William Barr, President Trump’s pick to become the next attorney general, held his cards close to the vest on LGBT issues Tuesday during his confirmation hearing, but hinted upon confirmation he’d pursue the anti-LGBT policies of his predecessor Jeff Sessions.
The answers from Barr suggest he’d continue to uphold the Justice Department’s view that LGBT people aren’t protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in the workforce. Additionally, Barr suggested he’d uphold religious freedom even at the expense of anti-LGBT discrimination.
In his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr recognized the increasing number of hate crimes in the United States, including LGBT people, and pledged to address them under the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
“We can only survive and thrive as a nation if we are mutually tolerant of each other’s differences, whether they be differences based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political thinking,” Barr said. “And yet, we see some people violently attacking others simply because of their differences. We must have zero tolerance for such crimes, and I will make this a priority as attorney general if confirmed.”
But under questioning on LGBT issues from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Barr indicated enforcement of the hate crimes law would likely be the extent of his pro-LGBT advocacy at the Justice Department.
Booker initiated the questioning on LGBT issues by referencing a 1995 article Barr wrote for a conservative Catholic publication that laments growing acceptance of the LGBT movement compared to religious communities.
Asserting the 1995 article demonstrated a view being LGBT was immoral, Booker asked Barr whether he still holds those views, Barr replied “no,” but disputed the article conveyed anti-LGBT views.
After Booker insisted he was quoting the actual language, Barr said he’d inform the committee about his views. Barr reflected on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling for same-sex marriage.
“If I had been voting on it at the time — my view is that under the law, under the Constitution, as I originally conceived it before it was decided by the Supreme Court, marriage was to be regulated by the states, and if it was brought to me, I would have favored martial unions, single-sex,” Barr said.
When Booker interjected he was questioning Barr about his views in the 1995 article and whether the LGBT movement is immoral, Barr expressed a need for tolerance.
“In a pluralistic society like ours, there has be to a live-and-let-live attitude, and mutual tolerance, which has to be a two-way street,” Barr said. “My concern, and the rest of the article addresses this, is I am perfectly fine with the law as it is, for example, with gay marriage, perfectly fine, but I want accommodation for religion.”
When the New Jersey Democrat interjected LGBT youth are disproportionately bullied at schools, Barr interrupted to recognize anti-LGBT hate crimes. Booker acknowledged that before adding many LGBT youth report they are missing school because of fear of being bullied and are disproportionately homeless.
Booker asked Barr whether he thinks laws “designed to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination contribute to what you describe as a breakdown for traditional morality.”
Barr replied “no,” but added, “I also believe there has to be accommodation to religious communities.”
Booker acknowledged, “You and I believe in freedom of religion,” but shifted the focus to anti-gay workplace discrimination. Barr replied, “I think’s that wrong.”
When Booker asked whether that means the Justice Department should protect LGBT kids from harassment and hate crimes and pursue efforts to protect the civil rights of LGBT Americans, Barr replied. “I support that.”
Referencing his opening statement, Barr said, “As I said in the beginning, I’m very concerned about the increase in hate crimes.”
But when Booker asked Barr if he sees a role for the Justice Department in banning anti-LGBT discrimination, the nominee had a different take. Barr replied, “If Congress passes such a law.”
Barr then referenced the petitions currently before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking clarification on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace, applies to cases of anti-LGBT discrimination.
“I think the litigation going on now on Title VII is what the the 1964 act actually contemplated, but personally, I think —,” Barr said.
Before Barr could finish and venture an opinion on Title VII, Booker interrupted and asked to verify whether lawmakers contemplated including LGBT people in Title VII. Barr rejected that idea, saying “no.”
“I think it was male-female that they were talking about when they said sex in the ’64 act,” Barr added.
Booker then interjected again by conflating anti-LGBT discrimination with sexual harassment: “So protecting someone’s basic rights to be free from discrimination because of sexual harassment is not something the Department of Justice should be protecting?”
Playing with one of the many U.S. Senate coasters before him on the witness stand, Barr insisted the onus is on Congress to make the law.
“I’m saying Congress passes the law, the Justice Department enforces the law,” Barr said. “I think the ’64 act on its face — and this is what is being litigated, what does it cover? I think for like three or four decades, the LGBT community has been trying to amend the law.”
Booker interrupted again before Barr could finish, saying the Obama administration’s Justice Department “was working to protect LGBT kids from discrimination.” (The Justice Department in the Obama years asserted anti-trans discrimination was illegal under Title VII, but took no position with respect to the law on anti-gay discrimination despite pleas from LGBT rights supporters.)
When Booker asked if Barr would pursue the Obama administration practices, Barr replied, “I don’t know what you’re referring to.”
“I’m against discrimination against anyone because of some status, their gender or their sexual orientation or whatever,” Barr continued.
