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LBT Women: OUT At The UN Commission On The Status Of Women



Guest post by Brian Tofte-Schumacher

Voices of lesbian, bisexual and trans women from around the world are rising at the United Nations—and important people are listening. The 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women started this week focusing on empowering rural women.

NGOs and state missions organized sessions expanding the frame of reference to include lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women living in rural areas. Capacity limitations tend to cause most international LBT human rights work to have an urban focus; therefore the rural focus is critical.

Fortunately I had a seat in two special sessions…both filled to the brim with activists, UN agency and state representatives from around the world. It was exhilarating for me to be part of this international audience. As the majority of the other attendees were women, I felt honored to be included as I listened intently to conversations and soaked in the dynamics of the room.

Moderator Ulrika Westerlund introduces panelists, Gail C. McNeill from New Hampshire, Linda Baumann from Namibia, Poedjiati Fen Sian from Indonesia, and Akinyi Margareta Ocholla from Kenya. Photo courtesy of LHBT-senteret

In the first session I attended, titled, “We are everywhere! Empowerment of lesbian and bisexual women and trans people – in rural areas and beyond,” Akinyi Margareta Ocholla from Kenya, Poedjiati Fen Sian from Indonesia, Linda Baumann from Namibia, and Gail C. McNeill from New Hampshire shared stories of violence and discrimination that women who live in these rural areas experience.

The panelists spoke personally about a range of challenging issues—the difficulty of getting an education, of finding jobs in rural areas, of establishing a social network and of gaining access to the Internet. For people living in urban areas, these challenges can often be overcome, even where state sanctioned homophobia is prevalent. In rural areas, these challenges are exacerbated by social isolation and minimal access to resources and organizations that affirm lesbian, bisexual and trans identities.

“What are some strategies for activists living in urban areas to help those living in rural areas?” asked an audience member. Such a question could lead to a “provider” mentality, privileging one experience over another. But a panelist saved the moment: “it’s a two-way street,” she replied. “The best way to help someone is to show interest in their issues, listen to their needs and participate in a dialogue to find commonalities between your experiences.” She drove the point that by working together we can address issues more comprehensively.

Panelists Monica Tabengwa from Botswana, Cynthia Rothschild from the United States, Anissa Helie from Algeria, and Jay Kuru Utumpala from Sri Lanka listen intently to a question from the audience. Photo courtesy of Zavé Martohardjono/Astraea Foundation

“End violence and discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity: activism and challenges,” the second session

I attended, brought forward the voices of more LBT activists: Anissa Helie  (Algeria), Jay Kuru Utumpala  (Sri Lanka), Monica Tabengwa (Botswana) and moderator, Cynthia Rothschild (United States). They addressed recent advances as well as challenges to LBT human rights that we have seen at the United Nations and in state governments. The panel, organized by COC Netherlands, was co-sponsored by several other organizations including the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Opening the panel, Cynthia Rothschild spoke about the historic report “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” that the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights released last December. The groundbreaking report synthesizes documentation of very real human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and includes documentation of instances where human rights defenders have been arrested and harassed for their advocacy. It also includes an epic call for specific state accountability.

The panelists highlighted that today there are nearly 80 countries that criminalize homosexuality. LBT women are at times denied access to their National Human Rights monitoring bodies because, while a state constitution may offer protections based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity are often not protected. Jay Kuru, of Sri Lanka, told the story of an 18-year-old girl whose parents abused her because they suspected she was having a relationship with another girl and another story of a masculine-identified trans person who was outed to his employer and his parents when a doctor discovered he was biologically female.

“There is far too little information about LBT women within the UN system,” the panelists concluded, as they identified the reality that these human rights violations are able to occur without redress because of this deficiency. The issue of documentation of human rights violations was identified as critical to progress. Firstly, the international LGBT movement, as well as the women’s movement, must make a commitment to accurately and sensitively document human rights violations without re-traumatizing survivors. Secondly, more documentation of these violations is vital to ending the horrific human rights violations that many lesbian, bisexual and trans women face. It is only solid, irrefutable documentation of human rights violations that will convince governments and other critical policy makers of their existence and the need for specific measures to stop them.

