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Northern Ireland marriage equality law takes effect

Same-sex couples in UK country to begin marrying in 2020

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A law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples and decriminalizes abortion in Northern Ireland took effect on Oct. 22, 2019. (Image by Andrein via Wikimedia Commons)

A law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland took effect on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland’s Stormont Parliament has not met since the country’s coalition government collapsed in 2017. The British Parliament in July voted to force Northern Ireland to allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot and to decriminalize abortion.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014.

Ireland in 2015 became the first country in the world to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples through a popular vote. The BBC reported the first same-sex weddings in Northern Ireland are expected to take place early next year.

“Change has finally come today and we are on the way to being equal with our fellow citizens,” tweeted Belfast Pride on Tuesday. “It has taken many years of work to get this far.”

Paul Twocock, chief executive of Stonewall, a British LGBTQ advocacy group, also applauded the law.

“LGBT people in Northern Ireland have waited for too long for marriage equality and we can’t wait to see same-sex couples across Northern Ireland marrying the person they love,” said Twocock in a statement.

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Political commentary & analysis

A new study doesn’t show trans surgery “increases suicide”

A new study made the rounds claiming that transgender surgeries increase suicide. A fact check shows this assertion is egregiously false

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Los Angeles Blade/EIM graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – This weekend, multiple accounts and news stories were posted in far-right outlets claiming that a new study showed that “transgender surgeries dramatically increase the risk of suicide.”

The claim, based on a study published in a pseudoscience journal, as determined by Media Bias/Fact Check, was then amplified by leading anti-trans accounts on the Twitter platform, including Elon Musk himself. Upon further review, the article appears to have made critical errors that were quickly caught by expert researchers in the science of transgender care, including an egregious error in which the wrong control group was selected for the study.

The study, titled “Risk of Suicide and Self-Harm following Gender-Affirmation Surgery,” was published in the journal Cureus in April but was only recently discovered by anti-trans influencers. Importantly, Cureus is a journal known for pseudoscience and disinformation. A Media Bias/Fact Check review determined that the journal “may publish unverifiable information that is not always supported by evidence.”

The science journal watchdog organization Retraction Watch found that the journal “has retracted 56 papers” just two years after its inception. The journal is known for a poor-quality peer review process, and its motto is “peer review, not peer rejection.” Collectively, this increases the risk of major errors in publications from the journal.

The article looked at data from adults who had gender-affirming surgery and an emergency visit, comparing them with cisgender adults who had emergency visits. The study found that 3.5% of transgender adults who had surgery went to the emergency room for a suicide attempt, compared with 0.3% of cisgender controls.

The study concluded that those with gender-affirming surgery had a 12 times higher risk of suicide attempts than patients with no history of gender-affirming surgery. That number was then posted on social media and pasted into headlines proclaiming that gender-affirming surgery increases suicide rates.

Researchers into trans healthcare quickly noted a glaring error: the authors compared transgender people who have had surgery with cisgender people to determine that gender-affirming surgery raises suicide risks. To accurately assess whether transgender surgeries increase suicide risk, the correct control group would be transgender people who did not have surgery or, even more accurately, those who were denied surgery. It would be like judging the effectiveness of a new teaching method by comparing college students using the new method to those who never went to college, rather than to college students using the old method.

In fact, the study’s conclusions take on an entirely different light when considering what current research says about transgender suicide attempt rates. The Williams Institute released a study showing that 42% of transgender adults report having attempted suicide over their lifetimes.

The Journal of Interpersonal Violence put that number at 40%. A meta-analysis published in the Annals of General Psychiatry, which looked at 65 studies, found that the lifetime suicide attempt rate for transgender people is likely around 29%.

Even if one uses the lowest number from these studies, it is clear that transgender people who have had gender reassignment surgery actually have a 10 times lower rate of suicide attempts in this study. Of course, no causal claim can be made either way using this study because the study declined to include such a control group. If they had, one could expect very different headlines to emerge.

The comparison of transgender people who have had surgery with cisgender people rather than other transgender people is a relatively common mistake used to make incorrect claims about the effectiveness of transgender care.

Anti-transgender activists and politicians often cite, for instance, “the Swedish study” and incorrectly claim that it shows transgender care is ineffective, leading to a 19 times higher suicide rate. The study they cite, published in the journal PLOS One, used a similar control group of cisgender people. In that case, the control group selection was purposeful, used to evaluate health risks of transgender people compared to cisgender people. The author had to correct those misusing its findings, stating, “People who misuse the study always omit the fact that the study clearly states that it is not an evaluation of gender dysphoria treatment. If we look at the literature, we find that “several recent studies conclude that WPATH Standards of Care compliant treatment decreases gender dysphoria and improves mental health.”

Indeed, many studies show that transgender care saves lives and decreases suicidality. One study in the Annals of Plastic Surgery found that gender-affirming surgery “improved mental health outcomes” and “significantly reduced suicidal ideation.”

Another study in JAMA Surgery determined that suicidal ideation was lower among transgender people who had gender-affirming surgery compared to those who did not. They also found that “respondents who underwent all desired gender-affirming surgeries had significantly lower odds of past-year suicide attempts.”

Importantly, this study used the correct control group: transgender people who did not have all of their desired gender-affirming surgeries. A Cornell University review of gender affirming care looked at over 50 papers and determined that “gender transition is effective in treating gender dysphoria and can significantly improve the well-being of transgender individuals.”

Despite this, many anti-trans influencers and far-right media outlets amplified the incorrect claim that transgender surgery increases suicides. The Babylon Bee posted, “Risk of suicide increases 12x after ‘gender-affirming’ surgery … is anyone surprised?” Elon Musk then amplified the article, saying, “extremely concerning.” The post was viewed over 26 million times.

Anti-trans accounts such as Seth DillonChad Felix GreeneJonathan Kay, and Katy Faust also amplified the incorrect claim. Jordan Peterson used the study to claim that doctors were “butchers.” Far-right conservative media such as The Daily Wire and Breitbart made similar incorrect claims of increased suicide rates.

Disinformation around transgender care is easily weaponized by politicians relying on social media to justify their political decision-making processes. None of the posts about the study received any community notes on the Twitter platform, despite many being submitted to correct the error.

This is a serious failing of the Community Notes feature, which is supposed to correct misinformation. As a result, incorrect information about transgender care has been allowed to spread with little pushback, reaching tens of millions of people. Fact-checkers and those who run platforms should better protect their platforms against this kind of egregious disinformation.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Politics

HRC invests $15 million in six battleground states

“Trump has promised to not just undo all the progress made by the Biden-Harris administration; but to erase LGTBQ+ people from federal law”

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign will target a record-high 75 million pro-LGBTQ voters nationwide with a public education and mobilization campaign ahead of the 2024 elections, which includes a $15 million investment in six key battleground states, the group announced on Monday.