Hirono picked up where Booker left off, asking Barr directly about the Justice Department’s friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals arguing anti-gay discrimination isn’t covered under Title VII. As Hirono noted, both the Second Circuit and the Seventh Circuit have “rejected the department’s argument” about the law.
The Hawaii Democrat asked Barr if he’d appeal those decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court. In response, Barr seemingly referenced the petitions before justices, noting, “I think it is going up to the Supreme Court.”
When Hirono asked if DOJ will continue to argue Title VII doesn’t bar anti-gay discrimination, Barr initially declined to answer directly.
“It’s pending litigation and I haven’t gotten in to review the department’s litigation position, but the matter will be decided by the Supreme Court,” Barr said.
Hirono responded: “That sounds like a ‘yes’ to me. The department will continue to push the argument that has been rejected.”
At this point, Barr tipped his hand on his view Title VII doesn’t cover anti-gay discrimination.
“It’s not just the department’s argument,” Barr said. “It’s been sort of common understanding for almost 40 years.”
Asked by Hirono if discrimination is OK, Barr replied, “That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying the question is the interpretation of the statute passed in 1964.”
“As I’ve already said, I personally, as a matter of my own personal feelings think there should be laws that prohibit discrimination against gay people,” Hirono said.
When Hirono asked Barr if he’d review the Justice Department’s position, Barr replied, “No. Because there’s a difference between law and policy.”
“I will enforce the laws as passed by Congress,” Barr said. “I’m not going to amend them. I’m not going to undercut them. I’m not going to try to work my way around them and evade them.
Hirono responded: “The DOJ doesn’t have to file an amicus brief either.”
The Hawaii Democrat wasn’t done on LGBT issues, asking Barr about an explosive report in the New York Times asserting the Department of Health & Human Services was preparing a rule to define transgender people out of existence under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.
Asked by Hirono if he believes transgender people are protected from discrimination under Title IX, Barr dodged.
“I think that matter’s being litigated in the Supreme Court, too,” Barr said.
When Barr added he doesn’t know the Justice Department’s position on the issue, Hirono said she’d ask him to review the issue.
LGBT groups have raised concerns about Barr’s confirmation as attorney general, asserting he lacks a commitment to protecting civil rights. (One longtime gay friend of Barr’s, however, former Time Warner general counsel Paul Cappuccio, has defended the nominee, telling the Blade, “He’s not going to ever let people be discriminated against, OK?”)
Jon Davidson, chief counsel of Freedom for All Americans, said Barr’s testimony “did little to assuage those concerns” of LGBT rights groups.“While he testified he is “fine” with “gay marriage,” his comments that there “has to be accommodation to religion” — something not required or even permitted for other people’s marriages — is very disturbing,” Davidson said.Davidson also raised concerns about Barr’s response on whether Title VII should cover anti-gay discrimination.“In addition, although he said he thinks firing someone based on their sexual orientation is ‘wrong,’ he refused to disagree with the anti-LGBTQ positions the Justice Department has been taking when it comes to Title VII and he erroneously asserted that Title VII should be limited to what Congress believed it was accomplishing in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Davidson said. “That position has already been rejected several times by the Supreme Court, which has said that what Congress had in mind at the time is not controlling.Ultimately, Davidson had a dismal forecast for Barr’s stewardship of the Justice Department.“It appears that he intends to carry forward the positions of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which have consistently opposed equal rights for LGBTQ people,” Davidson said.Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer for Lambda Legal, also said Barr’s testimony didn’t allay her concerns.“I think he said absolutely nothing to alleviate any of the concerns that we have based on his record, and if anything, his comments only demonstrate that he is exactly what his record suggests that he is, which is someone who will not be a champion for civil rights generally or LGBT equality specifically,” McGowan said.Barr’s confirmation hearing took place as the Justice Department is defending President Trump’s transgender military ban in court and has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Barr didn’t address the policy, nor did any member of the Senate Judiciary Committee inquire about Barr’s view on the issue.
Leslie Ellison (District 4) takes the oath of office from Judge Ernestine Anderson as the new Orleans Parish School Board is sworn in at the OPSB offices in Algiers on Thursday, January 12, 2017. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) ( A candidate for president of the Orleans Parish School Board is facing blowback this week for having what civil rights organizations describe as a history of “anti-LGBTQ statements and advocacy.”
The seven members of the OPSB are scheduled to elect a new board president at Thursday’s (Jan. 17) meeting, and board Vice President Leslie Ellison is lobbying to assume this role. Board President John Brown is now term-limited from re-election after serving in the role for two years. OPSB District 6 member Woody Koppel is also planning to run.
