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D.C., Rehoboth officials misgender trans women

Sgt. Hawkins among those told to use men’s facilities

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Jessica Hawkins, gay news, Washington Blade
Jessica Hawkins, gay news, Washington Blade, misgender trans women

Sgt. Jessica Hawkins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In separate incidents that activists say they hope were rare occurrences, city government employees in D.C. and Rehoboth Beach, Del., during the past week directed transgender women to use the men’s bathroom or locker room at a public facility.

In the D.C. case, an employee of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation told several trans women entering the city’s Banneker Pool on Georgia Avenue, N.W., on July 1 that they needed to access the pool through the men’s locker room, according to an account of the incident by the local online news blog dcist.

Among the trans women asked to use the men’s locker room, dcist reported, was D.C. police Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, who serves as supervisor for the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit. Rebecca Kling, an official with the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the trans people came to the pool to participate in the second annual D.C. Trans Pool Party that Kling organized.

Kling said she didn’t directly witness a female desk clerk at the pool asking the trans women to use the men’s locker room and who reportedly addressed Sgt. Hawkins as “sir.” But Kling said she spoke to several people who informed her of that taking place.

Kling noted that once she brought the matter to the attention of the manager of the Banneker Pool he immediately assigned another employee to the front desk and that employee treated the trans visitors with respect and had no objections to their using the locker room that matched their gender identity – the women’s locker room.

Kling and transgender advocate Ruby Corado also noted that the “misgendering” by the pool employee of the trans women marked the second year in a row in which attendees of the annual Trans Pool Party were treated improperly by a DPR employee assigned to work at the Banneker Pool.

DPR officials responded to last year’s incident by promising to provide additional training for all DPR employees on LGBT-related issues, including the fact that the D.C. Human Rights Act bans discrimination against LGBT people. The Human Rights Act, among other things, requires that transgender people be allowed to use public bathrooms or other facilities, including locker rooms, that match their gender identity.

“As far as trans persons being mistreated, as far as I could see once everyone got into the pool everyone had a great time and everyone was treated appropriately,” Kling told the Blade in discussing this year’s Trans Pool Party on July 1.

“We take all concerns seriously and we address them immediately,” DPR spokesperson Gwen Crump said in a statement. “DPR has and will continue to train employees regarding sensitivity to LGBTQ guests,” she said, adding, “[W]e want every DPR facility to be a welcoming experience for all guests.”

In the Rehoboth Beach incident, Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks told the Blade a female transgender visitor called police in the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, to report being mistreated by a city attendant working at one of the public bathrooms located next to a bandstand near the boardwalk.

Similar to the D.C. pool incident, Banks said the trans visitor complained to police officers who arrived on the scene that the attendant directed her to use the men’s bathroom instead of the women’s bathroom, a development that violates Delaware’s human rights law. The Delaware human rights law, similar to D.C.’s law, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and allows trans people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Steve Elkins, president of CAMP Rehoboth, an LGBT community center, said Banks invited him to attend a meeting on Monday with him, the Rehoboth city manager, and other city officials to discuss the bathroom incident. Among other things, Elkins said City Manager Sharon Lynn, who’s a lesbian, said she would arrange for city employees to be briefed on the state human rights law and its application to issues affecting transgender people.

“The police acted appropriately in the way they handled this,” Elkins said. “The bathroom attendant is being counseled.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Chloe Alexa

    July 13, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    This is the home of the United States government, and where the Constitution of these United States should be respected, along with the Bill Of Rights it contains. Here with our country coming to it’s 241st year this July. It’s sad that even today people are ignorant of what it states, and gives no thought, of what it promised to all of US. The simple phrase that “All Men are Created Equal.” [Women also] It was basically said after the Civil War, to Protect the African Americans. How about now, it’s time to protect Transgender people as well as the Afro Americans that are still oppressed. We are supposed to be protected, and now we have a GOP pushing Theocracy on all US Citizens, and denying rights to Trans people. DC should be following the Constitution and not GOP leaders.

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Virginia

Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

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

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Equality Virginia announces new executive director

Narissa Rahaman will succeed Vee Lamneck

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Narissa Rahaman (Photo courtesy of Equality Virginia)

Equality Virginia on Saturday announced Narissa Rahaman will be the organization’s new executive director.

Rahaman, who was previously the Human Rights Campaign’s Associate Regional Campaign Director, will succeed outgoing Executive Director Vee Lamneck on Feb. 2. Rahaman was born in Barbados and raised in Florida.

“Narissa also has 10+ years of experience in long-term strategic planning, multi-state organizing efforts, coalition management, and staff development, which make her an exceptional individual for the role of executive director,” said Equality Virginia in its announcement. “We are confident that under her leadership, the organization’s success and impact will continue to flourish as will our commitment to racial justice.”

Equality Virginia announced Rahaman will succeed Lamneck on the same day that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office amid concerns he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia.

Equality Virginia’s annual lobby day will take place virtually on Jan. 25. The organization’s annual Commonwealth Dinner is scheduled to take place in Richmond on March 26.

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