Connect with us

Commentary

Veterans Day Twenty-Twenty, marked by new hope

“How many LGBTQ veterans are there whose stories would never be told?”

Published

on

Image courtesy of PFLAG used by permission.

SANTA CRUZ – As the sun begins to settle over the horizon to the west of where I’m sitting here in the mountains surrounded by an endless parade of Redwood trees, my thoughts as I end this Veterans Day are three thousand plus miles away thinking of a lone sentry as he, or she, guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Silently and reverently marching twenty-one steps, turning, pausing twenty-one seconds, turning and marching twenty one steps back down that black rubber mat again.

An honoured routine kept to with the military precision executed by the Tomb Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry, ‘Old Guard,’ U.S. Army twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year at Arlington National Cemetery for 80 plus years.

As a proud Canadian I always reflect on the meaning of this day, Remembrance Day (Jour du Souvenir) as it is known as in my country as we Canadians honour our veterans- those lost in the Great War and the Second World War along with other wars and those who continued to serve. The official ceremonies are held at the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

When I was a boy, I attended those solemn yet impressive ceremonies with my Da, who went to honour his friends and others who didn’t return from the beaches of Normandy or were killed in the race to the Rhine during the WW2. As a family we also came to honour my granddads who both fought in the Great War.

Yet, for over forty years I have been covering American politics living and working in the U.S. and traveling outside the country, I invariably would run into American service members from the Marines guarding the diplomatic missions abroad, to spending time with military members in regions where there were active conflicts, to time I spent aboard Naval and Coast Guard units and seagoing commands. It has been an experience that I cherish.

I have come to deeply appreciate the sacrifice of these mostly young people as well as the highly motivated dedication that they and their commanders have towards defending not only the American people but the peace, liberty, and tranquility of all humankind on this planet.

For a portion of my early career as a journalist I was unable to live my life authentically as a gay man. To come out would have meant termination of my employment with the likelihood of never being able to seek gainful employment again as a reporter unless I again stepped back into that closet. This was a bitter truth and an ugly cloud hanging over me. During this exact time, there were members of the armed forces who also were LGBTQ and would have suffered the same consequences or even imprisonment.

Those servicemembers would have also had a black mark- a dishonourable discharge, that would have followed them with negative impact back into the civilian world. Yet there were exceptions including one brave, actually fearless U.S. airman.

Technical Sergeant Leonard Philip Matlovich, USAF was a Vietnam War veteran, a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, and a pioneer in fighting for the rights of LGBTQ Americans to wear the uniform of their country.

In an era of the dawning of escalating LGBTQ equality rights battles after the event that came to represent the movement’s march for acceptance at the Stonewall Inn on that June night in 1969, Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on September 8, 1975.

He was championed by another pioneer of the movement, someone I had come to know as a friend, Dr. Frank Kameny. In fact it was Frank who introduced me to Matlovich’s story and sadly by the time I first heard it, he had died in West Hollywood, at age 44 in 1988, another victim of the terrible AIDS pandemic that took the lives of so many young gay men.

The Sergeant’s story was incredible and was for the first time a beacon for me to consider just how many LGBTQ veterans there had been whose stories would never be told. He’s buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington and inscribed upon his headstone is a rather poignant reminder of those times and the reality for all LGBTQ people who served, which included Frank who had served in the U.S. Army during the Second War, although Frank’s story took its own path as well:

“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

I have stood beside his grave numerous times over the years that I spent assigned to Washington and wondered what it was like for him to break free but also considered what trauma was inflicted on his fellow airman, soldiers, marines, sailors, and coast guardsmen, having to live in the shadows and forever keep their secret.

One year, not long after I began working in the Queer Media after decades of mainstream reporting, I was introduced to a vibrant young Army Officer, a gay Korean-American, Lt. Dan Choi, who along with a group of earnest highly motivated LGBTQ veterans and active duty personnel were fighting to have the Clinton-era anti-LGBTQ service policy of ‘Don’t Ask- Don’t Tell’ repealed.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual- and others still who wanted to serve- transitioned to their correct gender identity, worked so hard to get that policy undone. Being present that December morning in the auditorium of the Interior Department and watching President Barack Obama with Vice-President Joe Biden next to him sign the law that forever enshrined LGB people the right to serve was emotional.

