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Belarus LGBTQ activist joins anti-government protests

Vika Biran returned to country after disputed election

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Vika Biran is a Belorusian LGBTQ activist who is participating in protests against her country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, after this month’s disputed election. (Photo courtesy of Vika Biran)

An LGBTQ activist in Belarus on Monday said she remains optimistic that nationwide protests will ultimately oust her country’s authoritarian president.

Vika Biran is originally from Pinsk, a city in southern Belarus that is roughly 180 miles from Minsk, the country’s capital.

Biran, who is a project manager, told the Los Angeles Blade she flew from Berlin to Minsk on Aug 12, three days after President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in the country’s presidential election. Biran said she decided to return to Belarus and participate in the anti-government protests after police arrested and beat several of her friends.

“I want to support them and I want to be in this movement as well,” Biran told the Blade.

Biran said she has not been detained, attacked or injured during the protests. Biran told the Blade the worst of the police crackdown against protesters took place before she arrived in Minsk.

“I was really surprised when I was on the main square,” said Biran. “I was sitting in front of soldiers, and their commanders were not informing people that people will be beaten soon … they said just please leave this square clean.”

“That was really surprising,” added Biran. “I was happy and nothing terrible happened to me.”

Belarus is a former Soviet republic that borders Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Lukashenko — described as Europe’s “last dictator” — has been Belarus’ president since 1994. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate who challenged Lukashenko after authorities arrested her husband, fled to Lithuania after the Aug. 9 vote.  

Media reports indicate Lukashenko over the weekend spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Associated Press reported upwards of 200,000 people gathered in Minsk’s Independence Square for what has been described as the largest protest in Belarusian history.

Journalists at state media outlets and workers at government-owned factories have also joined strikes against Lukashenko.

“These events that are happening in Belarus are really unique,” Biran told the Blade. “We have never had anything like that happening before.”

Biran added the protests make her hopeful about her country’s future.

“I don’t want Lukashenka to be president anymore,” said Biran. “I have hope because not only cultural workers or people from NGOs are disappointed and want to show their reaction to everything; but … people from factories, teachers, medical workers, all those people who are receiving their money from the (state) budget are also not happy with what is happening in the country.”

Lukashenko’s last name is spelled Lukashenka in Belarusian.

Belorusian troops deployed in the country’s capital of Minsk. (Photo courtesy of Vika Biran)

European Union Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell in a statement noted hundreds of thousands of people “took to the streets all across Belarus” on Sunday to protest Lukashenko.

“These peaceful demonstrations had clear demands: The release of all unlawfully detained people, the prosecution of those responsible for police brutality, and holding of new presidential elections,” said Borrell.

“The sheer numbers clearly show that the Belarusian population wants change, and wants it now,” he added. “The EU stands by them.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an Aug. 10 statement described the vote as “not free and fair.” Pompeo also criticized the Belarusian government’s response to protesters.

“We urge the Belarusian government to respect the rights of all Belarusians to participate in peaceful assembly, refrain from use of force, and release those wrongfully detained,” he said. “We strongly condemn ongoing violence against protesters and the detention of opposition supporters, as well as the use of internet shutdowns to hinder the ability of the Belarusian people to share information about the election and the demonstrations.” 

Biran told the Blade she hopes the international community will continue to apply pressure to Lukashenko and his government.

“We really do need a reaction from different countries and different politicians who are making decisions and who can put economic pressure on this government,” said Biran.

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Africa

Zimbabwean vice president reiterates strong opposition to LGBTQ+ rights

Constantino Chiwenga condemned advocacy group’s scholarship

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Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (Screen capture via SABC News YouTube)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has expressed concerns over what he has described as foreign recruitment of LGBTQ+ people in the country.

Chiwenga on Feb. 15 described Zimbabwe as a Christian country and therefore does not have room to accommodate those who identify as LGBTQ+. His comments were in response to Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and the advocacy group’s annual scholarship program that provides funds to people who identify as LGBTQ+.

“The government of Zimbabwe strongly and firmly rejects and denounces as unlawful, un-Christian, anti-Zimbabwean and un-African, insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged, but able students into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian nation,” he added.

Chiwenga said such scholarships are a national threat and highlighted that anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ shall not be enrolled at any educational institution.

“To that end, government sees such scholarship offers as a direct challenge on its authority, and thus will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws, and to protect and defend national values,” he said.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enroll persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practiced in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities,” added Chiwenga.

