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Broadly: The First Lesbian Porn and 10 Other Revealing Artifacts from Lesbian History | Njus International

The First Lesbian Porn and 10 Other Revealing Artifacts from Lesbian History

Community Broadly

The Lesbian Herstory Archives also include a Japanese 'dyketionary' and a diary documenting what it was like to be queer in 1950's small-town Ohio.
'In the early 1970s, thrumming with the excitement and possibilities of the gay liberation movement, a group of New York lesbians started to take stock of their community. They realized that, like any other marginalized group, if they wanted to preserve the specific struggles, triumphs, and contours of their movement, they needed to collect their own stories. “Our history was disappearing as rapidly as we were creating it,” says Deborah Edel, co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives , in a video the organization made about its origins. “So a few of us said, Why don’t we just start our own collection? We’ll put together what we have and build from there.” The Lesbian Herstory Archives opened in 1974, in the Upper West Side apartment that Edel shared with her then-partner and co-founder Joan Nestle. They started by filling a milk crate with some flyers, photographs, pamphlets, and ephemera. Once that was full, they parceled out space in the pantry. When that began to overflow, the collection took over the spare bedroom, then the living room, and as it crept through the rest of the apartment over the next decade, the collective, which was by then a half-dozen women, realized the archive needed a home of its own. In 1990, after many months of fundraising, touring slideshow presentations, and rent parties, the group purchased a three-story building in Park Slope, Brooklyn. By 1993, they opened their doors to the public, inviting in anyone looking to learn about lesbianism. Today, 45 years after it began in a milk crate, the archive contains some 20,000 photographs, thousands of books, massive collections of newsletters, magazines, periodicals, flyers, diaries, correspondences, video and cassette tapes, theater scripts, posters, banners, matchbooks, buttons—and the list goes on. As American pop culture has gradually become more inclusive, even people not terribly focused on queer stories likely know specific shards of LGBTQ history—the rise and fall of Harvey Milk, the heroes and victims of the HIV crisis, the erotic portraits of Robert Mapplethorpe. Very few of those tidbits, however, shed light on lesbian history. Today, ephemera like what’s housed at the LHA gives us a glimpse into the rich, surprising stories that have long been ignored. These objects reveal intimate details about the lesbians who left them behind and the fascinating lives that they led. Below, find a list of 11 of those moments and people worth remembering, illustrated through artifacts from the LHA. The first national lesbian magazine Photo by Saskia Scheffer, courtesy Lesbian Herstory Archives. The Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian social and political organization in the U.S., was founded in San Francisco in 1955. The following year, the group began publishing The Ladder , the country’s first nationally distributed lesbian serial publication. The monthly magazine, which was always mailed in anonymous manila envelopes, contained news, editorials, poetry, short stories, letters, and a running bibliography of lesbian literature. When the Daughters of Bilitis disbanded in 1972, the group donated their entire lending library to the LHA. The Japanese Dyketionary Photos by Saskia Scheffer, courtesy Lesbian Herstory Archives At the LHA, books are shelved alphabetically by first name, “as a gentle reminder of the fact that women lose their names very often,” explains Saskia Scheffer, who’s been volunteering as one of the archive’s 10 or so co-coordinators since 1989. So The Japanese Dyketionary can be found under “J,” for the (presumed) pen name Joni van Dyke. The beautiful, handwritten and hand-bound book contains hundreds of words and phrases, like “femme,” “bush,” “clitoris,” and “fag hag” in three languages: English, casual Japanese, and formal Japanese. There has long been a current of lesbian activism in modern Japan, which can be traced to 1975, when a dozen women became the first group to publicly identify as lesbians, publishing a single issue of a magazine called Subarashi Onna (Wonderful Women). In Tokyo in the 80s, a community of English-speaking lesbians began to form, and in 1985 they began holding in-person gatherings called uiikuendo (“weekends”) as part of the International Feminists of Japan conference. Uiikuendo was one venue where Dyketionary was circulated. As van Dyke explains on the title page, the book is “an attempt to help bridge the communication gap to fight the patriarchal strategies for blocking DYKE ENERGY!” A shirt that reclaims an angry epithet Photo by Saskia Scheffer, courtesy Lesbian Herstory Archives. On May 1st, 1970, writer and activist Rita Mae Brown led a group of 40 women in a collective action at the Second Congress to Unite Women in New York City. Betty Friedan, a prominent second-wave feminist and founder of the National Organization of Women, had angered Brown (and many others) by referring to lesbians, whom she did not want as part of her movement, as a “lavender menace.” Brown and her cohort infiltrated the congress as Friedan was about to speak, cut the lights, and filled the aisles of the auditorium. When the lights came back on, all the women were wearing handmade T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Lavender Menace.” They began yelling demands for the feminist movement to embrace lesbians, and handing out copies of “Woman-Identified Woman,” a manifesto-like publication that the organizers of the action had co-written for the occasion and signed “Radicalesbians.” After the action, the organizers continued to use the new moniker. They would go on to serve as key figures in the lesbian feminist movement. Pulp novels that circumvented the obscenity laws of the time Photo by Saskia Scheffer, courtesy Lesbian Herstory Archives. With titles like That Other Hunger , The Delicate Vice , The Evil Friendship , and The Odd Girls , lesbian pulp novels of the 50s and 60s were certainly not subtle in their prurience. Although mainstream publishers allowed the risqué novels to circulate, due to the strict obscenity laws of the time, the female characters had to be punished for their indiscretions and offenses against heteronormativity in order for the books to make it to print. To get past government censorship, any lesbian characters needed to give up her “wicked” ways by the end of the book and settle down with a man, or else lose her child, her job, or even her life. “You could be as lecherous and steamy as you wanted,” Scheffer says, “but you could not give them a happy ending.” Still, when these books were being produced, “they were among the only places where lesbians could read about themselves,” Scheffer adds. That’s why the archivists at LHA label them “survival literature.” Photos of lesbian icon Mabel Hampton Photos courtesy Lesbian herstory Archives. Mabel Hampton is an icon of New York City’s lesbian history. She was a dancer and performer during the Harlem Renaissance, a gay-rights activist and philanthropist later in life, and an out lesbian through it all. Born in North Carolina in 1902, Hampton lived in New York City for all but her first few years of childhood. She spent much of her young adulthood as a dancer in Harlem’s artistic milieu as well as performing in Coney Island and throughout New York, proudly surrounding herself with many of the era’s most prominent queer Black women. Hampton met her lifelong partner, Lillian Foster, in 1932, and the couple lived in the Bronx together for more than 40 years, until Foster passed away in 1978. (Their apartment building is listed as an NYC LGBT Historic Site.) After that, Hampton went on to live with LHA co-founder Joan Nestle, in the apartment that originally housed the archives. Nestle created an extensive oral history of Hampton’s life through many interviews, and upon her death, Hampton donated all of her and Foster’s personal papers, memorabilia, letters, books, and ephemera to the archives. The first women-run lesbian erotica magazine Photo by Saskia Scheffer, courtesy Lesbian Herstory Archives As a reaction to what many felt was a deep strain of prudishness in the feminist movement at the time, On Our Backs was founded in 1984 as the first women-run, sex-positive, lesbian erotica magazine in the U.S. Throughout the 70s and 80s, there was a sharp divide between lesbians who downplayed talking about sex because they didn’t want it to define them in mainstream culture, and those who wanted sex to be celebrated and central to their identities. On Our Backs , which was published until 2006, was named in reaction to the long-running radical feminist (and often anti-porn) newspaper off our backs , which ran from 1970 to 2008. Over its 20+ years, On Our Backs published an array of groundbreaking and controversial erotic writing, often exploring social and political issues around lesbian sex and relationships, from writers like Dorothy Allison, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Sarah Schulman, Thea Hillman, Jewelle Gomez, Patrick Califia, and Red Jordan Arobateau . The first porn for women Photo by Saskia Scheffer, courtesy Lesbian Herstory Archives. Nan Kinney, one of the co-founders of On Our Backs , wanted lesbians to have more than just written erotica, so in 1985 she founded Fatale Media , the first company to make porn for women, which is still active today. Shadows , Fatale Media’s first release, promises “passion and spontaneity [that is] refreshingly genuine” from two women who are lovers both on-camera and off. A later Fatale film, Bathroom Sluts , was partially filmed at the LHA, “and in good lesbian fashion, the video ends with the participants proudly processing why they made it,” says Scheffer. The only known recording of Paula Gunn Allen Over her lifetime, award-winning Native American poet, literary critic, and scholar Paula Gunn Allen produced several books of poetry, scholarly works, and edited anthologies. Her groundbreaking 1986 book, The Sacred Hoop, posited that European scholarly and historical works had framed Native American society through a patriarchal lens, diminishing the important roles women took on in politics and culture. Her scholarly work was considered both controversial and influential, and her acclaimed books of poetry helped bring a Native American literary presence to the United States. She did not identify as a lesbian until later in life , after several marriages to men. A few years after her death in 2008, a researcher at the LHA discovered a cassette with a spoken-word poetry performance by Allen in 1980, which had taken place at the archive’s original Upper East Side location. It is the only known recording of Allen’s voice. The moving diary of an ordinary lesbian from 1950's Ohio One of the principles of the LHA is that a person doesn’t have to be well-known to be remembered. “We don’t care whether you’re important or famous or even good or bad,” says Scheffer. “You can have your own special collection here.” One of the largest of those special collections is that of Marge McDonald, a lesbian who lived in a small Midwestern Ohio town in the 50s. She was a shy, self-described loner who lived most of her life extremely closeted. But she kept extensive, detailed diaries of her hopes and fears, her budding understanding of her own sexuality, and her inability to act on or discuss it with anyone in her closed-minded world. Among the 1,500 pages of diary entries from 1955 to 1957 is an account of her first visit to a lesbian bar—she’d concocted an elaborate fantasy for her friends, involving an imaginary boyfriend who wanted to see what it was like inside, “just for kicks”—and her first lesbian kiss, of which she wrote : “I could never describe my feelings so I won’t even try. It is sufficient to say that as long as I live, I shall never forget that moment—or the kiss.” When McDonald died, a lawyer called the LHA and said they had three days to pick up her entire personal archives; she had bequeathed everything to them in her will, effectively coming out to her family for the first time. Memorabilia from Vietnam army medic Mary Minucci Mary Minucci was an army medic and a noncommissioned officer in Vietnam. She was highly decorated, receiving a Vietnam Service Medal with six Campaign Stars, National Defense Service Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm. After her military service, she traveled to Papua, New Guinea, teaching native people to use Western medicine. She and her partner, who was also in the military, lived their lives deeply closeted. Minucci contracted three different kinds of cancer after her time in the service, and it was only after her death that her family gave permission for her to be named and recognized as a lesbian. It was an unlikely thing for Minucci’s story and her lesbianism to come out; given the extensive policing of sexuality for United States service-members throughout history, so few personal histories of queer people in the armed forces will ever be known. Calendars and daybooks that were used as subtle signals Among the quieter, more personal items that tell queer stories are the handmade and small-batch paper goods that organized people’s lives. Before the digital age when lesbians could congregate in chat rooms and online forums, women often signaled their persuasion to one another with simple things like the calendars on their walls and the date books in their pockets. Some of these would later become mass-produced, like wall calendars featuring “Dykes to Watch Out For,” Alison Bechdel’s wildly popular long-running comic series, and “Sirens Leather Calendars,” made by the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club , the oldest and largest in NYC. Others were only produced in much smaller runs, and still others were handmade with care and distributed only to friends. In the 80s and 90s, these sorts of books were easy to produce cheaply and were widely used. Scheffer herself carried the small, red Vrouwen Kalender year after year; that particular date book was also available in English (\'Woman’s Calendar\') and German (\'Frauen Kalender\'). For more people, places, and moments from lesbian “herstory,” follow the LHA on Instagram .'

