A gay staffer has been appointed to a powerful role by president-elect Joe Biden.
The incoming leader, who this week received the official go-ahead for his transition to power, has been hard at work setting up the team of top officials who will fill his White House.
As he makes a number of cabinet posts and high-profile appointments, Biden has tapped a prominent gay staffer for an important role.
Gay staffer Carlos Elizondo tapped for top White House role
Carlos Elizondo has been named the social secretary for the incoming White House, after previously filling a similar role for Biden for all eight years of his vice presidency under Barack Obama.
The role places him in charge of planning, coordination and execution of official social events at the White House.
Biden said in a statement dated Friday (20 November): “I’m proud to name additional members of our team who will help deliver the change America needs in these difficult times. Their dedication to overcoming the challenges facing our country today are rooted in their diverse backgrounds and experiences. They will serve the American people and help build back better, creating a more just, equitable, and united nation.”
Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain added: “To bring president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris’ agenda to life you must have a boundless team of experts ready for day one.
“Today’s appointees are respected leaders who will bring a commitment to serving the American people each and every day. They will support our work to build an administration and White House that represents America and delivers results.”
Elizondo, who has previously worked in events at Georgetown University and Walt Disney World, currently lives with his partner in Washington DC.
Joe Biden administration could have a number of high-ranking LGBT+ staffers
The staffer is likely to be far from the only out figure in a senior White House role. Karine Jean-Pierre, currently chief of staff to vice president-elect Kamala Harris, could become the first out lesbian and first Black woman to be named White House press secretary.
Dr Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health and one of the most senior trans officials in the US, has also been touted as an outside chance at a healthcare role.
Germany’s government has approved legislation that will offer €3,000 in compensation for gay military personnel who have experienced discrimination.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s defence minister, said: “I know that we can’t make up for the personal injustice they suffered but, with the lifting of verdicts and the payment of lump-sum compensation, we want to send a signal of redress.”
The new legislation aims to “restore the dignity of these people who wanted nothing other than to serve Germany”, according to Kramp-Karrenbauer.
The legislation still requires paliamentary approval, but Kramp-Karrenbauer is optimistic about getting the support of lawmakers. She hopes to “rehabilitate and compensate those affected next year”.
The ministry previously commissioned a study and found “systemic discrimination” in the military from 1955 to 2000. This included both West Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, and the military of reunited Germany from 1990.
The study found that homosexuality was “viewed as a security risk in the Bundeswehr until the turn of the millennium and made a career as an officer or non-commissioned officer impossible”.
The new legislation will also cover victims of discrimination in East Germany’s National People’s Army. Kramp-Karrenbauer said this was “an important signal” because 2020 marks 30 years since the reunification of Germany.
The government will offer €3,000 in compensation to personnel who received military court verdicts for consensual gay sex. Soldiers who were dismissed, denied for promotions or put under investigation will also be eligible for compensation.
In September, Kramp-Karrenbauer apologised to those who suffered discrimination.
The defence minister said: “I very much regret the practice of discrimination against homosexuals in the Bundeswehr, which stood for the policy of that time. I apologize to those who suffered because of it.”
This comes after the UK Ministry of Defence apologised for similar policies in January. However, the UK has not yet introduced an official compensation scheme for those dismissed from the military on grounds of their sexual orientation.
More than 150 people have sought compensation in the UK, though its thought the true number affected is likely to run into the thousands.
Rudolf Scharping, previously Germany’s defence minister, ended official discrimination in 2000 after an officer took a legal case to Germany’s highest court having been removed from his position. Scharping stated: “Homosexuality does not constitute grounds for restrictions in terms of assignment or status.”
A constitutional amendment before the Hungarian Parliament would effectively ban LGBTQ people from adopting, drawing the ire of human rights activists.
Draft language submitted to parliament this month by Justice Minister Judit Varga states that children must be raised “in accordance with the values based on our homeland’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”
“The basis for family relations is marriage,” it reads in part. “The mother is a woman, the father is a man.”
Under the amendment, only opposite-sex married couples would be eligible to adopt children, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis by Minister of Family Affairs Katalin Novák. The bill effectively bans gay couples, single people and unmarried straight couples from adopting.
It also asserts that the government “protects children’s right to the gender identity they were born with.”
