Scores of students took a stand for trans rights by staging a massive walkout after one of their classmates was blocked from the girls’ locker room and toilets.
The protest kicked off at Temple High School in Texas on Wednesday (30 September) in support of a 16-year-old trans girl named Kendall Tinoco after she shared her experience on Instagram.
Over the past few years I’ve been in transition, to be more specific I’ve been using the females restroom since the 7th grade. Teachers and staff has had no issue with it until now, earlier this month I was told I couldn’t use the locker room because there were ‘actual girls’ in there,” the high school junior wrote in the post.
“However today [22 September] yet again my teacher mentioned I could not use the locker room because I am trans.
“I mentioned to her that I have a form specifically saying she has no right to tell a student that let alone tell them what locker room or restroom to use,” she added.
Tinoco told local news station 6 News: “Overall, I was really proud to see all of the people come together and stand for one another. Just support after support after support. It was really amazing.
“I fought for my place to be treated equally, and people are aware of that”.
“I just wanted to help make a change, do whatever I could,” said junior student Akayla Shahan.
“We said what we had to say. We will not be silenced,” added Stevie Williams, another student.
So many people joined the protest that additional security and members of the local police force were called to campus to “help ensure the safety of staff and students”, according to Temple Independent School District spokesperson Christine Parks. She noted that protests are allowed, but skipping class is not.
Parks told 6 News that the high school administration met with the student and parent that week to review the district’s Enrollment of Transgender Students guidelines.
These guidelines require students to be identified by their “legal surname” as it appears on the student’s birth certificate or other identity document and to dress in accordance with school dress codes.
They also require that all trans students have access to a “gender-neutral” restroom, locker room and/or overnight facility, like a nurse’s office.
South Africa’s LGBT+ community are demanding justice for a lesbian whose alleged murderer gloated about removing a “curse” from her family.
Sisanda Gumede, 28, was stabbed in the Umbumbulu area, south of Durban, on Sunday evening (26 September). She was rushed to a hospital but tragically died en route.
Police spokesperson colonel Thembeka Mbele said the killer’s motivation is still unknown. According to Nonhlanhla Khoza, a politician serving in the Department of Social Development, the suspect is thought to be one of the young lesbian woman’s own relatives.
“Although the information regarding the incident violently is still sketchy, it appears that the deceased and [the suspect] had an altercation while at home,” she said in a statement reported by The South African.
“Gumede’s murder is understood to be motivated by homophobia, as [the suspect] allegedly gloated after the incident that he had removed the curse from the family.
“Police should spare no time while the alleged perpetrator is not arrested. We must ensure he is arrested to answer for his sin, as he attacked a defenceless woman.”
Khoza sent her condolences to Gumede’s loved ones and said such murders go against the ethos of the country’s constitution.
“We are deeply ashamed that, in our nation, we still have people facing discrimination based on their sexual orientation,” she said. “This is a gross violation of basic human rights and we should unite to end such crimes.”
She urged communities in the province not to tolerate homophobic hate crimes and to work with the police to expose those involved.
“It must sink in the minds of all those involved in such crimes that no one has a right to take a life and abuse someone else because of their sexuality. Our government has made giant strides towards safeguarding LGBTQ+ rights. However, incidents similar to this one water down all efforts that have been made.
“We have committed ourselves to fighting for justice and we want our society to work together to end these crimes. We warn communities to work together to end hate crimes, homophobia and other forms of unfair discrimination against LGBTQI + communities.”
The UK has been singled out for its “baseless and concerning” anti-trans rhetoric in a damning report on rising hate against LGBT+ people in Europe.
The extensive report was published by the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, on Tuesday (21 September).
It describes “a marked increase” in anti-LGBT+ hate speech and hate crime and condemns “with particular force the extensive and often virulent attacks” on LGBT+ rights in the UK, which is named alongside Hungary, Poland, Turkey and the Russian Federation.
