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Future Beauty Fund benefits LA County businesses, professionals

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Image courtesy of Cherie

Count among those whose livelihoods are on the line due to a drastic drop in business since COVID-19 protocols were put in place, beauty industry professionals whose brick-and-mortar interactions with clients have taken an ugly turn.

During this time of uncertainty, “many industries and employees are scrambling to find stability,” notes Cherie, a platform where influencers weigh in with highly personalized takes on beauty and skincare products they favor.

Through their Future Beauty Fund initiative, Cherie has earmarked $50,000 towards hiring 50 beauty professionals to create content on their app. In addition, $5,000 will be donated to 10 LA County beauty organizations—as voted on by their community.

The program remains open for voting until Sunday, May 10. For details on how to participate, visit Cherie.com.

The Los Angeles Blade recently spoke with Cherie co-founder Kelly Chen, about the initiative.

The Los Angeles Blade: What inspired Cherie to create the Future Beauty Fund (FBF), and what do you hope to see it accomplish?

Kelly Chen: Our vision with Cherie is to build a community around beauty lovers. Like every industry, our community has been affected by COVID-19, and we just want to play our part in supporting them during this difficult time. With FBF we hope to help business owners and beauty professionals to get through this pandemic.

Blade: Your press release notes, “So many LGBTQ+ people are a part of the beauty community…” Will the hiring of content creators and/or donations to local beauty organizations favor or focus on that community to any extent?

Cherie co-founder Kelly Chen. (Photo courtesy of Cherie)

Chen: Diversity is one of our brand’s core values. We welcome all beauty professionals to join us in sharing beauty knowledge with the community. The fund for beauty businesses will be awarded to ten businesses with the most votes. As with any business, we would encourage LGBTQ+ business owners to promote themselves amongst their fans to help them win the fund. More participation creates a stronger community, which is critical during this time.

Blade: Does Cherie speak to the LGBTQ+ consumer in any specific manner?

Chen: Cherie speaks to all consumers, including the LGBTQ+ consumer. Cherie’s mission is to create a community where beauty has no barriers, diversity is embraced and the strength of our platform lies in participation of people from all walks of life. We want our community to grow in the best way that serves our users, and we welcome any and all ideas that can help us achieve this goal. We expect the LGBTQ+ community to be an active part of this effort.

Blade: What is the date when the nominations will be announced, after which there will be a 2-week voting period?

Chen: We hope to announce the winners within a week after we close the voting platform, or around May 17. If you haven’t voted for your favorite beauty business yet, please visit https://www.cherie.com/future_beauty_fund/home. We are seeing fans show up for their favorite beauty businesses. Some businesses can gain over a thousand votes in a day. We would also like to remind everyone that they can vote every day. Personally, the first thing I do when I wake up is going to Cherie and cast my vote for my facial lady. I’ve been going to her facial place for two years and she is the best!

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Politics

Republican delegate discusses GOP platform and Project 2025 at RNC

Weymouth, Mass., Mayor Bob Hedlund spoke with the Washington Blade

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Republican National Convention attendees. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBTQ group, hosted a Big Tent Event on Wednesday offsite from the Republican National Convention, atop the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum with panoramic views of Lake Michigan.

Before the luncheon began — with remarks from GOP members of Congress and the organization’s leadership, along with former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, who formerly served as acting director of national intelligence — the Washington Blade spoke with a Republican delegate, Weymouth, Mass., Mayor Bob Hedlund.

“I bumped into, this morning, a former colleague of mine,” he said, referring to LCR Board Chair Richard Tisei, who served in the Massachusetts Senate with Hedlund and invited him to the event.

Several of the speakers would later tout the 2024 Republican party platform’s omission of references to same-sex marriage, a departure from the party’s longstanding position of opposing marriage equality. And Hedlund recalled how heated the debates were in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I was in the Senate when that debate went on and the court decision and multiple votes, so we were kind of at the forefront of that at the time,” he said. “It was a vote I struggled with. I probably received more pressure on that issue than anything else in my 21 years in the legislature. I had neighbors that never talked politics with me grabbing me and stopping my car one morning on the week of the vote and voicing their opinion. That was a difficult time.”

Hedlund explained that while his hometown of Weymouth was the bluest in his Senate district, the community is, and was, blue collar with a heavy Irish-Italian-Catholic bent. Twenty years ago, the town had five Catholic parishes, he said, “so there was a lot of opposition to [same-sex marriage] at the time.”

More than the volte-face on gay marriage, what stood out to the mayor about the GOP platform — the party’s first since 2016 — was how “quiet” the fight was, in contrast with the heated battles through which previous iterations were produced.

