Hey, folks! Happy New Year! OptOut LGBTQ+ is finally back in full swing after a holiday break, and we have a lot to look forward to this year in our program—and a lot of work cut out for us in the way of LGBTQ+ news production, activism, and allyship.
Maybe we can add this kind of work to our list of resolutions, a New Year’s tradition that I tend to loathe because I find expectations to be the antithesis of happiness, but when it comes to building a better world, maybe our stamina will be higher, our purposes more exacting.
Whatever our goals, let our stamina and the sheer confidence in our delusions be as steadfast as Chaya Raichik, who started off 2023 with an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson that truly made my skin crawl. If this interview isn’t evidence of the flaws in corporate media, I’m not sure what is. She begins by stating that the LGBTQ+ community is an “evil cult” that “brainwashes people to join,” making it “very difficult to get out of,” calling on the antiquated and harmful discourse that being queer or trans is a choice. Sam Seder in THE MAJORITY REPORT speaks to the hypocrisy in this argument, especially coming from Raichik, who is in the Orthodox Jewish community.
She goes on to say that “there are studies” about parents who are concerned about the pervasive cult-like nature of our community and say, “my child is saying that they’re non-binary or transgender,” seeking help with how to "change them back." I just would like to briefly, if I may, congratulate Raichik for correctly using gender-neutral pronouns in her discourse. It truly is that simple. What she also seems to find simple is spreading disinformation on national television, because the Godfather of the Disinformation, Tucker Carlson, invited her to do so. This kind of hate speech has resulted in several LGBTQ+ teachers getting fired and several anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation becoming law, most notable Florida’s "Don’t Say Gay" bill, which Raichik brags about helping with. This same disinformation and hate leads to violence, mental health issues, suicide, and death.
Tell Me Something!
FAIR dissects the continuous anti-LGBTQ+ discourse in corporate media, from Fox News to the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, and how that disinformation leads to violence that trans and queer folks face.
The fact remains that LGBTQ+ folks are treated like second-class citizens, very reminiscent of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell days that extended far beyond the military. Our identities are given a sort of backdoor “OK.” You can be whatever you want, just not in front of me or my children. And by that, they truly mean that we ought to stay behind closed doors, because being out in the open as ourselves can—and has—led to acts of violence and murder. This discourse forgets that trans and queer people are or might be their children, their friends, their neighbors. This kind of rhetoric can be small and seemingly subtle, like Trump calling Steven Miller “.99% gay.” In this, I am reminded of my peers in middle and high school referring to something that was lame, weird, or distasteful as “so gay.”
Or this kind of rhetoric can be louder, more forceful, such as Oklahoma’s latest anti-trans bill, which proposes making it a felony to access gender-affirming care for those under the age of 26. What’s so frightening about this bill—aside from the obvious—is that it doesn’t target minors, as most of the nearly 300 similar bills have over the last two years. This one is attempting to ban adults from accessing life-saving care, which will also effectively cause many other adults to detransition.
THE HUMANIST REPORT has more to say on the subject.
The impacts of this discourse on LGBTQ+ youth are astounding and disheartening. DAILY MONTANAN republished a story highlighting a 2020 Trevor Project survey that found that “42% of LGBTQ+ youth reported seriously considering suicide in the previous year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.”
George Ayoub from NEBRASKA EXAMINER eloquently paints a picture of hate-fueled paralysis, as we continue to be mired by increasing acts of violence and disdain.
In Pittsburgh, there’s an election for a seat on the Allegheny County Council that Bethany Hallam and Joanna Doven are running for. The former is a recovering addict who has been explicit about her recovery journey, especially about her time in jail, where she dealt with unfair conditions and treatment that sparked her decision to run. The latter, Joanna Doven, who has experience in public relations, was previously press secretary to two of the city’s mayors, including Luke Ravenstahl. This spotlight meant that her opinions–and tweets–have been monitored closely, especially by the LGBTQ+ media outlet QBurgh, which published several of Doven’s past “anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, and racist” tweets. Doven was allegedly “the single reason Mayor Ravenstahl DIDN’T come out in support of marriage equality earlier” in 2012. For those who live in Allegheny County, this race is an important one to watch. The Pittsburgh City Paper, via the PENNSYLVANIA CAPITAL-STAR, has the story.
In Philadelphia, there’s about a year left in Mayor Jim Kenney’s time in office, which means that the city is gearing up for a mayoral election. Kenney’s LGBTQ+ constituents reflected on his time in office, and while many of them found he was divisive and exacting in his efforts toward equity, others felt he left something to be desired with the housing crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. The PENNSYLVANIA CAPITAL-STAR has this story.
In Michigan, LGBTQ+ advocates are positioned for success with Democrats holding the legislature. They’re hoping to pass the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), which would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clinching reelection alongside Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel—“the first person and only LGBTQ+ person to be elected to a top statewide position in Michigan''—the outlook is positive for this kind of legislation.
MICHIGAN ADVANCE writes an in-depth story about the subject.
NC POLICY WATCH plans to closely monitor three stories this year, one of them being the onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation at the local and state level. Trans activists have been able to stop many of the bills from passing, but many Democrats lost their seats in 2022, meaning that Republicans are one vote shy from being able to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. This close call means that Republicans could have a much easier time passing anti-trans health care and sports laws and beyond.
PRISM reports on the lack of safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Puerto Rico. The majority of Puerto Rico’s systems and traditions are not accepting of the community, making it hard to create or find these crucial spaces. What’s more, these spaces are often generalized, ignoring the individuality and uniqueness of each group and person within the community. Elderly gay men, for example, might desire a different safe space than their younger bisexual counterparts.
Swearing in LGBTQ+ in Governance
The NEW JERSEY MONITOR reports that transgender councilwoman Jennifer Williams took office in Trenton.
In Rhode Island, the Providence City Council chose Rachel Miller, a queer woman, as its president. She was sworn in on New Year’s Day. UPRISE RI has the scoop.
Oregon swore in its newly elected Governor, Tina Kotek, who stood beside her wife as she took her oath. Kotek, alongside Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, are the nation’s first openly lesbian governors.
OREGON CAPITAL CHRONICLE speaks to this momentous day.
After all that, I’d like to leave you off with some positive stories from the LGBTQ+ community, because as much as the world likes to cloud us with hate-filled rhetoric, we remain beacons of light, history, and love.
NC POLICY WATCH lists five of its favorite stories from marginalized voices in 2022, one of which concerns UNC-Chapel Hill. The university hosted “Queerolina,” which was a historical exhibit that finally acknowledged that LGBTQ+ “students have always been a part of the story of Carolina, whether or not they have always been acknowledged.”
And THE BUCKEYE FLAME reports on two Jewish parents who are offering their parental love and Jewish blessings to LGBTQ+ people who have been turned away by their own families. In Judaism, a person has a responsibility to “repair the world.” Might we continue to repair our world; might we view that as a responsibility.
All right, I’m off. See you in two weeks!
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