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The breath of spring brought new waves of inspiration and energy for LGBT activism in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The whole month of March was full of exciting events, which strengthened the visibility of LGBT issues in Kyrgyzstan.

First of all, the local gay and bisexual men organization “Kyrgyz Indigo” finally moved to a new office, much bigger one than they had before. This fact shows the growing organizational capacity of the grass-root organization (Formerly, they were condensed in a tiny single-room office with no ventilation and heating). Moving to the new office inspired the staff and volunteers of “Kyrgyz Indigo” for further hard work.

Moreover, on March 23, 2012 LGBT organization “Labrys”, GBT organization “Kyrgyz Indigo” and transgender initiative group "Tendik" were invited to the meeting with the HumaOmbudsman of the Kyrgyz Republic in order to discuss LGBT issues and the international obligations of the Kyrgyz Government in relation to LGBT. During the meeting, “Labrys”, "Tendik" and “Kyrgyz Indigo” shared the major challenges/legal difficulties that LGBT community face in Kyrgyzstan:

– There are dozens of cases when LGBTs suffer rackets and blackmails from the militia (the state law-enforcement agency), especially from the officers of Oktyabr’ District Department of Internal Affairs. The problem is aggravated by the fact that LGBTs avoid publicity and they do not officially make complaints against the militia.

– There are two articles in the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic: 129 and 130, which have almost similar content. The problem is that the articles divide heterosexual sexual rape and non-heterosexual sexual rape, giving different time periods for imprisonment. Furthermore, the Article 130 contains such words as sodomy and lesbianism, which sound quite offensive.

– There’s a weak dialogue between the Kyrgyz State and the LGBT community. The governmental officials avoid discussions about LGBT issues or show very negative attitudes towards LGBTs. When “Labrys” conducted the seminar on UN recommendations, concerning LGBT issues, for the governmental officials, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Youth disregarded the invitation at all. This shows the lack of interaction between the Government and NGOs, working with LGBT.

– There’re no mechanisms in the court system that can protect confidentiality and security of LGBT during court examinations or witness reporting.

– There isn’t any antidiscrimination legislation that can explicitly support human rights of LGBT.

During the discussion the ombudsman attempted to make first steps in changing the situation: he immediately called Alymbekov, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, to raise the issue of humiliation and violence, faced by LGBT when they get arrested by the militia officers.

The ombudsman also asked “Labrys” and “Kyrgyz Indigo” to prepare facts, recordings, and any information (name, age, rank) of those, who practiced blackmail and to write elaborated recommendations/appeals/proposals to the Ombudsman.

Additionally, the Ombudsman proposed to establish the special committee on the basis of Ombudsman Department, which will examine LGBT issues. He also stated:

“Now I’m ready to discuss LGBT issues. It took me long to start this conversation.”

The meeting with Ombudsman can be a sign of new positive changes in the relationship between LGBT community and the state. I can already slightly feel the proximity of the kyrgyz society, where the prejudices will be constantly challenged and people will have LGBT-friendly and non-heterosexist attitudes.

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Jenna Talackova is a post-op transsexual model who was vying for Ms. Universe Canada, but was disqualified due to the fact she was not a "natural born" woman. This was a story that permeated the mainstream media, and I am somewhat ashamed that I, for some reason, didn’t get around to blogging about this. But of course, there may be a reversal:

Donald Trump has stepped in to overturn a decision by the Miss Universe Organization — which he owns — that would prevent a transgender Canadian beauty pageant contestant from competing because she was not “naturally born” a woman.
Jenna Talackova, a tall blond who underwent gender-reassignment surgery at age 19 and holds legal documents — including a passport, birth certificate and driver’s licence — affirming her identity as a woman, wants pageant organizers to go further and drop eligibility rules she calls discriminatory.

The Vancouver-born Talackova, 23, was kicked out of the Miss Universe Canada competition last Friday after she was selected as one of 65 finalists. The winner of that contest, who ultimately will be crowned on May 19 in Toronto, will go on to represent Canada in the global Miss Universe Pageant later in the year.

“As long as she meets the standards of legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, which we understand that she does, Jenna Talackova is free to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant,” said Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump and executive vice president of his business group.

I guess even a very conservative birther such as the Donald has come to realize that gender isn’t all whatever genitals you have or have once had. However, as much as there is optimism within the trans community and their allies, I have to take a step back and ask? Does looksism subconsciously play into this?

If one thinks about it, trans* people are often economically marginalized and unable to get gainful employment, this is sadly especially so for those who would not "pass" as well as Ms. Talackova. Her appearance, which was made possible by being young and for some reason being able to access transition related care at an early age, has opened doors that rarely any other trans* person will ever be able to enter.

Now, I believe that the community has the right to be outraged that Ms. Talackova was even disqualified in the first place, hell, it degenders the individual. However, where is the outrage when hard working trans* people get harassed and/or fired just for who they are. I am somebody who is a proficient writer and has a knack for policy analysis, but I cannot even land a job, and my lack of passability (believe me, it’s not like it’s that easy when you’ve got a shadow and hormones take a LONG time to work) quite possibly compounds that.

No matter what happens, whether she wins Ms. Universe or drops somewhere along the line, doors will be open for her. She will be more likely to be gainfully employed and have some economic security long after she is no longer pageant material. But of course, our community still suffers from injustice at every turn.

Could her inclusion in a mainstream event help lift the trans* community? Or, could the orgy of gender stereotyping that are pageants continue the world’s focus on traditional views of beauty over brains.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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Well, it happened; last week, the Affordable Care Act, one of the centerpieces of the Obama administration went before the Supreme Court. It has become one of the great national controversies, the challenge sparked by over 20 states and a small business group, and there will likely not be a ruling on the issue until late June, however, as a disabled transgender youth who has been marginalized by the healthcare system as well as the economy, I believe that no matter what happens, we as a society all lose, because there is a possibility that both sides are wrong here.

During the 1990s, when I was growing up, a popular toy was Rock’em Sock’em robots, a two player game in which two robots, the Red Rocker and Blue Bomber, guided by the two players, try to knock the other’s block off. It’s a fun game to play and spectate, but it can only engage so much. Perhaps this is a perfect analogy for not only the Supreme Court case at hand, but also for what is mainstream discourse in this country.

On one side, we have the Red Rocker (let’s say for ease that represents opponents of the healthcare law, both litigants in the marbled halls and activists from the streets). These are the Tea Partiers, the social darwinists who like to make wild accusations about healthcare and how it will lead to "socialized medicine" and how we should "take their government hands off our Medicare", and who refuse to believe, even with overwhelming evidence, that the President was born in the United States and/or is a citizen. These are typically blue collar individuals who believe that because they have had the privilege to be gainfully employed, that they render themselves experts on matters dealing with poverty, and sadly, it’s the 99% eating the 99%, according to Occupy parlance.

On the other side, we have the Blue Bomber (let’s say for ease that represents supporters of the healthcare law, both litigants in the marbled halls and activists from the streets). These tend to be people who believe that Obama is the second coming of Jesus and that everything he does turns to gold. These people are often either overeducated (of course, the thousands of pages that comprise the plan are something only a privileged Harvard post-grad student could love) and/or urban downtown schmooze-o-crats who are beholden to the business lobby and want to preserve a system that simply hasn’t worked for people like myself.

In other words, is it all worth it in the end?

All the BS about healthcare is why I keep insisting on a true single payer healthcare system. A single payer system is for everybody, and it’s one of those things that everybody can make their issue. A disabled person can make it their issue due to not needing to worry about means testing, a person of color can more easily get clinics in their neighborhood, and business will be able to have a more predictable cost of healthcare, but for me, I can make this an LGBTIQ issue, due to transition related coverage being easier to access, as would AIDS/HIV prevention and treatment, and for those with enough privilege to be married, it would moot the need for benefits transference between partners, among other things. Yet, whenever we in the pro-single payer movement propose another way, we get patted on the head and told "that’s nice", while the Red Rocker and Blue Bomber disdain us and call us a bunch of communists who need to take a shower. Though also, would you believe that I have been taking more seriously by a conservative friend of mine than the average "progressive" when discussing why everyone should support single payer.

A few weeks ago, AFY_Sarah wrote a post about the Affordable Care Act. While it does do some great things, such as eliminate copays for birth control, prevent gender discrimination, and expand Medicaid and child coverage among other things, it’s just not acceptable. There shouldn’t be copays on most services, and Medicaid expansion does not solve the problem. Plus, many provisions were delayed until 2014, and frankly, many of us can’t wait that long. Please do note that this article comes from a place of privilege which I, and many others, may never know.

For those who may not be quite sold on single payer, here are 101 reasons to support it, and for those who believe the lies and exaggerations told about Canada’s system, read these two posts by Sarah Robinson, a Canadian American activist. These three links will give you a great idea of what single payer is and why it should be supported.

But then, it comes back to this: if HR676, the bill that would establish single payer, was ever passed, would the Supreme Court be hearing this case. There are people on both sides of the fence when it comes to single payer, but I highly doubt a court challenge would be taken seriously if single payer was passed (otherwise, other public services like libraries would be sued out of existence).

It is time to shift the debate and put this disgusting game of Rock’em Sock’em robots in the toy chest. People’s lives are on the line here and we need to get with the rest of the developed, and even some of the developing, world. It’s for the future of the youth; what society would they want to inherit.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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It all started when Wisconsin, catering to conservatives, who will find anything to complain about besides the issues that truly matter, decided to pass a law that bans inmates from receiving transition related treatment. The trans inmates, of course,  revolted in the best way possible; they dropped the suehammer on their oppressors. Well, a few days ago, the Supreme Court of the United States, which is not known for their progressive jurisprudence, ruled that laws that single out trans inmates were unconstitutional:

Earlier this week, we got the good news — the six-year battle was over. Wisconsin’s anti-transgender Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act was a thing of the past. The act was a one-of-a kind law banning prison medical care for a medical condition that is unique to transgender persons. The law prevented prison doctors from ever prescribing transition-related medical treatment, including hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery, to transgender prisoners. In May 2010, a federal district court struck the law down as unconstitutional and in August 2011, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The third and final act of this legal drama was the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari on Monday.

So, now, those inmates who are being denied necessary treatment have the Supremes on their side and now must receive treatment for their condition. And perhaps there may be redemption for certain prisoners, as their feelings of hopelessness which lead to the transgressions that they have committed can be adequately addressed in an institutionalized setting through hormone therapy, surgery, and other responses, and can then have a smooth transition to the outside world once released.

In the above linked press release, ACLU attourney John Knight talks about all the struggles the organization had in defending their clients. One disturbing paragraph caught my attention.

At trial, Wisconsin made the disturbing argument that this law was really for the good of the transgender prisoners, since denying them hormone therapy prevented or reduced the feminizing affects of that medication thereby reducing the risk of their assault by the male prisoners with whom they were housed. The court rejected this argument based on the evidence that transgender prisoners were at risk, with or without the feminizing effect of hormones, and because Wisconsin’s security expert admitted that it would be "an incredible stretch" to conclude that banning the use of hormones could prevent sexual assaults.

Is it just me, or does this sound a pinch like victim blaming. You go to jail because you have committed a crime, you do not go to jail to get assaulted, sexually or otherwise, and that transfeminine inmates, with or without surgery, must be housed in WOMEN’S PRISONS, which, unfortunately, correctional authorities are slow to grasp.

Several months ago, I wrote about the story of Christine Alexander, a transsexual woman in a Massachusetts men’s prison who must receive laser treatment for her 5 o’clock shadow. While I do celebrate this victory, it still makes me sad that treatment is still not available to many people who need it, and there needs to be SINGLE PAYER HEALTHCARE (which, if Obama decided to do instead of the Affordable Care Act, we wouldn’t have had the Supreme Court involved).

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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by Bianca Laureano

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to be an Auntie/Tia/Titi. My sister has always wanted a family. When she married her wife last year in Washington, DC, the Big Fat Puerto Rican Lesbian Wedding we had was marvelous! They began to plan for their family and the time is arriving for my nephew to be born. Our families and communities are so excited for his arrival!

As I prepare to become a Tia/Auntie the first thing I looked for were books including same gender parents, mainly women. It was not an easy search. It’s not as rare as it once was, but it’s still a hunt! Because I know how challenging this can be, I’ve decided to share a list of the books I’ve found and purchased for my nephew. These are books that are often still in print, affordable, well-written, and engaging. Children’s books are important forms of media that are also markers of class status. I like to purchase books for children instead of toys because I value them, especially in a time when books are now becoming paperless, I’d like to transmit this value to my nephew. Finding a book that represents our family, struggles, successes, and love is essential to my ideas of media literacy and media justice.

The first challenge was finding a book about two mami’s. It’s not too hard to find a book about two mommy’s but finding one on two women of Color was a whole other challenge. Then, to find a book that had mami’s of Color and children of Color was another challenge. Add to that trying to find a book that had characters of Color, same gender parents, and then ones that had two mami’s raising a son and them being in bilingual in English and Spanish, the search was exhausting! But, they do exist.

Here are the books I purchased for my nephew:

Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio by Rigoberto Gonzalez and Cecilía Alvarez 

This book follows Antonio who is creating a Mother’s Day card in his class. He wants to include his mother’s partner, Leslie, but does not want to be made fun of by his classmates. Leslie picks him up from school every day and they spend time together before his mother arrives. I picked this book because it is bilingual (and one of the only ones), discusses a Latino boy (of which my nephew is), and because of how Leslie is described and drawn. She is someone described as being tall and large that she towers over Antonio, she wears baggy overalls that have paint splattered on them because she is an artist, and has short dark hair. Leslie really does look and sound like my sister and her gender expression being more lax with embracing more baggy clothing than her wife. It was the perfect book for our family and I am so excited to have found the book.

The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores: A Bilingual Folktale from the Jungles of Chiapas  by Subcomandante Marcos and Domitila Domínguez.

I often purchase this book for the new parents in my life. The story is created by Subcomandante Marcos of the Mexican Zapatistas guerilla movement, an indigenous rights and equality movement. The illustrator is Domitila Domínguez, an indigenous artist from Oaxaca, Mexico. This book is so beautiful and shares the story of how colors have come into our world and lives. There are animals that help in sharing the story of how the gods decided to add color to our world. The narrative includes indigenous traditions and rituals, as well as the reality of what indigenous people in Mexico struggle with to maintain and preserve their cultural practices and rituals.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and Suzanne DeSimone 

Based on lived experiences of parent and author Cheryl Kilodavis, we follow the story of a young boy of Color who challenges the way we imagine femininity and masculinity in young children. He enjoys exploring what makes him feel most genuine as each day comes whether it may be “pink and sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses, and sometimes he wears jeans.” One of the few stories for young children that discusses gender, identity, and challenges how we socialize our children. Visit the book website and listen to Kilodavis discuss her book. 

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman and Diana Souza 

This was the first children’s book that featured two same gender parents that were lesbians raising a daughter. It is a classic that celebrated it’s 20th anniversary edition in 2009 and is now published in color. My sister specifically requested this book for their library. Author Lesléa Newman has written several books and many are on this list. This book follows Heather and we meet her family which includes Mama Kate, Mama Jane and her dog Midnight. The book centers love that is found in many families regardless of how they are formed.

A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager and Mike Blanc 

This book takes place on the beach where two boys have a conversation about their families. A girl nearby listening joins in and we hear how they have questions for the little boy who has two mommies. The boy in the book is a boy of Color, and the two mommies could be women of Color as well, but I read them as racially white. If the child was adopted this is not discussed.

Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr 

One of the few books that centers transgender children, Be Who You Are tells the story of Nick. Assigned sex at birth male, Nick sees and believes herself to be a girl. The story follows Nick’s family who is supportive, loving, and works with Nick and her school to create and maintain a supportive environment.

Books To Purchase In The Future

Felicia’s Favorite Story by Lesléa Newman and Adriana Romo

Centers on Felicia who was adopted by her mothers Nessa and Linda. It follows a similar narrative that Newman is famous for: centering love in families. We learn how Felicia’s mama’s went about adopting her from Guatemala

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson 

Follows a lesbian couple and their child on a regular day. They go to the park to play, take a bath, have dinner, and a bedtime story. I read one of the parents as a woman of Color, so this is also an interracial book for some families.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole 

Based on a true story that took place at the New York City Central Park Zoo about two male penguin’s Roy and Silo. They decide they wish to become parents and find an egg shaped rock to care for. When one zookeeper notices and provides them with an egg that needs attention, Roy and Silo care for their egg until it hatches and they have a daughter. The family is still at the Central Park Zoo!

The Family Book by Todd Parr 

This book celebrates the differences and diversity found in families and includes same-gender parents. A picturesque story of how differences are important to recognize and value using the example of family formation.

In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco 

Centering on lesbian parents who have a large family, In Our Mother’s House shares a story that we rarely hear. Narrated by a young Black girl who was adopted by two white women she calls Marmee and Meema, she shares how her family evolved to include an Asian brother and red-headed sister. This book is one that shares how the community is supportive and a part of their family. It is the first book that has all the characters age and the ending is one that is epic.

Out of Print & Hard To Find (in the US)

123: A Family Counting Book by Bobbi Combs
Is a counting book up to the number 20. The images depict gay and lesbian parents and their children. The publishing company is a gay and lesbian centric one called Two Lives Publishing where online ordering is coming soon.

ABC: A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbi Combs 

Similar to the Family Counting Book, this book helps children learn the alphabet featuring gay and lesbian parents. Published by Two Lives publishing online ordering should be available soon, and hopefully it won’t be over $25!

Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin, Michele Paulse and Dawn Lee 

Follows Asha, a African-Canadian girl whose family becomes of interest to her teachers and classmates because her parents are lesbians. This book has a more specific and overt homophobic tone as it features Asha’s teachers telling her she can’t have two mothers.

Keesha & Her Two Moms Go Swimming by Monica Bey-Clarke, Cheril N. Clarke, Michelle Hutchinson, and Aiswarya Mukherjee 

We follow Keesha as she goes swimming with her parents and meets up with her friend Trevor who has a similar family as she does: two fathers. Keesha is a young girl of Color and she has parents of Color as well.

Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden and Sharon Wooding  

Following a similar story found in Antonio’s Card, Molly creates an image of her family featuring her two mothers. When a classmate tells her that she can’t have two mommies Molly doesn’t know how to respond.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

March 11- March 17

Stats this week: 52 posts by 30 writers

No Te Metas Con Las Mujeres De Tejas/ Don’t Mess With Texas Women- by abril_flowers

Inside this post:

I hoped to rely on resources like Planned Parenthood but Perry decided to select few resources to fund for women’s health services. Planned Parenthood is not one of them.

My advice to activists considering public health graduate programs- by ashthom

Inside this post:

There is a big difference between working to implement policies that impact health and implementing programs that impact health. Find what you like. Both are important and have an impact on the health and lives of people, but the skills and personality needed to do each type of work are different.

Wisconsin escalates its war on sex education- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

But while the new law isn’t a surprise, it’s certainly a disappointment. The removal of instruction about contraception is bad. But calling abstinence "the only reliable" means of prevention is simply a lie.

BCSSH Sex Files #19: The One-Stop Guide to Women’s Health Care Reform- by bcssh

Inside this post:

Since it can be difficult even for us to keep up with the sudden bustle of Congressional activity, we’ve broken down the top three benchmarks in the women’s health debate, as well as a few ways that you can get involved to stand up for your rights and health.

Stupid Stuff State Legislatures Are Doing, and The Awesome Responses They Get- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

In Arizona, SB1359 would allow doctors who personally oppose abortion to – well, not exactly lie – but withhold medical information from pregnant women if they think that information might lead to the woman considering abortion.

INTERVIEW: Rachel Lloyd, Founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

I believe that there are a handful of adult women in the commercial sex industry for whom it may be an employment choice among other employment choices. I can’t speak for them or their experiences. However for millions of girls and women, (and boys and transgender youth) around the world, it’s less about choice than it is about lack of choice.

The Violence Against Women Act; It Shouldn’t Be Controversial- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

…many in Congress who oppose the Violence Against Women Act are saying that domestic violence in immigrant and LGBT communities is not a big deal, and these provisions are just attempts to give more rights to immigrants and to those identifying as LGBT. However, these expansions are responses to the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs’ 2010 report,…

BREAKING: Utah governor vetoes abstinence-only bill- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

The new bill would have taken Utah from "sex education which discusses condoms and contraception but emphasizes abstinence" to "sex education which may not even broach the topic of contraception." It would be a change from "lots of moralizing with your info" to "no info."

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

March 4- March 10

Stats this week: 40 posts by 29 writers

Obama’s Ex-Nanny A Transgender Woman- by Jordan

Inside this post:

The story of how Evie came into contact with the future president was that she had met his mother at a cocktail party, and was invited for work for the family, helping raise Obama and his younger sister Maya. While neighbors knew that she was trans, they doubted that Obama ever knew, though Evie did try on some of his mother’s lipstick, much to his enjoyment.

Circumstance: A Cultural Prison- by KarachiYWOCLC

Inside this post:

It’s a beautifully written and directed movie, showing viewers what youth culture is like in Tehran, while exploring the issue of homosexuality in Iran. The story follows two friends, Atafeh, the teenage daughter of a wealthy Iranian family; and her friend Shireen, who is an orphan.

Virginia’s Ultrasound Laws: Young Women Must Continue To Be Heard- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

Antichoice advocates frame the ultrasound as a harmless procedure, and use faux- feminist empowerment language to sell it. Often this language is paternalistic and has an underlying assumption that women do not know what abortion is, don’t think about it, and are not aware of what pregnancy is.[...] They underlying assumption is that women just walk into abortion clinics without really knowing what they are there for.

Humiliated, But Not Beaten. Fighting Back on Behalf of Pregnant and Parenting Teens- by ACLU

Inside this post:

After they called me away from homeroom into the assembly, the school department head made me stand up in front of my entire middle school and announced to everyone that I was pregnant. Until that moment, the only other student at school who knew was my sister.

Useful Media for National Women and Girls HIV AIDS Awareness Day- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

I’d like to highlight some of the forms of media available that discusses and represents people who identify as women and how HIV and AIDS impacts our lives. Below are two main forms of media: Public Service Announcements that range from 45 seconds to 5 minutes long and music videos.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage returns to Utah- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

The policy prohibits teachers from talking about sex outside of marriage (be it pre-marital or extra-marital), homosexuality, and methods of preventing pregnancy or spreading STD’s even when asked directly by students.

Since when is planning promiscuous?- by ColoradoJamie

Inside this post:

Maybe the pools of men discussing the issue are confused because they’ve never had to seek out birth control, but I ensure you it’s not exactly a quick, easy process. It takes work. It takes planning. It takes thought. I think that’s something we can all agree on — that sex should be preceded by thought. Promiscuity, by definition, is all about a dearth of deliberation.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My posts this week;
When "Bad Romance" Meets Women’s Suffrage
Recommended Reading for Women’s History Month, Part 1: Non-Fiction
Recommended Reading for Women’s History Month, Part 2: Fiction

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In my last post, I discussed the implications of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law and how it would have a negative impact on the trans* community. Well, as much as the powers that be at Amplify don’t encourage quoting full articles on here, I feel it is important that this article from the Philadelphia Gay News (despite its name, it regularly covers stories relating to the LGBTIQ spectrum) be seen in its entirety.

Pa Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law one of the nation’s toughest voter identification measures Wednesday night, just hours after it achieved final passage in the legislature.

The House voted 104-88 March 14 in favor of HB 934, which the Senate approved in a 26-23 vote March 7.

Pennsylvania is the 16th state to require photo ID when voters head to the polls.

Critics say the legislation will lessen voter participation among some populations, and Democrats have accused Republicans of using the measure to dissuade Democratic turnout at the polls.

Rep. Babette Josephs (D-182nd Dist.) said that the “sole intent of this legislation is to keep as many seniors, minorities, low-income and urban residents from voting because these groups are more likely to vote against Republican candidates. It is dangerous legislation and denigrates a constitutional right that millions of Americans have died to protect.”

Republicans have said the measure would cost about $4 million to implement, while Democrats have put that figure closer to $11 million.

State Sen. Larry Farnese, who voted against the measure, said the effort is not in line with the governor’s pledge to cut expenses.

“When Gov. Corbett gave his budget address, he said that Pennsylvania still needs to make drastic cuts to everything from education to social services because of the weak economy,” Farnese said. “But the Republicans found [money] to require voters to show identification at the poles. What are their priorities? Are they using this legislation to keep the disabled, minorities and young voters away from the primary that is just seven weeks away?”

Farnese went on to say that the legislation is a “solution in search of a problem that does not exist.”

Now, it is important to note that many constituencies will be disproportionately affected by this possibly unconstitutional piece of legislation. However, why would a queer focused newspaper not even mention the word "transgender" in an article which focuses on something that would not disproportionately disenfranchise the cisgender LGB part of the community?

We may be a small minority, but it would be really nice to focus on our community as but only one part of a greater group of people who will be adversely affected in our own unique way. Thus, it would have been a good idea to include our perspective in this article; even if it was just one trans person being quoted on the negative ramifications of this bill, it would have done justice to the trans*/gender variant community.

But of course, this is nothing new and nothing specific to LGBTIQ focused publications. In fact, sadly, I would expect that mainstream publications such as the Philadelphia Inquirer to ignore our community’s needs in this arena, but not something like the PGN. I am sure that with all the stories they have done on trans* issues, I’m sure they could find at least one trans person willing to comment (hell, I’d be willing to do so). I feel that the PGN was being somewhat irresponsible by not mentioning how this law would mostly affect a certain part of the community.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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Written by: Nicole Murray, Advocates for Youth Intern

Birth control used to be a “common ground” issue that politicians on both sides of the aisle, that men and women could agree on. Title X family planning funding was proposed by George H.W. Bush and signed by Richard Nixon. Recently, it’s been up for debate, with certain politicians calling for a return to the days before Griswold v. Connecticut.

While looking around for some other bipartisan legislation, common ground women’s rights stuff, it was noted that the Violence Against Women Act had expired on September 30th, 2011, and needed to be reauthorized. No one expected, when Senator Harry Reid announced that it would be voted on by the end of the March, that there would be much opposition. Every time it has been up for reauthorization since it was introduced and passed in 1994 it has had huge bipartisan support.

That is not the case today. In today’s political climate the Violence Against Women Act could easily turn into a hot-button issue.

In 1994, after a large grassroots movement of law enforcers, the courts, victim advocates, and national women’s organizations, Senator Joseph Biden, with the support of advocacy agencies, drafted the Violence Against Women Act.

The Act provides programming and services to women through a cooperation of persecutors, the courts, and funding to advocacy groups. It provides funding for community prevention programs, rape and abuse crisis centers and hotlines, and shelters, as well as a legal framework to protect victims who are evicted from their home or become homeless as a result of the violence, and legal aid for the survivors of violence.

It was reauthorized in 2000, and again in 2005. Today many want to reauthorize it, with several expansions. These expansions include protections for those who experience domestic violence in the context of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered relationship, as well as protections for immigrants in violent situations, and give Native American tribes the authority to prosecute crimes, and an expansion of programs that would allow low-income victims to obtain free legal services.

There are also expansions to protections for those in violent dating situations. These protections are important for youth; as the dating relationship is not recognized by the law, and it can therefore be difficult to get legal assistance or protections from an abusive partner. Youth dating violence often has many of the same markers as marital violence, including: jealousy, possessivness, isolation, constant belitting, and checking of email/text messages to monitor the victims interactions, as well as slapping,hitting, and beating. Since these situations have the same patterns of abuse, they should be equally protected under the law, with or without a marriage certificate.

These issues are points of contention for some in Congress, and many in Congress who oppose the Violence Against Women Act are saying that domestic violence in immigrant and LGBT communities is not a big deal, and these provisions are just attempts to give more rights to immigrants and to those identifying as LGBT. However, these expansions are responses to the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs’ 2010 report, which found a startling shortage of services and access to aid for the LGBT community, and the Battered Women’s Justice Project details some of the issues faced by immigrant women in their Advocates Guide.

The Violence Against Women Act was hailed as a landmark piece of legislation, and it is too important to let lapse. It also has room to grow to include others who are victims of violence, and it should be allowed to do so. This, like birth control, should not be a controversial issue.

But, I have a feeling with the coming election, we are going to be saying “this should not be a controversial issue” a lot more often.  

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Editor’s Note: Rachel Lloyd is the Executive Director and Founder of Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting girls and young women survivors of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. She played an instrumental role in the passage of New York’s Safe Harbor Act for Sexually Exploited Youth, the first U.S. law of its kind to end the prosecution of child victims of sex trafficking.