As LCR President Charles Moran previously told the Blade, Hedlund said the language of the new document, concise as it is, is a clear reflection of the values and priorities of the party’s 2024 nominee, former President Donald Trump.

“I think they can smell victory and they want to just get across the finish line,” Hedlund said, referring to the officials involved in drafting the platform.

While the document does not take a position against same-sex marriage, it does call for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

Addressing the proposed sports ban, Hedlund said “I think you don’t have any consensus in the populace over how you handle that issue. I mean, I think that’s a jump ball.”

He added that if residents in Weymouth were polled on the issue, or if it came up in a referendum, he imagines they would favor a ban. Neighboring towns have experienced controversies involving trans athletes, he said.

Personally, Hedlund said he believes there should be rules for participation in athletics that are drawn based on “some defining line as to when someone may be transitioning” and in the meantime “it’s hard to pigeonhole a party or an entity on that [issue] because people are still grappling with it.”

“I don’t know how you deal with it if someone’s fully transitioned,” the mayor said, because in that case “I think that’s a different story” and a ban might not be necessary or appropriate.

Compared to the platform, Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s governing agenda for a second Trump administration, contains far more policies sought by the conservative Christian wing of the Republican Party, including restrictions on abortion and pornography as well as LGBTQ rights.

“I didn’t know anything about Project 2025 until about a week before Trump said he didn’t know anything about it,” Hedlund said. “Honestly.”

“I’ve been aware of the Heritage Foundation for 40 years and read some of the newsletters in the past,” he said. “And I’m way more informed than the average citizen. And I’m probably way more informed than most delegates.”

While the former president has sought to distance himself from the document as it has increasingly earned blowback, CNN notes that “six of his former Cabinet secretaries helped write or collaborated on the 900-page playbook” while “four individuals Trump nominated as ambassadors were also involved, along with several enforcers of his controversial immigration crackdown. And about 20 pages are credited to his first deputy chief of staff.”

“At least 140 people who worked in the Trump administration had a hand in Project 2025,” according to a CNN review, “including more than half of the people listed as authors, editors, and contributors to ‘Mandate for Leadership,’ the project’s extensive manifesto for overhauling the executive branch.”

Asked whether he expects Project 2025 or the party platform would be a more accurate guide to a second Trump term, Hedlund said he was not sure — but added the focus on Project 2025 is misguided because “you’ve got organizations, advocacy groups, think tanks on the left, same thing on the right, that publish policy papers.”

“When those on the left complain about Project 2025, I’d like to see the media ask the same questions, ‘what are the policy papers coming out of the Council on Foreign Relations? Or out of George Soros’s foundation? And how much of the Democratic Party is adopting those policy papers or initiatives?”

Hedlund added, “I don’t know if Trump knew about it or didn’t know about it, but it’s not the Republican Party platform. It’s a separate entity.”

“Are they going to have people involved in the Trump administration that are going to be influential?” he asked. “Yes. But if you look at some of the things in Project 2025, [many require] legislative legislative action” and looking at Trump’s “first term, I mean, what did he do, really, administratively or through executive action or by fiat that was so radical?”

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District of Columbia

Founder of now-defunct D.C. LGBTQ group pleads guilty to wire fraud

Reduced charge says Ruby Corado stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

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Politics

Adam Schiff calls on Biden to exit 2024 race

Calif. Democrat is frontrunner to win US Senate race

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U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), the leading candidate for U.S. Senate in California, has formally called for President Joe Biden to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race.

Schiff, who is heavily favored to win his Senate race, made his statement exclusively to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

While praising Biden’s accomplishments, calling him “one of the most consequential presidents in our nation’s history,” Schiff expressed “serious concerns” about Biden’s ability to defeat Trump in November. He urged the president to “pass the torch” and allow another Democrat to secure the party’s nomination, arguing that this would help “secure his legacy of leadership.”

The move comes amid growing concern within the Democratic Party about Biden’s age and mental fitness, particularly in light of his recent debate performance against former President Donald Trump.

Anxiety within the Democratic Party has also risen exponentially since the Trump assassination attempt, which occurred just as the Republican National Convention began.

Though polling has shown little change in support nationally for Biden since his disastrous debate performance, there has been a pronounced increase in support for Trump in many of the swing states. CNN’s John King on Wednesday revealed that Trump’s support in seven of the eight swing states has surged dramatically and that the Electoral College now favors Trump.

The congressman’s call for Biden to step aside is particularly significant given his prominent role in the party and his history as a vocal critic of Trump. 

Schiff played a key role in the congressional efforts to impeach the former president and notably led the House inquiry on the Trump-led Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. His involvement in these high-profile investigations has made him a well-known figure in national politics.

