Fifty Bandz, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, has become the latest victim of a wave of violence against trans people in the US that activists and physicians have dubbed an “epidemic”.
Bandz was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 28 January by her former partner, Michael Joshua Brooks, 20, according to The Advocate.×
Brooks told law enforcement that he pulled the trigger during an argument at the 5000 block of McClelland Drive in the Brookstown neighbourhood.
The pair had been in a one-year-long relationship, Baton Rouge Police Department detectives said, but began seeing one another again only days before the victim’s death. Brooks has since been arrested.
Witnesses described their relationship as “very volatile”. He “was not open or forthcoming” about dating Bandz, which “caused personal problems” for them both.
Bandz met Brooks in Brookstown to hand him a mobile phone, detectives said. But he became rattled when she made the delivery in from of his girlfriend and brother, witnesses alleged, and then began arguing over the phone.
She borrowed a vehicle and told witnesses she was heading back to grab the phone from Brooks. During the drive there, she dialled a friend and told them what had happened – she then placed the pal on hold, noting Brooks had rung her.
But Bandz never returned the call. She was found dead inside a vehicle at 11pm, suffering from several gunshot wounds that Brooks had fired during a heated exchange, he admitted.
Friends, family and other loved ones released balloons in Bandz’s honour 1 February.
“In just one month, multiple transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed, four of whom were Black trans women,” Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement.
“This level of violence is infuriating and heartbreaking. This is an epidemic of violence that must be stopped.
A former Vermont woman, accused of kidnapping when she fled the country more than a decade ago, is now behind bars. Lisa Miller had fled the United States in a child custody dispute with her former civil union partner, Janet Jenkins.
After more than 10 years, Miller turned herself in to authorities in Nicaragua, and was listed Monday afternoon as an inmate at a federal detention center in Miami.
A federal judge in Florida ordered that she stay in jail until her case can be transferred to a federal court in the western district of New York, where the kidnapping charges were brought.
Jenkins v. Miller is a federal case in Vermont brought by a lesbian woman, Janet Jenkins, against her former civil union partner, Lisa Miller, who “renounced” homosexuality and kidnapped their then 7-year-old daughter, Isabella, in 2009 to avoid shared visitation and custody with Jenkins.
After breaking off their Vermont civil union, Lisa, the child’s biological mother, took their daughter to Virginia in 2004. Lisa converted to fundamentalist Christianity and began withholding Isabella from Janet.
A custody battle ensued in both the Vermont and Virginia courts. The Vermont courts awarded visitation rights to Janet and the Virginia courts upheld the Vermont decision. SPLC-designated hate group Liberty Counsel represented Lisa in the custody litigations.
A longtime JMG readers will recall, I’ve been reporting on this case since the early years of JMG. The links below are in reverse chronological order going back to 2009.
Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Food For Thought. Thank you so much for your continued support! At FFT, we’re spreading the love by providing nurturing food to our neighbors in need. Will you join us?
You’ve heard a lot from us about how food is medicine—that healthy food improves health and saves on health care expenses. But did you know that love is also medicine? This year, too many of our seriously ill Sonoma County neighbors are spending Valentine’s Day alone—and hungry. And because of COVID-19,demand for our services has more than doubled in the past year. People in our community need food, and they also need love.Support from our donors brings healing food+love tothousands of low-income Sonoma County residents living with COVID-19, HIV and other illnesses. To donate, click here.
February Wine Sale
Our generous friends at William Gordon Winery are hosting an amazing wine sale to benefit Food For Thought. For the entire month of February, 50% of the sales of their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) and 2013 Petite Sirah ($35) will be donated to Food For Thought! Please call (707) 894-2447 or email email@example.com to place your order. Be sure to mention Food For Thought to receive this promotion. Wine purchases can be picked up at the winery or shipped for an additional fee.
