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Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation launches TransPLUS Initiative

In addition to grant funding the TransPLUS Initiative will seek to amplify voices & build greater public awareness

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Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation/Los Angeles Blade graphic

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – In response to what it calls the unprecedented challenges facing transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary (“TGNCNB”) members of the LGBTQ+ community, the Connecticut-based Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation has announced the launch of its new TransPLUS initiative.

The program is intended to provide financial and other support for organizations and individuals whose work focuses on those most impacted in the current political and cultural environment.

“The name is very deliberate,” said Foundation Trustee Robyn Schlesinger, who will be spearheading the initiative. “We seek to emPower the TGNCNB community, and we believe that every Trans Life Matters. We know that we are strongest when we are Unified, and—now more than ever—we must prioritize the Safety of our community by responding to hate with radical love.”

In addition to grant funding, the TransPLUS Initiative will seek to amplify voices of TGNCNB leaders and build greater public awareness of the community’s socio-economic and political challenges. “We are all fortunate to be growing in our understanding of the nuanced, socialized, and evolving experiences of gender identity and expression,” said Executive Director Colin Hosten, “especially as they intersect with racial and economic justice.”

Through its Community Grant fund, the Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation has already awarded grants to a number of Trans-led and Trans-focused organizations, such as the Eastern PA Trans Equity Project and Power Safe Resource Center of Virginia.

The TransPLUS Initiative aims to provide dedicated support to many more organizations, and has already identified its first recipient: The Sam and Devorah Foundation for Transgender Youth will receive a multi-year grant to support its unique Trans Mentorship Program that pairs TGNCNB youth and young adults with trained and supervised TGNCNB mentors.

“We felt it was time to step up, as more and more of our transgender friends were being singled out for discrimination and abuse,” said Founding Trustee Elliot Leonard. “I am grateful to Robyn for leading this effort, and look forward to helping to recognize the neediest fund recipients, as well as supporting the most impactful programs for the community.”

“Hopefully this will only inspire more individuals and organizations to do what they can to support our trans family in this time of urgent need,” added Trustee Andrew Mitchell-Namdar.

The Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation is committed to helping LGBTQ+ people achieve their full potential by funding organizations working in advocacy, programming, and service on behalf of our community, particularly in the areas of Health and Wellness, Crisis Intervention, Racial Justice, Advocacy and Community Engagement, and Social Assistance and Programming.

Learn more about the Leonard Litz TransPLUS Initiative at www.leonardlitz.org/

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The Dru Project: Empowering queer youth through education

Many queer students face discrimination, rejection, and limited resources that hinder their academic ambitions

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The Dru Project's founders, (L-R) Shawn Chaudhry, Brandon Wolf, & Sara Grossman (Photo Credit: The Dru Project)

ORLANDO – The Dru Project, an Orlando-based nonprofit organization, is dedicated to providing scholarships to queer youth, empowering them to pursue their dreams and create a brighter future.

The Dru Project was established in loving memory of Drew Leinonen, by three of his best friends to honor Leinonen, who tragically lost his life in the devastating Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016.

“Drew’s compassionate spirit and unwavering belief in the power of queer youth inspired us to honor his legacy by offering scholarships to deserving queer students who face unique challenges on their journey to higher education. Together, we have worked for 7 years to keep Drew’s spirit and legacy alive, and have succeeded — thanks in part to our incredible supporters!” said the non-profit’s spokesperson Sara Grossman.

In an emailed statement, the non-profit noted:

Our mission is simple yet powerful: to create a world where every LGBTQ+ young person has access to quality education, enabling them to become future leaders, advocates, and change-makers. We believe that education is not only a pathway to personal growth and success but also a tool for breaking down barriers and fostering inclusivity within our society.

By supporting The Dru Project, you have the opportunity to make a tangible and lasting impact on the lives of queer youth. Your generous donation will help us provide scholarships to deserving individuals, enabling them to pursue their academic aspirations and achieve their fullest potential. These scholarships cover not only tuition fees but also additional expenses such as textbooks, accommodation, and other educational necessities.