Recent polling suggests that nearly two-thirds of Democrats believe the 81-year-old Biden should step aside and allow the party to nominate someone else. This sentiment has been growing since Biden’s widely criticized debate performance last month, where he at times appeared confused and struggled to articulate his positions clearly.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, the Democratic National Committee recently announced plans for a virtual roll-call vote in early August to formally nominate Biden as the party’s candidate. This decision was reportedly made to comply with a candidate certification deadline in Ohio on Aug. 7. However, the move has been met with resistance from some party members who are calling for an open convention instead.

The controversy surrounding the nomination process has exposed divisions within the party. 

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison has defended the decision, stating that the party “will have this vote by Aug. 5.” However, some Democrats have criticized the move as a “terrible idea,” arguing that forcing through an early vote while discussions about replacing Biden continue could undermine party unity and morale.

In a significant development, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) have reportedly pushed for a delay in the nominating process. This information, coming from multiple sources speaking to ABC News, suggests that even top party leadership may be reconsidering Biden’s candidacy. Schumer’s recent private meeting with Biden in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which the Senate leader only described as a “good meeting,” has further fueled speculation about the party’s plans.

ABC News reported Wednesday night, July 17, that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer privately urged President Joe Biden to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race. According to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, reporting from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Schumer made a compelling argument that Biden’s exit would benefit not only the president himself but also the Democratic Party and the nation as a whole.

Karl noted that Schumer’s office has not denied the report. Instead, they issued a statement saying, “Leader Schumer conveyed the views of his caucus.” This response suggests that Schumer’s position may reflect broader sentiments within the Democratic Senate leadership.

The reported conversation between Schumer and Biden adds to growing speculation about the president’s political future and the Democrats’ strategy for the upcoming election.

The growing calls for Biden’s withdrawal have not been limited to party insiders. 

Moderate House Democrats have expressed frustration with the president’s campaign strategy and performance. In a recent call between Biden and a group of moderate House Democrats, participants described the president as “defensive” and “rambling” in his answers. Colorado Democrat Jason Crow went so far as to say on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there is now a “high risk” Democrats will lose the election “unless there is a major change.”

The White House reports that President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid on July 17. (Screen shot/Independent UK)

Biden, however, has continued to defend his record and mental acuity.

In a Monday interview with NBC News, he stated, “I’ve gotten more done than any president has in a long, long time in three and a half years. So I’m willing to be judged on that.” The president has also resumed campaigning in battleground states like Nevada, joined by some of his top defenders, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and the chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The growing calls for Biden’s withdrawal, including from prominent figures like Schiff, indicate significant uncertainty within the party about its presidential nominee at a time when GOP voters have rallied more strongly than ever to support Trump.

Schiff is recognized as a key ally to the LGBTQ community and served as one of the vice chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, a status that is likely to fuel LGBTQ politicos concern about Biden’s chances for success.

There is a growing sense of fear among Biden’s LGBTQ supporters as second Trump presidency could lead to significant setbacks for the community: The rollback of LGBTQ protections in areas like healthcare, employment, and housing; the appointment of conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices who might weaken or overturn LGBTQ rights decisions; further restrictions on transgender rights; expanded religious exemptions allowing discrimination; cuts to HIV/AIDS programs; removal of LGBTQ-inclusive materials from schools; reduced global advocacy for LGBTQ rights; discrimination in adoption and foster care; elimination of LGBTQ demographic questions in federal surveys; and a general worsening of the social climate for LGBTQ people. 

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India

Schools in India’s Kerala state adopt gender-neutral curricula

Initiative encourages administrators to change uniform policies

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A page from the Kerala state government’s new textbooks that introduces non-traditional gender roles to students. (Photo courtesy of Kerala State General Education Minister V. Sivankutty’s Facebook page)

When schools in India’s Kerala state reopened on June 3 after a long summer break, students walked into classrooms with the usual excitement. This year, however, they were greeted with a surprising and groundbreaking change. The textbooks they received were unlike any they had seen before — filled with gender-neutral images and instructions.

The initiative, driven by the state’s commitment to fostering equality from a young age, aimed to break down traditional gender roles and promote inclusivity. Students found pictures of boys and girls engaging in various activities without gender-specific expectations.

One of the images showed the father grating coconut in the kitchen while his wife cooked food. Another picture showed the father cooking food for his daughter.

In an unprecedented move, some schools in Kerala have committed to gender neutrality beyond textbooks, introducing gender-neutral uniforms. This change marks a significant departure from the traditional Indian school uniform, where boys typically wear shirts and pants, and girls don skirts, often in different colors. Many schools in Kerala have introduced the same school uniform for all students including shirts and knee-length pants.

