As a mom, on Spirit Day, my thoughts can’t help but go directly to my daughters. They are 12 and 9 years old and bursting toward tomorrow with the energy and curiosity of the world that holds them. It’s a tough gig to be a kid these days and I can’t help but think that it has been made harder in many respects by the election cycle. The trickle down dynamics of the election have been more than unprecedented; they are harmful. When a presidential hopeful is not embracing the rich diversity of our country, but is instead degrading women, immigrants, people with disabilities, veterans and people of color, it sets a dangerous tone for the country.
As leaders, as mentors, and adults, we need to remember that our children are listening and learning about democracy as we exercise our right to vote and elect our next president. It’s dangerous to listen to people downplay predatory behavior as “locker room banter” or “boy talk,” as if even in a gym or locker room it would be acceptable to joke about grabbing a woman. At the very least it is bullying and worse, it is sexual assault.
On a reflective day, like today, we need to take pause and remember that individually we have a responsibility to model behavior that is conducive to a gentler world free of hate speech, violence and bullying. We need to celebrate diversity in a way that makes everyone feel welcomed and valued, because collectively our differences enrich our experiences. As a country, we need to find joy in our likeness and be respectful of our differences. On Spirit Day, we wear purple to stand in solidarity with all those that have experienced bullying. It’s time to reject the nonsensical and unkind behaviors that we have seen as of late and vow to lead by example, with kindness and gratitude for the uniqueness that each of us bring to the table.
By Julie Childs, Special Assistant to the Executive Director
Last month, over 100 transgender advocates and community leaders took part in a daylong training in the beautiful sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, Michigan. For about a year, my colleagues Kathleen Campisano and Camden Hargrove, and I had worked alongside the board members of Inclusive Justice, a Michigan-based interfaith organization at the intersections of faith and LGBTQ justice. Together, we set a goal to call, meet, and invite people of faith across Michigan to participate in a daylong training centering the lives and experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people.
At the training, I felt fortunate to co-facilitate a transgender and gender non-conforming caucus and training with our local partner and transgender advocate, Char Davenport. I was moved by just how vulnerable and supportive everyone in the room was with us and with one another. Of all conference attendees, 12 transgender, particularly transgender women, and gender non-conforming people participated in the workshop that I co-facilitated with Char. During the caucus session, we shared a wide rage of stories that included affirming experiences and heartbreaking incidents.
During the session, we grappled with questions of faith, gender identity and expression, and what it means for transgender people in Michigan to find and build spiritual homes. We also thought intently about our expectations for people of faith on the journey to being affirming allies. We wrote our “Manifesto” on a piece of big presentation paper, which we shared with the cisgender faith allies participating in the training.
It was incredibly inspiring to feel the warmth and enthusiasm being shared by everyone in the room. I felt particularly connected in some way with everyone in the room—as I had already held phone conversations with many of them over the past few months. I had never coordinated an event like this with members of the LGBTQ and faith communities, as a matter of fact, before I took on the role as an organizer with the National LGBTQ Task Force—and certainly not in Michigan!
So, as I enjoyed the interactions and presence of the people who attended the conference and training, I felt an encompassing sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction at putting faces with the voices of people I had inviting to be a part of this opportunity. Satisfaction at seeing my colleagues, who aren’t on the ground in Michigan as often as Kathleen, Camden, and I are, joyfully greeting, engaging, and building relationships with people I’d been getting to know. Satisfaction that the passion I have to work for justice, liberation, and equity for transgender and gender non-conforming people and faith communities came together for a successful day of community development. This experience has been influential to the vision of what a faith network of allies that centers transgender and gender non-conforming experiences could and should look moving forward in our movement work.
By Bri Sanders, Field Organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force
By Candace Bond-Theriault, Policy Counsel, Reproductive Health, Rights & Justice
As a member of All* Above All coalition, the National LGBTQ Task Force participated in this week’s United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action and advocates are raising awareness about the Hyde Amendment and the negative impact the 40 year old policy has on low-income women seeking abortions. Having abortions is a constitutionally protected right and access should never be limited on the basis of a person’s financial status. The National LGBTQ Task Force is proud that our former board member, Kierra Johnson, who is executive director of URGE, delivered a powerful testimony on this issue before the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Check out what she had to say by watching the video clip here or reading her remarks below.
