This fall, the Supreme Court will be looking at a trio of cases concerning the protection Federal employment discrimination law provides to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. An amicus curiae brief signed by 80 philosophers, in support of the employees in the cases, has just been filed. The amicus brief was co-authored by philosopher Robin Dembroff (Yale) and law professor Issa Kohler-Hausmann (Yale), and concerns the Supreme Court’s review of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia , and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda (both cases concern whether federal laws banning employment discrimination protect gay and lesbian employees), and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC (on whether Title VII’s protections apply to transgender employees). Some background on these cases can be found here .
The following is the “summary of argument” section of the 50 page document:
1. The concept of “sex” is inextricably tied to the categories of same-sex attraction and gender nonconformity. Both categories are partially defined by sex and cannot logically be applied to any individual without reference to that individual’s sex. It is simply not possible to identify an individual as being attracted to the same sex without knowing or presuming that person’s sex. Likewise, it is not possible to identify someone as gender nonconforming (including being transgender) without reference to that person’s known or presumed sex and the associated social meanings. It follows that discrimination on the basis of same-sex attraction or gender nonconformity is inherently discrimination “because of sex.”
2. It is conceptually incorrect to state that discrimination against persons who are same-sex attracted or gender nonconforming is “sex-neutral.” If an employer decides to terminate an employee on the basis of same-sex sexual attraction (i.e., a particular sexual orientation) or gender nonconformity (e.g., being transgender), the employer must first presume the employee’s specific sex, and then account for the social meanings, expectations, and stereotypes specific to the employee’s particular presumed sex category. But for the concept of sex, the judgment that an employee violated one of the expectations and stereotypes specific to their sex would be impossible.
3. Title VII prohibits discrimination not simply based on the categories “man” and “woman,” but because of sex. The philosophical underpinnings of antidiscrimination laws represent a societal commitment to alter socially restrictive categories such that they no longer serve as the basis for denying equal treatment or limiting freedoms based on sex. To permit discrimination against individuals who fall into categories that are partially defined by sex would violate the fundamental rationale behind antidiscrimination laws. Moreover, it would require this Court to define “sex” in a way that is illogically constrained and harmful to groups that have historically been the targets of discrimination.
You can read the entire brief here . The oral arguments for the case will be heard on October 8th, 2019.
Time & Again. Filmed in Cardiff and starring Dame Sian Phillips I watched a beautiful love story this week called Time & Again. Filmed in Cardiff and starring Dame Sian Phillips, it was just half an hour long.
But those 30 minutes attempted to make up for years and years of this kind of love being invisible on Welsh screens.
Not only did it show what women know to be perfectly normal but popular culture still recoils from – the fact that even when we’re old we feel passion – it portrayed emotional and physical love between two octogenarian women.
Its writer, producer and director Rachel Dax believes this is a first. I certainly can’t think of any other positive representation of an elderly lesbian relationship in film or television drama. Which, when you come to think of it, is a startling state of affairs in the 21st century.
And to get this story made Rachel had to do it without any backing from a studio or broadcaster. Shot in two and a half days on a miniscule budget which she scraped together herself, it is an astonishing achievement given those restrictions.
The involvement of Dame Sian – who also helped bring veteran actress Brigit Forsyth to the project – was transformative. Once the Welsh acting icon had seen Rachel’s script she immediately wanted to do the film. Dame Sian Phillips (Image: PA) The story was partly inspired by older gay people fearing prejudice in care homes. We see Dame Sian’s character Eleanor being reunited with Isabelle (Brigit Forsyth) who arrives in the same care home 60 years after their relationship was torn apart by family opposition.
Isabelle had complied with her parents’ wishes and entered a loveless marriage while Eleanor remained true to her sexuality, going on to live the life she wanted, but sacrificed her bond with her mother and father who never spoke to her again.
These brutal choices reflect the reality many lesbians of this generation would have faced, as Rachel told the BBC:
“I think the main thing is families would be ashamed,” she said.
“It was very much like forced marriage. They were told ‘if you don’t marry, we’re disowning you’. Lots of lesbians went to London.”
But Time & Again is anything but grim and, without too many spoiler alerts, an uplifting denouement awaits. Actress Brigit Forsyth (Image: PA) “It’s not all doom and gloom and shows in your old age you can heal,” Rachel explains, adding: “I think older women in general tend to be treated like they don’t have any sexuality. I think it is important for lesbian visibility. Not all, but a lot of LGBT films with older characters are more male-focused.”
Time & Again is being shown at Barry Pride on September 19th and will also have screenings at the Cardiff International Film Festival in October but it deserves a pan-Wales platform. Let’s hope BBC Wales, who hosted the screening in the build up to this weekend’s Pride Cymru event, can broadcast it.
If these kind of fictional stories deserve the biggest possible audience the same goes for Wales’ factual LGBT history which has remained in the shadows until very recently.
The first book exploring the experiences of notable Welsh lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through the centuries was only published last year.
In the introduction to Forbidden Lives – LGBT Stories from Wales (Seren Books), author Norena Shopland outlines the challenges researching such a work presents. After all, the mainstream historical narrative we have all grown up with in Wales is resolutely male, heterosexual and British.
