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Now That Trump Has Won We Must Reassure LGBT Youth That Our Movement Is Resilient and We Are Not Alone

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Responding to the Impending Trump-Induced LGBT Health Crisis

The prospect of a Trump presidency has aptly been described as a “mental health crisis” waiting to happen.

Even before the campaign began in earnest, LGBT health advocate D.A. Stewart warned that “A Trump presidency would not only be dark and disturbing for LGBT Americans, it could very well mean taking several steps backward in our general health as a community, undoing years of public health strides in inclusive care for underserved populations in our country.”

Not surprisingly, in the days immediately following the election, there was a dramatic spike in calls to organizations and support groups that serve the mental health needs of the LGBT community.

The Trevor Project and TransLifeLine, organizations that provide suicide hot lines for LGBT youth and the Trans community, respectively, reported a record number of calls from people concerned about the election results. Similarly, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, an organization founded in 2005, logged an unprecedented number of calls from LGBT individuals coping with feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and a sense of betrayal.

Screen_Shot_2016-11-27_at_12.36.55_PM.jpg“We started getting increased call volume at about 10 p.m. on election night, and it hasn’t slowed down at all,” Gretta Martela, director of Trans Line told Mother Jones on Nov. 11, and added: “In fact, it’s on the rise still.”

Steve Mendelsohn, deputy executive director of the Trevor Project, said queer youth who contacted his hotline are “telling us that they’re feeling anxious and scared…They talk about things that came up during the election campaign. So a fear that perhaps gay marriage will be reversed. Or that conversion therapy will be promoted. Or that their insurance might be taken away.”

The Trevor Project is currently training many more volunteers to help field the increasing volume of calls, Mendelsohn said.

The Crisis Text Line, a support network that people in distress can contact for help via text message, also reported a record number of messages.  The Crisis Text Line said in a press release that “The words ‘election’ and ‘scared’ are the top two things being mentioned” and “the most common association with ‘scared’ was ‘LGBTQ.’ ”

The increase in calls to these groups could have been predicted. We have long known that LGBT youth are at significantly greater risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors than heterosexual youth. Gay and lesbian adults also report a history of more suicidal ideation and attempts than their heterosexual counterparts. Transgender people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are also at greater risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

In addition to the general risk factors for suicide, such as depression and substance abuse, LGBT people also face additional stressors, such as discrimination and hate speech, as well as bullying and spiritual terrorism, that put us at an increased risk for suicidal behavior.

Indeed, a 2002 study by psychologists Bill Jesdale and Sally Zierler found a direct correlation between LGBT rights and the rate of suicide in adolescents. The study discovered that states that had enacted laws protecting LGBT citizens experienced a statistically significant decrease in their adolescent suicide rates. The study offered hope that by creating a more accepting climate for LGBT people, the rate of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among this population could be decreased.

A corollary of the Jesdale-Zierler findings is also likely true. When the rights of LGBT people are under attack, then suicidal thoughts and behaviors will occur at an increased frequency.

Hence, we must be especially vigilant when our rights are assaulted by politicians and hateful religious figures. Lives are literally at stake.

During this holiday period, when people in general are particularly subject to depression, we especially need to  reassure LGBT youth that our movement is a resilient one.

We have experienced setbacks before. In 1986, for example, the United States Supreme Court delivered a devastating blow when, in a 5-4 ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick, it upheld laws that criminalized homosexual activity even in private.

In response, the gay rights legal movement turned its attention to state courts, and over the next fifteen years achieved a string of important victories as state courts either struck down sodomy laws or indicated that they could not be enforced against consenting adults whose conduct was private and non-commercial.

Although there were losses in the state courts, many of the lawsuits ended in victory for the LGBT plaintiffs who challenged the laws, and a few states during the 1990s legislatively repealed them, so that by 2003, when the issue again reached the Supreme Court, barely a dozen states retained actively enforceable sodomy laws on their statute books, and in only four states were those laws solely targeted at same-sex conduct.

In 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court summarily reversed Bowers v. Hardwick in an expansive ruling that has been pivotal to the legal and social progress that we have made since.Â

Similarly, in our epic quest for marriage equality, there were many defeats in court and at the ballot box before the tide turned in our favor, first in a few state courts, then in public opinion and in more state and federal courts and, finally, in the Supreme Court itself.

Even during the long nightmare of the George W. Bush administration, when we were scapegoated and our rights cynically used as a wedge issue to motivate the religious right to vote Republican, we not only persevered but made significant advances.

The specter of a Trump-Pence administration has no doubt shadowed our Thanksgiving celebrations, but we must not allow the disappointing election to cause us to forget the many successes we have achieved and the many blessings for which we should be grateful.

