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Three transgender people allege abuse at Miami jail

Mayor asked to reach settlement, enact reforms

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Three transgender people allege they suffered abuse at a Miami jail last year after police arrested them during Black Lives Matter protests.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in a letter it sent to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on Wednesday notes Christian Pallidine, a college student who identifies as a trans man, was attending a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Miami on May 31, 2020, when Miami-Dade police officers arrested him and charged him with violating a county-wide curfew.

Pallidine arrived at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center a short time later, and the letter notes personnel abused him because of his gender identity.

“The staff at TGK subjected Mr. Pallidine to degrading and outrageous treatment because he is transgender,” it reads. “TGK staff forced him to strip and display his genitals in front of a group of officers — part of a series of invasive, pseudo-medical, sexualized procedures conducted on him for no legitimate purpose. TGK staff also belittled Mr. Pallidine, publicized his transgender status to others, asked gratuitous questions about his anatomy, and called him derogatory names.”

The letter, among other things, notes Pallidine underwent an examination that “focused solely on his transgender status” and it “took place in a public area where others could easily see and hear him and the person questioning him.” The letter says the officer who conducted the exam asked him “multiple questions about his genitals and plans for future medical care, such as, ‘Do you want a penis in the future?'”

Pallidine alleges he was forced to take a pregnancy test “because of his genitals” and officers mocked him because of his gender identity. Pallidine also says officers forced him to undergo a strip search and placed him in solidary confinement before his release.

Jae Bucci and Gabriela Amaya Cruz on July 19, 2020, attended a rally and march for Black trans women in downtown Miami. Miami-Dade police officers brought them to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center after they arrested them.

Bucci, who is a teacher and makeup artist, on Wednesday during a virtual press conference that TLDEF, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Harvard LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic organized, said the gender marker on her ID is female and the Miami-Dade Police Department processed her as such. Bucci noted Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center personnel also processed her as female, but she said an officer told her, “Aha, I knew it. That’s what I was looking for” after she disclosed her gender identity.

Bucci said her friends were not able to find her because officers had reclassified her as male. Bucci told reporters that officers placed her with male prisoners and, like Pallidine, forced her to undergo an “illegal strip search in front of several officers.”

“They tugged at my piercings, drawing blood, and forcibly tried to remove my hair, assuming it to be a wig,” said Bucci.

“They forced me to sit with men … I was put in danger,” she added. “I needed protection. I asked to be seated with other women, but the guards were only hyper-focused on my genitals, repeatedly calling me a man.”

Bucci said she was later placed in solitary confinement “for hours with no contact, food, water, leading to a panic attack where I began to self-harm and contemplate suicide.” Bucci said officers also forced her to wear men’s clothing “with my breasts clearly visible.”

Jae Bucci (Photo by Emely Virta)

Amaya Cruz — a barista, artist and activist — said she suffered many of the same abuses that Bucci and Pallidine described once she arrived at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.

Amaya Cruz told reporters the officers did not know whether to place her with female or male inmates once she disclosed her gender identity to them.

She said officers forced her to remove her wig before they took her mugshot.

Amaya Cruz said she objected to male officers patting her down, and they told a female colleague that “he’s saying he’s a woman, but he’s a man. He has a dick still.”

Amaya Cruz said the female officer did her pat down and allowed her to fill out paperwork in which she disclosed her gender identity. Amaya Cruz said the officer allowed her to sit with other female inmates.

Amaya Cruz was born with ectrodactyly, a rare genetic disorder that limits finger movement, but she was subject to “excessive force” during the pat down and when guards took her fingerprints.

Amaya Cruz said the female officer who did her pat-down told her to change into a pair of basketball shorts and a white t-shirt before her release.

“I was so uncomfortable and I just complied because my only reaction was I don’t want to be here any longer,” said Amaya Cruz. “At that point I felt uncomfortable, humiliated, my gender was being yelled out the entire night. My gender identity was not being taken seriously in any way.”

Gabriela Amaya Cruz (Photo by Sonya Revell/Southern Poverty Law Center)

TLDEF Staff Attorney Alejandra Caraballo told reporters the “health and safety of our clients were jeopardized by the willful and wanton treatment by the officers at TGK.”

“The current policies followed at TGK are woefully inadequate and are discriminatory on their face, which will inevitably lead towards the targeted harassment of trans people in custody,” added Caraballo.

Harvard LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic Founding Director Alexander Chen also took part in the press conference alongside Arianna Lint, chief executive officer of Arianna’s Center, an organization that serves trans women in South Florida. Tatiana Williams, co-founder and executive director of Transinclusive Group, which also works with trans people in South Florida, also participated.

“The change has to happen, as we all mentioned, structurally,” said Williams. “It has to happen at the top.”

