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NYC mayor pushes Christian ‘Death to Gays’ politico for city post

Former councilman praised Ugandan authorities’ anti-homosexuality push

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Former NYC Council member Fernando Cabrera in the Bronx in 2017. Cropped from official NYC DOT photo. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Shortly after Uganda lawmakers passed a “life in prison” law for homosexuality, and while they debated restoring the death penalty, a Democratic politician and Christian pastor from the Bronx named Fernando Cabrera traveled there and praised them for fighting homosexuality, claiming all government officials must first be servants of the Christian God.

  • Cabrera made clear he supports harsh criminal penalties for gay people.
  • Cabrera made clear he opposes church/state separation.
  • Cabrera made clear religious diversity is not what his God wants.
  • Cabrera endorsed dangerously ignorant claims about HIV, directly opposite to reality, claims public health experts say help encourage the spread of HIV. (For more about Cabrera’s dangerous HIV claims, see extra content at the bottom of this article.)

Will Cabrera be bringing his dangerous views to New York City government? That sounds absurd, but it looks like the answer is yes.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams insists on giving Cabrera a job in his administration

Not long ago, the newly elected Democratic mayor proposed making Cabrera, a fellow Democrat and former council member from the Bronx, head of the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.

LGBTQ activists shouted bloody murder.

Cabrera is on the record promoting the false notion that homosexuality is a mental illness. How could he possibly serve as a leader for NYC’s mental health communities?

What was the mayor thinking?

After several days of withering criticism, Adams withdrew the proposal. But he wasn’t done. He tapped Cabrera to join a new Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnership as a “a conduit between city government, the faith-based community throughout New York City and nonprofit organization[s].”

Chi Ossé, NYC council member for Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, via his Twitter profile.

LGBTQ activists, politicians and Christian leaders are shouting bloody murder again

Allen Roskoff, a longtime gay rights activist and Democratic Party organizer, joined a wide array of Democrats, including many faith leaders, expressing shock, saying that Cabrera serving in a faith-based government post is “equally as unacceptable as him running the mental health office.”

How is he going to deal with LGBTQ people of faith? How is he going to deal with a gay synagogue? How is he going to deal with gay Catholics? What is this mayor thinking? Has he no consideration for us? It’s a big FU to the LGBTQ community.

Equality New York asked members “to let Mayor Adams know that we will not accept any anti-LGBTQI individuals anywhere in government here in NYC.”

Councilmember Chi Ossé of Brooklyn, a member of the LGBT Caucus, told Gay City News he strongly opposes any faith-based role for Cabrera: “The Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships offers a powerful opportunity to build bridges between communities and strengthen the bonds of our proudly diverse city. Mr. Cabrera’s history unfortunately demonstrates that he is unfit to fulfill this role.”

Eric Adams as Brooklyn Borough President in 2020. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit) (CC BY 2.0)

Adams isn’t backing down. The implications are frightening.

A source told the Daily News he was in the room when out gay state Sen. Brad Hoylman angrily confronted Adams about Cabrera. The source says the mayor vowed not to change his mind, saying, “This is his administration and that he can do what he wants.”

Is this Democratic Party move LGBTQ people’s worst nightmare coming true?

We’re used to opposition to equality from the Republican Party, especially now with Trumpism dominating and queer people centered in a political bullseye. We know a backlash is happening among conservatives who are trying to roll back progress, especially in the state and local levels.

We know parents are demanding books about us and by us be removed from school curriculums and libraries, often on the flimsiest of pretexts about “sexual content.”

We know queer lives in Red states are becoming more difficult, especially for transgender people. We know queer youth from all stripes of the rainbow are suffering increasing rates of bullying and calling mental health crisis lines like Trevor Project in unprecedented numbers.

The one thing we thought we could count on was Democratic Party support

I’m not claiming the sky is falling. New York City politics are a little odd. A Democratic mayor there isn’t necessarily a mainstream Democrat. Adams’ support of Cabrera could be a one-off, bizarre effect of city politics. Or not.

Adams is a savvy politician.

If he thinks he can ram Cabrera’s appointment through despite organized Democratic opposition — and it looks like he will — then he must believe Democratic voters will ultimately have his back.

That’s the nightmare.

If Adams is right, he might have just normalized homophobia in the Democratic Party.

Cabrera’s positions reveal him to be deeply ignorant with respect to HIV policy, dangerously un-American in his rejection of secular government ideals, anti-Christian in his embrace of harsh punishment for gay people, and entirely unsuited to be a leader in the Democratic Party.

Cabrera’s views line up point by point with those of hardline Trump Republicans.

I don’t know much about Mayor Adams other than that many Democrats in NYC are leery of his conservative politics, but if he insists on appointing a reactionary anti-LGBTQ religious fanatic to his administration, then queer people’s worst nightmares have started to come true.