LGBTQ advocates view the proposals, which are expected to pass next month, as yet another assault by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing party, Fidesz, which has been in power since 2010 and maintains a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
A new constitution enacted in 2012 defines marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman and asserts that the traditional family is “the basis of the survival of the nation.”
Gay people “can do what they want, but they cannot get their marriages recognized by the state,” Orbán said in 2016 interview. “An apple cannot ask to be called a pear.”
In 2019, the speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, László Kövér, compared same-sex couples wanting to adopt or marry to pedophiles. “Morally, there is no difference,” said Kövér, a founding member of Fidesz and a close ally of Orbán.
Senior party officials even called for a boycott of Coca-Cola when it launched an LGBTQ-inclusive ad campaign that summer. In May, the government reversed regulations allowing transgender and intersex citizens to change the gender listed on legal documents. The new regulations redefined the word “nem” — which in Hungarian can mean either “sex” or “gender” — to refer specifically to a person’s biological sex at birth “based on primary sex characteristics and chromosomes.”
The law puts trans and intersex people “at risk of harassment, discrimination, and even violence in daily situations when they need to use identity documents,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Another new proposal would abolish the Equal Treatment Authority, an autonomous agency tasked with investigating discrimination based on sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and other factors.
Some responsibilities would be taken over by the commissioner for fundamental rights, Ákos Kozma, an Orbán loyalist who’s been largely silent on LGBTQ issues. ILGA-Europe, a leading European rights group, said the sole purpose of transferring control to Kozma is to “reduce the efficacy” of anti-discrimination policies.
These measures come as Hungary, like the rest of the world, is battling a deadly pandemic. Tamás Dombos, a board member for the Hatter Society, Hungary’s oldest and largest gay rights group, said the timing is strategic.
“Now the debate focuses on this issue rather than how bad the government is handling the pandemic or the changes they want to make to the electoral process,” Dombos told NBC News. “They create this noise so the opposition can’t focus on one issue.”
The ban on legal recognition of transgender people was passed just as the pandemic’s first wave hit Hungary. To date, the country of 9.8 million has reported 157,000 cases of Covid-19 and 3,380 deaths.
“The government has used the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to grab unlimited power and is using Parliament to rubber-stamp problematic nonpublic-health-related bills,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement Thursday.
The new amendments were presented on Nov. 10, the same day Parliament voted to extend a coronavirus-related state of emergency that Orbán had declared a week earlier.
Not only do they further stigmatize transgender people and same-sex couples raising children, Dombos said, they also make outreach to LGBTQ youth nearly impossible.
But the attacks on the LGBTQ community aren’t limited to the corridors of the Hungarian Parliament. “A Fairy Tale for Everyone,” a Hungarian children’s book with well-known tales incorporating gay people and other marginalized groups, was met with a barrage of homophobic vitriol when it was published in September. A leading Fidesz politician tore apart a copy page by page at a news conference, and a petition demanding it be removed from stores garnered more than 85,000 signatures.
“Hungarians are patient and tolerant” of homosexuality, he said. “We also tolerate provocation well, but there is a red line that cannot be crossed.”
The book’s authors, Dorottya Redai and Boldizsár Nagy, said they were disturbed by Orbán’s rhetoric. “When a prime minister says something like this … others will think they can also,” they told Time magazine.
Dombos said while he hasn’t seen physical violence, people on the street are getting more vocal. “Now you get called names. They shout, ‘Hey f—-t!’ That never happened before,” he said. “They feel encouraged now.”
Last month, Redai told Time that a large poster declaring, “Homosexual propaganda publication, which is dangerous for children, is sold here,” was draped outside a bookstore selling “A Fairy Tale for Everyone.”
Even a cosmopolitan city like Budapest, one of the first in Eastern Europe to hold a Pride march, hasn’t been immune. In August, a rainbow flag displayed outside City Hall was ripped down and thrown in the garbage.
Előd Novák, party leader of the extremist group Mi Hazánk, took credit for the vandalism, declaring that the “anti-family symbol has no place on the street.”
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony had been the first to fly the symbol of the LGBTQ community on city property.
Days earlier, nationalist football fans calling themselves Aryan Greens reportedly set fire to a Pride flag outside another municipal building and replaced it with a banner for their favorite team.
The increasing homophobia has had a chilling effect on Hungary’s LGBTQ community.