When a Binding Contract With God Means Staying Silent on Sexual Abuse

Community Broadly

Evangelical megachurches are leaning on a favorite tool of corporations to protect themselves from liability in the MeToo era.
'God had a busy Tuesday this week. In Alabama , leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, gathered for their annual meeting , with sex abuse squarely atop the agenda. Meanwhile, 900 miles to the north, in Baltimore, US Catholic bishops met to discuss next steps in addressing the same problem, which has become a festering institutional crisis across the globe. But whereas sexual violence in the Catholic Church has been on the national radar for decades, similar crimes in the evangelical community didn't hit the mainstream until the past year or two, exploding in February with a six-part investigative series by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News that documented 400 Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers accused of misconduct. Following the articles' release, the Southern Baptist Convention put out the \'Caring Well\' report , an acknowledgement of past lapses that offered some guidance on how to deal with abuse allegations. It was presented at the Tuesday meeting as well, where congregants voted on amendments aimed at curbing sexual abuse and racism . The Southern Baptists met again Wednesday, praying at length after being inundated with horrific stories of criminal sexual abuse. But among the items some members of the faith hoped they might address was something you wouldn't expect to find in either Testament: the use of binding arbitration to settle disagreements between churches and their parishioners. In the New York Time s on Monday, Natalie Dias reported that The Village, one of the most prominent evangelical churches in America, has new members sign agreements containing language that could prevent them from suing, and potentially force those with complaints into binding arbitration, which almost always happens in private. Such deals, which have become well-known in recent years for helping shield corporate abuses (sexual and otherwise), have an air of relative novelty in a religious context. Certainly, it's hard to imagine Billy Graham asking someone to sign one. Experts canvassed by VICE found it difficult to estimate just how ubiquitous these documents were in the American evangelical world, which according to Pew includes roughly a quarter of the population and nearly a fifth of millennials. Nor was it clear that these supposed agreements between the faithful and their churches—sometimes called \'covenants,\' implying a promise to God—would necessarily hold up in court. But according to Wartburg Watch , a popular blog run by two American Christian women, in addition to The Village, a Southern Baptist megachurch that boasts some 10,000 worshippers a weekend around Dallas , both Bethlehem Baptist and Capitol Hill Baptist, major evangelical churches in Minneapolis and in Washington, D.C., respectively, have similar contracts. In other words, some of the signature outposts of the evangelical community have been relying on a uniquely American way of protecting themselves from liability, one that has come under intense scrutiny in the MeToo era. And in leaning on binding arbitration and other methods that have become notorious for silencing survivors of sexual abuse and other crimes—and infusing them with an aura of religious legitimacy—evangelical churches have made it that much harder for survivors to come forward, experts and advocates said. \'Churches want all the benefits and protections of the corporate model, and none of the accountability of it,\' said Rachael Denhollander, an attorney and former gymnast who was raised Baptist and became the first person to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual assault. To be sure, some evangelical leaders have expressed interest in addressing sexual abuse, as evidenced by the meeting this week. \'Our 2019 SBC annual meeting has been devoted to raising awareness about incidences of sexual abuse, including amending our Convention’s governing documents with respect to what constitutes a cooperating church with the Convention,\' Roger Sing Oldham, a spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a statement Thursday. Advocates suggested that much like the Catholic Church's various initiatives in recent years, however, such symbolic measures would fall short—unless they addressed binding arbitration. \'The Federal Arbitration Act was designed to settle business disputes,\' said John Manly , a Los Angeles–based sex abuse lawyer who has represented survivors of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests. \'It wasn't designed and shouldn't be allowed to be a way for people engaged in systemic criminal conduct to escape accountability in the court.\' That's what critics like him think is happening within the evangelical movement, just part of a national trend away from class-action lawsuits and toward closed-door settlements buoyed by a business-friendly Supreme Court. \'Under the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, everyone has a right to a civil jury trial, and no one can take that right away from you,\' said Jeff Dion, an attorney and the CEO of the Zero Abuse Project , an advocacy group focused on eradicating sexual abuse of minors. \'But you can give that right away—and people do all the time, whenever they rent a car, or get a credit card, or get a cellphone, or, really, anytime they click on one of those boxes that say, 'I accept these terms and conditions,' without reading it. And oftentimes, buried in there, is an arbitration clause, waiving your right to a civil jury trial.\' It's still too early to tell if evangelical churches will have the same large-scale reckoning as the Catholic Church, or what it might ultimately look like. Part of the trouble in predicting the outcome is the fractured nature of evangelicalism, even in describing it: An investigative feature from the Washington Post last year, which included Denhollander as a central subject, ruminated on the difficulty of landing on precise numbers , because \'there's no hard data\'—though it did mention a report from 2007 in which \'the three largest insurers of churches and Christian nonprofits said they received about 260 claims of sexual abuse against a minor each year.\' The sprawling, hierarchical system that allowed predatory Catholic priests to operate in secret for so long is the very system that'll have to be revised and stop abuse in the faith. But with evangelicals, without the same kind of rigid central governing body, individual churches have been responding to allegations of abuse on the fly. \'They're going about it in a different way, because they have different tools available to them,\' said Dion. \'We have seen a greater concentration of cover-up in the Catholic Church, because it's a more hierarchical system. Protestant churches are more decentralized. The Southern Baptist Convention doesn't control individual churches. It can't shift people around.\' Perhaps most important, even in cases where contracts between evangelicals and churches don't crumble in court, they could deter those who might be afraid of literally offending God. \'In the context of child abuse, this can be a very effective ruse in which to keep church secrets and to fail to protect children and their families,\' said Victor Vieth, the director of research at Zero Abuse. But if MeToo has had a somewhat delayed effect on some of the most deeply religious and politically conservative institutions in the country, fear can be sustained for only so long. R. Marie Griffith, a professor in the humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, and an evangelical who has studied the movement—and especially women in the movement—for decades, thought there was a lot of work left to do to shine a light on abuses in the evangelical community. \'I would expect this to take a very, very long time,\' she said. Still, Griffith added, \'The genie is out of the bottle, and there's no getting it back in.\' Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily. Follow Alex Norcia on Twitter .'

Joe Biden Wagged His Finger At Me When I Asked Him About Abortion

Politics Broadly

The story behind the viral Twitter photo.
'On Tuesday night, K.C. Cayo’s photo of Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden went viral on Twitter. In the photo, Biden, the current frontrunner, is pointing his finger in Cayo’s face with his eyebrows raised. Cayo, a student activist based in Wisconsin, said they had attended an Iowa campaign event as part of a loosely organized group that “bird-dogs” candidates, a tactic that involves seeking out opportunities to ask candidates where they stand on particular issues. Cayo, who uses they/them pronouns, and the two women with them had wanted to ask Biden about his views on the Hyde Amendment, a provision that bans federal funds from being used for abortion. Decades ago, Biden voted against a measure to create exceptions within the Hyde Amendment for survivors of rape and incest, which later passed into law. Then last week, he flip-flopped on the issue, first saying he still supports the amendment , and then later reversing his stance , saying he would repeal it if elected president. Cayo said they would have liked to ask Biden about some other issues that have plagued his campaign, like the accusations of unwanted kissing and touching from multiple women , and making light of the incidents at public events. But they didn’t get to it. “I wasn’t able to even finish my 30-second elevator pitch—I never got past the first sentence,” Cayo said. “Just the fact that he wagged his finger at me in such a condescending manner is very telling.” The Biden campaign did not respond to VICE’s request for comment before publication. Here’s the rest of Cayo’s story in their words: Every weekend, a couple of us have been going to events to ask Democratic presidential candidates where they stand on Supreme Court and lower court reform. We’re hoping that if they get asked about it enough, it will become an issue at the debates and if a Democrat wins in 2020 we’ll get to see some real reform. There are about a dozen of us, and we all met protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last year. We’ve spoken to every candidate at least once now. But this was my first weekend getting to bird-dog with them because I just got out of school for the summer. I got to bird-dog Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang, and then, yesterday, Joe Biden. Usually we catch candidates at the end of a selfie line. It’s a version of us telling our story—whether it be as survivors of sexual assault, someone who protested Kavanaugh, or just someone who’s interested in social justice—and then bringing up the decades-long plot to stack the courts with conservative judges and asking where they stand on that. For the most part, the candidates have been pretty willing to speak. We rearranged our flights on Monday to get to Ottumwa, Iowa, where Biden was speaking. We changed our questions for him because we wanted him to answer for some of his stances regarding reproductive rights, especially his statements in the last two weeks on the Hyde Amendment . We wanted to tell him why his stance concerned us and then tie it back to the courts. We got in Biden’s selfie line. First he got to Fran, the woman in the photo with me. She asked him if he was willing or interested in reforming and restructuring our courts. He said something noncommittal—something along the lines of, “I need to think about it.” Then I reached out to shake his hand and pick up where she’d left off. I said, “Ok, that’s great, because we’re personally very concerned with your stance on abortion, which is a lot more conservative.” Specifically, we were concerned about his less-than-24-hour flip on the Hyde Amendment. That’s where things got confusing: His tactic to deflect us was to keep talking about the Violence Against Women Act [which established the Office on Violence Against Women and funded groups providing resources to victims of gendered violence], as if he didn’t understand what the Hyde Amendment was, so I said, “No, we’re not talking about that.” We asked him to protect survivors. Then he leaned in very close to my face, and started wagging his finger at me. He said, “Nobody has spoken about it, done more, or changed more than I have.” When he walked away I shouted after him, “We deserve better.” We left after that because we didn’t want anything to escalate; we didn’t want to be in a shouting match. I’m behind the I Believe Survivors movement, but aside from that, I can now make the connection between the man I saw and the man accused of harassment by multiple women. I saw a man capable of those things: A man who can’t take responsibility, who doesn’t respect women, and who gets in their personal space. He got angry and started to raise his voice, and I think it was an intimidation tactic. There’s no reason to wag your finger at a womxn or reprimand them for asking questions about things you have been in the press for just last week. Ideally, Biden would have said, “I see where you’re coming from; I see where what I said [about the Hyde Amendment] was harmful or problematic. Here are some ideas I have to protect women.” Or he could have said, “I plan to come up with some ideas.” He could have taken any amount of responsibility for his views. Going in, none of us really believed that would happen, but there’s always a possibility for someone to show they’re capable of change. With all of the recent anti-abortion bills , now more than ever it’s really important to have a progressive stance on bodily autonomy. Almost all of the other Democratic candidates, especially the frontrunners, have a very progressive stance on reproductive rights . If Biden really wants to win, he needs to fix his ideas on this issue. The fact that my tweet got this response shows that women and our allies are not going to tolerate politicians like this anymore. We’re sick of it. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.'

