‘A landmark moment’ for trans Americans, but there’s so far left to go

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President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama made history Tuesday night (Jan. 20), when he actually said the words “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “transgender” during the his State of the Union speech. It was the first time those words had ever been uttered in a SOTU address.

President Obama said: “As Americans, we respect human dignity. … That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do, but because ultimately they will make us safer.”

It was, I think, an especially sweet moment for the thousands and thousands of transgender Americans. We are making progress toward full equality every day, but still, our trans brothers and sisters are the ones still being left behind. So hearing the president of the United States truly acknowledge them had to be a great moment.

The press releases and written statements I found flooding my email inbox this morning reinforced what I already believed:

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said: “What President Obama said about trans people last night … he actually said it. …. His mention of us [last night] let’s us know that whenever he’s spoken of children, he has meant transgender children too. Or when he’s spoken out about immigrants, he’s meant transgender immigrants too. And when he’s talked about service members and veterans, he meant transgender service members too.”

A statement from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund called the mention “a landmark moment,” adding: “This is a moment of promise for transgender people, who before now, had never been mentioned in a State of the Union address. We are grateful to President Obama for including our entire community in his speech, and for highlighting and condemning the persecution of LGBT people. Through his stirring and heartfelt words, the president has again demonstrated his commitment to creating a world where people are treated equally regardless of who we are or who we love.”

As uplifting and empowering as that moment was, though, my email inbox also provided ample proof that we still have a very long way to go, especially in protecting transgender Americans — their rights, their freedoms and their very lives.

A press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights notes that NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday filed a joint friend of the court brief in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, supporting a former Saks Fifth Avenue employee, Leyth Jamal, who says the company discriminated against her because she is trans.

Saks attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers.

I also had an email from a group called Care2, “a community of 27 million standing together for good,” taking to task InTouch Weekly for its horrendous cover story speculating on the gender identity of Olympic champion Bruce Jenner.

I saw that cover while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store; it made me sick, and it made me angry. It depicts a heavily altered photo of Jenner to show what he would look like as a woman. I didn’t read the article — although Care2’s statement says it was full of speculation and nothing else. Us Magazine reports Jenner himself is “upset” with the cover and story.

According to the press release, there is a new Care2 petition by Julie Mastrine demanding that “David Perel, editorial director of InTouch Weekly, be more sensitive to the struggles that actual transgender people face and refrain from gossipy speculation about someone’s gender identity.”

Mastrine said: “Publicly speculating as to whether or not someone will be coming out as transgender illustrates a flippant lack of empathy toward people who actually struggle with making a gender transition. It robs Jenner of his right to identify as he wishes.”

BuzzFeed says the magazine likely imposed Jenner’s face over British actress Stephanie Beacham’s body, and even comedian/actor Russell Brand condemned InTouch, calling it “bullying.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Obama uses ‘lesbian,’ ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender’ in SOTU for the first time ever

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President Barack Obama

Tonight wasn’t the first time that President Barack Obama has mentioned LGBT rights in his State of the Union Address; last year he took a brief moment to reiterate his commitment to LGBT rights around the world. He was the first to use the word “gay” in a State of the Union Address in 2010 when he talked about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But the 2015 State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, Jan. 20 did mark an historic event for the LGBT community: For the first time ever in a State of the Union Address, a U.S. president used the words “bisexual” and “transgender.” UPDATE: I just discovered this is apparently the first time the word “lesbian” has been used in a State of the Union speech, too.

The historic moment came near the end of the president’s speech, when he said that Americans “condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

The president on Tuesday also called the ongoing battle for marriage equality “a story of freedom across our country” and “a civil right.” And he said that Americans now “value the dignity and worth” of gay people.

—  Tammye Nash

Jason Collins signs contract with Brooklyn Nets, becomes first openly gay player in NBA

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Jason Collins

Jason Collins became the NBA’s first active openly gay player Sunday, signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, the Associated Press reported.

Collins will join the Nets for their game Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The 35-year-old center revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.

With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to the 7-foot Collins, who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.