“The general strategy for people is to stay in the closet,” Dombos said. “More than half aren’t out to their family, and only about 20 percent are out at work.” It has also pushed some to leave the country.
“The reasons why people emigrate are complex, but many LGBTQ people say dealing with discrimination and homophobic language day after day was an important factor,” Dombos said. “It’s quite easy to leave within the E.U. — you can go to Germany or other European countries where the jobs are better and there’s more acceptance.”
For those who stay and fight, countering a party with two-thirds majority is difficult under normal circumstances. During the pandemic, activists can’t have demonstrations, meet with politicians or even even hold in-person gatherings.
“We try to gather online, but it’s just not the same,” Dombos said.
Just days after Hungary announced the latest proposed amendments, the European Union’s executive commission announced its first formal strategy to protect the rights of LGBTQ citizens.
“We will defend the rights of LGBT people against those who have more and more appetite to attack them from an ideological point of view,” E.U. Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said Nov. 13 at a news conference. “This belongs to the authoritarian playbook, and it does not have a place in the E.U.”
The strategy proposes adding anti-gay hate crimes to the list of offenses for which the E.U. could set minimum penalties, including terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering. It would also protect the legal status of same-sex married couples in all member states and tie funding to compliance with E.U. anti-discrimination laws.
Varga, the justice minister, condemned the strategy on Twitter, saying Hungary would “not accept any financial threats for protecting the traditional role of family and marriage.”
In any event, the guidelines aren’t binding on member countries. When dozens of Polish cities declared themselves “LGBT-free zones,”the commission could only deny small amounts of funding to a half-dozen towns.
Orbán has forged ideological ties with Poland in rejecting what he sees as an E.U. agenda. At a World War I memorial ceremony in August, Orbán called on central Europe to unite around its Christian roots.
“Western Europe has given up on a Christian Europe,” he warned, “and instead experiments with a godless cosmos, rainbow families, migration and open societies.”
So far, Hungary’s response to European Union pressure over human rights has been to veto E.U. legislation. Last week, Hungary and Poland united to veto the E.U.’s trillion-euro budget and coronavirus recovery package, because access is linked to countries’ adherence to the rule of law and European values.
Orbán previously vetoed ratification of an E.U. treaty on violence against women and an agreement to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people.
The prime minister, according to Dombos, enjoys the political theatrics and “likes the idea that he’s shaping the E.U.”
Fidesz actually began as a progressive, youth-oriented party in the late 1980s, Dombos added, but then the political landscape changed and the party filled the vacuum in the right-wing space.
“More and more they became extreme, with statements not just about LGBT people, but about homeless people, Roma, Jews, migrants and asylum-seekers,” Dombos said. “Their strategy is to come up with an enemy, create a campaign around it and pass a law, and then tell us how they’ve rescued us from disaster.”
Trans people who are routinely barraged with anti-transgender media coverage are more likely to experience depression and negative mental health outcomes, a study has found.
Researchers from the The Fenway Institute and Brown University asked 545 participants about their experiences of anti-trans messaging and their mental health.
The study, published in the LGBT Health journal, found that 97.6 per cent of participants reported seeing negative depictions of transgender people in the media in the past 12 months – 93.9 per cent seeing anti-trans coverage in print, 93.8 per cent on television and 83.1 per cent in advertising.
Exposure to anti-transgender messaging was found to correlate strongly with reports of depression, anxiety and psychological distress.
People who are frequently exposed to transphobic media were found to be 18 per cent more likely to be depressed and 28 per cent more likely to experience psychological distress, even when adjusted for other factors.
Anti-trans media coverage is fuelling negative mental health impacts.
Jaclyn White Hughto, assistant professor at Brown University School of Public Health, said: “Nearly all of our study participants reported having seen negative depictions of transgender people in media over the past 12 months.
“But those who reported greater frequency of exposure to these messages were significantly more likely to exhibit clinical symptoms of depression, anxiety, global psychological distress and PTSD.
“The association held even after adjustments were made for variables such as age, race, income and reported experiences of childhood and/or adult sexual or physical abuse, which suggests that negative media messages may have an independent impact on the mental health of transgender populations exposed to such messages.”
Hughto added: “Given the prevalence of systemic discrimination against transgender people in employment, health care settings, schools, and housing, we have long known that structural interventions are required to target stigma at its source.