In thinking about the past 56 years of the Commission on the Status of Women, I asked my self how long have LBT women, and the reality of their lives, been recognized or included in these discussions?  From what I heard, it seems relatively new. As I left the room following these sessions, there was such an energetic interest among the audience that lively discussions continued through the allotted time, pouring out into the corridors when they were over. I was grateful for the inclusion of LBT women’s voices, and grateful to be there.

I hope all of us who were there, activists, thinkers, state representatives and aides to policy makers, take the experience of these sessions and use them as a launch pad to further our work in our own communities. It’s one thing to sit in a room at the United Nations in New York and listen…the real work gets done when we go home and start talking.

For more information concerning LBT issues and the Commission on the Status of women contact: Roberta Sklar (email) or Brian Tofte-Schumacher (email).

Image, top: Jay Kuru Utumpala passionately answers a question from the audience. Photo courtesy of Zavé Martohardjono/Astraea Foundation.

Brian Tofte-Schumacher is Communications Associate at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. He tweets on @IGLHRC and personally as @briantschu.

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‘Wake Up People’: Trump ‘Elevating Criminals’ as MAGA Wants to ‘Wreck America’ Says Expert



Dr. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the noted expert on authoritarianism, fascism, and propaganda is sounding the alarm on Donald Trump, MAGA, the 2024 presidential election, and events surrounding the Republican National Convention.

“Wake up people. Trump is the most skilled propagandist in history,” Ben-Ghiat, an NYU professor of history and an MSNBC opinion columnist, wrote, noting he “did not need a crisis or one-party state to get millions to believe he won the 2020 election & see Jan 6 & strongman rule as positive.”

“He built a personality cult & indoctrinated thru disinfo & mass marketing,” she added.

Ben-Ghiat, who is also an advisor to the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Protect Democracy, was responding to professor of international relations Nicholas Grossman’s remarks:

“If the United States loses its democracy, it’ll be the dumbest slide into authoritarianism in history. Others cases had mass unemployment, a major war, something. None have done it with low unemployment, rising real wages, declining crime, and no troops fighting in foreign wars,” he wrote.

READ MORE: ‘What Caused Trump’s Injury?’: Campaign Silent as Attempted Assassination Questions Mount

Grossman was replying to international affairs columnist Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail, who had observed, “For the first time in 23 years the USA isn’t at war. It’s experiencing full employment and rising living standards not seen in decades. Crime and violence are falling to record lows. It’s energy independent. Yet its leading candidate goes on about ‘civilizational collapse.’ ”

Ben-Ghiat also weighed in on remarks by economist Anders Åslund, who had written, “Elon Musk has promised Trump $45 million a month! An extraordinary amount. Why? Because Trump wants to prolong his tax breaks for billionaires – worth circa $4 trillion (!) over a decade. This will break US public finances, but Musk & other ruthless billionaires don’t care.”

“The point of MAGA,” she responded, “is to wreck America so autocrats –Trump’s allies–can prosper. Don’t believe me? Listen to Trump in VA on 6/29: ‘If you have a smart president, they’re not enemies. You’ll make them do great.’ He was speaking about Russia, China, and North Korea.”

She also responded to attorney and SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah’s post that former top Trump White House advisor Peter Navarro is being released from prison Wednesday and just hours later will speak at the Republican National Convention. Navarro is a conspiracy theorist and fringe economist who refused two lawful congressional subpoenas, was found guilty and sentenced to four months in jail.

“Trump’s agenda, as with all autocrats, is to replace rule of law with rule by the lawless,” Ben-Ghiat replied. “Elevating criminals to positions of prominence within the party is part of that.”

In an interview published Saturday in The Guardian on the threat of authoritarianism in America, Ben-Ghiat warned: “It is a democratic emergency.”

Ben-Ghiat is the author of several book including “Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall,” and “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.”