Screen_Shot_2016-11-27_at_12.30.52_PM.jpgWe need to emphasize that the 2016 election was not a referendum on LGBT issues and that Trump and Pence received no mandate to erode LGBT rights.

Moreover, we must remember that we are now better prepared than ever to resist the attacks on our rights that will come from a Trump-Pence administration stocked with homophobic politicians.

The election of Trump has encouraged and emboldened bigots and haters throughout the country, but we need to remember that we have unprecedented levels of support. We are not alone in our fight for equal rights and dignity.

We must keep our faith in Dr. Martin Luther King’s maxim that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Rather than surrender to despair, we must redouble our commitment to action.

Part of that commitment to action must be an increased vigilance in protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, including LGBT youth.

We must increase our contributions to such organizations as the Trevor Project, the TransLifeLine, and the Ali Forney Center, as well as to our advocacy organizations such as the NGLTF, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, GLAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, GLAAD, and many others.

We must also remind young people that “It Gets Better.”

The “It Gets Better Project” grew out of a mental health crisis in 2010, when the nation was rocked by a series of well-publicized bullying scandals and by the suicides of a number of LGBT teens.

Alarmed by the suicide of Billy Lucas, a Greensburg, Indiana teenager who had been mercilessly bullied, Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller founded the project as a channel on YouTube that features videos of LGBT adults and allies reassuring young people that, however awful their predicament might seem at the time, “it gets better.”

“I realized,” Savage told a New York Times reporter, “that with things like YouTube and social media, we can talk directly to these kids. We can make an end run around the schools that don’t protect them, from parents who want to keep gay kids isolated and churches that tell them that they are sinful or disordered.”

The first video in the series featured Savage and Miller, who were both bullied in high school, explaining how fulfilling life became after they left high school, met each other, and began their family.

Soon after its launch, the series went viral on the Internet and grew to include tens of thousands of videos.

In the video below, made in October 2010 to benefit the Trevor Project, Broadway stars reassure young people in an original song written by Jay Kuo & Blair Shepard.

Perhaps the most powerful “It Gets Better” musical video is the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’s rendition of Stephen Schwartz’s “Testimony.”

Schwartz’s 2012 composition features the voices of individuals in pain, but his work envisions triumph as suffering individuals come to find solace in communion with others. It acknowledges the heartbreaking anguish many gay people feel in a homophobic society, but it also joyfully celebrates the rewards of self-acceptance and the happiness that can be found by living life honestly.

If you just “hang in” and “hang on” and accept yourself, the song advises, you can experience “the joy of living with authenticity.”

Schwartz, who has written such hit musicals as Godspell (1971), Pippin (1972), and Wicked (2003), collaborated with Savage as he set to music the heartfelt testimony of contributors to the “It Gets Better” project. The result is an extraordinarily moving work that is beautifully performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

If you’re an LGBTQ person and need someone to talk to, these groups are ready to help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-237-8255 (TALK)

Crisis Text Line: Text “GO” to 741741

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860

GLBT National Youth Talk: 1-800-246-7743

Â

Image by Ted Eytan via Flickr and a CC licenseÂ

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Criminal Charges Against Trump Possible as Manhattan DA Presents Grand Jury With Evidence in Hush Money Probe

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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has empaneled a special grand jury and prosecutors are now presenting evidence against Donald Trump in their revived investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and one other woman during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Calling it “a dramatic escalation of an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end,” The New York Times reports the Manhattan DA is “laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months,” and says it “a clear signal” that Bragg “is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.”

Among the witnesses testifying is David Pecker, “the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal” with Daniels.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

Prosecutors have also contacted members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and have subpoenaed phone records and other documents that could provide evidence.

But The Times notes that a “conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Mr. Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory. The case would also rely on the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer who made the payment and who himself pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money in 2018.”

Cohen broke with Trump and in 2016, “made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump,” The Times reported in 2018.

The payments were made “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Cohen testified.

He was sentenced to 36 months in prison.

“Days before then-President Donald Trump left the White House, federal prosecutors in New York discussed whether to potentially charge Trump with campaign finance crimes once he was out of office,” CNN reported on Friday, citing a new book from CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.

But they “decided to not seek an indictment of Trump for several reasons, Honig writes, including the political ramifications and the fact that Trump’s other scandals, such as efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021, insurrection, ‘made the campaign finance violations seem somehow trivial and outdated by comparison.'”

Award-winning journalist and author Brian Karem tweeted: “As someone who worked extensively with [Michael Cohen] on the book ‘Revenge’ I can say this: Facts show that the MOST dangerous criminal case against Donald Trump could be made by the Manhattan D.A.”

Read The Times’ full report here.

