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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.

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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.

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Queer parenthood: A transparent dive into surrogacy and hope

While it’s been around for a while, surrogacy is still riddled with mystery, inaccessibility, and unpredictability

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Husbands Michael Lindsay and Matthew Schueller have embarked on a surrogacy journey. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Schueller)

By Matthew Schueller | PORTLAND, Ore. – I feel extraordinarily lucky. As a kid, I never imagined my life could look like this. Growing up in the closet in the mid-Willamette Valley of Oregon, an area many consider to be the conservative Bible Belt of the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t think it was possible for me to find love, let alone get married.

It’s humbling to see now that I’ve proved myself wrong. It is truly contrary to what I thought my life would be like 10 years ago, so to be here now in the process of starting a family is absolutely ridiculous to me. It already feels like a miracle, so the fact that we can even attempt to bring life into this world as a gay couple blows my mind.

I’ve always wanted to have kids, but I didn’t start seriously considering the possibility of surrogacy until I met Michael and our relationship became more serious. As I learned more about it and started looking into it more, I realized that it was the best path for us at the time. We started looking for an egg donor and surrogate mother at the beginning of 2021 when we officially made the decision to start the process.

That being said, we know it’s still not that easy. While it’s been around for a while, surrogacy is still riddled with mystery, inaccessibility, and unpredictability. What we quickly realized when we started to look at our options was that we didn’t know the first thing about starting a family as a queer couple, and neither did most of our friends and family!

When we started researching online, we found a ton of different information (often conflicting) from a variety of sources. We didn’t even know where to start, so we began calling up IVF clinics and surrogacy agencies.

We spent months researching the process and figuring out what exactly this might look like for us, how much it would cost, and how we should mentally prepare. I think that’s what inspired us to start sharing. We saw a lot of couples online sharing their stories after the fact — after the babies had arrived and everything looked fantastic — but we didn’t see many couples sharing their stories as it was happening. To us, the process of surrogacy looked like a mysterious black curtain where most of the details were not quite clear.

Our goal is to share the process of having kids as a gay couple as it’s happening, the good and the difficult. We believe alternative paths to parenthood should be accessible to all queer couples, and we think that starts with shedding light on how these processes actually work. With knowledge, there’s power. And since many of us in the LGBTQ+ community don’t know the options available for family planning, we don’t know where to start to enact change.

Many paths to parenthood are largely considered to only be attainable by the extremely privileged and wealthy — but we know that gender, sexuality, and income level should not determine whether or not someone can have a family, so why is that not considered true for queer couples?

There are a lot of big questions that have come up, so my husband, Michael, actually encouraged me to start a podcast with him to interview individuals who’ve experienced alternative paths to parenthood and experts who can provide insight and education. Thus, the birth of the “Who’s Your Daddy?” podcast.

The hosts of “Who’s Your Daddy?” podcast, Matthew Schueller and Michael Lindsay.
(Photo courtesy of Maria Orlatov)

Over the last 19 months, we’ve found our egg donor, created embryos and actively sought our gestational carrier. While there have been many ups and downs, we are really excited for the next steps in hopefully finding our surrogate soon. The first difficult decision was trying to figure out where we would undergo the process. We interviewed quite a few surrogacy agencies and IVF clinics, and we connected well with a doctor in Texas. We just had a good feeling about it, so we went with our gut.

At the time, we didn’t think much of where our egg donor or surrogate could be located: We thought it didn’t really matter if they were far away from us. We were under the impression that pursuing surrogacy in Texas might be significantly cheaper than on the West Coast, and perhaps lead to a quicker matching time since there are just way more people in the Dallas area than in the entire state of Oregon.

Our minds changed. As the clinic progressed through egg donation and embryo creation, we started to feel the distance weighing on us. Not only did the importance of being physically close to where our surrogate would be located but also we began reflecting on how the state laws could impact us.

Just over the last year, Texas has taken sweeping action against access to abortion. So what does that mean for all those in the state considering being a surrogate? If pregnancy complications were to occur, how difficult would it be for a surrogate to access the needed medical care? It’s unclear. It’s understandable that the change in state law could cause concern for many considering becoming a gestational carrier and therefore limit the pool of people willing to carry in the state. 

Legal implications aside, we want to be there for the ultrasounds, doctor’s appointments and of course the childbirth. Being far away from where our surrogate lives makes that difficult. Now, we recommend those considering surrogacy to look into your local laws, determine how those might impact you and then consider the closest reputable IVF clinics in your area before searching far away.

Michael, a dentist, and Matthew, a nurse, have become popular on social media for their relatable content, travel adventures and candid conversations about wanting to become parents.
(Photo courtesy of Maria Orlatov)

Our embryos were created last December. While 30 eggs were harvested, only five embryos made it to viability. I’m the genetic half of four of the embryos, while Michael is the genetic half to one.

It was a difficult experience. On one hand, we were incredibly happy that we were able to produce five viable embryos. On the other hand, we’re extremely nervous.

Our goal starting out was to have twins, each of us the genetic father of one. With only having one embryo on Michael’s side, that means there’s just one chance at a transfer. If it were to fail, we’re just not sure it’s financially feasible to repeat the IVF process and try for more embryos.

So, we’re hopeful. Optimism can be powerful here, so we look at this as having five embryos–five wonderful chances to have a baby. We might not end up with twins like we first sought to do, but if we’ve learned one thing from this entire journey, it’s that we cannot control what we cannot control. Surrogacy and IVF are seriously unpredictable processes, and we’re just hopeful to see what miracle biology will bring.

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The preceding commentary was previously published by News Out and is republished with permission.

Matthew Schueller is a content creator and registered nurse. He hosts the “Who’s Your Daddy” podcast along with his husband, Dr. Michael Lindsay. You can follow @MichaelandMatt on InstagramTikTok and YouTube

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This is what transgender eradication looks like

Teachers fired, inmates detransitioned, adult care banned, allies killed. A new phase of anti-trans politics- eradication is the goal

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Erin In The Morning/Los Angeles Blade montage

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Monday morning, we learned of a tragic incident: a woman was fatally attacked outside her store by an individual who had torn down the pride flag displayed there.

