California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) has introduced a bill designed specifically to protect LGBTQ+ youth in foster care.
S.B. 407 seeks to require that the unique needs of LGBTQ+ youth are considered when assessing the fitness of home. Under the bill, homes in which potential foster parents are not supportive of LGBTQ+ identities would be considered ineligible to foster.
“My dad grew up watching you as Wonder Woman,” the trans woman wrote. “Unfortunately he isn’t as open minded as you.”
“Every child deserves to be one hundred percent supported at home,” Wiener told the Los Angeles Blade. “S.B. 407 ensures that foster youth receive this essential support by specifically requiring LGBTQ acceptance be considered in the resource family approval (RFA) process, creating standard documentation for the assessment of LGBTQ youth needs, and ensuring more frequent follow-up. These youth are at high risk for homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and mental health issues, and we must do everything in our power to ensure they have a safe home in the state of California.”
The bill states that at least three studies estimate that approximately thirty percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+ and that these kids “have a right to be placed in out-of-home care according to their gender identity and the right to have caregivers that have received instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity” regarding caring for LGBTQ+ youth.
It also stated that LGBTQ+ foster youth who are currently being placed with families that do not affirm them are experiencing “additional harm and trauma.” It cites the Trevor Project, which found that teens with parental support for their gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide.
Since 2019, California’s Foster Youth Bill of Rights has included a child’s right to have their LGBTQ+ identity affirmed, as well as the right to keep it private if they want to. But those rights have not yet been applied to the placement process.
“LGBTQ+ foster youth experience violence and other stressors unique to the LGBTQ+ community, including homophobia or transphobia,” Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, a sponsor of the bill, told the Blade.
“S.B. 407 protects LGBTQ+ foster youth from being placed in non-affirming homes by creating standard guidelines and criteria that carefully screens potential families. LGBTQ+ foster youth need a healthy environment that supports and embraces them as they explore their identity.”
A new ad for Rihanna’s Fenty beauty brand features Mariana Varela and Fabiola Valentin, newlyweds who fell in love while competing as Miss Argentina and Miss Puerto Rico.
The ad is for Fenty eau de parfum and depicts the couple telling their love story while embracing, holding hands, and enjoying the scent.
They tell the story of how they met at a pageant in Thailand and immediately became inseparable.
“The details, like how we like our coffee, everything kept flowing,” they say.
They call theirs a story of “beautiful friendship” and add that it has been “magical” to find one another.
“What a special it was to work for the fenty eau de perfum fragance [sic],” Varela wrote on Instagram, adding “It’s beautiful when two bodies come together with love.”
The happy couple announced their marriage in October 2022 in a joint Instagram post featuring photos and video clips of their relationship.
“After deciding to keep our relationship private, we opened the doors to it on a special day. 28/10/22,” the post’s caption reads.
One clip shows the moment the couple got engaged, with “Marry Me?” spelled out in gold and silver balloons as Valentin slips a ring on Varela’s finger. Another shows the pair wearing white on the steps in front of the Marriage Bureau in San Juan where they were reportedly married.
Varela and Valentin met while competing in the 2020 Miss Grand International pageant, where they were both among the top 10 finalists. They’ve posted frequently about their close friendship, but as they noted in their post had chosen to keep their romantic relationship private until now.
A trans woman is facing an upcoming trial in which she has been charged with five felony counts of indecent exposure for an incident that occurred at a Los Angeles spa.
A judge recently ruled that the trial of Darren Merager can move forward after multiple witnesses testified in a pre-trial hearing that in the summer of 2021 Merager made them uncomfortable while naked in the spa’s women’s locker room due to her exposed penis.
Witnesses cannot agree on whether or not Merager’s penis was erect, but the possibility that an erection took place was enough for the judge to move the case forward, according toLos Angeles Magazine (LAMag). The judge, Lana S. Kim, also said that the spa’s antidiscrimination policy protecting trans customers “was not an affirmative defense.”