Will American politics continue to reflect a regressive backlash against acceptance and equality? Will the Democratic Party no longer be welcoming or safe for LGBTQ people?

The jury is out. Stay tuned.

Extra content: Details about Cabrera’s false claims about HIV in Uganda —

Fernando Cabrera is dead wrong about Uganda’s “Christian” government reducing HIV infection rates, which remain among the highest in Africa. In the video where Cabrera praised Uganda’s harsh anti-homosexuality laws, he claimed Ugandan Christian leadership was responsible for a dramatic reduction in HIV cases, saying the reduction happened, “because the righteous are ruling.”

His claim is dangerously counterfactual.

Uganda’s people have suffered from HIV/AIDS at higher rates than people in any other African nation except South Africa. During the period Cabrera was talking about in his speech, HIV infection rates were rising, not falling as he claimed.

Why?

Public health authorities like NCBI and WHO cite the Ugandan government’s policies stigmatizing sex work and criminalizing homosexuality as primary driving factors. The full situation is complex, but Pan-African health authorities claim that to this day the Uganda government is not effectively managing the HIV crisis. Infection rates are not falling like they are in most other African nations — like in South Africa where they are now falling dramatically.

The claims Cabrera made in his speech echo claims Ugandan leaders were making then and that they continue to make, frustrating international and Pan-African efforts to contain HIV on the continent.

For details, click this link.

********************

James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a frequent columnist for the LA Blade, a contributor to other LGBTQ news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

********************

The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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Turkey Pride crackdowns only strengthen LGBTQ resistance

Hundreds arrested in Istanbul on Sunday

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Police crackdown on the Istanbul Pride march on June 26, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Hayri Tunç)

The waving colors of the thousand shades inside of a rainbow,

The sparkling joy from the pride and honor of self-declaration, 

The echoing sounds of the steps for solidarity in the cobblestone streets of İstanbul, 

To unite for equality, for justice, for solely our right to be. 

This was our goal, our expectation and our hope for Pride Turkey 2022. It has, however, been overshadowed by the government’s vicious attempts to repress the colors of the LGBTQI+ community. 

First, it started with the ban of Pride speeches and panels that many district governors and other local authorities across Turkey announced. Local police officers raided the many event venues as if “illegal” activities were being conducted. 

As in the last couple of years, it was already expected the government would ban the Pride marches in many cities. It was, however, the first time the government officially tried to prevent even face-to-face community gatherings of LGBTQI+ organizations. It was a type of intervention reflecting the level of fear and intolerance of the government regarding the growing connection, solidarity and public visibility of LGBTQI+ community.

Nevertheless, oppression often brings out the most creative means. As such, Pride committees have carried all the activities on digital platforms. Many activists and civil society representatives have shown support by participating in live broadcasts from event venues, and the voice of LGBTQI+ solidarity still reached a wide audience. 

Subsequently, the most drastic pressure by the government has manifested itself during the Pride marches. The police violently intervened and used unproportionate force against marchers in many cities, which resulted in a radical number of unwarranted detentions. 

While 530 LGBTQI+ activists were taken into custody over the last 37 days across Turkey, 373 of them were arrested during the Istanbul Pride march on June 26. This constitutes a first, since the Istanbul Pride arrests constituted the largest number of people taken into custody during a street march since the Gezi protests.

Will these enormous efforts to pressure win the day? The answer is “definitely no.” On the contrary, it sparked a backlash by triggering strong solidarity among Turkey’s queer community. The outstanding resistance of LGBTQI+ marchers gained public recognition on social media, while persistent legal support of LGBTQI+ initiatives canceled all the detentions. In the end, the exhaustive pressures of the government could not manage to fade the multicolor of LGBTQI+ identity. In fact, it helped our rainbow flag to shine even more glamorous and visible.  

We, as members of the LGBTQI+ community, have once again proved through this entire experience that solidarity, togetherness and collective resistance are the most powerful facilitators in our fight to exist equally.   

In honor of the unbreakable resistance of Turkey Pride 2022 supporters, 

Thanks to you, the cobblestones of Istanbul and every street in Turkey echoed with the steps of LGBTQI+ solidarity.

Dilek İçten is a journalist, researcher and civil society expert with a demonstrated history of working in interdisciplinary and investigative research projects examining the socio-cultural dynamics of media, gender and migration. The focus of her work varies from freedom of expression, media censorship and journalistic independence to gender based-discrimination and hate speech against disadvantaged groups and minorities.

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As Israel readies for new elections, the LGBTQ community is at risk

U.S.-based groups attacking transgender Israelis

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Elisha Alexander in April 2022 (Photo courtesy of Ethan Felson)

Israel’s government has collapsed — and the county is headed to new elections for the fifth time in three years. In this renewed period of uncertainty, Israel’s LGBTQ community has cause for particular concern. Any new coalition would likely welcome parties that oppose LGBTQ inclusion back into government, posing a clear and imminent threat to their human rights.

