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Kentucky Governor vetoes anti-Trans bill; override likely

“Transgender children deserve public officials’ efforts to demonstrate that they are valued members of our community”

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Kentucky Democratic Governor Andy Beshear (Screenshot/NBC Nightly News)

FRANKFORT – Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear vetoed legislation this week that would ban transgender girls from playing on sports teams in Kentucky schools that match their gender identities from sixth grade through college.

 Senate Bill 83 (SB83), known as the Save Women’s Sports Act, would require the Board of Education or agency designated by the Board of Education to manage interscholastic athletics to promulgate administrative regulations or bylaws requiring schools that participate in interscholastic athletics to designate all athletic teams, activities, and sports based upon the biological sex of the students eligible to participate.

The law would prohibit “biological male” students from participating in athletic teams, activities, and sports designated as “girls.”

Beshear in his veto message to lawmakers accused the legislation’s sponsors of ignoring the policies undertaken taken by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to assure that no student-athlete who has an unfair advantage can compete. Under the association’s policy, a post-pubescent trans female must take hormonal therapy for a sufficient length of time to minimize any gender-related advantage. 

“Transgender children deserve public officials’ efforts to demonstrate that they are valued members of our community through compassion, kindness, and empathy, even if not understanding,” the governor wrote.

The Republican dominated Kentucky legislature passed the measure with veto proof majority votes and according to the Louisville daily, The Courier-Journal, lawmakers intend to reconvene next week at which time both the House and the Senate could override Beshear’s veto.

 “I applaud Governor Beshear for doing the right thing today and vetoing a harmful piece of legislation that would deprive transgender girls and young women of the opportunity to grow and learn from being on a team, simply because of who they are,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign.

“From the start, this bill has been more about fear than fairness. In Kentucky’s entire school system, there is only one openly transgender girl we know about who is playing on a school sports team. That student started her school’s field hockey team, recruited all of the other team members, and just wants the opportunity to play with her friends during her eighth-grade year. But rather than tackle any of the state’s real issues, legislators decided to use their time and power to bully this student and others like her. While we are pleased with the governor’s actions today, the rights of transgender people in Kentucky are still in danger. We urge state lawmakers to follow the lead of Governor Beshear and show compassion to transgender people in our commonwealth by not overriding this veto.”

Kentucky

Kentucky’s lone trans athlete can’t play on team she helped start 

The Washington Post interviews Fischer Wells, Kentucky’s lone trans athlete who prompted the passing of anti-trans legislation in the state

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Fischer works on a laptop during class. (Jon Cherry for The Washington Post)

By Moriah Balingit | LOUISVILLE – When 13-year-old Fischer Wells signed up for field hockey last fall, she had never played the sport. Her parents were confounded. Fischer had run cross-country before and once tried out unsuccessfully for a street hockey team, but outside of that, the seventh-grader had not expressed much interest in sports. 

A month into the season, her parents were fighting for her right to play. The first games had been marred with challenges. First, there were not enough players, until Fischer recruited classmates to fill out the team. Then Fischer’s stick was too short. Finally, through a teary phone conversation with the athletic director, her parents had learned the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s rules would not allow Fischer to play. 

Because Fischer — besides being a middle-schooler with boundless enthusiasm, a bookworm and a novice field hockey player — is transgender. The association had set extraordinarily high hurdles for transgender athletes to play on teams that matched their gender identity. It required that transgender athletes undergo “sex reassignment” before puberty — though it was unclear what that meant…. 

The seventh-grader continued showing up to practices, but she couldn’t bring herself to attend the game in which she’d be benched. Her absence seemed to galvanize her teammates, who could not believe she had been ousted for being herself. For every goal they scored, they shouted, “For Fischer!” 

After a few days, Fischer won back her spot on the team when the school district ruled that its own nondiscrimination clause trumped the state athletic regulations. It was the Westport Warhawks’ only victory that season; on the field, they never won a game… 

Then, after the first season concluded, Fischer would suffer another defeat that would sting worse than the first: In March, Kentucky lawmakers passed a law banning athletes like Fischer from playing on girls’ teams. 

