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Advocacy groups urge ICE release two gay Cuban men with HIV

Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality say coronavirus puts detainees at risk

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Two advocacy groups on Monday urged U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release two gay Cuban men with HIV from their custody because they are at increased risk for the coronavirus.

Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality, along with Vinson and Elkins LLP, a Houston-based law firm, on Monday made the request in a letter they sent to ICE on behalf of the two men, who are identified as Ramón and Iván.

A press release says the two men “were severely persecuted in Cuba because of their political activism and sexual orientation.” It also notes they have been ICE custody since last October.

Ramón and Iván remain in ICE custody at the IAH Secure Detention Facility in Livingston, Texas, which is roughly 75 miles north of Houston. Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford in the press release says the coronavirus pandemic has put the two men at increased risk.

“Ramón and Ivan fled Cuba to seek safety in the United States and now they fear for their lives,” said Crawford. “ICE could release them today. They are both parole eligible with qualifying sponsors. But despite warnings from experts on the dire consequences of COVID-19 for people in detention, and the steps taken by jails, prisons, and judges in the criminal context to release those in custody, ICE and DHS continue to put these men in mortal danger. Instead of being treated with dignity, these asylum seekers have been shackled, kept in the dark about the COVID-19 outbreak, and denied basic necessities to keep themselves safe.”

Yariel Valdés González, a Los Angeles Blade contributor from Cuba, spent nearly a year in ICE custody in Louisiana and Mississippi before his release on March 4. Valdés, who won asylum in the U.S. because of persecution he suffered as a journalist in his homeland, now lives with his family in Miami.

ICE: 360 detainees have tested positive for coronavirus

ICE on its website says there are 360 detainees with confirmed coronavirus cases. These include one at the IAH Secure Detention Facility.

A federal judge in California last week ordered ICE “to identify and track all ICE detainees with risk factors” and consider whether they should be released. The Immigration Equality and Lambda Legal press release notes the decision includes ICE detainees with HIV.

“It is impossible for people held in ICE detention to abide by public health guidance about social distancing and frequent hand-washing when they have limited access to soap and cleaning materials and are in frequent contact in small spaces with people who have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Puneet Cheema. “While no one should be subjected to detention by ICE simply because they seek asylum in the United States, in this precarious and extraordinary period where people who are detained are at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, ICE must let our clients — who are asylum seekers living with HIV — go.”

ICE on Monday declined to comment on the request to release Ramón and Iván.

“In March, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) convened a working group between medical professionals, disease control specialists, detention experts and field operators to identify additional enhanced steps to minimize the spread of the virus,” ICE told the Blade in an email. “ICE has since evaluated its detained population based upon the CDC’s guidance for people who might be at higher risk for severe illness as a result of COVID-19 to determine whether continued detention was appropriate.”

ICE further noted it has released “nearly 700” detainees “after evaluating their immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk and national security concerns.”

“This same methodology is currently being applied to other potentially vulnerable populations currently in custody and while making custody determinations for all new arrests,” ICE told the Blade.

ICE also said the number of people in their custody has dropped by more than 4,000 since March 1.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf during a March 20 press conference at the White House announced the closure of the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Wolf also said undocumented immigrants will no longer be allowed into the U.S.

President Trump last week issued an executive order that effectively stops immigration into the U.S. for 60 days. OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in response to the directive noted “immigration processes are largely frozen across the world; many borders remain closed and international travel is negligible.”

Crime & Justice

Tyre Nichols’ arrest & fatal beating video released by Memphis PD

“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance. Please, please, protest, but protest safely.”

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Surveillance footage of arrest and beating of Tyre Nichols (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

MEMPHIS –  Three videos consisting of both body cam footage and street surveillance footage, were made public by the city of Memphis Police Department Friday evening showing the violent arrest and beating of Memphis resident 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Nichols died 3 days after he was beaten by police in a traffic stop in the Hickory Hill neighborhood around 8:22 p.m. Jan. 7, in an altercation Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis  described saying, “In my 36 years in law enforcement, I don’t think I have witnessed the disregard for a human being displayed in this video.” 

29-year-old Tyre Nichols (Family Photo)

Shelby County Tennessee District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday that five now-former Memphis Police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith — were fired for misconduct, and indicted by a grand jury Thursday and taken into custody.

Each is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression. By Friday morning, they had posted bond.

Left: Justin Smith, top center: Emmitt Martin III, top right: Desmond Mills Jr., center left: Demetrius Haley, right bottom: Tadarrius Bean
(Photos provided by Memphis Police Department)

As news of the beating and death spread beyond Tennessee, officials expressed concern that release of the footage would touch off violent protest in reaction.

The attorneys and family of Tyre Nichols asked for justice for their son, and peace in their city, at a press conference in Memphis on Friday Memphis CBS News affiliate WREG News 3 reported.

Speakers included family members, attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci and Van Turner, president of the Memphis branch NAACP.

Rodney Wells, Tyre Nichols’ stepfather, said that he initially wanted first-degree murder charges against the officers, but the family is satisfied with second-degree murder.

He pleaded for peace in Memphis Friday night.

“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance,” Wells said. “Please, please, protest, but protest safely.”

Protests are underway in Memphis after police released more than an hour of footage in the case with some major highways temporarily shut down.

Other protests were organized in New York City, as well as Sacramento, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle, with police at the ready for potential violence.

The White House held a joint emergency call Friday with the mayors of at least 16 cities before the video’s release “to brief them on federal preparations in support of state and local leaders.”

“Participating mayors shared their perspectives on how important it is to recognize the pain felt by communities across this country, be prepared in advance with a game plan to provide adequate community support, and to reinforce the importance of peace and calm during these difficult moments,” the White House said in a statement about the call, which included cities from New York City, to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Seattle and Portland.

The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement condemning the actions of the Memphis officers and calling for demonstrations to remain peaceful.

“The accounts of the circumstances of this heinous crime and the criminal actions of those involved are reprehensible,” the LAPD said.

“The Department will do all within its power to ensure the lawful expression of the public’s anger and frustration is protected and prepared to facilitate those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told local media that it is preparing for the possibility of disturbances after the footage is made public. and is coordinating with other state, local and federal agencies.

“Our patrol stations and specialized units remain in a state of readiness to respond to any disturbances that might occur,” the LASD said.

“The Sheriff’s Department supports the first amendment and the people’s right to protest.”

Speaking with reporters as he prepared to depart for Camp David at the White House Friday evening, President Biden said that he had spoken with Nichols’ mother earlier in the day prior to the video footage release for about 10 or 15 minutes.

“I spoke with Tyre’s mother and expressed my condolences and told her that I was going to be making the case to the Congress to pass the George Floyd Act. We should get this under control. I can only do so much on the executive order at the federal level,” Biden said. “I was really pleased that she called for peaceful protest, no violence,” he added.

When asked about the potential for violence Biden said:

“I’m obviously very concerned about it. But I think she has made a very strong plea. She’s obviously in enormous pain. I told her I had some idea of what that loss is like and although it is impossible to believe now, a time will come when his memory brings a smile before a tear.” 

The White House released a statement from the President that said in part:

Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day. 
 
My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged. Those who seek justice should not to resort to violence or destruction. Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to the Memphis Police Department’s body camera footage being released, showing the deadly actions that took the life of Tyre Nichols, a Sacramento native, and led to the charging of five since fired Memphis Law Enforcement Officers.

Jennifer and I send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. The video released shows abhorrent behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power,” said Governor Newsom. “Today, we are a country in mourning, and must continue our work nationwide to push reforms to prevent excessive use of force and save lives.

“Tonight, we saw ferocious violence from an out-of-control herd,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

Late in the evening Friday the Office of the Vice President Kamala Harris released a statement from the Vice President on Nichols:

Tyre Nichols should have made it home to his family. Yet, once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. The footage and images released tonight will forever be seared in our memories, and they open wounds that will never fully heal.
 
The persistent issue of police misconduct and use of excessive force in America must end now. 
 
I join President Biden in his call for accountability and transparency. We must build trust—not fear—within our communities
.”

VIDEO COURTESY OF KTLA:

TYRE NICHOLS VIDEO VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED, GRAPHIC CONTENT AND LANGUAGE WARNING.

