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Madre de Sergio Urrego lucha contra el bullying en Colombia

Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas se convirtió en una activista vocal

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Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas en Bogotá, Colombia, el 24 de septiembre de 2018. Su hijo, Sergio Urrego, se suicidó en 2014 después de ser víctima del bullying homofóbico por parte de la administración de su colegio en la capital colombiana. (Foto del Washington Blade por Michael K. Lavers)

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas está bien orgullosa cuando habla de su hijo, Sergio Urrego.

Ella dijo al Washington Blade el 24 de septiembre durante una entrevista en la capital colombiana de Bogotá que le gustaba la opera desde era “bien joven” y leyó su primer libro, “Historias sin fin,” cuando tenía seis años. Reyes dijo que su hijo era ateo y le gustaba el arte y las políticas.

Urrego también era miembro de un grupo de estudiantes anarquistas.

“Tengo muchas cosas que contarte,” dijo Reyes. “Para todas las mamás, nuestros hijos son muy especiales, pero Sergio si es desde era una personita si se interesaba por las cosas que son eran más de su edad.”

Urrego tenía 16 años cuando se suicidó el 4 de agosto de 2014.

Administradores y un psicólogo al colegio católico de Urrego en Bogotá lo atacaron después de que un maestro vio una foto de él besando a su novio en su móvil.

Los padres del novio de Urrego le acusaron de abusar sexualmente a su hijo. Urrego debía haber comenzado a asistir otro colegio el día después de su suicidio.

La muerte del hijo ‘fue algo angustiaste’

Reyes estaba en la ciudad colombiana de Cali cuando supo por primera vez que algo andaba mal con su hijo.

Ella regresó a Bogotá y llegó a su hogar alrededor de las 9:30 p.m. Reyes dijo entre lágrimas que la primera cosa que encontró era una nota con “letra muy grande” de su hijo.

Reyes dijo que al principio pensó que se lo había dejado a su madre, pero fue por ella. Reyes dijo al Blade que su hijo escribió, “Yo no podía ir al colegio porque se me presento un problema.”

“Cuando yo vi esta nota, yo dije algo pasó,” ella dijo.

Reyes dijo que luego fue al dormitorio de su hijo y encontró libros en su cama y una nota que le pedía que se los diera a sus mejores amigos. Reyes también encontró otras notas que su hijo había escrito antes de su suicidio.

“Fue algo angustiaste,” ella dijo. “Fue doloroso.”

Ley colombiana ahora prohíbe discriminación homofóbica en escuelas

La muerte de Urrego provocó indignación entre los activistas LGBTI en Colombia.

Reyes el 11 de septiembre de 2014 presentó una tutela contra del colegio de Urrego.

Un tribunal en Bogotá, unas semanas después, falló que Urrego había sido víctima de discriminación, pero Reyes no recibió ningún daño y el fallo no ordenó al Ministerio de Educación de Colombia que revisará las políticas del colegio.

Reyes apeló el fallo ante el Consejo de Estado, que considera las apelaciones de los tribunales administrativos. El entonces Procurador Alejandro Ordóñez — un oponente vocal de los derechos LGBTI que el presidente Iván Duque el pasado mes nombró como el nuevo embajador colombiana ante la Organización de Estados Unidos — falló en contra de Reyes basándose en que las escuelas tenían el derecho de prohibir “los besos y los abrazos.”

La rectora del colegio, Amanda Azucena Castillo, renunció el 10 de octubre de 2014. La Corte Constitucional de Colombia el 21 de agosto de 2015 revocó la decisión del Consejo de Estado y falló a favor de Reyes el 11 de diciembre de 2015.

Escuelas en Colombia no pueden discriminar en contra de sus estudiantes por razón de su orientación sexual. Una enmienda a la ley de no discriminación que incluye el nombre de Urrego también requiere que las escuelas colombianas actualicen sus políticas para garantizar que no sean discriminatorias contra la comunidad LGBTI.

‘Siempre me acompaña’

Reyes desde la muerte de su hijo se ha convertido en una activista vocal contra el bullying.

Ella estaba entre los 31 activistas LGBTI desde todo el mundo que asistió una cumbre del Human Rights Campaign que se realizó en Washington en abril.

Reyes en mayo viajó a Cuba para participar en eventos del Día Internacional contra la Homofobia, la Transfobia y la Bifobia que fueron organizados por el Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX). Mariela Castro, la directora del CENESEX que es la hija del expresidente cubano Raúl Castro, invitó a Reyes de participar en un taller a la sede del CENESEX en La Habana.

