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Tempers flare over negative messages in Va., S.F.

Victory Fund defends ‘attack’ mailings amid criticism from Cleve Jones, other Dems

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Negative campaign messages were unleashed on behalf of openly gay candidates in Virginia and San Francisco during the past two weeks, raising the ire of LGBT activists and their straight allies.

In both cases, the messages were issued by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a non-partisan group that raises money and campaigns to help elect openly LGBT candidates across the country.

One of the group’s messages, issued in the form of an email sent to the Victory Fund’s members and donors, targeted Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston), who is being challenged by gay Republican Patrick Forrest, an attorney and former senior official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The other message came in the form of a mailing that targeted San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is being challenged in his race for San Francisco mayor by gay former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Both are Democrats and the two are among 16 candidates running in the hotly contested mayoral race.

Victory Fund spokesperson Denis Dison said the email in Virginia and the mailing in San Francisco were aimed at informing Victory Fund supporters in Virginia and mostly LGBT voters in San Francisco of the gay candidates’ qualifications and their opponents’ shortcomings as part of a widely used campaign practice in American politics.

But the messages angered some gay Democratic activists in Virginia as well as LGBT Democrats and independents in San Francisco who are backing Herrera. The messages were signed by Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe.

In the Virginia email, Wolfe cited a Washington Blade story last month that reported Forrest and his supporters had accused the Howell campaign of using “gay baiting” tactics against Forrest. The Blade story reported that Forrest and his supporters learned that a Democratic Party volunteer approached voters and asked them if they knew that Forrest was gay and allegedly told them he would promote a “homosexual agenda” in the state’s public schools.

Without mentioning Howell by name, Wolfe stated in his email, “That kind of divisive campaigning has no place in politics, and it’s wrong no matter which party does it.

“We’re standing up for Patrick because openly gay voices in politics are far too rare in places like Virginia, and because he’ll be the only openly LGBT Republican state legislator in America if he wins his campaign,” Wolfe said in his email.

Howell told the Blade the Democratic campaign worker was not part of her campaign and acted without authorization and was quickly dismissed from any role in the party dealing with the Howell campaign.

Leaders of LGBT Democrats of Virginia, a statewide group, called Howell one of the LGBT community’s strongest straight allies in the Virginia Legislature. The group notes that Democrats are clinging to a razor-thin majority in the State Senate and a defeat for Howell and just one other Democrat would flip the Senate into the control of Republicans, opening the way for passage of anti-gay bills next year and the certain defeat of LGBT-supportive legislation.

“I get their interest in wanting to endorse a gay candidate,” said Terry Mansberger, chair of the Virginia Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus. “But I don’t think it was necessary to attack Janet Howell, a very supportive LGBT ally.”

Mansberger said Forrest’s support for LGBT equality, including same-sex marriage, would make him a welcome addition to the State Senate. But he called Forrest’s candidacy ill timed and the Victory Fund’s support for him irresponsible, saying the ouster of Howell and a GOP takeover of the Senate would be devastating to LGBT equality in Virginia for at least the next two years.

David Lampo, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Virginia, a gay group that has endorsed Forrest, disputes that assessment, saying Democrats would likely retain control of the Senate through wins in other races. He said Forrest would be a strong advocate for LGBT rights in the Senate and within the Senate’s GOP caucus regardless of whether Republicans gain control of the body.

Dison of the Victory Fund disputed claims by Howell and her gay supporters that the Victory Fund had attacked Howell or issued an “attack” ad, as some Howell backers have described it.

“Based on information published by the Washington Blade, the Fund asked its own supporters via email to donate to Patrick’s campaign in the face of gay-baiting reportedly employed by Democratic Party operatives,” Dison said. ”That email never mentioned the name of Patrick’s opponent, so charges that we have somehow “targeted” or “attacked” her are baseless.”

In a separate race, Democrat Adam Ebbin, a gay member of the Virginia House of Delegates, is considered the strong favorite to win a seat in the State Senate representing parts of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax counties.

The Victory Fund has also endorsed Ebbin. Lampo said his group chose not to endorse Ebbin’s Republican opponent, political newcomer Tim McGhee. Lampo said McGhee declined to endorse proposed legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for state employees.

McGhee created a stir last month when he appeared before an election forum sponsored by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance and recited biblical passages to stress his personal beliefs as a Christian and questioned whether most gays are comfortable reconciling their sexual orientation and religious upbringing.

Similar to Ebbin, Forrest has expressed strong support for legislation banning employment discrimination for Virginia state employees as well as other LGBT-supportive measures, including marriage equality for same-sex couples and the repeal of a state constitutional amendment approved by Virginia voters in 2006 that bans same-sex marriage in the state.

In a development that LGBT activists see as a positive sign, a third openly gay candidate in Virginia will be on the ballot in the Nov. 8 election. Michael Sutphin, 27, a public affairs coordinator at Virginia Tech University, is running for a seat on the Blacksburg, Va., Town Council.

Sutphin is a graduate of Virginia Tech University, which is located in Blacksburg, and served as president of the college’s LGBT Alliance. He currently serves on the board of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT group.

He’s among five candidates running for three seats up for election on the Blacksburg Council. Under the town’s election rules, the three candidates receiving the highest number of votes win election to the seats. Sutphin received the endorsement of the Roanoke Times, the region’s most prominent daily newspaper.

In San Francisco, the Victory Fund mailing outraged some LGBT activists who are supporting Herrera, a City Attorney who is considered one of the strongest LGBT-supportive politicians in California.

Both Herrera and Dufty, along with most of the other 14 candidates in the mayoral race, are Democrats.

Dufty is vying to become the first openly gay mayor in a city considered to be the nation’s epicenter of LGBT rights and equality. The Victory Fund, which endorsed him earlier this year, released its campaign mailing against Herrera last month at a time when Herrera was considered Dufty’s strongest competitor for LGBT votes.

The ad includes a brightly colored depiction of a fish impaled on a hook described as a fishing “lure,” which the ad says illustrates how powerful law firms in the city landed lucrative city contracts from the Office of the City Attorney, which Herrera headed. The ad, citing news media sources, says at least five law firms that donated to Herrera’s campaign for mayor have received a combined total of more than $1.2 million in city contracts.

“The donors are fishing and Dennis Herrera is taking the bait,” the ad says.

Victory Fund spokesperson Dison said his group produced the ad independently from the Dufty campaign without the approval of — or any interaction with — Dufty’s campaign. Dison noted that the practice is used widely by Democrats and Republicans in election campaigns as a means of informing voters of the shortcomings and potential problems of an opponent.

“There’s some criticism there, but it’s all coming from people who are involved in local politics and who have their own candidates and old rivalries,” Dison said. “It gets extremely complicated, but they’re essentially asking us to back off from our support for Bevan Dufty, and we’re not going to,” he said.

“He is an obviously viable and an experienced candidate,” Dison said of Dufty “He has been in government for more than 20 years. He has been elected twice to the Board of Supervisors. And the Bay Area Reporter, when they endorsed him, said he is as qualified as anybody in the field of candidates and it’s time we elected a gay person as mayor.”

The Bay Area Reporter is San Francisco’s LGBT community newspaper. The city’s two LGBT Democratic Clubs, the Harvey Milk and Alice P. Toklas clubs, endorsed Herrera over Dufty.

However, the Toklas Club endorsed Dufty for “second choice” in a first-of-its-kind mayoral voting system for San Francisco that allows every voter to select three candidates and designate them as their first, second and third choice for mayor.

San Francisco gay activist Cleve Jones, a collaborator with San Francisco’s famed gay leader Harvey Milk in the 1970s and the lead organizer of the 2009 LGBT Equality March on Washington, is supporting Herrera. He said he’s outraged over the Victory Fund’s attack ad targeting Herrera in an effort to boost Dufty’s candidacy.

Jones points to Dufty’s role as a lead supporter of the appointment of then San Francisco City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor in January of this year. At the time, Lee, who became the city’s first Asian-American mayor, promised he would not seek election for a full term. The Board of Supervisors appointed him mayor to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Gavin Newsom, who resigned after winning election as lieutenant governor.

Lee upset many of his fellow politicians and city officials when he announced he had changed his mind and would enter the mayoral race this year. Many in the Asian-American community along with other supporters urged him to run, saying, among other things, that his role as the city’s first Chinese mayor was historic and he should stay on as mayor beyond his interim appointment.