So Norena’s mission was to “read between the lines” to uncover hidden lives, as she explains: “Once outside the famous names such as Ivor Novello, the Ladies of Llangollen and more modern people such as Sarah Waters and Gareth Thomas things became harder. Trying to find the everyday lives of people became an exercise in ‘bit picking’ from other works. For much of what had existed had been shattered. For example, Frances Power Cobbe destroyed both her and her partner Mary Lloyd’s letters and diaries. Nothing they did was illegal, women were not affected by a ban in law the way that men were, but society did not approve and so the material was destroyed.
"Consequently, we are left to pick around in the letters and diaries of others to piece together stories about LGBT people in history. Over the years I have done much picking at bits and pieces and this book represents that. This is the first work highlighting real lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and events in and from Wales.”
A second pioneering work will arrive on the shelves this October. A Little Gay History of Wales (University of Wales Press) by Dr Daryl Leeworthy tells a big story. The historian who was brought up in Pontypridd draws on a rich array of archival sources and oral testimony to examine the experience of ordinary Welsh LGBT men and women from the Middle Ages to the present day. Gentleman Jack, featuring Suranne Jones as Anne Lister, and Sophie Rundle as Ann Walker, on the BBC, portrayed a historical lesbian relationship (Image: BBC) It’s the narrative of poets who wrote about same-sex love and translators who worked to create a language to describe it; activists who campaigned for equality and politicians who created the legislation providing it; teenagers ringing advice lines for guidance on coming out and revellers in the pioneering bars and clubs on a Friday and Saturday night. It is also a study of prejudice and of intolerance, of emigration and isolation, of HIV/AIDS and Section 28.
And for its author, it’s also a deeply personal project: “My childhood and adolescence coincided almost exactly with the implementation and enforcement of Section 28,” Daryl explains.
“Introduced in 1988 when I was a toddler, it was abolished in 2003 when I was in my final year of Sixth Form. Its legacy was still palpable when I went up to Oxford in the autumn of 2004. Talking to friends and former teachers in more recent times, it is clear just how fundamentally the legislation marked – and continues to mark – those of us who went to school during the period of its existence. To be blunt: this is a book that should have been written a long time ago.
“In other words, I wrote the Little History because I felt it should exist and that the longer such a book didn’t exist, the poorer we are here in Wales intellectually and culturally. Call it my revenge on Section 28!
“But it’s also a book that is very much about the ordinary men and women who we might now describe as LGBT, and I’ve tried to reflect the diversity of the community as far as possible, too. So the Muslim sailors who landed in Cardiff and had sex with local men; or the woman (Daphne Higuera) from Caerphilly who established Wales’s first ever gay women’s support group in the early 1970s; or Tim Foskett, a student from London studying at Cardiff, who helped to create the first pride march in the city in 1985; or the two ladies – Jamie and Eileen, active Christians – who ran Lan Farm in Pontypridd as an LGBT hostel in the late-1980s and early 1990s.
“I wanted to move away from LGBT history as being about the great and the good – the Ladies of Llangollen, Viscount Tredegar, Ivor Novello, Rhys Davies, even (heaven forbid) Edward II, etc – and make it about the rest of us. When those pioneers marched through Cardiff in 1985 they shouted ‘we are everywhere’, but what does that mean if our histories only talk about the people whose lives are far more easily documented?
“I also wanted a book that could form the basis of a better understanding of heritage and the ways in which gay, or gay-friendly, spaces existed in far more places than we often realise.
"Even now I’m learning about new ones. If you look in the columns of the pink press of the 1970s, for instance, they tell you that Gay News was sold in the Salisbury Hotel in Ferndale, that Merthyr had Britain’s most boring gay scene (but by implication, it had one), and that there was even a branch of the Gay Liberation Front in Aberdare. I hesitate to call this hidden history: those who needed to know, did know. But for today’s generation of young people, or tomorrow’s, knowing that someone else from your community was LGBT is both powerful and comforting.
“Like all minorities it is important to know that you are not alone, that your experience is not unique. That’s the value of this type of history – of the history of us – it means we don’t always have to start over.” Pride Cymru was taking place in Cardiff today (Image: Matthew Horwood) Cardiff is hosting Pride Cymru this weekend – Wales’s biggest celebration of equality and diversity.
Around 50,000 people are enjoying a mile-long parade and entertainment, music and comedy in support of our LGBT+ community.
It is an event that shows modern, inclusive Wales at it best but we also need to take Pride in the LGBT heritage and history of our nation – whether its expressed in the drama of Time & Again or through the pioneering research of Norena Shopland and Dr Daryl Leeworthy.
Click here if you are unable to view this gallery on a mobile device.
The San Jose Police Department on Friday became one of the only law enforcement agencies in the country to show its support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community members by flying a rainbow flag at department headquarters.
Police and public officials raised the flag ahead of Silicon Valley Pride weekend, which will include rallies, live music and a parade in Downtown San Jose on Sunday.
The symbol of support comes as police, local businesses and elected officials launch efforts to better support victims of discrimination and prevent hate crimes against LGBT people and other marginalized groups.
