Category > LGBT Health and Rights
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Mar 11, 2014
A ton of marriage equality news has been breaking so far this year; so much that you may have missed some important stories! So here’s a quick look at seven states that have made important advances.
January 14th- U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern ruled that the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on marriage equality violates the US Constitution. In his ruling, he cited the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which specifies that states must guarantee that all citizens are treated equally under the law. Judge Kern chose to stay his decision, so couples in Oklahoma won’t be able to marry just yet. The case will face an appeals court within the next few months.
January 23rd- Virginia’s new Attorney General, Mark Herring, a Democrat who replaced the odious Ken “the Cooch” Cuccinelli last November, announced that his office will no longer defend the state’s ban on marriage equality. Soon after being elected, he had his staff review Bostic v. Rainey, the case challenging the ban. Interestingly, the case is being argued by David Boies and Ted Olson, the team that brought California’s Prop 8 case to the Supreme Court and won. Herring came to the conclusion that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, and offered his support to all “couples whose right to marry is being denied.”
February 14th- US District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. The ruling overturned a 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying. The judge’s decision also called for Virginia to recognize marriages performed in states where marriage equality the legal. Because traditionalists promised to appeal the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Wright Allen chose to stay her decision, pending the outcome of the appeal.
February 10th- Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced in a motion to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that state’s legal arguments supporting their ban on marriage equality were no longer valid. In a statement, Masto explained that “after thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable.” Amazingly, the state’s Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval (who is running for re-election this November), supports the Attorney General’s decision. In a statement to the press, Sandoval announced that “based upon the advice of the attorney general’s office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court.”
February 12th- U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn ruled that Kentucky must recognize all marriages performed legally in other states. In his decision, he wrote that the state’s ban on marriage equality treats “gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.”
March 4th- Kentucky’s Attorney General, Democrat Jack Conway, announced that he would not appeal Judge Heyburn’s ruling. He told a local newspaper his decision was about “putting people over politics,” and that “defending discrimination” was not something he was willing to do. Less than an hour after Conway announced his intentions to the press, Kentucky’s Governor, Steve Beshear (also a Democrat, though clearly a conservative one), announced that he will be taking on outside council to fight the ruling. In a truly ridiculous statement to the Associate Press, he claimed that if he didn’t defend the ban, “legal chaos [will be] real” in Kentucky. The state has until March 20th to file an appeal.
February 19th- Nine same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in state court to challenge Colorado’s 2006 constitutional ban on marriage equality. They argue that the ban violates due process and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. The suit also challenges the state’s 2013 civil unions law on the basis that it “fails to grant gay and lesbian couples legal status equal to heterosexual couples.” Colorado’s Republican Attorney General, John Suthers, intends to defend the ban in court. If you ask me, he should take advantage of the state’s recent legalization of marijuana. It’s hard to hate anyone when you’re high on pot.
February 20th- Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum submitted a legal filing to US District Judge Michael McShane, announcing that she will not defend the 2004 constitutional ban on marriage equality in court. She claimed the ban “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.” Judge McShane is hearing a case against the ban. While this process continues, marriage supporters have been gathering signatures to add an initiative to November’s ballot that would overturn the discriminatory law. These kinds of initiatives have only recently been successful and the hope is that if the issue is put to the voters, it will follow that trend. Currently, supporters are close to their signature goal to move the initiative forward.
February 26th- US District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas’ 2005 ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. He wrote that same-sex couples who cannot marry are facing “state sanctioned discrimination, stigma, and humiliation.”
“Furthermore, Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from passing legislation born out of animosity against homosexuals (Romer), has extended constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals (Lawrence), and prohibits the federal government from treating state-sanctioned opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently (Windsor).”
Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for Governor this November against Wendy Davis, quickly announced that he will defend the ban, claiming that because it’s law it should stay law. Davis’ statement was much more logical. “I believe that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry.”
And believe it or not, Texans agree with her. The 2013 Equality Poll, conducted by Equality Texas, shows that more Texans support marriage equality than oppose it. Admittedly, supporters outnumber homophobes by only 0.4 percent (47.9% to 47.5%) but coming from Texas, that’s a big deal. Support for marriage equality rose 5.2 percent from 2010, and support for recognizing out-of-state marriages is up to 52 percent, an increase of 3.6 percent from 2010. The idea of a Purple Texas is seeming less and less out of reach.
Mar 7, 2014
Advocates for Youth condemns the multiple instances of disturbing government actions aimed at denying the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons that have recently taken place in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and almost in Arizona, right here in the U.S. We will speak out against such intolerance and bigotry. This complete disregard for human rights and we will not let it go unnoticed or unchecked.
Urooj Arshad, Associate Director of International Youth Health and Rights at Advocates for Youth, spoke with Richard, an LGBT youth activist who lives in Nigeria. On the 14th of January, the President of Nigeria, Ebele Goodluck Jonathan, assented to the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill passed by the National Assembly criminalizing gay relationships. The law further criminalizes the witnessing or aiding of same sex relationships, the direct or indirect public show of same sex “amorous relationship” as well as registering, operating or participating in gay clubs, societies and organizations. Since the signing of the Nigerian law, a number of people have been arrested in Nigeria.
Despite the dire circumstances and the threat of real danger on the ground, Richard is still doing, and plans to keep doing advocacy work.
- Q: What does this moment in history mean for you?
A: This moment means to me the fact that the world is moving but sadly in the wrong direction. It is of total disbelief because I sincerely , like every other optimistic person, hope that by 21st century we would have progressed with healthy debates that enhances the existence of man and freedom for all. The reverse is the case as we in the 21st century are still struggling to accept one another and show love to everyone. The good thing about this is that it would go down in history as the time when oppression towards LGBTQ people took a scaring leap but it became an awesome opportunity for LGTBQ to organise, become more strengthened and made an impact. Because you believe that this is the best time for LGBTQ people to stand up and ensure that their voices are heard and their rights respected and protected.
- Q: Why are you still doing the work even when the threat of danger has increased?
A: The reason I am still doing the work is because the threat is increasing, it is because there is still discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and it is because oppression is taking a new and dangerous turn. I strongly believe now is the time to fight and get it right. As the threat to danger increases so do I feel I need to do more as I believe in the future not just for myself but for every other young LGBTQ person growing up.
- Q: What do you want people to know about Nigeria, even in the midst of this conflict?
A: I want people to know that Nigeria is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I want people to know that Nigeria is not occupied only by bigots, ignorant and violent people. Nigeria does have a fair share of beautiful people, intelligent people and people who are committed to the advancement of humanity. Nigeria, ofcourse, is going through hard times but the truth is, Nigeria would win and Freedom would apply to all Nigerians very soon regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Q: How will young people lead the way out of this?
A: Young people are already leading the way and they are already speaking up. They are organising and they are using very creative ways to achieve results and yes it is working. We won’t see the results now but very soon it would be crystal clear. Young people are energetic, determined, committed, creative and very instrumental to change and yes it’s important they are part of this and the good news is that they are already, we only wait to see the bright future when freedom is applicable to everyone.
Mar 5, 2014
A court in Lebanon has made a historic ruling stating same-sex relations are NOT “contradicting the laws of nature” and cannot therefore be considered a crime. The judge threw out a case brought against a transgender woman by the Lebanese state on January 28, 2014 but only published today.
Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits having sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature,” which is punishable by up to a year in prison. However, Lebanese LGBT organization, “Helem” argued that, “Homosexuality is an exception to the norms but not unnatural… therefore article 534 cannot be used against homosexuals, and therefore, technically, homosexuality is not illegal.”
Moreover, Last year the Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) ruled that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated. It stated, “The assumption that homosexuality is a result of disturbances in the family dynamic or unbalanced psychological development is based on wrong information.”
The more such rulings happen, the more irrelevant becomes article 534. Baby steps for LGBT rights in Lebanon, but a great step in the right direction. I hope this can be replicated in other Arab states which have similar legislation.
Read more: Link
Mar 5, 2014
Over the past months so much has happened in the LGBT community around the world:
1. President Obama continues to gives stern warning to countries that criminalizes homosexual.
2. Other World leaders making a vivid statement as it regards to the recent winter Olympics in either not showing up or openly condemning Russia’s law which criminalizes public expression of LGBT advocates.
3. The passing of new Anti-Gay law in Uganda .
4. The World Bank postponing a $90 million health project for Uganda citing the country’s passage of a new anti-gay law, “We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law.
5. US Secretary of State John Kerry calling for a world “where professing one’s love does not lead to persecution.”
6. Actress, Whoopi Goldberg has accused the governments of Uganda and Nigeria of being ‘on the wrong side of history’ in response to anti-gay laws being passed in the two countries.
7. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stating that “homosexuals are not criminals” and shouldn’t be sentenced for up to life in prison. Therefore he is calling for the repeal of its severe penalties.
8. The Pope, Francis has made a point of reaching out to gays, famously saying: “Who am I to judge?”
9. LaBarbera an Anti-Gay Pastor is reported to have travelled to Jamaica to speak at an anti-gay conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Coalition.
Hillary Clinton’s speech on international LGBT issues was game changing years ago. A historic address of this magnitude was desperately needed to counter the rising tide of backwards and barbaric nations that had recently been persecuting LGBT people to distract from their glaring problems.
“I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today,” said Clinton to a packed auditorium of human rights activists who gathered in Geneva for International Human Rights Day. “I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”
I close in saying, It’s not time to kill the gays and I don’t think there should ever be a time when we want to kill the gays as they are humans just like everyone else who identifies themselves as something else. Let’s continue to work to preserve human rights and never give up in this fight.
Feb 27, 2014
The past few weeks have seen dozens of news stories reporting on various states trying to pass segregation-style, LGBT discrimination bills, each under the duplicitous guise of ensuring “religious freedom.” There has also been nearly as much coverage on the several states moving forward to overturn their bans on marriage equality. (Look out for that round-up next week!) All of this information coming out at once can be confusing, and a lot of important facts can be missed or overlooked in all the excitement. To help sort it all out, I decided to put everything you need to know in one place. Here’s what’s been happening:
States that have already failed to pass discrimination bills: Arizona, Kansas, South Dakota, Idaho, Tennessee, and Maine.
Arizona: Last week, by votes of 17-13 in the Senate and 33-27 in the House, Arizona passed an LGBT segregation bill that would “allow anyone to refuse to provide services to anyone for any reason as long as they claim it violates their religious beliefs.” The big question then became whether Republican Governor Jan Brewer would sign or veto the legislation. The governor, who has been tight-lipped on the topic for the past several days, has received over 20,000 emails, letters, and phone calls about the bill, and met privately on Wednesday with groups of both supporters and opponents.
On Wednesday evening, Brewer announced that after “careful deliberation,” she had vetoed the bill, which she said, “could divide Arizona in ways we could not even imagine and no one would ever want.”
Kansas: Earlier this month, the Kansas House of Representatives passed HB 2453, igniting a national outcry accusing the state of trying to legalize segregation based on sexual orientation. The bill would not only have allowed private businesses (such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters) to deny service to gay people, but extended that right to include public services.
Had the bill passed the Senate (it was voted down, largely due to public pressure) it would have allowed police officers to ignore 911 calls, let hospitals turn away patients seeking emergency care, and permitted schools to deny students education. It also would have forced anyone suing for discrimination, an act they were all but guaranteed to lose, to pay all of their opponent’s legal fees.
South Dakota: Senator Phil Jensen proposed a bill that would have allowed private businesses with religious-based homophobic views to deny services to gay people. As long as they did not incite violence, any action based on their religious views would be protected from any lawsuit. Anyone being sued on this basis would be guaranteed to have their case argued by the attorney general. Luckily, the bill never made it out of committee.
Idaho: Representative Lynn Luker proposed two bills, both of which he eventually pulled from consideration after receiving significant pressure. The first bill was basically a copy of the Kansas bill. Both private businesses and public services could deny service or assistance to gay people and anyone who wanted to sue would be held liable for their opponent’s legal fees.
The second bill would have done two things. 1) Ban the state from ever passing an ENDA-style bill in the future, which would make workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity illegal, and 2) Ban all private organizations from enforcing their own anti-discrimination policies within the state. Among other things, this would mean that a doctor could refuse to treat a gay patient, even though the American Medical Association bans such discrimination, or that a college professor could kick gay students out of class, even if the university they work for has a non-discrimination policy.
Tennessee: Senator Mike Bell introduced a bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee that would allow any private business to refuse any service related to gay couples in a domestic partnership or marriage, even though Tennessee does not recognize marriages between same-sex couples. Bell claimed he was trying to protect shop owners from lawsuits that businesses in other states have faced for discriminatory policies, but a law like this is unnecessary in a state that already allows discrimination. Getting sued isn’t a problem if what you’re doing is legal. Bell eventually pulled the bill from consideration.
Maine: LD 1428, sponsored by Senator David Burns, stated that “no state law could infringe on a person’s exercise of religion unless that law constituted a ‘compelling state interest.’” It failed along party-lines in both chambers, being defeated 89-52 in the House and 19-16 in the Senate.
States that are still trying to pass discrimination bills: Georgia and Mississippi.
Georgia: The “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act,” (HB 1023 and SB 377) has seen mixed results from the Georgia legislature. The bill would allow “private business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to deny service to gay customers.” HB 1023 is currently before the House Judiciary Committee, yet Judiciary Chair Wendell Willard has said he “can’t see” the bill moving to the House floor for a vote, at least during the current session.
The Senate version of the bill, however, passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee last Friday. The Senate has until Monday to put it to a full floor vote. If they don’t, they will have passed the “Crossover Day” deadline, the date by which the bill would need to pass at least one of the chambers in order to continue to be considered.
Mississippi: On January 31st, the Senate unanimously passed SB 2681, a “religious freedom” bill that would allow both private and public businesses to refuse services and/or employment to gay people based on religious bias. The bill is currently before the House Judiciary Committee, where it is facing harsh scrutiny.
Senator David Clount, a Democrat who voted for the bill, claimed that he was “unaware” that the bill could be used to discriminate against gay people. He tried to suggest that he (and all of his Democratic colleagues) thought they were voting on a bill to add “In God We Trust” to the state seal. This argument loses all credibility (as if it had any to begin with) when you consider that the language about altering the state seal was added as an amendment to the discrimination bill, meaning it was clearly not the sole intention of the bill they were voting on.
Feb 26, 2014
I normally prefer to circulate stories on issues facing queer youth (homelessness, bullying, health disparities, etc.) over ones on queer marriage, but this ruling resonated with me. Despite the rise of a progressive, urban population in Texas, the state still symbolizes conservative politics and culture to me. If the ruling can pass the appeal process, it will be the first state in the South to allow queer marriage.
graphic via Texas Democrats
Feb 21, 2014
While everyone’s gasping in shock, I would like to state that it is a well-known fact that Piers Morgan was never hugged as a child. And that is why he’s such an insensitive d*ckbag.
Jesse Williams spoke about the Michael Dunn trial and it was perfect. Seriously, I got chills from all the truth he was handing out.
Feb 19, 2014
“…The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust…A crime is a crime for a reason. A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love. This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence…”
This incredibly brilliant piece by Adichie makes me want to scream with joy from the highest building. I am so glad she took time to address this. She did a great job too. The excerpt above is my favourite part of the article because it addresses the core problem of any anti-LGBT legislation. How can actions which affect no one but the individuals involved be labeled a crime and legislated?