More than 12 schools in Kerala have shifted to gender-neutral dresses so far. While there are a total of 4,504 government-run schools in Kerala, the Kerala Child Rights Commission last year decided to remove the use of words like “sir” and “madam” for teachers and instead encouraged to use of universal terms like “teacher” on school premises, but the Department of General Education, a state government body that overseas education in schools, refrained from any changes.

The National Council of Education Research and Training, a government-autonomous body of India’s Education Ministry, in 2023 introduced a manual that directs schools to implement transgender-inclusive curricula, safe washrooms, and gender-neutral dress for students to prevent gender-based discrimination and violence.

The Mumbai-based Aditya Birla World Academy, a private international school, in 2022 adopted gender-neutral uniforms and language in its 138 branches across the country. The school replaced “ladies” and “gentlemen” and other gender-specific words with “dear guests” or “hello everyone.” The school sent an email to parents that told them how to reduce gender differentiation in uniforms so students of various genders and those who are gender non-conforming or questioning their gender can feel safe discovering and expressing themselves at the school.

The Aditya Birla World Academy has also established the Rainbow Club, an LGBTQ support group led by students and guided by teachers, to create an environment of activism in the classroom, shifted to allow students to choose the length of their hair as long as it is neatly tied up, along with other activities that include workshops with teachers and parents under the initiative of “move away from the cis heteronormative environment in the education world.”

While talking to the Washington Blade, Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist, said children should be allowed to dress the way they want. He also said the idea of uniforms in schools is that a student should feel included, regardless of what strata of society to which they belong.

“Adding gender-neutrality to uniforms would only extend the whole purpose of the uniforms,” said Iyer. “It should be appreciated by all as there is no question of any debate here. What should be debated is that some people are forced to wear what is not part of their gender identity.”

Iyer told the Blade there should not be any gender assigned to clothes. He said uniforms should be based on comfort and not based on gender.

Indrani Chakraborty, a mother of a trans child and an LGBTQ activist based in northeast India, told the Blade the Kerala government’s decision to implement gender-neutral uniforms is welcome. She said her organization, Annajoree, is also trying to sensitize people on the same issue in Assam state.

“We are promoting safe-spaces in schools in Assam so that kids can complete their basic education without any mental harassment at school,” said Chakraborty. “Kerala is doing great work, it’s a great initiative and everyone should come forward to support it. It should be everywhere in our country.”

Indrani Chakraborty (Photo courtesy of Indrani Chakraborty)

She also told the Blade that schools not sensitized to LGBTQ issues creates a fear of bullying. Students, according to Chakraborty, in particular face bullying and they are not allowed to join classes in their preferred uniforms and do not have access to gender-neutral bathrooms. 

She has started an initiative called the “No More Holding Pee Initiative” in schools.

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India, and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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Politics

Anti-LGBTQ GOP Senate hopefuls target immigration in RNC speeches

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)’s Republican opponent among Tuesday speakers

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Wisconsin Senate candidate Eric Hovde (R) at the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Taking the stage at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Tuesday were a handful of anti-LGBTQ GOP Senate candidates whose remarks centered largely around immigration.

“Biden, with his border czar Vice President Harris, opened our Southern border allowing criminals and terrorists to enter our country,” said Eric Hovde, a real estate and banking tycoon who will face off against U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in November.

Like the other speakers, Hovde sought to link President Joe Biden’s immigration policies to the scourge of fentanyl “killing over 100,000 Americans every year” while his own campaign has been marred by accusations of transphobia.

The Human Rights Campaign, for instance, notes that Hovde once said that being transgender is “insanity.”

Appearing on a right-wing talk radio show earlier this year, Hovde said about Baldwin, “She actually earmarked, in the last budget, $400,000 for a transgender-affirming clinic that doesn’t even tell parents that they’re doing that, with their own kids.”

Baldwin’s office said the funds could not be used for that program and instead would go entirely to cover counseling and to provide a social worker for kids experiencing homelessness. 

Additionally, former President Donald Trump’s administration gave $350,000 to the same clinic.

Baldwin became the first openly gay member to serve in the Senate in 2012, and she is considered a trailblazer as one of the country’s first out elected leaders dating back to her time in the Wisconsin General Assembly in the 1990s.

“The American dream that I live is under attack with Joe Biden and his enablers in the Senate, like Sherrod Brown who encouraged millions of illegals to invade America,” said Bernie Moreno, a GOP candidate who is challenging the senior senator from Ohio.

(The state’s junior senator, JD Vance, was tapped by Trump to join the 2024 GOP ticket.)

“Joe Biden’s border czar Kamala Harris and a Democrat Senate have put the welfare of illegals ahead of our own citizens,” said Moreno.

LGBTQ issues have loomed large in his race, too.