The vice president also said Zimbabwe shall not be influenced by any country to change its stance with regards to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign, African state with definite laws and values which typify it, cutting it apart from other mores,” said Chiwenga. “Young Zimbabweans who qualify for enrolment into tertiary institutions here and elsewhere, should approach government departments tasked to give grants and scholarship support to deserving cases. They should never be tempted to trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.”

Activists and commentators have sharply criticized Chiwenga’s comments, saying people’s sexual lives should not be of public concern.

“This scholarship has been going on for years and many graduates have been supported and gainfully employed,” noted GALZ Programs Manager Samuel Matsikure. “In the 90s it showed LGBT (people) who were bullied, outed and faced harassment would drop out of school, hence, it was important to provide them with basic education so they can support themselves in life.”

Stacey Chihera, a social commentator, said what consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors should never be up for public discussion. 

“I wish this entitlement about individual sexuality was applied to corruption, service delivery and infrastructure development,” said Chihera. “What consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors with their private parts should never be up for discussion! Not even by the government.”

Namatai Kwekweza a lawyer and an activist, said the vice president was scapegoating the real issues on the ground that are affecting the country on a daily basis.

“The facts being a scapegoat is necessary for an underperforming and evil government that will overzealously and hypothetically talk about morality and Christian values except when it comes to corruption, looting, genocide, abductions, torture, elections fraud, abuse of office, sexual abuse,” said Kwekweza. “These leaders must be seen more, major more and heard loudest in matters of public accountability and returning stolen loot, than in matters of moral grandstanding of which they have no moral authority in the first place.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zimbabwe with up to 14 years in prison.

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California Politics

Poll: Schiff continues to lead U.S. Senate Primary with 28%

Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%

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Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) speaking to group in the Capitol in January 2024. (Official U.S. House of Representatives photo)

BOSTON, Mass. – A new Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill survey finds California Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff maintaining his lead in the U.S. Senate Primary, with 28%, followed by former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres baseball player, Republican Steve Garvey at 22%, and Schiff’s Democratic House colleague Katie Porter with 16%.

The Emerson College Polling also found that nine percent of voters support Democratic U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee. Seventeen percent remain undecided. 
Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%, and Porter’s support increased by three points, from 13% to 16%.

“Candidate support varies by age group,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, noted. “Schiff’s support is highest among voters in their 60s, at 45%, and those over 70, with 39%, whereas Porter’s strength is among young voters, where she holds 23%. Notably, this group has the highest share of undecided voters at 28%. Garvey’s strength is also with older voters, with 33% support among voters over 70.”

Emerson researchers also found:

  • Half of California voters (50%) approve of the job President Biden is doing in office, while 41% disapprove. Governor Newsom holds a 49% job approval, while 40% disapprove.
  • In the likely general election between Biden and former President Donald Trump, 55% would support Biden, 33% Trump, while 12% are undecided. With third-party candidates added to the ballot test, Biden’s support decreased to 49%, Trump’s to 31%, while 8% instead supported Robert Kennedy Jr., and 1% supported Cornel West and Jill Stein respectively. 
  • In the March Republican Primary, 72% of GOP voters plan to vote for Trump, 20% for Haley, and 8% are undecided. In the Democratic Primary, 75% of voters support President Biden, 9% Dean Phillips, and 16% are undecided.

The Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill California poll was conducted February 16-18, 2024. The sample consisted of 1,000 registered voters, with a credibility interval, similar to a poll’s margin of error, of +/- 3 percentage points.

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Politics

Plans for ‘Christian nationalism’ if Trump wins a second term

New documents show that close allies of former President Donald Trump who would likely serve in senior White House roles

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President Trump is applauded by gathered religious leaders on May 4, 2017, as he displays his signature on his Executive Order Promoting Free Speech & Religious Liberty, at a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House photo)

WASHINGTON – New documents show that close allies of former President Donald Trump who would likely serve in senior White House roles if he is reelected would make Christian nationalism a guiding principle of governance and public policy in a second term.

Politico reported on Tuesday that it had reviewed a list of priorities for a second Trump administration that was prepared by a right-wing think tank called the Center for Renewing America and included “Christian nationalism.”

In a statement to Politico, a spokesperson at the organization disputed the accuracy of the reporting.

CRA is led by Russell Vought, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget in the first Trump administration and is considered a top candidate for the chief-of-staff job if he returns to the White House.

The bulleted list also featured examples of ways in which Trump would consolidate and exercise the powers of the presidency in a maximalist fashion, including by using the military to quash protests and by refusing to spend congressionally appropriated funds on any projects that he does not agree with.

Sources at CRA who were familiar with the plans told Politico that Vought speaks with Trump at least once per month and plans to leverage his relationship with the former president to elevate Christian nationalism in a second term.

