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Learning the hard way

Local out black poz men band together to spread testing message



Seated from left are Venton Jones and Tori Smith. In back from left are Paul Gordon, Rodney McCoy Jr. and Samuel Hairston. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The statistics are grim. The task is daunting.

In the D.C. area, of the estimated 16,500 people living with HIV/AIDS, 40 percent — or more than 6,700 people — who were infected with the virus were men having sex with men. The majority of these men — 60 percent, or nearly 4,100 — are black. Data, from 2010 suggests that of those, 40 percent were unaware of their HIV status before being tested.

Those scary statistics are constantly on the mind of Venton Jones, 27, who recently came to the nation’s capital from Texas where he was born and educated, earning a degree in community health and a master’s in health care administration.

But Jones’ real credentials about AIDS are different, giving him the “street cred” about HIV, credibility he wishes he never earned. In June 2007, Jones was diagnosed as HIV positive when he was going through a standard set of medical tests as he was seeking enlistment in the U.S. Army.

“It happened with someone I was sleeping with” that spring, says Jones, “at a time in my youth when I was wild, to say the least.”

He thought, “How could this happen to me?” He reviewed all he had going in his life: “I am educated; I have a degree in health; I should have known better.”

But Jones says, “there was a lot going on” in his life then, adding that he was dealing with “issues like coming out, and also what to do next” with his life, with what he calls “finding a purpose.” He says he “wasn’t necessarily on the ‘down-low,'” a term often used among black men to describe themselves as living life on the surface as “straight” but actually secretly having sex with men. He says a few of his friends already knew he was gay.

“If you asked me, I would tell you, but not too many people asked.”

In the spring of 2007 he came out to his parents.

Jones says he had regularly been tested and had always seen the results come back as negative for the virus. So he got cocky about it, basically feeling so-far-so-good. So he had unprotected sex. Now he knows better.

As a result, filling the giant vacuum of the “absence of strategies to reach young people, specially young black gay men, like the people I grew up with,” Jones says is his top priority today, as he gets ready to hit the streets to spread the message that testing for HIV is a crucial step to checkmate the renewed AIDS epidemic in the D.C. area.

On antiretroviral medication today, the virus in his body is, Jones says, “now undetectable,” and he says proudly that “now I am in the best physical and mental health I have been in my entire life.” But of course he knows the virus still lurks, waiting to pounce and begin to spread again, high-jacking other cells, especially white blood cells, eventually dooming his body’s immune system, if given the chance.

However Jones is doing more than fight HIV in his own body. He is now one of eight gay black men, all diagnosed as HIV positive, who are “HIV testing advocates” now finishing training under the auspices of the Bayard Rustin Mobilization Project, an outreach program aimed at raising HIV awareness among gay black males in D.C., funded by a grant from the federal government and directed by the national nonprofit advocacy group, the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), in partnership with local groups like The D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

Jones, who also works as a senior program associate in communications for the D.C.-based National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition, will tackle the role of being an advocate on his own time, away from his day job. And for that task, he says, “a big focus has been on reaching youth.

Jones has a lot in common with his fellow advocates. Like Samuel Hairston, a 44-year-old preacher with a passion for spreading the “good news,” ordained in 1996 as a full-time Pentecostal minister, currently living in D.C. but pastoring on weekends in Baltimore at the Church of the Everlasting Kingdom, with a congregation of about 50, he says, most of whom are not LGBT, and who all know that he is both gay and HIV positive.

Then a full-time Montgomery County firefighter, in 2005 Hairston learned he was positive when, he says, after years living life on the “down-low,” a “routine medical exam in his blood work prompted an HIV test, and I came up positive.”

He was “devastated,” he admits, not only for himself, but also because he had to go home and tell his “faithful and loving” wife that he had contracted HIV “and that I could possibly have infected her.” He says that “thankfully, that was not the case,” and she remains negative today. “The marriage was already on the rocks,” he says, and it did not survive. His children, then a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter, took their parents’ divorce hard, though they survived it, and they did not learn until later that their father was infected.

“As I child,” he says, “I always felt an attraction to men and other boys, but there was no one I could trust to talk to.” His introduction to sex came when he was molested at age 5. He learned “at an early age,” he confides, “to keep secrets and hide my feelings.”

Later he convinced himself that through his early ordination in the ministry, at first when he was 14, he “would change my homosexuality,” but by age 15, he says he was “jumping in and out of cars and finding ways to feed my sexual appetite,” which felt “insatiable” to him. He calls himself a recovering sex addict. And though he preached a Christian message, he says, “I never believed (God) really loved me because I was gay.”