The initiative will focus on voters in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Nevada with “hired staff, field efforts, events, paid advertising, mobilization, and grassroots engagement,” HRC wrote in a press release announcing the campaign, which is titled “We Show Up: Equality Wins.”

HRC defines Equality Voters as constituents who are “united by the advancement of LGBTQ+ equality, and are younger, more racially diverse, and more female than the general electorate.”

Among those who would vote for third-party candidates if the election were held today — 22 percent, or 16.5 million people — survey results show half would support President Joe Biden if they reach the understanding that their third-party vote would support Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.

Along with re-electing Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, HRC’s campaign will work “to defeat escalating anti-trans attacks” and “electing historic LGBTQ+ and pro-equality candidates down-the-ballot,” the group wrote.

HRC will support LGBTQ candidates in California, Texas, New York, and Delaware with the aim of helping to elect a pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

“Trump and his MAGA allies are promising a hate-filled agenda that hurts everyone who doesn’t look and live like them,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said. “They think they can bully and scare us and take away our fundamental freedoms. But the LGBTQ+ community has won these hard fights before — and we refuse to go back.”

HRC noted “Trump has promised to not just undo all the progress made by the Biden-Harris administration; but to erase LGTBQ+ people from federal law, further dismantle access to health care for transgender people, and dictate curriculum for school children.” 

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San Diego

LGBTQ+ clubs targeted in San Diego pellet gun attacks

SDPD are investigating the multiple incidences from Saturday morning & also cannot yet confirm whether this was motivated by anti-LGBTQ hate

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Los Angeles Blade/file photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department said that multiple establishments in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods that serve LGBTQ+ patrons were targeted by an unknown suspect or suspects in a dark-colored sedan early Saturday morning.

According to the San Diego Police Dept., they received reports of a pellet gun being fired out of a vehicle just after 1 a.m. Saturday morning. As of Sunday evening, the locations police could confirm were shot by the assailant were Rich’s, The Rail, #1 on Fifth Avenue and PECS in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods.

SDPD confirmed that one of these incidents struck three people outside Rich’s Nightclub and hospitalized one.

Witnesses told San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB-TV8 it appeared to be a BMW, but police have not released an official suspect or vehicle description.  

In an interview with CBS 8, Eddie Reynoso, a host at Rich’s said that he was standing outside and turned when he heard someone yelling expletives at the patrons outside the bar. Reynoso saw what he believed to be an AK-47 and hear myriad rounds being shot off. 

He tried to crouch but it was too late. 

“I get hit directly in the eye,” he said. ” I feel something kinda like explode almost like something popped. And by then I was already falling to the ground. In my mind, I thought I just got shot through the eye and my eye just flew out.”

He said it wasn’t the first time Rich has been the target of a crime like this. And he’s confident it won’t be the last. 

A man named Abel was also hit with at least five pellets at Rich’s. He said he’s glad everyone is safe. 

“It was still scary,” he said. “It was traumatic.” 

At The Rail in Hillcrest, Donny Hurry, a security guard told CBS 8 he saw someone shooting out of the car’s back window. The suspect started shooting at him, and he ducked into the building before he realized it wasn’t a real gun. 

Hurry had been hit in the arms and back multiple times but tried to run back out to get a description of the suspect of the vehicle. 

SDPD are investigating the multiple incidences from Saturday morning, but are not specifying whether the non-lethal rounds were pellets or paintballs.

Police also cannot yet confirm whether this was motivated by anti-LGBTQ hate. 

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U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court declines Maryland anti-LGBTQ+ guidelines suit

Three parents of students in the school district outside of D.C., — none of whom have trans children — filed the lawsuit

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U.S. Supreme Court (Photo: Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender non-confirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district in suburban Maryland outside of D.C., — none of whom have trans or gender non-confirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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The Vatican

Pope: Priests can bless gays and lesbians, not same-sex unions

’60 Minutes’ broadcast Norah O’Donnell’s interview with pontiff on Sunday

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CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell, left, greets Pope Francis. ("60 Minutes" screenshot)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said priests can bless gays and lesbians who are couples, as opposed to their unions, during an interview that “60 Minutes” broadcast on Sunday.

“What I allowed was not to bless the union. That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. I cannot. The Lord made it that way. But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone,” he told CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell.

Francis spoke with O’Donnell at Casa Santa Marta, his official residence at the Vatican.

“To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the given right, against the law of the church. But to bless each person, why not?,” added Francis. “The blessing is for all. Some people were scandalized by this. But why? Everyone! Everyone!”

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith late last year released a new document that elaborates on a letter Francis sent earlier in 2023 to five cardinals who urged him to reaffirm church teaching on homosexuality. 

Francis in the letter the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith released in October 2023 suggested priests could offer blessings to same-sex couples under some circumstances “if they didn’t confuse the blessing with sacramental marriage.”

“Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God,” reads the document. “The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live.”

Francis was the archbishop of Buenos Aires when Argentina’s marriage equality law took effect in 2010. He was among those who vehemently opposed the statute before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it.

Francis has publicly endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples. He has also spoken out against laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“It is a human fact,” Francis told O’Donnell.

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013, even though church teachings on gender identity and other topics has not changed. Francis during the interview sharply criticized conservative American bishops who “oppose” his “new efforts to revisit teachings and traditions.” 

“You used an adjective, ‘conservative.’ That is, conservative is one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that. It is a suicidal attitude,” he told O’Donnell. “Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box.” 

CBS will broadcast O’Donnell’s full interview with Francis on Monday at 10 p.m. ET.

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including ILGA-Europe, Liechtenstein, Georgia, United Kingdom, Taiwan and New Zealand

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ILGA-EUROPE

An LGBTQ Rainbow flag and the flag of the European Union flying near Brussels, Belgium offices of the International Lesbian and Gay Association—Europe (ILGA-Europe) (Photo Credit: ILGA-Europe)

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The International Lesbian and Gay Association—Europe (ILGA-Europe) released its annual Rainbow Europe Map module ranking countries across the continent on the status of LGBTI rights, revealing that many countries are falling behind as political pressure from far-right politicians grows.

The report was released May 15, just a day after the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency released its own report detailing a shocking growth in violence experienced by LGBTQ people across member states over the past year.

“Across Europe, LGBTI people are being targeted by hate speech and violence and their human rights are being actively undermined, yet we still see too many countries across the region stalling in moving legal protection forward and not renewing their commitments through national strategies and action plans,” says ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel.

“This non-action is dangerous, as without proper legislation in place to protect minorities, including LGBTI people, it will be much too easy for newly elected governments to quickly undermine human rights and democracy.”

Once again, Malta held the lead in the country rankings, as it has for the past nine years, scoring 88% across ILGA-Europe’s categories of equality and nondiscrimination law, family recognition, hate crime and hate speech laws, legal gender recognition, intersex bodily integrity, civil society space, and asylum policies. 