Fischer was the state’s only known transgender student-athlete, according to activists and lawmakers. Still, the legislators believed, she had to be stopped. 

Keep reading: https://wapo.st/3PKgcCo 

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Kentucky

Lawmakers override Kentucky Gov.’s veto of anti-Trans youth sports law

The bill is a carbon copy of the anti-trans bills sweeping the nation this past year and ignores the policies that were already in place

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KY Senate overrides Governor Andy Beshear’s veto on Anti-Trans Sports Ban

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky legislature voted Wednesday to override Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 83 and enact the measure as law, banning transgender girls from participating in sports alongside their peers from sixth grade through college. With this override of the governor’s veto, Kentucky now joins 14 other states banning trans students from participating in sports that align with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 83 (SB83), known as the Save Women’s Sports Act, would require the Board of Education or agency designated by the Board of Education to manage interscholastic athletics to promulgate administrative regulations or bylaws requiring schools that participate in interscholastic athletics to designate all athletic teams, activities, and sports based upon the biological sex of the students eligible to participate.

The law would prohibit “biological male” students from participating in athletic teams, activities, and sports designated as “girls.”

“Governor Beshear was the third governor this year to uphold the dignity of transgender and nonbinary youth, and veto an attempt by lawmakers to write them out of existence. While those young people continue to face unrelenting political attacks, the Kentucky legislature voted to override that act of courage and compassion, pushing these marginalized youth even further to the sidelines,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “This bill claimed to solve a problem of ‘fairness’ in school sports in Kentucky that didn’t exist, but its negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of trans and nonbinary youth — young people who already face disproportionate rates of bullying, depression, and suicide — are very real. To the young people in Kentucky watching tonight: you are stronger than they know. We are here for you, we will fight for you, and we are not going anywhere.”

Beshear in his veto message to lawmakers accused the legislation’s sponsors of ignoring the policies undertaken taken by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to assure that no student-athlete who has an unfair advantage can compete. Under the association’s policy, a post-pubescent trans female must take hormonal therapy for a sufficient length of time to minimize any gender-related advantage.

The Fairness Campaign released the following statement from Executive Director Chris Hartman:

“Shame on the Kentucky General Assembly for attacking trans kids today. Shame on our commonwealth’s lawmakers for passing the first explicitly anti-LGBTQ law in Kentucky in almost a decade.

“Today, the state legislature voted to override Gov. Beshear’s veto and enact a discriminatory sports ban into law, depriving transgender girls of the opportunity to play on a school sports team, simply because of who they are.

“This law singles out the one openly transgender girl in Kentucky’s entire school system who plays on a school sports team. She started her school’s field hockey team, recruited all of the other team members, and just wanted the opportunity to play with her friends. Now Kentucky lawmakers have intervened to stop her from playing with her friends her eighth grade year.

“This bill has been so plainly about political gain and using Kentucky kids as political pawns that it is an embarrassment to our commonwealth. Instead of solving any of Kentucky’s real problems, the politicians behind this bill used their power to bully this one student and take away rights from kids who just want to play games with friends. The bill is a carbon copy of the anti-trans bills sweeping the nation this past year and ignores the policies that were already in place to ensure an equal playing field for student-athletes.

“Kentuckians deserve lawmakers that protect all kids in our community, including transgender children. The enactment of this law makes clear that the rights of transgender people and kids in Kentucky are in danger. We’re deeply committed to fighting back against this discriminatory bill and ensuring equal rights for everyone in our state.

“The fight won’t stop here. We applaud Governor Andy Beshear and all those who stood on the side of justice, including several Republicans voting alongside Democrats in the Kentucky Senate and House to uphold the governor’s veto. We look forward to the lawsuit that’s sure to come. If we can’t protect Kentucky’s trans kids in our legislature, we’ll protect them in our courts.”