The OPSB’s president is responsible for signing the district’s contracts, which is significant because the school board serves as an authorizer for the dozens of nongovernmental organizations that manage schools through charter contracts . The board’s president also sets meeting agendas and assigns members to its five committees.
However, LGBTQ civil rights organizations state Ellison has an anti-LGBTQ record that puts students at risk. Alexander Andersen, vice president of the Board of Directors for Louisiana Trans Advocates, said in a released statement Wednesday that Ellison’s election to school board president “would make LGBTQ students in Orleans Parish schools unsafe and unwilling to go to the school board if they experienced discrimination.”
The organizations cite concerns about Ellison’s candidacy stemming in part from Ellison’s 2012 state legislature testimony in support of a bill letting charter schools exclude gay students , according to an article from NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune at that time. Ellison, a charter school board leader at the time, told lawmakers she couldn’t sign a contract with the anti-discrimination clause spelled out by the Louisiana Department of Education, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, because that contract violated both the separation of powers as well as the freedom of religion.
Ellison in July 2013 also elicited shock from attendees of a school board meeting during a discussion over an anti-bullying policy affecting five schools at the time, according to a Times-Picayune article from 2013 . Ellison expressed opposition to listing characteristics like sexual orientation, race or religion in the bullying policy when then-member Seth Bloom, who is gay, said “I just find it perplexing that certain minorities seek protection for certain minorities but not for others.”
Ellison replied back that “this has nothing to do with being black. I can’t change my blackness at all,” which drew audible gasps from attendees. The American Psychological Association has stated that sexual orientation is not a matter of personal choice.
Ellison responded to her critics Thursday afternoon in a released written statement where she pointed out that she’s served as OPSB vice president by a unanimous vote of board members “who have never questioned my commitment” to serve every child citywide over the past two years. She even approached former OPSB member Bloom about his bid for OPSB president before she nominated him and voted in support of his presidency for his two elected terms, she added.
“My record and priorities will continue to place all children first and clearly negates any question of my ability to do so with fairness,” Ellison stated.
OPSB District 7 member Nolan Marshall told The New Orleans Advocate he could vote for anyone who understands the president represents the views of the board, and he thinks Ellison does.
“I believe both candidates understand that as a president they lose the right to speak as an individual,” Marshall told The Advocate. “As long as she can abide by that, I think she would serve well as president. If she does not, I think it would be incumbent on the board to remove her.”
However, Marshall told NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune in a written statement Thursday he is not promoting Ellison’s candidacy for the board presidency because of “our divergent views on sex education, bullying policies and how we address the issues concerning the LBGTQ community.”
“However,” Marshall said. “I am prepared to work with anyone that has the majority of the Board’s support and understands that they must represent the Board and not their personal beliefs.”
Since 2012 Ellison has represented the 4th District, which represents Algiers, Faubourg Marigny, Bywater and the French Quarter. Ellison currently serves on the OPSB’s Legal, Property, Budget and Finance committees. Ellison is owner and CEO of the Ellison Group and serves as administrator at Gideon Christian Fellowship International.
Ellison previously worked as Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the city of New Orleans and as an administrator for the City Attorney’s Office. She ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in the fall of 2015, receiving 15 percent of the vote in the primary election for the 7th District seat.
Kenny Tucker, chair of the political action committee for the Forum for Equality, said in a released statement Wednesday that Ellison’s “well-documented history of anti-LGBTQ statements and advocacy” would send the “wrong choice” to students if she’s elected board president.
“Electing Ms. Ellison to the level of Orleans Parish School Board President is the wrong choice and sends the wrong message to our youth about how seriously we take their safety from bullying and discrimination at school,” Tucker stated.
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John Oliver presenting ‘A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.’ (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube) The Trevor Project welcomed Karen Pence to her new position as art teacher at the Immaculate Christian School by donating 100 copies of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.”
The book is a spoof of Pence’s book “Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President,” which she co-created with her daughter Charlotte. The story follows the Pences’ bunny Marlon around the White House.
John Oliver’s parody book “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller, features Marlon as a gay bunny who falls in love and gets married to another male bunny, Wesley.
Proceeds from the book were donated to the Trevor Project and AIDS United.
The Trevor Project sent the books to the Springfield, Va. school, which has strict policies banning LGBT students, families and employees, in hopes of changing its anti-LGBT views.
The donation included a note which encourages the school to place the books in the school’s library and classrooms and to give the books to their family and friends.
“Combined with school policy changes, we believe these books can help encourage acceptance of LGBTQ young people among your community, and they can be a great first step to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students,” the note reads.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans school board member withdrew from consideration for the board presidency Thursday night amid a flurry of criticism over her record of resistance to protections for LGBT students, but that didn’t stop a torrent of vehement criticism that nearly led to her losing her current post as the board’s vice president.
