California’s Thriving LGBT Caucus: Because Sometimes, Lawmaking Is Personal

Robbie Short / CALmatters State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco and Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell argue for a bill banning the advertising or sale of "gay conversion therapy" in 2018. By Elizabeth Castillo, CALmatters

When Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica became California’s first openly gay or lesbian legislator in 1994, a cartoonist depicted the occasion.

The drawing’s first panel was “The gay and lesbian caucus goes to lunch.”

The second was “Kuehl, party of one.”

Two years later Carole Migden of San Francisco became the state’s second lesbian legislator, followed by Christine Kehoe of San Diego and Jackie Goldberg of Los Angeles. The four had dinner at least once a month at Goldberg’s house. And after the 2002 addition of legislators Mark Leno of San Francisco and John Laird of Santa Cruz, the group formed an official LGBT caucus .

A quarter-century after Kuehl’s election made history, the caucus numbers seven and has chalked up hard-fought legislative victories—and a to-do list for the future. All its members are Democrats; no openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans Republican has ever won a seat in the Legislature.

“You don’t get any respect unless you’re in the room where it happens,” Kuehl said. “And that is symbolic sometimes but it is noticed by society—because you’re making policy for your community as well as for everybody else.”

California’s Legislature has become more diverse over the years, although as CALmatters’ Legislators: Just Like You? interactive demonstrates, it still falls well short of being an accurate demographic reflection of California. Latinos, Asian-Americans and particularly women are under-represented compared to their share of the state adult population.

But the LGBT caucus closely mirrors the state: Nearly 5 percent of Californians are LGBT, according to UCLA Law’s Williams Institute, while just under 6 percent of California legislators are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual. The Senate president pro tem, Democrat Toni Atkins of San Diego, is the first lesbian to lead the chamber. And although the caucus dropped by one this year, it’s because former state Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, became the first gay statewide office-holder when he was elected insurance commissioner.

Critics of a deliberate emphasis on diversity often contend that lawmakers’ personal traits don’t, or shouldn’t, affect what issues they carry or how they vote—in short, that legislating shouldn’t be personal.

“How can they say it’s not personal?”

It’s an argument that LGBT legislators have confronted repeatedly. Case in point: the bitter fight in 2001 over passage of a bill creating domestic partners status for the state’s same-sex couples. Majority Floor Leader Kevin Shelley addressed the Assembly about Migden, its sponsor and his San Francisco colleague.

“We all know how tough she is. She’s real tough. You don’t wanna mess with her,” he began. “I went outside with Ms. Migden and she was doubled over in pain—emotional pain—and in tears, and said to me and to others nearby ‘How can they say it’s not about me? How can they say it’s not personal?’

“And so I say to all of you on behalf of my friend Carole, who I know will not say it for herself because she doesn’t want it to be personal in how she articulates the debate. It is personal….And the vote today should be personal for all of us.”

Arguing in favor of the same bill, Goldberg spoke through tears about her partner and their son: “We are a family. There is nothing any of you can say or do that makes us any less a family. But what you can do is make it harder for my family to survive.”

Since passage of that bill, the California LGBT caucus has successfully sponsored: A 2003 act expanding to same-sex couples most of the rights and responsibilities that heterosexual spouses already had, such as parental status for a child born during a relationship and access to divorce courts.

Leno’s 2003 act protecting transgender people and those perceived as transgender against discrimination when renting an apartment or looking for a job.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria’s 2018 law giving foster children access to health care that affirms their gender with medical interventions such as hormone treatment. The healthcare must be available by 2020.

A new law co-sponsored by Atkins that allows non-binary people applying for a driver’s license or ID card to mark “X” in addition to “M” for male or “F” for female. (One Californian has already shared the experience of changing their driver’s license.)

So what’s still on the caucus wish list?

Members and advocacy groups plan to advance bills that would provide “cultural competency” training to help teachers build safer and more inclusive learning environments for LGBT students in public schools. Former Gov. Jerry Brown previously vetoed a version of that bill , although a similar one to train law enforcement officers was signed into law .

The caucus also wants another crack at limiting the practice of conversion therapy , the practice of attempting to alter an individual’s sexual orientation through methods such as counseling and prayer.