“Campaigns designed to encourage accurate, non-stigmatizing depictions of transgender people across all media could serve to mitigate the harms of negative media messages to transgender people.
“In the meantime, clinical interventions can also help transgender people cope with the stress of being exposed to negative transgender-related media.”
The US-based study affirms anecdotal reports from the UK, where a years-long blitz of anti-transgender stories in the media has led to rising demand for mental health and support services for trans people.
Earlier this month, a report from LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop found that as a result of transphobia, more than half of transgender people in the UK feel less able to go outside and two-thirds say they avoid using public bathrooms.
One respondent said: “The fear is particularly prevalent when public figures – politicians, high profile newspaper columnists etc – demonise trans people in print or on air; it makes the fear more pronounced because you worry someone’s going to act on it.”
Leni Morris, CEO of Galop, said that the report showed the reality of life for British trans people amid increasingly hostile debate about trans rights and toxic, transphobic commentary in the media.
“As the whole LGBT+ community knows from our history, there are real-world consequences to public debates,” Morris said. “Our new report shows how the safety and dignity of trans people is currently at risk.”
Sydney Duncan, 44, an attorney in Alabama, has been so focused on managing the increased legal needs of her clients that she rarely has time to address her own mental health needs, including her anxiety.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Duncan has devoted nearly her whole waking day to her work at Birmingham AIDS Outreach, an Alabama nonprofit. Helping her transgender clients obtain vital name changes has become a prolonged process due to court backlogs piling up, helping them acquire driver’s licenses has become harder while Social Security offices are closed, and increased unemployment among the community she serves has complicated a variety of services her nonprofit provides.
“We’re so busy trying to resolve other people’s issues — which objectively are more pressing than anything I have going on in my life — that it’s hard to slow down and feel the weight of the problems in your own life,” Duncan said.
Duncan, who is transgender, is among many LGBTQ Americans grappling with the added strain of the coronavirus crisis as they continue to adjust to a “new normal.” Meanwhile, the United States is poised to deal with a third spike in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, nine months into the pandemic.
Prior to the global crisis, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans were already at greater risk of mental health problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This elevated risk — due to a host of factors, including stigma and discrimination — combined with a global health crisis that has upended life as we once knew it, is presenting unique challenges for LGBTQ people.
“The physical distancing, economic strain and housing instability caused by Covid-19 have the potential to exacerbate these barriers among LGBTQ young people,” Dr. Amy Green, vice president of research at The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization, told NBC News.
‘Barely making it by’
Duncan had hoped to begin the year by supplementing her nonprofit salary by working as a comic-book writer. She made her debut with Dark Horse Comics at the end of last year but said her family is now “barely making it by” as opportunities have dried up.
“I feel like I’m better off than most, so don’t want to take someone else’s place if they need it more,” said Duncan, who added that she has been having “more sleepless nights” amid the pandemic. However, “opportunities seem fewer,” she added, which has affected more than just her finances.
“I’ve buried myself in working constantly to not pay attention to anything, but at some point it’s going to crash, and I don’t know what I’ll do then.”
“To make it to a level and have it erode from beneath you — the loss feels more profound,” she said. “Second chances for someone like me feel further away.”
Many LGBTQ people work in industries that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, according to research by the Human Rights Campaign. These industries include jobs that have been contracted due to the pandemic, as well as other industries that have put workers at direct risk of exposure to the virus.
The report found that in addition to being at risk for precarious employment conditions, LGBTQ people were less likely to have health insurance, putting them further at risk from Covid-19.
On the other side of the coin, as many work remotely, the lines between work and home life have evaporated, putting an additional strain on mental health.
Rebecca Mix, 25, a queer author from Michigan, said that being overworked has just become a normal part of her routine with little sign of that changing.
“I think I’m barreling towards burnout,” Mix told NBC News. “I’ve buried myself in working constantly to not pay attention to anything, but at some point it’s going to crash, and I don’t know what I’ll do then. But I feel like I don’t have any other option.”
Loss of community
One of the biggest losses Covid-19 has robbed Duncan of is her sense of community. Seeing friends and colleagues on video conferencing has become exhausting, she said, and a poor substitute for having a community to help lift one another up.
