Trump attacks trans existence on national and global fronts, and activists are ready to do battle!
Breaking news on Brazil’s presidential elections and Pittsburgh’s synagogue massacre … Britain’s Commons prods Northern Ireland on marriage equality, Chelsea Manning finally gets her surgery, a Russian teen wins his “no promo homo” appeal, fundamentalists shut down a Bali HIV/AIDS prevention event, a blessed event for Sydney’s penguin co-dads, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of October 29, 2018
Program #1,596 distributed 10/29/18
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): The Trump Administration tries to erase trans people at the U.N., deny that U.S. federal law protects them, and moves to be sure agencies treat trans people as non-existent controversial U.S. transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning finally gets the surgery she wanted Britain’s House of Commons pushes Northern Ireland lawmakers on marriage equality 16-year-old activist Maxim Neverov unexpectedly wins the appeal of his conviction of violating Russia’s “no promo homo” law far-right Muslims manage to shut down an annual queer beauty pageant focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and education in Bali Australian Greens Senator Janet Rice and queer families ask P.M. Scott Morrison “Where’s the bill?” to protect LGBT students in religious schools that he promised nurturing Sydney male penguin couple Sphen and Magic welcome their first baby chick (written by GREG GORDON, produced with BRIAN DESHAZOR, and reported this week by WENZEL JONES and SARAH SWEENEY).
Far-right homophobe Jair Bolsonaro wins Brazil’s presidential election, and the gay and HIV implications of the October 27th Pittsburgh synagogue massacre (reported by LUCIA CHAPPELLE).
Feature: U.S. trans advocates responded swiftly and emphatically to the news that the Trump Administration was working on a plan to effectively erase Transgender people from civil rights law. A draft memo leaked to the New York Times revealed that the Department of Health and Human Services was seeking to get the Departments of Justice, Education and Labor on board with a unified definition of “sex” in Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. The Obama Administration had pushed to define protections against discrimination based on “sex” to include gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. This proposed definition says that, “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” and that, “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
Protests erupted as soon as the Times published its piece on October 21, and the pictures of transpeople with the hashtag #WontBeErased flooded social media. A coalition of organizations held a press conference at the Human Rights Campaign to condemn the proposed change the next morning (includes comments by Mara Keisling/National Center for Transgender Equality; Fatima Goss Graves/National Women’s Law Center; Angela Ferrell-Zabala/Planned Parenthood Action Fund; Aryah Lester/National Minority AIDS Council; Donald J. Trump offered his usual insightful analysis; Chase Strangio/ACLU Staff Attorney, LGBT & HIV Project put the effort to erase trans people in perspective during his appearance on Democracy Now!; and popular afternoon TV talk show host “Dr. Phil” McGraw tersely responds to the situation on CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (with intro music from Stand by SLY & THE FAMILY STONE, and transition music from Get Up, Stand Up by BOB MARLEY).
Feature: It’s Hallowe’en, and you can cower in fear or come out and be queer with This Way Out Music Focus host STEVE SIMS, who aims to see Samhain songs rival Christmas carols in the holiday tune tournament (featuring music from Al Start, Danni Nicholls, Arjuna Greist, Scott Free, D.C. Anderson, Elton John, The Rocky Horror Show, Dave Hall, Glee featuring Jonathan Groff, Gothic Archies, Jay Brannan, Lee Lessack, Random Order, Robert Urban, and Tegan and Sara, with a brief instrumental intro from Leaping Lesbians by Sue Fink).
Satisfying your weekly minimum requirement of queer news and culture for more than 30 years!
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending October 27th, 2018 Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor, and reported this week by Wenzel Jones and Sarah Sweeney
During a week when a rabid supporter of Donald Trump sent pipe bombs to at least 14 of the president’s high-profile critics, his administration launched three separate attempts to re-define transgender people out of existence.