This article has been updated to include Brian Karem’s tweet.

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$1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

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From electric vehicles to cosmetics, and even the word “mummy,” there is a lot of rebranding going on.

Bowing to anger from right-wingers and conservative commentators, M&M’s decided to rebrand the decades-old multi-colored candies after outrage over its latest addition, purple, and its new “spokescandy,” also named “Purple.”

“Roughly a year ago, Mars Wrigley updated the look of its M&M’s characters, announcing an initiative to make the mascots fit a ‘more dynamic, progressive world.’ As part of these changes, the company introduced new designs of some of M&M’s characters and wrote weirdly elaborate backstories for others. Most notably, the company made the green M&M less ‘sexy’ by shortening her legs and replacing her high-heeled boots with sneakers,” Vox Media’s Polygon reported last week.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson infamously has waged war on the “woke” spokescandies, declaring at one point, “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous.”

Fast forward to now: Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph is their new spokesperson, although the “spokescandies,” perhaps after some additional rebranding, will be returning in a new ad on Super Bowl Sunday.

Which brings us to the rebranding of another icon: Jesus Christ.

He too will be part of the Super Bowl Sunday ads.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

Over the next three years a $1 billion mostly-dark-money campaign – which reportedly will include funds from billionaire right wing anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ funder David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby – will promote Jesus in ads, including during the Super Bowl on February 12. Those two Super Bowl ads to “to redeem Jesus’ brand” will cost $20 million, Religion News Service reports.

The campaign to promote Jesus includes $100 million in ads declaring “He Gets Us,” from “the Servant Foundation, an Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit that does business as The Signatry,” RNS adds.

The “donors backing the campaign have until recently remained anonymous — in early 2022, organizers only told Religion News Service that funding came from ‘like-minded families who desire to see the Jesus of the Bible represented in today’s culture with the same relevance and impact He had 2000 years ago.'”

But the full list of donors remains unknown.

“Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan, that is working on the ‘He Gets Us’ campaign, confirmed that the Greens are one of the major funders, among a variety of donors and families who have gotten behind it.”

READ MORE: Pelosi Attack Video Release Leads to Criticism of Musk, Right Wingers Who ‘Trafficked in Homophobic Conspiracy Nonsense’

In a Washington Post interview last year, Vanderground “said Christians see their faith as the greatest love story, but those outside the faith see Christians as a hate group.”

But rather than try to convince self-identified followers of Christ to act as Jesus would want, right-wing interests are spending $1 billion to convince others of what Christianity is supposed to be about.

“Our research shows that many people’s only exposure to Jesus is through Christians who reflect him imperfectly, and too often in ways that create a distorted or incomplete picture of his radical compassion and love for others,” Vanderground told The Washington Post. “We believe it’s more important now than ever for the real, authentic Jesus to be represented in the public marketplace as he is in the Bible.”

Some are not impressed, and are more-or-less asking, “What would Jesus do?”

“They are latching on to this touchy-feely, conveniently vague, designer Jesus,” podcaster, author, and secular activist Seth Andrews told RNS. Andrews “poses the question of what Jesus would think of the amount of money spent on the ads. Would he prefer that the money be spent on ministering to people’s physical needs or making the world a better place?”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

“Or would he say, no, go ahead and spend $100 million to tell everybody how great I am?”

On-air, CNN said, “at first blush, it can all read like a stand against radical right-wing politics and related divisiveness,” but adds that “some are calling this a ‘right-wing stunt for politics.'”

“‘He Gets Us’ is funded by anonymous donors acting through a Kansas non-profit linked to staunchly conservative causes,” CNN’s report (video below) notes, saying it “raises alarms for some skeptics.”

Watch CNN’s report below or at this link.

Image: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

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Fort Worth ISD Drops Sex Ed Despite $2.6 Million Purchase of Materials in April

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Fort Worth ISD students will not take sex education this school year after the superintendent told parents she is scrapping plans to adopt a controversial curriculum that the district appears to have purchased last year for nearly $2.6 million.

Superintendent Angélica Ramsey made the announcement at the end of her weekly newsletter sent Jan. 27. She told parents the district is restarting its curriculum adoption process. For nearly a year, administrators planned to re-adopt instructional materials from California-based HealthSmart.

In April, the Fort Worth ISD school board approved a nearly $2.6 million purchase of new digital-only instructional materials from HealthSmart. Trustees did not discuss the purchase. The purchase was part of the consent agenda, a list of items considered routine that can be approved in one motion.

District spokesperson Claudia Garibay did not respond to a dozen questions from the Fort Worth Report by publication time.

Angélica Ramsey, the new Fort Worth ISD superintendent, talks to reporters after the school board hired her during a special meeting on Sept. 20, 2022. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

“There is not an approved, adopted or recommended Human Sexuality Curriculum for the 2022-23 school year. The delay will suspend the instructional delivery of the sexual education unit for the 2022-23 school year,” Ramsey wrote to parents.

Students whose parents opt them into sex education were expected to take the course later in spring semester, according to the district. Consent forms had a due date of Feb. 28.

The School Health Advisory Council — the school board-appointed, 26-member committee reviewing sex education — is expected to examine different options for Fort Worth ISD’s next curriculum, Ramsey said.

Ramsey’s announcement comes after a Jan. 24 school board meeting that saw dozens of residents and parents speak out against the HealthSmart curriculum, which the district has used since 2014. The Report filed an open records request for the proposed curriculum.

Fort Worth ISD bought HealthSmart’s instructional materials for all grade levels. Sex education is included in lessons for middle school and high school, according to HealthSmart.

State law requires school board members to make decisions on sex education curriculum, the Texas Education Agency told the Report.

‘Superintendent inherited a situation’

State Board of Education member Pat Hardy wants to see Fort Worth ISD succeed. However, as she watched the district attempt to adopt HealthSmart, she did not see administrators being transparent nor working with parents enough to make an informed decision, she told the Report.

Pat Hardy is a member of the State Board of Education. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Hardy, a Republican who represents west Tarrant County, criticized Fort Worth ISD’s sex education curriculum adoption in a recent opinion article. All Fort Worth ISD needed to do was follow the process outlined in state law, Hardy said.

Hardy blamed Fort Worth ISD’s previous leadership for its sex education issues. Ramsey has been superintendent since late September; she replaced Kent Scribner.

“The superintendent inherited a situation that was going on before she got here,” Hardy said.

Hardy praised Ramsey for telling parents her plans to get Fort Worth ISD’s next sex education curriculum right and to follow state law.

“My hat’s off to her,” Hardy said.

What has happened, so far

New sex education curriculum standards were introduced in 2020. Without state-aligned materials, Fort Worth ISD cannot teach sex education.

What is the process for adopting a sex education curriculum?

Texas law and Fort Worth ISD school board policy detail the process for adopting new instructional materials for sex education. Here’s what the district’s policy, which aligns with state law, says:

The following process shall apply regarding the adoption of curriculum materials for the district’s human sexuality instruction:

  1. The school board shall adopt a resolution convening the district’s school health advisory council to recommend curriculum materials for the instruction.
  2. The advisory council shall hold at least two public meetings on the curriculum materials before adopting recommendations to present to the board.
  3. The advisory council recommendations must comply with the instructional content requirements in law, be suitable for the subject and grade level for which the materials are intended, and be reviewed by academic experts in the subject and grade level for which the materials are intended.
  4. The advisory council shall present its recommendations to the Board at a public meeting.
  5. After the school board ensures the recommendations from the advisory council meet the standards in law, the board shall take action on the recommendations by a record vote at a public meeting.

Texas school districts are not required to teach sex education. Districts that choose to do so are required to have parents opt their students into the course.

The State Board of Education recommended school districts use sex education curriculum for middle school students from publisher Goodheart-Wilcox. However, the state board did not make it mandatory.

In early January, the school board stopped the School Health Advisory Council’s review of sex education curriculum.

At that same meeting, trustees also rescinded a December resolution directing the council to officially convene and hold two public meetings before offering a curriculum recommendation. When trustees OK’d the resolution in December, its agenda item had the wrong title. It was “approve resolution concerning implementation and enforcement of school safety measures.” District officials blamed the mistake on a clerical error.

The School Health Advisory Council worked on recommending HealthSmart to the school board since September. Garibay described that work as “informational,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Two public meetings were held Sept. 6 and 7. Agendas for those meetings were not publicly available Jan. 26, and no minutes were posted. On Oct. 12, the School Health Advisory Council voted to recommend the proposed sex education curriculum to the school board, according to minutes of the meeting.

However, school board records show trustees did not consider a resolution convening the School Health Advisory Council to begin the sex education review process. The resolution is the first step toward adopting a new curriculum, according to board policy.

Another meeting was held Nov. 5 when 15 new council members, who were appointed in October, participated for the first time. The council again voted to recommend the curriculum; minutes of the meeting were not available on the district’s site.

No complaints about Fort Worth ISD’s sex education curriculum have been filed with TEA, according to agency officials.

For the past few months, Hardy has heard from her constituents about Fort Worth ISD. Most of the comments, she said, focus on one thing the district should be doing: Be transparent.

“They’re tired of things not coming to the forefront,” Hardy said. “They just want Fort Worth ISD to be honest.”

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

 

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