At the time of the alleged incident, a video of a woman complaining to spa staff about a “man” in the women’s locker room went viral and the dispute quickly became a right-wing conspiracy. The spa in question at first denied a trans woman was using the facilities at the time and no evidence had publicly been made available showing otherwise.
But weeks later, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) charged Merager with indecent exposure and said she was already a registered sex offender due to indecent exposure incidents in 2002 and 2003.
The woman, going by the online moniker Cubana Angel, was complaining in the video that a man was allegedly posing as a woman to use women’s facilities at the spa, and that he tried to expose himself to women in the room. Customers at the family-friendly facilities are frequently undressed while bathing and soaking in the hot water.
In the video, the woman shouts, “There is no such thing as transgender. He has a dick.”
With the spa maintaining that there was no trans woman or cisgender man pretending to be a trans woman knowingly sharing the facilities with cis women at the time, several media outlets deemed the entire controversy likely to be a conspiracy or hoax based on misinformation. Yet the LAPD and right-wing media remained fixated on the incident.
QAnon believers quickly seized on the video as “evidence” for the conspiracy theory that Democratic politicians and celebrities belong to a pedophilic cannibal cult run by aliens. Adherents spread similar false rumors about a D.C. pizza parlor, claiming the restaurant’s basement was a nexus for pedophiles.
In 2018, the LAPD printed public information posters saying Merager often “claims to be female in order to gain access to women’s locker rooms and showers.”
In an interview at the time, Merager claimed the witnesses at the spa were spewing “a bunch of garbage and lies.”
“She never saw me naked,” Merager reportedly told a right-wing journalist at the time. “I was underwater with water all the way up to my chest.”
“If you go into an area where you’re expected to be nude, there has to be an indecent exposure exemption,” Merager also said.
At the pre-trial hearing, a witness named Claudia, who was present at the spa with her two daughters, reportedly stated that Merager “was relaxed, like it was normal.”
“He was walking, like in a beauty contest, completely naked, like it was normal for a guy to walk around naked there.” (Merager has previously told LAMag that she uses both she/her and he/him pronouns. Her driver’s license has reportedly identified her as female since 2019).
According to both Claudia and her daughters, Merager was sitting on the edge of the jacuzzi with her legs opened 45 degrees. They said she did not try to get their attention but that it made them uncomfortable nonetheless.
Claudia said she was worried about her 14-year-old daughter. “I was afraid for her – here’s this guy with an erect penis.”
Another witness named Christina had previously told a detective that Merager’s penis was “partially erect.” Meanwhile, Claudia’s 14-year-old testified that the penis was “soft” but that she felt “unsafe” and “uncomfortable” anyway because she had never seen anyone’s penis before. Claudia’s other daughter claimed Merager’s penis was erect.
But in the original viral videos, there was reportedly no mention of an erect penis, and Merager is claiming the witnesses have changed their stories.
“Every single one of these witnesses that get up on the stand decided it’s an erection a month later. Where are my witnesses?” Merager told LAMag during the pre-trial hearing. “Why weren’t the two dozen women in the spa indecently exposed? Only men can be indecently exposed, but women can’t? Only the penis is indecent.”
Arraignment for the case will take place on February 21st.
A Christian campaign planning to air two Super Bowl ads to promote Jesus as a loving and accepting figure is reportedly affiliated with anti-LGBTQ+ causes.
The “He Gets Us” campaign, which is not affiliated with a specific church or denomination, has already been airing ads during NFL playoffs. One of the ads says “Jesus disagreed with loved ones. But didn’t disown them.”
Trying to connect him to the modern age, one ad also says Jesus was “an influencer who became insanely popular” but was then “canceled” because he “stood up for something he believed in.
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The ads are designed in such a way that viewers don’t know they are religious until the end.
“We simply want everyone to understand the authentic Jesus as he’s depicted in the Bible — the Jesus of radical forgiveness, compassion, and love,” states the website of the campaign.