Kentucky lawmakers override governor’s vetoes on abortion, transgender sports bills:

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Kentucky

Kentucky teacher quits after LGBTQ-supportive message backlash

Local news outlets reported that some parents had an issue with the message, calling it “inappropriate.” Morgan also faced threats of violence

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Courtesy of Tyler Clay Morgan

IRVINE, Ky. – A music teacher in Kentucky resigned from his job Monday after backlash over a message he wrote on his whiteboard expressing support for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Tyler Clay Morgan, a former music teacher at West Irvine Intermediate School in Eastern Kentucky, wrote, “You are free to be yourself. You matter,” on the board in his classroom, accompanied by rainbow and Trans Pride flags, according to a Facebook post. 

Local news outlets reported that some parents had an issue with the message, calling it “inappropriate.” According to NBC-affiliate LEX 18, Morgan also faced threats of violence. But other parents were supportive of the message, according to reports and social media comments. 

School officials were made aware of the incident last Thursday and opened an investigation, Estill County Superintendent Jeff Saylor told the Lexington Herald-Leader. 

In a Monday Facebook post, Morgan announced he would resign from his position “effective immediately on my own recognizance.” He added that he would not comment further on the matter “as of right now.”

“Please give me time and space to grieve and process,” he wrote. “I don’t know what’s in store for me but right now, I know [I] just need time to get my head straight.”

In a statement to LEX 18, Saylor elaborated on the incident, saying there “has been a lot of conversations and misinformation surrounding the incident.”

Saylor said that his issue was not with Morgan’s statement “because we have to meet the needs of all of our students and families.” Saylor’s issue was with “conversations that took place during class.”

“I firmly believe that students and their parents expect teachers to teach content about their assigned curriculum in a subject area,” he said. “Of course, there are times that conversations may vary from that day’s lesson plan, but these conversations went far beyond the music curriculum. It is my job to make sure that parents are not surprised by these types of situations.”

Saylor added that the matter has been “addressed and closed.” He will not comment further “out of respect for everyone involved.”

In a follow-up post, Morgan shared that “more work needs to be done in Kentucky, especially in Eastern Kentucky, to ensure that more resources are provided to make sure all students feel safe, secure, and seen, not just the ones that come out as part of any community or share hardships.”

“My hope is that every educator that sees this is empowered, passionate, and actively working to make a change in the world of education as I am,” he said.

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Kentucky

Kentucky anti-Trans youth sports bill heads to governor for signature

“Lawmakers should stop meddling in the lives of innocent kids and focus on more pressing issues that pose legitimate threats in Kentucky”

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Kentucky Democratic Governor Andy Beshear (Screenshot/NBC Nightly News)

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 83 (SB83), an anti-Trans youth sports bill on final vote of 25-9 Thursday. The bill now heads to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear to be signed into law or vetoed. Senate Bill 83 would ban transgender girls from playing on sports teams in Kentucky schools that match their gender identities from sixth grade through college. 

The bill known as the Save Women’s Sports Act, would require the Board of Education or agency designated by the Board of Education to manage interscholastic athletics to promulgate administrative regulations or bylaws requiring schools that participate in interscholastic athletics to designate all athletic teams, activities, and sports based upon the biological sex of the students eligible to participate.

The law would prohibit “biological male” students from participating in athletic teams, activities, and sports designated as “girls.”

“Shame on the Kentucky General Assembly for prioritizing discrimination against some of our state’s most vulnerable youth,” said Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman.

“Now the only transgender girl we know currently playing sports in Kentucky schools, a 12-year-old seventh grader who started her middle school’s field hockey team, will be denied the opportunity to play with her friends during her eighth grade year.

“Transgender kids want the same things all children do—to play with their friends, get a good education and pursue their passions, including sports. Like all kids, they deserve the opportunity to participate on sports teams that help them stay active, bring them joy and fulfillment, and teach them about teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship.

“Our girls’ sports teams deserve more funding, respect and opportunity. Girls in sports continue to face barriers based on their gender, including transgender girls. Bans on transgender girls participating in sports do nothing to support girls’ sports. Attempts to ‘other’ transgender girls prevent the kinds of inclusive school environments that we need to ensure kids of all genders can have fair opportunities.