In Nigeria’s case it’s so frustrating because as she also pointed out, there are SO MANY other issues plaguing the nation, but the government has chosen to focus on something that isn’t even a problem.
Well done Chimamanda! Well done!
I was a bit disheartened when I saw the negative comments, but then I reminded myself that there will always be hate directed towards one group of people or another. There will always be people who choose to remain ignorance and embrace their preconceived notions regardless of the information provided to them.
The real concern is freedom. If one is free to love who one wants, marry whom one wants, what does it matter if people think it is wrong? Everyone is entitled to their opinions.
Feb 17, 2014
I recently had the privilege of receiving a scholarship to attend the last day of the inaugural “Time to THRIVE: HRC Foundation’s Inaugural National Conference Promoting Safety, Inclusion and Well-Being for LGBTQ Youth…Everywhere” here in Las Vegas, Nevada. The experience was one that serves as a reminder that our movement is nothing without our youth, a reminder that I hope the organizers keep with them as they plan next year’s conference.
They had made a plea for about 100 local youth to attend their last day which their ‘Youth Day’. I, of course, applied. I was excited to go and attend workshops that would help me widen my tool kit to serve fellow youth. Little did I know, youth were given TWO workshops to attend. The two workshops that youth were expected to go to were The Trevor Project’s Lifeguard Workshop for Youth and How To Have An Awesome GSA. Those were limiting for myself and the group of people that I attended with from our local LGBTQ Center. I’m a rebel, so I wandered off and attended the workshops that were geared towards adults and not at all inclusive of youth. While I went to other workshops, I quickly noticed that there seemed to be a lack of youth representation and voices in these workshops that were TALKING about how to better serve youth. I went in search of a people of color (POC) space after I attended my first workshop which was made up of almost entirely older white males. The POC workshop I found was hosted by an HRC employee that I am very fond of, and I found the most powerful and substantial number of young queer people of color in that room than I had the entire day I had been there.
Throughout the day, I was grateful I got the chance to have this experience. However, I couldn’t help feeling incredibly tokenized. We were the obligatory youth that they carted in on the last day of the conference, rather than having our voices present the entire time. If you are having a conference on how to better include, protect, and empower LGBTQ youth, you need to INCLUDE LGBTQ youth. While I know the conference was geared towards youth-serving professionals, we must not forget the youth-serving youth whom are out there doing the heavy work, not only for themselves, but for the youth that surround them.
I know that this is the first Time To Thrive, and I write this blog out of respect for the progress that this conference has and will hopefully continue to make. I hope that next year, the organizers will do a better job at including the local community and its youth for the entire conference, not just a divisive and condescending ‘youth day’. We cannot discredit or underestimate the amount of power that our youth and POC have. If we want to promote safety and inclusion of our young LGBTQ people, we need to include them in the process. Our collective movement is a better movement when we work hand-in-hand.
Feb 12, 2014
I had the pleasure of being present at a forum about Rights and Religion at the University of the West Indies recently. I arrived late but I was pleased by not only the large turnout of students, lecturers and other individuals but also by how engaging and vibrant the discussions were. The forum was particularly aimed at LGBT rights and issues. In Jamaica, the topic is generally considered taboo so it would have warmed every Human Rights activist’s heart to see such a response on one of the major universities in the country.
I was present for the last hour of the two hour session and the discussions ranged from sexual comparisons of incest, pedophilia and bestiality to HIV prevalence amount MSMs to one person’s claim that the gay rights movement in Jamaica could cause a sexual apartheid. Much to the obvious annoyance of the host (and myself I must admit) the questions were answered and the discussions continued.
Perhaps I arrived too late but while I was present there was one theme that was highlighted throughout the discussions and that is sex. It surprised me how much heterosexuals place so much emphasis on same sex intercourse as if your sexual orientation is determined by who you have sex with.
The HIV/AIDS argument by the anti-gay side of the debate bothered me immensely. They proposed the argument that homosexual men should not be tolerated because of the HIV/AIDS rate among men who have sex with men. Many went as far as to mention statistics from UNAIDS and organizations alike to support their claims. It’s interesting how much individuals can alter interpretation of statistics and in some cases ignore other statistics to enhance their points.
The intention of the HIV statistics presented by these organizations is to provide information about the groups affected by the virus and provide solutions on how to reduce and stop its spread in these groups. For example the HIV preventative methods for young adolescents would be different from the strategies used to tackle the spread among sex workers and men who have sex with men.
The anti-gay group used the statistics to argue that gay men should be intolerable and marginalized. I have a huge problem with this. I noted at the forum that in an act to prove their points individuals would become unsympathetic, not only toward homosexuals but unsympathetic in general. To compare homosexuality to pedophilia is degrading and it trivializes the act of pedophilia. Consenting sex between individuals cannot and should not be compared to rape, and yes, I will argue that pedophilia is a form of rape. However, that is ignored when the debate rages on by the anti-gay group.
That same apathy is given to persons living with HIV. To say that gay men should not be accepted because there is a high rate of HIV infections within the MSM group is unnecessary, offensive and discriminatory. They are suggesting that to reduce the HIV infection rate, these men should be isolated and their ‘lifestyle’ should be rejected. Since when is an HIV prevention method the intolerance of persons living with HIV? Isn’t that discrimination? Haven’t we passed that stage of thinking over ten years ago? Are we losing our sense of humanity?
The argument sounds rational to them because is supports their fight against homosexuals. Maybe they would see the absurdity of their claims if the noun was to be changed. If I wallowed in ignorance, based on the line of reasoning, I could easily say that women should be marginalized and scorned because they are the group with the highest percentage of HIV infections (this is a fact in the Caribbean). However, I am far too intelligent to know that is not the way to go. I know the ways to reduce HIV infections is by promoting condom usage and safe sex, among other methods. I know the importance of getting tested and knowing your status. Discriminating against those living with the infection is a primitive way of thinking. To reduce the rate of HIV infections among MSM, policies and laws must be put in place to ensure that these men have access to facilities and of course, promote the use of condoms.
Feb 10, 2014
A week ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Creating Change 2014, organized by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Houston, Texas. Although this was my second time attending this conference, my excitement was surprisingly higher than last year’s, thanks to this year’s keynote speaker being Laverne Cox. I have become a huge fan of Cox the moment I saw her on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out big time). Ever since, I started following her on social media and kept up with all of her appearances on TV and in other media outlets. The qualities I admire the most about Cox are her high level of intelligence, exceptional eloquence and fierce poise. I was so lucky to listen to her live during Creating Change’s opening plenary where she delivered a speech that was out of this world. She did not leave a single issue facing the transgender community without mentioning it, especially when it comes to transgender women of color, whom she represents so well. I especially loved the point she raised, saying, “The conversation about trans people in mainstream media has centered on transition and surgery.” Cox explained that limiting our trans conversations to transition and surgery objectifies trans women and does not leave us room to discuss the myriad of pressing issues that face the trans community today. This is exactly what happened on CNN with Piers Morgan a few days ago when he interviewed Janet Mock, who is another incredible trans activist. Instead of focusing on Mock’s newly released memoire “Redefining Realness,” Morgan bombarded her with questions about her physical transition and romance life. The next day, Mock came to his show again to explain how his show attempted to sensationalize her story instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. In her speech at Creating Change, Laverne Cox talked in length about the many injustices trans people, especially trans women of color, face nowadays, including violence, discrimination in the workplace and lack of healthcare access. In Cox’s words, “Healthcare for trans people is a necessity. It is not elective, it is not cosmetic, it is life-saving… But we are more than our bodies.” I remember the entire audience standing up and clapping after she articulated these powerful words.
I truly loved how this year’s Creating Change gave more space for the conference attendees to discuss the issues facing transgender people and learn more about this marginalized community. I personally attended the screening of “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” which is a documentary film about Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. The film is very touching and eye opening to the serious struggles of trans women of color. I also attended a workshop entitled “Transgender People Unite Against Hate and Violence” in which Bamby was one of the panelists. The panel was very informative about the various forms of violence that transgender people experience, not only on the streets and in the workplace, but also at home and from the police. This workshop made me realize that there is not enough data available to us in order to reflect trans people’s struggles, thus making trans activism especially hard. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, “of the 25 documented anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2012, 53.8% of the victims were transgender women. [Moreover], transgender people were 1.67 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation, 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence, and transgender people of color were 2.46 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police.” The reality is very sad for trans people, especially trans women of color. But I am so happy that Creating Changed highlighted this community’s struggles and made room for us to share solutions and success stories. There is a lot more we can do, but visibility is a great step in the right direction.
Feb 6, 2014
Piers Morgan continues to believe he’s in the right. This is his response to Janet Mock’s calling him out for the way he sensationalized her story and experiences.
Instead of really discussing her lived reality as a woman of color, especially as a trans woman of color, he obsesses over her past relationships and anatomy.
He told her: “…you used to be yourself a man.”
The on-screen captions of the discussion is ridiculous.
From a Buzzfeed article, Janet Mock says:
“My book is not about Aaron or my relationship, but that’s the most sensational thing they want to pull out,” she said. “They’re not talking about my advocacy or anything like that, it’s just about this most sensationalized … meme of discussion of trans women’s lives: ‘We’re not real women, so therefore if we’re in relationships with men we’re deceiving them.’ So, it just feeds into those same kinds of myths and fears that they spread around, which leads to further violence of trans women’s bodies and identities.”
The on-screen line that she “was a boy until age 18” reflected “bad judgment” and “reductive thinking about gender,” she said.
“What they’re saying is, ‘Only until I got the surgery, then I was a woman,’” she said.
But, she said, the interview — for better and worse — is part of want she chose to do by “going out of the bubble” and being public with her story.
“This is my first mainstream television show, was that moment, with Piers Morgan, and you see what they did to my story. Compared to a moment if I’m on Melissa Harris-Perry, which is slightly different, a more sensitive and safe space. But I go onto Piers Morgan, and all of my followers and everyone are like, ‘What is this?’” she said. But, she noted, “It’s also more representative of the ignorance that there is about trans people’s lives. We’re out of the safe bubble of social justice.”
On that same Buzzfeed article, you’ll see many of the responses Piers Morgan vomited on Twitter.
One example being: “As for all the enraged transgender supporters, look at how STUPID you’re being. I’m on your side, you dimwits. @janetmock”
Feb 1, 2014
Nicole Maines and her family have been challenging Nicole’s school system for years after the Orono school district forced her to use a staff bathroom rather than the girls’ restroom. Recently, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the bathroom bath violates the Maine Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
I don’t know what Nicole is feeling, but I cannot imagine the additional stress of having to navigate the legal system for her own rights, in addition to growing up largely in the public spotlight. While currently Nicole might be comfortable with anyone who reads a local newspaper knowing she is transgender, I wonder the implications for her later in life. If she decides to no longer identify as trans* or share her past with anyone, it will be difficult to keep this part of her experience to herself. Myself and other transgender individuals are grateful for Nicole’s bravery for making this a public issue, and hopefully journalists will respect her privacy.
Jan 26, 2014
Sex education is a mechanism by which some high schools disseminate knowledge to students about proper sexual behaviors. As a form of biopolitical management, sex education tells students how to behave healthily, thereby labeling certain behaviors as worthy of health, while marking other behaviors for death. While the content delivered in classrooms varies, most sex education classes fail to include the identities and experiences of students who experience alternative (nonheterosexual-only) sexual attractions or gender identities. By leaving out the students who have non-heterosexual desires, most sex education curricula mark sexual minority students – students who may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning their sexual identity, whom I will refer to using the umbrella term “queer” – as unworthy of health and life, and instead, send the message that these students are marked for death.
Students in high schools around the country are exposed to a wide variety of sex education models. In liberal schools, students are taught that abstaining from sex is the only sure way to prevent sex, but that if they are going to have sex, they should use physical protection to avoid contracting an STI and getting pregnant; these sex education models are labeled as comprehensive sexuality education curricula (CSEC). During the 1970′s and 1980’s, the federal government and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention began funding research to determine which sex education models were most effective in preventing teen pregnancy, the spread of STD’s, and delaying students’ first sexual experiences; proof of efficacy earned these programs the “Evidence-Based” label (Lamb 448, 449, SIECUS 1). During President George W. Bush’s administration, there was a surge to have schools teach sex education that focused only on promoting teen abstinence, and the Center for Disease Control discontinued its research (SIECUS 1). Before the research program was discontinued in 2002, 31 sex education programs had been proven effective in preventing pregnancy and STD’s in young people, and in delaying its participants’ first sexual experiences.
In Colorado, schools that teach sex education are required to teach comprehensive sexuality education (Duran 2). Further, they are required to teach education models that are evidence-based, as these are the best models for ensuring beneficial impact on student’s sexual outcomes (Duran 2). While the recommendation makes sense as a blanket measure for helping all school districts choose effective curriculum, asking schools to use evidence-based models means asking teachers to use material that was written and tested over a decade ago, and most of these curricula do not address needs specific to queer youth (Evidence-Based Programs). The dearth of new, queer-inclusive material that is certifiable limits students’ access to biopower that values all student sexualities, and continues to propagate necropolitical construction of queer sexualities.
After reviewing some of the social and political messages present in most sexual education curriculum, which regulate and discipline adolescent queer sexuality, some important questions arise for the future: How can we integrate queer student’s stories in classroom without pathologizing, quantifying and labeling them? How can we get regulating and disciplining biopower out of our classrooms? And how can we generate a different set of ideals for outcomes of a quality sex education model? As we look toward a future of gender, sexual and sex equity, I advocate for a discussion-based, youth-driven, sex positive sex education curriculum. As students become empowered to discuss – without fear, shame or disciplining – the variety of sexual experiences and ways of feeling available to all folks, sexual divisions and privileges will start to melt away. Once we remove disciplinary and regulatory forces from classrooms where young people’s identities are expected to blossom, we will open up a world for them in which more of their sexual choices are based on feelings of rightness, and rather than on the politics they learned in the classroom.
A Brief History of Federal Funding for Sex Education and Related Programs. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, 2010.
Duran, Crisanta. A Bill for an Act Cincerning Human Sexuality Education. Tran. House of Representatives. Bill ed. 1081 Vol. CO: State, 2013. Print.
Lamb, Sharon. “Just the Facts? the Separation of Sex Education from Moral Education.” Educational Theory 63.5 (2013): 443-60. Print.
Jan 24, 2014
Many of you might not be familiar with the reality show train wreck known as The Real L Word. It’s also created by Ilene Chaiken, which might explain its problematic nature. The entire series, reality show included, has a HUGE biphobia problem.
This article by Autostraddle discusses the issue, which is both internalized by a bisexual cast member and perpetuated by a few other lesbians. I find it so ironic that a community which is supposed to be known for its openness discriminates against others so savagely.
There are so many people on TV and the internet these days talking about how everything a white person does or says to a black person can be called racism. Well you know what? It’s Friday and I’m not about to give myself another headache by thinking about all the people who refuse to educate themselves. Let’s face it. Unless you’re part of a group that claims to be facing discrimination, you do not have a right to tell said group that they are wrong because you will NEVER see things from their perspective.
