Connect with us

Viewpoint

Queer Activists: “I told you so” as DeSantis escalates queer erasure

“It is time to recognize the situation in Florida as the ticking time bomb that it is, because I am tired of saying I told you so….”

Published

on

Graphic courtesy of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City

By Cameron Driggers | GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In a shocking escalation for too many, and a somber expectation for too few, the Florida legislature will soon consider legislation to effectively disband measures to facilitate tolerance for LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.

In addition, the proposed law would effectively force the closure of many LGBTQ+ and progressive organizations that have led the opposition to DeSantis’ administration. Specifically, HB-599 mandates that: employees can not be required to use a person’s preferred pronouns, employees can not provide their preferred pronouns and employers cannot exert discipline over homophobia/transphobia.

Most chillingly, the bill would not allow state-funded charities to require employees to undergo any “training, instruction or other activities” relating to gender or sexualities. The implications of these regulations are transparently authoritarian.

As I alluded to before, this development has been received with a puzzling degree of surprise. Evidently, such has been the case following nearly every new outrageous headline summoned by DeSantis’ administration. However, these hysterical reactions are becoming decreasingly indicative of a changing tide in public opinion and more so of an irritating obliviousness among those of us who have been ringing the alarm bells since the very start of DeSantis’ all-consuming battle against “wokeism” in Florida. 

Take the infamous “Don’t Say Gay Bill” for example, which served as the catalyst for the current queer resistance to DeSantis in earnest. That legislation prohibited discussion of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade classrooms. Many were content to dismiss concern, taking the law at face value and assuming it would be confined to K-3 , but even then many of us on the ground knew it was just the first step before Queer erasure was expanded through 12th grade, and we were right.

At the same time, DeSantis initiated a hostile takeover of many public universities, and put in place measures to censor resources and education serving students of color and LBGTQ+ students on college campuses as well. 

LGBTQ+ erasure (also known as queer erasure) refers to the tendency to remove lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual and queer groups or people (i.e. the LGBTQ+ community) intentionally or unintentionally from record, or to dismiss or downplay their significance.

Now, with their heinous agenda successfully forced upon Florida’s public school system, HB-599 suggests that Florida Republicans are prepared to expand the scope of their anti-LGBTQ+ regulations ten-fold. 

Ironically, supporters of laws like “Don’t Say Gay” and “Stop WOKE,” who rejected being labeled a homophobe by asserting their simple desire “to keep that stuff away from kids,” have allowed their fixation on a faux slippery slope to advance one that is actually real.

Upon HB-599’s implementation, not even grown adults would be expected to recognize and respect the existence of queer people in their workplace. 

Related

But as per usual, the queer community in Florida does not even have the luxury of agonizing over just this bill here and now, because we know that the next one will be even worse. Will they extend the ban on gender-affirming care to all adults? How long until adoption rights for queer couples are on the chopping block? Are we at the point where Ron DeSantis, in his quest to out-fascist Trump, embraces nullification and disregards all federally protected rights for minority groups?

As they have proved over and over again, Florida Republicans never cared about merely protecting the innocence of children. In reality, this goal was always a cheap gimmick to assuage so many useful idiots of their complicity in a full-scale war to eradicate the dignified existence of marginalized communities.

While it is decidedly more pleasant to hope for the best that this latest attack on queer people will finally be the last, it is painfully naive in reality. We know exactly how this culture war ends, and it is that of how similarly reactionary movements have concluded throughout history: with total rollbacks in the rights of the targeted minority group at hand. 

Thus, it is time to recognize the situation in Florida as the ticking time bomb that it is, which demands unignorable direct action in conjunction with federal intervention to hold Governor DeSantis accountable to the Constitution he so flagrantly tramples upon. However, with such a rigid institutionalist like Joe Biden at the helm, the latter unfortunately seems unlikely.

The former, conversely, is very achievable. I should know, because I founded an organization that is doing exactly that: giving young people the resources they need to resist DeSantis’ brand of politics in their own communities. 

