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Gay ‘gang’ members speak at LGBT youth forum

Group considers itself “extended family” for ostracized gay and bisexual men



More than 20 members of Check It, a group of local gay youth that D.C. police have listed as a gang, turned out Monday night for a town hall meeting on problems faced by the city’s LGBT youth.

Lesbian activist Treona Kelty, whose organization Beautiful U – Yes U organized the event, said two Check It members told more than 100 people who turned out for the town hall that they consider their organization an extended “family” of mostly gay and bisexual men who have been ostracized by their parents and schools and misunderstood by police.

The town hall was held at the Metropolitan Community Church on Ridge Street, N.W., which has a mostly LGBT congregation.

Two Check It members were joined on a panel by Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs; Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition; Amena Johnson of D.C.’s Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL); and Brian Watson of Transgender Health Empowerment.

Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy drew citywide attention to Check It when he wrote about the group and its founder, Tayron Bennet, 21, in a Sept. 27 column. Bennet, who attended the LGBT youth town hall Monday night, told Milloy he formed the group after being targeted for anti-gay bullying and harassment at Hine Junior High School, which is located less than a block from the SMYAL offices and drop-in center.

Police have said Check It members often congregate in Chinatown near the Gallery Place Metro station and allegedly have gotten into fights with rival youth gangs. Milloy quoted Bennet as saying some members of the group “started carrying mace, knives, brass knuckles and stun guns” as a means of fighting back when members of the group were attacked or harassed for being gay.

“We’re not a gang,” Kelty quoted a Check It member who identified himself only as Trey, as saying. “He said we have been ostracized by our families. We have been kicked out. So we consider ourselves just family,” Kelty quoted him as saying. “I’m so tired of people calling us a gang,” she quoted the youth as saying.

According to Kelty, Deputy D.C. Police Chief Diane Groomes, who attended the town hall gathering, asked Kelty and Beautiful U – Yes U to help police put together a mediation meeting in which police and Check It members can work together to resolve police-related issues. Kelty said Groomes told the gathering that she would arrange for the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to take the lead role in the mediation session.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Joe Bonanno

    November 17, 2011 at 9:45 am

    If the police consider them a gang, hey, they are a gang: the police enforce the law, when police say their gang members, people need to believe in the police.

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing



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A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’



A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126



The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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