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International Holocaust Memorial Day: LGBTQ victims remembered

The Nazis targeted anyone they believed threatened their ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’, including disabled people, LGBTQ people and others

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The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin on July 22, 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BERLIN – Ordinary People is the theme for International Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 as around the globe the day is set aside for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution.

The Nazis targeted anyone they believed threatened their ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’, including Roma and Sinti people, disabled people, LGBTQ people, political opponents and others.

In a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania, whose Ambassador, Robert S. Gilchrist, is openly gay, a coalition consisting of other nation’s diplomatic missions to the Baltic nation including Israel, Germany, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, Japan and the European Commission Representation noted:

As we mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we commemorate the Holocaust of six million Jews, men, women and children, including more than 200,000 Jews murdered in Lithuania.  We remember other communities who were also murdered: Roma, disabled persons, LGBTQI+ persons, Slavs, and others.  We do not forget that the Nazis committed these heinous crimes with the support of local collaborators throughout Europe.  And we remember the heroism of countless people who, at great personal risk, stepped in to save thousands of Jews.”

Dr. Amy Gutmann, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, tweeted: “Today we remember the horrors of the Holocaust and the six million Jews, and millions of Roma, Sinti, Slavs, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and political dissidents murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.” Dr. Gutmann added: “As my father, a German Jew forced to flee Germany in 1934 said, “Everything we do – and everything we don’t do – makes a difference.”

PinkNewsUK journalist Patrick Kelleher wrote:

It is thought that up to 50,000 gay men received severe prison sentences under Nazi rule. According to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, most were sent to police prisons, but between 10,000-15,000 were sent to concentration camps.

Life for queer people in Weimar Germany was a very different picture to what it would become under the Nazis.

Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23,
2022
(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

There were gay bars, there was a functioning queer scene – there was even an institute for sexual research, a concept that would be impossible to imagine in most European cities of the day.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, everything changed. In the years that followed, millions of Jews, alongside other minority groups, were rounded up, tortured and murdered in concentration camps, up until 1945.

Ambassador David Pressman, the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, who arrived in that country with his husband and their two children last Fall also remembered the Holocaust in a tweet:

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Crime & Justice

FBI: ‘Explosion’ of teen boys extorted by explicit photos, videos

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Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Photo Credit: FBI Media Affairs)

PITTSBURGH – Law enforcement officials led by the FBI and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations division are reporting an alarming increase in incidents of mostly teenage boys being tricked into sending explicit photos and videos of themselves to online scammers who then attempt to extort money from the young victims.

Spokespersons for the FBI, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where sextortion cases increased dramatically, have told the Washington Blade they so far are unaware of gay teenage boys being targeted for what authorities are calling financial sextortion.

“We have not seen that,” said Catherine Pollicicchio, a spokesperson for the FBI Field Office in Pittsburgh, when asked by the Blade if gay teens were being targeted. “But that doesn’t mean it is not happening. We may not know about it,” she said.

“Homeland Security Investigations has not observed any sextortion investigations that refer specifically to gay teenagers,” said Jason Koontz, a spokesperson for HSI Philadelphia offices.

A spokesperson for the FBI’s headquarters in Washington couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm whether FBI officials are aware of gay teenagers or gay young adults being targeted for sextortion in other parts of the country.

The D.C.-based LGBTQ youth advocacy group SMYAL is also unaware of any gay male teenagers in the D.C. area being targeted for sextortion, according SMYAL spokesperson Hancie Stokes.

But the popular app Grindr reports on its website that adult gay men using Grindr and other gay hookup apps have been targeted for sextortion in ways similar to how the straight teenage boys have been targeted.

The scammers are persuading the gay adult men to send who they believe is someone interested in a possible sexual hookup or a relationship nude or sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves. The scammer then uses the explicit images to blackmail the victim into sending large sums of money to prevent the scammer from releasing the photos or videos to the victim’s family, friends, or employer.  

In a Scam Awareness Guide posted on its website, Grindr says that unlike potential straight targets for sextortion, some of the scammers have threatened to out gay men, including bisexual men married to women, by sending their sexually explicit photos or videos to a spouse or other family members.

In yet another means of carrying out sextortion scams, according to Grindr, some of the scammers have set up a fake profile as an underage person. After tricking the victim into sending explicit images the scammer threatens to report the victim to police for soliciting sex with a minor unless a ransom is paid.

The FBI’s national office in Washington issued a “public safety alert” about the increasing number of sextortion cases targeting teenage males in a Dec. 19 press release.

“Over the past year, law enforcement has received over 7,000 reports related to the online financial sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys, and more than a dozen suicides,” the FBI press statement says.

“The FBI has seen a horrific increase in reports of financial sextortion schemes targeting minor boys—and the fact is that the many victims who are afraid to come forward are not even included in those numbers,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in the FBI statement. “The FBI is here for victims, but we also need parents and caregivers to work with us to prevent this crime before it happens and help children come forward if it does,” Wray said.

“Victims may feel like there is no way out – it is up to all of us to reassure them that they are not in trouble, there is hope, and they are not alone,” Wray said.

The FBI statement says sextortion schemes occur most often through sites where young people interact with each other such as social media, gaming sites, or video chat applications.

“On these platforms, online predators often use fake female accounts and target minor males between 14 and 17 years old, but the FBI has interviewed victims as young as 10 years old,” according to the statement. “Through deception, predators convince the young person to produce an explicit video or photo,” it says.

“Once predators acquire the images, they threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money or gift cards,” the FBI statement continues. “In many cases, however, predators release the images even if payments are made. The shame, fear, and confusion that victims feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse,” the FBI statement says.

“A large percentage of these sextortion schemes originate outside of the United States and primarily in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast,” according to the FBI statement.

Jane Clementi, co-founder and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which advocates for programs to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying, targeting LGBTQ youth, said she and the Clementi Foundation, which is a nationwide group, were unaware of any specific gay youth or young adults being targeted for sextortion.

“The fact that this is on the rise is very disconcerting and means it needs to have more media coverage to inform youth and their parents about the harms and how to deal with the situation,” she told the Blade in an email. “My hope would be that we can prevent this situation from happening in the first place.” 

Jane Clementi, her husband, and other family members founded the Clementi Foundation in 2010 a short time after their son Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman student at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, took his own life after being victimized by cyber bullying.

Tyler’s suicide drew international attention when news surfaced that his college roommate secretly pointed his laptop computer camera at Tyler’s bed when he learned that Tyler had a date with another young man and the two planned to engage in intimacy in the dorm room. The roommate informed others that he would be broadcasting a live video of Tyler’s intimate interaction with his date over the internet and would be rebroadcasting it later, a development Tyler became humiliated and devastated over after he learned what had happened.

Jane Clementi said that type of cyberbullying and other forms of what she called revenge porn or nonconsensual porn, in which someone uses private images shared with them in confidence while in a relationship and then shares the photos or videos publicly after the relationship ends has been an issue of concern for many years.

Although it is not the same as financial sextortion, it often has the same harmful impact on victims, those familiar with the two types of scams have said.

“The best place to start is by raising awareness of the issue and by having healthy conversations starting at the youngest of ages, as soon as youth have a device that is connected to the internet,” Clementi said. “And next, parents and youth need to talk through a plan for the inevitable situation they might encounter online, like harassment, intimidation or worse sextortion.”

Grindr says on its website that it has protocols in place to detect and remove fake accounts set up by scammers. “While we detect and block a huge amount of these accounts that you will never see as a user, some still get through,” Grindr says on its website.  

Advice from the Grindr Scam Awareness Guide on how to avoid becoming a victim of sextortion and how best to respond if one is targeted for sextortion can be accessed at grindr.com.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

Celebrating Black History Month in February, Implementing a New Organics Collection Program, ‘WeHo Reads’ Launches on February 8 plus more

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West Hollywood City Hall (Photo credit: City of West Hollywood/Jon Viscott)

City Celebrates Black History Month in February

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood celebrates Black History Month with events held throughout the month. Black History Month recognizes, celebrates, and honors the rich and diverse history and important contributions and achievements of African Americans, and is observed annually during the month of February.