Iceland jumped to second place with 83% after passing new laws banning conversion therapy and facilitating legal gender recognition. Belgium reached third place with 78% after banning conversion therapy.

At the other end of the spectrum, Russia (2%), Azerbaijan (2%), and Turkiye (5%) hold the bottom rankings amid ongoing crackdowns on LGBT rights and expression in all three countries. Last year, Russia banned “the LGBT movement” as an “extremist organization.”

Several countries jumped up the rankings in this year’s report, including Greece and Estonia, which both legalized same-sex marriage. Liechtenstein collected points for extending adoption rights to same-sex couples, although it did not collect points for legalizing same-sex marriage, which happened the day after the report was released.

Germany, Bulgaria, Iceland, and Slovenia all collected points for passing legislation on hate crimes and hate speech, while Belgium, Cyprus, Iceland, Norway, and Portugal all collected points for banning conversion therapy. 

But the changes haven’t all been positive. Several countries tumbled down the rankings as progress stalled on LGBTQ rights. Montenegro, Finland, Spain, Sweden, and Slovenia all lost points because their governments failed to renew action plans to promote LGBT rights. The report also noted the looming threat of right-wing governments across Europe, including in Italy where the national government has restricted the recognition of same-sex parents, and in several countries which are eying restrictions on legal gender recognition and trans health care, including France, UK, Slovakia, and Croatia. 

The UK once occupied the top spot on ILGA-Europe’s rankings, but has fallen to 15th place as other countries press ahead on LGBT rights while the UK’s Conservative government has increasingly come under the sway of an anti-trans moral panic.

LIECHTENSTEIN

Parliament of Liechtenstein building, Vaduz. (Photo Credit: Principality of Liechtenstein)

VADUZ, Liechtenstein – The Alpine microstate Liechtenstein saw its Parliament give final approval to legalizing same-sex marriage in a near-unanimous vote Wednesday.

By a vote of 24-1, Parliament approved a series of bills that would amend marriage law to allow same-sex couples to marry in the country of about 30,000 people nestled between Switzerland and Austria. The only “no” vote came from an MP from the right-wing populist Democrats for Liechtenstein party.

The new law will come into effect on Jan 1, 2025, as long as it is not vetoed by the Prince or challenged in a citizen-initiated referendum. The Prince is not expected to veto the bill, as he has previously expressed support for same-sex marriage. 

Under the new law, no new civil unions will be registered, although same-sex couples already in same-sex unions will be allowed to continue their unions. 

Liechtenstein’s Parliament had already amended the law to allow same-sex couples to adopt last year, following an order from the Constitutional Court. 

The tiny, conservative-leaning and mostly Catholic country has been slow to adopt LGBT rights. It lacks any legal protections from employment discrimination or anti-LGBT hate crimes. 

ILGA-Europe ranked Liechtenstein 33rd out of 48 states in Europe, with a score of 28% on its latest Rainbow Europe Map. This decision on marriage will likely see it rise somewhat in the rankings next year.

The Catholic Church has previously strongly rejected same-sex marriage. Last year, the country’s archbishop Wolfgang Haas had called same-sex marriage a “diabolical attack against the Creator’s will to salvation,” and cancelled a planned service for opening of parliament in protest of the law. Haas has since retired.

The decision makes Liechtenstein the last German-speaking country to legalize same-sex marriage.

In a state posted to its Facebook group, the Liechtenstein LGBT advocacy group FLay thanked the lawmakers and other supporters who helped get same-sex marriage legalized in the country. 

“We are looking forward to introducing marriage for all per 1 January 2025 and thank you to all who have fought for it,” the statement said.

Liechtenstein is the 22nd European country to introduce same-sex marriage, bringing the global total to 38 countries. A bill before the Thai senate is expected to pass before the summer, which would make it the 39th.

GEORGIA

Screenshot from DW Germany’s live-stream YouTube coverage of massive protests in the Republic of Georgia capital city of Tbilisi against actions taken by the Georgian Parliament this past week.

TBILISI, Georgia – The government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia says it is close to finalizing a new law against so-called LGBT propaganda inspired by similar laws passed in Russia and Belarus in recent years, in what critics say is an attempt to maintain power by stoking divisions on a culturally sensitive issue.

The Georgian capital of Tbilisi has been rocked by protests for weeks as the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced a controversial “Foreign Agents” bill inspired by a similar Russian law, which requires any organization that receives funding from out of the country to register with the government as “organizations serving the interests of a foreign power.” 

Critics say the bill is intended to silence and discredit media and civil society that is critical of the government.

Friday saw intense protests marked by anti-government and pro-European demonstrators marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia while anti-LGBTQ protesters, including prime minister Irakli Kobakhidze and church leaders took to the streets to mark the government’s competing “Family Purity Day,” Reuters reported.

The party had first introduced the foreign agents bill last year, but withdrew it after months of protests and condemnation from European Union countries. The government reintroduced the bill this spring, with some observers suggesting it’s an attempt to tip this October’s national elections in their favor. For weeks, protesters have attempted to halt passage of the law, but Parliament gave it final approval May 14. It was vetoed by president Salome Zurabishvili on Saturday, but the government has enough votes in parliament to override the veto.

The proposed anti-LGBTQ law would amend article 30 of the Georgian Constitution to include a host of regulations restricting LGBTQ rights. It would ban recognition of same-sex relationships, ban adoption by gay people or same-sex couples, ban medical interventions to facilitate gender change, restrict recognition of gender to that of biological sex, and ban advocacy for recognition of same-sex couples or trans people.

To pass, the bill would require at least a ¾ vote of parliament (113 votes), or a 2/3 vote (100 votes) in each of two successive parliaments. The government currently controls 84 of the 150 seats in parliament, but likely believes it can pull enough votes from the opposition to pass the constitutional law.

Critics have noted that both laws put Georgia’s application to join the European Union in jeopardy as they clearly attack the fundamental rights at the heart of the Union. But while the EU has been sharply critical of the foreign agents law, its criticism of the anti-LGBTQ law has been far more muted. 

Local activists say that the EU’s silence has been strategic, as any criticism would play into the hands of Georgian Dream, who claim that LGBTQ rights are a “pseudo-liberal ideology” advanced by a decadent West.

The timing of the bill is likely meant to further divide the opposition as protests mount against the foreign agents law. Georgian Dream has been sliding in the polls since it was returned to power in 2020, but still commands a plurality of support compared to the highly fractured opposition according to most polls. 

Georgian Dream politicians have deep ties to Russia, and have increasingly sided with Russia in international and cultural disputes, including by refusing to impose sanction against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. The support is ironic, considering that Russian forces invaded Georgia in 2008 and continues to support two unrecognized breakaway republics that resulted from that war.