And it’s still personal. Arguing for his bill to regard conversion therapy as consumer fraud in last year’s session, former Campbell mayor-turned-Assemblyman Evan Low said “You’ve heard testimony about suicidal thoughts, I have also had that. As mayor (in 2010) I could officiate a wedding but couldn’t get married myself.”

But questions were raised about whether the bill would violate the First Amendment rights of therapists. Although proponents insisted it was neutral on religion because it impacted all consumer transactions, Low pulled the bill in what he described as a gesture of good faith to seek common ground.

“The evangelical community is not monolithic, they’re not one in the same,” he said. “So are there certain people who you could change their hearts and mind? Yeah, absolutely. And that’s where I’m working, that’s where I’m spending my energy.”

His approach won Low points with some opponents.

“To his credit, he actually went around and listened to a lot of various pastors who told him ‘why are you attacking us?’” said Greg Burt of the California Family Council. “So I think he realized it would be better to try and persuade a chunk of them to come his way than to simply outlaw what they were doing.”

Opponents of the caucus’ agenda insist there should be room in California politics for people or religious organizations that take a different view—and that the LGBT caucus too often advocates ideas that impede on religious freedom.

They cite a bill that would have allowed transgender and gay students to more easily sue private religious universities who violated the school’s sexual conduct rules and faced reprisals up to and including expulsion. The bill was enacted only after that specific provision was removed following tremendous pushback from religious universities. Another law barred employees at long-term healthcare facilities from purposefully not calling patients by their preferred gender pronouns.

“They are seeking to go after organizations that disagree,” Burt said. “That’s what tolerance is all about. We tolerate those who disagree.” The missing voices: Trans and bisexual Californians—and Republicans

Unlike Virginia and Colorado , California has never had an openly bisexual or trans legislator.

“Until there are at least a couple of transgender folks in the Legislature, I don’t know that we’re going to understand the experience well enough to know what’s missing in the law,” Kuehl said. “I do know that there’s a lot of violence against transgender women, and I don’t know if there’s enough protection.”

As for the absence of an openly gay Republican in the Legislature, former GOP Sen. Roy Ashburn said he’s not surprised, but he expects that will change. “There’s still a lot of people in hiding,” he said, “and I’m hopeful that people will be more accepting and loving and it won’t be necessary for people to do what I did in the future.”

No longer a Republican, Ashburn said he regrets votes he cast against ensuring more rights for LGBT individuals. After his arrest for driving under the influence in 2010, he acknowledged in an interview with a radio station in his Bakersfield district that he was gay—saying he felt compelled to address rumors that he had visited a gay nightclub that evening. “I did not live an authentic life,” he said. “ I hurt people who were adversely affected by the votes that I cast.”

Sometimes differences can be forged. Low and Biola University President Barry H. Corey were at odds over a 2016 bill that sought to prohibit any school participating in the Cal Grant Program from discriminating against a student or employee on the basis of a protected class like sexual orientation.

The bill didn’t pass, but the two foes became friends, so much so that they published what they learned in a joint Washington Post piece .

“It’s amazing how quickly biases can be overcome,” they wrote, “…when you realize the person you once thought an adversary is in many ways like you, with a story and passions and fears, and a hope that we can make the world a better place.”

To Low, that’s also why the LGBT Caucus is still needed. He said after working with the caucus, people can gain a new perspective—recognizing that LGBT individuals are not “mythical creatures on TV” but are just like everyone else.

“So that’s where I think it changes people,” he said. “If we’re not there, then people won’t understand.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

India politician under fire for calling rival ‘worse than a transgender person’

Sadhana Singh was recorded making the comments at a rally (Twitter) A politician in India is getting criticism after referring to her opponent as “worse than a transgender person.”

Sadhana Singh, who represents Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the regional Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, made the comments at a rally on December 19.

The elected politician had taken aim at Kumari Mayawati, the head of the rival Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), for entering an anti-BJP pact in the region with the Samajwadi Party (SP).

According to the Mumbai Mirror , Sadhana said: “Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati sold her dignity for power and joined hands with those who disrespected her… She is a blot on womankind.

“Cannot say if she can be counted among men or women, she is worse than a transgender person.”