Celebrating A Shared VisionA student organization at a high school based in Southern California recently contacted FFT. They requested that we share their essay celebrating our mission. We appreciate their support and applaud their efforts to educate future generations. At Polytechnic School in Pasadena, California, our founders created the Food for Thought Club in 2019 to provide a space for high school students to discuss plant-based lifestyles and sustainable eating habits. Our club, coincidentally titled, shares many goals and values with FFT, as we hold discussions and assemblies to convey the benefits of eating a healthy diet. Through teaching and advocating about the plant-based and healthy lifestyle, we strive towards a better future for our planet and ourselves.
In the Food for Thought Club, we understand the importance and potential that a healthy and sustainable meal can have on our health, so we were intrigued and inspired by FFT’s core philosophy “Food is Medicine” and its mission statement “fostering health and healing with food and compassion.” We celebrate FFT’s philosophy of healing people through nutrition because our central goal at the Food for Thought club is to save the Earth through a plant-based diet. Since members of our club are conscious of what we eat and where our food comes from, many of us pursue a vegetarian lifestyle. Looking towards the future, we hope our work provides our school community with a strong foundation for sustainable and healthy eating habits. As we approach adulthood, we have a responsibility to our Earth, our bodies and each other to spread awareness and prevent further damage. Not only can eating local, farm-fresh foods positively impact our health but it can save the planet at the same time. Written by Elia Min and Nina Turner
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Chocolate Cherry SmoothieValentine’s Day often tempts us to indulge in sweet treats loaded with empty calories. This month FFT offers a delicious creamy smoothie recipe that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth without the guilt. Click here for the recipe and check out the surprising healthy secret ingredients.
Virtual Variety Show/Music/Drama:Saturday, February 27 @8 pm. ‘Winter Classic’, presented by Occidental Center for the Arts.OCA is pleased to present our fifth virtual variety show, titled ‘Winter Classic’. It will emphasize early 20th century classics and standards, and features pianist Mary Watkins and members of the Santa Rosa Symphony. Other stellar musical acts to be included are Dirty Cello Band, Meredith Axelrod & Craig Ventresco, Eric Wiley, Teal Collins & Josh Zee, Barbara Higbie, Black Brothers Band, Ricky Mier, Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen, Miles McKenzie, Jazz Messengers and Black Sheep Brass Band. A bit of classic drama from Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’ (1775) will be performed by Steve Fowler & Andrea Van Dyke. This most excellent program, produced by Tina Marchetti, will be presented at 8 pm on YouTube and FaceBook. Free; Donations appreciated. No politics, no Covid, just pure talent guaranteed to lift your spirits! Keeping the Arts in Our Hearts atwww.occidentalcenterforthearts.org.
LGBT+ people have joined in the ongoing protests against the military coup in Myanmar, demanding the freedom of the country’s elected officials.
Over the past four days, tens of thousands of people across Myanmar have taken to the streets in protest of a military coup which removed power from the country’s elected officials. Myanmar’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her party were arrested on 1 February by the military after it declared the country’s November general election results fraudulent.
Now, LGBT+ people in Myanmar have joined in the protests.
Myanmar freelance photographer Kyaw Htet captured photos of LGBT+ people who were walking among the protestors. Htet shared the photos, which were dated 8 February – the eighth day of the military coup, with the caption “queers for democracy”.
Three drag artists are featured in the pictures with a Pride flag and signs that read “Power to the people” and “We want our leader. Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi”. In other photos, there are signs that read “gays for democracy” and “queers for democracy”.
Journalist and filmmaker Ali Fowle also shared a picture on Twitter which showed the LGBT+ community would be joining in the protests. In the picture, four individuals wear Pride flags on their backs.
Hnin Zaw, a journalist and former Myanmar correspondent for Reuters, posted pictures of the LGBT+ community participating in a general strike in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, against the military.
What has happened in Myanmar and why?
Myanmar is located in south-east Asia and neighbours Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China and India. It has a population of roughly 54 million people. The country gained independence from the British Empire in 1948 and was ruled by the armed forces from 1962 to 2011, when the it returned to civilian rule.
The military seized control on 1 February and put the country’s elected officials, including Suu Kyi, under house arrest, after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the country’s general election by a landslide in November.
The military backed the opposition, claiming widespread fraud, and has declared a year-long state of emergency. However, the election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.
