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26k trans & nonbinary students filled out largest college app in U.S.

Common App plans to add “X” or “another legal sex” as an option, in addition to “female” and “male” for the 2023-2024 application season

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Using the largest body of data on the gender identities of incoming college students ever available, a report released Thursday found over 26,000 transgender and nonbinary people filled out the Common App – the largest college application in the country. 

The Campus Pride report – “The Changing Nature of Gender in the 21st Century: How Trans and Nonbinary Students Applying to College Today Self-Identify” found that of the more than 1.22 million students who filled out the Common App for the fall 2022 semester, 26,366 identified as transgender or nonbinary, or 2.2% of applicants.  

The report comes after the Common App added optional questions on gender and pronouns for the 2022-2023 application season. For gender, applicants could choose “female,” “male,” “nonbinary” or “another gender.” Pronoun options included: “he/him,” “she/her,” “they/them” and “another set of pronouns.” 

“The number of students openly identifying as trans and nonbinary has grown dramatically in the last few years,” Dr. Genny Beemyn, the report’s author, said in a statement. “As nonbinary people become more visible and gain greater acceptance in society, the number of trans youth, especially nonbinary young people, will most certainly continue to increase.”

Beemyn, the coordinator of Campus Pride’s Trans Policy Clearinghouse and director of the Stonewall Center at UMass Amherst, was given exclusive access by the Common App to analyze gender identity and pronoun data. 

Beemyn identified transgender men as applicants who indicated their legal sex as female and their gender identity as male. Transgender women were individuals who indicated their legal sex as male and their gender identity as female.

“The goal for all colleges should be that no student is misnamed or misgendered by the institution in areas within its control, including mail, email, and in-person communications; course rosters and advisee lists; housing assignments; online directories; ID cards; and diplomas,” said Beemyn. 

Though this is the first application cycle where the Common App has asked for gender identity, the report notes that other sources, like the American College Health Association (ACHA), have shown the number of students openly identifying as transgender and nonbinary has been increasing. According to the ACHA, there was a 3% increase – from 1.6% to 4.6% – in students who identified as trans or nonbinary from fall 2016 to fall 2021. 

According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 20.8% of Generation Z identifies as LGBTQ – by far the most of any age group and an over 10% increase compared to 2017. Of the Gen Z respondents who identified as queer, 2.1% identified as transgender – with most, 15%, identifying as bisexual. 

Shane Windmeyer, founder and CEO of Campus Pride, applauded the Common App for its “evolution to be more equitable and inclusive in college admissions applications.”

“Collecting data around gender identity represents a more holistic, intersectional approach to all students and allows campuses to take responsibility for trans and nonbinary students,” he said. “At a time when trans youth are being targeted across the country in the most inhumane ways, this new report sends a clear message that trans people deserve recognition, respect – and, most importantly, their inclusion and safety matters.”

The Common App plans to add “X” or “another legal sex” as an option, in addition to “female” and “male” for the 2023-2024 application season.

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LGBTQ Non-Profit Organizations

Trevor Project is hit with another round of layoffs

Prior to last week, employees were warned that reductions in the workforce were coming, including in an email from the interim CEO on Jan. 30

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Trevor Project co-founder Peggy Rajski now serves as CEO. (Screen capture via YouTube)

NEW YORK — The world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth laid off six percent of its staff last week, which comes less than a year after 12 percent of its workforce was cut amid allegations of financial mismanagement and union-busting activities.

Three sources familiar with the matter, all of whom spoke with the Washington Blade on the condition of anonymity, said the move has only exacerbated flagging morale among some Trevor Project employees who, by and large, had already lost faith in leadership.

Trouble at the organization was first reported by the Blade in August of 2023. In the months since, the sources agreed that management has failed to turn around the organization while neglecting staff, including those who do the difficult and mission-critical work of fielding crisis calls.

Interim CEO says organization on solid footing


“This decision, although very difficult, was necessary, and we committed to navigating it with care and purpose,” the group’s founder and interim CEO Peggy Rajski said in a written statement to the Blade confirming the layoffs.

“We worked closely and transparently with our union representatives throughout the process, and appreciate the heart, integrity and understanding of all involved to help ensure the organization’s longevity and ongoing ability to carry out its life-saving mission,” she said.

Rajski’s statement continues: “We remain grateful for the dedication and contributions of each member of our team. I want to reassure everyone that our commitment to LGBTQ+ young people remains unwavering.

“Our mission to provide critical support and services to LGBTQ+ youth in crisis is as vital as ever. This restructuring enables us to sustain our quality core services, ensuring that we continue to be a reliable, steady resource for those in need. As always, we remain open 24/7 for any young person who needs us. 