Politicians Are Getting Serious About Decriminalizing Sex Work

Politics Broadly

In the past, these proposals were meant to advance the conversation. Now they're designed to be passed.
'On Monday morning, New York lawmakers introduced a legislative package that would make the state the first to decriminalize sex work. The bill, called the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, represents the culmination of months of lobbying and advocacy work from Decrim NY, a coalition just four months old , made up of sex workers, trafficking survivors, and their allies. The announcement arrives on the heels of a decriminalization bill in D.C., which was reintroduced last week after similar legislation died in the city council in 2017, having never been brought to a vote. Jessica Raven, a former member of D.C.’s coalition to decriminalize sex work, said in a May interview with VICE that the 2017 legislation had been largely “symbolic.” With so little support from local lawmakers, the best Raven and her fellow organizers could hope for was to “start a conversation” about decriminalization. Raven believes it has worked. The last few years has brought the fight for decriminalization—which has been led for years by sex workers—from the fringes of political discourse to the center. The question of decriminalization is no longer merely one for local and state officials, but 2020 presidential hopefuls , who have already been pressed to come out with positions on the issue, or made to account for their votes on FOSTA/SESTA, federal anti-trafficking legislation sex workers say has made it more dangerous to do their work. Now, the bills introduced in D.C. and New York are not just intended as symbols or conversation starters. Advocates and lawmakers say they’re proposals meant to be lobbied for, debated, and—though likely not in this legislative session—passed into law. “The 2017 decriminalization bill was significant because it helped us anchor our advocacy, make decriminalization a key issue in local elections, and shift public opinion to set the stage for 2019 bills in D.C. and New York,” Raven, now a member of Decrim NY, said Monday. “Now, we're seeing decriminalization discussed on the national stage even among presidential candidates, and more people are taking this issue seriously.” The New York legislation tackles nearly a dozen state laws that currently criminalize sex work. It would repeal sections of the penal code that make prostitution, “loitering for the purposes of prostitution”—a measure decriminalization advocates call the “ walking while trans ban ”— and “promoting” prostitution misdemeanors. (In some cases, \'promoting\' prostitution can be a felony as well.) The bill also proposes a number of amendments to the penal code, including a sweeping one that would make changes to dwelling law, public health law, real property law, and more, to ensure that sex workers aren’t criminalized by other existing laws once their work is decriminalized. And under the legislation, sex workers with prostitution-related arrests on their records would be eligible for criminal record relief. Decrim NY has emphasized that the new legislation doesn’t seek to change trafficking laws, an issue organizers believe will be abated with the decriminalization of sex work. If sex work were decriminalized, Decrim NY members say, sex work would be treated much like a job in any other industry: Sex workers who are harassed, assaulted, or exploited could go to authorities for help without fear of arrest, create their own networks to keep each other safe, and even form unions to collectively bargain for additional protections. \' Sex work is work \' is a common refrain in activism for decriminalization. Trans women, women of color, and trans women of color feel the effects of criminalization most acutely ; many of them make up Decrim NY’s steering committee and have spoken at the coalition’s rallies about their brushes with arrest, incarceration, and abuse as a result of their work being criminalized. At Monday’s press conference, held in Manhattan, steering committee member Cecilia Gentili recalled her time at Rikers Island, the result, she said, of being unable to tell authorities that she was being trafficked in the house they raided for drugs for fear that doing so would add prostitution charges to her arrest. TS Candii, another member of Decrim NY, told the crowd of reporters that she had turned to sex work when she lost her job due to discrimination during her gender transition and needed a way to pay for housing and bills. “[Sex work] is a source of income where I’m not discriminated against—I don’t have to worry about getting fired because my boss hates trans people,” she said Monday. “Because of criminalization, however, I do have to worry about getting a prostitution charge on my permanent record, and law enforcement harassing me, taking my condoms, and having to perform sexual favors in exchange for them not arresting me. Because of criminalization, I worry about being profiled as soon as I walk out the door.” “The harm caused by criminalization is hard to even quantify,” State Senator Julia Salazar, a cosponsor of the bill, said later during the press conference. “It keeps people—because of their gender identity and because of circumstances beyond their control—from what they need to survive and thrive in our society.” Audacia Ray, a director at the Anti-Violence Project and member of Decrim NY’s steering committee, said it’s something many New York residents have begun to “intuitively understand”—that the “criminalization of sex work is the criminalization of poverty and of trans people trying to survive.” She said it’s also something lawmakers were receptive to when Decrim NY went to Albany last month to lobby for a repeal on the “walking while trans ban” and criminal record relief, two features of Monday’s bill that have been introduced as separate pieces of legislation. Ray and others say the new political will to discuss sex work decriminalization in New York would not have been possible without the progressive gains of the 2018 elections. Many of Decrim NY’s biggest allies in the New York state legislature are women like Salazar and State Senator Jessica Ramos, who unseated centrist Democrats in their primary races and broke up the bloc of Republican-aligned Democrats many say stalled progress in New York. “Some of the older folks around Albany said, ‘Just wait and see—all of these legislators are going to be much more concerned with getting reelected than fighting for radical change,’” Ray said. “It’s major that Salazar has kept her promise [to sex workers] since she was elected.” Members of the D.C. council are moving left on the issue too, according to at-large Councilmember David Grosso, a co-sponsor of D.C.’s new decriminalization bill. On the phone Monday, he agreed with Raven that the 2017 version of his legislation had been intended to “expand the conversation.” “This is a standard tactic that is necessary to take sometimes on thorny issues that people have been thinking about the same way for many years,” Grosso said. When he first proposed legalizing marijuana in 2013, at the forefront of debates over the issue, he said, none of his colleagues were willing to cosponsor it. When he reintroduced it this year, he did so with three other councilmembers , and last month D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she plans to file her own legalization bill for consideration. For Grosso, it’s a sign that ideas once considered fringe can eventually catch on, if one is persistent. “I think the same will happen with sex work,” he said. Since the D.C. council’s legislative sessions are two years long, Grosso has until January 1, 2020 to rally support for the bill and get it a hearing in committee—something the bill didn’t get in 2017. He’s hopeful: “It certainly helps that there’s a national conversation happening,” he continued. “We’re not the one outlier; we’re part of a bigger movement now.” Raven and her co-organizers know there’s still much to do. With New York’s legislative session ending on June 19—a matter of days away—Decrim NY is looking ahead to more community outreach to educate the public about what decriminalization means, debunk misconceptions, and address any concerns. Many Decrim NY members spoke of a long road ahead, but at the end of Monday’s press conference, Gentili said she felt differently. “I’m optimistic that this isn’t going to be as long of a fight,” she said.'

Chanel Scurlock Is the Fifth Black Trans Woman Killed in the Last Month

Public Protection Broadly

'I’m proud of you for being unapologetically correct about your feelings and expectations of YOU,' wrote a friend of the North Carolina woman on Facebook.
'The body of 23-year-old Chanel Scurlock was found in a field in Lumberton, North Carolina, just after midnight on Wednesday. She is at least the ninth Black trans woman killed in the U.S. in 2019, and the fifth killed in the past month, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Police found Scurlock, who lived in Lumber Bridge, N.C., with fatal gunshot wounds after responding to reports of gunfire in the area. They have yet to identify a suspect, though Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins told The Robesonian, a local paper, that police have \'great leads.\' “Robeson County sheriff’s detectives are currently working diligently to bring closure to a grieving family,” Wilkins said. Scurlock's car was initially reported missing, but later found on Wednesday. Although local media misgendered and deadnamed Scurlock, friends and activists identified her as a transgender woman, according to the Advocate. Her mother, however, has referred to her in interviews as a gay man. \'RIP baby,\' wrote a friend on Facebook. \'Chanel Scurlock You [lived] your life as you wanted. I’m proud of you for being unapologetically correct about your feelings and expectations of YOU.\' On the night that she was killed, friends of Scurlock say that she was on her way to meet with someone who had taken down a Facebook post that included a photo of her in which she was presenting as a woman, according to local news station WRAL. Friends told the outlet they were concerned about Scurlock going to meet the person who took down the post, as they believed the meeting could become dangerous. The past month has been deadly for Black trans women. Scurlock's death follows those of Claire Legato , Muhlaysia Booker , Michelle Washington , and Chynal Lindsey in the last 30 days alone. After a video of Muhlaysia Booker being physically beaten went viral in April, Booker held a press conference pleading with the public to take action to prevent violence against Black trans women. Her death, which occurred only a few weeks after the attack, received widespread attention, bringing the issue of violence against Black trans women into the national conversation. “This time it was me,” Booker said at her press conference. “The next time it could be someone else close to you.”'

Trump Is Very Confused About Trans People

Military Broadly

On Wednesday, Trump commented that trans people shouldn't be allowed in the military because they take 'massive amounts of drugs'—among other inaccurate claims.
'Days after President Trump finally recognized June as LGBTQ Pride Month—a first for his presidency—the commander-in-chief doubled down on his administration’s ban of openly transgender people in the U.S. military. His reason? Drugs. During an interview on “Good Morning Britain” on Wednesday, commentator Piers Morgan, a friend of Trump’s, asked the president why he approved such a policy, especially after recently tweeting his support of the LGBTQ community. “Because they take massive amounts of drugs,” Trump responded. “They have to. And you’re not allowed to take drugs; you’re in the military. You’re not allowed to take any drugs—you take an aspirin.” They have to, he added, after “the operation,” referring to gender confirmation surgery. He also suggested that transgender people enter the military and “then [ask] for the operation, and the operation is $200,000, $250,000.” “You have to have a standard and you have to stick by that standard,” he continued. “We have a great military and I want to keep it that way. And maybe [transgender service members] would be phenomenal, I think they probably would be.” “But, again, you have very strict rules and regulations on drugs and prescription drugs and all of these different things. And they blow it out of the water,” the president added. Experts, however, point out that Trump’s statements are incorrect: People who serve in the military are in fact allowed to take prescription medications. “The hormones taken by transgender individuals are not prohibited by the military,” Joshua Safer, the head of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, told the Washington Post . There’s no evidence that transgender service members use prescription medications more than anyone else. Almost half of all Americans—which includes those who serve in the armed forces—report taking at least one prescription drug in the past month. And, importantly, research shows the health of transgender veterans is comparable to that of cisgender veterans. Additionally, not all transgender people undergo hormone replacement therapy or even want to pursue a gender reassignment surgery. And for those who do, the cost of surgery is substantially less than what Trump claimed it to be, ranging from $6,000 to $150,000, according to Healthline . “It’s abundantly clear the president has no idea what he’s talking about,” said Gillian Branstetter, spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality . Not only do his comments portray transgender people broadly, but they are also “dismissive of the 13,000 transgender service members that are impacted by this policy. They portray people who have signed up to serve their country as a burden.” Today’s interview is one of the few times Trump has talked publicly about policy issues impacting the transgender community. Last year, he sidestepped a question about media reports on a proposal to redefine gender based on genitalia at birth by telling reporters, “We have a lot of different concepts right now. They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now.” On Twitter, where he prefers to speak to Americans directly, the only time he’s ever tweeted about the trans community is when he set the whole transgender military ban in motion almost two years ago . During Wednesday’s interview, Morgan told Trump the military spends more money on medication for erectile dysfunction for male service members than it does on healthcare for transgender troops. Trump responded, “I didn’t know they do that.” But regardless of Trump’s own understanding of what it means to be a transgender person, “the administration is acting under both ignorance and malice,” Branstetter said. As an example, she points to an exchange between Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici during a House Education Committee hearing in April. When Bonamici asked DeVos if she was aware of the detrimental impact of rescinding Title IX protections designed to protect transgender students, DeVos admitted she was—and rescinded that guidance anyway. And in recent weeks, a slew of recent regulatory changes from various government departments include rolling back important legal protections for trans people, including access to healthcare and housing . “Our organization has met with administrative offices,” Branstetter said, “We have filed court briefs, and we have filed public comments making it abundantly clear the risks and damages posed by their policies, and they have moved forward with them anyway.”'