Leading up to the 2024 Republican primary election, the Associated Press reported that an account linked to Moreno’s email was set up on Adult FriendFinder seeking “men for 1-on-1 sex,” though the candidate’s lawyer said a former intern claimed credit for the “aborted prank.”

Moreno’s companies sponsored Cleveland and Akron’s hosting of the 2014 Gay Games and were on record in support of an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination law in 2020. The businessman also shared that his eldest son is gay during an interview in 2016.

However, the AP notes, “he began to distance himself from his past activism, professing to be unfamiliar with the anti-discrimination legislation” during his first Senate run in 2021, and “during his current Senate campaign, Moreno has accused advocates for LGBTQ rights of advancing a “radical” agenda of “indoctrination.”

“I have never seen anything like the Biden-Harris open border policy,” said Mike Rogers, who is running for the Senate seat that will be vacated by the retirement of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

“They are rolling out the red carpet for violent gangs, fentanyl, Chinese spies, [and] individuals on the terrorist watch list,” he said.

In 2014, Equality Alabama and the Alabama Association of Realtors accused Rogers, who then represented Michigan’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, of making homophobic comments.

Equality Alabama Chairman Ben Cooper wrote in an open letter to the congressman, “when you marginalize our community, we will not be silent.”

“You allegedly joked about how nice it was to be called ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetie’ by a woman at an Alabama restaurant rather than a D.C. men’s room,” Cooper wrote. “And you went on to mock our nation’s capital as a ‘cross between Detroit and San Francisco’ — an obvious reference to Detroit’s racial makeup and San Francisco’s vibrant gay culture. Comments like these are racist, homophobic, and hurtful, and they will not be tolerated.”

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California Politics

Newsom signs law banning schools’ gender notification policies

Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) introduced AB 1955

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(Graphic courtesy of PFLAG)

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1955 on Monday, banning forced outings in California schools after facing fierce opposition.

The signature comes after Newsom faced pressure to sign, leaving many to question his stance on LGBTQ issues after vetoing a bill that would have considered parents’ acceptance of a child’s identity or orientation in legal custody battles.

The bill, proposed by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) earlier this year, bans schools from creating or enacting policies that would out students to their parents about their gender, pronouns, name change, or sexual orientation.

“This comes from a growing national attack on LGBTQ+ people and in particular transgender individuals, with several California school districts and other states enacting policies that explicitly compel teachers to tell parents that their child identifies as transgender,” said Ward during a hearing last month.

“Forced outing policies harm everyone: Parents, families, and school staff by unnecessarily compelling the staff to involve themselves in family matters and removing the opportunity for families to build trust and have conversations on their own terms.”

The introduction of the bill follows a string of policies requiring counselors, administrators, teachers, school staff, and anyone else at the school to notify parents about their child’s transition or change of pronouns.

AB 1955 supports the Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act (SAFETY Act) in preventing schools from enforcing or enacting forced outing policies.

“As a nonbinary educator working at a middle school, I definitely feel relieved to have some solid protection at the state level, and I feel empowered to continue advocating for my LGBTQ+ students,” said Amanda Estrada, a middle school teacher at Los Nietos Unified School District.

Lawmakers were discordant last month at a hearing that erupted in emotions over the issue. Following the hearing, legislators sent the bill to Newsom to stop these policies against LGBTQ students, families, and educators who felt passionately about the issue.

Last summer, Chino Valley Unified School District began enforcing the policy notifying parents of any requests “to change any information contained in a student’s official or unofficial records.” The policy was later blocked in court, sparking a civil rights lawsuit from California, bringing in Attorney General Rob Bonta to advocate against the policy.

Earlier this year, the school district revamped the policy, leaving out terms like gender, biological sex, and bathrooms but continues to push for outing students based on any changes they may request.

Existing law regarding the polarizing issue requires the State Department of Education to develop school-based resources and update previous resources that aim to support LGBTQ students. The new law now requires the State Department of Education to develop community-based resources for LGBTQ students and their families as well.

Existing law also prohibits discrimination against students participating in any program or activity conducted that receives or benefits from state-level funding. The new law will now include “any governing body or body of those educational entities from enacting or enforcing policy, rule, or administrative regulation that requires an employee or a contractor to disclose any information related to a pupil’s consent unless otherwise required by law.”

The law also states that students should feel “safe, supported, and affirmed for who they are at school.” This requires allowing them to choose when and how they want to make their new identities or orientation public and making resources available for them and their families.

This legislative push for laws and policies that protect LGBTQ youth will continue to face opposition as transition and gender identity continues to be a heavily polarizing and political issue among families.

The proposed bill cites research by the Trevor Project, stating that affirming school environments significantly lower the odds of transgender and LGBTQ youth attempting suicide.