Ultimately, whether you take action to support our movement or not, just make sure the reason you didn’t was not that you thought it wouldn’t get any worse, because I am tired of saying I told you so.

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

Cameron Driggers is progressive student activist attending the University of Florida. As a highschooler, Cameron led state-wide campaigns to resist anti-queer measures, such as the Don’t Say Gay School Walkouts of 2022.

Presently, Cameron continues to advocate for empowerment of young people to make change as an Organizing Fellow for People Power For Florida.

RELATED
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Viewpoint

Protecting our future: Standing united against attacks on trans kids

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

Published

on

Courtesy of trans activist Landon Richie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coalition Authors: 

Tony Hoang

Executive Director, Equality California

Jodi Hicks

CEO, Planned Parenthood of California

Bamby Salcedo

President and CEO, The TransLatin@ Coalition

Camila Camaleón

President, San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center 

Ezak Perez 

Executive Director, Gender Justice LA

Kathie Moehlig

Executive Director, TransFamily Support Services

Ashley Morris

Organizing Director, ACLU of Northern California

Amanda Goad

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

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

Terra Russell-Slavin

Chief Impact Officer, Los Angeles LGBT Center

Imani Rupert-Gordon

Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Ebony Harper

Executive Director, California TRANscends

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

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

NCTE and TLDEF to create Advocates for Trans Equality

Published

on

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a moment that demanded a bold response. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

Progressive states must become safe havens for LGBTQ teens

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

Published

on

LA LGBT Center (Blade photo by Noah Christiansen)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

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

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

Published

on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to vote them out.

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

Photo Courtesy of Allie Phillips

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

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

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

The one word that always brings Congress together, AIDS

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

Published

on

Los Angeles Blade graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

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

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

Published

on

Photo courtesy of Kara James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

LGBTQ+ community in Kharkiv braces for another winter at war

The LGBTQ+ community in Kharkiv, Ukraine, braces for another winter at war. The city is 30 miles from Russia

Published

on

Kharkiv, Ukraine (Photo by Brian Dooley/Human Rights First)

By Brian Dooley | KHARKIV, Ukraine — Only 30 miles from the Russian border, Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second biggest city and was a key target of Russia’s invasion in February last year, when it was almost encircled.

I have been reporting regularly from Kharkiv since last year’s full-scale invasion, and the city is still often bombed by Russian missiles. United States government officials rarely come here because of the security situation. As temperatures plummet, Russia is targeting Ukraine’s heating infrastructure. 

It hopes to make life unbearable for people in Ukraine’s cities and force another wave of mass movement out of Ukraine and into Poland and other European countries.

Attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid have begun, and some communities in the city have been particularly vulnerable since Russia’s invasion last year, and are facing a difficult winter.

Vasyl Malikov of the Kharkiv-based LGBTQI NGOs Alliance.Global and Spectrum Kharkiv has been distributing packages of hygiene goods, food and vouchers for humanitarian aid since last year. He helped to set up a new shelter for LGBTQI people and their relatives in the city.

“There are government shelters, and the authorities say they don’t discriminate against who uses them, but we know from lived experience that these official shelters aren’t always welcoming places for LGBTQI people. They feel vulnerable and are harassed there,” Malikov said. “We thought about setting up a shelter last year, but the situation seemed too uncertain and it wasn’t that easy to find premises, but we have gone ahead now and we can offer accommodation for up to 16 people to stay for up to three months.”

Some of those in the shelter are fleeing areas of conflict on the front lines, others have fled domestic violence, and others have been driven away by families who refuse to accept them. Some people, in Kharkiv for medical appointments, stay for days, others stay for weeks or months.

The shelter is a large apartment that has a kitchen and a large room where workshops and social events are held.  It is on a block near a metro station which, Malikov says, is a useful place to run to in case of heavy bombardments. 

Crucially, a new generator has arrived, which should heat the shelter during power outages. It’s a dual fuel model that can run on diesel or gas and costs around $2,000.