A couple of years later, after a memorial day service at Arlington and as was my custom I strolled the grounds and ran into a Vietnam veteran, who was forced by necessity and the times into living the lie. He had suffered a tremendous loss in that war that turned a beloved partner into one of the 58,390 names engraved on the highly polished black granite panels of the Vietnam Memorial, across the Potomac river from where we were standing that May afternoon.

Since the end of ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ I have been overjoyed at the public acceptance and ability of LGB military personnel to live together, many married after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 that upheld same-sex marriage.

But there’s been one group of Americans whose right to serve their country has been denied or disparaged by the current occupant of the White House and his Republican and evangelical enablers. Not only did Trump ban Transgender military service but his administration has gone out of its way to inflict as much emotional harm as possible on these brave and courageous American patriots.

I am friends with many of the Trans people who wear the uniform proudly and have gone to great lengths to remain in their respective branches. I have written countless articles and spoken publicly on radio in support of the Trans military service members.

Along the way I have been greatly pained by this senseless ban that has kept young Americans of the highest caliber from serving their country just because certain societal elements- many in positions of political power, deem them unfit based on pseudo-science and frankly religious bullshit.

This year though- there is hope. Americans not only accepted a gay U.S. Navy veteran as a major party candidate for the office of President of the United States, they elected a leader in Joe Biden who I am one-thousand percent convinced will end Trump’s prejudicial bullshit ban.

My thoughts return to that solitary sentinel guarding the Tomb- was the occupant lying in honour under that marble sarcophagus LGBTQ? What of the future? Will there be a LGBTQ soldier maintaining that post keeping the faith for all those who came before?

I have faith now that with this new President the answer is a resounding yes.

Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist who currently serves as the Editor-At-Large of the Los Angeles Blade and is the producer of Rated LGBT Radio Los Angeles.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Commentary

OAN’s anti-LGBTQ hate supported by cable & streaming services

OAN reportedly relies on subscriber fees, also known as carriage fees, rather than advertising as a prime revenue source

Published

on

Graphic via Media Matters for America

By Beatrice Mount & Alex Paterson | WASHINGTON – The right wing conspiracy theory One America News channel regularly uses extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, combating what it has called “militant LGBTQ recruitment” strategies.

OAN’s baseless fearmongering about Drag Queen Story Hour, Demi Lovato’s gender identity, and transgender athletes, however, is being financially supported by cable companies and streaming services that claim to be celebrating LGBTQ people and Pride month.

Rather than relying on “advertising as a prime revenue source,” OAN reportedly relies on subscriber fees, also known as carriage fees, as its primary funding source. Verizon and DirecTV (and its parent company, AT&T) pay OAN subscriber fees in exchange for the network being available to their customers, whose subscription costs pay for OAN. While it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much revenue these cable contracts generate, Bloomberg previously reported that OAN “gets paid about 15 cents per subscriber by the companies.” 

OAN also generates revenue through subscriber fees via its streaming app, which charges its subscribers $4.99 per month and is available to download on RokuAmazon FireGoogle Play, and Apple TV. In exchange for hosting OAN in their channel libraries, these companies reportedly take a percentage of that subscription fee. For example, according to Yahoo Finance and The Motley Fool, Roku takes 20% of subscription fees, and Apple TV takes 30% during the first year and 15% in subsequent years. 

These companies have all celebrated Pride month through statements and social media support, including VerizonAmazonGoogleAppleRoku, and DirecTv and its parent company AT&T. However, these companies also enable OAN to maintain a steady income, even though the network is in direct opposition to their corporate commitments to the LGBTQ community.

What’s more, OAN’s hateful rhetoric adds fuel to the rising attacks on LGBTQ people, particularly trans people: Anti-trans violence in the U.S. has reached record high levelshate crimes targeting LGBTQ people are on the rise, and state legislatures have proposed over 100 bills to restrict trans rights so far in 2021 alone. 