Politico noted that Vought is close with William Wolfe, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and as director of legislative affairs at the State Department during the Trump administration — and has advocated for ending abortion, reducing access to contraceptives and overturning the right to same-sex marriage.

In a post on X last week, Wolfe circulated the false allegation that the shooter who injured two people at a Texas megachurch was transgender, writing “The “T” in LGBT stands for “Terrorist.”

The former Trump official is an advisor on Project 2025, the 887-page governing agenda for the next Republican administration that was created by the Heritage Foundation, another conservative think tank.

Like the CRA document, Project 2025 outlines plans to advance Christian nationalism in American government. Specific policies include the replacement of secular public education with teaching based on the Bible, outlawing all pornography and eroding protections for LGBTQ Americans.

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U.S. State Department

Former State Department spokesperson named UN ambassador’s deputy

Ned Price is gay

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Former State Department spokesperson Ned Price, center, speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Institute's International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 3, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield has announced former State Department spokesperson Ned Price will manage her D.C. office.

Thomas-Greenfield in a statement to Politico on Feb. 16 said Price’s “judgment and expertise will be a tremendous asset to me and the entire USUN team.” Price, who is gay, in a post to his personal X account acknowledged his appointment.

“I am grateful to (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield), (Secretary of State Antony Blinken) and my colleagues across the administration for the opportunity to help promote America’s interests and values in the U.N. and broader multilateral system together with our allies and partners,” wrote Price.

Price on Jan. 20, 2021, became the first openly gay State Department spokesperson. He stepped down in March 2023 in order to become a senior advisor to Blinken.

Price was previously a senior communications official for the National Security Council and worked at the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma non-binary high schooler dies after physical altercation

The school district has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik

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16-year-old non-binary Nex (Dagny) Benedict died from injuries suffered in a physical altercation at Owasso High School on February 7th, 2024. (Family Photo)

OWASSO, Okla. – Located in Tulsa County on U.S. Highway 169 six miles north of Tulsa’s city limits, this city of 39,328 persons is grappling with conflict and accusations after Nex (Dagny) Benedict, a 16-year-old Owasso High School non-binary sophomore, died after a physical fight in a restroom at the school.

However, according to school officials there was no notification or staff awareness of the fight until the young student had been taken to hospital and later died. The Owasso Police Department is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the student’s death.

According to the local newspaper, the Owasso Reporter:

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, around 3:30 p.m., police were called to Bailey Medical Center by the parent of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who allegedly had a physical altercation at the campus earlier that day, according to the police report.

It states that no initial report of the fight was made to police prior to their admission to Bailey, although information was taken by a school resource officer at the hospital.

On Thursday evening, police were made aware that the student was rushed back to the hospital where they were pronounced dead from a medical episode, the report states.

Editor’s note. The following report is from KJRH-TV News 2 which does use pronouns other than those used by non-binary persons. Those have been placed in brackets for clarity.

KJRH-TV News 2 in neighboring Tulsa reported that a person knowledgeable of the events leading to the teen’s death, who claimed to be the mother of the victim’s best friend, told the station regarding the teen’s death:

“I think complications from brain trauma, head trauma, is what caused it,” she said.

The woman wouldn’t say the victim’s name but said [she] was a sophomore. She said the victim was outgoing and loyal once they got comfortable and was not afraid to be outspoken. The woman said three older girls were beating on the victim and her daughter in the girl’s bathroom.

“I know at one point, one of the girls was pretty much repeatedly beating [their] head across the floor,” she said. That’s when [they said] a teacher walked in and broke it up.

“[They] couldn’t walk to the nurses’ station on [their] own, and staff didn’t call the ambulance, which amazes me,” she said.

The woman told 2 News the victim’s grandmother, who [they] primarily lived with, brought [them] to the hospital after the fight. She said the victim was released that evening but was brought back the next day and died.

KJRH-TV News 2 reached out multiple times along with other media outlets to Owasso Public Schools. A School district spokesperson responded saying there would be no comment “because this is an active police investigation.”

The Owasso Police Department also declined to comment except for noting investigators still don’t know if the fight was related to the teen’s death or if a separate medical issue was the cause. OPD said they’re waiting on the corner-medical examiner’s report before releasing more information.

Owasso Public Schools released this statement about the student’s death:

“The Owasso Police Department has notified district leaders of the death of an Owasso High School student. The student’s name and cause of death have not yet been made public. As this is an active police investigation, we will have no additional comment at this time. Further inquiries should be directed to the Owasso Police Department.”

“The district will have additional counselors at the school to provide support to students and staff beginning on Friday.”