Under the new “Safe Place” initiative, which San Jose police announced Thursday, the department has partnered with Starbucks and Wells Fargo locations to make those businesses safe havens for people who have experienced hate crimes. Workers at the 62 Starbucks locations and 25 Wells Fargo branches are trained to call police on behalf of hate crime victims, to allow them to stay inside and to “make them comfortable,” Police Chief Eddie Garcia said.
“We know that hate crimes can be an underreported crime,” Garcia said. Police hope to address that by making the process easier for victims.
Police in Seattle first launched the initiative in 2015, and it has spread to dozens of cities since then. Member businesses display a rainbow decal reading “Safe Place” in their windows, and while the program has its origins in efforts to prevent crimes against LGBT individuals, it is meant to address any hate crimes.
“Everyone will know the police department and city will not tolerate these crimes,” Garcia said.
In addition to that initiative, local elected officials are seeking to launch a regional task force this fall to study hate crimes and hate speech. Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose City Council Member Maya Esparza — whose 6-year-old cousin Stephen Romero was among three people fatally shot at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last month — announced the proposal Wednesday. The gunman in the shooting had cited a white supremacist text on social media.
“Nobody should go it alone,” Chavez said. “Fighting something this insidious, we need to figure out a way not just to stick together, but to work together to protect our communities.”
Progress on LGBT issues
To Wiggsy Sivertsen, the South Bay gay rights pioneer who spent nearly a half century at San Jose State University and now serves on a San Jose police advisory board for LGBT issues, the department’s initiatives show how much its culture has changed over the years.
Law enforcement agencies nationwide have typically had fraught histories with the gay communities they serve, marked by hostility and discrimination in decades past. New York Police Department leaders this year formally apologized for the 1969 police raid at the Stonewall Inn, which led to clashes that helped spark the modern LGBT rights movement.
In San Jose, Sivertsen recalled teaching police officers about gay and lesbian issues as part of training the department implemented after an officer fatally shot a gay, black teenager named Melvin Truss in 1985. As in other parts of the country, local law enforcement in San Jose had insulted or treated LGBT people poorly.
The officers who took the training weren’t openly hostile, Sivertsen said, and every so often one would thank her for leading the class. But, she said, “It was so clear that they were very upset about having to be in this class.”
She added, “They just didn’t think it was worthwhile, and it was clear to me that they were uncomfortable.”
On Friday, Sivertsen watched the rainbow flag fly outside a department that now proactively recruits gay and lesbian officers .
“I want to show my rank and file who are part of the LGBTQ community that we’re allies,” Garcia said. “If they sacrifice for their community and for their other brother and sister officers wearing this uniform, I and this department supports them.”
When she looks at San Jose police now, Sivertsen said, she sees a new culture from the chief down that works to welcome and support the LGBT community.
“The symbolism is important,” Sivertsen said of the rainbow flag at police headquarters.
“When you see something that reflects you,” she added, “it’s a way of saying to people, ‘You’re safe here.’”
Following reports that the administration of President Donald Trump has directed the Supreme Court to rule that already-existing protections against gender discrimination in hiring do not protect individuals based on their sexual orientation, GLAAD has charged that the Trump administration’s latest action is at least the 124th action it has committed against the LGBTQ+ community.
The accusation came from the LGBTQ+ rights organization in a Tweet Friday afternoon. “This is the Trump Administration’s 124th attack on LGBTQ people since taking office and they join Roy Moore in opposition to workplace protections for LGBTQ people,” GLAAD tweeted.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post published an op-ed that claimed the president has a “devastating” record on protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people. In just one cited example of his record, author Michelangelo Signorile writes that the president in February gave a speech in which he defended state funding given to adoption agencies that prevent gay couples from adopting children.
Last week, the Trump administration filed a similar brief to the one it filed Friday with the Supreme Court, in which it petitioned the court to make it legal for employers to either not hire or fire transgender employees based on their gender identity.
Also this month, the Labor department proposed eliminating an Obama-era policy that prohibited businesses that contract with the federal government from discriminating against LGBTQ+ individuals in their hiring practices, per The Washington Post. Discrimination in the name of religion has no place in our country – let alone in the workplace. Make no mistake: Trump’s proposal is taxpayer-funded discrimination that targets women, people of color, and the LGBT community. We can’t let it stand. https://t.co/h7YPEn0Miy — Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) August 14, 2019 In April, a controversial Trump administration policy that prohibits Transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military went into effect, according to a report from NBC News . According the the report, the Trump administration policy rolled back an Obama-era one that allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the U.S Military and provided them with access to gender-affirming care. The Trump-era policy enacted essentially evokes a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy similar to the one in place for gay, lesbian and bisexual service men and women in place from 1994 until 2011.
Earlier this month, The Log Cabin Republicans, a group whose makeup is described as gay republicans and their straight allies and claims to advocate for LGBT policies within the Republican Party, endorsed the president’s bid for reelection despite dealing to endorse the former reality television star in 2016, per The Washington Post.