Two men hold their fists in their air during an anti-police brutality protest in downtown Miami on June 1, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The letter to Levine Cava calls for her office to “reach a resolution” with Pallidine, Bucci and Amaya Cruz without litigation that specifically addresses several points:

1) “Policy and procedure updates to address the issues faced by our clients and other transgender community members.”

2) “Meaningful accountability measures for MDCR (Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department) staff that go well beyond what Internal Affairs currently provides.”

3) “Appropriate discipline for the MDCR staff involved in the inappropriate treatment of our clients.”

4) “Updates to county records concerning our clients and their gender.”

5) “Compensation to our clients as allowed by law; and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs as allowed by law.”

“We have achieved similar results working with officials elsewhere in the country, and are confident we can do the same here,” reads the letter.

Chen echoed this point during the press conference.

“We have every expectation that we will be able to come to an accord with the county that will both do justice to our plaintiffs and protect transgender people in the county going forward,” he said.

Lint, like Chen, noted Levine Cava championed LGBTQ rights when she was a member of the Miami-Dade County Commission until she succeeded now-Congressman Carlos Giménez last November.

“I am calling on Mayor Levine Cava to continue this support for the transgender community by taking steps to address the mistreatment of transgender individuals in Miami-Dade County jails,” said Lint. “Arianna’s Center is committed to working with Mayor Levine Cava to eradicate prejudice against the transgender community in our prisons, jails, detention centers and through the whole criminal justice system.”

Levine Cava’s office has not returned the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada

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(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)

 

Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Mixed reviews from transgender Republicans on Caitlyn Jenner’s run

Remarks on kids in sport a sore point among LGBTQ advocacy groups

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Caitlyn Jenner was quickly repudiated by LGBTQ advocates after she entered California’s recall election as a gubernatorial candidate — and her fellow transgender Republicans are mixed over whether or not to back her up.

Transgender Republicans are few in number, but some are in high-profile positions and have been working with their party to change its approach and drop its attacks on transgender people, whether it be in the military, public bathrooms, or school sports.

Jordan Evans, a Charlton, Mass.-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully last year ran to become a Massachusetts Republican State Committee Woman, told the Washington Blade she had high hopes for Jenner as a fellow transgender candidate, but they were quickly dashed after her campaign launched.

“My feelings changed quickly after Caitlyn made it clear that she was less interested in using this opportunity to present the Republican Party and conservative movements with an accessible and high-profile introduction to the trans community and simply wanted to be a trans woman who espoused the same destructive approaches that we just so happen to be seeing all over the country,” Evans said.

Evans said the high hopes she had were based on the transgender advocacy she said Jenner was doing behind the scenes and the potential for two prominent LGBTQ Republicans to run for governor in California. After all, Jenner may soon be joined in the race by Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence before becoming the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s failed re-election.

But Jenner’s approach to the gubernatorial recall in California, Evans said, is “putting trans youth at risk for a campaign that isn’t even transformative for Republicans during this volatile time.”

“Even her current messaging is superficial and does nothing to help dispel claims that she’s unqualified,” Evans said. “The only positive thing that I’ve seen come from this is conservative mainstream media using her correct pronouns, but that is not worth the damage that she’s inflicting.”

Much of the disappointment over Jenner’s campaign is the result of her essentially throwing transgender kids under the bus as part of her campaign at a time when state legislatures are advancing legislation against them, including the bills that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Jenner, declining to push back on these measures and assert transgender kids have a place in sports, instead essentially endorsed the bills shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“If you’re born as a biological boy, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ sports,” Jenner told TMZ, which asked her about the hot-button issue during a Sunday morning coffee run.

Jenner dug deeper into MAGA-world at the expense of solidarity with the transgender community. Last week, Jenner retweeted Jenna Ellis, who has a notoriously anti-LGBTQ background and was criticized just last year for refusing to use the personal pronouns of Rachel Levine, who’s now assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to win Senate confirmation.

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly last year, said via email Jenner “did much good for several years by educating millions of people around the world about transgender folks,” but won’t countenance the candidate’s remarks on transgender kids in sports.

“In regard to her current run for California governor, her recent comments regarding transgender youth playing sports are confusing,” Williams said. “Just last year, she said that she supported transgender female athletes. Caitlyn should consult with tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe or WNBA legend Candace Parker on the subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports, as they are very well versed on the matter.”

At a time when state legislatures are pushing through legislation targeting transgender youth, restricting their access to sports and transition-related care, Jenner’s refusal to repudiate those measures has become a focal point for opposition to her candidacy from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who say she’s “out of touch” (although none were supporting her even before she made those comments).

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates and public officials, has signaled it wants nothing to do with Jenner.

Sean Meloy, vice president of political programs for LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Jenner hasn’t applied for an endorsement from the Victory Fund “and she shouldn’t bother to.”