Your contribution will not only provide financial assistance but also send a powerful message of support to these young individuals. Many queer students face discrimination, rejection, and limited resources that hinder their academic ambitions. By investing in their education, you are telling them that their dreams are valid and that they are deserving of every opportunity available to them.

Here’s how your donation can make a difference:

$50 can provide textbooks and study materials for a semester.
$100 can contribute to covering transportation expenses for commuting students.
$250 can help support mental health and counseling services for a struggling student.
$500 can assist in funding a student’s housing costs for a semester.

Any amount you can give will help change a young person’s life and contribute to a more inclusive society. This year, it is especially pertinent to raise extra funds because we have 80 applications for 7 scholarships. 

Recent scholarship awardees. (Photo Credit: The Dru Project)

We invite you to be part of our mission to uplift and empower queer youth through education. Your tax-deductible donation will ensure that deserving students have the opportunity to pursue their dreams without the burden of financial obstacles.

To make a contribution, please visit our secure online donation page here. Every dollar counts, and we are grateful for any amount you can give.

If you are unable to donate at this time, there are other ways you can support our cause. Follow us online and share our mission with your friends, family, and colleagues, spreading awareness about the vital importance of inclusive education. Volunteer your time or skills to assist us in organizing fundraising events or mentoring our scholars. Every act of support, big or small, helps us create a better future for queer youth.

“Thank you for considering our request and for your ongoing commitment to equality, education, and the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. Together, we can turn tragedy into hope, despair into resilience, and dreams into reality,” said Brandon Wolf, Vice-President, The Dru Project.

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Barbara Poma leaves leadership role at OnePULSE Foundation

Poma recently served as executive director before pivoting to focus her work on the Foundation’s national fundraising efforts

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Barbara Poma the founder and executive director of the onePulse Foundation (Photo Credit: Barbara Poma)

By Paulo Murillo | ORLANDO – Barbara Poma the founder and executive director of the onePulse Foundation has stepped down from her leadership role in the not-for-profit which was established following the June 12, 2016 tragedy at the Pulse nightclub.

OnePULSE released the following statement this week:

In the completion of a planned leadership transition that began in 2021, Barbara Poma, Founder of the onePULSE Foundation, has stepped down from her position at the Foundation. Poma recently served as executive director before pivoting to focus her work on the Foundation’s national fundraising efforts as part of a new leadership structure.

Poma was succeeded as executive director by Deborah Bowie. Poma co-founded Pulse nightclub in 2004, and the club became globally recognized as a joyful gathering place for the LGBTQIA+ community and their families.

The Foundation is grateful to Barbara for her many contributions, and commitment to onePULSE, and for being a lifetime advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. Additionally, the onePULSE Foundation Board of Trustees recently updated its three-year strategic plan to better position the Foundation as it continues to drive forward the project that will honor and preserve the legacy of those killed and create a sanctuary of hope. The Foundation
plans to provide updates to the project’s progress and next steps in the run-up to the annual Pulse Remembrance Week in June.

The City Council of the City of West Hollywood presented a Key to the City to Poma last February 7, 2022 during a regular teleconference meeting of the West Hollywood City Council.

The West Hollywood City Council also issued two Proclamations, one to Poma, and one to the onePULSE Foundation – in recognition of their dedication and commitment to preserving the legacies of lives lost at the Pulse nightclub mass shootings.

The proclamations were given by council member John Erickson during a drag brunch fundraiser at Rocco’s WeHo. Mayor Lauren Meister presented Poma with the Key to the City.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Trevor Project: “Sharing Space” to amplify voices of LGBTQ youth

Viewers will be able to access the video when it officially launches on YouTube at 12pm ET on March 31 marking Transgender Day of Visibility

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Daniel Radcliffe (Screenshot/YouTube The Trevor Project)

NEW YORK CITY – Ahead of Trans Day of Visibility this Friday, March 31st The Trevor Project is launching a new original content series produced by its in-house team called “Sharing Space” – and the inaugural episode is hosted by Daniel Radcliffe.