On Friday, Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that he plans to introduce legislation to sanction Georgian leaders over their assault on democracy and introduce incentives for the government to reverse course.

ILGA-Europe ranked Georgia 36th out of 48 countries, with a score of just 25% on its most recent Rainbow Europe Map this week.

UNITED KINGDOM

10 Downing Street in London is the official residence and offices of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom. (Photo Credit: Government of the UK)

LONDON, UK – The Conservative government of the UK has directed schools in England to ban discussion of gender identity in schools and restrict sex education for children under age 9, in an update to statutory guidance issued to schools that is currently under review.

Although the guidance has not yet been released or put into effect, LGBTQ activists and government critics are already comparing the guidance to the notorious Thatcher-era Section 28, which banned discussion of homosexuality in all schools across the UK from 1988 until it was repealed in England and Wales in 2003 and in Scotland in 2000. 

The UK has long been in the grip of an anti-trans moral panic, fostered by segments of the ruling Conservative Party that are hostile to trans people and influential British celebrities like Harry Potter creator JK Rowling who has long campaigned against trans people’s rights.

Last week, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared on ITV’s daytime talk show Loose Women, where he complained that “gender ideology” was infiltrating UK schools. 

“Children were being exposed to lots of different things,” Sunak said. “You know, we’ve got lots of people talking to kids, they were talking about [how] you can have 72 different gender identities.”

There is no evidence that children in UK schools are being taught that there are 72 different gender identities or are being taught to engage in inappropriate behavior.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was recently reelected to a third term, blasted the government’s new policy as being harmful to the children the government claims to want to protect.

“We’ve just got to be a bit aware when we have these conversations that we’re conscious about the impact that this has on trans young people,” he said.

“Many of these people – young people – learn about these things through social media. You know, the proliferation of porn, and also the proliferation of misogynists like Andrew Tate. If we’re delaying proper, responsible teaching until later on, I worry about who’s going to be rebutting some of the nonsense on social media.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan tried to mollify critics by claiming that the new policy will not restrict discussion of adults who have undergone gender reassignment. 

“Gender reassignment” is listed as protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act, but the act does not list “gender identity” or “gender expression” as protected characteristics. 

“Let me be clear on gender ideology in schools,” Keegan said on BBC Radio 4’s Today. “The thing that we’re trying to stop is not gender reassignment. Gender reassignment is something that is a protected characteristic – that adults are allowed to reassign their gender, there’s a process that they go through for that. That is a protected characteristic, and that can be taught.

“Gender identity and ideology is something different, and this is part of probably similar campaign groups that have been building this set of materials and this ideology,” she said.

Jo Morgan, the chief executive of Engendering Change, an organization that provides sex education workshops in schools, disputed the idea that schools are teaching children to be trans.

“They are concerned that schools are becoming breeding grounds for transgenderism. There’s no evidence to support that. What we are doing as educators is saying, this is in the news, in social media, it’s everywhere – let’s unpack it together and look at what sources of information you are being exposed to, let’s talk about how this relates to the Equality Act,” Morgan told The Guardian.

ILGA-Europe ranked the UK 15th out of 48 countries with a score of just 52% on its most recent Rainbow Europe report, citing a lack of legal protections for trans people and outdated procedures for legal gender recognition. 

TAIWAN

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen with Taiwanese drag queen Nymphia Wind, winner of season 16 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. (Screenshot/YouTube Livestream)

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Outgoing Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen hosted RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Nymphia Wind at a ceremony at her presidential office May 15, in a sign of the growing acceptance of LGBT people in the Asian island nation.

The Taiwanese-American performer Nymphia Wind was crowned the winner of season 16 of RuPaul’s Drag Race in an episode that aired April 19, taking home the crown and scepter and a cash prize of $200,000. She is the first person of East Asian descent to win the long-running reality competition series. American drag artist Raja, who is of Dutch-Indonesian ancestry, was the Drag Race first winner of Asian descent after taking the crown in season 3.

Tsai had been quick to offer her congratulations to Wind, posting a message on Instagram just days after her victory. Less than a month later, Wind was in her office, where she performed a trio of songs in full drag – Lady Gaga’s “Marry the Night,” Taiwanese singer Huang Fei’s “Chase, Chase, Chase,” and Jolin Tsai’s gender equality hit “Womxnly,” which she performed with a quintet of backup dancers in drag.  

“I want to thank you for demonstrating your fearless beauty, standing up and breaking down barriers,” Tsai said to Wind after her performance, noting that her win “will bring courage to many young people in Taiwan, so they stay fearless and stay true to their hearts.”

Under Tsai’s leadership, Taiwan has become a bastion of liberal values, including progressive attitudes toward LGBTQ people. Among recent landmarks, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage and adoption, and it banned conversion therapy, and the capital Taipei hosts East Asia’s largest Pride Festival. 

“Thank you for your contributions to this country, so that I could grow up to be like this today,” Wind told Tsai after her performance. “Thank you for your eight years of dedication, becoming our Taiwan mother.”

Tsai is due to step down May 20. Her successor, Vice President Lai Ching-te, last year became the most senior government official to march in Taipei’s Pride parade.

NEW ZEALAND

Wellington Regional Hospital, Wellington, New Zealand.
(Photo Credit: Wellington Regional Hospital/Tom Ackroyd)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Activists are calling for greater access to gender-affirming surgeries after the New Zealand Medical Journal published a report of a trans teenager who attempted a self-mastectomy at home and had to be treated at hospital.

The teenager, an eighteen-year-old high school student, had reportedly watched a “how to” video on YouTube and prepared instruments for the surgery himself. He went to the hospital hours into the surgery after he became concerned that he had damaged a nerve while attempting to remove his left breast. 

Surgeons at the hospital then removed both breasts, and he was discharged a day later. The report notes that the boy reported higher confidence and self-esteem at a post-operation interview a month later. The hospital’s mental health team assessed that he did not have a psychiatric disorder and was not suicidal, but that he had attempted the surgery as an act of desperation.

“Due to the long wait times of referral in the public healthcare system, an inability to afford a private consultation and the significant psychological stress of having breasts at an upcoming pool party he planned to complete a bilateral (double) self-mastectomy at home,” wrote the report’s authors, Wellington Regional Hospital doctors Mairarangi Haimona, Sue Hui Ong and Scott Diamond.

Gender-affirming surgeries are covered by New Zealand’s healthcare system, but wait times for surgeries can be lengthy – ten years or longer for “bottom surgery” by the only doctor in the country who performs it. 

Top surgery can be accessed in the parallel private system for around NZ $15,000 (approximately US $9,200) and is generally not covered by private health insurance, putting it out of reach for many. 

Transgender people often need to self-advocate for care in the public health system, but with increasing demand and associated psychological and possible physical harm it’s crucial for public services to be more accessible to an under-served population,” the report’s authors concluded.

