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Never Again

The law is so broad and vague that it would affect transgender people and businesses that don’t normally host drag events

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Texas Trans youth activists & supporters in front of the Texas Capitol protesting anti-Trans legislation (Photo Credit: ACLU of Texas)

By Eric Tannehill | FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – On Tuesday November 15th, Texas Representative Jared Patterson introduced House Bill (HB) 643 which would classify any business that hosts a drag show under the state’s statutory definition of “sexually oriented businesses.” The current legal definition of “sexually oriented business” is any venue where two or more people perform nude and alcohol is allowed. 

Patterson’s bill would change this definition to include anyplace where a “performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.” The bill would also add a five-dollar cover charge to all venues where drag is allowed.

This would functionally ban drag acts in Texas, since there is little overlap in clientele between strip clubs and gay bars. Nor would venues that host drag events add a $5 cover charge when there isn’t a drag event happening. 

However, the law is so broad and vague that it would affect transgender people and businesses that don’t normally host drag events. Under this law if a transgender person does any sort of performance at any location where alcohol is allowed, it will fall afoul of the law. Here are just a few of the sorts of things that would be illegal under this proposed law:

  • A transgender soldier from Fort Bliss singing the National Anthem before a basketball game at the University of Texas El Paso
  • A bring-your-own-beer performance of Twelfth Night at a Shakespeare in the Park festival
  • A screening of the 1959 movie “Some Like it Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon at an Alamo Draft House movie theater
  • A transgender person singing Karaoke after work with friends
  • A performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Beethoven’s 9th Symphony where drinks are served at intermission, and the third-cellist happens to be transgender
  • Any performance by the band “Against Me!” (with lead singer Laura Jane Grace) or gender non-conforming artist Harry Styles in the state of Texas at a venue where alcohol is allowed
  • A local theater performance of the 1938 play “Our Town”, where one of the extras in the graveyard scene is transgender.

The definition of performance is so broad that it could technically be anything where people watch a transgender person do anything: if two people holding a beer watched Laura Jane Grace play solitaire in her street clothes it would qualify as a drag event under this law.

According to Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard law school, the purpose of this law isn’t to get a lot of convictions, but to have “a chilling effect on the LGBT community”. It would make businesses of all types unable or unwilling to host drag shows, as well as make others reluctant to let transgender people use the facilities, such as a karaoke bar refusing to let anyone who looks gender non-conforming in any way into the facility. 

The other side of it is to make transgender people afraid to participate in public activities. For example, would a hypothetical trans person risk violating the law to continue performing for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra? Would the orchestra let them continue to perform? Would the trans person who is an extra in a community theater project risk being charged with a crime to just silently stand on-stage for half an hour?

The law’s being broad and overly vague is a feature, not a bug. It is part of the goal of making life for transgender people so difficult and unpleasant that they will leave. This was the initial goal in Germany, where Jews were both encouraged and allowed to leave in the early days of the Third Reich. Hundreds of thousands sold their possessions and fled between 1933 and 1939. One of the earliest things Germany did to “encourage” them to leave was a law passed in early 1934 that banned Jewish performers from appearing on stage or on-screen. It’s also worth noting that Texas has led the charge on banning transgender people from participating in athletics while insisting they can get their own leagues, (which Germany did with Jewish athletes prior to the 1936 Olympics).

It is uncertain if this bill will ever get a hearing, given it has no co-sponsors yet. Even if it does pass, not every law enforcement official, from police, to judges, to Attorney Generals will be willing to enforce it to its illogical conclusion (e.g. prosecuting the extra in “Our Town”). And if they do try to enforce it, there’s no guarantee that it will survive judicial scrutiny under the 1st and 14th Amendments. But it shows intent, and a way forward for other states looking to “encourage” transgender people to leave, thereby minimizing their population. Tennessee has introduced its own bill, which is also broad and vague enough to charge transgender people with felonies.

The fact that so many states are ready to go down this road, and what we know lies at the end of it, should be a giant red flag for anyone who means it when they say, “never again.”   

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Eric Tannehill is a twenty-something queer activist and university student.

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When will LGBTQ people be safe in America?

We endure. We must. Yes, we are still afraid. But we reach for each other and embrace inspiration where we can find it

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The Sea to Sea flag section displayed in Orlando after Pulse in 2016 hanging at City Hall in Colorado Springs 2022 (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Pulse. Club Q. Everyday life for drag queens, trans and non-binary folk. When, oh, when will LGBTQ people be safe in America? When will we get to be full human beings free to create, develop and explore our authentic selves without always having to worry about making some straight person uncomfortable?

I am tired of having my life defined by other people’s prejudices. But I’m mindful, too, that I must always be on guard since — as we learned again with the mass shooting at Club Q last weekend in Colorado Springs — straight fear is fatal.

Why are straight people either unable or blindly refuse to see LGBTQs as real people. We are, collectively, like the Black people Ralph Ellison wrote about in The Invisible Man: “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

But they do see us when we celebrate, protest or die en masse. And then we are dubbed a “community,” as if we all know each other and think alike. The late singer, writer and AIDS activist Michael Callen used to say: “the gay community is a useful fiction,” because it enabled us to organize and try to get resources we needed.

That local organizing for civil rights and later to combat AIDS gave rise to the political Religious Right through Rev. Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant and the right-wing “think tanks” that considered us a convenient scapegoat and fundraising convenience, leading to the cruelty of the Reagan years and anti-gay Republican populist Patrick Buchanan — who paved the way for Donald Trump.