“In these moments of change, The Trevor Project’s promise of service remains strong. We thank our supporters and allies for their continuing support for the lifesaving programs we provide our beloved but all too often besieged LGBTQ+ youth.”  

Representatives for Friends of Trevor United, the union organized under the Communication Workers of America, did not respond to requests for comment. One source said the union was heavily involved in bargaining throughout the process but was not notified in advance of the date on which the layoffs occurred.

‘The mood is really gloomy’


“The volunteer training and experience teams were reduced by about a third,” said the first source, who added that all levels of employees were affected by Wednesday’s layoffs, from the “lowest-paid coordinators up to directors.”

This source confirmed Rajski’s claim that hotline services remain open 24/7, but noted there will be fewer volunteers “moving forward with these changes to the team sizes.” A second source said staff burn out had set in since the first round of layoffs last summer.

Prior to last week, employees were warned that reductions in the workforce were coming, including in an email from the interim CEO on Jan. 30 that was reviewed by the Blade.

“We did not anticipate facing so much continued friction with our fundraising efforts in FY24,” Rajski wrote. “Despite stringent actions that our whole organization has taken to reduce spending and bring in additional funding, we are facing major ongoing shortfalls in revenue.”

The email further explained that layoffs would be accompanied by other cost-saving measures, including the reduction of discretionary expenses like non-essential hiring as well as travel and other project spends that are not “mission critical.”

Nevertheless, the first source said, teams were already under pressure after major staffing reductions last year. “The mood is really gloomy,” the source said, with many employees expecting another round of cuts will happen in six to eight months.

“Trevor claims they’ve adopted cost-cutting measures since the last layoffs but they’ve hired externally for a bunch of roles, [executives] refused to take pay cuts, the org is way too top heavy as it is, and they’ve appeared to do little to nothing to revamp and revitalize fundraising efforts,” the source added.

The three sources told the Blade that Rajski and other leadership at the organization have blamed financial woes on the anti-LGBTQ political climate that has become ascendant in the U.S. over the past few years.

However, they said, the influx of bills targeting the rights of queer and trans youth, which has increased the number of crisis calls fielded by Trevor and other youth-serving organizations, would, presumably, lead to increased rather than decreased fundraising capabilities.

“Let me be clear,” the first source said. “There is ZERO confidence from ground floor level employees in the interim CEO Peggy Rajski.”

Rajski has “demonstrated a complete lack of care and consideration for Trevor staff since she took over after Amit’s departure,” she said, referring to Trevor’s former CEO Amit Paley, who left in November 2022.

Paley’s tenure was also fraught. For example, the second source described how in August 2022 Trevor employees lost health insurance coverage for mental health services and gender affirming care, which was subsequently restored after an outcry from Trevor workers who “were pissed” about the cost-cutting measure.

The first source, recalling the Blade’s story last summer, said that Rajski “has created a hostile, traumatic working environment,” and, referencing reporting in The Wrap, noted she had been accused of having an abrasive management style prior to her tenure at Trevor.

Employees have been made to feel they were “expendable,” the second source said.

As the Blade reported in August, Rajski reportedly objected to the negative feedback she had received during organization-wide meetings that allowed employees to share written comments or react with emojis.

The three sources said she has subsequently removed the functionality to share feedback with Google Meet, and instead began prerecording video messages that now constitute all-staff “meetings,” all while retaining management consulting firm KPMG to oversee the implementation of new values at the organization, which stress “heart, integrity, community, belonging, and progress.”

The videos largely consist of leadership congratulating themselves, according to the second source, who along with the first source noted that Trevor Board Chair Julian Moore — a partner at multinational law firm Allen & Overy — announced earlier this year that the search for Rajski’s replacement had begun.

After KPMG was brought in, the second source said, the environment became “sterile” and “it felt like the only important people on the team were those making six figures rather than people actually doing the work.”

“The crisis workers are the lowest paid people in the organization,” a source said, “which just baffles me because, you know, they’re doing the literal work of the mission of the org.”

The closest Rajski came to crediting the difficult work of those responsible for fielding crisis calls, the source said, was the refrain she has often repeated about how the organization must remember “what’s really important, the youth who we serve.”

On Jan. 5, Friends of Trevor United “took over Slack,” the workplace messaging app, “to seek accountability, demand transparency, and share frustration around Management’s delayed and undignified counter to our Union’s wage increase proposal for the organization’s performance review cycle.”