That aside, I think Richard Sherman is right to say that “Thug” is the new n-word. A lot of people care more about being viewed as PC instead of caring about their actual words and actions. They see others suffer the consequences of using the n-word and then come up with creative ways to say what they actually mean.
It’s 2014 people. How about becoming decent human beings?
Usually I have a problem with non-Nigerians bashing Nigeria because I think that the country’s citizens and residents are the only ones who understand what’s going on. And by that I’m referring to situations where people lump us all into a group of bum-scratching ignorants or try to prescribe a cure without a thorough diagnosis. In this case however, I whole heartedly agree. It is shameful that the Nigerian government has chose to focus on an issue that does not require their attention AT ALL, instead of fixing the million other countries. Two words Goodluck Jonathan – Boko Haram.
- Katie Couric is kind of a d-bag to trans people -Carmen Carrera’s Quest to Become a Victoria’s Secret Angel;‘Orange is the New Black’s’ Laverne Cox
In the clips above, Katie interviews Carmen Carrera and keeps trying to talk about Carmen’s genitals even though she expresses her desire not to and steers the conversation towards topics she feels are more appropriate, such as her career and life goals. Couric does not stop until Laverne Cox steps in, informing Couric that, “the preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans people.” Yay Laverne! Can’t wait for season 2 of OINTNB.
It is quite clear that Couric’s motive for inviting Carmen on the show was to sensationalize her transition. She did not seem to have a genuine interest in her as a person.
Jan 23, 2014
Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)
Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members
As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.
We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.
From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.
I consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.
As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.
I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.
My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.
However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.
On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.
Jan 22, 2014
(reposted from USAToday, David Jackson, click for original and full post – Image of President Obama: Charles Dharapak – AP)
President Obama has put out his annual statement on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, praising the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down anti-abortion laws.
“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom,” Obama said in a statement.
The president said he also wants to re-affirm commitments to “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children.”
Jan 21, 2014
My mother called me this morning to tell me to be careful. She told me not to admit my affiliation with the LGBTQ community to any of my countrymen for fear of what they might do to me upon my return. You see, my country, Nigeria, has taken it upon itself to pass a law that sentences anyone who is found to be LGBTQ, to 14 years in prison. There had been chatter about this law for a long time now, and now that it has finally been passed, it makes me really angry.
“Why not take it a step further and impose the death sentence on all LGBTQ people like Uganda?”, I want to say. You want to lock people’s children up in prison for being true to the feelings they have for their fellow human beings. Shame on you. How is it anyones business what LGBTQ people do? How do they affect your marriages? Families? Children? How can you decide to police people because you don’t agree with their choices?
My countrymen claim that “homo” as they call it, is a western influence. That it is a phenomenon that did not occur before the west, America in particular, allowed LGBTQ people to be treated like human beings. To that I say, if you want to reject everything western, reject the religion that you are now using to persecute LGBTQ people. Our forefathers did not wake up one day with the knowledge that there was a God who had a son called Jesus through a virgin called Mary. That God was brought to us from the west. I can speak to that truth because my great-grandfather is widely known to be the man responsible for bringing Christianity to the part of the country we are from.
Before the missionaries, your forefathers prayed to Amadioha, Sango, Chukwu and the rest. Forsake your saints and biblical heroes and go back to praying at altars and sacred trees. Go back to a time when twins were an abomination. When you have done that and you can still find evidence from your gods that LGBTQ people deserve to be treated any different from you, come back and we’ll talk.
It’s so infuriating to see a bunch of people who can’t even get it together long enough to pass the HIV/AIDS Anti-Stigmatization Bill, rally around and pass this hate-driven policy so easily. Trust us to be the epitome of nonsensical politics.
My heart goes out to all my friends and the people I know who will now have to live in fear or who are probably already facing tribunal. My country can be a cruel place and people will not wait for the “justice system” before they begin to drag these people out into the streets to beat them senseless, if not kill them.
Jan 16, 2014
via RH Reality Check
Jan 13, 2014
Advocates is committed to securing the sexual health and rights for all young people domestically and abroad. We’ve worked with youth-led organizations in Nigeria, Uganda and Pakistan to support LGBTQ youth activist councils that advocate for programs and policies to improve youth sexual health. The choir of voices in the international LGBTQ movement is growing, but we need help. Your help.
Help us raise the profile of the needs and rights of international LGBTQ youth, and support youth as leaders to improve LGBTQ health and rights policy by voting for us in the Making All Voices Count Global Innovation Competition!
In too many countries around the globe LGBTQ youth face discrimination that threatens their lives and their access to sexual and reproductive health care.
If we win this competition (and we hope we do), we’ll get the funds necessary to provide training, capacity building, and seed grants to youth-led LGBTQ groups to support their advocacy, public outreach, and mobilization efforts towards advancing LGBTQ youth sexual and reproductive health and rights locally and globally.
Take a moment to vote for us. Currently we’re #106 (out of 196), but with your help we can get to the top!
Thank you. Your support makes our work possible and there is no way we could do it without you.
Advocates for Youth
Associate director, International Youth Health and Rights
Help Advocates for Youth empower international LGBTQ young people to advocate for their own sexual and reproductive health and rights in partnership with local youth-led LGBTW groups. VOTE TODAY! http://bit.ly/1gmLysW
Jan 3, 2014
Why 2014 Could Be A Huge Turning Point For Reproductive Rights
Roe v. Wade will mark its 41st birthday later this month, amid ever-increasing assaults on reproductive rights across the nation. According to the latest report from the Guttmacher Institute, states have imposed a staggering 205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013. That legislation has attacked access to abortion from all angles — targeting providers and clinics, driving up the cost of abortion for the women who need it, making women travel farther and wait longer to get medical care, and outright banning the procedure. Since 2000, the number of states that Guttmacher defines as being “hostile” to abortion rights has spiked from 13 to 27.
That’s left abortion rights advocates on the other side, working hard to stem the tide of anti-choice attacks. Constantly warding off restrictive legislation hasn’t left much space for proactive policies to expand women’s reproductive freedom, like expanding access to maternity care or making family planning services more accessible to low-income women. Most of the headlines about abortion issues are bleak.
But there may be a shift on the horizon.
Dec 31, 2013
After Michigan House and Senate’s shameful support of a law that would force burial and cremation costs on those who sought abortions, they decided the next step would be to establish a “rape insurance” for people who have the ability to get pregnant earlier this month. The bill is infamously known as Michigan’s Rape Insurance bill, the actual name being The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act. It places a ban on private insurance companies from covering abortion. This forces women into buying extra coverage for their abortion care on top of their paid plans. What’s more is that this legislation has no exceptions for rape or incest. And the coverage can’t be purchased during a pregnancy, it has to be bought prior to one–because those who have the ability to become pregnant are in a constant state of being pre-pregnant.
The Guttmacher Institute’s research in payment for abortion shows that almost 70% of women pay out of their own pockets for this medical procedure, and almost 52% of those women found it difficult to pay. So, what’s to become of that 52%? What’s to become of those who already can’t pay for the treatment they need? We already live in a system that routinely and unapologetically ignore the needs of the people. It’s not just a limiting of our right to the health care we need. It’s one more step to further marginalizing those who are already feeling the burden of an oppressive, unfree economy.
Not all are sitting idly while outside groups and politicians pushed for this. Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer shared her own thoughts in a Huffington Post blog:
“I shared my story of being sexually assaulted because even if it wouldn’t give my Republican colleagues pause to reconsider the vote they were about to take, I at least wanted them to, for the first time, have to directly consider the consequences of their actions and see that those being hurt by it aren’t anonymous faces, but friends, family and, yes, even their colleagues on the Senate floor.
What’s too easily dismissed in these types of discussions is that this issue is not simply about pro-choice or pro-life, it is about interfering with contracts between women and our health care providers. This new law forbids private insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman buys additional and preemptive coverage, even in the case of rape, incest, or even medically necessary dilation and curettage (D & C) procedures for planned pregnancies that went wrong.
This measure is extreme, ignorant and insultingly misogynistic. I’m disgusted to say that it is now the law of the land in Michigan, but how it became law is just as offensive as the law itself.
Right to Life of Michigan, an extremist special-interest group with significant financial backing from a select few secretive donors, has pushed for this law twice before. Both times they failed, as two different Republican Governors stood up to them and vetoed it. In fact, in explaining his veto of this measure earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder, someone I don’t often agree with, rightly stated, “I don’t believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”
But instead of admitting defeat, Right to Life took their crusade even further. They exploited an obscure loophole in Michigan’s Constitution that allowed them to bypass the governor’s veto entirely, as well as the will of the people, by securing the signatures of only four percent of Michigan’s population to bring a so-called “citizens’ initiative” before the legislature and then flexed their political muscle over the Republican majority, forcing them to immediately vote it into law.”
Dec 28, 2013
The message Macklemore gives in the song Same Love is very beautiful but also gives the public some perspective. The quote ” I may not be the same but that’s not important no freedom till were equal, damn right I support it” is very beautiful but also grabs the attention of the general public who does not identify as LGBTQ. This is very important because society in general dating back to the civil rights era, when a fight doesn’t personally affect someone they turn their heads. This song emphasizes the fight as everyone’s fight, not just the people it directly affects. This song is an example of the type of social media that empowers people rather than making women objects and men the dominating sex in society. This song gives hope to many people because it broadcasts the fight, not only in the perspective of those who live it everyday, but it emphasizes the support needed by those whom aren’t affected directly by it.
Dec 27, 2013
I am a pretty big fan of sitting at home with food and shows to binge on. And East Los High caught my full and undivided attention. I’m not normally into soapy teen dramas, but the problems teens face everyday, especially teens of color in neighborhoods like East Los, were real.
While many find sex and the details of it to still be taboo to discuss, teens are left without the rights and respect to get the knowledge they need to better protect themselves. I found it so refreshing to find a series that is easily relatable, stimulating, and educational. Oh, and guess what? Characters in the show can actually say the word “abortion.” There wasn’t a Voldemort treatment of an actual medical procedure that one out of three women in the United States will experience in their lifetime. Even better, several choices and paths that follow unprotected sex are explored and tidbits of helpful sexual health facts and info are casually placed into the dialogue. There’s even brief but impactful conversations on masculinity and gender roles in regards to safe sex throughout the show.
I had a Hulu Plus account and was fortunately able to view the “Hulu exclusive” series, but anyone can watch the full episodes on the East Los High website. It’s a good and fairly accessible teen drama with lots of examples and lessons to share. There are little whispers about a second season to appear, and I am excitedly waiting. Not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the show though. An online “news” article from Life Site News expressed an opinion:
Planned Parenthood’s has its guns aimed squarely at Hispanic teens, as it continues its latest foray into eugenic targeting via an unbelievably salacious novella featuring an all-Latino/Latina cast…
What kind of public service is done by the airing of this trashy novella directed to Hispanic teens? And just what is the “moral” of Episode 1? Finish the dance with your boyfriend before dashing to the car to have sex with someone else? Watch out when you have sex in a car because someone may be videotaping you? Being voted Winter Queen will make you extremely popular on the hookup circuit?
How can anyone even use the word “moral” in connection with this series?
There are some other significant things that this writer neglects to mention besides the awesome sexual health info and examples found throughout the series. East Los High is the first English language show with an all Latino cast. And what is even better is that the cast defies the mainstream roles that Latino people are often forced into. For something like this to be left out in this diatribe is quite telling of the kind of perspective the writer has, especially with the condescending and twisted but very nonexistent link between the show and fictitious eugenic attempts.
Miriam Perez, a past contributor on Racialicious, Feministing, and RHRealityCheck, has written on this topic of anti-choice movements making it seem like they care about women of color. Her post was originally found on RHRealityCheck, but I pulled it off Racialicious. From the succinct and eloquent post Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered:
At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer…
We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.
We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.
Life Site News has urged concerned citizens to call Hulu’s corporate headquarters at 310-571-4700 to remove the series and to make sure a second season contract cannot be extended. Please use the number to the opposite.
(This has also been posted on my blogs FanTalk and STFU, Pro-Lifers.)
Dec 23, 2013
My name is Blessed, and I lead Advocates for Youth’s efforts to help young people fight homophobia and transphobia in Uganda. In too many countries around the globe, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth face discrimination that threatens our lives, dims our spirits and prevents our access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Just this past Friday, the Ugandan parliament passed a terrifying anti-homosexuality bill that will cause further harm to the dignity and safety of LGBT people in my country.
Because of my sexuality, I was kicked out of my home when I was 17. I was homeless for two years while I washed people’s clothes and cars to earn money for my studies. Not too long ago, a mentor helped me find Advocates for Youth and now I have the chance to travel to the U.S. to learn organizing skills that are desperately needed here in Uganda. Now I meet with officials at the State Department and on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of the young people in my country. Now I have found community- all because of Advocates for Youth.
Donate $10 today to help raise $5,000 to support LGBT youth activists like me who are fighting harassment and life-threatening laws around the globe. Donate today and you can be an ally in places like Nigeria, Jamaica and here in Uganda where LGBT youth activists face intimidation, imprisonment or worse.
Advocates for Youth provides training and funding to organizations overseas who bravely keep their doors open to provide support and encouragement to LGBT youth, because it is not safe to be who they are.
Donate today to support youth activists like me who put our lives on the line all year long. Your gift today supports our work and lets us know we are not alone.
With thanks for your activism and support all year long,
Advocates for Youth
Dec 17, 2013
If anyone is trans gender i need help I’m doing a project on trans genders and i want to know more like what were difficulties how did u know what were problems how did u do the transformation !!! If u can help thank you so much !!! even if u have a face book add me Ashaia szewcik or email@example.com! You can even post before and after pics if u want to help me out !
Dec 17, 2013
So, I was returning to Delhi on 11th December, 2013. We were a company of 6 people returning from a friend’s wedding. We were exhausted and trying not to look too tired on reaching the Delhi outskirts as we had offices or classes to attend.
I can still remember the moment so vividly when one of the people got dropped, my friend moved to the front of the car to make himself more comfortable, I did not wish to open my eyes when I heard someone switch on mobile, the twing of a whats app message and my friend announcing:
I am a criminal now!
Was it his announcement or the quietness of the moment or the dramatic mathod of delivery that got to us but something did because the quiet moment changed into one of activity where some laughed as they thought he was joking, someone else wanted to know what did he mean while I for once started checking my mobile hoping to understand what did he mean.
He was speaking about the Indian Supreme court verdict on Section 377. So a quick social media search got me these updates:
#377updates Six things you should know after the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code: [credit - Varta]
a) On December 11, 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the Delhi High Court ruling on Section 377, which means this law is back in force, as it was till before July 2, 2009.
b) Section 377 criminalizes any sexual act that does not involve penile-vaginal penetration. It applies to all people, irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation. That means straight people are also affected by this law, and not just those who are homosexual, bisexual or transgender in orientation.
c) Section 377 in itself does not mean that you can be arrested for simply being or saying you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Hijra or Kothi. Your freedom of expression is not under threat.
d) Arrest under this law requires medical forensic evidence of specific sexual acts having taken place – oral, anal or other non penile-vaginal sexual acts.
e) You cannot be arrested for being in a declared or undeclared same-sex relationship. Strict material evidence of specific sexual acts will be necessary for arrest.
f) Community, family, workplace or police harassment, blackmail and extortion may take place under threat of Section 377 or even because you appear or are known to be “not straight”. But more than anything else, it is these acts that are illegal and they can be tackled with a dose of courage and sound legal action. If you have concerns around these issues, please send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your confidentiality will be respected.