The Alabama Mayor Who Suggested Killing LGBTQ People Has Offered to Resign

Community Broadly

Nationwide backlash against Carbon Hill Mayor Mark Chambers has forced the mayor to reconsider his initial decision to remain in his position.
'Mark Chambers, the mayor of a small town in Alabama called Carbon Hill, has offered to step down after facing criticism for posting, then deleting, a Facebook post in which he suggested \'killing out\' LGBTQ people. According to screenshots, the original post read: “We live in a society where homosexuals lecture us on morals, transvestites lecture us on human biology, baby killers lecture us on human rights and socialists lecture us on economics.\' A Facebook friend of the mayor responded with the comment, \'By giving the minority more rights than the majority. [sic] I hate to think of the country my grandkids will live in unless somehow we change and I think that will take a revolution.” To which Chambers responded, “The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but without killing them out there’s no way to fix it.” Local news station WBRC spoke to Chambers following his Facebook posts. According to the outlet, Chambers initially denied making the posts, hung up on the news station, then called back to acknowledge that he did in fact make the posts, but that his words had been taken out of context. Chambers told the station that, although he denies that his comments were aimed at LGBTQ people, \'if it comes to a revolution in this country both sides of these people will be killed out.\' On Tuesday, Chambers attempted to apologize on Facebook: \'Although I believe my comment was taken out of context and was not targeting the LGBTQ community, I know that it was wrong to say anyone should be kill [sic].\' According to WBRC, Chambers was formally asked to resign during a city council meeting on Tuesday. Despite telling a local paper earlier that day that he did not intend to resign, Chambers allegedly told the city council that he was willing to resign if necessary. “He’s apologized profusely and said he was sorry, and he would do whatever it takes, even if it meant stepping down,” Council Member Reverend Clarence Colbert told WBRC. “I told him, 'Please don’t step down,' because his leadership has brought the city as far as it has.” VICE reached out to Chambers and Carbon Hall City Hall for comment but has not heard back. When it comes to LGBTQ rights, Alabama is one of the country's least-tolerant states. LGBTQ people in the state lack housing and employment protections , and have been blocked from adopting children. In the hours since Chambers' comments made headlines, people across the country have spoken out on social media and launched an online petition calling for his resignation. Noel, a gay man who grew up in an Alabama town neighboring Carbon Hill, is one of them. On Tuesday, Noel, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect himself from harassment, encouraged his Twitter followers to call Chambers' office and demand his resignation. \'When a person of power spews hate like that—whether it's privately or publicly—it empowers bigots to continue a vicious cycle of hatred, as they feel they can get away with it scot-free,\' he said. \'If I lived in Carbon Hill, I'd go so deep into the closet that I would find a secret, secondary closet to live the rest of my days in—and nobody should ever have to live in that sort of fear.\''

Another Black Trans Woman Was Found Dead in Dallas

Public Protection Broadly

A body was discovered in White Rock Lake Saturday evening. By Monday, the individual was identified as a 26-year-old Black trans woman.
'Dallas police confirmed on Monday that a Black transgender woman was found dead on Saturday, floating in the city's White Rock Lake. According to the Dallas Morning News, the woman was 26 years old. The DPD will hold a press conference Monday afternoon, according to local news reports. It has not yet been determined whether the victim died as a result of violence. The woman is the third Black trans woman to be found dead in Dallas since October of last year. On May 18, 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker, was found with a gunshot wound to the head, less than a mile from the lake where the most recent individual was found, according to the Dallas Morning News. Booker’s murder became the most highly publicized killing of a transgender person in recent history, drawing national media attention. Four weeks before she was killed, on April 12, Booker had survived a brutal beating by a group of men who viciously attacked her, leaving her with broken ribs, a fractured wrist , and a concussion. Following the April attack, Booker spoke publicly to warn the public that this violence would occur again. She was right. Barber Kier Rice was assaulted at work in Killeen, TX, two hours south of Dallas, five days after the April attack against Booker. Booker was killed two weeks after that attack. Ongoing deaths of Black trans women in Dallas have the community terrified . In an announcement following Booker’s death, the DPD warned the public of “similarities” between her killing and the two other violent attacks targeting trans women in recent months, although it has not at this time publicly established a formal connection between them. All four recent cases remain open and unsolved. Violent killings of, and attacks against, trans women, particularly Black trans women, is not a problem unique to Dallas. In 2018, at least 22 transgender Americans were killed, and in 2019, seven transgender women have been reported killed so far, according to the Human Rights Campaign. It is also not rare for trans women to be killed in clusters. In Florida last year, activists in Jacksonville raised concerns about a serial killer in their city following three consecutive killing of trans women in the area. NBA player Reggie Bullock’s transgender sister was found murdered in a northwest Baltimore alleyway in July 2014, one month after trans woman Kandy Hall was stabbed to death in northeast Baltimore that year. In 2015, Keisha Jenkins was killed by multiple gun shots along Philadelphia's Old York Road, an area known to be frequented by transgender women. Three years later, trans woman Shantee Tucker was also shot multiple times along Old York Road. And on May 19th, another Black trans woman, Michelle Washington , known as Tamika, died of multiple gunshot wounds near Old York Road. Recently, the U.S. government has been introducing policies that place the transgender community at increased risk of violence. In Texas, the Republican-controlled state legislature failed to vote on House Bill 1513 (HB 1513) this year, as it has every session since the bill was first introduced 12 years ago. It would add protections against crimes committed on the basis of a victim’s gender identity or gender expression into state law. If the 26-year-old is found to have died as a result of violence, she will be the eighth trans woman to have been violently killed in the first half of 2019, and the fourth to be killed or attacked in Dallas since late last year.'

From Yulsue to Briana: 11 POC on Changing Their Names to Sound More White

Family Broadly

'They reposted the position and I sent the exact same resume and cover letter but used my middle name, Daniel. They wrote me back the next day for an interview.'
'Wen Ling, Fernanda, Tatenda, Khaaliq—like a chipped tooth, a deep cupid’s bow, or a certain voice inflection, names can be a telling part of our identities. From them, we infer race, gender, and even socioeconomic status —whether that’s fair or not. I hadn't realized the importance of names until my best friend and I started applying for internships in college. She and I (both Black, Capricorn overachievers, myself a descendant of the diaspora and she the daughter of immigrants) were sick of watching all the Katies and Jakes of our class land great jobs while we struggled to get interviews. And although we could never firmly prove that our names —“Janae” (my first name) and “Abuharaz”(her last name)—were the cause of our woes, we couldn’t help but feel that there was some type of implicit bias working against us. We weren’t wrong. Studies have confirmed that job applicants with ethnic-sounding names get fewer callbacks than those with Anglo-sounding names. Although neither of us changed our names because of prejudice against our assumed race or religions, many Americans of color do—and have been doing so for a long time. Historically, for many, it was an imposition rather than a choice. In an attempt to “civilize” Native Americans in the late 19th century, the U.S. government put many into assimilation schools , where they were forced to take Christian names. And although we may never know how historically accurate the story of Kunta Kinte from the 1977 miniseries Roots is, the idea of getting beaten within half an inch of your life for refusing to be called your assigned name during African slavery is not far-fetched. Today, the pressure to assimilate is still prevalent, but less obvious and implemented in subtle ways, like being denied opportunities or constantly having your name mispronounced. It’s so subtle, in fact, that most people with white-sounding names have no idea how common it is for people of color to change their names just so others don’t have to bother figuring out how to pronounce their birth names. That’s why we gathered stories from 11 people of different backgrounds who have had to change their names—or have allowed others to change their names for them—just to get by. From Hector to Daniel \'My first name is Hector, my middle is Daniel. At the University of Wisconsin, 'Hector' opened a lot of doors for me. I then went to grad school in San Diego. Applying for jobs in California under the name Hector hurt me. I applied to a job first under the name Hector but never heard back. They reposted the position and I sent the exact same resume and cover letter but used my middle name, Daniel. They wrote me back the next day for an interview.\' From Wen Ling to Monique \'I’m not from the U.S.; I’m from Singapore, which is predominantly Chinese, but English is one of the main languages spoken. I competed on a national gymnastics team instructed by an American coach who regularly chose to address me by a random English name he assigned me instead of my given Chinese name. Out of a team of seven, I was the only gymnast who did not have an English-sounding, Christian name. He changed my name to Monique, and when I told him I didn’t like it, he just shrugged and laughed it off saying that he 'really didn’t need a name that complicated.' My name, Wen Ling, is just two syllables. The whole ordeal makes me especially determined to put in the extra effort to learn how to say people’s names correctly. It’s a seemingly small thing, but I never want to make someone feel the way I did then.\' From Arnulfo to Arnie \'My name is Arnulfo. I grew up in a majority-white, small town in Oregon and always had teachers and friends who couldn’t pronounce my name. So, in the third grade, I adopted the name Arnie. Honestly, I never really thought anything of it until I moved to Denver this last year. Here, even people of other races ask me why I go by a different name—that I shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed by my name. People even tell me that I need to make my real name known and force people to say it. But I’m just so used to the name that I’ve been going by because the names I get when I say my full name are: Alfredo, Alfonso, Arturo, and the list just keeps going.\' From Andrés to Andy \'Everyone in my school calls me Andy because it’s too difficult for people to properly pronounce the accent in my name (Andrés). I’m originally from Venezuela, and I’m an international student at Doane University in Crete, Nebraska. Crete is mostly white, but don’t get me wrong, I love the people there. It’s just that I prefer them saying Andy rather than Andrés because they still can’t pronounce it properly, even after I tried to teach them.\' From Khaaliq to K.C. \'My name is Khaaliq, which is Arabic for 'the creator.' My mother named myself and my other siblings names that reflected African culture. Other than nicknames, I’ve never changed my name, but I do worry that I won’t get a job or an opportunity because my name is too ethnic-sounding. I’ve also had plenty of times where teachers pronounce my name wrong or spell it wrong. At this point, if I go to a Starbucks or Shake Shack, I tell them to just put initials K.C. for my order name. I even have put on my resume how my name is pronounced.\' From Fernanda to Fern \'Growing up in the U.S. after moving from Mexico at a young age, my name would be pronounced incorrectly in an Americanized way. I began to introduce myself to others using the American pronunciation of my name, even when I visited my family in Mexico. I was deeply shamed by my family for losing my Mexican identity and Hispanic roots. I went back to the U.S. feeling like I was two different people. To this day, my coworkers, friends, and soccer teammates call me Fern because it’s easier and shorter to pronounce. I’ve had teachers during class ask me if they can call me Fern because it’s easier and less work to call out each time. I can’t believe my Hispanic heritage has been cut down just because of laziness. Growing up in classes of mainly Rebeccas, Ashley’s, and Emily’s, I always felt ashamed of my name to the point of wanting to change it. Now, I embrace Fern and my Hispanic name. I introduce myself using my full Hispanic name, Fernanda Hurtado Ortiz, in its Spanish pronunciation. I now have a Fern tattoo to remind myself that I am what I choose to call myself and no one else can change that—only if I let them. From Leonardo to Leo \'My name is Leonardo and I’m Latino. Trying to get an English native speaker to pronounce it correctly was impossible, so I tried going by 'Leo' a few years ago. It was a little less cringy but still not okay. I’ve just learned to live with it.\' From Tatenda to Tit \'I’m Zimbabwean and have been living in London since I was nine years old. My name (Tatenda) is common in Zimbabwe—it’s like the equivalent of 'Jack' or 'Amy' in England. It’s literally pronounced how you see it—three simple syllables, ta-ten-da. It’s surprisingly hard for some people—I’ve been called \'Nintendo,\' \'contender,\' \'defender,\' and all kinds of remixes—so I just said, 'Fuck it, call me Tat,' which I hate. Somehow, that turned into Tit, which I kind of like now!\' From Yulsue to Briana \'I go by Briana, an easily digestible English name, but my legal name is Yulsue Briana Lao. My family is Chinese. I was born in China; I came to the U.S. about a year later and Mandarin was my first language. I went by my Mandarin name of Yulsue at my Chinese preschool and went by Yulsue when I got to my American elementary school. However, it only lasted for my first year at an all-English school. I was teased all the time for my name, the lunches my mom would pack for me, the way my parents sounded when they spoke on the phone in Mandarin or Cantonese, my eyes, and more. Because of the teasing, I did my best to assimilate. I would bring Lunchables or buy lunch from the school cafeteria and ask my parents not to join me for lunch as often. When I went back to school for first grade, I told the teachers I went by Briana and got all of my friends from kindergarten to start calling me Briana, too. I used to be upset with my parents for using my Chinese name as my legal first name because we were in America, after all. But over the years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with who I am and a lot more proud of my culture. I even attempted going by Yulsue again once I got to college, but when I saw professors struggle to say Yulsue during the first day of attendance, I caved and told them I went by Briana. I do regret being so ashamed of the origin of my name when I was younger, but when you’re a child, all you want is to fit in. If I could, I would tell my younger self that the things kids make fun of her for are what makes her so unique. Also, that once she gets older, the same people who made fun of her would be the ones raving about boba, seaweed, ramen, etc. Mandarin is a beautiful language and I’m sad I didn’t believe that at one point. I wish I could have been as proud of that then as I am now. From Drefnie to Stephanie \'So my name is Drefnie (dreff-knee) and I’ve heard almost every mispronunciation of it. The worst one was probably my seventh-grade history teacher, who I let call me Stephanie the whole year.\' From Aviral to Avi \'I've lived in five different countries and my name is pronounced differently everywhere. My nickname at home and most people know me as Avi (supposed to be pronounced Uh-vee, but most people say Ah-vee). My full name is Aviral (pronounced Uh-vee-rull), which is Hindi for incessant. Unfortunately, most people say Avril or A-viral. I've come to learn that each society has its own ways of pronouncing things, so I just tell most people my nickname because I don’t want them to tell me that I'm named after Avril Lavigne or exhaust myself trying to correct them. I've come to accept humanity's differences and try to cherish the good within us all.\' Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily. Follow Janae Price on Twitter .'