The union shared several examples of concerns relayed by workers:

  • “Not to sound like a broken record, but what IS our team’s plan to make C-Suite understand the urgency here? Every time they delay it hurts us all. How are our vertical leaders ensuring upper management faces the consequences of their bad-faith bargaining? I have been giving it my all and this is a slap in the face. It took six weeks for management to return a proposal on wage increases. This is beyond unacceptable and not something any of us deserve.”
  • “I am echoing a sentiment of deep disappointment and concern here. Six weeks really underscores an apparent disparity in accountability. I have heard many of our leaders say they are committed to this in their values. I would love to have a clear answer in the next 24 hours of how we are effectively communicating to upper management the urgency of addressing this issue. We have diligently contributed to this orgs mission throughout the year. We need to see management reciprocate with a genuine commitment to good faith bargaining.”
  • “Trevor, whoever you are, you need to prove you are trustworthy.”
  • “I see the responses here, and in #org-announcements… but I can only hope it has been made abundantly clear that this is a collective wound. A wound that is deepening in many of us the realization that our hard work, loyalty, and commitment is continually met with indifference… that all of our words are being minimized to the belief that the problem is “Management disagreeing with the union.”
  • Management’s empty-handed presence at the bargaining table, their responses in the channels we’ve been silenced from responding in… these things resonate as betrayal, as disrespect, and they’re dehumanizing. It is a blatant disregard for the sacrifices we’ve made throughout FY23. It is a painful reminder that our aspirations for fair treatment and recognition remain unfulfilled. For many of us, this stands as a stark symbol of shattered hopes… shattered hope for ourselves as workers, for the young queer kids we once were, for the young people who we are still here for. Silence, or half-hearted responses, are echoing louder than any words spoken.
  • For anyone genuinely listening, please understand that we are not merely seeking raises… we are yearning for the acknowledgement, the respect, and the fair treatment we all deserve.”

In conversations with the Blade, the three sources said they believe in Trevor’s mission and its work, no matter their feelings about management. They said they hope speaking out will lead to some necessary changes at the organization, whose lifeline for at-risk queer youth has never been more vital.

After publication, a spokesperson for the Trevor Project reached out with three corrections:

“The union was notified of the date in advance” of the layoffs.

“The article inaccurately says that our all staff meetings are ‘pre-recorded’ videos. Rather, we hold a monthly staff meeting via livestream format to share important updates from staff across all levels of the organization. We use this time to highlight staff contributions to the organization’s suicide prevention and intervention work, and the positive impact our organization makes on LGBTQ+ young people. This ensures that the space remains safe and productive for our entire community, and is a standard practice among large organizations with hundreds of remote employees.”

“While there was some confusion and dissatisfaction around some changes to our health insurance coverage, it was generally due to roll out communications, and therefore staff had some untrue assumptions/perceptions about coverage. Here is a high level of the staff health insurance benefits from that period, which we shared in an all-staff email on Aug 18, 2022:

  • The Trevor Project will cover 100% of premiums for ALL employee health insurance plans, including medical, vision, and dental
  • Mental health care is free for in-network, meaning there are no copays, even before the deductible is reached, for mental health services. Out-of-network benefits will remain consistent with this past year
  • All our plans cover gender-affirming surgery and care, including procedures like electrolysis, facial feminization, and pectoral implants
  • The Trevor Project will cover 50% of premiums for dependents
  • We have been able to extend the open enrollment period until Wednesday, Aug. 31″
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First Lady Jill Biden to keynote HRC’s 2024 Los Angeles Dinner

The First Lady will give the keynote address which will be held on Saturday, March 23 at the Fairmount Century Plaza

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First Lady Jill Biden delivers remarks and introduces President Joe Biden at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, Saturday, October 14, 2023, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, announced today that First Lady Jill Biden will give the keynote address at its annual Los Angeles dinner, which will be held on Saturday, March 23 at the Fairmount Century Plaza.

“It‘s always an honor and joy to welcome First Lady Jill Biden, a longtime champion for our youth and LGBTQ+ equality, to stand in community with the Human Rights Campaign. The Biden-Harris administration has been the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in our nation’s history, but we know the work continues. We look forward to hearing from the First Lady on how we can all work together to combat anti-LGBTQ+ measures nationwide, ensure all people are free to be their authentic selves without fear, and protect our democracy,” said Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign.

As a lifelong educator, Dr. Biden has consistently championed making schools safer for students, including LGBTQ+ youth. She has spoken out vehemently against book bans, “the dangerous, cruel practice of conversion therapy,” and is committed to addressing youth homelessness, which disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ young people.