“It’s critical for governing bodies to listen to the education experts, coaches and sports associations shedding light on the importance of including transgender student athletes in opportunities to play sports with their classmates. These experts are working diligently to refine existing guidelines to ensure fair participation for all kids across every sport.

Lawmakers should stop meddling in the lives of innocent kids trying to play with friends on their schools’ sports teams and focus on more pressing issues that pose legitimate threats in Kentucky.”

The Fairness Campaign now calls on Kentucky’s most pro-equality Governor Andy Beshear to protect the lives of transgender youth and let all Kentucky kids play by vetoing Senate Bill 83,” said Hartman.

“Tonight, the Kentucky Senate advanced the sixth anti-trans bill in a single day, adding to three bills targeting trans youth in Oklahoma and two in Arizona. As transgender and nonbinary youth across the country continue to face unrelenting political attacks, we call on these lawmakers to focus on supporting them in the fight of their lives, not pushing them to the sidelines,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “This bill focuses on a problem in school sports that simply does not exist – yet the debates surrounding it are having a tangible negative impact on the mental health of an overwhelming majority of trans youth. These young people already face disproportionate rates of bullying, depression, and suicide, and bills like this one will only make matters worse. We implore Governor Beshear to follow the lead of the courageous Republican governors in Indiana and Utah who vetoed anti-trans bills this week, and veto this cruel and unnecessary law.”

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Kentucky

Kentucky House oks anti-Trans youth sports bill, next stop Senate

“The legislation will increase marginalization already experienced by trans girls & pose harm to organizations supportive of trans rights”

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Kentucky Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Kentucky)

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s House of Representatives voted 70-23 to approve legislation barring Trans girls from competing in girls’ sports in middle schools, high schools, and public colleges and universities Thursday.

Senate Bill 83, requires the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to establish that an athletic activity or sport designated as “girls” shall not be open to members of the male sex, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

During debate over the legislation prior to the vote, state Rep. Bill Wesley R- Ravenna told the House that “God…hates sin,” then added “We need to encourage our children…if they are born a female, then we need to encourage them to be a female, and if they are born a male, then we need to encourage them to be a male.”

The Kentucky Youth Law Project, a non-profit, is among those groups opposing the bill.

The legislation will “serve to increase the marginalization already experienced by transgender girls, pose harm to organizations that are supportive of trans rights, and cause pain to cisgender girls who may have this law applied to them punitively,” a statement from the group said earlier this week.

Keith Elston, the group’s legal director, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that high school is hard enough for transgender students, who often face bullying, harassment, and mistreatment because of their gender identity.

“No student would pretend to be transgender just to join a particular sports team,” Elston said. “And no transgender student should be singled out for further bullying and discrimination, but that is exactly what this law, if enacted, would do.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence and approval before being sent to Governor Andy Beshear, (D), who while is generally supportive of LGBTQ+ rights- should he veto it under Kentucky law his veto being overturned would only require a simple majority of lawmakers.

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Kentucky

Kentucky’s first ever Out LGBTQ+ State Representative elected

There are currently 13 out LGBTQ elected officials in Kentucky. Herron will be the only out LGBTQ person serving in the state legislature

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Keturah Herron photo via Keturah Herron for Kentucky House District 42 campaign

FRANKFORT – Keturah Herron won the Kentucky Special Election for House District 42 Tuesday evening. With this victory, Herron is now the first out LGBTQ person ever elected to the Kentucky state House.

There are currently 13 out LGBTQ elected officials in Kentucky. Herron will be the only out LGBTQ person serving in the state legislature and one of just 25 out LGBTQ Black state legislators anywhere in the United States.

Herron previously worked for the ACLU of Kentucky, where they worked to pass Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock warrants in the city of Louisville. Now, she intends to leverage this experience and champion a variety of policies, including advancing voting rights, increasing the minimum wage, enacting criminal justice reform and improving access to education.