OAN hosts and guests regularly spread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and misinformation, particularly targeting trans people

In the days leading up and following the first day of Pride Month in June, some of OAN’s most prominent hosts — Kara McKinney, Stephanie Hamill, and Dan Ball — and their guests have regularly used the platform to fearmonger about LGBTQ people, including claiming that Pride “is a really sad indicator of just how far the cultural rot has gone.” Here are some of the worst examples:

Tipping Point with Kara McKinney

  • On May 20, McKinney suggested that “militant LGBTQ recruitment” has caused more young people to identify as LGBTQ. She also claimed PBS programming that featured Drag Queen Story Hour was “radical LGBTQ propaganda” and a ”mockery and caricature of true womanhood, basically the gender equivalent of blackface or cultural appropriation.”
  • Later in that same segment, McKinney was joined by RedState’s Brandon Morse, who claimed that PBS is “introducing what is actually a mental illness” to kids through covering Drag Queen Story Hour in order “to make good little soldiers for the hard-left, progressive agenda,” comparing it to “the sexual abuse of our children.” He also said that being trans is “a trend, and when this trend wears off the people who actually submitted these kids, pressured them — all the celebrities who signed up for it and pushed it on them, the corporations who signed on and pushed it on them — none of these people are going to look good in the long run, and I can’t wait for that day to come.”
  • On May 24, McKinney asserted that people who affirm trans youth are “leading young people, especially those suffering from mental illness and who are typically being raised in unstable households, into a life of gender confusion.” 
  • In that same edition of Tipping Point, Morse said that being trans is a “trend” and compared it to “the emo craze, the scene kids, you know, all these people dressing in weird ways to try to stand out.” He also claimed that as “abortions are becoming harder and harder to get for Planned Parenthood to perform, they’re moving toward … gender transition treatments” and pushing trans youth “into this weird LGBT-centric agenda that forces them to do something that they can’t take back years later.”
  • On June 1, McKinney commemorated Pride month by proclaiming, “We of course pray for those suffering with same-sex attraction,” and she equated being LGBTQ to a “sin” and a “vice.” She also lamented that “for being a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the fact that we dedicate an entire month to one of the seven deadly sins, which is pride, the cause in many ways of the fall itself, is a really sad indicator of just how far the cultural rot has gone.” 
  • Later in that same episode, far-right pastor Jesse Lee Peterson said people should celebrate “white history month” instead of “perverted” LGBTQ Pride. He also asserted that “Christians must stand up and fight against evil” and questioned, “What’s happy about being perverted?”

In Focus with Stephanie Hamill

  • On May 20, one day after singer Demi Lovato came out as nonbinary and announced they will now use gender-neutral “they/them” pronouns, Hamill suggested they were “desperately trying to stay relevant.” Turning Point USA’s Alex Clark claimed that “the ultimate magic eraser for bad PR is to change your sexual orientation or your gender identity” and accused Lovato of being “severely mentally ill.” (Hamill and her guest also repeatedly misgendered Lovato the following day.)
  • During a May 28 appearance on In Focus, Terry Schilling, the executive director of anti-LGBTQ group the American Principles Projectcalled for a “ban” on best practice health care for trans youth and claimed such care is “absolutely insane” and “all meant to destroy us as human beings.”
  • Later in that segment, during a rant about Kellogg’s Pride-themed cereal, Hamill said that “kids are getting bombarded with liberal propaganda,” and Schilling questioned if LGBTQ advocates “didn’t have the billions of dollars a year that they spend in this movement, what percentage of Americans would identify as LGBT or have some type of confusion about their gender? My guess is that it won’t be that many.”
  • In a June 1 segment with the right-wing Libertas Institute’s Emma Phillips, Hamill complained that Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues is “pushing the drag culture so hard on kids” and claimed that “we see this kind of indoctrination going on in schools, the anti-American agenda, too.” Phillips said that “parents have been posting on social media, ‘My child just learned that Jesus is nonbinary,’ and it’s like this laundry list of insane things that kids are being exposed to.”
  • On June 2, in an apparent violation of a court-issued gag order, Jeff Younger, a father in a high-profile Texas child custody dispute, joined Hamill to spread anti-trans rhetoric about his trans child’s “abnormal gender expression.”