Rachel is also the author of Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale – A Memoir (the book just came out in paperback — click here to buy it), which recounts her own experiences as a sexually exploited youth and her subsequent founding of GEMS.

We wanted to thank Rachel for taking the time to answer our questions about her work and activism:

1. For those who haven’t read your book yet, can you describe how your personal experiences led you to found GEMS?

I came to New York in 1997 to work with adult women in the sex industry. As a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation in Europe, I realized as I was meeting girls and young women on the streets and jail that we’d had very similar experiences — lack of family support, early trauma, homelessness, etc. — and that there was a complete absence of services and support for them. I started GEMS, literally on my kitchen table, because I felt like it was my calling in life and ultimately it made sense of all the difficult experiences that I’d previously had.

2. How does GEMS help victims of sexual exploitation? How do you prepare them for a life after they leave sex work?

It’s an inherent contradiction to talk about this as ‘sex work’ when we’re talking about girls who often aren’t even old enough to consent to sex and who are overwhelmingly under the violent control of a pimp. In supporting girls and young women who are exiting, and in many cases escaping, the commercial sex industry, GEMS provides a variety of services, to meet girls at various stages of their journey. Services include crisis care, housing, counseling, education, court advocacy, employment, healthcare and leadership training. In addition to the practical services, providing girls and young women with a community that is non-judgmental, loving, and empowering is critical for girls’ healing.

3. Can you talk about Safe Harbor laws and their role in protecting commercial sexual exploitation victims?

In 2008, New York State passed the first Safe Harbor law that defined commercially sexually exploited children and youth as victims not criminals. Since then six other states have followed suit. We can’t say that girls are victims of trafficking under federal law but then lock that same child up under state law charged with an act of prostitution — even though she’s not even old enough to consent to sex. It’s ludicrous that we charge the exploited child with a crime even though she’s been bought and sold by adults to adults.

4. What other changes in policy and culture do you think are needed to bring an end to the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth?

We need to be able to address the factors that make young people so vulnerable in the first place — poverty, the impact of sexism, racism and classism, lack of appropriate resources and services for children who are victims of child sexual abuse or domestic violence, the gaps in our child welfare system, the oversexualization of girls in our culture, the lack of economic options for low-income youth and many other factors. Commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it’s a part of the continuum of gender-based violence and affects children and youth who are the most vulnerable in our society.

We also need to address the demand side and the fact that purchasing women and girls is still seen as socially acceptable — although the women and girls themselves are still stigmatized. And we need to change our attitudes towards women and girls in the sex industry and stop dehumanizing them. In short — there’s a lot to do and we have a long way to go!

5. Sometimes we encounter the attitude among young people that the young women who are trafficked should have known better or been better. How do you counter that, especially when it is a fellow young person making the comment?

I think it’s really a lack of understanding about the issue that leads both youth and adults to be judgmental towards girls who are trafficked and exploited. Educating people about the real meaning of choice — i.e., what do your choices realistically look like at 13, 14, even 17, 18 particularly when you’ve grown up in a home filled with abuse, when you’ve already begun to believe that your worth is defined by your sexuality and when an adult man sets their sights on making you totally compliant through both seduction and violence. Once people hear directly from survivors and hear how easy it is to become caught up and how difficult it is to escape, I think it’s rare that they still believe that its a question of true ‘choice.’

6. Some people regard sex work as a valid employment choice among other employment choices, and even as a woman’s right. How do you feel about that debate?

I believe that there are a handful of adult women in the commercial sex industry for whom it may be an employment choice among other employment choices. I can’t speak for them or their experiences. However for millions of girls and women, (and boys and transgender youth) around the world, it’s less about choice than it is about lack of choice. If we lived in a totally equitable world, where everyone started off with the same opportunities; where racism, sexism, violence, poverty, sexual abuse and rape didn’t exist; and where everyone had the exact same access to education, employment, housing, childcare and healthcare; and where the sex industry didn’t attract pimps; and traffickers and where johns didn’t see women in the industry as disposable objects and subject them to violence, I’d be happy to engage in that debate. As it is, I’d rather spend my time fighting the injustices and inequities that leave so many women and girls vulnerable to a sex industry that is destructive and harmful and keeps so many people trapped.

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by Bianca Laureano

Today (Thursday) I’ll be at CUNY Orange providing a discussion on Media, Gender, and Sex as part of their Women’s History Month series.  Much of my discussion will be about US representations in film, television, and new media. Here’s what I proposed to discuss:

“Media is complicated and so are we as viewers. During this presentation, this complexity will be centered with a focus on US television and film representations of gender, sex, sexuality and sexual orientation. This will include an examination of the media over the past 30 years and highlighting important films, TV shows, and characters. This discussion will introduce participants to media literacy and assist them in utilizing the skills that come with interpreting the media and recognizing its constructed messages about sex and sexuality and how they intersect with various dimensions of difference. The presentation will conclude with a look at how technology has changed the way we are consuming media and how viewers are becoming media makers, resulting in more inclusive depictions where we represent ourselves."

It sounds like I’m doing a presentation on all the articles I’ve written for this column! And sometimes it does seem that way, especially as I prepare for this session. I’ve titled my talk “Sexy & I Know It?” and will be discussing various representations many readers are familiar with. I’m working on a PowerPoint/Keynote presentation and will post it on my personal blog when it is completed. What I’d like to do here is share some of the ideas I have for this session and if anyone has feedback please send it along!

I plan to begin with setting some boundaries with the group. It’s often one of my turn-off’s when presenters don’t discuss who and what is included only to find half-way through their session, they are excluding a ton of people and experiences. I have three boundaries: 1. my presentation focuses on US media which includes: film, television, and new media/webisodes; 2. the time period is from 1980-the present; 3. when discussing gender I believe that wo/man is anyone who identifies as a wo/man regardless of what their sex assigned at birth was. I considered a few other bullet points, such as: Tyler Perry and the show Sex In The City was deliberately not included! But I think that will be clear and I will welcome that as a question.

Next, a discussion of how media and sex are defined. I’m defining media (a term that is much like defining “culture,” is one that has many different definitions) as any form of communication, that it is varied and complex and very much created. I share these components of the definition for media because I think it is very inclusive and allows for more traditional forms of media, such as the ones I’ll be discussing, but also room for other less traditional forms of media that we think of such as tattooing, oral narratives, and make-up. Defining sex I go back to the Circles of Sexuality that are popular in comprehensive sexuality education classrooms. I define it as 5 intersecting areas of everyone’s lives that make us complex and interconnected. These include sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity, sexual health, and sexualization.

Defining media literacy, is my next step. Many readers will be familiar with this piece as I pull from the work of Elizabeth Thoman http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/skills-strategies-media-education at the Center for Media Literacy. My overall goal is to have participants leave with an understanding of what media literacy is and what skills they already have that are connected to being media literate. I include a discussion of the framework/guidelines, skills and process in understanding and examining the media which essentially is about asking the right questions.

The 5 elements of media literacy include:
1. Media is constructed
2. Media is constructed using creative language
3. Different people will have different perspectives
4. Media is profit driven
5. Media has embedded values

The questions that media literacy allows us to seek answers to include:
1. Who created this and what messages are being sent?
2. What techniques are used to catch and hold my attention?
3. What values and points of view are presented?
4. How may others view this media differently from me?
5. What is omitted from this message and media?

Beginning with the 1980s, I start with a quote by Slick Rick, a famous MC from the 1980s whose song “Children’s Story” begins “Once upon a time not long ago..” Maybe it’s just me who finds this funny because I remember the 80s and it doesn’t seem that long ago! I begin with highlighting four television series: The Cosby Show, A Different World, 21 Jump Street, Golden Girls, and Roseanne. I begin with these because I think they are still relevant and in the minds of folks who may be present and range in age.

I include The Cosby Show because it was a great representation that challenged the Moynihan report  and reinvisioned the Black family living in the US by representing a Black family that challenged stereotypes presented in the Moynihan report. A Different World is included as a spin-off of The Cosby Show that showed Black college students building and sustaining an intellectual community of practice (and all the other reasons I wrote about  a few weeks ago). 21 Jump Street is included because it represented one of the first and few times we see people of Color in positions of authority and power. This was also one of the most multi-cultural casts on television at the time with Holly Robinson, Dustin Nguyen, and Steven Williams. This is included to provide a comparison of what the upcoming movie of the same title represents. Is the cast just as diverse and inclusive or is it marketed at a specific audience? Finally, the Golden Girls. They are still on the vanguard of television by representing older women experiencing pleasure and full lives. You can read more about what I think about this show from my “Revolutionary TV” series. 

The two videos I highlight are when Blanche and Rose discuss Rose’s HIV test on Golden Girls. The other video is from A Different World when Freddie experiences a sexual assault. My goal is to have a call and response with the participants, having them use their media literacy skills and see how they would answer some of those questions.

Finally, Roseanne, a television show that represented my upbringing so much, especially as a working-class family. This clip is when Darlene begins to menstruate for the first time and her feelings and response to this development. She beings to throw away the items she loves and that represent her: baseball mitt, basketball, football, etc. Roseanne speaks to her about how her things are “girl” things. She says “these are girl things if a girl uses them.” This sent and continues to send an important message about gender, gender roles and expectations. Check out the clip below. The part begins at the 6.30 mark:

The 1990s had so many television shows. I have yet to decide if I’m going to list the tons and tons of them that I find important such as: The Magic School Bus, Daria, In Living Color, My So-Called Life, Life Goes On, Amen, the Arsenio Hall Show, New York Undercover, I Like It Like That, Living Single, and All-American Girl. The last three media I’m focusing on for discussion. Here’s some of the media I’ll be presenting for each show.

All-American Girl is the television show about the life of Margaret Cho featuring her playing herself. She’s discussed her challenges with this role and show in her stand-up comedy, and the first two minutes of the first episode I’m presenting to discuss culture, language, gender, expectations, immigration, race and identity. Check out the first few minutes below:

Next is the television show Living Single (which came before Sex and the City!) focuses on four Black women living in NYC. Synclair’s character deciding to have sex with her long-term partner for the first time. Her homegirls which include Kim Fields, Erika Alexander, and cousin Queen Latifah, try to help her find confidence and assurance in this decision. At the end of the show, Synclair and her partner Overton decide to abstain until they are both comfortable. This is one of the first times we see abstinence represented for Black women, a community that is often seen as hyper-sexualized and insatiable. This show was produced and created by Yvette Lee Bowser who became the first Black woman to create her own prime-time series. See the clip below:

I Like It Like That is a film I really adore. It focuses on a Puerto Rican family living in the Bronx in the late 1990s. Starring Lauren Velez (from New York Undercover) as Lisette, a LatiNegra mother of three who finds herself needing a job when her husband is arrested for stealing a stereo during a blackout. This film was one of the first times I saw LatiNegr@s represented, a story that focused on women’s work and redefines independence for Latinas. In addition, Lisette’s sister Alexis is a transgender woman (performed by Jesse Borrego) whose character shows the lived reality of transmisogyny that is still present and impacts women of Color in very specific ways. See the trailer below:

For 2000-Present I focus on New Media and more so on films and webisodes. Some of the films and series presented include The Wire, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, Pariah, and Gun Hill Road. I plan to discuss the inclusion and representation of transgender people in the film Gun Hill Road, and connect that to the “activism” that occurred by Puerto Rican activists around the television show “Workin’ It.”  A discussion of the show Dexter I also plan to have to discuss again people of Color in roles of power and authority. Lauren Velez as police Captain and C.S. Lee as Vince Masuka a lab tech who offers one representation of Asian men as “getting the girl” which we rarely see. I also think I’ll discuss the film Girlfight with Michelle Rodriguez.

Ending the presentation I focus on webisodes and new media. I highlight the HomeGirl.TV series created by Sofia Quintero, Between Women webseries and how we are all becoming media makers and highlight the S*&% People Say…meme that was popular earlier this year.

Here’s the trailer I plan to show to discuss Between Women (a webseries that is doing so much so keep an eye out for a post coming soon about this series!). It follows several women of Color who identify as lesbians living in Atlanta, Georgia.

I end with a viewing of the S*&% People Say to Native Americans Part 2 as an example of how folks are becoming media makers and how this connects to media justice.

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The Pennsylvania State Senate, claiming that they want to protect the integrity of the electoral process, but controlled by Republican-Tea Partiers with ulterior motives, passed a bill which would replace the requirement that people only need to show a voter ID card the first time with a requirement that a photo ID be shown at all times when voting. According to Senator Daylin Leach:

“Supporters of this bill say that it would curb the incidence of voter fraud in the state, but that is a misleading claim,” Leach said. “The only form of voter fraud the bill would stop is voter impersonation – a low-gain, high-risk crime that has only been documented to have occurred three times nationwide between 2000 and 2010, and has not once been prosecuted. Statistically, you have 100 times greater a chance to be hit by lightning than become a victim of voter impersonation. Quite simply, this bill aims to stop a crime that never occurs.”

Focus on the terms "low-gain" and "high risk". How much of an individual gain would somebody get if they committed voter impersonation? The satisfaction that their party won? With what is happening in the world these days, there is a sense of disenchantment with our elected officials and a lack of will to overhaul the system to make it work for the 99%, one would be better working in a drug cartel than committing voter impersonation from a financial standpoint, even during good times, voter impersonation is just never worth the potential gain, even if never caught.

Furthermore, Leach cites unnamed reports that many low income constituencies such as the elderly, African American, as well as young people, do not carry ID. I can attest to the part about young people, when I went to college, I had not yet passed my driver’s test and did not bother even going to the NJMVC to get a non-driver ID until I had passed my driving test (shortly after my first year of college had concluded). So, for that first year, I would go out in town and even romp around New York City without an ID. Furthermore, a similar law passed in Wisconsin was eventually ruled unconstitutional due to it being considered a poll tax, and this, in conjunction with PA Constitution Article VII Section 1 (which goes beyond registration rules), may cause a protracted and expensive legal battle on top of the financial and social expense of implementing said law.

So, how does this effect the trans community? Let’s consider the following scenarios concerning me and my friend J:


I am a transsexual woman who does not exactly pass that well, mainly because of the expense of laser. I have successfully had my name and gender changed on my driver’s license; however, I did run into some problems at a liquor store near my parents house in New Jersey over my ID, which will be discussed later in this blog post. Because I do not "look" like someone who would be named "Jordan Gwendolyn Davis" and because I may not look "F" enough to a pollworker, I could be told I cannot vote and possibly even fed into the transphobic criminal justice system before they could verify that that ID was valid.


My friend J is a transsexual woman, who, unlike me, passes really well, however, for various reasons, she has NOT gone through the name change process and her ID still says M. Now, because she does not look "M" enough and she still has her old masculine name, she can be told she cannot vote and possibly even fed into the transphobic criminal justice system before they could verify that her ID was valid.

So you see, people are going to say "boo" over the validity of people’s IDs, and the fact that right now in this country, certain people on the right still do not believe that Obama was born in the US, what’s stopping some poll-watcher from refusing to believe what is real. I’ll give you a scenario that happened with me in order to illustrate some people’s reckless disregard for the truth.

While I was visiting my family in New Jersey before Christmas, I drove over to a liquor store to pick up some special holiday beer. I then find it and they start checking my ID. Now, I know that there is a lot of liability for package stores in terms of due diligence on ID checks, but I was confident that there wouldn’t be a problem. All of a sudden, they were claiming everything was wrong with the ID (stupid little things that can be easily explained) and when I told them to run it through their Vericheck system, they claimed that they didn’t think it was real. And then I got mad and told them that their internalized transphobia was getting the best of them. And on Xmas day, I found that beer in another store in the same chain, they also asked me for my ID, ran it through the Vericheck, and it came out OK. The point of this tangent is: no matter how much you can prove that an identity document is valid, some people are as stubborn as mules, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

However, in a last ditch effort to mitigate the impact on trans people, State Senator Larry Farnese (D-South and Center City Philadelphia) introduced an amendment to the bill, which read as follows:

(1.1) In the case of a transgender elector, a valid-without-


photo driver’s license or a valid-without-photo identification


card issued by the Department of Transportation.

Call me a Contrarian Cathy, but doesn’t this reek of the "special rights" rhetoric that we are trying to eliminate from political discourse. Not surprisingly, this failed on a highly partisan vote; I honestly think it would have been better if, in the bill, there was wording stating prohibitions on sex stereotyping when determining valid identitication.

But I stand by my principles; these types of laws are ill-advised, due to cost, the chance they will be found unconstitutional, and the appearance of impropriety, plus the biggest affront of all, not being able to participate in (small d) democratic processes.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis


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On Tuesday, March 7th, the Utah State Senate voted to remove abstinence-plus education from school curriculum, and replace it with abstinence-only-until-marriage. The bill, HR363, sponsored by Senator Margaret Dayton, passed 19-10, and is currently sitting on Governor Gary Herbert’s desk. This bills is worded in such a way that school districts do not have to offer sex education, but if they do, it must not mention contraception, homosexuality, or pre-marital sex.

According to Rebecca Wind, a spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute;

"Utah is by far the most restrictive policy out there. There are no other states that … don’t allow birth control discussion at all, in the way that the Utah legislation does. So it is unique in that respect."

The policy prohibits teachers from talking about sex outside of marriage (be it pre-marital or extra-marital), homosexuality, and methods of preventing pregnancy or spreading STD’s even when asked directly by students.

Supporters laud the passage of the bill as a crucial component of the ongoing culture wars in the country;

"It is important for us to go a step further from abstinence-plus to abstinence-only so that the state Office of Education can remove the endorsement of Planned Parenthood from their website," Sen. Margaret Dayton

(Note: Sen. Dayton is opposed to abortion, and as a result, Planned Parenthood. There are nine Planned Parenthood health centers in the state of Utah. One of them provides abortion services.)

According to Rep. Francis Gibson, unintended teen pregnancy is still a problem in the district he represents, and the curriculum in the district, which is abstinence-only, is not working.

"I would hope as we make this decision, that we won’t think if we say abstinence only, that fairy dust will have been sprinkled and that teen pregnancy will no longer be a problem," –Rep Francis Gibson

Opponents of the bill pointed out that this could lead to higher rates of teen pregnancy, and therefore, higher rates of abortion. Supporters opined that the only way to prevent teen pregnancy was with abstinence. Comprehensive sex education (or abstinence-plus) arms teens and students with the information they need in order to ensure that when they do engage in sex, they are protected against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Supporters of this bill seem to think that teens are not having sex, and often promote harmful and damaging stereotypes that teen mothers. Young people have sex, and this is not something new. It wasn’t too long ago that women were married by sixteen, and pregnant by seventeen. The difference between those teen moms, and todays, is the marital status of the women. The teen mothers of today are not married. Current research has found that the median age for first sexual experience for both sexes is 17 years old, while the current average age of first marriage for women is roughly 25 years old, and for men around 27 years old. The gap between first sex and marriage is roughly 10 years. Today, premarital sex is a near ubiqutous practice. Therefore, we need education that reflects this reality. That education should include discussion of contraception, sexuality, and healthy relationships both in and out of marriage, orientation and gender identity.

Young people of today need to be trusted. Adults do not need to withhold information from students. Trust young people to take that information and do with it what they feel is most appropriate for themselves.

Research shows that when you teach comprehensive sex education, teens actually delay the onset of first sexual experiences, and are more likely to take steps to make sure that the sex they are engaging in, when they do, is healthy and safe.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are framed around upholding a standard that is unfairly harmful to women, and to teens who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, genderqueer, or are questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation.

In these classes women are told their value is lost with virginity, and that they must hold themselves up to a standard of purity. Rarely do these classes mention the necessity of sexual purity for men. Many of these courses include lessons aimed at making sure women know they are the gatekeepers of sexuality, that they are the ones who have to hold off the advances of men. Some of these courses include books that portray women as damsels in distress, and men as knights. These books warn that if a woman gives too much advice or has too many opinions, the knight will feel unneeded, and leave.

LGBTQ students find the messages of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to be filled with heteronormative messages of male providers and women care takers, with no room for relationships where these “norms” are absent, and no mention the validity of same sex households and marriages. Utah is not one of the few states where marriage equality is legal, and these students are being told to remain abstinent if they do not plan on marrying a person of the opposite gender. They are told their relationships and their own sexual health needs are less than.

In a strange coincidence, a study released yesterday, finds “that formal sex education
that includes instruction about both waiting to have sex and methods of birth control can improve the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults” The study further found that respondents who were instructed in both abstinence and contraceptive methods were more likely to be older at their first sexual experience than those who had received no formal instruction at all (which this bill would allow schools to have no instruction at all). Those receiving both information about abstinence and contraceptive education were also more likely to have healthier relationships. Condom use at first sexual experience was highest among respondents who had instruction in both, too.

This study proves that when you give the tools to young people, they will make the best decisions for themselves. Being honest and open about sexuality is the best approach. Preaching about abstinence will not stop anyone from having sex if they want to. If someone wants to have sex, they should have all the knowledge they need to make a healthy decision about the sex for both their own health, and their partners health. It is detrimental to the health of young people to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that if we with hold valuable information about contraception and condoms, then young people will not have sex.

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by Bianca Laureano

The National Women and Girls HIV AIDS Awareness Day is March 10th. I’ve written a lot about HIV for this column, however I have yet to really write anything specific for this coming day and with a focus on gender. I’d like to highlight some of the forms of media available that discusses and represents people who identify as women and how HIV and AIDS impacts our lives. Below are two main forms of media: Public Service Announcements that range from 45 seconds to 5 minutes long and music videos.

The PSAs may be useful to begin a conversation about HIV and AIDS education and prevention. They may also be encouraging to folks who decide to become media makers and create their own PSAs. The music videos fall into a few categories: quality videos and music and not so quality videos and music. The quality pieces focus primarily on HIV versus only having HIV as part of a larger storyline in the song. Some of the songs also blame the women in the songs for becoming infected with HIV versus individual responsibility.

Public Service Announcements

The Black Girl Project director and filmmaker Aiesha Turman  created an HIV and AIDS PSA a few years ago. Her PSA “Prevent, Don’t Manage HIV” can be seen below.

Rosa’s Story from the Ventura AIDS Partnership www.vcaidspartnership.org discusses a Latina’s story of HIV infection and how it impacted her family.

Helena Bushong is a 60 year old transgender Black woman living positive and shares her story in the video “Against All Odds: Transgender, African, and HIV Positive” by Josh Lederman. See the video below:

Merle "Conscious" Soden is living positive and identifies as a Black lesbian woman. She has created a one-woman performance of her life story called “I Got Unstuck”  and you may see videos of her story here. 

Music Videos

Unfortunately, there are not too many songs that focus exclusively on HIV without there being some kind of problem with the media. For example, TLC “Waterfalls” discusses various challenges and HIV is one of them. Here’s the video and below that are the lyrics connected to one segment on HIV.

Little precious has a natural obsession
For temptation but he just can’t see
She gives him loving that his body can’t handle
But all he can say is baby it’s good to me
One day he goes and takes a glimpse
In the mirror
But he doesn’t recognize his own face
His health is fading and he doesn’t know why
3 letters took him to his final resting place

Now, I like this song for this message. However, it does focus on a heterosexual relationship and it is the woman who encourages her partner not to use a condom when he is prepared to use one. It places blame on the woman as the person who infected him. This may be true in some cases, and the reality remains that for many people whose sex assigned at birth was female their bodies are constructed with more mucus membranes which can tear than those on the bodies of people whose sex assigned at birth was male. This narrative in certain genres is not new.

For example, MC Lyte’s “Lola From The Copa”  focuses on a young woman who she calls a “freak” for having multiple partners and not thinking before drinking and sleeping with her partners. The song ends with Lola being dead. Also, rapper Lil B released a song “I Got AIDS” last year to much critique.

Here he discusses the multiple women partners he was with and how “she gave me AIDS.” Again, we do not hear the perspective of the woman who is living positive. Listen to the song below and this song has profanity so it may not be safe to listen to in certain spaces.

However, not all genres have the same message. I’ve shared some songs that I really enjoy for using in discussions on HIV and other STIs.  For example, The Conscious Daughters, a hip-hop duo from California created “All Caught Up” which discusses HIV and AIDS prevention and education. The song in a user made video is below. The song does have some profanity so it may not be safe to listen to in some places. Thanks to my homeboy Jerome for reminding me of this song.

Choice, another woman rapper, also had a song called “HIV Positive” which was more of a prevention message than a judgement or third person storytelling. Her song can be heard below:

Wu-Tang Clan’s song “AIDS” on the “America is Slowly Dying” album hook is “AIDS kills word up, America is dying slowly.” Although not specific to women or young women, this video of them performing the song live is an important piece of media. I have yet to really see a concert where the songs are all about HIV and the crowd is dancing, feeling the song, paying attention, and getting informed at the same time! Check out the video below:

Reba Mcentire’s: "She Thinks His Name Was John" is a country song that tells the story of a woman who is living positive. The story is that the woman met a man at a party, drank too much, and went home with him and she can’t remember much about him except that he was the person that transmitted HIV to her.

A few of the articles that I’ve written which may be of interest and use in preparing for March 10th include:

Media Maker’s Salon interview with Miss Kings County 2011 Carmen B. Mendoza.  
Here I interview Carmen in her role as Miss Kings County (in Brooklyn, NY) and her platform is focused on eliminating the stigma associated with HIV testing. Carmen discusses her choice in choosing this platform issue, challenges and successes with this topic as part of her work in pageantry, and challenging stereotypes about women, pageantry, HIV, and Latinidad.

Myths and Messages about HIV
I wrote last year and discusses the myths and questions I’m often asked when doing HIV and AIDS education and prevention work. I share how some of these questions are connected to myths about HIV and our bodies and how I respond to them.

Conspiracy Theories and HIV
I focus on what I say and how I discuss HIV when folks present question and believe that HIV is part of a larger conspiracy to get rid of people of Color, queer people, and immigrants.

What are some of the forms of media that you would like to use for National Women and Girls HIV AIDS Awareness Day?

Avatar of Rohan Chalise
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First of all, Happy International Women’s day 2012. Let’s celebrate this day thinking about the contribution and effort of women to bring peace and prosperity in the world. I too wanna think about women who has brought lots of positive changes in me and always have inspired me to do something better than myself. I guess this short poem below can describe better;

Maybe the reason I survive,
the why and where for I’m alive,
the one I’ll care for through the rough and rainy years,
I’ll take her laughter and her tears,
and make them all my souvenirs,
for where she goes I got to be,
the meaning of my life is
She, she and she..

She’s my mother, my sister, my cousins, my friends and my well-wishers. We can never deny a fact that whoever we are, male or female or transgender, rich or poor- women have definitely changed our life in some way or other. I may not solve every problems faced by women in a single day but I will continue my efforts to bring positive change for the betterment of every women of this world.

We all owe our lives to a woman.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

February 26- March 3

Stats this week: 28 posts by 22 writers

Four Ways to Show How the Religious Liberty Claim Against Contraceptive Coverage Is Nonsense- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

But if we fight, we can win. We just need to be clear on the arguments here. So I put together a quick rundown of how to argue for women’s basic right to equal protection under the Constitution in light of these new HHS regulations.

Conversations with Ghanaian Women about Abortion: “I could die or I could never give birth again”- by laurel

Inside this post:

If women in Ghana think that abortion is an extremely dangerous procedure whether you do it at home or at the hospital, why would they ever think of demanding safe abortion services?

Yes, women do struggle to access birth control- by ashthom

Inside this post:

Ashley shares personal stories and anecdotes from friends who have had trouble accessing various forms of birth control due to time, money, problems with providers, shame, and challenges with insurance companies.

Flashback to Revolutionary TV: A Different World- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

It was one of the first series where I saw people of Color as college students, as intellectuals, creating supportive environments for each other, and investing in a form of delayed gratification (obtaining a degree).

And She Made It! Philippines’ National University Elects Its First Transgender Chairperson- by leovlauzon

Inside this post:

[Gabriel Paolo "Heart" Diño] bested three other candidates with 3290 votes and defeating her closest rival Martin Loon by 547 votes amidst of tirade and criticisms being hurled against her and her party candidates.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My post this week:
Limbaugh’s comments define misogyny and offer teachable moment on birth control

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Children who are exposed to those who are different at a young age tend to be a lot more tolerant, and gender differences are no exception. Just today, an AP bulletin on a part of Obama’s early life could explain how he has come to do more for the trans community than any other president.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports via AP:

Once, long ago, Evie looked after "Barry" Obama, the kid who would grow up to become the world’s most powerful man. Now, his transgender former nanny has given up her tight, flowery dresses, her brocade vest and her bras, and is living in fear on Indonesia’s streets.