Protests have been largely peaceful, but there have been reports of the police using water cannons against protestors. In Yangon, protestors have given police fizzy drinks, cakes and other refreshments, according to The Guardian.
Who is in charge now?
Commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing is now in power in Myanmar. In his first TV address since the coup began, Hlaing said the electoral commission failed to investigate irregularities over voter lists in the November election and had not allowed fair campaigning.
He promised new elections would happen and a new “reformed” election commission would oversee it. Hlaing said the country would achieve a “true and disciplined democracy” and told citizens to “go with the true facts and not to follow feelings of your own”.
The Biden administration is now reportedly considering targeted sanctions in response to the military takeover in Myanmar. White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said the administration believed it could work with Congress on a “package of sanctions to impose consequences in response to this coup”.
“We will also be working with allies and partners around the world,” Sullivan said during a White House news briefing. He added: “We are reviewing the possibility of a new executive order, and we are also looking at specific targeted sanctions, both on individuals and on entities controlled by the military that enrich the military.”
The armed forces have imposed a curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people in the country’s two biggest cities. Gatherings are now illegal in at least seven areas in Yangon and Mandalay. People are also banned from leaving their homes between 8am and 4pm.
Social-distancing measures and lockdowns have disproportionately increased alcohol use in the LGBTQ community, studies find.
Abigail Mazzarella, 26, often went to gay bars in Baltimore before Covid-19 stay-at-home measures were introduced.
“I don’t live anywhere near my family, so I did depend on that community and friendships to get by and have a type of family here,” she said.
When bars in the state closed, this physical community disappeared as Mazzarella needed its support the most. But the liquor store across her street remained open. Around the same time Covid-19 infection rates were increasing early last March, Mazzarella’s mother unexpectedly died, and exactly one week later she lost her job because of the impact of pandemic restrictions.
“I started drinking pretty much immediately after all that happened, and didn’t really stop for months,” she told NBC News. “I wasn’t drinking socially; I was just doing it by myself in my house and spending a ridiculous amount of money on it for no reason other than just to get drunk, go to sleep and do it again the next day. I wasn’t functioning for a good half of 2020.”
Mazzarella has not had a drink in more than four months, but her experience with alcohol during the pandemic is far from isolated. Several recent studies investigating how both social-distancing and lockdowns affected LGBTQ people found alcohol use sharply increased.
One study discovered around one-third of men who have sex with men (MSM) reported their substance use or binge-drinking had increased during the Covid-19 lockdown, with another survey of LGBTQ university students in the U.S. by the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center revealing 32 percent were drinking more since the outbreak.
Drinking increased among the wider population during the pandemic, too, but at a lower rate compared to the LGBTQ community. Research published in September found that the frequency of alcohol consumption in the general population since the pandemic started grew by 14 percent above pre-pandemic levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that 13 percent of U.S. adults said they had started or increased substance use, defined as use of “alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, or prescription drugs that are taken in a way not recommended by your doctor,” to cope with pandemic-related stress or emotions, in late June last year.
Boredom, isolation and loneliness have been experienced by many Americans amid the pandemic. LGBTQ people, however, also face additional challenges, including increased stress from social prejudice and discriminatory laws, as well as family rejection due to their sexuality or gender identity, which can play a role in using damaging substance-based coping mechanisms.
Some parts of the LGBTQ community have seen particularly sharp rises in drinking over the past 11 months. According to research from John Salerno, who co-wrote the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center study of LGBTQ university students, 46 percent of transgender female students and 35 percent of queer-identifying students reported increased alcohol use since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
“We found that those that reported an increase in alcohol use were more likely to suffer from greater psychological distress compared to those that did not report an increase in alcohol use,” Salerno, a Ph.D. candidate in behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland, said.
The breaking of social bonds among young LGBTQ adults who are exploring their identity can be especially traumatic. A studypublished in the Emerging Adulthood journal found that after social-distancing guidelines went into effect, LGBTQ people aged 18-29 had “lower levels of hope for the future, higher levels of alcohol use, a lower sense of connection to and pride regarding the LGBTQ community.”