The Biden Administration has consistently fought to advance equality-focused legislation and LGBTQ+ rights. Since taking office, Biden has lifted the blanket ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, began enforcing non-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people, and signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law. The administration has also introduced protections for LGBTQ+ youth in foster care and brought attention to the need for increased protections for transgender youth. Last October, President Biden, along with the First Lady, gave the keynote address at HRC’s national dinner in Washington, D.C—the President’s fourth time keynoting the event.

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The Bezos Earth Fund’s greening America’s cities initiative impact

Studies have shown that access to nature correlates with improved mental health, reduced stress levels, and enhanced overall well-being

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Arburtha Franklin, a trans woman who spent 23 years in the California State Prison system, and is now TransLatin@ Coalition's “newest Anti-Hate Case Manager." (Photo Credit: Paolo J. Riveros)

LOS ANGELES – Following The Bezos Earth Fund’s announcement of a $12 million allocation for urban greening projects in the Los Angeles area under its Greening America’s Cities initiative, members of The TransLatin@ Coalition (TLC) offered The Blade exclusive insights into the potential positive effects of increased green spaces on the trans community.

Arburtha Franklin, a trans woman who spent 23 years in the California State Prison system, and is now TLC’s “newest Anti-Hate Case Manager,” said she would love to see more green spaces in Los Angeles to offer people reprieve and inspiration.

“It would be amazing to have these vast green spaces in Los Angeles. Greenery always symbolized true freedom to me. When I got out of prison, having plants and being around greenery still symbolizes freedom.”

In a society where trans individuals often face discrimination,  marginalization, and disproportionate incarceration rates, parks and gardens offer much-needed respite from the challenges of everyday life, serving as sanctuaries of safety, tranquility, and inclusivity.

“Having these expensive green spaces would not only help the naturalness of Los Angeles,” Franklin said, “but also the mindset of the individuals who spend so much of their daily lives in the city, and in the office spaces and in the traffic. Nature opens up your mind so that you can realize while we are so very lucky to be here”

Franklin, a Tibetan Bhuddist, also uses a plant as a meditation partner. 

“When you really look at the world, it is terrifying, but when you can sit in nature, it can clear your mind and help us realize the importance of our life here.”

One major aspect of Franklin’s job is to help other trans individuals who have experienced hate and discrimination. Franklin said she believes that nature is a great equalizer and that spending more time in nature might be a step in the right direction of ending hate. 

“Nature gives you a taste of freedom that goes beyond whether you have $100 million or just a dollar for the day… I find it hard to believe that anyone who spends a lot of time in nature and truly respects the earth would have any kind of animosity or hate towards anyone else. 

“I saw a plant not too long ago, growing out of the sidewalk. I stopped and took a little time looking at it and I said to myself you know what if this plant is the hope or the love or the compassion or the empathy that we all need even though it may be small as far as I’m concerned it’s big.”

Bamby Salcedo, TransLatin@ Coalition CEO, has welcomed the Bezos Earth Fund news with open arms, explaining that The TransLatin@ Coalition provides spaces for recreation, socialization, and self-care, fostering a sense of belonging and community among trans individuals who may otherwise feel isolated or unwelcome in traditional public settings.

Moreover, the significance of green spaces extends beyond mere recreation. Studies have shown that access to nature correlates with improved mental health outcomes, reduced stress levels, and enhanced overall well-being. For trans individuals who frequently contend with mental health disparities and systemic barriers to healthcare, the availability of green spaces can be a vital resource in promoting resilience and self-care.

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HRC’s Black LGBTQ+ Youth Report finds intersectional challenges

HRC appended its report with guidance on how to support Black LGBTQ youth for parents and caregivers, educators & professionals

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Most Black LGBTQ young people have experienced racism within the LGBTQ community and feel they are unable to trust white LGBTQ people, according to findings from a forthcoming report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The group shared a copy of its 21-page Black LGBTQ+ Youth Report with the Washington Blade on Monday, two days before it will be published. Answers from roughly 1,200 Black LGBTQ respondents between 13-17 from all 50 states and D.C. were included.

“Black LGBTQ+ youth face compounding challenges and have unique experiences because they exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities,” HRC wrote in the executive summary of its report.

Also among the key takeaways were that 80.9 percent of Black LGBTQ youth and 83.5 percent of Black transgender/gender-expansive youth experienced homophobia or transphobia in the Black community, while more than 50 percent do not feel accepted by other Black people.

HRC’s report details experiences by respondents at home and in school, along with answers to questions about matters concerning religion and spirituality, mental health and plans for the future.