Evie, who was born a man but believes she is really a woman, has endured a lifetime of taunts and beatings because of her identity. She describes how soldiers once shaved her long, black hair to the scalp and smashed out glowing cigarettes onto her hands and arms.

The turning point came when she found a transgender friend’s bloated body floating in a backed-up sewage canal two decades ago. She grabbed all her girlie clothes in her arms and stuffed them into two big boxes. Half-used lipstick, powder, eye makeup — she gave them all away.

What follows is a story of how Evie (Indonesians often do not have surnames) was forced to detransition and the situation for trans rights in Indonesia. According to Wikitravel, while large cities such as Jakarta and Bali have a large LGBT scene, cultural disdain for those of trans experience still seems to be the norm, amplified by TV comedies which make the recently cancelled Work It seem tame as well as a large Muslim population, which has made enforcing "traditional" gender roles a priority. The AP further reports:

Many transgenders turn to prostitution because jobs are hard to find and because they want to live according to what they believe is their true gender. In doing so, they put themselves at risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Some, like Evie, have decided it’s better to hide their feelings. Others are pushing back. Last month, a 50-year-old Indonesian transvestite applied to be the next leader of the national human rights commission, showing up in a borrowed luxury vehicle with paparazzi cameras flashing as she stepped out.

"I’m too ugly to be a prostitute," Yuli Retoblaut said, chuckling. "But I can be their bodyguard."

The story of how Evie came into contact with the future president was that she had met his mother at a cocktail party, and was invited for work for the family, helping raise Obama and his younger sister Maya. While neighbors knew that she was trans, they doubted that Obama ever knew, though Evie did try on some of his mother’s lipstick, much to his enjoyment.

After the Obamas moved out of Indonesia, life became hard for Evie. She had often been tortured under the Suharto regime, and now works odd jobs in a poorer neighborhood in Jakarta to survive, splitting her time between that and the mosque; proud, though, of what her former charge became.

In the last three years, the Obama administration has done a lot for the trans* community: from directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to tend to trans detainees’ needs, to appointing Amanda Simpson to the Department of Commerce, to making strides in the Veterans Affairs healthcare system, to ending Social Security’s Gender No Match Letters. However, there is still much work to be done, including allowing people to change their gender in social security’s system without need for surgery, removing categorical exclusions from Medicare, and passing a single payer health plan that would equalize access to much needed healthcare. These are only a few ideas in which numerous issues within the trans* community can be resolved.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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but most of all…


These are words that best describes my emotions when I learned from the news that Gabriel Paolo "Heart" Diño was able to fulfill her "vow" to "make history" by being the first transgender Chairperson to lead the University of the Philippines Diliman’s University Student Council after last Thursday’s elections. This ushers a new chapter in the university facing the challenges of tuition fee increase and fraternity violence.

The Bachelor Science in Math major who graduated Magna Cum Laude and is currently taking up Masteral Science in Applied Mathematics in university bested three other candidates with 3290 votes and defeating her closest rival Martin Loon by 547 votes amidst of tirade and criticisms being hurled against her and her party candidates.

Quoting Diño, who said in a statement: "As a teenager, I endured stigma and discrimination from my classmates and peers because of my gender. And when I entered college, it was in UP where I got the opportunity to be accepted and grow. Serving the students in the student council for the past two years has been my way of thanking UP for embracing who I am."

Aside from Diño, transgender Pat Bringas who is a film major was also elected as USC Councilor. Interestingly, according to Ang Ladlad’s (LGBT political party) official statement: “The party also lauds the election of Alex Castro, a bisexual woman, as vice chair of the UP Diliman USC." This makes two of the top-most positions in the USC occupied by members of the LGBT community.

Indeed, UP has always been the vanguard of freedom of expression, human rights, and social acceptance when the Philippine society is still conservative and discriminating. It always takes a stand on issues plaguing the country and it gives voice to those marginalized such as the LGBT community. That is why, I am proud to be a UPian!

"UP has never been the university of the status quo. With issues such as gender discrimination, transparency and accountability in the USC’s finances, and the strings of fraternity-related violence in campus this year, it is high time that we become the change for a better UP," Diño said.

According to the Philippine Collegian, the official organ of the UP Diliman students, Diño’s party clinched 13 out of 34 seats in the USC, including six councilor seats and six college representatives. The Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (Stand UP) won 10 seats while the Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan sa UP (Kaisa) also got 10 seats.

Heart’s administration is still yet to be tested. She assumes her post this coming Academic Year. But judging from her good track record in public service as Gender Committee Head of the USC for the Academic Year 2011-2012 and Councilor of the UP College of Science Student Council from 2010-2011, I am confident that she will be a good leader.

Congratulations Heart! We HEART you!

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Note: Its election time across the University of the Philippines System. The article talks about how a Transgender student from UP Diliman campus is vying for the post as Chairperson of the University Student Council. This is a press statement from UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran

For the first time in the student council elections history of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, a candidate is running against two fraternity men and a woman to become the first transgender Chairperson of UP Diliman’s University Student Council (USC).

Speaking before hundreds of supporters at the historical Palma Hall Steps, Gabriel Paolo “Heart” Diño vowed to bring genuine change in UP Diliman if she’s given the chance to win as USC Chairperson.

“I came here not only to speak about what changes we want in our University Student Council. I also stand before you to remind that you, yourselves, are the change this university and this nation needs,” Diño said.

Diño then recalled how her experiences as a transgendered woman have motivated her to run as USC Chairperson and lead the student in making change in the university’s student institutions.

“As a teenager, I endured stigma and discrimination from my classmates and peers because of my gender. And when I entered college, it is in UP where I got the opportunity to be accepted and grow. So serving the students in the student council for the past two years has been my way of thanking UP for embracing who I am,” Diño said. She is the current Councilor and Gender Committee Head of the USC for the Academic Year 2011-2012. Previously, she was the Councilor of the UP College of Science Student Council from 2010-2011.

“UP has never been the university of the status quo. With issues such as gender discrimination, transparency and accountability in the USC’s finances, and the strings of fraternity-related violence in campus this year, it is high time that we become the change for a better UP,” Diño concludes.

The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) recently expressed its support for the candidacy of Diño.

“While we are aware that much more still needs to be done towards the equality of men and women in the Philippines, the candidacy of Heart is a testament to the progress that has been gained in the struggle for sexual rights in our country. As smart, highly capable and exemplary young leaders, they embody the best of the transpinay,” STRAP said in its statement.

In a separate statement, UP Babaylan, the biggest LGBT organization in UP Diliman, also released a statement in support of Diño. “Transgenders like Heart are oftentimes treated unfairly because of who they are and because of their gender and sexuality. As a leader, Heart embodies the soul of UP – the Iska who can excel to catalyze change, one who could bring about change, if we are willing to accept our differences,” UP Babaylan said.

Diño is running under the banner of UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA).

Re-post from: blogwatch.tv/2012/02/transgender-chairperson-candidate-vows-to-make-history-in-up-diliman/

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by Bianca Laureano

This February marks the 2nd anniversary of an virtual online project that I co-created called The LatiNegr@s Project.  I’ve been reflecting on how this project has grown and evolved and wanted to write a 2-year review of the project. It seemed fitting that I post this reflection here on the Media Justice column because it was here that I very publicly started to think and work  on how to create and implement such a project. Because of this website, column, and the interaction with readers in the comments I was able to work with a good friend and create The LatiNegr@s Project.

Three years ago I was so frustrated! My main frustration was with a story about Latin@s and the ending events for Latin@ Heritage Month and how one-dimensional these discussions, presentations, and festivities were. It really stuck with me until the end of the year in a way it had not before. This was at a time when social media was evolving rapidly and people were creating spaces for Black and Latin@ communities but not for Black Latin@s. I felt overwhelmingly excluded, isolated, like I had to pick a part of me, but it couldn’t be all of me. I also felt tired. Tired of always having to “school” Latin@s on our Black and African roots, reminding them that their anti-Black exclusion of us is very much a racist act. I also felt the same irritation and exhaustion with Black communities and spaces often not including us as members of the community because our ethnicity is one that is connected to Latinidad.

It was from this space of exhaustion, anger, frustration that I went to Twitter and wrote something such as “I’m going to do something about the underrepresentation of LatiNegr@s in Latin@ and Black spaces” (I can’t remember the exact thing I wrote, but this captures the essence). One person responded. That one person is Anthony, a homeboy that I had yet to meet in 3D but had followed online and whose blog I read. Anthony blogs under the name Latinegro and he said he would be interested in doing something similar and we should definitely collaborate. A few other folks demonstrated some interest in creating a project and were present with some of the initial posts we created on our respective blogs for Black History Month (BHM). When BHM ended it was still Anthony and I committed to the project.

Afrolatinos from Marlene Peralta on Vimeo.

That first month we reached out to everyone in our network. We shared with them that we were working on a project to include LatiNegr@s, Blaktin@s, Afr@Latin@s in Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Latino Heritage Month, and basically year round! Our goal was to use the virtual platform of Tumblr, which at that time was very heavily based on visual content such as images and fotos. It was a huge learning curve, but I found guidance and encouragement from the work that my homegirl Maegan Ortiz of Vivir Latino had done in creating a Latino Heritage Month tumblr in 2009. 

Surprisingly, (or not?) only a few of my friends I reached out to agreed to participate. It took a lot of work to get content, post calls for submissions, and get to know the tumblr platform. There were even some of our friends who we reached out to who told us that they were not going to contribute because our ideas were not new, other organizations were already doing what we were hoping to do, and that there was no leadership.

What can I say, Anthony and I dream big in a collective non-hierarchical way.

And we kept dreaming. We worked our tails off, posting often during BHM to our blogs, interviewing folks, and providing highlights on LatiNegr@s to know about. Before BHM was over, we were asked to be on a TV series discussing the work we were doing. This was to be on CUNY TV’s Independent Sources, a television show that focuses on issues and topics that impact people living specifically in NYC. Producer Marlene Peralta asked us to participate in her series on Black Latin@s. Preparing for the exchange was a bit of a challenge, we had a snow storm that day, I was not sure how to dress or what make-up, colors, or jewelry to wear that would be best captured on film. Marlene’s team was amazing. They never attempted to change or alter my appearance in any way, and they were very professional, supportive, and all people of Color which made me feel even more at ease to see that this story was really a community effort. When her segment was created our virtual project received some amazing support and views! Below is the segment:

Those folks who had told us our ideas and goals were less than exceptional all of a sudden wanted to participate. Go figure! I share this because at that time I thought to myself “of course they want to jump on the wagon now that we thought about it, put it together, got it moving, and now it’s being appreciated. They want ‘in’ when all the hard structural work is done!” Now, after working on the project for 2 years, I realize that there are folks who will come and go and share what they can. That each of us plays a role and that I can value them for the role they are present to provide.

Last year The LatiNegr@s Project grew. We had two new members join our team  and The LatiNegr@s Project has moved in directions that both Anthony and I find exhilarating. Kismet and Vio have given The LatiNegr@s Project new energy, fresh ideas, security, and has helped us dream even bigger. We are talking non-profit organization bigger (not there yet but it’s one of the big dreams for now)! We have a Twitter account,  a Facebook page,  and opened up our Ask feature  on tumblr and have been receiving amazing questions. We have also begun our first survey,  have over 2000 items posted and over 850 followers!

We are doing radio shows, receiving invitations to speak at events, and will be discussing our evolution, challenges, and successes at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association People of Color Track  on Friday March 30, 2012 (stop by and say hello if you are in the area!).

A few things that I think make The LatiNegr@s Project stand out from the other amazing projects focusing on Black Latin@s, Afr@Latin@, pride, and inclusion are the following:

• The platform is virtual. We offer the opportunity for folks to contribute what they believe is important by submitting http://www.lati-negros.tumblr.com/submit an image, video, quote, link, or writing something that connects to the LatiNegr@ identity. This makes our space interactive all the time and not just on special occasions or events. Plus, it helps to reach folks from all over the world who have access to the internet, not just those in the areas where Anthony and I are physically located.

• The LatiNegr@s Project centers social media and elements of youth culture where young people are at the center of their usage and evolution. I would not have heard of tumblr if the students I work with not mentioned the platform to me. I would also not have learned about the options and opportunities that existed using the platform had it not been for young people. Many of the items on The LatiNegr@s Project are primarily from youth (under 25 years old), about youth, for youth, or discusses youth and how much we value them. I can’t remember the last time an organization focusing on Afr@Latin@s centered young people. And not just centering what our challenges are, but how we learn and evolve from the youth in our community and how their contributions are vital to all of us.

• The LatiNegr@s Project was built on the ideas of inclusivity. We have always focused on including various aspects of our identities that are often ignored. For example, we actively seek to support, challenge oppressions, and have represented LatiNegr@s with different abilities, who identify as transgender, who have various socio-economic statuses, are more than artists or entertainers, are youth, single mami’s and papi’s, local activists, various sexual orientations and gender expressions, and that are not just from the US. The LatiNegr@s Project shows all of our complexities.

Some challenges or areas for improvement from my perspective include:

• More content that in other languages besides English. Right now the site is predominately English-based and I’d love to have translations, more inclusive languages we speak beyond Spanish and Portuguese included. Sometimes this is a difficult task to accomplish as many of our items are user submitted, but I have confidence we’ll find a solution to this very soon.

• Approving and posting “controversial” topics. This goes back to our complexities. We’ve had users submit some content that some of us may not agree with personally. At the same time it’s important to have a dialogue about gender roles and expectations and how they impact us, how sex tourism and sex trafficking impact our homelands and families, and what immigration policies and border security means for LatiNegr@s. IT’s not all fun and jolly posts we have. There are many that speak out against the systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, transmisogyny, ableism, and anti-immigrant hate (to name just a few). For many of us seeing these stories and images reminds us we are not alone and that there are others who witness our lives. For others these stories are triggering, devastating, or affirming. It’s all about promoting the dialogue and pushing ourselves to really examine what self-determination, self-identification, and liberation means.

I encourage you to check out The LatiNegr@s Project  and consider how you may use some of our content in your Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc. observations and celebrations. There is so much to see, read, and hear and I hope each visitor leaves finding something new out about themselves, their community, and LatiNegr@s.

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I was a Girl Scout for several years in grade school, and while vacationing with my mom a few years ago in Savannah, Georgia, we visited the childhood home of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, which now, as Savannah’s first National Historic Landmark, functions as a museum. I loved being a Girl Scout. We went camping, made crafts, sang carols at a retirement home, did community service projects, put on a fashion show of styles from different decades, all working together with our troop leaders on what we wanted to do next. I was always quiet and shy then, but I sold my share of Girl Scout cookies door-to-door and in front of the supermarket, and you know I rocked my 90s look in the fashion show. I learned how to build a camp fire, how to sew, and how to write a check and balance my checkbook. It was definitely an experience I’d encourage girls to participate in.

But Indiana State Rep. Bob Morris views the Girl Scouts as a “radicalized organization.” As the only Indiana lawmaker to refuse to sign the state’s nonbinding resolution to honor the Girl Scouts on their 100th anniversary, Morris is furthering the current harmful and irrational dialogue we find ourselves in about the rights and freedoms and women and girls. Gathering his information from ultra-conservative, not-actually-news sites such as World Net Daily, he has scared himself into believing the following lies:

1) The Girl Scouts sexualize young girls and encourage sexual activity.

2) They promote homosexuality, especially between women.

3) Their role models include Communists.

4) They ban praying.

5) They are a “tactical arm of Planned Parenthood.” (Even though the organization takes no position on birth control or abortion.)

He is also threatened by the following facts:

1) The Girl Scout’s education seminar’s list of role models include feminists and lesbians, while “only three have a briefly listed religious background.”

2) They welcome girls of all biological sexes, including transgender girls.

3) Michelle Obama, as First Lady, is the Honorary President of the Girl Scouts. Rep. Morris finds this to be “reason to give lawmakers pause before they endorse the Girl Scouts,” because, according to him, President and Mrs. Obama are “radically pro-abortion.”

One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, describes the sexism surrounding this issue as “the death throes of male dominance.”

The escalating hysteria around modern Girl Scouts is due to the increasing polarization in this country around the concept of women’s equality. In an era where the right is putting contraception back on the table as a controversial topic, girls getting together to build self-esteem and learn skills that might make them competitive with boys and men in school and the workplace is bound to get the right wing freak-out treatment. …
Of course they look at little girls gathered around the campfire and fill in lurid fantasies bordering on the Satanic. We’re watching the death throes of male dominance, and no one should expect such a thing to look pretty.

The Girl Scouts is a wonderful organization for young girls to work together, learn new skills, and give back to their community. In an election season where every single one of the Republican candidates for President would deny women the basic right of use and access to birth control; when not one woman is allowed to participate in the congressional hearing on birth control coverage in health insurance reform; when a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion is consistently undermined and increasingly scorned; the battle we are inexplicably fighting so that grown women’s medical decisions are as accessible, as affordable, and as respected as men’s, has now reached the point of attacking eight-year-old girls trying to organize a community soccer game or fundraise for a local women’s shelter. The Girl Scouts are not the radical ones here.

Rep. Morris has said that he will “pull his two daughters from their Indiana Girl Scout troop” because of the allegations someone who was threatened by the idea of empowered young girls made up. I’d wager that he didn’t even ask his daughters whether their scout troops were just fronts for lesbian sex and abortions, and even if he did, there’s obviously no way that anyone could misinterpret “We sell cookies,” as “I may be ten years old, but we’re all sex-crazed lesbians who sit around the camp fire praising satan with our godless camp fire songs.”

How is it possible to believe that the Girl Scouts is anything but beneficial for girls? How is it possible that community service, team work, and self-esteem are things that are deemed “radical”? The only way that makes sense is if we live in a society that does not value women and girls as much as men. The Girl Scouts aren’t the problem. Girls working together, guided by women, to believe that themselves and their sisters are capable of doing great things and feeling great about themselves is not threatening to any society that values what those girls can do and be and give when they’re 7 and when they’re 57. For 100 years, the Girl Scouts have empowered girls to grow into empowered women. I am proud to be one of those women.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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 It seems like we’ve seen more and more stories of teen suicide in the media recently, and most of them revolve around a teenager who was gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. All these kids feel like they’re not heard, accepted, or understood. The only difference is that for whatever reason, the way they are is not accepted by society and by societies idea of "normal". It doesn’t even have to be someone from the LGBTQ community, it can be the black kid, the latino, or the overweight girl down the street.

I was recently "outed" by someone I considered a friend. He took it upon himself to tell people that I was gay… knowing very well that I wasn’t even comfortable with my own sexuality. If i’m not fully comfortable with who I am, how am I supposed to be comfortable with others knowing about my sexual preferences? I can’t.

People are starting to ask me about it, and the only choice I have is to put my head down and say yes… even if I don’t want to put my head down. If it weren’t for the support of my mother, brother and friends, I don’t know where I would be right now. I can’t imagine having to go through this alone. How can someone be so cruel as to deliberately ruin someone’s life like this?

So many kids don’t feel like they belong and like they have no source of support. I’m lucky enough to have that… I only wish everyone going through what i’m going through now, or anything similar had the same: a group of loving friends and family to be there for them.


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Baltimore County, Maryland, which surrounds, but does not contain, the city of Baltimore, is the home of Chrissy Lee Polis, who was attacked at a McDonalds in a community in said county. The horrible events of last spring have become an impetus for the county to join the city it surrounds, as well as Montgomery and Howard Counties, in including gender identity in their non-discrimination law.

The County Council of Baltimore County heard hours of testimony Feb. 14 from both sides on a bill that would prohibit discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in the areas of housing, employment, education, public accommodations and financing. The council is expected to vote on the measure Feb. 21.

The measure, Bill No. 3-12, is sponsored by four of the seven councilmembers: Tom Quirk (D-1st), Vicki Almond (D-2nd), Cathy Bevins (D-6th) and Kenneth Oliver (D-4th). If passed Feb. 21, the bill will take effect in 45 days.

Dana BeyerBaltimore County’s passage of the bill would make it the fourth jurisdiction in Maryland to adopt such nondiscrimination protections. Montgomery County, Baltimore City and Howard County have similar laws that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Taken together, the four jurisdictions comprise almost half of the state’s population.

So, we have a bill that would allow for a localized accountability mechanism which includes gender identity (sexual orientation is already covered under state law), and it’s got the support of 4 of 7 councilmembers. However, certain dark forces who want to force transwomen to use the mens room, go to the men’s shelter, and be thrown in a men’s jail without legal recourse are already muddying the waters.

Baltimore County Council members say they’ll consider an amendment to exempt public restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms from a bill meant to protect transgender people from discrimination.

Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, announced the proposed amendment after an hours-long meeting on the bill this afternoon. About 60 people testified at the meeting.

Other sponsors of the amendment are Lutherville Republican Todd Huff, Middle River Democrat Cathy Bevins and Perry Hall Republican David Marks.

Opponents of the legislation have said they fear that an anti-discrimination law would allow men to sexually prey on women in public restrooms. But advocates for transgender people point out that no such incidents have been reported in areas that have anti-discrimination laws.

And sadly enough, two female members who have cosponsored this bill, Cathy Bevins and Vicki Almond are now having reservations about it due to the lies of the right. Isiah Leggett, the county executive of nearby Montgomery County, sent a letter to Ms. Almond, and the chief of police in said county confirmed that there were no incidents of "cross-dressing men" raping women in bathrooms. Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks said it best:

Let’s keep this simple: Transgender people should be allowed to use the public restrooms according to their gender identity. If they do something wrong while in there, they should be reported to the police. Otherwise, everyone, here’s some advice: Go in, do your business, and get out, no eye contact. Oh, and wash your hands.

Believe me, truer words have never been spoken. Whenever I use a public restroom, I get in and get out immediately; given the Chrissy Lee Polis incident, I am more afraid of the cis women in women’s rooms than they are afraid of me entering their space.

Now, I would like to discuss what I believe should happen should this bill be compromised in any way come Tuesday. The optimal outcome is that the bill is voted on without any amendments and as is (the link to the bill is above). However, if it seems that the anti-trans rape apologists who want to force us into the men’s room, shelter, or section have brainwashed council so much that it’s either harmful amendments or nothing, then they should immediately approach council and state that they want nothing (ie: the bill to die).

One of the major catalysts of this bill was the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis, and if the bill is allowed to pass with harmful amendments, it would undo what the bill was intended to protect. Language which puts conditions on our rights negates any benefits the bill would otherwise have, and the worst thing that the trans* community in Maryland can do is to let a bill pass with harmful anti-trans amendments.

In a three part series, I discussed how deleting public accomodations from the Massachusetts gender identity bill would be detrimental to further progress and how the bill as passed was better off dead. I WILL NOT BE FORCED BACK INTO THE MEN’S ROOM, AND THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT TRANSWOMEN SHOULD USE THE MEN’S ROOM ARE RAPE APOLOGISTS, NO MATTER HOW "FEMINIST" THEY MAY CLAIM TO BE.

I see now they’ve caught the virus, and Gunner Scott and Nancy Nangeroni of Massachusetts have earned my wrath, especially now that another jurisdiction has followed their lead. It’s all or nothing, Baltimore County activists, if you support the council passing a bill with harmful amendments, you will be called out as the traitors you are. We demand full equality, nothing more, nothing less, and caving to incendiary "bathroom rhetoric" will do more harm than good.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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As of Wednesday, there are now 26 jurisdictions within the state of Pennsylvania banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity:

Cheltenham Township became the 27th municipality in Pennsylvania to enact an antidiscrimination ordinance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents Feb. 15 after a 7-1 vote by the commissioners.

“I suspect I will look back at this vote as one of my proudest,” said Ward 5 Commissioner Daniel B. Norris shortly before the commissioners voted.

Most residents who spoke during public comment favored the ordinance, which bars LGBT residents from being discriminated against in matters of public or housing accommodation, commercial property and employment.

The ordinance establishes an unpaid, nine-member human relations commission that will receive citizens’ complaints and try to resolve the conflict via mediation or a public hearing.

“For the first time, LGBT residents who have raised kids, paid taxes in Cheltenham will have the same rights,” said David Flaks, who helped formulate the ordinance with commissioners and a few other residents.


About this time two years ago, Montgomery County, where Cheltenham is located did not have any ordinances on the books, the first municipality within the county’s borders was Lower Merion Township. Now, in the lower, more progressive part of the county, there is a bit of an equality belt. This infographic I made recently illustrates it well.

Basically, almost every town within Montgomery County that is contiguous with Philadelphia and then some, have non-discrimination ordinances, and given the recent shakeup on the County Board of Commissioners (each county elects 3 commissioners, 1 must be of minority party), we may see Montgomery County having an ordinance for the whole county.

I spoke at that meeting, appropriately, I came right after somebody who was using transphobic locker room rhetoric and I spoke about my experiences as a trans person and also stated that even though I am from an adjacent town, I believed that Cheltenham should be a good neighbor. And indeed, as I would find out when a friend drove me back to my home in South Philadelphia, our towns have one major issue in common, despite Cheltenham being a mid-sized suburb and my town being a major city.

According to this 2006 piece from Scouting For All:

In the Philadelphia area, the most recent controversy has been in Cheltenham, where an emotional debate over the use of township property by local Boy Scout troops has raised questions about discrimination, public policy, and the mission of scouting.

In February, the township Board of Commissioners began reviewing its policy regarding access to several township properties by local Boy Scouts after a complaint from an Elkins Park resident in November.

David Flaks, 45, a psychologist and lawyer, asked the commissioners to reconsider allowing scouts to use township land free of charge, and to open an annual Boy Scout tour of government buildings to a wider audience of children.

The Boy Scouts’ national policy barring gays and atheists made him question the ethical propriety of the township’s arrangement with the scouts, Flaks said recently.

The commissioners agreed to broaden the tour and now are considering whether to change the policy that allows the scouts free use of township property, Township Manager David Kraynik said.

Boy Scout Troop 22 owns and maintains the Drach Scout Cabin on township ground along Tookany Creek Parkway. The scouts have used the property for decades.

Indeed, what connects our two towns is a controversy involving the Boy Scouts. The Cradle Of Liberty Council has been dropping the suehammer on the city due to them occupying public space, and there are currently negotiations on how to transfer the property, with some demanding that the city sell it for fair market value (the most desireable option) or for less than fair market value (essentially a sweetheart deal that is only an easy way out).

The whole basis of the controversy is the concept of subsidized and government sanctioned discrimination. While emotions run high around this controversy with the cisgender G community the most, there is another elephant in the room, that of the SEPTA gender sticker controversy. Because SEPTA is a STATE board which is funded by its 5 member counties, it is reasonable to believe that the city, by giving money to SEPTA, is engaging in subsidized discrimination. If we could harness the same energy that was used by the well-off cisgender G sector to make scouting a big deal as we could with the sticker controversy, we could bring some serious action towards a discriminatory policy.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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It is a new year, and when it comes to issues surrounding the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), not much tends to change. This includes a discriminatory policy in which gender stickers are placed on monthly and weekly passes with the intention of "fraud prevention" and the unintended consequences that occur for members of the trans*/gender variant community. The powers that be within the SEPTA borg claim that they will be switching to a system of fare cards, much like what is used in New York City, thus eliminating the need for stickers on the passes, which are "stand-alone". Below is a picture of a typical pass (this is my pass, note the orange F on the upper left hand side, males get a green M):

Now, regardless of this new modernized fare system’s implementation (which everyone in SEPTA claims will be happening soon, but it appears to be still years off), the fact of the matter is, this gendering of transit instruments is unique to SEPTA. Just across the river in New Jersey, they have stand-alone monthly and weekly passes which not only do not have any form of gender marking, but they can even be purchased from vending machines. Also, while in Pittsburgh over the summer, I used a male-identified friend’s pass to get into town; needless to say, there was no gender sticker there.

The main impediment to changing this unnecessary and discriminatory policy is the fact that SEPTA, unlike most other transit authorities, is an organ of state government with the five counties served (Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester) contributing only 2 board members and a budget to the office. Therefore, as I went to city council in April and watched as SEPTA’s bigwigs went in with their budget and several members of city council questioned them on gender stickers, I began to ponder this; should Philadelphia City Council refuse funding to SEPTA until they remove the gender stickers.

Sherrie Cohen, a lesbian activist who ran a serious bid for City Council at large, and got the support of a local PAC, had this to say:

We cannot permit SEPTA to continue discriminating against transgender and gender nonconforming people for the next 3 to 5 years while it modernizes its fare collection system.

I would demand that Philadelphia, which pays the lion share of SEPTA’s local subsidy, not make its annual payment until SEPTA removes the gender stickers from transpasses.

By comparison, most members of city council, when approached about this issue, stated their opposition, but stopped short of stating they would stop funding this policy.