Finding Asian Identity in a Black and White America

School and Education Broadly

'For years, I didn’t use chopsticks, refused to speak Chinese, tried to wear shoes in my home, never brought leftovers to school, and even claimed to dislike boba.'
'The first time I felt ashamed of being Asian, I was six years old. It was my first day in the first grade at a new, predominantly white school, where I was surrounded by people who didn’t look like me. But as I was sitting on the swings alone, a young Chinese boy approached—the first fellow Asian I’d seen. “Hi! Are you new here?” he asked. His voice didn’t sound like mine, or those of any of the kids at the Chinese-English kindergarten I had attended until then. It sounded purely American. “First day,” I said shyly, my accent thick and unforgiving. He frowned at my response, then ran off, beckoned by his group of white friends. I was left confused by my own feelings—not yet able to understand how someone who looked so much like me could feel so different. Alone, I watched his group of friends and wondered how I could be more like them. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to figure out what being Asian American is supposed to mean. What I learned early on is that it’s defined by liminality—always positioned in reference to another, more dominant culture; it rarely feels distinct and coherent enough to stand alone. Being Asian in America means being part of one of the most diverse and racial groups in the country. Unlike members of most other minority communities in the U.S., my racial makeup alone—half-Indonesian, half-Chinese—determines very little about the spaces and environments in which I’ll end up. In fact, Asian Americans are the least likely of all minorities to live in homogenous neighborhoods—while the average white American often resides in neighborhoods that are 75% white and nearly 75% of Black Americans attend majority minority schools. We have the largest income gap of all ethnicities in the country. All this fluidity means we’re uniquely flexible—easily able to both disappear into privilege or to stand with the oppressed. It’s long been unclear where Asian Americans stand within America’s Black-white binary—a racial paradigm that’s existed for centuries. In “ Latinos/as, Asian Americans, and the Black-White Binary ,” scholar Linda Martin Alcoff notes that the first time “Black” and “white” were defined in the U.S. was through an 1854 Supreme Court case. That year, George Hall—a white man—was convicted of murder based on the eyewitness testimony of a Chinese American. But Hall’s lawyer argued that Chinese people were simply ancestors of “Indians,” meaning Native Americans, since they were both from Asia—and thus possessed no rights in court. The Supreme Court took the case a step further and used it to define the Black-white binary: “‘Black’ must mean ‘non-white’ and ‘white’ must exclude all people of color. Thus by law of binary logic, Chinese Americans, after having become Native American, then also became black,” Alcoff writes. Over the next 150 years after that ruling, Chinese Americans continued to be tossed—both in legislation and in practice—onto either side of the binary, until officially determined by the U.S. Supreme Court to be “non-white” in 1927. According to Alcoff, the Black-white paradigm has long prevented many ethnic groups from defining their own identity. Today, that inability to self-define still lingers. And many, including myself at times, turn to assimilation—sometimes veering into appropriation—to reconcile it. Growing up without many examples of Asian-American identity, I watched many of my friends and family get pulled toward either whiteness or Blackness in place of developing their own cultural belonging. Chinese girls at my middle school highlighted their hair and pretended not to know Cantonese. Indian boys at my high school wore snapbacks and blasted Kendrick’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City . A brief look at prominent Asian-American figures in pop culture offers further proof of this phenomenon: Eddie Huang—a chef and author who’s been criticized for his insensitive comments about Asian men being so emasculated in America that they’re “basically treated like Black women”—has expressed how, throughout his life, he’s felt like an outsider in both Chinese and White-American culture. Instead, growing up, Huang said he identified much more closely with Blackness. Meanwhile, Queens, NY-raised actress and rapper Awkwafina came under fire last year for her use of a “ blaccent ” in Crazy Rich Asians . Some fans defended her mannerisms as a byproduct of growing up around Black communities, but critics argued that her persona was performative . And in 2018, Asian-American hip-hop collective 88Rising made waves as a breakthrough force in broadening Asian presence in music. But the collective has also been criticized for its cultural insensitivity—like Rich Brian originally going by “ Rich Chigga .” On the other side of the spectrum, many Asian Americans have sided with the predominantly white movement to strike down Affirmative Action in universities—disenfranchising Black, Latinx, and even Southeast Asian communities in the process. Certain Chinese Americans called the 2014 indictment of police officer Peter Liang in the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley “ scapegoating ,” implying that Chinese Americans should be afforded “all the privileges offered a white cop who had taken the life of a Black person,” as AAPI scholar Jeff Chang wrote in his 2016 book We Gon’ Be Alright . And despite frequent talk about dismantling the “ model minority ” myth today, few know that East-Asian Americans actually helped originate that stereotype—intentionally portraying themselves as “ upstanding citizens ” who could assimilate into the white mainstream of 1940s postwar America. But where, in all this, is the part that’s distinctly ours? Where does the binary end, and where do we begin? “I think a lot of younger folks right now are much more aware of the need to place themselves in [America’s landscape],” Jeff Chang tells me. “And it raises these questions: How are we gonna choose to make ourselves visible? When we stand, who do we stand with? I think that those issues are much more front of mind for your generation than it was for mine, who was just trying to get ourselves heard.” From first grade until my mid-teens, I felt incredible pressure to act white. My life was separated into two non-intersecting pieces: My home in the San Gabriel Valley, one of the largest Asian enclaves in L.A ., and my school in Pasadena, where rich whites dominated the old and new money landscape. I wanted so badly to fit into the latter that I pretended the former didn’t exist. For years, I didn’t use chopsticks, refused to speak Chinese, tried to wear shoes in my home, never brought leftovers to school, and even claimed to dislike boba. I was embarrassed on the rare occasions friends came over and saw my dad lighting incense or my mom speaking on the phone in Indonesian. That all started to change when I turned 16 and began roaming Downtown LA’s art scene, meeting Latinx, Filipinx, Black, and even white friends who helped me break out of my racial-binary thinking. Slowly, I shed the Black-white lens by which I defined myself and began to explore what it actually meant to be Asian American. Today, I’m still doing that unlearning, and I’m seeing a broader, cultural unlearning starting to happen alongside me. Over the last few years, we’ve seen Asian Americans amplifying a distinct cultural identity on an unprecedented scale. Artists like Mitski and Swet Shop Boys are bringing songs about the Asian-American experience into genres like indie and hip-hop. Bao —a Pixar short that explores Asian-American family dynamics through an immigrant mother’s relationship with an animated dumpling—won an Oscar this year. Collectives like Asian-American filmmaking group Wong Fu Productions and those behind AAPI magazines Banana Mag and Slant’d are popping up all over the country. And distinctly Asian-American dishes like Roy Choi and Mark Manguera’s Korean taco are now street food staples. Boba Guys , a national brand known for its artisanal take on the Taiwanese tapioca-filled drink, is another unmistakably Asian-American product. But when the company first launched in 2013, co-founders Bin Chen and Andrew Chau received a lot of backlash for their Americanized version of boba. “We took it really hard in the beginning when people would say that Boba Guys is not authentic—but then we were like, authentic to what? Andrew’s an Asian kid in New Jersey; I was the only Asian kid in Wharton, Texas. This was our experience,” Chen shares. “We exist in this area between East and West, and we should really celebrate that.” Perhaps Asian-American identity doesn’t have to be entirely distinct. By nature, the Asian-American experience is an ongoing act of hybridization—and that can be beautifully productive. It doesn’t have to look like assimilation or appropriation, as long as we’re respectful and mutually giving to any marginalized cultures that inform our own. Chang, a celebrated hip-hop historian, agrees. “You can step into the cypher—and this is something that you see in African-American and Indigenous cultures, that there’s a sense of radical welcome,” Chang says. “And if you're welcomed into a house, you don't go in and trash it. You don't go in and steal things. You acknowledge the welcome, and you recognize the debt that you owe.” Despite the need for intentionality, there’s no reason that this movement can’t happen authentically. For instance, emerging South-Asian-American pop musician Josephine Shetty —better known as Kohinoorgasm —feels a profound connection to the underground music scene she was brought up in. As she gains traction as an Asian-American artist, she has no plans of leaving behind the marginalized communities that have continually supported her craft. “I love the bands I play with, the spaces I get to be a part of and contribute to. I just feel like, How can I not give them everything I can? ” Shetty explains. “I feel like any knowledge I gain, any instrument I buy, any skill that I learn—I have to share with someone who doesn’t have access to that.” Right now, we’re at a pivotal moment where it feels possible to transcend the age-old immigrant Asian mentality of “scarcity,” as Chen put it, that has historically kept us from supporting others both within and outside of our own community. Rather than hold tightly to what we perceive as ours, we can—and should—share in the abundance with communities around us. As I grow into my mid-20s, I’m discovering that, for me, finding Asian-American identity means confronting, with care and humility, the in-between of race in America. It means seeing my position not as one defined by lack, but as one rich with the potential for collaboration, solidarity, and giving back. And as we—as a community—start telling our stories at increasingly amplified volumes, I hope that this emerging orientation helps us recognize the power that we possess in defining who we are and who we want to be. I hope that it helps us find comfort in the liminal, that it helps us, finally, stop seeing ourselves in black and white.'

Black Children at White Schools Are More Likely to Be Told They Have a Learning Disability

Parasports Broadly

Disability classifications in the U.S. are subjective and inconsistent, and prone to bias based on context.
'A Black student at a school with few other Black children is more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability than a similarly performing child at a predominantly Black school, a new study in Society and Mental Health found. It’s a similar case with kids still learning the English language. According to the study, even when children had the same test scores and social backgrounds, one could be determined to have a learning disability in one school, and not in another. The findings reveal not only that learning disability classifications in the U.S. are subjective and inconsistent, but that they are prone to bias based on context. Every year, around 6 million students with disabilities get support through the Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act (IDEA). On paper, racial minority children are overrepresented in special education. According to nationwide data , there are more Black, Hispanic, and Native American children than white children in programs for learning and intellectual disabilities, like dyslexia, as well as conditions like ADHD and autism. In 2007, eight experts in psychology, policy, education, and civil rights even went before The United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington D.C. to express concern that these students were being misplaced due to racial biases and lower academic expectations. In 2016, in response to this issue, IDEA implemented new regulations that required states to identify districts with \'significant disproportionality\' in students being directed to special education. But the new research shows that there are other social and contextual factors playing a strong role in determining disability. Dara Shifrer, the new study’s first author and an assistant professor at Portland State University, said that we should be wary of this issue, since the word “disability” often implies biological and neurological differences. Disability diagnosis can impact the trajectory of a child's education, by changing the types of classes they take, teachers they have, and material they're provided and exposing them to possible stigma. Shifrer and the team looked at data from 378,919 kids in an urban school district between 2006 and 2012. They found that Black children that go to schools with a lower proportion of other Black students to other races are more likely to be diagnosed as disabled. The same was true about kids who were learning English as a second language—the fewer other English-learners there were, the more likely they would end up in special education programs. Being a low-achiever in a high-achieving school also meant a child was more likely to be diagnosed as disabled compared to if they were performing at the same level, but in a generally low-achieving school. Shifrer was a middle school math teacher before she started studying how to predict who gets a disability classification. “The dominant narrative for decades emphasized the over-representation of racial minorities,” she said. But in the past 10 years, the debate on overrepresentation of minorities in special education has become more nuanced. When researchers controlled for social influences , like poverty, and compared students that were mostly the same except for the color of their skin, it was actually the white children that were more likely to be in special education programs. George Farkas, a professor of education and sociology at The University of California Irvine and co-author of many studies that has replicated this finding, said that the overwhelming belief in overrepresentation might have actually \'denied needed services to Black and latinx students.\' Since then, there's been a kind of academic tussle: Are racial minority children over or underrepresented? Shifrer said it comes down to how you crunch the numbers. Learning disabilities are often designated in schools based on low academic performance, or low achievement despite a high IQ. Statistical techniques that group kids that are similar achievers, and control for all other factors, find that racial minorities are slightly less likely than whites to be given a disability diagnosis. But since racial minorities, overall, make up a larger share of the low-achiever pool, in raw numbers, they are still more likely than white children to end up in special education. “Real life is not statistically adjusted,\' Shifrer said. Environmental, economic, and social factors can influence achievement levels too, and data show that minority kids are more likely to be dealing with many of these factors. Black children are more likely to live in poor families, have food insecurity , and be exposed to toxic environments like lead or hazardous waste . The representation debate could be missing the bigger picture: how social inequality and racism outside of school can make its way into classrooms and interfere with learning. The higher rates of special education might not be due to an overwhelming racial bias from teachers, but from racial inequalities built into daily life that lead to lower achievement, said Rachel Fish, an assistant professor at NYU in the Department of Teaching & Learning and co-author on the new study. In their research, Fish said they compared students who had similar achievement levels, which implies that disability diagnoses were made not on academic grounds— but on qualities that have nothing to do with neurological differences. “This suggests that disability classifications occur subjectively and inconsistently, which runs counter to how we perceive and act on disability labels,” Shifrer said, which is that they connote a biological difference. While it’s crucial for students who need special education to have access to it, Shifrer and Fish said their study is a reminder that since there are no definitive biomarkers for cognitive disorders and mental illnesses, our ways of determining who has them are foggy and clouded by social influences. “We want educators, parents, the public, and children themselves to recognize the scientific limitations of the process,” she said. “Disability classifications may provide some useful information but should not be perceived to capture the totality of a child, and should not determine their destiny.”'

How to Party at Pride If You're Sober

Health care Broadly

Mental preparation is just as important as a backpack full of seltzer.
'June is Pride month, a time synonymous with parades, rainbows, glitter, and obviously, parties. It’s a time for the LGBTQ community to gather, cut loose, and be ourselves in all our queer glory. For some of us—myself very much included—celebrating who we are can be a scary prospect that leaves us feeling vulnerable. It can make us feel like turning to booze and/or drugs is the only safe way we can open up and show our true selves, which isn't possible or safe for those of us with addiction issues. I can’t trust myself with alcohol, a hard truth I learned through many bad decisions and even worse consequences. Getting sober meant removing myself from everything booze-related for about a year before I could handle the fact that other people can drink, but I can't. For the last six years, I’ve had to adjust my lesbian life to exclude drinking. That was extremely difficult when it came to most Pride festivals, because so many LGBTQ events are held in places centered around alcohol. I wanted the rush of being part of the community, but felt like an outsider instead. The longer I was sober, though, the more I found that there are a lot of LGBTQ people navigating these non-alcoholic waters. In 2017, approximately 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) struggled with a substance use disorder , and general estimates for the LGBTQ population are much higher , although the specific numbers aren't yet clear. Dr. Brian Hurley, the director of addiction medicine for the County of Los Angeles, said long-term data on the LGBTQ population is tough to assess, since sexual orientation has only recently been added to governmental surveys, “and most trans folks are invisible in most of those surveys.” “Being a sexual and gender minority generally is stressful in a heteronormative world,” Hurley said. “We see increased rates of the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other intoxicants.” With all of this in mind, more Pride celebrations are taking sober people into consideration. For WorldPride in NYC this year, sober people will walk in The March, complete with a DJ , followed by a sober river cruise. The Houston Pride organization hosts Skate Sober , the official dry Pride night where you can skate substance-free. In Denver, there’s a specific Queer n’ Sober Dance . In San Francisco, the Castro Country Club Sober Stage features a drug- and alcohol-free space to enjoy a picnic and some music. However, these events are still outnumbered by those where alcohol may be present. But no matter where you celebrate, there’s a way to have a good time without using. Here are some tips and tricks worth thinking about if you want to have the best sober Pride ever. BEFORE YOU GO TO PRIDE Find a Buddy We learn some of our most important life lessons when we’re in kindergarten; this is one of them. Having a friend with you during Pride who knows that you’re sober, that you’re going into the weekend with some wariness, and what warning signs to look for that might indicate you're uncomfortable is clutch: One trigger for substance use can be feelings of loneliness or isolation, and this is one way to get ahead of it. It’s awesome knowing you have someone who will leave with you if need be, or is just on the same page as you are. Beck Gee-Cohen, the director of LGBTQ programming for Visions Adolescent Treatment in California, said he takes teenagers in his program to Pride to show them they can have a good time without substances. “Going with people who know you're sober—whether they’re sober or not—is the most important thing,” Gee-Cohen said. “Have that conversation before you go, and say, ‘Hey, I may get overwhelmed, can we just check in with each other?’” I pick one friend and tell them that I’m going to ask them some pretty simple questions to ground myself in reality, like, “Can you reaffirm for me that I’m not somehow lesser-than because I can’t do all this partying?” If your buddy isn’t a sober person—and mine usually aren’t—I ask that they ask me how I’m doing throughout the day, but especially when we’re out in the evenings and the party starts getting wilder. It's helped me just knowing there was someone on my side who was a cheerleader and a sounding board. “For my first sober Pride, I was so scared. I had no idea how I was going to do it,\' Gee Cohen said, \'I went with some friends who are also sober and who had more time than I did—they were just stupid, and they made me laugh and helped draw me out.” BYONAB Make sure to have non-alcoholic drinks with you so you don’t have to depend on the event for your favorite flavor of La Croix or Diet Coke. Not every event will allow you to bring in your own drinks—if that’s the case, assess whether you want to move on to something different. Already having a drink in your hand is an easy way to avoid the always-annoying question “Why aren’t you drinking?” So many people ask that as if it's the same as asking your favorite color, instead of a deeply personal thing! It’s OK to gloss over what's behind your sobriety—that’s no one’s business and totally up to you to share. I like to prepare an answer in advance, like, “I’m not drinking today,” “I’m on antibiotics,” or, “If I drink alcohol, my werewolf shift comes earlier in the moon cycle.” An exception to BYONAB: Buying someone a drink is a classic pick-up move. If a babe asks whether they can, ask for something non-alcoholic or that you both pick out some fun pride swag instead. Or both: Stay hydrated and receive gifts from hotties! Throw Your Own Sober Pride Party If Pride events in your area don’t include sober-friendly ways to celebrate, plan one yourself! It’s probably easiest to do this during the day, especially if you’re inviting anyone to participate, not just sober people. Having a theme or specific event at your party can give it some focus beyond drinking. Even if you decide against a theme (why you would, I’m not sure), tell potential partiers ahead of time that this is a dry event. Decide if you want kids and pets there, and have a variety of non-alcoholic beverages to drink. Center Yourself—And Your Sobriety Mental preparation is just as important as a backpack full of seltzer. Start your celebration ready for a positive experience and with every intention of having one hell of a time with your friends and your community. Gee-Cohen recommends reminding yourself, \' I'm going to have fun, I'm going to be present, and I'm going to enjoy this .” This was a game-changer for me. My initial approach to these events was dread: I assumed there was no way I could enjoy myself if I wasn’t hammered, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took time to realize I was having largely the same experiences—I was just more in control of them and could commit them to memory. For folks in 12-step and other recovery programs, pre-Pride is a good time to go to meetings, or you can plan to hit one up after all the events. These meetings can be a source of accountability and stability for people with substance-use issues and can help keep the Pride parties in perspective. What do I mean by perspective? When I’m feeling tempted to drink, I think about how much I hated waking up the next day with regret, and how much alcohol actually fucked with my life. The desire to avoid those feelings overrides the immediate desire to get lit up. AT PRIDE CELEBRATIONS You’re here! You’re sober and queer! Now what? Find Other Sober People Find the sober areas or booths (if they’re available) where you can connect with people who understand what you’re facing. If these booths exist at your Pride celebration, you’ll also likely find resources available to LGBTQ folks, like community-specific sobriety programs and gatherings. That camaraderie is part of what makes Pride such a special event for everyone. Sober Pride is fun because you actually remember everything you see and experience with the people you meet. “I didn’t see much when I was using at Pride. I was sunburned because I was passed out in a lawn somewhere,” Gee-Cohen said. Go and actually watch the parade, wander the booths, and interact with the people out celebrating their existence. Make friends. Deepen your connection to your community. Be Active In environments where I’m primed to be sensitive to partying, lulls in activity can give my brain free time to think about cravings, triggers, or other troubling thought patterns. Find ways to volunteer at Pride events if you can—this is a rewarding way to contribute while keeping yourself busy. Get in touch with your local Pride organizer to see if there are opportunities to help out, whether that’s with set-up and breakdown or otherwise making sure the parade goes off without a hitch. Pride events in larger cities, like New York City , Los Angeles , and Seattle , have links on their websites specifically for volunteer activities. Be..Actually Proud You’re at an event called Pride for a reason! You’re there to celebrate every piece of you, even and especially the parts that may have felt shameful, whether that’s your gender or sexual orientation, your relationship with mental health, or your struggles with addiction. “It's not all shame, and it's not all pain. We are resilient, we are fun, we have fabulous lives, and we can thrive,” Gee-Cohen said. Take the energy you’d normally put into using or drinking and make your outfit extra cool—add sequins, bust out that new waistcoat or cutoff, or try out a new makeup look. This is your time to show everyone exactly who you are. Also, not being a mess or hungover at Pride is amazing because you don’t look (or feel) like death during brunch. That extra confidence is helpful when you're around so many babely humans. Know When to Leave Knowing when it’s time to bail (and that it’s OK to bail) is about being aware of your surroundings. Maybe you had a good time that morning, but you’re getting a bit tired in the afternoon, and your mood is slipping. Maybe it’s getting later in the day, and people are partying harder. “When I see someone crying or throwing up, that's my cue to leave,” Gee-Cohen said. It’s also OK to not attend Pride at all if you think it's best to wait until you’re in a better spot in your recovery to join in in the future. It took me a while to figure out that I’m also proud of my ability to stay sober—and that my community is proud of me, too. That's a part of my identity I can't separate from the others—and venerating that is kind of the point. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily. Follow Molly Priddy on Twitter .'