On Saturday, February 4, 2023 at 9 a.m., the community is encouraged to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event (previously postponed due to weather) at West Hollywood Elementary School, located at 970 N. Hammond Street. Residents, visitors, and community members are invited to take part in this day of service where volunteers will be helping to perform various landscaping, clean-up, painting, and other beautifying tasks at the school. Volunteers must be 13 years of age or older to participate.

To sign-up as a volunteer, please register on the City’s volunteer portal at https://volunteer.weho.org/.  For more information or questions about the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event, please contact the City’s Community Programs Coordinator, Larissa Fooks at (323) 848-6413 or [email protected].  

On Saturday, February 25, 2023 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., visit the Black Women Lead Pop-Up Market. This free, open-air event will feature Black vendors, panelists, and performers, providing the community with the opportunity to celebrate Black History Month in West Hollywood. This event will take place at the West Hollywood Park Great Lawn, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. Event updates will be provided on the City’s website calendar at www.weho.org/calendar.  For information, please contact City of West Hollywood Community Programs Coordinator Jasmine Duckworth at (323) 848-6559 or [email protected].

Additional programming during the month of February includes:

The City of West Hollywood presents WeHo Reads: Writing Paths Toward Justice: an exploration and panel discussion with authors who examine what happens when the social contract fractures along the journey towards justice will take place online at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 22, 2023.

Walter Mosley is one of America’s most celebrated writers with over 50 published books. His recently published novel, Every Man a King, is the second installment in his Joe “King” Oliver series.

Steph Cha is the author of Your House Will Pay, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the California Book Award, and the Juniper Song crime trilogy.

Kellye Garrett is an Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty award-winning author whose most recent suspense novel, Like a Sister, is about the death of a disgraced reality TV star. 

Joe Ide is the author of the award-winning IQ series, including the most recent installment, Smoke

Jordan Harper has been a music journalist, film critic, and TV writer. His most recent novel, Everybody Knows, is a crime thriller about a publicist who works for the corrupt and depraved elite in Southern California.

More information and an RSVP link is available at www.weho.org/wehoreads. For more information about WeHo Reads, contact City of West Hollywood Arts Coordinator Mike Che at (323) 848-6377 or [email protected]. For information, please contact City of West Hollywood Community Programs Coordinator Jasmine Duckworth at (323) 848-6559 or [email protected]. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City Encourages Community Members to Participate in American Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED Training

When an emergency happens, would you know what to do? Get certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), First Aid, and Automated External Defibrillators (AED) to give you the confidence you need to respond in an emergency.

The City of West Hollywood is offering a free American Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED Certification Training on Saturday, February 4, 2023. The training will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center, located at 8750 El Tovar Place in the San Vicente/La Cienega Meeting Room. The training schedule will include a meal break. Parking will be available at the West Hollywood Park 5-Story parking structure, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

This American Red Cross Certification Training will cover adult and pediatric CPR/First Aid/AED topics and participants will learn how to respond to medical emergencies. Prior to meeting in-person, participants will be enrolled in an online learning session that takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete. There will be in-person section reviews and tests that will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours per section for participants to receive certification. The online learning session link will be sent out seven days prior to the in-person training session. All online coursework must be completed before the in-person training session.

Space is limited and is anticipated to reach capacity quickly. Enroll using the City of West Hollywood’s “ActiveNet” online reservations portal. RSVPs require ActiveNet registration, which takes just a minute to complete.

Once capacity reaches limits, community members who are interested are encouraged to join a waitlist. The City will host additional American Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED Certification Trainings during the 2023 calendar year. To join this waitlist, please contact Cortez Jordan, in the City of West Hollywood’s Recreation Services Division, at (323) 848-6585 and the City will reach out as future trainings are scheduled.

Knowledge in first aid has multiple benefits. Accidents are inevitable, and there is no guarantee that people are safe from any physical injury, illness, or trauma. The best thing that people can do is to be prepared when and if any accidents, mishaps, and occurrences happen. Every year, millions of people are hurt or killed from injuries due to inadequate response or lack of timely assistance.

The biggest difference between victims who survive and those who do not is a bystander’s willingness to help. Performing any sort of basic life support on victims while an ambulance is on the way doubles a person’s chance of survival.

For additional information about the City of West Hollywood’s free American Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED Certification Training, please email [email protected] or call (323) 848-6538. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

West Hollywood’s 2023 ‘WeHo Reads’ Series ‘Mindful Journeys’ Launches on February 8, 2023

The City of West Hollywood is launching its 2023 WeHo Reads literary series with a reception, readings, and the launch of a new photographic exhibition. Community members are invited to celebrate art, literature, poets, and authors. 

The kick-off event will take place on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. 

At 6 p.m., there will be a reception for an exhibition of photographs from a contest that was held around the theme of the 2022 WeHo Reads series about creating joy in times of sorrow. The contest was held in the fall of 2022 and was juried by writers/photographers Lynell George and Marisela Norte. Photographers featured in this exhibition include: Natalia Affonso, Nadia Alamah, Rick Castro, Arpan Basu Chowdhury (who had the first-place winning submission), Gabriella Maria dos Santos Silva, Victoria Goring, Haro Istamboulian, Louis Jacinto, Alessia Piscopo, Mateo Salas, and Don Tinling.

At 7 p.m., there will be readings by authors featured in WeHo Reads including: bridgette bianca, Shonda Buchanan, Jen Cheng, Lisbeth Coiman, Flint, Charles Flowers, Peter J. Harris, Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett, Lester Graves Lennon, Malia Márquez, Thea Pueschel, Luivette Resto, Carla Sameth, Sehba Sarwar, Lynne Thompson, and Hazel Kight Witham.

RSVPs are required to attend this event at www.weho.org/wehoreads.    

This year’s theme for WeHo Reads is Mindful Journeys, and the events will feature writers who are seeking to navigate joy in the midst of sorrow and craft mindful journeys toward better futures, whether through fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry.

WeHo Reads is presented by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division and produced by BookSwell, LLC. Additional support for WeHo Reads is provided by UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and Poets & Writers as well as media partnerships with Bookshop.org, Book Soup, and Los Angeles Review of Books.

Additional WeHo Reads 2023 series events will follow:

  • WeHo Reads: Writing Paths Toward Justice on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, at 6 p.m. (online).

This discussion will explore what can we learn about human nature from imagining the paths taken by criminals and outcasts. Walter Mosley is one of America’s most celebrated writers with over 50 published books. His recently published novel, Every Man a King, is the second installment in his Joe “King” Oliver series. Steph Cha is the author of Your House Will Pay, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the California Book Award, and the Juniper Song crime trilogy. Kellye Garrett is an Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty award-winning author whose most recent suspense novel, Like a Sister, is about the death of a disgraced reality TV star.  Joe Ide is the author of the award-winning IQ series, including the most recent installment, Smoke. Jordan Harper has been a music journalist, film critic, and TV writer. His most recent novel, Everybody Knows, is a crime thriller about a publicist who works for the corrupt and depraved elite in Southern California. This online event will take place on the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Arts YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/wehoarts. Members of the public can RSVP and be sent a direct link to view the event by visiting the WeHo Reads webpage on the City’s website at www.weho.org/wehoreads.