Hearing on “The Ultimate Civil Right: Examining the Hyde Amendment and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act”
September 23, 2016
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to speak about the Hyde Amendment, one of our nation’s most harmful and shameful policies. One that singles out low-income women and interferes with their personal decision about whether to end a pregnancy.
My name is Kierra Johnson and I’m the Executive Director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity and as a steering committee member of the All* Above All campaign, a campaign led by more than 115 reproductive health, rights and justice organizations united to lift the bans on abortion coverage.
Safe, quality abortion services should be available regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, her source of insurance, or where she lives. However, since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, the appropriations process has been used as a vehicle to systematically deny meaningful abortion access to poor women, and has been expanded to harm many others. As a result of the Hyde Amendment and its extended reach into similar restrictions, nearly 29 million women of reproductive age do not have insurance coverage for abortion.
Each restriction, each ban is intended by anti-abortion politicians to further their ultimate goal of pushing abortion out of reach for as many people as possible.
For those who are struggling to get by– disproportionately women of color, low-income women, young women, immigrant women – a coverage ban might as well be a ban on abortion all together. Studies have shown that restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four low-income women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The Hyde amendment creates one the most onerous barriers to abortion care.
Just listen to the voices of those who have felt the impact of these bans. Kendall from Colorado says, “I found out I was pregnant and was deceived by the center I visited because it ended up being an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center. After that I struggled for weeks to find resources and to come up with the last $200. I have been anxious, frantic, and terrified. My health has declined and I believed there was little to no hope until today when I was finally able to access an abortion.”
A second woman recounted: “Here is what it took to gather the money for my abortion. It was hard, it took me three weeks…. The payday loan [I took out for my abortion] wiped out my entire account…. I got a three-day notice on my apartment door, and things started to spiral out of control and then when I became evicted I lived in a shelter temporarily.”
As a Black woman, I am outraged that the morally bankrupt Hyde Amendment has been permitted to persist for so long. It is a source of pain for many women, and should be a source of shame for those who support it.
The time for policies that visit indignity and deprivation on women, including Black women, is over. Last year, Representatives Barbara Lee, Diana DeGette and Jan Schakowsky made history by introducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, known as the EACH Woman Act. This bold legislation respects that each of us, not just some of us, should be able to make our own decisions about pregnancy and prohibits politicians from interfering by withholding coverage for abortion care. With this bill we are saying that all of us should have access to the same coverage and options, independent of income, zip code or source of insurance.
This legislation now has more than 120 cosponsors in the House and the support of the American people. Polling released last July shows that a majority of Americans would support a bill requiring Medicaid to cover abortion.
A right without access is not a right at all. In the EACH Woman Act, I see the transformational power of centering the lives, struggles, and aspirations of those for whom the legal right to a safe abortion has not yet been made a reality.
But that reality is within our reach. We can work together to build a future where women’s decisions are treated with respect and we can get the healthcare we need with dignity and compassion.
Executive Director, URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity
Steering Committee Member, All* Above All
In 1994, a young mother of a three-year-old boy fired a gun into her stomach, in an attempt to terminate her pregnancy. In 2011, a pregnant teenager hired a man to beat her, hoping to induce an abortion. Last year, a woman filled her bathtub with water and attempted a wire coat hanger abortion. All three were prosecuted for attempted murder. All three were exercising control over their own bodies in states where legal, safe, and affordable abortions are practically impossible to obtain.
These are not isolated incidents – the most recent cases are part of a rising return to unsafe self-induced abortions across the country. And the problem does not affect women only. There are many people – transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, and others, who can get pregnant. LGBTQ people need the full range of healthcare services to make important medical decisions.
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court recognized an individual’s right to terminate a pregnancy in Roe v. Wade in 1973, this right has been chipped away by state legislatures. State level fetal homicide laws, adopted by at least 38 states, are part of this anti-choice wave. In 23 states, these laws apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy.
These laws, often driven by the religious argument of “personhood from conception,” criminalize abortion and punish people who can get pregnant for choosing to terminate their pregnancy. Although legal abortions are supposedly not affected by these laws, a cocktail mix of other anti-choice laws have made legal abortions virtually impossible to obtain for anyone who does not have the privilege of financial stability.
LGBTQ people’s access to healthcare is limited by many intertwined factors, including poverty and race. 24% of lesbian and bisexual women are experiencing poverty, compared to 19% for heterosexual women. Transgender people are four times as likely to be living in extreme poverty, making under $10,000 a year. LGBTQ people of color are more likely to be poor than white members of the community. In fact, Black, Latino, and Native American same-sex couples have the highest percentage of poverty. These numbers show what LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color already know – our community is vulnerable to poverty and lacks access to comprehensive healthcare. A safe, legal abortion is not a feasible option for many.
So a combination of these laws trap pregnant people in a difficult situation: legal abortions are practically impossible to obtain and illegal abortions are criminal. Today, at least thirteen states have precedent of criminally prosecuting self-induced abortions. Purvi Patel’s conviction and 20-year sentence is a well-known example of such criminalization. As many reproductive justice advocates have highlighted over and over again, restricting access to abortion does not eliminate the need for it. These laws only force people who can get pregnant to seek other, dangerous forms of terminating an abortion.
LGBTQ people continue to be policed in other ways as well. We are policed when we bend traditional expectations of gender and sexuality; when we use public spaces such as streets and bathrooms; when we seek housing, employment, and education. Social, political, and legal institutions, along with individual citizens, continue to attempt to control our bodies and our lives. The fight for LGBTQ liberation is a fight to have dominion and control over our bodies. The right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental part of that dominion.
The choice to have a legal abortion that is practically impossible is no choice at all. Criminalizing and punishing people who attempt self-induced abortions criminalizes poverty and further robs LGBTQ people of control over their bodies and lives. So what can we do about it?
First, we can overcome the invisibility of LGBTQ people in the reproductive rights and justice movements by using gender-neutral and inclusive language. As a community, we understand the importance of language and visibility – and we can work together to make LGBTQ voices heard in conversations that concern our ability to plan our families. Second, we can create change by mobilizing as a community, and demanding accountability from our state and federal representatives. And lastly, we must continue to recognize that we are all intersectional beings. Poverty and race are only two of many other factors that affect LGBTQ people’s access to healthcare.
Our strength as a community lies in our diversity and compassion. We must come together against criminalizing poverty. We cannot stand by as legislators continue to strip people in the LGBTQ community of our basic human right to have dominion over our own bodies.
By Shirin Makhkamova, 2016 Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has always been on the front lines of Civil Rights since its inception, and this time is no different. The Queering Racial Justice Institute is the perfect space to learn and engage around the pressing issues of our time. Set to take place on Saturday, September 10, 2016, at the Philadelphia African-American Museum, the daylong training will focus on analyzing the intersection of identities and the ways these intersections should inform our work.
Register here to take part in the Queering Racial Justice Institute.
This institute will allow also for people from all walks of life to create safe space to move our country forward. The NAACP Pennsylvania (PA) Youth and College Division will be present to utilize our platform, and resources to empower attendees, and also to learn ways we can be even more strategic and inclusive with our partners in this work.
During the Queering Racial Justice Institute, the NAACP PA Youth and College Division will host two workshops that we hope will spark thought-provoking conversations around the epidemic of urban gun violence, and the impacts of social media on contemporary organizing. All across the America, we cannot escape the rising numbers of deaths in local communities nationwide due to gun violence. The PA Youth and College will provide the data to paint a picture for our attendees, discuss tangible solutions and strategies on creating inclusive advocacy efforts focused on common sense gun legislation.
The desire is for this space to underscore the importance on why gun violence prevention advocacy groups should adopt an all-encompassing platform to effectively address all forms of gun violence. As we continue resolve to moving the needle, in addition to discussing the ongoing mass shootings, we must also strategize to end the alarming homicide rates targeting young people of color. Moreover, we’ll also explore how the cycle of poverty and lack of vital resources contribute to gun violence. We believe these issues are critical components to the work of Queering Racial Justice as it reinforces how we all have to keep advocating for those who are often marginalized and left out of the major public discourse.
