November 10 is #ThxBirthControl Day, a social media campaign supported by the National LGBTQ Task Force to promote sex positivity by publicly supporting birth control and all that it makes possible for individuals and society. And I want to take this moment to thank birth control for its important role in my life.
Thanks birth control for providing me with the opportunity to achieve my academic goals and have healthy consensual sex throughout my academic journey.
I have been taking some form of birth control since I was seventeen years old. I did not begin taking birth control because I was considering having sex. An important fact about me is that I have always been scholastically minded. I decided that I wanted to go to the College of William and Mary when I was in seventh grade. Thus, in middle school I decided that I was not going to have sex until I was in college because nothing was going to get in the way of me going to my equivalent of academic utopia. I was not even considering taking birth control at age seventeen. But, thankfully, another person in my life was thinking about the benefits of birth control.
My mother approached me about taking birth control, because she wanted me to be safe, if, and when I began having sex. I told her that I did not need it because I did not plan to have sex any time soon. She smiled and said something along the lines of, “I’m proud of your plan, but you can never be too safe.” I agreed. She set up a doctor’s appointment and together we went to talk with a doctor about all of the birth control options that were available at the time. My mom let me decide which method would be the best for me, and later that day I filled my first prescription and that was it. I began taking it daily for the next ten years and counting. I actually stuck to my plan and did not have sex until I went to college (at the College of William and Mary!) but it was empowering to know that I had the ability to have safe, healthy consensual sex when I was ready. Thanks, Mom!
I would be remiss to not thank my mother’s employer for their health insurance policy that included coverage for reproductive health care back in 2005. I recognize now that I was only able to access birth control because my mother’s insurance policy included that specific coverage. Luckily, the Affordable Care Act includes a birth control benefit that requires most insurance providers to cover all FDA approved forms of contraception. We have to fight to ensure that this benefit is protected and accessible for all individuals.
All in all, thanks, birth control for allowing me to: go to college, law school, a post-doctoral law program, pass the Bar Exam, study abroad at the University of Cambridge in England, meet awesome friends, travel around Africa and Europe, raise a puppy, move around the country, land a job as Policy Counsel for Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice at the National LGBTQ Task Force and most importantly marry my wonderful husband—all without having children before I was ready. Thanks, birth control, you really make dreams come true.
by Candace Bond-Theriault, National LGBTQ Task Force Policy Counsel, Reproductive Rights
More than 1300 miles separate Houston from the District of Columbia, yet last Wednesday I woke up heartbroken knowing that Houston voters rejected a measure that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in their daily lives. The results were especially jarring given my agency, the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR), on that same day released a groundbreaking report showing what appears to be an extremely high rate of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming job applicants who are applying for employment. It was the first known government-conducted resume testing to focus on discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming job applicants, and the findings were upsetting, although unfortunately not surprising.
Among the key findings from the report:
• 48 percent of employers appeared to prefer at least one less-qualified cisgender applicant over a more-qualified transgender applicant;
• 33 percent of employers offered interviews to one or more less-qualified cisgender applicants while not offering an interview to at least one of the more-qualified transgender applicants; and
• The applicant perceived as a transgender man with previous work experience at a transgender advocacy organization experienced the highest rate of discrimination among the applicants (69 percent).
While these numbers alone should be a call-to-action for governments, advocates and voters, the reality is they almost surely understate employment discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming applicants. To control for gender identity in our study, the tester applicants had to be perceived as white, young and well-educated, and there is little doubt transgender applicants of color and older applicants would experience even higher rates of discrimination. Additionally, the study only tested employers in the District of Columbia, a jurisdiction with strong anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. It is not difficult to imagine a higher discrimination rate in a jurisdiction without those protections, such as Houston.
Tuesday was a difficult day for those of us working to ensure transgender and gender non-conforming people are protected from discrimination, and this report is a reminder that it will take more than laws to achieve full equality for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Yet my hope is the report can also be a catalyst for conversations across the nation, and can inform governments and policymakers of the tremendous injustices being perpetrated against transgender and gender non-conforming people looking for employment. The nation is moving in the right direction, but there is clearly much work to do.
