Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Survey shows post-election spike in bullying of young people

A post-election survey of youths found 70 percent witnessed bullying, hate messages or harassment, with racial bias the most common motive cited.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, released the online survey of 50,000 young people on Jan. 18.

More than a quarter of LGBTQ youth said they have been personally bullied or harassed since Election Day — compared to 14 percent of non-LGBTQ youth — with transgender young people most frequently targeted.

Additionally, Hispanic and Latinx respondents were 20 percent more likely than other youth to report having been personally bullied, with harassment targeting both immigrant and nonimmigrant communities.

“Whether the threats come in their schools or from those holding the country’s highest offices, no young person should be bullied or made to feel unsafe,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a news release. “The alarming results of this groundbreaking survey underscore our fears about the damaging effect the recent election is having on our nation’s youth, and serve as a call to action to all of us committed to helping our young people thrive in an inclusive and supportive society.”

Young people reported feeling nervous and hopeless after the election, with almost half of LGBTQ youth saying they have taken steps to hide who they are by delaying coming out, dressing differently or questioning their plans for the future.

Hispanic and African American young people also reported changing their appearances and routines out of fear of harassment and Muslim, Jewish and Hindu youth all described concealing symbols of their faith to avoid being targeted.

In responses to open-ended questions on the survey, many young people shared stories of how  campaign rhetoric encouraged harassment and bullying.

Wrote one Hispanic 18-year-old from Illinois: “My family and I go shopping and wash clothes at 2 a.m. to avoid seeing and hearing people’s comments.

Findings include:

● 70 percent of respondents reported witnessing bullying, hate messages or harassment during or since the 2016 election.

Of those, 79 percent said such behaviors have been occurring more frequently since the onset of the presidential campaign.

● Among young people who reported seeing bullying and harassment, 70 percent witnessed incidents motivated by race or ethnicity, 63 percent saw incidents motivated by sexual orientation, 59 percent saw incidents motivated by immigration status and 55 percent witnessed incidents motivated by gender.

● Over the past 30 days, about half of transgender youth reported feeling hopeless and worthless most or all of the time and 70 percent said these and similar feelings have increased in the past 30 days.

About 36 percent were personally bullied or harassed and 56 percent changed their self-expression or future plans because of the election.

● Before Election Day 2016, more than half of survey respondents reported thinking about  the election every day and a third thought about it several times each week.

Respondents were solicited through HRC’s social media channels and other organizations, including Mental Health America, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Southern Poverty Law Center, True Colors Fund and The Trevor Project.

Gay members of Congress raise concerns about DeVos’ record on LGBT issues

Democratic U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Jared Polis of Colorado and Mark Takano of California are raising serious concerns about Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos’ views on issues affecting LGBT students and parents.

The reps — all openly gay and co-chairs of the  Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus — this week sent a letter to members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) urging them to closely examine DeVos’ record.

“It is unfathomable that the next Secretary of Education would oppose basic protections for LGBT students and roll back the progress we have made to ensure all students feel safe and supported in our schools,” Pocan said in a statement to the press. “Ms. DeVos’ history of opposing equality for LGBT individuals is deeply troubling, and the public deserves to know whether she will work with us to improve lives or continue to advocate an extremist agenda that bullies our students.”

The letter mentions the millions of dollars DeVos and her family have contributed to organizations and candidates that oppose equality for LGBT families and actively promote dangerous practices like “conversion therapy.”

The text of the letter

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray:

            As Co-Chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we write to express our deep concern with President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Betsy DeVos. While Ms. DeVos’ stances on a number of public education issues raise concerns, we cannot hold our silence regarding her opposition to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.  

Betsy DeVos’ career has been marked by repeated attempts to undermine the rights of the LGBT community. She and her family have donated extensively to groups which promote the idea that students who identify as LGBT must undergo “conversion” therapy and have also affiliated with groups that oppose anti-bullying legislation. The next Secretary of Education must represent all students in our country. Anyone who promotes such fervently anti-LGBT viewpoints is wholly unqualified to serve as the Secretary of Education.  

