25 ways to fight AIDS

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Wait! Before you click the ‘next’ button or scroll down your news feed hear me out: The LGBT community has been living with AIDS for three decades now. For people of my generation the message to get tested and use condoms has been stated and restated so many times that it has faded into the background with the result that, all too often, people do not take the steps they need to to protect themselves. Harris County is responsible for 30% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnosis in Texas and men who have sex with men account for 64% of newly diagnosed men statewide. The threat is not over, the fight is not over, AIDS still endanger the LGBT community.

But I don’t want to just talk about just condoms and testing (as important as they are). Fighting HIV/AIDS is easier than you might think. I present to you 25 ways, in no particular order, to fight AIDS in Houston.

25. If you’re over a certain age talk to a young LGBT person about how your life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. You might be surprised how eager we are to hear your stories.

24. If you’re under a certain age listen to an older LGBT person tell you how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives. I know you aren’t eager to hear their stories, but listen anyway. You may find that learning the history of your community is more empowering than you’d expect.

23. If you are a sexually active gay man or transgender woman participate in the Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV Vaccine Study.

22. Ask your local public or school library to put books about HIV/AIDS on the shelf, not just in the back room where they have to be requested. Access to accurate information is crucial in fighting the spread of the disease.

21. Post HIV/AIDS stories to facebook.

20. Ask your clergy person what your community of faith is doing to fight the pandemic.

19. Sign up for action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition at texashiv.org

18. Actually follow through when the action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition arrive in your in-box.

17. Volunteer for organizations that deal with communities at high risk for infection: high school dropouts, victims of sexual assault, the poor, the homeless and sex workers. Fighting AIDS means fighting the injustice in our society that all too often contributes to new infections.

16. Say AIDS out loud.

15. Ask political candidates what they will do to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

14. Once they’re elected, ask those candidates why they aren’t doing more to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

13. Remind yourself that it’s OK to be tired of hearing about HIV/AIDS.

12. Thank a person who volunteers their time to the fight.

11. Take a moment to remember the people we’ve lost.

10. Take a moment to think of the people we may loose if this pandemic isn’t stopped.

9. Take a HIV/AIDS healthcare worker to dinner.

8. Wear a red ribbon.

7. Recognize that wearing a red ribbon isn’t enough.

6. Work with communities other than your own. HIV/AIDS effects us all.

5. Get angry.

4. Get over your anger.

3. Donate to an HIV/AIDS Charity.

2. When you pass a mobile HIV testing center, thank the workers.

1. Don’t pretend the fight is over, and don’t let other people pretend it’s over either.

—  admin

FEEDBACK: Elmhurst really the first?

Elmhurst really the first?

Regarding the article, “Elmhurst College becomes 1st to ask about sexual orientation,” in the Aug. 29 issue of Dallas Voice.

Three colleges that I know of personally have been asking this for several years. Elmhurst is far from the first to ask about sexual orientation.

I applied to law school with the University of Pennsylvania and they ask this. U.C. Berkley used to ask this, though I’m not sure if they still do. Either Cornell or Columbia also ask on their applications.

Ryan R. Cooper, via email

Editor’s note: According to Shane L. Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, Elmhurst College is the first college to ask about sexual orientation as an optional demographic question on an undergraduate application. Graduate schools, especially law schools, have been asking the question and UPenn and Dartmouth have been leaders in that area. Windmeyer said that probably has to do with age — many students aren’t out when they’re first applying to college but have come out by the time they’re applying to graduate school. Law schools may be asking because of injustice that’s been done to the LGBT community and the variety of cases involving discrimination against the LGBT community. Other undergraduate applications have asked about interests. But interest in joining a group such as a GSA is not the direct demographic information that Elmhurst is asking.

…………………….

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

RECORDING THE INJUSTICE

<<<BACK TO COVER STORY

Anecdotally, the evidence for widespread discrimination against transgender people has existed for a long, long time. But in February, the National Center for Transgender Equality paired with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to release a scientific survey of thousands of American transgender and gender non-conforming people in what they call the “first 360-degree picture of discrimination” against these groups.

The result is called “Injustice at Every Turn,” and shows the many ways in which transgender and gender non-conforming people are negatively affected by a variety of issues including structural racism, poverty and employment discrimination.