Despite these actions, though, President Trump and his supporters have argued that he is not against the interests of the LGBTQ+ community. In a tweet in June, the President acknowledged gay Pride month and noted other countries with anti-LGBTQ+ policies. The president in that tweet claimed his administration was launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide.
The Trump administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Friday arguing that employers should be allowed to discriminate against, or even fire, their lesbian, gay and bisexual employees simply due to their sexual orientation.
The Justice Department intervened in one of two matters before the high court set to address LGBTQ employment discrimination during the court’s next term. At issue is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it a crime for employers "to fail or refuse to hire" or otherwise discriminate against a prospective or actual employee "because of such individual’s… sex."
While the Supreme Court has held that discrimination on the basis of sex encompasses actions taken or beliefs held by an employer that subject an employee to gender stereotypes, the court has never ruled on whether sex-based discrimination necessarily extends to sexual orientation.
In fact, appellate courts have traditionally held that sexual orientation is not a protected characteristic under Title VII, with one noted exception. In 2017, a federal appellate court reversed a prior holding to declare that discrimination against one’s sexual orientation does violate the law.
With its brief on Friday, the Department of Justice is trying to impel the Supreme Court to issue a precedent-setting ruling that would give the green light to employers nationwide who are not encumbered by state anti-discrimination ordinances.
Just last week, the Justice Department filed a similar brief in a different case dealing with anti-transgender discrimination, arguing along the same lines that federal civil rights law does not protect transgender employees from losing their jobs.
Remarkably, the department argued in its memorandum that the reason anti-gay discrimination is not unlawful under the ban on sex-based discrimination is because, in cases of adverse treatment by an employer, both gay men and gay women would be addressed equally poorly.
Upon experiencing discrimination from an employer, both men and women in same-sex relationships "would be similarly situated — and they would be treated the same," the department argued, negating a claim under Title VII’s sex-based protections. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds an LGBT rainbow flag given to him by supporter Max Nowak during a campaign rally at the Bank of Colorado Arena on the campus of University of Northern Colorado October 30, 2016 in Greeley, Colorado. The Trump administration has taken previous steps to remove protections and privileges for the LGBTQ community from both federal case law and departmental policy.
In a high-profile LGBTQ discrimination case involving a Colorado baker and a gay customer, the Trump administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the baker’s religious beliefs should be respected and that Colorado law shouldn’t require him to bake a cake for the customer’s same-sex wedding.
The administration has also rescinded Obama-era guidance interpreting another federal civil rights statute as protecting transgender students who want to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.
In perhaps the most harmful anti-LGBTQ policy to date, President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender soldiers from serving openly in the U.S. military. The ban went into effect in April as several legal challenges to the rule work their way through the courts. The Supreme Court lifted pre-emptive rulings which had halted the policy until federal judges were able to hear the many cases challenging the administration.
Despite the overwhelming number of actions the Trump administration has taken which undermine the standing of LGBTQ Americans, Trump recently said that "I’ve done very well" with the LGBTQ community.
The LGBT Community Center has been embroiled in a legal battle against Brandon Straka, pictured above, and others tied to the #WalkAway movement. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and other defendants have moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them that charged they discriminated against the conservative founder of the #WalkAway movement and two of his colleagues when The Center first agreed to rent a room to the group for the meeting and then withdrew that agreement after a community outcry.
“The facts as alleged in plaintiffs’ complaint fail to establish an intent to discriminate on the basis of plaintiffs’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity,” Kevin Loftus, a partner at O’Connor, McGuinness, Conte, Doyle, Oleson, Watson & Loftus, wrote in an August 20 filing in Manhattan Supreme Court. “Plaintiffs simply make conclusory allegations and over-exaggerated claims regarding a simple contract dispute. Absent evidence suggesting that defendants engaged in discriminatory practices because of plaintiffs’ membership in a protected class, the complaint must be dismissed.”
Brandon Straka, who is gay and became a celebrity when he founded the #WalkAway Campaign last year to urge people to abandon the Democratic Party, booked a room at The Center this past March and paid a $650 fee.
The town hall was slated to occur on March 28 and would have featured Straka, Blaire White, Mike Harlow, and Rob Smith. Straka most recently was among the opening speakers at an August 1 rally for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in Cincinnati, while White, who is transgender, and Harlow, who is gay, have established presences on social media. Smith is best known for opposing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that barred LGBTQ people from serving in the military.
Their politics range from libertarian to center-right to conservative. Following a community outcry, which included the distribution of an open letter that criticized the town hall organizers, The Center canceled the event and refunded the $650 fee.
Straka, White, Harlow, and the campaign are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in June. They sued The Center and its executive director, Glennda Testone, as well as Gabriel Farofaldane, who is on staff there. Jason Rosenberg and Gordon Beeferman were among the early supporters of the effort to bar the group and they are also named as defendants. Loftus represents The Center, Testone, and Farofaldane. Rosenberg and Beeferman are represented by J. Remy Green, a partner at Cohen Green.
The lawsuit charges the defendants with cyberbullying, defamation, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which is barred by city and state laws. Loftus wrote that the plaintiffs did not support their allegations.
