U.S. high court to hear cases on LGBT workplace bias

U.S. high court to hear cases on LGBT workplace bias

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Oct. 8 in three cases on whether gay and transgender people are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin and religion.

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An invasive plant that has destroyed crops in Senegal is now being used to produce clean energy

Cyclists Ron Rutland and James Owens start the final leg of their journey from Twickenham to Tokyo to deliver Rugby World Cup whistle

Devi Apriliyani is a 20 year-old stunt driver tackling stereotypes alongside the ”Wall of Death”, in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province

A fully autonomous car is about to begin a 230 mile road trip around the UK, testing its ability to cope with the most complex routes

For the first time in nearly 360 years, a compass at Greenwich, the site of the prime meridian or zero degrees east or west on all maps, will finally point to true north as it and magnetic north converge

An invasive plant that has destroyed crops in Senegal is now being used to produce clean energy

Cyclists Ron Rutland and James Owens start the final leg of their journey from Twickenham to Tokyo to deliver Rugby World Cup whistle

Ex-Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas reveals he has HIV

Ex-Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas reveals he has HIV

Gareth Thomas reveals he is HIV positive Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive, saying he wants to "break the stigma" around the condition.

He said he wants to show how people with HIV are misrepresented as "walking around with walking sticks who are close to dying".

He has also spoken about "shame" and "fear" of keeping his condition secret.

The ex-British and Irish Lion is due to talk about his diagnosis in a BBC Wales documentary on Wednesday.

In it, he says at his lowest point in 2018 he felt like dying.

Public information campaigns in the 1980s, warning people to take precautions against Aids, have left a legacy of misunderstanding, he says.

Advances in medicine now allow people who are HIV positive to live long healthy lives. With effective treatment, the virus cannot be passed on. pic.twitter.com/4LOH7yKdlZ — Gareth Thomas (@gareththomas14) September 14, 2019 Report Other than waking at 0600 to take a single pill every day and visiting the hospital for blood tests every six months, the condition has little impact day-to-day life for Thomas, 45.

On the contrary, plans to take part in an Ironman challenge on Sunday, which has involved him learning to swim, was to Thomas a way of demonstrating his physical and mental strength.

"When I first found out that I was going to have to live with HIV, the first thing I thought was straight away: I was going to die," he said.

"It’s not like I blame people for not knowing this.

"This is a subject that because of the 80s scenarios people don’t talk about it because that’s the only information they have."

He added: "The overriding question that everybody said to me – the first question everyone says to me when I tell them I’m living with HIV – is ‘Are you going to be OK?’

"And it’s a really compassionate question to ask. But, this is meant the nicest way possible, it’s a really uneducated question."

Thomas said revealing that he is living with HIV was similar to coming out as gay in 2009 because of "the fear, the hiding, the secrecy, the not knowing how people are going to react".

"But I think when it was all about my sexuality it just seemed like there was more empathy and more understanding because you had more knowledge, because you could turn on the telly and you could see that there was LGBT representation on most platforms." Gareth Thomas (right) is tackled by Sebastien Chabal of France during a match in Cardiff in 2007 Who is Gareth Thomas? A timeline:

25 July 1974: Born in Sarn near Bridgend

1994 : Makes debut for home town club Bridgend and goes on to play for Cardiff Blues (twice), Celtic Warriors and Toulouse

1995: Makes his Wales debut and goes on to win 100 caps, scoring 40 tries and also appearing in three British Lions Tests.

2005 : Wins the 2005 Heineken Cup with Toulouse and captains Wales to their first grand slam in 27 years.

2007 : Wins his final cap for Wales in the World Cup.

2009 : Reveals he is gay , saying "what I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby".

2010 : Thomas switches codes to rugby league.

2011 : Announces his retirement, last appearing for Crusaders in Wrexham in July. Presenting a shirt to then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011 at a meeting of sports figures to discuss homophobia and transphobia in sport 2012: His post-rugby career includes Celebrity Big Brother, roles in pantomime, regular work as a rugby pundit and campaigning against homophobia in sport. Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke is involved in talks to play him in a film.

2014 : Publishes his autobiography, Proud, which wins sports book of the year.

2015: His life story is told in a stage play, Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage.

