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We must decry all forms of violence

Don’t limit our outrage to anti-LGBT hate crimes

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Random violence impacts us all and random violence against youth, in particular, tends to shatter our sense of security. A society that cannot protect its most precious resource, its children, is one that is not poised to thrive. Unfortunately, many people are only concerned when violence impacts their community or one similar to theirs. Thus, while many publicly mourn and express outrage, as they should, over mass shootings in suburban communities, many of those same people have turned a blind eye to violence in inner city, low-income communities for decades.

Unfortunately, the LGBT community is also guilty of this denial. This has served no one well, particularly since there is not always a fine line separating various communities. The tragic murder of Deoni Jones, a 23-year-old transgender woman, illustrates this point. Thankfully there has been an arrest in that case, but the community is still advocating to get the murder classified as a hate crime, as it seems the initial urge was to classify the murder as a “typical street crime” in a struggling community.  Viewing inner city violence as something that does not impact us all is shortsighted and the negative impact of such thinking is often not apparent until it’s too late.

This sentiment of not caring about violence that does not impact one directly has allowed the violence to continue unchecked. This should bother LGBT individuals in particular because our community has been the target of violent hate crimes. When a member of the LGBT community is attacked, we rightfully want others to join in to condemn the attack, find the perpetrator and speak out against hate based on sexual orientation. Some of us identify as LGBT, as well as part of other communities that find themselves the target of senseless violence, such as low-income communities. Others of us may not necessarily reside in those neighborhoods, but other commonalities, such as a shared racial background and previous residence in these areas, make it impossible for us not to share the pain when violence scars the sense of security for these neighborhoods.

Since the beginning of this school year, six innocent students have been killed in Prince George’s County, a place where I am proud to have been raised and where my parents and hosts of other close relatives and friends still reside. We all have a moral responsibility to voice our concern and express support for efforts to stem the tide of violence.

The only way to eradicate violence in our society is for us all to unite in this common goal. The DC Alliance of Youth Advocates is a coalition of member organizations that collectively advocate for the various diverse youth populations throughout the city.  Coalitions like this are a great resource for those who are working in the LGBT community, but who also want to be involved and active in the broader youth advocacy community in the District. I implore LGBT individuals to actively condemn all violence.  Expressing sincere outrage about violence in every community is the only way to get those communities to be similarly outraged about violence in the LGBT community.

Lateefah Williams is the immediate past president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and the first African-American woman to serve in that position. You can read her blog dcprogressivepotpourri.com, contact her at [email protected], or follow her on twitter @lateefahwms.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. brian

    March 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Lateefa, you are just blaming the victims of brutal anti-LGBT hate crimes for their own suffering.

    The repeated failures of our responsible government leaders– Lanier, Mendelson, Gray and Fenty (and now, Wells) is where the blame for rising anti-LGBT violence lies– or, if it happens, where credit for provable crime abatement can be given.

    Residents of every civilized city, county and town government in this country understand that most important of all local government responsibilities.

    We have a police chief who has presided over 6 straight years of rising anti-LGBT hate crimes. What don’t you understand about that? And you’re blaming the LGBT community for not speaking out about every crime?

    What don’t you understand about discriminatory policing? Or violation of a victim’s civil rights under color of authority?

    Moreover, the notion that LGBT public safety is dependent on the LGBT community being better “squeaky wheels” so as to garner sufficient public support to be worthy of protection by DC’s MPD is absurd. Just what do you think our chief of police and other government leaders get paid to do?

    Democratic Party leaders better start caring about the lives and public safety of the LGBT residents they purport to serve. We’ve had enough rubber stamping of the lame excuses of Lanier, Gray and Mendelson– including the police abuses of hate crimes, rape and sex assaults in our city– and very likely MPD and Mendelson de facto cover-ups of same.

    DCTC and Jason Terry have just blown the cover off Lanier’s cronyism and likely bias of her sham “hate crimes task force.” See Blade report…
    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/02/27/trans-group-d-c-hate-crimes-review-biased-toward-police/

    Should the LGBT community be blamed for that, too?

    If you really care about the public safety of DC’s women and LGBT residents, why aren’t you demanding accountability from Lanier, Gray and Wells on the outrages of the Human Right Watch report regarding MPD’s sex crimes coverup and abuses (and who-knows how much more)?

    (for ref. vid and HRW Report links, google:
    “YouTube DC Police Fail Rape Victims”)

  2. Lateefah

    March 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Brian,

    I’m not blaming the victim. The only people to blame for hate crimes are the perpetrators of those crimes. My article was designed to give some perspective on why some communities have not joined our anti-LGBT hate crimes plight and what we, as well as other communities, can do so that society views LGBT hate crimes and all acts of violence as something that we all should care about.