But amidst this trepidation, there is still much to celebrate: 30 LGBTQ leaders from the U.S. met with their counterparts in Israel this month. The backdrop was Tel Aviv Pride, one of the largest in the world. The leaders were there for more than celebrations. They came to learn. As with past A Wider Bridge trips, North Americans travelling to Israel and Israelis travelling to North America shared strategies for building LGBTQ inclusion, fighting conversion therapy, protecting young people needing shelter, and building vibrant pride centers. Pride celebrations got their start in the U.S. and will take place in more than 60 Israeli cities this month. Over the years, both of our countries have imported many successful approaches from one another. But one American import to Israel is less than welcome: Political transphobia. Let’s not let it become something that unites our nations.

As leaders of groups in Israel and the U.S., we’ve watched with sadness as trans kids in America have been put in harm’s way through legislation making their medical care less available and prohibiting their teachers and school counselors from providing the lifesaving support they need. And it turns out that the same retrograde forces fighting trans inclusion in the U.S. are backing similar efforts in Israel. There have always been opposition to LGBTQ rights, including trans inclusion in both countries and around the globe. What’s new is a vastly well-funded campaign — with plenty of American backing — directed at attacking the Israeli trans community. While the fight for LGBTQ equality in Israel hasn’t been easy, historically the community hasn’t been used as a political cudgel. That’s changing, and we’re ringing the alarm bell.

Groups like the Kohelet Forum, which is largely American-funded, are trying to take their American brand of anti-trans hate to Israel. While think tanks and policy shops aren’t a new phenomenon in Israel, Kohelet has adopted the broader American model of political change-making. They’ve launched a constellation of organizations working informally together to usher in transformational policy change. With the support of Kohelet and others, the anti-trans movement has exploded in Israel.

Their orchestrated effort comes at a very unfortunate moment. Ma’avarim, Israel’s most prominent trans organization, and the entire Israeli trans community have worked tirelessly for years, building careful relationships, educating important allies — and is making tremendous advances due to an Israeli government that was willing to embrace many key goals. There are historic opportunities to implement new life-saving policies including access to healthcare, legal recognition of gender identity, and diversity in the education system. All of this is now in jeopardy. Just as these successes are coming to fruition, the anti-trans movement is using social media and other tactics to spread disinformation and false accusations such as “men in dresses raping women in bathrooms.” These fabrications are felt by many in the trans community to be like anti-Semitic blood libels — made-up stories that lead to fear, hatred, and even violence. They help fuel anti-trans advocacy and lobbying to advance exclusionary policies and legislation to deny Israeli transgender persons their dignity and rights.

The new anti-trans movement has several distinctive features that require new responses. Firstly, unlike the traditional opposition for LGBTQ rights that springs from religious and social conservatives, anti-trans advocacy is now often fronted by self-styled “progressive” women. They bring with them established connections within liberal circles. Secondly, the central arena of the “progressive” anti-trans campaign is both traditional and social media — drawing on existing networks with hundreds of thousands of followers, while trans community organizations have minimal presence in social media beyond the trans community. Thirdly, the funding being poured into anti-trans campaigns eclipses the budgets of LGBTQ organizations. In Israel alone, the groups waging battle against the trans community have budgets in the tens of millions with hundreds of paid staff, many of whom work on anti-trans campaigns. 

None of us should sit idly by while these attacks on the trans community take place. As in other countries, this anti-trans hate movement poses an immediate threat to the safety and wellbeing of transgender and gender non-conforming persons. We cannot allow them to have their very existence denied.

But it doesn’t stop there. While transgender persons are the immediate targets of hate and violence, anti-trans campaigns have far-reaching political aims: dividing the liberal bloc of women’s, LGBTQ and minority rights, instilling hate, and turning liberal democratic societies against a newly created enemy from within. Anti-trans propaganda has proved instrumental in spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories that further undermine democratic values in society.

The eyes of the world often look to Israel on LGBTQ rights. Dana International, a trans woman from Tel Aviv, won the Eurovision music contest, became an international hero, and played a role in ushering greater acceptance of the trans community.

The world will be watching after Israel’s new elections: Will they continue to make progress in affording rights and protections to LGBTQ people? Or will they turn back the clock? Now more than ever, fighting the anti-trans movement must be a top priority not only for the transgender community but for LGBTQ people, feminists, and the wider progressive community in Israel- and in the United States.

Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge, an organization that fights for LGBTQ inclusion, counters anti-Semitism, and strengthens relationships between the LGBTQ community in Israel and North America. Elisha Alexander is the founding director of Ma’avarim, Israel’s leading NGO advocating for the transgender community.

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To Biden: No Pride in detention of transgender, queer communities

Jennicet Gutiérrez declines to attend White House Pride event

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LGBTQ immigrant rights activists participate in the Queens Pride parade in Jackson Heights, N.Y., on June 5, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Emilio Vicente)

Editor’s note: This is the letter that Jennicet Gutiérrez sent to the White House in response to the invitation she received to attend its Pride Month celebration.

June 13, 2022

Dear President Biden and Dr. Biden,

I received your invitation to the White House Pride Celebration on June 15, 2022, and with a clear conscience I am letting you know that I will not be attending this event. There should be no White House celebration when trans and queer communities are suffering and being detained by your administration. There is no pride in detention. 

At the start of your administration you pledged to protect LGBTQ+ people worldwide, but it’s a commitment that you have failed to uphold at home. 

Almost a year ago, while you were holding a Pride reception, trans and queer immigrant leaders from across the nation marched to the White House, demanding the release of trans people, people living with HIV, and any medical condition, from detention centers across the country. We are still seeking justice for Victoria Arellano, Roxsana Hernández, and Johana Medina, trans women who died because of the negligence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Our members across the country are marching and protesting this Pride Month with the same demand of ending the violence and killings of trans people. There have been over two million deportations since you took office, setting you up to be the next deporter-in-chief. Your administration has used Title 42 as an excuse to deport immigrants seeking a better future, most of them Black and brown people and including trans and queer immigrants, even as your administration is relaxing requirements for people traveling to the United States. More than 32 states have drafted bills that would criminalize trans youth and their families for providing life affirming healthcare. Transgender people and children are under attack by the same white supremacist forces that are plaguing our nation and we haven’t seen your administration’s response be enough in the face of these attacks.

The reality is that as this celebration is taking place, trans people currently in ICE custody will be in unsafe conditions. You could easily stop their suffering by instructing the Department of Homeland Security to implement a policy of liberating trans people, people living with HIV and other medical conditions, as well as other vulnerable people.

Ending trans detention and using your executive powers to protect LGBTQ people would have a greater impact on our community and would save many lives rather than hosting an event to deliver a well-crafted speech with broken promises.

Respectfully,

Jennicet Eva Gutiérrez

13 de julio del 2022

Estimados presidente Biden y Dr. Biden, 

Recibí su invitación a la Celebración del Orgullo de la Casa Blanca el 15 de junio de 2022 y con la conciencia clara les hago saber que no asistiré a este evento. No debería haber celebración de Orgullo en la Casa Blanca cuando las comunidades trans y queer están sufriendo y siendo detenidas por su misma administración. No hay orgullo en la detención. 

Al comienzo de su administración, se comprometió a proteger a las personas LGBTQ + en todo el mundo, pero es un compromiso que no ha podido mantener en casa. 

Hace casi un año, mientras celebraban una recepción de Orgullo, líderes inmigrantes trans y queer de todo el país marcharon a la Casa Blanca, exigiendo la liberación de las personas trans, las personas que viven con el VIH y cualquier condición médica, de los centros de detención de todo el país. Todavía estamos buscando justicia para Victoria Arellano, Roxsana Hernández y Johana Medina, mujeres trans que murieron debido a la negligencia del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE).

Nuestros miembros en todo el país están marchando y protestando este mes del orgullo con la misma demanda de poner fin a la violencia y los asesinatos de personas trans. Ha habido más de dos millones de deportaciones desde que asumió el cargo, lo que lo prepara para ser el próximo jefe-de-deportaciones. Su administración ha utilizado el Título 42 como una excusa para deportar a los inmigrantes que buscan un futuro mejor, la mayoría de ellxs personas Negras y personas de color, e incluyendo a inmigrantes trans y queer, mientras su administración está relajando los requisitos para las personas que viajan a los Estados Unidos. Además, más de treinta y dos estados han redactado proyectos de ley que criminalizan a los jóvenes trans y sus familias por proporcionarles atención médica que afirma su género y salvan sus vidas. Las personas transgénero y los niños están siendo atacados por las mismas fuerzas supremacistas blancas que están plagando nuestra nación y no hemos visto que la respuesta de su administración es suficiente frente a estos ataques.

La realidad es que a medida que se lleva a cabo esta celebración, personas trans actualmente bajo custodia de ICE estarán en condiciones inseguras y peligrosas. Usted podría parar fácilmente su sufrimiento instruyendo al Departamento de Seguridad Nacional para que implemente una política de liberación de personas trans, personas que viven con VIH y otras condiciones médicas, así como otras personas vulnerables. 

Poner fin a la detención trans y usar sus poderes ejecutivos para proteger a las personas LGBTQ tendría un mayor impacto en nuestra comunidad y salvaría muchas vidas en lugar de organizar una celebración de Orgullo para pronunciar un discurso bien elaborado con promesas incumplidas.

Respetuosamente, 

Jennicet Eva Gutiérrez

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