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Hong Kong turmoil raises questions about 2022 Gay Games

Organizers of LGBT sports event to discuss situation at October meeting

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Recent unrest in Hong Kong has some wondering about viability of the Gay Games there in 2022. (Photo by Studio Incendo via Flickr)

The escalating violent street clashes between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement protesters and local authorities taking orders from China that have taken place each week since June have raised questions about whether Hong Kong can remain a viable host city for the 2022 Gay Games.
In 2017, the Federation of Gay Games, which organizes the quadrennial international LGBT sports event that attracts as many as 15,000 athletes and thousands more spectators, selected Hong Kong as the host city for the 2022 Gay Games.

The decision by the FGG to select Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, Mexico came after all three cities – which the FGG named as finalists in its competition to select a host city – presented detailed proposals on why they believed they were best suited to host the 2022 LGBT mega sports event.

In keeping with the Gay Games tradition, the three cities’ proposals included cultural events such as LGBT rights related gatherings to accompany the athletic events associated with the Games.
Although the Gay Games in Hong Kong are scheduled to take place in November 2022, more than three years from now, international observers of Hong Kong and China have said it is hard to predict how things may be in Hong Kong at that time.

Among other things, China has hinted that it will send in military forces to crush the pro-democracy street protests that have halted much of Hong Kong’s downtown business and transportation system during the weekend protests despite local police crackdowns. Hundreds of thousands have taken part in the protests.

A full China takeover of Hong Kong could raise questions about whether an LGBT event like the Gay Games would be welcome, some observers have said.

Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the FGG, told the Washington Blade the FGG has asked Hong Kong organizers to address the situation in Hong Kong at the FGG’s annual General Assembly meeting scheduled to take place Oct.31-Nov. 2 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“Since successfully winning the host city bid, the Gay Games 11 Hong Kong team has been making good progress on our plan to organize a successful and inclusive sports and cultural event in November 2022,” Fitzgerald said in a statement to the Blade. “Mindful of the importance of safety and security, the team has been working closely with the Hong Kong Government Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong Tourism Board, security companies, and other key stakeholders to develop, amongst others, a full security plan to ensure that we deliver a safe and inclusive event for all participants and spectators,” he said.

“Although the current events in Hong Kong are unsettling, we note that all major trade fairs, events and exhibitions scheduled for the second half of this year, are reported to be going ahead,” Fitzgerald said. “We are closely monitoring the evolving situation, and remain vigilant to ensure that the security plans for our event will be operational and effective for everyone 3+ years from now.”

The Hong Kong Gay Games organizers will also make a presentation to the FGG Board of Directors during the time of the General Assembly meeting in Guadalajara, “which I am sure will be asking questions about the current situation,” Fitzgerald told the Blade.

China has been tolerant of LGBT-related organizations and events in recent years, observers have said, as long as those groups and events steer clear of politics and do not challenge the Communist Party government. The local, semi-autonomous government of Hong Kong has been generally supportive of the LGBT community, according to Hong Kong Gay Games organizers.

But experts have said China has taken an increasingly more assertive role in local Hong Kong affairs in recent years following the 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom in which the British turned over Hong Kong, a longtime British colony, to China. The agreement calls for China to allow Hong Kong to govern itself in a semi-autonomous way for 50 years after the 1997 agreement, but experts say there would be little that the U.K. or other countries, including the U.S., could do if China violates the agreement other than possibly imposing economic sanctions.

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether D.C. would make another bid to host the Gay Games if it is determined that Hong Kong is no longer a viable host city. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Gay Games Bid Committee Chair Brent Minor were part of a 32-member D.C. contingent that traveled to Paris in October 2017 to advocate for the D.C. bid before the FGG.

“I really have no specific comment on the situation in Hong Kong,” Minor told the Blade in an email message on Tuesday. “Team D.C. plans to send our representative to the Annual Meeting in October and have them report back on any updates,” he said. “Team D.C. remains a strong supporter of the Gay Games movement and will support the efforts for Gay Games XI.”

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Florida

Florida’s Duval County Public Schools censors LGBTQ visibility

Duval County Public Schools slammed for removing ‘Safe Space’ stickers by Equality Florida as schools across state return to classes

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Screenshot/WJCT PBS Jacksonville, Florida

JACKSONVILLE – As Duval County Public School’s K-12 students begin their first day of school Monday, they are returning to classrooms that have been stripped bare of visible support for LGBTQ students.

