When Chelsea Manning came out to the world as transgender this past week, the jokes started almost immediately. As Bradley Manning, she had become famous for her involvement with WikiLeaks, for which she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. With the jokes came the confusion, the doubts and the suspicions. Even within the community, people wondered if she was only coming out as transgender to avoid the prison at Leavenworth. People wondered if she is “really” transgender, or just pretending to be in order to avoid the kind of punishment she would receive as a man.
While we have been preoccupied with the way Russia has taken an ax to democracy and individual freedom, a police state has been evolving right here at home.
There’s been a dramatic increase in the arrest of people who gather at the Capitol to peacefully express their views. The Wisconsin Republican Party has littered “the people’s place” with armed guards charged with eliminating dissent in the very building that symbolizes our constitutional rights to freedom.
Two elected leaders, two different political backgrounds, one common goal – to build an inclusive community for LGBT people.
Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna, a self-proclaimed “fiscally and socially responsible” leader whose endorsement is often sought from GOP candidates, successfully introduced domestic partner benefits for city employees in 2011. Two years later, Outagamie County Executive Thomas Nelson is leading a similar effort at the county level.
In 1973, 10 years before employment rights for LGBTs were adopted by the state, a Dane County judge upheld the firing of Paul D. Safransky by Southern Colony, an institution for children with disabilities, due to Safransky’s homosexuality. Safransky was not accused of any misconduct, yet the judge declared: “We do not think that the institution has to wait for something bad to happen when an employee such as plaintiff flaunts his unorthodox conduct and there is even a hint that he might go farther than talk about it.”
Perhaps the most under-worked journalists at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics were those tasked with spotting any protests by athletes. Since Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and their fellow, far less famous Olympians didn't yell "Free political prisoners!" or wave Tibetan flags, the reporters had little or no meat for stories.
Next February at the Sochi Games, protest-watch reporters should be free to hit the bars early, too. As in Beijing in 2008, chances are slim-to-nil that significant numbers of winter Olympians will kick up a big fuss against Russia's assaults on gays and their freedoms.
Research suggests that one of the best ways to stop bullying – whether it’s verbal, physical or cyber – is to report it to school authorities and law enforcement, if appropriate.
But bullying also can be countered by taking the power away from the bully through ignoring the taunts or making a joke out of them. Although this might not change the bully’s behavior, it can take away his or her power.
John Smallwood and I thought we’d be able to cool off in the Northwoods.
But John, who is Fair Wisconsin’s advocacy and organizing director, and I found something during our retreat there that’s even hotter than the weather. From Stevens Point to Wausau, and from Ashland to Washburn and Bayfield, people are fired up with enthusiasm for LGBT issues.