The following day, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered another blow, determining that transgender youth and adults aren’t entitled to their medication, arguing such treatment is not “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and traditions,” a rationale echoing the Dobbs anti-abortion decision.

Concurrently, new laws are coming into effect, mandating the forced detransition of any incarcerated transgender individual. The once muted alarm signaling potential dangers for the transgender community has escalated into a raging firestorm. Reactionary figures from the right are fueling this blaze, advocating for eradication.

How did we reach this juncture, and what’s our path forward? How can we shield ourselves amid one of the most intense reactionary movements ever aimed at the LGBTQ+ community? These questions have weighed heavily on my mind lately. They frequently surface as the final questions posed to me when I discuss these issues with organizations and fellow journalists striving to understand the times we’re in.

Just four years ago, our discourse was focused on the role of transgender athletes in top-tier competitive sports. Now, that debate feels like an ember compared to the blazing wildfire we currently face.

Movement Advancement Project. “Equality Maps: Bans on Best Practice Medical Care for Transgender Youth.” 
https://www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/healthcare/youth_medical_care_bans.

To comprehend our path forward and strategize for safety, we must first recognize where we stand. Presently, care for transgender youth is prohibited in nearly 20 states, and for adults in Florida. Several more states restrict healthcare coverage, making it very hard for trans people to obtain care. In some of these states, penalties loom for those who “aid and abet” these youths in accessing their essential medical care.

Concurrently, a surge of laws target us in restrooms, classrooms, and public spaces. In Florida, violations of bathroom bans lead to arrest, with the incarcerated trans person spending up to a year in prison. In states like Missouri and West Virginia, any arrest can subject an individual to state-mandated detransition.

It’s not just our care that’s under attack, but our expression too. Contrary to the arguments made by far-right opponents of transgender rights, the freedom of speech and expression for LGBTQ+ individuals is facing unprecedented threats. This year witnessed the introduction of drag bans in multiple states, so broad in scope that they affected anyone wearing clothing not traditionally associated with their assigned gender.

While most of these bans were halted on constitutional grounds, Texas is soon to enforce its drag prohibition. Similarly, book bans are on the rise, leading to theatrical hearings in front of Republican-led school boards that label any LGBTQ-themed book as “unsuitable for children.” Case in point: in Georgia, a committee deemed the Scholastic Kids book “My Shadow Is Purple” so inappropriate that a teacher faced termination merely for reading it aloud.

It’s patently evident that we’re witnessing a determined effort to eradicate a marginalized group from the public sphere. Although these laws and policies have largely been limited to Republican-dominated red states, 2024 looms large.

The upcoming major election year bears the threat of nationwide prohibitions. We’re already observing laws that target the transgender community being tactically inserted into must-pass legislation, such as the NDAA military spending bill, the national budget, and funding bills for children’s hospitals. Predictions of government shutdowns are increasingly frequent, possibly due to these very issues, as Republicans designate transgender matters as their non-negotiable “red line.”

We cannot fully rely on the judiciary for protection. While the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County did strengthen the basis for transgender rights within the constitution – a ruling that many in the trans community have clung to with hope – the subsequent Dobbs decision concerning abortion rights paints an uncertain horizon.

The 14th Amendment is intended to guarantee everyone equal protection and due process under the law. However, post-Dobbs, the Supreme Court stated that the rights shielded are only those “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and traditions.” The long-standing presence of transgender individuals in America, including amongst indigenous populations before the nation’s inception, appears insufficient for such consideration.

The 6th and 11th Circuit Courts, predominantly composed of Trump-appointed judges, have both overturned lower court decisions, allowing bans on transgender rights. Their rationale is authored in such a way to convince the Supreme Court that, in light of the Dobbs verdict, these prohibitions should take precedence over Bostock.

If the Supreme Court, which might consider these cases within the next couple of years, concurs, they’ve already provided the justification for nationwide bans on adult gender-affirming care.

See this excerpt explicitly calling for it:

Excerpt from the 11th Circuit Decision

At a recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Michael Knowles brazenly advocated for transgender “eradication.” Since that declaration, the tide of anti-trans legislation, detransition bills, and vilification of the trans community has risen alarmingly. In Kirbyville, Texas, a teacher’s simple act of transitioning has sparked vehement demands for his dismissal. As I pen this article, Florida is unveiling policy proposals designed to penalize those who defy the state’s anti-trans bathroom mandate. This is what eradication looks like.

Transgender individuals are acutely aware of this. Many in our community have been cautioning for years about the direction we’re headed. Consequently, recent surveys reveal that approximately 260,000 transgender individuals have already relocated to different states — a significant 8% of the entire trans population (estimated to number between 1.5-3 million, or 0.5-1% of the US population). Moreover, an additional 40% are contemplating such a move. When factoring in that these individuals often relocate with their families, this shift becomes comparable to some of the most significant migrations in American history.

Meanwhile, an organized push is being made to “compromise” on transgender people. I reported last month that some Democrats were considering compromising over anti-trans provisions in must-pass legislation. At the same time, the New York Times is filled with “both sides” arguments attempting to make this palatable to the American left.

There is no sign that the left has fallen for the bait yet – polls still show extremely high support for transgender people among Democrats and independents. Every day, though, it seems like a new “radical centrist” pushes this tactic – just yesterday, Matt Yglesias became the latest to offer such a “compromise.”

What’s the path forward? In my numerous conversations and private discussions with transgender individuals, each person contemplates varied next steps. While it remains essential for us to actively participate in the political process, many have confided in me their decisions to, or already actions of, stockpiling hormone therapy to endure extended periods of disrupted care.

Similarly, many are leaning into local support networks — a testament to the LGBTQ+ community’s history of resilience and solidarity, especially when confronted with overwhelming societal pressures. As a result, medication sharing, underground community networks, and acts of civil disobedience are witnessing a resurgence.