Last week, Duval County Public School’s leadership held an emergency meeting with all of the school district’s principals in which they were directed to remove all posters, wall decorations, and stickers that support and affirm LGBTQ students, the latest in a wave of what LGBTQ+ advocates say are censorship efforts in the wake of the Don’t Say LGBTQ Law (HB 1557) taking effect across the state.

Equality Florida — a statewide civil rights organization focused on the LGBTQ community — published a statement criticizing Duval County Public Schools officials for putting out guidance to principals that advised the removal of the rainbow signage.

“The district’s censorship of LGBTQ-inclusive classroom environments sends a dangerous message to young people,” said Joe Saunders, Equality Florida Senior Political Director.

“In tearing down rainbow Safe Space stickers and tossing inclusive posters into the trash, Duval County Public Schools is telling students that there is something inherently wrong with LGBTQ people — and telegraphing to LGBTQ youth that they should remain hidden. Despite false assurances from Republican proponents of the Don’t Say LGBTQ Law that its scope would be narrow and its impacts limited to grades K-3, we are witnessing sweeping effects of this intentionally-vague policy across the state, with broad censorship of LGBTQ people being applied to every grade level.”

The Florida Times-Union newspaper reported Duval Schools officials say the removal is one facet of a district-wide rebrand of its existing “All In For Safe Schools” campaign that will better comply with the new Parental Rights in Education Act, which became law in July. Equality Florida calls the gesture “censorship.”

The move from Duval County Public Schools comes as schools across the state grapple with implementing the Don’t Say LGBTQ law. Already, the law has resulted in the banning of books and stigmatizing of families in counties across the state. Exactly what advocates say they warned about since the law’s inception. This decision by Duval County Public Schools to censor LGBTQ inclusion across the district has angered the community.

It also comes as LGBTQ youth, the very students now seeing their identities scrubbed from Duval classrooms, continue facing higher risks of depression, anxiety, bullying, discrimination, and suicidality than their peers.

A recent study by the Trevor Project showed a staggering majority of LGBTQ youth sharing that recent policy battles like that over HB 1557 and the subsequent impacts have had a negative impact on their mental health.

“We are in the process of rebranding the ‘All In for Safe Schools’ program,” district spokesman Tracy Pierce told the Times-Union. “The purpose of the rebranding is to send a clear message to all students that the support available through the program is open to them and not limited to any specific student population.”

“School districts are charged with doing everything in their power to mitigate the harms of HB 1557 and ensure that every student is protected in school and every family is respected. Duval County Public Schools should reverse course and recommit to cultivating an environment that is inclusive of and celebrates all students,” said Equality Florida’s Saunders.

In another circumstance of Florida’s newly minted ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law’s negative impact, last month a 12-min training video aimed at teaching middle and high school students how to prevent bullying and support their LGBTQ+ peers in Duval County Public Schools has been removed from student access.

Jacksonville Today journalist Claire Heddles reported at the time that besides the video, the district planned to dramatically reduce a LGBTQ+ support guide.

The video is now inaccessible and, in response to questions from Jacksonville Today, Duval Schools District spokesperson Tracy Pierce said, “The materials you referenced have been removed for legal review to ensure the content complies with recent state legislation.” 

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Los Angeles County

Inaugural LA County Youth Climate Commission seeks youth leaders

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people who are both passionate about climate change and interested in public service”

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (Press Release) – Aiming to empower the region’s next generation of environmental leaders, the County of Los Angeles today issued a call for young adults to serve on its inaugural Youth Climate Commission.

On the heels of major climate legislation at the federal level, the County is seeking 25 youth leaders who have a commitment to civic action that will create greater resilience in their communities.

The Board of Supervisors, responding to grass-roots activism from Los Angeles youth climate leaders, adopted an ordinance to create the Commission to inform, recommend, and advise on County goals, plans, actions, and policies related to climate change mitigation and resilience.

The panel – the first County Commission to focus exclusively on climate change – aims to amplify the perspectives and priorities of local youth, since they will be the most dramatically impacted by the ongoing climate impact during their lifetime.