2018 : He posts a video on Twitter after being assaulted and becoming victim of a hate crime in Cardiff. Took part in Sport Relief, when he conquered his fear of heights with the fire service. Thomas lives near Bridgend with his husband Stephen, 56. They married in 2016.

In the documentary, Stephen talks about how the public will react to Gareth’s announcement and how the couple will be treated.

"I’m going to have to take it on board and deal with it," he says.

"I’m going to cross it when I come to it."

Stephen, who does not have HIV, added: "I think it’s going to teach so many people what is HIV.

"I was one of the ignorant ones, I will be honest, like so many people."

"I think it’s a fantastic thing he’s doing. He’s showing that you can have HIV but you can still do the sport and the Ironman, for goodness sake." Getty When you have a secret that other people know about it makes you really vulnerable towards them. And I just I felt like I had no control over my own life Gareth Thomas
The documentary shows Thomas’s anxiety and having to consult legal representatives after a tabloid newspaper found out about his HIV status. It led to journalists going to his parents’ home.

"I needed to take control of my life" he said.

"When you have a secret that other people know about it makes you really vulnerable towards them. And I just I felt like I had no control over my own life."

Thomas said he currently felt the strongest he had ever been in his life.

"I’ve had a shitty rollercoaster of a ride. My parents say to me ‘Jesus Christ. What’s coming next with you?’.

"I had the whole emotional challenge of revealing my sexuality and confronting the sporting stereotype within that.

"And then I felt ‘I’m confronting this’, which has so many similarities."

In the film he confides in Shane Williams, another former Wales international turned amateur triathlete and actress Samantha Womack. ‘I have been a victim of hate crime’

Homophobic attack ‘drove’ Alfie to seek law change

Football ‘in dark ages’ over homophobia

In a BBC Wales interview, he explained: "I’m trying to take control of my life, but I’m not trying to break the stigma and educate for me. Because that’s really selfish.

"I’m trying to educate and break the stigma for everybody, which includes me in that everybody." The drug PrEP is being used as part of HIV prevention What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – the immunodeficiency is the weakening of the immune system by the virus.

It has been passed on between humans for many decades but was only identified in the early 1980s.
If left untreated, infection with HIV progresses through a series of stages, leading to late-stage HIV or Aids HIV can be passed on through blood or semen but not passed on by spitting, sneezing, coughing, kissing or general social contact. There is now robust evidence to say, with confidence, that people on effective HIV treatment can’t pass on the virus. There are an estimated 94,100 people living with HIV in the UK, around 2,200 of them in Wales; 4,484 people were diagnosed in 2018, a 28% decline since 2015. As a result of combination prevention – condom use, HIV-prevention drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), expanded HIV testing and of antiretroviral therapy – there has been a 39% fall in diagnosis among gay and bisexual men since 2015 Sources: Terrence Higgins Trust and Public Health England HIV drug ‘should be on the NHS’ The HIV-positive man who stopped thousands getting the virus Ian Green, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘I’m very proud to call Gareth Thomas a friend. Gareth is proof that a HIV diagnosis shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do – whatever that is."I hope that by speaking publicly about this, Gareth will transform attitudes towards HIV that are all too often stuck in the 1980s."We’ve made huge medical advances in the fight against HIV that means that people living with HIV like Gareth now live long healthy lives."We can also say without doubt that those and on effective HIV treatment can’t pass on the virus. This is exactly the kind of information Gareth wants to get out there to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this virus." Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me will be shown on BBC One Wales on Wednesday 18 September, 21:00 BST

Boris Johnson Invokes Fictional Character With Anger Issues In Latest Brexit Ramblings

Boris Johnson Invokes Fictional Character With Anger Issues In Latest Brexit Ramblings

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech at the Convention of the North at the Magna Centre in Rotherham. The actual prime minister of the UK has invoked a fictional character with anger issues and a habit of destroying all before him, in his latest comments on Brexit .

Boris Johnson said Britain will break out of the European Union ’s “manacles” like The Incredible Hulk if a deal cannot be struck by the end of next month.

The PM repeated his vow to take the UK out of the bloc on October 31 – suggesting he could ignore legislation designed to prevent a no-deal in order to fulfil his promise, the Press Association reports.