Buchanan’s dark, divisive “culture war” speech at the 1992 convention gave permission to the nation’s bigots to disregard the traditional boundaries of good taste and civility and take off and discard the old KKK sheets and hoods in the name of “free speech” and saving America for straight white men.

“The agenda that Clinton & Clinton would impose on America – abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units – that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America needs. It is not the kind of change America wants. And it is not the kind of change we can abide in a nation that we still call God’s country,” Buchanan said. “My friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe, and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.”

Yes, in 1991/92, Bill and Hillary Clinton were on our side: they promised to stop the massive dying and end the AIDS crisis. So yes, the “gay community” raised more than $2 million of identifiable “gay money” and created the first gay voting bloc for dark horse presidential candidate Bill Clinton. But behind the scenes, our gays at the Democratic convention had to threaten a walkout on live TV if Clinton didn’t deign to utter the words “gay and lesbian” in his acceptance speech.

I thought about this a lot as this year’s midterms approached. Since 1992, the Democratic Party has done specific outreach to the LGBTQ “community” for fundraising, engagement and get out the vote efforts. But with so much on the line – with democracy on the line – the Democrats were nowhere to be seen this year – ironically, even though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was headed by a gay guy who wound up losing his own seat.

No one was stepping up to educate our people about the issues, the candidates and why this election was so important. So my Millennial ally friend Max Huskins and I used our own money and time to produce the YouTube Race to the Midterms series, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Blade.

When I approached my potential guests, I noted how afraid so many of us were of going to a voting site and being humiliated or beaten up for being or being perceived as LGBTQ. I don’t know if my guests really understood the fear we face walking out the door each day. Perhaps that’s a lot clearer today.

And with proudly gay Jared Polis serving as Colorado governor since 2019 — it is easy to forget that Colorado Springs has been a Mecca, a haven for anti-LGBTQ Evangelical Christians since the late 1980s, with more than 100 evangelical groups headquartered there. Focus on the Family is so large, sending out 4 million pieces of mail every month, it has its own zip code, according to a 2013 NPR report.

Last Sunday, Polis called the attack on Club Q an “act of evil.”

“This was just a place of safety for people,” Polis told CNN. “It was a place where people could, in a conservative community, often get the acceptance that too many of them might not have had it at home or in their other circles and to see this occur is really just put us all in a state of shock here in Colorado and across the country.”

Across the country, indeed. And in every drag bar or club, LGBTQ people and allies are bravely refusing to back down, despite knowing there are lone gun domestic terrorists out to kill us in the name of Trump or God.

We endure. We must. Yes, we are still afraid. But we reach for each other and embrace inspiration where we can find it – such as in Jennifer Hudson’s version of Sam Cooke’s amazing 1963 song “A Change is Gonna Come.”

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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 joined Public Justice in March of 2021 to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her two rescue dogs.

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Big Oil Bob & cronies have turned to disinformation & lies

As a woman in politics, it has NOT always been easy- when we challenge the “good old boys club,” things get even tougher

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Lindsey Horvath | WEST HOLLYWOOD – I am running for Los Angeles County Supervisor to put our region back on track by solving homelessness, expanding our transportation network, tackling climate change, and making our neighborhoods safer for all of us.

I have a record of delivering in my own community, as well as local cities throughout LA County, working day in and day out to uplift a region where we can all thrive. These are the successes that voters in every community throughout Los Angeles are looking for. 

As a woman in politics, it has NOT always been easy. Women have a tough enough time as it is, but when we challenge the “good old boys club,” things get even tougher. Attacks, smears, and outright lies have become part of the political process, which is evident from my opponent in this race. He has gone out of his way to lie, demean, and belittle me and the work that I have done to move LA County forward. 

Throughout the campaign, Bob Hertzberg tried to dismiss the coalition work I did to advocate for the full funding to test the backlog of untested rape kit evidence in Los Angeles. Uncovered by Human Rights Watch and an audit by the former City Controller Laura Chick, the backlog consisted of more than 10,000 rape kits on shelves, untested, with no hope for delivering justice without funding. Through my advocacy, we pressured the City and County to allocate enough funding in their respective budget cycles to clear the backlog. 

Bob dismissed my work as simply “writing a letter.” While he may have found the money to put his name on a building instead of investing in the resources to prioritize investigation of rape and sexual assault, I worked directly with the LASD Crime Lab Director to understand the Department’s needs and to secure full funding for the Lab. I am a staunch advocate for victims, for women, and for reproductive justice, and I know how to get the work done. 

Recently, my opponent and his special interest backers attempted to mislead voters by distorting and lying about my record when it comes to reproductive justice and my progressive values. At a time when our fundamental right to privacy, including access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is under attack, he and his special interest backers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to lie about my record and further divide us when we should be united against right-wing extremism and anti-choice Republicans. 

The truth is I am 100% pro-choice. I am a two-time Mayor of America’s first declared pro-choice city. I fought to open the West Hollywood Planned Parenthood Health Center, which provides access to the most complicated procedures for patients ######################### (redacted/removed at the request of the author), and I have consistently voted to fund its ongoing services to our community. In addition to my leadership as an elected official, I served as a Board Member and hotline volunteer for the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP), which provides funding for low-income women to access reproductive healthcare services, including abortion, throughout the country. I have been a proactive, vocal advocate and author of policy that has created the infrastructure we need to protect everyone’s right to reproductive access and justice.