The comments alluded to a 1995 violent incident in which BSP chief Mayawati was briefly held hostage by SP supporters. Sadhana Singh criticised by India political leaders

The remarks led to a wave of criticism, with the National Commission for Women demanding an explanation from the politician. BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra said that it shows “the level BJP has sunk to,” adding: “They do not have strength to win even a single seat in Uttar Pradesh.”

SP leader Akhilesh Yadav said: “These kind of derogatory comments are grossly unacceptable.

“It is a sign of BJP’s moral bankruptcy and desperation. This is also an insult to the women of the country.”

Sadhana Singh told News18 that she does not regret the comments, again accusing Mayawati of letting down “all women” by working with the SP.

However, she added in a statement: “My intention was not to insult anyone… I apologise if my words have caused grief to anyone.” Attitudes towards LGBT+ people in India are shifting

Gay sex became legal in India in September 2018, when the country’s Supreme Court struck down British colonial-era law Section 377.

Lawmakers have also put forward a transgender rights bill , aimed to protect trans citizens, though some have warned the legislation could unwittingly have a negative impact. Years of campaigning eventually led to the decriminalisation of gay sex in India in 2018 (DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty) Critics say the bill is problematic because it requires members of the trans community to be assessed by “screening committees” to determine whether a person is trans or not.

Madhumita, a trans woman, told The Times of India that the bill threatens the trans community, adding that provisions in the bill ban trans citizens from begging, which many are forced to rely on for their income.

Gay mayor Pete Buttigieg might be running for US President in 2020

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg (Official photo) Pete Buttigieg, the out-and-proud Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is reportedly planning a long-shot bid to become President of the United States.

The 37-year-old gay Afghanistan veteran is one of many Democrats planning to throw their hats into the ring for the Democratic primaries, as candidates vie for the right to challenge President Trump in 2020.

Buttigieg has given all the signals of a candidate exploring a run for high office—announcing he would not seek a third term as Mayor of South Bend, making visits to key Presidential primary state Iowa, and writing a book that is set to be published in February 2019. First openly gay US President? Pete Buttigieg hints at run

The Democrat all-but-confirmed his plan in recent interviews with the Washington Post and Associated Press , in which he discusses the prospects for 2020. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (right) with husband Chasten at the 2017 GLSEN Respect Awards (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for GLSEN) On January 18, he told AP: “I think most people are thinking: ‘Why not?’ They think all the rules have been broken, that anybody can run… I think some of the rules have been broken, but there’s only one way to find out which ones.”

The official made the case for a new progressive face in 2020, telling the Post : “I get the urge people will have after Trump. ‘Look at the chaos and the exhaustion: Wouldn’t it be better to go back to something more stable with somebody we know?’ But there’s no going back to a pre-Trump universe.

“We can’t be saying the system will be fine again just like it was. Because that’s not true; it wasn’t fine. Not if we could careen into this kind of politics.”

He added: “The discussion in Washington has gotten so abstracted from reality.

“What makes a country great, really? We like to talk about ‘freedom’ and ‘security’ and ‘family values’ or whatever. But the measure of a country’s greatness is whether it helps people lead better lives, with less worry.” Pete Buttigieg’s bid ‘won’t hinge on’ being first gay President

Although Buttigieg is married to husband Chasten , the Post notes that he “won’t be hinging his long-shot bid on the prospect of being the first openly gay president,” instead attempting to forge a message of unity.

Buttigieg told the newspaper: “Along the way, the party fell into this pattern of thinking we should have a message for each constituency.

“But the reality is that people care about issues that aren’t ‘their’ issues, quote unquote. Elderly residents care about education. Suburban women care about racial justice. Young people care about social programs for the elderly.”

Buttigieg would be an extreme long-shot candidate in the race, with much of the mainstream discussion focused on former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris
and Elizabeth Warren, and progressive challenger Beto O’Rourke.

The United States has never had an openly gay President, though there have been plenty of rumours about gay affairs over the years.

Cherno Samba: The football prodigy who made it in a video game

Cherno Samba’s career looked bright at 15, but a failed transfer led to depression and an attempt to take his own life.