Self-surgery is an incredibly risky option for trans people – complications can range from scarring to infection to death. And the surgeries may not even work if the patient is taken to the hospital and patched up due to complications. 

Te Ahi Wi-Hongi, executive director of the advocacy group Gender Minorities Aotearoa, urges any trans person considering home surgery to avoid it and “hang in there.”“It might seem right now it’s completely hopeless, but we went from a 40-year waiting list for genital reconstruction surgery to 10 years or less when in 2019 the Government made changes [announcing $3 million funding for genital gender-affirming surgery],” Wi-Hongi told the New Zealand Herald.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Long Beach

41st Annual Long Beach Pride Celebration drew tens of thousands

The parade drew tens of thousands along its route on Ocean Boulevard between Lindero and Alamitos avenues in downtown Long Beach

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Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish & officers march in the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Celebration & Parade weekend kicked off on Friday with a Teen Pride celebration which was held from 5 p.m. till it ended at 9 p.m.  The theme for Pride this year was Rhythm of the Rainbow.

The Long Beach Pride festival opened at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at Rainbow Lagoon, 386 E. Shoreline Drive.

Photo Credit: California Attorney General Rob Bonta

The Pride Festival offers hundreds of arts and crafts vendors, disc jockeys, dancing, drag shows and more. Reggaeton star Ivy Queen will headline Sunday and Valentina of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” TV series will also appear.

Also on Sunday the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade, broadcast by NBC4 and Telemundo 52, drew tens of thousands along the parade route on Ocean Boulevard between Lindero and Alamitos avenues in downtown Long Beach.

Among the celebrants was California Attorney General Rob Bonta who posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Had a great time at the Long Beach Pride parade with Vice Mayor Cindy Allen.   In California, we work tirelessly to protect and defend our LGBTQ+ communities all year long—not just the month of June.”

Watch coverage of the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade from NBC4-LA here: (Link)

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

Older Adults Health Fair, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Foster Care Panel Discussion, Kings Street Design Concept Plan plus more

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Photo by Paulo Murillo

Older Adults Health Fair on Tuesday, May 21 at Plummer Park

WEST HOLLYWOOD – To celebrate Older Adults Month, the City of West Hollywood will host its 19th Annual West Hollywood Older Adults Health Fair on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Plummer Park’s Community Center, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Admission is free; no RSVP is required.

The Older Adults Health Fair is a no-cost event co-sponsored by Cedars-Sinai and Jewish Family Service LA. The event will feature health screenings, information from more than 25 health and social services community partners, vaccinations, a Human Library activity, complimentary lunch while supplies last, giveaways, and more. Local organizations will provide health and social services information, Cedars-Sinai will conduct health screenings, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will administer COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

Limited free parking is available at the Plummer Park parking lots, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain Avenue/ N. Vista Street at the north end of the park. There are also paid parking meters in the surrounding area.

The City of West Hollywood provides free transportation to Plummer Park through its Cityline service. Cityline is a friendly and accessible alternative to the larger bus system and all shuttles are ADA-accessible. Cityline operates Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and shuttles arrive approximately every 30 minutes. For additional information and a detailed route map, visit www.weho.org/cityline — route maps are also available on Cityline shuttles and at West Hollywood City Hall, located at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard.

For more information about the Older Adults Health Fair, please contact Becca Lubin, City of West Hollywood Strategic Initiatives Program Administrator, at (323) 848-6518 or at [email protected]

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The City of West Hollywood joins organizations and mental health advocates across the nation in recognizing the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to work together to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support the millions of people living with mental illness and their families.

In commemoration of the month, from Wednesday May 15, 2024 through Wednesday, May 29, 2024, West Hollywood City Hall will be lit green, the color of recognition for mental health awareness month.

Mental Health Awareness Month began in the United States in 1949 and was started by Mental Health America (MHA). Mental illness affects more than 50 million people in the United States. According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults experiences a mental health condition each year. Annually, mental illness affects; 16% of Asian adults; 21% of Black/African American adults; 18% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults; 21% of Hispanic adults; 27% of American Indian/Alaska Native adults; 24% of White adults; 35% of multiracial adults and 50% of LGBTQ adults.

The impacts of mental health challenges are significant among youth. One in six U.S. youth experiences a mental health condition each year, and only half of them receive treatment. Data also shows that mental health treatment, i.e. therapy, medication and selfcare has made recovery a reality for most people from mental illness.  People receiving treatment in a given year are 47% of adults with mental illness, 65% of adults with severe mental illness and 51% of youth (6-17) with a mental health condition. Last year 56% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults with a mental health diagnosis received treatment or counseling.

Mental Health Action Day was founded to shift mental health culture from awareness to action. Now in its fourth year, this global movement is powered by a growing coalition of more than 2,300 nonprofits, leading brands, government agencies, and cultural leaders that spread the message that, just like our physical health, we can take actions to improve our mental health.  This year’s call to action is to dedicate one hour to social connection. For more information about how to participate in Mental Health Action Day go to www.mentalhealthaction.network

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, connect to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24/7 by calling or texting 988 or connect to emergency community services by calling 211. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. 

 Those in need of mental health support or connections should reach out to the following resources for assistance:

  • APLA Health – West Hollywood provides individual and group therapy sessions to assist with a variety of concerns including depression, anxiety, grief, and trauma. Contact (213) 201-1369 or visit https://aplahealth.org/
  • Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services provides counseling, psychiatric services, medication support and substance abuse programs at various sites. Contact the 24/7 Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255 or (888) 807-7259 or visit www.didihirsch.org.
  • Jewish Family Services Comprehensive Service Center provides social services programming for seniors and people with disabilities that includes counseling, psychiatry, and case management. Contact (323) 851-8202
    or visit www.jfsla.org.
  • Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) directly operates more than 80 programs and contracts with more than 700 providers who provide a spectrum of mental health services to people of all ages.  Contact the 24/7 Help Line at (800) 854-7771, or text “LA” to 741741 to be connected to a crisis counselor via text message, or visit https://dmh.lacounty.gov/.
  • Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Mental Health Services team provides counseling, group support, addiction recovery, and psychiatry services for LGBT and non-LGBT individuals for issues including depression, anxiety, domestic violence/intimate partner violence, and substance use. Contact (323) 993-7669 or visit www.lalgbtcenter.org
  • Maple Counseling provides free and low-cost comprehensive mental health services to individuals of all ages, couples, and families. Contact (310) 271-9999 or visit www.maple4counseling.org
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  provides free education, support, and advocacy. The NAMI Westside Los Angeles Chapter can be reached by contacting (310) 889-7200 or visiting www.namila.org
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) website at www.ncadv.org offers comprehensive and inclusive information for all about warning signs of domestic and intimate partner violence and abuse, including psychological abuse, and how to get help. NCADV runs the National Domestic Violence Hotline website at www.thehotline.org, which offers immediate help to everyone  24/7/365 via the “chat now” button on the website or by calling (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or texting LOVEIS to 22522, and for people who are Deaf/hard of hearing: (855) 812-1011 (VP) or (800) 787-3224 (TTY).
  • Saban Community Clinic provides individual therapy and support groups for stress, anxiety, and more to help develop practical coping skills. Contact (323) 653-1990 or visit www.sabancommunityclinic.org.
  • The Trevor Project provides confidential and free crisis counseling, information & support to LGBTQ young people 24/7, all year round. Contact (866) 488-7386, or text 678-678, or via online chat at www.thetrevorproject.org.