“Plaintiffs fail to allege any facts that connect their respective sexual orientations and gender identities to the decision by The LGBT Community Center to cancel the plaintiffs’ event,” he wrote. “In fact, the Center’s statement regarding the cancelation of the event clearly lists the reason for the event’s cancelation.”
Loftus noted that if the court assumes all the facts asserted in the complaint are true, which it is required to do when weighing a motion to dismiss, “the allegations evidence discrimination based upon plaintiffs’ political beliefs, as opposed to their sexual orientation and gender identity.” Political beliefs are not a protected class in the city and state anti-discrimination laws, and The Center can bar them.
Loftus also asserted that his clients did not issue or sign the statement calling for the town hall to be canceled and that The Center’s own statement about why it cancelled the town hall could not be defamatory as defined under the law. He further stated that a single instance of The Center posting its statement on Twitter and on its website could not be construed as cyberbullying as the law defines that. As important, Loftus asserted that the law the plaintiffs are using for the cyberbullying claim does not create a cause of action for a lawsuit.
“Despite plaintiffs’ conclusory allegations that the decision to cancel the event by The LGBT Community Center was discriminatory or that the statement issued by The LGBT Community Center was defamatory, no interpretation of any act or statement made by The LGBT Community Center defendants are actionable under the theories espoused by the plaintiffs,” Loftus wrote.
In separate filings, Green also sought to dismiss the lawsuit and asked the court to sanction the attorneys representing Straka as well as Straka himself and his colleagues for filing a lawsuit that is “frivolous and without merit.” In an August 7 letter to A. Manny Alicandro, one of two attorneys representing Straka and his colleagues, Green wrote that the plaintiffs had offered no facts that supported the lawsuit.
“As filed, the lawsuit fails to state or even gesture at a single legally supportable claim against Gordon Beeferman or Jason Rosenberg,” Green wrote. “The complaint sufficiently identifies one statement [each by] Beeferman and Rosenberg, a tweet that does not mention a single defendant, and an open letter you allege was ‘principally drafted’ and signed by defendant Gordon Beeferman.”
Rosenberg’s tweet was posted on March 19 and appears to be directed at The Center. He wrote, “Like are y’all that desperate for money? This is incredibly egregious that you’d host an event where panelists have used queer slurs and stood behind policies that put the community at great risk. Stand for something. SOMETHING.”
Straka and his colleagues are also public figures as that is legally defined, Green wrote, who collectively have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and followers on their social media platforms. To prove defamation against a public figure, the plaintiffs have to show that the speakers knew their statements about the plaintiffs were false or they acted with reckless disregard as to the truth of the statements. Green filed a lengthy document filled with tweets and social media posts by the plaintiffs that showed that not only did Rosenberg and Beeferman have good reason to believe that what was said about the plaintiffs was true, those statements were true or “substantially true,” Green wrote.
Those social media posts show Straka with Milo Yiannopoulos, who promoted neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideologies when he worked at Breitbart, and Straka appearing on InfoWars, a show by Alex Jones, a leading voice on the alt right. Harlow is seen boasting of appearing with Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys. White is shown flashing a white power hand sign, appearing in black face to mock the Black Lives Matter movement, responding to a question about the “migrant crisis” with “gas em,” and writing “if he ain’t Aryan, we ain’t marryin” on Facebook.
The open letter charged the plaintiffs with espousing “white supremacist, transphobic, xenophobic, and otherwise bigoted views that are dangerous to our communities,” associating with people who advance “violently anti-immigrant, racist, sexist, and queerphobic ideologies,” and being “far-right provocateurs” who share responsibility “for incitement to violence against trans people, black people, women, immigrants, Jews, and Muslims, and who publicly associate themselves with prominent, violent members of the ‘Alt Right’ white nationalist movement.”
Kate Murray and Andy Arnold relax at home in Washington, DC on August 16, 2019. The couple plans to marry in October. Andy is transgender. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post) When Kate Murray and Andy Arnold first started dating in their early twenties, they were part of a tight-knit group of lesbian friends in D.C. The couple and their friends hung out almost every weekend, organizing potluck dinners and frequenting ladies’ nights at local gay bars.
Then, about two years ago, Andy came out as a transgender man. And as he transitioned, with Kate’s support, the couple suddenly felt they no longer belonged in the “women-centric” spaces they were used to. They tried testing out a new group of friends — a “blank slate,” a group in which Andy wouldn’t have to talk about his trans identity, he said. He could just “blend in” as a man.
To the new friends, they were just Andy and Kate — a man dating a woman. And that was just how Andy liked it. But to Kate, “it felt like a lie,” she said. She wanted to express her queer identity, she said, but how could she do that without making Andy uncomfortable?
For the couple, who are now engaged to be married, “there are no clear answers to this,” Andy said.
“No matter how much I want to separate my trans identity from who I am, I can’t. I can’t separate it from my relationship with Kate because she is a queer woman,” Andy said. “It’s a daily dance that we navigate.”
This tension is a daily reality for many queer couples who feel that the way others perceive them is at odds with who they really are.