“Black LGBTQ+ Americans have seen strides toward equality and acceptance,” the group wrote. “More Americans, both youth and adults, are proudly and openly identifying as LGBTQ+ than ever before and public acceptance for marriage equality and non-discrimination protections are the highest it has ever been.”

At the same time, however, HRC noted “anti-blackness, racism and anti-LGBTQ+ hate can create a compounding number of challenges for Black LGBTQ+ youth as bias, stigma and discrimination can be directed at their multiple identities.”

Findings from the report offer a comprehensive look at the day-to-day challenges encountered by Black LGBTQ youth — from the extent to which they feel safe informing teachers when they are bullied at school to whether they have access to mental health care from providers who are LGBTQ competent.

The same topic is often approached from multiple different angles. For example, with respect to experiences with white LGBTQ people, respondents were asked not just to report whether they had experienced racism or could trust their white counterparts, but also whether they feel misunderstood by or are expected to educate white LGBTQ people.

Additionally, the survey found that approximately half of Black LGBTQ youth (48.9 percent) and Black trans and gender-expansive youth (51.8 percent) “say they felt like the token LGBTQ person of color in groups or organizations.”

HRC appended its report with guidance on how to support Black LGBTQ youth for parents and caregivers, educators and youth-serving professionals and for other youth.

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HRC awards grants to 25 LGBTQ+ rights groups around the world

Organizations to receive up to $5,000 through Global Small Grants program

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Human Rights Campaign headquarters in D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday announced it has awarded grants to 25 LGBTQ+ rights organizations around the world.

An HRC press release notes the organizations in 24 countries will receive Global Innovation Small Grants of up to $5,000 through the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Global Partnerships Program. Queer Youth Uganda, Icebreakers Uganda, Transgender Equality Hong Kong, Equal Namibia, PFLAG Panama, CamASEAN Youth’s Future in Cambodia, the Estonian Trans Alliance, Right Side Human Rights Defender NGO in Armenia and the Mediators Foundation in Ghana are among this year’s grant recipients.

“This is what community solidarity looks like,” said Queer Youth Uganda Chief Legal Strategist Quin Mbabazi in the HRC press release. “It enables us to continue breaking barriers during such harsh and challenging moments in the Ugandan movement.”

HRC Global Partnerships Director Jean Freedberg noted the Global Small Grants program “is an opportunity for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to partner with LGBTQ+ advocates around the world to advance our common goal of equality for all.”

“By combining our knowledge, resources, and passion, we are so much stronger together,” said Freedberg. “These amazing advocates and organizations are making a difference and saving lives in each of their countries, and we are honored to be able to support their work.” 

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HRC, GLAAD presidents attend World Economic Forum

Annual meeting takes place in Swiss resort town of Davos

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18, 2024. (Screen capture via GLAAD YouTube)

DAVOS, Switzerland — The presidents of GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign attended the World Economic Forum that took place last week in the Swiss resort town of Davos.

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis and HRC President Kelley Robinson were among those who participated in the “Corporate Allyship in a Fractured World” panel that Axios Chief Technology Editor Ina Fried moderated. Open for Business CEO Dominic Arnall, Gilead Sciences Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Alex Kalomparis and Accenture Senior Managing Director Marco Ziegler were the other panelists.

HRC, GLAAD, Accenture, Deutsche Bank, Edelman, Open for Business and the Partnership for Global LGBTIQ+ Equality hosted the panel.

Ellis in her opening remarks noted more than 20 venues and corporations participated in the “Pride on the Promenade” in Davos that took place the night before the panel. 

She pointed out “Pride on the Promenade” coincided with the introduction of a bill in Florida that would ban Pride flags on public buildings. Ellis also noted an activist from Uganda was among those who attended the World Economic Forum.

“Allyship is not just about values; it’s about growing the bottom line,” said Ellis. “We know inclusion is a business-forward idea and need in order to grow your business.”

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18, 2024. (Screen capture via GLAAD YouTube)

“We are living in an extremely fractured world right now, but it’s also a world that demands us to answer the challenge in front of us right now,” said Robinson. 

“As I’ve talked to business leaders from all across the world this week and in the work that we do at the Human Rights Campaign, it’s clear that they’re not backing down from this challenge,” she added. “Instead, they’re actually stepping up.”

Robinson before the panel also noted there are 800 million LGBTQ+ people in the world and they have $5 trillion in purchasing power. Robinson also said a quarter Gen Zers identify as LGBTQ+. 

“This is an important and critical moment for businesses to continue stepping up,” she said.

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Annise Parker: Protecting democracy is ‘LGBTQ+ rights issue’

Victory Fund’s annual DC conference began Thursday

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LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President Annise Parker speaks at her organization's International LGBTQ+ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Nov. 30, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Annise Parker on Friday said the protection of democracy is an LGBTQ+ rights issue.