On Feb. 15, after a service was held at Mowery Funeral Service Chapel, Benedict was buried at Ridgelawn Cemetery in Collinsville.

LGBTQ+ advocates and others are angered by the death, the misgendering in local media and the fact that the school district, which has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik, seems unable to grapple with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.

Raichik was named to sit on an Oklahoma committee reviewing school library content by far-right leaning State Superintendent of schools Ryan Walters.

In 2022, Raichik targeted a now former Owasso 8th grade teacher for speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ students who lacked acceptance from their parents. That teacher, Tyler Wrynn, was labeled a ‘groomer’ and a predator in social media posts.

According to LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, Raichik’s endless targeting only seems to encourage more violence against LGBTQ+ youth.

Lance Preston, the CEO of the Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project, which has been working to assist queer youth in the state, posted a video expressing his frustration and anger over this death and the other anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

 

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San Francisco

13th annual Bay Area First Nations Two Spirit Society powwow

The Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirit powwow was held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center from February 5 to February 10, 2024

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Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) exists to restore and recover the role of Two-Spirit people within the American Indian/First Nations community by creating a forum for the spiritual, cultural and artistic expression of Two-Spirit people in Northern California. (Photo by Mishaa Degraw/ProBonoPhoto.org)

SAN FRANCISCO – The Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit Society held their 13th annual powwow on February 10th 2024, Commemorating the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits 25th Year Anniversary.

The 13th Annual Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirit powwow, held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. (BAAITS) exists to restore and recover the role of Two-Spirit people within the American Indian/First Nations community by creating a forum for the spiritual, cultural and artistic expression of Two-Spirit people.

For the past 25 years, Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) has been creating sober gathering spaces and events for the Two-Spirit & IndigeQueer community in the Bay Area and  beyond. Originally founded in 1999 by Two Spirit community members organizing the International Two Spirit Gathering in the Bay Area, BAAITS proudly continues to grow and expand to welcome Two-Spirits, IndigeQueer, and TG/GNC LGBQIA+ people as they/we learn and reconnect with their/our Indigenous roots.  

BAAITS was excited to continue this legacy with a successful week of events from February 5, 2024 to February 10, 2024 culminating with the 13th Annual BAAITS Two-Spirit powwow.

BAAITS is a community-based volunteer organization offering culturally relevant activities for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Native Americans, their families and friends. Two-Spirit refers to the commonly shared notion among many Native American tribes that some individuals naturally possessed and manifested both a masculine and feminine spiritual qualities.  American society commonly identifies Two-Spirit People as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender.

Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits comes together to socialize, share and network in an alcohol and drug-free environment. BAAITS sees itself as an organization for Two-Spirit people to explore their rich heritage in a safe environment.  To that end, BAAITS is committed to offering culturally relevant activities for LGBTQ individuals of Native American ancestry and their families and friends.

Photos:

(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)
(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)

(Photo by Mishaa Degraw/ProBonoPhoto.org)

(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)
(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)
(Photo by Mishaa Degraw/ProBonoPhoto.org)

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California

California is surveying its older LGBTQ+ residents on aging issues

Residents asked about myriad concerns, from health issues & insurance coverage to living arrangements, social activities, & relationships

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Photo courtesy of the California Department of Aging/California government

By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | SACRAMENTO -For the first time California is surveying its older LGBTQ residents to find out what issues they are dealing with as they age. The response to it has already surpassed expectations.

The UCSF researchers conducting the survey, Annesa Flentje, Ph.D., and Carol Dawson-Rose, Ph.D., on behalf of the California Department of Aging noted on its introductory page they expected about 2,000 people to participate by the time it concludes on March 31. They had reached that amount a little over a month after the survey went live online in early January.

As of February 14, the number of people surveyed had surpassed 2,640.

“We had an inkling there would be great interest in this because it really hasn’t been done,” said Susan DeMarois, a straight ally who is director of the state agency. “We are so happy there is this response. It really shows there is a need for this survey on this population statewide.”

There is no cap to how many people can take the survey before it concludes next month.

“There is no baseline for data on this population, so the survey will be all the more richer from having more people who participate. There is no limit,” said DeMarois, 58, who was appointed director of her agency on November 1, 2021. “Absolutely, this is the first time our department has done this.”

The state agency budgeted $899,304 toward the survey and expects to begin reporting out its findings later this year. Respondents are asked about myriad concerns, from their health issues and insurance coverage to living arrangements, social activities, and relationships.

The questions also inquire about such varied topics as HIV status and transportation to employment and end-of-life matters. Anyone age 50 and older who identifies under the LGBTQIA+ acronym and lives in California can fill out the survey, which should take about 20 minutes to complete.

