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GOP congressman urges: ‘Don’t be an asshole, don’t be a homophobe’

Rep. Hurd addresses Log Cabin Pride event

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Will Hurd, gay news, Washington Blade
‘Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe,’ said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas). (Photo public domain)

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), the only African-American Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, praised the LGBT GOP group Log Cabin Republicans and its work on behalf of LGBT rights at a June 20 Pride Social gathering organized by Log Cabin Republicans of D.C.

Close to 70 people turned out for the gathering at the Chastleton Apartments ballroom on 16th Street, N.W., which Log Cabin D.C. billed as a bipartisan event. Among those attending were many LGBT Democrats and D.C. elected officials, including Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and D.C. Board of Education President Ruth Wattenberg.

“It’s a pleasure to be with you all today because you all know something that many of my colleagues don’t,” Hurd told the gathering. “If you’re at least the age of 40 in most places across this country you have to whisper that you’re a Republican,” he said. “This is a party that is shrinking. The party is not growing in some of the largest parts of our country,” he continued.

“Why is that? I’ll tell you. It’s real simple,” said Hurd. “Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe. These are real basic things that we all should learn when we were in kindergarten.”

Hurd’s district in Southern Texas includes more than a third of the U.S.-Mexico border. He has broken from many of his fellow Republicans by expressing strong opposition to President Trump’s controversial proposal to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

He is also one of just eight Republicans in the House that voted earlier this year for the LGBT civil rights bill known as the Equality Act, which the House passed but is stalled in the Senate.

Hurd told the Log Cabin gathering that he has a quick reply to those in his majority Latino district in Texas and in Washington who ask him how he came to support LGBT rights.

“People would ask me and I would say, look, are you asking the only black Republican to support not being pro-equality?” Hurd said. “And most people never have a follow-up question to that.”

Added Hurd: “And you all have been toiling and fighting for a very long time. You all have had a difficult fight not only in our country but in our party. And so I just thank you for sticking to it. Thank you for caring about our principles. Thank you for being an example for so many other people.”

Log Cabin D.C. President Adam Savit and the group’s vice president, Patrick Wheat, said they believe the event, in which attendees mingled before and after Hurd spoke, succeeded in furthering a campaign started earlier this year by gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler to build a bipartisan effort to advance the rights of LGBT people. Kuntzler was among those who attended the event.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Wheat said. “I’m extremely excited to have as many representatives from both the LGBT community and the D.C. elected officials,” he told the Blade. “We are in a unique place as the District of Columbia Log Cabin Republicans to serve as a conservative voice in LGBT spaces and as an LGBT voice in conservative spaces.”

Among the others attending the event were Jerri Ann Henry, executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans; Robert Kabel, chair of the board of the national Log Cabin group; Bobbi Elaine Strang, president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; Jose Cunningham, the gay chair of the D.C. Republican Party; and James Abbott, a member of the U.S. Federal Labor Relations Board.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.)

Remarks before Log Cabin Republicans of D.C. Pride Social

June 20, 2019

Chastleton Apartments Ballroom

Washington, D.C.

First of all, thanks for not un-inviting me. I don’t know if you all heard, I got invited to a cyber security event and was quickly disinvited after they saw my positions.

It’s a pleasure to be with you all today because you all know something that many of my colleagues don’t. If you’re at the age of 40 in most places across this country you have to whisper that you’re a Republican. This is a party that is shrinking. The party is not growing in some of the largest growing parts of our country.

Why is that? I’ll tell you. It’s real simple. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe. These are real basic things that we all should learn when we were in kindergarten. But unfortunately there’s too many people that don’t follow those things.

A lot of people when I first got elected – it was like how did the black dude get elected in a Latino district? It’s real simple. Show up, talk to people, right? I don’t care where you’re from. Most people realize the way we solve problems is by the power of the people not by the power of the government.

Most people know that the way to help people move up the economic ladder is by focusing on the free market. It’s not socialism. We know these things. But if people don’t feel like you trust them or you care about them they’re not going to listen to your ideas even if your ideas are benefiting the masses.

So that’s something that I’m trying to do. You know it’s unfortunate that I was only one of eight Republicans that voted for the Equality Act. I had a real – this guy is taking a lot of notes. Do we have the press here?

DC LCR Vice President Patrick Wheat: He’s with the Washington Blade.

Hurd: Ok, good…Be kind. That’s all I’m asking. People would ask me and I would say, look, are you asking the only black Republican to support not being pro-equality, right? And most people never have a follow up question to that. But the bottom line is this. We are facing – 2020 is going to be difficult. But the only way we make sure the principles and theories that we believe in are to continue to exist is if our party starts believing like the rest of the country.

And you all have been toiling and fighting for a very long time. You all have had a difficult fight not only in our country but in our party. And so I just say thank you for sticking to it. Thank you for caring about our principles. Thank you for being an example for so many other people.

And just know you’ve got some partners to fight on behalf of everyone. This is something that I’m going to continue to do while I’m in Congress, and God bless you all…And one minute, please. Can I tell a quick story? I’ll make it short.

So you also know that I was in the CIA for nine and a half years. I was doing the back allies at four O’clock in the morning collecting intelligence to protect our homeland – two years in India, two years Pakistan, two years in New York City, and a year and a half in Afghanistan.

And when I was in Pakistan it was in 2005 during an earthquake. I was there when an earthquake hit Cashmere that killed 80,000 people. The ambassador at the time wanted to figure out how we can help the Pakistani people. He said hurry up and get there and figure out what we need and he said we really need an airlift because Cashmere was at 14,000 feet. A lot of villages were even higher up. They were cut off from most of the country.

So we got about two dozen Chinook helicopters – C 47 helicopters. And I was directing this traffic to help people from these villages that were cut off. And I was about to jump on one of these helicopters to go to my bed down location and we had a report that one village had gone without food and water and power for about four days. And it was in the middle of the winter. At night it was negative 23 degrees below zero. It was a legitimate 20 degrees below zero.

So we decided to make one more stop. So we land in this village, big main doors open. And if you’ve ever seen a helicopter crew, they look like they’re from outer space. You know the flap mask, all this kind of stuff. And these villagers start piling on – about 200 people. And there is a little girl who had been without food and who was about six or seven years old – lost both her mom and her dad in the earthquake. She sees this whole scene. She’s crying. She’s scared, she’s upset.

And this village elder picks her up. So I grab this little girl and hold her as tight as I possibly can. And halfway through the flight she kind of calms down and relaxes a little bit. When we get to our destination we open the big doors in the helicopter. I put the little girl down. She takes about ten steps, turns around, comes back and gives me the biggest hug of my life. She goes over to the helicopter crew and the person she probably thought was from outer space and she kisses him on the hand. And he pats her on the head and gives her the thumbs up. She smiles real big and returns the gesture. And she runs away.

That little girl’s face is seared into my mind because that girl and what we did that day is an example of how the United States government is the only country that has the resources and the willingness to help people even when they’re 7,000 mile away. It’s another example how America has become the exceptional country, not because of what we have taken but because what we have given.

And we can measure our success on what we give, not what we take. And that’s something I’m going to continue to try to do in Congress. I’m glad there’s folks like you all that are willing to join this battle as well. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “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.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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