The City of West Hollywood’s Human Services Division website area provides information about available local mental health services and resources at https://www.weho.org/services/human-services/mental-health or contact staff at (323) 848-6510. 

The City of West Hollywood’s Recreation Services Division provides information about quality leisure service experiences that promote health and wellness at https://www.weho.org/community/recreation-services including the City’s Be Well WeHo program designed to support physical and mental health at any age.

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, please contact Larissa Fooks, the City of West Hollywood’s Community Programs Coordinator, at (323) 848-6413 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood will Host a Foster Care Panel Discussion

The City of West Hollywood will host a free panel discussion that will focus on the effective practices and challenges within the foster care system and the transformative power and compassion of fostering.

The panel discussion will take place on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. at the City of West Hollywood’s Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. It aims to bring further awareness to issues impacting foster youth during May, which is National Foster Care Awareness Month. The panel will bring together diverse perspectives including professionals who work to support the foster youth population in various capacities.  

The discussion will be moderated by Dawn McCoy, a children’s advocate and founder of the Loving Way Foundation. The Loving Way Foundation’s mission is focused on ending child abuse through advocacy, awareness, and visibility while bettering the lives of impacted children.

Panelists will include:

  • Bonnie Sharpe, Director of Programs at Extraordinary Families, whose mission is to help children and youth in foster care to have the childhoods and futures they rightfully deserve.
  • Mario Gonzalez, Academic Services Manager at Foster Love whose mission is to improve the lives of children in foster care by providing essential resources and educational opportunities.
  • Jody Giles, Director of Philanthropy at Catalyst Family Office, an organization that supports philanthropic endeavors to help drive meaningful change. 
  • Nova Bright-Williams, Head of Internal Training, Learning & Development, at The Trevor Project whose mission is to provide lifesaving and life-affirming services to LGBTQ young people.
  • Shiré Wortham, Social Worker at Alliance for Children’s Rights whose mission is to protect the rights of children in poverty and those overcoming abuse and neglect by delivering free legal services, supportive programs, and systemic solutions.

May marks National Foster Care Month, a pivotal time to raise awareness regarding the needs of more than 391,000 children and young individuals within foster care. The month is a time to raise awareness of issues related to foster care and acknowledge the parents, family members, foster parents, child welfare, and related professionals, mentors, policymakers, and other community members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.

National Foster Care Month is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the overrepresentation of LGBTQ youth in child welfare, 30% of whom identify as LGBTQ. LGBTQ youth who face family rejection and maltreatment are often forced out of their homes, or will run away, become homeless, or enter the foster care system.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Del Toro, the City of West Hollywood’s Community and Legislative Affairs Supervisor, at (323) 848-6549 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood will Kick Off WeHo Pride Season Beginning on May 22, Harvey Milk Day

Each year, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the artistic contributions of the LGBTQ community by kicking off WeHo Pride season with an annual Harvey Milk Day event.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 6 p.m. Pride Starts Here with the second annual José Sarria Drag Pageant. The event is organized by the City of West Hollywood and West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle and is co-sponsored by the Imperial Court and by Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, Third District. It will take place at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center Respite Deck, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Library. The event is free to attend; advance RSVPs are requested at https://HarveyMilk2024.eventbrite.com.

José Sarria was the first openly gay person to run for office in the United States, helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office, was a well-known drag performer under the name the Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System, which is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ organizations in the world. The Drag Pageant competition will be hosted by West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle, and several drag icons will be honored. Judges will include Queen Mother Karina Samala and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court, Landon Cider, Anil Patel, Nyx, and Kyra Jete. 

In addition to the Drag Pageant, the event will include a voter registration table, a Harvey Milk photo opportunity, and typewriter poetry provided by Pride Poets. Pride Poets is a cohort of LGBTQ poets who create custom poetry for the public on typewriters. Pride Poets was founded by former West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the City’s LGBTQ Arts Festival in 2019. The participation of Pride Poets in this event is funded by a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world traditionally make West Hollywood their regular destination during Pride season.

WeHo Pride Weekend will take place from Friday, May 31, 2024 to Sunday, June 2, 2024 and, in addition to the WeHo Pride Parade, will include the free WeHo Pride Street Fair; WeHo Pride Presents Friday Night at OUTLOUD; the OUTLOUD Music Festival; the Women’s Freedom Festival; the Dyke March; and more. The WeHo Pride Arts Festival will take place from Friday, June 14, 2024 to Sunday, June 16, 2024. WeHo Pride celebrations will include a diverse array of LGBTQ community group programming from May 22 to June 30 as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors and the City’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Drag Laureate, Drag Story Hour, Human Rights Speakers Series and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival Weekend. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts

Additional information about WeHo Pride 2024 is posted at www.wehopride.com. OUTLOUD Music Festival information is posted at www.weareoutloud.com. Follow @wehopride on  Instagram and Facebook and follow @officiallyoutloud on Instagram and Facebook. Sign up for WeHo Pride text updates by texting “Pride” to (323) 848-5000.

Since its incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation.

More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and four of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly 40 years for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard of efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level. #WeHoPride @WeHoCity

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s José Sarria Drag Pageant on Harvey Milk Day or about the WeHo Pride Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator, Mike Che, at (323) 848-6377 or at [email protected] or visit www.wehopride.com/artsfestival.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

‘Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings Street Design Concept Plan’ Informational Open House at Plummer Park on May 21

The City of West Hollywood invites community members to attend an upcoming Informational Open House to learn more about the Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings Street Design Concept Plan. The purpose of this in-person open house is to provide community members with detailed information regarding the Street Design Concept Plan and share an overview of the project’s steps taken to-date and next steps, moving forward.

The Informational Open House will take place on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, at 6 p.m. at the Plummer Park Community Center in Rooms 1 and 2, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Drop-in; no advance RSVP is needed. Light refreshments will be served. 

The City of West Hollywood’s mobility projects are guided by the adopted Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan, which advocates for comfortable, safe, healthy, and convenient places to walk and bicycle in the context of a balanced, multimodal transportation network serving pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists of all ages and abilities. 