As the marriage was cracking apart and with the diagnosis of AIDS, his world was falling in on him. “I went into a spiral of serious depression” and he says he wound up meeting a man, “the first man to give me some attention” of the type he sought. They had sex and did cocaine.

“Drugs became my outlet,” Hairston says, as he sought “some release from the guilt and shame of living in the closet and the ‘down-low’ lifestyle,  and the pain it caused my family.”

“Today I live life out in the open,” he says. “I’ve left the ‘down-low’ behind, because it’s so dishonest. The truth is liberating, and even as Jesus said, ‘The truth shall set you free.'” Today, Hairston says, thanks to regular devotion to a 12-step program, he’s “clean” of drugs and “celebrating two-and-a-half years of sobriety.”

One of his biggest life missions now “is to reach out to African-American men, who are on the down low, and to say that there’s a better life, to help them to embrace honesty,” the same transparency he has come to himself. As for himself, he says he has “reconciled” his sexuality with his spirituality. His target audience will be among those attending the black church, which traditionally has fostered homophobia rather than acceptance.

Meanwhile, another advocate, Tyranny “Tori” Smith, 30, will focus his outreach efforts differently — to those who inhabit what he calls the “vogue-fem” subculture: gay and transgender men and women who stylize their lives with makeup, hairdos, costumes and dancing. This is the “sweet” world of “ballroom” culture, and the “houses of families formed by choice, not birth that grow up within the world of urban, predominantly black “ballroom,” or fashion runway, competitions.

Raised in Oxon Hill, Md., Smith came out at age 14 and soon was a regular at the clubs like Tracks.

“I told my mother,” he says, that he was gay, “and once I told her, there was no one else to hide it from.” Now a resident of NE D.C., Smith is a member of the “House of Herrera,” named for famed Venezuelan-born American fashion designer Carolina Herrera. It’s his second “house.” He joined his first when 16 but five years ago switched to Herrera, which currently has about six members in D.C. and around 300 nationwide, five years ago. “In my house,” he says, “they’re my family.”

Smith discovered he was positive in June 2010, when he came down with summer pneumonia and was tested positive when given an HIV exam.

“I was surprised,” he says, “because I had been with someone for three years, and we had both tested negative at the beginning.” But with the benefit of hindsight, it was his partner (who later died, though not of AIDS) who infected him.

Now as an advocate for regular testing, Smith says that “my whole purpose is to reach people, like in the ‘ballroom’ culture, that the Health Department is not reaching — that’s my audience. Basically, we’re trying to put a face to HIV, our face, that’s our whole mission. And when I talk to people, my motto is this: ‘knowing is to live, not knowing is to die.’ So basically I tell them, ‘get tested.'”

Two other Rustin Mobilization Project testing advocates are Paul Gordon, 40, born in Portsmouth, Va., and Rodney McCoy, Jr., 43, born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Both men now live in the D.C. area.

Gordon, who felt he was gay from age 5 on, was molested at age 14, raped at gunpoint and “with a knife at my neck” by someone he calls his father’s “best friend.” The assailant was eventually arrested and convicted and served eight years of a 20 year prison sentence. Gordon, who then began to have sex with boys his own age, came out when he was about 18. His HIV status was diagnosed positive in 1989, contracted from a partner, a decade older, with whom he moved to Atlanta at age 20 after graduating from Hampton University in coastal Virginia. Gordon never knew his partner, who eventually died after their three-eyar relationship, was positive

“I was just trusting,” he says.

When he learned he was infected, Gordon remembers that “I went to a place of denial. Regardless of what the doctor said, I didn’t believe it.”

McCoy, in the field of HIV prevention for 16 years and now an outreach advocate as well as a manager of the Mobilization Project program, was diagnosed HIV positive in 2002, when he was so weak with the flu that someone urged him to get tested.

“I really didn’t expect to be positive,” he says. “I had risky behaviors before but I had always tested negative. I felt I was just managing my risks well enough.” When dating one person, for only a month, the man insisted he was negative, and looking back, McCoy says, “To this day, I’m sure now that he didn’t tell me the truth.”

For McCoy, it comes down to this: “We often say ‘use condoms every time,’ but often we simply don’t acknowledge that love, trust and pleasure trump knowledge and information every time. And you can say this, I found out the hard way.”

“Self-determination” is the watchword of the Bayard Rustin project and its sponsoring organization, NAPWA, whose president Frank Oldham, Jr. says that “While the epidemic impacts us directly, we also impact the epidemic by identifying ways to reduce its new infections, mitigate its stigma and alleviate its suffering.”