Our second workshop will focus on examining the ways social media content, images and language, have influenced public consciousness. The NAACP PA Youth and College Division wants to highlight how social media has transformed the way people consume information, how they mobilize around an issue, and even how they find community in the use of hashtag and creating a collective narrative. We will take time to discuss the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the impact it has had on how individuals utilize social media to reaffirm identity. The presentation will also acknowledge the ways social media has heightened the awareness of the injustices experienced by marginalized communities and how it has served as a catalyst for social change. Furthermore, we want to analyze the ways these platforms simultaneously disseminate negative imagery of marginalized communities and what impact that has on the public psyche. Overall, the NAACP PA Youth and College Division wants to equip attendees with the ability to use social media when organizing and encourage understanding of the nuances that exist with the consumption of new media.
The NAACP PA Youth and College Division is most excited to learn more about the advocacy of our allies and using this institute as a way to form even more meaningful partnerships.
You can register to attend the Queering Racial Justice Institute in Philadelphia online.
by Lauren Footman, guest blogger
Lauren Footman is from Yeadon, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in May of 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and double minors in Political Science and Africana Studies. While at Bryn Mawr College, she charted a college chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and currently serves as the President of the NAACP PA State Conference Youth and College Division. Additionally, Lauren serves as a gun violence prevention Organizer for Generation Progress, the millennial arm of the Center for American Progress. Currently, Lauren is employed by a financial services firm in Philadelphia and remains committed to advocating for marginalized communities.
In the wake of near-constant stories surfacing of police killings, mostly of Black and Latinx people, it is imperative to take an intersectional approach to addressing both the root causes of injustice in all parts of the criminal legal system as well as potential policy responses to systemic racism. Campaigns like #BlackTransLivesMatter, the Black women-led #SayHerName, and disabled people of color-led #DisabilitySolidarity all urge attention to the complex ways that misogyny and ableism – among other types of structural oppression – interact with racism in both the killings themselves and in the aftermath.
Due to pervasive stigma and interlocking prejudices, LGBTQ people of color – including Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous people – suffer from sharp disparities in policing, criminalization, and incarceration due to disproportionate contact with the criminal legal system. While only limited data currently exists, we now know that 85% of all LGBTQ youth in juvenile detention facilities are also youth of color, and that LGBTQ adults comprise 8% of all prisoners but only 3.8% of the total population.
These statistics point to more sinister realities – that queer and transgender people of color experience higher likelihood of criminalization, police violence, and incarceration throughout the lifespan. We understand these issues as deeply interconnected – those who engage in sex work to survive, live with HIV/AIDS, experience homelessness, use drugs, have a mental health crisis, or simply walk in public while openly transgender are subject to profiling, arrest, and police brutality. LGBTQ people of color – particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people – are more likely to be targeted by racist profiling, the school to prison pipeline, and discrimination in the courts; live in heavily policed low-income neighborhoods predominantly populated by communities of color; and suffer police violence stemming from some combination of anti-LGBTQ prejudice and racism. Those impacted by additional intersections, such as immigrants, disabled people, and religious minorities will face compounded oppression.
Learn more in the new Movement Advancement Project & Center for American Progress report, “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People of Color.”
Statistics show that all LGBTQ people are disproportionately impacted by poverty, including as a result of pervasive employment discrimination. For LGBTQ people of color, the disparities are worse. While only 12% of children of different-sex couples live in poverty, almost 20% of children of women in same-gender couples and 25% of children of men in same-gender couples do – but for children of Black men in same-gender couples, the number is over 50%. Likewise, while the overall unemployment rate for all transgender people is twice that of the general population, Black transgender people face unemployment at four times the rate of the general population, with similarly higher rates for other transgender people of color.
As a result, more LGBTQ people of color may turn to criminalized work for survival, including sex work, than either white LGBTQ people or non-LGBTQ people of color. The colliding realities of homelessness, poverty, and criminalization of survival result in much higher likelihood of contact with police, which can have deadly consequences.
Yet queer and transgender people of color face risk of profiling, arrest, and police violence even – or perhaps especially – when victimized by crime. Just ask Ky Peterson, a Black transgender man who was sentenced to twenty years in prison for killing his rapist in self-defense; or Robert Suttle, a Black gay man living with HIV who served prison time, lost his job, and is required to register as a sex offender for the next eight years for the crime of having a vindictive ex-partner who took advantage of HIV criminalization statutes to have him prosecuted for consensual sex.