Yet, amid these challenges, glimmers of hope persist in the political realm. Several states have distinguished themselves as sanctuary states, vowing not to extradite transgender individuals across state boundaries over criminal anti-trans laws. Some cities nestled within these more conservative states have also staked their ground as protective havens, although the extent of their impact remains to be seen.

Encouragingly, the 4th8th, and 9th Circuit Courts have rendered decisions favorable to transgender rights. Bostock remains the prevailing legal standard, and the majority of the justices instrumental in that verdict still hold their seats. There’s is some hope that medical discrimination against transgender individuals might be declared unconstitutional at the Supreme Court level. If otherwise, vast swathes of the nation could continue to stand as a sanctuary, offering solace to trans individuals from systematic attempts at marginalization.

While hope is invaluable, it alone won’t repel attempts at eradication. Action is imperative. Beyond just legal protections, we must actively support trans individuals who cross state boundaries, aiding them in regaining their financial stability.

Furthermore, we can’t abandon those without the resources, ability, or will to relocate from their homes. Many of us hope for a quicker resolution, but this battle might become the kind of generational struggle we’ll recount to our children. Though these may be efforts to erase us, one truth stands firm: we are part of what it means to be human, and eradication is a futile pursuit. Even if every last one of us was removed from this Earth, we would still be here, born anew to every generation.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) 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.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Letters to the Editor

Apple’s commitment to diversity ends when asked to do the right thing

Another corporation that profits off of Pride but fails to offer equal benefits

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(Blade photo by Michael Key)

By Robby Diesu | My husband and I took a chance with his former employer. He was offered a promotion and transfer to the United Arab Emirates to help open a new store for them. He had lived in the UAE before and oddly our transcontinental love affair kicked off in this anti-LGBTQ country. While we were a bit nervous, we assumed, wrongly, that a company that prides itself on being supporters of our diverse LGBTQ community would offer benefits to LGBTQ employees.

Although in their stores they sell rainbow watch bands, when it comes to providing benefits to same-sex couples when not required by law, they do anything but that.

Before he accepted, my husband asked directly what benefits would be offered. The regional manager said he would check back in with my husband after it was stressed to him that we would not be taking the transfer if they didn’t offer us equal benefits. They responded quickly with an offer to cover a freelance visa option, which also requires health insurance to be issued. After a bit of self congratulating about how great of a company they were to offer these basic things, off we went.

Surely it would be company policy to offer basic benefits to LGBTQ employees, even when not required by law, since their CEO is a high-profile openly gay man and the first to run a major tech company.

Once we landed in the UAE it became clear that our worst fears were just starting. While any international move will have its bumps, one expects the bumps to not be made worse by an uncaring upper management. When my visa was delayed, we were ostracized for not signing a lease until the visa was issued. When the relocation service told us that they didn’t put us both on the lease and I would need to sneak into our new building, we were told we were making it a bigger deal than it was. When we asked about how to access the healthcare that was a part of my visa we were told: “Why do you think that your family deserves these benefits?” “Why don’t you just sleep on it before asking the higher ups?” “You should have known better than to expect us to do this.”

In the end, we paid out of pocket for my health insurance. The writing was on the wall all along, but we made a commitment to this company to stay for at least two years and we were not going to break it.

One month before my visa was set to be renewed, with one year to go on our two-year commitment we received an email asking if I wanted to renew my visa. After affirming we would, we were simply sent a price list by the company. When asked if they would be covering the cost still, they stopped responding. After two weeks of emails, and with two weeks until my visa was set to expire we were told that the company would not cover the cost. This kicked off three months of abuse by upper management to my husband as we tried to understand what was happening. We were told:

“Why can’t you just pay for it yourself?”

“Why do you think people like you deserve these benefits?”

“You should be happy with what we have done for you.”

“You need to be careful asking for these things.”

“It is just your perception that we are discriminating against you. We are just respecting local customs by not providing you and your family healthcare and visa benefits.”

After the second month of them stringing us along, and numerous investigations from various HR department heads, we had to move into a hotel or be forced to sign another year lease for our apartment. We stayed in the UAE until the very last day that I legally could without risking being fined. We gave them every opportunity to do the right thing.

But Apple never did the right thing. Apple, a company run by a gay man, Tim Cook, whose senior vice president of retail and former head of People is also a member of our community, Deirdre O’Brien, who every Pride month proudly claims “support” of our community, openly discriminated against our family for being LGBTQ.

Apple, which forced my husband to give presentations on benefits for married and unmarried heterosexual couples, was forced out of his job because he simply asked for them to give us those same benefits.

Apple forced my husband out of his career of 11 years for simply asking them to live up to the values that they claim.

What’s next? There is no recourse for us, but other LGBTQ employees of Apple should know that Apple’s commitment to diversity and inclusion ends when they are asked to do the right thing. Our community should know that Apple is just another corporation that gladly profits off us but runs away when asked to treat us with dignity.

Robby Diesu’s husband worked for Apple for 11 years. The Blade is withholding his name out of fear of reprisals by the company.

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Commentary

If your kids are trans? Jamie Lee Curtis’ bottom line: “Love is Love”

Jamie Lee Curtis knows a lot more than she thinks she does. Somewhere in her, she knew she would not get a second chance at this

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Actress Jamie Lee Curtis discusses her upbringing and supporting her Trans daughter Ruby on MSNBC's Morning Joe, July 28, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube MSNBC)

HOLLYWOOD – Years ago, as a gay dad, my kids’ elementary school had PTA meetings, and events, and lots of chores for needing parental support. I showed up and joined a bunch of, usually, moms to pitch in. 

Many of the women would gush “Oh, you are SUCH a great dad!” I heard it a lot. 

NO I AM NOT, I would think, well—OK, maybe I was striving to be that, but not for the reason they were saying I was one. I was, as they were, doing what my children needed me to do. I was a decent dad in those moments. I was doing what, to me, was the bare minimum, nothing outstanding, nothing heroic.

I was just showing up.