“This is a safe place for LGBTQI people and their families,” explains Malikov. “We shouldn’t have to set up our own facilities, the authorities should be doing this work, but we have to because they don’t.”

Other NGOs are also filling gaps that local authorities are failing to provide. The NGO Sphere has, since 2006 “been uniting women of Kharkiv, including lesbian and bisexual women.” 

Tucked in a small office near the city center, some of Sphere’s activists described how their work has adapted to meet the challenges of the war.

“We’ve been providing aid for those forced to flee their homes because of the war,” says Yevheniia Ilinska, a long-standing member of the organization. “We’ve raised money from abroad — including from LGBTQ+ groups — to distribute basic supplies. We’ve been handing out clothes, including socks, and have provided some to our military.”

Sphere’s activists say that beyond its obvious damage and destruction to the city, the war is causing “a social revolution:” many men are away from their homes fighting in the military, and many family dynamics are changing dramatically.

The activists fear a spike in domestic violence when soldiers return home, a phenomenon witnessed in other countries.

“The full-scale war significantly aggravates some of the problems that existed before, including gender-based domestic and sexual violence, and discrimination at work,” Sphere notes on its website.

The war has also helped change some attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine. Last September, when the dangers from rocket attacks made an open-air parade impossible, Sphere helped organize a successful Pride event in the city’s metro system.

“We dressed wearing national symbols and LGBT flags,” says Ilinska. “And the public reception was very positive.”

The reaction is more evidence of a positive shift since last year’s invasion in public attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, in part because the community’s contribution to the war effort is increasingly seen and valued. Hopes are high that Ukraine will soon legalize same-sex civic partnerships, and eventually same-sex marriages.

But for now, the cold is an immediate challenge. Sphere is raising funds to offer locals a safe place so that “in the event of rocket attacks and power outages, LGBTQ+ people will be able to stay warm indoors, have a hot drink, take a shower, and do laundry,” says Ilinska.

“We’re constantly adapting our work,” says Ilinska. “Adapting our advocacy and our public events, and our projects on targeting humanitarian aid. Kharkiv is changing and so are we, we have to react to this dramatic crisis, to the invasion, and we’re proving that we and our community can resist,” she said.

For more, see Human Rights First’s new report, Ukraine’s Winter War, written by Maya Fernandez-Powell and myself.

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

Brian J. Dooley is an Irish human rights activist and author. He is Senior Advisor at Washington DC-based NGO Human Rights First. He is a visiting scholar at University College, London (UCL). He is also a prominent human rights voice on Twitter (@dooley_dooley).

From April 2020 to March 2023 he was Senior Advisor to Mary Lawlor, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. He served for eight years as an advisory board member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and was a visiting scholar at John Jay College, City University of New York 2022-2023, and at Fordham University Law School in New York 2019–2020

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

In her own words: Somali singer IDMAN on queerness & family

Musical artist, IDMAN, creates a sonic tableau of hybrid R&B that explores the highs and lows of navigating relationships & life

Published

on

IDMAN (Photo by Tyler Borchhardt/GLAAD)

Toronto native and musical artist, IDMAN, creates a sonic tableau of hybrid R&B that explores the highs and lows of navigating relationships and life. Shaped by her Somali heritage and a deep interest in social activism, IDMAN is a burgeoning singer/songwriter who began honing her skill set in childhood, immersing herself in American pop culture, learning English as a result. Her signature sound is credited to blending both North-American and Somali culture and music, alongside the support of her music collective, Golly Geng, Now, in a personal essay IDMAN is sharing a different kind of tune: her truth.

LOS ANGELES – Imagine that I was a stranger who knocked on your door on a random afternoon and asked: “Who are you when no one’s watching?”

What would you say?

Would I even deserve an answer?

This question will make sense by the end of this letter, but first, I want to tell you a story. 

In 2015, I went on a road trip to Miami for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Trans Justice Miami Power Summit with some close friends and organizer homies. Two of us were hijabis who’d signed up to support our queer/trans family as allies (Talk Valentina). 