Real America with Dan Ball

  • On June 8, while defending a Loudoun County, Virginia, public school teacher who refused to refer to trans students by their correct name and pronouns, Ball claimed that affirming trans youth is participating in “pronoun garbage.”
  • Ball has also repeatedly denigrated prominent trans people. He has misgendered and deadnamed U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. Ball also ridiculed Caitlyn Jenner, saying she was “dick-tator-less,” while his guests, far-right commentators the Hodgetwins, said being trans is “just a wardrobe” and a “bizarre lifestyle.”

Beatrice Mount is a media analyst and researcher for Media Matters for America. She’s a George Washington University Graduate with a degree in gender studies and political science.

Alex Paterson is a researcher for the LGBTQ program at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2019. Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montana State University and has a background in LGBTQ advocacy, including previous work at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The preceding commentary and analysis was published by Media Matters and is republished by permission.

Continue Reading

Commentary

Pride at Work, U.S. Dept. of Labor recommits to inclusive workplaces

Pride Month is for LGBTQ+ people to be proud & visible in a world that tells us not to be; recommitting to inclusive workplaces

Published

on

U.S. Department pf Labor, Frances Perkins Building, Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: GSA U.S. Government)

By B.A. Schaaff | WASHINGTON – Pride Month is a chance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people to be proud and visible in a world that tells us not to be. Pride Month is a chance to celebrate and honor the work of LGBTQ+ people as we fight every day for equity and inclusion in society, in the law and in our workplaces. 

Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, we’ve had many recent encouraging wins at the national level:

  • Last June, in Bostock vs. Clayton County,the Supreme Court affirmed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • In January, President Biden issued an Executive Order 13988, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, and  another executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which includes LGBTQ+ persons. He also rescinded a 2020 executive order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping that had a chilling effect on diversity and inclusion training programs among federal agencies and contractors.
  • The Biden-Harris administration has stated strong support for the Equality Act, which would amend existing federal civil rights laws to expressly include non-discrimination protection on the basis of sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), providing security and equality to LGBTQ+ people in accessing housing, employment, education, public accommodations, health care and other federally funded services, credit and more.
  • In March, President Biden became the first U.S. president to recognize Transgender Day of Visibility.

In the past year, anti-racism protests have sparked important conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion. The Department of Labor has recommitted to being an inclusive workplace, and continues to offer trainings related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including those related to the use of gender-inclusive language and pronouns. I’ve been proud to provide these trainings and support those efforts as a vice president of Pride at DOL, an affinity group for the department’s LGBTQ+ employees and contractors and our allies.

As part of the department’s efforts to implement the sexual orientation and gender identity executive order, our Civil Rights Center – a member of the Title VI/Title IX Interagency Working Group led by the Department of Justice – will serve on the Title IX and Executive Order 13988 Committee. This committee will serve to provide opportunities for interagency collaboration to advance EO 13988’s goal of protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ensuring the Bostock decision is applied to Title IX and other relevant statutes, and making federal agencies welcoming to LGBTQ+ people.

The department is also working to reverse the impact of the prior administration’s executive order on diversity training. Our Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs is examining promising practices for diversity training as one component of broader efforts to eliminate bias from employment practices. In addition, the department is conducting an equity review to better understand how well our policies and programs are reaching historically underserved populations, and launched a related data challenge.

But there is still more work to do, and our pride can come at a price. Being visible sometimes means being exposed to harassment, discrimination, and violence. This is especially true for transgender people, particularly those who are women and people of color. Equity and inclusion require creating an environment — through language, policies and practices — that not only tolerates but recognizes and affirms people’s identities and relationships. Only with this can employers create a sense of belonging and value in their organization.

So as we celebrate Pride Month this year and every year, let’s recognize all the work that has been done and that is necessary to keep pushing forward.

B.A. Schaaff (they/he) is an attorney in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor and is vice president of Pride at DOL.

Continue Reading

Commentary

Pulse shows that out of tragedy, there can be triumph

On June 12th, 2016, Pulse became the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history- out of tragedy, there can be triumph.