I am disgusted by the flat out lies from Hertzberg and his special interest friends. The irony is that even they know they are spreading lies: the photos they used in these vile pieces of mail were taken during my speech at the first Women’s March in Los Angeles in 2017, where I expressed my anger at the threats from a new administration to women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive healthcare access. The mega developers, corporate landlords, and law enforcement associations that are funding these attacks are dead set on defeating me because I will stand up to them, their corruption, and their greed. 

Big Oil Bob and his cronies have turned to disinformation and lies because he doesn’t have a record on which he is a convincing or capable candidate. He’s taken over $1.5 million in special interest money; has been named to the state’s “polluter caucus” by California Environmental Voters; and has been accused of “sexually aggressive groping” and unwanted touching by a number of women. 

I am in this race to bring change, and to make sure that nepotistic, big-oil funded, serial-sexual harasser Bob Hertzberg is never elected to office again. As voters, we have a duty to stand up to corporate power grabs, which is exactly what this is. 

Though I am frustrated with these attacks, I am also inspired by the solidarity that so many women and progressive leaders in our region have shown to me and our campaign over the past week, dispelling these attacks and standing firmly with our campaign. 

Celinda Vásquez, the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles County Action Fund (PPAP), reiterated that I am “the only candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles County Action Fund.” She urged voters to “not believe the misinformation campaign meant to mislead and confuse voters” about my record fighting for reproductive justice for every community. 

The chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Mark J. Gonzalez, affirmed our campaign and our values, saying, “Lindsey is a fighter for our Democratic values, and we know she will fight every day to defend and strengthen those shared values.”

I know that when we work together, we can deliver for the communities in greatest need. We can fight for expanded access to abortion and reproductive healthcare for Angelenos and those seeking refuge and safe access. We can fight for our LGBTQ+ community and against hateful rhetoric from far-right extremists. We can deliver real criminal justice reform that uplifts communities of color, and we can finally hold those that abuse their power accountable. 

I hope you will join me in this work and cast your ballot for me by November 8th.

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Lindsey Horvath is a candidate for the seat representing Los Angeles County’s 3rd supervisorial district on the County Board of Supervisors.

She currently is an elected member of the City of West Hollywood City Council.

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Why you get canceled for being antisemitic & not for anti-Blackness

“Ye is going to be canceled & anti-Blackness will continue to be tolerated as long as Black people are the main perpetrators of it”

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Screenshot/YouTube

By Jasmyne Cannick | LOS ANGELES – Kanye West is having a moment. It’s not a good one, but it’s a moment nevertheless. The rapper and designer continues to double down on his antisemitic remarks, and on Tuesday, Adidas joined Balenciaga, and prominent talent agency CAA in cutting ties with him.

Meanwhile, just miles from Ye’s Hidden Hills home, in downtown Los Angeles, two councilmembers continue to get paid after their involvement in a recorded conversation in which Latino officials made crude, anti-Black, and racist remarks while conspiring to expand their political power. It got me thinking about why we tolerate anti-Blackness and not antisemitism.

For the record, I am not antisemitic. It’s sad, but I feel like as a Black woman, in 2022, I need to preface my comments with, “I am not antisemitic,” in order to say anything about Jewish people. In fact, I struggled with whether or not to even delve into the whole Kanye situation. Frankly, we’ve evolved into a society where debate has been replaced by “cancel culture,” and it’s scary to have an opinion about anything these days that’s different from the herd. We no longer have honest conversations about anything. Too many folks are forced to tiptoe around taboo subjects lest they risk catching the wrath of the mob.

All of the companies that cut ties with Ye were completely justified in doing so. You’ll get no argument from me on that. What you will get from me are questions about why we’re more inclined to tolerate anti-Blackness from people and antisemitism. No — this isn’t a competition, it’s a comparison.

It’s been over two weeks since the audio of three LA councilmembers and a prominent labor leader plotting to increase their own political gain was leaked. Audio that did include racist and homophobic tropes offending other communities but was more anti-Black than anything else. Two of those councilmembers remain on the taxpayer’s payroll today, with one doubling down, saying he won’t resign. The calls for their resignations have gotten quieter and quieter, and except for a few performative statements calling on their resignations, it’s business as usual at city hall.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, after Ye tweeted that he was going “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” referencing the defense readiness condition (DEFCON) alert state used by the US Armed Forces, he was immediately condemned in the court of public opinion and continues to lose financial business relationships.

Earlier this year, America’s Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance went to “Family Ties” by Baby Keem Feat. Kendrick Lamar. A song that uses the word “nigga” 8 times. “Family Ties” isn’t alone in that category. Of the 15 songs nominated in rap categories in 2022, only three didn’t include the word “nigga.” Add to that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn’t include the word “nigga” on any of the Billboard rap charts.

But what you won’t find are any songs that include antisemitic slurs or, for that matter, any other racial slurs. That’s just a Black thing, and it’s part of why anti-Blackness is tolerated in the way it is.

One thing I can tell you about Jewish people is that when it comes to antisemitism, they close ranks. Everyone is reading from the same page of the same playbook and speaking on message. You won’t find a segment of Jews who identify with antisemitic slurs or feel that if you replace this letter with that letter and reclaim the word, it changes its meaning and makes it okay to use.