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, issued the following statement in an email:

This is a momentous night for Kentucky, especially for LGBTQ people and Black people who have lived without equitable representation in the state legislature for far too long. Keturah is a seasoned community organizer and policy expert. She has the experience – and political stamina – to advocate for all Kentuckians and stand up against the deluge of anti-LGBTQ legislation perpetrated by anti-equality lawmakers. Her election is a strong rebuke to this hate.”

Chris Hartman, Executive Director of the Kentucky LGBTQ group C-FAIR, released the following statement:

We couldn’t be more excited about tonight’s historic election of Kentucky’s first openly-LGBTQ state representative, Keturah Herron. Representative-Elect Herron will fill a nearly 15-year gap in LGBTQ representation in the Kentucky General Assembly, and we need her now more than ever before. With the Kentucky House poised to vote on an anti-trans sports bill in the next several days, Representative-Elect Herron will fight fiercely for transgender kids and all LGBTQ Kentuckians in this critical time.”

While Herron is now the first out LGBTQ member of the Kentucky state House, in 2003, Ernesto Scorsone made history as the first out LGBTQ member of the Kentucky state Senate when he came out in a public speech.

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Kentucky

Kentucky Senate committee passes Anti-Trans youth sports ban

Restricts Trans women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity- Bill will now move to the full Senate

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State of Kentucky Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Kentucky)

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate Education Committee passed SB 83 on Thursday, which would restrict Trans women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. The bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

Fox News affiliate WDRB FOX32 News reported the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’ that is sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills, Republican chairman of the Senate State & Local Government Committee, directs the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s board to pass regulations banning those identified as males on their birth certificates from participating on girls’ sports teams. The measure passed the Senate Education Committee on a party-line 9-3 vote.

“This bill has nothing to do with fairness in sports or transgender youth in Kentucky. It must be mentioned that all who testified in support of this bill about women and girls’ sports were men, and none of them could cite a single example of a trans student-athlete causing an issue in Kentucky,” said Sam Ames, Director for Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project.

“The discriminatory bills sweeping the country right now don’t just pose a danger if they become law; the fact that young trans people’s very identities are being debated by powerful adults is already having negative mental health impacts. When asked about these sports bans, 1 in 3 trans and nonbinary youth said they felt scared. We urge legislators to put the wellbeing of marginalized youth above fearmongering and stop this bill,”  Ames added.

Kentucky is among several states passing measures barring Trans women and girls from competing in women’s sports. This past October Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that would ban K-12 Trans youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

“This statute change clearly addresses the flaw in the current regulation that surgical changes and hormonal therapy of any length of time reduces the physical advantage that a biological male has over a biological female,” said Senator Mills.

While Mills was unaware of any issues regarding participation in sports by transgender females in Kentucky, “there are parents of female athletes that are concerned about this happening in our state,” he said.

“I believe there are openings to where a biological male could be competing as a female in their junior and senior year in high school after they meet the qualifications that are in the regulations currently,” he told WDRB.

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Kentucky

Women account for nearly two-thirds of HIV-related arrests in Kentucky

Using data obtained from the Kentucky State Police researchers found that all but one HIV-related arrests since 2006 were related to sex work

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Photo Credit: Covington Police Department, Kentucky

LOS ANGELES – Since 2006, at least 32 people have been arrested under Kentucky laws that criminalize people living with HIV, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Women account for nearly two-thirds (62%) of all HIV-related arrests but only one-sixth (17%) of the state’s population of people living with HIV.

Using data obtained from the Uniform Crime Reporting Section of the Kentucky State Police, researchers found that all but one of Kentucky’s HIV-related arrests since 2006 were related to sex work. In almost half (44%) of all HIV-related arrests, the HIV-related offense was the only reason for contact with law enforcement.

HIV criminalization is a term used to describe laws that either criminalize otherwise legal conduct or increase the penalties for illegal conduct based upon a person’s HIV-positive status. More than two-thirds of U.S. states and territories have enacted HIV criminal laws.