The council notes that these attacks “deliberately mis-characterise the fight for the equality of LGBTI people as so-called ‘gender ideology’ and seek to stifle the identities and realities of all those who challenge the social constructs that perpetuate gender inequalities and gender-based violence in our societies.
“These attacks are harmful to women as well as LGBTI people,” it adds.
The UK is specifically mentioned throughout the report, which makes particular reference to the growing problem of anti-LGBT+ hate speech on social media.
The 18-page report dedicates an entire, shameful section to the UK’s rise in anti-trans rhetoric, noting with concern how it often questions the very existence of gender as a category of protection under international human rights law.
This dangerous discourse has been “gaining baseless and concerning credibility” at the expense of trans people’s civil liberties and women’s and children’s rights, it warns.
“At the IDAHOT Forum 2021, minister for women and equalities [Liz Truss] stated, in contradiction with international human rights standards with respect to the rights of trans people: ‘We do not believe in self-identification.’
“Such rhetoric – which denies trans identities – is being used to roll back the rights of trans and non-binary people and is contributing to growing human rights problems.”
The report notes that UK hate crime statistics show a sharp increase in transphobic crimes since 2015, though though only 1 in 7 victims report them, and many trans people now fear for their safety.
“There is intense and ongoing social, political and legal debate about what constitutes harmful discourse when it comes to trans people and their rights,” it continues, “and arguments defending freedom of expression have been – and are still being – used as a tool to justify transphobic rhetoric, further penalising and harming already marginalised trans people and communities.
“It is also becoming increasingly difficult for individuals and organisations to publicly affirm young trans people without being subject to hostility and disproportionate questioning from wider society.
“The ‘gender-critical’ movement, which wrongly portrays trans rights as posing a particular threat to cisgender women and girls, has played a significant role in this process.”
The council also identifies several “vitriolic media campaigns” in which trans women have been “vilified and misrepresented” and says that trans healthcare is also being “erroneously portrayed” as a form of LGB conversion therapy.
Despite this concerning track record, the UK government plans to encourage other countries to tackle LGBT+ inequality at its first global LGBT conference, ‘Safe to Be Me,’ next year.
The event promises to bring together elected officials, policy makers, and the international LGBT+ community to “protect and promote” the rights of LGBT+ people around the world.
PinkNews has reached out to Liz Truss’ office for comment.
Hundreds of students marched out of school in protest after a lesbian teacher was allegedly escorted off campus amid a row over “safe space” stickers on classroom doors.
Crowds of students were seen pouring out of MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas on Wednesday (22 September) in response to the school’s alleged “targeted discrimination” against LGBT+ children and teachers.
Many wore heart-shaped rainbow stickers on their faces and clothes, the symbol teachers used to show their classes were a safe space for LGBT+ students – until several weeks ago, when those stickers suddenly disappeared.
“I was freaked. The kids were freaked out,” said Rachel Stonecipher, an English teacher and sponsor of the campus’ Gay Straight Alliance, speaking to DFW News. “I was a little scared too because I’m the only openly, very obviously gay teacher, lesbian teacher.”
Stonecipher was among teachers who emailed asking for an explanation. A staff memo from the new principal said the school wanted “to set a different tone this year,” explaining: “The district’s position is that our responsibility is to make campuses a safe zone for all students, not just in our classrooms, but on every inch of our campus.”
Tensions grew as the school administration began “randomly” questioning students who attended the Gay Straight Alliance club.
Sophomore Alyssa Harbin described a “long, drawn out interrogation” that lasted 45 minutes – and although she was assured she hadn’t done anything wrong, the students who were questioned appeared to have one thing in common.
“All of these randomly selected people have been to at least one Gay Straight Alliance meeting making it feel extremely targeted,” she said at a meeting with school board members, as reported by DFW News.
Stonecipher told WFAA: “There’s a lot of hurt, confusion, and fear from students who feel like the administration has a problem with them for being LGBTQ+. It was emotionally terrible for them.”