The report doesn’t mince words: Researchers found that “instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society’s unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender non-conforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves.”

Researchers also assert that the source of this “moral failure” is likely to be foundational institutions like churches, schools and workplaces. And the findings of “Injustice at Every Turn” back up their powerful statements.

While the experience of discrimination was “pervasive” throughout the 6,450-person sample, researchers found that structural racism, combined with anti-transgender bias, was “especially devastating.” Transgender people who are also African-American are, for example, far more likely than white transgender people to be victims of police brutality.

Measuring poverty, researchers found that their transgender respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty — making less than $10,000 per year — than their fellow Americans.

Transgender people are also twice as likely as to be unemployed, and the numbers are even more discouraging for transgender people of color: They experience unemployment at up to four times the national unemployment rate.

Forty-one percent of the survey respondents reported attempting suicide, a number researchers called “staggering” when compared to the 1.6 percent of the general population that does so. Transgender people who are unemployed, bullied or the victims of sexual assault were more likely to have attempted suicide.

School is not a safe place for many transgender children and teens, researchers found. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they’d been harassed at school, and a sixth reported leaving a school because of their inability to escape harassment, assault and sexual violence.

At work, 90 percent of survey respondents said they’d been harassed, mistreated or discriminated against or tried to hide their transgender status or non-conformity in an attempt to avoid it. Nearly half said they’d been fired, not hired or denied a promotion. Unemployed respondents had more than double the HIV infection rate and double the rate of drinking and drug use.

Researchers found that one-fifth of the respondents had been homeless at some point in their lives, and more than half of those who’d tried to seek assistance at a shelter reported being harassed by staff or other residents.

American Indian transgender people were most likely to say they’d been denied a home or apartment.

Updated and accurate identification is difficult to obtain for transgender people — one fifth reported being able to update all of their records with their new gender. A third had no records updated or accurate. Forty-one percent of transgender people live without identification that matches their gender identity.

Going to the police for help is reported to be an uncomfortable prospect for 46 percent of the survey respondents, and a fifth of the respondents reported harassment by the police. Race complicated this further: 38 and 36 percent of black and multi-racial respondents reported harassment by police.

Doctors also appear to have little experience with transgender needs, with half of the survey respondents reporting they had to educate their own medical providers about transgender care.

Transgender people have HIV at four times the national average. Smoking, drug and alcohol use are more prevalent among transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Despite all this, researchers called transgender people “resilient,” noting that after transitioning, more than three-fourths of respondents felt better at work. Transgender people are far more likely than people in the general population to return to school between the ages of 25 and 44.

Researchers concluded with a “call to action” to eliminate the “pervasive inhumanity” displayed in the survey results, noting that “action or continued inaction will make a significant difference between the current climate of discrimination and violence and a world of freedom and equality.”

— Andrea Grimes

—  John Wright

Hearing today on bill aimed at preventing transgender people in Texas from marrying

dead firefighter's transgender wife
Nikki Araguz

A bill that would prevent some transgender people in Texas from obtaining marriage licenses will be heard by a Senate committee this afternoon.

The bill is an apparent response to the case of Nikki Araguz, the transgender widow from Wharton County. Araguz was sued by the family of her husband, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty, to prevent her from obtaining death benefits.

Senate Bill 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would remove a court order of sex change from the list of identifitying documents that can be presented to obtain marriage licenses in Texas.

The Transgender Education Network of Texas sent out an alert this morning asking people to call the members of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence and urge them to kill the bill in committee. The committee members can be reached at 512-463-4630. The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. and can be viewed live here. Here are instructions for calling from TENT:

IDENTIFY: yourself by name, any organization you represent, and town from which you are calling
EXPLAIN: “I am calling to oppose Senate Bill: SB 723 as it is an injustice to trans identified people in the state of Texas” Be polite and concise, concentrate on 1 or 2 talking points you wish to make.
REQUEST: A written response to your phone call.
THANK: the person who took the phone call for their time and consideration.
Repeat for each member of the committee
In the Austin area: Go by the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence meeting on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm room 2E.20 (Betty King Cmte. Rm.) of the Capitol and submit a testimony card AGAINST SB 723.

