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It’s Biden vs. Sanders for the nomination

Who can best help down-ballot Democrats?



Super Tuesday, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The fight for the Democratic nomination is now set: Joe Biden vs. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Contrary to Sanders’s view, it is not a fight over who is more progressive, rather it is a fight over big promises that might never be kept and a more rational progressive way to move us forward and recover from four years of chaos under Donald Trump.

The fight is also over which nominee will help down-ballot Democrats the most. Who can help the members of the House of Representatives in swing districts keep their seats? Who can help Democratic United States Senate candidates in purple states win their races to rid us of ‘Moscow Mitch?’ There are hundreds of bills passed by the current Democratic House waiting to be passed again, this time with a Senate that will also pass them and send them on to a Democratic president who will sign them into law. So the nominee must be the person who can best make that happen.

Both candidates are flawed yet both are better than the sexist, racist, homophobic pig in the White House. But from here through Milwaukee where Democrats choose their candidate let’s not continue to say “blue no matter who” and sit back on our hands. Instead let’s decide that yes blue but know who it is matters. Many including me don’t like that the two potential nominees are old white men. But then so is the president so we need to deal with it. One way to do that is have the nominee select a younger woman of color as a running mate.

It is amazing to me that young people so enthusiastically support a nearly 80-year-old white man who just had a heart attack on the campaign trail. They clearly believe his promises of free healthcare, free college, forgiving their college debt and in essence having government provide for all of them regardless of their own or their parent’s economic circumstance.

What they overlook is that Sanders won’t be able to do most of that even if elected president, as no president can wave a magic wand and get things done. Just look at the failures of Trump who was elected because he promised to open the coal mines, reopen factories, build a wall on our southern border and a host of other things he has not been able to do. His voters fell for his promises in the same way so many young people are falling for Sanders’s promises.

If the young people supporting Bernie would take a moment to look at his 30-year record in Congress they would know the word compromise is not in his vocabulary. That is not a positive trait and has resulted in his never being able to pass any major legislation. He has never introduced legislation to move forward equality for women, the LGBTQ community, African Americans or any minority.

Biden has made mistakes but has a record of moving us forward. He was wrong on Anita Hill and was wrong on the Iraq War. What he did right was be an early fighter for taking big money out of politics and climate control. He passed the Violence Against Women Act and took on the National Rifle Association, winning twice. First with passage of the Brady background check bill, and then with the passage of bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

So Super Tuesday is now history. We move forward with a two-man race: Biden vs. Sanders. So far, 38 percent of the delegates have been awarded and no one is near the 1,991 needed to become the nominee. Next we should see Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg, both with no chance of being the nominee, do the smart thing and drop out.


Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.



Why LGBTQs Must Fight to Save Democracy 

This is essential for LGBTQ folks: We are still considered an “issue,” not an intersectional minority that deserves equality



Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The great Maya Angelou once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

So why do so many people shrug off Donald Trump’s dangerous proclamations of near divinity and absolute immunity from the rule of law? 

Recently, in response to an avalanche of reports about his “authoritarian bent” and dire warnings of an “increasingly inevitable” Trump dictatorship in a second term, Trump – who’s already been convicted of fraud in a New York civil lawsuit and faces up to 91 charges in four significant criminal cases –  told Fox’s Sean Hannity that he won’t be a dictator, except on Day One. 

“I love this guy,” Trump said. “He says, ‘You’re not going to be a dictator, are you?’ I said: ‘No, no, no, other than Day One. We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator.’”

After that? Does anyone believe Trump hasn’t already developed a taste for dictatorship, having long boasted: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

The twice impeached Trump is doubling down on Watergate-disgraced former President Richard Nixon’s assertion: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

And Trump has friends in high places. Democracy Docket’s Marc Elias notes that newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson “was a ringleader” in the coup attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. “He used his position as a lawyer and member of Congress to legitimize the fringe legal theory underpinning the ‘Big Lie.’ Other than former President Donald Trump, he is arguably the most culpable federal elected official in what transpired on Jan. 6, 2021.”

The Brennan Center for Justice notes: “Johnson has ties to a movement that incorporates election denial into evangelical Christianity. Members of the movement held prayer sessions in which they asked for divine intervention to reverse the 2020 result….In 2024, Mike Johnson will hold the gavel. That should scare us all.”

Johnson is now doctoring footage of the January 6th riot against the Capitol to prevent the Department of Justice from identifying and investigating the insurrectionists. Trump has already promised to pardon “a large portion” of Jan. 6 rioters convicted and jailed on federal offenses. Those rioters include Proud Boy whose members have shown up at drag readings and school board meetings, sometimes prompting anti-LGBTQ violence

LGBTQ people should be seriously concerned. For nearly a decade, Johnson worked at Alliance Defending Freedom, “the far-right Christian group that has recently sought to ban the abortion medication mifepristone and public drag performances,” according to The New Republic.   

Additionally, one of Johnson’s clients was anti-gay activist and former radical Christian preacher Grant Storms. Johnson “helped convince New Orleans officials to grant Storms a permit for a protest against an annual Pride celebration. Storms’s protest ended up getting national attention when an anti-gay protester attempted to murder a man with a steak knife. Storms said the attacker was not part of his organization, but the assailant later told police he went to Storms’s event because he wanted to ‘kill a gay man.’”

LGBTQ people have long been targets for cruelty and hate. But the Trumpification of America has made it worse. 

Last June, the New York Times reported: “There were more than 350 incidents of anti-L.G.B.T.Q. harassment, vandalism or assault in the United States from June 2022 through April 2023, according to a new report [by the Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD], reflecting a climate in which bias against gay and especially transgender people has become widespread.”