When the debate was over, Leslie Ellison remained the board’s vice president — elected in an unexpectedly narrow 4-3 vote after close to two dozen speakers, including gay and transgender students and adults, voiced their displeasure.
Immediately prior to the debate, the seven-member board made an apparent attempt to defuse the expected rancor by unanimously voting to suspend its rules and allow the current president, John Brown, and vice president, Ellison, to remain in their current posts for another year.
But Ellison’s critics didn’t relent, saying she should be ousted as vice-president as well.
"There are countless numbers of LGBTQ students who yearn for the day that will allow them to walk fearlessly into their truth and be their best selves," said Gary Briggs, a former teacher and a gay man. "Because how can we expect our students to perform at their highest levels when they cannot live authentically?"
A handful of speakers supported Ellison, none mentioning gay or sexual identity issues as they praised her dedication and competence.
After sometimes blistering criticism from a majority of speakers, the board stuck with its decision to keep Brown as president for another year with a unanimous vote. But members re-opened nominations for vice president. Member Sarah Usdin nominated colleague Nolan Marshal Jr. to replace Ellison. But Ellison won another year as vice president by a 4-3 vote. She did not immediately address the criticism before the board moved on to other issues.
Ellison’s record on LGBT issues goes back several years but only recently had been drawing greater scrutiny.
Opponents cite a 2012 legislative committee hearing in which she opposed language in state charter school contracts explicitly forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. News reports from 2013 indicate she also opposed language including protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in a board anti-bullying policy that year.
Ellison didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.
The 2012 bill, which did not become law, said the non-discrimination language in state contracts must include non-discrimination language protecting people on the bases of race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability, but prohibited any other factor — thereby excluding protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
At the time, according to news accounts and an archived video of the committee hearing, Ellison said she could not sign a renewal application for a state-chartered public school she was leading because it contained "sexual orientation" protections. Ellison, an administrator at Gideon Christian Fellowship International in New Orleans, said at the time that she is "strongly opposed to discrimination at every level." But, she said, the state Department of Education’s insistence on sexual orientation language constituted "unjust demands on individuals and education leaders who for religious purposes and religious freedom will not sign off on such a policy."
LGBT rights groups said in statements this week that Ellison has not backed away from her earlier position.
"Just this week, after the Forum and many other leaders from our community engaged with Ms. Ellison, she pointedly declined to retract or even reflect upon here past statements," the New Orleans-based Forum for Equality said on its website. Talks over Los Angeles teachers strike to resume Saturday
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Vice President Mike Pence (Photo: Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen | Public Domain) Vice President Mike Pence has spoken out in response to the backlash his wife has received over her new teaching job .
Earlier this week it was revealed Second Lady Karen Pence was taking up a contract to teach art. She will teach twice a week at Immanuel Christian School in northern Virginia.
The school bans LGBT teachers. It also prohibits students from LGBT-supportive families. Karen Pence previously taught at the school for 12 years while her husband was a Congressman. Their daughter, Charlotte, also attended the institution.
Parents of students wanting to enrol in the school must sign an agreement they don’t participate in or condone ‘homosexual or bi-sexual activities.’
Parents must ‘embrace biblical family values such as a healthy marriage between one man and one woman.’
Prospective teachers must also sign a contract acknowledge the ‘unique roles of male and female’. Teachers must also promise not to partake in ‘homosexual behavior, lesbian sexual activity and transgender identity.’
It’s not uncommon for Christian schools and colleges in the US to have such contracts. ‘Deeply offensive to us’
Many LGBT advocacy groups have criticized the wife of the Vice President for taking up a job at a school that excludes LGBT pupils and staff.
Chad Griffin, of Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said: ‘Why not serve at a school that welcomes everyone? Not a week passes without some reminder that the Pences view LGBTQ people as second class citizens.’
In an interview with the Catholic news network EWTN yesterday, Vice President Pence said the US has a rich tradition of religious education: ‘To see major news organizations attacking Christian education is deeply offensive to us.’ Dr Jill Biden
Some think it not coincidental that the former Vice President’s wife tweeted her support for LGBTI rights yesterday. Dr Jill Biden, wife of Joe Biden, who served as Vice President to Barack Obama, yesterday congratulated a leading LGBTI advocate on his new position. Congratulations, Brian! Proud to work with you at the White House; grateful for all that you have done for the LGBTQ community, we are fortunate for your continued leadership. https://t.co/4rVXoCBhQ7 — Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) January 17, 2019 Reacting to the news that Brian Bond had been appointed Executive Director of LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG, Biden tweeted: ‘Congratulations, Brian! Proud to work with you at the White House; grateful for all that you have done for the LGBTQ community, we are fortunate for your continued leadership.’