The Street Design Concept Plan was identified as a priority project in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan, and it launched in 2019. The project’s primary objective is to enhance the neighborhood and protect the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists through strategic street improvements across the corridor. This comprehensive streetscape initiative aims to create safer, more accessible routes for walking and biking while effectively reducing cut-through traffic. By transforming Kings Road and Vista/Gardner Streets into key connecting corridors, the Street Design Concept Plan facilitates a seamless link between residential and commercial areas and east-west routes like Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain Avenue. This connectivity not only supports a healthier, more active community but also promotes environmental sustainability and enriches local quality of life.

The Street Design Concept Plan is the first project stage in the development of the Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings Street Design Capital Improvement Project. With the recent approval of the Street Design Concept Plan by the West Hollywood City Council, the Plan now moves forward to the Design & Engineering Phase, where concepts will be developed in much more detail. This includes the development and incorporation of detailed engineering plans, specifications, and cost estimates that will serve as the blueprint for project construction. The next stage of the project will determine the feasibility of the conceptual project elements from the Street Design Concept Plan and allow for additional insight into any refinements that may need to be incorporated into the project’s final design. 

The Community Engagement and Plan Development Process to date has included: 

  • The Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings project was identified in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan adopted in 2017, and outreach on the Concept Plan for these streets began with a visioning workshop in Summer 2019. 
  • The project was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, but in August 2022 the City hosted two community virtual workshops. Feedback and survey responses guided recommendations.
  • In 2022, demonstration projects were installed along Willoughby as an alternative way to share ideas and provide community input.
  • In addition to the community workshops, staff also met with residents to share information about the project. City staff attended multiple update meetings with the City of Los Angeles, including Council District 5 and the Mid-City West Neighborhood Council. 
  • As part of the demonstration project and community workshops in 2022, Here LA and the City’s WeHoTV collaborated to put together an engagement video to help community members envision potential street changes and improvements.
  • In April 2023, based on feedback from the community, City staff finalized the report and recommendations to include protected bike lanes along Vista/Gardner, except for the two blocks between Fountain and Lexington, which were excluded due to the potential loss of parking along this segment.
  • Staff presented these recommendations to the Transportation & Mobility Commission in June 2023, and the Commission expressed its support.
  • In November 2023, the West Hollywood City Council directed staff to develop a policy to include protected bike lanes on all roadway projects. Following this directive, staff developed a protected bike lane option for Gardner between Fountain and Lexington.
  • In March 2024, staff presented the Street Design Concept Plan to the West Hollywood City Council with two options for Gardner between Fountain and Lexington, including one with the addition of protected bike lanes.

The City of West Hollywood will be providing additional community outreach opportunities, moving forward, to refine concepts as part of the upcoming Design & Engineering Phase. In particular, the City will be looking for ways to address issues of concern, including minimizing impacts to on-street parking.

For additional information about the Street Design Concept Plan, please visit the Engage WeHo information and feedback page, which is located at https://engage.weho.org/willoughby

For more information, please contact Bob Cheung, City of West Hollywood Senior Transportation Planner, at (323) 848-6346 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

******************************************************************************************

For up-to-date information about City of West Hollywood news and events, follow @wehocity on social media, sign-up for news updates at www.weho.org/email, and visit the City’s calendar of meetings and events at www.weho.org/calendar.  West Hollywood City Hall is open for walk-in services at public counters or by appointment by visiting www.weho.org/appointments.  City Hall services are accessible by phone at (323) 848-6400 and via website at www.weho.org.  Receive text updates by texting “WeHo” to (323) 848-5000.

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West Hollywood

WeHo will kick off 2024 Pride Season on May 22, Harvey Milk Day

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the nation

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Los Angeles Blade/City of West Hollywood graphic

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Each year, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the artistic contributions of the LGBTQ community by kicking off WeHo Pride season with an annual Harvey Milk Day event.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 6 p.m. Pride Starts Here with the second annual José Sarria Drag Pageant. The event is organized by the City of West Hollywood and West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle and is co-sponsored by the Imperial Court and by Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, Third District.

It will take place at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center Respite Deck, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Library. The event is free to attend; advance RSVPs are requested at https://HarveyMilk2024.eventbrite.com.

José Sarria was the first openly gay person to run for office in the United States, helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office, was a well-known drag performer under the name the Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System, which is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ organizations in the world.

The Drag Pageant competition will be hosted by West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle, and several drag icons will be honored. Judges will include Queen Mother Karina Samala and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court, Landon Cider, Anil Patel, Nyx, and Kyra Jete. 

In addition to the Drag Pageant, the event will include a voter registration table, a Harvey Milk photo opportunity, and typewriter poetry provided by Pride Poets. Pride Poets is a cohort of LGBTQ poets who create custom poetry for the public on typewriters. Pride Poets was founded by former West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the City’s LGBTQ Arts Festival in 2019. The participation of Pride Poets in this event is funded by a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world traditionally make West Hollywood their regular destination during Pride season.

WeHo Pride Weekend will take place from Friday, May 31, 2024 to Sunday, June 2, 2024 and, in addition to the WeHo Pride Parade, will include the free WeHo Pride Street Fair; WeHo Pride Presents Friday Night at OUTLOUD; the OUTLOUD Music Festival; the Women’s Freedom Festival; the Dyke March; and more.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival will take place from Friday, June 14, 2024 to Sunday, June 16, 2024. WeHo Pride celebrations will include a diverse array of LGBTQ community group programming from May 22 to June 30 as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors and the City’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Drag Laureate, Drag Story Hour, Human Rights Speakers Series and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival Weekend.

For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts

Additional information about WeHo Pride 2024 is posted at www.wehopride.com.

OUTLOUD Music Festival information is posted at www.weareoutloud.com. Follow @wehopride on  Instagram and Facebook and follow @officiallyoutloud on Instagram and Facebook.

Sign up for WeHo Pride text updates by texting “Pride” to (323) 848-5000.

Since its incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation.

More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and four of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly 40 years for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard of efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level. #WeHoPride @WeHoCity

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s José Sarria Drag Pageant on Harvey Milk Day or about the WeHo Pride Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator, Mike Che, at (323) 848-6377 or at [email protected] or visit www.wehopride.com/artsfestival.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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Montana

ACLU asks court: Stop Montana state agencies harming trans folks

ACLU argues the rule violates the right to privacy, which the Montana Constitution says is “essential to the well-being of a free society”

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Lewis and Clark County District Courthouse 228 E Broadway Street, Helena, Mont. (Photo Credit: Lewis and Clark County/Montana BW)

By Keila Szpaller | HELENA, Mont. – People who are transgender need to be able to amend their birth certificates and driver’s licenses without interference from the state of Montana, plaintiffs in a lawsuit argued this week in a request for a preliminary injunction.

So the Lewis and Clark County District Court should block the Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice from unconstitutionally preventing them, the plaintiffs said.