Perhaps I am not some crazy trollette when I advocate for city council to refuse to give money to a discriminatory agency. Currently, I am in contact with the office a member of city council to get a resolution against this, and it may be happening soon, but I would like to see council do more than just a resolution that, although will be a nice gesture, is still non-binding at the end of the day. SEPTA’s budget generally comes up in the spring, and I believe that it would be wonderful if trans*/gender variant activists and their allies turned the heat up on city council to not only give lip service to our community on this pressing issue, but to take action, even if it could be viewed as" extreme"; this action being the refusal of any more of city tax monies to SEPTA until they have no more gender stickers on their passes.

Yes, public transportation is a necessity, and I am a huge fan of such (especially since I sold my car shortly after moving to this dense city), however, a discriminatory policy negates any good that any agency, authority, or organization may provide. Consider the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts of the 1950s, sure, the Montgomery bus system provided a valuable service to its residents, but when the African-American community was targetted with discriminatory policies, civil rights activists were not debating the merits of public transit, rather, they were focused on turning up the heat to stop the discriminatory policies on their respective public transit systems.

We’ve got to hold our elected officials accountable and make sure they can do their best to ensure people’s human rights within their power, and while Philadelphia cannot directly control SEPTA’s affairs; money still talks here, and we need to make this gender stick BS walk.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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 Hey guys I was having so much trouble trying to decide  what I wanted my first blog to be about because there are so many topic’s to choose from on this website but the one.  That really got to me was gender and stereotype. I choose to write about this topic because everywhere you go if you look somewhat  different from all the rest . People tend to criticize you. And to be honest  I never really understood that. I mean if your in high school or college or  even an older person and someone  finds  out  that you are Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, or transgender . They always have to  make you feel like an outcast.  I mean  why do they  have to pick on the us just because of our sexuality.  My opinion is that hey need to stop picking on us and stop trying to make us feel bad just because you’re not happy with themselves. Sometimes I believe that they only pick on us because they know that we accept ourselves for who we truly are .


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You may recall that my position on New York’s marriage equality push was negative to say the least, and that position still stands until New York State gets its sh*t together. However, I am jumping for joy that marriage equality in Washington State is all but inevitable.

From Washington Governor Christine Gregoire’s twitter:

Thank you to the Washington State House–a civil, respectful debate on marriage equality. And a 55-43 vote! Next stop, my desk!

This makes Washington state the first on the west coast to legalize gender neutral marriage through legislative (rather than judicial) action, but what also makes me even more happy is that Washington State marks a major first, the first time a legislature passed a marriage equality bill AFTER full sexual orientation-gender identity anti-discrimination was passed, having passed it in 2006, albeit with a higher number of legislators in the house supportive.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa got marriage equality through court decisions, the latter two having gender identity protections AT THE TIME of legalization (Connecticut would come later), while the only two states to legislate marriage equality into law until now, New Hampshire and New York, did not, and still do not, have gender identity protections, which is why I am hoping that until both states pass gender identity laws and cover trans health benefits (or do other things for the trans* and the less fortunate of the LGBTQ community), I will be cheering for the repeal of marriage equality in both states.

Furthermore, a perusal of the website of King County, where Seattle is located, indicates that there is a medical clinic, Pike Market, which services trans individuals and takes all health plans, including Medicaid, indicating that Washington state does not have the exclusion that New York state has. Furthermore, Washington state passed a comprehensive anti-bullying law last year and it appears that (at least) Seattle has taken into considerating the issue of homeless youth.

Therefore, I do give my full blessing for the marriage equality bill to become law; they have eaten their ravioli, now they can have some ice cream.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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by Bianca Laureano

There are so many stereotypes that people have about Latin@s, our sexual experiences, practices, and decisions. As a member of this community and someone from the Caribbean I have a few ideas on how these stereotypes have emerged and how they have been linked to reproductive health and justice. It is clear from reports by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health  and the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice  that we are collectively working to change and challenge these stereotypes. A recent report by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health http://latinainstitute.org/Latinopoll demonstrates that a majority of Latin@s (over 70%) believe that a woman has the right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering.

Remembering how I was trained, by racially white professors and Latin@ ones, the idea of “cultural values” that Latin@s have and hold true I continue to struggle with. Some of these “cultural values” are connected to ideas that stem from colonization, others from social sciences such as anthropology and sociology where our communities were “observed” and have become truth we are continuing to deconstruct, challenge, and recreate. If you’re not clear on what some of the texts that created this about us consider Oscar Lewis’ La Vida, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s The Negro Family (because Latin@s come in all colors!) to start.

And yes, there are times when I’m being flip in this article, something I don’t often do, so hopefully you can pick up on the sarcasm (a coping mechanism for many of us myself included) and differentiate between that and the larger topic/ideas.

Top Stereotypes On Latin@s connected to Reproductive Health

Stereotype: Latin@s are all Catholic.

No we aren’t. Many of us may identify with and practice Catholicism, but many of us do not as well. Latin@s are a diverse group and assuming we all hold the same spiritual beliefs and practices is erroneous. The history of Catholicism in the Americas is connected to exploration, conquest, colonization, and revolution.  This is why we see many religions that are connected to Catholicism but also connected to indigenous and African ritual practices (when this occurs it’s called syncretism) and religions, such as Candomblé, Santería, and Vodou.  All of these religions Latin@s are known to practice. We also practice a range of spiritual belief systems that many of you have heard before such as Judaism, Islam, and some of us are even atheists. Not all of these religious belief systems have the same perspective on the body, reproduction, family, contraceptives, pregnancy, termination, and power. To ignore this is to ignore our humanity.

Stereotype: Latin@s value family soooooooo much.

Sure we do, but not any more than any other ethnic group. The fact that this has been labeled a “cultural value” and the terms familialismo and familialism has been overly used to understand and connect with Latin@s is a testament to how this has become a stereotype that is systemic. What this “cultural value” ignores is the chosen family that many of us create and the extended family we go to seeking support and help because we are under-resourced. It also ignores the abuses, assaults, violence, rape, and throwing-away* of children that does occur in some Latin@ families. This stereotype is the reason why we rationalize the high teen birthrate among Latin@s without being critical of systemic issues at play. There is also limited examination into how a pregnancy for a young Latin@ may be connected to safety. Some youth do carry a pregnancy to term so that they can give the illusion they are heterosexual as so many people assume only heterosexual people become pregnant and want families.

Stereotype: So many Latin@s are (undocumented) immigrants.

And so many of us are not. How quickly we forget that what we know today as the US-Mexico border was more Mexico than US. To this day I meet people who have no clue that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US and thus we are “granted” US citizenship. Plus, many folks have no idea that Cuban immigrants are granted refugee status which offers benefits some US citizens have a tremendous challenge accessing. All the stories of  “terror babies”  and “anchor babies”  portrays undocumented immigrants in the US are primarily Latin@s. What this stereotype is really connected to when it comes to reproductive health and justice are ideas that people who migrate from the Americas or Caribbean are so “traditional” (read: conservative, primitive, and sheltered) in comparison to folks in the US. If these are the stereotypes (as if none of the cities in any of the countries in the Americas have wealth of any sort similar to capitalist ideas found in the US, or that people don’t evolve if they live in a particular part of the world) that people hold and connect to our ideas of reproductive health and justice, the “rational” connection would be that ideas of abortion, contraceptives, and family planning are what we in the US would consider “oppressive” and “patriarchal,” and “un-feminist” which automatically means anti-choice. This is also where an assimilationist perspective would chime in and say “Latin@s are pro-choice because they’ve lived in the US and been exposed to modern ideas.” Yeah, this is condescending and leads to the next stereotype.

Stereotype: Assimilation and/or Acculturation is why we see Latin@s more pro-choice

Yeah, not really. This ignores the fact that people all over the world, not just Mexico, Central, South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean have been practicing herbal remedies and care for terminating a pregnancy. Maybe they don’t call it “abortion” or “terminating a pregnancy.” Maybe they call it “making your period/menstruation come.” Let’s not try to start history when the US comes into play. Let’s remember that many countries existed long before they were “discovered” and that starting history at a particular time/place may erase and ignore a long history and legacy of supporting women, families, and choice. Many folks resist and actively challenge assimilation and acculturation because they choose to hold onto what they know and value. Others openly begin the assimilation and acculturation process and that is their choice, but it must not ever be a requirement, especially for self-determination.

Stereotype: Latin@s are curvy and voluptuous and “naturally” built for giving birth.

Our bodies must be made for breeding if we are built in a particular way. Aside from this being so closely connected to eugenics, it’s ridiculous. Just as we are diverse in belief systems we are also diverse in body shape and size. This stereotype assumes that a “real” Latin@ looks a particular way, which always leads to a problem of exclusion. Through migration, slavery, exploration, and travel there has been inter-mixing of communities and cultures and to assume we look a particular way erases this history.

Stereotype: Latin@s get sterilized so they don’t have to worry about pregnancy, so why would they care about abortion?

Now this idea may not be the most popular, but the stereotype is connected to many things: sterilization rates in the US (forced and consensual), assumption that sterilization is an approved from of contraception (which connects to stereotype one about religion), and a disconnect to the topic of abortion. Without going too in depth on the history of forced sterilization in the US in communities of Color and those with different abilities,  I will share that longitudinal research has been conducted with Puerto Rican women who have grandmothers and mothers who were forcibly sterilized and daughters have chosen this method as a form of contraception. Author and scholar Iris Ofelia López uses the term “agency within constraints” in her book Matters of Choice: Puerto Rican Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Freedom, to describe how our various identities are connected to the systems of oppression we live in and how we find self-determination to survive and live the lives we desire for ourselves. Some people do choose sterilization as their contraceptive method of choice, but that does not mean we all do. Choosing this method also does not mean we completely disconnect from the communal struggle and desire to live life on our own terms and to experience pleasure and happiness. Just because someone chooses a particular option does not mean they are instantly no longer a member of their community.

Stereotype: Latin@s are hyper-sexual and passionate.

No wonder we have so many high rates of unplanned pregnancies because it is believed we are always having (unprotected) sex all.the.time. Just look at the way we dance, or how we get dressed to go out, we are exuding sensual passion we want to share consensually with another person. These stereotypes make Latin@s seem as though we are always already sexually available (and consenting). Some of us do have active sexual experiences on a daily basis; some of us are still virgins; and some of us experience times of celibacy and abstinence throughout our lives (which is closer to a inter/national “norm” if there is one). I struggle to think of one current media representative that is Latina that we see who does not support this image. Now, this may be true for many, but offering only a one-dimensional representation supports this stereotype and some may read that as permission to base ideas on our reproductive health and choices.

Stereotype: Latin@s are mostly heterosexual, that’s how people get pregnant anyway!

It’s a struggle for many providers, educators, and those of us working in the field of sexuality and sexual health to actively remember that we do not need to identify people based on their behaviors alone. Asking folks to self-identify also contributes to providing them care and support. This stereotype is connected to ideas that the Latin@s who experience pregnancy are exclusively heterosexual and thus they are not questioned beyond current partner status. This stereotype impacts the services Latin@s (and all pregnant people) experience and need. Yes, sperm and a mature egg are needed for pregnancy to occur, but assuming that those people who contribute those are always going to be male and identify as men and female and identify as women is wrong. This excludes intersex people and creates more barriers for transgender people and those who identify as gender queer to really find quality reproductive health care.

*”throw-away” is a term used to describe youth who are homeless or in the foster care system who were “thrown out” of their home of origin. This may happen for various reasons which may include an unplanned pregnancy, coming out as not heterosexual, identifying as transgender, identifying a family member as an abuser, to name a few.

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1. Elect prochoice candidates. 

Reproductive rights impact the economy, educational attainment and public health of our country. It is a cornerstone of the American dream for not only women, but all people. It is not a single issue, it is essential for the betterment of all people. Therefore, we must promote candidates that support reproductive justice.

2. Elect women. Women, run.

If we want the issues that most intimately impact women to be addressed, the perspectives of women need to be brought to our legislative bodies. This is like diversity 101 people. I love my prochoice men and will do everything I can this year to re-elect Sherrod Brown in Ohio, but that does not negate the need for women elected officials, include state and federal legislators and judges.

This rings true for other communities as well. For the advancement of people who are transgendered, queer, disabled and so on we need to people from these communities. I feel Harvey Milk sums this up best.

3. Move away from abortion as a partisan issue through election reform.

Abortion will remain a partisan issue until we reform our election systems throughout the country. Abortion is a deeply personal issue, and therefore politically is divisive. There really is not a political party that champions reproductive justice, so voters are left to choose between a party that rabidly attacks reproductive justice or another that passively lets reproductive justice crumble. An election system that allows for more discourse and less talking points would spur not only better legislative outcomes from reproductive justice, but all issues added in government.

Some starting points to improve our election systems includes the use of independent commissions to draw district lines, better campaign financing regulations and ending burdensome regulations on voters (voter ID bills, and other attacks we have seen this year).

4. Make spaces for young people to grow as leaders in this movement.

“Establishment” prochoice organizations need to make space for young people to become leaders in the movement. Young people (not just young women) bring fresh energy, innovation, and perspective to the movement. If we want to win this war, we need to continuously work to expand to ensure there are leaders for the movement for generations to come. Shelby Knox explains this philosophy well in her post honoring Gloria Steinem.

Shelby Knox’s wonderful blog

5. Seeing reproductive justice as more than access to abortion.

This weekend I watched the film, “The Business of Being Born,” a documentary about home births and the “business” of child birth. It really opened my eyes to how little freedom women have when it comes to the birthing process. It reminded me that reproductive justice is broad, and impacts all people. If you choose to delay becoming a parents, avoid becoming a parent, or become a parent (birthing a child, adoption) you should care about this issue. Wait, that is everyone. Point made.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

January 22- January 29

Stats this week: 26 posts by 14 writers

Trust Women Week: Bianca’s story- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

Bianca describes her work as an abortion doula.

Dying of Red Tape: Ban on Federal Funding for Syringe Exchange Programs Reinstated- by one_for_all

Inside this post:

HIV prevention groups will no longer be able to use federal funds to buy needles—thus limiting one of the most effective ways of stopping the disease. By cutting funding for needle exchange programs specifically, they condemn women, people of color, poor people, queer people, and sex workers to disease and death.

Tennessee Bathroom Bill…Down, But Not Out- by Jordan

Inside this post:

A Tennessee bill that would ban transgender people from entering the bathroom or dressing room of the gender they identify as was thankfully put aside in the state’s Senate because (correctly) “there were other issues to be addressed.”

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My posts this week:
Survey Results: How We Describe Others
Target card calls pregnant girls whores

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Hello Everyone!

Disclaimer: I am using queer as an overarching term for the LGBTQ etc. Spectrum

This past weekend was the start of The Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference on LGBT Equality.

Youth Resource (I’m in sequins)

This was my first time going to a national queer conference. I have been attending the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference since 2010 but never a conference as large as Creating Change.

I was not sure what to expect from a national queer conference. I was not sure who was going to be there or what was going to happen. All I knew was that the conference was a place where anyone who is a part of the overall queer community could go to feel free. Attendees could show support and be who they are without judgment that often comes from the “outside community”.

I met people from all across the country who are all doing their piece in helping the movement. Whether it be behind the scenes doing accounting for non-profits, to lobbyist marching up the capitol, to a resource for youth to create GSA’s in the south, to entertainers who are vocal about our cause. This conference brought everyone together with their piece of the puzzle. Each one was making ground in a unique way. Each one had a mission to fight for.

Participating from 8am-9pm may have prevented countless hours of sleep, but, I felt recharged because of all the amazing stories I heard of what people are doing to make change for their communities, schools, houses of worship, states, and counties. I was inspired. Each one reminded me that as individuals we cannot change the whole national climate on LGBT issues, but we can each make progress for Creating Change in our own way. And this is clearly what keeps our community going strong.

Just because the conference is over it does not mean that Creating Change itself is over. I will take the momentum the conference has provided me and use it to create change in my own world.

Remember, regardless of what you’re fighting for whether it be LGBT related causes, sexual health causes, or any other cause that is of importance, keep doing what you do regardless of the size of your work. Always have progress because you too are a part of the puzzle in making our world a better place.


Shaily of Youth Resource

Be the change you want to see in the world.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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 This past weekend, I attended the LGBT Equality Conference: Creating Change. I must say that it was one of the GREATEST experiences of my life. I learned a lot, I listened even more and the things I saw were incredible. On my flight going to Baltimore around this time last week I was hoping to find something to dedicate my passion to and as I expected I came back home to North Carolina full of inspiration and motivation. The human rights movement is an amazing one. Hearing Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP, spoke volumes to me. I realized I have responsibility to my NAACP chapter at home and the greater community to speak up on the issues of education, jobs, housing, immigration, marriage, and the right to love, dignity, and respect. All these things affect all of us regardless of whether we are black, white, purple, gay, transgender, rich, poor and everything in between. Once we start to realize that we are one human race, I guarantee we will be better off. But honestly, if we knew that I wouldn’t be posting this blog nor would there be a need for Creating Change.

To anyone reading this, you don’t have to go to a conference or travel anywhere to get involved in a movement. Find something to be passionate about whether its LGBT rights or the DREAM Act. Make sure that it comes from the heart and I promise everything will fall into place. There are an abundance of organizations, that specialize and do advocacy work in ALL areas. We live in an era where the world is literally at our fingertips (those who have that privilege… conversation coming in my next blog). Don’t let ANYONE deter you from your goal… the work isn’t easy nor will it happen overnight but it can be done. Like my mother tells me all the time “The world is yours, take it”

Go out and Create Change.

The proof that one truly believes is in action. –Bayard Rustin

With Black History Month, quickly approaching (tomorrow)… take the time to attend events highlighting the achievements of African-Americans not the Martin Luther Kings or Malcolm X’s. But those who helped them get where they are in history. Find your passion and find a spot for yourself.

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American society tends to run on retribution, and according to the New York Times, other nations dwarf the US in terms of prison population:

Criminologists and legal experts here and abroad point to a tangle of factors to explain America’s extraordinary incarceration rate: higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.

This American obsession with retribution has often manifested in ugly and triggering ways, such as victim blaming in prison rape. Yes, prison in America is tough, but the average African American cisgender male who was never nurtured from the start and had everything stacked against him, does not have it as hard as prisoners who are trans (of any race) To give you an idea, almost all correctional systems in the United States use anatomy to determine whether an inmate belongs in the men’s or women’s prison; this shouldn’t be as much of a problem for transmen, but if its a transwoman in a men’s prison (and prison officials can be mercurial about determining whether a trans prisoner should be segregated), they become at high risk of being sexually assaulted.

The American mentality is against "perks" in jail, especially by people of a more conservative mindset. Which makes it surprising that just recently, a federal judge who was a Nixon appointee ruled that a transfeminine prisoner in Massachusetts was unconstitutionally denied laser hair treatment by correctional authorities:

Christine Alexander, a biological male who identifies as female, was diagnosed in 2003 with Gender Identity Disorder, a controversial clinical name approved by the American Psychiatric Association.

Since that time, Alexander has received hormone replacement therapy and psychological counseling while incarcerated at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk.

Because Alexander also "suffers from facial and body hair, and male pattern baldness," several doctors have prescribed laser hair removal and finasteride, the generic name for Rogaine or Propecia, to "enhance patient’s progress towards feminization," according to a court summary.

Though Alexander claims that the hair treatments are medically necessary rather than cosmetic, the state corrections department has not offered them.

This has led to many transphobic screeds floating around the internet and e-pitchforks being raised by those who are easily susceptible to the average conservative plen-t-plaint. But if we can all use our brains for a few minutes, we can realize that a conservative "law and order" view can be reconciled with the idea that a person should not forfeit their gender identity at the jailhouse gates.

Furthermore, in the above article:

Alexander claimed violations of her Eighth and 14th Amendment rights in a complaint against three corrections department officials, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Clinical Services Lawrence Weiner, Gender Identity Treatment Chairman Robert Diener and Norfolk’s Associate Medical Director Rebecca Lubelczyk.

"Plaintiff asserts that the failure to provide her with the medical treatment will lead to serious bodily harm, untreated mental illness and continued depression," according to U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro’s summary of the lawsuit.

The defendants each filed motions to dismiss, but Tauro upheld the claims last week, finding that Alexander’s "allegations, taken as true, are sufficient to establish that the plaintiff has a serious medical need, which has not been adequately treated under the Eighth Amendment standard."

We have a love affair with our constitution, but sometimes, driven by our toxic culture of sensationalism, we sometimes forget that the 8th amendment, which is to protect against cruel and unusual punishment, is there for a reason.

Laser hair removal is, in most cases, an elective procedure, and I would concede that the average cisgender male inmate should not receive laser hair removal while incarcerated. However, it is a medical necessity for us transwomen (hell, these faceweeds are causing me some real emotional distress), and given the expense of the procedure, plus the continued marginalization of transwomen, it stands to reason that should be included in healthcare plans as treatment for gender dysphoria.

However, this news makes me mad; not that Ms. Alexander will be able to get laser hair removal, but because very few people can get this procedure covered. I cannot afford $250 a month for 6 months, which is what the Mazzoni Centre charges for its in house laser clinic (even though I can get my Rx of spironolactone and estradiol covered and charged a nominal fee). Perhaps maybe it is time to use this as a springboard for a push to cover it under Pennsylvania’s medical assistance. While the Eighth amendment may not play here due to my not being incarcerated, there is a chance that a Medicaid statute against necessary treatment, which is ill-defined, could be used here.

And what is interesting about this case is that the judge, Joseph Tauro, was a Nixon appointee. This conservative-judge-is-unlikely-ally-of-trans-people phenomenon is nothing new, as you may recall, one of the three judges who ruled that Vandy Beth Glenn was right to sue her boss for sex discrimination for firing her for being transgender, was William H. Pryor, one of the federal courts’ chief mastodons. So, it is becoming more likely that if someone filed a federal lawsuit demanding that transpeople be able to get the treatment/care/redress they deserved, they would get it (the law is the law, but remember that judges are people too, and they make judgment calls everyday, no pun intended).

But back to the subject of trans prisoners. As of recent, the country is headed in the right direction. Just last October, the US Bureau Of Prisons now allows for comprehensive trans health coverage for federal inmates. Although it may seem like the federal government is conferring an expensive perk to wrongdoers, remember that there is a reason behind almost everything, and that being able to transition would actually aid in their transition back to civilian life (due to improved mental health) and become productive members of society, which would, in turn, reduce recidivism.

Even in states as conservative as Virginia, trans inmates are getting at least a few concessions from prison authorities. However, in term of determining which gender unit a prisoner should go in, the outdated "all penis bearers belong in the men’s prison" mentality is still the norm. Even in New Jersey, which has gender identity protections, a facebook friend of mine who is a pre-op trans woman has been struggling to pay child support due to her unemployment and the other parent’s extravagant lifestyle, has been thrown in the Atlantic County men’s prison; she feels she has little recourse due to her not being able to afford an attourney.

A good compromise solution for prisons across the nation in terms of placement would be to use a case study of Philadelphia’s city homeless shelters, in which trans* residents are in separate sleeping quarters with an attached restroom, but are otherwise integrated into the life of the shelter (ie: they eat together and share a common space). Perhaps a similar system should be in place in the prison system, in which trans* prisoners who are pre-op/non-op are placed in a separate living space with a separate bathroom in the prison corresponding to the gender which they most identify as, but are integrated in every other aspect of life within the walls (ie: bound to every other rule within the institution)

in terms of placement, I believe it would be better if the Department of Corrections used whatever is on the inmate’s identification rather than genitals (though as stated above, genital configuration may be appropriate in what unit within the appropriate gender prison the inmate should be placed in, as long as they are otherwise allowed to participate fully in life within the institution). For example, under this regime, a trans* woman who has switched her ID to read "F" would be placed in a women’s prison regardless of her genitals, and although it may be appropriate to put the transwomen in a separate area for sleeping and showering, they would still get the same
uniforms/honorifics/opportunities as the cisgender women in the facility.

However, if an inmate’s ID does not match their gender identity (something that can often happen if certain states make it tough to do so), then a protocol should be put in place similar to Washington, DC:

It all starts at intake. According to the new program statement written by the D.C. Department of Corrections–and dated today!–DOC will classify an inmate or can classify an inmate as transgendered after the inmate has been reviewed by the new Transgender Committee.

The committee is comprised of "a medical practitioner, a mental health clinician, a correctional supervisor, a Chief Case Manager and a DOC approved volunteer who is a member of the transgender community or an awknowledged expert in transgender affairs." This entity can determine the transgendered inmate’s housing assignment after a review of their records and an interview with the inmate.

Here’s where it kinda gets tricky: "During intake, if an inmate’s gender-related expression, identity, appearance, or behavior differs from their sex, staff shall, when practical, place transgendered or intersex inmates in a holding cell by him/herself during intake." I wonder how a guard receives training on this?

If an inmate has been determined as transgendered, there are now procedures for how guards must address them. "Inmates shall be called by their last names without referenced to gender specific indentifiers such as Mr. or Mrs.," the DOC statement says.

I think this process would be more humane and would balance the needs of the trans* inmate with the overall safety of the facility.

In conclusion, this quotation from Jennifer L. Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project at the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, sums it up best:

”If we are successful in getting individual care and treatment for our client, unfortunately that doesn’t change automatically the denial that other inmates receive. That will take a longer educational process. It needs to include training at the highest levels. The law is pretty clear in this area, as it happens. It’s just that getting the prison staff and administrators to actually follow the law is a big challenge.”

Although a perusal of comments sections of articles related to trans prisoners rights (or any other types of prisoners rights) reek of victim blaming and misplaced outrage, enough for me to throw something at the computer, I am at least glad that trans* prisoners have won some important concessions, though there is still a long way to go. Most of all, I am glad that judges, even those more conservative, are paying attention to the basic needs of trans* people over the bloodlust and blind retribution politics of Joe Pitchfork the Anonymous Dot Commenter. Once again, I stress, NO PERSON, NO MATTER WHAT THEY HAVE DONE, SHOULD LEAVE THEIR GENDER IDENTITY AT THE JAILHOUSE GATES.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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We are 27 days into 2012, another 338 days left to go. There is much than can happen in a minute, one’s life may change dramatically in an hour and it only takes a matter of days for there to be a paradigmatic change.

As 2012 unfolds, international partners and stakeholders in the global youth movement are presented with the opportunity to press on earnestly to continue to increase awareness, recognition and respect for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights in all circles. But even though time marches on and civilisation should naturally follow the same progression, there are many countries which continue to lag behind in their public recognition of the rights of all adolescents whether male, female, gay, straight or transgendered. Jamaica, our island in the sun, is one example of those countries. It is my desire that 2012 will usher in a more inclusive common-sense approach to these matters; a desire I hope is not too presumptuous. 

In 2012 we will continue to knock fists with HIV/AIDS, especially in circles which continue to maintain laws that present themselves as virtually insurmountable hurdles in this knock-out fight. The 2011 World Aids Day theme ‘Getting to Zero’ is particularly instructive and should be forever etched in our minds as we aim for the targets of Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-Related Death. These targets must be the primary focus of all our strategies as the youth continue to contribute to development in these areas in their individual countries and certainly across the world.

On a much more fundamental level, we are given yet another opportunity to be respectful to and of each other. As the years pile on, globalisation becomes more entrenched. We must all, therfore, seek to develop mutual respect of our differences and diversities in what will largely become a homogenous society. This is the ultimate opportunity that lingers in 2012. One that should be caught like a bull by the horns and one that augurs for all of our benefits as a global society.

2012 will present threats, challenges and opportunities. We should seize these opportunities and minimise the threats and challenges to make 2012 a very fruitful and historic one through our individual and collective efforts.  

Jermaine Case,
International Youth Speak Out Project (iYSO) 

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It is extremely hard to follow the lulzy and chaotic Republican primary (a serial adulterer, a google target in a sweater vest, and an indecisive hatchetman walk into a bar….) without noticing the long shot candidacy of Ron Paul, a cult hero among the Libertarian movement who is currently occupying the Republican primary. While it seems unlikely he will win said primary, he’s in it to shake up the establishment.

So, what is libertarianism? The long and short of it is, it is a political philosophy that is supposed to be extremely fiscally conservative and extremely socially liberal, in other words, a belief that the government’s only function is to pave the roads and lock up the bad guys (and free those who toke and hook). It is a political philosophy that looks good on paper, and I myself, have views on issues such as drugs, sex work, drinking age, and curfews that would make an Ayn Rand loving trust fund baby look like a real nanny-statist, however, in practice, it is a threat to vulnerable peoples, like myself, and assumes that everyone will treat each other equally, when in

Indeed, many on the left have even embraced Ron Paul for his anti-drug war, non-interventionist, and anti-managed trade agenda, including many in the Occupy movement, which of course, goes to show that many grassroots "fight the power" movements tend to be dominated by white, cisprivileged, heteronormative, able-bodied "manarchists" with enough subpoena envy to drive many people out of their movements, and could survive the otherwise 1% enabling of a Ron Paul regime.