In an interview with the Mail On Sunday, Johnson – who will meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg this week – likened Britain to the fictional scientist Bruce Banner, who transforms into the monstrous green Hulk when he is angry in the Marvel superhero comics and movies.

“Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them…

“Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done.”

The PM struck a confident tone on reaching a Brexit deal, telling the paper he thinks “we will get there” and that a “huge amount of progress is being made”.

He said: “I will be talking to Jean-Claude about how we’re going to do it. I’m very confident.

“When I got this job everybody was saying there can be absolutely no change to the Withdrawal Agreement, the backstop was immutable, the arrangements by which the UK was kept locked in to the EU forever, they said no-one could change that.

“They have already moved off that and, as you know, there’s a very, very good conversation going on about how to address the issues of the Northern Irish border. A huge amount of progress is being made.”

Escargot, salmon and fromage will be on the menu when Johnson and Juncker meet for lunch on Monday.

The PM, accompanied by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and Number 10’s Brexit sherpa David Frost, will also meet the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier during the Luxembourg visit.

However, Downing Street has cautioned that Monday’s meetings will not be a “big breakthrough” moment in the government’s bid to strike a deal with Brussels.

Ahead of the trip, Johnson added: “Don’t be fooled by (Labour leader Jeremy) Corbyn and the ringleaders. On the one hand, they say I don’t want a deal.

“On the other, they want to force me to extend. Both are wrong. I am straining to get a deal, but I will also end the uncertainty and take us out on the October 31.”

It came as research by Opinium suggested the Conservatives have increased their poll lead to 12 points above Labour.

The pollsters put the Tories on 37%, with Labour on 25%, the Liberal Democrats on 16% and the Brexit Party on 13%.

London’s first Trans Pride support ‘overwhelming’

London's first Trans Pride support 'overwhelming'

Organisers estimated about 1,500 people attended the capital’s first Trans Pride rally As the capital of London’s LGBT+ scene, it was only fitting that Soho Square was the gathering point for hundreds of people supporting the city’s first Trans Pride event.

"It’s been absolutely incredible and overwhelming. I was not expecting this many people to turn up and to march with such unity," said organiser Lucia Blayke.

"The sun’s out and the sky’s blue, if you look at everyone’s faces it’s just big smiles," she said, adding the response to the event was far more positive than she had expected.

"I was concerned about safety, concerned about numbers but it’s been really smooth, it’s been safe and we’ve had no problems yet," she said. Organiser Lucia Blayke said about 1,500 people supported the event Lucia said about 1,500 people supported the event.

"For trans people it’s a lot different being out in public.

"Usually we’re scared, we’re having things shouted at us, we’re humiliated and just really embarrassed.

"Social interactions aren’t usually that relaxing so today is all about being together in public and keeping each other safe and uplifted."

‘It’s the one day we’re not outcasts’

The sentiment was echoed by Kasey Owens who said: "Everyone here knows what you’re going through, it was definitely needed."

The event had a real celebratory feel to it, with many trans and non-binary people being supported by friends.

"I’ve only recently come out as trans and it was the first event for trans so we all came down to celebrate it," said Sambo. Kasey attended the Pride with partner Ashley Sambo (with cap on) was at the event with friends The event ended with a rally in Soho Square Many took to the stage to express the need for more trans rights Friend Susan added: "I think that was a massive thing because there’s so many people here that aren’t trans and it’s just lovely that everyone’s come together and it’s nice, it’s just lovely. It’s really nice, spread the love."

For Anna, Trans Pride was a much needed event. Anna attended the event with a large trans flag "It is an amazing Pride and unfortunately it’s a necessary Pride because trans rights are not necessarily the same as everyone else’s rights," she said.

"My hope is for equality and for people to realise that we’re normal, we’re just like everyone else, nothing different."

The event started with a march from Hyde Park Corner to Soho Square. Anna said this played a big part of the event. "I found it empowering walking on the streets of London, having the streets closed down just for us, which is essential for every single Pride," she said.

"For a first Pride it was a big Pride but I’d rather it was even bigger and if they had everyone joining in because everyone should be fighting for everyone’s rights." So will Anna get her wish and have another one next year? "I think today has been successful enough to sow the seeds for the legacy for years to come," said Lucia.

"I want people to take from today belief and confidence within themselves and apply it to their everyday lives. When they’re running low on that strength, just know we’re going to do it again next year," she added.