A few years before, I was involved in activism where I made some friends while volunteering for a couple of marriage campaigns that ultimately won Mainers the right to same-sex marriage.

Only a select few people knew what I was working on, a family member of mine, her friends, and her father.

It was then that my eyes were opened. 

Her father was really supportive and truly understood MLK’s words: ”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Her father saw me and I respected him dearly for it. He will never know how the nuance and compassion he showed me every time we spoke did so much to counter the narratives I’d been taught about who was or could be tolerant.

The first queer person in my life was my mom’s cousin.

I called her Auntie Guruhbadan, which means beautiful (it was a name I gave her not only to protect her identity but because I couldn’t pronounce her actual name as a five-year-old). I mention her because she made flyers for her wedding and it was the first instance where my father and I had explicitly talked about queerness. 

It was awkward and a bit clumsy but I understood two things: my father was trying to come from a place of respect and was talking from his heart.

A good sign.

The second queer person I knew and loved was my cousin, a trans woman.

She lived in the same building as my grandparents and would come over for meals. She presented as femme and wore traditional Somali dresses, hair coverings, and people honored TF outta her pronouns.

They rationalized the use of her pronouns and transition as the result of a head injury from an accident that would make her fight you if you didn’t use the right pronouns.

Yeah…mmmkay. She had them spooked and it was marvelous.

It never felt confusing or out of the ordinary.

They were some of the only adults I truly felt safe around as a kid. It went against everything I’d heard in the West about back home with issues around queerness and gender.

Later that year, I attended my first Pride as an ally.

It was during a speech when a close friend of mine, a Black Muslim woman, came out and referenced Surah Ar Rahman. She related it to our friendship and our presence there together. And it was at that moment that I truly felt the power of the queer community and the importance of family.

“Queer community and family is something different. It is a favor from God that I cannot deny,” she said.

To my friends Rana, Edric, Benn, Del Mar, and Samaa, I thank you for being the exact right people at the right time, with open hearts enough to care and say something.

Their presence in my life has allowed me to embrace my true self without reservation – a great gift that I came to know. It’s led me to a life full of so much pride and honor that has revealed a rich history and legacy.

Growing up I’d been led to believe that hiding your true self from people not equipped to hold or honor you, meant you were ashamed or embarrassed.

Out-culture has always been something I’ve felt like I’ve had to contend with.

I know there are folks out there who feel that silent, personal protest (the rainbow flag in their bag/under their bed) is sometimes the only safe way to feel connected or affirmed.

I feel as though out-culture has set up a dynamic that pressures young people to choose between access to resources like housing, food, security, and feeling valid or authentic to their identity. I hate the parts of out-culture that tugs at the integrity of those already at the bottom of the totem pole. It has always felt wack to me honestly. 

I believe that everyone has the right to choose how and when to disclose their personal identity.

No one should feel pressured to explain their desires or preferences. It’s essential to nurture a culture of respect and care, focusing on things that truly matter, such as providing resources, safety, and community support. I wish we told queer and trans youth more often that there is no standard within which to measure the authenticity of one’s identity, and that they’re valid whether they decide to come out or not. That the world’s reactions to their truths are not their fault, and that they are no less valid in their identities for deciding to withhold it from those they believe cannot honor them.

Statistics show that LGBTQ+ youth, especially those of color, are disproportionately affected by homelessness.

Out-culture has often perpetuated anti-black, xenophobic, and Islamophobic attitudes. It’s crucial to challenge the idea that queer and trans people owe intimate details of their lives to others.

Ultimately, it’s up to individuals to decide whom they trust with their identities. It’s okay if someone doesn’t get to know all aspects of who we are. We must prioritize personal boundaries and respect for one another.

I believe in the agency to decide who we share what with, and my circles feel warm and they see me wholly. They get the benefit and gift of getting to experience all of me unabashedly and fully disarmed in some cases because they have demonstrated the ability to see and accept my agency.

It’s a shame, it’s a stain and it should be the regret of a lifetime for someone to deny themselves the love of a queer or trans person because they can’t see beyond their own projection.