Some LGBTQ students who moved back home as the pandemic spread had to isolate with families who don’t accept their sexuality or gender identity, according to Barrett Scroggs, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University Mont Alto and co-author of the Emerging Adulthood report.
“These emerging adults are folks who might be leaving their college dorm where they’re very comfortable, open and out. Then they return home to a house where they have to go back in the closet or maybe have to be with somebody who is homophobic, biphobic or transphobic,” Scroggs said.
Dianna Sandoval, chief clinical officer of AspenRidge Recovery, a network of rehab centers that offers LGBTQ-specific addiction treatment, explains that LGBTQ people are at a greater risk of being victims of violence and harassment, which can lead to more frequent cycles of distress and depression resulting in addictive behaviors.
“We’re already seeing higher levels of mental health challenges in the LGBT community being compounded with isolation,” Sandoval said. “Because it’s so difficult for folks to connect even to the small communities they’ve built for themselves, due to social distancing, there’s an even greater distance between people in the LGBT community. Some people just don’t feel that same sense of connection over Zoom.”
Christian Cerna-Parker, CEO of the New York-based nonprofit Gay and Sober, said he has seen the age of people reaching out to his organization dropping since the pandemic hit.
“I’ve seen people as young as 19 come in recently. Normally, people who reach out for help are in their 40s or 50s,” he said.
He added that the number of people seeking help from his organization with their substance misuse and addiction issues has rapidly shot up, too.
“From March until now, we’ve had a 40 percent increase in people wanting our services,” Cerna-Parker said.
He said for many people the combination of job losses, not being to partake in typical everyday activities and social isolation was “a perfect storm for an increase of alcohol and drugs.”
“Before they knew it, some of them found they were predisposed to addiction and things got out of hand,” Cerna-Parker said. “There’s only so much that people can take. If they think: ‘I don’t have a job, I don’t have income, and the government is not sending me unemployment,’ there is lack of hope. That’s a really dangerous place to be because the only thing they need to self-medicate is alcohol.”
Manny Minnie, 36, has experienced first-hand how the isolation and lack of social contact caused by Covid-19 restrictions can contribute to problematic drinking behavior.
“My thing with alcohol is that I drink a lot more when I’m bored,” Minnie, who lives in Los Angeles, said.
He had recently been diagnosed with AIDS and low immunity levels made it essential for him to enter quarantine. Minnie usually drank only on the weekends, but once lockdown was introduced, he said his drinking spiraled out of control.
“I was drinking every day. I’d start with a box of wine, then have a regular sized bottle of vodka and open a 12-pack of beer,” he said. “When I would wake up, I’d have maybe three beers left. It was a 24-hour thing.”
A check-up visit to his doctor was the catalyst for Minnie to stop drinking.
“Before I even thought about quitting drinking, I was drinking a lot. Then my doctor said: ‘I don’t know what you’re doing to your body. Your immunity is getting lower and lower; you have to stop doing whatever you’re doing.’”
Anxiety, stress and physical withdrawal symptoms — mainly shaking and sweating — made the journey to sobriety a challenge, but Minnie said through painting, he found a way to channel his energy into a positive output, rather than turning to alcohol.
Now, Minnie is using his experience with alcoholism to help newcomers to 1,000 Hours Dry LGBTQIA, an Instagram community for queer people who are on a journey to sobriety or are “sober curious.”
“When I was drinking, it was like my energy source was this broken Bic lighter that would just have a spark,” Minnie said. “When I stopped drinking, the light just grew and grew.”
Having been tortured by the Chechen special police for running an opposition Telegram channel, the Magamadov and Isayev were relocated by the Russian LGBT Network to Nizhny Novogorod, a city around 400 kilometres east of Moscow.
But on Thursday (4 February), the Russian LGBT Network reported that the pair had gone missing and when their lawyer, Alexander Nemov, rushed to their apartment he found signs of a struggle.
The Russian LGBT Network has now provided an update on their situation, and insisted the two men are in “mortal danger”.
Nemov said he found out that Magamadov and Isayev had been captured by both Russian and Chechen authorities, who were working together, and that the gay men had been taken back to Chechnya by car.