This is a simplistic analysis of the law and what the Indian Supreme Court decision meant for the LGBTQ community (feel free to read a legal analysis here: http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=3702) but what it doesn’t bring out is that this is possibly one issue that united the voices of certain religious leaders (who otherwise are always out for each other’s blood) or how easily this issue could (and has) become political (afterally our bodies are not ours but political tools of contention).
So, let me give you a preview of what the scenario in India has been like: everything is about the elections in 2014. People want a change, the present governmance has not been very effective while people are dealing with high inflation and raised food prices. In the middle of all this, last two weeks have been about Lok Sabha (or the lower house) elections in four states, including Delhi.
Now guess what, the political parties are coming out with some surprising statements about how they support or don’t support criminalisation of homosexuals. Of course their deliberations can be very patronising and sometimes downright ridiculous but they need to be followed as whether a sexual identity could make one into a criminal or not is to be deliberated in the Legilature!
This (of course) will raise up more discussions around live-ins, LGBTQs and create more stigma.
However, as of now all I can hope is that the protests happening at Jantar Mantar, Delhi (one that I participated in) and various parts of India influences the legislature.
Dec 12, 2013
Examine My Depth:
Examine this depth because it hasn’t sprung from nowhere – my rage is not a fire hydrant that opens with a tap and strikes everyone close by.
My ache has been rooted and carefully harvested for centuries.
My rage is Mandela, King, Malcolm X, Corky Gonzales, Susan B. Anthony, and Dennis Goldberg.
Please tell me why my presence seems to be scrutinized by the public eye.
My misery lies within the hard cold walls of the daunting penitentiaries in which my people lie.
Open me up and dissect my pain. Tell me that my mother deserves better than minimum wage while working at a hotel – tell me that we didn’t cross el rio Bravo: monstrous and alive, ready to take our lives, only to live a white, superficial hell.
That my aunt wasn’t sexually assaulted on the border, only to find herself lost and lone in the land of the free, in fear of a deportation order.
Let me know that the “New Jim Crow” does not exist. I want to hear that Michelle Alexander is wrong when she says “Jarvious Cotton cannot vote….His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”
Take a closer look at my disgust when I say that five Middle Eastern men had the police called on them at my university for looking like they did not belong: they were students.
They were no more than 18 year old humans.
Tell me that my father did not hold on to the rails of a train for 24 hours in order to be here – only to drive in fear of deportation. What good is the free land if we are closed off and barred in our box of a home in isolation?
I wish Alexander was wrong when she tells us “A black man was on his knees in the gutter, hands cuffed behind his back, as several police officers stood around him talking, joking, and ignoring his human existence.” – This or course, on Election Day: As we introduce the first black president of the United States
I yearn for the day when statements like these are not true – when black and brown people are not just labeled as a form of “resistance.”
Examine my anger. Look deep into my soul. Take a look at the land you’ve settled and grounded your beliefs on – notice that my angst was not born this morning, or last night, or a week ago, or 10 years ago. Notice that I have been destined to fail and crumble for centuries – see my pain and then take a look at the Anglo reign.
Examine this depth.
Once entering College, I found myself being the only queer youth of color in most if not all of my classes – and also found myself angry at people with privilege because they made sure to make me feel less than human every single day. However, I keep on doing advocacy work and telling people my story, in hopes of changing mindsets and perspectives.
I wrote this poem about youth of color, and people of color in general because we are often no more than a statistic: a reaction to the dominant culture – and we are often left out on conversations that deal with health care, LGBTQ issues, or sexual health.
Latin@ people of color matter.
Dec 12, 2013
This experience to this day encourages me to talk and challenge people on the “tough” subject matter. Even if they don’t necessarily want to hear about it, I want to offer a different point of view that they can either choose to think about or ignore.
Dec 10, 2013
[tumblr source: sarahlynne3713]
Nov 28, 2013
I ran across an article about a couple that refused to leave their waiter a tip because of his sexual orientation. This is the note the couple left on the back of their receipt:
“Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God. Faggots do not share in the wealth of God, and you will not share in ours. We hope you will see the tip your faggot choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly. It is never too late for God’s love, but none shall be spared for fags. May God have mercy on you.”
This got me thinking, why are we so busy judging the lives of others when we can’t even handle our own? Why do we insist on telling people what to do, how to look like and how to live their lives when we get upset when people try the same with us? Most importantly, why are we so rude about it? There’s something to be said about those who can share their beliefs while still being respectful to persons who have a different opinion.
We are all different because we need each other’s diversity to thrive. We wouldn’t be who we are today without the people who’ve indirectly shaped us. Our lives are meaningful because everyone comes with different shapes, colors, sizes, sexual orientation, personalities and beliefs. The sooner we can come to this realization the sooner we can provide this world with peace. To those who have already recognized this, accepted it and or welcomed it… we can all learn something from you. This couple could have just as easily not left a tip, and kept their disrespectful and hurtful comment to themselves. Instead, they chose to be rude.
Moral of this rant: It’s cool to have your own opinion; it’s not cool to be offensive about it! At the end of the day we all inhabit this earth, and we all deserve RESPECT.
Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one.
Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one.
Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them.
Don’t like sex? Don’t have it.
Don’t like your rights taken away?
Don’t take anybody else’s.
Nov 25, 2013
(original image by The Stigma Project)
We are a grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising. The Stigma Project seeks to create an HIV neutral world, free of judgement and fear by working with both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or background.
Social media has rapidly become one of today’s largest mediums of news, culture, and education. We hope to embrace that with effective campaigns each season that bring awareness to the current state of HIV. Please, whether you’re HIV-positive, negative, or you don’t know (and should), we need your help. Ask your friends to join us in starting a revolution: an “HIV Neutral” revolution. Like us, Share us, Re-tweet us. The more people we reach, the more effective our project. The more successful our mission. YOU can make a difference.
The Stigma Project seeks to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS on a global scale, through awareness, art, provocation, education and by inspiring a spirit of living “HIV Neutral.”
The Stigma Project seeks to create an “HIV Neutral” world, free of judgment, fear, discrimination and alienation by educating both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life about the constantly evolving state of the epidemic. We seek to reduce the HIV infection rate through knowledge, awareness, and effective marketing and advertising. Ultimately we see a future where the world is free of HIV/AIDS.
I’ve already posted this image before but without credit to the original poster, so here it is! I’ve also added information about this organization!
Nov 19, 2013
(original photo and post by GLAAD)
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. This year, the day is November 20th, 2013.
- An average life span for a trans person is 23 years
- 238 reported cases of murdered trans people happened within the year
- An estimated 78% of transgender people have experienced harassment or mistreatment at work due to their gender identity
Nov 10, 2013
The termination of NBC’s The New Normal left a hole in our hearts as far as LGBTQ representation in the media, but no fear, a new show is here to save the day! Sean Hayes plays a single dad on the new show, Sean Saves the World. I was a little skeptical at first, but the humor quickly won me over. And now I wait eagerly for the next episode.
It’s definitely nowhere near as serious as TNN was in terms of tackling real life issues, but it’s a welcome respite from the largely heterosexual television shows. I guess the world just wasn’t ready to handle the truth about LGBTQ people. We’re not immoral pedophiles, just your regular, everyday people.
At first glance, Sean Saves the World looks like every other sitcom out there with a laugh track. At close glance it reveals itself to be an endearing yet humorous story of a formerly closeted man who is raising his daughter alone after his ex-wife moves away. Supporting characters include Sean’s mother Lorna, Max the quirky boss, and friends Liz and Hunter.
I guess one of the reasons why it works well is because it mixes in a popular theme in sitcoms – family life and parenting. I also like the fact that it blends in so well and is viewed as just another story about a divorced, single dad. I hope it stays on long enough for people to begin to accept the rest of us as the new normal. Yeah I said it.
Nov 1, 2013
Oct 31, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced recently that a floor vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would hapen before Thanksgiving. As more senators confirm their anticipated position on ENDA and the number of supporters approaches 60, queer activists are refocusing the conversation on the bill’s religious exemptions.
Currently, the bill has broad language that allows religiously affiliated organizations and employers to continue to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, whether they identify as LGBTQ or are merely perceived as such.
While this religious exemption is crucial for convincing Republican senators to vote in favor of ENDA and follows similar exemptions in the Civil Rights Act, it legally outlines discriminatory practices unseen in the Civil Rights Act.
Some will argue this exemption is a laudatory example of the separation of church and state. However, the First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” . Firing or persecuting queer individuals is not an integral part of organized religion, yet Congress protecting the freedoms and liberties of all citizens is a core tenet of our government.
Is it better to have an inclusive bill pass with major loopholes and approval of discrimination from certain professionals, or must we reject all measures and advocate for a bill that truly makes illegal employment discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
Oct 27, 2013
I made a quick list of films about abortion and reproductive/sexual justice issues and posted it on STFU, Pro-Lifers.
Oct 27, 2013
(Originally created and posted on Tumblr by Dimitri - deadlyprincex)
(located outside the “unisex” bathrooms)
[texted image reads: “Everyone needs to use bathrooms, but only some of us have to enter into complicated political and architectural negotiations in order to use them. The fact is, bathrooms are easier to access for some of us than for others, and the people who never think about where and how they can pee have a lot of control over how using restrooms feels for the rest of us. […] Who has the privilege of always knowing that any given bathroom will meet one’s needs? Everyone needs to use the bathroom, but not all of us can.”
— “Calling All Restroom Revolutionaries” by Simone Chess, Alison Kafer, Jessi Quizar, and Mattie Udora Richardson (members of PISSAR – People in Search of Safe and Accessible Restrooms)]
Oct 24, 2013
When I was little, I was bullied for being lesbian, even though I didn\’t know what that was then. I was bullied for being smart, for being small, for being skinny; for being me. I felt so angry all the time. I hated everyone that looked at me differently. As I grew, I became the smartest kid in school, from the oldest to the youngest. I taught the little kids new things, and usually found myself with older kids, but never my own age group. Mainly because they judged me. In 4th grade, I had a girlfriend but I never had friends before, so I was really awkward. Those were my happiest days. Everyone thought we were close friends. They learned in 8th grade we weren’t less than that, but more. They were confused, 1)she was Muslim, 2)they didn’t think either of us were lesbian; 3)they didn’t understand the sexuality itself. “But, like, how do you know?” I was asked in after-care (in school of course.) “How do you know you’re not?” I replied. “Because-” “You like boys. It’s the same concept, but same sex. No biggy.” I interrupted her. She still didn’t understand, and may never will. Now, I’m in 9th grade, and I feel deep feelings for a Hispanic girl two years my junior(I’m 13 years old.) My feelings for her are the same has that of a heterosexual, but the sex is different (by sex I mean gender, get-your-mind-out-the-gutter.) Anyway, love is love.
The world is scared of us. They try to shut us down because they don’t understand us. They fear what they can’t explain, which makes us fearless, and makes them fear us. Anger, sadness, and depression is their way of controlling us. Putting bars of limitation around our bodies, chains of hate and solitude on all of our limbs, and the helmet of the ideal “normal” being embedded permanently into our heads. But we hold our hands on the roses and as much and as hard as you do, you hateful dog you. My blood boils, my body aches, but my heart is stronger than a tiger’s strength. You try to break me with hate, but it feeds my strength. Your hate is suppose to be a distraction away from your fear. I’m your fear because I defy the bubble of your ideal. Don’t hate, appreciate, but hate, and hate, and hate until you waste away like the girl in A-Team. You make me laugh as you try to make me go down in flames, but fire I am made of, flames I create. It worked before but I have learned your tricks and ripped your sleeves away magician. I tore away my sleeves, but still made a dove out of my hand and your hanky I “found”. I walk on the stage a fool with a pathetic purpose, and off of it a world sensation with their goal achieved while you stand in frustration and slip into my black hole. Society blindfolded you, but I will tear it away and cure your blindness. Raise you from a damned dog to an angel for the damned. Society fears us for we have crossed their “Utopia’s ideal” and learned more than they will ever even dare to hear of. They want war, we’ll give them wisdom through a punch and a kick on this little land they feel is a battlefield. But from the beginning they lost by making us stronger with their hate for content of their words don’t matter. We don’t care. Because we are fearless.
Learn to listen people. Just because we are different doesn’t mean we’re dangerous. Give it a try, and don’t give up. I’m all fired up now. Listening to You Me At Six-”Bite My Tongue”, writing that poem freehandedly, and listening to Cydney in the video “Feeling The Lesser” on youtube (after the song ended of course.)You’ve got to see the youtube video “Feeling The Lesser”. It’s amazing and so open-minded and heartfelt (regardless that it considered to be rambling.) I hope you enjoyed my poem and this video. Have an awesome day while I listen to some more music and watch Stacy and Cydney videos. Later.
Oct 15, 2013
I do not identify as a lesbian though I prefer to date women. I don’t identify as bisexual just because I date men. I identify as myself. some people have an issues with that. my very own best friend asked me last night if I was looking for a relationship with a woman or man. when I replied I replied by saying “I am looking for love. simple. I just want to date someone who has all the qualities that I love”…her response was “so your confused? sounds like you just want someone to love you and it doesn’t matter if its a man or a woman.”
needless to say that started a big discussion. nothing I hate more than someone calling me confused. why is everyone so hung up on these titles? I either have to be gay or straight, because apparently this world has no grey lines.
it should be understood that men and woman are not just one way. everything is not black and white.
Oct 12, 2013
Happy National Coming Out Day! Here is a poem to all my claustrophobic LBGTQIA fam that don’t feel safe enough to come out the closet.
Oct 12, 2013
Happy National Coming Out Day! Here is a poem to all my claustrophobic LBGTQIA fam that don’t feel safe enough to come out the closet.
Oct 11, 2013
Coming out for people who identify as transgender can be a very different experience compared to coming out for LGB people. Like LGB people, trans* people must come out to friends and family, but we also often end up coming out in situations that other people take for granted (see this Buzzfeed article for a few examples). This has become all too apparent for me due to a few recent events: I just accepted a job offer last week and filled out the forms for a background check. In doing so, I had to provide my previous legal name thus outing myself to anyone who handles my paperwork. As the resident of a state where gender identity and expression are still free game for discrimination, I was legitimately worried that this would affect their conditional job offer.
Another example occurred earlier this week when I went to buy a car. This was an exciting event because it was my first car, but it was also a little embarrassing when I had to unexpectedly come out to the car salesman running my credit check. Unfortunately, their computer system brought up my previous name when my identifying information was entered. I didn’t expect to have to come out or to explain why that name was associated with my information while buying a car. I am not ashamed of who I am, but I am upset that I do not always have control over when and where I am outed.
This brings me to today, National Coming Out Day. It seems fitting that I come out yet again to the government by visiting the BMV to have the F on my driver’s license changed to an M. To do so in Ohio, I just need a form signed by a therapist or physician. I’ve been holding onto this paperwork for a few months and now seems as good a time as any to take care of this. Coming out is a continuous process and I am nowhere near done. Every time I update one document, another pops up. There’s my license, my school, social security, car insurance, health insurance, birth certificate, and the list goes on (not to mention the fact that I changed my name and gender marker at different times so the list is doubled). For me, coming out has felt a little out of my control, but by tackling these challenges head on, and coming out in my own way, I take back some of the power—power that should have been mine in the first place.