Jones told the Blade that he and other LGBT activists believe Dufty entered the race as Lee’s stalking horse, with the aim of taking gay votes away from Herrera, who has been viewed as a longstanding champion among gay voters.

“All of the polls show that Bevan is not placing at all,” Jones said.

Dufty, in a telephone interview with the Blade on Tuesday, called Jones’ claims “ridiculous.” He said that under the new voting system for mayor that gives voters three choices, he believes he has a strong chance of winning the race in the second round of “virtual” vote counting.

Under the new system, if no candidate receives at least 51 percent of the “first choice” vote, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the city counts the second choice votes of that candidate. The process is repeated until a candidate obtains a 51 percent majority.

Dufty, who said he’s convinced the vote count will go to at least one additional round, points out that he has raised $1.3 million for his campaign, the second highest amount raised after Lee, who raised just under $1.5 million. He said polls showing Lee far ahead of all the other candidates are wrong because the polls can’t accurately predict the outcome in the “ranked choice” voting system.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Jenisaisquoi

    November 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    This Virginian is going to ignore the Victory Fund robo-call I received this morning, attacking Senator Janet Howell, a long-standing pro-LGBT ally. I am furious they are involving themselves in a state they clearly know NOTHING about. If we lose her seat and only one other, our state Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, goes over to GOP control. Our House of Delegates is already right wing Republican tea party fringe, and without a Democratically controlled senate to counter some of their right wing fringe policies, I fear how back woods Virginia can go in 2 short years. It should never be the orientation of an individual which makes a person decide how he/she will vote, but the ISSUES and records of the candidates. Howell has a perfect pro-LGBT and human rights record. Patrick Forrest may be gay, but he is also a Republican, and if you want things to be worse for not only LGBT, but ALL minorities in Virginia, give control of the state senate to the GOP, and see how backward this state can go. If you need any proof of how scary southern Republican state legislatures have been of late, check out some of the other states and their lurches to the moonbat right, see NC, TN and many others. It’s been bad enough already, with Gov McDonnell and AG Ken Cuccinelli. I will never give another penny to the Victory Fund; this whole thing enrages me.

  2. Christopher Kerby

    November 4, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Again with respect to San Francisco’s mayorial race, a Letter to the Editor in today’s Bay Area Reporter, entitled “What’s up with the Victory Fund?,” captures the views of many San Franciscans in their outrage at the Victory Fund:

    “What’s up with Victory Fund?

    What in the world is the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund thinking attacking San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera?

    Even to promote former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who I support for mayor, even a political action committee organized to promote lesbian and gay candidates, should never attack a local hero of SF’s LGBT movement. I’ve worked hard in the LGBT legal movement nationally and in San Francisco for over 20 years, and never been more impressed than I was with Herrera and his entire office while they have ceaselessly fought for my marriage equality.

    And to do it with negative smear piece I just got in my mailbox, leaves me speechless, and of no mind to support the Victory Fund ever again. To me, it smells like a dirty trick engineered against the power of the LGBT community’s vote for either of our two hero candidates – Herrera or Dufty – and perhaps for Ed Lee. Shame.

    Charlie Spiegel, Esq.
    San Francisco”

    * * *

    Feel free to express your personal outrage to [email protected] at the Victory Fund.

  3. Charlie Spiegel, Esq.

    November 4, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    In SF, I support Bevan for Mayor, contrary to Denis Dison’s assertion in this article. But I think the questions are (1) what tactics are appropriate to use in supporting LGBT endorsed candidates running against straight leaders of the LGBT rights movement, (2) what standards the Victory Fund has for making these decisions in the future, (3) what local input is received before making such a decision, and (4) what is the role of political consultants?

    On the ground, the Victory Fund has not “coalesced the gay community around Bevan” but actually divide the community and by doing that likely re-elect termporary Mayor Ed Lee. The DC Victory Fund’s misstep has done great damage to our local LGBT community in SF.

  4. Christopher Kerby

    November 5, 2011 at 2:13 am

    San Francisco Bay Guardian, Nov. 3, 2011:

    VICTORY’S MUDSLINGING
    Hit pieces are common in San Francisco politics. So, sadly, are negative mailers funded by outside independent expenditure committees that can raise unlimited money.

    But it’s highly unusual for an organization devoted to electing queer candidates to fund an attack on a candidate who is endorsed by both leading LGBT organizations and is, by all accounts, an ally of the community.

    That’s what happened last week when the Washington-based Victory Fund — the leading national organization for LGBT political candidates — sent out a bizarre mailer blasting City Attorney Dennis Herrera for taking money from law firms that do business with the city.

    The Victory Fund has endorsed former Sup. Bevan Dufty, who is the most prominent LGBT candidate in the mayor’s race. That’s to be expected; it’s what the Victory Fund does.

    But why, in a race with 16 candidates, would the fund go after Herrera, who has spent much of the past seven years fighting in court for marriage equality? Why try to knock down a candidate who has the support of both the Harvey Milk Club and the Alice B. Toklas Club?

    It’s baffled — and infuriated — longtime queer activist Cleve Jones, who is a Herrera supporter. “I have long respected the Victory Fund,” Jones told us. “But I’ve never seen them do what they did here. And it’s going to undermine the fund’s credibility.”

    Jones dashed off an angry letter to the fund’s president, Chuck Wolfe, saying he was “appalled that this scurrilous attack, in the waning days of a mayoral campaign, would go out to the San Francisco electorate under the name of the Victory Fund.

    “You really screwed up, Chuck, and I am not alone in my anger.”

    We couldn’t get Wolfe on the phone, but the fund’s vice president for communications, Denis Dison, told us that the mailer “is all about fighting for our endorsed candidates.”

    So how does it help Dufty, in a ranked-choice election, to attack Herrera? (In fact, given the dynamics of this election, the person it helps most is probably Mayor Ed Lee). Dison couldn’t explain. Nor would he say who at the fund decided to do the attack mailer.

    But there are a couple of interesting connections that might help explain what’s going on. For starters, Joyce Newstat, a political consultant who is working for the Dufty campaign, is active in the Victory Fund, sits on the board of the fund’s Leadership Institute, and, according to a March 24 article in the Bay Area Reporter, was among those active in helping Dufty win the Victory Fund endorsement.

    But again: Supporting Dufty is one thing. Attacking Herrera is another. Who would want to do that?

    Well, if there’s one single constituency in the city that would like to sink Herrera, it’s Pacific Gas and Electric Co. And guess what? PG&E Governmental Affairs Manager Brandon Hernandez chairs the Victory Fund’s Leadership Institute. PG&E’s corporate logo appears on the front page of the fund’s website, and the company gave the Victory Fund more than $50,000 in 2010, according to the fund’s annual report.

    Dison insisted that neither Hernadez nor anyone else from PG&E was involved in making the decision to hit Herrera and said the money went to the Leadership Institute, which trains LGBT candidates, not directly to the campaign fund.

    Maybe so –- but the folks at the private utility, who are among the top three corporate donors to the Victory Fund, have to be happy. (Tim Redmond)

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National

Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”

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LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”

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Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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Non-binary person reports assault by Proud Boys near Portland

‘They nearly killed me’

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Juniper Simonis (Photo by Mariah Harris)

It was a typical day for Juniper Simonis. The freelance ecologist decided to break from work for lunch at about 3 p.m. to take their service dog, Wallace, to the local dog park and grab a bite to eat.  

But a planned peaceful afternoon quickly turned ugly. Simonis says they survived a gang assault of about 30 perpetrators in Gresham, Ore., a suburb outside of Portland. The Oregon resident encountered the group for only minutes but suffered a concussion, sprained jaw, extensive car damage and verbal assaults, they said. 

“They nearly killed me,” they said.

Simonis said they turned into a parking lot to pick up lunch in Gresham, Ore., and stumbled upon a rally that included several members of the Proud Boys — a far-right, ultra-nationalist organization known for its anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminism and neo-fascist ideologies. 

There was a “Flag Ride” right-wing rally in a parking lot earlier that day. Simonis was under the impression the event had ended after checking reports on Twitter. After pulling into the lot, originally to look for lunch options, Simonis saw a large gathering still in the lot. 

Simonis decided to take pictures of what was happening to post online to warn others and was intentional in keeping their distance, they said. As Simonis was preparing to leave the area, they yelled from inside the car, “Fuck you, fascists, go home.” 

“I did not expect this to escalate into violence,” they said. 

The attack itself only lasted about three minutes, Simonis said. Simonis was quickly surrounded by several people and physically blocked from leaving the lot. People stepped in front of the parking lot exit, then a car was moved to barricade Simonis. People began to shout homophobic slurs at Simonis, they said. 

“I’m in serious trouble now and I know it,” they said. 

Simonis was then punched while inside their vehicle and was briefly knocked out. They regained consciousness a few seconds later, and a cinder block was thrown at the car and shattered the back window of their car inches away from their service dog, Wallace. 

Simonis got out of the car to assess the damage and make sure their service dog was safe. They quickly got back in their car and was able to leave the lot by maneuvering around the blocked exit, Simonis said. 

Wallace, Juniper Simonis’ service dog. (Photo by Mariah Harris)

Looking back at the photos and videos Simonis took before the assault, Simonis said they saw people looking into the camera and acknowledging them taking photos. 

“I honestly don’t know if I hadn’t said anything, that … things would have gone any different,” they said. 

Last year, Simonis was targeted and arrested by federal police in Portland during the tumultuous Black Lives Matter protests in the city. They were denied medical attention, misgendered, jumped and aggressively handcuffed while taken into custody. 

Simonis is still working through legal proceedings in a multi-plaintiff lawsuit. 

A witness to the event called the Gresham Police Department, which was only a few blocks away from the incident. But the call went to voicemail and the witness did not leave a message, Simonis said. 

Another witness called 911, Simonis said, which led to an officer calling Simonis about 45 minutes after the accident to take a report.   

In the police report obtained by the Blade, Simonis is consistently misgendered. Simonis’ sex is also listed as “unknown” in the report. The incident was labeled as vehicle vandalism. 

Simonis said the conversation with the officer was filled with victim-blaming and the officer wrote in the report that Simonis should avoid “approaching groups of this nature.”  

“At no point in this conversation does he treat me as an actual victim of a crime,” Simonis said.

The Gresham Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

Weeks after the assault, Simonis is struggling mentally and physically, they said. 

The concussion makes working on a computer virtually impossible because of light sensitivity and trouble focusing, Simonis said. The pain caused by the sprained jaw makes it difficult to focus, as well. 

Simonis is not able to begin physical therapy for their jaw until November because of long medical wait times, they said. The cost to repair the car damages will be about $8,000, as well, they said.  

The times where Simonis is able to focus are usually taken up by piecing together what happened that day, they said. 

“The part of my brain that I use for work has been hijacked functionally by the part of the brain that needed to know what happened to me,” they said. “There is such a painful need to understand what happened to me.”

Because of past traumatic events, like the experience of being in federal custody last year, Simonis said processing and living with the trauma is a bit easier to handle. But their ability to work will be forever changed yet again, they said. 

“I’m not able to work at the pace that I used to work at before I was assaulted by DHS. I’ll never be,” they said. “And this is just a further knockdown.” 

The trauma of the event has increased Simonis’ hyper-vigilance, as well. 

“Every time I hear a car go by, I’m double-checking,” they said. 

Even though Simonis has the tools to process and live with the immense trauma, they will never be the same person, they said. 

“They fucking changed my life forever. Point blank,” they said. “Not just mentally, but physically and physiologically. I can’t go back to where I was before. I’m lucky that I survived.”

Simonis has reported the attack to the FBI and is pursuing legal action with two specific goals in mind: to heal and to prevent similar crimes from happening.

“I am somebody who believes in abolishing the carceral system and the justice system as it exists and policing,” Simonis said. “But also a 37-year-old trans and disabled person who somehow managed to survive this long. And so naturally has become pragmatic about the world.”

Because of the reaction of the Gresham Police Department, Simonis did not want to work with local officers and instead went to the federal level. But because of the alleged assault by agents in Portland last year, this decision wasn’t easy for them.

Perpetrators in the assault threatened to call the police on Simonis,  even though Simonis did not commit a crime. Reporting the crime to the federal level is also a layer of protection, they said. 

“All of this is forcing my hand,” they said. There is no easy decision in the situation, they added. 

“We all know that crimes are underreported. We hear about it all the time,” they said. And there are reasons why people don’t report crimes and they’re totally understandable. A lot of victims are very concerned about what will happen if they break anonymity. In my situation, I’ve already broken anonymity.”

With recent arrests and crackdowns on the Proud Boys and other hate groups in the United States, Simonis is bracing for a long process. 

“This isn’t just going to go on a shelf,” they said. 

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