READ MORE: ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’: RNC’s ‘Chilling’ MAGA Chant Echoes Trump – and ‘1930’s Germany’





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‘What Caused Trump’s Injury?’: Campaign Silent as Attempted Assassination Questions Mount



Four days after a 20-year old registered Republican shot at Donald Trump at an outdoor campaign rally, killing one man and wounding three others including the ex-president, questions continue to grow as the Trump campaign stays silent.

Trump on Saturday appeared to touch his ear, which moments later was seen covered in blood. The Secret Service is now under investigation. Trump had enough time to mouth “fight!” and pump his fists at the crowd, giving photographers the opportunity to take what are being called “iconic” images of the shooting. Trump even repeatedly demanded agents wait for him to find his shoes before pulling him to safety.

A CNN transcript shows Trump saying four times, “Let me get my shoes.”

To date, not a single physician who treated Trump at the local hospital has addressed the press with any medical information on the 78-year old who this week officially became the Republican Party nominee for president.

The New York Times on Tuesday reported U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), the disgraced former Physician to the President, said he traveled from Texas to Bedminster, New Jersey to be with Trump at his private golf course, arriving at 4:30 AM Sunday. According to The Times, Jackson “replaced the dressing on the former president’s ear on a flight to Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention.”

Jackson told The Times, “The bullet took a little bit off the top of his ear in an area that, just by nature, bleeds like crazy.” That was the extent of his medical remarks.

RELATED: ‘Release Your Medical Records’: No Report on Trump’s Health 3 Days After Assassination Attempt

The Daily Beast adds Jackson spoke to far-right wing commentator Benny Johnson on Monday.

“Jackson was not at the rally in Pennsylvania, but previously said his nephew attended and was grazed by a stray bullet while sitting in the former president’s ‘friends and family’ section.”

“It was far enough away from his head that there was no concussive effect from the bullet, and it just took the top of his ear off,” Jackson said.

The Trump campaign has not released any medical reports, nor has it cited or directed reporters to Congressman Jackson’s remarks.

“So journalists who demanded detailed medical information about examinations of President Biden just… don’t care to hear from any actual medical personnel about the injury sustained by the former President Trump after an assassination attempt? This is insane,” declared civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill Wednesday morning. Ifill is a professor of law and the former president of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

“I have many questions!” responded MSNBC anchor Joy Reid. “Like where are the medical reports? What caused Trump’s injury and what was the injury? Sheapnel? [sic] Glass? A bullet? Where were the three attendees who were shot seated or standing relative to Trump? Why was Trump allowed to stand and pose for photos, fist pumping for nearly ten seconds while asking about his shoe when there could easily havs [sic] been additional shooters? How did the gunman manage to get on the roof of the building WHERE THE LOCAL POLICE WERE LITERALLY INSIDE?”

Reid wasn’t done.

“More questions,” she continued, “does it make sense that a 17 year old who three year[s] later is a member of a far right gun group donated to any political organization, let alone @actblueorg??? Has the organization verified that? And where is this supposed ladder? Did he seriously bring a five foot ladder with him and his AR? Really? And why haven’t authorities released information about all three civilian victims, including a schematic of where they were standing or sitting?”

READ MORE: ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’: RNC’s ‘Chilling’ MAGA Chant Echoes Trump – and ‘1930’s Germany’

Questions have swirled about a report of a $15 donation to a progressive group on January 20, 2021 – the day Joe Biden was inaugurated President. According to Snopes, a report that that donation came from a different Thomas Crooks, a 69-year old, are false.

“Thomas Crooks, the 20-year-old man who attempted to assassinate former U.S. President Donald Trump, once donated money to a political action committee aligned with the Democratic Party,” Snopes reports the claim, deeming it true.

Political commentator Bob Cesca on Wednesday quoted from this NBC News report that reads: “A Trump adviser on Tuesday declined to answer specific questions about the former president’s injury, telling NBC News that any statements about Trump’s health, his condition and medical care related to his ear would come directly from the former president.”

