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Trans March on DC called ‘first major step’ in visibility campaign

Participants march past Justice Department, Trump International Hotel

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A rally was held at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. before the National Transgender Visibility March on Sept. 28, 2019. (Blade photo by Michael Key

WASHINGTON— Organizers and observers said between 1,500 and 3,000 people turned out on Saturday for the first ever National Transgender Visibility March on Washington in which scores of participants held signs proudly declaring their status as transgender or gender nonconforming Americans.

The march kicked off at 11:35 a.m. on Sept. 28 from Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. following the completion of a two-and-a-half hour rally. It traveled along Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., from 13th to 4th Streets, where the march ended four blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Among the speakers at the rally was trans actress of “Pose” and “American Horror Story” fame Angelica Ross, who made an impassioned call for unity, inclusiveness and compassion within the transgender and overall LGBT rights movements and those movements’ allies.

Angelica Ross (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Also expressing strong support at the rally for the march and trans rights were D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Reid read an official proclamation issued by the mayor declaring Sept. 28, 2019, Trans Visibility Day in D.C.

Many of the marchers carried signs saying, “Trans Lives Matter.” Several told the Washington Blade they were moved and inspired as they walked past the buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue that they said symbolize the people and the institutions they are calling on to change to ensure their equal rights and dignity.

Among the buildings the marchers walked past were the FBI Headquarters, the Trump International Hotel, and the Justice Department, which, under the administration of President Trump, has taken positions against transg rights in pending federal court cases.

“This is amazing,” said trans activist Maggie Downs, who said she traveled from Florida to attend the march. “I’m here for black trans lives and trans children’s lives, and then my own rights,” she said as she walked past the Trump hotel.

“We’re here not to be invisible, which is what this administration is trying to do to us,” she told the Blade.

Marty Drake, an official with the Montgomery County Pride Center who marched with the group Maryland Trans Unity, said this was not the first time he has walked past the Trump hotel in a protest march.

“It’s always a treat going by the Trump hotel in any march,” he said. “This group was very polite. The shouts of ‘shame, shame, shame,’ were a lot politer than some of the other marches I’ve been at,” he said. “It was remarkable that a lot of people simply waved at the Trump Hotel.”

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Several speakers at the rally, including Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director at the D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality, said an important objective of the trans rights movement is securing passage by Congress of the Equality Act, an LGBT civil rights bill that includes strong protections for trans people.

“Today’s march is about the power and visibility to get us equality,” he said. “At a lightening pace, Americans have seen our power at work as transgender people have moved from a side issue that our neighbors didn’t even know a lot about to a priority in the halls of power and the presidential campaign,” he told the rally.

“A community long forced into the darkness is now finally stepping into the daylight,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “But what the grassroots organizers of this march and what you know is that progress for any of us is not enough unless it is progress for all of us.”

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights groups, described as a crisis the large number of murders of mostly black trans women over the past several years in the U.S.

“As we gather here in the capital of the greatest country on earth there is a crisis raging across our country,” David, a long time civil rights attorney, told the rally. “There is a crisis that is shattering dreams and shattering lives. There is a crisis that has been largely overlooked by the media,” he said.

“It is a crisis that has taken the lives of more than 150 transgender people in the past five years, most of them black transgender women,” he continued. “It is a crisis that none of us can ignore anymore. We have to stand up. We have to speak out,” he said.

“For those of us who are gay or are lesbian or bisexual or queer or who are straight, we have to stand up for the transgender community, said David. “We have to stand up for the transgender community and stand up for them as if they are our family because you are our families.”

As in all protest marches in the nation’s capital, D.C. police have a policy of not releasing estimates of the number of people who turn out for such events. In the case of Saturday’s Trans Visibility March, although no official crowd estimate was released, it was clear to observers that the march was about three and a half blocks long as it traveled along Pennsylvania Avenue in the east bound lanes, which make up half the width of the famous street.

D.C. police closed the entire section of Pennsylvania Avenue between 13 and 4th Streets, where the march ended and many marches gathered at John Marshall Park, a small park located at 4th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue between the Canadian Embassy and the U.S. District Courthouse.

Among those walking in the rear of the march were members of the D.C. Police LGBT Liaison Unit. Also helping to oversee the police escort of the march and the closing of nearby streets was Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the police liaison units.

“It was a sizable crowd,” Parson told the Blade. “And it was cooperative and it was well organized and we were proud to be there to provide safety and security,” said Parson, who noted that the entire march and rally went off without incident or any safety related problems.

Among the buildings the march passed near the end of its route on Pennsylvania Avenue were the Newseum, which currently includes an LGBT exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. People standing in front both buildings waved at and cheered marchers as they passed in front of the two buildings.

The National Trans Visibility March passes the Newseum. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I think it was fantastic,” said Lucky Alexander, the assistant national strategy director for the National Trans Visibility March, as he stood in John Marshall Park following the march. “We got a lot of diversity in the crowd. We didn’t have any hiccups as far as any counter protesters,” he said. “I think we did a fantastic job.”

