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Black transgender woman seeks to make history in Louisiana

Mariah Moore is running for New Orleans City Council

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House of Tulip co-director Mariah Moore at her office in New Orleans on March 1, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

NEW ORLEANS — The co-founder of an organization that provides housing and other services to transgender and gender non-conforming people in New Orleans hopes to make history as the first Black trans woman elected in Louisiana.

Mariah Moore, who co-founded House of Tulip with Milan Nicole Sherry, another Black trans activist, is running to represent District D, which includes New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood.

The primary is scheduled to take place on Oct. 9. The general election will take place on Nov. 13.

“Being a Black trans woman and being someone that holds a position like that, I will honestly have the opportunity to change so many hearts and minds about the way that people see us and the stereotypes that they cast on us,” Moore told the Blade on March 1 during an interview at House of Tulip’s offices in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood.

Moore is originally from New Orleans’ 7th Ward.

Her family has deep roots throughout the Crescent City and in Madisonville and Slidell on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Moore was also a foster child.

“That’s another piece of my story that a lot of people don’t know,” she said.

Moore added New Orleans “has always been that anchor for me.”

“Even though I was navigating a very broken state foster care system, I still found my way back home,” she said. “New Orleans will be some place where I will always live. I was born here and I will die here.”

Moore said more affordable housing, higher wages and better infrastructure are among the issues on which she would work if elected.

“I understand, like myself, there’s a single mother out there who has to take public transportation. There’s a single mom out there somewhere who doesn’t have health insurance. There’s a single mom out there who’s relying on $7.25 to feed her three kids and she doesn’t get food stamps because she makes too much and we know that $7.25 an hour at less than 40 hours a week is not a livable wage in New Orleans, and it’s not a livable wage anyway,” she told the Blade.

“I’m a renter, so I know how hard it is to find a quality unit at an affordable price,” added Moore. “I understand these things, but most of all I know that solutions are possible because I created one, and so I’m not just talking about what needs to happen, I’m providing the solutions for the many problems and the circumstances that people are in.”

House of Tulip helps ‘community house community’

Moore and Sherry first conceived the idea that became House of Tulip in 2020 after the pandemic largely shut down New Orleans’ hospitality and tourism industries.

A GoFundMe campaign that House of Tulip launched raised more than $400,000.

House of Tulip in January bought a 5-bedroom double in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood.

Moore said the home is furnished. She told the Blade that House of Tulip plans to paint a mural in the backyard and add seating, plants and a fountain to “make it a more tranquil healing space and restorative space.”

Two people are now living in the Tremé house. A 3-bedroom property in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood that House of Tulip is renting currently has three residents.

“The idea is to help community house community,” said Moore.

Moore also pointed out that House of Tulip offers a variety of other services to trans and gender non-conforming people who don’t live in their properties. These include access to job training programs, health care and mental health services.

“We have to build a very robust program to support those things, so now that we have the properties and we’re starting to see more and more community members that we’re able to serve in the properties that we have, we’re building our programming,” said Moore.

Three Black trans women murdered in La. over last year

The U.S. Census notes New Orleans has a 23.7 percent poverty rate.

Sherry told the Blade last July during an interview at her home in New Orleans’ Garden District that this figure is even higher among the city’s Black trans residents. She and Moore both said Black trans people in New Orleans and across Louisiana are also more vulnerable to discrimination and violence because of their gender identity.

Fifty Bandz, a Black trans woman, was murdered in Baton Rouge on Jan. 28. Two other Black trans women — Draya McCarty and Shakie Peters — were killed last summer in Baton Rouge and Amite City, which is roughly 60 miles north of New Orleans, respectively.

Moore worked with Peters’ family after her murder.

“They’re wonderful people and they loved and affirmed Shakie,” said Moore. “I don’t ever want people to think that just because it is the South that nobody has family support, but Shakie did have a family that loved her, very deeply.”

Moore told the Blade that Chyna Gibson, who she described as a “dear sister of mine,” was murdered in New Orleans in 2017 as she was leaving a clothing store before a Mardi Gras ball “everyone was planning to attend.” Moore also said that “after the police conduct their investigation, all we can do is wait and hope that justice is served.”

“I’ve only experienced heartbreak continuing to try and get the police to further investigate … to bring justice to everyone that I have personally lost,” she said.

Moore told the Blade that it remains very difficult for Black trans women to obtain state-issued IDs that accurately reflect their gender identity. Moore also said most health insurance plans in Louisiana do not cover transition-related care.

