LGBTQ rights

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    At 4am on July 20, 29-year-old Denali Berries Stuckey was found shot to death on the side of a road in Charleston, South Carolina, Out Magazine reports. Stuckey’s death is being investigated as a homicide, but police have not confirmed whether it is being investigated as a hate crime. Stuckey is the third known trans woman to have been murdered in South Carolina and the 12th to have been murdered in the United States this year alone. All of the victims were Black.

    In an article for Vice, Diana Tourjée writes, “this latest string of murders has brought new clarity to the inseparability of anti-trans and anti-Black violence.” We cannot understand the motive of these crimes without addressing the stark racial disparity: Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter, tells Vice, “Black women are the most marginalized in our society. They experience the most violence.”

    According to a 2015 report, Unerased, Black trans women are more than seven times as likely to be murdered than the average American. A survey by the National LGBTQ Task Force reports that Black trans people are twice as likely to be unemployed and more than twice as likely to live in extreme poverty than trans people of other races. Furthermore, Black trans people have reported experiencing homelessness at five times the rate of the U.S. general population.

    As a result of these conditions, born out of systemic racism, trans women of color oftentimes turn to sex work as a means of survival. Aside from currently being criminalized, sex work is an especially dangerous profession for trans women: As Tourjée writes, “Black trans women aren’t simply killed because they’re trans; the social conditions responsible for their deaths represent a holistic crisis, spread across every aspect of life.” When the country, lacking in protections against anti-trans discrimination, fails to recognize ongoing systemic racism, it fails Black trans women. 

    The systemic discrimination at the center of the murders of these women falls in line with the focus of Black Lives Matter. As said by Cullors, “Anti-Blackness is at the center of the murder of Black trans woman.” And Black trans people have been influential in the movement’s advancement: Kei Williams, an activist and Black trans person tells Vice, “There has been leadership from Black transgender people from the very founding… We’ve been here and we will always be here.”

    The epidemic of violence against trans women is a crisis in which Cullors believes there should be more organization and allyship, regarding anti-trans violence, within Black Lives Matter. “The fight for Black trans people, and women in particular, is critical for the health of Black communities.”

    Header photo, cropped for size, courtesy of David Geitgey Sierralupe via Flickr

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    Bob the Drag Queen in a yellow gown

    Bob the Drag Queen first rose to prominence as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 and since that time, he has been using his huge platform to not only become a major name in standup comedy but also to become a powerful voice for LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. His HBO series We’re Here features Bob alongside fellow Drag Race alums Shangela and Eureka traveling to small towns across America to help create support systems and communities for isolated queer folks by putting on drag shows. And during pride month, Bob organized a massive online event called the Black Queer Town Hall and made headlines by encouraging other members of the drag community to stand up as allies for the protest movement that emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Bob’s HBO show and new comedy special Bob the Drag Queen: Live at Caroline’s, have been so uplifting to so many during quarantine and in this inspiring episode of BUST’s Poptarts Podcast, he talks about his rise to fame, fills us in on his activism, and advises us on how to relate to our Republican elders.

    Listen to Bob the Drag Queen's episode of BUST's Poptarts Podcast Here:


    More About BUST's Poptarts Podcast:

    BUST's Poptarts is a twice-monthly podcast hosted by magazine editors Emily Rems and Callie Watts that celebrates women in pop culture. The first half of each episode is devoted to a hot topic in entertainment, and in the second half, a segment called "Whatcha Watchin'?," Callie and Emily dig into all the shows, movies, books, music, videos, and podcasts they've enjoyed since the last episode, and either praise or pan each experience

    This podcast was produced for BUST by Logan del Fuego.

    Photo by Jacob Ritts

    Hey! Did you know that the Poptarts podcast has a swell new Patreon program with fab thank-you gifts for members? Well it does! Give it a look-see at patreon.com/poptartspodcast !

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    During an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, actress Ellen Page made a passionate statement regarding the hatred and suffering perpetuated by the Trump/Pence Administration. Colbert congratulated her on the one year anniversary of her marriage to dancer/choreographer Emma Portner, which lead to a discussion on the slow progress of LGBTQ issues in Hollywood. Page grew emotional as she recalled the homophobia and misogyny she experienced throughout her career and emphasized the power of combatting isolation by finding community.

    The two went on to discuss climate change and Page’s environmental activism. She took a moment to explain, “the most marginalized people, and particularly people in the world that had nothing to do with this, are the ones that are suffering the most currently.” People of color in her home country of Canada, she went on to explain, are disproportionately affected, leading to what Page calls “environmental racism.”