The tweet did not go unnoticed by another US advocacy group, GLAAD. It responded: ‘Remember what it was like to have a Second Lady who stood up for LGBTQ equality and acceptance?’ Remember what it was like to have a Second Lady who stood up for LGBTQ equality and acceptance? https://t.co/apv3DCJUZ4 — GLAAD (@glaad) January 17, 2019 See also
The new home of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus on Valencia Street, San Francisco (Photo courtesy San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus) The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus has announced that is launching its own LGBTQ Arts Center in the California city.
The Chorus has taken over a $9.6million, four-storey, art deco building at 170 Valencia Street. It will be the first time the Chorus has had a permanent home.
The SF Gay Men’s Chorus is arguably the most famous gay choir in the world. It formed in 1978 and is famed for its performances and recordings.
According to the SF Chronicle , besides acting as a home for the Chorus, the building will evolve into a fully-fledged LGBTQ arts center.
The building dates back to 1930. Former occupants include worshippers of the Baha’i Faith. They used it as a place of worship up until 1976.
The Chorus hope to begin programming events from the fall onwards.
‘The way we envision this space is really being a community space, so being able to bring in more LGBTQ arts organizations,’ said Executive Director Chris Verdugo.
‘As we introduce this into the community, a big piece of that will be aligning ourselves with other various LGBTQ arts organizations who need rehearsal space, who need small performance spaces.’ $5million donation from former Chorus member
The purchase of the building has been largely thanks to a $5million donation from a former Chorus member: Terrence Chan.
In a statement, Verdugo praised Chan’s generosity.
‘We are so grateful to Terrence Chan and his life partner Edward Sell who will lead our campaign and our board of directors for their most generous support of this remarkable venture. We look forward to working with and alongside other LGBTQ arts organizations while supporting them in their artistic and advocacy endeavors.’
In the same statement, Chan said, ‘I am particularly excited about the vision for a National LGBTQ Center for the Arts. At this time in our nation’s history, it is vital that we in the LGBTQ community have a home for our art and artists.
‘I am confident that great work will be created in our new home – work that will inspire, engage and educate.’
Amongst those to congratulate the Chorus on their new home is San Francisco’s recently elected mayor, London Breed .
‘Congratulations to @SFGMC on their new home at the old Baha’i Temple on Valencia Street!’ she tweeted. ‘This space will serve as a national arts hub for the LGBTQ community, providing workshops and trainings for artists and performers from all around the globe.’ Congratulations to @SFGMC on their new home at the old Baha’i Temple on Valencia Street! This space will serve as a national arts hub for the LGBTQ community, providing workshops and trainings for artists and performers from all around the globe. https://t.co/PWHB77SNvk — London Breed (@LondonBreed) January 18, 2019 See also
NBA player Reggie Bullock talking about his sister | Photo: YouTube/The Herd with Colin Cowherd NBA player Reggie Bullock recently spoke about his transgender sister Mia Henderson in a new interview.
Bullock, who plays for the Detroit Pistons, found a new calling for himself following the 2014 murder of Henderson. Since that tragic act of violence, Bullock has taken it upon himself to become an ally for the LGBTI community.
Part of this journey, however, has involved making mistakes and learning from them.
While speaking with Advocates for Youth in their video series Kikis with Louie , he brought up the tattoo he got in honor of his sister.
That tattoo he got consisted of two words — ‘LGBTQ’ and his sister’s name. Unfortunately, the name he got tattooed for his sister was the one before her transition.
‘I wasn’t educated enough ― that’s pretty much dead-naming her,’ he said in the video.
Deadnaming is the use of a tran’s person name pre-transition, rather than using their true name. It is an extremely offensive act to the transgender community.
He continued: ‘This was the person I thought I knew and the life she lived when it actually wasn’t. She wanted to be recognized as Mia Henderson, which was her street name that she picked up, and that was the real life that she was living.’
Bullock told Louie Ortiz-Fonseca that once he realized his mistake, he rectified it with a second tattoo. Using his voice for good
In talking about his sister, he spoke of her life and passions: ‘She loved dance, she loved fashion … very loud when she’d get in arguments, but she was a backbone of support. She was just a power source to the community.’
Since his death, he has used his voice not only to keep the memory of Henderson alive, but to champion the LGBTI community.
In April 2018 , he spoke about wanting to play in a rainbow colored jersey to represent the community in professional sports.
This week, he also spoke out against a Senate Bill in South Dakota. All athletes should have the same access to the sport they love. I call on South Dakota lawmakers to join me in standing for equality and against #SB49 . #HiFromSD #ProtectTransStudents @AthleteAlly — Reggie Bullock (@ReggieBullock35) January 16, 2019 Should the bill become law, trans student athletes would be prohibited from playing on teams that align with their gender identity. See also
BTL Photo: Andrew Potter. From the outside, LGBT Detroit might look like many similar nonprofit organizations, but if one digs a little deeper they’ll find that it’s been making history both in the city’s LGBTQ and African-American communities since it was founded over 20 years ago. It got its roots in 1994 as the Kick Publishing Company, achieving the title of the third black American LGBT media company created in the U.S. A year later, it kicked off its Hotter Than July celebration, making it the world’s second oldest black pride. Now in 2019, LGBT Detroit is making history for a third time with its recently acquired expansion; after purchasing the building next door to its current Greenfield Road location, it’s become the “largest property of a black-owned LGBT center in North America,” said Curtis Lipscomb, LGBT Detroit’s executive director.
“So, we are now a campus,” Lipscomb said. “We’re looking at a combined 6,000 square foot unit of space where expanded programming occurs [next door] while admin stays here, because we were doing all three types of work — admin, event, programming — here, in our older space.”
As it currently stands, the organization plans on debuting its addition to its existing #SafeBraveSpace in spring of this year. But that’s only part of what the nonprofit organization has to offer in 2019. In advance of the upcoming National LGBTQ Task Force-sponsored Creating Change conference scheduled to come to Detroit for a third time in January, Between The Lines has decided to highlight a Michigan organization that encapsulates the values of the LGBTQ social justice movement. In this issue, BTL will take a look at LGBT Detroit’s mark on Southeast Michigan’s LGBTQ history, previous and existing involvement with Creating Change and its programmatic goals for the coming year.
The Impact of Creating Change
If one ventures into LGBT Detroit, they’ll find services that cover everything from HIV prevention and peer-to-peer discussion groups to youth leadership development courses and substance abuse recovery programs — diverse programming to serve diverse needs. And, according to Lipscomb, at least partially, the Creating Change conference is responsible for the breadth of services offered at the center.
“I go every year. Creating Change is one of the two mandatory national events that this company invests in. It is Creating Change and Out on the Hill (Black LGBTQ/SGL Leadership Summit) which is in September [hosted by] the National Black Justice Coalition,” Lipscomb said. “I find funds to send my team for either youth development at OOTH or some kind of education development at Creating Change. So what we normally do is get the program book, skim through it, try to figure out in which department who is going where, assign staff to those places and then come back, report internally what we discovered, and then, through our blog, tell the community what happened, where we were, what we got out of it and how we’re going to implement that work here. We do this every year.”
When asked why Creating Change is one of the two conferences chosen for his staff’s development, Lipscomb said its strength lies in its diversity and that comes from its annual change of location.
“It isn’t a static project where it’s always in Washington D.C., so you already are introducing something quite unique to people when you’re bringing it to their neighborhood: Kansas City, Detroit, Chicago, Nashville — wherever the host community is, a young or new activist can find easier access to this potential source of education and information,” he said.
Movement of physical location and programming aside, Lipscomb said that every year he gets excited about the conference’s offered Racial Justice Institute — a mainstay 31 years in the making.
“I think every single person needs to attend that. But as I skimmed through the program book, I saw some familiar local names here which I was excited about,” he said. “Of course, I’m excited about what I’m going to offer, too. I have my friends with Detroit Sound Conservancy and Dr. Tim Retzloff as my reference in telling our story, and I’m always excited about cultural identity workshops and, of course, fundraising workshops are something I always attend.”
Development in the New Year
Lipscomb has been heavily involved with LGBT Detroit and its preceding organizations for years. When asked if he could have imagined the jump from a formerly single-office nonprofit organization to a multi-building campus, he said that he always envisioned the organization growing.
“To be honest with you, I did imagine it,” Lipscomb said. “It was in 2004 when [with] our future board member Montrice, and his partner Cory Woods, we unveiled this idea of a welcome center. It was unveiled on the east side, one block east of Grosse Pointe and it was an illustration, it was really this silly kind of illustration looking back, but it was us offering this space where we gathered to plan and strategize. Did I imagine it a campus, [not really] but when we acquired the [current address] a vision kind of popped into my head and when we saw that the opportunity existed next door it was like, ‘Let’s go for it!’”
Coupled with its expansion, LGBT Detroit is gearing up for two other primary goals in 2019: recovery and neighborhood development. Lipscomb said that he seeks to use this year to make a greater impact among those in Detroit’s LGBTQ community who have fallen into a cycle of substance abuse. He said that the first step to achieving that goal is to form a partnership with Pure Recovery, a private rehab clinic located in the city.
“We have a relationship with pure recovery which is informal, but I met with the executive director to ask can we really buy into a formal relationship,” Lipscomb said. “Pure Recovery has the only LGBT recovery house in Detroit on the east side and we wanted to see that if you are trans or LGB, that you have this space to go to seek recovery and this is an allied institution.”