What a flop.

It is always their loss.

I promise.

I wrote this letter today not out of a need to validate who I am.

I’m not more legit in my queerness for writing this letter.

I’m here to say that you are no less valid for choosing not to deal with all that may come with these choices.

It is just that: a choice.

I’ve been me, and I’ve been galavanting in my truth for years.

It’s just always been with and around those who could honor that much.

And if this letter is vague, I’m sorry that I couldn’t be more unapologetic. I hope everyone who hears me loud and clear knows this much: I love you, I love us.

There are no comments, no DMs, no culturally enforced shame, and nothing that could deter me from being able to say that much.

I wrote this because I could, and I felt safe enough to..

My folks understood me and I believe in my family enough to love them enough to give them the gift and honor of learning to love me as I am in this lifetime. 

I think they got it.

And I know I’ve got the necessary after-care in place if they don’t. I’ve got a community of support to lean on, a career that offers the financial independence to be okay without the support of family and pathways to medical resources to support mental health help and gender affirming care. Because of this access, not only do I feel safer in coming out, I also feel a responsibility to amplify our voices and affirm the many of us who can’t or might not be able to. It feels that much more important to affirm the validity of those who have been made to feel otherwise. Because I know queerness is universal (it should go without saying) and I know our liberation is bound together. From Palestine to Ferguson, Tigray to Toronto we exist as we always have and our freedom is tied together.

Truthfully, this all started with a friend, a pronoun, and the first line of a song, and it felt necessary to tell the story I want to tell artistically with the proper context. By the time my work is done, it’ll all be there. I hope it makes sense to you then.

I hope you understand that I’ll probably never address questions about what I like, who I like, or why I like whatever it is that I do like.

Personally, I don’t know you like that and it’s rude, tuh. I think the world would be a better place if we cared less about surveillance and policing one another and more about the things that matter – if folks are eating, if they feel safe, if they’ve got a roof over their head or solid community and real friendship around them.

Imagine.

So again, when it’s the middle of the night and someone randomly comes knocking at the doors of your boundaries with questions, remember you actually don’t have to answer them and that this is your house!!!

May our hearts remain inaccessible to the untrained or unopened heart, I love you 🤍 

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

The preceding essay was previously published by GLAAD and is republished with permission. The essay was edited by Black queer filmmaker and screenwriter, Sabaah Folayan.

IDMAN’s current singles “Down For It”, “Good Life”, “Look At What I’m Doing To You” and “Hate” have garnered coverage from outlets such as COMPLEX, The Fader, V Magazine, PAPER, Ladygunn, and have generated over 7 million streams.

Recently crowned one of Amazon’s Breakthrough Artists in 2023 and coming off support slots for both Sampa The Great and Ella Mai, IDMAN’s debut EP Risk arrived this summer. Subsequently, a deluxe version, Risk: Reloaded, was released in August and anchored by a remix of Hate featuring Lojay and Highlyy.

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

Trans community demands lawmakers end onslaught of attacks

Black and Brown trans people should be able to live as their most authentic self without fear of transphobic violence and discrimination

Published

on

Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Bria Nelson | Lawrence, KS. – I enjoy living in Kansas. Specifically, Lawrence, Kansas, where I can attend a watercolor painting class at the local plant shop on Wednesday, the weekly drag show on Thursday, and a vintage clothing pop-up on Friday. But despite the beauty of the rolling Flint Hills, there is something ugly happening in the place I call home. Growing hostility towards the transgender and non-binary community is being codified through policies and perpetuated through violence that threatens our basic human rights. 

Rights activists see such rollbacks of hard-fought progress spreading across the US, and we’re bracing for new attacks that will test the country’s purported commitment to equality. The fight is the most grueling for those of us who are from Black and other marginalized communities. 

In the last year, violence claimed the lives of at least 25 transgender and gender non-conforming people in the US, with violence disproportionately affecting Black transgender women. These numbers are most likely underrepresented, as attacks against the LGBTQ+ community often go undocumented.