For this post, I will attempt to break down many issues affecting the LGBTIQ community and how libertarianism, for the most part, would be counterproductive to those goals.


On this issue, Ron Paul has a view that neither supports nor opposes marriage equality as we know it now. On one hand, he believes that marriage should be a voluntary contract between consenting individuals and should be gender blind. On the other hand, he believes in "leaving it to the church" for recognition. While there are congregations who bless same-gender marriage, leaving anything to religious organizations is a bad idea.

And while we are on the subject of the church’s role in Society….


Ron Paul has blasted George W. Bush’s attempts to outsource welfare from a neutral, publicly funded arbiter to faith based organizations.

In a 2003 statement, Paul derisively labeled Pres. Bush’s faith-based initiative “a neocon project” that “repackages and expands the liberal notion of welfare.” In 2001, he proposed legislation to “amend” the faith-based initiative by offering a tax credit for private donations to faith-based organizations that provide social services. “Churches should not become entangled with government subsidies and programs because truly independent religious institutions are critical to a free society,” he said

While at first glance, this may be a somewhat enlightened stance, the fact of the matter is, it would lead to a situation in which the poor and hungry would be at the mercy of faith based organizations who have less than enlightened views on LGBTIQ issues. Even in the city of Pittsburgh, which I had to flee due to homelessness, the shelter system is run by religious groups who may not be enlightened on trans* issues, and the religious nature of these organizations often exempt them from any anti-discrimination law. Also, even in Austin, one of the most progressive cities in the country, a transwoman died because the local shelter was run by the Salvation Army. Do we want more Jennifer Gales to happen. Libertarians believe in self-determination, however, the unintended consequence is that those who are trans/gender variant will lose our self-determination under a libertarian regime. On the other end, Philadelphia (a libertarian would view many major cities as having a very "statist" government, and Philly would be no exception) has a city run shelter system that RESPECTS people’s gender identity, thus, one could say that the extensive shelter system is supposed to, and has done at times, respected the self-determination of transfolk.


Having a non-discrimination law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accomodations, and education is, I believe, a cornerstone in LGBTIQ rights. However, libertarianism, at its very core, would oppose the creation of the enforcement mechanism (ie: terms like "Civil Rights Commission" in New Jersey and "Human Relations Commission" in Pennsylvania). In an email exchange with Det Ansinn, president of Doylestown Borough council (the municipality has had a non-discrimination ordinance since August 2010), he stated that there have been no complaints, and that the local human relations commission is all volunteer (which seems to be standard for many smaller municipalities which have done these ordinances), thus ending up budget neutral for the borough (and even if there was a complaint, the costs would likely be negligible). However, that wouldn’t matter, as it would be hard for a libertarian to reconcile their opposition to big government with a need to protect the liberty of people who have differing sexual orientations and gender identities.


This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Ron Paul has stated on the issue of Medicare and Medicaid:

In the days before Medicare and Medicaid, the poor and elderly were admitted to hospitals at the same rate they are now, and received good care. Before those programs came into existence, every physician understood that he or she had a responsibility towards the less fortunate and free medical care was the norm. Hardly anyone is aware of this today, since it doesn’t fit into the typical, by the script story of government rescuing us from a predatory private sector. 

I am not 100% against, say, pro bono clinics which deal with more cut and dry issues (they are often found in Philadelphia on a scattered basis), they are not solutions that we can bank on. I have exhaustively argued for single payer, and believe that it is the most efficient and cheapest way to take care of people’s healthcare needs, and would also relieve burdens on business and volunteer organizations; the former being forced to be at the mercy of HMOs, and the latter becoming much more overextended under a theoretical libertarian regime.

Then again, we come back to religion. As one may notice, such religious organizations as the Catholic Church and the Salvation Army seem to love to take over where government should be involved. They are a well oiled machine which, if an indigent trans* person was left at their mercy, would not receive the care they deserve, either through refusal to acknowledge gender identity, refusing to prescribe ‘mones on religious grounds, or even telling them to get out because "we don’t serve crossdressers". Not to mention that there are people who believe that hormones are a luxury rather than a necessity (see George Pataki), and the expense of transition, plus the marginalization of transwomen, means that there is a need for transition related expenses to be covered under a national healthcare system.


Given the "let’s bash government for the sake of bashing government" views of libertarians and Ron Paul, its safe to say that the average libertarian would OPPOSE anti-bullying laws (much like "New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill Of Rights") not only as an abridgement of "liberty", but because it is an "undue burden" on public schools. Since libertarianism at its very core, erroneously believes that people can pull themselves up by the bootstraps

Perusing Ron Paul’s views on education, he claims that he is not 100% against the dismantling of public schools (surprisingly), but encourages homeschooling (which does not always produce consistently good results and shelters the child), and has voted to support vouchers to private and parochial schools, which drain money away from public schools. I do not believe that parochial schools, given their theologically conservative views on gender roles and sexuality, indoctrination towards an anti-choice position, and censoring out responsible sex ed, should receive any solace from the government at the expense of public schools, which, by their nature, are more neutral and students should never have to leave their liberties at the schoolhouse gate.

Basically, should I have to give up my pro-choice views or my gender transition just so I can get an education?


It is hard to decode Ron Paul’s position on reproductive freedom. On one hand, he has said some extremely anti-abortion statements:

Liberty is the most important thing, because if we have our liberties, we have our freedoms, we can have our lives. But it’s academic to talk about civil liberties if you don’t talk about the true protection of all life. So if you’re going to protect liberty, you have to protect the life of the unborn just as well. I have a bill in Congress which I would certainly promote and push as President. But it’s been ignored by the right-to-life community. My bill is called the Sanctity of Life bill. What it would do is it would establish the principle that life begins at conception. That’s not a political statement, but a scientific statement that I’m making. We’re all interested in a better court system, and amending the Constitution to protect life–but sometimes that is dismissing the way we can handle this much quicker. My bill removes the jurisdiction of the federal courts from the issue of abortion. If a state law says “no abortion,” it doesn’t go to the Supreme Court to be ruled out of order.

He has also received a 0% from NARAL, however, he has also stated that laws should stay out of the abortion issue.

They may be, but the way this is taken care of in our country, it is not a national issue. This is a state issue. And there are circumstances where doctors in the past have used certain day-after pills for somebody with rape. And, quite frankly, if somebody is treated, you don’t even know if a person is pregnant; if it’s 24 hours after rape, I don’t know how you’re going to police it. We have too many laws already. Now, how are you going to police the day-after pill? Nobody can out-do me on respect for life. I’ve spent a lifetime dealing with life. But I still think there is a time where the law doesn’t solve the problems. Only the moral character of the people will eventually solve this problem, not the law.

Despite these convoluted stances, Ron Paul believes that it should be harder for those who are low income to be able to terminate their pregnancy, and, sticking with libertarian anti-government philosophies, he opposes the funding of Planned Parenthood, which provides many women’s (and yes, even men’s health services) outside of divisive social issues (think, HIV screenings, breast cancer, testicular cancer, ovarian cancer). Of course, each dollar spent on Planned Parenthood saves money in the long run, but try telling a libertarian that.

In terms of gender equity, Ron Paul leaves a lot to be desired:

Today the lack of understanding and respect for voluntary contracts has totally confused the issue that in a free society an individual can run his or her business as he or she chooses. The idea that a social do-gooder can legislate a system which forces industry to pay men and women by comparable worth standards boggles the mind and further destroys our competitiveness in a world economy.

The concept of equal pay for equal work is not only an impossible task, it can only be accomplished with the total rejection of the idea of the voluntary contract. The idea that a businessman must hire anyone and is prevented from firing anyone for any reason he chooses, and in the name of rights, is a clear indication that the basic concept of a free society has been lost.

In the name of equal rights, Montana has forced insurance companies to charge women additional premiums to make the fees equal to those charged men, regardless of the economic realities that allow for a lower premium.

But once again, if we had a single payer system, THERE WOULD BE NO PREMIUMS TO WORRY ABOUT.


The Outright Libertarians are a group dedicated to bringing LGBT people into the libertarian fold. Needless to say, a perusal of their issues page indicates a myopic, bare-bones approach to the LGBT issues of the day.

Libertarians believe that the government has no role to play in the relationships of people, other than possibly as a record keeper. While there may be privately-provided benefits to registering a new relationship with the government (lower insurance rates, for example), there should be no law saying you must do so or who cannot register. There ought to be no government-provided benefits to such registration (such as Social Security survivor benefits), but if such government benefits do exist (and there are currently over 1100 of them), then it’s vital that distribution of those benefits not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (since LGBT folks aren’t exempted from paying the taxes that fund these benefits). So, while Outright Libertarians supports the Libertarian Party’s eventual goal of treating marriage and other personal relationships as private contracts, we are very glad that the Party’s platform calls for the Transitional actions of repealing current laws and opposing future laws defining marriage or assigning special benefits on the basis of sexual orientation, both at the state and federal level.

The government shouldn’t have any role in the adoption of children except as a record keeper; unless the government itself has custody of the child or children involved. Adoption, custody and legal guardianship are private issues to be dealt with between the custodial parent(s) or agency and the person or people who wish to enter into these types of commitments. Neither the government nor the police should become involved unless there is evidence of fraud, coercion or abuse.

Gays in the Military
If the government needs to keep a standing military to defend our shores, then there should be no greater difference made between gays and straights than is made between males and females (such as a stricter standard of what constitutes improper fraternization or sexual harrassment). And, in our opinion, no such differences should be made at all. Tasks should be assigned according to an unbiased assessment of the individual’s physical and mental abilities, not by some prejudice or preset formula that lumps people into groups.

In terms of adoption, it sounds like a reasonable plank; if a loving family with the financial and emotional stability wants to adopt a child, they should be able to, unless there is a compelling reason. However, a look at the phrase "Neither the government nor the police should become involved unless there is evidence of fraud, coercion or abuse" bears further examination. Consider the prevalence of Catholic charities, which had $30.6 million worth of contracts with the state of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services before the state wisely severed that relationship. One has to have a lot of buy-in power in order to contract with the state, and in a libertarian everyone-fends-for-themselves world, the Catholic charities would drown out others, and with the libertarian opposition to civil rights accountability mechanisms, it would sneak theocracy in adoption through the back door, as "coercion and abuse" could mean many different things.

As for "Gays in the Military", note how they did not include the transgender community as well. As for joining the military, Ron Paul’s views as well as those of most libertarians call for a rightful draw down of the military and an end to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. This will mean that under a libertarian world, there would be less people in the one place where sexual orientation non-discrimination is guaranteed. Of course, I have opposed the repeal of DADT as a pro-war and trans-exclusive piece of legislation; the LGBTIQ community being served better by non-discrimination in civilian employment.

Of course, there is a reference to marriage equality, and do I have to explain the flaws here.


Libertarianism, as it relates to the queer community, is something that would look good on paper, however, it assumes that everyone has the same abilities and same life experiences, and is on equal footing to succeed in the world, and frankly, I would not be too surprised if these Outright Libertarian groups end up being mostly cisgender white able-bodied gay males. Unfortunately, with healthcare disparities and ignorance bred by lack of education, among other ills, there needs to be a mechanism of accountability to act as a "great equalizer" or else, advocacy of LGBT rights will be an exercise in futility.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis





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It’s seems like the Volunteer State has been on a phobia kick lately. Between the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, a potential Romer v. Evans violation, and trying to allow students to bully LGBTIQ students if they do it in the name of Jesus, the Tennessee legislature sure has time to go to the bottom of the cracker barrel; even in light of the fact that Tennessee is suffering from a major deficit and 9% unemployment, they sure have found something to focus their attention on:

A bill that would limit who could enter public restrooms has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly. The proposed legislation would restrict access to public restrooms and public dressing rooms designated by sex, to members of that particular sex.

State Representative Richard Floyd drafted the legislation after an employee at a Texas Macy’s store was fired in December for stopping a transgender teenager from trying on clothing in a women’s dressing room.

"I cannot imagine firing anybody for something like that. I just cannot, I cannot grasp that, I can’t get my mind around it," Representative Floyd explained.

What is disturbing about the bill is the definition of "sex":

“Sex” means and refers only to the designation of an
individual person as male or female as indicated on the individual’s birth

This definition basically excludes practically every pre-op trans* person, as well as some post-op trans* people, for if you are unlucky enough to have been born in Idaho, Oklahoma, Ohio, or Tennessee, the sex marker on one’s birth certificate can never be changed.

And here’s the kicker:

A violation of subsection (b) is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by
a to a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00).

So, basically, this means that if I travelled down to Tennessee and I use the "wrong restroom", I can be fined, simply because I am fully living as a woman, and thus, Tennessee will force me to use the men’s room, thus increasing my chances of being raped. Compounding this is the fact that if one decides to go into some corner or alley to pee, Tennessee will put one on the sex offender registry for life (yep, those Southern lawmakers have some wacky ideas, to the detriment of many).

And here is what the chief House sponsor, Richard Floyd, had to say:

FLOYD: I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.

Misgendering aside, this man is promoting HATE CRIMES against transgender people, but I am not holding my breath that he will be charged with making terroristic threats with a hate crime enhancement. This is not about men using the women’s room, this is about all women using the women’s room, and if there is a restroom rape involving a trans person, it’s going to be the trans woman who was forced to enter the men’s room or face a fine, or even be put on the sex offender registry.

The good news, however, is that the Senate’s version’s sponsor, Bo Watson, has withdrawn the bill, citing that there were other issues to be addressed. A similar bill in Maine also met the same fate. However, the fact of the matter is, given the makeup of the state legislature, this bill is only down and not out, and legislation notwithstanding, transgender people in Tennessee and elsewhere face many challenges.

However, in contrast to Tennessee’s attempts on the trans community, there have been some good news. Law enforcement is not known to be friendly towards the trans* community, but in the wake of Baltimore County, Maryland working towards a gender identity inclusive bill, the police chief in nearby Montgomery County acknowledged that there have been no instances of men dressing as women and entering the women’s room to rape someone. Also, I plan on contacting a member of Philadelphia city council to discuss the idea of requiring that all single occupancy restrooms must be gender neutral, as is the case in Washington, DC. Bathroom discrimination should not be tolerated.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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 In 1984, Roger Gail Lyon spoke in front of Congress asking that more efforts be made to combat the new disease that was killing him. In Congress, he made an iconic statement: “I came here today with the hope that this administration would do everything possible, make every resource available—there is no reason this disease cannot be conquered. We do not need in fighting, this is not a political issue. This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue. And I do not intend to be defeated by it. I came here today in the hope that my epitaph would not read that I died of red tape.”

Roger Gail Lyon died later that year. In the early years of the epidemic in America, HIV prevention methods were poorly understood. Today, through the incredible efforts of researchers and activists, HIV is a completely preventable disease. The most vulnerable and oppressed people in America, though, continue to “die of red tape.”

One of the most effective ways of preventing the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections is syringe exchange programs, in which intravenous drug users turn in used needles and receive clean ones in exchange. This prevents addicts from sharing needles with others who already have the disease. One-third of HIV positive people in the United States contract it directly from IV drug use, and many more from sexual contact with infected drug users.

Syringe exchange programs are also one of the most cost-effective HIV prevention methods. Syringes cost less than ten cents, while lifetime anti-retroviral HIV treatment on average costs $385,200. According to The Harm Reduction Coalition, this is enough to prevent 30 HIV transmissions through syringe exchange programs. Additionally, six government studies and much outside scholarship have found that syringe exchanges do not promote increases in drug use rates. In fact, as they provide safe, non-judgmental space for users, they are often a path to rehabilitation and recovery.

In light of this, it was shocking when the FY2012 Budget reinstated a ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs that President Obama had lifted in 2009. With a single sentence, the budget slashed one of the most important tools in HIV prevention. According to The Drug Policy Alliance, 32,000 people in the US are infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from sharing dirty needles each year. Without federal funding for syringes, each and every one of these people’s lives will be in danger.

This, though, is not merely a health issue: this is a feminist issue. The people who will suffer most from the reinstatement of the ban are women—particularly poor women, queer women, and women of color. Feminists must make syringe exchange a key political issue in the upcoming year. Vocally and actively opposing the ban is a necessary facet in the ongoing fight for social justice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that in the United Sates, 61% of HIV cases in women are caused by drug use or sexual contact with someone who contracted HIV from sharing needles. In 2009, women comprised 23% of Americans newly infected with HIV. The incidence of HIV in women of color is staggering: 1 in 32 African-American women will contract the virus in her lifetime. The CDC goes on to state, “from 2000–2007, HIV infection was among the top 10 leading causes of death for black females aged 10–54 and Hispanic/Latina females aged 15–54.” The funding ban, then, will only serve to exacerbate the challenges women of color face.

Sex workers are also disproportionately affected by HIV and drug use. A study of sex work among women at US syringe exchange programs found that the percentage of women who were sex workers ranged from 15% to 40%. Sex workers are also very likely to have sex with drug users, and may not be able to negotiate condom use, thereby potentially leaving themselves open to HIV infection from clients, especially in light of the ban.

Poor women are more likely to be drug users, and their addictions exacerbate their poverty. The same study indicated that 53.8% of women at syringe exchange programs who frequently sold sex had lived on the streets in the last six months. Only 42.5% had graduated high school. The ban, then, will heavily impact these vulnerable populations, who are rarely able to afford HIV treatment.

Queer people of all genders will also disproportionately suffer as a result of the federal funding ban. The National Network for Youth estimates that up to 40% of street youth identify as gay or lesbian. When transgender and queer people are included, the figures are even more staggering. A National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study indicates that 26% of surveyed gay males became homeless the day they came out. Unsafe schools, unwelcoming families and discriminatory workplaces leave LGBT young people with few options, making them turn to drugs and sex work in disproportionate numbers; 46% of transgender youth reported sex work. Much like in the case of women sex workers, syringe exchange programs are one of the only barriers between these young people and blood-borne diseases.

Transgender people are also at particular risk as those who buy black-market hormones rarely have access to safe, clean needles. For many transgender people, hormone treatments are essential for good mental health and to help prevent violence against them in the work place and elsewhere based on gender presentation. A San Francisco Transgender Health Project study found that over 50% of clients had injected hormones outside of traditional medical settings. As 29% of transgender people have experienced harassment in medical settings, and as transgender people are four times as likely to have an annual income of under $10,000 than the general population, it is unsurprising that the hormone black market is flourishing. Without needle exchanges, these many transgender people will have struggle even more to find safe access to the hormones that they need. They, like so many other impoverished and excluded populations, will have a vital health measure removed.

The federal government made a cowardly decision at the end of last year. The language of the ban does not cut any money—it simply makes it impossible for groups to apply the funding in the best way that they see fit. HIV prevention groups will no longer be able to use federal funds to buy needles—thus limiting one of the most effective ways of stopping the disease. By cutting funding for needle exchange programs specifically, they condemn women, people of color, poor people, queer people, and sex workers to disease and death.

Albert Camus once stated, “It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” As feminists, as progressives, as activists, we must not stand by as the federal government sentences people to death for their poverty, their work, their gender, their color. We must speak for the politically voiceless. Feminists have changed the world a thousand times over before—and we can do it again.

If we believe that discrimination is wrong, we will stand in opposition of the ban. If we want to claim the “AIDS-Free Generation” our president so optimistically speaks about, we will push him to not include the ban in his FY2013 budget and to push Congress to remove the ban.

Roger Gail Lyon died of red tape. He died because to the federal government, he was unimportant—after all, he was a homosexual sufferer of a disease of difference. The ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs will only perpetuate the myth that some people are disposable, and that it is not our obligation to prevent disease whenever possible. Feminists, as leaders and “thinking people,” must apply our skills, our energy, and our passion to this issue. No one should have to die of red tape.

This post was originally published in Broad Recogniton, an online feminist magazine at Yale.

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Ya know, children are our future, and it is best that tolerance is taught early. I remember when I was at home for Christmas, my 11-year old cousin came to my parents house unexpectedly, and had not been previously briefed on my gender transition. She handled it just fine, which of course, gives me hope for the younger generation.

Of course, it makes me sad that some girl in California has decided to let bigotry stand in the way.


Apparently, one girl scout, angry that the Girl Scouts decided to let in seven year old Bobby Montoya, a transgender child (note that we do not yet have a preferred name for Bobby, she is male assigned at birth who is transitioning to female), decides that she should go on a campaign to boycott girl scout cookies, simply because all girls are allowed.

Now, it is true that the Girl Scouts are a all-girls organization. However, Bobby Montoya and other transfeminine children ARE NOT BOYS!!! We are not talking about allowing boys in, indeed, if Bobby was a boy, identified as a boy, presented as a boy, and was proud to be a boy, Bobby would not have been allowed in, and rightfully so. But Bobby is a GIRL, and thus, she needs to be in the GIRL SCOUTS. Now, everyone thinks that allowing transfeminine children into the girl scouts will create problems, however, as stated before, children are an adaptable bunch, and my 11 and 13 year old cousins have been able to accept me as a girl.

Also, one of my biggest pet peeves is bullying. This hateful screed may not necessarily be overt bullying, harassment, or intimidation, but almost a third of all trans youth have attempted suicide at one point in their lives. This girl from California is just stoking the fires, and if Bobby or any other trans* child killed themselves just because one person cannot stand the concept of gender self-determination, she would have blood on her hands she could never wash off.

But of course, around the same time as this video, a website went up called "Honest Girl Scouts", which is basically trying to turn the Girl Scouts Into The Boy Scouts. Among other things, they:

-Rip people who are considered role models to the Girl Scouts, such as Houston mayor Annise Parker, singer Sara Bareilles, and TV anchor Katie Couric, all because they are pro-choice and pro-queer. But lets forget about their politics for a moment and remember, these are all powerful women who have made something of themselves. Hell, there are major cities in America that have never even had a female mayor (my home, Philadelphia, is one of them), and when the Today Show, which launched Katie Couric’s career began, it was a total boy’s club (including the monkey). In fact, I am mature enough to say that Susan B. Anthony, an anti-choice woman who gave us the right to vote, is an empowering woman, even if I’m not a fan of her views on reproductive health.
-In an image of a broken girl scout cookie, HGS claims that Girl Scouts "Support United Nations Anti-Population Goals". Because apparently, this group thinks that world overpopulation is a good thing, and that women should remain barefooted breeders.
-Repeatedly claiming throughout the site that Girl Scouts are connected with Planned Parenthood, a meme that has been circulating throughout the internet:

It was hard to find any article linking the two that was not from some pro-life, "pro-family", mouthpiece, but on page two of my search results, I find this article by Amanda Marcotte from Slate.com

The realities behind the Girl Scouts-U.N.-Planned Parenthood myth perfectly illustrate the moderately feminist approach the organization takes toward scouting. Almost the moment the myth began to spread last year, the Girl Scouts’ national organization circulated a statement debunking it. According to this statement, in March 2010, the Girl Scouts held a meeting at the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, gathering 30 to 35 teenage girls and encouraging them to "take action on global issues concerning women and girls." The International Planned Parenthood Federation brochure that the right-wing blogosphere accused the Girl Scouts of having passed around ("Healthy, Happy and Hot: A young person’s guide to their rights, sexuality, and living with HIV") was not distributed at the meeting. None of the girls in attendance or their chaperones ever saw the brochure until after it started circulating on the Internet, according to a Girl Scouts of the USA press spokesperson.

The article also contrasts the Boy Scouts focus on traditionalist viewpoints, with no change for the times, with the Girl Scouts, who have addressed many current issues, from body image to bullying, and sexual health, in which sex before maturity is discouraged. This is just another example of the double standards that exist in society, where women (of all stripes) calling for their empowerment is looked upon as unholy and somehow something to be shamed.

And even if there is more of a connection between the two groups, please remember that Planned Parenthood does a lot more than just abortions. They deal with a lot of women’s health issues, including breast cancer screenings (a special concern for women, and yes, that includes transwomen) and, *gasp*, even men’s health too. Believe me, the male opponents of reproductive choice could benefit heavily from regular testicular cancer screenings.

Oh, and as a bonus, here’s another interesting faux outrage concerning the Girl Scouts, which was picked up by religiously conservative media:

The incident involved Renise Rodriguez, a 21-year-old Girl Experience Associate for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona in Tuscon. She was wearing a “Pray to End Abortion” shirt when she went into the office during off-duty hours to prepare materials for a meeting. It was there that she was told twice by a supervisor to turn her shirt inside out if she planned to stay in the office or attend a troop meeting, according to Priests for Life

But then, they manage to cover this part of the story:

The leaders had decided that all employees, volunteers and troop members should be in professional business attire, Girl Scout attire or plain shirts without any social, political or commercial messages when present in the council offices.

So, if she was wearing a pro-choice t-shirt, she would have been told to change also, and I doubt that somebody who was in that position would be unreasonable enough to say "boo" over it, nor would Planned Parenthood be calling for an inquisition.

The moral of this story is, while the Girl Scouts, as well as the pro-choice, pro-queer movement handles their points of view in a mostly mature manner and back up their assertions with facts, the anti-choice movement continues to run with simple lies, straw person arguments, and scare tactics.

In conclusion, I would like to say to Bobby Montoya and all transfeminine children who wish to join the Girl Scouts: You go girl, don’t ever let anyone get in the way of your dreams. You were always a girl, and nobody can ever take that away from you.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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It’s seems like the Volunteer State has been on a phobia kick lately. Between the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, a potential Romer v. Evans violation, and trying to allow students to bully LGBTIQ students if they do it in the name of Jesus, the Tennessee legislature sure has time to go to the bottom of the cracker barrel; even in light of the fact that Tennessee is suffering from a major deficit and 9% unemployment, they sure have found something to focus their attention on:

A bill that would limit who could enter public restrooms has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly. The proposed legislation would restrict access to public restrooms and public dressing rooms designated by sex, to members of that particular sex.

State Representative Richard Floyd drafted the legislation after an employee at a Texas Macy’s store was fired in December for stopping a transgender teenager from trying on clothing in a women’s dressing room.

"I cannot imagine firing anybody for something like that. I just cannot, I cannot grasp that, I can’t get my mind around it," Representative Floyd explained.

What is disturbing about the bill is the definition of "sex":

“Sex” means and refers only to the designation of an
individual person as male or female as indicated on the individual’s birth

This definition basically excludes practically every pre-op trans* person, as well as some post-op trans* people, for if you are unlucky enough to have been born in Idaho, Oklahoma, Ohio, or Tennessee, the sex marker on one’s birth certificate can never be changed.

And here’s the kicker:

A violation of subsection (b) is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by
a to a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00).

So, basically, this means that if I travelled down to Tennessee and I use the "wrong restroom", I can be fined, simply because I am fully living as a woman, and thus, Tennessee will force me to use the men’s room, thus increasing my chances of being raped. Compounding this is the fact that if one decides to go into some corner or alley to pee, Tennessee will put one on the sex offender registry for life (yep, those Southern lawmakers have some wacky ideas, to the detriment of many).

And here is what the chief House sponsor, Richard Floyd, had to say:

FLOYD: I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.

Misgendering aside, this man is promoting HATE CRIMES against transgender people, but I am not holding my breath that he will be charged with making terroristic threats with a hate crime enhancement. This is not about men using the women’s room, this is about all women using the women’s room, and if there is a restroom rape involving a trans person, it’s going to be the trans woman who was forced to enter the men’s room or face a fine, or even be put on the sex offender registry.

The good news, however, is that the Senate’s version’s sponsor, Bo Watson, has withdrawn the bill, citing that there were other issues to be addressed. A similar bill in Maine also met the same fate. However, the fact of the matter is, given the makeup of the state legislature, this bill is only down and not out, and legislation notwithstanding, transgender people in Tennessee and elsewhere face many challenges.

However, in contrast to Tennessee’s attempts on the trans community, there have been some good news. Law enforcement is not known to be friendly towards the trans* community, but in the wake of Baltimore County, Maryland working towards a gender identity inclusive bill, the police chief in nearby Montgomery County acknowledged that there have been no instances of men dressing as women and entering the women’s room to rape someone. Also, I plan on contacting a member of Philadelphia city council to discuss the idea of requiring that all single occupancy restrooms must be gender neutral, as is the case in Washington, DC. Bathroom discrimination should not be tolerated.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis


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by BIanca Laureano

By now you’ve heard of the ABC television show “Work It.” A triflin’ and low rating show that features two middle aged men (one racially white another Latino) who dress up as women to secure employment in the US. Yes, you read that correctly; at a time when women still don’t make as much as men (and where transgender people don’t make as much at all!), when the feminization of poverty is still a part of our society and world, and when transgender people are still the most oppressed, underemployedmurdered, invisible and erased members of our communities.