Wade Family Donates $50,000 To LGBT Education And Inclusion Organization

Wade Family Donates $50,000 To LGBT Education And Inclusion Organization

The Wade family donated $50,000 to an organization that works towards making it easier for the LGBTQIA-plus community to express themselves.

On Friday, each member of the Wade family took to their Instagrams and posted their new partnership with the clothing company to donate $50,000 to the organization GLSEN. #GSLEN is a United States-based education organization working to end discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression and to prompt LGBT cultural inclusion and awareness in K-12 schools.

Fifty percent of the family’s apparel purchase will also go to GSLEN in addition to their donation. Dwayne Wade shared the news in a post that read: “S/O to #yngdna for these Please Remain Inclusive & Dedicated to Equality tee We are donating 50% of the proceeds to GLSEN as well as a 50 thousand dollar donation on behalf of our family #wesupporteachotherwithpride.” Union wrote, “As a family, we believe inclusion and equality are two essential pillars needed to move towards growth and progressive thinking and action in our society. We have created a Limited Edition T-shirt to help create a more inclusive space with our platform… The GLSEN organization whose mission strives to ensure safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation as well as gender identity. For 25 years GLSEN has been the leading national organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ+ students #StopKillingBlackTransWomen #StopKillingTransWomen #TransWomenAreWomen #SupportingEachOtherWithPride PS kaaviajames has a very cool yngdna Pride piece coming soon.”

Wade and Union are continuing their efforts to support the LGBTQIA-plus community after recently supporting their 11-year-old son Zion at Miami’s Pride Parade earlier this year. “I think, as a family, we should support each other. That’s our job. And my job as a father is to facilitate their lives and to support them and be behind them in whatever they want to do,” Wade said on his family’s attendance.

Black transgender woman found torched in car as campaigners warn LGBT rights are fragile in Trump’s America

Black transgender woman found torched in car as campaigners warn LGBT rights are fragile in Trump’s America

On the still dark morning of September 4, tucked behind a rural Florida neighbourhood dotted with single-story houses painted bright green, turquoise and pink, flames licked the metal frame of a PT Cruiser parked in the grass.

When Hendry County Sheriff’s deputies doused the flames, they found a woman’s body inside so badly burned she couldn’t be identified for days.

Now police say that Bee Love Slater, a black, transgender 23-year-old from South Florida, was murdered.

Investigators have not announced any suspects or leads, and the sheriff’s office told reporters they could not say whether the grisly homicide was a hate crime.

"We can’t say it’s a hate crime yet because we don’t know what the motive was," Susan Harrelle, from the Hendry Country Sheriff’s office, told ABC 7.

But advocates say Ms Slater was the latest victim in an alarming trend, as transgender murders are spiking across the US – particularly in Florida, where the hate crime statute does not apply to people attacked for their gender identity.

"Our society needs to work to ensure transpeople can live without fear," the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said in a statement about Ms Slater’s death.

Ms Slater’s body was found at the edge of Harlem, Florida, a small community about 65 miles west of West Palm. Slater lived about 32 miles away around the southern bend of Lake Okeechobee in Pahokee, Florida, an economically depressed town best known for producing NFL talent.

Her friends say Ms Slater, who transitioned her gender earlier this year, wanted to save money to move to Atlanta, where she believed people would be more accepting of her transgender identity.

"She always had a smile on her face," her friend Desmond Vereen, who called himself her "gay mother," told the Miami Herald. "She always gave hugs and kisses, always told you that she loved you."

But more recently, Ms Slater began posting on Facebook that she’d gotten harassing messages that scared her, a friend told Out Magazine. She reportedly texted a friend that she wanted to leave town the night she died.

"She posted messages saying she felt as if people were after her to attack and hurt her and she had a conversation with one of her best friends the day she was murdered saying she wanted to leave [the city]," her friend Antorris Williams told Out.

"She was willing to sleep in her car until she found a job and things of that nature."

So far, the sheriff’s office says there is "no evidence" about the cause of her death – in part because her car was scorched to its metal frame. Meanwhile, her friends and transgender rights advocates are demanding justice.

"How could someone go to that extreme to get rid of her?" her friend Kenard Wade told WINK news. "I just want justice for her."