The series features a roundtable discussion format, where LGBTQ young people share their experiences and discuss a variety of topics impacting their daily lives. 

The first episode of “Sharing Space” features six transgender and nonbinary young people who sit down with Radcliffe to have a candid, vulnerable, and illuminating conversation about their personal journeys and unique lived experiences.

An advocate for LGBTQ rights, Radcliffe helps facilitate a heartfelt discussion exploring topics such as gender euphoria, respecting pronouns, self-discovery, and what genuine allyship looks like. “Sharing Space” provides a much-needed platform for young trans and nonbinary voices – whom new research shows are coming out at younger ages compared to previous generations. The conversations bring humanity to identities that are often marginalized, misunderstood, and weaponized in political spheres. 

In discussing the episode, Radcliffe states: “We listen to so many people talk about trans youth and hear them talked about so often in the news, but very rarely do we actually hear from these youth directly. It was an absolute privilege to get to meet and listen to this incredible group of young people. At the end of the day, if you’re going to talk about trans kids, it might be useful to actually listen to trans kids.”

Radcliffe’s ongoing support of The Trevor Project dates back over a decade, when the actor starred in a PSA to raise awareness of the organization’s free and confidential crisis services. In 2011, Radcliffe was honored with the Trevor Hero Award at the annual TrevorLIVE gala, where he gave an impassioned speech to LGBTQ young people going through their darkest moments.

The release of this new series is more timely than ever, as a record-number of anti-LGBTQ bills – the majority of which target trans and nonbinary young people – are being introduced and considered in states across the country.

This vitriolic rhetoric is incredibly harmful to trans and nonbinary youth, who already face disproportionate levels of victimization, violence, and suicide risk. According to The Trevor Project’s research, 86% of trans and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health — and as a result of these policies and debates in the last year, 45% of trans youth experienced cyberbullying, and nearly 1 in 3 reported not feeling safe to go to the doctor or hospital when they were sick or injured.

“Sharing Space” comes on the heels of The Trevor Project launching another series, “Learn with Love,” which highlights the stories of three transgender young people and the adults who came to love and accept them. Both “Sharing Space” and “Learn with Love” are designed to be episodic and chronicle the experiences of LGBTQ young people through their own words, in a world where their identities are being relentlessly attacked and invalidated by adults across U.S. politics and culture.

Coinciding with Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 — an annual event celebrating trans joy and honoring the contributions of the trans community — “Sharing Space” is an uplifting series in which viewers can walk away with a more positive understanding of the trans experience.  

“Our goal in developing this kind of content is to turn the microphone toward LGBTQ young people themselves and let them speak directly about their lives, which they know best,” said Megan Stowe, VP of Brand and Content at The Trevor Project.

“LGBTQ young people, particularly transgender and nonbinary youth, are routinely forced to stand by and watch adults debate their very existence and life experiences. Our society has created boxes that young people are expected to fit into, when we should be giving them the space and autonomy to figure out who they are on their own. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to amplify young LGBTQ voices that are so often silenced, and work towards creating a safer, more accepting world where they can thrive just as they are.” 

The Trevor Project intends to release several episodes of “Sharing Space” throughout the year, and each episode will feature a different theme, different host, and different group of LGBTQ young people.

Viewers can sign up to watch the YouTube Premiere of the first episode of “Sharing Space” with Daniel Radcliffe, live at 12pm ET on Friday, March 31 on The Trevor Project’s YouTube Channel.

Sharing Spaces – Episode 1, Daniel Radcliffe | Trailer:

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HRC reaches mutual settlement with Alphonso David

David, who had served as counsel to Cuomo, then the governor of New York, was subsequently fired from his post leading HRC in September 2021

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Alphonso David (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – According to a joint statement released on Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign and its former president, Alphonso David, reached a settlement agreement over David’s racial bias lawsuit against the organization, America’s largest LGBTQ rights group.