Black and Brown trans people should be able to live as their most authentic self without fear of transphobic violence and discrimination. 

To add to the growing animus, some states chose to attack transgender rights through legislation rather than protect them. This past June, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, declared a state of emergency after more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in 41 states. Hundreds of these bills specifically targeted transgender people. 

Some of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills would limit the ability to update gender information on identity documents like driver’s licenses and birth certificates, weaken nondiscrimination laws and protections in employment, and restrict free speech and expression through book and drag performance bans. State bills also attempt to restrict access to medically necessary health care including bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth, prohibit access to public accommodations like public bathrooms, and prevent trans students from participating in school activities like sports. While introducing a bill doesn’t mean it will pass, 84 of these draconian measures made it out of committee and have been signed into law.

Even the introduction of these bills perpetuates harmful stigmas and allows misinformation to spread. I have witnessed how harmful the introduction of these bills has been on members of the trans community I am a part of. In Kansas, 14 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced and four were passed into law in the last legislative session. During that time, my trans friends and peers pleaded with conservative lawmakers to respect their dignity and protect their autonomy over their own bodies. Medical experts testified that the mere act of introducing these bills causes great harm to the mental health of transgender people across the state.

One bill, misnamed the Women’s Bill of Rights though it limits protections for transgender women, passed and went into effect on July 1st.  In response, LGBTQ+ activists in Lawrence refused to rest until the City Commission enacted a sanctuary city ordinance, increasing protections for trans people. Despite the immense fear transgender people were feeling in this moment, their message rang loud and clear: LGBTQ+ people have the right to live without fear, and we are not going anywhere.

Make no mistake, allowing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation to be passed sends a message that legitimizes homophobic and transphobic sentiment.  

There are some hopeful signs. Legislation to outlaw the LGBTQ+ panic defense was introduced in nine states as well as in the US House and Senate this year. Under that defense, people charged with violent crime against LGBTQ+ people can get a reduced sentence or evade criminal liability by stating that the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity prompted the violent act. 

As violence against the LGBTQ+ community continues to increase, it is important now more than ever for lawmakers in statehouses across the country and for the federal government to strengthen protections for trans people and especially for the most vulnerable members of this community—Black and Brown trans women. Lawmakers should be recognizing and protecting LGBTQ+ people’s equal dignity under the law. Legislators should support active efforts to quell discrimination, like Kansas’s HB 2178, and codify LGBTQ+ protections. The US Government should also meet its human rights obligations to respond to foreseeable threats to life and bodily integrity, and to address patterns of violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

While activists continue to fight for LGBTQ+ liberation, I am reminded to celebrate the small wins. I remain hopeful when I see young LGBTQ+ people organizing and exercising their right to protest in the name of egalitarianism.  They remind me that pride is not something solely limited to the month of June, but a badge of honor we always carry with us.

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

Bria Nelson is a Researcher and Advocate on Racial Justice and Equity Issues with the Human Rights Watch U.S. Program.  Bria is an attorney and concentrates their research on racial justice and equity issues across the U.S., with a particular focus on reparations for enslavement and its legacies

As a movement lawyer, Bria has also worked to mobilize response and advocacy after the public murder of George Floyd, including undergoing an intensive fellowship training program with Law for Black Lives, an organization focused on grounding movements in Black queer feminism, abolition, and anticapitalism.

Continue Reading

Viewpoint

Now the trans erasure police are coming after theater kids

There is no sane or logical way to rationalize this move. Gender has been completely irrelevant in theater dating to ancient Greece

Published

on

Sherman High School Bearcat Theater student, Max Hightower (centre, plaid shirt) & fellow theater kids. (Screenshot/CBS affiliate KXII 12)

HOLLYWOOD – A dad’s open letter….

Let’s face it. With transphobic people, it is never “about” what they say it is about. With trans girls participating in sports, they said it was about the inherent physical superiority of male biology to female biology. They said they cared about the “threat” against girls’ sports. They said it was about how creatively ambitious boys were about to take them over. “The women’s issue of our time is the idea that we have biological boys playing in girls sports,” Nikki Haley wailed. 