Another report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino “shows a 52 percent increase in anti-L.G.B.T.Q. hate crimes around the country in 2022 and a 28 percent increase in the narrower anti-transgender category,” and “a 47 percent increase in hate crimes against gender-nonconforming people, which the report defines as including drag performers.”

When out progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow interviewed former Rep. Liz Cheney, the staunchly conservative Republican who co-chaired the House Jan. 6 Committee, they both were adamant about setting aside their serious political disagreements to join forces to stop Trump and prevent a Republican House majority in the 2024 election. 

Cheney described it as “the cause of our time.”

This is essential for LGBTQ folks, especially as we continue to be ignored unless we somehow make news. We are still considered an “issue,” not an intersectional minority that deserves equality. Even the Supreme Court ruled against us based on a hypothetical possibility where the key document turned out to be fake

We need to take a lesson from Stonewall and ACT UP and FIGHT BACK however we can. 

And that includes me. 

Last year Max Huskins – a straight Millennial friend of mine – and I decided to produce the YouTube series “Race to the Midterms,” in partnership with the Los Angeles Blade. This fall, I realized we needed to do another series for the 2024 elections. 

But the scope is too large to do as a cause/hobby to my full-time job. So I talked with my friend Steve Ralls (formerly with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Immigration Equality) – the VP of External Affairs who recruited me to Public Justice – and we worked out an arrangement where I will step away from my full-time staff position there and instead, be under contract to work exclusively on the Public Justice Emeritus Legacy Project, allowing me to devote the majority of my time to this new initiative.

This is our fight. Parental rights? These are our LGBTQ kids who’ve already suffered too much trauma, assaults and death by suicide.  As Harvey Milk said: “We must give them hope.”

We need to not only re-elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – but determined candidates for elective and public office who see us as a people deserving of equality, decency and the fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

See you in the trenches next year as we Race to Save Democracy!


Karen Ocamb is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

Ocamb started in LGBTQ media in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ data collection during the COVID pandemic.

Since leaving the LA Blade Ocamb continues to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her rescue dog Pepper.


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The one word that always brings Congress together, AIDS

MAGA Republicans in Congress are determined to undo the bipartisan track record of compassion and lives saved over the past two decades



Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Dr. Jirair Ratevosian | BURBANK – Our country’s history is marked by moments of immense social change, when brave individuals have stood up against prejudice and discrimination to demand their rightful place in America and the right to pursue their own American dream.

The HIV movement is one such chapter in our story, a chapter filled with resilience, courage, and the unwavering pursuit of justice and love for all people.  On this World AIDS Day, I am reminded of the one word that always brings Republicans, Democrats and Independents together: AIDS. 

Indeed, the fight against HIV/AIDS has resulted in strange bedfellows thanks to robust activism and bipartisan support.  In 2003, we saw an unlikely pairing of polar opposites when ultra conservative Senator Jesse Helms and rock superstar Bono came together with President George W. Bush and Congresswoman Barbara Lee to create the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Over the last two decades, the unprecedented cross government effort and federal resources saved 25 million lives and supported more than 5 million infants born HIV-free across 55 countries served by PEPFAR. 

The fight against HIV/AIDS brought together the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States under President Barack Obama and Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic (EHA) program under President Donald Trump. Together, the increased federal resources and precise targeting of impacted jurisdictions is helping put more people on treatment and preventing new infections across America. 

The fight against HIV/AIDS also revolutionized the fight for health care and supercharged the struggle for equality, acceptance, and justice for the LGBTQ community.  Over the past few decades, HIV and LGBTQ+ activists, allies, and countless individuals have fought tirelessly to break down barriers and challenge the status quo. The progress reflects the power of grassroots activism and the resilience of a community that has refused to be silenced.

Yes, miracles are possible in Washington. Even with all its dysfunction, I am not cynical about Congress. I have seen these miracles personally. As a former congressional aide, I am proud of the role I played in helping to create the first ever bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, uniting Democrat and Republican members of Congress from Oakland to Miami to support more funding for HIV programs, expanding anti-discrimination protections, and repealing discriminatory policies. As a former State Department official, I saw firsthand the goodwill and soft power generated by our US foreign assistance programs, most notably PEPFAR. 

Today, MAGA Republicans in Congress are determined to undo the bipartisan track record of compassion and lives saved over the past two decades. They have proposed dangerous cuts to HIV programs that support medicine and housing for people living in the United States. Further, they have placed unprecedented holds on PEPFAR reauthorization, eroding U.S. diplomacy and creating funding delays that will strain programs and personnel across 55 countries.  Outside Washington, MAGA Republicans have more anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state houses this year than in each of the previous five years. The newest forms of attack are known as “Erasure Bills,” which strip away legal protections and rights for LGBTQ+ people.  

MAGA Republicans are triggered by phrases like “human rights” and their objections center on terms relating to abortion, transgender people, and sex workers. This so-called moral crusade is misguided and hurts so many innocent people – not to mention it costs lives.  What’s more, the  promotion of ultra-conservative Congressman Mike Johnson to Speaker of the House demonstrates just how far Republicans are willing to go to attack the queer community. He is known for his anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and for proactively enacting laws that target LGBTQ+ Americans making him a dangerous and powerful voice that will be heard throughout state and local governments.  

All this is happening when the fight against HIV is far from over, and the struggle for equality is unfinished. We need to come together against MAGA Republicans who are targeting the LGBTQ+ community and creating wedge issues to rile up voters and distract them from policies and programs that really matter.

Striving for a more equitable and inclusive future means electing Representatives nationally that put compassion ahead of politics to support lifesaving programs like PEPFAR, and support the acceleration of HIV prevention programs in the US. It also means electing Representatives that believe that all people should be able to pursue their dreams and ambitions without fear of discrimination or prejudice. 