Doctors May Soon Be Legally Able to Refuse to Treat Trans People

Community Broadly

The Trump Administration has proposed a revision of the Affordable Care Act that would eliminate anti-discrimination protections for transgender Americans.
'On Friday morning, the Department of Health and Humans Services proposed a new rule that would remove anti-discrimination protections for transgender Americans from the Affordable Care Act, asserting that discrimination on the basis of sex should not include gender identity. The department’s policy revision alters Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which granted transgender people federal protections from discrimination by federally funded healthcare providers and insurers. In a press release Friday morning, the HHS said this move continues its mission to “vigorously enforce prohibitions of discrimination.” In a phone call with media outlets following the announcement, HHS office of civil rights director (OCR) Roger Severino brushed aside questions about how his office would ensure trans Americans have access to necessary medical care. “This rule does not go in and tell people how to practice medicine,” Severino said, adding that ridding the ACA of gender identity protections actually furthers the mandate of HHS because the original understanding of sex as written in Title IX was never meant to include gender identity. “We are going back to the plain meaning of those terms, which is based on biological sex,” Severino said. Though Severino claims that the HHS proposed rule is in line with his office’s obligation to prevent discrimination in medicine, he admitted that federal law would no longer support legal arguments of discrimination on the basis of gender identity in federally funded health care facilities. Severino argued that this change should not be a burden on trans Americans, as it does not forbid any medical provider from offering transgender people gender-related care. “We believe in the inherent human dignity of all people,” Severino said. “HHS is here to make sure that access to healthcare is available for everyone, that’s part of our mission, to ensure that the health and well-being of all Americans is furthered, and that is not changed by this rule.” Others disagree. “The mission of HHS has historically been to expand access to health and social services,” said Jocelyn Samuels, who served as the director of the office for civil rights at HHS from 2014 to 2017. She described a stark transformation in the mission of her former office since she departed. Severino was appointed by President Trump to replace Samuels this March. The appointment was alarming to LGBTQ advocates, given Severino's history of opposing LGBT rights as a veteran of the far right Christian group The Heritage Foundation. Severino has been deemed a “radical anti-LGBTQ-rights activist” by the Human Rights Campaign, and entered HHS as an outspoken opponent to Section 1557 of the ACA, having written that it forces Americans into “pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.” In the same article, Severino referred to transgender women as “biological men.” According to Samuels, the proposed rule change shows that Severino’s office “is more focused on defending denials of health care and limiting the scope of non-discrimination protections than in ensuring access to health care for vulnerable communities that face discrimination and artificial barriers to medical services.” Severino justified the Department’s revision by referencing two injunctions against it in Texas and North Dakota ; he argued that this policy proposal merely codifies the understandings of sex that were given by the active injunctions against Section 1557, remaining consistent with the interpretation of sex that “had reigned for decades,” before 2016. “We are bound to respect the text of the laws that Congress has entrusted us for enforcement, and that is what this rule will do,” Severino said. In a press release issued Friday, the National Center for Transgender Equality refuted the HHS position that this policy would uphold court precedent, or the country’s status quo, stating that undoing Section 1557 contradicts federal law, “and two decades of court rulings.” The HHS announcement comes just days after the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a proposed policy revision that would enable homeless shelters to legally turn away transgender people seeking accommodation, despite the fact that transgender Americans experience homelessness at a rate 2.5 times higher than the general population. NCTE called the HHS move an “escalation of dangerous attacks,” by the Trump administration and trans Americans. Data collected by NCTE shows how badly trans Americans needed protections under the ACA. In 2015, one year before Section 1557 went into effect, NCTE released the US Transgender Survey , which found extensive discrimination against trans Americans in health care. For instance, one in four respondents had issues with insurance, including being denied coverage for transition-related care; one in four were denied cross-sex-hormone therapy in the previous year; and more than half “who sought coverage for transition-related surgery in the past year were denied.” A third reported discrimination on the basis of being transgender in a health care setting, “such as verbal harassment, refusal of treatment, or having to teach the health care provider about transgender people to receive appropriate care.” Nearly a quarter of respondents neglected to seek medical treatment due to fear of discrimination and one third couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. The extent of discrimination against trans people by medical providers is statistically astounding, per the same report: “more than three-quarters (78 percent) of respondents wanted hormone therapy related to gender transition, only 49 percent had ever received it.” Samuels believes that if Section 1557 is dismantled, there will be devastating consequences, citing the “pervasive and persistent discrimination to which the LGBT community has long been subjected in health care.” The proposed HHS revision “would attempt to remove any recourse under federal law to hold medical providers accountable for that discrimination.” The issue is not concerning to Severino. “In terms of practical effect, from HHS’ perspective, [this policy] retains the current status quo,” he said. Asked if HHS would allow for a facility to refuse care to a transgender person on the basis of gender identity in an emergency room—a frequent site of discrimination for trans Americans—Severino dismissed the suggestion, stating that the HHS has not heard of any scenarios like that happening “in real life.”'

The US Government Says Homeless Shelters Should Be Allowed to Ban Trans People

Community Broadly

A newly proposed policy revision would allow federally funded shelters to deny entry to transgender people—a population more than twice as likely to be homeless than the average person.
'On Tuesday, the Trump Administration proposed a Housing and Urban Development Department policy revision that would allow homeless shelters to deny access to transgender people. If enacted, these changes would dismantle protections established in 2012 under The Equal Access Rule— which prevents discrimination in shelters on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—leaving one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations out on the street. The alterations introduced Tuesday, known as FR-6152, would enable any shelter provider under the Department of Housing and Urban Development programs—including emergency shelters—to create policies around admission based on sex, permitting discrimination in “single-sex or sex-segregated facilities,” such as bathrooms and sleeping quarters. The proposal also states that shelter providers may implement processes for “determining [the] sex” and admissability of homeless individuals—but gives no protocol for how those processes should or should not look. Rather, it states that providers may shape such processes around their own perspectives on privacy, safety, and religious belief—topics that are commonly cited by conservatives as justification for discriminating against LGBTQ people. It also proposes explicitly that individuals may be formally refused entry to shelters based on their legally identified gender or their self-identified gender. The proposal butts up against moves by the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force that aim to protect the rights of trans Americans. Earlier this month, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the trans-inclusive Equality Act, a bill that would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to extend federal discrimination protections to both gender identity and sexuality. The bill is expected to have difficulty passing through the Republican-controlled Senate. In a press release issued by the National Center for Transgender Equality, executive director Mara Keisling said, “The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families,” adding that, “a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country.” The National Transgender Discrimination Survey , conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2011, collected information from more than 6,400 transgender Americans. It found that transgender people reported rates of homelessness more than 2.5 times that of the general population. In 2015, the NCTE conducted follow-up research, this time with nearly 28,000 respondents. It found that “one in four transgender adults experienced some kind of housing bias; one in eight Black transgender women were denied a home because they are transgender in the last year; one in three were homeless in their lifetime; and those who experienced homelessness were more likely to face physical and sexual violence as well as be forced into survival sex work.” This issue affects adults as well as children; according to The Williams Institute, 40 percent of homeless LGBTQ youth in the U.S. are transgender. Prior reporting by Broadly has shown that this lack of housing has tragic ends for trans people, as homelessness has contributed to violent deaths in this community, disproportionately impacting transgender women of color. Discrimination within shelters is already a significant issue. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 70 percent of those who accessed a shelter in the previous year were kicked out for being transgender, physically or sexually assaulted, or faced another form of mistreatment because of their gender identity. Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney, said that the policy “is just one of the many examples of this administration targeting the trans community and feeding anti-trans violence through false and dangerous rhetoric about trans people’s lives and bodies.” Strangio has been a primary figure in many of the country’s largest cases in the legal movement against trans discrimination. If the Administration continues its ongoing efforts to dismantle the civil rights of trans Americans, he said, it will only “further our resolve to fight for trans survival at every turn.”'

Court Reporters Are Literally Writing Down Black People's Testimonies Wrong

Law and Order Broadly

A new study shows that stenographers frequently fail at correctly understanding and transcribing African American English, which can have devastating consequences for Black people in court.
'In 2013, Rachel Jeantel, a close friend of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, testified during the trial of George Zimmerman. Jeantel, a young Black woman who was on the phone with Martin moments before he was killed, took the stand and spoke with the words she normally would—in what academics would call \'African American English (AAE).\' Her tone was stern and quiet. Naturally, she was upset; she had just lost a close friend. In the aftermath of her testimony, Jeantel was heavily criticized by mostly-white media pundits and outlets. On Megyn Kelly’s “America Live,” attorney Jonna Spilbor commented that the then-19-year-old came across as “brutally ignorant.” On Fox News, Sean Hannity insisted that she had a “credibility problem.” A juror on the case told Anderson Cooper that she found Jeantel “hard to understand” and “not credible.” As the last person to speak to Marin, Jeantel was the prosecution’s star witness. But her testimony went largely ignored, because the nearly all-white jury did not understand her. Now, a new study outlines how common such a lack of understanding is—and outlines the detrimental, life-altering impact it can have for Black Americans within the U.S. criminal justice system. After watching Jeantel's testimony and the criticisms that followed, a group of linguistic researchers from various institutions decided to test the frequency with which AAE is misunderstood within the courtroom. Their new study , which will be published in the journal Language next month, builds on previous research that found that court reporters frequently fail at accurately transcribing and comprehending testimonies spoken in AAE, resulting in crucial inaccuracies. (While African American Vernacular English—AAVE—has commonly been used to describe African American English, AAE refers to a broader dialect outside informal or vernacular use.) Court reporters create real-time transcripts of the dialogue that takes place within a trial. What they take down is important: Attorneys use these transcripts to plan cross-examinations and jurors refer to them to come to a verdict. As a standard, court reporters are required to achieve at least 95 percent accuracy in their transcriptions before they are certified. They are tested on speed, punctuation, spelling, and specific medical and legal jargon in Standard American English (SAE). For the study, called “Testifying while black: An experimental study of court reporter accuracy in transcription of African American English,” researchers tested already-certified court reporters based in Philadelphia by asking them each to transcribe 83 sentences in everyday AAE. The recordings featured nine different native AAE speakers recruited from West Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, Jersey City, and Harlem, who each have had contact with the criminal justice system. On average, the 27 court reporters who took part were only able to record AAE speakers with 82.9 percent accuracy. “In some cases, the errors were not harmful, because they were uninterpretable,” said Taylor Jones, one of the study’s authors and a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. “In others, they changed participants, actions, and order of events.” In 31 percent of the 2,241 transcriptions, researchers found, the court reporters’ errors changed the content of what the speaker was saying, misinterpreting either who was involved, what was happening, when it happened, and/or where it happened. “[These errors] could make or break an alibi in the real world,” Jones said. “Once something is in the court record via the transcript, it legally becomes what was said even if it is inaccurate, which brings up questions of due process and equal protection under the law if some people are less likely to be accurately transcribed than others,” said Jessica Kalbfield, another of the study’s four authors and a grad student at New York University. “We know that AAE is primarily spoken by African Americans, though of course not all AAE speakers are African American and not all African Americans speak AAE.” Black Americans are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and face longer prison sentences than white Americans. According to the study, none of the court reporters had training in AAE, despite it being widely common in their city and disproportionately represented in court. Jones pointed out that a lack of understanding with AAE is not limited to court reporters, who happened to be the easiest group to test. “Miscomprehension of AAE, coupled with an assumption of understanding, is likely rampant,” he said. In 2017, Warren Demesme told Louisiana police , “Give me a lawyer, dawg.” But police failed to end their interrogation and provide Demesme with a lawyer, as federal law mandates. Justice Scott Crichton justified their actions, writing that “the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a 'lawyer dog' does not constitute an invocation of counsel.\' “It’s an absurd result, and not one that can be entirely blamed on the transcriber,” said legal scholar Patricia J. Williams, “but it goes to a larger point about the very willingness to understand [AAE].” “AAE has more complicated grammar than ‘standard’ English,” Jones said. “[But] research consistently demonstrates that non-speakers of AAE (generally but not always non-Black people) tend not to understand these features. AAE is stigmatized, despite being equally valid, systematic, and rule-governed as other language varieties.” Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.'