The age range is purposefully broad, noted DeMarois, due to the agency wanting to gather information from people at different stages of their older adult lives, whether in their 50s approaching retirement age or well into their golden years.

“We are sort of straddling meeting current needs and projecting future needs. It is a wide age swath,” she said. “Part of it is we want to know what you and your husband might need down the road. At the same time we really want to hear from people in their 70s and 80s today.”

The agency is also striving to reach a geographically diverse set of respondents to the survey. In addition to partnering with LGBTQ senior service providers in urban centers, such as San Francisco-based Openhouse, it is also working with its network of 33 Area Agencies on Aging to spread the word about the survey.

“We have come at it from lots of angles so people hear about it through whatever channels they rely on,” said DeMarois. “We also hope people in their 40s and 50s share this information about the survey with someone in their 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

In his last email as the LGBT+ senior program manager for the Spahr Center in Marin County, Bill Blackburn encouraged people to take the survey.

“If you live in California, are over 50-yo (ahem) and identify as LGBTQI or A, I encourage you to participate,” wrote Blackburn, who was laid off in early February as the nonprofit service provider is facing a financial crisis. “Completely confidential, with no way of tracking you, the survey aims to shed light on our unique challenges, hopes and contributions. Your engagement will directly improve resources, services and policies available to us.”

Identifying gaps

The intent of the survey is to identify gaps in the needs of the state’s LGBTQ older population and highlight priorities for both the state aging department and lawmakers in Sacramento. It also ties into the state’s Master Plan for Aging, a 10-year blueprint mapping out numerous initiatives and steps policymakers can take to assist people as they age in the Golden State.

It is used as a basis for what goals the aging department sets during each two-year session in the Legislature. The plan does take into account the needs of the LGBTQ community, and the survey findings will further bolster the initiatives the state agency undertakes in the years to come.

“I fully expect something notable relative to the LGBTQ community as a result of this survey we will focus on in the next two years,” said DeMarois, who noted she and her staff met with the 12-member Legislative LGBTQ Caucus to apprise them about the survey. “We briefed the LGBTQ caucus, which is larger than it has ever been in the history of the state. They are very interested in this and very interested in legislation that includes the older adult population.”

Because the U.S. census doesn’t ask about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) on the forms used for the decennial count of the country’s population, there is no exact picture of how many Californians over the age of 50 are LGBTQ.

UCLA School of Law think tank the Williams Institute released a report last year estimating the number of LGBTQ adults age 18 and older living in California was 1,459,600. Throughout the U.S. it estimated the LGBTQ adult population to be a little more than 13.9 million, with people age 50 and older accounting for 4.5%.

“I don’t know what the population of LGBTQ seniors is in California,” acknowledged DeMarois, who added that her agency does ask about SOGI on various forms it uses, though answering the questions is voluntary. “We are interested in collecting more accurate data.”

One of the first government entities to survey LGBTQ older adults was San Francisco, which released its report in 2014, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. Santa Clara County released the findings of its own survey in 2021.

The state of Oregon published the findings of a survey on its LGBTQ senior population in 2021. California’s survey was initially to be rolled out last year, but it got pushed back to 2024 due to a desire to translate it into multiple languages.

It is offered in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Chinese. In producing the survey, the state’s aging department partnered with Openhouse and UCSF’s Sexual and Gender Minority Health Equity Lab. Also assisting on it were two centers based at UC Berkeley, the Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

“We are really hungry to learn more and put it into action,” said DeMarois. “We hope as early as this summer to share some of the preliminary findings.”

Survey participants will be eligible to win one of 40 $25 gift cards chosen by random drawing. The winners are to be notified by June 1.

To access the survey online, visit aging.ca.gov/Survey_of_LGBTQIA/

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The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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Political commentary & analysis

Anti-trans legislative risk assessment map – February Update

6 weeks into 2024, there are already 400+ bills targeting transgender people. This map assesses the risk of the worst laws passing

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By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – I have tracked anti-transgender legislation for 4 years @erininthemorn on Twitter and TikTok. Every day, I’ve gotten messages from worried people wondering how they are supposed to assess their risk of staying in their home state.

The messages range from parents of trans youth wondering if their children will be taken from them to trans teachers wondering if their jobs will be safe in coming years. Sometimes people just want to know if there is a safer state they can move to nearby.

I created the legislative risk map specifically to help answer that question. Now more than ever, it is a question that needs answering for so many transgender people facing forced medical detransition, arrests for using the bathroom, bans on the use of our names, pronouns, and identification documents, and many other curtailments of our rights to exist in public life.