It was NAPWA, which advocates for 1.3 million Americans living with AIDS, that created the annual event of National HIV Testing Day.

The Rustin project is simply one more step in the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, until the disease can be cured and even prevented. In the meantime, Oldham says, “we help individuals living with HIV learn how to tell their stories. We’re taking the fight to the streets,” with advocates who are HIV positive, one man reaching out to another man, one step at a time.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David Phillips

    February 21, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Here the writer and the Blade do a great disservice to readers and people living with HIV by propagating the tortured “HIV/AIDS” formation, then conflating “HIV” with “AIDS” throughout the article through improper substitution. This writing behavior may have become comfortable and widespread over the last 15 to 20 years, but to this survivor of over 28 years with HIV without any AIDS-defining conditions, it is inaccurate and harmful.

    Specifically, the use of “HIV/AIDS” acts counter to the positioning of HIV as a chronic manageable disease constrained from progressing to AIDS-defining illnesses which, along with medications to manage HIV, has been essential in allowing people living with HIV to foresee and build long and productive lives in spite of the virus. This measure of hope, in turn, is critical for getting persons at-risk for HIV infection to get tested and to start treatment. By even suggesting that HIV=AIDS, the Blade may be fanning the embers of fear within many people that keep them from getting tested for HIV until either they have infected someone they love, or they present with components of advanced HIV disease (AIDS).

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Md. biotech company’s HIV cure project clears first hurdle

‘We all have something to be excited about’



HIV cure, gay news, Washington Blade
‘We all have something to be excited about,’ said AGT CEO Jeff Galvin.

American Gene Technologies, the Rockville, Md., biotech company, has announced that the first patient to receive its genetically engineered treatment therapy aimed at curing people of HIV/AIDS encountered no adverse side effects from the treatment.

In an Aug. 2 statement, AGT said that based on the data obtained from Patient One in its Phase 1 human trial of its HIV treatment called AGT103-T, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board voted unanimously to allow AGT to continue its HIV cure program without modification.

“The AGT103-T pipeline is a therapy for treating HIV disease,” the company’s statement says. “The therapy is designed to induce durable viral suppression by delivering therapeutic genes to the recipient’s immune cells,” it says. “The resulting immune cells are expected to survive attack by HIV and durably suppress the virus at undetectable levels without the need for antiretroviral treatment.”

The thumbs up decision by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board allows the company to continue its clinical trial with more participants to further confirm the HIV treatment’s safety outcome. The next phase in the trials will be to determine the treatment’s effectiveness in fully protecting the human body from HIV.

“We have six more patients,” said AGT CEO Jeff Galvin in referring to the patients who will be tested for possible adverse side effects in the coming weeks. Galvin spoke at a July 29 gathering to celebrate the success of Patient One at AGT’s headquarters offices in Rockville.

“If this works, they will be permanently immune from HIV,” he said. “Just think what this can do with the epidemic. We all have something to be excited about,” he told the gathering of about 100 people.

“Keep your fingers crossed. Let’s all keep hoping and praying,” Galvin said. “We will know by the middle of next year,” he said, referring to when the human trials will likely determine whether the AGT103-T treatment, which has successfully stopped HIV from infecting human cells in laboratory experiments, will work just as effectively on people with HIV.

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92% of LGBTQ+ adults have received at least one dose for COVID-19

59% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported Covid-19 made them feel socially isolated, & 50% reported that it impacted their mental health.



Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

NEW YORK – A summary of data collected as part of the annual LGBTQ+ Community Survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership and supported by The Rockefeller Foundation in New York City, found that the vast majority – 92% – of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed in the United States had received at least one vaccination for Covid-19.

Although vaccination rates vary somewhat within the LGBTQ+ community, the rates across race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, and age are well above the rates for various general adult populations where the data are available:

  • By race and ethnicity, 90% of Latinx respondents, 85% of Black respondents, 96% of Asian or Pacific Islander respondents, and 85% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ adults, among other race identities have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • By gender identity and sexual orientation, 92% of cisgender lesbian and bi+ women, 93% of cisgender gay and bi+ men, and 92% of transgender and non-binary people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • By age, 91% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 18-34, 92% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 35-5, and 94% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 55 and older have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine

While vaccination rates are high, Covid-19 took a toll on well-being among respondents. The survey finds that 59% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that Covid-19 made them feel socially isolated, and 50% of respondents reported that it impacted their mental health.

