Category Archives: LGBT News

President Obama Wants Conversion Therapy Banned

Transgender 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn wrote in her suicide note that one of the ways her family rejected her was by forcing her to see “Christian therapists.”  These therapists told her that she was selfish and wrong, and should look to God for help. Soon after her suicide, a White House petition was started, calling for “Leelah’s Law,”  which would ban all forms of the cruel ex-transgender and ex-gay conversion therapies.

Recently, the White House responded to the petition in agreement that conversion therapy should be banned.  Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor, said, “The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.”  She added, “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

President Obama Wants Conversion Therapy Banned

Jarrett believes that even with the best intentions, families can cause harm to their children who are LGBTQ. She said, “Countless families and guardians across the country proudly support their LGBTQ+ children. Too many LGBTQ+ youth, however, lack this support system, which can have devastating consequences. Negative family reactions to LGBTQ+ youth can be perceived as rejection by children, often contributing to serious health issues and inhibiting a child’s development and well-being. And when it comes to LGBTQ+ youth, some actions by family and caregivers can be harmful, despite even the best intentions.”

This year, Republican lawmakers have defeated several legislative bans that were pending in various states; some are still pending. Currently, only California, New Jersey, and Washington, DC have banned conversion therapy for minors. According to Jarrett, a national ban would require congressional action. But, she said: “We’re hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the action taken by the states will lead to broader action that the administration would support.”

Jarrett stated in an interview with the New York Times that Obama was incredibly moved by Alcorn’s story and added that it’s not a unique experience: “It’s not the story of one young person,” she said. “It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”

New Jersey Schools Still No Stranger to Gay Hate

Now, with social media, it is easier than ever to discover the views and routines of the people that we work with through websites like Facebook where one can “like” a post and have it show up in the newsfeeds of friends and even friends of friends. Of course the downside of this is that private opinion can quickly become public. Such was the case when Reverend Warren Hall, one of the directors at Seton Hall University in New Jersey “liked” a gay equality “No H8” photo on facebook.

Reverend Warren Hall claims that the facebook post cost him his job. Seton Hall University declines to comment on the incident, but the Reverend states that the incident is reason to address the issue of LGBT rights more frequently among religious organizations. The anti-gay Facebook comments that were allegedly made by a High School teacher earlier this year leads one to wonder if the New Jersey School system needs to address LGBT issues more frequently. New Jersey Human Rights laws do prohibit bullying and discrimination in schools, but the failure of the state to fire teachers such as Knox that make anti-gay remarks in the name of free speech smacks of an ineptitude for truly resolving LGBT rights issues.

New Jersey Schools Still No Stranger to Gay Hate

The real issue here is not just one of privacy and discrimination. The mood of a nation is being threatened by a stigma, and it’s this same stigma that prevents LGBT youths and young adults from seeking the health counseling that they need. The failure of the education system to address LGBT sexual health and relationships is perhaps the biggest obstacle in the fight against the spread of STDs, so it is important that people in communities where injustices like this occur raise their voices.

If you are interested in becoming more involved in your community’s awareness of LGBT issues the website http://www.lgbtcenters.org/ has local directories.

Study Shows LGBT Women among Most at Risk for Poverty

A study conducted by The National LGBTQ Task Force, Movement Advance Project, and Center for American Progress, called Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America, shows that LGBT women are presented with challenges that obstruct their economic well being in health coverage, jobs and getting legal recognition from their families. The study emphasizes the many obstacles that LGBT women in the US face, including exclusion from insurance coverage, wage differences and inflexible workplaces.

LGBT women (transgender in particular) risk employment discrimination
Sixteen percent of LGB individuals said they lost their job because of sexual orientation and 35 percent said they were harassed by their employers, as recently as 2008. Sixty-two percent of LGB people in the study said they heard jokes about lesbians and gays while at work. Out of the transgender women surveyed, 55 percent of them said they were turned down for employment due to their gender identity.

LGBT women are asked by healthcare providers to pay higher rates
They are twice as likely as non-LGBT women to not have a doctor who they visit on a consistent and regular basis. LGBT women with incomes at or below $47,000/yr tend not to have healthcare coverage. The fact that there are exclusions in care for transition-related issues, it’s incredibly expensive for needed services for trans women.

LGBT women are more likely not allowed to be legal parents of their children
They often lack protected family or medical leave at work, and face obstacles in obtaining safe, affordable health care for their families. This is due to the lack of marriage equality throughout the US.