  • WeHo Reads: Crafting Literary Legacies on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. (online).
    During Women’s History Month, we speak with authors creating new truths through storytelling and putting women at the center of literature. Natashia Deón is a two-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Literature, Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award Nominee in Fiction, a practicing criminal attorney, and author of the critically acclaimed and widely reviewed novels, The Perishing and GRACE. Toni Ann Johnson is the winner of the 2021 Flannery O’Connor Award for short fiction with her linked collection Light Skin Gone to Waste. Malia Márquez is a teacher and author of work that has appeared in Poetry Magazine, Hobart, Coffin Bell Journal, and elsewhere and of her award-winning first novel, This Fierce Blood. Laura Warrell is a writer and teacher whose work has appeared in HuffPost, The Rumpus, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications. Her first novel is Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm. This online event will take place on the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Arts YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/wehoarts. Members of the public can RSVP and be sent a direct link to view the event by visiting the WeHo Reads webpage on the City’s website at www.weho.org/wehoreads.
  • WeHo Reads: Lounging with Poets on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ‘spa day’, 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. program (in-person).
    Self-care is a radical act. Come lounge with a poet at our inaugural Poetry Spa Day at the respite deck of the new West Hollywood Aquatic and Recreation Center. From 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., guests will receive a menu of services and tokens to have individual, one-on-one experiences with former West Hollywood Poet Laureates and special guests, ranging from cucumber poetry facials to poetry speed dating. At 7:30 p.m., we gather at the steps at sunset to hear all the poets share their words in a ritual closing and celebration of National Poetry Month. City of West Hollywood Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace emcees this event, and will be joined by Jen Cheng, Kim Dower, Charles Flowers, Linda Ravenswood, and Steven Reigns. This in-person event takes place at the Respite Deck of the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center (ARC), located at 8750 El Tovar Place, next to the West Hollywood Library. RSVPs are requested ay www.weho.org/wehoreads
  • WeHo Reads: Shaping Motherhood online on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at 7 p.m. (online).
    We consider motherhood–joys, hardships, challenges, graces–and the role they play in shaping ourselves and future generations. Amber Flame is an interdisciplinary creative, activist and educator whose work has garnered residencies with Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and more. Gerda Govine Ituarte, Ed.D., poet, art curator, columnist, and CEO of G. Govine Consulting, was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and emigrated to New York City in the mid 50’s and California in the early ’80s. Luivette Resto is a mother, teacher, poet, and Wonder Woman fan who was born in Puerto Rico but proudly raised in the Bronx. Carla Sameth, 2022-2024 Altadena co-poet laureate, is the author of the memoir One Day on the Gold Line and the poetry chapbook, What Is Left, and teaches creative writing to a variety of ages. Colette Sartor’s linked short story collection, Once Removed, won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the NYC Big Book Award for Short Story Collections, and the Juror’s Choice Award, and the Short Stories Award from the National Indie Excellence Awards. This online event will take place on the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Arts YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/wehoarts. Members of the public can RSVP and be sent a direct link to view the event by visiting the WeHo Reads webpage on the City’s website at www.weho.org/wehoreads.

All events are free to attend. For additional information about these events and to RSVP, visit www.weho.org/wehoreads

WeHo Reads is the City of West Hollywood’s literary series presenting authors of interest to the West Hollywood community since 2013. Past participants have included: André Aciman, Andrew Rannells, Arlene and Alan Alda, Armistead Maupin, Bianca Del Rio, Bryan Fuller, Carrie Brownstein, Charles Phoenix, Charles Yu, Chris Kraus, Danez Smith, Dasha Kelly Hamilton, David Ulin, Eileen Myles, Eloise Klein Healy, Emma Donoghue, Erwin Chemerinsky, Henry Rollins, Imani Tolliver, Jacob Tobia, James Sie, Lester Graves Lennon, Josephine Giles, LeVar Burton, Lillian Faderman, Lloyd Schwartz, Lorna Luft, Luis J. Rodriguez, Lynell George, Lynne Thompson, Michael York, Michelle Visage, Myriam Gurba, Natalie Goldberg, Natasha Deón, Nina Revoyr, Patrisse Cullors, Patt Morrison, Peter J. Harris, Randa Jarrar, Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco, Ryan Gosling, Ryka Aoki, Sarah Silverman, Seymour Stein, Shonda Buchanan, Stephen Chbosky, Tananarive Due, and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.

BookSwell, a literary events and media company dedicated to lifting up writers from historically excluded communities, is producing the WeHo Reads 2023 season. BookSwell was founded in 2017 by Cody Sisco.

For more information about WeHo Reads, please contact Mike Che, City of West Hollywood Arts Coordinator, at (323) 848-6377 or at [email protected]. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

As Part of the ‘Moving Image Media Art’ Exhibition Series, The City of West Hollywood Presents: Kassaram (Adapted) by Artist Thania Petersen and Reverse Women by Artist Sarah Rara On the Sunset Strip from February 1 through May 31

The City of West Hollywood announces the debuts of the next exhibitions in the Moving Image Media Art (MIMA) program. MIMA is an ongoing exhibition series of moving image media artworks on multiple digital billboards at various locations along Sunset Boulevard. The goals of the MIMA Program are to foster cultural equity, expand accessibility, inspire communication, create public space, and enhance the human experience of the Sunset Strip. 

Kassaram (Adapted), a short film from artist Thania Petersen, will debut at the Streamlined Arbor billboard, located at 9157 Sunset Boulevard, and will air at the top of every hour for 10-and-a-half minutes. Reverse Women, a short film from artist Sarah Rara, will debut at the Invisible Frame billboard, located at 8743 Sunset Boulevard, and will air at the top of every hour and 30 minutes past each hour. Both works will be on exhibition from Wednesday, February 1, 2023 through Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

About Kassaram (Adapted)The historically significant building that sits at the base of the Streamlined Arbor inspires artwork as an authentic reexamination of cultural identity, by amplifying the voices of those silenced and marginalized. Thania Petersen’s vivid and layered work, Kassaram (Adapted) examines how embedded clichés devalue culture and provide the framework for the permission of subjugation. Across a timeline of slurs and stereotypes, nuanced imagery devolves into more familiar scenes of chaos. Petersen subverts the narrative by illustrating how structural racism serves to further isolate, diminish, and dehumanize. 

Thania Petersen is a South African multidisciplinary artist who addresses the intricacies and complexities of identity. Petersen’s work has been presented at such institutions as Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), Whitechapel, Istanbul Modern, Ballroom Marfa, Alte Kelter Fellbach, and Jeffrey Deitch. Her work is collected by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; IZIKO South African Museum, Cape Town; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; and many others.

About Reverse WomenImages of running women advance backwards in slow motion, as if the ground is being pulled out from under them, evoking unsettling allegories of agency, power, and progress. In Reverse Women the gesture of running is pivotal and intentionally ambiguous, seen both as a sign of practiced liberation, wellness, resilience; yet infused with suspense by the discomfort of watching someone struggle to escape. Reverse Women ultimately illustrates the disorientation of our unreliable and faltering constitutional protections. 

Sarah Rara’s multi-disciplinary practice explores the position of witness within fragile systemsRara is a contributing member of the ongoing project Lucky Dragons (with Luke Fischbeck). Their work, solo and in collaboration, has been presented at such institutions as the Hammer Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Walker Art Center, London’s Institute for Contemporary Art, PS1 in New York, REDCAT, LACMA and MOCA in Los Angeles, among others. Rara is a 2018 recipient of the LACMA Art + Technology fellowship and holds an Assistant Professor of Moving Image at Williams College.

The Moving Image Media Art Program (MIMA) is a City of West Hollywood exhibition series administered by the City’s Arts Division, as part of its Art on the Outside Program, and is presented with the Sunset Arts and Advertising Program. MIMA offers artists the opportunity, and the funding, to create immediate, remarkable, and ambitious works of art that engage with the unique visual landscape of the world-famous Sunset Strip, and experiment with the state-of-the-art technology of high-definition digital signage.  

MIMA enables artists to occupy, contest, and play with the boundaries and uses of public space and manifest moments of connection and awe. Artists exhibited in the program are selected from the MIMA Prequalified List, a rolling, open-call for moving image media artists, curators, and non-profit arts organizations, with applications reviewed bi-annually by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, in May and November. The MIMA Prequalified List includes a diverse list of artists of all career levels; from emerging to internationally recognized: www.weho.org/community/arts-and-culture/visual-arts/mima  

The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Arts Grants, City Poet Laureate, Free Theatre in the Parks, Human Rights Speaker Series, Library Exhibits, WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, Summer Sounds + Winter Sounds, Urban Art (permanent public art), and WeHo Reads. For more information about City of West Hollywood arts programming, please visit www.weho.org/arts. 

For more information about MIMA, please contact Rebecca Ehemann, City of West Hollywood Arts Manager at [email protected] or at (323) 848-6846. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City is Implementing a New Organics Collection Program in Compliance with SB 1383, a Statewide Effort to Reduce Emissions of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

The City of West Hollywood is implementing a new organics collection program in compliance with SB 1383, a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) by reducing organic waste disposal.

Under SB 1383, community members throughout California will be required to place all food scraps, food-soiled paper (100% fiber-based), and landscaping waste into a green waste container. Athens Services, which provides waste collection and recycling services for the City of West Hollywood, is implementing food scrap collection, which applies to all customers including single-family-home residents, multifamily buildings, and commercial customers in West Hollywood.