In previous iterations of the map, the focus was entirely on the risk to transgender youth. When the map was first developed, bills targeting transgender youth were far more common. Unfortunately over the last year, the transgender youth map has lost all granularity, largely reducing to just two colors: red and blue, a set of states criminalizing trans youth and a set of states protecting them.

You can still find this map at the end of the document, and it will be continually updated. The primary map of focus, though, will be the transgender adult map, as bills targeting trans adults have become far more common.

Methodology

The methodology used is primarily qualitative, with a scoring-rubric element for the worst bills. Part of the methodology is my own expert assessment of laws, of which I am well equipped to do. I have read all 550 bills that target trans people in America in 2023 and 400 in the first 6 weeks of 2024. I have watched hundreds of hours of hearings on anti-trans legislation and am fully aware of all of the players nationally as well as where they are making their pushes against trans rights. I have followed the vote count and talk to activists on the ground in each state. I am looking at how similar states are moving in their legislative cycles. Lastly, I watch for statements by governors and bill drafts to see if the Republican party in various states seems to be pushing anti-trans legislation heavily – you can see many examples of such legislation in this newsletter.

In terms of actual laws, I keep a rubric of the various types of laws that target transgender people. For transgender youth, the most concerning laws are those that prohibit gender-affirming care and mandate detransition. Additionally, bathroom bans, laws that rigidly define sex as binary, and restrictions on social transition are other key factors that negatively impact a state’s ranking. For transgender adults, the primary legislative concerns include adult gender affirming care bans, bathroom bans, prohibitions on drag specifically aimed at trans people and pride events, restrictions on changing birth certificates and drivers licenses, and laws that end legal recognition for trans people entirely. These factors play a significant role in how I assess and rank a state’s legislative risk.

The Adult Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

This updated map delineates the legislative risks concerning laws aimed at transgender adults in the United States. States like Florida have eliminated 80% of all trans adult care, adults can be thrown in jail for using the bathroom of their gender identity, and trans people with correct gender markers on their drivers licenses can be charged with fraud. Multiple states have passed laws ending all legal recognition for trans people. As such, starting this year, adult risk levels for trans people will be tracked on its own map.

Moves in this update: Utah (High Risk → Worst Laws Passed), Iowa (Medium Risk → High Risk), South Dakota (Medium Risk → High Risk)

  • Summary of updates: There are two major moves on this map update. Utah has passed a bathroom ban targeting transgender people, but it is unclear on how or where the law applies. Similarly, the same bill defines sex in a way that ends legal recognition for trans people in much of Utah’s code. For Iowa and South Dakota, many harsh anti-trans laws have been proposed and have already passed at least one committee vote. South Dakota’s drag ban, which passed committee, could be used to target Pride festivities. Iowa, meanwhile, has a bill that could require all transgender people who change their birth certificates to have a special gender marker that would out them as trans that is moving through and has already passed a committee vote.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. Increasing bills targeting trans adult healthcare and campaigning by Republican presidential candidates means that there could be national anti-trans laws should Republicans gain all 3 branches of government.

Here are the categories:

  • Do Not Travel (FL): The only state earning a “Do Not Travel” advisory is Florida. Florida has a law that allows for the arrest of transgender people for using bathrooms according to their gender identity and another policy targets transgender people’s drivers licenses. Local LGBTQ+ orgs as well as HRC have issued travel advisories for the state. This analysis likewise concurs with such a rating.
  • The Worst States (KS, MT, ND, OK, TN, UT): These states have passed deeply troubling legislation targeting transgender adults in extremely harmful new ways. KansasFlorida, and Utah have bathroom bans for transgender adults, while Tennessee briefly enacted a law requiring signage to warn of the presence of transgender individuals in restrooms. Many, including Florida, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, have gone so far as to legislatively erase transgender people, effectively removing any legal rights associated with their gender identities. Other states, such as Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, prohibit any changes to birth certificates, forcing trans people to out themselves when showing their documents. In Kansas, this law could even force individuals who have updated their driver’s licenses and birth certificates to see their gender markers reverted. These states also could start targeting adult gender affirming care – Florida has already done so, banning 80% of such care. Florida has also put into effect a policy that says trans people “misrepresenting” their gender on their drivers license could be guilty of fraud.
  • High-Risk States (AL, AR, IA, IN, LA, MO, MS, NE, OH, SC, SD, TX, WV): All of these states have passed some anti-trans adult laws, but they haven’t reached the same level of severity as the worst states. Missouri and West Virginia, for example, prohibit gender-affirming care for incarcerated adults as well as transgender youth and have seen new laws proposed this cycle going even further. Nebraska’s governor has issued an executive order ending legal recognition of trans people. Additionally, some of these states, including Alabama and Arkansas, have laws that permit the refusal of medical care to LGBTQ+ individuals on religious grounds. South Dakota is advancing a drag ban that could block Pride parades from happening, and Iowa may soon require trans people to have special markers on their birth certificates identifying them as trans. Although each of these states has laws targeting transgender adults, none have done so to the extent of the worst states.
  • Moderate-Risk States (AK, GA, ID, KY, NC, NH, WY): These states have either passed one or two laws aimed at transgender adults or have enacted multiple laws targeting transgender youth, or are advancing negative laws quickly. For states focusing on trans youth, history shows they are more likely to introduce anti-trans legislation for adults in subsequent years. All of these states are under Republican control, either through supermajorities in the legislature or Republican governorships. Many have enacted “Don’t Say Gay” provisions, which frequently result in the banning of transgender teachers – in Georgia, for instance, a teacher was fired for merely reading a book with a character that could vaguely be interpreted as transgender. Additionally, many have passed religious refusal rights bills. However, most of these states have either not yet ventured into anti-trans adult legislation or have only passed milder forms of such laws.
  • Low-Risk States (AZ, DE, ME, MI, NV, PA, RI, VA, WI): These states have largely refrained from targeting transgender adults, although they haven’t taken extraordinary steps to protect adult transgender rights either. For example, Arizona and Virginia have enacted anti-trans policies affecting youth but, due to state-specific factors, appear unlikely to extend such policies to adults. Conversely, MichiganMaine, and Nevada have enacted fairly robust non-discrimination policies but fall short in ensuring healthcare equity and providing protections for incarcerated transgender individuals. While these states generally offer a safer environment for transgender adults, they stop short of going the extra mile to make their jurisdictions unequivocally safe places to reside.
  • Most Protective States (CA, CO, CT, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OR, VT, WA): These states have gone above and beyond in safeguarding the rights and well-being of transgender individuals, making them highly desirable places to live for those in search of security. States like ColoradoHawaiiMaryland, and Washington have enacted comprehensive health insurance laws that cover facial hair removal and an expanded range of medical procedures. Each of these states offers refugee protections for individuals fleeing more repressive states with anti-trans laws. Care is not only supported but also enjoys legal reinforcement from the state, ensuring accessibility as long as such treatments remain lawful at the national level. These states are the most likely to counteract federal anti-trans regulations if faced with a Republican presidency.Please support my independent reporting and advocacy on transgender legislation by subscribing. You help me keep this going and keep people informed.Subscribed

The Youth Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

Very few states now occupy the middle ground in the realm of anti-trans legislation for transgender youth. Those marked in dark red have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, with many even mandating medical detransition for these young people. Conversely, states shown in dark blue have implemented refugee protection laws for trans youth seeking to escape the harsh legal environments of more restrictive states.

Moves in this update: Ohio (High Risk → Worst Laws), Wyoming (Medium Risk → High Risk), Arizona (Low Risk → Medium Risk)

  • Summary of updates: Major shifts have occurred for transgender youth on the latest iteration of this map. Ohio has moved into the list of states with the worst anti-trans laws after a harsh gender affirming care ban for transgender youth in the state. Wyoming, which has up to this point resisted anti-trans legislation, has advanced several anti-trans bills that could ban care for trans youth through for full consideration. Perhaps the biggest surprise though comes in Arizona, where Republicans appear to be pushing through a bill that would escape the Governor’s veto by placing a trans student bathroom ban and forced outing policy on the ballot for voters in November.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. Increasing bills targeting trans healthcare and campaigning by Republican presidential candidates means that there could be national anti-trans laws should Republicans gain all 3 branches of government.

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

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Southern California

Heavy rain at times with flash flooding, landslides & mudflows

The storm will affect the area through Wednesday, bringing periods of moderate to heavy rain- potential for flooding, rock slides & mudslides

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NWS/KTLA 5 Live Radar screenshot February 19 at 11:00 AM

LOS ANGELES – As heavy rainfall hampered the President’s Day commuting traffic, around the Southern California region the latest storm system is bringing heavier precipitation and a more likely threat of flooding to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

A Flash Flood Warning has been issued for West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Calabasas until 6:00 PM.

“Radar and automated rain gauges indicated light to moderate showers overspreading the warned area,” NWS said Monday morning. “Heavier showers will overspread the warned area throughout the day.”

