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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

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Image by Ted Eytan via Flickr and a CC licenseÂ

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‘Jan. 6 Wasn’t a Fantasy’: Top Missouri Paper Says It’s ‘Long Past Time’ for Senate to Investigate Josh Hawley

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On Sunday, the editorial board of the St Louis Post-Dispatch called on the U.S. Senate Ethics Panel to investigate Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) over any possible involvement he may have had in the Jan 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Hawley, whose political future will be haunted by a photo of him giving a raised fist to insurrectionists as they stormed the halls of Congress has been excoriated by the paper’s editors multiple times, but Sunday’s call for an investigation ramps up their attacks on the home state senator.

According to the board, “Ten months after a group of Senate Democrats lodged ethics complaints into the conduct of Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas regarding their roles in sparking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Senate Ethics Committee has shown no sign of movement.,” with the editors saying it is “long past time” to take a hard look at both Republican senators.

“Jan. 6 wasn’t a fantasy; it was real, and the culpability of these two senators must be determined,” they wrote. “Hawley and Cruz were the only two senators to object to certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election results, citing (with zero evidence) supposed concerns about the election’s integrity. That was the same baseless, toxic nonsense then-President Donald Trump had been spewing since before the election. Such talk whipped up the mob of Trump loyalists to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.”

Related: Lauren Boebert needs to be subpoenaed to explain her ‘violent revolution’ Jan 6th tweets: MSNBC contributor

Adding, “Even after the violence, he persisted in voting with just five other senators to continue promoting Trump’s big lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate,” the editors wrote, “If he had an ounce of honor, he’d have heeded our Jan. 7 call for his resignation (we certainly weren’t alone on that). But at this point, why even talk about honor?”

Writing that, “Just because there’s a mechanism in place allowing senators to object to election results doesn’t mean it’s OK for Hawley to abuse that process for crass political gain,” the editorial concluded, “Hawley and Cruz have the right to defend themselves from the allegations — but so far, they haven’t even had to. The Ethics Committee should stop sitting on this.”

You can read the whole piece here.

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Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Demonstrating ‘The Depth of Power She Has Over Kevin McCarthy’: Politico Reporter

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Appearing on CNN on Saturday morning, Politico’s Rachael Bade explained that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s overwhelming desire to become the leader of a Republican Party-dominated House has put him at the mercy of the demands and whims of extremist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

As the plans for the 2022 midterm elections ramp up, and political prognosticators are saying a GOP House takeover is highly likely, McCarthy’s path to staying leader is not certain with the far-right wing of the party balking at just handing the California Republican the gavel.

As Bade explained to CNN’s Christi Paul, Taylor Green is just now starting to feel her power over McCarthy grow.

“What is the takeaway for Kevin McCarthy?” Paul asked. “Particularly, I have to point out that after last night, Marjorie Taylor Greene said she tweeted that she got off a good call with him. spent time talking about problems not only for the country. ‘I like what he has planned ahead.’ Two different — two different points of view from her and in a 24 to 48-hour period. What do you make of that?”

“Look, I think Kevin McCarthy has a really long year ahead of him,” Bade suggested. “You’re right, the midterms are far away. That vote for him to become speaker is a long way off, but Marjorie Taylor Greene is just starting to realize the depth of power she actually has over Kevin McCarthy.”

“This is a man who has wanted to be Speaker for a decade,” she continued. “He needs her vote, he needs her support in order to get the gavel. I think what you’ll be seeing for the next few months, for a year, anytime Kevin McCarthy does anything to infuriate Marjorie Taylor Greene or infuriates [Donald] Trump — they’re going to be lording it over his head.”

“He’s got this real bind right now, he’s going to be in this pickle for a very long time,” she later added.

Watch below:

 

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Fauci Warns: ‘It’s Not Going to Be Possible to Keep’ Omicron ‘Out of the Country’

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The World Health Organization addressed the new COVID-19 “variant of concern” Friday night, naming it “Omicron” and issuing an ominous warning about the future.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the statement said. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.”

Omicron was initially referred to as B.1.1.529.

Earlier on Friday, the European Commission issued a similar warning and proposed that its member countries activate the “emergency brake” on travel from countries in southern Africa and other affected countries to limit the spread of the variant, The New York Times reported.

Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform, said Omicron has 10 mutations and many more entry points than the highly contagious Delta variant.

“All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, said in a statement. “And travelers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.”

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the following governments have halted or restricted flights from South Africa to try to curb the spread of Omicron: Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Croatia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Singapore.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the travel restrictions would “buy us some time” and that “it’s not going to be possible to keep this infection out of the country. The question is: Can you slow it down?”

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