After chatting with some residents in the Pure Recovery program, Lipscomb said he’s eager to expand LGBT Detroit’s current work combating tobacco addiction to different substances.
“I met some of the residents, and it’s a whole issue that I am personally impacted by because as a person who has lived through the crack epidemic, I have seen what addiction has done,” he said.
Regarding neighborhood development, Lipscomb said that 2019 will mark not only LGBT Detroit’s physical expansion into a new space, but additionally as an intangible asset via community service programs to those in the Murray Hill neighborhood — where the organization is located.
“So, the expansion allows us to look at Murray Hill, the neighborhood we live in, to say ‘Hi, we’re here, we’re an asset to you, what can we do?’ That’s what we want to do to make the case of the development of the back area so that the neighbors can use this space to convene around issues of safety and economics and health and wellbeing,” Lipscomb said.
BOLD Maintaining Progress
As LGBT Detroit goes through a transitional period of expansion and development, it’s still not free of challenges that will slow down its forward progress. When asked what some of the organization’s hurdles are this year, Lipscomb cited stigma about HIV as one of the biggest.
Lipscomb said that when he posed this same question to LGBT Detroit’s Brother 2 Brother peer group — dedicated to keeping HIV-negative men at a negative status — stigma was the most widely stated answer.
“They [also] talked about miseducation about HIV infection, substance abuse, lack of secondary assistance in HIV programming, there’s still an issue of access to preventative services. Some even asked what the preventative services are because that’s what Brother 2 Brother is, a preventative service,” he said. “They talked about HIV fatigue, people don’t want to hear about HIV, they’re over it.”
Lipscomb added, too, that that stigma frequently bleeds over into peoples’ perceptions of the LGBTQ community.
“People say to me, particularly non-LGBT people, ‘Well, Curtis, don’t you think that things have improved?’ It sounds like a 1960s statement with black folks. ‘Don’t you think you’re doing better than before?’ I say to them, ‘Can you hold your partner’s hand in your church?’ I live in Detroit, Michigan, can you really do that?” Lipscomb said. “Can you go to Walmart and say, ‘Hey baby, how are you?’ Without getting a stare? If you are a trans person do you really feel comfortable in some places? Now, in 2019, I would argue not.”
Lipscomb said that once real equality is achieved and felt, that’s when he’ll be able to truly look back on his improvement. He said that in many ways, he feels media provides an inaccurate look at the true measure of progress in the lives of LGBTQ people across the U.S.
“I think TV has bamboozled us,” he said. “The ‘Will and Grace’ TV show, the ‘Ellen’ talk show.”
And perhaps the largest consequence of that Hollywood trickery, he said, is the lack of consistently spread information about LGBTQ organizations and their services from older generations to new ones that becomes day-to-day, “casual” knowledge.
“There is no casual information about preventative information, no casual information about where you can get PrEP there’s no casual information about where someone’s questioning identity can go,” Lipscomb said, adding that the internet provides great resources but lacks the same impact as one-on-one information as provided by community centers like LGBT Detroit.
“Because the internet is this huge kind of space, how can I know where what I’m getting is authentic? How do I know if it’s accurate? How do I know if this information applies to me? This is why I think spaces with institutional memory are important because if I say an institution it will conjure up some kind of importance to say, ‘You know what? I can go there and get what I need,’” Lipscomb said. “I’m in strong belief of that. I’m down for change — change is good. … The old guard had it differently than we had and the young guard has it differently than we had, but what I see now is a loss of how people get information and where they can go to get treatment and education and some kind of esteem.”
LGBT Detroit’s expansion and 2019 neighborhood development program are just some of the ways in which Lipscomb hopes to tackle that issue in his local area. Mainly, he said LGBT Detroit will continue its existing programming and use resources like Creating Change to refine them to be used best in order to provide a helpful, beneficial, #SafeBraveSpace.
“I think people come to us for […]
Cameron Cole won the final series of Big Brother Cameron Cole won people’s hearts when he came out to his housemates on last year’s final series of Big Brother UK.
He went on to win the show but says he’s experienced constant homophobia ever since.
The 19-year-old says he receives abusive messages and phone calls on a daily basis.
Cameron tells Radio 1 Newsbeat he’s had face-to-face abuse too, with one incident happening at a bowling alley in Norfolk.
He said: "There were a couple of people sniggering and as I walked past, they said the homophobic remark beginning with the letter f."
He says the same word was shouted at him in a central London hotel by a group of men who were getting into a lift. Big Brother’s Cameron reveals he’s gay to the housemates "Somebody, somehow, got my number too. It’s a no-caller-ID and rings me every time I’m on an Instagram live.
"They shout a barrage of homophobic remarks and you can’t get a word in edgeways."
Cameron has not reported any of the abuse to the police, even though a friend has advised him to.