And yet, He Gets Us is a subsidiary of the Servant Foundation, which, according toLever, has donated over $50 million to the anti-LGBTQ+ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom identifies itself as a “legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.” The Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as a hate group. ADF has joined with like-minded organizations in Europe in support of forced sterilization of transgender individuals and has represented numerous anti-LGBTQ+ plaintiffs in pivotal legal battles for LGBTQ+ rights. The organization has also been a large force behind the anti-abortion movement.
According toChristianity Today, the Super Bowl ads are part of a three-year, one billion-dollar campaign, with $20 million of that going toward its two-game day ads.
And according to Jason Vanderground, President of the branding firm Haven that is working on the campaign, “That is just the first phase.”
Among the donors to the campaign is billionaire David Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby.
In addition to being called out for its affiliation with the Alliance Defending Freedom, the ads have been criticized by some Christians as well, who say that encouraging people to identify with Jesus is not as important as promoting his divinity.
A trans passenger has accused the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of severe mistreatment and is calling on TSA to provide better training to staff.
“One of the worst things about traveling as trans is going through TSA,” said photographer and activist NV Gay in a video posted to Instagram describing their experience.
Gay said they were going through security at the Orlando International Airport when they were flagged by the body scanner.
“Of course, if you’ve got boobs and a bottom part, well it’s gonna flag you, and ya know I’m ready for that, I’m expecting that…The problem is that the TSA continually does not train their employees on how to respectfully pat down and talk to trans people.”
Gay said the person patting them down “continually decided to rub ‘down there’ multiple times all over me and then very loudly put it out there to everyone in the crowd that I was trans with a penis and with boobs and that she had no idea and she didn’t know if she could clear me and that she’d have to get her supervisor to clear me.”
“It’s ridiculous at this point,” Gay lamented. “It’s so easy to just be respectful. Be like ‘hey, you’ve got flagged, I need to check’…Be better TSA.”
In the caption, Gay added that “the most disgusting part was that the TSA officer constantly said that my bottom part was poking her, which was not true at all.”
“Having to go through that was horrible,” they added. “No person should ever be treated this way.”
Gay told LGBTQ Nation that this is far from the only negative experience they have had with TSA and that since posting the video, other trans people have messaged them to share their own “truly horrific experiences.”
“The TSA needs to implement trainings on how to treat all passengers as humans and understand that different people look different and have various body parts,” Gay said.
“They should also have multiple agents present for screenings and make sure that the passenger has given consent. Passengers should also be able to record situations in order to make sure that they are not taken advantage of. This goes for everyone, not just transgender individuals.”
The official account of Orlando International Airport replied to Gay’s Instagram post with an apology for what they experienced and asked them to provide more detailed information about where and when the incident took place so the airport could reach out to the local management team.
This led to a Direct Message conversation between Gay and the airport on Instagram (which Gay shared with LGBTQ Nation), in which the airport representative apologized repeatedly and told Gay to reach back out if they don’t hear back from TSA soon.
On Twitter, TSA replied to Gay’s video that they “appreciate” the “feedback” and “continue to push for technological improvement that will provide effective security w/ out gender identification.”
Gay, who has also filed an official complaint with TSA, then replied that updating technology is a step but that it is far more important to train employees in respectful treatment. “The scan was not the problem. The way the agent treated me was the issue!” Gay emphasized.
In a statement to LGBTQ Nation, TSA stated that it “recognizes the concerns of transgender/non-binary/gender nonconforming passengers with the security screening process, and the agency continues to implement the new algorithm on the Advanced Imaging Technology units to significantly reduce false alarms and improve efficiency for all passengers.”
It continued, “At TSA, we are committed to ensuring every traveler is treated with respect and courtesy. When passengers have complaints about their specific screening experience, we encourage them to contact the TSA Contact Center.”
In a 2020 interview with LGBTQ Nation, Cannon described herself as an “activist elected official” who will settle for nothing less than sweeping change.