Pandemic made trans New Orleanians even more vulnerable

Moore told the Blade violence in New Orleans increased last summer, in part, because people were not working. She also said people who engage in survival sex “were very vulnerable and quite frankly left out of the conversation about people who need to be prioritized and really getting aid to these folks.”

“Our undocumented community is totally left out of the conversation,” added Moore. “We often forget that because of our undocumented community, because of our Latinx community, New Orleans is back up and thriving just as it was pre-Katrina because of those wonderful folks who came and really lent their amazing craftsmanship and everything to our great city.”

“To only include these people when it’s beneficial is a disservice and a slap in the face to all their hard work and also a slap in the face to the culture that Black trans women bring to New Orleans and to the rest of world, whether they are survival sex workers, whether they are navigating sobriety,” added Moore. “No matter where they are and what they’re doing, they add such a preciousness to the city and none of it would be what it is without each and every one of us.”

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White House, Don’t Say Gay law: “This is discrimination, plain and simple”

“State officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves”

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (The White House)

WASHINGTON – The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement Friday as Florida’s notorious ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law took effect, saying “[…] state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.”

President Biden also tweeted about the law prior to leaving for Camp David to spend the July 4th holiday weekend, calling the law “the latest attempt by Republicans in state houses to target LGBTQI+ students, teachers, and families.”

In her statement, Jean-Pierre said:

“Today, some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free. As the state’s shameful “Don’t Say Gay” law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.

“Already, there have been reports that “Safe Space” stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives—cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.

“This is not an issue of “parents’ rights.” This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points.

“It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.

“President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom.

“The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country.”

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Florida

Florida county’s school policy critics say “essentially targets LGBTQ+ kids”

“Sending out a parent notification could be seen as placing a target on a student’s back,” said Lauren Kelly-Manders, a Tallahassee resident

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Screenshot/YouTube students in a classroom generic news coverage

TALLAHASSEE – The Leon County School Board this week unanimously approved its “LGBTQ Inclusive School Guide” after a rancorous and at times heated debate Tuesday. At the heart of the new policy are guidelines that critics charge will harm LGBTQ+ youth in the school system.

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported what drew the most debate was a provision that a school will notify parents — by form — if a student who is “open about their gender identity” is in a physical education class or on an overnight trip. 

Some teachers and students during the Tuesday night meeting said the policy will “out” LGBTQ+ students — revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity without their permission. 

While the policy language does explicitly say a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression “should not be shared with others without their input and permission,”  advocacy groups and activists claim that in “real world” application the policy’s danger to Outing LGBTQ+ kids remains regardless.

Los Angeles-based writer and actor Benjamin Siemon took to Twitter angrily noting that the policy “essentially paints these children as sex offenders that require warnings.”

Supporters of the school board’s new policy included the Leon County chapter of Mom’s for Liberty, a national far-right anti-LGBTQ+ activist group which has sought to ban LGBTQ+ books and curriculum nationwide. But the sticking point for the group is the provision doesn’t go far enough.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Sharyn Kerwin, head of the Leon County chapter of Mom’s for Liberty and who also served on the advisory committee to the School board as it crafted the new policy, told board members and the audience Tuesday: “Any attempt to withhold information from a parent or try to influence a child in a knowing way is against Florida law.”

Kerwin and other parents argued that the Parental Rights in Education bill, HB 1557, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law requires school administrators to notify parents and many in the audience Tuesday citing biblical verses maintained discussions about sexual orientation have no place in schools.

Opponents charge that this policy will effectively weaponize bigotry and target LGBTQ+ kids, especially trans youth.

Critics of the notification policy say the district’s language is equating “gender identity” with LGBTQ sexuality. They note that even someone who is “straight” expresses themselves via their clothing choices or appearance and can be “open about their gender identity,” the Tallahassee Democrat noted.

“Sending out a parent notification could be seen as placing a target on a student’s back,” said Lauren Kelly-Manders, a Tallahassee resident. 

In the end, even with the policy approved, none were happy with the outcome as one side claiming not enough consideration was given to parental rights and opponents charging this will simply increase bullying of LGBTQ+ kids.

“Normally when we have something on the agenda, we have a group that’s for, and a group that’s against,” school board Vice Chair Alva Striplin noted adding, “Well, tonight we had everyone against.”

The school board voted to approve the guide unanimously 4-0.  According to the Tallahassee Democrat school board members will schedule another meeting to revisit the guide in six months to adjust the policy if needed. 

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White House announces 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be presented to those named at the White House on July 7, 2022

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Megan Rapinoe, an Out Olympic gold medalist is among those named ((Screenshot/YouTube via U.S. Soccer )

WASHINGTON – The White House today released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor,  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the Out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ+ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

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