By Monica Palacio, Director, District Columbia office of Human Rights.
Download Qualified and Transgender: A Report on Results of Resume Testing for Employment Discrimination Based on Gender Identity, here: ohr.dc.gov/page/QualifiedAndTransgender.
Wow! What a week. The Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit held in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week was epic. As a new member of the Task Force’s Public Policy & Government Affairs team, the Summit was quite an introduction to the Task Force’s work on the intersection of faith and LGBTQ rights. The opening plenary given by Bishop Yvette Flunder is definitely worth a watch so you too can feel inspired by faith and organizing.
However, what stands out most in my mind is the warm and welcoming spirit of all of my Task Force colleagues who were at the Summit. This is the first organization that I have been a part of that starts its meetings by giving everyone a moment to give a shout out of yesterday’s victories. Everyone’s excitement about organizing and mobilizing LGBTQ and faith communities is awe-inspiring.
My personal victory from the week was organizing and delivering my first training, ever. Alongside Samantha Master and Reverend Emma Akpan – both reproductive justice advocates at Planned Parenthood Federation of America–I trained participants on the intersection of reproductive justice and religious exemptions. The training went so well! Our audience was captivated by the differences between a reproductive justice and a reproductive rights analysis. Participants left the training with a deeper understanding of the need to put the most vulnerable populations at the center of a reproductive justice analysis, because only when we are fighting for the rights of the most marginalized among us will we be able to ensure full reproductive justice for everyone.
For some people in the audience, the training provided an introduction into the history of healthcare refusals and how this history has become center stage in the current political debate due in large part to the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. This session gave me motivation to begin to craft a toolkit that can be used for public advocacy and education, which will combine reproductive justice, LGBTQ equality and faith in an effort to fight against religious refusals in healthcare; more on the toolkit to come.
All in all, while in Salt Lake City, I recognized how important standing in solidarity with faith leaders is in the fight against religious exemptions, especially in healthcare. But, it’s good to be back in D.C. so that I can implement what I learned into my future work and life.
by Candace Bond-Theriault, Policy Counsel for Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice, National LGBTQ Task Force
Last week was an inspirational and invigorating experience for many of the attendees of the Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit. During the summit, we explored ways to build power in our own communities, to elevate the voices of LGBTQ faith leaders, to address attacks by anti-LGBTQ politicians, and to provide communities of faith with tools to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ people. We showed the world we are pro-family, pro-faith, and pro-LGBTQ.
For those who were unable to attend, the themes of the Power Summit are capt
ured in opening plenary remarks by Rev. Rodney McKenzie, Jr., Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action at the Task Force:
My grandmother sat on green rocking chairs, in South Dallas Porches, singing songs like “Cheerios, Cheerios, push them to the bottom of the bowl and then they rise to the top.” My grandmother sat on green rocking chairs, in South Dallas porches, right in front of the drug dealers – in the midst of gun shots – in the midst of poverty singing songs like “I am solider in the army of the Lord.” My grandmother smiled, rocked back and forth and sang, a little off key, “Cheerios, Cheerios, push them to the bottom of the bowl and then they rise to the top.”
I can still hear her.
My grandmother in those moments taught me what it means to be a person of faith. To be a person of faith means to situate oneself right in the midst of what looks like hell and to provide a vision, to provide a holy resistance, to provide life itself – right where the pain is, right where the wound is.
As a community of LGBTQ people and people who love LGBTQ people we have experienced the wounds – we’ve had to sing songs to ourselves – we’ve had to create institutions that would give us life.
And we did this –
Right in the midst of being called abominations, right in the midst of faith being used to deny us basic rights, right in the midst of being misgendered over and over again and using faith as an excuse, right in the midst of conversion therapies, right in the midst of denying our families, right in the midst of being fired from pulpits for speaking what is right – we have survived.
The Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit is much more than a conference – more than a training – the Faith and Family LGBQ Power Summit is radical resistance – it is using our collective anger to transform the world.
