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OutServe-SLDN chief axed by board: reports

Robinson was only trans leader of national LGBT organization

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Allyson Robinson, gay news, Washington Blade, OutServe, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Allyson Robinson, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, OutServe, gay news, Washington Blade

Allyson Robinson was asked to resign by OutServe-SLDN’s board, according to media reports. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement to the Blade from OutServe-SLDN board member Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps, who says he’s withholding his resignation indefinitely until current issues are resolved.

The head of the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN has resigned following a request from her organization’s board after serving less than one year as executive director, according to reports.

The news of Allyson Robinson’s ouster was first reported by The Bilerico Project on Sunday morning, which reported she was fired from the position. A subsequent report from Buzzfeed provided additional information, but said she was asked to resign. Yet another report on AMERICAblog says neither is the case, but the development to remove her was proceeding.

The Bilerico account, citing a leaked email from Director of External Relations Zeke Stokes, reports Robinson was “fired” after a “board coup.” She’s the only openly transgender leader of a national organization representing the LGBT community.

Additionally, Bilerico reported Stokes along with Director of Chapter & Member Services Gary Espinas and Legal & Public Policy Director David McKean resigned in protest, along with other board members.

Stokes said in the email leaked to Bilerico, “I can no longer represent OutServe-SLDN to the public or to our members and donors. Thus, effective today, I have resigned as a member of the staff and wish to no longer be affiliated with the organization.”

Bilerico also reports McKean confirmed his resignation, but is staying on with the organization until some legal matters are resolved.

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on yesterday’s events,” McKean is quoted as saying. “But while I share Zeke’s conclusion, I will remain with the organization until I can determine how to resolve matters related to client representation in accordance with legal ethics rules and requirements.”

When contacted by the Washington Blade, both Stokes and Robinson declined to comment on the situation. McKean didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment. Espinas also didn’t immediately respond to Blade’s request for comment, but also has an away message on his email indicating he’s resigned.

“Dear Reader: I have resigned from the OutServe-SLDN staff. I am no longer monitoring this email address,” Espinas writes. “Please direct your inquiries to the OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors.”

On Sunday, OutServe-SLDN board member Brenda “Sue” Fulton posted the Bilerico report on her Facebook page while identifying as one of the board members who resigned. Fulton didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

“I am upset that this got out, but more upset that it happened,” Fulton writes. “I was one of those who resigned from the Board. Sad, sad days. I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS support the lgbt troops. Mission over politics.”

According to Bilerico, anonymous sources with knowledge of OutServe-SLDN’s finances say that the decision was mostly based on a lack of fundraising since “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal. Bilerico reports Robinson volunteered last week to take a pay cut to prevent layoffs at the organization.

Asked by the Blade to comment on the developments, OutServe co-founder and Board Chair Josh Seefried had little to say, but gave assurances more information would be forthcoming.

“We have some internal issues to deal with, but after that, we will be updating the community,” Seefried said.

Jonathan Hopkins, another board member, told the Blade the Bilerico report is “not entirely accurate,” but refused to comment further.

The Buzzfeed report says Robinson was asked by the board to resign on Saturday — after which Fulton accused Seefried of having “rushed this vote through.”

Buzzfeed obtained a different email from Fulton to Seefried and board member Katie Miller saying she didn’t vote to ask Robinson to resign, nor did board member Shannon McLaughlin. Fulton writes in the email that board members Matthew Phelps and Beth Schissel didn’t have the opportunity to vote.

“You cannot characterize this publicly as a ‘unanimous’ vote of the Board,” Fulton writes. “If you do so, Board members will speak publicly to deny that they voted for it. The details of who was in the room and who wasn’t when you rushed this vote through will not support your case.”

It’s unclear how much longer Robinson will stay on as executive director.

Both Bilerico and Buzzfeed reported board chair Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps, who recently married Ben Schock in a high-profile wedding, and Beth Schissell had resigned from the board in addition to Fulton.

But in a statement to the Washington Blade, Phelps said while he intended to resign, he has decided to withhold his resignation at the request of the board “for the time being.”

“As many of you know, I submitted my resignation to OutServe-SLDN yesterday,” Phelps said. “It was not immediately accepted by the board co-chairs, and at their request I have agreed to withhold my resignation for the time being. My primary focus has been and always will be in service to my country and ALL service members who defend it.”

Asked by the Blade why his resignation wasn’t accepted, Phelps replied, “They value my participation in handling the current situation.”

In response to another follow-up inquiry on how long the “time being” would last, Phelps replied, “I am holding off indefinitely until the current issues are resolved.”

The third report on AMERICAblog says no decision to oust Robinson has been made. This report has another email dated June 23 from Fulton in which she appears complicit in the decision to oust Robinson by announcing a proposal to meet with her “to work together on a transition plan that has you resigning.”

AMERICAblog doesn’t cite the full email in the story, but the rest of it lays out a timetable for her departure and “makes clear that should Robinson not accept a peaceful transition, she would be asked to leave immediately.”

In a subsequent update, Bilerico reports it was told by Fulton that this email was “pulled out of context.”

According to AMERICAblog, the developments are related to OutServe-SLDN’s chief financial officer Francisco Ramirez, who had been with the organization since 2005 and resigned last month. Robinson reportedly wanted Ramirez gone, but it’s unclear for what reasons.

OutServe-SLDN was seen as struggling to find new direction following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Robinson had been an advocate for an explicit non-discrimination policy in the military and openly transgender service.

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Miscellaneous

LGBTQ people: Canaries in a violent coal mine

We continue to be targets We continue to be targets of politically inspired attacks

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Did you read about the group of staid U.S. historians who just met privately with President Biden to warn him that U.S. democracy is teetering? They told him we’re closer to civil war and authoritarian rule than at any point in history since the 1860s.

Guess who knew that already? Queer people. Black people. Immigrants. Women. Politicians on the right are using us as punching bags, and violence is breaking out everywhere.

It’s not in our imaginations, and I’ll show you the data in just a minute to back that up. Then I’ll explain what that has to do with the breakdown of democracy.

But first, let’s meet some canaries.

Chuck Johnson and J.P. Singh recently told the Washington Blade a group of young men spotted them holding hands steps away from their D.C. home. As the couple was returning from an evening out, the group shouted that they were “faggots” and punched them both. The couple ran, but the men chased them down. They knocked Chuck to the ground, punching and kicking him.

Responding to J.P.’s 911 call, EMS rushed Chuck to the hospital where he was treated for a broken thumb and underwent surgery for a jaw broken in two places.

According to the Blade, another gay couple was attacked in D.C. under similar unprovoked circumstances on Aug. 7, chased down by random strangers who objected to them holding hands, then called them “monkeypox faggots,” knocking them to the ground, brutally punching and kicking them.

Jacob and Christian are also canaries.

They’re a gay couple who were attacked while standing at the end of Christian’s driveway in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah in July. A group of young men in a car spotted them hugging. They jumped out, yelling, “We don’t like gay people in our street.”

Christian tried to defend Jacob from violence by stepping in front of him. He ended up on the ground, beaten so badly he landed in the hospital diagnosed with brain swelling.

I interviewed Christian and his family earlier this month and learned that he often puts up with anti-gay slurs shouted at him in the street by random strangers.

Over the past week, nurses and doctors in Boston have received a barrage of hateful phone calls and text messages, including at least one bomb threat, inspired by anti-LGBTQ extremist Chaya Raichik of Brooklyn who tweets as Libs of Tiktok. Raichik objects to parents choosing gender-affirming care for transgender teens, and she objects to medical providers delivering that care. She used Twitter to unleash an army of Proud Boys and other haters.

Slate reporter and Harvard Law instructor Alejandra Caraballo tweeted this: “In the last 5 days, Libs of Tiktok has tweeted and retweeted 14 posts about Boston Children’s Hospital. As a result, BCH providers are being inundated in death threats and harassing calls and emails. It’s now affecting their services. This is stochastic terrorism, full stop.”

When I saw the tweet, I called a friend of mine who practices internal medicine at a different Boston hospital. As I asked him for a comment, he reminded me that we watched the 2016 election returns together at a bar in Detroit.

“I won’t say I told you so,” he said. “But I told you so.”

I remembered how fearful he became the night Donald Trump was elected. “I’m from Lebanon,” he reminded me, “and my last name broadcasts ‘Arab’ loud and clear. Trump is going to make my life hell, and since you’re a gay man, you’d better be as worried as I am.”

Libs of Tiktok is the tip of the iceberg on Twitter, where attacks against LGBTQ people are constant background noise, and where community standards meant to prohibit slurs and attacks are rarely enforced. Caraballo asks in her tweet thread, “When will Twitter do something about [Libs of TikTok] and their ability to rile up massive harassment campaigns against their targets? Last time it was Nazis at pride and drag events. This time it’s threatening pediatricians.”

According to a new study released on Aug. 10 by the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate, “discriminatory and inflammatory “grooming” content surge by over 400% across social media platforms” in response to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law.

According to Christopher Kane writing in the Los Angeles Blade, major social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter are doing almost nothing to counter growing waves of anti-LGBTQ hate speech on their platforms. Both platforms claim their rules prohibit users from calling LGBTQ people pedophiles or groomers, but neither platform routinely removes such slurs, not even when users report the slurs.

According to Alexandra Martinez writing in Prism, anti-LGBTQ arson and frequent street attacks in New York City have left queer people this summer living with a gnawing feeling of unease.

It’s not just New York City. She notes that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for LGBTQ people in the U.S., and that violence rates are surging higher in 2022.

Remember Ricky Shiffer who was shot and killed after he tried to shoot up an Ohio FBI office? He was outraged that the FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. He urged people to arm themselves and join him.

Did you know hatred of LGBTQ people is one of the reasons he supported Trump? Read this tweet, in an account deleted after his attack:

“We need to be ready for war against the communists who chemically nueter [sic] prebuscent [sic] children and call it gender transitioning, not bellyache about the arguments of 30 years ago. Save ammunition.”

Large majorities of Americans say they support LGBTQ equality. Large majorities of Americans say they believe our nation should stand for freedom and liberty for all, including for marginalized people. Large majorities of Americans support women’s reproductive freedom, support taking steps to lift up Black people, and support immigrant rights.

Large majorities of Americans want to live in a diverse, pluralistic society where everyone is free to pursue happiness and live in peace.

I wrote this column from the perspective of a queer person, but my Lebanese-American doctor friend could have written something similar from his immigrant perspective. My writer friend Allison Gaines could have written from the perspective of a Black woman.

We share a common fear: that politically and religiously conservative white men are working as hard as they can to sow fear of the Other for personal power and privilege. Men like Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and many more are plying the demagogue’s trade.

Leaders are spouting hate, seeking to establish or maintain minority rule, and historians are warning President Biden that they may very well succeed.

Chuck Johnson, J.P. Singh, Chad Sanford, Jacob Metcalf, Christian Peacock, and a score of nurses and doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital already know. They’ve been the targets of extreme violence in the past few weeks, directed by people using hatred of the Other to prop up their own privilege and power.

I opened this article by writing about the historians who told President Biden that we’re at a place we haven’t been since the 1860s. In the same meeting, they made a more frightening comparison.

They warned the president we’re at a very similar place to where Germany found itself in the 1930s when a demagogue took power by demonizing the Jews. They say a war like the one that destroyed Europe could repeat itself soon, only with the U.S. in the driver’s seat.

We worry the rest of you don’t see and hear the hatred directed against us. We worry that you’re too complacent. We don’t think you appreciate the gravity of the crisis facing our nation. We fear apathy will let the the Republican Party seize Congress and state governments this November, unleashing a process that could cement minority rule for generations.

Extremists in the Republican Party are already quietly taking over state election offices, something the Washington Post warned about last November.

Will Democratic voter turnout this November be overwhelming? Will it be enough to stop the assault on our teetering Democracy?

Only you can help make that happen. Will you?

(The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.)

James Finn is a columnist for the Los Angeles Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, and alumnus of Queer Nation and ACT UP. Reach him at [email protected].

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Celebrity News

Anne Heche dies after removal from life support

Actress dated Ellen DeGeneres in late 1990s

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(Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

Actress Anne Heche died after she was removed from life support on Sunday, nearly two weeks after her Mini-Cooper crashed through a two-story house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood. Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department believe she was intoxicated at the time.

She sustained a severe anoxic brain injury along with severe burns and was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, near Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

The 53-year-old actress who was a star of films like “Donnie Brasco,” the political satire “Wag the Dog” and the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” had been declared legally dead under California law on Friday, however, her family kept her alive long enough to be an organ donor.

In a statement Friday, the LAPD announced that: “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made in this case. Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case. When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.” LAPD detectives had previously made public that investigators into the crash found narcotics in a blood sample taken from Heche.

The actress’s family released a statement on Friday:

“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact,” the statement added.

Heche was married to camera operator Coleman Laffoon from 2001 to 2009. The two had a son, Homer, together. She had another son, named Atlas, during a relationship with actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”

Laffoon left a moving tribute on an Instagram reel in which he also gave an update on how their 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon is coping with the loss of his mother.

“I loved her and I miss her, and I’m always going to,” he said adding: “Homer is okay. He’s grieving, of course, and it’s rough. It’s really rough, as probably anybody can imagine. But he’s surrounded by family and he’s strong, and he’s gonna be okay.”

“Rest In Peace, Mom, I love you, Homer,” the actor’s 20-year-old son, Homer, said in a statement after Heche was declared legally dead on Friday.“ My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” read the statement. “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you, Homer.”

Tupper, a Canadian actor who starred alongside Heche in “Men in Trees,” had a 13-year-old son, Atlas, with her. “Love you forever,” Tupper, 57, wrote on his Instagram post’s caption with a broken heart emoji, which shared an image of the actress from Men in Trees.

Between 1997 and 2000, Heche was also in a relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“This is a sad day,” DeGeneres posted on Twitter. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.” The year after her break-up with the comedian, in September 2001, Heche recounted in her memoir “Call Me Crazy,” about her lifelong struggles with mental health and a childhood of abuse.

KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin noted that over the past two decades, Heche’s career pivoted several times. In 2017, she hosted a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Jason Ellis called “Love and Heche.”

In 2020, Heche made her way into the podcast world. She launched “Better Together” which she cohosted alongside Heather Duffy Boylston. The show was described as a way to celebrate friendship. 

She also worked in smaller films, on Broadway, and on TV shows. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago P.D.,” and “All Rise” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

People magazine reported that several of Heche’s acting projects are expected to be released posthumously.

These include “Girl in Room 13,” expected to be released on Lifetime in September, “What Remains,” scheduled to be released in 2023, and HBO Max TV series “The Idol,” created by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

In her Instagram post from earlier this year Heche stands between her sons Atlas, 13 and Homer, 20.

From KTLA:

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Celebrity News

‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

George Takei tweets ‘we lived long and prospered together’

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(Screenshot/YouTube The Smithsonian Channel)

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke barriers in a time of societal upheaval and battling for the civil rights of Black Americans. An actress, a mother and thoroughly devoted to the legions of fans of “Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died at 89.

The announcement on her Facebook page by her son read:

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Ill., in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She later turned to acting, and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Out actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the original series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in that role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke barriers between races, most famously her onscreen kiss, the first between a Black person and a white person, with castmate William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, but she also became a role model for young Black women and men inspiring them to seek out their own places in science, technology, and other human endeavors.

In numerous interviews over the years Nichols often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.

When the first series ended Nichols went on to become a spokesperson for NASA, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts.” She later reprised her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans especially in the areas of science and technology.

Formerly a NASA deputy administrator, Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an advertisement in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he recounted. The U.S. Air Force pilot would apply and later become the first African American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in Sunday afternoon on her passing in a statement issued by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.
 
A daughter of a working-class family from Illinois, she first honed her craft as an actor and singer in Chicago before touring the country and the world performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and giving life to the words of James Baldwin.
 
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.
 
Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.

Nichols son said that services will be private for family members and her closest friends.

In 2008 the actress at a news conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the motion picture “TRU LOVED,” in honor of the more than 900 students at Los Angeles’ Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s School of Social Justice who participated in the GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols speaks on LGBTQ rights:

Her fellow castmate and life long friend, openly Out actor George Takei shared his sadness on hearing of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1966. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.”

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s Radical Impact:

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