    From there, Page segued into a critique of the media’s insufficient job addressing the urgency of climate change by making it appear as a debatable discussion, and drew a comparison to the recent attack on Jussie Smollett saying, “We have a media that’s barely talking about it. We have a media that’s saying it’s a debate whether or not what just happened Jussie Smollett is a hate crime! It’s absurd! This shit isn’t a debate!”

    Page then apologized for being “so fired up” but said “it feels impossible right now with the president and the vice president, Mike Pence, who wishes I couldn’t be married. The vice president of America wishes I didn’t have the love with my wife. He wanted to ban that in Indiana. He believes in conversion therapy. He has hurt LGBTQ people so badly as the Governor of Indiana."

    At this point, Page turned the attention back to the hate crime against Smollett in relation to the country’s leadership, saying “If you are in a position of power and you hate people and you want to cause suffering to them. You go through the trouble. You spend your career trying to cause suffering. What do you think is going to happen? Kids are going to be abused and they’re going to kill themselves and people are going to be beaten on the street.” Below, is a video of the full interview. 

    Photo: Inception

    Purchase The Oct/Nov 2009 Digital Issue featuring Ellen Page and Alia Shawkat

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  • Waithe2 c96a2Tuesday night, the Marriott hosted their inaugural #LoveTravel Beyond Barriersevent - a night to celebrate “Human Rights, Equality, Inclusivity and Peace”. $50,000 grants were given out to four young, “change makers”:

    Isabel Rullán, Co-Founder of ConPRmetidos, a non-profit established to create a more sustainable Puerto Rico.

    Nadya Okamoto, Founder of PERIOD, a “menstrual movement” to both provide products worldwide and change the conversation (or lack thereof) around period.

    Jordan Reeves, Founder of VideoOut, a collection of “coming out” stories to empower the LGBQT community.

    Tony Weaver, Jr., founder of Weird Enough Productions, a media organization dedicated to celebrating outsider stories.

    The Marriott ballroom, awash with blue and purple lights, was packed with a seemingly like-minded crowd: finely-dressed youths profoundly hungry for progress. Many also came out to see the program’s keynote speakers: actor/writer Lena Waithe and singer/activist Luis Fonsi.

    Earlier in the night, BUST sat down with Waithe, Fonsi, and the grantees. In the quiet of an upstairs conference room, Waithe spoke of visibility.

    “I came into this all not thinking I would be a public person,” she said. Waithe is, of course, very much in the public now. As Denise on Netflix's Master of None, her character is a television anomaly: a queer, black, masculine-presenting woman. As a television writer, her characters subvert the tragic queer tropes common to media. Power, she said, is in the portrayal.

    “When I make stories about queer characters it’s a little close to my heart because it’s something I understand,” Waithe said. “When I told my own coming out story on Master of None, having the children in the shot have a mother that’s with a woman, not having it be on a soapbox, just have it be a part of the fabric of the world.”

    She’s staying busy too; her upcoming projects include the Chicago-based drama, The Chi and Twenties. Twenties follows four, yes, twenty-somethings as they navigate the complications and mundanity of the age. What makes it special? The cast is black; the protagonist is a queer, masculine women played by Jonica T. Gibbs. The actress is very similar in vibes, Waithie says, to herself. The pilot for Twenties was written years ago, only to have the misfortune of arriving on the studio desk at the same time as Lena Dunham’s pilot, Girls.

    But “change” was an apt theme for the night, and the cultural attitude regarding whose narrative deserves an audience has shifted.  “The microphone,” Waithe said, “is more powerful than a grenade.”

    It’s a sentiment followed closely by Luis Fonsi, the Puerto Rican singer who became a sensation in the English-speaking world (despite a successful 20-year career in Latin America) after the hit “Despacito”.

    Like Waithe, he’d once been an odd one out. A ten-year-old islander suddenly transplanted to Orlando, Florida.  

    “I tell people I'm from Puerto Rico but I was raised in Orlando,” he said. “It brings back so many memories of that ten-year-old moving from Puerto Rico to Orlando with a very thick accent, put in the back portables in the ESL program. Being bullied.”

    It’s safe to assume no one is bullying the chart-topping artist now, but in an era of spiking anti-Hispanic sentiment, his success – the first US No.1 since the “Macarena” – is seismic. Is it indicative of a change in the perception, and acceptance, of Latin-born singers in the American music community? Fonsi thinks so.

    “For the first time, English singers are calling Spanish singers – not the other way around.” His excitement was infectious. At the main program later that night, I thought of the world Waithe and Fonsi were working towards: one where queer, brown protagonists are the norm, not the exception. Where Latin American music – beautiful, eclectic, vibrant – is considered the equal of America’s Billboard 100.

