High School Student Left with Black Eye, Broken Nose Because People Thought he Was Gay

A Pensacola, Florida high school student was recently attacked and suffered a black eye and a broken nose. The reason? According to Pink News, his classmate thought that he was gay because he's a dancer. Regardless of whether he's gay or not (he doesn't identify as gay), there is no excuse for anyone to assault someone other than self-defense. 

Jaiden Muniz-Walls was the victim of the attack which took place in a classroom by his fellow classmate who has not been identified. Muniz-Walls did not fight back but instead put his arms up to defend himself. He was attacked because of his interest in dancing which made his classmate assume that he's gay. His attacker has been faced with a misdemeanor assault charge, but Jaiden's mother thinks that it is not enough. She wants to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again, as she recognizes that there may be some students in the Pensacola school who are gay and are afraid to admit it because of the fear of being assaulted. 

It's no secret that LGBTQ people (and perceived LGBTQ people) are disproportionately affected by violence, as the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs states that in 2017 there was an 86% increase in hate violence from 2016. In addition to that, Randy Slovacek has written about how schools are still unsafe for LGBTQ people in his post "Survey Shows Progress For LGBTQ High Schoolers Is Slowing Down." Other studies have shown that teachers who identify as LGBT are also subject to hate. It's a sad reality but a reality that we all live in. 

However, this sad reality doesn't have to exist. Educating people on LGBTQ topics is a good place to start, and once that has been taught, perhaps we should teach people to be mindful of other's interests to prevent things like this from happening again. 

h/t: Pink NewsNational Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs

New Survey: Trump Voters Believe Straight Men Deal With Most Discrimination

If you ever needed more evidence how reality skews for folks on opposite sides of the political spectrum, look no further.

A new poll by You.gov/The Economist shows among Trump voters believe straight men face more discrimination than any other demographic in the U.S. today.

Participants were asked “How much discrimination do the following people face in America today?”

They were then given a list of demographics and a choice of responses: “none at all,” “not much,” “a fair amount,” and “a great deal.”

A combined 49% of Trump voters said men face significant discrimination (18% “a great deal,” 31% “a fair amount”).

When asked about LGBTQ folks, 41% of Trump voters feel the gays face discrimination (9% “a great deal,” 32% “a fair amount”).

A combined 42% said Mexican-Americans face “a great deal” (9%) or “a fair amount” (33%) of discrimination.

 A combined 38% said African-Americans face “a great deal” (8%) or “a fair amount” (30%) of discrimination.

 A combined 27% said Asian-Americans face “a great deal” (6%) or “a fair amount” (21%) of discrimination.

Not surprisingly, only 30% of Trump voters feel women face “a great deal” (7%) or “a fair amount” (23%) of discrimination.

This all seems to correlate with recent public statements by Republicans, including Donald Trump, who during the recent hearings to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh told the press it’s a “very scary” time for men in America.

Back in August, a poll by Public Religion Research Institute found Republicans believe discrimination has lessened substantially over the past few years for LGBTQ people, women, Jewish people and Muslim people.

(h/t Newsweek)

Australian Senators Wish to Preserve Religious "Ethos" in Law Barring LGBTQ Discrimination

I've recently written about the Australian Prime Minister's decision to prohibit religious schools from expelling LGBTQ students and firing teachers based on their sexuality that was created by Australia's Green party. While this is most assuredly a good thing, some people are not happy with it. Most noticeably among the naysayers are Australia's Labor senators who say that this new policy is ultimately negative because they wish for schools to retain their religious "ethos" by allowing expulsion of students and firing of staff based on their sexuality, The Guardian reports.

During a debate on Wednesday, it was revealed that many Labor senators had serious objections to the bill that would protect LGBTQ students and staff members. They object to the bill because while it puts protections in place for LGBTQ individuals, it does not provide assurance that religious schools can retain their ecclesiastical character. 

Because of this objection, the bill may be stalled. The Labor Coalition says that they will create their own bill that would allow for protection for students but not for teachers. So... discrimination is bad against one group but the same exact discrimination is okay for another group? Makes perfect sense.

A labor senator, Jacinta Collins, which is the woman in the picture above, protests the bill as she believes that it's necessary for religious schools "to be run in accordance with their beliefs" and for their parents' religious convictions be honored as their children get an education. She also believes that adding protections for LGBTQ students and staff undermines the beliefs of religious schools and is myopic in regard to factoring in both sides. Collins wants legislation that recognizes that religious schools have policies in place that match their belief system, i.e. not hiring LGBTQ teachers and not allowing discussion of marriage equality.