"The issue with the stuff in the streets is you can report but the likelihood is that it will never be traced back and it’s just going to be a waste of time."
He says the homophobic messages began on Twitter and Facebook the night he won the show in October.
"I got back from the wrap party and started reading the comments on Big Brother posts and stuff. I can’t help reading them, even if they’re negative."
He thinks he would need "a hotline to police" if he reported every homophobic comment he gets – which is why he doesn’t. View this post on Instagram writing lots… i’m nearly ready. • • • • • photo by @viewfromzero_ #photoshoot #lgbt #lgbtq #london #modelling #music 🎧 A post shared by Cameron Cole (@ccole_99) on Jan 13, 2019 at 10:19am PST Report
Before appearing on Big Brother, Cameron had only told a handful of people he was gay, including his mum.
He says no-one should have to suffer abuse and says other LGBT people message him frequently with their own experiences.
"It might come across like it’s not affecting me but of course it is. It affects everyone for other reasons too like race, religion and gender. It makes you feel worthless.
"We’ve come a long way and we should applaud ourselves for how far we’ve come," he says.
"But laws don’t change attitudes and we’ve got a long way to go and we need to accept that."
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UK campaign group Stonewall has warned that children’s books depicting LGBT people are vital for the wellbeing of young people exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity, following a spate of attempts around the world to remove titles depicting gay or transgender characters from library shelves.
Earlier this week in Canada, the Ottawa Catholic School Board was reported to have pulled Raina Telgemeier’s acclaimed graphic novel Drama from the shelves of primary schools, moving it to middle and high schools where it would “more appropriately target 13+ students”. Aimed at children aged 10 and older, the book follows a girl who wants to help with her school play, and features a side story in which two boys kiss. It has proved controversial in the US in the past, with the American Library Association naming it as one of the country’s most challenged books .
According to broadcaster CBC, elementary schools were told by the board that the book was “not necessarily” being removed for LGBTQ content, but for “the actual relationship content … It is not a book we really need younger kids reading without guidance.”
Following protests – including one from Telgemeier, who said: “I’m sad for the kids who need this book but can’t access it” – the board decided to reinstate the graphic novel in elementary schools, saying it remained “fully committed to having safe, inclusive, and accepting schools”, according to CBC. Telgemeier said she was overjoyed at the reversal, because “all kids deserve representation, validation, and visibility in media at every age”. My trans picture book was challenged – but the answer to hate speech is more speech
Jessica Herthel Read more Meanwhile in the US this week, a group of parents in Kansas attempted to have several children’s books featuring transgender characters – including picture book I Am Jazz – removed from the children’s section of Andover library. The protesters described them as “sexual revolution agenda, indoctrination of children”, according to the Wichita Eagle .
LGBT children’s books are frequently challenged around the world. In the US last year, preachers in Maine objected to young adult LGBT books in a display of censored literature in a library, saying it was “promoting a far-left political view that sees homosexuality as acceptable”, while in Iowa, an evangelical Christian filmed himself burning LGBT children’s books he had checked out of the Orange City public library. The library later received hundreds of donated books , while the man was charged with criminal mischief and is due to appear in court on 22 January.
In Hong Kong in June, a local activist issued a legal challenge to the government over its decision to remove 10 LGBT children’s books from display in the country’s libraries and place them into closed stacks, where they could only be accessed upon request. Stonewall’s head of education programmes, Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton, said on Friday that inclusive books were not only beneficial for LGBT young people, but “help all pupils develop an understanding of difference”. The group’s 2017 School Report found that only 20% of LGBT students were taught about same-sex relationships at school, while 77% never learned about transgender people or gender identity.
“Stonewall was set up 30 years ago to fight against the introduction of Section 28 – a piece of legislation that allowed bullying to flourish as it effectively banned teachers from talking about same-sex relationships or LGBT issues,” she said. “It’s crucial we don’t repeat history. Celebrating difference is an important step toward building inclusive learning environments where all young people can be supported to reach their full potential … this makes representations of LGBT people in books and education materials vital for young people who might be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Sign up for Bookmarks: discover new books in our weekly email
Read more Transgender author Juno Dawson saw her LGBT guide for children, This Book is Gay, moved from the children’s section to adult non-fiction in an Alaskan library four years ago.
“I think it highlighted a general issue in that some bookshops and libraries still regard young adult titles as children’s books and shelve them alongside. YA books aren’t for children and I think we’re all in agreement on that,” she said.
“However, I’m against policing at what age a young reader reaches a stage of ‘readiness’ for YA as that’s individual to each case. If these libraries are separating kids’ and YA titles I don’t see a problem with that. If they’re specifically segregating titles with LGBTQ content, that’s flagrant prejudice and bigotry.”