This World AIDS Day, let us affirm that love deserves to flourish without fear or hindrance.


Jirair Ratevosian with his fiancé Michael Lghodaro
(Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

Dr. Jirair Ratevosian is a former legislative director to Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).

Ratevosian, 42, was born in Hollywood, CA, to a Lebanese mother and an Armenian father. He grew up in Sun Valley. Awarded a Johns Hopkins University post-graduate doctoral degree with concentration in public health policy

Ratevosian served as a Senior Advisor for Health Equity Policy at the U.S. Department of State and worked for the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy.

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World AIDS Day: Mobilizing LA with PrEP & PEP against HIV

As a Nurse Practitioner who interacts with patients navigating the complexities of HIV, I experience firsthand the deep-seated anxiety



Photo courtesy of Kara James

By Kara James | LOS ANGELES – As we observe the 35th World AIDS Day on December 1, it is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made since the early days of the epidemic and the work that remains.

Significant advances in HIV therapy have made it possible for people to live and enjoy full lives despite their HIV diagnosis. However, stigma still surrounds the virus, leaving major obstacles to people receiving the care and prevention strategies they deserve.

As a Planned Parenthood Nurse Practitioner who interacts with patients navigating the complexities of HIV, I experience firsthand the deep-seated anxiety that lingers despite how far we have come.

Several interrelated aspects must be considered to comprehend the fear and anxiety my patients feel. Persistent prejudice against those who live with HIV and misconceptions about the virus continue to perpetuate discriminatory attitudes despite decades of educational initiatives.

There is also still a lot of stigma around HIV since many people equate it with immorality, promiscuity and judgments about one’s lifestyle. But perhaps most importantly, the past, in which an HIV diagnosis meant a virtual death sentence, casts a long shadow over the present. 

These factors can make talking about the virus challenging, even with health care providers, leaving tangible consequences. Just recently, the 2022 Los Angeles County Annual HIV Surveillance Report shared that Los Angeles County is set to fall short of its goals in the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE), a federal plan launched in 2020 that aims to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S.

To achieve the EHE’s goals, Los Angeles County must reduce new HIV diagnoses to 450 by 2025. The County’s monitoring found that 1,518 people received a new diagnosis of HIV in 2021, more than three times the number of diagnoses for the 2025 goal.

Against these numbers, I want to highlight two of the most important tools we have to help protect people from HIV, empowering them to not only survive but thrive and live life as they choose without fear or anxiety. PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a proactive method of avoiding the spread of HIV because it allows people to manage their own sexual health. It’s encouraging to see people taking responsibility for their health by choosing to use a technology that cuts their HIV risk by 99%.

Conversely, PEP is an interim measure for potential viral exposure. PEP, if given in time, can prevent HIV infection from taking hold, turning a potential crisis into an opening for action. A comprehensive plan to stop the spread of HIV must include these drugs.

Not only are these medications effective, but they are accessible and affordable. PrEP and PEP are covered by most insurance plans, including Medi-Cal, Medicare, and private employer plans. For those without insurance, financial assistance may be available to those who qualify. Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ 24 health centers offer both PrEP and PEP, HIV testing, and counseling about treatment options in a confidential and supportive setting. PPLA’s dedicated team is ready to be a health care partner, answering questions without judgment while guiding people toward the patient-centered care they need – including PrEP and PEP.

PEP and PrEP have been a revolution in HIV prevention for my patients, as well as in the reassurance and comfort I provide to them. My goal as a Nurse Practitioner goes beyond simply dispensing pills; I want to foster an atmosphere where patients feel at ease opening up about their thoughts and feelings. By providing people with the facts about HIV and how to prevent it, education is a valuable tool in combating stigma and misunderstanding, allowing us to make necessary advancements in stopping this virus.

I encourage anyone at risk of HIV exposure to engage in a discussion with their healthcare provider about PrEP or PEP.  On this World AIDS Day, let’s commit to becoming informed advocates for our own health and the health of our communities. Together, we can turn the tide against HIV in Los Angeles.

To find an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center, please visit


Kara James is a Nurse Practitioner with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, and has provided direct clinical care to patients since 2014. As an evidenced-based clinician and activist, Kara’s work is framed through racial equity and anti-racism. She also played a vital role in creating the Black Health Initiative in 2020 to promote holistic well-being and health in Los Angeles’ Black communities.

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LGBTQ+ community in Kharkiv braces for another winter at war

The LGBTQ+ community in Kharkiv, Ukraine, braces for another winter at war. The city is 30 miles from Russia



Kharkiv, Ukraine (Photo by Brian Dooley/Human Rights First)

By Brian Dooley | KHARKIV, Ukraine — Only 30 miles from the Russian border, Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second biggest city and was a key target of Russia’s invasion in February last year, when it was almost encircled.

I have been reporting regularly from Kharkiv since last year’s full-scale invasion, and the city is still often bombed by Russian missiles. United States government officials rarely come here because of the security situation. As temperatures plummet, Russia is targeting Ukraine’s heating infrastructure. 

It hopes to make life unbearable for people in Ukraine’s cities and force another wave of mass movement out of Ukraine and into Poland and other European countries.

Attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid have begun, and some communities in the city have been particularly vulnerable since Russia’s invasion last year, and are facing a difficult winter.

Vasyl Malikov of the Kharkiv-based LGBTQI NGOs Alliance.Global and Spectrum Kharkiv has been distributing packages of hygiene goods, food and vouchers for humanitarian aid since last year. He helped to set up a new shelter for LGBTQI people and their relatives in the city.