“Her opposition to full trans inclusion – particularly for trans kids in sports – makes her ineligible for the endorsement,” Meloy said. “There are many great trans candidates running this cycle who are champions for equality.”

To be sure, Jenner used her celebrity status as a former reality TV star and Olympic champion on behalf of transgender lobbyists, urging donations to groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and going to Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans on transgender issues. Jenner has also given money for transgender kids to attend college, giving transgender advocate Blossom Brown a check for $20,000 on “The Ellen Show” in 2015.

Blaire White, a transgender conservative and YouTube personality, drew on these examples of Jenner helping transgender youth in a video earlier this month and said the two once had dinner together, but wasn’t yet ready to make a endorsement.

“I will say that until she lays out all of her policy positions and until she’s more on record in long form really talking about what she wants to do for the state of California, I can’t say for sure I would vote for her and would not vote for her,” White concluded in the video. “What I can say is: I’m interested. And also, being under Gavin Newson’s governorship, I would literally vote for a triple-amputee frog over Gavin Newsom, so she already has that going for her.”

Jenner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment for this article on the repudiation of her campaign from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gina Roberts, who’s the first transgender Republican elected to public office in California and a member of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, said she’s neutral for the time being as an elected Republican Party leader, but nonetheless had good things to say about Jenner’s candidacy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of indicative of how cool the Republican Party in California is because nobody really cares or it makes any difference. I mean, I was the first elected GOP transgender person in California and I think we’re ready for No. 2.”

Asked whether Jenner’s comments about allowing transgender kids in sports was troubling, Roberts said that wasn’t the case because she has her own reservations.

“I have pretty much the same opinion because … there’s so many nuances in that,” Roberts said. “If somebody transitions after they’ve gone through puberty, there is a big difference, especially in high school. If they transition beforehand, it’s not a big deal.”

A gun enthusiast and supporter of gun owner’s rights, Roberts said she competes in women’s events in shooting sports, but there’s a difference because she doesn’t “really have any advantages all those young, small ladies can pull a lot faster than I do and shoot faster than I do.”

Roberts concluded she’ll personally make a decision about whom she’ll support in the California recall election after Grenell announces whether or not he’ll enter the race, but can’t say anything until the San Diego GOP Central Committee issues an endorsement.

“He’s a good friend of mine, too,” Roberts said. “I know both of them. I think they’d both be certainly better than Gavin Newsom, I have to stay neutral until the county party decides who they’re going to endorse. I will support somebody or another in the endorsement process, but I can’t publicly announce it.”

Although LGBTQ groups want nothing to do with her campaign, Jenner’s approach has garnered the attention of prominent conservatives, who are taking her seriously as a candidate. One of Jenner’s first interviews was on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Trump ally with considerable sway among his viewers. Hannity was able to find common ground with Jenner, including agreement on seeing California wildfires as a problem with forest management as opposed to climate change.

Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary in Trump’s final year in the White House and defended in the media his efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in court, signaled her openness to Jenner’s candidacy after the Hannity interview.

“I really enjoyed watching @Caitlyn_Jenner’s interview with @seanhannity,” McEnany tweeted. “I found Caitlyn to be well-informed, sincere, and laser-focused on undoing the socialist, radical, a-scientific policies of Biden & the left. Very good.”

In theory, that support combined with Jenner’s visibility might be enough to propel Jenner to victory. In the recall election, California will answer two questions, whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and if so, which candidate should replace him. The contender with the plurality of votes would win the election, even if that’s less than a majority vote, and become the next governor. There isn’t a run-off if no candidate fails to obtain a majority.

With Jenner’s name recognition as a celebrity, that achievement could be in her reach. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2004 recall election in California as a Republican based on his celebrity status, and ended up becoming a popular governor.

But the modest inroads Jenner has made with the acceptance of conservatives and potential to win isn’t enough for other transgender Republicans.

Evans, for example, said Jenner’s candidacy is not only a disappointment, but threatening the potential candidacies of transgender hopefuls in the future.

“It’s difficult to be in electoral politics, and that’s even more true when you’re a member of a marginalized community,” Evans said. “Caitlyn’s behavior is making it even more challenging for the trans community to be visible in a field where we desperately need to be seen. She’s casting a tall shadow on our ability to have a voice and is giving credibility to lawmakers and local leaders simply unwilling to view us with decency and respect.”

Williams said Jenner should avoid talking about transgender issues over the course of her gubernatorial run “and instead focus on the hard, critical policy issues facing California.”

“It is a state in crisis and she has to run a very serious campaign and not rely on her celebrity or LGBTQ status to win over voters’ hearts and minds — just like all other LGBTQ candidates around the country need to do when they run for public office,” Williams said.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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Dupont Circle Fountain, Russian news agency, gay news, Washington Blade
The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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