Study Shows LGBT Women among Most at Risk for Poverty

LGBT women pay higher rent and longer rental applications
One study by H.U.D. showed that opposite-sex couples were favored over same-sex couples by 16 percent when they applied for the same rentals. Same-sex couples were given higher prices, longer application processes and less incentives about promotions.

LGBT women lack intimate partner violence protection
The study showed that bisexual women were less “out” in the workplace, which may cause them to stay in an abusive relationship because they fear being outed by their partner. It’s also possible that women who report domestic violence when they’re in same-sex relationships are not taken seriously because of gender stereotypes.

LGBT women/families may not be aware of their eligibility for government assistance
It’s challenging for same-sex couples to navigate state and federal benefit systems because of the legal jumble of relationship recognition for them.

Transgender Activists and Radical Feminists Battle on Social Media

There’s something trending on Twitter—but also offline. Both transgender activists, and feminists who do not view trans women as women are debating online and on college campuses.

#TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists is a hashtag being used and is a pejorative term used on Twitter to describe anti-trans feminists. Anti-sex work, anti-porn, anti-trans feminists seem to be reappearing from the 1970’s. Many wonder why.

An open letter published in the Guardian of London and the Observer that claimed those who expressed opinions regarded as “transphobic” were being censored on England’s college campuses triggered a significant debate on social media. The letter posted revealed a strong hostility that many wouldn’t be aware of unless they were in specific activist or academic circles, that is occurring between transgender activists and a certain group of feminists who do not believe transgender women are ‘real’ women. Beliefs they hold include, transgender women should not be let into feminist events or female bathrooms. Some of these women are even doxing transgender teens, which means they are revealing their identities to the public online.

Transgender Activists and Radical Feminists Battle on Social Media

These radical feminists have been nicknamed “the Westboro Baptist Church of feminism”, referring to the church known for its hate speech that pickets at funerals of LGBTQ people. Urban Dictionary has a definition listed, which describes them as “group of feminists that claims that trans women aren’t really women, as biological determinism is only a fallacy when it used against them, not when they use it against others.”

One of the loudest anti-trans feminists is Germaine Greer, a 1970’s feminist who wrote the book “The Female Eunuch”.  Greer, now 76, has said that transgender women are a “ghastly parody”, that they are men with “delusions” who use their male privilege to sneak their way into the feminist movement. She believes that transgender women don’t know what it is to “have a big, hairy, smelly vagina”.

Some people regard this as transphobic hate speech and connected to essentialist ideas regarding sex that have been challenged since around the 1990’s, when debate was shifted from sex to gender and its social construction.

It seems that that, according to the “TERFs”, one must be a woman who has suffered sexism in order to be a feminist. Thankfully, present day feminists tend to believe this is an outdated and narrow-minded approach. More and more people are understanding the importance of inclusion, and not rigid definitions about what it means to be a man or a woman. Hopefully this will only continue.

Pediatrician Refuses to Treat Newborn of Lesbian Couple

Dr. Vesna Roi of Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigan refused to treat the newborn child of Krista and Jami Contreras after “much prayer”, even after initially agreeing to do so. The lesbian couple in Michigan says Roi refused to care for their child due to their sexual orientation.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Krista and Jami brought their 6-day-old in to see the doctor for a check-up when another doctor informed them that Roi would not see them.  This doctor offered to care for their child.  According to the couple, the second doctor also informed them that Roi did not pay a visit to the clinic that day because she didn’t want to see them.

The baby’s biological mother, Krista, said, “I was completely dumbfounded.”  She told the paper, “We just looked at each other and said, ‘Did we hear that correctly?’”

Pediatrician Refuses to Treat Newborn of Lesbian Couple

Roi wrote a letter to the couple, which is posted online by the Free Press.  She apologized for not letting them know in person and said the child, Bay, would have to be seen by another doctor in the clinic.  She also wrote: “After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients”.

This may seem way out there, but what Roi said and did is not illegal.  Michigan is not one of the 22 states that have laws that prohibit doctors from discrimination based on sexual orientation. But, the American Medical Association’s code of ethics does say that doctors should not refuse care based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.  Doctors are allowed to refuse specific treatments if they somehow are not in alignment with the doctor’s personal, moral or religious beliefs.

According to Roi’s website, she hasn’t been part of the AMA since 2001, but she does belong to the American Academy of Pediatrics which also encourages non-discrimination.

Planet Fitness Upholds Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Policy, Cancels Woman’s Membership

After a woman in Michigan complained about a transgender person in the women’s locker room, Planet Fitness revoked her membership.

