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Thank you, Your Majesty

British expat in D.C. mourns late monarch

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Maximilian Sycamore pays his respects to Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy in D.C. on Sept. 11, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Maximilian Sycamore)

It was early on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, when the first rumbles came across the pond about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s health. “Keep calm and carry on” kicked in until her children arrived in Scotland. Nothing screams imminent death in Britain more than the arrival of close family.

When the news finally broke, I went into autopilot. Saving my yearly tear for the funeral, I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea. Strangely, the kettle had started leaking that week like a very British prophecy. Later I would meet fellow expats in a bar, giving brief hugs of condolence before resuming the national pastime of moaning (the Pimm’s Cup was not to our standards, even with clear instruction.)

We joined the British public in the impossible task of mourning the loss of such an important woman while maintaining our dignity in the process. Tradition dictates televisions play BBC news non-stop before mourners rest flowers outside the palaces, taking a moment of quiet reflection in the silent embrace of the crowds.

For those of us not home we have to find other ways to feel included. A small collection of Brits gathered on our D.C. roof-deck for a Paddington Bear double bill; enjoying sausage rolls, curry and Pimm’s before the ironically British weather chased us inside.

Keeping up with the proceedings is easy, though with the time difference a lot occurs before I’ve opened my eyes. The hardest day will be the funeral, taking place on a Monday, a bank (public) holiday for the locals but a little more tricky for those of us peppered across the globe.

D.C. isn’t the worst place to be during this time, it’s globally aware and moderately respectful (the large gay community doesn’t hurt.) But Her Majesty was not without detractors, her last few decades tarnished as Meghan-shaped nails were hammered into a Diana-sized coffin, buried underneath the ghosts of a legacy that comes with a monarchy that was once an empire.

When outside the protection of national grief you feel oddly exposed to critical opinion and cruel jokes and begin to second guess your own choice to mourn.

Her death had been long dreaded. Would the nation be able to survive without her? When His Majesty King Charles III made his first address; we braced ourselves for a fraud, an imitation monarch. So, when we were instead met with a son battling to stay strong as he grieved his mother, our defenses dropped and we were united, rallying behind him.

For those living in Britain the other changes will be gradual. The National Anthem will sound strange, and our money will look foreign. For the rest of us the changes will be a bit more jarring, but we’ll have a cup of tea to steady our nerves and persevere.

To write a piece like this is not easy, it seems almost naive to form opinions based on a public persona. Luckily for me I was able to meet Her Majesty and speak with her for a brief couple of minutes when she visited my university. As I explained to her in moderate detail my task, I was met with a look of interest that was equal parts understanding and fascination. I couldn’t help but think that she wanted to be there, to learn more about her subjects so she could perform her duties just that little bit better. 

And it’s the level of respect she showed us that I will never forget.

Madam, Your Majesty, thank you.

Maximilian Sycamore meets Queen Elizabeth II at his university in the U.K. (Photo courtesy of Maximilian Sycamore)

Maximilian Sycamore is a D.C.-based media producer who is originally from London. The opinions expressed in this op-ed are entirely his own.

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Journalists are not the enemy

Wednesday marks five years since Blade reporter detained in Cuba

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The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government over the last decade has cracked down on the country's independent media. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

HAVANA — Wednesday marked five years since the Cuban government detained me at Havana’s José Marti International Airport.

I had tried to enter the country in order to continue the Washington Blade’s coverage of LGBTQ+ and intersex Cubans. I found myself instead unable to leave the customs hall until an airport employee escorted me onto an American Airlines flight back to Miami.

This unfortunate encounter with the Cuban regime made national news. The State Department also noted it in its 2020 human rights report.

Press freedom and a journalist’s ability to do their job without persecution have always been important to me. They became even more personal to me on May 8, 2019, when the Cuban government for whatever reason decided not to allow me into the country.  

Washington Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers after the Cuban government detained him at Havana’s José Marti International Airport on May 8, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

‘A free press matters now more than ever’

Journalists in the U.S. and around the world on May 3 marked World Press Freedom Day.

Reporters without Borders in its 2024 World Press Freedom Index notes that in Cuba “arrests, arbitrary detentions, threats of imprisonment, persecution and harassment, illegal raids on homes, confiscation, and destruction of equipment — all this awaits journalists who do not toe the Cuban Communist Party line.” 

“The authorities also control foreign journalists’ coverage by granting accreditation selectively, and by expelling those considered ‘too negative’ about the government,” adds Reporters without Borders.

Cuba is certainly not the only country in which journalists face persecution or even death while doing their jobs.

• Reporters without Borders notes “more than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces, including at least 22 in the course of their work” in the Gaza Strip since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Media groups have also criticized the Israeli government’s decision earlier this month to close Al Jazeera’s offices in the country.

• Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Washington Post contributor and Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Alsu Kurmasheva remain in Russian custody. Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributes to the Post, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012.

• Reporters without Borders indicates nearly 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and 28 others have disappeared.

The Nahal Oz border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Nov. 21, 2016. Reporters without Borders notes the Israel Defense Forces have killed more than 100 Palestinian reporters in the enclave since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his World Press Freedom Day notes more journalists were killed in 2023 “than in any year in recent memory.”

“Authoritarian governments and non-state actors continue to use disinformation and propaganda to undermine social discourse and impede journalists’ efforts to inform the public, hold governments accountable, and bring the truth to light,” he said. “Governments that fear truthful reporting have proved willing to target individual journalists, including through the misuse of commercial spyware and other surveillance technologies.”

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, who is a former journalist, in her World Press Freedom Day statement noted journalists “are more essential than ever to safeguarding democratic values.” 

“From those employed by international media organizations to those working for local newspapers, courageous journalists all over the world help shine a light on corruption, encourage civic engagement, and hold governments accountable,” she said.

President Joe Biden echoed these points when he spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner here in D.C. on April. 27.

“There are some who call you the ‘enemy of the people,'” he said. “That’s wrong, and it’s dangerous. You literally risk your lives doing your job.”