I do not personally know the national treasure known as Jamie Lee Curtis, but her reaction to praise of her parenting is similar to mine, “People have said ‘you are so great to accept her,’ and I am ‘WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?’  This is my daughter. This human being has come to me and said, ‘This is who I am ‘ and my job is to say ‘Welcome Home’ and defend her right to exist to anyone who claims that she doesn’t, and there are those people.”

Jamie Lee is an actress, author, sober advocate and more. Her role with her daughter takes priority however. She has said, “Being a parent … that is the real reason we are here.” 

Jamie Lee Curtis is about showing up, not just for kids, but for all human beings. Her recent Oscar win was for putting depth to a character she describes as “a forgotten woman.” In her children’s book Is There Really a Human Race, she writes “Take what’s inside you and make big, bold choices. And for those who can’t speak for themselves, use BOLD voices.”

Jamie Lee uses a bold voice. She showed up visibly at Disneyland dressed in Pride. She wrote to the world, “Love is love. A mother’s love knows no judgment. As a mother, I stand in total solidarity with my children as they move forward in the universe as their authentic selves with their own minds and bodies and ideas. On this trans visibility day my daughter and I are visible.”

Her voice has inspired her daughter not just to be herself but to pass it on and stand for others as well, “My mom has supported me ever since I came out as trans. I love her so much. There are allies everywhere for the trans community. You just need to look for them, and we will stand by your side for the long run,” Ruby has declared.

Jamie Lee also exemplifies the struggle of parents of trans kids. While she does not point this out, parents, such as her, are under as much attack as their kids. They are being villainized, derided and in some cases, legally harassed. Many are fleeing unfriendly states, just so they can continue showing up for their kids.

“The most important thing is that I don’t know everything, and I wake up everyday sober saying, I don’t know everything. I’ve gone to teachers, I ‘ve gone to people and said please teach me,” Jamie Lee confesses.

Jamie Lee Curtis knows a lot more than she thinks she does. Somewhere in her, she knew she would not get a second chance at this. Eight years ago, another mother did not recognize a crucial moment when it came.

That mother was the parent of Leelah Alcorn, who had come out to her as trans. “We don’t support that, religiously,” Alcorn’s mother told CNN later. “But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

Leelah left a note before walking in front of a truck, not long after that talk with her mother. 

Her note said, “After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.”

Leelah’s mother had not even listened enough to know her child’s name was now “Leelah”. The first she heard of her daughter’s chosen name was on the note left behind. She had wanted to be a good mother, but she failed to show up when her child needed her the most. The Alcorn story is not a rare one, and parents of trans kids have learned that their reaction, their support, their willingness to advocate for their kids, is a matter of life or death. (A study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 41% of 6.450 trans respondents had attempted suicide.)

So, yes, Jamie Lee Curtis had the instinct, and the guts, to show up. She lays it out simply, in a way that any parent, mom or dad, can follow: “They have demonized trans people. It’s awful. It’s terrifying. Every day, it is getting worse. Bottom line, life is about love. Being a parent is about love. I love Ruby. Love her… There is no handbook, there are people who can be helpful guides, but I get it wrong, I’m learning, I’m trying, I’m human. 

But the bottom line is—I am a mom.” 

Be a mom. Fight for your kids. Their lives depend on it.

Related:

Jamie Lee Curtis appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on July 28, 2023 :

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Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Commentary

Does being a “shit stirrer” make Matty Healy less of a hero?

Everything came apart quickly after that. 1975  was pulled from the stage, the show was cancelled & the tour was cancelled

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Matty Healy passionately kissed bass player Ross MacDonald onstage in Malaysia. (Screenshot/YouTube)

HOLLYWOOD – Of him, columnist Alex Petridis has said, “Matty Healy is a shit stirrer. He knows how to get people talking, and he loves doing it. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks, even if it’s controversial. Sometimes it’s refreshing, and sometimes it’s just annoying. But there’s no denying that he’s a talented musician and a gifted provocateur.” 

Healy is certainly a commercial and artistic success. His band, 1975 has been praised by critics who embrace its eclectic sound with elements of indie rock, pop and electronica. Their albums have all been in the top 10 on the UK and US music charts, with number 1 singles in the UK.

With that success, and attention, Healy clearly has claimed the privilege to say what he thinks and act how he feels, whenever he thinks or feels it. The bad part of his reputation ranges from being self-serving to being outright racist and misogynistic.

He has apologized and explained himself on numerous occasions, but his detractors feel so strongly that they felt Taylor Swift’s clean reputation was in danger of being soiled due to association, and possible romance, with him. He has explained himself saying, “It’s very well for me to say, I don’t understand how famous I am. I don’t like being famous. But reality is reality. And I think that I’ve said some things or kind of, I make a joke out of everything. That’s my thing. And I can take it too far sometimes in front of too many people. And I feel a bit embarrassed. So that’s the truth.”

While he praised Black Lives Matter, detractors found his comments opportunistic and promotional. He participated in a podcast where he laughed at the hosts who were making racist jokes about Ice Spice, and seemed to encourage them. He publicly apologized. Years earlier, he was accused of raising a Nazi salute during a concert, which he outright denies doing.

He has been accused of “queer bating” but understandably, in an era of sexual fluidity awareness, has claimed the right to not define his sexuality. Those who are not satisfied with that reasoning, are likely also not pleased about his behavior in Malaysia.

The English band has been banned from performing in Malaysia after their lead singer criticised the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws on stage

They may want to just get in line with all the others who are mad about his behavior there.

Malaysia has very strict laws against homosexuality, and tough “morality” rules for foreign performers. The government delivers a forty page document to prospective foreign acts that includes how the performers may dress on stage, how they may not intermingle with audience members, and more.

Most significantly, the performer may not criticize the government of Malaysia from the stage. Healy’s manager signed an agreement stipulating that 1975 would adhere to the stipulations.

Apparently, Healy did not get the memo. When he found out, presumably the day before the concert, he almost pulled the show, but did not want to disappoint the kids because “they’re not the government.”