“Protecting democracy is fundamentally an LGBTQ+ rights issue,” she said in her keynote speech at the organization’s International LGBTQ+ Leaders Conference that took place in Washington.

Parker in her remarks specifically highlighted former President Donald Trump, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Argentine President-elect Javier Milei. Parker said the three men “are all focused on the same thing: Holding on to power by creating a demonized minority they can attack.” 

Parker in her speech also noted lawmakers in Montana and Oklahoma “singled out” and censured two of their colleagues — Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr and Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner — because “they are Trans themselves.”

Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert has proposed to reduce Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelley’s annual salary to $1 “because she is Trans,” according to Parker. She also noted U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has sought to do the same thing to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine “only because of their sexual orientation or gender identities.”

“We are a community of LGBTQ+ people committed to defending and advancing democracy to insure it works equitably for everyone, not just for us,” said Parker. “Here in the United States and around the world people are losing their faith in democracy.” 

“We’re seeing opponents of democracy scapegoat the communities most marginalized and blame them as the source of all social ills: Immigrants, indigenous communities, people of color and yes, LGBTQ+ people,” she added. “They do this because they believe inclusion is a zero-sum game that gains for those most marginalized take away something from those who have always held power.”

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HRC report: ‘Epidemic of violence’ against transgender community

For the first time in its 40+ year history, the Human Rights Campaign declared a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans

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Human Rights Campaign/Los Angeles Blade graphic

WASHINGTON – In marking the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Human Rights Campaign released its 2023 annual report documenting the epidemic of violence taking the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people. 

According to HRC’s report, at least 33 transgender and gender-nonconforming people were killed in the last 12 months, an overwhelming majority who were young people of color, with Black transgender women disproportionately impacted.

“In the 12 months since Transgender Day of Remembrance 2022 (November 20, 2022), we’ve reported on at least 33 transgender and gender non-conforming people killed in an epidemic of violence threatening our community. These victims had families and friends, hopes and dreams. None of them deserved to have their lives stolen by horrific violence,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

“Almost two-thirds of the victims were Black trans women, a tragedy that reflects an appalling trend of violence fueled by racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny and transphobia and the politicization of our lives. We need everyone to join us in empowering transgender leaders, building safer, stronger communities and reducing stigma. We cannot rest until all transgender and gender non-conforming people can live our lives safely as our full selves,” she added.

“The epidemic of violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people is a national tragedy and a national embarrassment,” HRC President Kelly Robinson said Monday in a statement. “Each of the lives taken is the result of a society that demeans and devalues anyone who dares challenge the gender binary.” 

The report also noted that the actual tally of deaths may be much higher because “data collection is often incomplete or unreliable when it comes to violent and fatal crimes against trans and gender-nonconforming people.” 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recorded just 21 fatal hate crimes committed against transgender and gender-nonconforming people over the same time period. 

This report comes amidst a tidal wave of anti-transgender legislation. In 2023, for the first time in its 40+ year history, the Human Rights Campaign declared a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, in response to the over 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state houses across the country, more than 80 of which were passed into law.

This is a record high for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced and enacted in a single state legislative session since HRC began tracking—beating out 2022, which, with 25 anti-LGBTQ+ bills enacted, previously held the record for most anti-LGBTQ+ bills enacted in a single year.

The report noted that the vast majority of the bills introduced in 2023— over 220—specifically targeted transgender people in an attempt to: limit access to school sports, school restrooms and locker rooms; ban access to safe, effective, age-appropriate gender-affirming medical care; and remove inclusive books and references to LGBTQ+ identities and experiences from school curricula (a la “don’t Say LGBTQ”). Coordinated efforts led by well-funded right-wing extremist organizations such as the Family Research Council, Heritage Action, and the Alliance Defending Freedom have led to similar efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives, including attempts to pass nationwide trans sports bans and bans on gender affirming care, as well as attempting to enact anti-LGBTQ+ legislation through attaching extraneous riders to appropriation bills.

Against this backdrop of discriminatory legislation, attacks on the transgender and gender non-conforming community, as well as the LGBTQ+ community and its allies writ large, are on the rise. Proponents of anti-trans legislation in state houses and Congress, have often relied on hate-filled rhetoric that demonizes transgender people and their allies, perpetuates misinformation, and legitimizes anti-trans stigma, violence, and hate.

Such rhetoric has, unfortunately, begun to translate to real world violence: 2022 saw the highest number of anti-LGB and anti-trans and gender non-conforming hate crimes reported by the FBI to date, with the number of hate crimes based on gender identity increasing by over 32% from 2021 to 2022.