Cesca asks, “What’s he concealing?”

“Exactly, replied attorney and legal analyst Jeffrey Evan Gold.

“5 days after the event
No medical briefing.
No medical reports.
No doctor has come forth to even be interviewed in any publication.
Never seen anything like it in any mass shooting.”

“It has been several days since Trump was injured,” observed national security attorney Brad Moss Wednesday morning. “No medical reports. No statements from doctors. Nothing. And the media is barely talking about it, instead discussing an imaginary ‘pivot’.”

Former Republican U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh said, “No medical reports. No doctor’s statements. No information at all on the Republican nominee for President who was shot & injured four days ago. That’s just wrong. Shitty job media. If it were the Democratic nominee who’d been shot, Hannity, et al, would be blowing a gasket.”

Dr. Nick Mark writes: “The media silence on this is deafening. Did he have a head CT? What did it show? Did he have stitches? Tetanus shot? The NYT ran nonstop stories about Biden’s health after the debate but can’t be bothered to report on the health of someone who was literally shot in the head?”

RELATED: Was Trump Hit by a Bullet or Not? Calls Mount for Campaign to Release Medical Records

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‘Impose Gender Ideology’: DeSantis Continues Attacks on LGBTQ Equality at RNC



Walking out beneath a banner that read “Make America Safe Once Again,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continued the GOP’s attacks on LGBTQ Americans into Tuesday night at day two of the Republican National Convention, despite the party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, vow to unite the nation.

Parading his far-right social agenda, DeSantis, who ended his 2024 presidential bid in January, angrily attacked President Joe Biden and American principles of equality.

“Let’s be honest here. Biden is just a figurehead. He’s a tool for imposing a leftist agenda on the American people. They support open borders, allowing millions and millions of illegal aliens to pour into our country and divert in our communities. But just don’t send any to Martha’s Vineyard then they get really upset,” the two-term Florida GOP governor mockingly declared, reminding Republicans that he spent state tax dollars to pick up 48 Venezuelan asylum seekers, including children, in Texas, and transport them to the tiny island town in Massachusetts, where they discovered, one said, they had been “tricked.”

READ MORE: ‘Release Your Medical Records’: No Report on Trump’s Health 3 Days After Assassination Attempt

“They have unleashed progressive prosecutors across our nation who care more about coddling criminals than about protecting their own communities,” DeSantis continued at the convention where Donald Trump, a convicted felon, was officially chosen as the party’s presidential nominee just 24 hours earlier.

“They use the unelected bureaucracy to impose their will on us without our consent,” DeSantis added, although it was unclear if he was  referring to the nation’s justice system. “And they weaponize political power to target their political opponents like they’ve done to our own nominee.”

“They want to ban gas automobiles, eliminate Second Amendment rights and impose gender ideology on everyone from our infantry men to kindergarteners. They stand for DEI, which really means ‘division, exclusion and indoctrination’ and it is wrong.”

DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“They mandated that you show proof of a COVID vaccine to go to a restaurant, but they oppose requiring proof of citizenship to cast the vote,” he claimed before adding, “They can’t even define what a woman is.”

READ MORE: ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’: RNC’s ‘Chilling’ MAGA Chant Echoes Trump – and ‘1930’s Germany’

DeSantis originally had not been scheduled to speak at the convention, despite having endorsed Donald Trump when he ended his presidential campaign. On Tuesday it was announced both DeSantis, and Trump’s other top rival for the nomination, his former Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, would both speak to the delegates.

As DeSantis praised Trump, the nominee was in the audience, standing next to his son Eric, his new vice presidential running mate, U.S. Senator JD Vance, and U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

CNBC reported Tuesday the second day of the Republican National Convention saw Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz “bend the knee.”

“The primary campaign is a distant memory now,” Florida Politics noted.

Watch DeSantis’ speech below or at this link.

READ MORE: Was Trump Hit by a Bullet or Not? Calls Mount for Campaign to Release Medical Records





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