The parties’ statement said they “have chosen to amicably resolve” the litigation without specifying the terms of their settlement agreement, which “are confidential.”

Provided that “HRC and Mr. David share the mission of advancing human rights for all LGBTQ+ people and realizing a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all, they agree it is in their mutual best interests, and the interests of the communities that they serve, to put this matter behind them.”

A probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James turned up evidence that David had solicited signatures for a letter that sought to undermine the credibility of a woman who accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.

David, who at the time served as counsel to Cuomo, then the governor of New York, was subsequently fired from his post leading HRC in September 2021 — and then sued the group, alleging racial discrimination.

According to filings in the case, adjudicated by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, HRC argued David was terminated because his work on behalf of Cuomo constituted a “violation of HRC’s Conflict of Interest policy and the mission,” causing damage to the group’s “interests, reputation and prospects” and compromising David’s ability to lead the organization.

David was succeeded by interim HRC President Joni Madison before Kelley Robinson took over in November, becoming the first Black queer woman to lead the organization.

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In 2023: National LGBTQ Task Force celebrates 50 years

50th Anniversary celebrations begin with Creating Change, including headlining speakers Angelica Ross & activist X Gonzalez

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Press conference in October 1973 announcing formation of the National Gay Task Force. (Front) Ron Gold, Dr. Howard Brown, Dr. Bruce Voeller, Nathalie Rockhill, (Rear) Frank Kameny (Photo Credit: NYC LGBTQ History Project)

WASHINGTON – The National LGBTQ Task Force – the country’s oldest LGBTQ advocacy group – celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023, honoring 50 years of advancing freedom, justice, and equality for LGBTQ people.  ​

This milestone year will recognize and celebrate the Task Force’s rich history of driving progress within the LGBTQ community, from its early days lobbying the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality as a mental illness and advocating for AIDS funding to longstanding campaigns to Queer the Census, Queer the Vote, work for trans rights, fight for reproductive justice and bringing an intersectional approach to the LGBTQ movement.

Beginning with Creating Change, the Task Force’s flagship conference for training and mobilizing queer organizers, the upcoming year serves as an opportunity to reimagine what queer activism can look like. 

“Our anniversary comes at a time when those in power threaten to undo our 50 years of progress– but we’re meeting these threats with more strength, unity, and support than ever before,” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “We take an intersectional, proactive approach to our advocacy, underscoring our fundamental interconnectedness. The Task Force is everywhere because queer people are everywhere. As we look towards the next 50 years, we will evolve and expand our work to positively impact LGBTQ folks’ ability to thrive.”

Photo credit: Julie Childs

The primary goal of the Creating Change Conference is to build the LGBTQ movement’s political power from the ground up to secure our overarching goal of full freedom, justice, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the U.S.

Since 1988, Creating Change has created opportunities for thousands of committed people to develop and hone their skills, celebrate victories, build community, and to be inspired by visionaries of our LGBTQ movement and allied movements for justice and equality.

 50th ANNIVERSARY CALENDAR OF EVENTS 

Creating Change:

The Task Force 50th anniversary celebrations kickoff with the 2023 Creating Change Conference, the foremost political, leadership, and skills-building conference for the LGBTQ social justice movement. Event details: 

  • Date: Friday, February 17 – Tuesday, February 21
  • Location: Hilton Hotel Union Square, San Francisco, California 
  • Special Guests: 
    • Angelica Ross, transgender rights activist and star of FX’s POSE
    • Amy Schneider, most successful female contestant in Jeopardy! history
    • X González, gun violence prevention activist and LGBTQ rights advocate
    • more to be announced….
  • Theme: The State of the Movement: Our Past. Our Present. Our Future. 

Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force will reflect on the last year and the work ahead. For more information including registration information and full schedule see HERE.

Winter Party Festival:

The 50th Anniversary celebration will continue in Miami Beach at the 30th Annual Winter Party Festival –  a week-long series of events benefiting the LGBTQ community locally and nationally. Produced by the Task Force, the Festival takes place Wednesday March 1 – Tuesday March 7 in Miami Beach, FL. The 2023 theme is “Live Free. Play Hard. Give Back.” 