To assist community members in collection of food scraps, the City of West Hollywood and Athens Services will be hosting two events on Saturday, January 28, 2023 to provide free kitchen pails. From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., there will be a Kitchen Pail Giveaway at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard, and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., there will be a Kitchen Pail Giveaway at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. West Hollywood community members are eligible for one free kitchen pail, limited to one per household or commercial customer.

“West Hollywood has long been a leader in green policies and practices. I’m excited to see our city develop this new program in adherence to SB 1383 to help collect organic waste and, ultimately, turn food scraps into soil compost,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne. “Community-based efforts to reduce waste and emissions are essential in our greater efforts in combating climate change.”

West Hollywood residents in single-family homes and multifamily buildings must, under SB 1383, separate food scraps, food-soiled paper (100% fiber-based), and landscaping waste into green waste containers. SB 1383 establishes statewide targets to achieve a 75% reduction of organic waste disposal from 2014 levels by the year 2025.

With its new organics collection program, Athens Services will accept all types of food scraps. Its American Organics compost facility converts organics waste into nutrient-rich soil amendment. The resulting compost is used by commercial farmers, projects, garden shops, landscapers, and residents.

The Athens Services outreach team is currently in West Hollywood visiting customers, including those in multifamily and commercial buildings, to ensure they are set-up for the new organics recycling program. Many buildings in West Hollywood already have a green Athens organics bin and in such cases the Athens Services outreach team is educating and informing building management that food scraps must now be put in those bins.

For Athens Services customers who do not yet have a green bin, the Athens Services outreach team is working to get them set-up. Additionally, Athens Services will provide a kitchen pail to any customer in West Hollywood who requests one. The outreach team has found that for residents of multifamily buildings, kitchen pails make it much easier to collect food scraps and then empty them into green Athens bins situated at their property.

To contact Athens Services to make a request, or for community members who may have questions about the new organics collection program, please contact the Athens Customer Care Center at (888) 336-6100 or visit www.athensservices.com/sb-1383

To learn more about acceptable items for organics collection, including types of green waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper that Athens Services collects, visit www.athensservices.com/in-the-news/food-waste-recycling. For a complete recycling guide, visit www.athensservices.com/recycling-guide. For more information about SB 1383, visit www.calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/slcp.

In the spirit of “think globally, act locally,” the City of West Hollywood aims to inspire sustainability and eco-conscious programs, projects, and policies. In December 2021, the City adopted its people-centered Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) to guide the implementation of the climate measures and actions and will help to ensure that West Hollywood is a sustainable, vibrant, livable, and equitable city for current and future generations. To find out more, visit www.weho.org/climateaction. For additional information about the City’s ongoing sustainability efforts, visit www.weho.org/gogreen.

For more information, please contact Matt Magener, City of West Hollywood Environmental Programs Coordinator, at (323) 848-6894 or at [email protected]. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

For more information, please call the City of West Hollywood’s City Council Offices at (323) 848-6460. 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.

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Southern California

Triple A: ‘Summer Blend’ begins affecting gas pump prices

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.52, which is nine cents higher than last week

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Screenshot/YouTube

LOS ANGELES – The transition from winter-blend to summer-blend fuel in Southern California has already started pushing pump prices upward as refineries begin producing and soon distributing the more expensive summer blend before the April 1 deadline to switch, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. 

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.52, which is nine cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.50, which is 12 cents higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.55 per gallon, which is four cents higher than last week, 11 cents higher than last month, and 12 cents lower than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $4.58, which is four cents higher than last week, 13 cents higher than last month, and four cents lower than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.51, which is four cents higher than last week, one cent higher than last month, and nine cents lower than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $4.42, which is four cents higher than last week, 13 cents higher than last month and 18 cents lower than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $4.52 average price is four cents higher than last week, two cents lower than last month, and six cents lower than a year ago today.

“Southern California’s shift to producing summer-blend gasoline, annual refinery maintenance that can affect fuel supply, increasing oil prices worldwide and increased gas demand in the spring are the reasons that prices are likely to rise in coming weeks,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “We recommend that drivers continue to conserve fuel and shop around for the lowest available gas prices using a tool like the free AAA Mobile app.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers of the following tips to save money on gas:

  • If you use premium unleaded fuel, make sure it is required for your vehicle, not just recommended. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center found that vehicles with recommended premium fuel performed safely with regular unleaded gasoline.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Jan. 26, averages are:

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European Union

European Court of Human Rights rules against Lithuanian propaganda law

Children’s book author in 2019 challenged anti-LGBTQ statute

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(Bigstock photo)

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights on Monday ruled Lithuania’s anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Author Neringa Dangvydė Macatė in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the law after Lithuanian authorities censured her children’s book that featured two same-sex couples.

The law specifically bans the distribution of information to minors that “expresses contempt for family values, encourages the concept of entry into a marriage and creation of a family other than stipulated in the Constitution of the republic of Lithuania and the Civil Code of the republic of Lithuania.” The court in April 2022 heard Macatė’s case.

Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Bob Gilchrist is among those who have publicly criticized the law. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, an openly gay Lithuanian MP who is running for mayor of Vlinius, the country’s capital, told the Washington Blade the ruling will bolster efforts to repeal the propaganda law.

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South America

Chilean government seeks to implement LGBTQ+, intersex rights agenda

Conservative newspaper incorrectly reported ministry plans legislation

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The 'LGBTIQA+ Roundtable'’s first year of work ended on Jan. 6, 2023. Forty-two organizations from across Chile participated. (Photo courtesy of the Women and Gender Equity Ministry)

SANTIAGO, Chile — A conversative Chilean newspaper’s article on Sunday that said the Women and Gender Equity Ministry was preparing to introduce a bill that would create an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights undersecretariat prompted mixed reactions across the country. 

The ministry in 2022 launched its first “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable” that includes representatives of different public institutions, organizations and Chilean LGBTQ+ and intersex activists who are working to improve the quality of life for the country’s queer community that over the last year has seen an increase in attacks and hate crimes.

LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Chile have gained ground over the last decade.

Civil unions, marriage equality, Transgender rights and an anti-discrimination law are some of the successes that took time to take effect. There is, however, no state institution or public policy that works to ensure historically discriminated LGBTQ+ and intersex Chileans are included. This is why activists feel the “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable” that President Gabriel Boric’s government is promoting is an unprecedented opportunity. 

Jaime Nazar, left, Javier Silva with their two children shortly after they married in Santiago, Chile, on March 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Forty-two organizations from across Chile participated in the roundtable during its first year, which culminated on Jan. 6 with the signing of an agreement between the Women and Gender Equity Ministry’s Women and Gender Equality Undersecretariat and the Interior and Public Safety Ministry’s Crime Prevention Undersecretariat to assist people across the country who are victims of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks. The roundtable at the same time also announced it will send a bill to Congress later in 2023 that would expand the ministry’s mandate to ensure “the LGBTIQA+ community is included.”

There has yet to be an announcement on the creation of an LGBTQ+ and intersex undersecretariat.

Most Chilean media outlets covered this report after El Mercurio published it on Sunday. José Antonio Kast, an extreme right-wing politician who is a former presidential candidate, on his Twitter account criticized what turned out to be inaccurate.

“Chile is poorer, more violent and insecure than a year ago and the inept government is dedicated to enlarge the State to deepen its ideological agenda, instead of solving social urgencies,” wrote the Republican Party leader. 

The ministry told the Washington Blade that “the roundtable with organizations from the LGBTIQA+ community has just been finalized.”

“One of the demands is to have an institutionality,” said the ministry. “During 2023 it will be defined which is the progressive path, while the anti-discrimination law is improved at the same time.”

Women and Gender Equity Undersecretary Luz Vidal Huiriqueo on her social media networks said “we met with LGBTQ+ organizations for seven months” and the ministry made “security, employment and health priorities.” 

“On the 1st we advanced in an agreement with (the Crime Prevention Undersecretariat) to properly address and for the long challenges we committed to propose an institutional mechanism,” said Vidal. 

Vidal said in an exclusive interview with the Blade before El Mercurio published its inaccurate report that “finding and giving answers to the demands of the LGBTIQA+ population in Chile is a commitment for President Gabriel Boric’s government that will not be put aside for anything.”