“There are government shelters, and the authorities say they don’t discriminate against who uses them, but we know from lived experience that these official shelters aren’t always welcoming places for LGBTQI people. They feel vulnerable and are harassed there,” Malikov said. “We thought about setting up a shelter last year, but the situation seemed too uncertain and it wasn’t that easy to find premises, but we have gone ahead now and we can offer accommodation for up to 16 people to stay for up to three months.”

Some of those in the shelter are fleeing areas of conflict on the front lines, others have fled domestic violence, and others have been driven away by families who refuse to accept them. Some people, in Kharkiv for medical appointments, stay for days, others stay for weeks or months.

The shelter is a large apartment that has a kitchen and a large room where workshops and social events are held.  It is on a block near a metro station which, Malikov says, is a useful place to run to in case of heavy bombardments. 

Crucially, a new generator has arrived, which should heat the shelter during power outages. It’s a dual fuel model that can run on diesel or gas and costs around $2,000.

“This is a safe place for LGBTQI people and their families,” explains Malikov. “We shouldn’t have to set up our own facilities, the authorities should be doing this work, but we have to because they don’t.”

Other NGOs are also filling gaps that local authorities are failing to provide. The NGO Sphere has, since 2006 “been uniting women of Kharkiv, including lesbian and bisexual women.” 

Tucked in a small office near the city center, some of Sphere’s activists described how their work has adapted to meet the challenges of the war.

“We’ve been providing aid for those forced to flee their homes because of the war,” says Yevheniia Ilinska, a long-standing member of the organization. “We’ve raised money from abroad — including from LGBTQ+ groups — to distribute basic supplies. We’ve been handing out clothes, including socks, and have provided some to our military.”

Sphere’s activists say that beyond its obvious damage and destruction to the city, the war is causing “a social revolution:” many men are away from their homes fighting in the military, and many family dynamics are changing dramatically.

The activists fear a spike in domestic violence when soldiers return home, a phenomenon witnessed in other countries.

“The full-scale war significantly aggravates some of the problems that existed before, including gender-based domestic and sexual violence, and discrimination at work,” Sphere notes on its website.

The war has also helped change some attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine. Last September, when the dangers from rocket attacks made an open-air parade impossible, Sphere helped organize a successful Pride event in the city’s metro system.

“We dressed wearing national symbols and LGBT flags,” says Ilinska. “And the public reception was very positive.”

The reaction is more evidence of a positive shift since last year’s invasion in public attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, in part because the community’s contribution to the war effort is increasingly seen and valued. Hopes are high that Ukraine will soon legalize same-sex civic partnerships, and eventually same-sex marriages.

But for now, the cold is an immediate challenge. Sphere is raising funds to offer locals a safe place so that “in the event of rocket attacks and power outages, LGBTQ+ people will be able to stay warm indoors, have a hot drink, take a shower, and do laundry,” says Ilinska.

“We’re constantly adapting our work,” says Ilinska. “Adapting our advocacy and our public events, and our projects on targeting humanitarian aid. Kharkiv is changing and so are we, we have to react to this dramatic crisis, to the invasion, and we’re proving that we and our community can resist,” she said.

For more, see Human Rights First’s new report, Ukraine’s Winter War, written by Maya Fernandez-Powell and myself.


Brian J. Dooley is an Irish human rights activist and author. He is Senior Advisor at Washington DC-based NGO Human Rights First. He is a visiting scholar at University College, London (UCL). He is also a prominent human rights voice on Twitter (@dooley_dooley).

From April 2020 to March 2023 he was Senior Advisor to Mary Lawlor, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. He served for eight years as an advisory board member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and was a visiting scholar at John Jay College, City University of New York 2022-2023, and at Fordham University Law School in New York 2019–2020

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Editor's Letter

Support next generation of LGBTQ+ journalists: #GivingTuesday

The support of a queer journalism fellow can bring LGBTQ journalism to underrepresented communities locally and globally



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WASHINGTON – The Blade Foundation is excited to expand its fellowship program focused on educating and supporting the next generation of LGBTQ journalists. The Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade are the leading LGBTQ publications in the country and can provide real life reporting experience to up-and-coming journalists.

The Blade Foundation has a vision to bring training and journalism to new cities around the world. The support of a fellow can bring LGBTQ journalism to underrepresented communities locally and globally. Currently, hundreds of articles are produced each year by the Blade Foundation and published in both English and Spanish.

Your tax-deductible donation supports the work of the Blade Foundation, a 501(c)3 dedicated to funding enterprise journalism projects on LGBTQ issues. Please click on the below link:

Support LGBTQ Journalism

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Queer Activists: “I told you so” as DeSantis escalates queer erasure

“It is time to recognize the situation in Florida as the ticking time bomb that it is, because I am tired of saying I told you so….”



Graphic courtesy of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City

By Cameron Driggers | GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In a shocking escalation for too many, and a somber expectation for too few, the Florida legislature will soon consider legislation to effectively disband measures to facilitate tolerance for LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.

In addition, the proposed law would effectively force the closure of many LGBTQ+ and progressive organizations that have led the opposition to DeSantis’ administration. Specifically, HB-599 mandates that: employees can not be required to use a person’s preferred pronouns, employees can not provide their preferred pronouns and employers cannot exert discipline over homophobia/transphobia.

Most chillingly, the bill would not allow state-funded charities to require employees to undergo any “training, instruction or other activities” relating to gender or sexualities. The implications of these regulations are transparently authoritarian.

As I alluded to before, this development has been received with a puzzling degree of surprise. Evidently, such has been the case following nearly every new outrageous headline summoned by DeSantis’ administration. However, these hysterical reactions are becoming decreasingly indicative of a changing tide in public opinion and more so of an irritating obliviousness among those of us who have been ringing the alarm bells since the very start of DeSantis’ all-consuming battle against “wokeism” in Florida. 

Take the infamous “Don’t Say Gay Bill” for example, which served as the catalyst for the current queer resistance to DeSantis in earnest. That legislation prohibited discussion of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade classrooms. Many were content to dismiss concern, taking the law at face value and assuming it would be confined to K-3 , but even then many of us on the ground knew it was just the first step before Queer erasure was expanded through 12th grade, and we were right.

At the same time, DeSantis initiated a hostile takeover of many public universities, and put in place measures to censor resources and education serving students of color and LBGTQ+ students on college campuses as well. 

LGBTQ+ erasure (also known as queer erasure) refers to the tendency to remove lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual and queer groups or people (i.e. the LGBTQ+ community) intentionally or unintentionally from record, or to dismiss or downplay their significance.

Now, with their heinous agenda successfully forced upon Florida’s public school system, HB-599 suggests that Florida Republicans are prepared to expand the scope of their anti-LGBTQ+ regulations ten-fold. 

Ironically, supporters of laws like “Don’t Say Gay” and “Stop WOKE,” who rejected being labeled a homophobe by asserting their simple desire “to keep that stuff away from kids,” have allowed their fixation on a faux slippery slope to advance one that is actually real.

Upon HB-599’s implementation, not even grown adults would be expected to recognize and respect the existence of queer people in their workplace. 


But as per usual, the queer community in Florida does not even have the luxury of agonizing over just this bill here and now, because we know that the next one will be even worse. Will they extend the ban on gender-affirming care to all adults? How long until adoption rights for queer couples are on the chopping block? Are we at the point where Ron DeSantis, in his quest to out-fascist Trump, embraces nullification and disregards all federally protected rights for minority groups?

As they have proved over and over again, Florida Republicans never cared about merely protecting the innocence of children. In reality, this goal was always a cheap gimmick to assuage so many useful idiots of their complicity in a full-scale war to eradicate the dignified existence of marginalized communities.

While it is decidedly more pleasant to hope for the best that this latest attack on queer people will finally be the last, it is painfully naive in reality. We know exactly how this culture war ends, and it is that of how similarly reactionary movements have concluded throughout history: with total rollbacks in the rights of the targeted minority group at hand. 

Thus, it is time to recognize the situation in Florida as the ticking time bomb that it is, which demands unignorable direct action in conjunction with federal intervention to hold Governor DeSantis accountable to the Constitution he so flagrantly tramples upon. However, with such a rigid institutionalist like Joe Biden at the helm, the latter unfortunately seems unlikely.

The former, conversely, is very achievable. I should know, because I founded an organization that is doing exactly that: giving young people the resources they need to resist DeSantis’ brand of politics in their own communities. 

Ultimately, whether you take action to support our movement or not, just make sure the reason you didn’t was not that you thought it wouldn’t get any worse, because I am tired of saying I told you so.


Cameron Driggers is progressive student activist attending the University of Florida. As a highschooler, Cameron led state-wide campaigns to resist anti-queer measures, such as the Don’t Say Gay School Walkouts of 2022.

Presently, Cameron continues to advocate for empowerment of young people to make change as an Organizing Fellow for People Power For Florida.

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In her own words: Somali singer IDMAN on queerness & family

Musical artist, IDMAN, creates a sonic tableau of hybrid R&B that explores the highs and lows of navigating relationships & life



IDMAN (Photo by Tyler Borchhardt/GLAAD)

Toronto native and musical artist, IDMAN, creates a sonic tableau of hybrid R&B that explores the highs and lows of navigating relationships and life. Shaped by her Somali heritage and a deep interest in social activism, IDMAN is a burgeoning singer/songwriter who began honing her skill set in childhood, immersing herself in American pop culture, learning English as a result. Her signature sound is credited to blending both North-American and Somali culture and music, alongside the support of her music collective, Golly Geng, Now, in a personal essay IDMAN is sharing a different kind of tune: her truth.

LOS ANGELES – Imagine that I was a stranger who knocked on your door on a random afternoon and asked: “Who are you when no one’s watching?”

What would you say?

Would I even deserve an answer?

This question will make sense by the end of this letter, but first, I want to tell you a story. 

In 2015, I went on a road trip to Miami for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Trans Justice Miami Power Summit with some close friends and organizer homies. Two of us were hijabis who’d signed up to support our queer/trans family as allies (Talk Valentina). 

A few years before, I was involved in activism where I made some friends while volunteering for a couple of marriage campaigns that ultimately won Mainers the right to same-sex marriage.

Only a select few people knew what I was working on, a family member of mine, her friends, and her father.

It was then that my eyes were opened. 

Her father was really supportive and truly understood MLK’s words: ”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Her father saw me and I respected him dearly for it. He will never know how the nuance and compassion he showed me every time we spoke did so much to counter the narratives I’d been taught about who was or could be tolerant.

The first queer person in my life was my mom’s cousin.

I called her Auntie Guruhbadan, which means beautiful (it was a name I gave her not only to protect her identity but because I couldn’t pronounce her actual name as a five-year-old). I mention her because she made flyers for her wedding and it was the first instance where my father and I had explicitly talked about queerness. 

It was awkward and a bit clumsy but I understood two things: my father was trying to come from a place of respect and was talking from his heart.

A good sign.

The second queer person I knew and loved was my cousin, a trans woman.

She lived in the same building as my grandparents and would come over for meals. She presented as femme and wore traditional Somali dresses, hair coverings, and people honored TF outta her pronouns.

They rationalized the use of her pronouns and transition as the result of a head injury from an accident that would make her fight you if you didn’t use the right pronouns.

Yeah…mmmkay. She had them spooked and it was marvelous.

It never felt confusing or out of the ordinary.

They were some of the only adults I truly felt safe around as a kid. It went against everything I’d heard in the West about back home with issues around queerness and gender.

Later that year, I attended my first Pride as an ally.

It was during a speech when a close friend of mine, a Black Muslim woman, came out and referenced Surah Ar Rahman. She related it to our friendship and our presence there together. And it was at that moment that I truly felt the power of the queer community and the importance of family.

“Queer community and family is something different. It is a favor from God that I cannot deny,” she said.

To my friends Rana, Edric, Benn, Del Mar, and Samaa, I thank you for being the exact right people at the right time, with open hearts enough to care and say something.

Their presence in my life has allowed me to embrace my true self without reservation – a great gift that I came to know. It’s led me to a life full of so much pride and honor that has revealed a rich history and legacy.

Growing up I’d been led to believe that hiding your true self from people not equipped to hold or honor you, meant you were ashamed or embarrassed.

Out-culture has always been something I’ve felt like I’ve had to contend with.

I know there are folks out there who feel that silent, personal protest (the rainbow flag in their bag/under their bed) is sometimes the only safe way to feel connected or affirmed.

I feel as though out-culture has set up a dynamic that pressures young people to choose between access to resources like housing, food, security, and feeling valid or authentic to their identity. I hate the parts of out-culture that tugs at the integrity of those already at the bottom of the totem pole. It has always felt wack to me honestly. 

I believe that everyone has the right to choose how and when to disclose their personal identity.

No one should feel pressured to explain their desires or preferences. It’s essential to nurture a culture of respect and care, focusing on things that truly matter, such as providing resources, safety, and community support. I wish we told queer and trans youth more often that there is no standard within which to measure the authenticity of one’s identity, and that they’re valid whether they decide to come out or not. That the world’s reactions to their truths are not their fault, and that they are no less valid in their identities for deciding to withhold it from those they believe cannot honor them.

Statistics show that LGBTQ+ youth, especially those of color, are disproportionately affected by homelessness.

Out-culture has often perpetuated anti-black, xenophobic, and Islamophobic attitudes. It’s crucial to challenge the idea that queer and trans people owe intimate details of their lives to others.

Ultimately, it’s up to individuals to decide whom they trust with their identities. It’s okay if someone doesn’t get to know all aspects of who we are. We must prioritize personal boundaries and respect for one another.

I believe in the agency to decide who we share what with, and my circles feel warm and they see me wholly. They get the benefit and gift of getting to experience all of me unabashedly and fully disarmed in some cases because they have demonstrated the ability to see and accept my agency.

It’s a shame, it’s a stain and it should be the regret of a lifetime for someone to deny themselves the love of a queer or trans person because they can’t see beyond their own projection.

What a flop.

It is always their loss.

I promise.

I wrote this letter today not out of a need to validate who I am.

I’m not more legit in my queerness for writing this letter.

I’m here to say that you are no less valid for choosing not to deal with all that may come with these choices.

It is just that: a choice.

I’ve been me, and I’ve been galavanting in my truth for years.

It’s just always been with and around those who could honor that much.

And if this letter is vague, I’m sorry that I couldn’t be more unapologetic. I hope everyone who hears me loud and clear knows this much: I love you, I love us.

There are no comments, no DMs, no culturally enforced shame, and nothing that could deter me from being able to say that much.

I wrote this because I could, and I felt safe enough to..

My folks understood me and I believe in my family enough to love them enough to give them the gift and honor of learning to love me as I am in this lifetime. 

I think they got it.

And I know I’ve got the necessary after-care in place if they don’t. I’ve got a community of support to lean on, a career that offers the financial independence to be okay without the support of family and pathways to medical resources to support mental health help and gender affirming care. Because of this access, not only do I feel safer in coming out, I also feel a responsibility to amplify our voices and affirm the many of us who can’t or might not be able to. It feels that much more important to affirm the validity of those who have been made to feel otherwise. Because I know queerness is universal (it should go without saying) and I know our liberation is bound together. From Palestine to Ferguson, Tigray to Toronto we exist as we always have and our freedom is tied together.

Truthfully, this all started with a friend, a pronoun, and the first line of a song, and it felt necessary to tell the story I want to tell artistically with the proper context. By the time my work is done, it’ll all be there. I hope it makes sense to you then.

I hope you understand that I’ll probably never address questions about what I like, who I like, or why I like whatever it is that I do like.

Personally, I don’t know you like that and it’s rude, tuh. I think the world would be a better place if we cared less about surveillance and policing one another and more about the things that matter – if folks are eating, if they feel safe, if they’ve got a roof over their head or solid community and real friendship around them.


So again, when it’s the middle of the night and someone randomly comes knocking at the doors of your boundaries with questions, remember you actually don’t have to answer them and that this is your house!!!

May our hearts remain inaccessible to the untrained or unopened heart, I love you 🤍 


The preceding essay was previously published by GLAAD and is republished with permission. The essay was edited by Black queer filmmaker and screenwriter, Sabaah Folayan.

IDMAN’s current singles “Down For It”, “Good Life”, “Look At What I’m Doing To You” and “Hate” have garnered coverage from outlets such as COMPLEX, The Fader, V Magazine, PAPER, Ladygunn, and have generated over 7 million streams.

Recently crowned one of Amazon’s Breakthrough Artists in 2023 and coming off support slots for both Sampa The Great and Ella Mai, IDMAN’s debut EP Risk arrived this summer. Subsequently, a deluxe version, Risk: Reloaded, was released in August and anchored by a remix of Hate featuring Lojay and Highlyy.