Task Force Gala 2023:

In October 2023, the Task Force will host its premier annual celebration of South Florida’s LGBTQ community. This year, the gala is an opportunity for queer people and their supporters to celebrate 50 years of community, history, and work advancing equality for all LGBTQ people and their families. 

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Incoming HRC President Robinson warns: ‘They are coming for us’

“They are launching an intersectional attack against us and trying to divide our power and we are going to fight back together”

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Incoming HRC President Kelley Robinson in her office on Nov. 10, 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Kelley Robinson convened a press briefing on Monday with representatives from local and national LGBTQ advocacy groups and gun violence prevention organizations to discuss the deadly shooting over the weekend at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.

“We are, of course, having this call under the worst of circumstances,” Robinson said, expressing her heartbreak and outrage in personal terms “as a wife, a mother, and a member of the LGBTQ community.”

Around the same time, news outlets reported that hate crime charges were filed against the suspected gunman who killed five people and injured at least 19 others when he opened fire with an assault style rifle in Club Q late Saturday night.

Just a couple of weeks ago, when Robinson sat down for an interview with the Washington Blade, she was smiling for much of the conversation. For one thing, she was looking forward to the official start of her tenure as president of the Human Rights Campaign . On Nov. 28, she will become the first Black queer woman to serve in that role leading the nation’s largest LGBTQ organization.

The interview also came on the heels of a midterm election cycle that had seen record turnout among LGBTQ voters and historic firsts for LGBTQ candidates. Additionally, by then it had become clear that by the year’s end Congress would likely pass the landmark Respect for Marriage Act, which carries significant legal protections for same-sex couples.  

Tone and tenor aside, however, there was little daylight between Robinson’s words and actions following the mass shooting and her comments during that Nov. 10 interview, during which she pledged to lead HRC with an intersectional approach to the work, in a manner consistent with her prior leadership as executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and professional background as a community organizer.

On Monday, Robinson – along with the other speakers – urged collective, decisive action to stem the escalating tides of hateful rhetoric, online misinformation and disinformation, and violence and threats of violence directed at LGBTQ people. They focused their comments on how these factors work together to raise the likelihood of violent attacks like that which happened on Saturday.

Likewise, they said solutions must involve a diverse array of stakeholders: lawmakers and social media companies tasked with fighting online hate, misinformation, and disinformation; law enforcement agencies responsible for enforcing existing gun laws; and groups representing vulnerable communities that are disproportionately impacted, like trans women of color and LGBTQ youth.

“What we saw this past year is that our opposition gets intersectionality,” Robinson told the Blade. “They are coming for us, for all of us,” she said, citing as examples the Supreme Court’s decision revoking Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, the hateful rhetoric of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and recent spate of statewide anti-LGBTQ bills.

“They are launching an intersectional attack against us and trying to divide our power,” she said. “And we are going to fight back together, because ultimately we are stronger together.”

From her vantage point as a queer Black woman, Robinson said intersectionality is not just a theory relegated to academia but rather a fact of life. It also happens to also be exceptionally effective in engendering concrete change through movement building and coalition building, she said.  

For these reasons, Robinson said HRC is focused on political advocacy at the federal, state, local, and grassroots levels. And the organization is expanding its programs in other areas that are designed to, for example, make schools more welcoming environments for LGBTQ youth, empower trans people in the workplace, and hold employers as well as municipalities to account for their policies concerning treatment of, respectively, LGBTQ employees, residents, and visitors.

Likewise, with respect to the organization’s impact litigation work, intersectionality is front and center, Robinson said. HRC’s attorneys are working with other legal actors and entities in the movement ecosystem on cases involving everything from protecting the rights of the incarcerated to fighting back against anti-LGBTQ state laws, she said.