Decision made, but the attitude walked with Healy onto the stage the next day. He had, after all, been in a similar situation before in Dubai where homosexuality is illegal as well. There, he defied the authorities and lip locked with a male audience member. He had made his point, with no bad ramifications except for his own speculation that he would not be invited back to Dubai.

Things did not go so well in Malaysia. Healy’s anger bubbled over “I’m fucking furious,” he declared in his on stage rant against the Malaysian government’s stance on homosexuality. In a throwback to his Dubai actions, Healy then passionately kissed bass player Ross MacDonald. 

Everything came apart quickly after that. 1975  was pulled from the stage, the show was cancelled, the tour was cancelled, and the festival itself is both in trouble and on the brink of financial ruin. Even some whom he was presumably standing up for, did not appreciate his gesture. Carmen Rose, a Malaysian drag queen is quoted by the BBC criticizing Healy for taking a stand as just part of his act. “If he was doing it for our community,” she added, “he would know what consequences we would have to go through.”

With all due respect to Ms. Rose and the hardship of being LGBTQ in Malaysia, now, thanks to Healy’s actions, the world is more aware of the Malaysian atrocity. Homosexuality there is punishable by 20 years in prison.

Healy has never been quiet on issues, from gun control, to Brexit, to global warming. While his humor, delivery and intentions may be dubious or mis-understood, his lack of filter does not seem to just be tied to enhancing his wild card brand.

It is amazing, given that our progressive narrative in the United States is, rightly, furious over the attacks on drag performances, and the oppression of being able to openly discuss homosexuality, we are expected to conform and placate horrific laws like those in Malaysia. Perform politely and just say nothing?

Could Healy have expressed himself better? Does this action self-serve his ongoing rebel brand? Should he have looked out for unintended consequences and hurting people whose livelihoods are affected? Did he harm fans who are already oppressed by a backwards regime? On all accounts: probably.

The bigger question is, does it matter?  As Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

We should not be asking why Healy kissed his bass player as a gesture of support for the LGBTQ suppression, but why in the world are any artists willing to play in such a venue where that kind of oppression exists? Why are the bands not refusing to be there until the country’s human rights and respect for human dignity are in place?

“I don’t see the fucking point,” stated Healy.

For that, he is a hero.

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Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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The Tom Holland “controversy” that isn’t

How homo-eroticized idiots spin a web of homophobic panting in the Twitterverse

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In a July 2023 interview with podcast host Jay Shetty, actor Tom Holland explained why he's sober and why he tries to keep his relationship private. (Screenshot/YouTube USA TODAY)

HOLLYWOOD – Out Magazine declared “Homophobes are mad about Tom Holland’s Gay Sex Scene in The Crowded Room, while The Advocate spun the situation as Tom Holland being “Defended by Fans.” Minor clickbait gossip sites claimed that the “controversy” and “backlash” had split Tom Holland’s fan base in two.

In case you missed it (and were blissfully unaware), Tom Holland, famous for this Spiderman franchise role, took on a more complex character role in Apple TV+’s The Crowded Room, playing a disturbed character named Danny Sullivan. The portrayal was so grueling, that Holland has described it as both taxing on his personal relationship, as well as his own mental health. He has taken time off as a result.

Oh yes, and for those of the junior high school mentality, he does two scenes depicting man on man sex. Big whoop.

To quote Shakespeare, the trending hashtags around it is all “much ado about nothing” and the Twitter pearl-clutchers who claim to be “offended” seem to fall into the other Shakespearian “the lady doth protest too much” category. While obsessing over Holland and Zendaya’s sex life (her recent filmic sexual depictions also get scrutinized), those “offended” compulsively share the two scenes in question, one of oral sex, the other anal, and seem to be in utter fascination with taking “back shots.”

The vast majority of the #notmyspiderman crowd appears to be trolls. They are not articulate, and have followers only in the double-digits. Their veiled homo-eroticism titillation is masked by obvious homophobia, misogyny and racism. They seem to be less of an representative of Tom Holland’s massive fanbase than they do a glimpse into the latest state of the Twitter culture. Funny how none of this conversation is going on in Meta’s new Threads environment.

The fact is, real Tom Holland fans do not seem to care. While critics have been down on Room, his fans have thrilled over his realistic portrayal and put their approval in the 90-something percentile on Rotten Tomatoes. 

To be sure, good intentioned and logical people have tried to bring reason to the conversation.  One was offended because while the scenes were sexual, Holland did not actually get NAKED. At least that poster was honest about what he wanted to see. Others pointed out that ALL the actors who have ever played Spiderman have subsequently played gay.

I am not sure that logic will play any better than arguing against those who were going to boycott Target for having Pride gear, and taking their business to Walmart instead. 

To Walmart, who also sold Pride gear.

Still others felt the need to point out that, HELLO, Tom Holland is an actor. Spiderman is a character. They are not one in the same, and actors play other roles, often different than their previous ones. 

I am pretty sure the trolls already know this, however, or don’t care. Maybe they might consider it as they take their phones, go into the bathroom, lock the door and contemplate “back shots” as they watch Holland’s erotic scenes over and over again.

In any case, Tom Holland will be fine, The Crowded Room with have higher ratings than it otherwise would have, the Spiderman franchise will progress unharmed.

And the migration to Threads cannot happen fast enough.

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Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

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Cash Bail is a violation of our humanity

You must pursue justice with just practices and in just ways — the practices cannot be tainted by injustice

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Turner Bail Bonds in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, is open 24 hours a day. (Photo by Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons)

By Rabbi Aryeh Cohen | LOS ANGELES – Why is a rabbi suing the County and City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the Chief of the LAPD?

The official answer is that I, along with other clergy plaintiffs, are challenging the unconstitutional use of our taxes to fund the unlawful detention of individuals who are unable to pay bail.

We joined with six people who were in jail because they could not pay money bail. The point of our lawsuit is to stop the practice of keeping people in jail before they have been found guilty of any crime just because they cannot pay the amount of money that is set by LA’s uniform bail schedules. 

The real reason that I am part of this lawsuit is justice. 