Published

on

The Pulse nightclub ( Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

By Jason Lindsay | WASHINGTON – It’s been 5 years since 49 people were killed and 53 others were injured when a man armed with an assault rifle, large capacity magazines, and a heart full of hate attacked the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. On June 12th, 2016, Pulse became the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

It’s been 5 years since the families and friends of those taken that night have heard their laughs, seen their smiles, or held their hands. It’s been 5 years that the survivors have had to relive their trauma of that fateful night. Saturday marks 5 years since this deadly attack and it is a time we can reflect on the lives lost, those injured, the progress made since the attack, and what we all can do to fight for commonsense gun reform to make our country a safer place.

This tragedy struck at the heart of the LGBTQ community, both in Orlando and around our country, happening right in the middle of Pride month. While this is a somber anniversary that we must honor and remember the tragedy, it is also a time to reflect on what our community has accomplished as a result of this horrific event. While we grieve for those we lost, today there is hope. Out of the tragedy, a movement was born in the LGBTQ community to fight for gun reform, led by groups such as the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, which was established within days of the shooting. It includes Pulse survivors, family members of those killed in the attack, and key stakeholders. Working at the state and federal level, this new generation of activists are mobilizing and advocating for change to honor those lost with action. Through political action, advocacy, and recruiting new activists to the gun reform fight, the Pride Fund, other groups, and the LGBTQ community as a whole are honoring the legacy of the Pulse victims through meaningful action. The mission of Pride Fund is year round, working daily to enact gun reform, elect gun safety champions at the state and federal level, and advocating for change all over the country.

As we look back over the last five years there have been some significant accomplishments that reflect the hard work that has been done since the tragedy.

First, prior to Pulse, gun reform was not one of the top priorities among the LGBTQ community. Immediately following the shooting, our community began to have conversations about this critical topic and learn about the current efforts underway to change our gun laws. I created Pride Fund to End Gun Violence as an organization to spearhead our community’s efforts and harness the political power of the LGBTQ community to create change. Whereas gun reform was not a top priority before, public polling has shown in the years since that gun reform is now a top priority for LGBTQ voters. We are holding our political candidates to a certain standard and pushing them to make gun reform a priority. As a community, we are targeting some of the worst elected officials at the state and federal that are NRA backed cronies who stand in the way of legislative change. Pride Fund has been involved in over 125 political races around the country since our creation, and we have helped kick some of the worst Republicans out of office, replacing them with gun safety champions.

Second, we have witnessed many of those personally impacted by the tragedy, the survivors, the family members and friends of those killed, and key stakeholders like the owner of Pulse, become national activists in this cause. They have stepped beyond their own personal pain to take on leadership roles, speak about their experiences and the need for change in the media, in public forums, political rallies, and in meetings with elected officials. These individuals have refused to sit on the sidelines, they have wanted to honor those lost with action, and they have been doing a stellar job.

Third, Democrats have seized on the issue and made it one of their top priorities – in their campaigns and in elected office. The 2018 election was the first time gun reform was a key issue, not only on the campaign trail, but by voters. With Democrats winning the House of Representatives, bills started to finally pass to address gun reform, however the Senate stopped its movement. Now with Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and White House, we are in the greatest position to enact change. We just have to work hard in the Senate. For the first time in recent history, the CDC has received funding to study gun violence. A major win! With the election of President Biden, he is acting within his power to make our country safer. He has announced a series of initial actions and subsequent items have taken place. Most recently, the ATF has issued a proposed rule to stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,” and in his budget request for next year, he has included a $232 million dollar increase in funding for the DOJ and HHS to tackle gun violence.

Fourth, in a significant move by Congress in recent days, the House and Senate have voted to designate a Pulse National Memorial site.

Out of tragedy, there can be triumph, and the Pulse tragedy has certainly shown this to be true.

As we reflect on this 5th anniversary, take a moment to think about this loss of life, remember the victims, and think about all of the people around you that you want to protect from gun violence, then take action by getting involved with Pride Fund to End Gun Violence by visiting www.pridefund.org. 
To get involved, volunteer, or donate to help enact real gun reform, visit our website at PrideFund.org.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @Pride_Fund.

Jason Lindsay is founder and executive director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a PAC that supports state and federal candidates who will act on sensible gun policy reforms and champion LGBTQ equality. Lindsay is a seasoned political operative with 16 years of experience working in politics, government, and campaigns. He also served for 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular