A round-up of stories and articles relevant to the LGBT community, this time with a bit more commentary than usual from yours truly:
For trans people seeking to escape the oppression and bigotry of their country of origin, the United States is often viewed as a sanctuary. Unfortunately, many of these asylum seekers have been treated brutally in immigration detention centers. Trans women are housed in facilities for men, denied proper medical care, subjected to sexual assault, and (bizarrely) placed in solitary confinement “for their own safety” (solitary confinement is a form of torture). In a move that I hope is not simply a lot of talk, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has made transgender immigrants a campaign issue:
At a campaign stop in Nevada this week, Hillary Clinton signaled she would review policies that allow transgender women to be locked up in men’s immigration detention centers, putting them at risk for assault.
“I think we have to do more to provide safe environments for vulnerable populations,” Clinton said in response to a question about transgender immigrants being detained in institutions that don’t correspond with their self-identified gender.
“I don’t think we should, you know, put children and vulnerable people into big detention facilities because I think they are at risk. I think their physical and mental health are at risk,” Clinton said in response to another question about trans asylum seekers. She also noted that she would be in favor of changing some detention processes.
A 2014 Fusion investigation found some 75 transgender prisoners are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) every night. The majority of them are trans women who are placed in men’s detention centers where the conditions are often humiliating, dangerous, and even deadly.
Even though transgender detainees only make a small portion of the close to 34,000 detainees held each night, trans victims made up one third of confirmed instances of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities, according to the Fusion investigation.
“This is an important issue in detention centers,” said Nicoll Hernández-Polanco, a Guatemalan woman who says she was repeatedly assaulted during her six months in a men’s detention center while she waited for a judge to make a decision on her asylum case.
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Despite a majority of the U.S. favoring marriage equality, a great many people continue to view lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as “lesser” or “inferior”. Such dehumanizing beliefs are on display in this story of a gay couple assaulted by two bigots at a barbecue restaurant in Chelsea:
The incident began at approximately 11 p.m. when the couple finished up their drinks at the restaurant at 261 Eighth Ave. where they had gone to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Snipes said. The couple had been at XES Lounge earlier that night, but moved to Dallas BBQ in search of their cheap margaritas, Snipes said.
At the restaurant, Snipes got a text about a death in his family and needed to leave the restaurant quickly, he said. As he headed out, he accidentally knocked over a drink, he said.
“A table near us audibly started making pretty gross comments about the two of us like, ‘White f—-ts, spilling drinks,'” Snipes said.
“I don’t let anyone talk to me like that. I went over there and asked, ‘What did you say about us?'” he added.
Snipes said he’s 140 pounds, never thrown a punch in his life and felt he;posed no physical threat to anyone at the table, especially the two large men there — one of whom stood about 6 feet 4 inches, according to police.
“I may be a mouthy broad, but I wasn’t going to take it to that level,” Snipes said.
One of the men stood up and escalated the verbal confrontation, Snipes said.
“He turned it into a physical altercation very quickly,” he added.
The man knocked Snipes to the ground and started kicking his face and spine, knocking loose one of his teeth, snapping the cartilage in his ear and bruising his head, he said.
He shouted, “Take that, f—-t,” according to Snipes.
Onlookers shouted “Stop! Stop! Stop!” according to a second video posted to YouTube by Isaam Sharef, who also took the Instagram video. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“At some point, the guy stops kicking me in the face. He’s won,” Snipes said.;
“[York-Adams] gets me up. But as he tried to get me away, that’s when the other dude hits him with the chair,” Snipes said.
York-Adams took the brunt of the hit and was knocked to the ground, but the chair also hit Snipes who then slumped into a nearby chair, visibly dazed.
An onlooker rushed up and took a cellphone photo of Snipes, video shows.
“They hit us hard and then they wouldn’t stop. I was hobbling away and they came and attacked us again,” Snipes added.
“We were just trying to get away from it,” he added.
The attackers fled the scene as the couple awaited police and medical crews, police said. The attackers had not been arrested as of Wednesday morning, police said.
Dallas BBQ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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In slightly more optimistic news, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll reveals that 61% of survey respondents would be comfortable with or display enthusiasm towards a gay candidate rather than one who is an evangelical Christian. From The New Civil Rights Movement:
Asked how they would feel about presidential candidates with certain qualities or characteristics, far more Americans said they would “be enthusiastic” or “be comfortable with” a candidate who is gay than a candidate who is an evangelical Christian.
A very large majority, 61 percent, said they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay candidate, while just 52 percent said the same of an evangelical Christian.
On the opposite side, just 37 percent said they would “have some reservations about” or “be very uncomfortable with” a gay candidate, while 44 percent said the same of an evangelical Christian.
The poll also found just 33 percent of Americans supportive of a Tea Party candidate, and just 30 percent supportive of a candidate with no political experience.
The poll was conducted with 1000 Americans at the end of April.
- The population of the U.S. is more than 300 million, which means the poll shouldn’t be taken as representative of the views of a majority of U.S. citizens.
- The 37% of respondents with reservations about a gay candidate illustrates the fact that many people continue to hold homophobic beliefs. Whether an individual is running for mayor, governor, or president, their sexuality has fuck-all to do with their ability to govern, so it shouldn’t matter if a potential presidential candidate is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual.
- The 33% who would support a Tea Party candidate are fucking assholes who don’t appear to care that the Tea Party is made up of heartless fuckwits who care little for anyone who isn’t white, heterosexual, cisgender, or male.
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From the Advocate comes the absurd story of a Nebraska woman who wants to sue all gay people on behalf of god:
Technically, the handwritten,seven-page petition to the U.S. District Court in Omaha seeks a judgment against “Homosexuals, Their Given Name Homosexuals, Their, Alis Gay,” reports the Lincoln Journal Star. The suit contends that gay people have willfully broken “religious or moral law,” and asks the district court to rule “in the matter of homosexuality.”