My day job is training rabbis. I teach ancient and modern Jewish law at the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies. My students, some of whom were ordained this month, will teach and preach at Conservative Jewish congregations and university campuses around the country.

You must pursue justice with just practices and in just ways — the practices cannot be tainted by injustice

One of the main teachings that I hope they carry with them is the centrality of justice. In Deuteronomy 16 we read: “Judges and overseers you shall set for yourself within all your gates.” This is followed by: “they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not skew judgment,” and “justice, justice you shall pursue.” Justice and only justice must be pursued. That is, you must pursue justice with just practices and in just ways — the practices cannot be tainted by injustice. 

Our criminal legal system is tainted. It is broken. It is unjust. All of the people we are talking about are considered innocent; and in truth many of them are. One in three California arrests never lead to a conviction. From 2011 to 2015, over a quarter-million Californians were jailed on accusations that ultimately did not even justify the filing of a criminal charge.

If, however, the person arrested is unfortunate enough to be poor, they will stay in jail. While bail is supposed to ensure that people will show up for a trial, in truth it is just another poverty tax which does not improve public safety and makes life worse for the individuals and families that are already struggling.

Thirty percent of people who are employed and are jailed pretrial lose their jobs. Twenty three percent of people who are jailed pretrial lose their housing. One of the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit could not get to a job interview. Another could not get her medicine. 

It should not be the case that if two people are arrested, one will be freed because they have more money. This is not justice. And when people are kept in jail they are kept in inhumane conditions which have been called “a living hell,” in an ACLU filing. There is garbage, urine, and feces on the floors where, because of severe overcrowding, people are forced to sleep. Again, none of these people have been convicted of anything. 

In our lawsuit, Urquidi v. Los Angeles, on Tuesday, May 16 the judge issued a preliminary injunction eliminating the unjust burden of cash bail in low-level cases. In his ruling, the judge explained that money bail makes everyone less safe: study after study proves that it neither promotes court appearance, nor prevents re-arrests.

In New York City, text reminders reduced missed court appearances by 26 percent

In fact, the research shows the exact opposite: money bail is so destructive to the lives of those who are jailed for their poverty that it makes them more likely to commit crimes in the future. Plus, there are far less disruptive ways to assure that people will show up to their court dates. Something as simple as texts and mailers sent to people who were arrested reminding them of their appearance dates. In New York City, text reminders reduced missed court appearances by 26 percent. 

In the lawsuit we demand that the County and City and their law enforcement agencies end these widespread constitutional violations. The County and City do not deny that these practices constitute violations of the Constitution, yet they have not stopped them.

We also assert that they are gross violations of conscience. They are violations of our humanity—the humanity of all the citizens of Los Angeles City and County in whose names innocent people are being held in unconscionable conditions for the crime of being poor.

Isaiah condemned the ancient city of Jerusalem for caring more about the temple rituals than about the lives of the people they walked over getting to the Temple. We look out over Los Angeles, and, all things considered, see a similar landscape. The beauty and glitter of our city hides an ugly reality that many of us do not want to see.

We, however, echo Isaiah’s prophetic cry that this city will only be redeemed by justice and righteousness. We must end the cash bail system now.

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Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, a plaintiff in the case Urquidi v. Los Angeles, is Professor of Rabbinic Literature at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Literature of the American Jewish University and the author of Justice in the City: An Argument from the Sources of Rabbinic Judaism (Academic Studies Press).

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The Kids aren’t all right…Because of the school board

How did we get to the point in my community that our school board is actively targeting and attacking these vulnerable students?

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Photo montage courtesy of Our Schools USA

By Christina Gagnier | CHINO, Calif. – A banner was intentionally placed on a freeway overpass this past week that read, “THE RAINBOW BELONGS TO GOD, NOT THE LGBTQ.” It was placed by a hate group that is becoming an unfortunate fixture in the Chino Valley, the Proud Boys. They are not alone.

Imagine being a LGBTQIA student and driving by this sign one week after four members of your school board voted to ban pride flags in your schools and are set to pass a policy on July 20 that would out LGBTQIA students. The message that you are receiving from the people who are elected to care about your education and success in school? You are not safe. You are not protected. Even further, you are a target.

How did we get here? How did we get to the point in my community that our school board is actively targeting and attacking these vulnerable students? It was not always this way.

I have lived in Chino nearly all of my life, and I had never seen signs (literal or otherwise) for hate groups in this community, even when I served as a member of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board and, most recently, as its Board President, until the 2022 election. I have first-hand knowledge and a front row seat to how manufactured lies and hate bring corrosion to a community, and it starts in the public schools.

If the Proud Boys sign was a one-off, it would certainly be alarming. What is egregious is that it is part of a targeted campaign against LGBTQIA students led by far-right evangelical churches meddling in politics (a tax-status conversation for another time) and astroturf political groups who dug up school board candidates they could easily puppet to do their bidding.

What brought hate groups to the Chino Valley? The 2022 election for two school board seats. Many people do not pay attention to who is elected to school boards or what they actually do. Chino Valley Unified was known for its good schools, so most people were satisfied with them. That is, most people. Ours is a cautionary tale.

My co-founder of Our Schools USA, Kristi Hirst (a former CVUSD teacher and parent of three children in our schools), and I, knocked on thousands of doors and talked to voters. For most people, the quality of the schools and the prospects for their children post-graduation were the top priority, but they had no idea who was on the Board or what was happening. The manufactured chaos and crisis that was routine in our Board meetings for two years was not common knowledge, something that is hard to realize when you experience it every other week.

Yet, we started hearing accusations bubbling up on doorsteps. “Christina wants boys in girls’ bathrooms” was a common refrain. We realized that my Moms for Liberty opponent, who eventually became the new school Board President who is the primary facilitator of hate against LGBTQIA students, and her volunteers, were telling this lie and others door-to-door. 

I want to be clear: hate is highly motivating. The voters who had been misled by what they believed to be the “takeover” of our schools by LGBTQIA issues went out and voted. On a rainy day and a very low turnout election, 317 votes decided the election in our trustee area. Over 1,400 voters who cast a ballot for higher office did not even bother to go down the ballot to vote for school board in our trustee area. The Board majority flipped. 

The effects? Direct discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of CVUSD students and staff. Today’s CVUSD Board actions and policies are a far cry from the District’s motto, which includes phrases such as “Safe Schools” and “Positive School Climate.”

The Board President placed a resolution for a vote on the agenda to support AB 1314, the controversial parental notification bill introduced by a Republican Assemblymember (who, by the way, is not our Assemblymember). The bill had not even been heard by the California State Legislature’s Assembly Education Committee, and the Board passed a resolution supporting it. Three days later, the Chair of the Assembly Education Committee denied it a hearing. It was a contentious Board meeting all for nothing, but a meeting created out of a manufactured crisis: the myth that public schools are making children identify as LGBTQIA.

Two members of the Board have a history of comments and actions targeting LGBTQIA students. In November 2021, a Board Member brought a resolution to deny transgender students access to school activities and facilities. Let’s not pretend that he did not know it was illegal: the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Attorney General advised the District of such. The purpose was to place the Board majority at the time, two of us who were up for re-election the next fall, in the position of voting against the resolution because it would break California law. I am not sure why anyone would expect a former police officer, a lawyer, and a former teacher to do otherwise, but this opened the floodgates to the manufactured crisis around LGBTQIA youth in our schools.

You may be asking yourself a logical question: why would school board members find it acceptable that hate groups are coming into our community, attending our board meetings, and threatening our LGBTQIA students and staff? 

The outrageous answer? They have invited them in (and posed in photos with them), inviting local leadership in the hate group Gays Against Groomers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at a Board meeting.

It’s not just the Chino Valley. Within a 60-mile radius of my community, school boards and districts in Glendale, North Hollywood, Orange Unified, Placentia-Yorba Linda, Temecula Valley, and Redlands have been overcome with hate groups and increasing hostility and violence towards LGBTQIA youth. They are fed misinformation and myths about what is happening in public schools. This list continues to grow as these hate groups, enabled by newly elected far-right wing extremists, go from district to district in California. Word to the wise: your district could be next, regardless of where you live. You are not immune to this.

Even if these crises from these hateful people and groups are manufactured, they have real impacts on students. It really does make a difference when students know their school board has their best interest and well-being in mind. 

At my last meeting, I saw the fear in students’ eyes about what was going to happen when their Board no longer enforced the law and protected them. I can only imagine what that must be like for these kids. We adults are supposed to be protecting kids, not making them feel unsafe when they go to school every day.

In districts with flipped extreme boards, we are not going to stop their hateful actions, but we should be focused on stalling their implementation, using whatever legal tools are available to make this happen. In districts on the precipice, we need to take action now to prevent another community, and another LGBTQIA student, from becoming a target. The 2024 election is sooner than you think, which is a chance to take back these boards in the best interest of all students.

I can sound the alarm bells, but, really, it is time to start listening to our students, including this local high school student who sent our organization this anonymously:

As a gay student, especially when I initially transferred to [school removed], it was very difficult to adapt to that campus and accept my identity at that time. When I came out to my peers, I faced discrimination and homophobia as a result, creating rifts in friendships and feelings that I may never be seen in the same way again. Compounded with this and being reintegrated into a totally new school [identifying detail omitted] absolutely no support system, it was a truly lonely and isolating experience that I wouldn’t want my worst enemies to feel because of how awful it was. Despite this, when I first walked onto campus and saw a small little pride flag in my English 9 Honors class, it made me feel seen and safe, at least in that classroom. Although it may seem superficial or small to someone who wouldn’t understand or feel this perspective, seeing that small piece of allyship was truly helpful in making me feel safe and welcome. 

The kids aren’t all right, but we have the power to help them be. We need to attend school board meetings and speak out. We need to donate to and support candidates who actually care about quality public education. We need to go down the ballot and vote for these school positions. We need to be vocal that we will not tolerate this hate.

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Christina Gagnier is the founder, Our Schools USA, and currently serves as the chair of the board of directors of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as president and vice president of the governing board for the Chino Valley Unified School District.

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To Teach, Protect and…INFORM?

We spend millions to keep intruders out of our schools, but we put our kids in harm’s way on the inside with policies like Middletown’s

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Graphic by Sarah Pfleger-Brown, Middletown Township Public Schools NJ parent-activist

By Julia Scotti | OCEAN COUNTY, NJ. – When Middletown, NJ classes resume this fall, its transgender students will have yet another obstacle in their way as they struggle for identity, freedom, and personal safety in the classroom. 

On Tuesday, June 20, their school board voted nearly unanimously to enact a policy which would require teachers to notify parents if their child wants to be publicly known by a different name, seeks to use a different bathroom or locker room other than their birth gender or if a child opts to play on a different sports team.

This is in direct opposition to the State’s guidance which states that schools “shall ensure”  students’ preferred pronouns and names be used, that they may dress in accordance with their  gender identity and that it be respected, while specifically noting  that “parental consent is not required.”  

I must confess that in my opinion, there is no definitive right or wrong answer here. But as a former NJ middle school teacher in Monmouth County, AND someone who secretly transitioned in my first year of teaching, I have some thoughts on the subject of ‘outing’ students against their wishes.

A school is a microcosm of the community in which it exists. There are few secrets. Gossip flies and teachers hear most of it. Sometimes the students, especially the ones in pain, need to share that pain and occasionally it is a teacher who is entrusted with their secrets.

The only time a teacher is legally bound to inform authorities of a student’s situation is if the teacher believes the child is being abused in some way. Having said that, and knowing firsthand the difficulties of coming out to the world as transgender at any age, I know that a trans child needs a haven to exist in safety, and oftentimes it’s their school environment in which they find it. 

One of the first things we learned as teachers is that nothing, NOTHING is more important than the safety of our students. We are duty bound to do whatever we can to protect them both in the school and out. 