I wrote in last year’s World Press Freedom Day op-ed that the “rhetoric — ‘fake news’ and journalists are the ‘enemy of the people’ — that the previous president and his followers continue to use in order to advance an agenda based on transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, islamophobia, and white supremacy has placed American journalists at increased risk.” I also wrote the “current reality in which we media professionals are working should not be the case in a country that has enshrined a free press in its constitution.”

“A free press matters now more than ever,” I concluded.

That sentiment is even more important today.

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My reflections on the death of LGBTQ Icon David Mixner

Thank you, David Mixner. It’s time for a well-deserved rest in peace and to see all your old friends again

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David Mixner/Facebook

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – All week, I’ve been thinking of calling David Mixner. We needed to catch up and I wanted to double-check my memory of moments in 1991/92 during which he and ANGLE led the gay movement to elect his friend Bill Clinton as the new President of the United States. I knew he was not in the best shape – but part of me thought he’d be around forever. Wishful thinking doesn’t make it so.

I have lots of powerful memories of Mixner, starting in 1986 with the two of us sitting on a slope in Griffith Park watching scores of peace activists preparing to depart on The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. We talked about being clean and sober and our hopes and dreams – mostly an end to all our friends dying.

Years later, after Michael Callen died in late 1993, Mixner and I huddled at yet another memorial in West Hollywood. I produced many memorials for our dead 12 Step friends and he was often the speaker. We gave each other permission to take a break. We told each other that our dead friends would understand.  

David Mixner with Ambassador James Hormel and AIDS Dr. Joel Weisman at an amfAR event where they were honored
(Photo by Karen Ocamb)

As a reporter for the gay press, I interviewed David A LOT, especially about pressing Clinton to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving opening in the military. He was an ardent pacifist – a follower of non-violence through Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. so why pick the military as an issue to fight for? He said it was our right to serve as patriotic Americans and to be able to access all the benefits that come with it – such as education through the GI Bill and the possibility of leaving poverty, domestic violence and routine bullying to see the world.    

But the moment that shines the brightest for me after hearing about David’s death tonight is the night Bill Clinton stopped in at a small ANGLE (Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality) reception before a major fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Feb. 28, 1992. 

David, Jeremy Bernard, Scott Hitt, Randy Klose and others had come up with this creative MECLA-like idea to make sure that the Clinton campaign knew that the pledged $75,000 they raised would be clearly designated as GAY MONEY. And it was – with a clear bold thank you in the program book for the fundraiser thrown by Warren Christopher and Mickey Kantor, who acknowledged ANGLE from the stage. 

This was a big deal at a time when the Reagan-Bush administration had embraced political evangelicals who said AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality.

David Mixner and Presidential candidate Bill Clinton at 1992 reception.
(Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Clinton was late to the reception – but his whole campaign was frenzied after the Gennifer Flowers story broke a month earlier. He and Hillary barely survived a 60 Minutes interview – but he came in second in a crowded field in the New Hampshire Primary 10 days before the fundraiser. He declared himself the “Comeback Kid” – and David was determined to convince every gay person everywhere to support him. 

That night, in a conference room with 60 gay people – some of whom would go on to work on Clinton’s campaign and in his administration – David whispered in Clinton’s ear like a political strategist, treated him like a friend, and served as an LGBTQ ambassador for all our hopes and dreams to the man who would become the next President. 

And Clinton let down his guard and responded. As David wrote in Stranger Among Friends: “The room was very quiet. We realized he was reaching out to us by reaching deep inside himself. He had made the link between his feelings of isolation from his neighbors with our feelings of isolation from society.” 

Bill Clinton thanks his friend David Mixner (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Thanks to David Mixner, Bill Clinton saw us as “a people,” not just a culture war issue. Mixner and ANGLE created a wave of voters, raised $1.3 million in Gay & Lesbian Money for the campaign, and started making demands – chief among them was an AIDS Czar and for Clinton to recognize us in his Democratic Convention speech. Mixner said he and Diane Abbitt held their breath waiting for the magic words – letting the campaign know that if Clinton didn’t SAY the words, they all would make a big show for the TV cameras and walk out. Clinton acknowledged us.  

There are so many David Mixner moments, including his official break with Clinton protesting the betrayal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

David Mixner, (center) protesting DADT at the White House
(Photo courtesy Jeremy Bernard)

Clinton did follow up on his promise to fight AIDS – hard not to do after he and Hillary visited the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt during the 1993 March on Washington.

AIDS Quilt 1993 March on Washington (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

 But to me, tonight, I’m grateful that he lifted up our humanity so we could feel full equality and full of possibility if just for a spell before hateful politics once more took first class citizenship rights away. What would have happened had Hillary won? 

David Mixner, Karen Ocamb, and Hillary Clinton after March 26, 1992 visit at AIDS Project Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy Karen Ocamb)

Thank you, David Mixner. It’s time for a well-deserved rest in peace and to see all your old friends again.

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Karen Ocamb is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

Ocamb started in LGBTQ+ media in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ+ data collection during the COVID pandemic.

Since leaving the LA Blade Ocamb continues to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her rescue dog Pepper.

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Lawmaker ejected trans Kansans- her hearing was a disgrace

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, threw several people opposed to anti-transgender bills out of a Kansas House hearing

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Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, oversaw a hearing on two anti-trans bills in the Health and Human Services committee. She is seen here during an Aug. 2, 2023 KanCare Oversight committee meeting. (Photo Credit: Sam Bailey/Kansas Reflector)

By Clay Wirestone | TOPEKA, Kan. – Rep. Brenda Landwehr: What you did to LGBTQ+ Kansans at your Thursday hearing in the Kansas Statehouse has no excuse.

Your committee was considering bills that would criminalize lifesaving care for children. The mere act of debating House Bill 2791 and House Bill 2792 harmed transgender kids across the state. A host of advocates and activists, parents and children, told you this through testimony and email messages, opinion columns and public speeches.