“We at the (Women and Gender Equality Ministry) have embraced the day-to-day needs that this community, in many cases, has to survive,” said Vidal from her office. “That is why, from our ministry, we have created this intergovernmental roundtable to have a fluid and permanent communication with LGBTIQA+ organizations.

Vidal added Boric “instructed us to move from discourse to action.” 

“We have to get to work. We have to implement the agreements,” said Vidal. “We can’t just make pretty announcements and that is our commitment. The commitment we have today is to work for women, for gender equity, for and with the entire population, in favor of all citizens and of those who lack the presence of the State.”

Chilean authorities after signing an agreement to provide additional government assistance to hate crimes victims. (Photo courtesy of the Women and Gender Equity Ministry)

The undersecretary told the Blade the need to incorporate the queer community into the ministry’s work is important because “the State, as of today, has no powers to specifically address the LGBTQ+ population.”

“We need to create a progressive path that, whether an institutional or other figure, allows us to implement public policies,” she said.

That supposed institutionality was the one that sparked controversy last Sunday and it will not be an easy path, regardless of the mechanism that Boric’s government ultimately chooses to implement.

“I think it is not going to be an easy process,” said Vidal. “It is not going to be a project that we can say, we are going to take them out at the end of the year, that is clear to us. Even today it is difficult to move forward with projects or the work that the ministry is doing because we currently have a Congress with political forces that are against inclusion and respect for diversity. This is present in our Congress, and it is also present in several Latin American countries.” 

Emilia Schneider, Chile’s first Trans congresswoman, on the other hand told the Blade that “it seems to me that the announcement of an institutional framework for the LGBTI community within the Women’s Ministry, and also in what has been working with the Justice Ministry to advance in an institutional framework against discrimination, regarding the reform of the Anti-Discrimination Law are two fundamental steps to advance in dignity and rights for sexual diversities and dissidences.” 

Schneider said it is important “to make a permanent change in the State, which recognizes the importance of having a space that responds to the needs of the queer population and takes charge of combating inequality, discrimination and violence to which our community is exposed.” 

“It seems to me that this is one of the most important commitments, which if realized would be a fundamental legacy of this government in matters of sexual diversity and dissidence,” she said.

Ignacia Oyarzun, coordinator of public policies for Asociación OTD Chile, the country’s most important Trans rights organization, said the implementation of an institutional framework to advance LGBTQ and intersex rights “is an advance that goes in the direction of establishing what will be a trans labor quota to achieve a greater integration of the community in society.”

Oyarzun noted employers do not hire people who are Trans, or fire them without reason. This lack of employment opportunities, according to Asociación OTD Chile, makes trans people more vulnerable to violence.

Jorge Muñoz of Movimiento Organizado de Gays, Lesbianas, Trans y Heterosexuales (MOGALETH) in Puerto Montt, a city that is roughly 640 miles south of the capital of Santiago, also participated in the roundtable. Muñoz told the Blade that “any approach from the central power to civil society, and especially to the regions, is positive.” 

“In this context, we consider it an advance in terms of the demands of the collective in the struggle for the recognition of the historical violation of our rights,” said Muñoz. “The State’s recognition of mistreatment and hate speech towards dissidents has historically been centralized. The regions where we also suffer harassment, mistreatment, difficulties in access to health, education and work have been relegated throughout history. In this sense, what we value most is the recognition of our demands in the territorial context.”

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West Hollywood

A Sip of Coffee with WeHo Mayor Sepi Shyne

Sips with Sepi is a monthly event that takes place at various coffee shops throughout the City of West Hollywood

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West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne and others gather for coffee (Photo Credit: WeHo Times)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Outgoing West Hollywood Rent Stabilization Commissioners, Richard Maggio and Historic Preservation Commissioner Lola Davidson hosted this month’s Sips with Sepi, as part of a monthly meet and greet with West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne.

The event took place in WeHo’s eastside, at the Domain’s lobby, located at 4171 Santa Monica Boulevard this past Saturday.

Breakfast Republic provided pastry treats and the coffee came from the local Starbucks nearby in the West Hollywood Gateway.

Community members and residents of The Domain had an opportunity to chat with the Mayor and ask questions, or raise concerns about issues important to them in the city.

Outgoing West Hollywood Rent Stabilization Commissioners, Richard Maggio and Historic Preservation Commissioner Lola Davidson hosted this month’s Sips with Sepi, as part of a monthly meet and greet with West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne. The event took place in WeHo’s eastside, at the Domain’s lobby, located at 4171 Santa Monica Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Breakfast Republic provided pastry treats and the coffee came from the local Starbucks nearby in the West Hollywood Gateway.

Community members and residents of The Domain had an opportunity to chat with the Mayor and ask questions, or raise concerns about issues important to them in the city.

Photo Credit: WeHo Times
Photo Credit: WeHo Times
Photo Credit: WeHo Times
Photo Credit: WeHo Times

Captain Moulder of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station was in attendance, along with Danny Rivas, the City of West Hollywood’s Director of Community Safety, and Shae Gibson the Block by Block Operations Manager. Various members of boards and West Hollywood Commissions also attended the meet and greet over sips with Sepi.

Maggio and Davidson were both appointed by former West Hollywood council member and Mayor John D’Amico. They finish their terms as West Hollywood commissioners on January 28, 2023.

Photo Credit: WeHo Times

Sips with Sepi is a monthly event that takes place at various coffee shops throughout the City of West Hollywood. This is an effort for the Mayor to be accessible and transparent to the community she serves with the hopes to engage West Hollywood residents with the Mayor and City Staff.

Mayor Pro Tempore John Erickson hosted a similar event that Saturday at Plummer Park. “Have an issue?” Reads his events invite on social media. “Need to get connected to services? Just want to chat with your Councilmember? This is our eighteenth event in Plummer Park and I’m looking forward to you all joining us! Bring a chair, a reusable cup for some coffee, and your dog (or cat), and let’s talk! Come out to the Great Lawn (along Vista St.) at Plummer Park and meet and speak with West Hollywood Councilmember John M. Erickson. Can’t make this event? Email John at [email protected]

Mayor Shyne can be found on Instagram under the handle @sepishyine.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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The Vatican

Pope Francis: Criminalization laws are ‘unjust’

Pontiff told AP that homosexuality is not a crime

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Pope Francis (Bigstock photo)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Tuesday said homosexuality is not a crime and laws that criminalize it are “unjust.”

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis told the Associated Press during an exclusive interview.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in nearly 70 countries around the world, and Francis acknowledged some Catholic bishops support criminalization laws and other statutes that discriminate against LGBTQ+ and intersex people. The Associated Press notes Francis said cultural backgrounds contribute to these attitudes, and stressed “bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.”

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” said Francis. “[They should apply] tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Francis’ comments are the latest indication of how the Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since he assumed the papacy in 2013.

Francis — who vehemently opposed a marriage equality bill in his native Argentina before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2010 — a decade later publicly backed civil unions for same-sex couples.

Francis in 2013 said gay men and lesbians should not be marginalized. The pontiff three years later said the Roman Catholic Church should “ask forgiveness” from gay people over the way it has treated them. Francis in 2017 compared politicians who use hate speech against LGBTQ and intersex people and other minority groups to Adolf Hitler.

The Vatican in 2020 gave money to a group of Transgender sex workers in Italy who were struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. Francis in 2021 named Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay Chilean man who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse, to a commission that advises him on protecting children from pedophile priests.

Francis last year during several of his weekly papal audiences met with Trans people who were living at a Rome church. 

Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged despite these overtures. The Associated Press reported that Francis referred to LGBTQ+ and intersex issues within the context of “sin.”

“Pope Francis denounced laws in nearly 70 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and called on the Roman Catholic Church to take an active role in repealing those laws,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. “His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation, and more kindness and understanding. Other influential voices in faith, government, business, sports and entertainment should now similarly speak out on outdated laws that criminalize the lives and relationships of LGBTQ people and that negatively impact travel and business in these countries.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, an LGBTQ+ and intersex Catholic organization, echoed Ellis.