“I am heartened that after years of insufficient action on climate, Congress is advancing a major climate bill that will change the game for lowering our emissions nationally,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis who represents the First District and authored the ordinance. “With new federal resources, the stakes are even greater for us to ensure that the very people whose future is most impacted are at the table to effect real change.”

“Despite another season of record-breaking heat and extreme weather, I remain hopeful in the next generation’s unwillingness to stand idle in the face of the climate crisis. The Youth Climate Commission provides an important structural pathway for new and diverse leadership to advance equitable and bold climate solutions for the Los Angeles region” said Supervisor Holly Mitchell who represents the Second District.

“Young people all across Los Angeles County are an untapped source of energy and ideas that can, and should, influence the County’s actions on climate change,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl who represents the Third District and was the co-author of the ordinance. “I encourage young people who have a commitment to reversing climate change, protecting biodiversity, and reimagining our relationship to our planet’s natural resources to consider participating on this exciting body that will help to shape LA County climate policy for years to come.”

“We are already seeing the effects of climate change, but many of my colleagues and I will be long gone when the worst impacts of the climate crisis take hold. Young people are leading a movement on this issue and they are proving better at it than the generations before who have failed them. They deserve a seat at the table in shaping our County’s climate policy and I encourage the young climate leaders across my district to apply to be a part of this commission”, said Supervisor Janice Hahn who represents the Fourth District.

“Our County is very big, so it’s important that we attract a diverse group of individuals so that we hear perspectives inclusive of different parts of our County, such as our high desert, foothill, and mountain communities,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Fifth District. “Many of these communities face a higher likelihood of being impacted by natural disasters due to climate change, such as wildfires and flooding. I highly recommend anyone who is interested to come forward and apply to join this new County Commission. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people who are both passionate about climate change and interested in public service.”

The findings of the County’s recent Climate Vulnerability Assessment, demonstrated that an estimated 56% of residents – nearly 5.7 million people — face high risk to such climate hazards as extreme heat, wildfire, inland flooding, extreme precipitation, coastal flooding, and drought. 

Low-income and communities of color face a disproportionate amount of climate vulnerability as well as limited capacity to withstand and weather future threats, the study found.

The commission’s recommendations will further the ongoing implementation of Our County Sustainability Plan, the most ambitious regional sustainability blueprint in the nation. Among its 159 action items is creating a fossil fuel-free L.A. County by 2050.

“We are committed to reflecting the diversity of our County in our new Youth Climate Commission. We invite young adults from marginalized communities, communities burdened by pollution, and beyond to co-create with us a future with healthy, sustainable communities by applying to serve as commissioners,” said Executive Officer Celia Zavala.

Application materials are available on the website and must be submitted by Sept. 15, 2022. Interested applicants must be age 18 by Oct. 1, 2022.

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Los Angeles County

2nd Recall effort against LA County District Attorney George Gascón fails 

The 520,050 valid petition signatures fell short of the 566,857 required to place the recall question on the ballot

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Screenshot/YouTube: LA DA George Gascón holding a press conference last Fall

LOS ANGELES – The second effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón was rejected Monday after the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office announced recall organizers had fallen short of the requisite validated signatures needed to qualify for the November elections ballot.

A spokesperson for Dean C. Logan, the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, said that recall organizers had submitted a total of 715,833 petition signatures, of which 195,783 of the signatures were invalid and another 45,000 were duplicate signatures. The remaining 520,050 valid petition signatures fell short of the 566,857 required to place the recall question on the ballot.

KTLA reported that organizers halted their first recall attempt last fall after they were unable to gather the necessary signatures by the end of October.

Gascón, 67, was elected in 2020 on a pledge to reform the county’s criminal justice system. Since he took office, juveniles are no longer being charged as adults, sentencing enhancements that he says lead to mass incarceration have been eliminated and cash bail for nonviolent felony offenses has ended. Misdemeanors associated with substance abuse and mental illness are also being diverted out of the criminal justice system, both KTLA and the Los Angeles Times have reported.

Gascón’s policies have provoked criticism from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, as well as officers from the Los Angeles Police Department and others from the 88 jurisdictions within the County.

Recall organizers contend that his policies favor criminal defendants and have contributed to a significant rise in crime rates reported across the County.

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