Forty-eight year old Yvette Cormier, said she saw someone “dressed like a man” when she she walked into the locker room at Midland Planet Fitness. She remarked that the person was wearing a wig and “a little bit of blush”, but was “huge” and looked “very manly”.  She reported to ABC News, “I just stopped right there in my tracks,” she said. “It was a man for sure.”

Cormier went to the front desk of the gym to inquire why there was a man in the women’s locker room; the employee at the desk told her that the man identified as a woman. Cormier decided to take it to the corporate office and was told that Planet Fitness Policy is  “whatever gender you feel you are, that’s the locker room you’re allowed to go in… We’ve had lots of complaints about him but we told him to go change in a stall… if you’re uncomfortable with that you can wait until he’s done in there.”

Planet Fitness Upholds Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Policy, Cancels Woman's Membership

Cormier had asked if he (the transgender person) could wait until she was done in the women’s locker room or get a unisex bathroom. The employee then asked if she wanted to speak with the manager and Cormier said, “I’m calling corporate.”

Since Cormier reportedly went back to the gym every day through Thursday and told other women about what she saw, Planet Fitness’ corporate office called and told her that she was violating their policy of “no judgement”. After they asked her to stop speaking to women in the gym about the issue, she refused. Planet Fitness then suspended her membership.

PR director for Planet Fitness, McCall Gosselin, said that whatever gender identity a person decides to use will allow them into that gender’s locker room. Gosselin’s statement read:

Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity. The manner in which this member expressed her concerns about the policy exhibited behavior that management at the Midland club deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled.

Cormier does not feel that the policy is safe for women and feels as if she’s the one being punished. Her solution would be to add a third locker room for transgender people, even though there are private changing stalls and bathroom stalls with doors in the women’s locker room.

LGBT Youth Experience More Cyber Bullying

LGBT youth face significant difficulties with discrimination, harassment and lack of family support.

It also happens that they face more harassment online–a place where many youth go to feel as if they’re more part of a community, receive support, medical information, and other opportunities . One study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that LGBT youth faced cyber bullying three times more than non-LGBT youth. The study points out that those living in more rural areas experience even higher levels of harassment online and shows that 42 percent of LGBT youth face a higher level of online bullying, compared to 15 percent of those who are straight/cisgender. Part of the study resulted in findings that show LGBT youth were twice as likely to report bullying through text messages.

This study, called “Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth on the Internet”, included results from a national survey which included 5,680 middle and high school students, grades 6-12. It was found that lower grade point average and self-esteem, and a higher chance of depression were linked to youth affected by bullying.

LGBT Youth Experience More Cyber Bullying

Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director said, “LGBT youth continue to face extraordinary obstacles in their day-to-day lives whether at school or online, but the Internet can be a valuable source of information and support when they have no one or nowhere else left to turn to. As social media evolve, so must our efforts to serve LGBT youth to ensure their safety, health and well-being.”

It is important for LGBT youth to have access to resources available on the Internet that they either would not be able to find elsewhere, or that they don’t feel comfortable seeking offline.  For example, this study shows that LGBT youth (particularly those who are transgender) are twice as likely to look up medical information online than their straight/cisgender peers. It is vital that LGBT youth know they have a safe place to be themselves online, especially if they don’t feel that support elsewhere.

Wal-Mart Opposes Anti-LGBT Bill

A proposal to keep local and state governments from placing a “substantial burden” on another’s religious beliefs was resisted the day after Arkansas was the second state to ban cities and counties from offering protection from discrimination for LGBT people. Wal-Mart spoke out against the legislation.

A spokesperson for Wal-Mart, Lorenzo Lopez, said the proposal-turned-law runs counter to its beliefs and “sends the wrong message about Arkansas.” Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, criticized the pending legislation in a similar way that it voiced concern about new local ordinance laws. The American multinational retail corporation includes gender identity and sexual orientation in its policy of non-discrimination.

Governor Hutchinson stated that he had reservations about this “conscience protection” measure backed by the House, yet he didn’t express opposition. He is interested in how the this would be applied and told reporters, “I can see a great deal of litigation coming out of this, and so we want to have a better understanding of it.” Despite advocacy groups urging Hutchinson to veto the legislation, he did not.

Wal-Mart Opposes Anti-LGBT Bill

Lopez  stated, “While HB1228 will not change how we treat our associates and operate our business, we feel this legislation is also counter to our core basic belief of respect for the individual and sends the wrong message about Arkansas, as well as the diverse environment which exists in the state.”