Still, Robinson said she is realistic about the challenges that lie ahead. Asked what keeps her up at night, she said it’s how high the stakes are: “This is truly a matter of life and death for so many people,” she said.

“People are hurting right now. We may be in a different phase of the pandemic, but it’s not over for people. The impact that it’s had for people’s work lives, the impact it’s had for our mental health, all of that lingers and is present…I can’t tell you the number of people that have come up to me in tears about their kids, worrying about their kids, worrying about their trans kids who are getting kicked out of sports and told they’re different when they’re five, six, seven, eight years old. They’re worried about their gay kids and if they’ll be able to love the people that they choose to love and still live in the states that they call home.”

HRC President Kelley Robinson takes the stage at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner on Oct. 29. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

However, Robinson said, “there’s a unique opportunity for us to do something about it right now. We’ve built the political power. We have the organization. We’re so close to having the political leadership that we need in office to get some stuff done. So, this is one of those moments where it just feels like there’s so much on the line, there’s such a sense of urgency. But the hope and optimism is coming from the fact that we’re not done.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously proclaimed that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” but “that doesn’t happen by accident,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to pull it and push it and prod it, and I’m proud to be part of that struggle and that legacy fighting for freedom; fighting for change.”

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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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Trevor Project CEO sacked re: ‘workplace well-being’ concerns

There was “staff dissatisfaction, particularly as it relates to the organization’s quick large-scale growth & the burden it put on employees”

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TrevorLIVE LA 2018 Opening Keynote by Amit Paley (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – The board of directors of the Trevor Project has “elected to make a change in leadership” by removing from office it’s chief executive officer and executive director since 2017, Amit Paley, according to a statement released to the Washington Blade.

The Blade reached out to Trevor Project, which describes itself on its website as the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ young people, for comment after the publication Teen Vogue broke the news about Paley’s dismissal in a Nov. 4 story.

The story cited an unidentified source familiar with the organization as saying the dismissal was brought about following “staff dissatisfaction, particularly as it relates to the organization’s quick large-scale growth and the burden it put on employees.”

In its statement to the Blade, which is identical to the one it sent to Teen Vogue, Trevor Project says in recent years it has struggled to provide its services for LGBTQ youth at risk for suicide in the midst of a hostile political climate in which LGBTQ youth and their families are under attack. 

“The Trevor Project is currently facing a period of transition, rethinking how to sustainably grow our 24/7 crisis services to respond to the public health crisis of LGBTQ youth suicide and address the mental health disparities impacting these youth,” the statement says.

“In 2017, the organization averaged less than 200 inbound crisis contacts per day; in 2022, it’s averaging more than 2,000 crisis contacts pers day,” the statement continues. 

“This intense climate has led to significant stress on our organization, and many members of our staff have raised concerns about workplace well-being, professional development, prioritization performance metrics and resourcing compensation — particularly as they impact our BIPOC [Black, indigenous and people of color], transgender, nonbinary and disabled team members,” the statement says.

“While a comprehensive, independent review of the Trevor Project is being conducted, the board of directors elected to make a change in leadership,” it says, while making no specific mention that it dismissed Paley.  

In response to a request by the Blade for comment, Paley arranged for a communications firm representing him to send the Blade the same statement he released to Teen Vogue.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to lead the Trevor Project’s life-saving team for over five years,” Paley’s statement says. 

It points out that under his tenure, the organization expanded its services by launching a “24/7 digital crisis service, created a ground-breaking research department, expanded the world’s largest campaign to end conversion therapy and grew our team from 50 employees to over 500.”

The statement, which makes no mention of the reported concerns raised by employees, concludes by saying, “the Trevor Project’s vital work is needed now more than ever, and I will always remain deeply committed to the organization’s vision of a world where all LGBTQ young people see a bright future for themselves.”

The Trevor Project’s statement, meanwhile, says until a permanent CEO is identified, Peggy Rajski, one of Trevor Project’s founders and longtime board member, will serve as interim CEO. It says Gina Muñoz, the board’s chair emeritus, will serve as special assistant to the interim CEO.

