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National LGBTQ Task Force executive director mourns Israeli, Palestinian war victims

Kierra Johnson led moment of silence at organization’s Miami Beach gala

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National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson speaks at her organization's 50th anniversary gala in Miami Beach, Fla., on Oct. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force on Saturday paid tribute to the civilians killed during the war between Israel and Hamas.

“Witnessing reports of Israel and Palestine are weighing on my soul,” said Kierra Johnson during her speech at the Task Force’s 50th anniversary gala that took place at the Miami Beach Convention Center. “My heart is with communities in the region who have suffered the pain of terrorism and violence and may continue to do so.”

Johnson added that while she does “not have many answers about the conflict, I do know many people I love, many members of the Task Force family and many in this room are deeply impacted.” 

“The Task Force condemns terrorism, violence and harm against civilians,” she said.

Johnson also led a moment of silence for the “lives shattered and lost in the terror attack by Hamas in Israel and for all those impacted who continue to suffer.”

Hamas, which the U.S. and Israel have designated a terrorist organization, on Oct. 6 launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces on its website also says more than 3,200 Israelis have been injured and Hamas militants kidnapped at least 150 others. 

Hamas rockets have reached Beersheba, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport and other locations throughout central and southern Israel.

Palestinian officials say Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 2,000 people in Gaza and injured thousands of others in the enclave.

The Israeli government’s decision to cut electricity, water and food and fuel shipments to Gaza has made the humanitarian crisis in the territory even worse. (National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday said Israeli officials have told him they have restored water to southern Gaza.) The IDF has also told the 1.1 million people who live in northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern part of the enclave ahead of an expected ground incursion.

A Wider Bridge — a U.S.-based organization that seeks to build “a movement of LGBTQ people and allies with a strong interest in and commitment to supporting Israel and its LGBTQ communities” — in 2016 organized a reception at the Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference with two Israeli activists who worked for Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance. Hundreds of protesters with signs that expressed opposition to “pinkwashing,” which they described as the promotion of Israel’s LGBTQ rights record in an attempt to deflect attention away from its policies toward the Palestinians, and “no pride in apartheid” disrupted the event and forced its cancellation.

“I want to make this crystal clear: The National LGBTQ Task Force wholeheartedly condemns anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements made at any Task Force event, including our Creating Change Conference,” said then-Executive Director Rea Carey in a statement after the protest. “It is unacceptable.”

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LGBTQ Non-Profit Organizations

Record number of students reached by HRC’s anti-bullying program

The program’s 9th annual National Day of Reading- “A Celebration of Stories Supporting Trans & Non-Binary Youth” saw 36,000 participants

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

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools program reached a record 750,000 students in fiscal year 2024 — supporting communities that are contending with the dramatic rise, in recent years, of anti-LGBTQ harassment and reported hate crimes in schools.

Data on the expanded reach of HRC’s pre-K-12 anti-bullying program, now in its 16th year, was included in the group’s fourth annual Welcoming Schools report, released on Tuesday.

“Welcoming Schools has continued to serve as a beacon, providing accessible training, resources, and actionable policies and practices at a time when proposals for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation specifically targeting our youth is at a devastatingly high level,” the group’s president, Kelley Robinson, said in the report’s introduction.

A third of the more than 550 anti-LGBTQ bills that were introduced across the U.S. last year have targeted LGBTQ inclusion in classrooms, disproportionately impacting transgender and gender-expansive youth, HRC noted in a press release announcement.

The “unsurprising result” of these legislative attacks, the organization wrote, has been a documented rise in bullying and harassment encountered by queer youth in educational settings.

According to an analysis of FBI statistics reported in March by the Washington Post, “the number of hate crimes on K-12 campuses” in states with restrictive laws “has more than quadrupled since the onset of a divisive culture war that has often centered on the rights of LGBTQ+ youth.”

The paper also found that “calls to LGBTQ+ youth crisis hotlines have exploded, with some advocates drawing a connection between the political climate and the spike in bullying and hate crimes.”

And in a survey published in November by HRC and the University of Connecticut, nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ teens reported that they had experienced bullying in school over their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Cheryl Greene, senior director of the Welcoming Schools program, said in the press release that “this work across local school districts is crucial to the success of our kids in school, especially as we’ve seen and heard from families who are uprooting their lives and moving states just to find more accepting, inclusive environments.”

“Our 2024 annual report showcases the tremendous impact of our trainings and resources in fostering environments where all students can thrive,” she said.

Robinson highlighted that Welcoming Schools’ “latest initiatives showcase our commitment to expanding opportunities for secondary-level training, making resources more accessible through Spanish translation, and embracing the power of e-learning.”

This year, the program’s ninth annual National Day of Reading was titled, “A Celebration of Stories Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Youth” saw 36,000 participants and reached 130,000 people on social media. 

According to the report, “Since 2011, Welcoming Schools has trained educators in all 50 States, plus D.C., Aruba, Bahamas, Denmark, El Salvador, Germany, Honduras, Mexico, Qatar, Taiwan, and Uganda.”

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Building support for trans rights by engaging conservatives

“If you love your child, I need you to step back and love them enough to believe them when they tell you who they are”

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GRACE ad featuring Eric Childs with his trans son (Screen capture: GRACE/YouTube)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — When conservative legislators endeavor to restrict the rights of transgender youth, such as by blocking access to gender-affirming healthcare, they betray their commitment to freedom from government intervention into the private lives of American families, combat veteran Eric Childs explains in a new ad by the Gender Research Advisory Council and Education.

The South Carolina father opens the ad by sharing how he is working to secure a future in which his trans child can enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the same principles for which he served his country “in defense of freedom, fighting for democracy.”

“I live in a small town in South Carolina,” Childs says, as the ad shows him loading a handgun to practice target shooting with his son. “I absolutely believe in protecting my rights.”

He then addresses his state’s proposed bill to ban guideline-directed, medically necessary healthcare interventions for trans minors: “I ask that you respect the sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom for this country, and vote no for Bill H. 4624.”

“My child has parents that get to decide his health care,” Childs says. “If you love your child, I need you to step back and love them enough to believe them when they tell you who they are. Love them. At all costs — beyond everything.”

Testifying before the South Carolina Legislature in January, Childs told lawmakers his family’s healthcare decisions are not made on a “whim” and explained how he wants to guarantee his son has every medically recommended option available.

Along with blocking access to treatments that are supported by every mainstream scientific and medical society, H. 4624 would prohibit healthcare providers from facilitating minor patients’ access to this care while also requiring school administrators to forcibly “out” trans students to their parents.

Alaina Kupec, founder and president of GRACE, told Bay Area Reporter that her new nonprofit “has a specific mission that does not conflict with other nonprofits in the LGBTQ or transgender-specific space” by working to “assist other groups in addressing misinformation about transgender people.”

The group’s members are in D.C. this week to meet with advocacy leaders and officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, the law firm Skadden Arps is hosting a fundraiser for GRACE that will feature Kupec alongside Rick Colby, a “life-long Republican, Parents Advisory Councilmember of GRACE, and proud father of a transgender son” and “other leaders engaged on transgender issues.”

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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.” 

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