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USAID urged to use COVID relief funds to support LGBTQ people abroad

March 24 letter notes pandemic has exacerbated vulnerabilities

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WASHINGTON — Three members of Congress have urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to use some of the money it received from the COVID-19 relief bill to support LGBTQ people around the world who the pandemic has made even more vulnerable.

U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in a letter they sent to Acting USAID Administrator Gloria Steele on March 24 note her agency received “approximately” $10 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that President Biden signed into law earlier this month.

“We write to you to request that particular attention be paid in your deployment of these additional funds to reach the most vulnerable populations,” reads the letter. “From the devastating experience of the first year of this pandemic, we know that traditionally marginalized communities including LGBTQI+, people with disabilities, and racial minorities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

The letter notes the pandemic “has exacerbated the inequalities and vulnerabilities that LGBTQI+ people in particular face worldwide.”

“Amidst ongoing lockdowns, many LGBTQI+ people have lost their livelihoods, are at increased risk for gender-based violence, food insecurity, and homelessness, and face even greater barriers to services, including access to sexual and reproductive health care,” it reads. “In some countries, those in the LGBTQI+ community have been scapegoated and falsely charged for spreading COVID-19, while other governments have used COVID-19 lock down measures as an excuse to violate the human rights of LGBTQI+ people and other vulnerable groups. LGBTQI+ people have also been excluded from many relief efforts due to binary gendered approaches to distribution, as well as a reliance on unsafe spaces for LGBTQI+ people, non-inclusive definitions of ‘family,’ and discrimination by relief workers.”

Transgender activists in Latin America have criticized gender-based rules that officials in Panama, Colombia and Peru implemented in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Activists in South Korea formed a task force to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination related to the pandemic. The letter that Titus, Castro and Cicilline sent to Steele notes OutRight Action International in April 2020 launched a fund to help vulnerable LGBTQ communities during the pandemic.

“As COVID-19 has demonstrated, current structures and systems of relief have allowed LGBTQI+ people to fall through the cracks, and it is only with long-term, comprehensive, sustainable measures that those in the LGBTQI+ community will not face disproportionate impacts in the face of disaster and crisis,” reads the letter. “Unfortunately, of all the supplemental COVID-19 relief funding administered by USAID, zero was allocated for LGBTQI+ organizations or populations.”

Biden last month issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

A USAID spokesperson confirmed to the Blade the agency has received the letter.

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Kentucky

Another Trans person confirmed murdered this year- USAF vet & Mother

Her friends will always remember her infectious personality & her unmistakable laugh. She loved others passionately and fiercely

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Cris Blehar, (Family Photo)

MEADE COUNTY, Ky. – Another Trans person has been confirmed murdered this year bringing the deadly total to 49 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2021 according to a tally kept by the Human Rights Campaign.

Cris Blehar, a 65-year-old white transgender woman, mother, and U.S. Air Force veteran, was discovered stabbed and shot to death by Meade County sheriff’s deputies who had responded to her rural home on Woodland Road in the Flaherty area. Deputies had been dispatched to perform a welfare check from an unidentified person concerned about Blehar.

The Elizabethtown, Kentucky, News-Enterprise newspaper reported that the Kentucky State Police had made an arrest in the case only a few hours after Blehar’s body was found of Vine Grove resident Tyler J. Petty, 18.

Tyler J. Petty, 18
(Mugshot: Meade County Sheriff’s Department)

“There was no relationship between the victim and the suspect. We believe he worked for her,” said Kentucky State Police Trooper Nicholas Hale in an email to the News-Enterprise. Petty was arrested and brought to KSP Post 4 and was interviewed about the case. Police say he admitted to killing Blehar. A trial date has been set for June 2022.

The murder in this rural area about an hour Southwest of Louisville on May 19, 2021, was brought to the attention of the Human Rights Campaign this week when Blehar’s cousin Mark Stephens contacted HRC to ensure that she was “remembered, honored, and counted” as a member of the transgender community. 

In a statement to HRC, Mark Stephens said;

“If there is one thing to know about Cris, it was that she fought fiercely to define her life as SHE wanted. Whether it was her military service, her 20+ year career in the airline industry, or her post retirement decision to buy a farm & start a family of her own. She lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone around her to live their best life as well. Growing up ‘different’ in Kentucky is certainly no easy task, something we shared in addition to being cousins, and she tackled it with the passion and zeal that only she could have. Her friends will always remember her infectious personality & her unmistakable laugh. She loved others passionately and fiercely, none more than her own son, Maverick.”

Blehar’s son Maverick Thompson paid tribute to her, writing:

“Cris was an amazing mother and a wonderful person. She had so much love and brought a smile to many. She had a hilarious sense of humor that will live on through those that knew her. She will be sorely missed!”

According to her obituary, Blehar was a former law enforcement officer in the U.S. Air Force and retired from United/Continental Airlines. She also worked as an Uber driver and loved animals and bowling.

HRC has officially recorded 49 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2021, more than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.

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Maine

Victory Fund honors Maine House speaker in D.C.

Ryan Fecteau is gay Catholic University alum

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Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau accepts the Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award at the Victory Fund International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 4, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — The Victory Fund on Saturday honored Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau on the last day of its International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C.

Fecteau — an openly gay Catholic University of America alum — won a seat in the Maine House of Representatives in 2014. He became the chamber’s speaker in 2018.

“Hate and intolerance will not derail us,” said Fecteau after Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith presented him with the Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award, which is named after U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). “Our community will not be intimidated.”

The Victory Fund on Friday honored Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila, a gay man who is living with HIV.

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West Hollywood

Unprovoked attack in WeHo may be latest in a string of violent crimes

McGrath spent two weeks in the hospital and underwent multiple surgeries due to injuries that doctors told him were caused by a blunt object

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File photo of LASD deputies making an arrest -unrelated- (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – After an evening out with friends in West Hollywood at the Abbey on November15, Matthew McGrath found himself in hospital the next day with a fractured jaw and his wallet and mobile phone missing.

According to McGrath, who has lived in WeHo for five years, he was walking home along San Vicente Boulevard when he heard “some slurs, some profanity.” “I’m not exactly clear on what, [happened next] but sort of a few minutes later, I just felt a really blunt force to my head, blacked out and was knocked unconscious,” he told KTLA.

McGrath spent two weeks in the hospital and underwent multiple surgeries due to injuries that doctors told him were caused by a blunt object KTLA also noted.

Matthew McGrath via GoFundMe page

He said that he has filed a report with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s substation about the assault and theft but as of Friday had not received a response.

KTLA also reported that the night after McGrath was assaulted, a person was beaten and stabbed on Santa Monica Boulevard. David Cook, 44, was arrested for that stabbing last month. There were also two similar attacks involving a different man using a baseball bat and a boxcutter on Nov. 18 resulted in another arrest last month the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station said in a statement posted to the webpage for the LASD.

“I’ve always felt safe in this neighborhood,” McGrath told KTLA. He observed that although his attack was unprovoked given the other cases and arrests the timing seems suspicious. “We get a crime here or there in West Hollywood, but I have never heard of it happening multiple days in a row,” he said. “Similar assaults, similar attacks, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

GoFundMe page has been created to help McGrath.

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WeHo attack leaves victim shaken, could be part of larger crime trend

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