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The people I remember on Trans Day of Remembrance

Brianna Ghey, Eden Knight, and Ariyanna Mitchell all lost their lives because they dared show the world who they were



Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | MISSOULA, Mt. – Whenever I travel from state to state to discuss the latest wave of anti-trans legislation, one of the most common questions I am asked is about the people who made the biggest impact on me. I never answer with the names of famous politicians or influential activists.

Instead, I think back to the stories of the people we lost along the way in pursuit of a world where transgender people can feel safe and dignified. Brianna Ghey, a young British trans girl who had been heavily bullied, who was murdered on her walk back from a local park. Eden Knight, who successfully escaped brutal oppression in Saudi Arabia by fleeing to the United States, only to be trafficked back there, leading to her suicide. Ariyanna Mitchell, a trans girl, who was gunned down at a party after she was asked about her gender identity.

Every transgender person you meet has lost someone; most of us have lost many. This is a reality I believe is often misunderstood by most cisgender individuals. The cold statistics of suicides and murder rates, frequently cited in studies and debates against right-wing media figures, can obscure the personal impact.

For us, these statistics represent living, breathing individuals we knew: Discord users whose status no longer turns green, phone numbers that will never send another text or call, faces in photographs that resurface every November 20th, only to be gradually overshadowed by newer images of more people who we’ve lost.

On days like today, my thoughts turn to Ariyanna Mitchell, a vibrant and beautiful young black teenager who excelled in dancing. Cherished by her friends, Ariyanna’s courage shone brightly when a gunman invaded the party she was attending. Bravely stepping between the assailant and her fellow partygoers, she was asked about her gender: “Are you a boy or a girl?” Tragically, her response led to her being shot. Ariyanna’s only ‘crime’ was protecting those around her while embracing her true self. She was just 17 years old.

Ariyanna’s story brings to mind the numerous 17-year-old transgender individuals I’ve met while speaking with parents. Witnessing the joy on their faces upon being recognized for who they truly are is a profound experience. I’ve seen parents who, after a journey of understanding, not only accept but also celebrate their child’s gender identity. Reflecting on my own days as a 17-year-old, unable to transition, I think about our collective efforts to create a world where young people like Ariyanna could freely do so. The injustice of stripping away such joy and light from a person is immeasurably cruel.

In March 2023, I learned about a transgender girl named Eden Knight who tragically took her own life in Saudi Arabia. Her story went viral as numerous trans individuals who knew her turned to Twitter, pleading for media coverage of her death. This story resonates with me profoundly because, when mainstream media failed to amplify her friends’ voices, they approached me, hoping I could bring her story to light. I did just that when I became the first journalist to cover her story, a story that would leave a mark on me for the rest of my career. The narrative they shared about Eden was both beautiful and heart-wrenching. As I listened and wept, I connected with those who had witnessed her vibrant life and felt the profound injustice of its loss.

Eden Knight was the daughter of a wealthy Saudia Arabian official. When she went to school in the United States, she came out as transgender, and quickly realized that her identity was incompatible with a government that refuses to recognize the existence of transgender people and incompatible with her father’s role in that government. So she fled, transitioned, and was fully embraced by her queer friends and family.

Eden Knight’s intention to seek asylum was tragically undermined. Her hopes were shattered when she was allegedly lured back to Washington, D.C., by two American fixers, Michael Pocalyko and Ellen Cole. Subsequently, she was sent back to Saudi Arabia, where she faced the terrifying ordeal of forced detransition. The anguish of being forced off of her medication and forced into a male identity proved too overwhelming, leading to her taking her own life. Eden left behind a community that had stood with her throughout her entire ordeal and had grown to love her. Her memory is a driving force in our continued fight against such injustices.

In February of this last year, news made it around the world of a young teen trans girl who was murdered on her walk through a park. Brianna Ghey, a 16 year old girl who made TikToks about her day to day life set to beautiful music, had her life taken by two people her same age. We would later learn that she was heavily bullied in school. When news of her death became widespread, her videos became makeshift memorials with millions of likes. Her life and the way that it was taken shook the community.

Her death did not occur in a vacuum. In the years surrounding her death, the United Kingdom had become a harsh place for trans people. Trans youth like her face waiting lists for medication that can be up to 20 years long. Legal documents are impossible to obtain for those under 18, and the dignity of trans people is debated daily in the UK Media. Just before he death, Scotland passed a measure that would have lowered the minimum age for legal gender recognition to 16 years old… this would have been old enough for Brianna to be recognized. However, the United Kingdom overturned Scotland’s efforts and kept its own age for gender recognition as 18 years of age. As such, Brianna Ghey’s death certificate officially recorded her as male. Sadly, the government rejected a campaign with the hashtag #DignityForbrianna which would have given her posthumous gender recognition.

On Trans Day of Remembrance, we remember Brianna for who she actually was. We remember her gender, regardless of what final indignity her government did to her. We remember all the lives lost, and all of the people who were misgendered in their deaths by their family or on their official documents. We remember these things to try to make the world better for kids like her. In an interview with Vice, one of her close friends stated, “If Bri would have wanted anything from her passing, it would be change.”

Each of these stories has profoundly impacted me. They all depict trans individuals enduring injustices that remain unresolved. Today, black trans women continue to face rampant violence, with gun violence affecting them disproportionately. The misgendering of trans individuals in death reports persists, a situation worsened by recent legislative actions in states like Montana and Kansas, where laws mandate the incorrect legal gender designation for trans individuals.

The neglect of trans and queer refugees continues, and the same system that facilitated Eden Knight’s tragic trafficking out of the United States remains in place. Currently, thousands of trans youths are being forced into detransition by laws banning their care, enduring the same trauma as Eden. Our efforts must persist until the day we no longer need to add another photograph to the memorial of those lost to such injustices on the day we honor the memory of the trans individuals who are no longer with us.