Reyes este año lanzó oficialmente la Fundación Sergio Urrego, que busca poner el fin a la discriminación en las escuelas colombianas y evitar el suicidio entre ellos que sufren la discriminación.

El dijo al Blade que el suicidio es la segunda causa de muerte en “nuestros jóvenes.” Reyes también notó estadísticas que indican 192 personas entre las edades de 15 y 24 en Bogotá se suicidaron este año.

“Es algo que aquí no se toca,” ella dijo. “No hay una institución que se brindando atención inmediatamente a los niños que están en crisis.”

La fundación ha respondido a casi 70 casos. También tiene talleres para niños y padres en empresas y en otros lugares por el país.

“Mi propósito es evitar que casos como los de Sergio de se sucede,” dijo Reyes.

Reyes en julio habló a un concierto en la Plaza Bolívar de Bogotá durante las celebraciones del Orgullo de la ciudad. Se terminó el 25 de septiembre una campaña de los medios sociales de la fundación con el hashtag “Celebro soy yo” que buscaba dar recursos y seguridad para aquellos que sufren discriminación.

“Esa campaña me da fuerza para continuar, para seguir,” dijo Reyes. “Ese tipo de campaña se ayudan. Ese tipo de campaña llegan al corazón de la gente.”

Alba Reyes participa en una marcha del Orgullo en Bogotá, Colombia, el 1 de julio de 2018. (Foto cortesía de Fundación Sergio Urrego.)

Reyes terminó la entrevista por decir que su hijo sería orgulloso de ella y del trabajo que hace en su nombre.

“Sea un angelito,” ella dijo. “Siempre me acompaña.”

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Sheila Alexander-Reid to step down as director of D.C. LGBTQ Affairs Office

Veteran community activist to take new job workplace bias consultant

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Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs, Sheila Alexander-Reid, gay news, Washington Blade

Longtime LGBTQ community advocate Sheila Alexander-Reid, who has served since 2015 as director of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Affairs, is stepping down from her city job in mid-July.

Alexander-Reid told the Washington Blade she will take a few weeks of accumulated leave beginning June 15 to recuperate from follow-up knee surgery before officially leaving her current job to take on a new role as a private sector consultant in the area of workplace bias and diversity training.

She said will announce the name of the private sector company she will be joining as a senior vice president when she begins her new job in mid-July.

Among her duties at the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office has been to lead the office’s staff in providing LGBTQ related diversity or competency training for D.C. government employees at all city agencies.

According to the office’s website, other activities it carries out include connecting LGBTQ residents with city services they may need, advocating on behalf of programs and policies that benefit the lives of LGBTQ residents, providing grants to community-based organizations that serve the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ homeless youth; and host events that “enrich, promote, and bring together” the LGBTQ community in D.C.

“That work is always going to be part of who I am,” Alexander-Reid said. “But now I will be expanding on that work to look at racial equity and gender bias as well as LGBTQ bias,” she said. “I feel like I will be doing the same work but in a different format.”

Prior to starting her job at the mayor’s office, Alexander Reid served as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Washington Blade, Director of Strategic Engagement at the Washington City Paper, and Founder and Executive Director of the D.C. based Women in the Life Association. She has also served as host of Inside Out, a local FM LGBTQ radio show.

Alexander-Reid noted that when she began work at the LGBTQ Affairs Office in late January 2015, less than a month after Bowser took office as mayor, the office consisted of two full-time employees, including her, with a budget of $209,000. In the current fiscal year 2021, the office now has four full-time employees and two additional detailed employees, from the Department of Health and Department of Human Services. The mayor is proposing a budget of $561,000 for the office for fiscal year 2022.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say what a pleasure it has been to work for Mayor Bowser,” said Alexander-Reid. “I was excited to work for her and I don’t regret it for one second. “It’s been an amazing journey and I appreciate her having faith in me.”

She said she expects an interim director to be named to run the office in mid-July while a search is conducted for a permanent director.

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Attack on trans woman in D.C. laundromat captured in video

Police seek help from community in identifying suspects.

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(Screen capture via the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's YouTube channel)

D.C. police on Thursday night released a dramatic video taken from a surveillance camera showing two women and a man repeatedly punching and shoving a transgender woman at a laundromat on Benning Road in Northeast Washington in an incident in which the victim was stabbed in the head.