He started as a schoolboy at Millwall but never played in the Premier League. He did however have a successful career in the lower leagues of English football, as well as representing sides in Spain, Finland and Norway.

In the video game Championship Manager however, he became one of the world’s best virtual footballers. Today, he hopes to one day manage a real team.

Three migrant boats land in Kent after crossing Channel

An abandoned boat was found on Folkestone’s Warren beach Sixteen migrants have been detained after crossing the Channel to Kent in three boats.

An inflatable dinghy with six men landed on a beach at Kingsdown, near Walmer, at about 07:00 GMT.

Just over an hour later, Border Force officers were called to an abandoned boat on Folkestone’s Warren beach, and two men were detained in the town.

At about 09:35, a dinghy containing eight men was intercepted off the coast and escorted into Dover.

The Home Office said most of the migrants presented themselves as Iranian, with others saying they were from Iraq.

They received a medical assessment before being transferred to immigration officials for interview.

Rob Bewick said he saw one of the inflatable boats while walking on the beach between Folkestone and Dover.

"A number of coastguard officials were stood around but there was also someone from UK Border Force," said Mr Bewick, from Folkestone.

""There weren’t any people there – it looked as though the boat had been abandoned." Why are Iranians crossing the Channel in dinghies?

Royal Navy sent to deter Channel migrants

Migrants detained after empty boat found

There has been a spike in the number of people crossing the English Channel from France in small boats since November, with many of those trying to reach Britain coming from Iran.

Home Secretary has Sajid Javid declared the situation a "major incident" .

On New Year’s Eve, he announced two additional Border Force cutters would be brought back to the UK to help deal with the problem.

Medical Students Push For More LGBT Health Training To Address Disparities

Sarah Spiegel, a third-year student at New York Medical College, pushed for more education on LGBT health issues for students. When Sarah Spiegel was in her first year at New York Medical College in 2016, she sat in a lecture hall watching a BuzzFeed video about what it’s like to be an intersex or a transgender person.

"It was a good video, but it felt inadequate for the education of a class of medical students, soon to be doctors," says Spiegel , now in her third year of medical school.

The video, paired with a 30-minute lecture on sexual orientation, was the only LGBT-focused information Spiegel and her fellow classmates received in their foundational course.

"It’s not adequate," Spiegel remembers thinking. By her second year, after she became president of the school’s LGBT Advocacy in Medicine Club, she rallied a group of her peers to approach the administration about the lack of LGBT content in the curriculum. Spiegel and her friends created an LGBTQI health board of information which hangs in a hallway on campus at New York Medical College. Spiegel says administrators were "amazingly receptive" to her presentation, and she quickly gained student and faculty allies. As a result, the school went from one and a half hours of LGBT-focused content in the curriculum to seven hours within a matter of two years, according to Spiegel. Spiegel says she doesn’t think the change would have happened had the students not pushed for it.

According to a number of studies , medical schools do a poor job of preparing future doctors to understand the LGBT population’s unique needs and health risks. And, a 2017 survey of students at Boston University School of Medicine found their knowledge of transgender and intersex health to be lesser than that of LGB health.

Meanwhile, LGBT people — and transgender people in particular – face disproportionately high rates of mental illness, HIV, unemployment, poverty, and harassment, according to Healthy People 2020 , an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And a poll conducted by NPR , the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found 1 in 5 LGBT adults has avoided medical care due to fear of discrimination.

"The health of disparity populations is something that really should be the focus of health profession students," says Dr. Madeline Deutsch , an associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Deutsch directs UCSF’s Transgender Care program, and she says medical schools already do a fairly good job of addressing some disparities, like those based on race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.

But, she says, "Sexual and gender minorities have historically been not viewed as a key population, and that’s unfortunate because of the size of the population, and because of the extent of the disparities that the population faces." (About 0.6 percent of the U.S. population – or 1.4 million adults – identifies as transgender.)

The extent of LGBT education medical students receive varies greatly, but a 2011 study found that the median time spent on LGBT health was five hours . The topics most frequently addressed include sexual orientation, safe sex, and gender identity, whereas transgender-specific issues, including gender transitioning, were most often ignored. And some medical students receive no LGBT education at all.