“For me, community is support,” Duncan said. “Without community, I feel less supported, less confident in my place in the world. I feel this underlying anxiety every day.”
Many around the country have begun feeling “zoom fatigue,” while working to implement social distancing measures at work and with friends.
There is also worry about the long-term impact that the loss of in-person connections could have on LGBTQ people coming into their own with their sexual orientation and gender identity and presentation. A lack of a supportive community could stunt that formative time for many, according to research from Boston University’s School of Public Health.
A recent poll conducted by The Trevor Project showed that 40 percent of LGBTQ youth across the country said that “Covid-19 impacted their ability to express their LGBTQ identity,” with that number jumping to 56 percent for transgender and nonbinary youth. In addition, another report found that 2 in 5 LGBTQ youth in the United States have “seriously considered” suicide in the past year, highlighting the direness of the situation for many this year.
Access to therapy
The combination of economic strain and lack of available space to express themselves has also conspired against LGBTQ Americans by blocking access to a vital mental health resource: therapy.
Green, of the Trevor Project, said many LGBTQ youth have lost their job amid the pandemic and the health insurance that came with it.
“Finding providers who are not only affordable and available but also well versed in LGBTQ youths’ identities and unique mental health challenges can prove incredibly difficult in many areas of the country,” she said. “And concerns around parental permission, being outed and privacy could be heightened for LGBTQ youth who find themselves confined to unsupportive home environments and isolated from affirming LGBTQ communities.”
One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the increased access to teletherapy as health care providers shift to remote work. This has been particularly helpful for those who had little access to affirming mental health care in their physical area.
“By and large, I have found it has worked really well,” Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, director of the Fenway Institute’s National LGBT Health Education Center and Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatry Gender Identity Program, told NBC News this year. “I’ve had almost no no-shows in my schedule, and patients are answering the phone very appreciative that we can give them care despite what’s happening.”
Remote therapy, while easier to access in some respects, still does not make it accessible for everyone. Mix, for example, began teletherapy during the pandemic, but then had to quit once the costs started piling up.
“At one point, I felt so spiraling-out-of-control depressed and anxious, but I had to stop because I couldn’t afford it,” Mix said. “I’ve noticed everything is harder and more exhausting — things as simple as phone calls to household tasks like laundry and dishes.”
Therapy in addition to medication helped stem feelings of spiraling out of control and depression, but the longer the pandemic rages on the harder it will be to stay on top of certain tasks and remain motivated in day-to-day life, Mix said.
Others, who are sheltering in place with people unsupportive of their LGBTQ identity, may not have a space to privately participate in a mental health video visit. And some may be skeptical of a new platform for accessing health services altogether.
A combination of unemployment, unsupportive families and reduced in-person services at LGBTQ centers have created an acute crisis of housing precariousness for the community.
Wren, 20, who is nonbinary and uses ze/hir pronouns and asked that hir surname not be published to protect hir privacy, has spent the past year moving to different parts of the country to avoid infecting family members, to keep job prospects alive and have space to finish college classes. For Wren, this involved moving in with hir partner on a farm in Appalachia, working in exchange for rent.
For around two months, Wren returned home to see hir family, but that only brought old traumas and threats of violence. Wren is back on the farm with hir partner, trying to navigate an uncertain future amid the pandemic.
“The uncertainty about where I would be living, the worry I felt for my community in the city who were at higher risk for Covid and were facing violence from police during the protests this summer, and stressed family relationships compounded pre-existing mental health issues I have been dealing with for years,” Wren said.
Mental health investment
The implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on the state of mental health care won’t be known for some time, the Trevor Project’s Green added, but the disparities in our current system show that urgent investment is needed before more LGBTQ people get left behind without access to care.
“Investing in mental health and social services is the best strategy for proactively preventing worse mental health consequences in the future,” Green said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.
Bishops have voiced scepticism over Biden’s viewpoints, distancing themselves from the incoming president.
Texas bishop Joseph Strickland went further than most on Friday (19 November) as he tweeted: “As a bishop I beg Mr Biden to repent of his dissent from Catholic teaching on abortion and marriage for his own salvation and for the good of our nation.
“He aspires to the highest office in our land and must be guided by the truth God has revealed to us. I pray for him to find truth.”
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops also had icy words for Biden.