ABC Chief Paul Lee states he “doesn’t get” the big deal about how harmful “Work It” is based on GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign’s activism around the show and their efforts to challenge it coming to air. Lee states he doesn’t “get it” because he loved the movie “Tootsie.”

What Lee and others fail to see is that these are characters that are created so that we can laugh at them. These characters are performing stereotypes and misconceptions of what we assume to be a challenge when people “dress up” as the opposite gender. The characters perpetuate a gender binary. These characters are making a choice to dress up which gives the illusion that sex and gender are choices that people can simply change their mind about.

Others that fail to see this problem: some Puerto Rican activists. For the past week I’ve received so many emails about how Puerto Ricans are represented on “Work It” by Latino character Amaury Nolasco, who plays a Puerto Rican character. The “dehumanizing” and “blatantly offensive” comment where the “culture was attacked by an insensitive stereotype”  by Nolasco’s character who states: “I’m Puerto Rican, I would be great at selling drugs.”

This statement took less than 10 seconds to say and hear. Because of that 10 seconds a huge storm of protest has erupted among Puerto Ricans.

My heart breaks here. All of this mobilizing and protesting for one line by a character, yet NOTHING from any of the grassroots organizations, such as Boricuas For A Positive Image, celebrities or community activists that have jumped on this protest about how Puerto Rican and Latin@ transgender people are impacted by this show. There is an overwhelming silence. Where is the alliance building with transgender activists? Where is the joining with GLAAD and HRC? Where is the mobilization beyond targeting me as a Puerto Rican, but not as a human being that values all members of our community, especially those who are harmed the most?

The images and video that have been created around the challenging of ABC by Puerto Rican activists are very single issue when we are not a single issue people! The messages being sent: Transmisogyny is alive and well. We don’t care about your gender we care more about your ethnicity (and only if it is Puerto Rican). We don’t care how something may harm and dehumanize the Puerto Rican transgender community unless it impacts us directly.

I understand this response especially since Puerto Rico has been struggling with drug trafficking, drug use and abuse, and drug related crimes for decades. One of my most vivid memories of Puerto Rico was in 1995 when armed US military would line the streets and randomly pull cars over and check for drugs. It was a scary time, and those times remain today, especially with the high murder rate in Puerto Rico  (and a number of those murders are of transgender Puerto Ricans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer Puerto Ricans) and when the stop and frisk experiences of Latin@ and Black youth living in NYC and in-school arrests are ridiculously high.

What I don’t understand is how can “activists” separate these issues so easily? If we stood with our transgender community in fighting this show when it was being created and knew it centered a Puerto Rican actor who was misrepresenting Puerto Rican transgender women, would we be here today? It’s possible we would, it’s also possible our voices as Puerto Rican consumers, Puerto Rican media makers, and Puerto Rican people would have resulted in a similar apology and a more quick removal of the offensive show. When we partner together to support and make change for our most oppressed members of our community we all benefit.

My hope is that Puerto Rican activists today learn about the anti-oppression legacy that civil rights activist Sylvia Rivera,  a Puerto Rican-Venezuelan New Yorker, has left us. And then share her legacy and not keep it just for ourselves, but speak on it to youth, our elders, other Latin@s, everybody! To learn how you can support the Sylvia Rivera Law Project visit their website

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Well, the circus that is the Iowa caucuses is over and Mitt Romney is on top as the Republicans (which, with the exception of Fred Karger, are not known for their common sense on women’s/queer/youth issues). However, he won by only 8 votes, and as a Pennsylvanian, I would be remiss if I did not bring up the second place winner, ex-Senator and conservatroll Rick Santorum, who managed to represent Pennsylvania in the US Senate from 1995-2006, even though he actually lived in Virginia.

He first won election in 1994, a year when an R next to one’s name meant success. He also was able to squeeze through in 2000, and spent his first eight years being a low-key conservative voice in the Senate. Then of course, in April 2003, he decided to let his troll flag fly and made these stupid comments:

We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we’re just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it’s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that’s antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, where it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality

Now, this quote has been done to death (and we all know Dan Savage’s little google prank, but its too disgusting to mention here). After that, he has managed to say so many hateful things about reproductive freedom and queer issues that in 2006, he lost his re-election time to Bob Casey, who, although he is anti-choice, has been a supporter of the important queer issues.

So, I present to you, the best Santorum quotes you never heard of (and some you might have):

From CNS News:

"The question is — and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that person — human life is not a person, then — I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘We’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.’"

Oh, so now you are trying to say that just because Obama is black, he should be anti-choice, and brings up the slavery argument. This is so exploitative, its not even funny. African-Americans, like any other group, have many diverse opinions about different matters. According to Santorum’s line of thinking, I am an Italian-American from South Philadelphia, so was Frank Rizzo, Philadelphia’s mayor during the 1970s, who became famous for racially polarizing the city, being an apologist for police abuse, and famously stated that he would make Atilla The Hun look like a faggot. Therefore, by Santorum’s logic, I should be pro-police and cheer whenever some POC anarchist compound gets bombed, just because I share an ethnicity with this former mayor.

From Addicting Info:

“Suffering, if you’re a Christian, suffering is a part of life. And it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life … There are all different ways to suffer. One way to suffer is through lack of food and shelter and there’s another way to suffer which is lack of dignity and hope and there’s all sorts of ways that people suffer and it’s not just tangible, it’s also intangible and we have to consider both.”

I do believe that there are many great stories of people triumphing over adversity. But Mr. Santorum, the world is not that simple; I, myself, as a transgender woman, have dealt with lack of shelter, in fact, I had to move out of the general area which you currently claim to live in order to find shelter (and I should not have to throw away my gender self-determination to do so). And I’ve had to deal with food insecurity myself. The last thing I want to see is people trying to shove the Bible down my throat when I am sailing those rough waters.

From LGBTQ Nation:

“You’re robbing children of something that they need, they deserve, they have a right to. They have a right to be know and be loved by their dad or their mom…Even fathers in jail who had abandoned their kids were still better than no father at all to have in their children’s lives."

Santorum, in a speech to the Dublin School in New Hampshire, somehow believes that an imprisoned father is somehow better than an unincarcerated parent of the same gender as their other parent. So, what if a child grows up in a "traditional" nuclear family, and the father sexually abuses the child, and then goes to prison for it. Then, in an unrelated turn of events, the child’s mom then comes out as a lesbian and enters a partnership with a woman, who becomes a parent to this child. By Rick Sandusk-torum’s logic, its better that the woman be alone raising her child and both of them forced to visit the father in prison/acknowledge him as a parent rather than having two loving parents (both not incarcerated) who are of the same gender helping to raise the child.

From his book It Takes A Family, Conservatism And The Common Good via Santorum Exposed:

"The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong."

So, what should single mothers do, Mr. Santorum? Should they have to go on welfare? Let’s face it, its always best to have two parents in the house, but not only does giving these women a hand up result in at least some of them contributing to the economy, but it saves money. This is what conservatism is about, but I guess Santorum does not realize that he is continuing the cycle of welfare dependency.

From same as above:

“Many women have told me, and surveys have shown, that they find it easier, more “professionally” gratifying, and certainly more socially affirming, to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children. Think about that for a moment…Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism, one of the core philosophies of the village elders.”

Because dog forbid, women actually are empowered and some extra income is coming in. Ya know, there is also a slight bit of transphobia in this comment, as many trans women end up out of work, and there is often a view of trans women as being less than women, thus, they deserve to be part of the economy less than cisgender women.

From the New York Daily News:

"The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end in abortion,"

OK, wrong, wrong, wrong. The reason why Social Security is having issues right now is because the 1% only pays Social Security on the first $102,000 of income. It has nothing to do with abortions, and anybody who says otherwise is just plain lying. This is another example of the 99% being pitched against one another, so that they won’t organize against the 1% and the public remains enthralled with its bread and circuses, even as the ability to afford it continuously dwindles.

From The New Republic: (on priest abuse scandals):

“Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”

Hmmm, the Catholic church tends to be a very top down organization which is run by some man in a country that’s about the size of Temple University’s campus. This means that even in the most liberal places, the church is not going to be anything other than anti-choice and anti-queer. It was a Boston archbishop, Sean O’Malley, who stated that pro-choice elected officials should not receive communion. And besides, as we have seen just recently with the watered down gender identity bill, Boston really isn’t as liberal as most people say.

In conclusion, as long as one has wealth and power, they can say anything they want. Although this is not the end-all-be-all of troll-ish things Santorum has said, these are quite possibly the most outrageous, and I shudder at the thought of him having this much power

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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The content of sex education lessons varies wildly from state to state and even from district to district.  Some students receive no instruction about sexual health at all. Millions learn that girls shouldn’t have ideas and boys are like microwaves.   Only a small percent receive comprehensive and age-appropriate instruction throughout their time in school.

The National Sexuality Education Standards, released this week, attempt to change all that, providing clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum,core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12. 

Advocates for Youth is part of the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative, the team that developed the standards.  Based on on both what science has proven and what every child has the right to learn, and modeled on the National Health Education Standards, the National Sexuality Education Standards focus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology, Puberty and Adolescent Development, Identity, Pregnancy and Reproduction, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV, Healthy Relationships, and Personal Safety.

It’s hoped that the standards will help school districts identify areas in which sex education might be lacking and fill in the gaps for their students.   One example where many schools are failing is homophobic bullying.  From the Associated Press:

Despite awareness of bullying, for example, Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, one of the groups involved with creating the standards, said some schools don’t address it — or at least not in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, which is where she said a lot of the bullying occurs.

"They should tackle it head on," Hauser said.

How can activists spread awareness of the new Standards and help get them implemented? 

You can tweet or post the link on Facebook: http://www.futureofsexed.org/fosestandards.html

You can blog about them here on Amplify or on your own blog.

Or if you want to go deeper, you can start organizing to support comprehensive sex education.

Widespread adoption of the National Sexuality Education Standards is one step toward achieving the Three R’s vision for youth sexual and reproductive health and rights. Click through to learn more about the Standards.

Questions and Answers about the National Sexuality Education Standards

How Is Sexuality Education Being Defined in the National Sexuality Education Standards?

The National Sexuality Education Standards recognize sexuality education as a broad term that includes a range of topic areas that impact a person’s sexual health and well-being. Although it has historically focused on sexual behaviors and the potential outcomes of those behaviors, in its more comprehensive form, sexuality education is about much more than that. The topic areas included in the National Sexuality Education Standards are:

• Anatomy and Physiology
• Puberty and Adolescent Development
• Identity
• Pregnancy and Reproduction
• Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
• Healthy Relationships
• Personal Safety

Why Provide Sexuality Education In Public Schools?

The vast majority of young people in Kindergarten through twelfth grade in the United States attend public schools. As a result, these schools provide a logical venue for reaching the greatest number of young people possible with life-enhancing, life-saving sexuality information.

Years of research demonstrate the need for providing sexuality education in public school settings:

• Many comprehensive sex education programs help youth delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use.

• Teens who received comprehensive sexuality education were 50 percent less likely to report getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy .

• Because so much bullying and harassment takes place in schools, it is imperative that school-based sexuality education address sexual orientation and combating harassment and bullying. Nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students report being harassed in school. LGBT students who report frequent harassment also suffer from lower grade point averages.

• Similarly, teen relationship violence continues to be a pressing problem. Although frequently under-reported, ten percent of teens are physically harmed by their boyfriend
or girlfriend in a given year. Much of teen dating behavior is played out within the school environment, and therefore the topic areas of communication, healthy relationships, boundary setting, respect and others must be included in school-based sexuality education programming.

• Parents nationwide overwhelmingly support comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. 

What Are Educational Standards?

• Educational standards define the knowledge and skills young people need to know in specific topic areas by the end of specific grades. They offer guidance to members of a school district, including teachers and administrators, on understanding what content and skills are age-appropriate at these grade levels.

• Many classroom topic areas have voluntary national education standards, including English Language Arts, History, Science, Mathematics and Health.

• The National Health Education Standards (NHES) were developed to establish, promote and support health-enhancing behaviors for students from grades pre-K -12. Nearly 75 percent of states require districts to follow national or state health education standards.

• When sexuality education is provided in school, it is usually part of the health curriculum. The National Health Education Standards, therefore, heavily influenced the development of the National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12.

Why Are Educational Standards Needed For Sex Education?

Although sexuality education is most frequently taught within the health curriculum, the National Health Education Standards do not provide any guidance on how to teach specific topics, including human sexuality. How sexuality education is taught is determined locally, and outlined in each school district’s curriculum.

• Currently, the manner in which sexuality education is provided in schools is determined by individual school districts or instructors. The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 provide sound guidance from educational experts across various disciplines on the minimum core sexuality-related knowledge and skills appropriate to each developmental level in a young person’s life.

• Educational standards help determine whether students have learned what they need to know in order to progress through school and into their futures successfully.

• Although the vast majority of school districts around the country have adopted the National Health Education Standards, these standards provide only general guidance without focusing on specific content areas, including sexuality education.

Who Developed These Standards?

• The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 are being disseminated in partnership with the American Association of Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association–Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education.

• Over 50 professionals representing a wide range of schools, school districts, educational organizations and more, contributed to development of the standards, which was a project of the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) initiative.

What Topic Areas Were Selected for the National Sexuality Education Standards?

Topic areas covered in the National Sexuality Education Standards reflect the essential, minimum core content and skills students need to learn by the end of specific grades. They were not designed to be truly comprehensive in scope, but to offer a baseline from which school districts can begin.

The topic areas included in the National Sexuality Education Standards are:

• Anatomy and Physiology
• Puberty and Adolescent Development
• Identity
• Pregnancy and Reproduction
• Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
• Healthy Relationships
• Personal Safety

How Were These Specific Topic Areas Selected?

• The content for the National Sexuality Education Standards were informed by the National Health Education Standards, the work of the CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) , existing state and international education standards that include sexual health content and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade .

• The vast majority of schools that provide some kind of sexuality education limit their course offerings to pregnancy and STD/HIV prevention. Yet most professionals agree that just covering these topics is not enough to support young people’s healthy development. The National Sexuality Education Standards were designed to provide guidance in addressing the essential, minimum core content for sexuality education that is age-appropriate for students in grades K—12.

How Was Age-Appropriateness Determined for the National Sexuality Education Standards?

• The age-appropriateness of the content and skills of the National Sexuality Education Standards was informed by the National Health Education Standards, the work of the CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) , existing state and international education standards that include sexual health content and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade . In addition, guidance was also provided by over 50 experts in the fields of education, health, child and adolescent development and sexuality education.

How Should School Districts and Departments of Education Use These Standards?

The National Sexuality Education Standards represent the core, minimum content and skills for students grades K-12. School districts can use them in the following ways:

• School districts providing no sexuality education can consider them a roadmap for creating a scope and sequence that is based in available research and health behavior theories.

• School districts already providing some sex education, but seeking to expand the grade levels at which it is taught, can use the standards as guidance for age-appropriateness, particularly for students of younger ages.

• School administrators and curriculum supervisors can use the standards to outline what, based on research and extensive professional expertise, are the minimum, essential content and skills for sexuality education K–12 given student needs, limited teacher preparation and typically available time and resources.

• Schools can use the standards as a roadmap for designing and delivering sexuality education K–12 that is planned, sequential and part of a comprehensive school health education approach.

• The standards offer teachers and administrators clear, concise recommendations for school personnel on what is age-appropriate to teach students at different grade levels.

• The standards remove the guesswork from creating a sexuality education scope and sequence that is age- and developmentally-appropriate by translating an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education to ensure that it is evidence-informed and theory-driven.

How Do the National Sexuality Education Standards Support Parents?

• The National Sexuality Education Standards provide a clear, concise framework for parents to understand what the minimum, core content and skills are that their children need to know at different ages so that they can partner with schools to reinforce the school’s sexuality education program at home within the context of their family’s values.

• Research shows that sexuality education programs that teach about abstinence as well as other topics can have a positive impact on young people’s behaviors and practices.3 In communities where no or insufficient sexuality education is being offered, parents can use the National Sexuality Education Standards to advocate for the inclusion of content and skills that are based in research and best practices.

The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) initiative is a collaboration between Advocates for Youth, Answer and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to promote the institutionalization of sexuality education in America’s public schools. For more information, please visit www.futureofsexed.org.


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December 25- December 31

Stats this week: 9 posts by 8 writers

Being An Activist- by abril_flowers

Inside this post:

An activist with the Texas Freedom Network at the University of Texas at Brownsville talks about her work educating her fellow students about the state’s current sex ed policies and what they can do to make sure their peers have the information they need to stay safe.

Mobilizing 4,000 for LGBT Rights- by AFY_Nikki

Inside this post:

Ernesto shares his experience organizing a solidarity event after an LGBT hate crime in his city with the skills he learned from training sessions with Advocates for Youth.

Trans* People in Philly Hold Clothing Bank- by Jordan

Inside this post:

Jordan talks about donating old clothes to a transgender-focused clothing drive.

807,615 Voter Signatures- by rikkiyouthresource

Inside this post:

Rikki talks about an initiative in California to gather signatures around the state to get a proposition on the 2012 ballot to repeal Prop 8.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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One of the major milestones of gender transition is the name change. Unless one was blessed to have parents give them a gender neutral first and middle name (and provided the person likes both names), we often are given names which do not match our gender identity (I, for one, had an ultramasculine first and middle name). To have that final order stating that you are now your new preferred name in your hands feels like a real blessing, knowing that that old name is history and your preferred name is also your legal name. That day for me came on August 16, 2011; but here in Pennsylvania, it is needlessly difficult, and there needs to be a change in the process, not just for the trans population, but for anyone who needs or wants to change their name.


It was a balmy summer day at a campground in West Virginia in July 2009 when I announced to my fellow campers (en homme) that I would be leaving, and that they would have a new camper coming named Jordan. I (wearing shorts and a t-shirt) set up the costume tent before dinner, and raided it for every piece of feminine clothing that would fit me (which was very few). Finally, around 7 o’clock, (my old name) was gone, and Jordan was born.

For the next 18 months, people knew me as Jordan while having to use my old name when necessary. Even as I left home for Pittsburgh, it would seem as if there would be a lot of barriers in being legally able to change my name (financial, procedural, etc.), and a lawyer who I talked to did not even know the many ways around the atrocious cost (north of $700). However, when I moved to Philadelphia, I finally figured out how to do it, and in early April, I began the process.

Mazzoni Legal Services is a legal aid organization which specializes in LGBT law. Included among their materials is a guide to changing one’s name specifically geared towards the trans community, which can be accessed here. After studying over it for several days, I came to realize that many of these barriers could be negotiated and that I had nothing to lose.

Although a lawyer is not necessary, it ends up being useful in certain situations, as I would realize later on. The first part of the process is handing in a petition with one’s driver’s license, social security card, birth certificate (which involved me having to book a Zipcar out to my old county to get said document), and fingerprints to send to the state police to verify whether I have a criminal record. Mazzoni Legal Services gave me a sample fill-in-the-blank petition to fill out — yet it was initially confusing. In retrospect, I do not know why I did not seek their services, which I was eligible for.

I then went to City Hall in early April to file my petition. Both in terms of bureaucracy and interior physical presence, that beautiful historical building at Broad and Market can be a very labyrinthian place, and the process was complicated further by me having to go to yet another room to fill out a petition to proceed in forma pauperis (which allows those in financial need to disregard the over $300 fee to file the petition, among other things).

After having to shift through many rooms and several floors (this has to be a security issue for the building), I was done and I waited for the next step. I received a call a few weeks later from a city hall extension stating that my prints came back clean (as expected), and that I would be able to do the judgment searches, the final step in the process in which one has to pay an obscene amount of money and wait while you put in requests to every county you’ve lived in for the past five years for a sheet of paper stating whether there are any judgments against you.

However, I had to get over another hurdle, which was publication. Under Pennsylvania law, one must publish the name change in both a general circulation newspaper and a legal paper based in the county in which one lives, which in Philadelphia, can range between $370-$420. This is NOT waivable via in forma pauperis, however, it can be waived upon request if you feel your life would be threatened by publication. I filed for a waiver, and in mid-May, I went before a judge in her chambers in a proceeding that lasted less than two minutes before she approved me. Judges here are known for their fairness towards the trans community, and this was no different, however, as Mazzoni’s guide points out, judges in other counties are more reluctant to grant waivers (probably ranging from "crapshoot" in places like Montgomery County or Pittsburgh to "having one’s chops busted" in Venango County).

After that, I began the judgment search process. I started off with the civil court searches, which was done in the prothonotary’s office. After many delays, I got my certified search. However, when I went to Family Court, they told me I had to have a court date, which I was not going to get, even if I tried

In Pennsylvania, there is usually a final court appearance before the name change is approved or denied. However, Philadelphia, owing to its clogged court system, does not require a final court appearance, only that documents be sent to the court and the judge approve them, so thus, what they were asking me was an impossibility. Then came the part that almost snagged me, the judgment searches in other counties. I discovered that they could NOT be waived with my IFP and would cost north of $600. All hope seemed lost, until the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference.

The conference lasts for three days, and on the third day, they have a legal clinic done by Mazzoni. I signed up for services, explained my situation, and I was informed that I was eligible for their services and that I needed a lawyer in order to satisfy all the searches. I got a legal intern, and that next week, I met with him, gave him all the counties I lived in for the last five years. It would take two months (probably because some counties like to take their sweet time), but 4 months and about a week after I started the process, my final order was signed.

I must reiterate, that yes, I am lucky to have had the privilege of being able to legally switch over to my preferred name. But, the activist in me always has to ask: Is there a better way? Is there another state where the process is a little bit more streamlined; a model which could be replicated here in the Keystone State? As with many matters of policy in Pennsylvania, the answer was yes.


Trans Road Map is a great website in which people have shared their stories about going through the name change process in various states. I found this piece concerning Connecticut.

In June 2008 a reader sent this:

I had my name changed last month in Avon, CT. The whole thing took 2 weeks. First you got to make an appointment. You show them your birth certificate and id, then they send you a letter telling you your appointment. They also ask for your social security number. Then you show up to meet with the judge in her office. She will ask you a series of questions, then you get 4 copies of your court order. There was no need to list anything in the newspaper.

This was one person’s experience, and I cannot vouch for its complete accuracy. However, another website geared towards the trans community reveals that that anecdote may not be far from the truth.

-Adults complete an Application For Change of Name (Adult) Form PC-901
-Minors complete Application For Change of Name (Minor) Form PC-900
-Completed forms are submitted to the local Probate Court, which has the authority to grant name changes
-Currently the Probate Court application fee for a Name Change is $150
-All courts provide a waiver of fees if you meet certain income requirements. To request a waiver of fees complete Probate Form PC-184, Request/Order Waiver of Fees – Petitioner
-Though a name change request may also be submitted to Superior Court, it is more convenient to use the Probate Court for a name change
-The form does require you to complete the section: "A change of name is sought for the following reasons". What you fill in here will depend upon the level of detail you desire to disclose. Responses can be as general as for personal reasons, medical reasons or disclosure that you are in the process of transitioning. The probate process occurs in a relatively informal environment [typically conference room] and with only the Probate Judge present
-Supporting Documentation required is your legal birth certificate
-You are not required to provide any supporting documentation from a therapist or medical professional to change your name. Any such request could be considered discriminatory in the State of Connecticut
-The process for a name change typically takes up to four weeks.

So, comparing the process in Connecticut to the process in Pennsylvania…

-CT provides that one may file in the local probate court; which is a more appropriate venue for a simpler, more cut-and-dry legal process, while in Pennsylvania, name changes are heard in the local Court of Common Pleas – Civil Division, where your name change may be commingled in with more complicated litigation involving extensive motion play (which can be really troublesome in urban counties).
-The name change is a simple ready-made form in Connecticut, while in Pennsylvania, one must type a petition from scratch.
-The turnaround for Connecticut’s name change from initial filing to final order is only one month, while Pennsylvania has a 3-6 month turnaround for this matter.
-The initial filing fee in Connecticut is only $150 (waivable), while Pennsylvania’s is twice that (not including the numerous other fees involved, waivable to different extents).
-There is no requirement to publish in CT, but there is in PA (waivable in theory, but success can be variable).
-In Connecticut, the only reason a name change would be rejected is if it’s proven that the name change is only being sought to perpetrate fraud, while Pennsylvania absolutely bars name changes for certain felonies.


It would seem unprecedented that a criminal record, no matter how serious the felony, should not be an automatic bar to a name change in Pennsylvania, however, consider the case of Ophelia Dell’Onta, a transwoman currently serving 70 years in prison for armed robbery in Virginia. She was able to get her name legally changed from Michael Stokes WHILE IN PRISON!!!. Thus, if a conservative southern state would allow a name change for somebody currently incarcerated, then it seems that Pennsylvania ought to be open to removing the bars to name changes for all crimes.

Now, a lot of people say that making it easier to change one’s name would make it easier for sex offenders to fall out of compliance, deadbeat "dads" to cheat alimony, and for people to default on their debts. NEWS FLASH!!! This isn’t the 1850s, where a scofflaw can ride a horse over Vine or South Streets, or row across the Schuylkill or Delaware rivers, and never get caught. Criminal databases are linked up, methods of compliance are enhanced, and a Social Security Number, which is used for incurring debts of any type, cannot be changed with a simple name change. Furthermore, courts have everything they need at their fingertips, in terms of judgment searches and criminal records.

From a lawyer in Connecticut:

I did have a man with a criminal past who, against my advice, did file for a name change. The judge later told me that the man had a ‘record’ a mile long and when asked about it, he simply shrugged it off as youthful misadventure. The judge denied the application.

So, if Connecticut’s more simple method, as outlined above, can still manage to root out fraud, then I am for it.

You don’t have to be a person of transgender experience to realize that the emotional welfare of an individual may be dependent on a name change. While Pennsylvania’s name change law makes for an unnecessarily messy process, states like CT have found the right balance between being able to change name without hindrance and the right of creditors or the criminal justice system to not be able to never find a person. It’s time for a change in the Keystone State. Make this process cleaner and more accessible!!

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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Vandy Beth Glenn was a legislative editor at the Georgia State House, and a transgender woman. Now, I am sure she was a talented editor, but when she came out in the office place, her supervisors forgot whatever good she did for the workplace and fired her. Now, one would think that somebody who gets discriminated against because of gender identity would have no legal recourse in a state as conservative as Georgia, however, Ms. Glenn fought back…and won.

From TIME magazine:

Since there is no federal or Georgia state statute that protects transgender people from job discrimination, Glenn went a different route. She sued under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, claiming that she was a victim of sex discrimination, since she had been fired for failing to conform to the sex that her boss assumed her to be. It was a creative strategy, but there was legal precedent: in 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that it is sex discrimination to turn down a woman for partner in an accounting firm for coming off as too “macho.” Invoking this theory, Glenn argued that she had been fired for “gender non-conformity.”

A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed. Discrimination of the kind Glenn was subjected to, the court said, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. At least three other federal appeals courts have reached similar conclusions, but this is the first appeals court in the Deep South to do so. The ruling is also notable because of one of the judges who signed on: William Pryor, a former Alabama Attorney General who was appointed to the court by George W. Bush. When Judge Pryor was nominated, gay-rights groups opposed him, in part because he had argued in 2003 that the Supreme Court should uphold state sodomy laws. Perhaps even more so than the opinion itself, the fact that judge Pryor agreed with it is an indication of how far transgender legal rights have come.

You see, it is no longer "mainstream" to allow employers to deny trans people their right to work because of their status. We have come a long way, from the first non-discrimination ordinance in 1975 to this milestone, it has been a long hard slog, and there is still a way to go, but society is on the right track. Although William Pryor should be chastised for his views on sodomy laws, I can see a little spark of humanity in him.

However, as we celebrate this hard earned victory, we must also acknowledge that there are many that are still struggling. Take the case of Jennifer Michelle Chavez, a woman who, like many transpeople, has struggled with gender identity issues from an early age and decided to finally take that leap in middle age. She was an auto mechanic at Credit Nation, a car shop in Austell, GA; and she had gotten good reviews on the job, however

Then her troubles began. A mere two months after Jennifer began her transition, Credit Nation fired her — for a minor work rules violation. According to Credit Nation, Jennifer was “dozing off on the job.” Rather than requesting her to get more sleep, or to seek medical help for sleep problems, the company showed her the door. That didn’t surprise Jennifer. She says that once she began her journey from male to female, her company wanted her gone. Work was not a collegial place any longer, and for Jennifer, work was a difficult place to be. “Due to the hostile work environment that had been created by management and a meeting between myself and the owner,” Jennifer says, “I understood that they would be looking for any reason to terminate me. Other than work issues, all employees were afraid to speak to me. All communication stopped, the tension in the shop was palatable.”