Their experiences call to mind the phenomemom of “passing,” a fraught term that has historically been used in conversations about race to refer to someone who is able to escape discrimination and assume the privileges of a white identity based on appearance.
But the term is problematic when applied to gender identity today.
First of all, on the part of many LGBTQ people who are open about their identities, there is no intent to deceive. Rather it’s a matter of others’ misperceptions based on the human tendency to sort others easily into groups by making snap judgments about people based on how they look or who they choose to date, according to Carla A. Pfeffer, a sociology professor at the University of South Carolina who wrote a book specifically about partnerships between transgender men and cisgender women. (That tendency is not without a purpose. In an evolutionary sense, such sorting has allowed people to use their brains more efficiently, without having to ponder each decision individually.)
Secondly, for many transgender men and women, being able to “pass” as a man or a woman is about more than just a way to attain privilege, safety or comfort. It can also be an affirmation of a person’s identity, of how he or she truly feels inside.
“I want to be seen as a…man. I don’t want to have any sort of mark on me…that says ‘I am trans,’ Andy said. “I think if I were more inclined to do that, Kate and I would probably have an easier time. Some people do feel like ‘I need to represent…the group I’m a part of.’ But not me, I just want to blend.”
Many Americans still have a hard time grasping the fact that gender and sexual orientation are independent from each other — a person’s gender identity does not determine who the person will be attracted to, or who will be attracted to that person.
Transgender and nonbinary people identify as genders different than those on their birth certificates. But, for example, a transgender man might be attracted to only women, or only men, or both. It depends entirely on the person.
And when a person transitions while in a relationship, it doesn’t necessarily change the partner’s sexual orientation. Just because Kate is no longer dating a woman doesn’t mean she is no longer queer.
Distinguishing between identities in the LGBTQ community has become increasingly complex as more categories for gender identities and sexual orientations have emerged, many of them breaking with traditional binary notions. More and more people now identify as non-binary, meaning they do not identify as exclusively male or female. Terms like “pansexual” have emerged to describe people who are attracted to a full spectrum of gender identities.
“Now it’s a lot more difficult to know, or assume to know what category [people] belong to,” Pfeffer said. “People are feeling more like they have a right to their identity…and to be recognized in accordance with their identity.”
A double-edged sword
Kate and Andy’s struggle is one that, in some ways, echoes the experiences of bisexual people in relationships that are perceived as straight. “Suddenly that sexuality is just entirely erased, they’re seen as heterosexual people unremarkably in the world,” Pfeffer said.
About four in ten LGBT adults in the U.S. identify as bisexual. And among bisexual people with partners, almost 9 in 10 bisexual adults are married or in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, according to a Pew Research Center analysis in June of survey data from Stanford University.
For Deidre Pilcher, a mother of three in Frederick, Md., being married to a man has provided a sort of safety net in her conservative Mormon extended family. (Her husband is a cisgender man, meaning he is not transgender.)
“I don’t have to be ostracized by my community and sometimes I feel a little guilty about that, that I can sort of hide,” Pilcher, 40, said. “I don’t have to pay a social price. My kids don’t have to pay a price.”
But “passing” has been a double-edged sword for Pilcher in recent years, as she’s become more comfortable being open about her sexual identity. Whether at a Pride parade or at classes for her graduate program in marriage and family therapy, she gets frustrated when people assume she is straight. It’s become increasingly important for her to be open about her true self around her friends.
“It’s kind of constant mental gymnastics. I definitely acknowledge my privilege and I try to speak out and support the LGBT community wherever I can, but it seems like it would be helpful if I felt like they let me in,” Pilcher said. “We love people to just cleanly fit into groups…But people just aren’t that simple.”
Kate Murray presents “very feminine” in her clothing and appearance, she said. Over the years, she has made her sexual orientation clear to the outside world through her romantic relationships with women. Now that she’s no longer dating a woman, it bothers her when she “passes” as straight.
When Kate went to a lesbian bar in D.C. for her birthday recently, wearing a hot pink dress and a birthday tiara, “it was very clear to everyone in my friend group that the bartender thought that I was a straight girl celebrating my birthday at a gay bar,” Kate said. It wasn’t obvious, based on her appearance and who she was with, that she was queer.
Kate’s queer identity has always been a central part of her life. Her two mothers, who both worked at Wellesley College, used a sperm donor to conceive her; Kate was one of the first children born to lesbians at Wellesley, she said. “It was a huge deal.”
But Kate said she felt that her mothers hoped she might end up marrying a man — perhaps because they both came from conservative families, and had endured the challenges of coming out in a time that was far less accepting of gay couples.
In some ways, when Andy came out as transgender, Kate felt her parents were relieved. When Andy and Kate went to visit some of her conservative relatives in rural Illinois last year, she said one of her moms told her: “This is a thousand times easier for them than if you had brought a woman here.”
Kate’s mothers recently hosted two wedding showers — one for her and one that focused more on Andy . At Andy’s party, all of the decorations were rainbow-themed. The cookies had rainbow sprinkles. The plates were adorned with the words “love is love.” But Kate’s party felt more like a traditional, feminine bridal shower. Everything was pink. While the couple appreciated both parties, they felt taken aback by the decorations.