Simply existing as an LGBTQ shouldn't be a reason for discrimination, but unfortunately it is a reality. Respecting the belief system of religious schools is not incompatible with placing protections for LGBTQ students and staff, as everyone has the right to an education and employment. These protections do not run counter to beliefs in a Christian sense because, as far as I know, the Bible never mentions that LGBTQ people should not be educated or hired. The Labor party will continue to work with parliament to reach an agreement.

h/t: The Guardian

Kansas Sued Over Regressive Birth Certificate Policy

Lambda Legal, an organization that focuses on equal rights and protections for LGBTQ people files a federal lawsuit against the state of Kansas because of the state's regressive views of gender on birth certificates, Lambda Legal reports.

The lawsuit seeks to challenge Kansas' unwillingness to change the gender marker on birth certificates for transgender people. Out of the fifty states in the Union, only three have not moved towards a more progressive stance on gender. The other two states are Tennessee and Ohio. The population of Kansas is almost three million according to the census so it stands to reason that there will be at least one transgender person living there.

Luc Bensimon, a forty-six-year-old transgender man living un Topeka, Kansas says that by having a birth certificate that says female, it complicates his life and that because his birth certificate says female but his gender identity is male, it makes it easier for people to discriminate against him. In addition, by not having the option to correct gender markers, transgender individuals have to live a lie outside of their control. This policy is discriminatory towards transgender and nonbinary people and displays an antiquated view of gender identity. 

The lawsuit, Foster v. Andersen, says that transgender people's rights are being violated under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution, as well as having their first amendment free speech rights violated by not allowing them to correct their gender on their birth certificates. This refusal also contrasts with Kansas' policy of allowing people to change their gender on their driver's licenses and state ID cards.

Transgender people are people like you and me and they deserve the same rights as everyone else. However, that is not the case for many who face discrimination and violence due to their gender identity. By Lambda Legal suing the state of Kansas, they have the ability to effect change and add to the progress that the transgender community has already made.

h/t: Lambda Legal, US Census

Australian Prime Minister Says No More Expulsion for Gay Students Based on their Sexuality

In some Australian states, religious schools are permitted to expel LGBTQ students because of their sexuality. Today, October 13th, Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, created new legislation that would prevent schools from discriminating against gay pupils, according to BBC.

The decision to reverse this discriminatory policy came about after Morrison was found defending leaked proposals from a report on religious freedom. The new proposals would allow all schools nationwide to discriminate against LGBT students based on their sexuality, and on October 10th, Morrison said that the proposals were already "existing law." If the proposals went through, it would have ensured that faith-based schools had the right to turn down gay students.

The proposals were made a year after same-sex marriage had become legal and suggested that private schools have procedures in place to reject LGBTQ students that would be spread nationwide, which would have been a huge blow to human rights in Australia.  

Morrison also said that the proposals would have been carried out respectfully, but backtracked three days later and said that religious schools should not have the right to discriminate. He said, "Given recent misreporting, we have an opportunity here to bring forward a simple amendment to end the confusion."

I do not think that religious schools should have the right to discriminate against anyone, not just LGBTQ people, regardless of whether or not that they are privately funded. But that could be because I was raised in a secular household... The decision to block religious schools in Australia from turning down and/or expelling LGBTQ students is a step in the right direction, although I suspect this decision was made due to public backlash.

h/t: BBC

A Teacher In China Was Fired Because He's Gay, And Now He's Suing In A Landmark Case

A gay kindergarten teacher is suing his former school after they fired him last month.

According to Reuters, the teacher’s court case is being considered a landmark discrimination and minority protections case for the country of China.

Back in August, the teacher, who has decided to stay anonymous, was fired from his job after he posted on social media that he attended a previous LGBTQ event. He was then told directly by the school principal that he was fired because he’s gay. Apparently, the school feared that parents wouldn’t want a gay man teaching their children.

The teacher, who had a 10 percent stake in the school, was then removed from his job without sufficient severance or payment for his stake, according to his lawyer Tang Xianqian.

“The main reason we filed this case is not just as a labour dispute but to make the gay community more visible to a wider group of people. To let more people realise that they can easily be victims of discrimination,” Tang said.

The anonymous teacher doubled down on this point by saying, “I hope that I can use this case to push forward Chinese society to be more balanced and accepting.”

While it is legal to be gay in China, there are no rights to protect specifically LGBTQ people from discrimination. Instead, there are more broad anti-discrimination laws that protect “minority groups.”

Now this case could change that as it’s the first case in China, as far as Tang’s aware of, involving a gay teacher being fired because of his or her sexual orientation.

