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Another march in 2012?

L.A. activist says protest gathering needed to push Congress on gay issues

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The National Equality March in October 2009 (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Veteran lesbian activist Robin Tyler of Los Angeles says she’s talking to LGBT leaders and organizations across the country about the possibility of a national march on Washington for equality in May 2012.

In a statement released to the Blade on Thursday, Tyler said she first proposed the idea of a 2012 LGBT march in the weeks following the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008. Tyler has helped to organize LGBT Washington marches in 1979, 1987, 1993 and 2000.

She said an LGBT march on Washington held in October 2009 and a series of street protests during the past year by the direct action group Get Equal played a key role in what she called the few LGBT advances under the Obama administration, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She was not involved in organizing the 2009 march.

“The fact is, without continuous protests that Get Equal, Dan Choi, Robin McGhee and others did, I believe, as so many others do, that DADT would not have been struck down,” Tyler said.

She said the main objection by some activists to holding another national march is it would take away resources and divert attention from needed LGBT activism in the states. At the time the 2009 LGBT march was being planned, skeptics said it would have little impact on members of Congress who don’t support LGBT rights.

A more effective way to prompt action by Congress would be visible activity and lobbying by constituents from lawmakers’ homes states rather than a march or rally in Washington, the critics said.

Tyler said the process of organizing a national march would trigger more activity in the states than what is currently taking place under the leadership of both state and national LGBT groups.

“[L]arge national marches on Washington, which take over a year to do on that scale, produce activists and activity from every state,” she said.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Fred Sainz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said their respective groups had yet to take a position on whether another LGBT march on Washington should take place in 2012.

Carey said Tyler would have an opportunity this spring to discuss her idea for a march at a meeting of the National Policy Roundtable, an informal group of executive directors of many of the national LGBT organizations. Carey said the date of the meeting has yet to be scheduled.

“We have met with Robin Tyler and have listened to her ideas about a march,” Sainz said. “Beyond that, we haven’t formulated an opinion one way or the other.”

Veteran LGBT and AIDS activist Cleve Jones, the lead organizer and spokesperson for the 2009 march, could not be reached for comment on Tyler’s proposed 2012 march. Veteran gay Democratic activist David Mixner did not return calls seeking comment on a 2012 march. McGehee, the GetEqual leader who worked with Jones to organize the 2009 march, said she would release a statement later this week.

LGBT activists had mixed views on the impact of the 2009 march, which took place Oct. 11, 2009. It included a march from the White House to the Capitol and a rally on the Capitol’s west lawn. Many of the nation’s most prominent LGBT leaders and activists spoke. Recording star Lady Gaga also spoke at the event.

Some supporters and organizers said the march drew more than 100,000 people. But others put the total at about 30,000. U.S. Park Police, who in the past gave an official estimate of crowds attending marches and rallies at the Capitol or on the National Mall, stopped giving such estimates years ago.

In association with the 2009 march, Jones, McGehee and other activists formed an organization called Equality Across America, which served as an umbrella group to help organize and raise money for the march.

At the time of the march, Jones said Equality Across America would continue after the march to organize an LGBT activist presence in all 435 U.S. congressional districts, as a spin-off of the activism generated by the march.

But according to Tod Hill, an official with the Tides Center, a San Francisco-based consulting group for progressive, non-profit organizations, Equality Across America ceased operating and dissolved sometime in 2010. He said the Tides Center managed the finances of Equality Across America.

No information could be found to show whether Equality Across America carried out activity in congressional districts before the group disbanded last year.

“I’m not aware of anything that came out of that,” said D.C. gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein. “The fact that we took such a beating in the House and Senate elections last year indicates they weren’t very effective if they did, in fact, do something.”

Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of D.C., said another national march would be a “complete waste of time, money and effort.” He said national marches in the nation’s capital organized by a wide range of groups and causes are so common that they have become “a dime a dozen” and Congress and the public pays little attention to them.

“What we really should to be doing is the hard work our movement so badly needs throughout the country and not engaging in another self-indulgent march in Washington,” he said.

Gay activist Dan Choi, the former U.S. Army lieutenant who made national headlines by chaining himself to the White House fence to protest the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, said he supports the idea of another march.

“I do think a march would be very strategically important, especially before the conventions of both parties,” he said. “And I think we’re ready to do it. The young people and the grassroots activists who were so empowered in 2009 – they’re ready to do it.”

Tyler said “massive street actions” historically have made a difference in the U.S. and elsewhere in prodding political leaders and governments to take action they would otherwise be unwilling to take.

“If you think mass actions do not work, look at what is happening in Egypt right now,” she said.

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Oklahoma

Nonbinary Okla. high school student dies after fight

Nex Benedict passed away Feb. 8

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Nex (Dagny) Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary high school student, died from injuries suffered in a physical altercation at Owasso High School on Feb. 7, 2024. (Family photo)

Located in Tulsa County on U.S. Highway 169 six miles north of Tulsa’s city limits, Owasso, which is home to 39,328 people, is grappling with conflict and accusations after Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old Owasso High School sophomore who was nonbinary, died after a physical fight in a restroom at the school.

However, according to school officials there was no notification or staff awareness of the fight until the young student had been taken to hospital and later died. The Owasso Police Department is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the student’s death. 

According to the local newspaper, the Owasso Reporter:

“On Wednesday, Feb. 7, around 3:30 p.m., police were called to Bailey Medical Center by the parent of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who allegedly had a physical altercation at the campus earlier that day, according to the police report.”

It states that no initial report of the fight was made to police prior to their admission to Bailey, although information was taken by a school resource officer at the hospital.

On the evening of Feb. 8, police were made aware that the student was rushed back to the hospital where they were pronounced dead from a medical episode, the report states.

KJRH in neighboring Tulsa reported that a person knowledgeable of the events leading to the teen’s death, who claimed to be the mother of the victim’s best friend, told the station regarding the teen’s death:

“I think complications from brain trauma, head trauma, is what caused it,” she said.

The woman wouldn’t say the victim’s name but said Benedict was a sophomore. Bailey said the victim was outgoing and loyal once they got comfortable and was not afraid to be outspoken. The woman said three older girls were beating on the victim and her daughter in the girl’s bathroom.

“I know at one point, one of the girls was pretty much repeatedly beating [Benedict] head across the floor,” she said. That’s when [Benedict said] a teacher walked in and broke it up.

“[Benedict] couldn’t walk to the nurses’ station on [Benedict] own, and staff didn’t call the ambulance, which amazes me,” she said.

The woman told KJRH the victim’s grandmother, who [Benedict] primarily lived with, brought [Benedict] to the hospital after the fight. She said the victim was released that evening but was brought back the next day and died.

KJRH reached out multiple times along with other media outlets to Owasso Public Schools. A school district spokesperson responded saying there would be no comment “because this is an active police investigation.”

The Owasso Police Department also declined to comment except for noting investigators still don’t know if the fight was related to the teen’s death or if a separate medical issue was the cause. OPD said they’re waiting on the corner-medical examiner’s report before releasing more information.

Owasso Public Schools released this statement about the student’s death:

“The Owasso Police Department has notified district leaders of the death of an Owasso High School student. The student’s name and cause of death have not yet been made public. As this is an active police investigation, we will have no additional comment at this time. Further inquiries should be directed to the Owasso Police Department.”

“The district will have additional counselors at the school to provide support to students and staff beginning on Friday.”

On Feb. 15, after a service was held at Mowery Funeral Service Chapel, Benedict was buried at Ridgelawn Cemetery in Collinsville.

LGBTQ advocates and others are angered by the death, the misgendering in local media and the fact that the school district, which has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik, seems unable to grapple with anti-LGBTQ bullying.

Raichik was named to sit on an Oklahoma committee reviewing school library content by far-right leaning State Superintendent of Schools Ryan Walters.

In 2022, Raichik targeted a now former Owasso 8th grade teacher for speaking out in support of LGBTQ students who lacked acceptance from their parents. That teacher, Tyler Wrynn, was labeled a “groomer” and a predator in social media posts.

According to LGBTQ advocacy groups, Raichik’s endless targeting only seems to encourage more violence against LGBTQ youth. 

Lance Preston, the CEO of the Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project, which has been working to assist queer youth in the state, posted a video expressing his frustration and anger over this death and the other anti-LGBTQ violence.

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State Department

Ned Price named UN ambassador’s deputy

Former State Department spokesperson is gay

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Former State Department spokesperson Ned Price, center, speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Institute's International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 3, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield has announced former State Department spokesperson Ned Price will manage her D.C. office.

Thomas-Greenfield in a statement to Politico on Feb. 16 said Price’s “judgment and expertise will be a tremendous asset to me and the entire USUN team.” Price, who is gay, in a post to his personal X account acknowledged his appointment.

“I am grateful to (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield), (Secretary of State Antony Blinken) and my colleagues across the administration for the opportunity to help promote America’s interests and values in the U.N. and broader multilateral system together with our allies and partners,” wrote Price.

Price on Jan. 20, 2021, became the first openly gay State Department spokesperson. He stepped down in March 2023 in order to become a senior advisor to Blinken.

Price was previously a senior communications official for the National Security Council and worked at the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Texas

Houston police: Lakewood Church shooter was not transgender

Far-right extremists fueled unsubstantiated, false narratives

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Houston Police Department homicide commander Christopher Hassig briefing reporters on Feb. 12, 2024. (KHOU YouTube screenshot)

In the hours after Genesee Moreno, a 36-years-old Latina woman, entered the sanctuary of Joel Osteen’s mega Lakewood Church and opened fire with an assault rifle this past Sunday, there were multiple instances of confusion over her gender identity, in part fueled by unsubstantiated or false narratives from far-right extremists.

During a briefing with reporters yesterday, Houston Police Department homicide commander Christopher Hassig stated with absolute clarity that Moreno was not a transgender person.

“Our shooter is identified by a driver’s license as Genesee Moreno, 36-years-old, Hispanic female. There are some discrepancies. We do have reports she used multiple aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante. So she has utilized both male and female names but through all of our investigation to this point, talking with individuals, interviews, documents, Houston Police Department reports, she has identified this entire time as female,” Hassig told the media.

KHOU Jeremy Rogalski’s initial reporting as posted to X.

In initial coverage, KHOU and the Houston Chronicle reported Moreno, who had used the name Jeffery Escalante, had an extensive criminal history dating back to 2005 according to a Texas Department of Public Safety records search. Prior arrests include failure to stop and give information, assault of a public servant, assault causing bodily injury, forgery, possession of marijuana, theft, evading arrest and unlawful carrying weapon.

Media outlets including Fox News and even NBC News who later retracted a portion of their story mistakenly framed the context as “a person who previously identified as male” which led to the incorrect framing of Moreno’s gender identity.

Far-right extremist pundits and at least one anti-trans member of the U.S. House of Representatives took up the “shooter was trans” narrative.

Screenshot of Libs of TikTok far-right extremist creator Chaya Raichik’s post on the Houston shooter.

Chaya Raichik’s post had a companion extremist anti-trans X post by U. S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who republished a post by far-right media Blaze TV anchor Sara Gonzales, both falsely claiming Moreno was trans. Gonzales’ post appeared to contain a criminal record without attribution of its source.

Raichik also posted the same “criminal record” on her social media accounts.

Fox News also ran misleading and false headlines regarding Moreno’s gender identity.

Alejandra Caraballo, a trans attorney and clinical instructor at the prestigious Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic who also writes on gender and technology issues for Wired and Slate magazines, debunked the Fox News allegations and called out the far-right anti-trans extremists.

“Far right extremist accounts like Libs of Tiktok rushed to call the shooter at Joel Osteen’s church a transgender woman. The police have just confirmed that is not the case and she was the biological mother of the child who was shot. They won’t apologize or retract their lies,” Caraballo said.

Ari Drennen, executive director of Media Matters of America’s LGBTQ Project, cautioned Tuesday the falsehoods and fabrications are “adding fuel to a moral panic” on trans issues as multiple state legislators rush to pass anti-trans laws:

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