Kai Shappley, an 11-year-old transgender girl from Texas, is in the spotlight once again after she was named a Time Kid of the Year finalist. Kai, an elementary school student, first made national headlines in April, when she testified about trans rights before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs.
After she was named one of five Kid of the Year finalists, Kai and her mom, Kimberly Shappley, talked to NBC affiliate KXAN of Austin about the motivation behind Kai’s activism.
“I started my activism because I thought it was unfair how they were treating us,” Kai said. “We’ve seen a lot of what’s going on multiple times in history, and it’s just history repeating itself over and over. It’s terrible, so I started speaking out, because I wanted that to stop.”https://iframe.nbcnews.com/VFGHDEx?_showcaption=true&app=1
Texas is one of over 30 states that considered legislation targeting transgender youths last year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Texas alone considered over 50 such bills, according to the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas. It was one of those bills — a measure that sought to criminalize providing or assisting minors with gender-affirming health care — that led Kai to testify last spring.
“It makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist,” she said at the time. “God made me, God loves me for who I am, and God does not make mistakes.”https://iframe.nbcnews.com/lVVrWXE?_showcaption=true
In a long-awaited triumph for the U.K.’s LGBTQ community, the government on Tuesday announced that anyone convicted of consensual same-sex activity under now-defunct laws will soon be eligible to be pardoned and have their records wiped clean.
This week’s announcement follows a less-expansive2017measure that was limited to nine former offenses that targeted gay and bisexual men. The new amendment will widen the criteria to anyone officially warned or convicted for an abolished civil or military offense that was imposed due to consensual gay sex.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement that it was only right that where offenses have been abolished, “convictions for consensual activity between same-sex partners should be disregarded, too.”
“I hope that expanding the pardons and disregards scheme will go some way to righting the wrongs of the past and to reassuring members of the LGBT community that Britain is one of the safest places in the world to call home,” she said.
According to the U.K. government’s statement, those eligible can apply to have their convictions wiped from their records under the condition that the sexual activity is currently legal and that any party involved was 16 or older at the time of the incident. The plan also includes a posthumous pardon granted to those who have died before the amendment’s ratification and within 12 months after.
Britain started to legalize consensual sex between men in 1967. Then in 2001, the age of consent for gay and bisexual men was lowered from 21 to 16, bringing it on par with the age of consent for heterosexuals. For comparison, England’s sodomy laws were repealed long after similar laws in France were abolished in 1791, but before all American sodomy laws were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.
In 2013, Alan Turing, the codebreaker who aided in the defeat of the Nazis, was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II for a same-sex offense he was convicted of in 1952. Then in 2016, the U.K announced its pardon plan, dubbed “Turing’s Law,” which granted posthumous pardons to thousands of men convicted under now-repealed laws.
Approximately 65,000 men were convicted under these abolished measures, according to Lord John Sharkey, a British politician who had been pushing for the pardons. In 2016, Sharkey estimated that 15,000 of these men were still alive, NBC News reported at the time.
LGBTQ advocates welcomed Tuesday’s announcement, but some called for the government to issue a formal apology to those affected by the historical convictions.
“Posthumous pardoning offers only a symbolic gesture to those who have since died without clearing their name,” the British advocacy group LGBTQ Foundation said in a statement, adding that the government must recognize “the pain, trauma and lifelong guilt and stigma these convictions gave many LGBTQ+ people, who were simply trying to live their lives and be their true selves.”
The group also said that the government should not make LGBTQ Britons apply for their convictions to be removed, which “has the potential to bring up past trauma.” Instead, they argued that the government should remove the offenses automatically.
The United Kingdom is not the only country to pardon past crimes involving consensual same-sex relationships. A similar victory swept across Australia in 2008, when all states and territories passed legislation allowing for the expungement of past homosexual offenses. And in the U.S., California Gov. Gavin Newsom created a pardon process in 2020 for LGBTQ Californians convicted under outdated laws criminalizing same-sex activity.
Eight cities in the United States scored a zero out of 100 on the 10th annual Municipal Equality Index, which evaluates cities and towns based on the level of LGBTQ inclusion found in their local laws, policies and services.
LGBTQ advocacy groups Human Rights Campaign and Equality Federation evaluated 506 municipalities — including the country’s 50 state capitals and 200 largest cities — on 49 criteria for the index. The criteria included nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees and city leadership.
This year’s zero-point earners span from South Carolina to Wyoming, and they all came in at zero on last year’s index, too. But on the flip side, 22 percent of cities earned a perfect score, up from 8 percent in 2012, the report’s inaugural year.
“If you’re scoring a zero, it’s because you’re making that choice. There are definitely some low-hanging fruit ways to get off of that zero place,” said Cathryn Oakley, the founding author of the index and the state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign. “That is a statement on their end about how they’re willing to engage in these issues.”
Here are the eight cities that scored a failing grade on this year’s Municipal Equality Index:
Located in the northwest corner of Alabama, Florence sits on the Tennessee River, has a population of about 40,000 and is home to the University of North Alabama. The city made headlines in 2017, when several members of white nationalist groups, some dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes, staged a protest during northwest Alabama’s first Pride parade.
Jonesboro, with a population of nearly 80,000, is Arkansas’ fifth largest city. It sits in the northeastern part of the state and is home to Arkansas State University. Earlier this year, a Pride Month book display — which included the children’s book “The GayBCs” — ignited a backlash at a public library in the city, The Jonesboro Sun reported.
Southaven sits on the border of Mississippi and its northern neighbor, Tennessee, and is just 13 miles from Memphis. The city, which has about 55,000 residents, made news in 2019 after a same-sex couple said they were kicked out of a local Baptist churchbecause the women wouldn’t end their “forbidden” marriage and “repent.”
Moore, a city of about 63,000 residents, is part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, which sits in the middle of the state. Moore made national news back in 2017 after Ralph Shortey, a “family values” Republican who had served in the Oklahoma Senate, was found with a 17-year-old male in a local motel (Shortey was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison on child sex-trafficking charges).
Clemson, South Carolina
Home to Clemson University, this small South Carolina city, with a population of 17,700, sits in the northwest part of the state near the borders of both Georgia and North Carolina. While the city of Clemson scored a zero out of 100 on this year’s Municipal Equality Index, the university scored a 3 out of 5 on the LGBTQ nonprofit Campus Pride’s annual index. The university also opened Lavender Place, an LGBTQ “living-learning community,” in August.
Pierre, South Dakota
With a population of roughly 14,100, Pierre is the second-least populous state capital in the country, following Montpelier, Vermont. Home to the state’s legislature, the city hosts many of the state’s protests concerning LGBTQ issues. In January, Pierre made national headlines when a group of LGBTQ advocates protested against a proposed law that would ban people from changing the sex designation on their birth certificates. A South Dakota House committee later rejected the bill in February.