Almost 500 gender identity-motivated hate crimes were recorded in 2022, accounting for 4% of all hate crimes recorded in that year; anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes overall accounted for more than one in five (20.8%) hate crimes. And this number is an undercount, given that FBI data reporting does not capture all hate crimes, as not all jurisdictions track anti-trans hate crimes, nor do all jurisdictions report hate crimes to FBI databases.

In addition to the FBI-reported hate crime incidents , between the beginning of 2022 and late April 2023 GLAAD recorded 161 different attacks against drag events, including bomb threats, vandalization, armed and violent protests, and in one instance the firebombing of venues that hosted Drag Story Hour and other all-age drag events.

These attacks were part of the more than 350 anti-LGBTQ+ incidents across 46 states, recorded by GLAAD and the ADL over the same period. June 2023 saw 145 additional anti-LGBTQ+ extremism incidents recorded at Pride events across the country. Transphobic violence and hate has even taken the lives of several cisgender allies this year, such as in the case of Colin Michael Smith, a White cisgender man in Oregon who was stabbed and killed while defending a non-binary friend from an assailant “hurling anti-LGBTQ+ slurs,” and Laura Ann Carlton, a White cisgender woman in California, who was shot and killed for refusing to stop flying a pride flag over her store.

These attacks are occurring against a community which is already vulnerable and marginalized. As detailed in HRC’s report “Dismantling a Culture of Violence,” transgender and gender non-conforming people face multiple forms of sigma, which result in lower access to status, power, and resources, and higher risk of discrimination, including in employment, healthcare, and housing. Together, this contributes to higher risk of poverty and homelessness/housing insecurity, social isolation, and worse physical and mental health outcomes, which in turn results in increased risk for violence.

Such stigma, bias and discrimination compounds for transgender and gender non-conforming people who hold multiple marginalized identities. Transgender women and transgender people of color are at elevated risk of fatal violence, and the risk is compounded for Black transgender women, who comprise the vast majority of victims of fatal violence against trans and gender non-conforming people.

“We must imagine a better future for transgender and gender-nonconforming people,” Robinson said Monday. “Not just surviving, but truly living as free and equal members of our society.” 

Read the report

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32 activists participate in annual HRC global summit in D.C.

Special US envoy for LGBTQ+, intersex rights among speakers

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Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination Executive Director Essy Adhiambo. (Courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON — Thirty-two activists from around the world attended the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit that took place last week in D.C.

Activists from Algeria, Bolivia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Congo, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe took part in workshops and attended a variety of events throughout the week.

HRC President Kelley Robinson and Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, are among those who spoke to the activists. HRC during the summit also honored Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the now former independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ and intersex issues whose 6-year mandate ended on Oct. 31. (The U.N. Human Rights Council has named Graeme Reid, a South African activist who directed Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program, to succeed Madrigal-Borloz.)

The summit took place against the backdrop of the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations in Mauritius, Antigua and Barbuda, Singapore and several other former British colonies around the world.

The Japanese Supreme Court on Oct. 25 struck down a law that requires Transgender people to undergo sterilization surgery in order to legally change their gender. The Indian Supreme Court on Oct. 17 ruled against marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” Lawmakers in Kenya and neighboring countries have signaled they plan to introduce similar measures in their respective parliaments.

HRC in June declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. in response to the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that state lawmakers have introduced and governors have signed. 

Stern in a speech she delivered at an LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-organized conference in Mexico City in July cited HRC statistics when she noted more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in U.S. state legislatures this year. Stern pointed out nearly half of these measures specifically targeted Trans and nonbinary people, and state lawmakers approved 70 of them. She noted 15 of these measures banned gender-affirming care for minors, four “censor” school curricula and two “target drag performances.”  

“What an absolute tragedy,” said Stern.

‘It’s an absolute honor to be here’

Transgender Equality Hong Kong Director Henry Tse is one of the summit participants with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Nov. 2.

Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal in February ruled in favor of Tse and two other Trans men who challenged the requirement that Trans people must undergo sex-reassignment surgery in order to change the gender marker on their IDs. Hong Kong’s government has yet to implement the decision, but Tse told the Blade that he has “learned a lot” from his fellow summit participants.

“It’s an absolute honor to be here,” he said.  

Transgender Equality Hong Kong Director Henry Tse (Courtesy photo)

LGBT Center Mongolia Executive Director Enkhmaa Enkhbold echoed Tse.

“It’s just heaven for me,” Enkhbold told the Blade.