You didn’t listen.

Instead, you issued imperious orders. You expelled prominent LGBTQ+ advocates after one knocked over a water bottle, threatened speakers with capitol police, and cut off testimony that offended you.

You added to the abuse. You negated compassionate souls who were looking out for themselves and those they loved.

“It was more than unnecessary. It was shocking,” said Melissa Stiehler, advocacy director for youth voter engagement organization Loud Light, describing the ejection of one advocate.

A couple of folks used strong words in addressing you and your compatriots on the House Health and Human Services Committee. That’s because the bill you were hearing could lead to the deaths of their friends. They didn’t make that choice. You did. The least you could have done for these brave souls was to sit and listen, as you did when you allowed HB 2791 sponsor Rep. Ron Bryce, R-Coffeyville, to call gender reassignment surgery the equivalent of a lobotomy.

But you were too cowardly for that.

This isn’t a joke. This isn’t a show. The Kansas Statehouse doesn’t serve as a stage for you to preen and prattle and make demands of those you see as less than. You serve the people. As a Republican representing Wichita’s District 105, you owe the people better.

LGBTQ+ people have suffered unspeakable torture from the hands of people just like Landwehr for decades. Kansas criminal code still classifies gay intimacy as a misdemeanor. Law enforcement has often played a prominent role in enforcing hate. The fact that the representative would look to officers to do her dirty work shows that the old ways — the old familiar use of the state to enforce one person’s morality on another — run deep.

Watch ignominious moments from the hearing in the video below. You can witness the whole debate here.

Firsthand accounts

With that preamble off my chest, let’s step back a moment.

LGBTQ+ advocates had prepared for this hearing. They submitted a flotilla of testimony and packed both the hearing room and an overflow space. Emotions, as you might expect, ran high. The situation called for a committee chair who mixed both empathy with those speaking and determination to move the hearing along.

In preparing this column, I spoke and corresponded with three people who sat in that room Thursday. They watched the chairwoman up close as she booted or silenced at least four LGBTQ+ advocates.

“The hearing started off very curt and with very vague instructions to attendees and conferees,” said Iridiscent Riffel, a transgender activist who has also written columns for Kansas Reflector. She was later ejected and threatened with a police escort for her testimony. “We were treated as if we were miscreants for simply attending a hearing that would determine our rights. We were told that any noise or disruption would end with us being kicked out.”

Riffel had attended a hearing Thursday morning in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and said there was little difference in the audience between the two. Yet Landwehr regularly interrupted the afternoon hearing and call for order.

“Landwehr was trying to create a problem that didn’t exist with an excuse to kick us out,” Riffel said. She added the chairwoman “was engaging in providing extra support to supporters of the bill, while shutting down speech by those in opposition of the bill, the very community that would be impacted.”

Taryn Jones works as the lobbyist for Equality Kansas, the state’s preeminent advocacy group for LGBTQ+ residents.

She was also one of those removed.

“At one point during the hearing, I picked up my water bottle and as I sat it down whispered something to the person sitting next to me,” Jones said. “Rep. Landwehr banged her gavel down and kicked us out saying that she had warned people in the committee room about disruptions. However, the people in the row in front and back of me hadn’t heard anything and seemed very confused by what was going on.”

She highlighted the central injustice of the entire affair: “I find it curious that out of the four-five people that Landwehr kicked out or silenced during the hearing, they were all people opposing the bill. How is this democratic? Well, it’s not. Does Landwehr really want the optics of kicking out the Equality Kansas Lobbyist for water and a whisper on a hearing to ban trans healthcare?”

I can answer that question: She doesn’t care about the optics.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, threw several people opposed to anti-transgender bills out of a Kansas House hearing Thursday for defying ground rules for decorum
 Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, threw several people opposed to anti-transgender bills out of a Kansas House hearing Thursday for supposedly violating her ground rules for decorum. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Unequal treatment

Loud Light’s Stiehler watched the entire hearing from the room and corroborated both Jones’ and Riffel’s accounts.

“I did notice many anti-trans activists engage in more disruptive behavior than (the water bottle incident) without any reprimand from the chair, such as cell phones going off, general murmuring, or bringing their signs into the committee room to keep at their feet,” she said. “One bill proponent held up his sign and was asked to leave after Rep. Susan Ruiz pointed him out to Chair Landwehr, but returned to the committee room shortly after. That was the only enforcement of the chair’s rules on any proponent.”

Stiehler watched as Bryce claimed that gender-affirming care somehow equated to lobotomies. Such a statement insulted all the transgender people in the room. Yet Landwehr never asked them to revise their testimony or leave. That testimony came alongside a mountain of “discredited studies and factually inaccurate statistics,” to use Stiehler’s words.

As I’ve noted in this space before, all major medical groups and health care groups support gender-affirming care for those younger than 18.

Not one or two. Every one.

That doesn’t matter to Landwehr or those supporting these grotesque proposals. The chairwoman gave them a wide berth to demean, disparage and demonize the transgender people who showed up to defend their rights. She refused to allow the same rhetorical scrutiny of her committee.

“This bill claims that gender affirming care for minors is abusive, and proponents of it said that if legislators didn’t support this bill they were enabling this abuse,” Stiehler said. “Yet when two transgender women from Kansas, Iridescent Riffel (a leader in Equality Kansas) and Jaelynn Abegg (Rep. Landwehr’s opponent in the upcoming election) said that it is proven through many peer reviewed studies and reports that bills like this cause an increase in depression and risk of suicide, and if you vote in favor of these bills then you will be responsible for that result, that was considered disparaging to members of the Legislature that haven’t even yet voted on these bills. The remainder of their testimony was shut down.”

I reached out to Landwehr for her take on the hearing. She didn’t respond.

If Kansas GOP leaders can do this to transgender youths, they will follow up by doing it to transgender adults. They will then target, as they have before, gay and lesbian and bisexual youths and adults. Those who somehow believe they can turn the “LGB” against the “TQ” in the “LGBTQ+” initialism don’t understand the history of this movement or the way the community works. Trans people and those crossing gender lines have always been part of the community, and an attack on any particular part of the community must be understood as an attack on everyone.

Think of it another way. Type 1 diabetics need insulin to survive. Would that House panel consider denying insulin to people under age 18 because they’re too young and impressionable? Would Rep. John Eplee, the Atchison Republican and physician who sat next to Landwehr, even countenance such a proposal?

Of course not.

So ask yourself why transgender kids don’t count the same as diabetic kids in the state of Kansas.

A participant in the March 31, 2023, March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy at the Kansas Statehouse holds a sign that reads: "Make no mistake, they are killing us."
 A participant in the March 31, 2023, March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy at the Kansas Statehouse holds a sign that reads: “Make no mistake, they are killing us.” The demonstration was a response to legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community, including the ban on transgender athletes. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Another hearing

The chairwoman has already done an immense amount of damage.

She has shattered a vase into a thousand pieces, and while that vase could be mended with enough time and attention, it will never look the same. She has wielded her power to punish transgender Kansans who showed up in good faith to participate in the democratic process. Even if those bills fail, Landwehr has betrayed hardworking Kansans in her zealous pursuit of culture warrior status.

However, she could still make a difference. From what I hear, leaders can hold informational hearings on just about any subject they like.

Landwehr could call an informational hearing on her own performance as chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee. I’m sure that Riffel, Abegg, Jones and Stiehler would be more than willing to share their thoughts. She needn’t only hear criticism, either. The chairwoman could hold a second day of hearings for those who want to praise her.

We didn’t have to be in this place. These bills didn’t have to be introduced. They didn’t have to be heard in committee. And the hearing didn’t have to be turned into a public embarrassment.

But here we are.

Landwehr owes those she kicked out the opportunity to confront her publicly. She should hear what her behavior meant to them, how she made them feel, and what her proposals mean for LGBTQ+ youths across the state of Kansas. She might even acknowledge the harm she caused.

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Clay Wirestone is Kansas Reflector opinion editor. Through its opinion section, Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

The preceding article was previously published by the Kansas Reflector and is republished with permission.

Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone serves as Kansas Reflector’s opinion editor. His columns have been published in the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, along with newspapers and websites across the state and nation. He has written and edited for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania.

He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, and cnn.com. Before joining the Reflector in summer 2021, Clay spent four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director.

Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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American Evangelicals’ deadly silence on Nex Benedict

Anti-queer theology is not just inaccurate, it’s deadly, & causes tangible harm to millions of queer people around the world every single day

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American Evangelicals worshiping. (Screenshot/YouTube BBC)

By Rev. Brandan Robertson | QUEENS, N.Y. – Nex Benedict is dead, and far too many American evangelicals are silent. On one hand, this is not surprising at all. We’ve come to expect that those who claim the name of Jesus to not respond to anything that doesn’t concern their own interests- namely their privilege, power, and wealth.

On the other hand, it is almost unbelievable that anyone who follows the Jesus who said “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 18:3) and who spent his days speaking up for the marginalized and oppressed would not speak up or stand in solidarity with the death of a 16 year old student who was relentlessly bullied and beaten in the bathroom of their school and is now dead.

Even beyond Christian faith and values, the most basic standard of human decency demands that we mourn with those who are mourning, and yet once again, many American evangelicals fail at even this. 

At the time of my writing, over a week after Nex’s death, FOX News, the top news source for American evangelicals doesn’t even have one mention of Nex on their website, nor does The Christian Post or Christianity Today.

Instead of highlighting the very real suffering of transgender and non-binary Americans, these networks have chosen to make invisible the suffering of queer people. Nex’s death represents the persistent struggle of non-binary and transgender people across America who face bullying, violence, and discrimination every single day, much of which is motivated by so-called Christian values.

When churches continue to teach that queer people are unnatural, abominations, and intrinsically disordered, the result is millions of Christians stigmatizing, ostracizing, and actively working against queer people.

Anti-queer theology is not just inaccurate, it’s deadly, and it causes tangible harm to millions of queer people around the world every single day.

This is especially true for children who grow up hearing that queer people are sinful in their churches and then act on these beliefs by bullying queer children at their schools. Anti-queer theology is not just inaccurate, it’s deadly, and it causes tangible harm to millions of queer people around the world every single day. 

American evangelicals know this. They know that their theology hurts people like Nex and it appears that they don’t care. They won’t even acknowledge the suffering and death of Nex by sharing their story and highlighting their suffering. They won’t take this tragic moment to turn inward and reflect on the way that their teaching and politics perpetuate such harm to queer people like Nex each and every day.

Evangelicals like Oklahoma State Superintendent of Schools Ryan Walters actively work to make the lives of trans and non-binary students more difficult, bans both diversity initiatives and books that mention queer characters, and target queer educators, even pressuring a gay principle to resign for performing as a drag queen outside of school on his personal time.

This sort of harassment and targeting of the queer community is not an aberration for evangelicals- it’s the norm. They seek to use every ounce of power and privilege they can muster to marginalize the queer community because they know that we threaten their grip on American society and challenge some of their deeply held regressive beliefs and values.

And because of this, it’s essential that compassionate and progressive people of faith rise to this moment, honoring Nex’s life by shining a light and demanding accountability for the toxic rhetoric spewed by religious and political leaders and demanding more protections under the law for non-binary and transgender people in our country.

In this moment, all people who align with Jesus’ value of loving our neighbor as ourselves need to think carefully about how we might love and support our trans and non-binary neighbors who are experiencing a great deal of pain in following the death of Nex Benedict. And it is clear the love demands that we honor Nex’s life by speaking up and demanding that those who promote anti-trans rhetoric and ideology be held accountable for the impact it has on the lives of vulnerable trans and non-binary people everywhere.

Beliefs are not neutral and political positions impact the lives of real people across this country. Nex’s tragic death is just the latest evidence of the real-world consequences of anti-queer rhetoric, and the best way to honor their life is commit to fighting with all that we have to expose evangelicalism as the death-dealing, anti-Christ movement that it has become.

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Rev. Brandan Robertson is an author, activist, and theologian, serving as the Executive Director of The Devout Foundation and Pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church in NYC.

Known as the “TikTok Pastor” with a substantial following, he also hosts the influential podcast “Faith For the Rest of Us” and has penned 20 books, notably “True Inclusion.”

His expertise in progressive spirituality has garnered recognition in major publications like TIME, NBC, and The Washington Post, and accolades from Rolling Stone Magazine. An ardent advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Robertson collaborates with various organizations dedicated to this cause.

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Protecting our future: Standing united against attacks on trans kids

A coalition of LGBTQ+ and allied organizations address a range of attacks on transgender youth in California

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Courtesy of trans activist Landon Richie

LOS ANGELES – As a coalition of LGBTQ+ and allied organizations, we write to address a range of attacks on transgender youth in California. In 2023 alone, states around the country introduced hundreds of bills restricting the rights of transgender young people.

California has long been one of the most inclusive and welcoming places in the nation for LGBTQ+ people, but even we are now facing a distressing surge of threats against the rights and safety of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex youth.

Across our state, far-right school board members are pushing policies that deny students access to essential historical information about LGBTQ+ people, forcibly out transgender students, and undermine the basic rights of transgender youth to use facilities and participate in school activities aligned with their gender identity. These actions jeopardize the safety of all students and undermine the fundamental values of equality and dignity that should be the bedrock of California schools.

And now, many of these same extremists are collecting signatures to advance a ballot measure that would roll back the rights of all transgender youth in California. Their hateful efforts would strip away vital civil rights protections painstakingly established for transgender youth and their families, including their rights to safely be themselves at school, participate in youth sports, access school facilities consistent with their gender identity, and receive life-saving gender-affirming care. The weight of this moment is heavy, and we share the fears and worries expressed by many Californians. 

Protecting the rights of every LGBTQ+ person, safeguarding our loved ones, and nurturing an inclusive future for transgender youth are non-negotiable. Our organizations, along with many other partners and allies, have been working tirelessly to address the harm that these attacks have on our youth, and we stand ready to take action whenever and wherever needed to protect our communities.

Nothing is more crucial to us than safeguarding your rights, your loved ones, and your children’s future. We are continuing to actively monitor the proposed ballot measure and stand ready to take any essential action necessary to prevent its advancement. Together, we will overcome these attacks on our community and pave the way for a California where every individual, regardless of gender identity, can continue to thrive in safety and dignity.

Coalition Authors: 

Tony Hoang

Executive Director, Equality California

Jodi Hicks

CEO, Planned Parenthood of California

Bamby Salcedo

President and CEO, The TransLatin@ Coalition

Camila Camaleón

President, San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center 

Ezak Perez 

Executive Director, Gender Justice LA

Kathie Moehlig

Executive Director, TransFamily Support Services

Ashley Morris

Organizing Director, ACLU of Northern California

Amanda Goad

Audrey Irmas Director, LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, ACLU of Southern California

Tai’Rance S. Kelly Sr. 
Founder/CEO, Tranz of Anarchii Inc.

Terra Russell-Slavin

Chief Impact Officer, Los Angeles LGBT Center

Imani Rupert-Gordon

Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Ebony Harper

Executive Director, California TRANscends

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Rising voices, unifying forces: Two Trans-led organizations will merge to confront a new era of attacks

NCTE and TLDEF to create Advocates for Trans Equality

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From left: Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Andrea Hong Marra and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen (Photo courtesy of TLDEF, National Center for Transgender Equality)

BY ANDREA HONG MARRA AND RODRIGO HENG-LEHTINEN — In human rights movements, there are moments when the world seems to turn upside down, and advocates find themselves staring at a reality far harsher and more threatening than they seem equipped to combat. 

For us, leaders of two organizations focused on protecting and advancing the rights of Transgender people, one of those moments occurred on Feb. 21, 2022, when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion that allowing Transgender children to receive medically necessary care was tantamount to child abuse under state law. Governor Greg Abbott piled on, urging citizens to report their suspicions of minors receiving this essential healthcare.

Attacks on the rights of Trans people — and especially Trans children — were, of course, not new. Since 2016, we have seen a steadily increasing wave of anti-Trans bills in state legislatures around the country, fueling a barrage of anti-Trans rhetoric and misinformation, as well as rising violence against Trans people.

But this was next level: An undemocratic and draconian assault on Trans families. Our families.

It was also, we realized, a moment of deep reckoning for the Trans rights movement. Our opponents were outgunning us, outspending us, and essentially doing everything in their power to dehumanize Trans people — along with all LGBTQ+ people — in the eyes of the American public. 

It was a moment that demanded a bold response. 

Within days, the two of us met in person to articulate that response. Our organizations have a long history of working together and informing and strengthening each other’s work. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is the leading voice for Trans rights in Washington, D.C. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) is the preeminent legal advocacy group for Trans people facing discrimination.

Both our organizations had grown tremendously over the years. Both, in fact, were the strongest they’d ever been and were doing great work.

Yet we did not have an immediate answer to the level of escalation in Texas. 

We realized we could do much, much more together than we could separately. With unanimous consent from both of our boards, we decided to merge our two organizations into a single powerful force on behalf of Trans people in America. The merger, which becomes official this summer, will create Advocates for Trans Equality (A4TE), a Trans-led national organization with double the resources, double the brilliance and experience, and double the fierce commitment to justice for all Trans people.

With this merger, we will have the power to take bigger, bolder steps to secure Trans equality, which is what this is all about. It is not about saving money or eliminating redundancies. Everyone is keeping their job, and we will continue providing — and strengthening — the life-saving work that NCTE and TLDEF have led these past two decades. We will build upon each other’s strengths to advance human rights for all Trans people.

We are the first generation to wrestle with Trans rights as part of the public discourse. This was simply not happening 20 years ago, even while gay rights were moving ahead. But here we are, and we have a window of perhaps five to 10 years, while public opinion is still flexible, to win the hearts and minds of the American people. 

And that’s where A4TE comes in. Together, we will be twice as loud. This merger is about galvanizing our advocacy power on behalf of Trans people, marshaling our diverse strengths, and ensuring Trans people have a real opportunity to participate and succeed in American life. Right now we have a unique opportunity to turn the tide of anti-Trans propaganda and legislation.

It’s also about solidifying leadership by Trans people for Trans people. The need for Trans leadership has never been greater. The two of us will work together with each other and a senior leadership team to oversee this new organization. Notably, we are both Trans leaders of color, which matters because Trans people of color experience greater discrimination and violence. We stand ready to pick up the mantles of our founding mothers, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, Monica Roberts and so many more and build on the efforts of the many LGBTQ+ and Trans advocacy organizations working across the country. We will show up for the Trans community by leading a modern-day movement to protect and advance the rights of all Trans people. 

Paxton’s legal opinion turned out to be a political ploy to help him win re-election amid allegations of bribery and corruption. But that’s not to say we won’t see a repeat of what happened in Texas, there or somewhere else, with potentially greater repercussions.

The difference is that now we are prepared. We are Advocates for Trans Equality. We are ready to lead the fight against Trans oppression. We believe in a future where Trans people are no less than equal and we won’t stop fighting until that future is here.

Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra (she/her) is the executive director of Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. 

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen (he/him) is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. 

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Progressive states must become safe havens for LGBTQ teens

The recent & continued uptick in discriminatory policies will continue to force LGBTQ+ adolescents to flee discriminatory states

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LA LGBT Center (Blade photo by Noah Christiansen)

By Morgan Philbin | SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – It should come as no surprise that the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is anti-LGBTQ+, given the escalation of such sentiments across the nation.

During the 2023 legislative session, more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across 43 state houses; more than 200 of these targeted transgender and non-binary people, particularly youth. As of August 2023, more than 80 bills had passed, making it the worst year on record for LGBTQ+ rights. 

What happens when these discriminatory policies force LGBTQ+ people to move to more supportive enclaves, which also have some of the most expensive housing in the country and highest per capita rates of homelessness? This question is particularly salient for LGBTQ+ adolescents and young adults who often lack social, familial, and financial support.

Discriminatory bills include those that limit gender-affirming care, require schools to notify parents about children’s preferred pronouns, and Florida’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. In 2023, nearly 100,000 transgender adolescents ages 13-17 live in states that have banned access to healthcare, sports, or school bathrooms; one-third of transgender youth live in states where gender-affirming care is banned or severely limited. 

States like California, WashingtonNew York, and Massachusetts rank high on LGBTQ+ equality, and continue passing bills to strengthen LGBTQ+ rights (e.g., all-gender restrooms, transgender adolescents’ privacy, foster care). These states also have expensive housing markets and high levels of homelessness. While supportive policies are imperative to counteract the discriminatory legislation enacted nationwide, progressive states must also develop policies and programs to support LGBTQ+ adolescents who are being forced to move there to access healthcare and maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. This can include set-aside funding for LGBTQ+ youth-specific housing subsidies and services and the further integration of housing agencies, government services, and community organizations that serve LGBTQ+ adolescents. We must ensure that LGBTQ+ youth who flee to more inclusive states can build a healthy and full life without fear of housing insecurity.

A 2023 Human Rights Campaign Survey among 14,000 LGBTQ+ adults nationwide asked if people would move, have already moved away or have taken steps to move from a state that passed a gender-affirming care ban: Thirty-four percent of LGBTQ+ adults and 53% of transgender and non-binary adults said they would move. While some LGBTQ+ adolescents have parents with the financial means, and desire, to leave discriminatory states, not all are so lucky: some young adults must move on their own even without social and financial support. Currently, 30% of the homelessness population, and 50% of those experiencing unsheltered homelessness, are in California; it also has the second highest average home price and third most expensive rental prices in the country. 

LGBTQ+ young people are disproportionately represented among homeless youth. While 10% of adolescents nationwide are LGBTQ+, they constitute 30-40% of all homeless adolescents; nearly 40% of transgender young adults report a history of homelessness and housing instability.  

I have worked with LGBTQ+ adolescents for nearly 20 years and have seen the detrimental impact that discriminatory policies have on all aspects of their health. While people may argue that these young people should remain in their home state, LGBTQ+ adolescents in discriminatory environments are more likely to experience bullyingpoor mental health, housing and employment discrimination, and physical violence. These outcomes cause poor health and are also known risk factors for homelessness and housing instability. This suggests that the recent and continued uptick in discriminatory policies will continue to force LGBTQ+ adolescents and young adults to flee discriminatory states, while simultaneously putting them at risk for housing instability.

For more than 50 years, states like California, New York, and Washington have been a refuge for LGBTQ+ individuals who felt unsafe in their homes, cities, and states. I am proud to live in a state like California that has historically welcomed LGBTQ+ individuals. As voters, we must demand policies and programs that extend this welcome to LGBTQ+ young people who are currently under attack. To maximize their health, and give them the future they deserve, we must ensure that housing and related services are available and affordable to LGBTQ+ adolescents and young adults fleeing discriminatory states.

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Morgan Philbin is an associate professor in the UCSF Department of Medicine, and a Public Voices Fellow on homelessness with the OpEd Project in partnership with the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative.

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Our government is pursuing a war on women- time to vote them out

Today, women are being treated like second-class citizens: we are less than men with no control over our own bodies

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Allie Phillips is the Democratic Candidate for the Tennessee House of Representatives, District 75 (Photo Credit: Allie Phillips)

By Allie Phillips | CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Our government is pursuing a war on women. From the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade in 2022 to women being denied life-saving abortions, from SCOTUS taking on a ruling to ban Mifepristone nationwide to women being charged for having miscarriages, there’s no sign it will stop anytime soon.

Kate Cox is a 31-year-old mother of two who was expecting her third child in the new year – but a routine genetic scan showed that her fetus had a fatal condition called Trisomy-18. Cox’s doctors warned that if Kate continued her pregnancy, it could risk future fertility or even her life. Seems like a no-brainer to seek out an abortion to protect her health, right?

Unfortunately, Kate lives in Texas, which has one of the strictest abortion bans across the country. Kate filed a lawsuit against the state seeking permission to get the necessary abortion, and though a lower court judge ruled in her favor, it was just the beginning.

 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton decided he knew what was best, blocking the judge’s ruling and sending a letter to every hospital in the area threatening that anyone who assisted in giving Kate an abortion would face legal prosecution. Then, the Texas Supreme Court joined Paxton in denying the judge’s ruling.

After a week of battling, Kate fled the state to receive the healthcare she needed. The outcome for Kate’s non-viable fetus would remain the same whether she got the abortion or continued the pregnancy, but Paxton’s decision to force Kate to continue the pregnancy while prolonging her pain and suffering? That is abuse.

Separate from this, the SCOTUS has taken on the case of banning Mifepristone across the country.

Mifepristone is often used in the first ten weeks of pregnancy to stop fetal growth and expel it from the body. Deemed safe by the FDA more than two decades ago, over five million people have used this pill safely and effectively, both to terminate pregnancies but also in situations where a miscarriage takes place and the body doesn’t expel the fetal tissue on its own.

Banning Mifepristone is not rooted in scientific, medical, or rational evidence, but is politically-motivated. By removing access to abortions, Mifepristone, contraceptives, Plan B, and even IVF, it is becoming impossible for women to make their own life and healthcare decisions.  

I myself had to face the forced birth laws in Tennessee in March of this year. I found out I was pregnant with my second child in November of 2022, and everything was progressing as normal until my routine anatomy scan at nineteen weeks. On that day, my husband and I found out our soon-to-be little girl had many fatal fetal anomalies and was deemed not compatible with life outside the womb; in fact, she was unlikely to even survive the full pregnancy. I was told by my medical team that the longer I stayed pregnant the worse her body would get and the higher risk to my health it would become.

Knowing that my six-year-old daughter needed me here, I couldn’t risk putting my life on the line for a fetus that wasn’t going to survive. Because of the stringent abortion laws in Tennessee, I had to look out-of-state for the care I needed and ultimately found a clinic in New York City. 

Ten days after my high-risk appointment, I arrived at that clinic to learn that my daughter had already passed in utero and was rushed into an emergency abortion to avoid the risk of sepsis or infections. Upon returning home, I reached out to my representative to help me introduce Mileys Law, a bill that would give choice back to parents when diagnosed with a fetal anomaly.

During our meeting, I quickly learned how little my representative knew about women’s healthcare – but here he was, legislating it. This was one of the pivotal moments that led me to my decision to run for office, and now, I’m running against him for that seat. 

Today, some doctors are looking at ninety-nine years in prison for performing an abortion on a raped ten-year-old child while the rapist is looking at just ten to fifteen years with the option for probation.

Today, women are being treated like second-class citizens: we are less than men with no control over our own bodies. Today, the Republican party screams about how they are “pro-life” and don’t want “big government,” but their actions say differently.

It’s time to vote them out.

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Photo Courtesy of Allie Phillips

Allie Phillips is a Democratic candidate to represent House District 75 in the Tennessee House of representatives. Phillips is a Tennessee native, raised in Ashland City and graduated from high school in Hermitage. She received bachelors from MTSU and now, calls Clarksville, Tennessee home.

Her campaign is based on greater access to basic healthcare, the right to a high quality education in public schools, addressing the safety of students in school settings, and ensuring that her LGBTQ+ neighbors are able to be loved without consequence.

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The one word that always brings Congress together, AIDS

MAGA Republicans in Congress are determined to undo the bipartisan track record of compassion and lives saved over the past two decades

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Dr. Jirair Ratevosian | BURBANK – Our country’s history is marked by moments of immense social change, when brave individuals have stood up against prejudice and discrimination to demand their rightful place in America and the right to pursue their own American dream.

The HIV movement is one such chapter in our story, a chapter filled with resilience, courage, and the unwavering pursuit of justice and love for all people.  On this World AIDS Day, I am reminded of the one word that always brings Republicans, Democrats and Independents together: AIDS. 

Indeed, the fight against HIV/AIDS has resulted in strange bedfellows thanks to robust activism and bipartisan support.  In 2003, we saw an unlikely pairing of polar opposites when ultra conservative Senator Jesse Helms and rock superstar Bono came together with President George W. Bush and Congresswoman Barbara Lee to create the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Over the last two decades, the unprecedented cross government effort and federal resources saved 25 million lives and supported more than 5 million infants born HIV-free across 55 countries served by PEPFAR. 

The fight against HIV/AIDS brought together the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States under President Barack Obama and Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic (EHA) program under President Donald Trump. Together, the increased federal resources and precise targeting of impacted jurisdictions is helping put more people on treatment and preventing new infections across America. 

The fight against HIV/AIDS also revolutionized the fight for health care and supercharged the struggle for equality, acceptance, and justice for the LGBTQ community.  Over the past few decades, HIV and LGBTQ+ activists, allies, and countless individuals have fought tirelessly to break down barriers and challenge the status quo. The progress reflects the power of grassroots activism and the resilience of a community that has refused to be silenced.

Yes, miracles are possible in Washington. Even with all its dysfunction, I am not cynical about Congress. I have seen these miracles personally. As a former congressional aide, I am proud of the role I played in helping to create the first ever bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, uniting Democrat and Republican members of Congress from Oakland to Miami to support more funding for HIV programs, expanding anti-discrimination protections, and repealing discriminatory policies. As a former State Department official, I saw firsthand the goodwill and soft power generated by our US foreign assistance programs, most notably PEPFAR. 

Today, MAGA Republicans in Congress are determined to undo the bipartisan track record of compassion and lives saved over the past two decades. They have proposed dangerous cuts to HIV programs that support medicine and housing for people living in the United States. Further, they have placed unprecedented holds on PEPFAR reauthorization, eroding U.S. diplomacy and creating funding delays that will strain programs and personnel across 55 countries.  Outside Washington, MAGA Republicans have more anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state houses this year than in each of the previous five years. The newest forms of attack are known as “Erasure Bills,” which strip away legal protections and rights for LGBTQ+ people.  

MAGA Republicans are triggered by phrases like “human rights” and their objections center on terms relating to abortion, transgender people, and sex workers. This so-called moral crusade is misguided and hurts so many innocent people – not to mention it costs lives.  What’s more, the  promotion of ultra-conservative Congressman Mike Johnson to Speaker of the House demonstrates just how far Republicans are willing to go to attack the queer community. He is known for his anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and for proactively enacting laws that target LGBTQ+ Americans making him a dangerous and powerful voice that will be heard throughout state and local governments.  

All this is happening when the fight against HIV is far from over, and the struggle for equality is unfinished. We need to come together against MAGA Republicans who are targeting the LGBTQ+ community and creating wedge issues to rile up voters and distract them from policies and programs that really matter.

Striving for a more equitable and inclusive future means electing Representatives nationally that put compassion ahead of politics to support lifesaving programs like PEPFAR, and support the acceleration of HIV prevention programs in the US. It also means electing Representatives that believe that all people should be able to pursue their dreams and ambitions without fear of discrimination or prejudice. 

This World AIDS Day, let us affirm that love deserves to flourish without fear or hindrance.

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Jirair Ratevosian with his fiancé Michael Lghodaro
(Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

Dr. Jirair Ratevosian is a former legislative director to Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).

Ratevosian, 42, was born in Hollywood, CA, to a Lebanese mother and an Armenian father. He grew up in Sun Valley. Awarded a Johns Hopkins University post-graduate doctoral degree with concentration in public health policy

Ratevosian served as a Senior Advisor for Health Equity Policy at the U.S. Department of State and worked for the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy.

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World AIDS Day: Mobilizing LA with PrEP & PEP against HIV

As a Nurse Practitioner who interacts with patients navigating the complexities of HIV, I experience firsthand the deep-seated anxiety

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Photo courtesy of Kara James

By Kara James | LOS ANGELES – As we observe the 35th World AIDS Day on December 1, it is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made since the early days of the epidemic and the work that remains.

Significant advances in HIV therapy have made it possible for people to live and enjoy full lives despite their HIV diagnosis. However, stigma still surrounds the virus, leaving major obstacles to people receiving the care and prevention strategies they deserve.

As a Planned Parenthood Nurse Practitioner who interacts with patients navigating the complexities of HIV, I experience firsthand the deep-seated anxiety that lingers despite how far we have come.

Several interrelated aspects must be considered to comprehend the fear and anxiety my patients feel. Persistent prejudice against those who live with HIV and misconceptions about the virus continue to perpetuate discriminatory attitudes despite decades of educational initiatives.

There is also still a lot of stigma around HIV since many people equate it with immorality, promiscuity and judgments about one’s lifestyle. But perhaps most importantly, the past, in which an HIV diagnosis meant a virtual death sentence, casts a long shadow over the present. 

These factors can make talking about the virus challenging, even with health care providers, leaving tangible consequences. Just recently, the 2022 Los Angeles County Annual HIV Surveillance Report shared that Los Angeles County is set to fall short of its goals in the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE), a federal plan launched in 2020 that aims to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S.

To achieve the EHE’s goals, Los Angeles County must reduce new HIV diagnoses to 450 by 2025. The County’s monitoring found that 1,518 people received a new diagnosis of HIV in 2021, more than three times the number of diagnoses for the 2025 goal.

Against these numbers, I want to highlight two of the most important tools we have to help protect people from HIV, empowering them to not only survive but thrive and live life as they choose without fear or anxiety. PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a proactive method of avoiding the spread of HIV because it allows people to manage their own sexual health. It’s encouraging to see people taking responsibility for their health by choosing to use a technology that cuts their HIV risk by 99%.

Conversely, PEP is an interim measure for potential viral exposure. PEP, if given in time, can prevent HIV infection from taking hold, turning a potential crisis into an opening for action. A comprehensive plan to stop the spread of HIV must include these drugs.

Not only are these medications effective, but they are accessible and affordable. PrEP and PEP are covered by most insurance plans, including Medi-Cal, Medicare, and private employer plans. For those without insurance, financial assistance may be available to those who qualify. Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ 24 health centers offer both PrEP and PEP, HIV testing, and counseling about treatment options in a confidential and supportive setting. PPLA’s dedicated team is ready to be a health care partner, answering questions without judgment while guiding people toward the patient-centered care they need – including PrEP and PEP.

PEP and PrEP have been a revolution in HIV prevention for my patients, as well as in the reassurance and comfort I provide to them. My goal as a Nurse Practitioner goes beyond simply dispensing pills; I want to foster an atmosphere where patients feel at ease opening up about their thoughts and feelings. By providing people with the facts about HIV and how to prevent it, education is a valuable tool in combating stigma and misunderstanding, allowing us to make necessary advancements in stopping this virus.

I encourage anyone at risk of HIV exposure to engage in a discussion with their healthcare provider about PrEP or PEP.  On this World AIDS Day, let’s commit to becoming informed advocates for our own health and the health of our communities. Together, we can turn the tide against HIV in Los Angeles.

To find an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center, please visit https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center

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Kara James is a Nurse Practitioner with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, and has provided direct clinical care to patients since 2014. As an evidenced-based clinician and activist, Kara’s work is framed through racial equity and anti-racism. She also played a vital role in creating the Black Health Initiative in 2020 to promote holistic well-being and health in Los Angeles’ Black communities.

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