Teen Vogue reports in its Nov. 4 story that two sources familiar with the Trevor Project said at some point prior to Paley’s removal, more than 200 employees signed a letter to the board expressing dissatisfaction with Paley’s leadership.

An earlier article by Teen Vogue published on July 25 reports that some staff members at that time were calling on Paley to resign after news surfaced that he worked prior to joining the Trevor Project for the corporate consulting firm McKinsey and Co. helping the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma increase its sales of opioid drugs. 

With many LGBTQ youth, along with other young people, dying from the overdose of opioid drugs across the country, some of the Trevor Project staffers thought it was hypocritical for Paley to join the Trevor Project as CEO shortly after promoting the sale of opioids, the Teen Vogue article reports.

The article reports Paley sent an email to the staff after news about his links to opioid sales surfaced, stating, “If I knew then what I know now, I would not have agreed to do any consulting work for [Purdue] and I regret that I did.”

At the time Paley became Trevor Project’s CEO in 2017 and during his first few years there, Trevor Project had offices in West Hollywood, Calif., and New York City, with a smaller office in D.C. But according to spokesperson Tali Mackay, currently, “the Trevor Project is fully remote, and we do not have physical offices.”

One former employee who spoke to the Blade on condition of not being identified said most concern raised by staff members about Paley was not because he wanted to expand the Trevor Project’s programs to meet the needs of a growing number of clients.

The main concern, the former staffer said, was his perceived inability or unwillingness to address the needs of the staff, including transgender staff members who felt their specific needs weren’t being met.

“It’s hard to make that kind of growth,” the former staffer said. “And I think he had a vision, but that vision had to turn inward more than outward sometimes.”  

Both Paley and the Trevor Project officials declined to comment further than what they said in the statements they released, their respective spokespersons said.

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Vice-President Kamala Harris commits to fighting ‘epidemic of hate’

Harris denounced the “vicious attack” on Paul Pelosi saying it “speaks to what HRC stands for- work we will still need to do to fight hate”

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Vice-President Kamala Harris delivers remarks as seen on a large screen at the annual HRC dinner Oct 29, 2022. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris committed to fighting the “powerful forces trying to take our country backwards” in prepared remarks Saturday during the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) National Dinner in Washington, D.C.

“The very existence of LGBTQ+ people is under assault,” Harris said from the stage of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. She decried the “epidemic of hate” that has gripped this country while celebrating the intersectional work that has been undertaken by HRC and the Biden-Harris administration. 

“This next chapter of HRC is going to center liberty and equality for all, with no exceptions,” incoming HRC President Kelley Robinson said. Speaking just before the vice president’s address, she rejected incrementalism and highlighted the importance of strengthening the movement with coalition building and grassroots organizing. 

Robison – who after taking the helm on November 28 will be the first Black queer woman to lead America’s largest LGBTQ+ organization – previously served as executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She was introduced on stage by Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson. 

Other speakers from HRC rounded out the program along with the evening’s honorees, who included Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams, and George Takei.  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was slated to headline the national dinner together with the vice president, but a spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Blade on Friday that she would not be able to attend. 

Early that morning, an intruder violently assaulted Pelosi’s husband after breaking into the couple’s San Francisco home. The Speaker was in Washington at the time. Mr. Pelosi, 82, was hospitalized with a skull fracture but is expected to make a full recovery.

On Saturday, the Speaker’s office published a “Dear colleague” letter thanking fellow members for their support and expressing gratitude for the “quick response” of law enforcement and emergency services personnel.  

Harris began her comments by denouncing the “vicious attack” on Paul Pelosi. It “speaks to what HRC stands for, which is the work that we will still need to do to fight hate” while sending the message that there is no place for political violence in America, she said.  

“Our HRC family is thinking of Speaker Pelosi, her husband and her family – and sending love and support their way,” HRC Interim President Joni Madison tweeted on Friday. Robinson shared the message on Twitter, adding her own words of encouragement and well-wishes. 