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.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here:


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

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Trans community demands lawmakers end onslaught of attacks

Black and Brown trans people should be able to live as their most authentic self without fear of transphobic violence and discrimination



Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Bria Nelson | Lawrence, KS. – I enjoy living in Kansas. Specifically, Lawrence, Kansas, where I can attend a watercolor painting class at the local plant shop on Wednesday, the weekly drag show on Thursday, and a vintage clothing pop-up on Friday. But despite the beauty of the rolling Flint Hills, there is something ugly happening in the place I call home. Growing hostility towards the transgender and non-binary community is being codified through policies and perpetuated through violence that threatens our basic human rights. 

Rights activists see such rollbacks of hard-fought progress spreading across the US, and we’re bracing for new attacks that will test the country’s purported commitment to equality. The fight is the most grueling for those of us who are from Black and other marginalized communities. 

In the last year, violence claimed the lives of at least 25 transgender and gender non-conforming people in the US, with violence disproportionately affecting Black transgender women. These numbers are most likely underrepresented, as attacks against the LGBTQ+ community often go undocumented.

Black and Brown trans people should be able to live as their most authentic self without fear of transphobic violence and discrimination. 

To add to the growing animus, some states chose to attack transgender rights through legislation rather than protect them. This past June, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, declared a state of emergency after more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in 41 states. Hundreds of these bills specifically targeted transgender people. 

Some of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills would limit the ability to update gender information on identity documents like driver’s licenses and birth certificates, weaken nondiscrimination laws and protections in employment, and restrict free speech and expression through book and drag performance bans. State bills also attempt to restrict access to medically necessary health care including bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth, prohibit access to public accommodations like public bathrooms, and prevent trans students from participating in school activities like sports. While introducing a bill doesn’t mean it will pass, 84 of these draconian measures made it out of committee and have been signed into law.

Even the introduction of these bills perpetuates harmful stigmas and allows misinformation to spread. I have witnessed how harmful the introduction of these bills has been on members of the trans community I am a part of. In Kansas, 14 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced and four were passed into law in the last legislative session. During that time, my trans friends and peers pleaded with conservative lawmakers to respect their dignity and protect their autonomy over their own bodies. Medical experts testified that the mere act of introducing these bills causes great harm to the mental health of transgender people across the state.

One bill, misnamed the Women’s Bill of Rights though it limits protections for transgender women, passed and went into effect on July 1st.  In response, LGBTQ+ activists in Lawrence refused to rest until the City Commission enacted a sanctuary city ordinance, increasing protections for trans people. Despite the immense fear transgender people were feeling in this moment, their message rang loud and clear: LGBTQ+ people have the right to live without fear, and we are not going anywhere.

Make no mistake, allowing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation to be passed sends a message that legitimizes homophobic and transphobic sentiment.  

There are some hopeful signs. Legislation to outlaw the LGBTQ+ panic defense was introduced in nine states as well as in the US House and Senate this year. Under that defense, people charged with violent crime against LGBTQ+ people can get a reduced sentence or evade criminal liability by stating that the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity prompted the violent act. 

As violence against the LGBTQ+ community continues to increase, it is important now more than ever for lawmakers in statehouses across the country and for the federal government to strengthen protections for trans people and especially for the most vulnerable members of this community—Black and Brown trans women. Lawmakers should be recognizing and protecting LGBTQ+ people’s equal dignity under the law. Legislators should support active efforts to quell discrimination, like Kansas’s HB 2178, and codify LGBTQ+ protections. The US Government should also meet its human rights obligations to respond to foreseeable threats to life and bodily integrity, and to address patterns of violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

While activists continue to fight for LGBTQ+ liberation, I am reminded to celebrate the small wins. I remain hopeful when I see young LGBTQ+ people organizing and exercising their right to protest in the name of egalitarianism.  They remind me that pride is not something solely limited to the month of June, but a badge of honor we always carry with us.


Bria Nelson is a Researcher and Advocate on Racial Justice and Equity Issues with the Human Rights Watch U.S. Program.  Bria is an attorney and concentrates their research on racial justice and equity issues across the U.S., with a particular focus on reparations for enslavement and its legacies

As a movement lawyer, Bria has also worked to mobilize response and advocacy after the public murder of George Floyd, including undergoing an intensive fellowship training program with Law for Black Lives, an organization focused on grounding movements in Black queer feminism, abolition, and anticapitalism.

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Trans 101: Allyship is an action not an identity

Rose Montoya, is a social media creator with her ‘Trans 101′ 1 minute video shorts which offer tips, advice, and support for Trans people



GLAAD/Los Angeles Blade graphic

Los Angeles Blade featured columnist, Rose Montoya, is a hugely popular YouTube, Instagram & TikTok creator with her ‘Trans 101′ 1 minute video shorts which offer tips, advice, and support for Trans people and solid information for Trans allies and others seeking answers.

By Rose Montoya | LOS ANGELES – Real allyship is daily action, not an identity. Trans people need you to show up everyday. Educate yourself, stand up for us, vote in favor of our rights, call out hate, donate to organizations like @translifeline and @aadyarising, donate to our fundraisers, etc.


Rose, is a Hispanic, bisexual, nonbinary transgender woman. Rose’s pronouns are she/her/hers and they/them/their/theirs. She works as a model, actor, public speaker, makeup artist, advocate, and content creator.

Rose is also a board member of Aadya Rising, a nonprofit working to fill in the gaps to help the transgender community. She has been in campaigns and featured by TomboyXSavage X FentyYandyFX NetworksNew York City PridePlanned Parenthood, and more. Their goal is to spread love and education about their community as they share their story.


To follow Rose:


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