 

—  John Wright

Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t ever forget the anti-gay bigots who voted against repealing DADT

The impending end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t change the fact that Texas’ two anti-gay senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted against repealing the policy. The beauty of the standalone bill to repeal DADT, aside from the fact it had enough votes, was that it forced lawmakers to take a position on the policy itself. On Saturday, Cornyn, Hutchison and 29 others went on record as supporting injustice, dishonesty and discrimination.

It’s truly sad that both our senators would vote to harm our national security during a time of war by continuing to discharge valuable servicemembers for no good reason. Indeed, those who voted against DADT repeal will go down in history as being on the wrong side of it, and we should never, ever forget that.

Which is apparently why GetEQUAL Texas is moving forward with plans for protests/celebrations outside Hutchison’s offices around Texas on Tuesday. From Facebook:

GetEQUAL Texas will go forward with their planned protest of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison scheduled for Tuesday, December 22 at noon in front of the Senator’s offices in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The group is celebrating Saturday’s repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but recognizes the importance of highlighting the oppressive vote of Ms. Hutchison on a measure which had the support of over 70% of Americans in several major polls.

Please join GetEQUAL Texas and other community members and allies to celebrate this victory by telling Kay Bailey Hutchison that “Enough is Enough.”

“We will no longer sit by and allow votes like that of Sen. Hutchison on the repeal measure to go unnoticed. Although the repeal measure passed the Senate with a filibuster proof majority, Senator Hutchison attempted to silence those willing to defend the rights and freedoms of the United States with their lives by voting against the repeal. We will not be silenced. The freedom of speech is guaranteed to all Americans, not just those who the Senator prefers.” stated Michael Diviesti an Army veteran and state coordinator for GetEQUAL Texas.

Both Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn voted against repeal, which passed with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

—  John Wright

In defense of Fort Worth’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid

Jon Nelson

By Jon Nelson  |  Fairness Fort Worth

I read with interest the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle’s commentary contrasting the Atlanta outcome with Fort Worth’s after raids at gay bars in each city. He concludes that “Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.”

The headline contrasts the $1 million settlement with none in Fort Worth. Although the Rev. Sprinkle doesn’t mention this as a contrast, I’ll deal with it anyway. The Atlanta suit was filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 patrons of the club and no such lawsuit has yet been filed in Fort Worth .The LGBT community formed Fairness Fort Worth at the outset and stepped forward to represent the community. The injustice experienced was against the patrons and not the bar owner nor any employees of the bar. This contrasts sharply with the facts in Atlanta where the police targeted both the bar and its patrons.

The Rev. Sprinkle’s one striking contrast is his belief that the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology and Atlanta has. I have attended at least three meeting where Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has publicly apologized; the last one was in front of the Rainbow Lounge at a news conference held on Nov. 5, 2009.

The Rev. Sprinkle writes that there has been a “non-resolution” of the raid on the Rainbow lounge. Let me share with you what has happened since the raid and, in the words of the Rev. Sprinkle, “You be the judge”:

—  admin

Saturday Open Thread…miscellany plus Rachel on KO, and a grave injustice for Oscar Grant

It’s an open thread, chat away…here are some things I’ve been Facebooking and Tweeting about since yesterday:

The benign:

* I finally finished paying off my Subaru Outback! (Yes it’s a stereotypical lesbian household – both of us have Subarus)

* WTF happened to Fall in the Triangle? @durhamncalert “FREEZE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 8 AM EST SUNDAY.” http://s3z.us/cm.htm. The Good News: we broke out the flannel sheets…nice and toasty. The Bad News: the furbabies got me out of bed to feed them. Brrr.

The hardcore:

* Lesbian ‘Corrective Rape’ Victim has her day in Court.

This is the face of South African lesbian who was beaten and raped for five hours by a man who told her he wanted to “turn her into a woman”.  This is the face of a warrior who despite all odds, trauma, and police victimization, found her way to Court today by public transportation, to testify against her brutal attacker, who remained free on bail  to in essence board the same bus. The Police were simply not willing to give this young woman a ride to the Court. A spokesperson for Millicent Gaika contacted us back in April and we have been shedding light on the plight of Lesbian “corrective rape” in South Africa ever since.  Today was Millicent Gaika’s day in court.