Oct 11, 2013
It’s the day before a long weekend, and like every other college student, I’m swamped with work before actually getting to enjoy this weekend. Papers, presentations, homework, the whole spectrum. Glancing outside of academia, I realize that I’ve gotten newsletters, invites to dinners and community discussions, and emails about this special Friday. I’ve heard of this event before, but never decided to recognize it because I never understood its influence on this heteronormative society.
National Coming Out Day is more than just “coming out.” It’s remembrance for those before us, with us, and after us. Those who will never have a safe chance to be “out” to their families for fear of their own safety and those who will try to be “out” and hope for the best. Those who have suffered violence for being “out” and those who still look over their shoulder every time to never become a statistic. Those who are out already and struggle to maintain a steady job and place to live because of the institutional systems designed to keep them in the struggle for basic living needs.
Add in race, religion, income, and gender expression, and you’ve got a multitude of factors adding to the issue of “coming out” and portrayal of expected sexuality. For instance, as a young South Asian woman, my sexuality was determined before my birth: either a domesticated sexless housewife or a kama sutra bountiful goddess (even though I’m not Hindu). No middle ground. No options for anything other than cis-heterosexual men. Just hypersexualized to the bindi or sexless to the sari.
As I got older and still question my sexuality, I began reading into queer theory and popular queer names. Most of my options were left the same: few South Asian and other women of color queer “big names,” but tons of white queers. Even national organizations mainly focused on white queer bodies and rarely had queer people of color, let alone queer women of color.
I let this slide as I thought that most women of color were not queer, yet I realized my thinking was flawed. Looking at the histories of other people of color, queerness flourished. Gender neutral pronouns exist outside of English, and third genders exist in South Asia, Indonesia, and Samoa. Gender non-conforming roles exist in Two-Spirit Native American communities and among Nandi female husbands in Kenya. So why was I taught none of this in class and all of this on my own?
On National Coming Out Day, know that it’s still limited to mainstream bodies. Know that this day is not meant to serve as the only time to “come out,” but rather to spark an interesting conversation because you’re not alone in this. Queerness has existed and resisted for centuries, so share your story when you are ready.
Oct 9, 2013
Last month, a Nigerian man proceeded to disgrace myself and other fellow countrymen by claiming that he had conducted an experiment on the morality of homosexuality using, wait for it, magnets. The outcome of the experiment was of course, that homosexuality was wrong because…well you know how magnets work right?
Go ahead and laugh. Feel free to tumble down from whatever surface you are currently sitting or reclining on. Laugh for me because all I could do when I read the article was put my hands on my head and open my mouth like a fish gasping for air. I was that stunned.
It’s ironic really for 2 reasons: because he was recognized as a scientist and because Nigerians abroad are known for their academic intelligence. Ask any college student you know and they will tell you that the Nigerian students at their colleges major in fields such as engineering, biology, chemistry or law. Well except for anomalies like myself (PR major!). The same goes for other African students and those from the Caribbean.
Do you know what makes it worse? He is being praised for his work. Apparently, it has been said that he should win a Nobel prize for this outstanding smarts. It makes me want to sit on the floor and cry. I know my country is one of the biggest enemies of LGBTQI people, but I didn’t know that the ignorance extended this far in. How are we supposed to study in countries like the US when we are known for teaching people that queerness is scientifically impossible?
Just so I don’t actually break down in tears from this nonsense, why don’t you go ahead and leave a comment below telling me what other marvellous experiments on humanity that we could conduct with magnets…and perhaps condiments and cleaning agents.
Oct 7, 2013
Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier. Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound. We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share. We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world. All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives. But we celebrated our diversity. And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.
I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first. I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend. It was a place I had never been to on my own. I would be surrounded by strangers. But these strangers quickly became my friends. And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them. And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well. Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders. And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives. It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.
I even got to meet Janet Mock! We talked and had dinner. She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!
It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice. And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource. Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan. I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore. The realization was bittersweet. But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.
Sep 25, 2013
Volunteer Training with One Royal Oak, discussing possible issues that may come up while phone banking.
Hype about DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) has died down and our LGBT community sort of gained the right to marriage. Notable “activist” efforts like statuses being made, profile pictures on Facebook being changed, and arguing with not so progressive relatives went on for days until the Supreme Court ruling over DOMA. But since the SCOTUS ruling, there’s been silence and the false notion instilled in a surprising majority that we’ve finally achieved all that we needed to. Discrimination against LGBT folks is over because we can marry in some states and a lot of straight, cis people changed their photos into equality signs!
Our community is still facing several inequities which are more dire than not being able to walk down the aisle. What about making sure our brothers and sisters have a job and a place to live? Only 20 states offer some protection for LGBT people in housing. In 29 states, a person can still be fired without warning simply for being gay. And in 34 states a person can be fired for being trans*. Aren’t these the issues we should be engaging our friends and family with? What’s being done about it while we’re waiting to see what happens with ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) for who knows how long?
Before anyone asks what I’m personally doing about this, I can tell people right now that I’ve joined up with a non-profit, political campaign called One Royal Oak. Our mission is to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in Royal Oak, Michigan which would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations “on the basis of actual OR perceived race, national origin, religion, color, sex, age, height, weight, pregnancy condition, marital status, physical and mental limitations, source of income, family responsibilities, educational
association, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status.”
So far I’ve taken part in the volunteer training. I participated in phone banking, trying to gather donations for the cause. I’m constantly trying to make my friends and family understand the importance of this situation. I believe in equality, so I’ll do what I can to help. It’s just one city, but every little step counts. And One Royal Oak isn’t alone in their efforts for equality in the United States. Seek out ways to help our community either by volunteering or simply donating to activist groups like One Royal Oak, whether it’s on a local or federal level.
I’m more than happy that I have the right to marry my girlfriend thanks to the SCOTUS ruling. But between not walking down the aisle and not sleeping on the streets, I would choose the latter. There are many obstacles in finding a job and a place to live, our identity–who we choose to love and who we are–shouldn’t be one of them.
Sep 25, 2013
Koch Bros. Give Millions to Anti-Choice Efforts in the States
Reposted from: RHRealityCheck, written by Adele M. Stan
To hear the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch tell it, they’re all about business; they don’t give a whit about those messy, so-called “social issues” like abortion, contraception, or same-sex marriage. The billions they dump into the political coffers of the right, they’ll tell you, are to further what they call “free enterprise” (translate: killing unions and regulations on business) and, more generally, “freedom” (by which they generally mean freedom from things they don’t like, such as regulations and unions).
But a blockbuster report published Thursday by Politico reporters Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei shows otherwise. How else to explain why Freedom Partners, a shadowy group that Politico refers to as the “Kochs’ secret bank” gave $8.2 million to the virulently anti-LGBT, anti-abortion Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC), which lobbies for such bills as the recently passed law in Texas that will effectively ban all abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, and includes unnecessary and onerous regulations on abortion clinics that are designed to compel many to close their doors.
Sep 15, 2013
The more I think about it, the more I realize that people in this world are seriously weird. We are constantly trying to police things that do not need policing – body sizes, vaginas, love, wombs etc. I really can’t get over the fact that people get all het up about things that don’t even concern or affect them and then try to control it all by encouraging the government to trespass in people’s lives.
Why are you so concerned about who I choose to spend the rest of my life with? Have kids with? Why do you tell me that I shouldn’t have affordable birth control? That I can’t have condoms on my college campus because they will encourage promiscuity; and then when I fall pregnant, deny me the right to terminate a pregnancy that I did not plan for? A pregnancy which will change my life forever? And more on that, why are you so hypocritical that you claim to fight for the rights of unborn children, yet do nothing to help those who are already born and do not have parents, food, shelter or healthcare? Neither will you assist me in raising my child if I do give in to your concessions and carry my pregnancy to term.
There I go again…rambling.
What brought me here is this article on Jezebel about a man named Mister Cee. He’s apparently a former DJ with Hot 97 (I have no idea what that is). During an interview with Morning Show‘s Ebro he apparently said the following:
I know I’m still in denial because I know that I love women — any woman that’s been with me knows that I love women — but occasionally I get the urge to have fellatio with a transsexual: a man that looks like a woman. But I’m here saying I’m not gay because I haven’t penetrated another man.
I will not be the one to define this man’s sexuality because I hate when people do that to me. Also, human sexuality is an ever-changing phenomenon and no-one should be reduced to a mere checkbox. This is not the same thing as “good Christian girls” who claim that they are virgins because all they’ve done is cunnilingus and anal. With that being said, I feel sorry for this poor man because he has been pushed into denying his urges by a society that constantly judges others by the most superficial things.
This brings to mind a similar case involving rapper Chingy, who has been accused of consorting with transgendered women on a few occasions. In one incident involving model Sidney Starr, the model claimed that after Chingy discovered that she had male genitalia he allegedly said, ”Nah, I still want that. I still want that.” Well what’s the problem with that? The man met someone, was attracted, and was not fazed by the appearance of a penis instead of a vagina. Granted, it turned out to be a lie told by Starr but still, I don’t understand what the big deal is really.
I guess for me it’s different because what’s on the outside doesn’t really matter. I don’t care what bits you’ve got in yer knickers as long as there’s a connection and it’s real.
Sep 10, 2013
Last week, we told you about young people gathering signatures in support of sex education, and asked you to support their efforts. And because you’re awesome, you came through: on October 1 youth activists will deliver over 4,000 signatures to Congress! Now we need your help again.
Joining us at this year’s Urban Retreat youth activism conference, are youth participants from Uganda, Nigeria, Nepal, Jamaica, Cameroon, and Liberia. They too have been hard at work organizing – in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth around the world.
We’ve all seen and read about the continuation of violence and harassment targeting LGBT people across the globe. In countries like Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia, laws force young people to choose between concealing who they are, and going to jail. While in Cameroon and Jamaica, violence has saddened and shaken the LGBT community.
These recent events highlight the need for a commitment by the State Department to ensure that all young people, especially those marginalized for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, are treated with human dignity and respect.
Advocates’ global youth activists are calling out for Sec. Kerry to publicly condemn anti-LGBT violence and discrimination around the world, and to ensure LGBT inclusion in U.S. foreign assistance and education programs.
The United States can make a real difference in how LGBT youth around the world are treated. Show your support for youth activists around the world and sign now.
Sep 5, 2013
*Raucous laughter as tears stream down my face as I fall to the ground clutching my sides*
How am I supposed to take this person seriously? Not only is it inaccurate to assume that same-sex couples do not have sex while looking each other in the eye, but how is that any excuse for denying people the right to marriage?
Oh look! More proof of racial discrimination!
Why? Just why?
- Here’s a photo of Robin Thicke being the slimy piece of schtako that he is. Suprised? I’m not!
Sep 3, 2013
At an LGBTQ-Inclusive Youth Group in South Florida last week, the question was raised of “Are you safe online?”. There were 30 youth ages 13-18 years old present at the weekly Youth Group. The discussion started by a hand raise question of how many people in the room have ever spoken to someone online who would make excuses of why they did not have a picture, why they could not go on camera chat, etc. The question was geared to get the youth in the mindset of Cyber-Safety, as immediately following the discussion, a Cyber-Safety training was given by the youth advisors who facilitate the group.
After the Introduction, SunServe’s Youth Outreach Trainer for the Youth Department premiered his Cyber-Safety training. He started by having an icebreaker activity called “Cross the Divide.” In this game, the group is divided into two separate lines and the facilitator asks the entire group one question. If that question applies to you, you “cross the divide.” It’s a fun way to learn new information about those around you. When the icebreaker ended- the trainer, Edgardo, took over and presented his training for the youth. He went over tips for keeping yourself protected and using the web safely. The youth were all very engaged and had many things to say on the topic. It was shocking to learn that unsafe Internet practices happened to so many youth- even right here in South Florida. The statistics that were presented were staggering and shocking, but very true. I think everyone needs to be informed of what really goes on online.
I am posting a link below where you can find more information on how to be safe online.
Sep 1, 2013
Most people who occupy the social justice corners of the Internet are sure to have heard of the Edmonton police department’s anti-rape campaign. What makes the campaign so great is the focus on the offenders to not rape rather than telling the victims to not get raped with messages like, “It’s not sex when she’s passed out. Sex with someone unable to consent = sexual assault. Don’t be that guy.” SAVEdmonton even includes men as potential rape victims and broadens the crime outside a heteronormative perspective. From their own page on what makes this so different from other anti-rape campaigns:
Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to and increases self-blame in survivors. Instead, the SAVE campaigns targets potential offenders – ultimately the ones who hold the power and responsibility to end sexual assault. By addressing sexual assault without victim-blaming, we intend to mark Edmonton on the map as a model for other cities. (reposted from SAVEdmonton.com)
Edmonton’s posters with messages of ending victim blaming and targeting perpetrators was successful in its intention to decrease the rate of sexual assaults. But it seems like not everyone is supportive of the campaign and its success. An unauthorized campaign took SAVEdmonton’s original posters and made parody versions.
(image reposted from The Edmonton Journal)
What makes these parody posters so problematic is the perpetuation of the myth of false reporting or allegations, which our current culture is already strongly promoting. These parody posters not only silences actual and potential victims, but blames them for the assaults against them which completely contradicts the original campaign’s message.
Here are the actual posters from SAVEdmonton:
With the current messages that’s fed to our youth on a daily basis, it’s really important to think of the messages SAVEdmonton has to share with the world. It doesn’t promote a rape culture and actively seeks to create a change by preventing sexual assault. SAVEdmonton is truly a model anti-rape campaign.
Sep 1, 2013
Just yesterday on a Friday afternoon, I posted the petition to make The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality on my reproductive justice blog. It’s not much, but it’s already gained a little less than 900 notes on Tumblr. Popular blogs like ST*U, Sexists and F*ck Yeah, Sex Education just gave the petition a signal boost and I’ve seen a lot of #vision4sexed hashtags on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to see more feedback before September 10. And the youth activists have been out and about getting physical signatures, which is something I’m doing once school is back in session. Some people are reblogging it with their own commentary to emphasize the importance of it, and sometimes it’s all in caps so you know it’s a pretty big deal. Especially with our current culture’s views on sexuality and education. No one should have to suffer another abstinence only class in which our youth, especially girls, are compared to used up candy wrappers and dirty pieces of tape if they’re sexually active. If you haven’t already and you support comprehensive sex education, definitely sign the petition and share it!
The petition page lets you know exactly what you’re saying when you’re leaving behind a signature:
I support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a sex education vision that outlines what young people truly need. The bill not only authorizes funding for comprehensive sex education directed towards adolescents and college students, but also prioritizes teacher training so that our nation’s educators have the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.
Let’s work to realize our vision of young people receiving the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. With the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act we can start bringing our vision for sex ed to life!
My vision for sex education includes letting our youth know that it’s never okay to shame others for being sexually active or abstinent by choice. My vision for sex education also includes teaching our youth the signs of an abusive relationship, whether it’s emotional, physical, or both. I’d love for there to be discussions that include the LGBTQ community because often they are erased from the topic, leaving many without resources. I find it to be very dangerous to let our youth go through life without the tools they need to have healthy lives. Comprehensive sex education just makes perfect sense to me. What’s your vision for sex ed?