Even as children, LGBTQ people of color (particularly those who are also disabled or who have a mental illness) are disproportionately impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline through suspensions, school pushout, and referrals to the juvenile justice system. In adulthood, transgender women of color are much more likely to be profiled as sex workers (whether they are engaged in sex work or not) and subject to heightened risk of police violence and prosecution on pretextual grounds.
Once impacted by the legal system, collateral consequences of a criminal record can include severely diminished housing or employment prospects, loss of civil rights, decreased access to adequate health care, and ineligibility for public assistance that might have otherwise provided small amounts of support in the face of homelessness or unemployment. The combined weight of these realities further contribute to a cycle of criminalization and incarceration of queer and transgender people of color, which demands recognition of how impossible it can be to separate racism from anti-transgender and anti-queer prejudice.
All people deserve to live free of fear of violence – whether from police, behind prison walls, or in their own communities. Accountability for police, prosecutors, and others in the criminal legal system, along with advocacy against discriminatory practices in courts and social services, must be priorities in any movement committed to achieving justice and freedom for those most marginalized in society. Part of that work means ending the criminalization of HIV status and sex work, implementation of Fair Chance hiring policies, elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing, and an end to the routine use of detention for those in immigration proceedings. It also means actively combating discrimination and abuse targeting queer and transgender people of color inside prisons and re-entry programs.
Ultimately, achieving full freedom, justice, and equality for LGBTQ people of color means developing new ways of addressing violence, doing justice, and creating safer communities that honor our bodies and lives.
The National LGBTQ Task Force has partnered on a new report authored by Movement Advancement Project & Center for American Progress, titled “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People of Color.”
by Lydia X. Z. Brown, 2016 Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force
As my fellowship comes to a close, I cannot help but reflect on my time at the National LGBTQ Task Force. For the past year, I have had the amazing opportunity to work as the media and public relations fellow at the Task Force. I could not be more thankful to have worked for such an incredible and inspiring organization that advocates for the rights and full freedom of LGBTQ people. The Task Force provided me with a lot of opportunities to learn more about myself and how to use my skill set to help others. I also had the opportunity to work directly with incredible LGBTQ Activists who have inspired me to continue to grow as a person and as an advocate.
At the Task Force, I have worked on a number of projects including reproductive rights, immigration reform, ending anti-transgender violence, restoring the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and more. One of the most incredible experiences I had while at the Task Force was in January when I traveled to Chicago with our communications team for the nation’s largest LGBTQ conference, Creating Change. At the conference, I was in charge of drafting and publishing the conference newsletter for the more than 4,000 attendees. Publishing the newsletter was a highly visible project with a very tight schedule; but I thrive in a fast-paced, demanding work environment and I am proud to say that the newsletter was delivered on time and received great reviews.
The Task Force also taught me that even though there have been many advances in the LGBTQ movement, such as winning the right for same-sex couples to marry, there is still a lot more work to be done. For example, approximately 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, yet LGBTQ youth make up less than 10% of the general youth population. Also, how the unjust criminal justice system fails LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color and LGBTQ people of low income. Additionally, the use of outdated HIV criminalization laws that punish the behaviors of people living with HIV, even if those behaviors carry no transmission. Data from the William Institute found that individuals charged with HIV-related cases were convicted in 99% of the cases, and 91% of those convicted were sentenced to jail time in prisons. In some states, individuals convicted under these laws are forced to register as sex offenders.
At the Task Force I learned a lot about the countless barriers LGBTQ people face in the United States. I have learned that every issue is an LGBTQ issue and as a Latino myself, I can relate with many of the issues the Task Force advocates for. I am thankful to have spent the past year elevating the voices of LGBTQ people. So as I get ready to leave the Task Force I will continue advocating for social justice and for LGBTQ people. I will always treasure all the knowledge I learned at the National LGBTQ Task Force and I am looking forward to a future when we can finally achieve full freedom, justice, and equality for all LGBTQ people.
by Daniel Chevez, National LGBTQ Task Force Media Relations Fellow