The same can’t be said of Black people. Half of us use the n-word as a term of endearment. So why should the rest of America get their panties in a bunch over anyone else using it as long as we continue to use it and allow others to make millions of dollars from our use of it?

And that’s why you get canceled for being antisemitic (and anti-LGBTQ, for that matter) and not for being anti-Black. It’s also why those two councilmembers are comfortable ignoring the calls for their resignations.

Black people deserve the same decisive and swift response to anti-Blackness that is being meted out to Ye.

I am not mad at Jewish people. I admire their unity and the resolve they have against antisemitism. I long for the days I only heard about from my grandparents of when Black people had respect for themselves, each other, and stood together on our most pressing issues for the betterment — not the detriment — of our people.

In the end, it all comes down to this. Ye is going to be canceled, and anti-Blackness will continue to be tolerated in America as long as Black people are the main perpetrators of it. On this, we can’t expect more than what we’re willing to do ourselves.

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Jasmyne A. Cannick

A political strategist & contributor to the Los Angeles Blade, Jasmyne Cannick is a former Special Assistant to previous Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, a delegate in the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and a proud member of The Blacks.

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Kevin De León: Don’t hate the player, change the game

It’s time to look at the groups and organizations whose money and resources put him in office to help take him out

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Kevin de León refuses to resign in interview with CBS2 LA (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Jasmyne Cannick | LOS ANGELES – Last week disgraced Los Angeles councilmember Kevin De León emerged from hiding to go on a curated media tour to double down on his position that he will not resign from office after his involvement in a recorded conversation in which Latino officials made crude, racist remarks, and conspired to expand their political power.

“If I were to step down, then they’d have no voice in City Hall,” he told ABC7’s Marc Brown.

Really, because just a few short months ago, Kevin was living out his dream and running for mayor of the city of Los Angeles until it was cut short by reality.  During that time, I don’t ever recall hearing him say that he was concerned about his constituents not having a voice at City Hall as he crisscrossed the city to campaign for an office that he was never going to occupy.

It was clear from the time Kevin was sworn into office to represent council district 14 that his seat on the council was always meant to be a stepping stone into the mayoral race.  Remember, he didn’t sign the pledge to say he’ll serve all four years if elected and played coy with the media whenever the subject was brought up.

But let’s go back to the “voice in City Hall” part of Kevin’s narcissistic reasoning.

“No, because — this is ultimately — it’s not about me,” De León responded. “It, ultimately, it’s about the voice of my constituents for (Council District) 14 — a district that for decades, if not for generations, has been historically marginalized for a variety of reasons. If I were to step down, then they’d have no voice in City Hall.”

We already heard Kevin’s voice on that recording–when he was speaking and when he wasn’t.  That’s not the voice we need or want in city hall.  Again, he was not at all concerned about leaving his constituents without a voice when he thought he had a chance at being mayor.

“I’m not the only one who can represent them, and I know that,” De León said speaking to ABC7. “But if a caretaker were to replace me, if I were to step down, then they would have no vote in City Hall.”

Chew on this.  He’s already running for Lieutenant Governor. 

Theoretically, had he not been exposed as an anti-Black racist, he probably would have been on autopilot for re-election to the city council in 2024. Then he would have pivoted that same year into running for statewide office again.  Kevin has always been one to look to the future–his future–and he’s already amassed $3 million for his next venture.

Kevin de León is the epitome of a career politician.

Kevin fancies himself a leader, but a leader stands up and speaks out even when it’s not popular or comfortable.  He was right about one thing, he failed.

“At that moment, you couldn’t see it, but I had a very disparaging look on my face. But I should have verbalized my opposition to what was being said.”

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. As the elders say, chile, please.  What does a disparaging look on Kevin’s face even mean or do?  Obviously, nothing because it didn’t stop or shift the conversation.

De León, like Martinez and Cedillo, is only sorry because he got caught. No one should be kidding themselves that Kevin would have stepped forward to apologize had that audio not been publicized. He would have kept on with business as usual, as he did for the entire year since that conversation.  

We see these Canva template apologies for exactly what they are.

“Ultimately, my constituents elected me,” he said. “It’s the choice of my constituents to do — if it is their decision that I move forward and step down, then I’ll accept it.”

We must look like Boo-Boo The Fool to Kevin.

Voters in the 14th council district indeed elected Kevin, but as he knows, he doesn’t just represent the business of his district on the council.  He votes on everything and gets paid from a pot that includes money from some of the people he disparaged in that audio.

As we say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

“I’m so sorry. I am extremely sorry, and that is why I apologize to all my people, to my entire community, for the damage caused by the painful words that were carried out that day last year,” De León said in the interview with Noticiero Univision anchor León Krauze.

Nowhere in the theory or practice of restorative justice (or common sense) does it say that the offender dictates how they will make amends to those who were harmed.

Kevin doesn’t get to dictate the terms. That’s not taking responsibility. That’s being a narcissist, and while his narcissism may endear him to those who feel like he does about Black people, for some of us, his behavior is eerily reminiscent of our former president Donald Trump who, in many ways, set the stage for Kevin to do what he is doing.

Kevin isn’t going to leave on his own.  Everyone but the Pope has called for his resignation and he hasn’t moved an inch.  That paycheck is going to have to be pried from his cold, racist hands.  That much is clear.