"There’s not really a consistent curriculum that exists around this content," says Deutsch.

As a result, physicians often feel inadequately trained to care for LGBT patients. In a 2018 survey sent out to 658 students at New England medical schools, around 80 percent of respondents said they felt "not competent" or "somewhat not competent" with the medical treatment of gender and sexual minority patients.

Even at UCSF, which has long been at the forefront of LGBT health care, Deutsch says there’s still a need to insert more transgender health care into the mandatory curriculum. Right now, when medical schools teach about LGBT health issues, it’s usually through special elective courses or lectures taught at night or during lunch, and often by the students themselves.

"How do we take it out of the lunchtime unit?" asks Jessica Halem , the LGBT program director at Harvard Medical School. That question drives Harvard Medical School’s new Sexual and Gender Minorities Health Equity Initiative , a three-year plan to assess the core medical school curriculum and to identify opportunities to better instruct on the health of sexual and gender minorities.

"Students are getting the information. But some of them are having to do a lot of extra work to get that during their medical school experience," says Halem.

The Harvard initiative, announced in December 2018, has been ongoing for about six months, says Halem, thanks to a $1.5 million gift from Perry Cohen, a transgender man. According to Halem, Cohen hopes that Harvard’s learnings will be shared with medical schools across the country, especially with ones with less robust LGBT health education programs.

Studies have shown that when medical students learn about transgender health issues, they feel better equipped to treat transgender patients. For example, when Boston University School of Medicine added transgender health content to a second-year endocrinology course, students reported a nearly 70 percent decrease in discomfort with providing transgender care.

And now, Halem says, each incoming class at Harvard Medical School is increasingly adamant that they learn about LGBT health.

"The main first driver truly was medical students organizing and saying ‘Hey, I need the curriculum to reflect the kind of medicine that I came here to study,’ " Halem says. Those were the thoughts running through Spiegel’s head in her own preclinical years at New York Medical College. Shortly after becoming the president of her school’s LGBT health club, she joined The American Medical Student Association’s Gender and Sexuality Committee as the LGBTQ Advocacy Coordinator to bring curricular change to other medical schools in the New York area.

Conversations with her transgender partner also inspired Spiegel to introduce more trans-specific topics into her school’s curriculum.

"His experience definitely varied by how much providers knew," Spiegel says. It was often as simple as getting his pronouns correct, she says, and even then, the same doctors’ office would mess that up again and again.

Spiegel says in the past couple of years, certain disciplines have added trans-focused topics into their specialties. In the school’s behavioral health unit, for example, professors have started to address how doctors can diagnose gender dysphoria – when a person feels their assigned gender does not align with their gender identity – in their lectures.

By contrast, some disciplines have been more hesitant to change, or add content to, their existing curriculum. Spiegel’s student task-force had more difficulty influencing the pharmacology department, for example. That’s the content area where hormone therapy might be taught, Spiegel says.

One course includes a lecture about the endocrine system, Spiegel says, when the professor talks about a drug to treat precocious, or early puberty. That drug can also be used for kids undergoing transgender hormone therapy. Therefore, Spiegel says, including transgender health in the lecture might be a matter of just saying an extra sentence.

"There’s an opportunity there – they would just have to mention that it could also be used for transgender kids," says Spiegel.

But the professor says this secondary use of the drug was "off the book," and thus, he wouldn’t include it in his lecture. So Spiegel researched the drug herself, and sent the professor the Endocrine Society’s guidebook that talked about how the drug can be used for transgender patients. He began including the information in his lectures.

Spiegel says her interactions with this professor exemplify the challenges that medical students all over the country face when trying to introduce changes to their schools’ curricula.

"We’re getting there, but it’s slow," says Spiegel.

LGBT hub for 18 to 25-year-olds to launch in Thanet

Just Like Us will launch the Thanet hub this month Just Like Us,the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) charity for young people, is launching a new initiative in Thanet.

The hub is funded by The People’s Postcode Trust and is for LGBT young people aged 18-25. It will be a safe and fun space for LGBT young people to socialise twice a month. The format and venue of each session will vary, whether drop-in sessions to make new friends, workshops on coming out or planning this year’s Pride parade.