Beyond the goal of raising awareness for LGBTQ rights and anti-discrimination laws, the teacher is hoping for an outcome where he is rehired and paid for his financial loss. The court case has been picked up by a court in Quindao, so that result is now a possibility.

h/t: Reuters

Washington D.C. Man Sues Teachers Union For Gay Based Discrimination

A Washington D.C. man is suing the Washington Teachers’ Union after suffering discrimination and ultimately being fired because he’s gay.

According to PR Newswire, Barry Hobson, a 36-year-old Upper Marlboro resident who worked as a receptionist and office assistant, has filed a federal lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Hobson is saying that his rights under the D.C. Human Rights Act were violated. He claims that the former Chief of Staff expressed disgusting views about him due to his sexuality. In addition, he says the President did nothing to stop the Chief of Staff and supported his firing.

Even though the organization presides over 5,000 teachers in D.C.’s public schools, the union’s leaders have little diversity training concerning LGBTQ employees. Hobson says he dealt with “hostile and retaliatory actions” while on the job.

The filed complaint included documentation of emails from Dorothy Egbufor, the former Chief of Staff. After Hobson “confirmed he engaged in same-sex intimacy,” Egbufor became nasty and refused him access to the organization’s health plan.

“Never in WTU's past have we allowed any individual to participate on our group policy 'openly gay' and I don't think this should be an exception," she wrote.

She later wrote in the same email that having Hobson and LGBTQ employees on the union's medical plan would cause a "substantial premium/rate increase" for other members because LGBTQ people "have AIDS, HIV and STDs."

According to the Washington Blade, the lawsuit also includes the following section explaining an interaction Egbufor and Hobson had after he applied for company benefits.

“Shortly after he submitted his paperwork, on or about January 31, 2017, Plaintiff had a disturbing phone call with Defendant Egbufor that she initiated about Plaintiff’s benefits,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Egbufor said that she saw ‘Timothy’ listed on the benefits documents. Defendant Egbufor then asked, ‘Exactly who is he to you?’ Plaintiff responded ‘my fiancé,’” the lawsuit says.

“Prior to abruptly hanging up on Plaintiff, Defendant Egbufor said in a tone of disgust with a raised voice, ‘Your fiancé, ok Barry goodbye.’ Then she immediately hung up,” the lawsuit says.

Another attached email also showed that Egbufor wrote:

"Barry's nature of resistance and pushback is common among his peers in the homosexual community and will be an ongoing issue for WTU if not addressed while we maintain authority within the probationary period of employment.  As a result, I plan to recommend termination and immediately begin reassigning the remainder of his job duties to various staff in the coming days."

"What happened to Mr. Hobson was just plain awful,” said Brian J. Markovitz. “President Davis should resign immediately.  The head of the union that represents the teachers who teach our children and shape their values should not condone treating people poorly at work because of who they love.  That's not how people in the DC area want the world to be."

Now, Hobson is looking for $1 million in damages from the union and it’s leaders. According to the filed complaint, Hobson suffered through anxiety symptoms, chest pains, bad sleep, weight loss, breathing problems, and panic attacks because of the discrimination.

h/t: PR Newswire, The Washington Blade

Betsy DeVos Turns Blind Eye on Bathroom Bills

Politico tells the story of Alex Howe, a Texan high school student who hated the walk all the way to the unisex bathroom stalls in the middle of a building far from his classrooms. Since he is a transgender boy, his school district banned him from entering the boy’s restrooms making it inconvenient for him and forcing him to either choose the girl’s restroom or walking to the unisex stalls. As if that were not enough humiliation, conservative parents told the debate coach they didn’t want Howe sharing a room with their sons on trips to competitions. The coach argued that Howe should be treated the same as all of the other kids but the school administrators sided with the parents- Howe was forced to room alone. Transgender students like Howe are forced into a life of isolation because when they decide to be themselves, they are not included.

Howe isn’t the only student across the United States facing issues like this, kids face this every day, adults do, too. However, when students try to make change, the government turns a blind eye. After graduating in 2017, Howe filed a complaint with federal civil rights officials at the Department of Education hoping to make a change. After some research, Politico reports that his complaint is one of at least five involving transgender student rights that was thrown out by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has halted investigations like these.

In 2016, president Trump said:

“[Transgender people] should use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”

However, his policies how otherwise. The Education Department declined to answer questions about how it handles transgender cases but after Politico published their article, they released a statement saying:

“[We are] committed to defending the civil rights of all students and ensuring all students have an equal opportunity to learn in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. [We will continue to use] current law and current regulation to determine if any child in school is being harassed or discriminated against due to race, sex, or disability.”

Politico’s investigation showed at least 107 complaints filed with the Education Department since January of 2014, all connected to transgender students who were treated differently, excluded, or denied benefits.