They became even more alarmed when they saw Stonecipher being escorted off campus last week, and they say they haven’t seen her since. As the students marched out of class on Wednesday many carried signs with the teacher’s name, expressing their support for her.
“It’s not fair that, one, I have to fight for this, two, we had to go to this level, and it’s not even the first six weeks [of term],” one told WFAA.
So many students walked out of school that Irving Police were called to the campus. The school told Iriving Weekly that it was aware of the walkout and ensured that “all students are safe”.
“We value each student and strive to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for every student, employee and family,” the Irving School district added in a statement.
“To ensure that all students feel safe regardless of background or identity, the district has developed guidelines to ensure that posters, banners and stickers placed in classrooms, hallways or offices are curriculum driven and neutral in viewpoint.”
When questioned by local media, neither Stonecipher nor the district could answer questions about the teacher’s removal or employment status. In a statement to CBS11, a spokesperson said it is policy that “teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues.”
Students are taking a stand against anti-LGBT+ school policies
The walkout at MacArthur High School is the latest in a series of protests against anti-LGBT+ policies in schools. All across the US, queer students and allies have been taking a stand against alleged discrimination against LGBT+ students and teachers.
Many centre on religious schools, like the Catholic Bishop Amat Memorial High School in California, where around 200 students walked out of class after teachers threatened to out a gay classmate to her parents if she didn’t attend counselling.
In June students, parents and alumni of Niles New Tech in Michigan staged a protest outside their school to draw attention to homophobic bullying that had gone largely unchallenged by officials.
And earlier this month more than a hundred students of Winterset High School in Iowa walked out of class to protest the suspension of a teacher who revealed he was bisexual. They also launched a Change.org petition in his defence, which gained over 4,000 signatures.
Many schools remain committed to their anti-LGBT+ policies and continue to fight their cases in long and bitter lawsuits. But the increasing pushback from student bodies and the media attention that accompanies it means they’re unable to keep these battles out of the public eye as they once could.
Gay Times, one of the world’s longest-running print magazine for the LGBT+ community, has ceased printing after nearly 50 years.
The UK-based magazine was first published in 1984, but its predecessors date as far back as 1975. During that time it’s been a vital resource for LGBT+ people in periods of misinformation and violent rhetoric, from the early days of the Gay Liberation Front through to the repeal of Section 28.
The magazine had been in print every month since its launch until 2020, when it moved to quarterly publication, but is now going purely digital to reflect a decline in offline readers. Just two per cent of its readers consume the print magazine.
“We’re incredibly excited about the changes here at Gay Times,” editorial director Lewis Corner told PinkNews.
“It’s always sad to stop doing something after so long – especially when it concerns a legacy product,” the publication added in a statement to its audience.
“We know that continuing to push Gay Times into new areas and to new heights ensures it will be the very best it can be for a new generation.”
Gay Times says that the decision to cease the physical magazine had been planned for some time and says that it also considered the environmental impact of printing issues.
“Any print magazine production demands significant natural resources, so this was one of the main factors in the decision.”
Although you won’t be seeing the familiar cover on magazine shelves anymore, Gay Times magazine will continue as a digital publication with 12 issues a year.
Gay Times magazine ending its print edition comes amid a difficult time for journalism in the UK.
In recent years print titles such as Glamour, Q and NME had all disappeared from shelves and migrated online. Digital-only publications BuzzFeed and HuffPost have closed their entire UK news operations, with Vice also making some staff redundant.
The Ugandan government has made the absurd, offensive claim that some LGBT+ asylum seekers fleeing the country are merely faking their sexuality to live in Western nations.
Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda, which has some of the strictest anti-LGBT+ laws in the world. Most queer Ugandans survive by staying under the radar, and many who manage to escape fear death if they return.
Yet foreign minister general Jeje Odongo cast doubt on the legitimacy of queer asylum claims by pointing out that many male gay asylum seekers have wives and children.