Kentucky has two HIV-specific laws. The first contains misdemeanor and felony provisions for engaging in sex work while knowingly or unknowingly being HIV-positive. The second has a felony charge for people living with HIV who donate blood, tissues, or organs.

“A person can be arrested for sex work in the state without engaging in actual sex acts,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Analyst at the Williams Institute. “That means Kentucky law can apply a felony charge—which carries a prison term of up to five years—to people living with HIV without requiring actual transmission or even the possibility of transmission.”

KEY FINDINGS 

  • At least 32 people in Kentucky have been arrested for HIV-related criminal offenses since 2006.
  • Crimes related to sex work accounted for 97% of all of Kentucky’s HIV-related arrests.
  • Overall, women comprise 17% of people living with HIV in Kentucky, but 62% of people arrested for HIV-related offenses.
    • White women account for 43% of Kentucky’s population, but 8% of the state’s population of people living with HIV, and 59% of those arrested for HIV-related offenses.
  • In 44% of all HIV-related arrests, the HIV-related offense was the only offense cited.
  • Enforcement of HIV crimes is geographically concentrated. On a per-capita basis, Kenton County just across the border from Cincinnati had about eight times more HIV-related arrests than Jefferson County, the state’s most populous county.
    • Covington Police Department in Kenton County comprised one-quarter of all HIV-related arrests (8), followed by the Lexington Police Department (6), and the Louisville Metro Police Department (3).

Read the report

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Kentucky

LGBTQ+ Kentucky group raises money for people affected by tornadoes

The tornadoes tore through Western Kentucky & parts of Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee & Arkansas on Friday night into early Saturday morning

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President Biden meeting with survivors & viewing destruction in Kentucky Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Official White House Photo)

LOUISVILLE – Queer Kentucky – an LGBTQ+ nonprofit located in Louisville, Kentucky – has extended a helping hand to LGBTQ+ Kentuckians affected by the recent tornadoes that ravaged parts of the state by giving out approximately $7,000 in aid, according to Spencer Jenkins, the groups’ founder and executive director.

Jenkins told the Blade that Queer Kentucky’s effort was able to give 25 LGBTQ+ people affected by the storms around $300, most of whom were Black, brown or Indigenous. 

“They are usually the most marginalized within our own community, so we were very grateful to be able to do that for them,” he said. “There were a lot of trans people that needed assistance, a lot of nonbinary people. So, I mean, we were able to impact the marginalized of the marginalized.”

However, Jenkins wishes he could do more. “Unfortunately, we only had $7,000. And we wanted to be able to give $300 each, so that they can actually do something with the money,” he said. “$100 is great, but I’ve kind of always been on the thought that $300 is a super impactful amount to give to someone.” 

The tornadoes tore through Western Kentucky – and parts of Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas – on Friday night and early Saturday morning. One of the twisters, originating in Arkansas and ending in Kentucky, spun for over 200 miles. 

According to a press release, at least 75 people have died from the storms in Kentucky, with 16 people still missing and about 3,280 without power. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) described the event as one of “the worst tornado events” in state history. 

But the actual effect that the extreme weather had on the LGBTQ+ community will likely never be known because states generally do not collect that demographic data in times like last weekend. 

Though Jenkins didn’t have any specific numbers, he thinks that the tornadoes have left many queer people – at least 100, he estimates – in Kentucky with almost nothing. He came to this conclusion because of how many people reached out to his group in need of assistance. 

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden traveled to Kentucky to survey the damage and announce that the federal government would cover 100% of the costs of emergency work for the first 30 days after storms. 

“You know, the scope and scale of this destruction is almost beyond belief … These tornadoes devoured everything in their path,” Biden said at a press conference in Dawson Springs, Kentucky – one of the hardest-hit areas.

Biden Visits Kentucky Communities Devastated By Tornadoes

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Kentucky

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

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

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Cris Blehar, (Family Photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a statement to HRC, Mark Stephens said;

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

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

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

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

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

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