GLSEN says that most transgender students are required to use bathrooms that don’t match their gender identity. This sort of emotional abuse and exclusion has an effect on the mental health of these children and the Department of Education refuses to act. When Betsy DeVos decides it is easier to look the other way than to act, we must ensure these issues are not forgotten.

h/t: Politico, True Pundit

Police Arrest and Wreck the Lives of 13 Men Caught Having Sex in South Florida Pleasure Emporium

A forced outing is damn traumatizing and always causes nothing but harm.

Well, never mind all that if you’re Hollywood, Florida police, who last week raided an adult store and arrested 13 men who were having consensual sexual encounters in a private area.

Police officers went to the trouble of paying $25 to enter locked, private rooms at the back of the Pleasure Emporium in South Florida where men were masturbating and engaging in oral sex.

After the arrests, several news outlets reported on the incident, revealing the men’s names, their hometowns, ages and mugshots.

The smearing has justifiably led to bitter backlash. According to the Miami New Times, an attorney for one of the men says her client was fired from his job in the medical field as a result of the coverage.

It gets worse: the man (we’re not using his name and no outlet run by humans with a shred of decency would) had fled Cuba 20 years prior to avoid persecution.

"He was persecuted in Cuba because of his sexuality," says his attorney, Abbie Cuellar. "He was thrown out of his home and thrown out of school because he was gay. He fled as a result and thought America was going to be this beacon of 'freedom.' He now basically has lost everything he has worked for... He is horribly suicidal.”

Just to repeat, these men were arrested, humiliated and worse—their lives are probably wrecked— for having consensual sex in private.

The raid cost taxpayers $240, as the two police officers got four hours of overtime pay a piece.

Hollywood PD has made a habit of raiding the Pleasure Emporium. They arrested six men there in February. In a statement, they defended last week’s raid, calling the locked, private rooms that you have to pay to get into at Pleasure Emporium a “public space."

"Clearly, this was a private setting within a private setting — you would have to pay to get into it," Cuellar says. "It's not in a residential neighborhood. There's no danger a kid would ever walk past, even. The fact that they’ve been made out to be these sexual deviants, I feel like I’m back in the 1960s! I don't understand the point of this arrest other than smearing and humiliating these men."

For the full story: Miami New Times

h/t: Pink News

New Defense Department Policy Could End Military Service For HIV+ Folks

It was one year ago today that Donald Trump tweeted his intention to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Now, the Trump administration seems to be turning his attention to HIV positive service members.

A February 14 Department of Defense memo announced a new “Deploy or Get Out!” policy which goes into effect on October 1.

The new policy orders the Pentagon to discharge those service members who are unable to be deployed outside the U.S. for more than a year. According to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the point was to ensure “readiness” within the U.S. military.

But an existing DOD policy dating back to the height of the AIDS epidemic prohibits HIV+ service members from being deployed overseas. Therefore, the new guidance would appear to make it impossible to serve their country.

HIV+ folks are prohibited from enlisting in the Armed Forces. Soldiers who are already serving but later seroconvert are allowed to stay in the military, but cannot be deployed in combat or overseas.

Two soldiers have filed separate lawsuits - Doe v. Mattis and Harrison v. Mattis - hoping to stop the new policy from going into effect.

Forty-one-year old Sgt. Nick Harrison is afraid his life would be dramatically affected by the new policy.

From HIVPlusMag:

Sgt. Harrison hopes to make a difference for other members of the Armed Forces. He isn’t being secretive about his identity, either. Harrison was deployed to both Afghanistan and Kuwait, but was diagnosed with HIV shortly after returning home from Kuwait in 2012. “This case is not just about me,” Harrison said. “This is about every person living with HIV knowing that they can perform any job in the world, including serving in the military. Together, we must stop the Pentagon from closing its doors to successful and talented service members. I look forward to the day that I can serve my country to the full extent of my abilities, based on my performance and unfettered by unfounded fears and misperceptions about HIV.”

Harrison also claims that the military’s policy wrongfully blocked him from ascending to Judge Advocate General officer of the D.C. National Guard, reports Bloomberg, because members living with HIV also cannot achieve officer status.

Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, issued this statement regarding the discriminatory policy:

“Soldiers, sailors, fighter pilots and marines are seeing their promising careers cut short, their dreams of service shattered and their health jeopardized due to antiquated notions about HIV and the stigma that results. This must end. If the court doesn’t intervene, the Trump administration will continue to discharge more promising service members living with HIV, denying them the ability to continue serving their country. Every day, people living with HIV are suffering professional setbacks and losing out on career advancement opportunities, and we are asking this court to put an end to these harmful actions.”

According to HIVPlusMag, approximately 1,200 service members could be affected by the policy change.  

(h/t HIVPlusMag)