If folks really want Kevin out of office, they’ll need to organize and get his buddies in the Democratic Party and labor along with the community organizations he leans on for boots on the ground to renounce him and swear no future endorsements, money, or resources will go to him for any of his future political campaigns. 

Don’t hate the player, hate the game–and change it.

The game is what is keeping Kevin in play.  

As long as he has his infrastructure of support, he’s in play.  This is chess and not checkers.

The Democratic Party, labor, and community groups need to do more than issue statements calling on Kevin to resign. They need to cut him off now and in the future and open their playbook and work with council district 14 constituents to recall him if they are serious about him leaving.  Kevin is not frightened at the prospect of being recalled because it’s been tried twice to no avail by folks with no political savviness for campaigns.  

We need to stop looking to Kevin to do anything other than hide and collect his paycheck.  It’s time to look at the groups and organizations whose money and resources put him in office to help take him out.

Checkmate.

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Jasmyne A. Cannick

A political strategist & contributor to the Los Angeles Blade, Jasmyne Cannick is a former Special Assistant to previous Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, a delegate in the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and a proud member of The Blacks.

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The race to silence LGBTQ+ voices

“If Republicans like Mike Johnson want to try and silence us, we will show him and everyone else just how loud we can be”

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Florida PSA advert campaign photo courtesy of Live Out Loud, a national nonprofit org dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ youth, ages 13-18

By Tyler Johnson | SYRACUSE, Ny. – Identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community in today’s society should be celebratory, full of love, acceptance, happiness, and pride. Instead, it’s horrifying.

We go through every day knowing that just the mere thought of our existence to some people is so taunting that they will do whatever it takes to try and strike us down. Republican politicians have been attacking the queer community for far too long, and now the lives of LGBTQ+ youth are at risk. The worst part about it, it’s only getting worse.

On Tuesday October 18th, 2022, Rep. Mike Johnson from Louisiana introduced the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act which is now being dubbed as the “National Don’t Say Gay Law.” This comes not long after Governor Ron DeSantis passed the “Parental Rights in Education Bill” in Florida that bans the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in schools up until the third grade or through the 12th grade in a manner deemed “age appropriate” by parents or school districts.

This specific act proposed by Rep. Johnson prohibits the use of Federal funds to develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age 10 years old, and for other purposes.

On page 5 of H.R. 9197, sexually oriented material is outlined as “any depiction, description, or simulation of sexual activity, any lewd or lascivious depiction or description of human genitals, or any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.” 

When politicians or elected officials write and propose these types of acts, bills, or laws, they intentionally use vague wording such as “or related subjects” as seen in this act and “as deemed age appropriate” like in Florida’s Bill in order to get away with making them more extreme than how they write them on paper.

They play off of trying to portray the idea that the LGBTQ+ community are indoctrinating children, changing their genders, showing pornography in kindergarten classrooms, and the myriad of other drastically untrue things they say about the community. 

The Trevor Project reports that, “LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.”

There are a lot of reasons that the LGBTQ+ community is at a much higher risk. One of the main ones is growing up in a society that makes us feel like we don’t belong, and that the world would be a better place without us here.

Republican politicians such as Mike Johnson, Ron DeSantis, and so many others are destroying the lives of youth all across the country and are only making the statistics of LGBTQ+ youth suicide higher. Republican politicians have blood on their hands. 

Proposed Acts such as the one from Rep. Johnson prove that the people who openly discriminate against the community daily, actually know very little about it. The assault against the LGBTQ+ community must stop, and it must stop now.

We have to continue standing up to those that strike us down every day and tell us that we are wrong for simply existing. It’s up to us to ensure that no more youth have to go through the things that I and so many others in the community have faced. 

If Republicans like Mike Johnson want to try and silence us, we will show him and everyone else just how loud we can be.

********************

Courtesy of Tyler Johnson

A freshman in university, Tyler Johnson, 18, is an Out gay LGBTQ+ equality rights activist who recently partnered with Zander Moricz also 18, another Out gay LGBTQ+ activist, and a leading Gen Z voice against the notorious Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Both teens have accrued some considerable experience in the fight for change. They have used their platforms to bring attention to discrimination and injustice, maximizing their reach by connecting with influential activists and government officials, and then pursuing litigation in hopes of winning legal protections for their peers and future generations of LGBTQ+ youth.

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The LGBTQ+ case for supporting the 2022 revolution in Iran

Mahsa Amini’s death has sparked protests across country

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Protests have erupted across Iran after Mahsa Amini, 22, died while in police custody last month. (Photo courtesy of Iran Human Rights)

There is a secular revolution unfolding in the Islamic Republic that the mainstream media has thus far failed to adequately cover. This revolution is led by young women and teenage girls and supported by men and women from all over Iran. We are now entering the fourth week of demonstrations that have resulted in imprisonment, torture and death of countless Iranians.

The trigger for the revolution was the merciless death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who died of blunt force to her skull while in police custody on Sept. 16, 2022. Her crime was the inadvertent showing of a few strands of hair thru her hijab. Almost immediately and simultaneously young people throughout Iran rose to seek justice for Mahsa by demanding an end to the barbaric medieval Islamic rule over their lives.