The Task Force believes that power is organized people and organized money. If we, as people of faith, collectively use power in a new way – we can create a world in which black lives really do matter – we can create a world that would in which the death of 22 trans women would be a national emergency (and it is) – we can create a world in which ends the exportation of homohatred across the globe – we can create a world in which reproductive justice isn’t a question but a clear undebated right.
The Faith and Family LGBT Power Summit is needed now – more than ever. We are taking Faith back – we are coming out as people of faith – and this very act, this radical act of Faith will change our world.
by Rodney McKenzie, Jr., Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action, National LGBTQ Task Force
“I’m loved ’cause God says I am…” This glorious, impromptu music provided the start to the third day of the Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit in Salt Lake City.
The plenary gathering also featured the slam poet Timothy DuWhite talking about audacious joy in the midst of a world that wants him dead. It was a powerful message of personal resurrection.
The rest of the day was filled with vibrant and valuable workshops and concluded with two significant actions. The first action, aimed at helping people develop powerful, effective fundraising skills, was called “More Money More Power.” In it, participants hit the phones to fundraise for the LGBTQ organizations they cared about. In 20 minutes, participants had 14 phone conversations in which they raised a total of $2,200.
The second action, “More People More Power” focused on how to sharpen organizing skills and how to talk to voters and members of their community in-person. After the training, participants broke into teams which went out to talk to Salt Lake City residents about the importance of amending the city non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBTQ people in public accommodations–buses, restaurants, bathrooms and more. Our teams, in one hour, talked to 349 people collected 275 signed postcards to send to Salt Lake City Council about the ordinance, and recruited 54 new volunteers!
We also held a press conference during the Faith & Family LGBTQ Power Summit where LGBTQ leaders spoke about the Right-Wing driven “Culture Wars” in the U.S., and the global exportation of the anti-LGBTQ tactics of the Culture Wars to the rest of the world–especially the Global South–by the World Congress of Families.
But, I can’t talk more about Thursday without reflecting on the amazing news from Wednesday:
In “Back to the Future Part II” from 1985, Marty McFly travels to October 21, 2015 to save his yet-unborn children. Yesterday, on the real October 21, 2015, the Salt Lake City press reported an event that even Marty couldn’t have imagined in looking 30 years into the future.
Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, second in line to the presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a former Utah State Supreme Court justice, told a gathering of believers that renegade Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is abusing the principle of religious freedom to justify her anti-LGBT stance, and urged conservative activists to stop trying to overturn LGBT nondiscrimination laws.
“Believers should acknowledge the validity of constitutional laws,” Oaks told the Second Annual Sacramento Court/Clergy Conference. “Even where they have challenged laws or practices on constitutional grounds, once those laws or practices have been sustained by the highest available authority, believers should acknowledge their validity and submit to them.”
Now, this is earth-shattering news and an important message to be in the environment as the World Congress of Families begins its international gathering where it will once again demean and degrade our LGBT family relationships.
As our 200 plus participants begin to plan for their next steps following the Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit, they will be leaving with enhanced skills and energies to bring to new or planned event or faith actions in their communities. And they will also leave with a network of friends and allies forged in the same fire of passion for justice.
by Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force
Last week, I had the privilege of joining the National LGBTQ Task Force at a press conference focused on announcing the publication of a new guide to support LGBTQ asylum seekers. The new guide, published by the National LGBTQ Task Force in partnership with the LGBT Freedom and Asylum Network (LGBT-FAN) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), is titled Stronger Together: A Guide to Supporting LGBT Asylum Seekers. This new report provides crucial advice and guidance to service providers working with LGBT asylum seekers coming to the United States in search of better and safer lives.
Every year, untold thousands of LGBTQ people flee from persecution directed at them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity–or because they support someone who is LGBTQ. While progress has been made in the U.S. on some LGBTQ issues, there are still at least 75 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people, including Russia, Nigeria, Honduras, Iran and many more. These people are forced to leave their home countries, families, and friends in order to protect their own lives and the lives of the people they love. It is outrageous that people around the world must make such a horrendous choice simply for being who they are, but even if they make it to the United States successfully, many will still face significant challenges in seeking asylum.