Then the firm began to lay a paperwork trail leading to what Jennifer feared. “I had already been written up for a minor offense with another employee and no action was taken against that employee even though the verbal altercation was his doing,” she relates. “This all took place within the two months since my notice of transition and I had no issues with the company prior to my disclosure.” In a nutshell, she had gone from being an employee that her company was apparently satisfied with, to one they didn’t want to keep. The only difference, by any estimation? Jennifer had transitioned from a male presentation to a female one.

Then Credit Nation made their move. She was called into an office and let go. The reason? Credit Nation said it was due to “sleeping on the job.” “There were 4 or 5 managers in the room I was called into when they notified me of my termination,” says Jennifer. “I had no idea it was coming as I had no idea that my dozing off was an issue. On top of that, the day of the issue taking place, it was an ice day and no one but myself and two other persons even hazarded the trip into work. We had nothing to do since nothing was moving, I had been standing around for an hour and a half and they were keeping the shop cold — probably more of the hostile environment — when I sat in the back of a car to try and keep warm.”

She tried to get unemployment benefits, but was denied the first time around. However, she claimed discrimination, and, after a hearing process, was approved for unemployment benefits. She went on with her life, only to discover that four months later, the Georgia Department of Labor would renege on the benefits, and not only stop them, but garnish her wages. This has been a protracted battle in which an end is not in sight.

In Jennifer’s situation, only 15 states provide for legal recourse for discrimination based on gender identity, and even if there are local ordinances enumerating gender identity, she is dealing with a state agency, and thus, could not be bound to local ordinances.

However, while Chavez’s case is still out, Vandy Beth Glenn’s case is not only done, but it may have made history. Provided that the case does not go through other appellate channels (and believe me, if William Pryor can support this, so can the otherwise conservative Supreme Court), it could be that this case might have brought a gender identity inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which has languished for over 20 years) through the judicial backdoor, bypassing a potentially hostile legislative process. If this rings true, then it will be a step forward, but there is a long way to go.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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The 16th International conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa ICASA 2011, jointly organized by the government of Ethiopia in conjunction with the society for AIDS in Africa and various institutional and community partners as well private sector, brought together over ten thousand delegates from around the world who from the 4th -8th December put their heads together, bringing to the table, their experiences, good practices and looked for a way forward, 30 years into the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

As per the tradition of ICASA, this year’s conference was divided broadly into three areas of focus, which included the scientific, Non-abstract driven sessions and the community programs. Themed around Own, Scale-up and sustain, the conference chair Dr.YigeremuAbebe from Ethiopia explained the conference was so designed to ensure international standards with excellent submissions from what the world is doing to respond to HIV in Africa. Also the choice of speakers and various facilitators also a reflected the organizer’s resolve to ensure high level of interaction during the conference.

This conference however started with a youth Pre-conference which was in a bid to better prepare young people for the main conference. It was hosted by Talent Youth Association (TAYA- Ethiopia) 1-3 December 2011 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, at the Ghion hotel. This Pre meeting had over 250 delegates with over 80 of them from Ethiopia. The official opening was done by H.E AlemawMengistu, State Minister for the Ministry of Women and children and Youth affairs who called on young people to get involved in the ICASA proper and ensure that their voices are heard. Also present was Dr. YigeremuAbebe from the Clinton foundation who called on all African people to take ownership of the issues, be accountable and responsible for the response.

It is worth noting that the theme for this pre-conference was accountability and the breakout sessions were structured to achieve these goals. The pre-conference -ended with a declaration and call to action from the young people on sexual reproductive health and rights to be channeled to the main conference and this call to action highlighted amongst many other things the need to include young people more in the HIV/AIDS response process, getting the governments to commit, or better still be accountable for the money they receive for HIV/AIDS funding, and to proportionately distribute the funds to all the target populations not prioritizing one over the other. Also there was a call for the inclusion of young people living with HIV/AIDS and also children born with HIV in the whole response process and improve the quality of Youth friendly centers to better accommodate young people and also include them as staffed officials in such centers and also accommodate for the heterogeneity of their sexualities.

The conference proper that began on the 4th of December saw especially the rare presence of two former US presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) at the opening ceremony which was very contrary to public opinion as they asked why no single former African president or even the current ones were not invited, also asking ‘’why they were mourning more than the bereaved’’

This year’s ICASA had about 407 presentations which were covered in 150 plenary, parallel skill building and Non-abstract driven sessions and an additional 59 oral presentations, bringing the number to a total of 466 presentations. These abstracts and presentations covered and provided information on current research around the continent and best practices upheld by the different stake holders.

The uniqueness of this year’s ICASA is that it provided awards to the best abstracts presented by young investigators below the age of 35.this recognition was in a bid to encourage scientific research in Africa which is facing challenges at the moment and it is hoped that by so doing, many will be motivated to take upon themselves to further research on the Pandemic and possibly find a cure in the nearest future. It is now just rhetoric to repeat the fact that Africa is the most affected, especially Sub-Saharan Africa By this Pandemic.

Aside the sessions and very formal side of ICASA is the community village. It comprises of highly creative and focused programs ranging from the youth Pavilion to the community dialogue spaces. There is plenty here to digest as it shares plenty of best practices in Africa and most young people for ICASA hang out here since it gives them a unique opportunity of learning while having fun. The place is animated by an array of culturaldances ,performances and presentations from youth networks and other networks, distribution of condoms and t-shirts and other didactic materials which can be helpful in sensitization and general networking amongst ICASA participants.

This year’s ICASA registered a huge success all together as it brought together disabled persons, people living with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQI’s(Lesbian gays, bisexuals transgender, queer and intersex) who in one way or the other are contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS all networking together.

The major outcome and the most applauded is that African leaders committed to engage in strategies that will ensure home grown responses to the AIDS pandemic, given the fact that at this crucial time of worldwide economic recession, they need to own , scale-up and sustain.
Overall, it is widely accepted that ICASA 2011 pointed the way forward to accomplishing the common vision of ‘zero new infections, zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS related deaths in Africa."

The major shortcoming from a personal point of view is that, too much money is spent organizing a meeting like ICASA.Sad to say but some people are getting enriched by the havoc this pandemic is causing. The resources allocated, from the printing of badges, conference papers,accommodation and other logistics was money that could have been channeled otherwise for better use maybe for some research or that remote place in the world where there is little or no response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
My recommendation will be to have fewer people attend the ICASA 2012 in South Africa and we should not make it a profit making forum with the commercialization that has engulfed the organization and running of ICASA.

Also as activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS it is very recommendable that we adopt healthy sexual practices as I could not help but notice some unscrupulous interactions amongst delegates especially the young people.

In conclusion I will like to thank the African Union and especially the Youth Division Headed By Dr. Raymonde Agoussou Advocates For Youth and UNFPA for giving me this unique learning opportunity to participate at ICASA and also to report via blogging on amplify/AU-YVC facebook pages for the duration of the conference.

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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The 16th International conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa ICASA 2011, jointly organized by the government of Ethiopia in conjunction with the society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) and various institutional and community partners as well as private sector, brings together over ten thousand delegates from around the world who in the course of the next few days will put their heads together, bringing to the table, their experiences, good practices and look for a way forward, 30 years into the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

As per the tradition of ICASA, this year’s conference has been divided broadly into three areas of focus, which include the scientific, Non-abstract driven sessions and the community programs. Themed around Own, Scale-up and sustain, the conference chair Dr.Yigeremu Abebe from Ethiopia explains the conference has been developed to ensure international standards with excellent submissions from what the world is doing to respond to HIV in Africa. Also the choice of speakers and various facilitators is also a reflection of the organizer’s resolve to ensure high level of interaction during the conference.

As I go through the Abstract book, I can’t help but to plead the Devil’s advocate to ask if it is feasible that in five days 407 presentations will be adequately covered in 150 plenary, parallel skill building and Non-abstract driven sessions talk less of the additional 59 oral presentations, bringing the number to a total of 466 presentations? Well we are left to find out. The good thing however about the abstracts and presentations is that they are expected to cover and will provide information on current research around the continent.
The uniqueness of this year’s ICASA is that it will provide awards to the best abstracts presented by young investigators below the age of 35.thsi recognition is in a bid to encourage scientific research in Africa which is facing challenges at the moment and it is hoped that by so doing, many will be motivated to take upon themselves to further research on the Pandemic and possible find a cure in the nearest future. It is worth noting that Africa is the most affected, especially Sub-Saharan Africa.

So here I am, at the millennium hall conference centre where the ICASA is being held, completely lost, and everyone is so busy going up and down as if on Broadway. I try really hard to figure out where I want to go…and what strikes me the most to visit is the community village. It comprises of highly creative and focused programs ranging from the youth Pavilion to the community dialogue spaces. There is plenty here for me to digest as it shares plenty of best practices in Africa.

So I visit from stand to stand, ranging from organizations working with the handicapped in the response to HIV/AIDS pandemic, those working with out of school youths, commercial sex workers, young people born with and living with HIV(YPLHIH) those working with young people and children orphaned by HIV, and others with girls that are victims of female genital mutilation and victims of rape and others more specifically on developing and advancing research in antiretroviral drugs .

It is a very rich blend of ideas and best practices and can’t help but to be absorbed in all of this. Did I mention there is also the people living with HIV (PLWHIV) and also that of Lesbian gay bisexual transgender, queer and intersex lounge? Provided in a bid for them to network and support each other.

Last but not least there is a rich display of the Ethiopian culture in the form of arts and craft many of which are from organizations that support PLWHIV, and of course there is warm tea to heat people up as Addis is particularly cold at this time of the year.

I make my way through one or two parallel sessions and I am quite impressed with what is going on, but what strikes me the most is the official opening ceremony which saw the presence of several dignitaries and one of the least expected…George W . Bush former president of the United States of America.

This ICASA is unique and we are hoping by the end of it, someone maybe from the Scientific area will tell us a ground breaking discovery that will alleviate the plight this Pandemic has caused since the first cases were discovered some 30 years ago. By the time the day officially closed, I was no longer MIA, at least I now know my way around and hopefully day two will be a better day. Stay tuned!

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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On the second day of the International conference on STI’s and AIDS (ICASA ) Pre- conference December 2nd in Addis Ababa- Ethiopia, hosted by talent youth association TAYA, which is in a bid to prepare youths to have a head start as per the expectations of ICASA, young people attending have already familiarized themselves with the environment and people can now talk more freely, perhaps the reason why the session on Inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex(LGBTQI) Youth in HIV and Sesual reproductive Health and rights (SRHR() interventions is kept to be dealt with on this day.
The session is facilitated by Steve Letsike working with “OUT”, South Africa which is an organization dedicated to the promotion of the rights of LGBTQI’s and giving them the specific health services they require in an enabling environment. She begins the session with the projection of a good practice video which showed the evolution of demands for equal rights by the gay community of Pretoria and the subsequent evolution to the point when LGBTQI’S are legally recognized and can officialize their marriages in both churches and family affairs centers. See www.M2M.com and www.W2W.com for more on this organization.

I came to the realization that most people who have been working in the field of SRHR and even sexual diversities did not really understand some basic terminologies even down to the definitions of LGBTQI’s. So for the benefit of doubt, I will give the most basic of these definitions but for more clarity you can always check out the above mentioned websites. For the purpose and length of this article LGBTQI’S will be defined as:

L-Lesbian is a woman who has emotional, sexual, intellectual and romantic attraction towards another woman.
G-Gay is a man who shares emotional, sexual, intellectual and romantic attraction towards a man.
B-Bisexual is a man or woman who shares emotional, sexual, intellectual and romantic attraction towards both men and women.
T-Transgender is a man or woman who identifies differently from the gender assigned to She/he.
I-Intersex is someone who has an indeterminate sexual organ and needs a decision to be made.
Q-Queer is someone who is flexible and will rather not be labeled as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any such labels and lives his sexuality as she/he pleases.
The discussion focused around three basic questions.
1. How do we use our expertise where we come from to further integrate LGBTIQ’s?
2. What is your role in addressing this issue?
3. What are the resources required to better meet the needs of these people.
In Response to these questions, after much deliberation, participants came up with the following ideas.
For question one, the responses were as follows;

• Integration of LGBTQI issues in national and strategic health plans first by understanding the dynamics around LGBTQI issues.
• Conducting ample research to provide concrete statistics with which governments can be held to commit on the basis of the realities these statistics present. for example there are over 1 million known LGBTQI’s in Africa and 40% of them are HIV positive, this kind of information therefore will be very useful when pressure is mounted on governments to enable such people access health facilities without being discriminated upon on the basis of their sexual identities.
• Training of health practitioners and revising the develop manuals to enable them provide services meet the needs and aspirations of LGBTQIs
• Advocacy for their rights using other unexplored venues like new media.
• Engaging with policy makers.
• Revising awareness of the needs of these people and advocating for them to be met.

For the second question, the responses were as follows.

• Discourage discrimination and change existing attitudes
• Raise awareness of the rights and also responsibilities of these people through a human rights based approach for example International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Sexual rights declaration handbook made in conjunction with the United Nations(UN) Universal Human Rights declaration.
• Values clarification
• Identifying key entry points and gate keepers (parliamentarians) working with those who are understanding to push the change at a higher level (PARLIAMENT)

As regards the last question, ideas gathered were;

• Creation of youth friendly and drop in centers for LGBTQIs
• Provision of commodities and resources which meet their specific needs and aspirations(lubricants, condoms suited for anal sex etc)
• Policy documents
• Finally removing punitive laws on LGBTQIs.

I will like to conclude this blog by mentioning that even though Ethiopia is host to the ICASA conference, with the ministry of health directly involved, things have not been made particularly easy for the LGBTQI community that will be attending this event. The public opinion is that ICASA is a gay conference and most people are bent on making the process a failure as much as they can. People are particularly skeptical about giving out the joints or meeting places out for fear of being condemned they are promoting gay activities and even the Pre-conference cocktail party was cancelled because the owner of the place declined giving it out when she found out those hiring it were for the ICASA program and a meeting of LGBTQI s in one of tthe hotels was cancelled on the same premise!

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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The international conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa ( ICASA), the long awaited and must attend international conference will bring together youth activists, health practitioners, government representatives, stake holders and every other person engaged in the fight against . To better prepare young people for the main conference, a Pre-conference for young people, hosted by Talent Youth Association (TAYA- Ethiopia) 1-3 December 2011 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, kicked off December 1st at the Ghion hotel. This Pre meeting has over 250 delegates with over 80 of them from Ethiopia. The official opening was done by H.E Alemaw Mengistu, State Minister for the Ministry of Women and children and Youth affairs who called on young people to get involved in the ICASA proper and ensure that their voices are heard. Also present was Dr. Yigeremu Abebe from the Clinton foundation who called on all African people to take ownership of the issues, be accountable and responsible for the response.

Next stop we heard from Dr. Ademola Olajide who echoed Dr. Abebe’s view on accountability but urging young people on their part to lead the way. He said “we need to make the change we need and need to do it now” and to make that changeso, Dr. Akinyele Dairo on his part highlighted that UNFPA was particularly committed to young people and applauded UNFPA and other partners in their response which has yielded some results in terms of reduction in new infections. He said however that the target is the Zero infection point and to reach this young people must either Abstain from Sex completely until they are married and while they are stay faithful to their partners or CONDOMIZE! .The country representative for UNFPA Ted Chabien reiteritated the need for young people to be visible at the ICASA proper , taking the lead, facilitating sessions and making presentations.

Last but not the least speaker in the opening ceremony was Paddy Masembe from Africa Young Positives Association who bore witness to the challenges young people living with HIV/AIDS are facing on a day to day basis which included amongst others stigmatization and discrimination, lack of access to adequate health facilities and programs designed to meet the specific needs of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV) especially Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) living with HIV.

It is worth noting that the theme for this pre-conference is Accountability and the breakout sessions are structured to achieve these goals. I have taken the liberty of summarizing some of the sessions that held on this first day (DECEMBER 1st)that way my readers can get a idea of what went on.

The first session which focused on empowering young people for HIV prevention-challenges and opportunities done by Rick Olson from (UNICEF) explained that there are challenges in the effort to getting to the zero new infection target ,stating that there is increased teenage pregnancy and more young girls and women are getting HIV. He highlighted that this is coming mostly from the lack of information, condom use although increasing, figures still show young people disconnect between young people knowing where to get and actually use them and Voluntary counseling and testing in youth friendly centers, asking how friendly they really are. He made a call to young people to get involved in more condom programming particularly accountability and acceptability.

The other session I found particular interest in was that which focused on reaching unmet needs of sexual reproductive health and rights services of young people living with HIV.(YPLHIV). The speaker called for the status of children born with HIV to be normalized by society. He said so because current family planning does not target YPLHIV, including lack of information on contraception. He stated that YPLHIV needed more support in education and from stigma and discrimination meted upon them for a fault which is not theirs and that they are merely victims of circumstances. He concluded with a call for more work on advocacy, more access to Anti retroviral treatment (ART) more research on 15-19 year olds to be conducted and for the budget to be distributed more fairly amongst the different age groups.
Other sessions included documenting experiences, challenges and new approaches in the fight against HIV/AIDS amongst young people, another was the challenge of Youth in HIV/AIDS prevention policies, programs and fundraising.

Last but not the least was the session on Open societies and rights of PESSP (Gays and Lesbians) and sex workers and the speaker bore witness to the discrimination and stigma that sex workers suffer. The main issues highlighted were male and transgender sex workers and saw the need of services to sensitize thee sex worker and also for society and governments to treat them and their families equally. There was equally a call for support for rape victims especially male rape victims who are usually victimized more afterwards.

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

November 20- November 26

Stats this week: 14 posts by 11 writers

General Consensus On Trans Rights: Or Is There?- by Jordan

Inside this post:

Jordan details promising poll data about acceptance for equal rights for transgender people.

Occupy Philippine Congress- by leovlauzon

Inside this post:

For thirty days until December 14, 2011, young people and RH Advocates will go door-to-door to the offices of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines to talk and engage with them in debate with the RH Bill.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My post this week: 
California Supreme Court rules that Prop 8 proponents have standing to appeal

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We observe World AIDS Day each and every December 1 to memorialize those who have been lost to AIDS and to disseminate true information about the disease and to destigmatize those who have it. Although anybody can get HIV/AIDS, it has been a major issue among gay males. However, AIDS has also had an impact on the trans community.

From Daily Kos:

Helena Bushong was diagnosed with AIDS in 2002. She probably had been HIV+ since 1985. She also has Hepatitis C and is a survivor of spinal cancer.

But she has one hell of a strong backbone.

This past week she was interviewed about being transgender, black and poz. Do yourself a favor and go see what she has to say for herself. The video is not embeddable.

Ms. Bushong has managed to stay involved in activism; she is a member of Illinois Alliance For Sound AIDS Policy (IL ASAP), and has chaired Illinois Gender Advocates. She has beaten long odds against her and she is a hero.

However, not many people are as lucky as Bushong. It is estimated that 27.7% of all male-to-female transfolk have HIV or AIDS, and this could be attributed to several issues.

-Due to economic marginalization, as well as homelessness, sex work often becomes the only option for transwomen; thus, having to risk infection just to be able to survive.
-Due to drug use, there is a higher risk of transwomen being infected by spent needles.
-A tendency to seek body modification from unlicensed entities (ie: pump parties)

Another issue in the trans community is the interaction of AIDS/HIV medication with hormones, one should really check with a physician to see which medications are right for you.

Also, many trans people have experienced homelessness, and shelters are not viable options for many members of the trans community. However, for anyone experiencing homelessness and seropositivity, this can be a very dangerous combination.

The Philadelphia Gay News reports:

According to the National AIDS Housing Coalition, there are currently more than 140,000 households across the United States in which an HIV-positive individual is struggling with unstable housing. As Philadelphia grapples with an HIV-infection rate five times the national average, the intersection of HIV and housing issues is rapidly coming to the forefront of the discussion on HIV/AIDS in the city.

NAHC cites housing as one of the key factors in ensuring those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS have access to adequate treatment, and identifies housing-assistance programs as being integral in reducing long-term behavior risks for HIV.

Max Ray, an ACT UP activist who’s been involved in the group’s effort to press for funding for HIV housing opportunities, explained that stable housing is essential to proper treatment of the disease, especially considering the conditions that exist at some homeless shelters. 

This goes on to talk about how shelters may take away medication, may have bedbug infestations which, although generally only a nuisance for some people, can throw a person’s body into chaos. Furthermore, shelters may confiscate HIV meds or disallow them at certain times, considering that the regimens for HIV meds may be very restrictive, it is too hard for shelters to work around them.

The PGN further reports:

One of the largest combatants to HIV homelessness is the federal Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), established in 1992.

HOPWA, administered in Philadelphia by the Office of Housing and Community Development, provides housing subsidies for those with the disease who pay more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent.

OHCD spokesperson Michelle Sonsino Lewis said there are currently 229 Philadelphians on the HOPWA waiting list.

That is 229 Philadelphians who cannot wait for housing. On several occasions, I have protested mayor Michael Nutter’s refusal to fund AIDS housing initiatives, even though, in general, it is considerably less expensive to rehouse people into one bedroom apartments than to keep them in a cot in a gymnasium. It is time to end all housing waiting lists, not just for the trans people with AIDS/HIV, not just for people with HIV/AIDS in general, but for everyone, for shelters are an acute and expensive solution.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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Parades are always fun but difficult to organize yet if you can go in any order then its altogether a different ball game. Parades generally signify the republic day for me because that is the day that you the population of the town out on the roads to see the three hour parade which makes you proud of your nationality but of recent some new parades have come into existence. People who until now were living in closets or couldn’t declare their sexual identities are now coming out during these parades to proudly declare who they are and what they believe in.

The fact that the society is not ready to accept/ recognize some sections like gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queer and transgender makes them utilize whatever opportunity that they can get with vengeance. And why shouldn’t they specially when the society loves acting as if they don’t exist or are our dirty secrets?

Personally, I believe that a person’s sexual identity is their private business and society should leave sexual and religious identities out of equation because it is difficult for one to come to terms with who they are and how that might be different for them when compared with other people and to top it off with pressure of being accepted by close ones, society and the world makes life all the more difficult. But on occasions like Gay Pride parades when people dress up to broadcast themselves, I never really know whether to applaud their guts or feel scared.

A normal question would be, why scared? Well, it takes me back in time to one of those events which one doesn’t want to witness, remember or have repeated in life. I have a friend. She had recently started exploring her identity as a lesbian because she was seriously attracted to women and until then she hadn’t had the guts to do anything about it because her family back home was very orthodox. For them this would be an impossibility and if they accepted that this was possible then the ultimate sin. Last gay parade made the lady want to celebrate her sexuality. She was warned but she dressed up for the occasion.

Covering a secret makes one more inquisitive so it is always suggested that do whatever you like but don’t cover your eyes in a Gay Parade specially if you don’t want to attract attention. But then youth and inexperience are not easy horses to harness. The lady dressed up like Cleopatra with painted eyes and a veil. Her beauty attracted the media like bees. She was all over the next day’s newspaper as the face of the parade. Her parents saw this and she right now has no home to return to because they still haven’t accepted her or her sexuality. She is living in a hostel (thank god, for communal colleges with government subsidised fees).
However, that was another time and space. Lets get a sneak preview of the Gay Pride Parade in Delhi which took place on 27th November, 2011. I hope no other people face similar mishaps like the one told here.

Special thanks to Aditya Bandyopadhyay for the video.

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November is the month of elections and the beginning of the holiday season. Now, with few exceptions, people who support LGBTIQ rights tend to go blue and those who oppose tend to go red. Blue and red happen to be the main colours of the two largest non-profit-thrift-stores-which-help-people-out, the relatively secular Goodwill and the religious conservative Salvation Army, respectively. This is why whenever you are out and about and you are a queer or an ally, and you see a red kettle, you should avoid it like the black plague and go blue, if not local:

The Huffington Post reports:

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle bell ringers have become a truly iconic part of the holiday shopping season. However, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates are now calling for shoppers to skip the donation buckets due to the organization’s conservative view of homosexuality.

"The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you’re helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations," Bil Browning notes on The Bilerico Project. "The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies — including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal."

Indeed, as Browning points out, the group’s position statements reveal a somewhat rigid outlook on LGBT lifestyles. "Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex," one statement reads. "The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage."

However, the statement does go on to note, "Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation."


Now, I have to make a disclosure here. One of my first purchases of women’s clothing was at a Salvation Army thrift store in Pompton Lakes, NJ. When I was stuck in the closet at Ramapo College, my college had a Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event to bring awareness of domestic violence. I decided that this was an opportunity to be myself and most of all, support a good cause. So, I drove down to the SA, got this polka dotted dress, and I am glad I did get that dress, since none of the heels fit me, and I would not walk that anymore, seeing as I no longer identify as a male.

Since then, I had grown up, gotten to know more about this cruel world, and would NEVER, EVER shop at a Salvation Army ever again. If I ever wanted to find something good on the cheap, I would go to Goodwill, they have never given me a problem there and most of their stores have unisex dressing rooms (yippie!!!). But then again, I may also support a more localized organization.

The Bilerico Project further enumerates cases of discrimination:

-When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity’s objections.
-In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.
-In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it "did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees." After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army’s active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
-Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a "regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals."
-In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city’s decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees.

Wow, the Salvation Army wants people to starve, all because New York City recognizes that if you want to use your religious beliefs to negatively impact someone’s life, you should get no solace from the city. And what is scary is, the Salvation Army provides homeless services. A search of my own zipcode indicates that there are several shelter locations in Philadelphia alone. One of these is the Red Shield Family residences, which is where the Appletree Center, an intake center for homeless women and families, refers the latter to as an after hours site for those who don’t get placed. Appletree is connected with the Philadelphia Office Of Supportive Housing, which has put out this statement affirming transgender people’s rights to access shelter services appropriate to their gender identity. If any agent of the city, in their duties of referring homeless individuals, refers the individual to a place like Red Shield, they better be damn certain that the shelter is in compliance with local laws.

Of course, the bigotry of the Salvation Army proved to be deadly towards a transgender woman in Austin, Texas just before Christmas in 2008.

Two years ago today transwoman Jennifer Gale was found dead sleeping on an Austin sidewalk outside a homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army. (one reason why I refuse to donate money or used clothing to them).

The reason she was outside on the sidewalk instead of inside the shelter is because they would not allow her to be housed with the women because of genitalia incongruent with her gender presentation. . She would have been foced by their policies to be housed with cisgender men.

Austin was in the grip of unseasonable cold in 2008, and the postulation by EMT’s is the near freezing temperatures helped trigger the heart attack that killed her.

Jennifer made multiple runs for political office in the area and was a frequent presence at Austin City Council meetings. The night before she died, Jennifer attended and spoke at an Austin city council hearing in which she sang ‘Silent Night’ to the assembled members before departing.

Here was a human being who had many ideas and who just wanted shelter, yet the Salvation Army just let her die; she was never male, and to force her into a gender role she didn’t want, could have led to a fate even worse than death. Homelessness is a complicated issue, and nobody should have de facto or de jure authority to degender people, just because they have fallen on rough times.

So, I am putting out a call to arms. If you see one of them red kettles, the least you can do is "just say no" (though if you hold up a sign and protest them, that would be awesome too). 

But then again, what we need is more queer friendly civil society. It should not be up to theologically conservative religious sects to monopolize the charity market. Perhaps if you know of a church that is welcoming to LGBT people, maybe you could encourage them to set up charitable services, ranging from shelters to food banks to soup kitchens to even clothing drives.

RIP Jennifer Gale: I will make sure my "boy clothes" as well as my money, and hopefully the city’s money, never goes to such an evil institution.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

November 13 – November 19

Stats this week: 22 posts by 18 writers

Transgender Children In The News: A Round-Up- by Jordan

Inside this post:

From wanting to join the Girl Scouts in Colorado to a family winning an award in Maine for working to end transgender discrimination, Jordan reviews five recent stories about transgender youth.

Mindless Behavior…Nuf Sed- by KarachiYWOCLC

Inside this post:

Karachi looks at a new “boy band” called Mindless Behavior.

Not only are we pushing our little boys to grow up too fast with all this mindless behavior, we’re also teaching them that it’s ok to objectify women. This video’s got the same M.O as most other hip-hop videos.