Its undisputed that since its inception in 1979, the Islamic Republic has been a state sponsor of terrorism abroad and a fierce oppressor of the citizens in Iran, with a special scorn towards women, racial and religious minorities, and the queer community. For over 43 years, the international community, including successive U.S. administrations, have brushed off the ruthless nature of the Islamic regime as cultural and an internal matter.  

As an immigration attorney, I’ve represented hundreds of Iranian LGBT asylum seekers before immigration courts and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. I’ve heard too many heart wrenching and horrific stories of what the Islamic regime did to them just for being queer. I’m also aware of the documented execution of thousands of gays and lesbians in Iran during the past four decades. 

The Islamic Republic’s stance towards gay people in Iran is not surprising since the founder of the Islamic Republic, Khomeini, called for the extermination of gays in Iran. What is shocking however, is how Western governments accept the genocide as a norm instead of recognizing it as a crime against humanity and bringing charges against the Islamic Republic.  

Let me be clear, recognizing a woman to have half of the value of a man, ripping women of any equal rights in court, imposing mandatory hijab, and routine executions of gays and lesbians is not in the Iranian culture, and it should never be accepted as the norm in Iran by any country. I should know — I am a gay Iranian American.

I’m inspired by the young people in Iran who have taken the matter into their own hands by putting their lives on the line and calling for the downfall of the barbaric Islamic regime.  I’m at awe of their courage. However, as a gay liberal progressive I am disgusted by the lack of any meaningful action with respect to the unfolding revolution in Iran from the U.S. government I voted for in November 2020. Random sanctions against individuals and low-level institutions will not sway me or the millions of Iranians fighting for their freedom.   

I’m particularly disappointed in Speaker Pelosi, Vice President Harris and Secretary Clinton. These are women for whom I had great respect and love because of the values I thought they held. These female leaders need to heed the call from their sisters in Iran and demand that Biden administration put an end to the JCPOA nuclear negotiations with the regime and immediately expel all Islamic Republic diplomats from the United States.

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On LA City Hall scandal, Democrats it’s time to meet the moment

When the top leadership calls a Black boy a monkey, & accuses a colleague of being with “the Blacks,” what more do you need to know?

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Los Angeles City Hall (Photo Credit: Office of the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles)


By Jasmyne A. Cannick | Los Angeles has seen its fair share of political scandals over the decades, but the leaked audio of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera making disparaging and racist remarks about Black people, their colleagues, and conspiring to commit voter suppression takes the cake.

In one single instance, the worst fears of Blacks in Los Angeles were confirmed in graphic detail — the top Democratic political and labor leaders of the city are anti-Black and are actively conspiring to dismantle what is left of the Black community in Los Angeles.

Famed author and poet Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.”

From referring to a white councilmember’s Black son as an “accessory” and describing him as a monkey in Spanish to wanting to physically beat that same little boy, colluding to replace one Black councilmember with another who can be depended on to vote in favor of Latinos, conspiring to commit Black voter suppression, even seemingly writing off Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón because “He’s with the Blacks” — no one should ever be confused about where Black people stand with Martinez, Cedillo, de Leon, and Herrera.

Black voter suppression (Photo by Michael Fleshman | CC BY-SA 2.0)

Now that their plotting and planning and blatant racism have been exposed, usher in the carefully crafted public apologies.

Miss me.

At the risk of never working at city hall or in politics again, I am going to speak the truth about this situation.

There are some instances where apologies just won’t cut it, and this is one of them.

The only acceptable resolution to this scandal is for the immediate resignation from public office of all four people involved. Period.

This is not a situation where thoughts-and-prayer-like statements mean a damn thing.

The only statement that needs to be crafted is a resignation statement, and as a seasoned political strategist, I’ll write it for them for free.

Let’s be clear, had the leaked audio been of a group of Black leaders or Republicans saying racist and derogatory comments towards any other race or group of people and it would have been a “Do not pass Go and do not collect $200” type of situation that would have resulted in the immediate calls for resignations of all involved.

This situation deserves the same treatment, and anything less says that it’s open season on Blacks and that there are no real long lasting consequences.

The deafening silence from alleged allies of the Black community on this situation, including the Democratic Party, is just as bad as the strongly worded statements that say everything except for the Martinez and Co. to resign.

This is a s — t or get off the pot moment. There is no sitting on fence or tap dancing around the elephant in the room.

Either you support racists or you don’t, and from where I am sitting, the Los Angeles County and California Democratic Parties, along with dozens and dozens of political leaders, seem to be siding with the racists, which makes them all hypocrites.

This is not a situation where folks get off the hook by apologizing, followed by meeting with leaders in the Black community, and we’re back to holding hands and singing kumbayah.

Any so-called Black leader that isn’t calling for the resignation of these four people is aiding and abetting in the oppression and suppression of their own people, most likely for personal gain.

Fact. All four of the people involved in the leaked audio get paid from money that comes from all Angelenos — not just Latinos. Nury Martinez offering to resign as council president leaves her paycheck and position as a councilmember in place. And in the case of top labor leader Ron Herrera, he actually conspired to use the dues from the paychecks of hardworking Black folks against them to dilute their power in the 10th council district.

It is because of years of behind-the-scenes anti-Black politicking by people who share the same views as Martinez, Cedillo, de Leon, and Herrera that Black people have been pushed out of the city to the point that there is no real Black political power in the city of Los Angeles. Because of the high cost of living and years of the very same tactics discussed in that audio, Black people make up less than 9 percent of the city’s population. Any power that we think we have in Los Angeles almost always requires the buy-in and support of allies. We have a 15-member city council with three Black members, of which one’s credibility has been called into question given the comments heard in the audio about why she was appointed to the position.