* Cop Johannes Mehserle receives 2 years w/credit for time served for shooting Oscar Grant, an unarmed, subdued man, at point blank range. (San Francisco Bay View) The judge tossed out gun enhancement charge.

Today we had a gross miscarriage of justice. Judge Robert Perry threw out the gun enhancement clause that could have added 10 years and then gave Johannes Mehserle a sentence of two years with credit for 292 days for time served. Football star Plexico Burris did more time shooting himself than Mehserle. Michael Vick did more time [for dog fighting] than Mehserle.

* Rachel Maddow on the suspension of Keith Olbermann. “On cable news and cable not-news”:


Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Church court upholds 3 of 4 charges against Spahr — but not because they wanted to

The Rev. Jane Spahr

The Permanent Judiciary Committee of the Presbytery of the Redwoods of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has released its verdict in the church trial of lesbian minister the Rev. Jane Spahr who had been charged with performing same-sex marriages in violation of the denomination’s Book of Order. The committee voted to uphold three of the four charges against Spahr and to censure her by rebuking, adding that she is “enjoined to avoid such offenses in the future.”

The rebuke and injunction, however, will not be imposed until the final determination in the event that Spahr chooses to appeal the ruling.

In a statement released after the committee’s verdict was announced, Spahr said: “I’m sad for my  church. Think about the mixed-messages they are sending the faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters in our community. Think about the mixed-messages they are sending to the next generation who overwhelmingly embrace God’s amazing hospitality and welcome. A great injustice has been done today.”

The committee voted 4-2 to uphold the charge that Spahr did refer to the same-sex weddings she performed during the five months such unions were legal in California as marriages in violation of church doctrine that declares “…officers  of  the  PCUSA  authorized  to  perform  marriages shall not state, imply, or represent that a same-sex  ceremony is a marriage.”

The committee also upheld, on votes of 4-2, that Spahr “persisted in a pattern or practice of disobedience” by performing 15 same-sex marriages during the time those marriages were legal in California, and that the minister “failed to be governed by the polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in violation of [her] ordination vows.”

The committee, however, voted 6-0 not to sustain the charge that Spahr “failed to uphold the peace, unity and purity of the church” by “intentionally and repeatedly acting in violation of the Book of Order.”

Even in voting to sustain three of the charges against Spahr, the committee appeared to be siding with Spahr to some degree, almost seeming to say that even though she violated the Book of Order, Spahr did the right thing. In other words, the committee seems to say, quite plainly, that they had to uphold the charges because Spahr clearly violated certain sections of the Book of Order, but that they believe that Spahr is right and that the Book of Order is, at least in some cases, wrong.

You can download the full text of the decision in PDF form at RedwoodsPresbytery.org (look under the “Announcements” section on the home page),but here is the part I was describing:

“The Permanent Judicial Commission, in sustaining the first three charges, recognizes that while the Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr has indeed performed these marriages, which were and continue to be legal marriages, she did so acting with faithful compassion in accord with W­7.3004. These marriages were legal in the state of California, being civil contracts (W­4.9001), and are different from same-sex ceremonies. The testimonies of those at court clearly demonstrated this difference.

“We commend Dr. Spahr and give thanks for her prophetic ministry that for 35 years has extended support to ‘people who seek the dignity, freedom and respect that they have been denied’” (W­7.4002c), and has sought to redress ‘wrongs against individuals, groups, and peoples in the church, in this nation, and in the world’ ( W­7.4002h).

“In addition, we call upon the church to re­examine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (G­3.0401c) We say this believing that we have in our own Book of Order conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel.”

Later on in the ruling the committee members note although they had to find that Spahr had repeatedly violated the Book of Order and her ordination vows, they also believe that she “has also followed the Book of Order by remembering that our confessions and church is subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, as the Scriptures bear witness to him.”

And they said that they refused to uphold the charge that Spahr failed to “uphold the peace, unity and purity of the church” because they believe that she should instead be commended for “helping us realize that peace without justice is no peace.”

AND, the committee members expressly asked forgiveness of the same-sex married couples “for the harm that has been and continues to be done to them in the name of Jesus Christ,” urging the Synod and General Assembly levels of the Presbyterian Church to “do what needs to be done to move us as a church forward on this journey of reconciliation.”

—  admin