Cannon was instrumental in passing 2019 legislation that created a three-year Georgia pilot program to provide PrEP to those at high risk for HIV. According to Cannon, the program will be expanded this year.
A doula and preschool teacher, Cannon serves on the Board of Directors for the Reproductive Justice organization SisterSong, the lead plaintiff in the 2019 case challenging Georgia’s restrictive law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, although the case ultimately did not stop the law from taking effect.
On her own, Cannon has also spoken out repeatedly for reproductive rights. In 2019, she opened up about her own abortion during a powerful speech on the House floor.
“I stand here today confident in my decision to terminate my pregnancy when I was sexually assaulted in 2010,” she said. “As a member of the LGBTQ community, there are many people who believe they can ‘rape us straight.’ I do not deserve to live in a world or a state where people believe that I should be ashamed because of my sexual orientation.”
In 2021, Cannon became a national name after she was arrested for standing up to S.B. 202,a law that significantly rolled back voting rights for Georgians. The bill increased voter ID requirements for absentee ballots, allowed state officials to take over local elections, limited the use of ballot drop boxes, and even made it a crime to give water to people standing in line to vote.
Cannon, who is Black, was arrested by a white state trooper for knocking on Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) office door as he signed the bill in a closed-door ceremony. Charges against Cannon were ultimately dropped.
“We will not live in fear and we will not be controlled,” she wrote on Twitter after her arrest. “We have a right to our future and right to our freedom. We will come together and continue fighting white supremacy in all its forms.”
Cannon spoke with LGBTQ Nation about the state of the queer movement in 2023 and what must be done to advance equality. The conversation occurred on December 13, 2022, mere minutes after President Biden signed the Respect For Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage.
LGBTQ NATION: Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act. How are you feeling?
PARK CANNON: This is courage. This is breaking news. The last time I felt this way was when, in the state of Georgia, we passed the anti-hate crime bill [in 2020], and it was decades-long work of queer activists, Black politicos, and faith-based coalitions coming together.
This feels very similar to some of the pro-equality work we’ve done here in Georgia, and it reminds us all that as we head back into the legislative session in January, Georgia will need to add some additional state-based protections.
LGBTQ NATION: As the President prepares to address the nation for the State of the Union address, what do you see as the most vexing problems currently facing the queer equality movement?
PC: It’s difficult to break down into less than a handful, but I’ll go with two categories.
The first category is health — understanding breast cancer in a lesbian relationship, understanding uterine fibroids, or a trans person trying to have a successful pregnancy, and understanding hormones and affirmation surgeries for youth. In Georgia, these are all areas that need more support.
The other category, of course, is basic protections, equal rights protections. So, the ability to own a home with someone who you love who is of the same gender; the ability to purchase life insurance for someone for whom you’ve cared for multiple years; the ability to not be discriminated against and fired because of your identities, whether those are identities that relate to your sexual orientation or your gender identity or gender presentation.
It’s imperative that the newly elected members around the United States listen to their constituents about amending [policies] that do not support healthy families or healthy lives.
LGBTQ NATION: What is the next big rights issue Congress should focus on? What else can legislators accomplish if they give it the same attention they did the Respect for Marriage Act?
PC: The economy affects everyone, and so we need to [ensure that we] don’t isolate LGBTQ families from the safety net and support systems that are coming.
I know that there has been some … money that came out of the American Rescue Plan for schools. I know Georgia will be having a series of dialogues … and they’re actually granting money to school systems to focus on safety.
I am hopeful that that doesn’t necessarily mean more police and stricter dress codes and intensity around bathrooms. I’m hoping that safety includes mental health professionals at schools.
LGBTQ NATION: What does it mean to you in 2023 to fight for queer rights? How do we best do that?
PK: It’s about coalitional understanding.
I remember when the White House reached out to one of the nonprofits that I serve on the board of, SisterSong, to ask, what is reproductive justice? For southern queer activists, who have been on the front lines without financial support and without political titles, that phone call was the door opening towards justice.
