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Odessa Kelly cites white supremacy after losing House race in Tenn.

‘The loss didn’t come because I’m an openly gay Black woman in the South’



Odessa Kelly lost her House race in a gerrymandered district. (Photo by Shance Ware)

Odessa Kelly was on track to become the first openly gay Black woman elected to represent Tennessee in the U.S. House. On election night, as votes were counted, Kelly watched that dream slip out of reach. 

“The loss didn’t come because I’m an openly gay Black woman in the South, the loss came because of racism,” Kelly said in an interview with the Blade.

Kelly, who ran to represent Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District against incumbent Mark Green (R), lost the election by more than 20 points. Kelly blames white supremacy, gerrymandering, and voter suppression for her loss.

“I just lost a congressional race due to White Supremacy, Gerrymandering, Racist (GOP), Undercover Racist BlueDog Dems, and Voter Suppression,” Kelly tweeted post-election.

Republican-led gerrymandering parceled predominantly Democratic Davidson County, which includes Nashville, into three separate congressional districts. This gerrymandering obliterated representation for Nashville residents at the state and federal level. 

“We have zero representation in the largest, most populated city in Tennessee,” Kelly said. 

Gerrymandering often intentionally marginalizes minority communities’ voices and votes by relocating them to conservative districts. East Nashville, the minority ruled and politically Democratic district where Kelly grew up, was moved to the conservative and predominantly white district of Cookeville. But Nashville residents aren’t the only Tennesseans affected by gerrymandering in the state. 

Statewide, Tennessean voters of color were disproportionately split up and relocated to districts where they are outnumbered and their voices are drowned out. This leaves communities of color at the mercy of Jim Crow and racist political tactics that suppress their voices and their votes because they no longer hold a majority vote in any of these new districts. 

“White supremacy showed up in our state legislature and in me losing this race,” Kelly said. 

The systemic disenfranchisement of Black voters in Tennessee also played a major role in Kelly’s loss. A 2022 report by The Sentencing Project shows that 21% of Black voters in Tennessee are permanently barred from voting, while only 8% of adult voters are barred statewide. 

And a Tennessee Advisory Committee Report shows that Tennessee is one of 11 states that permanently disenfranchises voters. With some of the toughest laws and requirements for voting, the state makes it hard for Tennesseans to earn the right to vote again. 

“I assume that the majority of those individuals who can’t vote would probably vote for me because they’re looking for relief and pathways out of poverty,” Kelly said. “And those are the things that I’m fighting for.” 

As for what’s next, Kelly says she is determined to keep fighting for a country and political system where those forgotten by the status quo are represented. .

“I will not stop. I will not give up. I will keep fighting because the issues don’t change.” 



Olivia Hill elected as first openly transgender official in Tenn.

Nashville native is U.S. Navy veteran



Olivia Hill (Photo courtesy of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund)

Voters in Nashville and surrounding Davidson County made history Thursday as Olivia Hill won an at-large seat on the Metro Council, making her the first openly transgender official elected to public office in the Volunteer State.

The Tennessean reported that Hill secured one of the council’s five at-large seats in Thursday’s runoff election with 12.9 percent of the vote, as of 10 p.m. Thursday night. She joins a historic number of women elected to the council. All five at-large members will be women, as well as 17 district councilmembers. That adds up to 22 women — a majority of the 40-member council.

“I want to say that I am elated,” Hill told the Tennessean after the historic win. A Nashville native, Hill graduated from Hillwood High School in 1983. She then served in the U.S. Navy from 1986-1995 and saw combat overseas during Desert Storm.

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund CEO Annise Parker released the following statement after Hill was elected:

“Nashville voters clearly reject the hateful rhetoric that has grown louder in Tennessee politics lately. Olivia’s victory proves that transgender people belong everywhere decisions about them are being made, including local office. I know Olivia is well-prepared to take her seat on the Metro Council and work to make Nashville and Davidson County a more welcoming place for all.”

The Metropolitan Council (officially the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County) is the legislative body of the consolidated city-county government of Nashville and Davidson County.

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Tenn. could lose billions in federal funds over anti-transgender laws

Ban on gender-affirming care to minors took effect July 1



(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

By the time North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law the repeal of House Bill 2, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” in 2017 it was estimated that the state had lost up to $3.5 billion in revenue. Almost six years later, more than 500 similar anti-transgender bills have been introduced in nearly all 50 states and economists anticipate devastating financial consequences.

Tennessee, which borders North Carolina, on July 1 enacted a law that bans health care providers from offering gender-affirming care to minors. Trans minors that were receiving gender-affirming care prior to the law taking effect had to stop treatment. 

The Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee issued a report on Feb. 28 that found the bill would not only increase state spending to be in compliance with the law, but would also jeopardize federal funding opportunities. 

The law defines sex as “the biological state of being female or male, based on sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles.” 

“Proposed language may result in increases to state and local expenditures associated with compliance measures, potential civil litigation, and could jeopardize federal funding,” the report says.

The report states the U.S. Education Department said the bill could jeopardize the state’s funding under policies that provide protections for students and define sex differently than the state’s law. The committee put estimated education funding losses at just over $1.2 billion.

The Tennessee Department of Health could also lose up to $750 million in federal grant money for being out of compliance with Title X, which provides family planning services for low-income families and also provides a different definition of sex than Tennessee’s law.

While it’s unknown what the total cost to Tennessee will be, many LGBTQ performers and business owners let out a sigh of relief when a federal judge blocked the state’s proposed drag ban before it could go into effect. The state has already appealed the decision.

Under the law, a first offense would be classified as misdemeanors and punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Following offenses would be classified as Class E felonies punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.

While Tennessee’s law may have been blocked, four other states are considering similar bans. Texas, Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota have all introduced potential drag bans, with Florida’s being temporarily blocked by a district court decision. 

The state has appealed the ruling.

These bans raise questions for touring productions that include drag, in addition to local businesses. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alums BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon will be taking their holiday tour across North America this winter, and planning tour dates around where drag may or may not be banned has become a considerable factor.

“Because our tour is for a limited amount of time, we always have to be selective about where we’re going,” BenDeLaCreme told Vulture. “Unfortunately, it’s far enough out that I don’t know where the laws will be, and I am making decisions in a way where I’m like, ‘All right, we have to know we’re going to be able to go, so we’ll have to avoid these spots.’ It’s deeply upsetting because those communities need us, but it’s hard to know what to do.”

Given federal court rulings that have blocked anti-trans bills around the country, there is some hope that further bills will also be restricted. The American Civil Liberties Union has already promised to track and challenge anti-trans and anti-drag bills that are introduced in state legislatures.

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Vanderbilt University sued for sending records on gender affirming care to Tenn. AG

Documents shared in compliance with Jonathan Skrmetti’s orders



Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Screenshot/YouTube WTVF News Channel 5 Nashville)

Two transgender patients have filed a lawsuit against Vanderbilt University Medical Center for sharing their health records with the office of Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti in connection with its investigation into the provider’s billing practices.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit argues Vanderbilt should have removed their personally identifying information in consideration of how hostile Skrmetti and other elected Republican leaders in the state have been toward gender affirming care and transgender people more broadly.

Earlier this month, an appeals court ruled Tennessee’s ban on gender affirming care for minors can go into effect, pending the outcome of litigation challenging the restrictions.

State lawmakers paused all gender affirming surgeries for minors a month after anti-trans conservative pundit Matt Walsh published footage of a provider claiming the procedures are “huge money makers” for hospitals.

Vanderbilt says the clinic performs about five surgeries per year on patients under 18 — all with parental consent and none receiving genital procedures.

Plaintiffs will seek class certification for all patients whose records were collected by authorities, a total of more than 100, according to their lawsuit.

Last month, the Los Angeles Blade confirmed the documents were shared in compliance with the attorney general’s orders for information as part of its probe into the clinic’s management of TennCare payments.

The investigation began in September 2022, with Vanderbilt beginning to turn over patient records a few months later, according to a spokesperson for Skrmetti’s office who added, “We are surprised that VUMC has deliberately chosen to frighten its patients like this.”

The Tennesseean reported that parents of trans children called a local LGBTQ advocacy organization in a panic after the medical center went public about its compliance with the attorney general’s investigation.

Likewise, the patients’ lawsuit says following the disclosure they were “terrified for their physical safety, have had significant anxiety and distress that has impacted their ability to work, has caused them to increase home security measures, and drop out of activities in which they normally would participate.”

A Vanderbilt spokesperson said, “the decision to release patient records for any purpose is never taken lightly, even in situations such as this where VUMC was legally compelled to produce the patient records.”

Disclosure of the requests came after another court case revealed their existence.

Plaintiffs contend, however, that the clinic caused emotional damage by negligently failing to redact patient information and acted in violation of privacy and consumer protection laws.

The Associated Press reports their lawsuit seeks “monetary damages, improved security procedures, an injunction blocking further release of their records without notice, an acknowledgement by Vanderbilt that it violated its own privacy policy, and an admission that the policy inadequately informs patients of their rights regarding disclosures.”

The complaint was filed Monday in the Nashville Chancery Court.

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