For those of us who love this city and fight every day just to be able to afford to live here, this hurts deep down. The release of the audio is an in-your-face reminder that many of the powers that be don’t care about us or want us here and are actively working against us — sadly, in some ways, with the help of other Blacks.

The audio also validates why the only zip code in the city that has seen an increase in its Black population is the one that encompasses Skid Row — an area of Los Angeles that Kevin de Leon represents. We know how he feels about Black people. It explains why Black people make up most of the homeless and cannot access city services in the ways others can. It explains why so many of the councilmembers don’t have any Black people on their staffs. Why Black consultants aren’t hired by labor unions in the way that other races are? Why there is a lack of Black leadership at the executive level in many of the labor unions in Los Angeles. The audio explains a lot.

When the top leadership of the city council calls a Black boy a monkey, says she wants to beat him, and accuses a colleague of being with “the Blacks,” what more do you need to know? Remember what Maya Angelou said.

Given the revelations exposed, every vote that was ever cast by Martinez, Cedillo, and de Leon that had anything to do with Black people needs to be re-examined. Department heads, starting with the chief of police, need to be interviewed on the record to see if members of the city council gave them directives to target, ignore, not hire, arrest, deny, not rent to, not contract with, not buy from Black people.

Pandora’s Box has been opened.

Add to all of that, the federal government needs to step in and investigate the city’s redistricting process, now.

If known racists are allowed to stay on the city council after being exposed, then we, Black people, deserve everything we get in this city moving forward.

Democrats love to talk about meeting the moment. What are they waiting for?

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Jasmyne A. Cannick

A political strategist & contributor to the Los Angeles Blade, Jasmyne Cannick is a former Special Assistant to previous Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, a delegate in the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and a proud member of The Blacks.

 

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Jeffrey Dahmer was white & gay — Deal with it

The Black LGBTQ community deserves to have the truth told about Jeffrey Dahmer & Ed Buck -they’re both white gay men who killed Black gay men

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Los Angeles Blade collage ("Jeffrey Dahmer" screenshot via Netflix/ Ed Buck by Karen Ocamb)

By Jasmyne Cannick | LOS ANGELES – I’ve been watching a scary phenomenon sweep across America where if enough of us don’t like something from our past and take to social media to bitch and complain about it, we can simply erase and revise it under the guise of anti-racism and reconciliation.

The latest victim of whitewashed revisionist history is serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

After social media backlash, Netflix has removed the LGBTQ tag from its Ryan Murphy-created Jeffrey Dahmer limited series, “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” Apparently, the LGBTQ community doesn’t want to be associated with a serial killer.

This is a complete about-face considering Netflix didn’t flinch in the face of its controversy over its relationship with comedian Dave Chappelle over his comments made about trans people. They seemed to double down it.

Now I don’t claim to know everything, but I know that Jeffrey Dahmer was three things — a serial killer, white and gay. No amount of whining and wishing it wasn’t so will change that or that most of his victims were Black gay men.

There are a lot of things that, as a Black woman, I don’t want to be associated with. I can’t tell you how many times I joined the collective groan of Black people everywhere when some atrocious crime is on the evening news, and a Black face appears on the screen as the alleged suspect. Do we get to call up the news, ask them not to show that the perpetrator is Black — to just gloss over that part — and they actually do it? No, we don’t.

Both Samuel Little and Lonnie Franklin, Jr. were Black male serial killers who spent decades murdering Black women before being caught. As Black people, we don’t get to change the fact that they were a Black men because we’re embarrassed.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a white gay man who murdered lots of Black men. Deal with it. Deal with it in the same way that the families of his victims had to. Be mad, be offended but don’t you dare say that “This is not the representation we’re looking for.”

The white LGBTQ community doesn’t get to disassociate itself from one of its own just because they’re worried about the impact on its image, and the fact that Netflix acquiesced is a slap in the face to the Black community — specifically the Black LGBTQ community. So what? Our truth and history doesn’t matter because white gay men are offended?

As a Black lesbian, I’ve spent my entire adult life trying my best to offend the white LGBTQ community with the truth about their racism.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Well, 23 years later, we had a repeat with the murder of 27-year-old Gemmel Moore at the hands of another white gay man — Democratic major donor Ed Buck. Yes — Democratic donor, because similar to Dahmer and the white LGBTQ community, the Democrats never want to admit that Buck was one of them — one of us.

Also, like with Dahmer, no one wanted to believe that this white gay man in West Hollywood was targeting Black gay men and shooting them up with meth. Law enforcement, the district attorney, and for a long while, even the news media gave Ed Buck the benefit of the doubt over his Black victims, even after there were two dead bodies.

Five years later, Buck is finally in prison with a 30-year-sentence.

Watching “Dahmer,” I felt for Glenda Cleveland because I know exactly what it feels like to know what’s going on and scream it as loud as you can, and still no one listens. To be gaslit and told it isn’t what you know it is and then have those same people turn around and pat themselves on the back for stopping a killer two deaths, one near death, and countless other victims later.

Rest assured that when I do the Ed Buck story, it will be tagged LGBTQ, true crime, geriatric, horror, and whatever other genre it falls under.