            Since 1998, Betsy DeVos and her family’s foundations have donated at least $6.1 million to Focus on the Family, a right-wing organization which has spent millions of dollars attempting to defeat marriage equality amendments at the state level. Even more troubling, this organization supported by the DeVos family promotes “conversion therapy,” opposes the right of LGBT parents to adopt children, and has referred to transgender individuals as “mentally ill.” This organization has even gone so far to oppose anti-bullying policies and opposes basic workplace protections for LGBT individuals. The DeVos family’s support for anti-LGBT groups and policies extends beyond just this organization to many other groups known for their anti-LGBT activities, such as:  

·         $1,000,000 to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, which has claimed that the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act amounted to a “fatwa;”

·         $15,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has opposed adoption with same-sex couples;

·         $433,750 to the Council for National Policy, a highly secretive group that is led by extremists like Focus on the Family’s James Dobson among other extremists; and 

·         $13,498,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which has stated that “Despite activist judges’ opinions, the majority of Americans continue to affirm the reasonable conclusion that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” 

The DeVos family does not stop with contributions to intolerant organizations as they also support anti-LGBT politicians. For example, the DeVos family – including Ms. DeVos – were top contributors to Michigan State Representative Andrea LaFontaine, who sponsored legislation allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT parents and deny them the ability to adopt a child. 

            The LGBT community has made significant and long overdue advancements when it comes to equality in education. During President Obama’s tenure in office, the Department of Education took important steps to combat bullying and ensure that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, appropriately reflects the rights of transgender students. It is imperative that the rights of LGBT students are adequately protected moving forward. 

            As you move to consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos, we strongly encourage you to seek out answers regarding Ms. DeVos’ stance on important education equity issues, including her views on protecting LGBT students from bullying and discrimination in K-12 and higher education spaces. We are particularly troubled by Betsy DeVos’ past support for inhumane “conversion therapy” treatments and believe it is imperative that any Secretary of Education nominee denounce such practices before being confirmed. 

            As Members of the LGBT community, we know our schools must be a safe place for all children. As you consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, we strongly encourage you to stand up for the civil rights of LGBT students and ensure the next Secretary opposes any action to roll back our progress toward equality.

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91-year-old gay veteran wins honorable discharge

A 91-year-old veteran who was dismissed from the U.S. Air Force as “undesirable” in 1948 because he is gay has had that discharge status changed to “honorable.”

The move by the Air Force comes in response to a lawsuit filed in November by H. Edward Spires of Norwalk, Connecticut, who served from 1946 to 1948 as a chaplain’s assistant, earning the rank of sergeant.

Spires was forced out of the military in 1948 after an investigation into his sexual orientation.

Spires’ attorneys said he was originally denied the discharge upgrade after the repeal of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy in 2010 because the Air Force said his records had likely been lost in a 1973 fire.

The Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records informed Spires on Friday that the honorable discharge had been approved by the Air Force Review Boards Agency.

Spires’ attorneys have said he is in poor health and would like a military funeral, which the upgrade makes possible.

“The idea that this man of faith who served dutifully as a chaplain’s assistant in the armed forces, who built a life and a career that has brought joy to those around him, would leave this earth considered undesirable in the eyes of his country, it’s unthinkable,” Spires’ husband, David Rosenberg, said during a briefing on the case at the Yale Law School in November.

Spires’ case also was championed by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who said Monday that the Air Force’s decision “corrects an incredible injustice.”

Also this month, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a public apology for the State Department’s institutional discrimination in the past against gay and lesbian diplomats.

In a statement, Kerry says discrimination suffered by gay State Department workers has gone on since the 1940s. He says denying some people jobs and forcing diplomats out of the foreign service was “wrong then” and “wrong today.”

Speaking on behalf of the department, Kerry apologized to all those who were discriminated against and said the department was committed to “diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.”

 

 

Mark Pocan: Fighting Trump to save eight years of hard-won progress

The end of Obama’s presidency leaves the LGBTQ community at a crossroads. While it remains to be seen whether the next president will rollback protections and civil rights for our community, the track record of the Republican party and Donald Trump’s recent Cabinet appointments do not give me confidence.

The president-elect, and many of the people he is surrounding himself with, have shown apathy and even contempt for LGBTQ people, women, people of color and immigrants. The radically conservative agenda they are proposing unfairly targets so many communities that have struggled to achieve equality. As an LGBTQ elected official and a proud member of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, I am on the frontline of the battle to save the eight years of hard-won progress that is now in danger – and I will embrace that role.

The LGBTQ community intersects with all other communities, spanning every demographic group. We are all genders, races and members of every religious community. We come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, levels of education and hold different systems of belief.

When our community is under attack, everyone is under attack. This is why it is important we begin to operate in unison with a shared mission and vision to fight anti-equality efforts.

Together, we must fight to make sure employers cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — in Wisconsin or anywhere in our country. I am incredibly proud that Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to protect people based on sexual orientation, yet 34 years after that landmark bill was signed, we have yet to protect transgender people from being fired from their jobs or denied service at a grocery store, simply because of who they are.

This injustice extends to the majority of states in our nation, and the absence of a federal law makes the LGBTQ community incredibly vulnerable. This is just one of many equality issues we expected to address in Congress next year, but now seems in peril given the election results.