The National Dinner is HRC’s largest annual fundraiser. The organization has hosted the event each year since 1997, apart from a two-year hiatus from 2020 to 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous speakers have included Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, John Lewis, Rosie O’Donnell, and Sally Field. 

Madison has led HRC since the termination of former president Alphonso David last year over his alleged involvement in helping to cover up sexual harassment allegations against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during his tenure as Cuomo’s chief counsel.

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Remembering Matthew Shepard; His Gen Z legacy & spirit lives on

Spirit of Matthew Award, is given to “one truly inspiring young person, whose courage, commitment, & outspoken leadership reminds us of Matt”

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Zander Moricz and Matthew Shepard (Los Angeles Blade graphic)

DENVER – This past weekend the Matthew Shepard Foundation held its annual gala to uphold and honor the forever 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming freshman who was brutally murdered twenty-four years ago.

Wednesday’s date, today, marks the day Shepard died in a hospital ICU five days after he had been pistol-whipped, beaten and then left for dead tied to a fence on the prairie outside of Laramie, Wyoming, becoming the victim of one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history.

Matthew Shepard’s passion to foster a more caring and just world became the mission of his parents Judy and Dennis, who founded the non-profit months after their son’s death, to carry that hope filled message forward to the generations of LGBTQ+ youth who would follow.

The Shepard family’s tireless advocacy including their mission of erasing hate for people from all walks of life, young and old, and the passage of a federal hate crimes law named for Matthew, has also extended into ensuring that LGBTQ+ youth will have safe spaces and find acceptance.

One of the honors that the Matthew Shepard Foundation bestows annually at its gala, the Spirit of Matthew Award, is given to “one truly inspiring young person, whose courage, commitment, and outspoken leadership reminds us of Matt,” and this year’s honoree has an impressive track record in fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in his home state of Florida.

Eighteen-year-old LGBTQ+ activist, Zander Moricz, made national headlines when his high school administrators forbade him from mentioning his sexuality in a graduation speech. After significant news coverage when he cleverly worked his curly hair into the speech implying by not directly referencing his being gay, Moricz was invited to Washington, DC by U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to deliver his speech in its original form.

Moricz also joined a lawsuit as one of its youngest plaintiffs challenging the Florida law known as ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ which has been targeted by a coalition of legal and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, high-powered law firms, and 16 state attorneys general. The lawsuit was dismissed last week by a federal court on a technicality but the judge left the option open for a revised version to be filed again.

He has also partnered with another LGBTQ+ teen activist, Syracuse, New York teen Tyler Johnson, who also made headlines when Johnson’s high school principal Mike O’Brien called a meeting with him to inform him that he could not write about his experiences growing up gay, per a districtwide policy governing communication about sexuality, illicit drugs, and other subjects. 

The two teens are using their social media 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.

In his acceptance speech from 2022 Spirit of Matthew Award Saturday evening, Moricz said in part:

“Our community only exists because of our tireless pursuit of visibility, and because of that, because we have never been able to take our togetherness for granted, our community is strong. We channel this strength into our resistance for existence; day after day, generation after generation, we have forever had to strive to survive. We have forever had to embrace radical optimism, believing tomorrow will be better than today, even if today was worse than yesterday.

We’ve learned to transform tragedy into trajectory–refusing to allow those we’ve lost to become lost to history. When beautiful people like Matthew are stolen from us, beautiful people like Judy and Dennis position a purpose within their pain. We mobilize as we mourn, and we grow as we grieve. When thunder cracks its whips and lightning licks its lips, we rise to meet ugliness with beauty and we form rainbows so that those who are hiding from the storm know it is safe to come out. Today, right now, we are carving a rainbow through some of the grayest days we’ve seen in years.

It is my promise that we will bring the Spirit of Matthew into our work, creating leadership and preventing suffering like his. It is my promise that we will not further but finish his fight, so that the legacy we carry on behalf of his family is the one it always should have been, which is not Matthew’s tragedy but his vision, his practice: unconditional, inclusive love.”

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