Sep 1, 2013
I know most of you are thinking this post will be about the first time I ever had sex, but it’s not. I’m going to share to you all about the first time my parents ever realized I was a lesbian.
It was the summer after 7th grade. My girlfriend at the time and I have been going out for at least two months around the time my mom started to notice. She was my first girl kiss, girl touch, girlfriend, anything girl. She was and still is completely special to me. Anyway, to get back on track, my mom found out through Facebook. She saw post and comments that my girl and I would send to each other. That night she called me into the kitchen with my sister there to be her translater because I suck at understanding Spanish. She told me she saw the post and that I need to call “my friend” and tell her it’s over and that I’m not allowed to ever see her again. I began crying and shouting, “We’re just friends! Those post are just her and I joking around! Please don’t make me do this!” But my mom started screaming at me saying being a lesbian is a sin, it’s an abomination to God. On top of that my sister was siding with my mom saying, “Why would you joke around like that with a girl?”. At that moment I felt hopeless… I called my girlfriend and told her the heartbreaking news.. but we agreed on keeping our relationship secret. A week later my mom comes barging into my room full of irate! Her face red like blood, eyes like the devil, and her teeth showed off like an angry dog.. She began shouting, “I know you still talk to that lesbian! I checked your messages online! I told you to stop! Blah blah blah!” I didn’t know what to say… while she shouted she began choking me, spitting on me, calling me names that still hurt me when I think of them. She took my phone away, then left my room. I charged after her crying, yelling, “Sorry! Please! I’m not a lesbian ” And then my dad asks, “What’s happening?” My mother had kept this whole lesbian thing a secret. So, to make my mom look like the bad guy I told my dad that my mom is calling me a lesbian when I’m not (I really didn’t want to come out the closet so I kept denying) . My dad begins yelling at my mom asking why she’s calling me that and she tells him everything… and then he starts yelling at me to go to my room. Two hours later he comes in asking me to tell him the truth because he needs to know if he’s defending a straight person because apparently people at church were talking about it. I kept denying who I am and told him what he wanted to hear.
After that incident I go back to dating guys and live an unhappy life. For two years I deny being a lesbian to myself! Until the end of my sophomore year when I decided to stop hiding who I am and just be happy. All my friends know and support me. My parents still don’t know but whenever my mom brings it up I don’t deny it but I also don’t confirm it. I’m sure my parents know but they are just in denial… I don’t plan on telling them till after I stop depending on them.. I’m only a junior in high school: I still need them for a lot of things. I get tired of lying to them about everything I do but hey, I have no choice.
Aug 24, 2013
First- Ever Legal Abortion,
And It Saved A Dying Woman’s
(Re-posted from ThinkProgress)
The first legal abortion in an Irish hospital has been carried out in Dublin, the Irish Times confirmed on Friday. It represents the first pregnancy termination under Ireland’s historic new abortion law, which slightly relaxed the country’s total ban to allow for legal abortions in cases when it’s necessary to preserve a woman’s life.
Before Ireland’s prime minister approved the new law in July, the country’s abortion laws had not been updated since 1867. Now, there are 25 Irish hospitals that are authorized to perform legal abortions in life-threatening cases without worrying about legal repercussions.
The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin carried out the pregnancy termination for a dying woman whose membrane had ruptured for more than 24 hours. She ran a high risk of sepsis, and her 18-week twin fetuses had no chance of survival outside of the womb. Doctors said her case bore many similarities to that of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died after being denied an emergency abortion in an Irish Catholic hospital last year. Halappanavar developed sepsis after she began to miscarry, but doctors wouldn’t terminate her doomed pregnancy until the fetal heartbeat had officially stopped three days later — and by that time, it was too late.
The Irish Times reports that in contrast to Halappanavar, the woman who received a legal abortion this month “has made a good recovery after receiving antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination a number of weeks ago.”
Ireland’s new abortion law was spurred by Halappanavar’s tragic death, which sparked a global controversy. Reproductive rights activists vowed that an individual would “never again” be denied the life-saving medical care that could avert this type of tragedy. But even though Ireland has slightly relaxed its stringent abortion law to successfully avert another Savita, a handful of other conservative Catholic countries still impose total bans on the procedure. Following Halpannavar’s death, similar controversies have unfolded in El Salvador and Chile.
The Guttmacher Institute’s research has found that harsh bans on abortion don’t actually lower abortion rates. Instead, they simply encourage women to risk their lives to end a pregnancy illegally. An estimated 47,000 women around the world die each year from unsafe abortions — and that figure doesn’t include women like Halpannavar who die from pregnancy-related complications that an abortion could have averted.
Aug 22, 2013
How do you protest the appearance of an anti-gay preacher? Reserve all the seats at his event and then don’t show up. What was he thinking going to a country where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010?
“Why doesn’t feminist media treat immigration as an obvious feminist issue? Why doesn’t mainstream feminism seem to give a damn about undocumented women? Why aren’t more feminist organizations coming out in support of the Dream 9? As a comprehensive immigration reform bill is being butchered by Congress, accomplishing little more than further militarizing the border, and the Dream 9, largely led by women, continue making national headlines after participating in the most radical, risky act of civil disobedience in the history of the undocumented student movement, there is literally no excuse for the silence on behalf of feminist media.”
Great read! Aside from “Dostana” and “I Can’t Think Straight”, I hadn’t even heard about these.
Even though her latest book and other occurrences have changed my perception of her, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is still a voice that needs to be heard.
Why is there even a need to ask this question in 2013? Have you not heard all that we have been screaming about how taking advantage of women and girls in compromised situations is NEVER ok?
Aug 21, 2013
“We are ready to start the fire again,” said state Rep. Christina Hagan at the press conference, which was filled with reporters as well as members of the Duggar family, reality television stars who have become some of the new faces of the evangelical anti-choice movement.
Speaking in favor of the ban was Michelle Duggar, matriarch of the 19 Kids and Counting family. With 17 of her 19 children in tow, Duggar spoke against the “baby holocaust” occurring in the United States, a talking point she also used at a Texas press event roughly a month ago: “There is a baby holocaust taking place, where doctors and nurses are paid to take the lives of innocent, unborn children. … If we do not speak up and do something to stop this holocaust, the blood of these little ones will be on our hands.”
Michelle’s oldest son, Josh, was recently named executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of the right-wing Christian group Family Research Council, an avid heartbeat ban supporter.
Aug 21, 2013
Prison Birth: Exploring Prison Justice Through Orange is the New Black
(Re-posted from Because I Am Woman an AH-MAZING sex-positivity, sex-ed, feminism, reproductive justice, birth justice, intersectionality, and activism blog. Check them out, and THANK YOU for letting us post this piece here.)
Orange is the New Black has been getting a lot of press lately, and it is certainly well deserved. The dark comedy features a dynamic and multi-faceted cast of women and gives a first-hand look into many of the realities women in prison face that are often left out of the conversation in mainstream culture and other prison related media. The visibility of the series has opened up many vital conversations on topics such as birthing, healthcare for trans people, mental health, privilege, sexuality and even the prison industrial complex itself. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be exploring these issues (and more) through the lens of the Orange is the New Black.
First up, we will be taking a good hard look at birthing in prison. Although birth has been an increasingly popular topic in reproductive justice and feminism in recent years, people experiencing it in prison aren’t often considered as part of the equation. In Orange is the New Black we are introduced to what birthing in prison might look like for people who are incarcerated when one inmate, Ruiz, is about to give birth during episode 8. Over the course of the episode, (although only a minor plot point), we see Ruiz go into labor and be told by a pharmacy tech that she may not go to a hospital until her contractions are extremely close together. When the time finally comes, Ruiz is taken away only to return at the end of the episode silently wheeled back into a room of women without her child. As the room of women turn to look at her, the silence that fills the room provides viewers with a shared sense of loss and sadness for the new mother, one that is likely in prison for a minor crime, who has already been taken from her child.
What we saw in this episode is only the beginning of what pregnancy and birth actually look like for many in prison. According to The Prison Birth Project, “In prison, 4-7% of women are pregnant, the same percentage as in the wider population; 85% are mothers, and 25% were pregnant upon arrest or gave birth in the previous year.” This demonstrates that reproductive health and pregnancy are clearly an issue for those incarcerated, and an issue that cannot be ignored in the reproductive justice movement. There is a need for education, advocacy, and support amongst these populations.
The reality of giving birth for many prisoners is also much worse than what we saw on Orange is the New Black. Many in prison are denied the medical care they need (pre and post-natal), and many more give birth still shackled in prison instead of in a hospital. Although advocates in many states have been pushing for change, only 16 states have passed legislation to outlaw the barbaric shackling of prisoners birthing and in labor. In their report “Mothers Behind Bars”by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the organizations gave almost half of all states a failing grade for their treatment of pregnant and birthing people, and point out that there is no national standards for treatment and care of those who experience pregnancy behind bars.
Fortunately, there are people and organizations out there organizing around these issues. The Prison Birth Project and Birth Behind Bars both act as advocates in their respective areas and bring doulas into prisons to aid in birth and pregnancy. You can support them by volunteering your time, money and support, as well as by continuing to spread the word on these issues.
As for Orange is the New Black, we can likely count on this not being the last pregnancy and/or birth we see in the series. Since the pregnancy of Daya by a prison guard is a much bigger plot point in the show, it is my hope that we see a more well-rounded and realistic depiction of what this experience looks like for inmates in the second season.
Aug 20, 2013
Aug 20, 2013
One year ago, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) uttered his infamous “legitimate rape” comment when explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. The comment gave the public a rare peek into the extreme views Akin and other like-minded conservatives have on reproductive rights and how fundamentally misinformed they are on matters of basic biology.
The comment was the beginning of the end of Akin’s Senate run. But while it may have cost him an election, it hasn’t stopped Republicans across the country from trying to legislate legal abortion out of existence. On Friday, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) quantified those efforts in a new report, Shut That Whole Thing Down: A Survey of Abortion Restrictions Even in Cases of Rape. The report looks at abortion legislation in the states and Congress from the first half of 2013 and finds that:
86 percent (235) of the 273 provisions that politicians introduced in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
71 percent (27) of the 38 state provisions restricting women’s access to abortion enacted by the states apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
72 percent (18) of the 25 bills introduced in Congress to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
Aug 19, 2013
Prepare yourself for the RAGE.
Everybody knows that all we’re trying to do is take over the world, Pinky & the Brain style.
“In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it’s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it’s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It’s useful.”
Well done Jenji. Well done!
“We walk through the world and some of us pass as male,” Woodland, 33, says. “We get left out of this conversation.”
I have no idea what Russell Simmons thought he was trying to achieve with that video. Shame on him! I struggled to find a way to express my anger at dismay at Shana Malcolm’s further plunge into the abyss of dubiousness, and settled on the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice-don’t-say-anything-at-all approach.
Aug 19, 2013
can we stop referring to all sex that could possibly result in pregnancy as “heterosexual reproduction” now
Aug 14, 2013
New laws banning abortion after 20 weeks are based on pseudoscience — and real research proves it conclusively.
This article originally appeared on Salon.com.
Since Nebraska first jump-started the trend back in 2010, close to a dozen state legislatures across the country have passed laws banning abortion at 20 weeks. Most of these restrictions are given grave-sounding titles like the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” or some near-identical riff on the words “fetal,” “pain” and “protection.” All of them, no matter what they’re called, rest on the stated premise that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks, and that this is a sufficient justification to ban all abortions after this gestational stage.
But “fetal pain” in the popular discourse is a nebulous concept, one that lawmakers like Jodie Laubenberg, Trent Franks and others haven’t much bothered to define or help ground in available medical evidence.
Probably because there really isn’t any. The limited research used to support such claims has been refuted as pseudoscience by both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (Not to mention smaller studies from researchers at Harvard University, University College London and elsewhere.)
“We know a lot about embryology [in the field]. The way that a fetus grows and develops hasn’t changed and never will,” Dr. Anne Davis, a second-trimester abortion provider, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, and consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Salon. “And what we know in terms of the brain and the nervous system in a fetus is that the part of the brain that perceives pain is not connected to the part of the body that receives pain signals until about 26 weeks from the last menstrual period, which is about 24 weeks from conception.”
Because the neural structures necessary to feel pain have not yet developed, any observable responses to stimuli at this gestational stage — like the fetal “flinching” during an amniocentesis — are reflexive, not experiential. Which is to say, the fetus at 20 weeks can’t actually feel anything at all. Which is to say, the fundamental justification for these laws is a really big, really popular lie.
Aug 14, 2013
North Carolina House Republicans have, without notice, inserted sweeping changes to the state’s abortion rules into a motorcycle safety law. Effectively, they’ve reintroduced the abortion bill that Governor Pat McCrory had threatened to veto.
Aug 9, 2013
I am no stranger to same-sex marriage debates. And even though marriage is not a priority for me (be it to the same or opposite sex) since I’m not sure I might ever want to, it’s very difficult to sit back and keep my mouth shut when the anti same-sex marriage crew start to mouth off.
I had a conversation/argument about this with an old acquaintance recently, and I finally realized something – I think I’m done arguing with people about the morality of same-sex marriage and the general equality of non-heterosexual people.
It wasn’t an argument I hadn’t heard before, but as I sat there listening to this person who was supposed to be a ‘friend’ and maybe even a prospective partner (I was SO wrong) say that people might as well be allowed to marry animals and little children, I was enraged. “Where do we draw the line”, he asked. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to punch somebody in the throat that bad.
I could not believe that once again, I was expected to sit here and argue my self-worth. That I was expected to actually say, “Could you please not compare me to a dog yeah? Thanks much”
It is not, and will never be my job to explain to people, especially those who are supposed to know and like me, that they should not dehumanize me in an attempt to prove to themselves and the world, that they perceive an aspect of my self to be wrong. Did I mention that he even used the word, “unnatural”
I say it all the time…I have never been able to understand how parents disown their gay children or people abandon their gay friends. Speaking from my point of view, my friends must have seen something in me to make them like me so much; perhaps it was a summation of many qualities. My family on the other hand, is supposed to love me unconditionally as far as I know. So how do these people actively decide that this one thing about me (which in NO WAY affects them if I might add) overshadows everything good?
But that’s it. I’m done. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion no matter how ignorant it is, but anyone who tries to pull this stunt on me again will wish that they had never gotten out of bed that day. I will not argue, but you better believe that I will let that person know what a dehumanizing piece of schtako they are.
Aug 8, 2013
I had little knowledge about sexual and reproductive health before my internship in Advocates for Youth. To get more information on sexual and reproductive health related issues, I have been reading blogs from a previous Chinese intern, and here are my thoughts on some of the content related to the gay community in China.
The intern mentioned that her family does not support her work 100% because the Chinese culture can be conservative. That’s so true! For example, the other day, I was talking to my friends about the internship I am doing at Advocates, and we talked about the gay friends we know. Because my two friends come from the same university, they exchanged information and they were really in shock when they came to know that someone they knew is gay. I was deep in thought after this conversation. My friends think they are open enough and they strive for basic human rights. They think that because they come from good college, have gained a good education, are from big cities and know a lot about the gay and transgender communities, that they can accept them and be kind. However, when we find out that someone we know is gay, we are surprised. We talk about it. We gossip. We dig out his boyfriend. We think we can accept it and be cool, but we cannot.