If enacted, this bill could support a case of an individual suing the government if they could corroborate that their religious beliefs were being violated. Unless a “compelling governmental interest is proven”, the proposal would prohibit any state or local regulations or laws that substantially burden religious beliefs.

LGBT rights groups are focusing their attention on the “conscience protection” measure, treating it as another attempt to allow bias in the LGBT community.

The law won’t be effective until 90 days after the Legislature is formally adjourned, which is expected to be this May.

 

New Aggressive HIV Strain Discovered in Cuba

An aggressive, new strain of HIV has been discovered in Cuba.

One which has the ability to develop into AIDS within three years of infection. There is worry that this particular strain’s accelerated progression is so rapid that antiviral treatment may come too late, according to researchers. This study was prompted by the fact that Cuban doctors were reporting an ‘increasing trend’ of AIDS cases that were rapidly progressing.

Without any form of treatment, it usually takes HIV approximately 5 to 10 years to advance to AIDS. This happens more quickly if a patient has an already suppressed immune system. In the case of patients in the study in Cuba, there was a significantly faster advancement. The study found that within three years, patients with the mutated strain developed AIDS. It is often the differences in patients pre-existing immune system differences, not the subtype of HIV, that plays a role in AIDS development. Yet, it was obvious in this study that the specific type of HIV played a major role in the quick advancement.

New Aggressive HIV Strain Discovered in Cuba

When the researchers took a closer look, they found that the patients with quick advancing HIV were linked by their variant type of HIV. This new variant-HIV was discovered to be a new recombinant subtype made up of subtypes A, D, and G. It has been named CRF19. One researcher in the study, Prof. Anne-Mieke Vandamme of Belgium University-Leuven, explained how this variant accelerates the AIDS process:

“There are two types of co-receptors that HIV can use: CCR5 or CXCR4. And, in the normal progression of the HIV to AIDS it often happens that the virus switches co-receptor. It almost always starts with using CCR5 and then it switches to CXCR4 after many years. And once it switches the progression to AIDS goes very fast”.

The inclusion of subtype D may be a key in the CRF19 strain’s aggressiveness, according to researchers. Subtype D has an enzyme that allows HIV to produce in higher numbers and uses proteins that it takes from other subtypes, in new virus particles.

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

There’s a difference between sex work that is legal and that which is criminalized, as far as protection and health-regulation goes, but it’s all work. People are doing this work for many different reasons, very rarely because they want to. It can be incredibly dangerous.

What appears to be a study that is the first of its kind, was released by an Urban Institute report on survival sex and LGBTQ youth in NYC. The study took interviews from 300 participants between 13 and 21 years of age and was done in collaboration with the organization Streetwise and Safe. The study was conducted with participants speaking to their peers, which likely made it much more effective.

This approach seems to have been a good move, resulting in straightforward and complex responses from LGBTQ teens who have taken part in survival sex. To say they choose to do this is misleading and damaging–it’s for survival; they’ve often run out of options. The main reason LGBTQ teens turn to survival sex is homelessness. As many as 50 percent of youth who are homeless or runaway, trade sex for money to care for themselves or for shelter. Forty-eight percent of transgender people who engage in sex work report that they’re homeless.

A 2007 study of LGBTQ teens in New York showed that transgender teens were eight times more likely to have traded sex for shelter than heterosexual teens and that LGBTQ youth in general were seven times more likely. More than half of the respondents of the study said they used the money from survival sex to buy food first.

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

Often, LGBTQ youth are introduced to this way of survival by a friend. Meredith Dank, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute believes these are relationships and circumstances too fraught to be labeled as “good” or “bad”. These teens have little control over meeting their own needs for survival and don’t have support systems, so they turn to each other as family and protection. Dank said, “They’ll say, ‘I needed a parent and I didn’t have them.’ Peers are serving that role of support they really need.”

The community ties these teens have built make it difficult for them to leave survival sex, even when they are presented with other employment opportunities. And, almost all of the youth interviewed in the study said they wanted to be able to support themselves differently. They reported they did not want to be engaged in survival sex, not even in a year and that, “They wanted a job. This wasn’t a job to them, it was just how they were surviving.”

Dank says, “What we knew was mostly anecdotal, and now we have data to share. LGBT youth are having these experiences all over the country. Whoever is passing the laws about this, we need them to know all of this.”

The end of the report includes a list of recommendations that is intended to reach social service agencies serving LGBTQ youth beyond NYC.