“World leaders and legislators in many, many countries pay attention to what Catholic officials say,” said Duddy-Burke in a statement. “The Vatican’s support of criminalizing homosexuality has made life very dangerous for countless gay people in countries on nearly every continent. Shifting the stance and pushing for an end to making queer identity illegal will make life safer for many people around the world.”

Esteban Paulón, an LGBTQ+ and intersex activist in Argentina, on Wednesday said he “celebrates” Francis’ condemnation of criminalization laws that include the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual relations. Paulón also agreed with Francis’ assertion that Catholic bishops support these statutes, but added the pontiff’s comments are “contradictory” because they don’t change Vatican doctrine.

“The don’t have any consequences because (the church) continues to consider us sinners,” said Paulón. “It does not represent a concrete change in questions of doctrine and action on the part of the Vatican state.”

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News Analysis

A list of everything & everyone the right accused of grooming

A non-exhaustive list from Joe Biden to Fox News, no one was safe from the right’s ongoing bigoted smear campaign

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

Editor’s Note: Content warning: This article includes extended discussion of sexual violence and LGBTQ hate. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, which can be reached at 800-656-4673 or online via hotline.rainn.org. Trans lifeline, a hotline staffed by and created for transgender and nonbinary people, can be reached at 1-877-565-8860 or translifeline.org. The Trevor Project’s crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth can be reached at 866-488-7386 or through thetrevorproject.org/get-help/

By Beatrice Mount & Alyssa Tirrell | WASHINGTON – Last year, no one — not even Elmo — dodged the right’s bigoted groomer smear campaign. Accusations that individual people, organizations, and companies were engaged in widespread attempts to groom children (either sexually or into a so-called LGBTQ lifestyle) reached staggering levels in 2022, spreading from social media platforms and conservative cable all the way to representatives in Washington.

Grooming is a set of manipulative behaviors abusers use for the explicit purpose of forming a sexual relationship with minors. Right-wing media outlets and figures misappropriated the term, drawing on old and bigoted stereotypes that LGBTQ people are a sexual threat to minors in order to perpetuate hate — turning a once useful term into a de facto anti-LGBTQ slur.

This rhetoric supported dangerous bans on life-saving trans healthcare, a directive investigating parents who support their trans children, legislation revoking the parental rights of LGBTQ allies, and vague laws restricting any mention of LGBTQ people in the classroom. The smear has also contributed to a wave of anti-LGBTQ violence — including armed terrorists storming drag queen story hours and family-friendly pride events, death threats against gay politicians, and bomb threats against Children’s Hospitals.

Mainstream press perpetuated the smear by platforming its architects in puff-piece profiles and articles framing LGBTQ rights as a political debate. By the time the Associated Press had officially released guidance against uncritically repeating the slur, groomer was already the right’s catchall for the LGBTQ community.

  • Transgender People: The use of the word groomer to refer to transgender people echoes a tactic utilized in the early 2000s against gay people. Grooming was already misappropriated when applied to LGBTQ acceptance or same-sex marriage and now the right has expanded the definition even further in an effort to frame the existence of trans people as an encouragement of sexual acts. Hate spread by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA), right-wing influencer Will Witt, conspiracy theorist James Lindsay, and Gays Against Groomers founder Jaimee Michell, was buoyed by anti-trans coverage on Fox News that fearmongered around trans representation, healthcare, and the notion of transness.  
  • Drag Queens: Referring to drag performers as groomers has created the false impression that drag performance is inherently sexual or that it encourages gender dysphoria. Right-wing media figures, such as conservative podcasters Owen Shroyer and Steve Bannon, Fox News hosts Jesse Watters and Sean Hannity, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson claimed that drag performers were intentionally sexualizing children. Other figures, including OAN host Dan Ball and right-wing commentator Dominique Samuels, claimed that this alleged sexualization is an effort to indoctrinate children into leftism. In even more extreme cases, the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh encouraged or excused direct violence against drag performers. These smears have fueled a violent political atmosphere and targeted attacksMainstream media has noted the uptick in the presence of Proud Boys and other violent protesters outside of drag events across the country, individual drag queens have expressed concern for their own safety, and some performers have been the victims of online harassment campaigns.

  • Pride Parades: During Pride Month, right-wing media utilized the groomer slur to fearmonger around pride events, going so far as to doctor footage of drag performances in an effort to mobilize extremist reactions. Right-wing influencers such as Chaya Raichik, creator of Libs of TikTok, and avowed Christian fascist Kelly Neidert, targeted specific gatherings. Meanwhile, OAN’s In FocusReal America and Tipping Point segments waged a more generalized campaign of hate against pride events.  Extremism researchers and LGBTQ activists drew a direct connection between this bigoted smear campaign and the far-right extremists who protested pride parades, including the highly publicized arrest of white nationalist group Patriot Front, in which police charged dozens of members with conspiracy to riot. 
  • The Entire LGBTQ Community: In addition to targeting specific LGBTQ people or groups, right-wing media accounts such as Libs of TikTok, OAN personalities Landon Starbuck and Alison Steinberg, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, right-wing podcasters Tim PoolAllie Beth StuckeyMatt Walsh, and Freddy Silva, and conservative commentators Christopher Rufo and Dave Rubin made generalized claims against the entire LGBTQ community. Following a severe uptick in the use of the word groomer on right-wing social media accounts, evidence that the slur contributed to real-world violence against LGBTQ people, and calls for guidance from organizations, including Media Matters, some social media outlets incorporated the slur into their hate speech policies. The Associated Press eventually cautioned against uncritical use of the slur, but on social media, regulation and enforcement remain varied. 
  • Club Q: After the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, right-wing figures blamed the LGBTQ community for motivating violence against themselves. They weaponized the groomer slur in a confusing response that oscillated between excusing anti-LGBTQ violence and denying any culpability right-wing media bore in stoking anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Far-right trolls subsequently harassed Club Q survivors both on and offline — dubbing the man who disarmed the shooter a groomer. The House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the rise in anti-LGBTQ extremism following the shooting, during which Republican representatives claimed that their Democratic colleagues were using the tragedy as a means of smearing the right. The hearing was followed by GAG founder Jaimee Michell slandering one witness who had appeared before the representatives as a groomer.
  • Teachers, Schools, School Districts, and School Boards: Right-wing media figures Libs of TikTokTucker CarlsonJesse WattersJames LindsayChristopher Rufo, OAN’s Kara McKinney, and the Daily Wire’s Candace Owens contributed to the false claims that inclusive curriculum, the teachers who support it, and the school boards that fund it were all guilty of sexually grooming children. As a result, multiple teachers and school board members were harassed, threatened, and doxxed after becoming the right’s target of the week. Meanwhile conservative educational organizations who oppose LGBTQ representation in schools began to plan their own counter-curriculums at the state and federal level. Nevertheless, a record number of LGBTQ people ran for school board positions in 2022. 
  • High School GSA’s: Gay/Straight Alliance organizations and clubs have existed for over thirty years as a means of providing community to LGBTQ students. In 2022, they faced new scrutiny under the gaze of figures such as Christopher Rufo and OAN hosts Dan Ball and Addison Smith, who accused the clubs of grooming children and keeping information from parents.
  • Librarians and Libraries: Far-right outlets like OAN and activists like Chistopher Rufo gave voice to a broad campaign of hate that accused libraries and librarians of grooming children by including LGBTQ materials or hosting drag queen story hours. Many local libraries and librarians faced censorshipfunding complications, and counter protests. In response, some libraries have considered privatizing while others remain public and committed to a pro-LGBTQ stance. 
  • ElmoBlaze: TV host Chad Prather told OAN that Sesame Street character Elmo was a groomer after the beloved puppet received his COVID-19 vaccine. “I’ve always said that Elmo is a groomer anyway. They use these puppets to try to influence kids with their agenda.” Prather continued, “This actually should be illegal. You are pushing — I mean, what happens in a month? Is Elmo going to get a vasectomy? How much can we continue to push on this medical tyranny on our kids using a puppet?”
  • Books: Alongside right-wing legislative efforts aimed at schools and libraries, 2022 saw a concerted effort to ban LGBTQ books under the guise of protecting children from grooming. Many of these policies were successfully implemented.
  • American Girl: American Girl released “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image,” discussing practical and intersectional advice about body image and gender identity — which Jaimee Michell called the “definition of grooming.” Others called for a boycott of American Girl for promoting “transgender ideology” to kids — or as one right-wing commentator put it, “using girls’ love of dolls as a Trojan horse to teach them to destroy their bodies.” American Girl stood by the book, emphasizing: 

The content in this book was developed in partnership with medical and adolescent care professionals and consistently emphasizes the importance of having conversations and discussing any feelings with parents or trusted adults. … We are committed to delivering content that leaves our readers feeling informed, confident, and positive about themselves.”