The parties left Kate with the impression that her parents consider Andy’s transgender identity “one of his defining features,” she said.
“But they never talk about my queerness,” Kate said.
“We want to be treated like a man and a woman like everybody else, but we also want our underlying identities to be acknowledged in some way,” she added. “My queerness can exist in my attraction to Andy, and his transness can exist. I think that kind of fluidity is hard to grasp.”
At their wedding in October, at a hotel in D.C., there will be no rainbows, Kate said. But they hope to, in small ways, gesture their individual identities.
Andy is Jewish, so the couple knew they wanted to include the traditional stomping of a glass at their wedding. But instead of having the man, Andy, step on the glass, “we’re going to step on it together,” Kate said.
Support the work.
Already a subscriber? Sign in
LGBT campaign loses fight in parliament for House panel on gender diversity The House of Representatives on Thursday voted down a motion from a Future Forward MP to set up an additional House panel on gender diversity.
The House voted 365 to 101, including 70 from the Future Forward party, to reject the motion by Future Forward party-list MP Ms. Nateepat Kulasetthasit. The motion called for the setting up of a separate panel of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from the House Committee on the Affairs of Children, Women, the Elderly, the Disabled and Ethnic Groups.
After their defeat in the House, Future Forward party-list MP Tunwarin Sukhapisit told the media that, despite the failure, the move for the gender diversity panel represented the first major step in Thai history for the recognition of the rights of LGBT people in Thailand.
Full story: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/lgbt-campaign-loses-fight-in-parliament-for-house-panel-on-gender-diversity/
Commentator Nick Heath, referee Ryan Atkin and organiser Ian Howley explain why the Bank Holiday Monday fun-fest is an unmissable event…
There’s a Conservative Party campaign poster from the June 1987 General Election that depicts protestors holding placards of demands – one of which calls for a ‘Gay Sports Day’.
The suggestion was that such an event would be evidence of a society in decline. “Do you want to live in it?” asks the poster’s slogan. That negative ad was truly a sign of less inclusive times, so it’s therefore worth celebrating the fact that 32 years later, the event not only exists – head along to the Pleasure Gardens outside the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon to see for yourself – but is also going from strength to strength, having become an institution in the LGBT London calendar.
In fact, the first ‘Gay Sports Day’ had been held in the capital back in 1982, when the Tories were already in power. But while that decade of moral panic and the ensuing climate of Section 28 are thankfully long gone, there’s still a glorious sense of defiance – and silliness – about RVT Sports Day , as it’s now known (after several years on hiatus, it was relaunched in 2007).
Most importantly, the event raises thousands of pounds each year for charities that serve the community. Teams from LYC Badminton and The GMDC compete in the three-legged race in 2018 Organiser Ian Howley is the chief executive of LGBT HERO (Health Equality and Rights Organisation), which benefits from Sports Day along with its related projects GMFA (founded in 1992 as ‘Gay Men Fighting Aids’) and OutLife .
“This year, we have 11 teams battling it out for the crown,” he tells Sports Media LGBT+ . The ‘Semi-Hard Brexiteers’ show their strength in the tug-of-war “Some of the events are traditional sports-day fare, such as the egg-and-spoon race and tug of war. But we like to camp it up a bit too, so we also have the 50m mince, the handbag throw, and the drag relay.
“It’s all topped off with the ever-popular rhythmic gymnastics, where our teams have two minutes to impress the judges with a routine fit for a Drag Queen.”
Last year’s winners The GMDC (Gay Men’s Dance Company) wowed with their routine, and they are back to defend their title. Other teams to watch are ‘Just Doing This Now’, the latest London Titans FC tribute act this time paying homage to Sonia from EastEnders aka Natalie Cassidy; the scarily sporty Pop Horror; the burly bears of The Beefmincers; and their highnesses, the Haus of Royalz. Donate to your team of choice here!
Trying to keep everyone on schedule is incomparable compere Timberlina, who’s joined by out-spoken commentators Nick Heath and Bob Ballard (both of this parish network), and returning for his second stint as adjudicator absolute, football referee Ryan Atkin. Bob Ballard, Ryan Atkin, Nick Heath and Timberlina at last year’s RVT Sports Day For Heath, getting to talk the crowd of spectators through the trips, tumbles and ripped pairs of tights is a privilege. “My annual commentary gig on Gay Sports Day is by far my favourite day of the year,” he says. “It really reflects the LGBT community at its best.
“While the competitive element may provide a gentle focus, the entertainment value comes from the teams, the crowd, the chaos, our hostess Timberlina, and representatives from all corners of our queer world showing off their sporting and performing prowess.
“This is about everyone – and it’s as silly as it gets. If you’ve not been down before, prep yourself a picnic, load up the cool box, and get your sporting dress-up on. Mine’s a G+T if you’re asking. On your marks, get set… miiiiiince!” The handbag toss is a key event Atkin is equally excited. “As a professional referee, it’s often hard for me to have fun – but I thoroughly enjoy Gay Sports Day.
“Having recently been officiating at the EuroGames in Rome, I know only too well what events like this can do for the LGBT community, and the power of having a visible rainbow flag in sporting environments.