I have seen a documentary called “Analyzing Chinese Gays” (translation of the title by the author) that details the experiences of Chinese gay folks who want to marry heterosexuals because of the pressure from their families, communities and society. This is sad because I am not sure if any of the parties will be happy in this kind of marriage? Unfortunately, this was the destiny of many in old China, and sadly, this situation continues. Many parents still think that their child’s sexual orientation can be changed through heterosexual marriage or psychological guidance. They think they can understand “homosexuality” as a social phenomenon, but they cannot accept their own child as gay.
One parent in the organization named PFLAG China (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays ) that provides support to parents of LGBTQ people in China mentioned that she has been through several stages to eventually accept her gay son, from first passively accepting the identity of her son to full acceptance and from then to eventually volunteer and help other parents. She said that the gay community in China should first accept themselves and after “coming out of the closet”, they can give more guidance and care to their parents.
According to a documentary called “Charity China: PFLAG China” (translation of the title by the author) the gay community is around 4% -5% of the population in China, which adds up to 60 million people! Gay marriage is not allowed in China but many in the gay community are speaking up for their rights. Some have also managed to hold engagement ceremonies and get blessings from families. Promotion for legalizing gay marriage is also on many organizations’ agenda. The socialist Yinhe Li submitted a proposal for same-sex marriage in the National People’s Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference. However, she did not get 30 signatures of representatives, so the proposal cannot be formally deliberated.
I really believe we will pass laws on gay marriage sooner or later, and hopefully it will be a national law, not just for one province or district. The sooner it comes, the better our communities will be.
Aug 2, 2013
Originally posted at Choice USA: Choice Words:
India just banned the use/exploitation of dolphins as entertainment, as they are now considered “non-human persons”. Blackfish, a documentary about the psychological realities other animals face when confined in captivity, has just opened in theaters (at the distress of SeaWorld). Bird brain mapping has recently revealed that birds are “remarkably intelligent in a similar way to mammals such as humans and monkeys,” but ‘bird brain’ is still an insult. And the U.S. State Department and President Obama have decided to push ahead with building the Keystone XL Pipeline’s southern half amongst numerous questionable building practices, even though the previous Keystone I Pipeline has leaked fourteen different times. But isn’t this the Choice USA blog? What does this have to do with reproductive justice? Everything.
Having grown up with cats my whole life and having a vegetarian mother, I guess you could sayI was predisposed: at age 10 I chose to become a vegetarian and at age 19 I chose to begin living a vegan lifestyle. Somewhere in between there I also became a sexual health peer educator and have dedicated all of my time and effort to the reproductive justice movement ever since— including my eating habits.
I, like many of you, am pro-choice because I believe in each individual’s autonomy concerning their own body, lifestyle, and choices. I am pro-choice because I challenge any attempt to infringe on each individual’s freedom to control their own bodies and minds. I am pro-choice because it is not my place to coerce or use another being’s body as a means to any reproductive end she did not choose. And I am vegan for the exact same reasons.
Jul 31, 2013
When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”
Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!” State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this. But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.
There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident. Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things. You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in. It’s not just one old, white male politician. It’s several. And they’re not necessarily always white men.
Brace yourself. This is pretty triggering.
“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”
— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.
“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”
— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.” —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.
“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”
—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.
“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”
—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.
“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.
This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth. The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education. It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life. And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen. So, we advocate for the youth. We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.
Jul 23, 2013
Young sexual and reproductive rights advocates continue to push for the full integration of a rights-based approach in relation to advancing population and development goals. That was the overarching message of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Regional Youth Summit.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, where activists representing over 40 international organizations gathered and developed a Call to Action, ensuring young people sexual and reproductive rights continue to be integrated in development agendas.
The summit brought together a diverse group of 40 young people from Eastern Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel (EECARO region), to discuss and develop priority goals. During the summit, we organized ourselves into three sessions based on interest and expertise
- Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development,
- Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course,
- Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights.
After lengthy conversations, each group came up with a number of recommendations to share with the entire forum for us all to debate and finalize. The culmination of our work was translated into a solid document that represents what the youth from the EECARO region want elected officials and leaders to take into consideration. You can access the full document here.
The outcome of the summit embodied the youth vision and development priorities for the region over the next decade and was presented at the Regional Conference in Geneva. Fifteen delegates from our group (bearing in mind equal representation) attended the Geneva Conference and shared our declaration (Youth Call to Action). The speech, delivered by Grace Wilentz from YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and Jakub Skrzypczyk from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights can be found here.
On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with all the youth participants at the Regional Youth Forum and learning more about the EECARO region. It became clearer to me that the same sexual and reproductive health and rights issues we are advocating for in the US are found in other parts of the world. I was happy to discover that we are not alone in this battle. Young people from all over the world are rising up to the challenge, demanding greater youth representation in world affairs and better human rights conditions for all.
About United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)
Tasked with the mission of delivering “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” UNFPA is a UN organization whose efforts are guided by two main frameworks, 1) the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and 2) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.
With the date for achieving these goals fast approaching, UNFPA and its partners, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), have been working together to ramp up their efforts. UNFPA and UNECE have been involved in the Beyond 2014 Review, an effort to engage world leaders from governments and civil society in drafting a new global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.
The ICPD Operational Review has been taking place as part of the Beyond 2014 Review, and UNFPA and UNECE have been facilitating this process. Within this process, UNFPA and UNECE organized three thematic meetings on the following topics:
- “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development”,
- “Reducing Inequities, Fostering Social Inclusion” and
- “Life Course, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Families”.
As a culminating event, the agencies planned for a two-day Regional Conference entitled “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century,” which was just held in Geneva (1-2 July), gathering leaders from all over the EECARO region (Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel).
Young people are at the core of the UNFPA’s mandate, offering an essential voice to help shape the future development agenda. Therefore, young people have participated in the operational review at the country level and in all the thematic meetings mentioned above. In order to continue their involvement, UNFPA EECARO has organized the Regional Youth Forum in Istanbul (30-31 May) and in which I participated, representing Advocates for Youth and the US at large.
Jul 22, 2013
Jul 22, 2013
California’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped nearly 60 percent as a result of expanded sex education programs, according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday.
The report –- which was based on data collected until 2011 — revealed that the California teen pregnancy rate reached a 20-year low that year. While in 1991, there were 70.9 births for every 1,000 teens aged 15-19, in 2011 this number decreased to 28 births per 1,000 teens.
Teen pregnancy rates fell across all ethnic groups, according to the report. The Hispanic teen birth rate dropped from 73.6 in 2001 to 42.7 in 2011 –- although Hispanics continue to be the group with the highest teen birth rate. Teen pregnancy rates for African-Americans, Whites and Asian-Americans also decreased significantly.
Several factors contributed to the falling pregnancy rates, the department said in a press release. One factor was the state’s school sex education program, which law requires to be comprehensive and medically accurate. The report also credits community-based education programs that provide sexual health information to teens and their parents.
“We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.
“California’s innovative strategies and community partnerships aimed at lowering teen pregnancy are helping young women and men make responsible choices,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH, said in a press release. “We must not be complacent; we must continue to promote teen pregnancy prevention programs and strategies in all communities.”
As Think Progress noted, California’s teen birth rate decreases are part of a national trend. The national teen birth rate dropped nearly 50 percent between 1991 and 2011, NBC’s Today Health reported.
Jul 22, 2013
Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk: Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, with the Vatican City and Malta outside the region.
Jul 19, 2013
On the same day that Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a controversial abortion omnibus bill into law, Republican legislators in the state introduced yet another anti-abortion measure, this time looking to ban abortions after 6 weeks. And while it seems very unlikely at this point that the bill will make it through the state’s legislative process by July 31, the end of the current special legislative session in Texas, the timing is still drawing a decent bit of attention.
There’s only one state in the U.S. with an abortion ban after 6 weeks: North Dakota. And that law is being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. The 6-week bans, like the one proposed in Texas, rely upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat by a doctor. Arguing that a fetal heartbeat is “a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth,” the Texas bill, HB59, would require doctors to determine whether a fetal heartbeat exists before legally performing an abortion. Fetal heartbeats typically register at around 6 weeks, meaning that the bill would effectively make that the cut off for the procedure.
Jul 18, 2013
Well Heaven forbid that an old black man should mourn the death of a black child. This woman got so angry about it, she climbed onto the stage and attacked him.
As one commenter aptly put it, “Let me guess, you guys are going to justify it by saying, “She was standing her ground! He looked suspicious and threatening?”".
Two Ugandan transgender activists, Cleo Quentaro and Kim Mukasatalk to the Mail & Guardian about the struggle and challenges of daily life of transgender individuals living in Uganda.
Quentaro speaks about the politics of identity shaming where, as a transwoman, “dressing up” (being trans is not simply an act of ‘dressing up’, I am using her words to illustrate her point) as a woman is seen in our patriarchal society as an act of degradation of the male self and ego.
‘For a man to dress up as a woman, with the patriarchy that’s associated with our culture back home, it’s like degrading yourself to a woman…’ - Cleo Quentaro
Colour me not-surprised. This is the world we live in.
A list of many other unarmed black men who were killed by a cop or vigilante and received no justice. Each name is followed by a summary of the case.
I honestly don’t know what to make of this. It’s shocking and infuriating to see the utter lack of remorse. You killed a child and you don’t even wish it had never happened? A homeless man robs a bank, only takes $100, returns the rest and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and yet Zimmerman got of with nothing?
Jul 16, 2013
Even in 2013, many people still insist that bisexuality does not exist.
When the existence of bisexuality is not denied, it is mocked, misunderstood, ignored, excluded, and erased, even by LGBTQ+ organizations, and this may have a profound effect on the experience on bisexuals, as shown in Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations. In this report, the LGBT Advisory Council of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission presents certain alarming trends and statistics that mark the effects of bisexual erasure.
As someone who identifies as queer or bisexual (someone who is attracted to people of the same gender and of other genders, in case you were wondering which definition I prefer, as definitions of bisexuality are heavily disputed), these facts and statistics surprised me. Though I could relate to many of these statistics, I was surprised because it is so rare that bisexual issues are discussed separately from other queer issues (even though some studies show that bisexuals are the largest segment of those belonging to the queer community.)
For me, this was a wake up call. Bisexual erasure, stereotypes, and lack of visibility are problems that I was already familiar with. But the statistics in the report about mental health, physical health, income disparities, and violence made me realize that there is so much work to be done within the bisexual community.
These are just some of the incredible facts presented in the report.
1. Bisexuals face greater physical and mental health disparities than lesbians, gays, and the broader population (page 11). Bisexuals are also less likely to have access to insurance or financial resources for health care (page 12).
2. Bisexual women have increased rates of domestic violence when they are in relationships with monosexual partners, as compared to other groups of women (page 11).
3. Bisexuals are significantly more likely to be living in poverty, have lower levels of education, and have more children in the household (pages 12, 27).
4. Bisexuals are more likely to have considered or attempted suicide than heterosexuals, gays, and lesbians (page 12).
5. Statistics about violence against bisexuals and bisexual health are erased by organizations collecting the data. Bisexuals are usually grouped in with either the heterosexual or gay/lesbian categories (page 19-20).
6. Among women who have given birth, bisexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to have given birth during teenage years (page 23).
7. Female bisexual teens are more likely to have a history of sexual abuse than female heterosexual teens.
8. Bisexuals have significantly lower incomes than heterosexuals, gays and lesbians. Gay men and lesbians earn between 2 and 3 percent less than heterosexuals, while bisexuals earn between 10 and 15 percent less than heterosexuals (page 27).
9. There was zero grant funding that was specific to bisexual issues in the United States two years in a row (2008-2009). (page 28)
As I said, this should be a wake up call for LGBTQ+ activists and organizations. It’s time that we made a greater effort to increase the visibility of bisexual people and bisexual issues.
Also see “Why Bisexuals Stay in the Closet” in the LA Times.
Jul 15, 2013
“Gay people exist. There’s nothing we can do in public policy that makes more of us or less of us exist. And you guys have been arguing for a generation that public policy ought to, essentially, demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist. But you don’t make any less of us exist. You just are arguing in favor of discrimination. And more discrimination doesn’t make straight people’s lives any better.” – Rachel Maddow, Meet the Press
Rachel Maddow for President anyone?
Jul 12, 2013
Texas Lawmaker Says Sex Ed Makes Teens ‘Hot and Bothered’ Leads to Sex and Babies
The Texas house recently passed an extreme bill that could force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close. Many of the debates over the bill were heated, but one of the more interesting ones started last Tuesday night after a house committee vote was over and three members of the committee had a conversation that was audio-taped by a reporter for theHouston Chronicle. In that conversation, Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) pointed out to two of her Republican colleagues, Reps. Steve Toth (The Woodlands) and Bill Zedler (Arlington), that sex education that includes information about contraception can help prevent unintended pregnancies, and therefore can reduce the number of abortions that are performed. Toth was quick to disagree about the merits of sex education.
Jul 12, 2013
Jul 10, 2013
Jul 9, 2013
Tomorrow, two weeks to the day of the Supreme Court decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), will finally hold a vote on the 2013 version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The bill will prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Sen. Harkin promised a vote on the latest bill when it was first introduced in April.
ENDA is arguably one of the most important pieces of legislation for the LGBT community, which continues to struggle with disproportionate amounts of harassment and legalized discrimination. The first comprehensive report on the American LGBT population released by the Pew Research Center a little over three weeks ago showed that 58 percent of LGBT Americans indicated being the subject of slurs or jokes, and almost one third report having been threatened or physically attacked.
Similar versions of ENDA have made their way through Congress since 1994, most notably in 2007 when a version without explicit protections for gender-identity received widespread criticism from LGBT organizations for potentially leaving out transgender people and gender nonconforming gays. President Obama, however, has indicated his support for ENDA and the bill has received its highest Republican support in the Congress. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) a Republican member of the democratic controlled HELP committee has signed on as a co-sponsor, making its passage all but assured. All eyes will now turn to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), also HELP committee member and one of three Senate Republicans that endorsed marriage equality, but has remained silent on ENDA.
Even with all of the political leverage, and support from the vast majority of the LGBT population, ENDA has failed to gain the amount of traction marriage equality has over the past couple of years. Over 9 in 10 Americans believe that federal protections against job discrimination for sexual orientation and gender-identify already exist. In truth, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people can still be legally fired in 29 states and transgender and gender non-conforming people can be fired legally in 33 states. These numbers indicate a gaping whole in efforts to make sure the most vulnerable members of the LGBT community, including people of color, transgender folk, and people of low socioeconomic backgrounds receive the same level of protection and a chance to live their lives openly.
Part of the failure in addressing job discrimination comes from the overwhelming efforts national LGBT groups have put on marriage equality at the expense of other issues. The staggering amount of ignorance by the general population on discrimination still faced by the vast majority of the LGBT population shows how much more outreach and education is needed to make sure ENDA becomes a reality. The same Pew poll showed that an overwhelming number of LGBT people, 57 percent, believe equal employment rights are the most important issue facing the community and a significant number believe same-sex marriage has drawn too much attention away from other issues.