His first effort was literally global. According to an exclusive report in The Guardian newspaper, the U.S. mission to the United Nations is trying to eliminate the word “gender” from all of the international body’s human rights documents – replacing it with “woman” in most cases. U.S. diplomats at recent meetings of the U.N.’s Third Committee – which addresses “social, humanitarian and cultural” rights – have been arguing that current policy is driven by ideology based-“political correctness” to treat gender as variable, rather than as an unchanging biological fact.
For example, The Guardian notes, the U.S. proposed replacing phrases like “gender-based violence” with “violence against women” in a draft paper on human trafficking. One unidentified senior U.N. diplomat told the paper that, “If you only say violence against women, it doesn’t really tell the whole story.”
The newspaper says that the only way the U.S. delegation will get its way is by forging alliances with Russia and conservative predominantly Muslim nations against its usual Western allies.
Trump’s Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who’s part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, submitted a brief this week to the U.S. Supreme Court essentially saying that it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender identity.
The high court is considering whether or not to hear a case involving a transgender worker who was fired by a Michigan funeral home. Backed by the anti-queer legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, the funeral home is challenging an appeals court ruling that the firing of trans worker Aimee Stephens violated federal law banning workplace bias based on sex. In ruling that trans people are protected by those laws, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said the funeral home management’s religious beliefs about gender were irrelevant.
The brief submitted by the Trump administration backs the funeral home’s argument that the specific federal law in question, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning sex discrimination, does not protect transgender people. Most lower courts have agreed with the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation.
The Supreme Court is also considering cases testing whether or not lesbian, gay and bisexual people are also protected by federal laws banning bias based on sex.
The Trump assault on transgender humanity drawing the most media coverage this week followed an October 21st New York Times report that the administration was considering policy changes defining gender as unchangeable and based strictly on genitalia at birth.
The federal government’s proposed virtual erasure of transgender people drew a swift challenge from an impressive number of progressive organizations in addition to the expected line-up of major queer groups. We’ll have a lot more on that part of the story – later in the program – on most of these same This Way Out stations.
Meanwhile, controversial transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning announced on social media this week that she had undergone long-awaited surgery. She posted a smiling selfie from her hospital bed, but didn’t discuss the specifics of the procedure. “After almost a decade of fighting,” she wrote, “thru prison, the courts, a hunger strike, and thru the insurance company – I finally got the surgery this week.”
She didn’t take any time off from her activism, however, quickly condemning the latest anti-trans moves by the Trump administration. “Laws don’t determine our existence,” she tweeted. “We determine our existence.”
Britain’s House of Commons has waded into the log-jammed effort to establish marriage equality in Northern Ireland, the only major part of the United Kingdom without it. The legislature in heavily Roman Catholic Northern Ireland is dysfunctional due to fractious policy differences between the two major parties, primarily over marriage equality and abortion. Same-gender couples legally married elsewhere are only recognized as civil partners, and women seeking a safe abortion must travel to England for the procedure.
Emergency legislation giving Northern Ireland’s civil servants more decision-making authority until lawmakers can resolve their differences included an amendment instructing Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley “to issue guidance” on the continued enforcement by civil servants of laws that outlaw abortion and deny civil marriage to same-gender couples, and to report quarterly to Parliament on those issues. The amendment was sponsored by Labour and Tory MP’s, and passed in the Commons by a vote of 207-to-117.
Human rights activists cheered the action. While mostly symbolic, they say it puts more pressure on Northern Ireland lawmakers to get their house in order – including the passage of marriage equality – a move supported in poll after poll by an overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
The country’s High Court heard a legal challenge to Northern Ireland’s unequal marriage laws in September.
A 16-year-old gay activist in Russia unexpectedly won an appeal this week of his conviction of violating the country’s infamous law against “promoting non-traditional sexual relations” after he posted several photos of shirtless men hugging on social media. Maxim Neverov is believed to be the only suspect under the age of 18 to be charged with that offense since Vladimir Putin signed the so-called “no promo homo” bill into law in 2013.
The teenager’s lawyer Artem Lapov, from the advocacy group Russian LGBT Network, applauded the legal victory. “The court used the principle of the presumption of innocence and came to the conclusion that Neverov’s guilt in committing the offence was not proven,” he said. “On the basis of this, our complaints were satisfied, and the decision of the Commission on Juvenile Affairs was cancelled.”
Activist Neverov, who some sources say does not identify as LGBTQ, believes that law enforcement started to monitor his activities after he organized an anti-government Gay or Putin performance in May.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that Russia’s “no promo homo” law violates regional treaties, the right to freedom of expression, and of LGBTQ people to not be discriminated against. The Putin government dismissed the decision as unjust. The law has been used across the country to ban the so-called “promotion” of LGBTQ rights, including Pride events, and even the display of rainbow flags.
LGBTQ people on the majority-Hindu island of Bali thought they were relatively safe in anti-queer predominantly Muslim Indonesia, where government officials and security police have been leading a steadily escalating series of attacks on sexual and gender-variant minorities.
But homophobic Muslim groups pressured the owners of a convention hall in Denpasar, Bali’s capital, to cancel a beauty pageant organized by the Gaya Dewata Foundation, an HIV/AIDS prevention and education group. The annual event had been held successfully for the past three years. Twenty-four contestants, narrowed down from a field of 80 contenders, all Indonesian, were set to compete in separate Mister and Miss categories through talent performances and a drag show. All finalists were required to undergo training and demonstrate knowledge of sexual health and HIV issues.
A fearful Balinese gay man who only disclosed his first name, Agung, told the Voice of America that, “I thought Bali would have that space for us to be ourselves … [it] doesn’t have that bubble anymore.”
LGBTQ activists and their allies rallied outside Australia’s Parliament this week chanting, “Where’s the bill?” They were calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make good on his promise – as our Sydney correspondent Barry McKay reported last week – to offer legislation to ban bias against queer students in religious schools.
Greens Senator Janet Rice spoke to the rally in Canberra, joined by a few other lawmakers, representatives of the Human Rights Law Centre, Rainbow Families, and Parents of Gender Diverse Children – along with some of those children. Rice noted that the current session of Parliament was virtually over. She promised that if it’s not at the top of Morrison’s legislative agenda in the next session – assuming he’s still Prime Minister – her party would “do his job for him.”
And finally, cigars all around for a pair of Aussie penguin dads at Sydney’s Sea Life Aquarium.
Caretakers first noticed that Sphen and Magic had formed a close bond ahead of breeding season, and that Sphen had even offered Magic a special stone, which a staff member explained was “equivalent to proposing in the love language of penguins.”
The penguin partners began hoarding pebbles to build a nest, indicating their desire to start a family. They were given an abandoned egg, and their baby chick hatched this week, initially named “Sphengic” after its two foster parents. The chick’s permanent name will be chosen after its gender is determined in about two months.
Announcing the news on Facebook, the Aquarium reported that, “the loving foster parents are co-parenting exceptionally well to raise their young.”
Same-gender pairings are fairly common among penguins. “We love watching the proud parents doting and taking turns caring for their baby chick,” the Aquarium Facebook posting gushed. “We can’t wait for the world to fall in love with Baby Sphengic like they did with our amazing same-sex couple, Sphen and Magic!”
(reported by LUCIA CHAPPELLE)
This just in: A far-right nationalist known as “the Trump of the tropics” has been elected president of Brazil. With most of the October 28 votes counted, Social Liberal Jair Bolsonaro was defeating the Workers’ Party’s Fernando Haddad 55 percent to 45 percent. Bolsonaro has proudly denigrated LGBTQ people, women and ethnic minorities. Although 29 percent of queer voters were expected to support Bolsonaro as a reaction against corruption under the Workers’ Party government, his election has national LGBTQ and international human rights organizations sounding the alarm. Murders and other hate crimes against LGBTQ Brazilians have skyrocketed during the presidential campaign. Bolsonaro is a fan of both Donald Trump and the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985.
In other late-breaking news, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh reports that the October 27th mass shooting at a synagogue there took place during a bris for the newly-adopted twins of a gay couple. Other sources say that prominent HIV specialist Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz was among the slain.