“These Ugandans who went out on the pretext of being homosexuals. Now their lie is catching up with them because when they settle, they ask to bring their wives and children,” he said, according to Daily Sabah.
“It is unfortunate that some people who are not gays pretend to be gays so that they get citizenship in countries which sympathise with them. Such people will make developed countries lose trust in all Africans.”
The fact that many gay asylum seekers have wives is hardly surprising in a country where so many gay men are closeted, and societal pressure to marry and have children is strong.
None of this precludes a person from identifying on the LGBT+ spectrum, but Ugandan reverend Solomon Male saw it as undeniable proof that queer refugees’ sexuality is “fake”.
“All those are economic gays. Homosexuality is a business to most Ugandans who claim to be gays,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA). “It is all about getting money. Some people earn by calling themselves gays or working with organisations that deal with them.”
He alleged that some prominent lawyers were making lots of money by preparing fake documents, and claimed that pretending to be gay was now the “easiest” way to get a European visa.
This characterisation was countered by Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the country’s most prominent LGBT+ rights group.
He said there was nothing surprising about gay men marrying and having children as sexuality can be flexible; it’s also the case that many returning Ugandans may lie about their sexuality to avoid persecution.
“Someone might be sexually straight today and then the next day he might be gay and vice versa,” he said. “Because they leave Uganda as gays after being persecuted by [the] state and Ugandans, so they want to come back as different people who are no longer gays.
“The fact that the laws against gays still exist makes them come back with wives and children to live freely.”
The exact number of LGBT+ Ugandan refugees worldwide is hard to determine. In 2016 the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report saying 500 Ugandans had applied for asylum in Kenya based on their sexuality.
But LGBT+ activists say those estimates were too low because most refugees were categorised as having fled or claimed asylum for different reasons.
Out cyclist Crystal Lane-Wright is the latest queer athlete to win big at the Tokyo Paralympics, securing two silver medals for Team LGBT+.
The 35-year-old British Paralympic track and road cyclist won her first silver on the velodrome in the 3000 metre individual pursuit on 25 August, the opening day of the competition.
She went on to win a second silver medal on Tuesday (31 August) in the Women’s C5 Road Time Trial with the incredible time of 37:40.89 over 32 kilometres (19.88 miles).
On both occasions she was beaten by fellow Brit Dame Sarah Storey, a former swimmer turned cyclist who happens to be the most successful British Paralympian of all time.
“I don’t think I’ve reached my full potential. I think I can keep getting better,” Lane-Wright told the BBC after the 3000m event. “As much as I’m up against Sarah, it’s me against me. I can only control what I can do. To get such a good PB this morning, I’m so pleased.”
Lane-Wright actually became an elite cyclist in part due to Storey, who noticed her at a 2009 British Cycling talent search event and took her under her wing.
She has one more chance to beat her mentor in the upcoming Women’s C4-5 Road Race on 2 September, but no matter the result, she takes encouragement from knowing she’s competing against the best of all time.
“[Sarah’s] pushing the boundaries all the time in our category,” she told Leicester Live. “It just means that whenever I retire I can look back and I think I know I was the best I ever could be. If I was winning everything, maybe complacency would step in.
“Everything I do, I’m doing to my absolute best so whatever medal colour I win or wherever I come at least I know I’ve given 110 per cent and I can only be pleased with that.”
Crystal Lane-Wright now has four Paralympics medals in total, including the silver and bronze she took in Rio 2016.
Her latest effort makes her the second member of Team LGBT+ to have more than one medal at these Games, according to Outsports, joining the British equestrian Lee Pearson.
A Moscow man was abducted and taken to Chechnya where he was interrogated for information on LGBT+ activists, the Russian LGBT Network reports.
On Wednesday (25 August), the group said that a Dagestan native named Ibragim Selimkhanov was approached by four Chechen-speaking men near a subway station in the city’s Novogireyevo District on 15 May.