Those attending will also benefit from employability training and mentoring in London from the charity’s corporate partners, alongside volunteering opportunities to work with local schools to tackle prejudice.

One new member from Thanet said: “From what I know, there is no support for young adults in Thanet. I moved away from Thanet to study at university where I joined the LGBT+ society and I’ve made lifelong friends from it. “Coming back home has been hard, but this group will hopefully help lift the weight off, even if only for an hour. We deserve a place to be ourselves, share our stories, figure out who we are and just be, with others like us”

The Hub will also help to address the potentially life-long consequences a lack of support can have on young people’s well-being and achievement. LGBT young people are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, and more than half say homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying has a negative impact on their future education plans.

Margate Pride organiser Amy Redmond said: “ We were very excited to hear Just Like Us are bringing their ace work to Thanet. The community, social, sharing and togetherness of groups like this are essential for Thanet’s next generation to grow up comfortable and proud of who they are. We are over the moon with pride that this is happening in town.” Photo Frank Leppard Just Like Us CEO, Tim Ramsey added:“We’re incredibly excited to launch our Just Like Us Hub in Thanet. I know the transformational impact a group like this would have had on me growing up; it would have given me hope that being gay would not be the worst part of my life, but something to celebrate. We’re excited to meet this new group of young people and support and empower them to be confident in their identity.”

The Hub will be launching on Thursday, January 31, at The Tom Thumb Theatre in Cliftonville with a free pizza night and screening of Love Simon, the acclaimed coming out movie of 2018.

LGBT young people in Thanet can find out more about getting involved by visiting www.justlikeus.org/events .

Your pictures on the theme of ‘forgotten objects’

Dayve Ward: "Six years ago Paul Rose (the intrepid explorer) had an idea of clearing some of the flotsam and jetsam that lay at the bottom of Windermere in the Lake District. Paul had the idea of bringing a handful of divers he knew to help. That handful grew to over 260 plus 100 on-shore volunteers! This is one of the images I made."

Susan Riggs: "I recently found my very loved, very worn ballet shoes from when I was a teenager. I’ve just started ballet again after a 22 year gap."

Henry Matthiessen III: "Bombfire Pizza was the creation of Tom Holman who passed in March 2018. Bombfire was a popular, ongoing, ever-changing customer-interactive piece of art, which now sits abandoned, cold and alone, only a thought for those who remember Tom and his oasis from the seriousness of life. Bombfire sat nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River in Sabula, Iowa."

Toderici Remus: "In Romania, often the authorities are taken by surprise by the winter and snow, but apparently so is the population. It is the case of a poor house at the edge of the village Cheresig where a family of six lives in a cottage, where only a single room can be heated and where they all sleep. Before Christmas, an NGO visited them to bring clothes and gifts for the children, but the clothes were forgotten while out to dry, and froze instead."

Peter Dulis’s picture of a 1936 Corbitt truck: "I found this beauty in a ghost town mine just outside of Jerome, Arizona. Located high on top of Cleopatra Hill, this baby needed chains on its tyres to get around in winter time."

Chris Jones: "This one-room school sits in the corner of a wheat field in Washington State, forgotten by all except the farmer who plants right up to the front door. It’s laudable that the farmer provided land for this school but impossible to say who attended, as there isn’t a home in sight."

Richard Digby: "An image of the disused Porth Wen Brickworks, just outside Amlwch on the northern side of Anglesey, Wales. The image was taken using a large format 5x4in press camera, to which I attached a 7in Aero-Ektar f/2.5, a slightly radioactive lens stripped from a World War II-era aerial reconnaissance camera."

Helen Duvall: "This mannequin was sold at a farmer’s auction in Devon as a job lot with a trailer and general junk. Her name, Julie, was written on her forehead. Tucked under my arm, with a camera in my hand, I took her into the woods near my home feeling rather concerned at what the neighbours might think if they were to see me. As I walked through the woodland, I came across this old council window frame buried underneath the ivy. I lifted it up, opened the window and it seemed a perfect marriage for Julie – the transition, as I imagined it, from a flashy high fashion window to the end of her modelling career."