The Big Reveal of the Anti-Ilhan Omar Billboard Was a Fail

Community Broadly

The rally against Rep. Omar featured a small beat-up truck with a screen instead.
'More than 100 people showed up for a rally in Times Square Monday night to witness the reveal of a billboard condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar and calling for her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Hey hey, ho ho, Ilhan has got to go!” chanted members of the largely middle-aged, predominantly white crowd. “Fuck Ilhan!” others shouted over indecipherable chatter bouncing off the skyscrapers overhead. Corralled inside police barricades, the crowd waved Israeli and Trump 2020 flags. The gathering was organized by a group called Ilhan Must Go (IMG), which accuses the representative of anti-Semitism and a “disdain for our nation.” Along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Omar became one of the first two Muslim women to ever serve in Congress earlier this year. Omar, a refugee who came to the US on asylum, is also the first Somali-American elected to the U.S. House. She quickly garnered national attention in February when she accused the notoriously powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, for bending senators to its will through copious funding. The protest—and a counter-protest across the street—highlighted a growing divide within the American Jewish community over the support of Israel, with an increasing number of young Jewish people moving away from support for the country. Similarly, the dueling rallies illustrated tensions that have been boiling on social media for months surrounding Ilhan Omar. Through its website and social media, IMG encouraged people to gather on 48th Street to watch the unveiling of a “massive Times Square Billboard” defaming Omar. But when it came time to unveil the billboard, there was no billboard to show. Instead, rally participants were shown a small beat-up truck with a large LED display, on which video switched among an image of the 9/11 attacks with Rep. Omar’s face in the foreground, a copy of IMG’s press release for the rally, and IMG’s website URL. According to one cop responsible for crowd control at the rally, IMG was unable to secure the funds to purchase the billboard, so they opted for a cheaper alternative. IMG did not respond to interview requests. Despite the lack of a billboard to unveil, attendees and organizers remained impassioned. On the podium, Joe Diamond, the rally’s MC, yelled, “I’m not Islamophobic, I’m Ilhan-phobic!” before going on to criticize Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Some in support of IMG seemed unconcerned with factual information concerning Omar. “Ilhan Omar is a disgusting racist,” said Juliet Germanotta, a 38-year-old woman from Minnesota who was holding a “LGBT for Trump” flag. “She supports Hamas. She supports the stoning of women and homosexuals.” (In reality, Omar was an active supporter of a bill banning gay conversion therapy in Minnesota, is endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, and this month introduced a bill to sanction Brunei for a new law in the country that aims to punish LGBTQ people with death.) Since February, Omar has been harassed and accused of anti-Semitism by GOP pundits and media outlets like the New York Post . She has also received death threats, one resulting in an arrest. The attacks on her escalated when, in April, president Trump tweeted a misleading video of Omar and the 9/11 attacks after Omar made comments which some interpreted as an attempt to downplay the September 11 attacks. (The video at the IMG rally closely resembled the one tweeted by Trump.) In response, politicians and celebrities like Beto O’Rourke and Javier Munoz , among many others, accused the right of targeting Omar because of their own racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia towards Omar as a Black Muslim refugee. Across the street from IMG’s rally was a smaller counter-rally, organized by IfNotNow , a progressive Jewish organization dedicated to ending Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the war in Gaza. There was a stark contrast between this crowd, made up of young people and middle-aged Orthodox Jews, and the IMG supporters across the street. “We are here today to provide the obvious counter-narrative to IMG’s nonsense,” said Josh Hyman, a member of IfNotNow. “Jews, especially young Jews, stand with Ilhan Omar. We know what anti-Semitism is and we know what racism is. We will not be erased by people who use charges of one to hide the other.” Other counter-protestors expressed similar sentiments. “I’m just sick and tired of seeing this one part of the Jewish community try to silence those who criticize Israel,” said Farrah Celler, a Jewish woman from New Jersey. “I think this causes more anti-Semitism. At least for me, I kinda hate what they stand for. They give people who don’t hate Jews a reason to be mad at them.” In the counter-demonstration were members of the anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish sect Neturei Karta International, a mainstay in anti-Israel demonstrations in New York. “When Rep. Omar first began speaking out against the pro-Isreal lobby, she was immediately attacked by Zionists who claimed she was invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes,” said the group's spokesperson Rabbi Dovied Felidemen. “However, the truth is that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, and criticizing the State of Israel or its supporters is not anti-Semitic.”'

Henry Sias Could be the First Trans Man to Serve as a U.S. Judge

Community Broadly

If he wins Tuesday's primary, the Philadelphia lawyer will be seated for ten years.
'In his campaign video to become a Philadelphia judge, Henry Sias is seen shaving, putting on a tie, and taking public transport. He’s just like the rest of us, the footage seems to say. His voiceover clarifies why that’s important: “Men like me—transgender men—are not supposed to be visible.” If Sias wins, he will have made history as the first transgender man to be a judge in the United States. On May 21st, a primary election will determine if Sias will be the Democratic party’s candidate, with the general election held November 5th. A win in the primary would all but ensure Sias’ victory this fall, as the city is heavily democratic. He is running for a spot on the Court of Common Pleas, which is the primary court system in Philadelphia. This is Sias' second bid for the seat. In 2017 he ran and lost. If elected, he will be seated for a decade, marking a new era of inclusion for the country’s judiciary. Sias grew up poor in Michigan, he said. His father had been an air traffic controller after serving in the military and was part of the PATCO strike of 1981 , when 12,000 workers walked off the job in an effort to secure higher pay and a shorter work week; it was “one of the pivotal moments of labor history in the last 50 years,” as Sias described it. That strike, broken by President Reagan, left families like Sias’ out of jobs and blacklisted from federal government employment. “My father was never the same,” he said. His dad got depressed and his parents eventually divorced, and then the family lost their home in Detroit. Sias aimed for a future that would give him stability, and started on a path that eventually led to his becoming an Ivy-league-educated lawyer. Sias lived as a woman until he was 35. When he transitioned, he was working in the court system and had clerked for two Supreme Court Justices as well as two judges in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. His career remained intact through his transition, but Sias says that his family did not accept him. He found love and acceptance in his wife of six years and the extended family he’s gained through her, he said. “I’ve been running a very 'out' campaign,” Sias said. He's not the first transgender person to do so in recent years. In 2017, Virginia State Representative Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be elected and seated to state legislature in the United States; Christine Hallquist , a trans woman from Vermont, ran for governor last year with a campaign that didn't shy away from being clear about her identity. “If you’re not running with it, you’re running from it,” Sias said. In his campaign video , Sias suggests that because of his life experience as a trans person who was raised in poverty, he understands what it means to be disenfranchised and to live on society’s margins, and says that he has dedicated his career “to ensuring that the justice system works for everyone.” In Philadelphia—as elsewhere—the impact of such a nuanced personal understanding of inequality could begin to reshape the court's relationship with local populations of marginalized people, including the trans community. Previous reporting by Broadly found that many Black trans women in Philadelphia living in poverty are forced into criminalized economies such as survival sex work, and they report a severe lack of trust in the police. One infamous incident has long darkened the relationship between trans women in Philadelphia and the PPD: In 2002, Nizah Morris , a trans woman, died from a wound to her head that she endured while in the department’s custody. “I wouldn’t even say that, as a group, African Americans in Philadelphia have received justice—Black trans women are in the center of a Venn diagram of two communities that have been taking it on the chin for a long time,” Sias said. “I absolutely respect the police department. I know most police officers are good people who got into this… because they wanted to help people.” Nonetheless, Sias said, \'some communities are policed with, and on behalf of, and some communities are policed at . There’s no question that trans women of color are policed at .” Inside the court, trans people have historically had their gender identities used against them, whether through bias in a jury or in the arguments of a prosecutor. Sias mentioned that, for example, sometimes trans people’s testimony has been cast as unreliable because their entire lives are seen as lies. But judges are the ones to decide whether someone’s gender identity can be used as evidence. “[This] has a downstream impact on policing, and people’s perception of whether the system is for them.” If elected, Silas believes that as a transgender person, his presence alone would help to transform the United States Court System—an institution that still fails to represent the scope of American diversity.'

Taiwan Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage in a First for Asia

Politics Broadly

One week before the assigned two-year deadline, Taiwanese lawmakers passed a bill where same-sex couples can register as a married couple with government agencies.
'A version of this article originally appeared on VICE Asia . In a historic first for Asia, Taiwan implemented a law that legalizes same-sex marriage on Friday, May 17—which also happens to be the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia . Tens of thousands of supporters took to the streets of Taipei to celebrate as lawmakers announced the monumental decision in favor of marriage equality. “On May 17th, 2019 in #Taiwan , #LoveWon ,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen tweeted. “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.” The news comes only one week before the two-year deadline set by Taiwan’s Constitutional Court in 2017 to amend or enact new laws, and represents the end of a process that has been stalled by vocal opposition from conservative groups. Instead of amending the Civil Code’s definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, the new law explicitly legalizes same-sex marriage. After examining three drafts of the bill, lawmakers passed the only version that used the term “marriage,” which had been backed by progressive LGBTQ+ groups. The two other bills had been pushed by conservative groups and offered extremely limited rights, and only recognized same-sex unions with fewer protections and benefits. The decision was a sigh of relief for many advocates after a disappointing referendum last year, in which 67 percent of eligible Taiwanese voters said no to same-sex marriage only six months after Taiwan's highest court ruled in favor of it. The historic ruling and the explosive turnout of citizens celebrating the win reflects Taiwan’s position as a progressive country that may lead by example for the rest of Asia. The law will go into effect on May 24. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.'