    The grantees – with their varied causes. of menstrual movements, a rebuilt island, and queer acceptance – leave with $50,000 to expand upon their visions. 

    Though as the program closed, and the open bar beckoned, Waithe’s final remarks reminded of the present: We have work to do, she said. America has some ugliness to look at first before we get somewhere new.

     

    Image Contributed by Benajmin Utley

     

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    At BUST, we’ve been loud about the importance of voting November 6—of flipping the House and Senate, of showing up for candidates who will support women and oppose fascism. But one specific ballot question that deserves a spotlight, especially given recent reports that the Trump administration is aiming to cut back on rights for the transgender community, is Massachusetts’ question three.

    If you haven’t heard already, question three marks a statewide vote on whether to keep in place a 2016 law that upholds protections for trans individuals. The legislation prohibits any kind of public discrimination against trans people, and allows them to use bathrooms that align with their gender.

    Unsurprisingly, the “No on 3” campaign is led by a transphobic organization, titled Keep Massachusetts Safe, that believes allowing trans individuals to use bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms that align with their gender identity puts women and children in some kind of danger, The Guardian reports. The Guardian also notes that the anti-discrimination law currently in place did not lead to more criminal or unsafe incidents in bathrooms—but did prevent harassment and other acts of transphobia, as per a UCLA School of Law study.

    Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released a statement several weeks ago endorsing the anti-discrimination law in place. “In 2016, I signed An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination, outlawing discrimination on the basis of gender identity in all public accommodations. I am grateful to the hundreds of committed activists who worked tirelessly to advance this cause because it was the right thing to do,” he wrote in a Rainbow Times exclusive. “I look forward to voting ‘Yes’ on Question 3…I am confident that voters will join me, to re-affirm that the Commonwealth will not tolerate discrimination against our fellow citizens who are transgender.”

    Though Yes on 3 has widespread support across the state and even across party lines—a crowd of thousands took to Boston’s City Hall Plaza on Sunday to rally for the trans community, reports The Washington Post, and Baker himself is a Republican—there’s a lot at stake. According to Freedom for All Massachusetts, an organization fighting to keep the anti-discrimination law in place, 65% of transgender individuals in the state reported public discrimination in a year leading up to the law’s implementation. It’s a real fear that, without protections, the trans community will face even worse maltreatment today from Trump and those emboldened by his rhetoric, particularly given The New York Timesrecent report that the present administration is looking to alter legal ideas of gender and “eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves—surgically or otherwise—as a gender other than the one they were born into,” the Times wrote.

    Massachusetts is a state that has always been at the forefront of supporting LGBTQ+ rights, and there’s something scary about what it means that even such a liberal state could be facing any kind of push to repeal anti-discrimination policies at all. As author and trans advocate Mimi Lemay told the Human Rights Campaign’s magazine Equality, “Hate groups across the U.S. see the ballot measure in Massachusetts as a potential catalyst that will help them strip rights from LGBTQ people nationwide. If Massachusetts, one of the most progressive states in the union, falls, what happens to the rest of the country?”

    To learn more about question three, Yes on 3, and how to protect trans rights in Massachusetts, check out Freedom for All MA’s website. Support for keeping the law in place is pretty high—the most recent numbers state that only 28% of voters want to repeal the legislation, with 68% trying to uphold it, as the Post wrote—but your vote still matters. It’s important for us to keep protections in place for the transgender community, but it’s just as important to send a message that transphobia and discrimination won’t be tolerated in Massachusetts—or anywhere in America. 

    Top photo via Wikimedia Commons / Laurel Wreath of Victors

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    Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, finding that the baker from Masterpiece Cakeshop maintained the legal right to deny a product to customers if it violates his religious beliefs—welcome to Pride Month, everybody! Who you are as a person is now legally viewed as violating someone’s religious beliefs. 

    This ruling comes just three years and a few weeks off from the court’s landmark 5-4 decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. While the marriage equality law was viewed as an enormous success for same-sex couples in terms of their new legal standings, this moment also marked a momentous day for LGBTQ people in terms of respect. On that day, most of us celebrated the idea that our country was finally starting to view us as equal and deserving of the same civil liberties as the rest of the nation. It was a humanizing day. 