Further findings also suggest that educators often face harassment and retaliation attempts because of their lawful efforts to uphold student privacy and protect them from discrimination.

“Over the past couple of years, I started to worry more about the creep of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric across the state, mostly through small districts like mine,” said Estrada. “Now that we have this law in place, I’ve got some peace of mind, and hopefully going forward, my students will too.”

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

The Polish government has moved forward with a civil unions bill

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK’s new Labour government is defending the previous Conservative government’s ban on the use of puberty blockers for transgender children and moving to make the ban permanent, the new health minister announced this weekend.

Wes Streeting, who was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on July 5, one day after Labour’s landslide election victory, posted a thread on X over the weekend defending the new government’s policy.

Streeting said the Cass Review — the previous government’s official review of gender care, which has been derided by trans activists as misleading and one-sided — found there was a lack of evidence that puberty blockers were safe and effective for use in gender questioning youth.

“We don’t yet know the risks of stopping pubertal hormones at this critical life stage. That is the basis upon which I am making decisions. I am treading cautiously in this area because the safety of children must come first,” Streeting wrote.

The Labour government is continuing to defend the previous government’s emergency ban on puberty blockers in court. This week, the court was told by counsel for trans groups challenging the ban that the policy stems only from the previous minister’s personal views about trans people, rather than medical expertise.

“The evidence shows that the impetus and only disclosed rationale for the making of the order was the personal view of [former Health Secretary Victoria Atkins] that the Cass report required immediate action,” Jason Coppel said.

“Officials were then tasked with working up arguments in favor of a banning order to fit that personal view. No clinical or other scientific advice was taken on whether the statutory criteria were, or were capable of being, satisfied. This was a wholly insufficient basis for invocation of the emergency process.”

While Streeting has previously supported trans rights, more recently he’s walked back that support, saying he no longer stands by the belief that “trans women are women.”

POLAND

The Polish Sejm in Warsaw (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Poland’s government has finally agreed to a draft civil union bill, long after Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s initial promise to pass the bill within 100 days of taking office.

The government plans to debate the bill during the fall session of parliament, beginning in September, and have it passed by the end of the year, but recent cracks in the governing coalition have put some doubt on that timetable.

Since December, Poland has been governed by a rocky coalition of left and center-right parties who united to oppose and increasingly anti-democratic right-wing party that had governed Poland since 2014. But the coalition partners don’t see eye-to-eye on a number of social issues, including LGBTQ and reproductive rights.

The center-right Polish People’s Party had threatened not to support the civil union bill if the bill provided unions that were too similar to marriage, which would effectively kill its chances of passing. As a compromise, the center and left-leaning coalition partners agreed to amendments that would block same-sex couples from being able to adopt their partner’s children.

But a similar compromise on a landmark abortion bill failed in parliament last week.

Poland is one of only two European Union countries in which abortion is not legal – the other is Malta. Tusk had promised to decriminalize abortion up to 12 weeks, a position broadly agreed to by the left and center wings of his coalition government. But the Polish People’s Party voted against the bill, and it failed by three votes, killing it in parliament.

The Left Party in the coalition has vowed to reintroduce the bill over and over until it is passed.

An additional hurdle to both the abortion and civil union bills is President Andrzej Duda from the far-right Law and Justice Party, who has vowed to veto any abortion bill and has not committed to signing the civil union bill.

The next presidential election is in May 2024. Duda is termed out.

JAPAN

A court in Japan has allowed a trans woman to change her legal gender without undergoing gender-affirming surgery for the first time last week.

The ruling by the Hiroshima High Court handed down on July 10 overturns a lower court decision that had denied her the gender change because she hadn’t undergone surgery.

Under Japanese law, in order to legally change gender, a trans person must have a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” and must have had surgery. The law also used to require that the person seeking a gender change has no ability to reproduce, forcing them to be sterilized, but that provision was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Japan last October.

The claimant, a trans woman in her late 40s argued to the court that the surgical requirement would be an unfair financial and physical burden.

One of her lawyers has said that when she was told of the ruling, she cried in relief, the Associated Press reports.

The ruling still requires trans people who want to change their legal gender to have received a “gender identity disorder” diagnosis and to have undergone hormone therapy.

LGBTQ rights have become a growing political issue in Japan. Last year, the national parliament failed to pass a nondiscrimination bill, instead passing a bill it hoped would “promote understanding” of the LGBTQ community. A majority of Japan’s prefectures have instituted recognition and registration of same-sex couples, while a series of court cases have been pressing for full equal marriage rights nationwide.

PHILIPPINES

Mandaue City on the island of Cebu is the latest city in the Philippines to pass a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance to protect is LGBTQ community, with the publication of implementing rules and regulations July 10.