At least 18 transgender people have been murdered in the US this year, according to Human Rights Campaign advocates who track the homicides. Last year, advocates counted 26 murders, including five in Florida, the highest number in any state.

While Florida’s hate crime statute allows prosecutors to seek stiffer penalties when a crime is motivated by malice towards someone’s "race, religion, ethnicity, colour, ancestry, sexual orientation, or national origin," gender identity, including transgender identity, is not protected under the state law. Advocates say that limitation can leave transgender people more vulnerable to violence.

"These victims are not numbers – they were people with hopes and plans, dreams for the future, loved ones and communities who will miss them every day," writes Matilda Young for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights advocacy group.

"Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment too often seen from media, law enforcement and our highest elected officials ."

On September 6, the day Ms Slater was identified by the medical examiner, friends and supporters dressed in pink gathered on the grounds of an apartment complex in Pahokee.

They lit candles arranged to spell out "Bee Love." They sang together and held dozens of pink balloons shaped like hearts and stars.

People took turns telling stories about Ms Slater and remembering her life.

The crowd cheered for Slater as they let go of the balloons, which floated away into the night sky.

"I’m here and I’m going to speak and do whatever I have to do," Mr Vereen said. "Her name is going to live on."

The Washington Post

Sam Smith misgendered by Associated Press in story about their pronouns

Sam Smith misgendered by Associated Press in story about their pronouns

Sam Smith attends GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2019. (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Hugo Boss) Non-binary singer Sam Smith, who has asked friends and family to use their they/them pronouns, has been misgendered by the Associated Press in an article reporting on their pronouns.

“Sam Smith has declared his pronouns ‘they/them’ on social media after coming out as non-binary,” the first line of the AP article read when it was first published .

The AP then corrected the article, without clarification or apology, but instead of using the singer’s correct pronouns the publication omitted pronouns entirely until the last paragraphs. . @AP ‘s report delegitimizes non-binary people & their pronouns + fails to educate cisgender folks.
Many in media say using they/them confuses readers (LGBTQ ones be damned?) yet refuse to use their power to get audiences familiar. It’s lazy journalism. https://t.co/bkcTArQ5Wc

— ashley dye (@ashleycdye) September 13, 2019 This follows UK newspaper The Sun, which first broke the news of Sam Smith’s pronouns request, also managing to misgender the singer in the first line of its story.

The Sun reported that the ‘Dancing with a Stranger’ star allegedly made the request to their close circle after coming out as non-binary and genderqueer six months ago.

“This is a decision Sam has thought long and hard about, including doing a lot of reading on up it,” an anonymous source, said to be a friend of Smith’s, told The Sun .

But the first line of The Sun story read: “Singer Sam Smith has asked friends and family to no longer refer to him by gender – instead using to use ‘they’ rather than ‘he’.” A post shared by Sam Smith (@samsmith) on Sep 13, 2019 at 6:57am PDT In an open letter, published on World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September), UK trans kids charity Mermaids highlighted that making simple, easy changes to the way we treat trans people in society can prevent trans children and teenagers from having suicidal thoughts .

Consistently using the correct name and pronouns for trans people can reduce their rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts to almost the same levels as their cisgender counterparts.

This Week Proves We Must Not Let The Domestic Abuse Bill Get Lost In The Long Grass

This Week Proves We Must Not Let The Domestic Abuse Bill Get Lost In The Long Grass

Getty Creative They say a week is a long time in politics.

But a week can feel like an eternity if you are a survivor of domestic abuse trying to flee an abusive partner – and this week has presented us with yet more devastating reminders of the scale of domestic abuse in the UK, the way it can be normalised and trivialised, and the need for both radical and urgent solutions.

At Refuge, we work with women fleeing domestic abuse every single day. Right now we are supporting more than 6,500 women and children. We don’t need stark reminders of why we do the work we do – but if we did, we wouldn’t need to look much further than the news this week.

Right now, with parliament having been suspended, we are focusing on sustaining pressure to ensure that the Domestic Abuse Bill sees the light of day. It absolutely must be enshrined in law if we are to take the bold steps needed to address violence against women and girls. We were delighted that the Prime Minister tweeted his commitment to the bill this week but we know that actions speak louder than words, and we won’t be taking our eyes off this particular ball.