The challenges can be considerable. Most LGBTQ asylum seekers are restricted from any kind of government assistance when they arrive to the United States because they lack U.S. citizenship. Around 72% are in need of housing in the U.S. and 84% don’t have enough money for food, travel, and other living expenses. Since the government is not allowed to help these asylum seekers, many of them resort to community churches in order to receive aid, where some may face even more discrimination due to homophobia. Furthermore, some asylum seekers report experiencing racism for the first time once they arrive in the United States, and some asylum seekers hide their true identity because they do not want to risk losing their aid due to their LGBTQ identity. For all these reasons, many asylum seekers, having fled persecution in their home countries, find themselves still living in despair within the United States.
Even if asylum seekers are able to obtain assistance for their basic food and housing, many find it difficult to obtain jobs that would allow them to become self-sufficient. Most asylum seekers want to work so they can better their living situation in the U.S, but are not allowed to work because of their lack of U.S. citizenship or work permit authorization. In order for an asylum seeker to request residency, they must first file their case for asylum. After that, they are forced to wait 150 days to be eligible to apply for work authorization, and then must wait an additional 30-90 days to get their authorization approved. Though many organizations try to guide and support asylum seekers throughout this lengthy and complex process, there is often too little money and training for these aid workers. The hope is that the information in the Stronger Together: A Guide to Supporting LGBT Asylum Seekers will provide service providers with sufficient information to help them adequately support LGBTQ asylum seekers in these types of cases.
Although we must continue to fight against the cruelty and violence many LGBTQ people face around the world, we should also work to ensure that LGBTQ asylum seekers receive the support they deserve once they arrive in the U.S. We encourage any organization that wants to take part in assisting with this important cause, to read and follow the advice in the Stronger Together guide. There is a lot of work to be done, but together we can have a positive impact.
by Alan Lopez, Communications Intern
Following a simple but inspiring gathering service – the room was filled with amazing vocal harmony of people of faith – the second day of our Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit in Salt Lake City opened with a plenary session on the Exportation of the Culture Wars.
Led by Francisco Buchting of the Horizons Foundation, a panel of experts from groups like Soul Force, Southern Poverty Law Center, iPas, Center for Constitutional Rights, Political Research Associates and the National LGBTQ Task Force reflected on the homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia that has been brought to Africa and Eastern European countries through groups like the World Congress of Families.
The World Congress of Families(WCF) will meet in Salt Lake City shortly after our Power Summit, and the WCF’s main messages will be about the “Natural Family” – which according to their definition excludes and demeans our same-gender-loving families and relationships and trans people – and also promotes and supports bringing that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia to other parts of the world.
Local and national news media have extensively covered our gathering and understand the overall message from this Faith and Family Power Summit, including: Salt Lake City Tribune, Deseret News, Fox 13, CBS 2, NBC 5, ABC 4/CW 30, Telemundo, Univision, Q Salt Lake City, and the Advocate.
The stories and videos that were produced by these media outlets clearly show that as LGBTQ people we value our faith and want to reclaim from those who preach rejection our rightful place as beloved children of God.
When people leave the Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit this Friday, they will be returning re-energized with new and improved skills to be able to respond to disparaging messages from faith communities and anti-LGBTQ legislative actions in their towns and states—often which come in the form of “religious exemptions.”
The conference so far has included workshops on persuasive story telling, polishing media skills, building effective teams for action, developing potent strategies, moving faith settings to be welcoming to LGBTQ people and bringing healing to those harmed by religion. And those are just a few of the sessions that participants have been able to choose from for skills-building opportunities.
As they return home, participants will be potent voices to push back against the vitriolic messaging of the World Congress of Families and their anti-LGBTQ ilk. They will be actively transforming the faith narrative from discrimination and rejection to one of inclusion and God’s abundant love.
Today they will put their skills into direct action. I will report on that in the next blog.
by Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force