The men, who were wearing civilian clothes, forced him into a car and took his passport, phone and apartment keys. He was driven to the airport and ordered onto a plane which took him to the Chechen capital of Grozny.
On arrival he was handed over to the local police, who reportedly threatened and exerted psychological pressure on him while seeking the information about the emergency assistance programme run by the Russian LGBT Network, Radio Free Europe said.
The group provides a vital lifeline to the LGBT+ community in the North Caucasus, a region notorious for persecuting queer people as part of a horrifying “gay purge”.
Chechen officials deny that any LGBT+ people exist there, let alone a gay purge; however, their claims are countered by dozens of harrowing reportsfrom refugees who have been imprisoned, beaten, tortured and seen others killed in gay concentration camps.
After a few days in custody Selimkhanov was freed by his captors and taken to his mother, who lives in Grozy.
He remained under permanent surveillance by Chechen authorities but managed to quietly leave the house and escape to Moscow, where he filed a complaint with police.
A similar ordeal was reported in May this year when officials detained and interrogated the family of two gay brothers who fled the region.
20 of the brothers’ relatives were held in the village of Komsomolskoye in the Urus-Martan district of Chechnya and were interrogated for hours about the whereabouts of the men and their parents, according to local media reports.
Russia discriminated against a trans woman and violated her right to family life by denying her any contact with her children, Europe’s leading human rights court has ruled.
In a landmark judgement released on Tuesday (6 July), the European Court of Human Rights unanimously ruled in favour of a divorced trans woman who was blocked by Russian domestic courts from seeing her two young children back in 2017.
It marks the first time the court has found a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ prohibition of discrimination (Article 14) on the basis of a person’s gender identity. Russia ratified the convention in 1998 and is therefore under the court’s jurisdiction.
“It was clear from the domestic decisions … that the influence of the applicant’s gender identity on the assessment of her claim had been a decisive factor leading to the decision to restrict her contact with her children,” the court said.
“The applicant had therefore been treated differently from other parents who also sought contact with their estranged children, but whose gender identity matched their sex assigned at birth.”
Reacting to the judgement, executive director of TGEU (Transgender Europe), Masen Davis, said: “The kids are alright – there is nothing wrong with being a trans parent! Today, we celebrate this important message together with all trans families.
Every fourth trans person in Europe is a parent. Today’s judgement gives legal security to many of them.
“We congratulate the applicant for having gone all the way to Strasbourg to defend her right to be the best possible parent to her children.”
The woman, identified only as AM, separated from her wife after seven years of marriage and gained legal gender recognition in 2015, according to court documents.
The following year AM’s wife denied her access to their children, born in 2009 and 2012, with a district court claiming her visits would have a “negative impact on the mental health and psychological development” of the children.
The European Court, however, noted that the domestic courts had failed to demonstrate that the restriction was justified and well-substantiated.
“Too often we are hearing the best interest of the child being abused as an argument to limit the rights of LGBTI people,” said Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe.
“We are glad to see the Court clearly rejecting such an abusive argument, and instead naming very concrete responsibilities for state authorities in ensuring the best interest of the child. Spreading hatred, misinformation and splitting loving parents from their children is not in the best interest of children.”
Long before the push for marriage equality truly began, before Obergefell v Hodges, before the Defense of Marriage Act, there was Jack and Michael McConnell.
This year Jack and Michael will celebrate 51 years of happy marriage, making them longest-wed same-sex couple in the world. They were also the very first.
Thanks to a clever legal loophole they managed to do it as early as 1971, exchanging vows before a Methodist pastor and a dozen guests in a friend’s apartment.
Their journey began in 1966, at a Halloween party in Oklahoma where the pair first laid eyes on each other.
“I was looking for the three T’s: tall, thin and 23. And believe it or not, at 24, I thought that time had passed me by!” Jack laughs. “But there was Michael, and the three T’s were standing right in front of me.”
Michael wasn’t quite as enamoured at first, though.