While we know that the government is committed to addressing violence against women and girls, recent news has left us feeling concerned. Just this week, Geoffrey Boycott, a man with a conviction for domestic abuse , was given a knighthood. What sort of message does this send to women and girls? That they will not be believed? That their experiences are not valid? That domestic abuse perpetrators are celebrated and rewarded? We are calling for this knighthood to be revoked, and for the government to make sure things like this don’t happen again.

We’ve also seen startling statistics this week which show that prosecutions and convictions for rape have taken a steep decline , despite the numbers of women reporting rape increasing. This again sends a very worrying message that the criminal justice system is failing women. We need women to feel empowered to report crimes against them, to have faith that the system will treat them fairly, that their alleged perpetrators will face the full extent of the law, and that justice will be served. These statistics make for difficult reading, and we need to see a renewed commitment to addressing violence against women and girls and making sure that the criminal justice system is fit for purpose.

Another issue in the news this week which directly impacts survivors fleeing domestic violence is access to housing. As current housing law stands, fleeing domestic violence doesn’t automatically mean you qualify for priority housing status. This means that survivors, particularly those without children, can often find themselves having to choose between fleeing an abusive partner and finding themselves without a home.

No survivor must have to make this choice – and there is a simple way that the government can ensure that they don’t. They can increase statutory funding for refuges, meaning that survivors can easily access safety and shelter while they are piecing together their next steps, and they can ensure that those fleeing domestic abuse are recognised as being in priority need for safe, stable housing.

Both of these remedies can become reality when the Domestic Abuse Bill becomes law. But with the Brexit chaos currently sweeping through Parliament, there is a real risk that women’s rights and remedies to address violence against women are being pushed to one side. The Bill was on its way to becoming law – it was due its second reading in Parliament in the Autumn, and had cross party support – meaning it would likely see a smooth passage through Parliament.

But by failing to carry the bill over by ‘standing order’ (a simple parliamentary procedure), it means that the bill will be delayed – by how much is unclear. It must now be reintroduced in the Queen’s Speech and action taken by the government to make sure adequate parliamentary time is allocated to it and that the bill becomes law with minimal delay. Survivors are counting on this happening.

Of course we hope that the Prime Minister’s commitment to the bill, expressed this week, will come to fruition – but the proof of the pudding will be firmly in the eating, and our eyes are firmly fixed on the Queen’s Speech. We cannot allow real solutions to addressing violence against women and girls to be lost in the parliamentary long grass. The Bill could transform the way society responds to domestic abuse, so it must not be lost. Women’s lives depend on it, and we won’t give up.

Sandra Horley is chief executive of Refuge How The Law May Bite Back At Boris Johnson. Big Time

Domestic Violence Killings Hit Five-Year High

‘Effective Decriminalisation Of Rape’: CPS Slammed As Conviction Rate Drops To Just 3%

What LGBT kids need to hear

What LGBT kids need to hear

This is for the thousands of children who were taught that they are nothing but abominations, for the kids who are disowned by their parents, for the students kicked out of schools, for young people harassed in the streets “Act like a man.” That was the motto of my high school. Growing up, I was surrounded by boys who were always eager to prove their masculinity. Some ended up in fights, others in sports, others in parties, but almost all seemed to loathe one thing: Being gay. I studied in a school where being labeled a faggot was an attack on your masculinity, where coming out to your barkada meant possibly losing your best friend.

I was forced to go through this every single year, with a religion teacher that read us the same bible verse that said homosexuals were an abomination . I had to sit through teachers telling me that I was an abomination, that my love was a sin, that my feelings were a phase.

In my Grade 9 class, our religion teacher went as far as saying that being gay or lesbian is a mental disorder. My teachers never told me God hated me. In fact, they were very clear God loved all sinners. But I was still a sin that I couldn’t change. They never needed to tell me he did because, after all, he must. Regardless, I’m an abomination. I’m mentally-disordered.

I studied in a school where being anything but straight made you afraid of whether or not you were going to be allowed to stay. I heard the story of a girl in our sister school who had to transfer because she was caught making out with another girl on campus, stories of students who got kicked out because people found out they were gay. Some of them weren’t true. A lot of them were. But to us it didn’t matter because the only thing we knew to be true was that we were afraid.

