far-right activist Laurence Fox, who first tweeted the altered flag in June 2022.

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Ohio

Opponents of LGBTQ resolution pack Ohio school board meeting

“I’m not a divisive concept. I’m a teenage girl who wants to graduate from high school, go to college, get a job and live my life”

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Screenshot/YouTube WBNS TV

COLUMBUS, Ohio – People packed an Ohio State Board of Education meeting Tuesday, many protesting a controversial resolution that opponents say will discriminate against LGBTQ students. 

The resolution, introduced by board member Brandon Shea, expresses the board’s opposition to a federal law requiring schools to investigate claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or risk losing school breakfast and lunch funding. Those investigations could include, according to the U.S. Department of Education, denying transgender students to use gendered facilities that correspond with their gender identity, keeping transgender kids from playing sports and allowing incorrect pronouns. 

It states that sex is “an unchangeable fact,” adding that “[d]enying the reality of biological sex destroys foundational truths upon which education rests and irreparably damages children.”

The resolution claimed the Department of Education’s new Title IX regulations “would require that K-12 schools socially transition minor children to a different gender without requiring parental notification or involvement,” calling it harmful. 

Tuesday’s meeting was packed with 61 people, according to the Statehouse News Bureau, most of whom opposed the board’s resolution. 

Ada Wood, a 24-year-old transgender woman, was one of them. She spoke to the board about the disproportionally high rates of poor mental health and suicide amongst transgender youth, “which, quite frankly, you would already know if you knew anything about the topics of which you are attempting change laws.” 

“If you pass this resolution, children will die,” Wood said.

Dawn Riggs, an educator of 30-plus years from Logan, Ohio, also spoke against the resolution. She said she had experiences with LGBTQ kids in her career, adding they “knew they would be safe for at least a little while each day” in her class.

“It is no burden to use a name that we are asked to use,” she said. “It is no burden to use the pronouns that are shared with us.”

Conner McLaren, a transgender student, told the board: “I’m not a divisive concept. I’m a teenage girl who wants to graduate from high school, go to college, get a job and live my life. Please don’t make things harder for the community I am here to represent. Don’t let our school become one more bully we have to deal with.”

Though many speakers spoke against the resolution, some supported it. One supporter, Allison Lindsey, worried her daughter with Down syndrome could be harmed by gender-affirming bathroom policies. According to a Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law study, there is no link between trans-inclusive policies and bathroom safety. 

“Often female students with disabilities need assistance when they get older and have begun their menstrual cycles,” Lindsey said. “Will I be accused of sex-based discrimination if I request that transgender women who are staff not help my daughter with her menstrual cycle at school?”

Shea did not respond to the Los Angeles Blade’s request for comment. But he did respond to the criticism at the meeting. 

“It’s awfully burdensome and heavy handed for the federal government to force every school in the nation to adopt radical gender identity policies to continue to receive federal funds and for the record,” Shea said. “It’s the regulations I’m saying are burdensome, not students who trans identify.” 
According to Cleveland.com, the board will vote on the resolution during its next meeting on Oct. 11-12.

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Montana

Montana health dept. now “intends to comply” with court order

“Throughout this whole process, DPHHS has shown clear disdain for the courts, the will of the people, and especially transgender Montanans”

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Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services building (Screenshot/Montana Public Radio)

By Mara Silvers | BILLINGS – The Montana state health department said Monday it now intends to comply with last week’s district court order in which a Billings judge instructed the agency to reinstate a process for allowing transgender Montanans to update the sex on their birth certificates. 

The announcement represents a shift from the department’s response to an oral bench ruling from Judge Michael Moses last Thursday. Last week, Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Charlie Brereton said the department was awaiting a written copy of the ruling and that the agency would continue to enforce a different rule adopted in September that bars changes to the sex on birth certificates based on a person’s gender identity.

The dispute stems from ongoing litigation over Senate Bill 280, signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte, which would make it harder for transgender people to update the sex on their birth certificate. That bill sought to replace a more lenient 2017 administrative rule adopted under former Gov. Steve Bullock. 

During last week’s hearing, Moses told attorneys representing the health department and the ACLU of Montana that he was “clear as a bell” in an April order pausing the law while the case continued and reimplementing the “status quo” from 2017. 

Instead of reverting to the 2017 standard following that April order, the health department enacted an emergency rule allowing a person’s sex designation to be changed only to correct a data entry error or upon submittal of DNA or genetic testing evidence to show that the listed sex is incorrect. The department later adopted a formal version of that rule in September, despite substantial opposition expressed in public testimony. The agency’s leadership has said it sees sex as a “biological concept” that cannot be changed and that its rules help maintain the accuracy of vital records and statistics.

Moses said in last week’s hearing that the department’s decision to enact new rules instead of reverting to the 2017 status quo violated his order and that, in doing so, health officials were “thumbing their nose at orders of courts.” 

The judge reiterated his displeasure with the department’s actions on Monday in his written order, writing that if state officials “require further clarification, they are welcome to request it from the Court rather than engage in activities that constitute unlawful violations of the Order.”

Moses also said that any motions from the ACLU of Montana to hold the department in contempt of court “based on continued violations” of his orders “will be promptly considered.”

The health department has said it has never considered itself in violation of the April injunction, instead arguing that the subsequent, more restrictive rules it created were an attempt to fill a regulatory void created by the judge’s “vague” order. On Monday, the department indicated it still took issue with the ruling.

“The Department has received the court’s order clarifying the preliminary injunction and despite disagreeing with it, intends to comply with its terms,” the statement said. “The Department stands by its actions and analysis concerning the April 2022 preliminary injunction decision, as set forth in its rulemaking that addressed critical regulatory gaps left by the court.”

The department also said it is “carefully considering next steps in the litigation.”

Health Department spokesman Jon Ebelt did not immediately respond to an additional question asking what day the department intended to re-implement the 2017 standards. 

Alex Rate, an attorney for the ACLU, said the department should have no issue in reimplementing the old standard while the lawsuit unfolds, but added he’s skeptical that the agency will act in accordance with the intent of the judge’s order. 

“I’m in ‘prove it’ mode,” Rate said in a Thursday phone call. “We need to start processing these applications before I’ll take them at their word.”

Forward Montana, an advocacy group that represents young people and supports transgender rights, also expressed continued frustration at the department’s recent actions. 

“Throughout this whole process, including the DPHHS’s most recent response, the Department has shown clear disdain for the courts, the will of the people, and especially transgender Montanans who are simply trying to live safe, happy lives in our state,” said Izzy Milch, senior advocacy manager with Forward Montana. “Compliance with this court order is a step in the right direction, and we hope that trans Montanans will now have access to accurate ID as this litigation continues to unfold.”

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Mara Silvers writes about health and human services stories happening in local communities, the Montana statehouse and the court system. She also produces the Shared State podcast in collaboration with MTPR and YPR. Before joining Montana Free Press, Mara worked in podcast and radio production at Slate and WNYC. She was born and raised in Helena, MT and graduated from Seattle University in 2016.

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The preceding piece was previously published by Montana Free Press and is republished with permission.

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