“I look forward to the range of costumes, activities and of course our amazing host and commentators who always add their sparkle to the event!
“I’ll try to keep the chaos to a minimum – but that’s certainly not going to happen. And I do hope my dress is suitable for the occasion…” Sounds like the traditional all-black referee shirt, shorts and socks won’t be de rigueur for Ryan this year.
Ask anyone who’s been to Sports Day before and they’ll tell you that hilarity is guaranteed, something which Howley knows keeps the crowds coming back every August. However, while times have changed a great deal since the 1980s and electioneering politicians these days try to win the gay vote rather than sneer at it, there is still a serious side to Sports Day; the fundraising element of the event is no laughing matter. Ian Howley (right) is the chief executive of LGBT HERO and the organiser of the RVT Sports Day “LGBTQ+ people face some of the harshest health and social inequalities in society,” says Howley. “It comes as no surprise to LGBTQ+ people that we are more likely to be affected by mental illness and experience suicidal thoughts.
“LGBTQ+ people in general are five times more likely to experience suicide. Those numbers increase if you are from the black, Asian or minority ethnic communities, especially if you are a BAME LBTQ woman. Nearly half of all trans people will contemplate taking their own life, which is a shocking statistic in itself.
“We also see how HIV impacts on gay, bisexual and trans men’s mental health. It’s not uncommon that some newly diagnosed people end up experiencing mental health issues because of the struggles their diagnosis brings, with some taking their own lives. We’ve also seen how stigma towards those who are living with HIV can affect their health. We have lost too many people because of the stigma they receive.” The @RVTSportsDay medals are here. Gold for overall winner. Silver andbronze for 2nd and 3rdTrophy medal for fundraising winnersAnd pink/gold star for best dressed team. Monday 26 Aug from 1pm behind @thervt pic.twitter.com/0YubIPTtxI — LGBT HERO (@lgbtHERO) August 20, 2019 A fortnight after this year’s RVT Sports Day, it will be World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) and the money raised on Bank Holiday Monday will fund a new campaign to be launched next month. “We are focused on raising money to help LGBTQ+ people who are struggling,” adds Howley. “For far too long, LGBTQ+ people have been left out of the national conversation and it’s time that we have campaigns that reflect the needs of LGBTQ+ people and address the silent epidemic going on in our community.
“All the money raised will go towards funding our work through GMFA – the gay men’s health project and OutLife.” gets underway from 1pm on Bank Holiday Monday (August 26) at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, behind the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. It’s free to attend, but bring a donation! RVT Sports Day
LGBT HERO is the Health Equality and Rights Organisation for LGBTQ+ people. LGBT HERO is the parent organisation of GMFA – the gay men’s health project and OutLife . LGBT HERO aims to tackle the vast health and social inequalities LGBTQ+ people face such as sexual health, mental health, alcohol and drugs, and LGBTQ+ rights. LGBT HERO reaches over six million people a year through its infosites and campaigns. Donate here.
Demi Burnett and Kristian Hagerty (Instagram/demi_not_lovato) The Bachelor franchise is finally featuring a same-sex romance after 17 years on air.
Demi Burnett, who identifies as sexually fluid, is dating a woman on the show Bachelor in Paradise .
Burnett, an interior designer, was initially attracted to co-star Derek Peth, but she began to fall for a woman unrelated to the show, Kristian Hagerty.
Unusually, the show’s producers decided to bring Hagerty into the series.
In the spin-off series, singles eliminated on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette attempt to find love at a beach resort.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter , Bachelor in Paradise host Chris Harrison said: “We could have easily said that because Demi is in somewhat of a relationship back home that she won’t find love here and we should send her home and go on our way.
“Instead, we all made the decision to break or bend the rules a little bit.” Thanks for coming to Paradise #bachelorinparadise
A post shared by Demi Burnett (@demi_not_lovato) on Aug 20, 2019 at 11:34pm PDT This is the first time a same-sex storyline has appeared on the show, which first launched as The Bachelor in 2002.
In 2017, bisexual contestant Jaimi King appeared on the programme and pursued a relationship with co-star Nick Viall.
In a statement, GLAAD’s head of talent Anthony Ramos said: “ Bachelor in Paradise ’s inclusion of Demi Burnett’s coming out story and her journey to accepting her queer identity is groundbreaking for the series.
“Tens of millions of people around the world watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchises and this move to include a same-sex relationship in an honest fashion has the power to upend preconceived notions of LGBTQ people like Demi who are attracted to more than one gender.”
Earlier this year, Queer Eye star Karamo Brown attracted criticism by questioning whether The Bachelor star Colton Underwood might be gay.
The Queer Eye star tweeted: “I just watched the last couple of episodes of the bachelor… Are we sure he isn’t gay?
“Lol. My gaydar is going crazy,” he added about Underwood.
Some have criticised Brown for seemingly endorsing the idea that people have a gaydar.
One person wrote: “Are we sure we want to perpetuate the gaydar myth in the year 2019? Nobody except LGBT themselves gets to say they are gay. The gaydar means nothing.”