“We wonder why a third of our teen girls seriously contemplated suicide last year,” she then brainlessly pondered over an issue that had nothing to do with trans girls effect. 

It is estimated there are about fifty transgender women in college sports, and less than a hundred in all other public education sports. There are approximately 8 million women in college, and 26 million girls in elementary and high school. Do the math. There is literally no problem even if trans women and girls dominated every sport in which they participated, which they don’t.

This is about a concerted effort at erasure. They want trans kids to be invisible, to be not in existence. They are starting with sports, but they are not stopping there.

“First they came for the trans athletes, and I did not speak out…”  Now they are coming for… wait for it… the trans theater kids.

In a Los Angeles Blade story Monday, which has since gone viral, it was reported that a Sherman, Texas high schooler has been removed from a production of Oklahoma for being trans. The statement by the Sherman Independent School District is as nonsensical as it is outrageous. “It was brought to the District’s attention that the current production contained mature adult themes, profane language, and sexual content.”

Oklahoma. Rogers and Hammerstein. Rated G everywhere from Australia, to Japan, to the US. Winds howling down the plains, and in full disclosure, “a girl who can’t say no.” 

It is about as “adult themed” as trans women are a threat to teen girls, which is to say, not at all. Clearly the only issue Sherman Independent cares about is the casting of the young trans man.

There is no sane or logical way to rationalize this move. Gender has been completely irrelevant in theater dating to ancient Greece, through the Shakespearean era to modern day. Play a drinking game and take a shot over every actor or actress that has played a part other than ones that match their gender “assigned at birth” and you’ll be drunk before you finish reading this article.

Sherman Independent is so blatantly discriminatory that they do not even feign ignorance of this cultural norm. They specifically state that they are only using it as an excuse in this instance. “Because the nature and subject matter of productions vary, the District is not inclined to apply this criteria to all future productions.” Translation: if a cisgender girl wants to play a male part, that is ok. If a transgender boy wants to play a male part, that is forbidden.

Here is my open letter to the administrators of the Sherman Independent School District:

Dear Sherman Independent,

     I write this as the dad of two sons already through high school. I write this as a parent who advocated for his kids for 12 years and fought tooth and nail for them to be able to excel and become educated within the freedom to be the best versions of themselves.  I know firsthand that trying to educate a child in a way that is foreign to who they are, is a fruitless, and often unwinnable uphill battle.

   Speaking as a parent for all parents, I ask this sincerely, please write a new letter to replace the statement you released.  This letter can be very simple, and concise. Just write:

    “Dear parents. We the administration resign. We are not fit to be trusted with your kids. Not the transgender kids, not the cisgender ones either.”

   As a former theater kid myself, I can tell you that participating in one’s high school theater production can be an absolute gift. It can teach you to put yourself in the shoes of another being who is not you. It can teach you empathy. It can teach you to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Through that experience to explore character, it can teach you who you are.

In high school I played a sailor who dies at sea, I played a villain, and I played Carl Sandburg. I was assigned none of those things at birth. And no one asked to look into my underpants as a condition of my casting.

  Clearly, learning empathy, or an ability to look at the world through another’s eyes are lessons you yourself never learned. This alone makes you unqualified to teach kids. 

  We need to have kids who care about others, who celebrate differences, and thrive on diversity. You cannot teach what you do not know.

  You appear to only know how to cave to your own fear.  You encounter something new and you seek to erase it. The problem is, too many like you have done that to trans kids, and those kids suffer and end up literally erasing themselves.

  They are beautiful, and we cannot have you doing that to them. So, please, go.

Before you go, you might want to catch a rehearsal of the show you cancelled and hear them say this line, “Resilience is woven deeply into the fabric of Oklahoma. Throw us an obstacle, and we grow stronger.”

When you hear it, just know, the same thing can be said of Queer Kids and their allies.

We grow stronger.

Sincerely, 

A Dad

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

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

Continue Reading

Popular