“Is homosexuality a sin, or not a sin?” is the pivotal question asked in the case.
Apparently this bigot thinks the country is a theocracy where Christianity holds sway and everyone must follow the rules of that religion (which would be well-nigh impossible). Newsflash: the United States is governed by the Constitution, not Christian mythology.
The complainant, 66-year-old Sylvia Ann Driskell, represents herself in the court filing as an “ambassador” for plaintiffs “God and His Son, Jesus Christ.” As such, she “challenged the court not to call God a liar,” reports the Omaha World-Herald.
There is absolutely no evidence that her god (or any other deity) exists, so the court can call him/her/it a liar all they want. More to the point, as I said above, the U.S. is not governed by Christian myth.
Driskell’s filing does not cite any existing case law but does frequently reference the Bible, including verses from the Old Testament books of Leviticus and Romans often used to condemn homosexuality.
Those verses prove that “homosexuality is a sin,” Driskell contends. Further, “they the homosexuals know it is a sin to live a life of homosexuality,” she writes. “Why else would they have been hiding in a closet.”
Firstly, the only thing those verses prove is the existence of anti-gay bigotry on the part of the human beings who wrote the bible.
Secondly, FEAR is one big reason many people hide in the closet. Fear of being ostracized by family and friends. Fear of being bullied, harassed, brutalized, and killed. Fear of becoming homeless. Fear of being unfairly treated by the USAmerican criminal justice system. Fear of losing their job. Fear of being prevented from obtaining a job. Fear of being discriminated in housing. The list goes on and fucking on. This woman most likely has internet access and could easily find the answer to that question if she gave a rat’s ass (she doesn’t, I know).
In her complaint, which was formally filed as Driskell v. Homosexuals, Driskell addresses claims about equal rights advanced by LGBT advocates. “The homosexual’s say that its not a sin to be a homosexual; In they have the right to marry; to be parents; and God doesn’t care that their homosexuals; because he loves them,” Driskell writes.
This is pure othering. She refers to gay people as “the homosexuals”. She doesn’t view us as human beings with a right to exist on our own terms so long as we don’t harm others. She doesn’t view us as human beings with legitimate concerns about the way we’re treated. To her, we’re something “other” than human. Such othering makes it easier to dehumanize us and deny us basic human rights. As I mentioned above, no court ruling can eliminate the anti-gay attitudes held by many citizens of this country (no more than the Civil Rights Act was able to eliminate the racist attitudes held by many USAmericans).
Here is a portion of her letter:
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Closing out this round-up of LGBT stories is a look at how homophobes overcame their anti-gay bigotry:
‘I was raised to see homosexuals as evil, sinful, deceitful people who molested children and had a secret agenda to infiltrate our homes and lives and degrade the quality of life itself and our nation’s belief in God. “Fucking fags” were terrible people, possessed with demons and waiting to pervert whoever would crack first,’ one said.
‘Then my parents got a divorce. A nasty one, where my father’s hypocrisy was made painfully apparent as he was sent to jail for downloading so much child porn at work he clogged the servers, and my mom was revealed to be a judgmental, paranoid psychopath who sought to degrade and demean everyone around her except her son. She kicked me out of the house when I was 18 for sleeping with my then-fiance.
‘Just like any acceptance of any sub-culture, the rest was eventual. Slow, embarrassing, and awkward experiences as I gradually realized that these people didn’t want to molest little kids or turn me into “one of them,” they just wanted to be. Multiple encounters with multiple people helped me slowly branch the void. The half-drunk man crying to me on the plane about how he wished to God he wasn’t gay. The lesbian couple that took me to their family’s home for Christmas, since I’d be spending it alone. The “gay ninja” that slipped in under my radar and (drunkenly) taught me to dance, sighing each time at how hopelessly white I was.
‘They were people, just like me. These “possessed, compulsively-lying pedophiles” were really just people that liked to take it up the ass, or sometimes dress a little different, or adopt an abnormally large amount of cats. But hell, who doesn’t do those things?
‘I’m still pretty ashamed of how I was and how I thought in the past. I was so intentionally hurtful to so many people, and I didn’t need to be. Growing up in a repressive, conservative household will contribute to that, but really, so much of it was just my own small-mindedness and lack of exposure to reality. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something I’ve overcome and learned from, and it’s no hyperbole to say that it’s made me question the way I see things ever since.’
Once again we see that exposure to and interaction with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people can lead to a reduction in anti-gay beliefs. Viewing LGBT people as human beings is one way homophobia can be overcome. Here is another:
‘When I was a child, I used it as an insult,’ one said.
‘That changed in 5th grade, when I called my male babysitter “gay,” as an insult, in front of my mom. She stopped me, and asked “Do you know what that means?” I was throwing a temper tantrum, and wasn’t really aware of where she was going, so I just said, “Yes. It means he likes men. He’s a homo!” All stuff I had picked up in school, etc.
‘But she pushed me, and asked, “So, is there anything wrong with him liking men?”
‘I didn’t have a good answer for that, because I had never thought about it before. But she made me think about it right then. I haven’t used “gay” as an insult since then.’
When I was younger, I heard the word ‘gay‘ used as an insult on a fairly regular basis. While it still occurs from time to time, I don’t hear it as often as I used to (I’m aware this is an anecdote, rather than evidence), which is a good thing, I think. IMHO, it’s a sign that people are coming to the realization that there is nothing wrong with being gay and that word should not be used as an insult (now can we get people to stop using slurs based on race, actual or perceived gender, and gender identity?).
More stories of former homophobes overcoming their bigotry can be found here.