    Although history tends to move in a three steps forward, two steps back cycle, this moment in US history feels particularly painful. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy attempted to assuage gay America and our allies by stating that there are two opposing conflicts in the case: one being the need “to protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination when they seek goods or services,” and the other being the free exercising of religion as protected by the First Amendment. Kennedy attempts to make us believe that our country cares about minority citizens, while ultimately siding with religious freedom. While the Supreme Court may be able to decipher the nuances between these two areas, voting in favor of exercising religion freedom in this particular case seems like a slippery slope in our already intolerant climate. Hate crimes have been on the rise for LGBTQ and HIV+ populations since 2016, and last year, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program reported an 86% rise in homicides resulting from anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the past year. LGBTQ advocate and Lambda Legal CEO Rachel Riven also worries about the ruling, saying in a statement, "The Court today has offered dangerous encouragement to those who would deny civil rights to LGBT people and people living with HIV. "

    We are who we are, and to have to be shamed and discriminated against to honor someone else’s belief system shows that our country and court system still does not understand that for LGBTQ people, our lives are not a choice. 

    This latest legal action by the Supreme Court sends the message that discrimination under the guise of a religious belief is more valuable than respecting actual human beings. While religious beliefs should be respected, it’s a confusing message to show Americans that a belief system is more valuable than a person. What continues to be so deeply upsetting to myself and other LGBTQ people is that a religious conviction is a choice in a way that sexuality orientation or gender identity expression is not. You can change your religious ideology at anytime, you can grow up and leave the church you came from, you can join a new sect, you can take your time learning about other religious and figuring out what religion is right for you if you so choose, however, we LGBTQ people cannot simply change our mind on who we are. We can’t leave ourselves or run away to a new gender identify or sexual orientation, despite the majority of us attempting to do just that at some point in our lives. We are who we are, and to have to be shamed and discriminated against to honor someone else’s belief system shows that our country and court system still does not understand that for LGBTQ people, our lives are not a choice.

    In our already Gideon-leaning country, I assume this decision will only lead to more violence and more discrimination. I would have hoped the courts would have viewed this case through a more nuanced lens of the times in which we live. I worry about what’s next for legal discrimination under the catch-all of "religious belief."

    Photo credit: Wedding Organizer/Pexels.com

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  • TCA 2019 2020 c0e1d

    Two weeks ago, The Whitney Museum of American Art cancelled its exhibition after obtaining Black artists work at a discounted price, which was initially indented to raise money for racial justice charities. The exhibition, “Collective Actions: Artist Interventions in a Time of Change,” planned to feature artists whose work focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Most of the work displayed was stolen from BIPOC artists, without their knowledge and without any credit given. As museums are beginning to reopen, artists and activists are fighting for a structural change in museum leadership and representation. The Whitney, one of New York City’s most renowned institutions, has become yet another example of the structural racism that continues to cohabitate within the art industry.

    Now, several youth programs are working with their local museums to foster inclusivity in the art world. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s (MCA) leadership program, Teen Creative Agency (TCA), came forward when they discovered MCA’s police funding initiative. In an open letter, TCA urged the museum to invest in BIPOC artists and change their security models.

    In an interview with Teen Vogue, Hashim Kysia, a TCA alum, said “The tactics of art museum security are discriminatory and taken from police tactics…I obviously look ‘other’ than the expected museumgoer, and I feel discrimination walking through exhibits and gift shops. It’s more than the MCA. I feel it at the Art Institute. When I went to MoMA, I was followed and told not to touch things when I wasn’t touching them.” Other initiatives such as NYC’s InterseXtions internship program with the Brooklyn Museum, explores gender expression and identity in the art industry, urging interns to speak with community leaders to push for a structural change. Akir Stuart, an InterseXtions intern, remarked on the program’s inclusivity, saying,

    “NYC museums in general, I don’t feel there’s space for me, being a Black and queer person… The department gives authority to kids who normally don’t feel they have power anywhere else. It’s crazy to me all the stuff we get to do.” 

    Amidst the pandemic and ongoing racial injustices, these teen councils are holding museums accountable when it comes to inclusivity and leadership, expressing the pertinence of identity representation in the art industry.

     

    Header image courtesy of Youth Teen Creative Agency website

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    Although the last decade brought much-needed advancements in cultural acceptance for the LGBTQ community, much of the legislation in America and elsewhere has not kept up. Early last week, the U.K. announced that they would not go through with proposals that would make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender.

    The Gender Recognition Act, or GRA, was developed under former Prime Minister, Theresa May and laid out the legal process a person must go through to change their gender on their birth certificate. This document change can be deeply important because, as TIME points out, it is used for things like marriage licenses and burial rights. But it goes further than that; it can be vital for those who are traveling, and for university and job applications.

    At present, the GRA requires a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria from two different doctors and proof that a person has lived as the gender they identify with for at least two years before they can change their birth certificate. Transgender people must also pay £140 (about $180) to apply for a gender recognition certificate. As described by many, these processes are overly invasive, complicated, and at this point, outdated.