“Well, I was a little taken aback, because Jack had been in the Air Force and he had his hair in a really short, flat top style,” he said. “At that time most people in our community were doing the long Beatles-type hair. So I looked at him and thought, ‘I don’t know about this guy.’
“But my friend Cruz said, ‘Michael, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You two are destined to be together.’ And I think Cruz was absolutely right.”
Sure enough, their love blossomed as the couple went to movies or plays or secret parties with friends, always careful to stay under the religious radar to avoid attacks. After a year together Jack came to Michael with a proposal: he wanted someone to grow old with.
The question caught Michael off guard. “OK, I will commit,” he said, “but only on one condition. If we’re going to do this, you must try to find a way for us to get legally married.”
Jack gave him a long look, then said simply: “Well, I guess I’m going to law school.”
The first rule of law school was simple – what’s not forbidden is permitted. Jack seized upon this, realising the statutes only referred to marriage between “two parties”, not man and woman, which meant he could technically apply for a marriage license.
When their first attempt in 1970 was denied they fought it in the Supreme Court, where they lost their case in a one-sentence dismissal: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”
Undeterred, the couple simply figured out another loophole.
First Michael legally adopted Jack, which gave them inheritance and other legal protections. Then Jack changed his first name to the gender-neutral “Pat Lyn”, and Michael went to apply for a license alone. And this time, it worked.
The pair were wed before officials could change their mind; unfortunately, when it was revealed that Jack and Michael were both men, those officials declared the license invalid. Jack refused to accept their decision.
“Something as simple and totally obvious to a law student was not that obvious to the rest of the world,” he said. “It was a fight. We’ve been fighting ever since.”
It was years before the homophobic rhetoric of the AIDS crisis; many people were simply curious and peppered them with questions. How exactly did their relationship work, they asked, and what did they want to accomplish?
More often than not, straight couples would shyly approach them after the event for advice about intimacy problems.
“We actually did not encounter any bullying or any harm at all,” Jack recalls.
“Because what we spoke to was love, our commitment and our relationship, almost everyone could understand that,” Michael says, finishing his husband’s thought.
We’ve jerked everybody 45 years into the future
Ultimately though, Jack and Michael McConnell were just a few decades ahead of their time.
As the 70s passed and marriage equality was no closer, Jack says they realised “we’ve jerked everybody 45 years into the future, and it’s gonna take them a while to catch up”.
The couple eventually took a step back to focus on their careers and allow a new generation of LGBT+ activists to continue the fight. But they never lost sight of their goal, and refused to accept their marriage was invalid.
And nearly five decades later, they were finally proven right. The Supreme Court referenced them by name in the momentous marriage equality battle, Obergefell v Hodges, which officially overturned the case against their marriage.
“I saw it as vindication,” Jack said. “I knew from day one we’d followed the letter of the law, and [the Supreme Court] verified that what was intuitively obvious to a second year law student in 1971 was indeed correct. It only took, what, 40 years?”
But even so, they can’t help but draw parallels between their experience and today’s struggle for trans rights.
“These right-wing crazies can’t attack gay marriage anymore, because it means attacking people like Jack and me, or their brother, their uncle, their aunt, their cousin. So now they’re going to try to find other people that they can label and lie about,” Michael said.
“And it’s not going to work. I can tell you, it’s not going to work, because it’s not natural. We’re all human beings. As long as we stand together, they’re not going to win.”
Now they’re leaving the fight to younger generations who are battling for the next round of LGBT+ rights – and it’s for these people that they’ve penned a book about their lives.
“We wanted to leave a story for them about how you can find your way and find the love you want,” Michael said.
“What I see in younger generations now is inspiring: they’re highly intelligent, they’re well connected all around the planet. And they have a vision that I agree with. It’s one that is based on love, not only for one another, wherever we come from, but for this planet that sustains us all.
“You can’t ask for more than that.”
Jack and Michael McConnell’s book, “The Wedding Heard ‘Round The World: America’s First Gay Marriage,” is out now in Paperback Original.