“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” general manager Billy King said in a statement. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”

Collins has played 12 NBA seasons, including his first seven with the Nets, when they were in New Jersey and Jason Kidd was their point guard. Kidd is now the Nets’ coach and Collins has been a teammate of several other current Nets.

“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment,” Commissioner Adam Silver said.

The Nets worked out Collins during the All-Star break and met with him again Sunday, with his twin brother, Jarron, hinting that history would be made.

“Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday. Today should be a pretty cool day!” Jarron Collins wrote on Twitter.

The news on Collins comes as Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri who recently revealed he is gay, is taking part in the NFL draft combine. Sam’s on-field workouts in Indianapolis are scheduled for Monday.

Jason Collins played 38 games last season with Boston and Washington and averaged 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes. For his career, the 7-foot Collins averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.

His announcement last spring was followed by numerous NBA players insisting he would be welcomed in the locker room. Collins has played for five other teams and is well respected inside and outside the league — he attended the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

“I just know Jason as a person and as a player. That’s what I’m happy about. He has earned it. He’s a great guy. It’s good for the league. The important thing is to judge him as a person and a basketball player,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said.

“I know people who have coached him, and I know how highly thought of he is.”

The Nets had an opening for a big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton. King said Thursday that Collins would be among the players they would look at, insisting they wouldn’t be concerned about any extra attention the signing of Collins would provide.

“We’re going to bring in a basketball player,” King said. “It’s not about marketing or anything like that.”

The Nets posted a photo on their Twitter account of Kidd watching Collins sign his contract, encouraging followers to retweet it to welcome Collins to Brooklyn.

Collins is tied for third in Nets history with 510 games played, and also ranks in their top 10 in minutes played, and offensive rebounds and total rebounds. A limited offensive player, the Nets hope he still provides a presence defensively and on the boards.

“I know Jason Collins is a competitor. One thing I know about him is he fouls very hard,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade said with a laugh. “He’s one of those tough veterans. I’m sure he’s happy to be back playing in the league. Welcome back.”

—  Steve Ramos

Out NBA player to be seated with Michelle Obama at State of the Union

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Jason Collins

The White House announced some of the guests who will be seated in first lady Michelle Obama’s box during the President’s State of the Union address Tuesday. Out former NBA player Jason Collins will be among the guests.

Other guests include a Boston Marathon survivor and his rescuer, the Moore, Okla., fire chief who directed the rescue after a devastating tornado last year, D.C.’s teacher of the year and a 16-year-old Intel intern.

During the State of the Union address, presidents traditionally tell stories about Americans who have made a difference during the year.

Collins played in the NBA for 12 years, making it to the playoffs nine times. In college, he was selected as an All American, named the NCAA’s “Big Man of the Year” and earned an appearance in the Final Four.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers described Collins as “the best.”

“He literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach,” Collins said.

In April 2013, Collins became the first male player in major American team sports to come out openly as gay.

A statement from the White House described Collins’ coming out as courageous.

The President expressed his gratitude to Collins for his courageous announcement through an article Collins penned himself. The President said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Collins, recognizing this as a point of progress for the LGBT community, and one more step in America’s goal to treat everyone fairly and with respect. Collins is 35 and lives in Los Angeles, California.

—  David Taffet

Stonewall Democrats to host watch party for SOTU, which will include 2 special lesbian guests

Ginger Wallace, left, and Lorelei Kilker

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will host its second annual watch party at the Brick tonight during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

The Washington Blade reports that two lesbians are among those who’ve been invited to sit in first lady Michelle Obama’s gallery during the address. They are Lorelei Kilker, an analytical chemist from Colorado who was involved in a landmark sex discrimination case against her employer; and Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace, who’s training to deploy to Afghanistan and is the first service member to have a same-sex partner participate in a pinning-on promotion ceremony.

Others who’ll be sitting in the first lady’s gallery include San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who has served as grand marshal of the city’s gay Pride parade and who recently signed a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

The Blade also takes a look at the question of whether Obama will endorse same-sex marriage — or otherwise mention LGBT issues — during his speech.