The Black LGBTQ community deserves to have the truth told about both Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Buck, and that starts with the fact that they are both white gay men who killed Black gay men. White gays shouldn’t get to absolve themselves from that.

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Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne Cannick is an award-winning journalist based in Los Angeles. Cannick is an on-air contributor who writes and speaks about collisions at the intersection of politics, race, and society. 

She spent five years working to bring a serial killer, Ed Buck to justice.

Her Ring the Alarm podcast is available on Apple, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

For more information on the podcast visit iamjasmyne.com/ringthealarm. Follow her travels on Instagram @hellojasmyne and Twitter @jasmyne.

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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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End anti-Trans discrimination in credit reporting practices

H.R. 8478 would change all of that, prohibiting “deadnaming” in consumer reports and improving accuracy in credit reporting

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Graphic Credit: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau/USA.gov

By Bodhi Calagna and Steve Ralls | DENVER – There is an ancient Confucian saying: “If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things.”

Names have power. In many spiritual traditions, names are akin to incantations, carrying their meaning and their weight out into the world when spoken. When tragedy strikes – whether the attacks of September 11th or the mass murder at Pulse Nightclub – one of our first human responses is the need and instinct to say the names of those we have lost. We speak them aloud, and the memory and meaning of who they were is given back to the world.

For transgender and nonbinary people, names are an especially important part of claiming, owning and honoring identity. When names are correct, they become affirmations, confirmations and powerful reminders – to ourselves and to the world around us – of who we are. 

That is why we are so grateful to Representatives Katie Porter (D-CA) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) for introducing new legislation, The Credit Reporting Accuracy After a Legal Name Change Act (H.R. 8478), which would ensure that credit bureaus and credit reporting agencies must honor requests from trans and nonbinary people to update credit reports and records in real, meaningful ways that would end discrimination and help fight homelessness, unemployment and economic disparity within the community. It is a critical piece of legislation that deserves every lawmaker’s support.

We have experienced, and seen, firsthand how meaningful this kind of change can be. One of us (Bodhi) recently began transitioning and, as part of that process, updated important identity documents, like their passport, to reflect their true selves. Seeing the institutions that document and identify our lives for so many critical purposes affirm a correct name was unexpectedly powerful and moving, and the impact of the moment the judge declared, “Congratulations, your name has been officially changed,” cannot be underestimated. The gravity and meaningfulness of the change was reiterated months later when presenting a passport with correct identifying information while traveling to Mexico. 

One of us (Steve) also spent many years working with LGBTQ service members as part of the campaign to end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on troops. Time and time again, courageous, decorated and patriotic service members were misidentified on their commendations, military paperwork, medals and other honors. In one case, a highly decorated Navy veteran’s plaques honoring their service with an incorrect name was scratched out, and a correct one handwritten in its place. Such brave service members never deserved such inhumane treatment and, fortunately, the armed forces now have a process for correcting records for transgender veterans.

Such intensely affirming moments send a message that, yes, we have the power to ensure language will “be in accordance with the truth of things.”

Indeed, most institutions now have policies in place to honor and work with transgender and nonbinary people who have a legal name change. But no such process or requirement exists in the world of credit bureaus, whose reports have an extraordinary impact on people’s lives. Buying a house, applying for a job, securing loans – none of these life-changing events is possible without an accurate credit report. And reports that “out” transgender people can add insult to injury, making navigating systems rife with transphobia and discrimination even more impossible. 

H.R. 8478 would change all of that, prohibiting “deadnaming” in consumer reports and improving accuracy in credit reporting so that trans and nonbinary people can have their credit history follow them after their name change. It would create clear, federally mandated procedures for updating a consumer’s name and ensure a person’s credit history is correctly matched to their credit file after a name change. It would also prohibit credit bureaus, and other consumer reporting agencies, from disclosing a person’s deadname in a credit report after being notified about a name change. 

We know that credit agencies can do this already: They routinely update the files of heterosexual consumers who marry and change their name. It would be no more difficult, and no more burdensome, for them to do the same for the trans and nonbinary community. But it could make all the difference in the world for a community already severely impacted by unemployment, housing discrimination and a lack of access to credit and financial opportunities. 

Our own life experiences tell us that this is a profoundly meaningful action that will go a long way in ensuring trans and nonbinary people feel seen, affirmed, respected and protected. The power – and empowerment – of being able to show a document that simply confirms your own identity and self is both unmistakable and unforgettable. And while those who have never navigated a name change may not understand, that moment when you first get carded and hand over an ID that truly shows you as you is a moment that stays with you forever. 

We are immensely grateful to Congresswoman Porter and Congresswoman Pressley for their leadership on this simple but profound and life-changing issue. Every Member of Congress should support their bill, and President Biden should sign it into law. 

To add your name to those calling on Congress to stand with trans and nonbinary consumers, and pass H.R. 8478, visit www.lgbtq-economics.org.

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Bodhi Calagna (they, them, theirs) is the world renowned DJ, Producer and artist known as CALAGNA and the founder of Remix Your World, a program to heal trauma and create from a place of inspiration and service in order to truly live a purposeful life.

Photo by Sway Photography

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Steve Ralls (he, him, his) is VP of External Affairs for Public Justice, a non-profit legal advocacy organization that tackles abusive corporate power and predatory practices, the assault on civil rights and liberties and the destruction of the earth’s sustainability. He is the former Director of Communications for both Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Immigration Equality.


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