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Astrophotographer may become first out gay man in space

Jon Carmichael is competing for spot on first all-civilian mission



Jon Carmichael (Photo courtesy of Jon Carmichael)

LAS VEGAS — Jon Carmichael could become the first openly gay man to travel to space, and he says it’s “about time.”

The spacecraft will take four people to travel in Earth’s orbit for three to five days. The launch date has not been determined, but it will be no earlier than October.  

An astrophotographer and pilot, Carmichael is applying to the Inspiration 4 program — the first all-civilian space mission. The trip will be led by pilot Jared Isaacman, the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, a company that supports e-commerce platforms.

Carmichael, 34, says he has had an interest in space since he was a kid.

“It’s my lifelong dream now to go to space, and it’s actually more realistic now,” he told the Blade. “It actually could happen.”

He loves to take photos of the Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way, to connect people to the “mesmerizing” experience often lost due to light pollution.

“We’ve really lost touch of that — that curiosity and that wonder,” he said “That’s why I like to go out of my way in the middle of nowhere away from light pollution and shoot these night sky images so that doesn’t get lost, so I can share that with others, so that people still can feel that inspiration.”

Carmichael’s application to the contest has been recognized by George Takei, the gay actor who played Hikaru Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series.

(Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was closeted most of her life. Details of her 27-year relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy were only revealed after Ride’s death in 2012.)

Carmichael is based in Las Vegas and is helping his mother, who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins lymphoma after surviving Stage 4 Hodgkins lymphoma five years ago.  She encouraged him to apply to Inspiration 4, he said. 

The Inspiration 4 mission is also raising awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Carmichael gifted prints of his piece, “108,” of the 2017 total solar eclipse to those who donated $50 or more to the hospital.

Each person on the Inspiration 4 mission represents a “pillar” of leadership, hope, generosity or prosperity.

Carmichael is applying for the prosperity seat, which is for an entrepreneur who has used Shift4Payments’ Shift4Shop platform to launch a business. The leadership seat is taken by Isaacman and the generosity seat is for an individual who has supported the St. Jude mission. Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude and pediatric cancer survivor, will take the hope seat.

The rest of the winners will be announced in late March.

Inspiration 4 isn’t the only space mission for which Carmichael is vying.

He’s been working on his application to the dearMoon Project, where eight artists from around the world can apply to take a trip to the moon in 2023. The mission is created and led by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and Elon Musk.

“It really will ignite a new era of the space race and excitement for space again,” he said.

Carmichael became fascinated with the total solar eclipse in his seventh grade geography class in Las Vegas.

“I was so blown away by it,” he said. “Since that day, I was determined to see this eclipse.”

Carmichael in 2017 took career-changing images of the eclipse on a Southwest flight.

After losing an in-flight viewing party contest hosted by Alaska Airlines, he booked a flight from Portland, Ore., to St. Louis in order to be in the air while the eclipse was in its totality. When the flight crew found out about Carmichael’s story, the pilot cleaned a window for a clearer shot and even adjusted the plane’s flight pattern to help Carmichael capture as much of the eclipse as possible.

Carmichael stitched more than 1,000 photos together that he captured in the three minutes of totality to get the finished product. He said he worked more than 200 hours on the piece.

The photo was unveiled privately at #OneTeam, a Twitter company event where Carmichael was the substitute keynote speaker when Musk, the original headliner, cancelled at the last minute. A self-proclaimed “Elon Musk fanboy,” he was excited about the possibility of meeting him, but Carmichael said his first speech in front of more than 1,000 people was a “beautiful moment” that changed his life.

“Moral of this story is things not happening for the better,” he said. “My entire career is still around this eclipse image years later.” 

The photo was later publicly unveiled on the first anniversary of the eclipse at Twitter’s New York office.

The 2017 solar eclipse from a Southwest flight. (Photo courtesy of Jon Carmichael)

Carmichael began photography at 20 when he moved to Los Angeles after coming out. Two years later, he made the passion a career, he said.

“I was going through a bit of a depression in my life because I had just come out, and I wasn’t received very well in circles I was in my life,” he said. “So I ran away to L.A. to start a new life. And I suddenly fell in love with photography while I was there, and that sort of became my escape from my depression.”

Former President Obama and Lady Gaga are among the celebrities whose pictures he’s taken, but Carmichael has been fascinated with space and documenting the universe since he was a kid. The astrophotography specialization was a hobby and he rarely shared this work with anyone, but he decided to formally print his work in his father’s honor after he passed away in 2013.

Carmichael’s first buyer and collector was Elton John.

He met John’s assistant at the Million Dollar Piano show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas while he was meeting another buyer in 2015.

From left: Jon Carmichael with Elton John (Photo courtesy of Jon Carmichael)

“We turned his entire living room into like a pop-up gallery,” said Carmichael. “He became my first collector because of this, and he was the reason that inspired me to actually follow this path.”

To Carmichael, the curiosity and mystery of space are what drive him. The unknowns, rather than terrifying him, inspire a connection to childhood and allow hardships “to disappear.”

“When you are thinking about the universe, and you’re thinking about the reality of where and who we are in the universe, it’s such a humbling experience,” he said. “And that humility is what actually unites us because it gives us all an ego check.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Indiana GSA sues school district that banned Pride flags over another ban

“The treatment aimed at PHGSA by administrators is unwarranted- these students must be treated in the same manner all others are treated”



Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana (Screenshot via WTHR NBC 13 News)

INDIANAPOLIS – A student led Gay-Straight Alliance at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana filed suit against their school and the South Madison Community Schools District for banning public announcements and adverts in-school for their club.

Last Spring officials in the Schools District, in this suburban community 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis, ordered faculty members at Pendleton Heights High School to remove Rainbow Pride flags from classrooms. The Schools District labeled the flags “political paraphernalia”  and instructed the Spanish, French and art teachers to get the flags out of their classrooms saying the flags violate their school district’s “political paraphernalia” policy.

In the suit filed last Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of the Pendleton Heights High GSA, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the ACLU noted that the principal at Pendleton Heights has stated that the PHGSA cannot publicize its existence on school bulletin boards or on the school’s radio station, while other curricular and non-curricular clubs at the school are able to do so. 

“This group aims to create an environment that provides support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,” said Kit Malone, advocacy strategist at ACLU of Indiana. “The differential treatment aimed at Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance by administrators is unwarranted and these students must be treated in the same manner that all other student groups are treated.” 

Pendleton Heights Principal Connie Rickert has the authority to decide what student groups are allowed to meet at the school and which ones are deemed to be “official.” Last Spring she deflected on the apparent anti-LGBTQ+ messaging the order to remove the flags sent telling one media outlet; ““Teachers are legally obligated to maintain viewpoint neutrality during their official duties to ensure all students can focus on learning and we can maintain educational activities and school operations,” she said. “Our counselors are trained to respond to any student who desires support.”

While she has allowed the GSA club to meet, her banning announcements and notifications for the GSA runs contrary to her statements last Spring that that her school prides itself on creating a welcoming environment for all. 

“Students at Pendleton Heights High School may participate in non-curricular clubs recognized by the school,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “By creating additional hurdles for Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance such as censoring the group’s promotions and prohibiting fundraising, the school is infringing on these students’ rights.” 

The South Madison Community Schools District has declined comment.

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Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”



LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at, or by texting START to 678678. 

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2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”



Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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