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DOJ report spurs police LGBT Advisory Council

Trans woman shares account of harassment



LGBT Advisory Council, gay news, Washington Blade

The Baltimore Police Commissioner’s LGBT Advisory Council met on Aug. 31.

“In 2013, I was sitting on the steps on the 2000 block of Maryland Avenue drinking lemonade. A Baltimore police officer asked me where I lived and asked for ID, which wasn’t with me at the time. She said that if I were lying she’d take me in. She then asked my name and if it was an alias. I asked the officer questions but she wouldn’t answer. The officer said that she was going to ride around the block and if I was still there, she’d take me in.”

Monica Yorkman, a black transgender woman and activist, has told this story and others many times before. The point of this account is that the police assume if you are a trans woman of color, then you must be a prostitute.

This lack of respect toward transgender individuals and the way police interact with this group was echoed in the Department of Justice report issued last month that criticized the tactics of the Baltimore Police Department.

Yorkman, 62, related this incident to members of the Baltimore Police Commissioner’s LGBT Advisory Council on Aug. 31 during a community listening session at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse in Baltimore’s Station North neighborhood. The meeting was inspired by the findings in the DOJ report with the main goal for community members to speak directly to the Council regarding their concerns and ideas for improvement.

Co-chaired by Mark J. McLaurin and Laura DePalma, the Council posted on its new Facebook page announcing the meeting, “We will use information gathered from the community to better prepare the Commissioner and command staff to be responsive to the needs of the LGBTQ community.”

Within a week of the report’s release and prior to the listening session, the Council held an emergency meeting to discuss “how to use the findings of the report to enact systemic and cultural change within BPD. Of particular concern to all members were the specific findings with regards to intolerable policing practices and manifest insensitivity directed towards members of Baltimore’s transgender and gender non-conforming community.”

About 20 attended the listening session including members of the council and community with several, in addition to Yorkman, sharing personal stories describing encounters with BPD that indicated alleged police desires to exercise power and control.    

The session, facilitated by associate professor of law Odeanna R. Neal of the University of Baltimore, was a far-ranging discussion that covered such topics as the impending consent decree being worked on by DOJ lawyers and Baltimore to bring about police reforms, potential obstacles by the Fraternal Order of Police, the composition of the civilian review board, building coalitions with other organizations and leveraging lawmakers in Annapolis to exempt Baltimore City from statewide police policies.

The Advisory Council was formed in June 2013 under then-Commissioner Anthony W. Batts. Though the Council met regularly, information stemming from those meetings was scarce.  The revamped Council, spurred on by the DOJ report, intends to play a more active, transparent role in helping to bring about change.

The commissioner appears to be a willing partner.

“Kevin Davis wants to work with the community,” said Shane Bagwell, a member of the Council and a representative of the State’s Attorney’s Office. Others on the Council agreed.   

Besides McLaurin, DePalma (FreeState Justice) and Bagwell, the Council currently consists of the following: Lamont Bryant and Gabrielle Mnkande (Star Track at UMD), Sgt. Kevin Bailey (BPD LGBT Liaison), Merrick Moise (State’s Attorney’s Office), Vann Michael Millhouse (Baltimore Trans-Masculine Alliance), and Carlton Smith (Center for Black Equity).

A town hall meeting will be set up with Commissioner Davis and appropriate command staff in the near future. It will afford an opportunity for community members to speak to leadership on what must be done moving forward to mend the department’s relationship with the community.



Prince George’s County library system launches banned book club

First discussion to take place in Hyattsville on June 14



(Bigstock photo)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has launched its Rock Banned Book Club.

The club will feature monthly discussions of the 13 top banned books from 2022, most of which focus on LGBTQ-specific themes. 

The club’s first discussion, which will take place at the Hyattsville Branch Library on June 14, will be on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. 

Kobabe’s memoir won the 2020 American Library Association Alex Award and recounts Kobabe’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality through adolescence and adulthood. According to the American Library Association, the book faced the most censorship challenges of any novel at 151.

“We’re seeing nationally the highest rate of challenges to books in libraries since the data has been collected by the American Library Association,” Nicholas Brown, acting co-chief executive officer of the library, said. “I think what happens with all of the discourse around book banning is that, oftentimes, not everyone participating in that discourse is actually taking the time to read the full works and discuss them and understand where the author might be coming from and whose stories are being reflected in these books.”

Along with the book club, the library system is hosting a Pride celebration at the Hyattsville branch on Saturday from 12 – 4 p.m. It will feature a panel discussion, vogue and runway workshops, free HIV testing and more. 

The library system will host its second annual Rainbow Festival on June 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bowie Branch Library with family-friendly events like craft stations, story time and a live DJ. In April, the library system won a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council for its banned books campaign.

“I think a lot of folks don’t always realize that your local public library is kind of the front line of democracy and we always have been,” Brown said. “Public libraries across the country are very united on this and if the right to read continues to be under threat like it’s been, it is not a good time for the state of our democracy.”

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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