So you might ask, what’s wrong with notifying parents that their kid is identifying differently in school than they are at home? Well, I think the bigger questions are, why don’t the parents know already and if they don’t why is their kid afraid to come out to the people who are supposed to offer them the safest of all environments? 

Over the years, I have met many loving parents of transgender kids. And while they may not understand their child’s gender struggle, they make herculean efforts to educate themselves. And to the best of their ability, they support, advocate for, and most of all, love their kids unconditionally.  

But there are parents who, for whatever reasons, find the idea of someone being transgender abhorrent—even sinful. And who will resort to extreme measures to ‘cure’ their child of what they perceive to be the disease of being transgender. And as you might imagine, informing a parent of this type could be harmful to a child, especially when they might be under the influence of someone like Washington state pastor, Jason Graber, pastor of Sure Foundation Baptist Church in Spokane, who said he believed parents of transgender children deserved to be killed. One can only imagine what kind of home life a transgender child might have under those circumstances, and it’s easy to understand why he/she/they would want to keep it a secret. 

We spend millions to keep intruders out of our schools, but we put our kids in harm’s way on the inside with policies like Middletown’s

So what is the child to do? It is a fact that a disproportionate amount of homeless youth identify as Transgendered. It is also a fact that a disproportionality high percentage of transgender kids attempt suicide. For many kids, these are their only desperate choices. Implementing a policy such as Middletown’s can only add fuel to an already raging fire of Transgender hate and misunderstanding that is sweeping this country.

There is no doubt that Middletown’s decision, as well as the towns of Marlboro and Manalapan-Englishtown (who have similar policies) can only have a negative impact on these students somewhere down the road and the State of NJ is fighting to keep the original protecting policies in place. The decisions of these districts are no doubt politically motivated. We have an increasing, nationwide conservative movement in this country that will stop at nothing to take away the civil rights of those who dare to be themselves proudly and openly. 

I said at the beginning of this piece that there is no definitive right or wrong answer here, but maybe I was wrong. The safety of a child and their right to just “BE” is everything. And if we destroy that right in our schools, whose mission is to teach, educate and protect their charges, then we are responsible in part for the fates of their lives. We spend millions to keep intruders out of our schools, but we put our kids in harm’s way on the inside with policies like Middletown’s. 

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Julia Scotti
(Photo by Eric Korenman)

Julia Scotti is headlining comedian, actor, transgender activist and former licensed NJ middle-school teacher. She is the subject of director Susan Sandler’s highly praised documentary film, “Julia Scotti; Funny That Way”.

In addition to performing around the country, Julia has been invited to speak at schools around the state to teachers and students about her life as a transgender woman in the national spotlight.

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Why are LGBTQ activists such fierce defenders of democracy?

ILGA head writes about the DNA that drives LGBTQ activists in a Europe where there’s a mistaken assumption everyone has access to democracy

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The ILGA-Europe Annual Conference Oct. 20, 2022. (Photo Credit: ILGA-Europe/Facebook)

By Evelyne Paradis | BRUSSELS, Belgium – Across Europe, authoritarian leaders continue to target and scapegoat LGBTQ individuals, bringing increased polarization of public discourse and violence in the streets. LGBTQ activists counteract by defending democratic values with unwavering determination. But this defence is not merely a reaction; it is part of their DNA.

Although we may assume that everyone has equal access to democracy, this is not the reality, and reflected on why marginalised groups need democracies and why democracies find some of their greatest champions among LGBTQ activists. 

People who have remained marginalized want to have the same rights, and it is crucial to address their aspirations for equality. Marginalized groups require a system that not only permits but actively enables the protection of their basic rights. While democracy may not be flawless, marginalized communities, including LGBTQ people, rely on its rules and practices; they depend on them to access their fundamental rights.

This is one of the key reasons why LGBTQ activists find themselves at the forefront of defending freedom of assembly, association, expression, and media freedom. These freedoms are not only rights that LGBTQ individuals, like everyone else, are entitled to, they are also essential to enabling communities and individuals to advance equality. It is thanks to these rights that LGBTQ communities can organise and march in public spaces in safety, can freely inform and contribute to public discussions, and so on.

Another reason the defence of democracy matters so much for LGBTQ people is that attacks on democracy are coming at a very real cost to them. The rise of authoritarian regimes across Europe comes hand-in-hand with scapegoating by populist far-right leaders of LGBTQ individuals, migrants, and other vulnerable groups as part of their divisive tactics for political gain. This has concrete and dire consequences in people’s lives, as last year we witnessed the deadliest rise in anti-LGBTQ violence in over a decade.

But it’s not just about pointing fingers at far-right parties and authoritarian leaders. We must look at ourselves in the mirror and accept our democracies are not perfect, also in places where things seem to be fine.

While democracy may be one of the most promising systems for ensuring basic protections, not everyone enjoys equal access to them and many are left behind. At its core, democracy is made of trust. To earn and have trust, people need to feel listened to, heard and included. At the moment, there’s a high risk of many disengaging and becoming more disillusioned by democracy simply because they do not find themselves in it.

This is why it is crucial to listen to LGBTQ people and other marginalised groups when they demand equality. Firstly, democracy is about protecting everyone’s rights. By paying attention to their needs, we honour that principle. Secondly, LGBTQ activists are some of the fiercest defenders of democracy. Their commitment contributes to ensuring that our democracies are alive and flourishing.

By addressing their demands, we can build a more inclusive democracy while making sure that its champions remain strong.

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Evelyne Paradis
Courtesy of ILGA-Europe

Evelyne Paradis is the Executive Director of ILGA-Europe. She is responsible for providing overall leadership, strategic direction and management of the organisation. She joined ILGA-Europe in 2005. Before becoming ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director, she held the position of Policy Director, coordinating the organisation’s advocacy work with European regional organisations.

Prior to joining ILGA-Europe, Evelyne worked with the UN High Commission for Human Rights, the Council of Europe and human rights NGOs in Canada.

She worked as a research assistant to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and Special Representative for human rights defenders, as well as a member of the preparatory team of the World Conference Against Racism.

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