Snell Mills: "My grandfather and grandmother raised four girls in a one-bath, two-bedroom, 1000-square foot bungalow in Tennessee during the middle of the 20th Century. They had a one-cow barn behind the house which my grandfather turned into his refuge as he was severely outnumbered and sometimes needed an escape. Wood working, electronics, and model trains kept him occupied. He built cubbyholes for various items and stuffed them full of crystal radio coils, switches, model train parts, vacuum tubes, and assorted wire and insulators needed to keep things running in the early years of the electronic age."

And finally, Roseanne Bateman sent this picture of a previously abandoned dog, who has since been adopted. The next theme is "glass and steel" and the deadline for your entries is 22 January. If you would like to enter, send your pictures to yourpics@bbc.co.uk. Further details and terms can be found by following the link to "We set the theme, you take the pictures," at the bottom of the page.

Russia website calls for ‘gay hunters’ to attack LGBTIs across the country

A screengrab from Saw-inspired Russian website. A website that gamified hunting gay men in Russia has been reactivated and is now calling for ‘gay hunters’ in several regions.

In April 2018, Saw-inspired website пила (Russian for ‘saw’) came under fire as it encouraged homophobes to report LGBTI people for torture.

The website seems to be active at the moment of writing. It includes a call to action for ‘athletic, aggressive and strong in spirit’ men to assault LGBTI people to get monetary rewards.

Organizers pay up to 300,000 rubles for each ‘task’, a little less than $5. Furthermore, they will provide the hunters with legal protections. ‘You can do everything except the killings’

‘We are already working and we invite you to hunt for gays in 12 regions of Russia,’ the website reads.

‘These are the Stavropol Territory, the Chechen Republic, the Republic of Dagestan, the Samara Region, the Sverdlovsk Region, the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Republic of Tatarstan, the Republic of Udmurtia, the Chelyabinsk Region, the Perm Territory, the Saratov and Orenburg region.’

Vile actions these gay hunters will need to perform include identify and beat LGBTI people, kidnap them and deliver men to Chechnya.

Ever since December 2017, Chechen authorities have been rounding up people on their actual or perceived sexuality. LGBTIs have been illegally detained, tortured and executed.

‘You can do everything except killing them,’ the website also clarifies.

Moreover, the description provides an email address where hopeful hunters can send a short bio. If hunters pass their first task, they will be hired for a second. ‘Fight against this scum’

An update posted on 18 January explains hunters are already active in the mentioned regions.

‘Our future without smelly homosexuals and pedophiles depends on you,’ the website reads.

‘We are not averse to new like-minded people who are ready to fight against this scum.’ What can you do to help LGBTIs in Russia?

The Russian LGBT Network is helping to evacuate people from Chechnya. They are sheltering them in safe houses, providing them with food, clothing and psychological support.

But most importantly, they’re trying to get them out of Russia. GSN has rounded up a few simple ways to help LGBTIs in Chechnya and across Russia. Read also:

Homeless people of color started our revolution, so why we forget about them?

Carla and her wife Heather. | Photo: Twitter I got married in June 2016 on a beach in Hawaii and it was the most beautiful day of my life.

Two days later the Pulse shootings happened. This was the first attack on my community that I had been conscious of and the worst in my lifetime. 2016 would turn out to be the deadliest year for the LGBTI community on record.

We spent the morning reading and crying. When I opened the curtains I saw two rainbows across Pearl Harbour.

Later that summer my wife and I visited New York for Brooklyn’s Afropunk festival. My first time in NYC

We stayed on the Lower East Side, St. Marks Place. Ada Calhoun called the street ‘like superglue for fragmented identities’ and wrote ‘the street is not for people who have chosen their lives… it is for the wanderer, the undecided, the lonely, and the promiscuous.’

We picked up ice creams from The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and walked to Tompkins Square Park. There, punks and homeless people had rioted in 1988.

Around the corner was the first building of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a radical house for homeless queer youth and sex workers set up by trans, POC, homelessness activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. They’d originally parked up a trailer in Greenwich Village as the first shelter for homeless queers.

We climbed the Rockefeller Centre and had a picnic in Central Park. Out of respect for those that have gone before us, there are places you must take yourself to and emotions you must feel as a member of a marginalized community in such a historic place.

