Recent LGBT News

By Vicente Guzman-Orozco, PQ Monthly

Victories and challenges in trans rights

On the heels of a similar move by the Oregon Department of Education, the Obama administration issued guidance in regards to the rights of trans students and employees, ostensibly as a response to requests from institutions around the country. The clarifications came after some state policies were planned that would conflict with federal rules and funding. Backlash to the federal guidance has developed into a lawsuit brought by eleven states and officials. The suit, filed in Texas, also includes officials from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

According to the magazine Mother Jones the growing stridence on the issue of trans people’s access to public restrooms could be a reaction to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, and a well-known legal outfit, Alliance Defending Freedom, is behind many of the bills introduced in state legislatures. ADF, just one year before the Obergefell decision, sent guidelines to school districts with policy recommendations similar to the current bills.

In other bathroom news, after causing a fire storm among conservative and religious groups by eliminating gender-based signs for their toy aisles, Target announced a liberal and sensible restroom policy which engendered a boycott 1.25 million signatures strong as of this writing. The company is not acknowledging the pinch, if any. Target CEO Brian Cornell said on May 18, “we have not seen a material or measurable impact on our business. Just a handful of stores across the country have seen some activity and have been impacted.”

Queer men and women making strides

After many months of obstruction, Eric K. Fanning was confirmed as Secretary of the Army, the first openly gay man to hold the position. As Army Times points out, he has proven his previous experience, most recently as acting under secretary, enables him to improve situations he has observed for a long time. A hands-on man, he also told the Army Times that his “first immediate goal is to get out of the Pentagon, get out in the field and interact with soldiers.”

In a similar sign the growing acceptance of LGBT folk in the armed forces, Vice President Joe Biden commended the openly gay class president at this year’s West Point graduation, saying that before the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, “E.J. [Coleman] would have been discharged from the Army, and we would have lost an incredible talent.” West Point is a coed academy geared towards federal service known for its “academic, military and physical excellence.”

Kate Brown
Kate Brown

Oregon Governor Kate Brown took an unusual turn in the commencement speech she delivered to the Class of ’16 at Willamette University, delving into her past to describe the fear she experienced living in the closet as a bisexual. The remarks fit well into the theme of her speech, which encouraged the graduates to “find a path, help others, have ambition, and work hard.”

Equality around the world

A recent poll ranked Spain as the most LGBT-friendly country. The locals seem to be enjoying it, with 48 million same-sex marriages since they became legal little over 10 years ago. And visitors will get to bask in the rainbow glow as well in 2017 when the country hosts World Gay Pride.

Colombia has started celebrating same-sex weddings since a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in April made it legal in the South American country. Fernando Quimbayo and José Ticora were the first couple to take advantage of the provision, and their Cali wedding was profiled by the newspaper El País.

“The Cuban people are prepared to advance themselves,” said Mariela Castro among remarks in support of same-sex marriage. Ms. Castro, an outspoken activist and the daughter of Cuba’s President, recently led the largest LGBT march in the country. Among the special guests for the march was Evan Wolfson, whose organization Freedom to Marry was at the forefront of the movement. “Nearly 70% of the people of Latin America now live in a freedom to marry country. The Cuban people deserve no less,”Wolfson told the Miami Herald.

Health News

In a development that may get science closer to a vaccine to prevent HIV, lab studies have verified the efficacy of gene editing to remove the virus from live animals. Early enthusiasm for the “genetic scissors” technique is tempered by reports that it may also encourage mutation in the virus, adapting and becoming more resistant to known treatment.

The likely candidate to the presidency from the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, revealed her proposal to continue the fight against HIV. Her plans include measures for decriminalization as well as support for PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylactic), a medical strategy that greatly reduces the probability of infection. Other key points include facilitating greater research funding and affordable treatment.

As the number of confirmed cases rise in the United States, many questions remain about the Zika virus. Sexual transmission is not among them, however, if a man is involved. Although it remains to be determined whether women can transmit the virus sexually, both heterosexual and homosexual contact with infected men has resulted in Zika contagion.