“Personhood” and Birth Control Demystified- by ashthom

Inside this post:

Ashley explains how pregnancy and birth control work and why “personhood” bills understand neither and attempt to redefine both.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Every year, on November 20, we commemorate the Transgender Day Of Remembrance; this important day was the brainchild of trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a response to the murder of Rita Hester of Allston, Massachusetts in 1998 (and what is bittersweet here is that 13 years later, her home state would throw trans people under the bus). I did my duty as a member of the community and attended two events in Philadelphia, the first one was at 5pm and was connected with Occupy Philadelphia, and the second, in contrast, was held at the ornate William Way Community Center at 7pm. This is my experience.

I had already promised my friend Dawn, a fixture in Philadelphia’s trans community, that I would help out at the William Way event, but I had decided to go to the Occupy rally and duck out around 6-6:15 to head towards the William Way Center. When I arrived on scene in Dilworth Plaza, I stuck out like a sore thumb, and was nervous that my decision to dress in my Sunday best (think tie-neck blouse, pencil skirt, and nice flats, I had decided to wear it mostly for the WWCC event, because I’m kind of conservative about dressing nice for events like this) would put off some of the radical/anarchist contingent. The Occupy encampment was still going strong, even when Michael Nutter might have been singing an Alice Cooper classic in response to a sexual assault that happened there. People were walking around, carrying on while the main draw was a disabled African-American veteran was singing karaoke (a common fixture in Center City).

I found two people from the queer alliance at Occupy Philadelphia and we immediately looked for support, making announcements and shouting a "mic check" to Occupiers to show solidarity. At least 25-30 people showed up and as soon as Max from Riders Against Gender Exclusion showed up, we would March. The march started ten minutes late due to negotiations with police auxiliary concerning the route we were to take (we would march from Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall to Kahn Park, a common organizing point for queer rallies, travelling through the Gayborhood). Despite the decision of said disabled veteran to soapbox about we should all listen to Mayor Nutter and be civil and vacate Dilworth Plaza drowning out march announcements (a situation in which one disabled transwoman shouted "Being civil does not mean being the mayor’s bitch), we would take to the streets, guided by the police.

Some brought signs, a highlight was Max bringing a cardboard bus to be carried by the protestors as part of RAGE’s "Ride With Respect" campaign. RAGE had decided to take part in this due to the gender stickers putting the trans community at risk of violence, and although it hasn’t necessarily lead to any actual serious injuries or deaths, we don’t want there to be a first time. We walked through the Gayborhood chanting "Trans Rights are Human Rights, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT" and "When Trans People Are Under Attack, what do we do, stand up fight back". We had encountered some snags due to one of the marchers being a wheelchair user and the auxiliary leading us to a non-accessible choke point. We did "mic checks" at various points in Center City. I would do one about drama in the trans community and how we need to band together despite our differences, a sentiment that was met with applause. We would then march to Giovanni’s Room, which is the oldest continuous queer bookstore in the country, and was recently gifted with a Pennsylvania Historical marker. Some staff came out and gave their unwavering support. It was then only a few blocks until we hit Kahn Park and Max from RAGE gave a great speech and started recruiting new members. By that time, it was a little past six, so instead of marching back, I high-tailed it to the William Way Community Center.

When I got there, I was struck by the sight of the two former leaders of Transway whom had caused all the drama, and was nervous they were going to come after me, but they left me alone. I immediately went upstairs to the Mark Segal Ballroom, where the event was being held, and did some setting up with Dawn, Candice (a cisgender lesbian WWCC employee who has been interim facilitator at Transway and who was MCing the event), and Beth, my new housemate. Candles abounded and many of Philadelphia’s trans community and beyond started to come to the space, including some that I brought in from the previous march as well as some more established members of the community.

The first speaker was Candice, who talked about how she was an ally to the trans community, and how it was a great honor to be part of such an event. Next up was Dionne Stalworth, a trans person and activist within the community who talks about how even through a tough life, she had survived. Up next was an interfaith prayer reading, one Christian, one Jewish, one Muslim, one Baha’i, and one Buddhist. Then came the reading of the names, which I was proud to be a part of, even though I stumbled at first. We actually had to add a name to the list at the last moment, due to a murder on Hollywood Boulevard. It was then that Dawn came up and spoke about one case in which she knew the person. Krista Easter was a transwoman who had killed herself due to alienation, and while she was not murdered like most of the others memorialized, it still was a death caused by the transphobia of society.

This then led to a benediction by the Rev. Celeste Brooks in which she gave us encouragement to fight another day, followed by a playing of "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan, probably the most emotional point of the night, in which we all found someone to comfort each other. The final part of the night was Community Reflections, in which people came up and shared their thoughts. I was first up, and talked about how I am one of the lucky ones, and how much the Philadelphia trans community has it pretty well, all things considered. I also mentioned how the Philly trans community needs to move past the drama that seems to happen every week and be there for each other, and that I hoped we could all live to fight another day. Other notable speakers who spoke included a friend of murder victim Mercedez Love, and had almost cried while showing a picture, and pled for all the violence to stop, a transwoman who is facing felony charges in Virginia due to a situation which created fear, and how lucky she was that tommorrow, she would be going to the Center For Transgender Surgery in nearby Bala Cynwyd and "getting her wings". Another great speaker was my roommate Beth, who had given an uplifting and funny speech about defending herself, both against the police and threatening to send in her son, a "6’5 Swede" in to deal with transphobes.

It was a magical night and I walked home emotional as all hell, but empowered that I was able to be a part of two disparate events, in which the crowd and the tone may be different, but we all came together to commemorate the losses of the past year due to senseless violence and hope to educate people.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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The Public Religion Research Institute, billed as a non-partisan, non-profit think tank for gauging the people’s pulse on social issues, just released the results of a survey which gauged people’s knowledge as well as support of the transgender community. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that….

Overwhelming majorities of Americans agree that transgender people should have the same general rights and legal protections as others.*

Approximately 9-in-10 (89%) Americans agree that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.
Overwhelming majorities of all major religious groups agree that transgender people should have the same rights and protections as other Americans, including approximately 8-in-10 (83%) white evangelical Protestants, and roughly 9-in-10 Catholics (93%), white mainline Protestants (90%), and the unaffiliated (95%).
Overwhelming majorities of Republicans (86%), Independents (94%), and Democrats (92%) also agree.
More than 8-in-10 (81%) Americans agree that legal protections for gay and lesbian people should also include transgender people.

This is much higher than polling of gender neutral marriage, which only just recently cracked majority territory, and barely at that (are you listening, New York and Maryland). Please reference a theory I offered last December as to why anti-discrimination is a more important priority than marriage issues. Furthermore, the fact that the number for independents is much closer than the number for Democrats than the number for Republicans indicate that the view of gender identity civil rights is considerably more mainstream than even in the recent past. Unaffiliateds were the highest, with Catholics being the second highest (hell, even some Catholic Churchs in Philly have unisex MULTI-OCCUPANCY restrooms), even though Catholics are not known for their LGBT affirmation.

I also could not help but notice that according to the poll, 81% of Americans believe that legal protections for gay and lesbian people should also include transgender people. To me, this is implying that if sexual orientation is included in anti-discrimination laws, then it automatically covers gender identity. It does not, and this will have the unintended consequence of undermining efforts to enumerate gender identity, so unless I am mistaken, what we have is a dangerous mindset here.

Approximately three-quarters of Americans both say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people, and favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.

Three-quarters of Americans agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination.
Solid majorities of every major religious group agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination, including nearly two-thirds (65%) of white evangelical Protestants.
A majority (55%) of Republicans agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination, as do overwhelming majorities of Independents (79%) and Democrats (86%).
Approximately three-quarters (74%) of Americans also favor Congress’ recent expansion of federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, compared to only 22% who oppose.
Solid majorities of every major religious group favor Congress’ recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to include gender identity. White evangelical Protestants demonstrate the lowest support, but nearly two-thirds (64%) of this group favor including gender identity in hate crimes laws.
A majority of Republicans (56%) and approximately 8-in-10 Independents (79%) and Democrats (84%) also agree.

First off, we need to go beyond the ENDA mentality of employment being the only type of discrimination. Laws need to cover housing and public accomodations as well (though it might be beneficial to include education and social services/institutions as well). The overall numbers go down here, but we still have solid majorities, with the numbers for the Democrats and Independents both being way ahead of the Republicans, a majority still supporting trans rights. In terms of religion, 65% of white evangelical christians, the type that would most likely oppose even anti-discrimination, support this.

And this is where I begin to wonder, what would the numbers be like if, in the interview questions, they asked questions about major issues that transgender people specifically face, such as dress codes, restrooms, shelters, etc. I know many people are misinformed about issues such as this, and it would be interesting to see how accepting people actually would be, though if one thing leaves me optimistic, its that when I was visiting home last week (the first time mom actually met me as her daughter), we both went into the (multiple occupancy) women’s room at a Wawa together, and she took the adjustment well. So, I am guessing that people could be more accepting than I would think.

Approximately two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term “transgender” means.

Two-thirds of Americans agree that they feel well informed about transgender persons and issues, while 3-in-10 disagree.
In order to determine whether Americans understood the term “transgender,” PRRI conducted a follow-up survey in September 2011 that asked respondents to report what the term “transgender” meant to them in their own words. Among the 91% of Americans who report that they have heard of the term transgender, 76% give an essentially accurate definition. Thus, overall, more than two-thirds (69%) of Americans are able to identify what the term “transgender” means without any assistance.
Forty-six percent define a transgender person as someone who switches from one gender to another, either generally (39%) or through a medical procedure (7%).
Eleven percent define a transgender person as someone who lives like the opposite gender (6%) or identifies more with the opposite gender (5%).
Ten percent describe a transgender person as someone who is born the wrong sex or born in the wrong body.
Nine percent define a transgender person as someone who has identified with both genders.
The following are examples of verbatim responses:
“A person who feels like they are more like the other sex”
“It’s someone born one sex, and they think they’re another”
“Generally someone who thinks they are in the wrong body”
Eleven percent of Americans say that they have a close friend or family member who is transgender, compared to 58% who say that they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian.

While I do believe many people are close to having the right answer in this instance, only one in ten people answered "someone who is born in the wrong sex or born in the wrong body", which is as close as what the definition of trans* is. I do not feel as if I am someone who switches sex, because in my heart, I always knew I was female, and that my primary and secondary male characteristics are a birth defect.

As tempting as it is to view this study as an example of a sea change in people’s mentalities, I must also point to a study done here in Pennsylvania concerning support for a statewide law amending the Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This poll, commissioned by Susquehanna Polling was taken among 1200 registered voters, and resulted in 7 out of 10 respondants supporting non-discrimination laws. and…

The poll also echoed strong support among many different types of people. For example, a majority of “self-described” conservatives (60%), liberals (80%) and moderates (75%) supported the bill, as did a majority of both males and females (at 69%); a majority of Republicans (61%), Democrats (74%) and Independents (74%); and a majority 18-44 year olds (73%), voters 45-59 yrs. olds (66%) and 60+ yrs. (67%).

A region by region breakdown of this poll can be accessed at this link. It’s safe to say that anybody who even knows anything about the regions of Pennsylvania and the culture of such would believe that this map is dangerously optimistic, some examples include:

-67% of South Central (ie: PA’s Bible Belt) being supportive, yet only 60% of Southwest (which includes Pittsburgh, PA’s largest city and second most progressive metropolitan area) being supportive.

-A mixture of Northeastern counties that have nothing to do with each other culturally giving as much support to non-discrimination as Philadelphia County.

Furthermore, if the pollsters wanted to divide by region, they did it all wrong, for example:

-Northampton and Lehigh in the Northeast, as well as Berks in the South Central, should be in their own category, the Lehigh Valley. That region of the state is a good indicator of statewide trends, yet it is completely divided

-Erie County (the far northwestern county), is far culturally different than the rest of the Northwest/West Central (better know as the "T"), which is by far, the most conservative region of the state.

Look, based on what localities have or are seeking anti-discrimination ordinance, it would probably be 90%+ in Philadelphia proper, 70% in the suburban counties, 55% in the Lehigh Valley, too close to call in the Northeast, not even cracking 40% in South Central (winning only maybe Dauphin County), too close to call in the Southwest (winning Allegheny County with over 60% but losing in the other counties), and the only other places where a positive result would be would be Erie County and Centre County.

Sounds like I went on a tangent there? Well, there was a method to my madness. Polls are not always the best indicators, and while Chaz Bono has definitely helped humanize trans people for most Americans, there are just far too many variables and far too many unanswered questions to clearly gauge the public pulse on trans rights, and while I am optimistic, I have to put the word "cautiously" before that.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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 For me coming out is hard because of the "what ifs" the "what will happen" and most importantly the"what will my friends say". I’m an overweight 14 year old girl who is bi-sexual. I at times think i am and except it but other time i lie to myself and say i’m straight.  I like being popular and on a scale of o to 100(0 being the worst and 100 being most popular) for my freshman class i would say i’m a decent 83. I think that for people like me(overweight) it’s even harder to come out. An example is two types of girls at my school. One group of girls are lesbian and are fat. The other is a girl who came out but she is skinny and pretty. Everyone talks about the "fatty lesbos" but the other girl gets left alone no one talks shit about her. I feel like if i came out that would be me the addition to the "fatty lesbos" even though i’m bi. And one of my friends is also bi and she is skinny. I feel like if we were to both come out i would be the one who gets shit talked about and she would get nothing. I will admit i’m shallow if i was a guy i’d go out for the skinnier chick( by this i mean like not overweight) who’s blonde(just a prefrence) rather than the fat chick . And i care a lot about being popular i woun’t do anything to be popular but it matters to me. I know some of my friends would still be my friends even if i came out but the thing is they aren’t super popular . I hate being different i mean in the sense of having to deal with not only being overweight and getting made fun of behind my back but the fact that i would have to deal with girls giving me weird stares in the halls for being bi. People finding out is my biggest worry. With the pressures of being popular and having the right friends makes me scared to loose the reputation it took me 4 years to build. My rep is the " funny, nice, and okay looking rounder chick" i don’t mind being called okay looking it’s better than being called ugly. ANd if i was to come out and have the same friends it would be awkward and then i would have to add finding hot bi-sexual girls to my long list of things i look for at school. For me coming out is risky and scary. You never know who your real friends are but if your bi or les or gay or transgender and you tell one of your "friends" your secret and they aren’t a real friend it’s the end of the life you knew because your set into the LGBT stareotype.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

November 6- November 12

Stats this week: 13 posts by 11 writers

Proud to be Polish- by Jordan

Inside this post:

Jordan writes about the election of Anna Grodzka, Poland’s first transgender member of parliament.

Election Roundp: GREAT Night for Progressives- by AFY_Will

Inside this post:

Will summarizes some progressive victories from the recent election, including the election to town council of one of Advocates for Youth’s former youth activists, Lee Storrow.

What if Justin Bieber Has A Baby- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

Bianca uses the scandal around Justin Bieber allegedly getting a young woman pregnant to discuss condom use, consent, and how society treats young mothers.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My post this week: 
Myths about Virginity in Glee’s "First Time"

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There have been many news stories concerning transgender youth in the last month or so, so I will be providing a round-up of five stories about the most misunderstood of queer youth.


Wayne Maines of Orono, ME is a conservative Republican from Northern Maine. Now, it’s safe to say that conservative Republicans from Northern Maine don’t exactly sign up to be trans allies, but when what he thought to be his son turned out to be his daughter, he was able to put his partisan predilections aside and be a father first.

The Maines family, Wayne, his wife, Kelly, and their 14-year-old children, Nicole and Jonas, were honored Thursday for their efforts toward ending discrimination against transgender Mainers.

“Our family has remained strong but silent for a long time,” Waynes Maines said in accepting the award on behalf of the family. “Our circle has been very small. Receiving this award provides an opportunity to thank all of you for your advocacy, your support and your friendship. It provides an opportunity for our inner circle to grow. This larger inner circle will help us share the hopes and dreams of transgender children with others that might not understand.”

In Maine, where Republicans swept both houses, a bill was proposed that would limit transgender people from entering restrooms most closely associated with their gender identity. That bill, thankfully, was defeated by both houses, even when Governor LePage claimed it would "help business", an offensive statement given these economic times. The bill was proposed because the Maines family won a settlement against an Orono school for not allowing Nicole to use the girls room.

The Maines family is an inspiration to us all, and I hope Nicole grows up happy.


Bobby Montoya (preferred name unknown) is a transgender girl from Colorado who wanted to join the Girl Scouts. After an initial no, his mother, Felisha Archuleta, would not give up.

Bobby, who said he’s been bullied for looking and dressing like a girl, told KUSA-TV: ‘It’s hurting my heart. It hurts me and my mom both.’

His mother, Felisha Archuleta, said she allows Bobby to dress and behave how he wants to be.

Ms Archuleta told KUSA: "He’s been doing this since he was about 2 years old. He’s loved girl stuff, so we just let him dress how he wants.’

She added: ‘As long as he’s happy.’

Note that the quote is reproduced as is, and I am not 100% sure how Bobby wants to be referred as, and we should let them transition at their own pace. This is a proud day for the Girl Scouts, especially since their male counterparts could do a lot better in allowing LGBTQ people in their organization: the Boy Scouts have been outright litigious in defending their right not only to kick LGBTIQ people out of the scouts, but also dropping the suehammer on those who wish to evict them from property owned by a major city that has an anti-discrimination ordinance.

However, this did not stop some shock jocks from Dallas from delivering some really nasty commentary:

This morning, Bo and Jim started talking about a 7-year-old girl, Bobby Montoya of Colorado, who was born biologically male but who identifies and, with the support of her mother, lives as a female. Bobby wanted to join Girl Scouts but was rejected because, as the Girl Scouts worker said, “he has boy parts.” Girl Scout officials higher up in the hierarchy quickly stepped in, said the first person misunderstood the policies, and that Bobby is more than welcome to join Girl Scouts. You can read the story here on Huffington Post.

Bo and Jim, in talking about the story, chose to refer to Bobby throughout as a boy and with male pronouns, which was bad enough. But what really set me off was when they said, basically, “You know this kid is going to get beat up all the time. Even the girls are going to beat him up.” They said it as a joke, an attempt to get laughs. And that is unacceptable.

You see, trans people don’t always face violence from the boys, we also sometimes have to worry about girls who don’t think we are real girls and get all angry that we are invading our spaces. Such an attitude is not acceptable, especially with the McDonalds beating that happened earlier this year. This is victim-blaming at its worst, and I am glad this was addressed.

But, please, next time a girl scout comes to your door selling cookies, just buy some, for you are celebrating a good cause. And think of this face right here:


When people talk about LGBT families, its either the parents are LGBT or the children are LGBT. However, families where both parents and child are queer do exist. A lesbian couple in California, Pauline Moreno and Debra Lobel, are currently raising a male to female child who calls herself Tammy.

From the Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia, via Equality Matters:

They say Tommy — whom they now call Tammy — began taking GnRH inhibitors over the summer to give him more time to explore the female gender identity with which he associates.

Tommy began saying he was a girl when he was three years old, his parents said. He was learning sign language due to a speech impediment, and one of the first things he told his mothers was, "I am a girl."

The child’s parents also said Tommy threatened to mutilate his genitals when he was seven, and psychiatrists diagnosed a gender identity disorder. One year later, he began transitioning to Tammy.

After much deliberation with family and therapists, the child began taking hormone blockers a few months ago. The medication, which must be changed once a year, was implanted in the boy’s upper left arm.

Tommy will continue the treatment until he turns 14 or 15, at which point he will be taken off the blockers and pursue the gender he feels is the right one.

The Herald Sun made a big booboo by not referring to the child by her preferred pronouns. However, that was not the biggest slight towards young Tammy, as Ducktor Keith Ablow, Board Certified Quack Of Faux News, fresh off his recent Chaz-hating binge, decided to become a big mean bully:

What’s happening here? We have two women raising a child. He’s adopted. And he’s come to believe that he too is female. That argues for a complete psychological evaluation, not just of the boy, but of his parents as well to see whether psychological forces are at play here to make him say such things. We need to do away with stigma and look at this as scientists and really understand what’s happening — not make it a cultural debate, but a scientific one.

Right, because straight cisgender parents will ALWAYS raise straight cisgender kids. Just ask my parents, who are both straight and cisgender, how that worked out. Tammy is transgender and always was, its just that her parents, unlike many, are supportive. Had this child grown up in a more conservative home, she still would be transgender. That motherducker Ablow seems to think that her parents are Amazonian man-haters who, upon being forced to adopt a natal male, forced said natal male to wear assless chaps to school and force them to be chained in the basement in an effort to re-educate the child into being female. This is an Al Bundy style mentality that needs to stop before Tammy suffers psychological harm.

Furthermore, the quack reports that the effects of hormone blockers are hard to reverse, but was quickly rebuffed by more reputable medical sources. In fact, the Endocrine Society even recommends hormone blockers for transgender youth. Of course, as I blogged about before, there is a movement to have Dr. Ablow sanctioned by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine.

And here is a picture of Tammy:


Last year, Philadelphia Councilperson Blondell Reynolds Brown made this video:

However, a recent extension of the city’s governmental curfew sponsored by Reynolds Brown in response to flash mobs over the summer, raises the question of what types of harm will befall LGBT youth. The measure was passed 15-1, with only Jannie Blackwell, a homeless advocate with a heavily pro-LGBTQ voting record, dissenting. Although I can’t say Councilperson Reynolds Brown wants to screw over LGBandespeciallyT youth, she’s been an ally to us for a while, there are unintended consequences to this law.

You see, the curfew law does not address the issue of youth homelessness, most of which are queer. A source from the Councilperson’s office told me that officers have been using their discretion and that few of the youths actually stopped are cited, which is good, however, street cops are not known for good judgment on these issues, and what legal assurance is there that a homeless child will not be hauled off to jail for being unable to pay the fine/find a place to live, which would especially be a bad situation for trans youth, even though the city recently had to settle with a transgender girl who was abused in the male part of a juvenile facility.

We have the Sidewalk Behavior Law, which sets a high bar for officers to arrest homeless people without giving them appropriate services, however, it is largely targetted towards adults, who are not breaking the law by simply being away from their home at night, and determining whether this applies to curfew violations will be up to the courts, a costly endeavour that could be avoided by enumerative language so the police can be more easily guided, plus sensitivity training for said police.


State Senator Daylin Leach (D-wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia) has been, rightfully, an opponent to SB1, which would create a voucher system for Pennsylvania (you can read his blog post about the issue here), and he has caught a lot of flack for it. While he opposes vouchers for plenty of reasons, and I agree with him on it, he decided to add an amendment to the bill that would protect sexual orientation, but NOT gender identity.

Wait, I thought we were OVER this. No longer, when we pursue LGBT rights, should we leave out the T. Equality Pennsylvania has consistently pushed an anti-discrimination bill that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity as coequal categories to the anti-discrimination law, and either this is a terrible oversight or perhaps he has fallen to the big scary bathroom myths or the fact that a "boy" will be wearing a skirt and blouse to school, thus "disrupting the classroom".

The amendment was defeated and thankfully so. No more throwing gender identity under the bus, please.


A 19 year old transgender woman was found dismembered in Detroit.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed the death of 19-year-old Shelley Hilliard, a transgender teen also known as Treasure, after her mother identified her torso this morning.

The teen, who was born Henry Hilliard, went missing in the early hours of Oct. 23 and was last seen on the 900 block of Longfellow on Detroit’s west side.

The Medical Examiner’s office received her torso later on Oct. 23, and Lyniece Nelson, Hilliard’s mother, identified her this morning.

Nelson said she had no idea who might’ve done this.

"She was loved by a lot people, a lot of friends a lot of family," Nelson said. "She just brought joy to everyone that she came in contact with. She was always there for her family."

RIP Shelley

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

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This past Tuesday was a momentous victory for the LGBT community in Houston. Among the victors were Mayor Annise Parker, Ellen Cohen, and the first gay man elected to city council, Mike Laster. There was, however, one loss that stood out. Houston Independent School District Board Member Manuel Rodriguez Jr had been in a tight race with challenger Ramiro Fonseca, when in a last minute attempt to put himself over the edge Rodriguez issued an anti-gay mailer to his constituents. The mailer highlighted Fonseca’s history of advocacy for the LGBT community and an endorsement given by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Rodriguez’s brochure went on to claim that Fronseca had "spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids." As if the brochure was not enough, Rodriguez had been quoted as referring to the LGBT community as "those people." Seeing as how just this past year Rodriguez had voted in favor of changing HISD’s non-discrimination policy to better protect LGBT students, many within the community were shocked. 

Rodriguez won his re-election by 24 votes. The community was outraged. This past Thursday leaders within the LGBT community of Houston rallied HISD Gay Straight Alliance students and spoke before the Board Members. Along with others, I had decided it was my duty as an LGBT youth leader to speak up against this horrendous act. 

This is my speech. 

My name is James Lee, I’m a student leader at the University of Houston. Though my name may not give it away, I’m Latino. Here in Texas, especially in Houston, our community has a strong and respected presence but it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when Latinos were the target of blatant bigotry, and as you heard from students earlier, there are still those who discriminate against us today.

Though I am Latino I also identify with a second community, the LGBT community. Just as the Latino community continues to defend itself from those who seek to demean or degrade us by referring to us as "those people", so too does the LGBT community.

Growing up, my mother and father always taught me to be respectful of others and when in a competition “focus on the issues.” Earlier this week, a brochure that singled out the LGBT community was distributed to voters. Since the incident occurred, there has been questioning as to why it was perceived as offensive.

Just as it would be inappropriate to list his Latino identity as a reason for voters not to support your opponent, so too would it be inappropriate to list their identity as a member of the LGBT community.

This incident is exactly the type of petty politics our city should avoid. I can see this kind of behavior happening on the school yard but to have it occur between those who seek to lead our schools, that is unacceptable.
We must lead by example, and if we expect our students to respect one another in a city as diverse as ours we must start from the top. Members, I implore you, help unite our communities by becoming the solution, not the problem.

Many have called for his resignation and Board Members have called for modifications to their ethics policies in order to ensure this kind of behavior is never allowed on the Board again. The fate of Manuel Rodriguez’s political future has yet to be determined.

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This morning, 13 U.S. Senators unveiled a new video for the “It Gets Better” project.  In the video, they discuss the struggles of friends and classmates who were unable to come out when they were in school as well as the efforts they are undertaking today in the Senate to protect LGBTQ youth from discrimination and bullying.  Check out the video and be sure to thank Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) for their efforts.

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Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the first-ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. Imagine that…LGBT individuals are finally considered worthy of human rights protections! Let’s ignore the fact that a longstanding principle of international human rights law is that human rights are universal and therefore apply to ALL individuals as an inalienable right of being human. Yes, that’s right, LGBT individuals were just not considered human beings, I guess.

Until today, that is. The UN resolution, offered by South Africa and approved on a vote of 23-19, does three things: 1) it expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination perpetrated against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), 2) it calls for a study on violence and discrimination on the grounds of SOGI, and 3) it commits to convening a panel to discuss this study and the issue of discriminatory laws and practices as well as violence against LGBT individuals. For the first time EVER, LGBT individuals have an international mechanism to report discrimination and abuse, somewhere to turn to for assistance when their own governments refuse to acknowledge their existence or their inalienable human rights. This is a big deal, a really big deal, folks!

Reports to the Human Rights Commission that have come in just in the past year have documented executions of LGBT individuals via stonings, stabbings, and incinerations, as well as torture, gang rapes, so-called “corrective rapes,” and death threats. While the cases are numerous, one in particular just goes to show the extent of the torture and discrimination. It’s the case of Paula, a transgender woman in El Salvador, who was brutally attacked and shot by a group of men when she was leaving a nightclub. At the hospital, she was treated with disdain by health care providers because she was transgender and HIV-positive. Later, she was imprisoned in a male prison where she was put in a cell with gang members who raped her over 100 times, all the while prison officials turned a blind eye.

Of course, we know that many repressive governments have long denied the rights of LGBT citizens, including 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality and 5 countries that impose the death penalty on LGBT individuals. And many of those same countries not surprisingly voted against the UN resolution…see below for a full record of votes (only countries sitting on the Human Rights Council were eligible to vote, though any UN Member State can cosponsor a resolution). Changing these laws will not happen overnight, but this UN resolution will raise the stakes on LGBT rights and send an unequivocal message to repressive regimes that their discrimination will not be tolerated by the international community.

Voted FOR the UN Resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Korea, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

Voted AGAINST the UN Resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Uganda.

Abstained: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended from membership on the Council)

Cosponsored the Resolution (including non-HRC Members): Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa (original sponsor), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, UK, USA, and Uruguay.