“Increasing vaccination rates among communities of color is a major focus for us, and working with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation gives us the opportunity to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTQ communities of color. We look forward to continuing our support and outreach.” said Otis Rolley, Senior Vice President of Equity and Economic Opportunity at The Rockefeller Foundation.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

The data finds the Covid-19 pandemic led to social and financial loss, especially among LGBTQ+ people of color:

  • 21% of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed reported that a close family member or friend has died from Covid-19
  • LGBTQ+ people of color surveyed reported higher levels of loss due to Covid-19 compared to white LGBTQ+ people:
    • 30% of Latinx LGBTQ+ respondents
    • 28% of Black LGBTQ+ respondents
    • 25% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ respondents, among other race identities
    • 18% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ respondents
    • 17% of white LGBTQ+ respondents
  • 36% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that a close friend or family member has become very sick from Covid-19
  • 24% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that Covid-19 has negatively impacted their financial well-being
  • LGBTQ+ people of color surveyed are more likely than white LGBTQ+ people to have experienced a negative financial impact during the pandemic:
    • 33% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ adults, among other race identities
    • 26% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ adults
    • 26% of Latinx LGBTQ+ adults
    • 25% of Black LGBTQ+ adults
    • 22% of white LGBTQ+ adults

“There are many reasons why LGBTQ+ vaccination rates may be higher than the general population, including higher percentages of the LGBTQ+ community being liberal, living in blue states, and living in urban areas,” said CMI Senior Director of Research, David Paisley. “While participants had strong education levels, those with no more than a high school diploma still had an 87% vaccination rate. We also see that Covid isolation significantly impacted LGBTQ+ people, which may have motivated quick vaccination to reenter the community.”

The new data build on the HRC Foundation’s previously released reports, including the most recent report, “Covid-19 and the LGBTQ Community: Vaccinations and the Economic Toll of the Pandemic,” which was released as a part of the HRC Foundation’s vaccine public education campaign: “For Ourselves, For Each Other: Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic.” The HRC Foundation has also partnered with the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition on a resource, “Finding Financial Stability During Turbulent Times,” with steps and advice for those who may be struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times. Read more about the HRC Foundation’s efforts during Covid-19 here.

The Rockefeller Foundation is supporting the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on a number of Covid-19-related projects to support research and community education to reach LGBTQ communities of color during this crisis through The Rockefeller Foundation’s Equity-First Vaccination Initiative. Learn more here.

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Cornell University study on impact of discrimination on LGBTQ of color

Around 25% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, but the rates are starkly higher for LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts



McGraw Tower, Cornell University (Photo Credit: Cornell University)

ITHACA, NY. – Cornell University’s What We Know Project in conjunction with a coalition of leading LGBTQ rights groups last month published a comprehensive curation of data on studies that chart the intersection of anti-LGBTQ and racial discrimination.

The findings found that discrimination inflicts profoundly greater harm on LGBTQ people of color in a wide range of areas, including grossly disproportionate rates of: experiencing discrimination over  the past year, poorer mental and physical health, greater economic insecurity, and attempts to die by suicide.

 In addition, LGBTQ people of color are more likely than white LGBTQ people to live in states without protections  against discrimination and that state anti-LGBTQ laws harm LGBTQ people. 

“This research brief makes clear the tangible harms that discrimination inflicts on LGBTQ people of color,  and the urgent need for public policy that reflects what the research tells us about how we can reduce those  harms,” said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, the study’s author.

Highlights of the research brief’s findings include

LGBTQ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be people of color, and Black LGBTQ  Americans are disproportionately likely to live in states without protections against discrimination. For  example, 42% of LGBT people are people of color compared to 32% of non-LGBT people and the majority of  Black LGBT Americans live in the South (51.4%, more than twice the share of any other region), where most  states lack anti-discrimination protections. 

LGBTQ people of color face higher odds of discrimination than both non-LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ  white people. For example, LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely to experience anti-LGBTQ  discrimination (slurs or other verbal abuse) when applying for jobs than white LGBTQ individuals (32% vs.  13%). LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to experience anti-LGBTQ  discrimination when interacting with the police (24% vs. 11%). 

Black LGBT Americans are more likely to experience economic insecurity than Black non-LGBT Americans.  For example, the majority of Black LGBT people (56%) live in low-income households (below 200% of the  federal poverty level) compared to 49% of Black non-LGBT Americans, and Black LGBT adults are also more  likely to experience food insecurity than Black non-LGBT adults (37% compared to 27%). 

Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of poor  mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use, and  psychological distress. 

LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is linked to discrimination. For  example, while 12% of white LGBTQ youth attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous  youth, 21% for LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% of LGBTQ Latinx youth.  

While supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people of  color, anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. For example, states  with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents between 2014 and  2016 were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress. Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels  of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting  suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%). 

Supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes  for LGBTQ people of color. 

• Suicide attempts by LGBT youth dropped by 7 percent in states that legalized same-sex marriage.22 

• The corollary is that anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. States with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress.23 

• Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%). Those with high levels of family support had rates of past-year attempted suicide nearly one third as high as those who lacked such support (22% vs. 8%).24 

• Protective measures that have been found to help reduce anxiety, depression, and suicidality among LGBTQ youth include: Establishing inclusive practices and anti-discrimination policies; peer, community, and family support, including dedicated school groups; access to affirmative mental health and social services; societal confrontation of attitudes and norms that exacerbate minority stress; and practitioner training and interventions designed to disrupt negative coping responses and build resilience.

Experiencing discrimination is associated with greater odds of harm to  psychological and economic well-being, which is reflected in data on  disparities for LGBTQ people of color. 

• Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of  poor mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use,  and psychological distress. 

• LGBT people of color have work-place experiences that are more negative than those of white  LGBT employees, reporting that their success and work-life balance are fostered less extensively,  they have less transparent evaluations, and they are respected less by supervisors. 

• Among LGBTQ people surveyed, 51% of Black respondents say discrimination harms their  ability to be hired, compared with 33% of white respondents; 41% say it has an impact on  their ability to retain employment, compared with 31% of white respondents; 77% of Black  respondents report that discrimination impacts their psychological well-being, a rate nearly 50%  higher than the total LGBTQ survey population. 

• While racial discrimination on its own is not associated with mental health disorders, the  combination of racial discrimination with gender and/or sexual orientation discrimination is  significantly associated with increased odds of a past-year mental health disorder.

LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is  linked to discrimination.  

• Around 25% of LGBTQ youth of all races have attempted suicide, but the rates are starkly  higher for LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts: While 12% of white LGBTQ  youth have attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous youth, 21% for  LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% for LGBTQ Latinx youth. 

• In a 95%-non-white LGBT sample, those who report experiencing anti-LGBT victimization (such  as bullying and harassment) are 2.5 times more likely to report a past-year suicide attempt  compared to those who do not report victimization. 

• Black LGBTQ youth who experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination face twice the rate of past year suicide attempts compared to youth who do not (27% vs. 12%). Black LGBTQ youth who  experience race-based discrimination also face higher odds of attempting suicide than those  who do not (20% vs. 14%).

• Black LGB adults are over 40% more likely to have made a serious suicide attempt in their  lifetime than white LGB adults. 

• Latinx and Native American/Pacific Islander LGBT youth are 50% more likely to attempt suicide  than white LGBT youth. Latinx LGBT girls are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide than  white LGBT youth.

• LGBTQ students who experience discrimination “based on multiple social identities” report more  use of deliberate self-harm compared to LGBTQ students who experience racial discrimination  alone or who do not experience significant discrimination of any kind.

Reflecting on the study’s findings, key executives from participating LGBTQ Advocacy groups weighed in:

“These painful figures highlight an indisputable link between discrimination, economic security,   mental and physical health. People with multiple stigmatized, marginalized social and political identities, particularly Black LGBTQ+/Same Gender Loving people, bear a disproportionate amount  of the weight illustrated by the data in this study. Statutory equality for LGBTQ+ people nationwide is a necessary foundation to remove the gaps in existing civil rights laws if we are to ever live up to  our country’s founding promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all,”  said David Johns, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition.

The majority of Black LGBTQ people live in the South, with nearly half (44%) of all Black women couples raising children. Even today, most of these states still do not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and have overtly discriminatory laws on their books. It is no wonder the disparities are so profound and it is a testament to the strength and resilience of our people that they are doing  as well as they are. For our community and for our children it’s time for federal action!” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force.

“This important brief only further solidifies what we have known for a very long time—the combination of racism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination has serious and long-lasting effects for the health and well-being of LGBTQ people of color. This research highlights why federal non-discrimination protections are overdue and vital to protecting the most some of the most underrepresented and vulnerable members of our community. Federal anti-discrimination protections are absolutely necessary in protecting and supporting all LGBTQ people, and this is especially true for LGBTQ people of color,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Study after study shows that nondiscrimination protections improve economic opportunities, public  safety, and physical and mental well-being of LGBTQ people. It is well past time for the essential protections available only in some of our states and cities to be extended to all LGBTQ Americans, especially LGBTQ people of color, who are disproportionately burdened by the lack of protections, ” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and National Campaign Director, Freedom for All Americans.

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