This fear is one that many young LGBTQIA+ students share – the fear of being kicked out of school, the fear of being sneered at on the street for holding someone’s hand, the fear of losing friends, the fear of being disowned by their families, the fear of not getting a job.

But not all hope is lost.

In 2018, I joined the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance (PANTAY), a nationwide network of young LGBT advocates fighting against discrimination. We continue to fight for the SOGIE equality bill , a proposed law that would criminalize all forms of discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. It would protect students like myself from being kicked out of school because they were gay, prevent parents from forcing their children to go through conversion therapy, and bigots from spreading hate through textbooks.

While many say the Philippines is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world, I feel that it just isn’t. Fighting for this bill is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Whenever I go online, all I see are people calling young LGBT people disordered, against the will of God, and part of the destruction of the moral fabric Philippine society; sometimes I feel like I’m back in that school.

The SOGIE equality law will seek to end discrimination on the basis of SOGIE in the public sector, public spaces, the workplace, in schools, and in the household. If this gets passed, people wouldn’t be able to try to force us through conversion therapy because we’re gay, beat us because we like dresses more than pants, or kick us out of school for our sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expression.

When this gets passed, the message comes loudly and clearly from a state policy: that LGBT kids like me need to be protected, and that discrimination in all forms is inherently wrong. We must build a society where people like me don’t have to be afraid of who they are.

This is for the thousands of children who were taught that they are nothing but abominations, for the kids who are disowned by their parents, for the students kicked out of schools, for young people harassed in the streets.

Things need to change. And that change should start with a SOGIE equality law that recognizes equal rights for LGBT persons like me, a law that tells me, “No, you are not disordered nor an abomination”.

In school, I needed to hear that. Thousands of LGBT kids need to hear that. – Rappler.com

Jake is a second year AB Communication student from the Ateneo De Manila University. He is 18 years old.

The Chinese transgender choir who’re singing for acceptance

The Chinese transgender choir who’re singing for acceptance

Trans Chorus performing live. (AFP) A transgender choir in China is helping to change attitudes through their work.

The members of the Trans Chorus, none of which are professional singers, have been brought together from across the country, according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The singers have been unite by their shared experiences of struggling with their gender identity. Trans Chorus changing attitudes in China

Being transgender is still classes as a “mental illness” in China.

The choir recently performed at Milk LGBT Gala in Chengdu, which is considered to be one of China’s more liberal cities, where audience members were reportedly moved to tears.

One choir member, Fang Yuran, who uses the gender neutral pronoun “ze,” shared experiences on stage of growing up in Hefei, a city in eastern Anhui.

“My reflection in the mirror, is a stranger’s face, which one is the real me, which one is the fake?,” Yuran told AFP. Trans choir perform at LGBT+ gala in Chengdu

The performers have come together over their shared experiences of being transgender in China. (AFP) Yuran, now 31, came out as trans in 2015 and started buying testosterone online.

The Trans Chorus singer had struggled with zir gender identity growing up.

“Perhaps I didn’t have much of a mind of my own, so I would ask myself: ‘Who am I actually? Who should I listen to?’,” Fang told AFP.

“Around the same time, a friend said to me that I should find myself, and listen to who I am. So slowly I began to discover the person I am now.”

Earlier this year, a report by report from Amnesty International found that trans people in China are risking dangerous surgery and black-market hormone treatments because it’s “impossible” for them to access healthcare.

The report, “I need my parents consent to be myself”: Barriers to gender-affirming treatments for transgender people in China , was released on Thursday (May 9) and contains interviews with 15 trans people in China.

The report found that there was widespread discrimination against trans people and a serious lack of information about accessing gender-affirming treatment.

Doriane Lau, Amnesty’s China researcher and the lead author of the report, told PinkNews that “lax regulations” around conversion therapy also contribute to how China is “failing” transgender people.

“Currently there is no law banning conversion therapy in China,” Lau told PinkNews.

“Even though a court in China ruled in 2014 that one of the biggest search engines must remove conversion therapy advertisement, conversion therapy is still very common in the country due to lax regulations.

“An interviewee’s parents even sought help from private institutions that claimed to ‘cure’ transgender identities.”

Watch AFP’s video of Trans Chorus below: