Anti-gay Ark. school board member resigns after FB rant
PLEASANT PLAINS, Ark. — A school board member who urged bullied gay and lesbian youths to “commit suicide” has quit his post, CNN and other media outlets reported this week.
Clint McCance, the vice-president of the Midland School District in Pleasant Plains, Ark., apologized for the comments which caused public outcry. He had posted them on Facebook in response to Spirit Day on Oct. 20, when people were asked to wear purple in recognition of bullied gay youths after several suicide.
McCance apologized on CNN during an interview with Anderson Cooper. He’d written on his Facebook page and said, “Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves,” McCance wrote. “The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I can’t believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin.”
McCance told Cooper his statements were ill-chosen and not indicative of his true feelings. He attributed the posts to a lapse in judgement.
McCance’s comments had been savaged by his peers.
Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas commissioner of education, said, “I strongly condemn the statements that appeared on Mr. Clint McCance’s Facebook page. The divisiveness and disruption of these comments cause me to seriously question the ability of Mr. McCance to remain as an effective member of the Midland School Board.”
A statement signed by Midland School headmaster Dean Stanley, distanced the school from McCance’s remarks but school officials said they didn’t have the authority to fire McCance since he was an elected official.
D.C. gayest U.S. region: report
WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia leads the country in male same-sex households and Massachusetts is tops in lesbian-led homes, Washington Times has reported citing a university-based research center report.
Overall, there were 581,300 gay-couple-headed households in the United States in 2009, the National Center for Marriage & Family Research said in this month’s Family Profiles report, citing data from the 2009 American Community Survey.
This is somewhat smaller than the 594,391 same-sex couples identified in the 2000 census, but potential misclassifications mean “these differences should be interpreted with caution,” the Center report said.
About 26 percent of the nation’s 581,300 gay households, or 152,121, were led by married couples in 2009.
Census Bureau data also showed that, when it came to weddings, lesbians significantly outnumbered gay males — 85,847 to 66,274 or 56 percent to 44 percent. But this broad-based number was less dramatic than other studies that have suggested that lesbians marry at twice the rate of gay men.
Geographically, the report identified about a dozen places where at least one in 10 unmarried couples are gay (whether the gay couples are themselves unmarried or married), the Times article said.
The District came in No. 1 in the nation, with 31 percent of the city’s unmarried couples identifying themselves as same-sex. This high representation was overwhelmingly due to the men — gay male households make up 26 percent of all unmarried households, compared with 4 percent that were led by lesbians.
However, Massachusetts was the top choice of lesbian couples, who represented nearly 8 percent of the state’s unmarried couples. Gay males were about 6 percent of the Bay State’s unmarried households.
The Center’s Family Profiles are summaries of the latest statistics on a variety of family issues. The center was established in 2007 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and receives support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
LGBT domestic violence up 15 percent nationwide
CHICAGO — LGBT domestic violence is up 15 percent from 2008 in the U.S. according to a report released last week from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
The findings — which cite six 2009 murders related to LGBT domestic or intimate partner violence, represents a 50 percent rise since 2007 — come at a time when gay-specific programs are losing staff or closing due to the sluggish economy.
“Member programs face sharp increases in calls from LGBTQ survivors, while sustaining 50 percent or more in cuts to staffing and program closures because of the financial crisis,” said Lisa Gilmore of Chicago’s Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project. “We know that LGBTQ survivors need specific and culturally competent services to stay safe, and our primary recommendation is that funding for LGBTQ-specific anti-violence programs is needed now more than ever.”
From 2008 to 2009 there was a 99 percent increase in calls for police assistance and a 135 percent increase in arrests, though misarrests and reports of police misconduct also rose dramatically in LGBT households, the report said.
“Police are 10 to 15 times as likely to make a dual arrest in cases of same-sex domestic/intimate partner violence than in heterosexual ones,” said Kelly Clark at the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley’s Community Safety Program. “This report demonstrates the critical need for LGBTQ-specific cultural competency for first responders, such as law enforcement, to prevent re-traumatizing the survivor of violence.”
Chicago Jewish group in spotlight after terror plot
CHICAGO — About two dozen members of the Congregation Or Chadash were enjoying their usual Friday evening dinner before services at their Edgewater neighborhood headquarters when they got the startling news that they were apparently the target of an international terrorist plot, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The small congregation for LGBT Jews that started with an alternative newspaper ad in 1976 had gotten used to a life of relative obscurity — too small with about 100 members to afford its own building or build much of a profile.
How a terrorist in Yemen who’d rigged printer cartridges with explosives would know who and where they are sparked as much puzzlement as fear, congregants said last week.
“I thought ‘Wow, I didn’t know we had such visibility,'” congregation member Marvin Levin said.
But that’s what the tight-knit group got as federal officials announced last week that a woman in Yemen had been arrested in the alleged terrorist plot that sent several packages to the U.S. loaded with the industrial explosive, PETN.
Authorities have not said which two Chicago addresses the packages were mailed to, but a source told the Tribune both were Jewish congregations on the North Side, home to a thriving Jewish community. Chicago police said they were making increased checks in areas with a high number of synagogues, including Edgewater, Rogers Park and West Rogers Park.
Or Chadash leaders said they learned that their group was an intended recipient of one of the Yemen packages from Emanuel’s Rabbi Michael Zedek.
“It was just a surprise,” said Rabbi Larry Edwards of Or Chadash. “When I was first hearing news (about the packages), I assumed there were probably bigger targets. We’re a small congregation. Either we were selected at random or it’s because we’re a mostly gay congregation.”
Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature
Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor
Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.
“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”
Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.
“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.
Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.
“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.
FDA-funded blood donation study recruiting gay, bi men
D.C.’s Whitman-Walker, L.A. LGBT Center working on study to ease restrictions
D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Institute and the Los Angeles LGBT Center are among LGBTQ supportive organizations in eight U.S. cities working with the nation’s three largest blood donation centers on a study to find a way to significantly ease blood donation eligibility for men who have sex with men or MSM.
The study, which is funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calls for recruiting a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men in eight U.S. cities selected for the study to test the reliability of a detailed donor history questionnaire aimed at assessing the individual risk of a gay or bisexual man transmitting HIV if they donate blood.
A statement released by the study organizers says the questionnaire, which could be given to a gay or bisexual person showing up at a blood donation site, could be a replacement for the FDA’s current policy of banning men who have had sex with another man within the previous three months from donating blood.
In the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the FDA put in place a permanent ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men. In 2015, with advanced HIV testing and screening techniques readily available, the FDA lifted its permanent ban on MSM blood donations and replaced it with a 12-month restriction for sexual activity between MSM.
The FDA further reduced the time of sexual abstinence for MSM to three months in 2020.
LGBTQ rights organizations and others advocating for a change in the current FDA restriction point out that at a time when the nation is facing a severe shortage of blood donations due to the COVID pandemic, the three-month donation deferral requirement for MSM is preventing a large number of blood donations from men whose risk of HIV infection is low to nonexistent.
Under the FDA-funded and initiated study, the American Red Cross, Vitalant, and OneBlood — the nation’s three largest blood donation centers — have been conducting the questionnaire testing since the study was launched in March 2021.
“To gather the necessary data, the blood centers will partner with LGBTQ+ Centers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Orlando, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Miami, Memphis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta,” the study organizers say in a statement on a website launched to help recruit volunteers for the study.
“The study will enroll a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men (250 – 300 from each area) who meet the study eligibility criteria,” the statement says.
Among the criteria for being eligible, the statement says, is the person must be between 18 and 39 years old, have expressed an interest in donating blood, must have had sex with at least one other man in the three months before joining the study, and must agree to an HIV test. A negative test result is also required for acceptance into the study.
The study is officially named ADVANCE, which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility.
“The ADVANCE study is a first step in providing data that will help the FDA determine if a donor history questionnaire based on individual risk would be as effective as time-based deferral, in reducing the risk of HIV in the blood supply,” the study organizers statement says.
“If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions, it could mean men who have sex with men who present to donate would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred,” the statement continues. “The ADVANCE study is groundbreaking because it’s the first time a study is being conducted that could result in individual risk assessment for men who have sex with men to donate blood,” the statement says.
The Whitman-Walker Institute, which is among the community-based organizations involved in helping organize and conduct the study, is an arm of Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive D.C. health center.
Christopher Cannon, director of Research Operations for Whitman-Walker Institute, said that since the D.C.-based part of the study was launched early last year prior to the official announcement of the study on March 20, D.C. has surpassed the original city goal of recruiting 250 participants for the study.
“We are currently at 276 as of last Friday’s report,” Cannon told the Blade in a Jan. 13 interview. “And the current goal is now 300,” he said. “So, we’re hoping to push this over that goal line in the coming days and weeks.
Cannon said that like the community organizations involved in the study in other cities, Whitman-Walker Institute’s role has been focused on recruiting gay and bisexual men to participate in the study and to send them to the American Red Cross headquarters building at 430 17th St., N.W. near the White House. That site, which serves as a blood donation center, is also serving as the site where study participants are screened, interviewed, and presented with a detailed questionnaire.
“We promote the study within Whitman-Walker,” Cannon said. “We promote it to our networks. We did social media promotions across the city.’
Although Whitman-Walker doesn’t have the final draft of the questionnaire being presented to study participants, Cannon said he has seen “bits and pieces” of it.
“They ask very direct questions about the person’s sex life, sexual partners, sex acts, numbers of partners,” Cannon said. “There are questions about condom use, PrEP use, drug use. How recently have you had sex? Lots of related questions,” he said.
“It’s really about trying to figure out effectively which are the best questions,” according to Cannon. “The hope is by analyzing the questions and identifying maybe the best 10 to 12 questions that can be universally used…to get the best answers that identify the individuals that may have the highest risk,” he said. Doing that, he points, out can help determine which men who have sex with men should be eligible to safely donate blood.
A statement released by Whitman-Walker last March calls the study a “monumental research effort” that has the potential to lift the stigma imposed on gay and bisexual men whose ability to donate blood is currently based on their sexual orientation.
“The ADVANCE study is designed to understand if, by asking carefully crafted and research-informed research questions, blood collectors can screen potential blood donors for their individual HIV risk factors rather than applying a ban against sexually active gay and bisexual men,” the statement says.
“The goal is to move away from overly broad questions that exclude potential donors and spread stigmatizing messages about MSM and their HIV risks,” it says.
Cannon said that as of last week, study organizers had recruited a total of 879 study participants nationwide out of the goal of 2,000 participants needed to complete the study. He said issues related to the COVID pandemic created delays in the recruitment efforts, but study organizers were hopeful the study could be completed by this summer.
Information about participating in the study or learning more about it can be obtained at advancestudy.org.
Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records
About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.
“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”
The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.
McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.
With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.
In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%). In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.
McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.
“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.
“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.
All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.
“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.
Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.
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