Stonewall’s watch party begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Brick, 2525 Wycliff, Suite 120.

Read the White House’s bios of Castro, Kilker and Wallace after the jump.

—  John Wright

Pentagon provides update on DADT repeal

Clifford Stanley

Few spousal benefits will be available to gay and lesbian servicemembers after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is implemented, according to Defense Undersecretary Clifford Stanley and Gen. James Cartwright.

Stanley and Cartwright spoke at a press conference this afternoon on the progress of implementing the repeal of DADT.

In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama said, “Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

Stanley said the Pentagon is still working through the process of drafting new policies needed to implement DADT repeal.

Asked to pinpoint a timetable for implementing the repeal beyond “expeditiously” or “quickly,” neither Stanley nor Cartwright was specific.

However, Cartwright said, “Expeditiously is better than dragging this out,” citing the experience of other countries in allowing gays and lesbians to serve in their armed forces. Training, they agreed, should begin in February.

Stanley and Cartwright addressed chaplains — one of the largest and most vocal groups opposing the repeal of DADT — saying they practice their own faiths and no rules changes would be needed. The two officials did not address chaplains refusing to serve gay and lesbian troops.

—  David Taffet

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas Watch Party tonight

Get your Obama on

The Stonewall Democrats of Dallas are hosting a watch party this evening so all can catch President Obama’s State of the Union. This might be the only time you can gather for the President’s speech and take advantage of drink specials. However, just don’t make a drinking game out of everytime he says “economy.” Could be totally awkward.

DEETS: The Brick, 2525 Wycliff Ave. 7 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

What’s Brewing: Daniel Hernandez, Fort Worth Episcopal diocese; marriage battles intensify

1. In a victory for LGBT-affirming Episcopalians, a conservative Fort Worth group that left the church over its acceptance of gays has been ordered to surrender the property it tried to steal from the six-county diocese. A state district judge on Friday ordered the group to turn over the property — which includes 55 parishes and missions as well as several schools — within 60 days. The group says it plans to appeal the decision, but hopefully this ruling will mean schools like St. Vincent’s can no longer discriminate against 4-year-olds like Olivia Harrison (above) who happen to have lesbian parents.

2. Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Tuesday also happens to be Hernandez’s 21st birthday.

3. Battles over same-sex marriage are intensifying in Maryland, Wyoming and Iowa.

—  John Wright

If Obama fails to mention us in the SOTU, at least you can drown your sorrows at the Brick

President Barack Obama

Some LGBT advocates are calling on President Barack Obama to come out for marriage equality in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Others, however, say Obama should talk about anti-gay bullying. Bullying certainly seems more likely, but would it be too much to ask for Obama to address marriage (DOMA), bullying AND workplace discrimination (ENDA)?

In any case, you can take in the SOTU and wash it down with a few $2 Skyy Vodkas at the Brick, where Stonewall Democrats is hosting a watch party. From Facebook:

Come join Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and hear President Obama give the State of the Union address.
Social hour 7pm to 8pm
State of the Union 8pm
The Brick will show the address on their super large screen and just for SDD $2 Skyy Vodka drinks!
Come one and bring a friend or 2 or 10!
For more info please contact:
Travis Gasper at travisgasper@gmail.com or
Omar Narvaez at omar@stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Lance Lundsten, State of the Union, Lady Bunny’s ‘Ballad of Sarah Palin’

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Gay Minnesota teen Lance Lundsten may very well have taken his own life after all. The medical examiner in the case said Wednesday that Lundsten did not die from an enlarged heart as his father claims. Instead, a finding that Lundsten had an enlarged heart was secondary to his unknown cause of his death. Lundsten has been widely reported to have committed suicide in response to anti-gay bullying at school. However, his official cause of death won’t be known until toxicology results are complete, which could take several weeks.

2. LGBT advocates are calling for President Barack Obama to come out in support of marriage equality in Tuesday’s State of the Union address: “We have wanted him to lead on this issue. He has talked about … experiencing some evolution, and we’d like to say, ‘Evolve now!’”

3. Lady Bunny releases “The Ballad of Sarah Palin.” (video above)

—  John Wright