  • Hospitals and Doctors: Libs of TikTok instigated a series of online harassment campaigns against specific hospitals and doctors, falsely conflating gender-affirming care to mutilation, child abuse, and grooming. The effort was later amplified by other media figures such as Jesse KellyMatt Walsh, and Terry Schilling. Enraged followers left online comments and voicemails labeling health care providers groomers. This led to a series of bomb threats. As a result, some facilities limited either their care or the information on their websites, making it more difficult for trans people to access gender-affirming care.
  • Parents: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, conservative “parody” site Babylon Bee’s CEO Seth Dillon, conservative commentators Steven Crowder and Tim Young, Fox News guest Jimmy Failla, and Candace Owens contributed to claims that parents who expose their children to LGBTQ themes or supported their LGBTQ children were themselves groomers. This trend continues to fuel new legislative efforts. Gov. Abbott directed Texas state agencies to investigate parents and medical caregivers of trans youth. Florida Republicans proposed legislation criminalizing adults taking children to drag shows while Republicans in IdahoAlabama, and Michigan proposed legislation criminalizing guardians providing gender-affirming care to their children. 
  • Democrats: Leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans and right-wing media figures spread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in an effort to rally their base. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, conservative podcaster Liz Wheeler and Jesse KellySteve Bannon, and Matt Walsh associated grooming with the Democratic party or the left more broadly. After the election, Media Matters noted that political attacks on LGBTQ people and supporters failed to produce the victory Republicans had promised.
  • President Joe Biden: In addition to the Democratic party, some right-wing media figures turned the groomer slur against individual politicians. OAN’s Chanel Rion accused President Joe Biden of being the “groomer-in-chief” during a rant against gender-affirming health care. In her segment, Rion claimed that grooming was the first step in a top-down leftist strategy to “sterilize your children, abort your babies, discourage nuclear families, and encourage non-reproducing unions.”
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Rachel Levine: On Transgender day of Visibility, Tucker Carlson claimed that “No one’s attacking transgender kids, young people,” denying evidence that shows “transgender people are four times more likely than cisgender people to be the victims of violent crime.” Carlson falsely claimed that most trans youth “have been led to where they are by adult predators,” a statement which he then used to introduce a segment on the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Rachel Levine.   
  • The Proposed U.S. Budget: The groomer slur reached such prevalence that it became a go-to smear for Democratic policies and agendas. In an extreme example, The Blaze’s Daniel Horowitz claimed that Democrats were promoting “grooming throughout the federal budget and international relations budget.” Horowitz did not elaborate. 
  • Title IX and the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Steve Bannon claimed the Biden administration was “going to hold back the school lunch program … until they fully implement the grooming project.” Bannon’s claim reflected a right-wing media lie that the Biden administration was withholding funds for meal programs from schools that did not comply with proposed rule changes to Title IX and USDA policy, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Conservatives slammed the recommendations, with Florida Education Commissioner promising Florida’s education department “will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools” last July.  The Advocate reported on the link between these smears and a wave of threats to schools last June. 
  • Fox News: After Fox News ran a positive segment with a trans teenager, anti-trans activists and other right-wing media members lost their minds — most notably Terry Schilling. Schilling told OAN he “felt really betrayed” by Fox News for participating in what host Chanel Rion called a “concerted effort to normalize the transgender agenda in conservative circles.” Schilling then expressed doubt about whether Fox News shared his deep concern with children’s ability to orgasm. Fox, for its part, remains deeply committed to their anti-trans ethos. 
  • Obergefell and the Respect for Marriage Act: Fearing that the Supreme Court would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges and end national marriage equality, Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which affirmed a federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage. As the act made its way through Congress, right-wing figures including Alex BreusewitzLauren ChenJames Lindsay, and Kelly Neidert turned to old, slippery-slope claims that protecting same-sex marriage would normalize grooming and pedophilia. Right-wing media continued spiraling after Biden signed the bill into law in December, with Daniel Horowitz telling OAN the act is “about reinforcing a national grooming.” 
  • California State Sen. Scott Wiener: State Senator Scott Wiener was doxxed and received multiple bomb and death threats for his work protecting LGBTQ civil rights, which he connected to “extreme homophobic and transphobic” rhetoric from right-wing media and lawmakers. One email called the openly gay lawmaker a “pedophile” and “groomer” and threatened to “fucking kill” him. 
  • The Proposed Transgender Bill of Rights: Terry Schilling dubbed a House resolution to create a Transgender Bill of Rights “a groomer manifesto because it goes into education and healthcare.” Despite support by more than 30 organizations, including the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Education association, the bill has yet to advance. 
  • Dylan Mulvaney and Ulta Beauty: Last October, Meta largely ignored OAN host Alison Steinberg’s harassment campaign against TikTok influencer and Broadway actor Dylan Mulvaney. After Mulvaney interviewed Biden about anti-trans legislation and hate, Steinberg suggested Mulvaney is “a government plant” and compared Mulvaney’s content celebrating her journey as a transgender woman to sexual indoctrination. That same month, the right launched the #BoycottUlta campaign after Ulta interviewed Mulvaney for their YouTube series “The Beauty of…” — which one OAN host likened to watching “the bones of our once great civilization” get “picked clean by vultures.” Mulvaney discussed the emotional toll of the hate and harassment with Today and continues using her platform of over eight million subscribers to stand up for the trans community.
  • Jeffrey Marsh: The right turned TikTok influencer and nonbinary activist Jeffrey Marsh into the target of an online harassment campaign by equating their uplifting videos preaching self-acceptance with grooming. Marsh and their partner addressed the hate and death threats in a Tiktok video in May:
@thejeffreymarsh those pesky little death threats!💅💅🥰💛 #relationships #lgbt #happy #truelove #nonbinary #rainbow #mentalhealth ♬ original sound – Jeffrey Marsh
  • Yoel Roth: Twitter CEO Elon Musk smeared former Twitter Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth by implying Roth wanted to expose children to explicit material. The allegation prompted responses from a range of right-wing commentators, including Tim Pool, who tweeted: “This tweet just clarified why the term ‘groomer’ was considered ‘hate speech’ on Twitter.” The smear campaign and ensuing threats forced Roth to flee his home.
  • Pizza Hut: Right-wing media and hate groups accused Pizza Hut of “exploiting America’s children to be ‘groomed’ by wokeness” and pushing “the indoctrination agenda” by adding LGBTQ inclusive books to their BOOK IT! Program. The BOOK IT! Program has incentivized reading in elementary aged kids nationwide since 1984. A book about finding acceptance as a member of the LGBTQ community proved too much for conservative media, as pundits promptly called for a Pizza Hut boycott, which did not materialize. 
  • State Farm Insurance: State Farm faced widespread backlash after backing out of plans to fund the GenderCool Project’s LGBTQ books program following a coordinated, right-wing media harassment campaign, which falsely equated the program with grooming and child indoctrination. The program would have provided age-appropriate LGBTQ books to schools who voluntarily sign up. 
  • Oreos: Conservatives demanded Oreo “stop sexualizing children” and vowed to boycott their “gay cookies” after Oreo released a two-minute short film about coming out. The film accompanied a $500,000 donation to PFLAG — the nation’s first and largest organization supporting LGBTQ people and their families through advocacy, education, and community support.

By hijacking the conversation around grooming with conspiracy theories, the right has turned child abuse into a demeaning moral crusade that obscures legitimate concerns about predators with flashy fiction. Child sexual abuse is a problem outside of Hollywood, and most abusers aren’t executive producers or directors — they’re the acquaintances, family friends, and family members of their victims. While pretending this isn’t the case may earn Owens views, it makes it harder for victims and survivors — especially queer victims and survivors — to share their story, seek justice, and heal. 

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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