The storm is expected to dump 2 to 5 inches of rain along the coastal areas and valleys of metro Los Angeles through Wednesday morning with higher totals in the foothills and mountains

The Los Angeles Times noted that compared with the historic storm that pummeled the region earlier this month, forecasters expect “much less rain” for Los Angeles County this time but warned that there are still concerns about the prospect for flooding, landslides and mudflows — particularly in the Santa Monica Mountains and Hollywood Hills — because of the soaking Southern California received from the previous storm.

KTLA 5 News is bringing current conditions up-to-date in its live updating here: (KTLA)

From KTLA:

The Emergency Operations Center in Los Angeles has activated “Level 2” preparedness to respond to the storm.

” Emergency crews remain ready to respond to the effects of the storm and potential of mud and debris flows, power outages and roadway obstructions,” city officials said.

Latest:

105 FREEWAY ON-RAMP CLOSURE

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A SigAlert has been issued for the Hawthorne Boulevard on-ramp to the eastbound 105 Freeway due to roadway flooding.

The closure will last for an unknown duration, CHP officials said on X, formerly Twitter.

L.A. COUNTY EVACUATION WARNING

An evacuation warning has been issued along Santa Maria Road north of Topanga Canyon Boulevard near Woodland Hills, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills Station.

The warning, issued due to possible mud and debris flows in the area, began at 9 a.m. Monday and lasts through 9 a.m. Wednesday.

NWS Forecast: A strong storm will affect the area through Wednesday, bringing periods of moderate to heavy rain (2-5 inches of rain, except 4-8 inches in favored mountains and foothills), mountain snow (1-3 feet above 7500 feet), strong south to SE winds, potential for flooding, rock slides and mudslides, and possible power outages. The heaviest rain and most significant impacts will be tonight through Tuesday Stay safe: avoid low-lying areas and large waves at the coast, be prepared for coastal flood impacts Monday and Tuesday mornings. Monitor the latest weather forecast.

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West Hollywood

The Abbey Food & Bar faces suit over alleged breach of contract

The lawsuit alleges multiple causes of action, including breach of written contract, money had and received, accounting, and conversion

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The Abbey Food and Bar in West Hollywood - WEHO TIMES

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – A legal development concerning the Abbey Food & Bar, located at 692 N Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood, has revealed that 3 Corners Holdings LLC, a California-based limited liability company, has filed a lawsuit against Abbey Restaurants and Bars USA LLC, its Delaware counterpart Abbey Restaurants and Bars USA-LA LLC, Cocorio Inc., and ten unnamed defendants.

The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, alleges multiple causes of action, including breach of written contract, money had and received, accounting, and conversion.

The plaintiff, 3 Corners Holdings LLC, asserts that it entered into a written profit interest agreement with the defendants on August 15, 2010. The agreement stipulated that Abbey Restaurants and Bars USA-LA LLC would pay 3 Corners Holdings LLC a 25% share of the “Operating Cash Flow” of The Abbey WeHo, formerly known as the best gay bar in the world. This arrangement was to continue until the defendants or their affiliates no longer owned a direct or indirect interest in The Abbey.

However, 3 Corners Holdings LLC alleges that despite their adherence to the agreement’s terms, the defendants have “failed and refused, and continue to fail and refuse,” to pay the owed profits interest, resulting in damages of no less than $1,600,000. Furthermore, the complaint accuses the defendants of failing to provide necessary documents requested under the agreement’s audit rights, thereby breaching the contract and depriving the plaintiff of its entitled profits.

The legal battle sheds light on the complex financial and operational dynamics between The Abbey, a cornerstone of West Hollywood’s vibrant nightlife, and its stakeholders. The lawsuit also underscores the complexities of managing partnership agreements and profit-sharing models in the hospitality industry.

Legal experts suggest that the case could have broader implications for how profit interest agreements are structured and enforced in California’s competitive restaurant and bar scene. “This lawsuit highlights the importance of clear and enforceable contracts in business partnerships,” said Daniel Medyoni, an attorney representing 3 Corners Holdings LLC. “It also serves as a reminder for companies to diligently uphold their financial obligations to their partners.”

Additionally, The Chapel at The Abbey WeHo was sold to Tristan Schukraft, a notable figure in the LGBTQ+ community and an entrepreneur with various business interests. This sale marks a significant change in ownership for these iconic West Hollywood venues.

Furthermore, allegations of druggings and sexual assaults at The Abbey have resurfaced, highlighting concerns about patron safety at the venue. These legal and public issues present a complex picture of the current state of affairs surrounding The Abbey Food & Bar.

As the case progresses, it will undoubtedly be closely watched by legal and business professionals for its potential to set precedents in contract law and partnership agreements within the hospitality industry. The defendants have yet to publicly respond to the allegations.

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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.

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

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