Los Angeles archbishop José Gomez, head of the body, said: “For only the second time, we are anticipating a transition to a president who professes the Catholic faith. This presents certain opportunities but also certain challenges.
“The president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies. This includes policies of immigration reform, refugees and the poor, and against racism, the death penalty, and climate change.
“He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics.”
Gomez cited Biden’s support for the Equality Act, which would amend civil rights laws to outlaw discrimination against LGBT+ people.
The archbishop insisted: “These policies pose a serious threat to the common good whenever any politician supports them. We have long opposed these polices strongly and we will continue to do so.
“When politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them there are additional problems, and one of the things it creates confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions.”
It is possible that church leaders could take the provocative stance of ordering that Biden should be denied holy communion, as some archbishops have previously for politicians who support equal marriage and abortion.
Thomas Groome, a theology professor at Boston College, said it is likely that conservative bishops would push for the measure, even though polling suggests Biden’s views are shared by the majority of US Catholics.
He told AP that the archbishop’s statement was “dreadfully unfortunate” and said the bishops “should be helping bring us together rather than driving us apart”.
In a live online webinar broadcast from Hong Kong on Nov. 12, organizers of the 11th quadrennial Gay Games celebrated the start of a two-year countdown for the Nov. 12, 2022 opening ceremony at the Hong Kong Stadium for the world’s largest LGBTQ sports competition and arts andcultural event.
Members of the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team, which is an arm of the U.S.-based Federation of Gay Games, told the 79 people who joined the webinar from 29 countries that they expect 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators, and 3,000 volunteers – a total of at least 90,000 from 100 countries — to take part in the Hong Kong Gay Games.
They noted that 36 sporting events are planned, including traditional sports like soccer, wrestling, volleyball, and figure skating as well as sports more common in Asia such as dragon boat racing, dodgeball, eSports, and trail running.
An outdoor Festival Village will be opened near the harbor in central Hong Kong that will showcase art and cultural events and exhibits as well as performing arts events including daily performances by bands, dance groups, and vocalists that have been associated with the Gay Games for many years, according to literature released by organizers.
Members of the organizing team also pointed to what they consider an historic first. The location of the Gay Games in Hong Kong will mark the first time in its 40-year history that the quadrennial event will be held in Asia.
“Unity is the key message of Gay Games Hong Kong,” said Dennis Philipse, a Hong Kong resident and the founder and co-chair of Gay Games Hong Kong.
“Carrying a torch of empowerment and connection in Hong Kong serves to bring our community together in this important time for our city,” he said in a statement.
“We are excited to welcome all the 12,000 participants and 75,000 spectators from 100 countries to the city as the Games serve to boost the local economy by 1 billion Hong Kong dollars,” he said.
Neither Philipse nor the other Gay Games Hong Kong organizers who spoke at the webinar mentioned the political strife and turmoil that has unfolded in Hong Kong beginning several years ago when pro-democracy protesters began a series of almost daily demonstrations, some of which turned violent. Many of the protesters said they were raising strong objections to China’s growing efforts in recent years to gain control of the local Hong Kong government that protesters say violates China’s international agreement in 1997 with Great Britain to allow Hong Kong to govern itself in domestic affairs for 50 years as a condition for Britain to cede Hong Kong to China.
The protests and virtually all of the episodes of violence appear to have stopped in July of this year shortly after China intervened by enacting a “national security” law that bypassed Hong Kong’s local legislature and which essentially bans demonstrations against the government of Hong Kong or China. The law defines such demonstrations as “sedition” and “subversion of state power” and calls for punishment of up to life in prison for violating the new law.
Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul told the Washington Blade in a statement that the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team has created a contingency planning committee that has developed plans to address “potential scenarios/risks such as an on-going pandemic, social unrest or unseasonal weather events.”
“We are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong,” Paul said. “Plans are in development so that we have prepared actions that would assist in mitigating the potential impact of any unfortunate circumstances that might arise.”
Paul added that there has not been a recurrence in “protest violence” in Hong Kong since the new national security law took effect in July of this year.
“The National Security Law (NSL) targets activities that endanger national security (secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces),” he said. “It does not have any bearing on LGBT+ affairs or sporting competitions,” Paul stated in his statement. “Based on our assessment to date, we do not expect the NSL will have any direct impact on the Gay Games taking place in Hong Kong.”