The regulations prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in health care, education, and public accommodations, and from impediments to free association and organization.

Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes says the aim of the ordinance is to make everyone feel welcome.

“The [regulations] provide the detailed guidelines on how we will implement and enforce this ordinance, ensuring that our commitment to equality is not just words but real actionable steps,” Cortes said.

More than 30 cities across the island nation have passed anti-discrimination ordinances to protect the LGBTQ community, but a bill to ban SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) discrimination nationwide has been stuck in the Philippine Congress for more than 20 years, having been first introduced in 2001.

A lawmaker has also attempted to get a bill to recognize same-sex civil unions passed, but it has stalled in committees.

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News

South LA Pride celebrates diversity and unity

Annual event took place in Baldwin Hills this past weekend

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Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass speaks at the South LA Pride festival in Baldwin Hills, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Koi Sojer/Snap’N U Photos)

The sixth annual South LA Pride festival went off without a hitch this weekend at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Baldwin Hills, in what organizers are calling a testament to the community’s unwavering spirit and commitment to equality.

The festival was organized around the theme “It’s Giving,” nodding to the popular phrase used to describe a person who exudes confidence and commitment and encouraging everyone to showcase their full selves and uniqueness with pride. It also nods to the spirit of giving back to the community.

South LA Pride is an annual festival dedicated to celebrating and advocating for the BIPOC LGBTQ community in South Los Angeles. Since 2017 — with a 2-year break during the COVID-19 pandemic — the festival has produced events and outreach celebrating the diversity of South LA.

This year’s headliner was out R&B artist JeRonelle, best known for competing in the second season of Fox’s “The Four: Battle for Stardom.”

“I’m thrilled and super excited to have headlined South LA Pride this year,” JeRonelle says. “In a time and election year where so much of our freedom seems to be at stake, it’s important for us to have spaces where LGBTQ folks can come together, have fun, feel safe, and literally take center stage.”

Other performers this year included singer Choklate, out rappers Billy the Goat and boysfloveflowers, R&B singing duet Sunday, disco funk artist Javi, alternative music artists Topaz Faerie and Luna Scar, pop singer Cristina Hron, drag artists Sasha Thickerfish and Miss Heaven Lee, singer Arashi Supanova, and DJs Higher Intentions, HJC, The Hound, and Dante Luv.

Showcasing BIPOC queer talent goes to the heart of South LA Pride’s mission to foster representation and empowerment in the community, says festival Entertainment Chair Aunt Jackie.

“By highlighting these voices, South LA Pride underscores the rich cultural diversity and unique experiences of the BIPOC queer community, challenging mainstream narratives and promoting a more inclusive and authentic portrayal of LGBTQ+ life. This focus not only elevates emerging talents but also strengthens community bonds, affirming that every identity and background is valued and essential to the fabric of South Los Angeles,” Aunt Jackie says.

Other attendees included Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, City Attorney Hydee Feldstein-Soto, and Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Heather Hutt, and Hugo Soto-Martinez, who reiterated their efforts to foster a more inclusive city for the LGBTQ community.

The sixth annual South LA Pride at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Los Angeles on July 13, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Koi Sojer/Snap’N U Photos)

Events at this year’s festival included the Outside Kiki Ball for BIPOC LGBTQ youth, a Best Dressed contest hosted by Queen Shannon Gipson and Mother Devine Gorgeous Gucci, and a softball game hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association.

The festival also featured a vibrant marketplace with local vendors, artisans, and community organizations offering handcrafted jewelry, apparel, and diverse food options, giving attendees a chance to learn about and support local entrepreneurs.

South LA Pride organizers say plans are already underway for next year’s festival, which they promise will be even more spectacular and inclusive.

The sixth annual South LA Pride at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Los Angeles on July 13, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Koi Sojer/ Snap’N U Photos)

“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s event and are excited to build on this momentum. We invite everyone to join us next year as we continue to celebrate diversity and strive for equality,” says Jasmyne Cannick, director of South LA Pride.

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Politics

Trump picks anti-LGBTQ JD Vance as running mate

HRC, GLAAD highlight vice presidential nominee’s record

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U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former President Donald Trump announced anti-LGBTQ U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) as his 2024 running mate in a Truth Social post on Monday.

A political neophyte who was first elected in 2022 thanks to Trump’s endorsement, Vance once compared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler, also calling him “cultural heroin” and “an opioid of the masses.”

The Ohio senator’s journey from critic to acolyte was cemented over the weekend.

After Trump walked away from an assassination attempt and both of the major candidates said it was time to turn down the rhetoric, Vance went further than many on the right and directly blamed President Joe Biden and his campaign for the gunman’s actions.