The status quo not only violates the constitutional rights of transgender Montanans, it causes harm, said the motion filed Thursday.

“Uncorrected identity documents serve as constant reminders that one’s identity is perceived by society and the government as ‘illegitimate,’” said the ACLU Montana in the filing.

The result can exacerbate gender dysphoria — a serious medical condition associated with incongruity between assigned sex and gender identity — and cause psychiatric disorders and even the risk of suicide, the plaintiffs said.

On the other hand, The World Professional Association for Transgender Health states that “changing the sex designation on identity documents greatly helps alleviate gender dysphoria,” the filing said.

Last month, the ACLU Montana filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jessica Kalarchik, Jane Doe, and “all others similarly situated” alleging Gov. Greg Gianforte, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice are violating the constitutional rights of transgender people.

The plaintiffs argue people who are transgender used to be able to amend their birth certificates without issue and without negative consequences to the state.

However, a 2022 rule through the health department, a new Motor Vehicle Department practice through the DOJ, and Senate Bill 458 treat them differently than cisgender people — whose gender identity corresponds to their assigned sex — and infringes on their rights.

“The 2022 Rule, the new MVD policy and practice, and SB 458 are solutions in search of a problem,” the plaintiffs said.

A spokesperson for Gianforte earlier said the governor stands by the bill he signed in 2023 “that brings the long-recognized, commonsense, immutable biologically-based definition of sex — male and female — into our state laws.”

The state health department earlier said it does not typically comment on pending litigation. The Department of Justice earlier denied the MVD had changed its policy on updating a sex designation on a driver’s license.

This week, the plaintiffs asked the court for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the rule, practice and law, citing infringement of their constitutionally protected rights.

They also asked the court to certify the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of all Montanans who are transgender and need to change their birth certificates and driver’s licenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of New York and Nixon Peabody of Chicago also are representing plaintiffs, pending approval from the court.

DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton and Attorney General Austin Knudsen also are sued as heads of state agencies.

Different law, same fight

Starting in 2017, people who were transgender could change their sex designations by submitting an affidavit to the health department.

In 2021, the Montana Legislature adopted Senate Bill 280, which restricted the ability of people who are transgender to change their birth certificates. But in a separate lawsuit, the court temporarily halted the law and ordered the health department to use the 2017 process instead.

“DPHHS pointed to no adverse consequence of having had to revert to the 2017 procedure,” said the filing this week.

The district court permanently enjoined SB 280 in 2023 and also found DPHHS to be in contempt for “openly and repeatedly defying” its order.

In February 2024, however, the state health department said it wouldn’t amend birth certificates based on gender identity, but only to correct errors, citing an administrative rule from 2022 and its alignment with Senate Bill 458.

Signed by Gianforte in 2023, SB 458 states that “there are exactly two sexes, male and female … (and) the sexes are determined … without regard to an individual’s psychological, behavioral, social, chosen or subjective experience of gender.”

The DOJ took action this year as well, ending the prior practice at the MVD of allowing changes to sex based on a letter from a doctor stating the person was changing or had changed their gender, according to the court filing.

“Instead, without following any notice-and-comment procedure, the DOJ and Attorney General Austin Knudsen adopted a new policy and practice that the MVD would only issue an amended driver’s license with a sex designation consistent with a person’s gender identity, rather than their assigned sex at birth, if the person provided an amended birth certificate — which the 2022 Rule prohibits transgender people from obtaining,” said the filing.

Constitutional rights violated, plaintiffs allege

The plaintiffs argue the changes violate multiple constitutional rights.

They violate their right to equal protection because the health department and MVD “single out transgender people for different and less favorable treatment vis-a-vis cisgender people,” the filing said.

The rule and practice also don’t serve a compelling state interest, the plaintiffs said.

In fact, 45 other states allow transgender people to amend their sex markers on their birth certificates, and 38 allow them to change the same on their driver’s licenses without an amended birth certificate, the filing said.

“Many of these states have allowed these changes to birth certificates and driver’s licenses for years without any widespread problems with the ability of those states to maintain ‘accurate vital statistics,’” the filing said.

They noted Montana was in the same boat earlier, making changes at the health department “without incident” from 2017 until the 2021 law was adopted.

The plaintiffs also argue that the rule, MVD practice and law violate the right to privacy, which the Montana Constitution says is “essential to the well-being of a free society.”

The state says that right shall not be infringed without a compelling state interest,” and the plaintiffs note the state affords even broader privacy protections than the federal constitution.

And they said health information is personal, sensitive and private.

“The mental and emotional toll of being forced, against one’s will, to publicly share personal information related to one’s transgender status is both humiliating and degrading,” the plaintiffs said.

If transgender people can’t change their birth certificates, they’re forced to reveal their transgender status every time they’re required to show those documents, the plaintiffs said.

“This forced ‘outing’ has serious adverse psychological effects and health consequences and often results in outright hostility toward transgender people,” said the court filing.

“Conversely, transgender people whose identity documents are consistent with the way they present themselves to the public experience better mental health and less mistreatment.”

The plaintiffs cited a study that said transgender people who changed their sex designation on documents were 35% less likely to have experienced related mistreatment than those who hadn’t made the changes.

“Other studies have shown that accurate identity documents promote economic benefits, including higher rates of employment and increased income,” the plaintiffs said.

They noted nearly one-third of transender people fall below the poverty line and the same number have experienced homelessness.

The state also is forcing people who are transgender to “express or embrace a viewpoint to which they disagree,” in violation of the right to be free from compelled speech, the plaintiffs allege.

Rather, transgender people are forced to carry and present identity documents with a sex designation that conflicts with what they know their sex to be and one that forces them to “disseminate the state’s view of their sex,” the plaintiffs argue.

The rule, policy and law are also “scientifically incorrect,” said the court filing.

“They ignore the existence of multiple genes involved in sex differentiation; the breadth of the endocrine system, which has multiple organs with multiple functions; and growing research documenting that gender identity is biologically based,” the plaintiffs said.

Class certification request

The plaintiffs also propose a class that includes all transgender people in Montana who want to change sex designations on their birth certificates or driver’s licenses.

Citing a study, the filing estimates roughly 0.41% of Montanans over 18 identify as transgender, or more than 3,400, and an estimated 49% don’t have documents that reflect the sex to which they identify, or some 1,700.

It said a class action case would account for the high number of potential plaintiffs, their geographic dispersion in a state such as Montana, the resources of the court, the resources of individual class members, and their vulnerability to threats of violence.

“Proceeding as a class diminishes the salience of such threats to any individual class member, as there is both safety in numbers and relative anonymity for class members,” said the request for class certification.

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Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Daily Montanan and is republished with permission.

The Daily Montanan is a nonprofit, nonpartisan source for trusted news, commentary and insight into statewide policy and politics beneath the Big Sky.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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