    For reforms, Stonewall, a LGBT+ rights charity in the United Kingdom, recommended ending the requirement to provide medical evidence to support your gender identity, introducing self-determination similar to countries like Ireland, Norway, Malta, legal recognition for non-binary people, and lowering the age to access gender recognition to 16. These suggestions were essential because the current standard is simply inaccessible to large swaths of the population. Only 12 percent of trans people in the U.K. have gone through the process, although 93 percent of those who haven't said they were interested in doing so.

    After two years of the LGBTQ+ community and allies campaigning for simplified legislation, the final resolution was relatively minimal. The two main changes that will be made to the GRA are a lowered cost and electronic options for submission. The government has stated that they will also open at least three new gender clinics in 2020 to increase capacity and reduce waiting lists.

    Vice News pointed out that these changes, or lack thereof, come at a time where "debates around trans rights have polarized the news." However, this is not entirely new. Rainbow Europe, an organization that provides insights into each European country's political and social developments for the LGBTQ+ community, ranked the U.K. first in its index five years ago. The index assessed how a country's laws affect how LGBTQ+ people's lives, meaning that just five years ago, the U.K. was seen as the most comfortable place in Europe for members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, the U.K.'s ranking has fallen significantly: to ninth place.

    In Stonewall's response to the GRA Consultation, they state, "The current process also forces those who do go through it (the consultation) to conform to outdated stereotypes of what it is to be trans, and what it is to be a woman or a man." Following the U.K.'s statement, more than fifty LGBTQ+ organizations have created a campaign called #TogetherForTrans to build a network of organizations that will campaign for trans rights.

    Although lower cost is a small step in the right direction, there is a long way to go for trans rights both in the U.K. and abroad. Despite resistance from certain feminist groups, research from The Guardian has found that the "fear" that individuals (especially young people) may be pressured to undertake medical transition, or that men will declare themselves female to invade women-only spaces, are unfounded and unsupported by substantial evidence. In other words, reforms on legislation surrounding trans identity, making things like receiving adequate healthcare more accessible and equal treatment the standard, do not affect cis people. Instead, it makes for a better quality of life for more people in our society, and that’s a good thing.

    Top Image: Unsplash/ Jasmin Sessler 

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    Last week, Virginia made United States history when it became the first southern state to pass a bill that protects the lives and rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Titled the Virginia Values Act, this legislation calls for anti-discrimination protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

    “You’re not free if you’re discriminated against in housing and employment,” David Alphonso of the Human Rights Campaign stated, “and this legislation is going to change that so LGBT people can be free like everyone else.” The newly passed legislation adds sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in housing, public accomodations, and employment. Not only this, but the bill allows for those who have experienced discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender identity to take legal action against their offenders and it allows for civil action to be taken against those that “practice resistance” against the civil rights applied by the law.

    Anti-equality lawmakers had previously squashed the bill each time it was proposed and made it to the House of Delegates, but the bill finally passed in the state Senate last Thursday with a monumental 30-9 vote, and a 59-35 vote in the House of Delegates. Now, the legislation just needs to pass one more time before being sent off to Gov. Ralph Northam, but people are confident that it will succeed. The proposal was not without backlash this time around, however. Some republicans opposed the bill, citing that they believed it infringed upon religious freedom. The legislation does still exempt religious entities and private clubs, but as Mark Sickles, the sponsor of the bill stated, “If you open your business to the public, that means everyone in the public. This is a bill about civil society. It’s about what we do in the civil world. It’s not about what you do in your private religious life.”

    Now, folks in Virginia are lawfully protected from descrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, nationality, pregnancy, age, marital status, disability, veteran status, and sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a huge moment for the some 257,400 adult members of LGBTQ+ community in Virginia, as well as for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in the South and the United States as a whole. With Dawn Adams, the first openly gay woman to serve as a state legislator, Adam Ebbin and Mark Levine, two openly gay members of the House of Delgates, Mark Sickles, the only LGBTQ+ legislator serving in caucus leadership and of course, Danica Roem, who made history as the first trans woman in any state legislature, LGBTQ+ folks in Viriginia are finally getting the represenation they deserve.

    Since Virginia saw a wave of democratic candidates elected back in 2017, the state has seen some monumental leaps forward from becoming the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment last month, to legislation like this one. Could we be witnessing history in seeing Virginia transition from a red state to a blue one? That’s hard to say. But after last week, it is clear that some very positive changes are happening in the ‘ole birthplace of the nation.

    Header image via Pixabay

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