The vote tomorrow will be a big step forward but the current legislation still has many dangerous provisions. Wide and strong religious exemptions will leave many LGBT people without basic protections and several religious groups have already promised litigation. Over the past couple of years conservative groups have used “religious freedom and exemption” arguments to block key protections and legislation throughout the Obama administration. The recent victory in Colorado courts by Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned craft store, against contraception coverage from the Affordable Care Act highlight some of the challenges ENDA will face if it becomes law with strong religious exemptions. This will be especially dangerous as many of the firings of LGBT people in the country are in religious based institutions and organizations (the current legislation would even exclude my alma mater, a Jesuit-catholic institution).
More consciousness and understanding on LGBT job discrimination will have to be raised if we hope to see a strong and effective ENDA. Current numbers show that we have failed to make the general public and our lawmakers understand just how much of a threat LGBT people continue to face in securing the basic necessities to life.
 Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, S. S.815, 113 Cong. (2013). Print.
 “A Survey of LGBT Americans.” Pew Social Demographic Trends RSS. Pew Research Center, n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/a-survey-of-lgbt-americans/>.
 Diehm, Jan. “Employment Non-Discrimination Act 2013: The ‘T’ In LGBT Protections.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 11 June 2013. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/11/employment-non-discrimination-act-2013-_n_3402688.html>.
 Krehely, Jeff. “Polls Show Huge Public Support for Gay and Transgender Workplace Protections.” Center for American Progress, n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2011/06/02/9716/polls-show-huge-public-support-for-gay-and-transgender-workplace-protections/>.
 “A Survey of LGBT Americans
 “ENDA Religious Exemption.” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.civilrights.org/lgbt/enda/religious-exemption.html>.
 “Hobby Lobby Wins Restraining Order :: Health Care Lawsuits.” Healthcare Lawsuits. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://healthcarelawsuits.org/detail2.php?c=2791654>.
Jul 2, 2013
AP: Ireland’s lawmakers voted 138-24 to back a bill legalizing abortions in life-threatening cases. The proposed law faces final passage next week.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny easily prevailed as he sought all-party endorsement of his government’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Ireland, almost uniquely in Europe, officially bans abortion in all circumstances. But the Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that terminations should be legal if doctors deem one essential to safeguard the life of the woman — including from her own suicide threats.
Photo: This Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 file photo shows abortion rights protesters holding pictures of Savita Halappanavar as they march through central Dublin, demanding that Ireland’s government ensures that abortions can be performed to save a woman’s life. (Shawn Pogatchnik / AP file)
Jul 1, 2013
I decided to break the law to provide a necessary medical service because women were dying at the hands of butchers and incompetent quacks, and there was no one there to help them. The law was barbarous, cruel and unjust. I had been in a concentration camp, and I knew what suffering was. If I can ease suffering, I feel perfectly justified in doing so.
-Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian doctor who was arrested four times for performing abortions, but whose arrests eventually led to the 1988 Canadian Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the country.
He died this week at the age of 90. Good obit in the NY Times.
Jul 1, 2013
I posted a couple things here about Wendy Davis’ insanely awesome marathon filibuster to stop SB5, which is a bill from Texas that would close the majority of the clinics in the state that not only provide abortion services, but contraception and general health care. And she wasn’t alone. Hundreds of local supporters stood by her and when the bill was thought to be stopped, the capitol building erupted with cheers.
The lawmakers had to vote on this bill before it hit midnight. But thanks to Senator Wendy Davis, Senator Leticia Van De Putte, and hundreds of reproductive justice advocates, lawmakers fortunately did not get the chance to meet that deadline. Republican lawmakers tried to argue that the bill was voted and passed on time despite clear evidence revealing that the vote ended on June 26 when it was supposed to be June 25. They later took it back and admitted that the vote occurred after midnight and the bill was dead. All Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst could say about it was: “…it’s been fun.” Because taking away people’s rights to health care is so much fun.
The bill was thought to be stopped and everyone in the social justice club was happy. But Texas Governor Rick Perry called for a special session to try to bring SB5 back. This would make all the efforts of the Texans who went to stop this in vain. Governor Rick Perry’s Facebook, Twitter, office website, office address, and phone information has been spreading so that people can voice their opinions. Hopefully the voices of the constituents will be heard.
While the Internet social justice atmosphere exploded at the news of Texan Republicans’ shady tactics, for good reason, Ohio has passed some terrible anti-choice legislation of their own. Ohio lawmakers didn’t even bring it up for debate. They slyly passed the bill last minute the other night. Activists are sharing Ohio Governor John Kaisch’s phone number (614-728-7576) in hopes that he line-vetoes the measure. If he doesn’t, Planned Parenthood and rape crisis centers lose their funding in that state, and those funds will be going to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. And you know what Crisis Pregnancy Centers are like. People will have to will 24 hours before receiving their emergency contraception. Forced ultrasounds will be legalized, and the unwilling patient would still have to pay for it. This measure would even redefine pregnancy, throwing out the actual medical definition, so that using emergency contraception would be considered abortion.
We have our work cut out for us.
Jun 27, 2013
Yesterday was a historic day for same-sex and some transgender couples as the Supreme Court ruled favorably on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8. Among my friends there was much celebration, but not without hesitation and critique. Many felt they could not truly let themselves enjoy the moment due to the discrimination and oppression still facing many in the queer* community. Homelessness, inadequate health care, violence, multiple oppressions among queer people of color, and many other issues remain rampant barriers to true equality. Browsing through my social networks I also saw many saying the rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 were overshadowed by the Court’s decision to strike Section 4 from the Voting Rights Act.
These conversations had me torn over how to celebrate and talk about what transpired at the Court earlier that day, in addition to the decisions the Court released over the past two weeks. It is vital to pause and celebrate milestones such as yesterday’s events in order to acknowledge the progress that has been made, allow for self-reflection, and reignite our dedication to the issues we work on. Yet, by achieving milestones, we must be cautious not to lose focus of issues that still disproportionately affect queer people. Personally, I do not face much discrimination in my life based upon my gender identity or sexual orientation. Despite knowing a lot about the diverse issues facing the queer community, benefitting from such safety and privilege partially blinds me to the scale of discrimination and oppression some American queers face. For me, yesterday’s rulings were a call to action – a reminder to continue advocating for the largely unaddressed issues still facing the queer community.
*I use queer here to denote all sexual and gender minorities
Jun 26, 2013
“DOMA is dead! DOMA is dead!”
Jun 26, 2013
From Huffington Post:
The Texas anti-abortion bill, which threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state and prompted an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), is dead, The Austin American-Statesman reported.
Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session’s end at 12 a.m. local time. However, more than 400 protesters halted the proceedings 15 minutes before the roll call could be completed with what they called “a people’s filibuster,”The Associated Press reported.
The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried “Shame! Shame!” when Davis’ filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who ruled that her discussion of mandatory ultrasound testing was off-topic. Then the protesters roared after state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
Their cries continued to echo inside the chamber — and over a livestream watched by thousands around the world — until after the midnight deadline passed.
Although some Republican lawmakers later claimed the bill had passed in time, Democrats denied that the vote was completed before the clock ran out on the session.
A time stamp showing the vote completed after midnight was the deciding factor. “This will not become law,” Sen. John Whitmire (D), told The Austin American-Statesman.
In response, the crowd of protesters gathered in the capitol cheered and began singing “The Eyes Of Texas,” the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin.
According to The Texas Tribune, Dewhurst was less than pleased by the evening’s turn of events. After ruling that the time on SB 5 had expired, he told reporters that “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics” had derailed legislation that was designed to protect women and babies.
The legislation would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regulated first-trimester abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers and restricted access to medication abortions. Had it passed, nearly all of the clinics in the state would have been shuttered.
Dewhurst also hinted that Gov. Rick Perry may call another special session to get the bill passed, saying: “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon.”
Despite a long day of filibustering, Davis was upbeat when she greeted the crowd of supporters, who applauded the senator and chanted her name.
“Today was democracy in action,” Davis said. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.”
Jun 26, 2013
I’m sure I’m not the only one all anxious this morning, waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA and Prop8. But thankfully, I came across this cartoon by Christopher Weyant from The New Yorker and it drew a smile on my face. No matter the outcome, gay and lesbian Americans can and will lead happy lives. If God-forbid, things don’t go as well as we hope, the LGBT community and our allies will not back down and will not stop fighting for equal rights. Here’s a hug from me to you.
Jun 26, 2013
From Tumblr blogger kat1712:
(edited for language)
Senator Wendy Davis is a f*cking badass.
There’s this bill that they are trying to pass in Texas that would make it illegal to get any abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and would make it very difficult for abortion centers to continue doing what they do. Governor Rick Perry has already said that if the bill makes it to his desk, he will sign it. And Wendy Davis said f*ck no that is not happening.
So she’s filibustering it. That means she asked to talk on the subject at 11:18 this morning, and if she can continue talking about abortion until 11:59 tonight, the bill won’t reach Governor Perry, and they would have to start all over with the bill next time they meet- 2 years from now.
But Wendy has to keep talking. She can’t pause for even a minute, not for food or a sip of water or to go to the bathroom or sit down. She can’t even lean up against anything, or she’s out. So she’s wearing motherf*cking PINK NIKE TENNIS SHOES in the middle of the state senate.
She also has to continue talking about the topic. She sent out tweets an other messages last night asking for anyone and everyone’s abortion story, and received a sh*t load of answers. Her staff is still collecting them, and she’s reading them aloud to the senate. Not only is she making this bill impossible to pass, she may just change some minds while she’s at it.
This is history, guys. Wendy Davis is a motherf*cking badass, and we are watching it happen.
Jun 22, 2013
“The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” AMA board member William Kobler said in a statement. “This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”
The AMA’s stance on amending the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in the U.S. falls in line with recent policy changes in other countries. Earlier this year Canadian Blood Services approved achange in policy that would allow gay men to donate blood if they have abstained from having sex with another man for five years prior to their donation. Additionally, other countries such as Australia and the U.K., require only a one-year window of deferral for sexually active gay men, while South Africa requires only a six-month period.
Jun 21, 2013
For decades, most Crisis Pregnancy Centers have been lying to women, evading questions, and disguising their institutions as health care facilities. They receive federal funding to shame women into believing lies- “abortion causes breast cancer”, “it will make you infertile”, “condoms do not protect against STIs”, etc. They do not have a doctor at these facilities, and are not under HIPAA regulations of non-disclosure of medical records. They are against all contraception forms. They will harass a woman until she is in tears, and then send her on her way with a Christian religious token, and a promise from her that she will keep her child, they will only provide “help” if she agrees to go to Bible Study. This is not health care. Title X funding should be revoked.
Jun 21, 2013
“CPCs have a long history of engaging in deceptive advertising. For example, some CPCs intentionally choose their name to mislead women into believing that they offer a wide range of services, including family planning and abortion care. The Family Research Council investigated what names would be most likely to appeal to women, particularly pro-choice women, in a 1998 report. Women’s Resource Center, which gives the impression of a full range of services, was deemed to have the most strategic value in reaching women “at risk for abortion.” The report also showed that women faced with an unplanned pregnancy were most likely to look in the Yellow Pages under the words “Pregnancy,” “Medical,” “Women’s Centers” and “Clinics.” Accordingly, CPCs often are advertised under these categories, as well as “Abortion Alternatives,” and “Women’s Organizations.” CPCs also advertise through posters, signs, and billboards that contain messages like, “Free Pregnancy Test,” or “Pregnant? Scared? We Can Help! Call 1-800 #.” Women report, however, that when they call these numbers the CPC representatives evade questions about whether they provide abortions, and urge the women to make an appointment to meet with a ‘counselor’ to talk in person.”
Jun 20, 2013
If you haven’t watched any videos by the rib-crackingly funny YouTube blogger Hart, you’re in for a treat. Hart is the “Lesbian lover from another mother, with boobs and a vagina. It’s all necessary.” Prepare thineself for the hilarity.
I came across this video entitled “Watermelon…” in which Hart explains why one’s love for women does not mean that one has to dress in the stereotyped fashion of feminity.
Do yourself a favor and follow Hart on…
Also, check out Hart’s music video about “Lesbian Issues”
Jun 18, 2013
The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced last Friday that it would be changing their outdated gender marker policy. For the transgender community and our supporters, this is a big step forward. Previously, the gender marker on one’s social security card could only be changed after gender affirmation surgery. Not only are these surgeries expensive and typically not covered by insurance, but they are not desired by all members of the trans community. The new SSA policy allows an individual to change their gender marker by presenting a passport or birth certificate reflecting their desired gender or a letter from a doctor confirming they are receiving “appropriate clinical treatment”.
As a trans person I am ecstatic to learn of the SSA’s policy change, but this policy further complicates my “official governmental identity”. I have legally changed my name, however, my gender marker remains in limbo at the discretion of individual policies. Currently, I am able to change my gender marker on my social security card, my health insurance card, and my passport. As a New Hampshire resident, I cannot change my driver’s license or birth certificate. While a handful of states allow people to change their gender on the driver’s license and birth certificate without having gender affirmation surgery, New Hampshire is not one of those states. Legal recognition as a male by some institutions and female as other creates unnecessary inconsistency. It is time for a singular, national procedure for changing one’s gender marker.
Although I have chosen to medically transition, I do not identify with either gender. Thus, I am not too shaken by still having an “F” on the majority of my legal documents. I can imagine the dysphoria and trauma this causes many trans people though. If there ever is a uniform policy for changing one’s gender marker, I hope the option for a third gender is included. As of July 1, Australians will have the option of identifying as gender “X”, signaling intermediate, intersex, or unspecified. This option acknowledges those who do not identify with either gender or identify as a combination of genders. The US should follow suit to celebrate the diversity of gender identity and expression among its citizens.
Jun 16, 2013
Let me start off by wishing everyone (who has a dad), a very Happy Fathers’ Day. Now that my heteronormative wishes have gone through, let me get right to the point. Celebrating Mothers and Fathers on separate days is straight up offensive. Do mind the pun. Having specific days dedicated to either mothers or fathers assumes that all families conform to “traditional” and “heteronormative’ lifestyles and does not acknowledge the fact that there are many families who do belong to these strict structures. LGBT families are an example that may come directly to mind. Imagine how offended (and hurt) members of such a family would be on Mothers or Fathers’ Day, feeling left out and marginalized from society, not able to take part of all the festivities that people like to organize around such holidays. It’s enough to look at any magazine around said holidays for a member of an LGBT family to feel the amount of insensitivity thrown at him/her/them. But LGBT families are not the only ones who suffer on such holidays. A similar situation applies to single parents as well as parents raising orphans or adopted children. And the list goes on. Therefore, I believe Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day should be abolished and replaced by Parents’ Day, celebrating all parents around the world, no matter their background. Parenthood is not restricted to any age, relationship status, gender, sex, sexual expression, etc. In this age of political correctness, when will Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day be ruled insensitive?
PS: National Parents’ Day is celebrated in the US on the fourth Sunday of every July. Though the intention of its establishment in 1994 (during Clinton’s administration) was not to be politically correct, I think such a case must be made loud and clear.
Jun 15, 2013
“Together we can end HIV stigma, but we need to be able to TALK ABOUT IT. Share this graphic to continue the conversation and encourage your network of friends to speak up!”
Jun 11, 2013
Jun 1, 2013