    My article deals with the best way to bring attention to anti-LGBT hate crimes & gives a different perspective on why some past attempts to bring attention to the issue haven’t been effective. This article isn’t designed to address why they’re increasing, so I’m not blaming anyone for the increase. I do agree that we need to ensure all elected and appointed officials are doing their part to address the issue.

  3. brian

    March 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks, Lateefa.

    I understand your point. It is a “different perspective,” to be sure. But it remains a terribly mistaken one. Indeed, it represents a downright dangerous distraction from where our hate crime-fighting focus should be, IMHO. It is certainly not the “best way to bring attention to anti-LGBT hate crimes.”

    That comment suggests you don’t understand what the problem is. But I know that can’t be right, because you’re a good lawyer. You know how the criminal justice system has to work to be effective.

    The problem in DC remains the failure of our police (MPD) to seriously investigate, pursue, and arrest the perpetrators of these anti-LGBT hate crimes crimes to get them off our streets. That’s the way violent crime is DETERRED in every city across this nation, and around the world.

    There is nothing mysterious about that. And there is absolutely nothing requiring “political support” in that process. Nor should there be. Hates crimes MUST be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted, as evidence warrants– as a matter of law.

    Moreover, Lanier, Gray and Mendelson, the responsible government officials who have utterly failed to protect LGBTs from this growing anti-LGBT 6-year crime wave– are only too delighted to use such “political opinion” distractions to continue their BIG LIE to DC’s LGBT residents.

    Through photo-ops, post-crime rallies, feckless oversight hearings, and other empty PR gestures, these hypocritical politicians attempt to perpetuate the myth that they care about LGBT public safety. We’ve seen their dog and pony shows many times befor. But the record of horrific, unsolved anti-LGBT assaults and homicides have proven, year after year, that they DO NOT care about the lives and public safety of LGBT residents and vistors.

    Now we have to worry about whether COUNCIL is AGAIN engaged in another coverup of MPD’s police malfeasance, sex crime case cover-ups, abuse of sex crimes victims– and perhaps criminal police misconduct, as reported by Human Rights Watch– well OVER ONE MONTH AGO, now.

    PS/Judiciary Committee Chair Tommy Wells promised to schedule a “serious” oversight hearing and investigation into the Human Rights Watch report’s allegations… letting the chips fall where they may. Yadda, yadda.

    But after over a month, Tommy Wells has not even bothered to SCHEDULE a date for such a MPD oversight hearing. What does that tell us about Tommy Wells’ concern for women and LGBT victims of rape, sex assaults– and likely his concern for anti-LGBT hate crimes coverups by MPD, too?

    Wells’ ‘independent’ pro bono law firm investigation (Crowell & Moring) was reportedly going to have a preliminary review of HRW’s report ready THIS WEEK (BLT/ LegalTimes Blog, 12 Feb). So why hasn’t Tommy Wells scheduled a committee hearing yet?

    The same press report said that Crowell & Moring’s FULL report would be ready in 4 to 6 weeks. That deadline window begins just five days from now (Tues, 12 Mar).

    Let’s hope Crowell & Moring meets that time frame, sooner rather than later– because DC’s rape and sex crimes victims should not have to wait on COUNCIL and Tommy Wells to know whether they will be just as traumatized by an abusive MPD, as they were by their attackers.

    What is troubling is that we have already seen how a “blue-ribbon” and “independent” ‘hate crimes task force’ — of, by and for Chief Lanier — now rightly lacks credibility due to the apparent close ties and/ or cronyism involved in its appointment and control — by MPD’s police chief. Chief Lanier and her policies, should also be the subject of any fair investigation of MPD procedures and/or allegations of wrongdoing with respect to hate crimes.

    No more COUNCIL coverups of police abuses and other malfeasance, please. If we need a special prosecutor, let’s get on with it. DC need to be able to trust its police department.
    —–
    for ref…google: “Cops union: Mendelson ignored sex assaults allegations”

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Opinions

Opinion | Most people are transphobic

Nearly half of Americans oppose inclusive military service

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Most people are transphobic.

Start with the fact that in 2020, 45 trans people were killed in the United States, most of them Black trans women. Worldwide, that number jumped to above 350 people. 

Seventy percent of Republican parents say they’d be unhappy if their child’s spouse identified as transgender. That’s a mild statistic, so let’s jump to the fact that at least 28 Republican state legislatures pushed bills this year that would ban trans athletes from competing in high school sports, and ban trans children from receiving medical care.

But Republicans are the obvious culprits in American society’s hatred toward trans people. Let’s turn to the less obvious culprits. 

If you think Democrats were angels, think again. About 30 percent of parents who identify as Democrats state they would be unhappy if their child’s spouse married a trans person. That poll was conducted by PRRI-Atlantic in February 2019, not 10 years ago, or five years ago, but just two years ago. 

Migrate to Hillary Clinton’s offhanded remarks to Britain’s The Sunday Times that for trans people, “it’s going to take a lot more time and effort to understand what it means to be defining yourself differently.”

Move on to corporate CEOs, mainly white guys with a lot of ambition and agendas to push. Elon Musk tweeted “pronouns suck.” Even if there was not that much thought behind the tweet (at best), Musk still alienated all of the trans employees who actually work at Tesla or SpaceX. 

And, of course, how could I write a piece about transphobia without mentioning JK Rowling, who famously stuck up for Donald Trump’s bigoted policies tweet after tweet, only to essentially state that trans women are not real women, and outline “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.”

Take a look at corporate America: big companies, with billions in revenue and company outings to Europe, love to post rainbow flags come June, but seemingly would never hire a trans woman in 1,000 years. If that trans woman doesn’t pass well, you can forget about her job prospects at a Fortune 500 company. 

Certain statistics that are used to signal growing support for trans people, are actually quite dismal. Some like to tout the fact that 63 percent of the United States population wants trans people to serve in the military, as a positive statistic On the flip side, this still means that almost 4 out of 10 Americans don’t want trans people to serve in the armed forces, just because of their gender orientation. 

That’s dangerously close to half of the American population that would deny a well meaning soldier from potentially sacrificing their life to serve this country. Why would you ever not want someone to give their life for your homeland when you wouldn’t give your life to begin with? 

But what is most shocking, is the seamlessness in which almost half of all Americans would be uncomfortable with their own child being trans. According to PRRI, around 48 percent of Americans would be “uncomfortable” with their own child being trans. In the same poll, only 60 percent of Democrats would be “somewhat or very comfortable” with their child being trans. This means that 40 percent of polled Democrats would be overtly uncomfortable with their own child living their truth. 

Then take a step back, and evaluate all of the day-to-day, quotidian occurrences that highlight how weird and transphobic the public is. I’m talking about small gestures, like when your boss would rather have you not use pronouns in email correspondence to clients. Or when That Guy You Went To High School With just loves tearing Caitlyn Jenner apart, uncontrollably, ferociously. 

Or when your favorite buddy just loves Joe Rogan, who happens to go on regular tirades against trans athletes in his podcast. Or when you pray to God that a consulting firm you’re applying to actually doesn’t learn you are trans, so you can get the job. Or when you can’t find a priest for your Indian wedding. 

I repeat: most people are transphobic. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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Opinion | Anti-vaxxers screw themselves and us

Get over yourselves and take the damn vaccine!

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Some say that if the current Republican Party and today’s Fox News were around when vaccinations for smallpox and polio were developed, we would still be fighting those diseases.  There have always been anti-vaxxers and you can read about them in The American Historian.  The column suggests vaccine resistance over the years was rooted in social movements more than anti-vaccine movements. Yet government took control; an example being demanding all children get vaccinated in order to attend school. 

President Biden is finally moving in that direction, announcing a vaccine mandate for federal workers. The Washington Post in a column by Eli Rosenberg reported some unions object and want to bargain over it and one, The Federal Law Enforcement Association, attacked the mandate saying, “requiring vaccinations represents an infringement on ‘civil rights.’” 

Not taking the vaccine represents an infringement on my right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit happiness.’ Your members not taking the vaccine puts my life and other lives in danger. Get over yourselves and take the damn vaccine!

Proclaiming your ‘individuality’ is fine if it doesn’t threaten the lives of everyone around you. Anyone with COVID impacts everyone in the community. A person who gets ill when they could have prevented that with a safe, free vaccination, then passes it on to others, must be held responsible. 

Government should do more and follow our European allies and develop a national vaccine passport so responsible people can easily prove they have been vaccinated. In this way when businesses mandate vaccinations for their employees, and they are, people will have an easy way to prove their compliance. California and New York have begun to demand this of their employees. Bars and restaurants in San Francisco and some LGBTQ bars in D.C. now ask for proof of vaccination to enter. The same should happen everywhere and include sports venues, concert venues, airlines, and cruise ships. All should require proof of vaccination for entrance. If that doesn’t happen we will find ourselves back to wearing masks and more. If you choose not to be vaccinated, then stay home. 

All healthcare facilities — doctors’ offices, urgent care facilities, and hospitals — are beginning to  demand employees be vaccinated. No one should have to be seen by a provider who could have COVID. Healthcare costs should not go up because some people think they have the right to not take a fully tested vaccine to prevent their own and other people’s illness. 

It’s time to throw out politicians like Ron DeSantis, the incredibly stupid governor of Florida, who believes it’s appropriate to force cruise ships to accept unvaccinated passengers. 

Countries around the world are now requiring visitors from the United States to show proof of vaccination to enter. This supports the need for President Biden to act now and have the government develop a national vaccine document. It’s not about politics, it’s not a Democratic or Republican thing; it is about protecting people’s health.

If you continue to believe the virus is a ‘hoax’ or want to proclaim your individuality or ‘freedom,’ then you are a moron. Stay home and only associate with others who are as dumb as you are. If you get sick or die from what you believe is a ‘hoax’ don’t expect others to pay for your healthcare or show compassion. What the rest of us ask of you is simple: Don’t put our lives in danger because of your stupidity. 

Recently there has been a slight change in tone from Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity and Republican members of Congress like anti-LGBTQ Steve Scalise (R-La.) and ‘Moscow’ Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who are now suggesting vaccination. Apparently they woke up and realized it’s their own viewers and voters getting sick and dying after listening to months of their lies and stupidity. 

I am aware there are those who cannot yet get the vaccine — children under 12, those with certain health conditions, and those in poor countries who don’t have access to it. We must all do everything we can to make it available around the world for those who can take it. 

It is past time to tell all those who would put the rest of us at risk for serious illness and even death we will no longer cater to their shallowness. We will not be held hostage to a disease because they are either dumb, inconsiderate, or worse.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Opinion | Lovitz for Pennsylvania state representative

Accomplished gay candidate is longtime equality advocate

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Jonathan Lovitz, gay news, Washington Blade
Jonathan Lovitz (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It’s an embarrassment of riches for residents of center city Philadelphia, which includes the “gayborhood,” as they prepare to vote for their next state representative. 

The post has been held by Rep. Brian Sims, who’s gay, since 2013. Sims is giving up the seat to run for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. More on that later.

Two out LGBTQ candidates are among those competing in the 182nd District’s Democratic primary to replace Sims — Jonathan Lovitz and Deja Alvarez. Lovitz, who’s gay, has served as senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce for five years. If elected, it would be the first time a seat held by an LGBTQ state representative transitioned to another LGBTQ official and he would be the first LGBTQ Jewish elected official in Pennsylvania.

Alvarez, who’s transgender, is director of community engagement at World Healthcare Infrastructures and serves as chair of the Philadelphia Police LGBT Liaison Committee. She would become the first out trans person to serve in the Pennsylvania Legislature if elected.

Both are excellent candidates who would make their own bit of history if elected, but Lovitz stands out as the strongest choice to replace Sims in the legislature, a change that local residents desperately need.

To paraphrase Oprah in her famous endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton: Just because I am for Lovitz, doesn’t mean I am against Alvarez. I am acquainted with Lovitz and know him to be an ethical, smart, hard-working professional who is deeply dedicated to his work and to the residents of Philadelphia. He would make a fearless and tireless advocate for Philly and for equality issues in Harrisburg.

At NGLCC, Lovitz has helped write and pass more than 25 state and local laws, including in Pennsylvania, extending economic opportunity to LGBTQ-owned businesses around the country. As the country struggles to emerge from pandemic restrictions, we need more legislators at all levels of government who understand the importance of small business. Lovitz has the experience in business and in his work on equality issues to deliver tangible results for Philadelphia. 

Contrast his record with that of Sims and it’s a no-brainer that the people of the 182nd District have nowhere to go but up. Sims has sponsored or introduced scores of bills in the past year, but only one has been enacted, according to BillTrack50. Sims has been criticized in the district for his endless media tour and social media self-promotion. He is more interested in thirst-trap selfies than in constituent service. He lacks the professionalism and temperament for elected office, favoring profane outbursts and juvenile insults over diplomatic compromise and legislative achievement. As Christopher Pinto wrote in the Philadelphia Gay News, “Almost a decade in the State House, and he has no legislative victories that he can claim as his own. He spent more time out of the district than inside it, flying from one speaking engagement to the next, while abusing his state issued travel budget and being shrouded in a lengthy ethics investigation.”

Lovitz will not succumb to such vanities. He is a grounded professional who understands how to craft legislation and, more importantly, how to get it passed. He won’t alienate colleagues as Sims has done. 

On equality issues, Lovitz has worked on behalf of marginalized communities at NGLCC and last year he organized PhillyVoting.org, which works to boost turnout among Black and LGBTQ voters. 

“The ongoing violence against our communities, especially against our trans siblings, is a stunning reminder that our work together continues,” Lovitz wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Gay News. “Once again the movement for long-overdue social change in America is being led by communities of color, especially right here in Philly,” he wrote. “And the LGBTQ community must continue to stand in solidarity with them.”

Lovitz understands the moment. He has a passion for business and for helping entrepreneurs to succeed, something cities desperately need after more than 200,000 small businesses have shuttered due to COVID, according to the Wall Street Journal; more than 1,000 Philly businesses closed in just the first five months of the pandemic, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Voters, donors, and our national advocacy organizations should support his bold campaign and help retain an out LGBTQ voice in Harrisburg while improving constituent service for residents of the district. 

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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