We visited the Art AIDS America exhibition at the Bronx Museum of Art, knowing that it would be the most devastating exhibition we’ve seen. There wasn’t a Stonewall Inn in London

In the same afternoon, we visited Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village , the site of the Stonewall Riots.

I stood in Christopher Park at the Liberation monument, where so many queer homeless people had slept together and visualized that night. A community rising up against the police, their oppression exploding as a crew of outsiders against the system and indeed their own community, who had been ostracising them to this dive bar.

I remembered the nights I’d climbed the fence of Soho Square, stayed up all night with buskers and street drinkers, drifters I’d met in bars that were passing through Soho. Sometimes we’d find an after party. When the party was over, I’d head to a lovers place or a squat in south London.

There wasn’t a place like the Stonewall Inn or Christophers Park in London.

I wondered how many homeless queers were hiding out there being barflies like I had, squatting, faking relationships, faking that they had great places to stay, barely holding down a job and raving their minimum wage away through a 4-day weekend. After being homeless myself, I got a job in the homeless sector

After several years of raving and squatting, a crisis daycenter put me onto a college course that led to a job in the homeless sector.

I managed to hold this down throughout my late twenties. But standing in Christopher Park looking at the Stonewall Inn, I felt the contrast between LGBTI homelessness and the heteronormative homelessness services I had been working in back in London.

I also understood why I’d never asked for their help and the anxiety of queer people that had come out to me secretly in squats, daycenters and hostels.

That’s when I connected to my younger self, my homelessness, and chaos. I connected with the history and oppression of queer people and all of this tied together in that spot.

We walked back to St.Marks Place through Greenwich village, stopping at the Pulse memorial. We were quiet for most of the day. My first proper home in London

I moved onto a boat with my wife that autumn, my first proper home in London. From my new found life stability of a married home, I became increasingly concerned about the experiences my younger self had and that this was a shared, hidden and taboo experience of our community.

I talked about it with queer colleagues. Moreover, I started researching using contacts within the homeless sector I worked in and activists I knew.

Thoughts slowed down over winter as I focused on getting my clients into winter shelters. Largely run in church halls, I felt for my queer siblings who had the same fractured relationships with their religion.

That Christmas saw the death of George Michael. As an 80s child, George Michael was the first gay person I ‘knew’ when I came out.

His arrest and response with the song Outside was my introduction to homophobia and queer activism at 13 years old. I felt grief for this queer person that had been there, empowering in the background of our lives. How The Outside Project helps homeless people

These collective experiences, centered by me standing in Christopher Park, would be the catalyst for The Outside Project , a collective of LGBTI ex-homeless, homelessness professionals, activists, and artists.

Our goal was to create the UK’s first LGBTI Community Winter Shelter and grow into a year-round shelter and community center. Like STAR, we started out on the back of a bus over winter 2017.

The work Sylvia and Marsha did at STAR for queer youth was driven by the fact that they had needed a safe place for themselves as homeless youths, but as adults, they were still homeless. Therefore, we make sure to tell people that we are for all ages. In fact, the majority of our guests have been over 25.

This year we are finally in a building, still growing into the 24/7 space desperately needed by our community. People tend to forget what Pride was all about

On our first birthday after a successful winter shelter pilot, my wife designed a t-shirt that screamed the words of Sylvia Rivera at the 1973 Gay Liberation Parade: ‘y’all better quiet down… I will not put up with this shit’.

We sold them to raise money for homeless LGBTI people seeking asylum. They wanted to attend London Pride as part of our block, Outsider Pride.

Our campaign was totally ignored by Pride in London organizers. On the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we booked space in the Pride in London pop-up shop in Soho. We shared our table with LGSMigrants.

Pride in London didn’t write us up anywhere. We sent them our press release that morning, announcing our partnership with Stonewall Housing and funding from the mayor’s office for our shelter. But we never heard from them.

They had a panel discussion about homelessness that evening and wouldn’t give us a seat on the panel. They hadn’t thought to include us and it was too late now.

We shot a film to highlight the ignorance when it came to LGBTI homelessness. It was infuriating to see how the movement that started this Pride ‘celebration’ is so far from people’s minds today. Read also:

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