There is still progress that needs to be made, and we cannot allow the momentum we gained over the past eight years to falter.

It is now more apparent than ever that LGBTQ representation in elected positions at every level of government matters. With this election, we now have 500 out and proud elected officials in the country. The support of allies is invaluable, but it cannot replace the understanding of a lived experience — knowing what it’s like to be denied relationship recognition or being targeted for violence because you are holding your partner’s hand. LGBTQ elected officials understand the gravity of these issues, so in this post-election uncertainty, we are coming together to use our collective power to effectively oppose efforts to target the rights of the LGBTQ community or any other community.

The fight won’t be easy — but know that as your Congress member, I will be an outspoken and relentless voice for equality regardless of who is in the White House, and I will do everything I can to protect our progress in the coming months and years.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan represents Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District

PrideFest completes transition to year-round group

PrideFest Milwaukee recently completed its transition into a nonprofit group that will support its Milwaukee community partners in promoting their causes and educating the public year-round — and continue hosting North America’s largest lineup of LGBTQ talent.

The group’s board and production team worked for 15 months with change management consultants Lambert & Pearcy “to restructure and redefine our operation,” according to a news release. As a result of that effort, the board created a new 501(c)(3) organization — Milwaukee Pride Inc. — that serves as PrideFest’s “parent.”

Last August, the board hired an accounting firm to set financial controls and conduct audits. Milwaukee Pride hired its first executive director, Eric Heinritz, in January.

“Through this (process), we found new funding sources, strengthened relationships with community partners and connected with national organizations,” said board president Scott Gunkel. “We can now accept donations, with tax benefits for our donors. We can reinvest dollars to support important LGBTQ causes and fund critical community programs.  We have built some proud partnerships.

“Pride can no longer be contained to a weekend. People must live proud year-round and our mission and purpose must be year-round in return. We are pleased to see that mission and purpose coming to life right now.”

The organization’s efforts currently are focused on PrideFest 2016, which is fast approaching. The annual event is scheduled for June 10–12 on the Summerfest grounds. Headliners are already being announced, including Blondie, Sarah Silverman and GGOOLLDD, and tickets are being sold.

Additional headliners and entertainers will be announced in the coming weeks.

PrideFest’s metamorphosis into a year-round organization with a broader mission was enabled by three consecutive years of record-breaking attendance. More than 30,000 people have attended the annual event during each of those years.

With strong headliners and an enhanced operational structure, organizers expect to break records again this year.

This year’s event also has the benefit of better scheduling. PrideFest is usually held at the beginning of June, when chilly weather can discourage participation. The lakefront area normally heats up as the month progresses.

For nearly 30 years, the PrideFest was run entirely by volunteers. This marks the first year that a paid staffer has been in charge of the event as part of the new year-round business operation.

In later March, the board received an abrupt letter of resignation in which volunteers complained about the board’s new direction and accused it of withholding financial information, as well as “encroachment” into duties they’d handled for years. The letter said they’d been treated with disrespect and not kept in the loop with the consulting and budgeting process.

The letter, which was not signed, said the board had 48 hours to relinquish all control of the festival, to turn over all financial information and assets and to remove itself from any involvement with PrideFest.

Despite the rancor, board vice president Michail Takach said he and other leaders were sorry to see longtime volunteers choose to leave. “It’s unfortunate that this happened at a time when we’ve all made such great strides to be organizationally strong, financially healthy and absolutely transparent,” he told WiG.

The board responded to outgoing volunteers with a public letter.

“With your help, PrideFest Milwaukee has become a sustainable nonprofit organization, better positioned to serve the needs of the community every day of the year, in collaboration with local and national agencies, in fulfillment of our vision, mission and purpose,” the letter said. “We thank you for your contributions to this tremendous legacy.”

Meanwhile, the show must go on, with daily progress being made on the festival.

“I see people stepping up and working hard with togetherness to create this wonderful experience.  I wish everyone the best.  I am looking forward to another successful year,” said Kate Sherry, a longtime PrideFest volunteer and former event producer.

The event’s community partners remain enthusiastically supportive.

“At the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber, we’re so proud and excited for the work being done by Milwaukee Pride to build a year-round, community engagement-driven organization,” said chamber executive director Jason Rae.

“Their board is leading the organization in great new directions, and I cannot wait to see what they can accomplish next.”

The group has sponsored numerous local events and also plans to host additional programs, yet to be determined. The Milwaukee Pride board of directors is currently seeking leadership candidates to fill its expanded roster.

Volunteers are always needed and welcomed. To get involved, email info@milwaukeepride.org or call 414-272-3378.