Police, who have listed the Sunday, June 6, incident as a suspected anti-LGBTQ hate crime, are appealing to the community for help in identifying the three suspects, who are shown in the video attacking the trans woman before escaping in a black SUV while carrying laundry bags.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Sixth District obtained the video from a surveillance camera at the Capital Laundry Mat at 1653 Benning Road, N.E., according to a police report and a police statement released Thursday night.

The video shows that the suspects were accompanied by two young children. It shows one of the adult female suspects appearing to be dancing by herself in front of a row of washing machines seconds before the three suspects lunged at the victim and began punching her.

“One of the suspects brandished a knife and stabbed the victim,” the police statement says. “The suspects fled the scene in a vehicle. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries,” the statement says.

“Anyone who can identify these individuals, or vehicle, or has knowledge of this incident should take no action but call police at 202-727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411,” the statement adds. It says the department’s Crime Solvers program offers a reward of up to $1,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and indictment of a person or persons responsible for a crime committed in D.C.

Police spokesperson Alaina Gertz told the Washington Blade that because the investigation is ongoing, police could not immediately disclose whether they know if the victim knew one or more of the attackers before the incident took place or what, if anything, prompted the suspects to attack the victim other than due to her status as a transgender person.

The video released by D.C. police can be accessed here:  https://youtu.be/7v8lthvUPcg

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North Dakota lawmakers okay regulation banning Conversion Therapy

This rule change will stop the vast majority of mental health providers in North Dakota from subjecting LGBTQ youth to conversion therapy

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Capitol Building of North Dakota in Bismarck (Photo Credit: State of North Dakota)

BISMARCK, ND. – The North Dakota House Administrative Rules Committee voted 8-7 on Tuesday, June 8, to authorize the rule proposed by the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners, implementing new regulations prohibiting licensed social workers from subjecting LGBTQ youth to the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy.

The North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners, which oversees licensing for social workers in the state, created the new rule which states that “it is an ethical violation for a social worker licensed by the board to engage in any practices or treatments that attempt to change or repair the sexual orientation or gender identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning individuals.”

The West Hollywood based Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people, had worked with Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Josh Boschee, the National Association of Social Workers ND Chapter, the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, and local advocates like Elizabeth Loos to advance these critical protections for LGBTQ youth.

 “This rule change will stop the vast majority of mental health providers in North Dakota from subjecting LGBTQ youth to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy. This practice is not therapy at all— it’s abusive and fraudulent,” said Troy Stevenson, Senior Advocacy Campaign Manager for The Trevor Project. “There is still more work to be done in North Dakota, but this bold action will help save young lives. The Trevor Project is committed to an every state strategy to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy and North Dakota has proven that progress is possible anywhere.”

“Thank you to the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners for restricting licensed social workers in North Dakota from being able to practice conversion therapy! LGBT North Dakotans, especially youth, are safer now as you hold licensees responsible to the NASW Code of Ethics,” said Minority Leader Boschee. 

The proposed ban on therapist-administered conversion therapy in North Dakota was met with opposition by several of the committee’s most socially conservative members, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, told the paper that he worries the new prohibition is limiting because it would prevent people seeking “some kind of treatment” from getting help. Bell said the rule is written so clients who are LGBT or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity are not inhibited from seeking care.

Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown, said he’s concerned the rule would interfere with religious counseling, adding “there are some cases where people want to change.”

“There are licensed counselors that are also Christians, and basically my concern in all of this is that we’re telling the Christian counselors ‘you can be a licensed counselor, but you can’t practice your Christianity,'” Satrom said.

Satrom and West Fargo Republican Rep. Kim Koppelman said approving the social workers’ ban on conversion therapy is outside of the committee’s scope and ought to be scrutinized by the full Legislature.

Boschee, the North Dakota Legislature’s only openly gay member, told the Grand Forks Herald that he was disappointed in some of his colleagues for standing behind the “harmful” practice of conversion therapy and trying to muddy the conversation over what is a simple self-imposed rule for social workers. The Fargo Democrat said he was ultimately pleased that seven lawmakers joined him in upholding the proposed ban.

Research: 

  • According to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 13% of LGBTQ youth reported being subjected to conversion therapy, with 83% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18. LGBTQ youth who were subjected to conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not.
  • According to a peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project published in the American Journal of Public Health, LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year.
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