He followed them there, but authorities refused to tell him where his clients were being held or the reason they were being detained.
On Saturday (6 February), Magamadov and Isayev were moved to the interior ministry in Gudermes. The Russian LGBT Network reported that they appeared “exhausted and intimidated”, and that they had been “pushed” to decline legal representation.
The two men were then moved again, this time to the village of Sernovodskoe, and Nemov followed with members of the men’s families.
Once they arrived, he was again refused the opportunity to see or speak with his clients, and was forced to file “complaints and applications” from the street outside. The Russian LGBT Network sent a second lawyer to Sernovodskoe, who was also denied access.
Russian LGBT Network spokesperson Tim Bestsvet told Moscow Timesthat the men are in “mortal danger”.
LGBTQI History: A Sonoma County Timeline 1947-2000.Wednesdays 1:30-3pm. Online via Zoom. Next week, Wed. 2/10/21, we will be talking about the history ofWomen’s Weekend. Please contact me to enroll in this FREE class and get a Zoom invite: firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced the U.S. will “reengage” with the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The U.S. in 2018 withdrew from the council, which in recent years has emerged as a vocal champion of LGBTQ rights around the world.
Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley during a press conference that announced the withdrawal noted countries “with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights records” are members of the council. Haley also accused it having a “chronic bias against” Israel.
Russia, Cuba and Venezuela are among the 47 countries that are currently members of the council.
“The Biden administration has recommitted the United States to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights and equality,” said Blinken in a statement the State Department released. “Effective use of multilateral tools is an important element of that vision, and in that regard the president has instructed the Department of State to reengage immediately and robustly with the U.N. Human Rights Council.”
“We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” he added. “However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”
The decision to “reengage” with the council comes days after President Biden issued a memorandum that commits the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. Blinken in his statement notes the council’s efforts to expand LGBTQ rights around the world.
“When it works well, the Human Rights Council shines a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and can serve as an important forum for those fighting injustice and tyranny,” said Blinken. “The council can help to promote fundamental freedoms around the globe, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and religion or belief as well as the fundamental rights of women, girls, LGBTQI+ persons, and other marginalized communities. To address the council’s deficiencies and ensure it lives up to its mandate, the United States must be at the table using the full weight of our diplomatic leadership.”
“In the immediate term, the United States will engage with the council as an observer, and in that capacity will have the opportunity to speak in the council, participate in negotiations, and partner with others to introduce resolutions,” he added. “It is our view that the best way to improve the council is to engage with it and its members in a principled fashion. We strongly believe that when the United States engages constructively with the council, in concert with our allies and friends, positive change is within reach.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, amid coronavirus and impeachment crises, President Biden “stands by” his campaign pledge to sign the Equality Act to expand the ban on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the law within 100 days — although she indicated Congress has to take initial steps with the legislation.
“He stands by it,” Psaki said, responding to a question during the White House news briefing from the Washington Blade. “I would say that there’s some actions that need to be taken by Congress, of course.”
Psaki half-jokingly pointed out the Biden administration started days ago, 15 or so, which she implied she leaves plenty of time for Biden to fulfill his campaign promise to the sign the Equality Act within 100 days.
“So we have 85 days to go,” Psaki said.
With Biden making four crises of the economy, coronavirus, climate and racial inequity his top priorities, as well as the forthcoming impeachment trial of former President Trump, fears had persisted in the LGBTQ community Biden wouldn’t be able to fulfill his campaign pledge on the Equality Act. Additionally, 10 Republican votes would be needed for the 60 votes to end a filibuster on the legislation in the Senate.
Psaki, however, said she had no information when asked when Biden would speak out in support of the legislation, which would be key in his role as chief legislator in advancing the Equality Act.
“I think the President has been out speaking out about a range of issues he’s committed to, including many on LGBTQ rights, over the course of the last two weeks of his presidency, and he will continue to be,” Psaki said. “But I don’t have any scheduling updates for you at this point in time.”
A senior Democratic aide told the Blade that Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are looking at the week of Feb. 22 to introduce the Equality Act with a vote expected as early as March.