Added Paul, “Once the coronavirus pandemic is more settled, we anticipate Hong Kong will deliver a strong program of events to rebuild the tourism industry and Gay Games Hong Kong will be well timed to be a strong event within these plans.”
Philipse and others who spoke at the Nov. 12 webinar from Hong Kong said LGBTQ supportive sports organizations and businesses in Hong Kong have expressed strong support for the Gay Games and have made financial contributions to support the city’s ability to hold the Games. Organizers also point out that local Hong Kong government officials have also expressed support for the Games.
“Becoming Asia’s first city to host Gay Games isn’t just a cause for pride and celebration for Hong Kong,” said Ricky CHU Man-kin, chairperson of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission. “It drives home the message that the LGBTI community and indeed all in society deserve to be visible, represented and included in sports and other areas of life,” CHU Man-kin said in a statement released by Gay Games Hong Kong 2022.
A 60-minute video recording of the webinar organized by Gay Games Hong Kong can be accessed through this link.
Additional information about Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 can be accessed here.
Mauree Turner made history this month by becoming the country’s first openly nonbinary state legislator. Turner, 27, was elected to represent District 88 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Nov. 3 with more than 70 percent of the vote and assumed office last week. Turner is also thought to be the first Muslim lawmaker to serve in the Oklahoma Legislature.
Turner, who uses both they/them and she/her pronouns, grew up in Ardmore, a city of 25,000 people that sits smack in between Oklahoma City to the north and Dallas to the south. Turner said their childhood was relatively idealistic: They had a supportive and involved mother and grew up singing in the choir and participating in their school band. They attended college at Oklahoma State University and then spent time organizing for various civil rights projects in Oklahoma, including an American Civil Liberties Union criminal justice reform campaign.
“While I never wanted to be in politics in this aspect, community organizing is always about answering a call to action, and that’s what my community was doing,” Turner said.
“I’m still reading so many messages from folks around the world that are just happy to have some sort of representation,” said Turner, whose district represents central Oklahoma City. “We’ve been able to create a space where folks can not only see themselves but also feel a little more empowered to show up, either fully as themselves or even just a little more fuller.”
Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national organization that trains and advocates for LGBTQ political candidates, called Turner a “trailblazer,” saying, “Their courage to run openly will inspire more nonbinary people to pursue careers in elected office.”
“Of all the states to achieve a milestone political moment for nonbinary people, few would have thought it would be Oklahoma, where there are so few LGBTQ elected officials,” Parker said in a statement. “But Mauree ran a tireless campaign focused on the issues that matter to their district while also being authentic and open about who they are.”
As for the issues that matter to Turner, their campaign platform focused on criminal justice reform and more access to health care and public education.
“It was devastating for a lot of reasons for me on a personal level, and I think for Oklahoma’s growth as a whole,” Turner said. “Honestly, I don’t blame the people in how the vote ended up. What I blame is institutions that benefit from keeping Oklahomans incarcerated.
“Right now in Oklahoma, we’ve got mothers sitting in prison for 30-plus years because they wrote bad checks to be able to provide food for their families,” Turner said.
Another more local issue Turner is focused on in District 88 — one of the most liberal districts in deep red Oklahoma — is power lines. An ice storm last month left many in their district without power for weeks. Turner noted that power lines are underground in many more affluent districts but not in District 88, which Turner said is unacceptable. Turner wants to get those power lines underground in the next 10 to 15 years.
Turner said they think part of their campaign’s appeal was their belief in “people- and community-based solutions.” Now that they’re in office, Turner is starting to lay the groundwork for what they hope will be a long and successful political career.
“Politics is a place where you figure out not necessarily what you can and can’t do but what is within your bandwidth in the immediate [future] and what is in your bandwidth to do in the long run,” they said. “You have to continuously figure out what helps you continuously show up to this work in the best version of you, so that you have that longevity of being able to do this work.”
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that in order to compete in events between 400 metres and a mile, she must take hormones to reduce her natural testosterone levels – or else be considered illegible.
She said at the time: “I refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am.
“Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.
“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”
Refusing to back down, Semenya has now decided to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
According to Reuters, her lawyer Greg Nott said in a statement: “We will be taking World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights. We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms Semenya from competing.”
Alongside her dazzling athletic career, Semenya has become a role model for queer people around the world in her fight for equality.