LGBT Center Mongolia Executive Director Enkhmaa Enkhbold (Courtesy photo)

Abdul Mufeez Shaheed, chair of the Rainbow Pride Foundation, a Fijian advocacy group, welcomed the diversity of the summit’s participants and applauded the work they have done in their respective countries. Essy Adhiambo, executive director of the Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination in Kenya, agreed.

“As someone who’s been in the movement for a while, I’m realizing there’s a very different way people are doing things,” she told the Blade. “We (who) do all the activities actually need to sit back and say, actually, these younger folks actually have an idea of what we can do better, so bring us together.”

Rainbow Pride Foundation Chair Abdul Mufeez Shaheed (Courtesy photo)
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Lambda Legal marks 50th anniversary

Kevin Jennings says litigation is ‘crucial tool’ to advance LGBTQ rights

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Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings speaks at a reception in D.C. celebrating Lambda Legal's 50th anniversary on Sept. 28, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings in conjunction with his organization’s 50th anniversary said the courts remain crucial to the protection of LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

“Litigation has been the crucial tool for advancing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” Jennings told the Washington Blade during a Sept. 25 interview. “Lambda Legal has been at the forefront of that litigation for 50 years.”

The New York Court of Appeals in 1973 overruled a decision that denied Lambda Legal’s application to incorporate because its mission was “neither benevolent nor charitable” and “there was no demonstrated need for its existence.”

“We have to be our own first client,” said Jennings.

Lambda Legal represented a group of gay students at the University of New Hampshire who sued after then-Gov. Mel Thomson threatened to defund the entire UNH system if they continued their “socially abhorrent activities.” The U.S. Supreme Court in 1974 ruled in favor of the students in Gay Students Organization v. Bonner.  

Lambda Legal in 1983 represented Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, an AIDS researcher who opened a clinic for people with HIV in New York’s Greenwich Village. His neighbors tried to evict him, but Lambda Legal and the New York attorney general’s office were able to stop the eviction in People v. West 12 Tenants Corps. 

Police in Harris County, Texas, in 1998 arrested John Geddes Lawrence, Jr., and Tyron Garner, while they were having sex in Lawrence’s apartment and charged them with violating the state’s sodomy law. Lambda Legal represented the two men and the Supreme Court in 2003 struck down the Texas statute in Lawrence v. Texas.

Lambda Legal was co-counsel in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the U.S. Lambda Legal also represented Dana Zzyym, an intersex person who sued the State Department in 2015 after it denied them a passport because they do not identify as male or female. (Zzyym in October 2021 received a passport with an “X” gender marker, and the State Department now issues gender-neutral passports.)

Jennings on Sept. 28 spoke at an event at Paul Hastings LLP in D.C. after Jennifer Eller, a former English teacher in Prince George’s County, Md., who successfully sued the county’s Board of Education after she suffered harassment and discrimination because of her gender identity, introduced him. Lambda Legal on Wednesday held similar events in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago.

“The courts have been a central battleground for 50 years,” Jennings told the Blade. “I predict they are going to remain one for the next 50 years.”

Opponents using ‘shock and awe against us’

Jennings, who was born in Florida and grew up in North Carolina, was a teacher in Massachusetts when he founded what became known as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and later GLSEN in 1990. He left the organization in 2008.

Then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2009 appointed Jennings as Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Jennings was the CEO of Be the Change, executive director of the Arcus Foundation and president of the Tenement Museum in New York before Lambda Legal in 2019 named him as its CEO.

Jennings noted to the Blade that nearly 600 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 47 states. 

“We are facing the most concerted effort to rollback LGBTQ+ rights in my lifetime,” he said.

“Our opponents are using shock and awe against us right now,” added Jennings. “They are trying to overwhelm us and drown us in the number of anti-LGBT bills nationwide. That’s their own strategy.”

Jennings said Lambda Legal currently has nearly 80 active lawsuits across the country.

He noted Lambda Legal for the last two years has represented Becky Pepper-Jackson, an 11-year-old Transgender girl who challenged a West Virginia law that bans Trans students from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. The Supreme Court in April ruled in her favor.

“Becky is on her middle school cross country team,” said Jennings.

Lambda Legal is among the organizations that challenged a Florida law that prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for gender-affirming health care. A federal judge in June struck down the statute.

“Our opponents are trying to demoralize our community, and make us feel like we are going to be defeated,” said Jennings.

He added the “battle” for LGBTQ+ rights in many states is “moving from the State House to the courthouse.”

“It comes down to Lambda Legal to get them struck down in court,” said Jennings. “We are the community’s last line of defense.”

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