“The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs,” he said on X. “That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” 

LGBTQ organizations and advocates issued statements on Monday blasting Trump’s vice president pick.

“Donald Trump has been a bully for years — and his pick of MAGA clone JD Vance is a reminder that nothing has changed. This is anything but a unity ticket,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said.

“We are not simply choosing between two campaigns. We are choosing between two fundamentally different visions of America. One, with Trump and MAGA ‘yes man’ JD Vance at the helm, where our rights and freedoms are under siege. And the other, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the way, where we are advancing toward freedom and equality for all,” she said.

“Everything is at stake and the contrast could not be clearer. We must defeat Trump, Vance, and their brand of chaos and division, and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris back to the White House.”

In a press release, HRC listed some of the ways in which Vance has denigrated LGBTQ people.

GLAAD, meanwhile, has a lengthy entry for Vance in the GLAAD Accountability Project. Positions, statements, and actions by Trump’s running mate that were noted by the two organizations include:

  • His endorsement of the “groomer” slur against Democrats for their support of LGBTQ people,
  • His statement “strongly disagree[ing]” that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination,
  • His opposition to the Equality Act, which would federalize and codify LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections,
  • His extreme anti-choice views, including opposition to exceptions to abortion restrictions for victims of rape and incest and opposition to IVF,
  • His introduction of a bill to charge healthcare providers with a felony for providing medically necessary health care to transgender youth,
  • His statement that he would have voted “no” on the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex couples and was supported by a dozen GOP senators,
  • His defense of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for appearing at a white supremacist conference with host Nick Fuentes, who has spread racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, and
  • His claim, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that Biden was risking war with Russia because President Putin doesn’t believe in trans rights.
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Africa

Burkina Faso moves to criminalize homosexuality

Justice Minister Edasso Bayala made announcement on July 10

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Burkina Faso flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Burkina Faso has become the latest African country to move to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Justice Minister Edasso Bayala on July 10 after a Cabinet meeting said same-sex sexual acts and similar practices would now be prohibited and seen as a violation of the law.

Unlike other countries where lawmakers have to introduce and pass bills, this scenario will likely not be the case in Burkina Faso because the country is currently under military role. Captain Ibrahim Traorè in 2022 led a coup that removed President Roch Kaboré and Prime Minister Lassina Zerbo.

Although some have signaled there still needs to be a parliamentary vote, there will be “legal” ramifications for those who are found to be LGBTQ or advocating for the community.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations or identifying as LGBTQ were regarded as legal in Burkina Faso before the July 10 announcement. Same-sex marriages were — and remain — illegal.

Members of the Transitional Legislative Assembly last September met to discuss regional issues that included the prohibition of and penalization of homosexuality and restricting the creation of groups that advocate on behalf of sexual minorities. The TLA incorporated the suggestions into a report and submitted it to Burkina Faso’s leadership.

Some of the country’s LGBTQ groups and human rights organizations have called upon the current leadership to respect and acknowledge other genders.

“We are all equal in dignity and rights,” said the National Consultive Commission on Human Rights, which is known by acronym CNDH (Commission Nationale des Droits Humains in French), in a statement. “CNDH is fighting against all forms of discrimination based on race gender, religion or social origin.”

“In Burkina Faso, thousands of people suffer from prejudice and injustice every day,” added CNDH. “We must take action. Discrimination weakens our society and divides our communities. Every individual deserves to live without fear of being judged or excluded.”

The organization further stressed “every action counts. Every voice matters.”

“Together we can change mindsets,” it said. “We must educate, raise awareness and encourage respect for diversity.”

CNDH President Gonta Alida Henriette said the government’s decision “would be the greatest violation of human rights in Burkina Faso and would condemn hundreds of thousands of LGBT+ people in Burkina Faso.” Alice Nkom, an African human rights activist, echoed this sentiment.

“Why politicize a privacy matter among consenting adults while making it a crucial topic for Africa? I answer you: Stop spying on your neighbor for the wrong reasons,” said Nkom. “Mind your own life and, if you care about your neighbor, worry about their health, if water is coming out of the tap, if there is electricity in the house, or food to feed their children.”

“Why are they prioritizing the issue of saying no to homosexuality in Africa instead of no wars or armed conflict in Africa, no poverty in Africa, no hunger in Africa, no misery in Africa?,” asked Nkom. “We should stop being distracted by topics that take away nothing and add nothing to our lives.”

Other activists say the proposal would expose the LGBTQ community and its allies to imprisonment and other punishments. They say the repercussions would go beyond legal implications; making human rights and sexual minority activists more vulnerable to criminal action, persecution, and arbitrary arrests. 

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