Added Alexander, who traveled to D.C. from Los Angeles: “I would estimate 3,000 people at least and give or take maybe more than that” attended the march and rally.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Longtime D.C. trans activist Dee Curry called the march a highly successful “first step” in what she noted are plans for an annual trans march on Washington, including one next year in the midst of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

“This is an amazing start to a movement,” said Curry, standing at John Marshall Park, named after the first U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, where the marched ended. “I think that the numbers reflect that there is a consensus that we need to step up and do some things,” she said. “And I think this will be a catalyst so this will be much bigger next year.”

Other speakers at the rally included trans activist Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of the Trans [email protected] Coalition; Jodie Patterson, chair of the HRC board of directors; Justin Nelson, president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce; Carter Brown, founder and executive director of Black Trans Men, Inc.; and trans activists Apyphanie Dawn and Lynn Morrison.

D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd, who was scheduled to speak, had to cancel due to illness, according to Alexander-Reid.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Blade will be publishing soon the text of excerpts from most of the speakers at the rally.

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The White House

White House, Don’t Say Gay law: “This is discrimination, plain and simple”

“State officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves”

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (The White House)

WASHINGTON – The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement Friday as Florida’s notorious ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law took effect, saying “[…] state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.”

President Biden also tweeted about the law prior to leaving for Camp David to spend the July 4th holiday weekend, calling the law “the latest attempt by Republicans in state houses to target LGBTQI+ students, teachers, and families.”

In her statement, Jean-Pierre said:

“Today, some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free. As the state’s shameful “Don’t Say Gay” law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.

“Already, there have been reports that “Safe Space” stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives—cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.

“This is not an issue of “parents’ rights.” This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points.

“It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.

“President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom.

“The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country.”

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Florida

Florida county’s school policy critics say “essentially targets LGBTQ+ kids”

“Sending out a parent notification could be seen as placing a target on a student’s back,” said Lauren Kelly-Manders, a Tallahassee resident

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Screenshot/YouTube students in a classroom generic news coverage

TALLAHASSEE – The Leon County School Board this week unanimously approved its “LGBTQ Inclusive School Guide” after a rancorous and at times heated debate Tuesday. At the heart of the new policy are guidelines that critics charge will harm LGBTQ+ youth in the school system.

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported what drew the most debate was a provision that a school will notify parents — by form — if a student who is “open about their gender identity” is in a physical education class or on an overnight trip. 

Some teachers and students during the Tuesday night meeting said the policy will “out” LGBTQ+ students — revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity without their permission. 

While the policy language does explicitly say a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression “should not be shared with others without their input and permission,”  advocacy groups and activists claim that in “real world” application the policy’s danger to Outing LGBTQ+ kids remains regardless.

Los Angeles-based writer and actor Benjamin Siemon took to Twitter angrily noting that the policy “essentially paints these children as sex offenders that require warnings.”

Supporters of the school board’s new policy included the Leon County chapter of Mom’s for Liberty, a national far-right anti-LGBTQ+ activist group which has sought to ban LGBTQ+ books and curriculum nationwide. But the sticking point for the group is the provision doesn’t go far enough.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Sharyn Kerwin, head of the Leon County chapter of Mom’s for Liberty and who also served on the advisory committee to the School board as it crafted the new policy, told board members and the audience Tuesday: “Any attempt to withhold information from a parent or try to influence a child in a knowing way is against Florida law.”

Kerwin and other parents argued that the Parental Rights in Education bill, HB 1557, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law requires school administrators to notify parents and many in the audience Tuesday citing biblical verses maintained discussions about sexual orientation have no place in schools.

Opponents charge that this policy will effectively weaponize bigotry and target LGBTQ+ kids, especially trans youth.

Critics of the notification policy say the district’s language is equating “gender identity” with LGBTQ sexuality. They note that even someone who is “straight” expresses themselves via their clothing choices or appearance and can be “open about their gender identity,” the Tallahassee Democrat noted.

“Sending out a parent notification could be seen as placing a target on a student’s back,” said Lauren Kelly-Manders, a Tallahassee resident. 

In the end, even with the policy approved, none were happy with the outcome as one side claiming not enough consideration was given to parental rights and opponents charging this will simply increase bullying of LGBTQ+ kids.

“Normally when we have something on the agenda, we have a group that’s for, and a group that’s against,” school board Vice Chair Alva Striplin noted adding, “Well, tonight we had everyone against.”

The school board voted to approve the guide unanimously 4-0.  According to the Tallahassee Democrat school board members will schedule another meeting to revisit the guide in six months to adjust the policy if needed. 

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The White House

White House announces 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be presented to those named at the White House on July 7, 2022

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Megan Rapinoe, an Out Olympic gold medalist is among those named ((Screenshot/YouTube via U.S. Soccer )

WASHINGTON – The White House today released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor,  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the Out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ+ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

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