So we, as members of the queer community, are looking for more doors to open.
LGBTQ NATION: What do you mean by coalitional understanding? What action items do lawmakers need to take to reach it?
PK: The Georgia House of Representatives has never had an LGBTQ caucus.
Under the previous [Republican] speakership, we were not granted a caucus because we were told it would be divisive. Now there’s a new speaker [Republican Jon Burns], so it’s kind of like a new day.
I have requested a meeting with the speaker to ask if we would be able to create a rainbow caucus. Members of the LGBTQ community who are elected could enlist other allies who are in the house to look at measures that affect the community but are not always LGBTQ-specific.
“We, as members of the queer community, are looking for more doors to open.”Park Cannon
As much as HIV impacts same-gender loving people, so are Caucasian women, according to our Department of Public Health’s most recent pilot program that it just completed. The pilot program just finished its third year and is now actually going to be expanded. We found out the Department of Public Health is asking for more money.
There are opportunities to work on public health and public safety with an LGBTQ caucus, even if you’re not LGBTQ.
Secondly, there is an understanding that LGBTQ children have been a hot topic, and I really think that there’s misunderstanding and a lack of empathy that needs to be addressed through education committees.
I’m hopeful that there will be some leadership from the federal government that helps State Departments of Education to really look at the social-emotional learning outcomes and needs of transgender children and their families so that the policymakers who are making decisions on sports or on bathrooms get a better understanding of the emotional impact of these policies. Because most of them do have a soft spot for children, and it’s just very unfair to trans children and queer children that they’re not afforded those same [considerations].
Lastly, as far as the coalitional building conversations, there are numerous nonprofits that have boards of directors that do not include LGBTQ people, and I really think it would be great if we saw larger corporations, larger nonprofits, have clear our leadership in the forefront as they move into 2023.
LGBTQ NATION:This year’s anti-trans bills focus heavily on medical bans targeting both trans kids and adults. As these bills keep coming, do we need a new strategy to fight them?
PK: It definitely goes back to empathy and understanding that bias around sexual orientation and gender identity is harmful.
We recently passed an anti-hate crime bill in Georgia, but other states still don’t have one, and federally, LGBTQ families have to become more comfortable reporting these instances as issues of bias and hate. Not everyone is economically ready or emotionally ready to file a lawsuit about a traumatizing medical experience that they’ve had, but I do think that the legal routes that we need to take are going to increase and they should talk more about these as issues of bias and hate.
LGBTQ NATION: Across the country, the 2022 midterms were accompanied by an extreme rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, yet at the same time, we saw a record number of queer candidates win their elections. What do you make of these two things happening at the same time?
PK: There’s a powerful synergy in being rejected, and I believe that there were so many constituents in Georgia who, due to what they felt were antiquated voting laws, oppressive reproductive health sanctions, and a lack of economic opportunity really became self-mobilized in a way that I’ve not seen before.
When we were calling voters to remind them about election day and texting them to give them their precinct information, overwhelmingly, we received responses that people were on it. Interestingly, I believe that some of the GOP’s reliance on personal responsibility actually benefited marginalized people to meet that expectation of personal responsibility with twofold action.
These are the most diverse staff, team members, volunteers I’ve ever seen on elections in Georgia. These were the most bubbly types of events that I’ve ever seen.
“It’s not just about representation; it’s about the legislation that can come from an intergenerational and intersectional perspective.”Park Cannon
LGBTQ NATION:You’ve been a tireless advocate for reproductive justice. What will the next few years look like in a post-Roe world?
PK: I am really proud that last year, I got over 49 legislators to sign a resolution expressing their support for Roe v. Wade on the 49th anniversary, and it was written in a somber tone because we were concerned that it would be the last time being able to celebrate that as people in the South who support people who have had abortions or who need to access abortion.
But at the end of the day, it’s about employment, as well. Many people have built their careers around being abortion doulas, being nurse practitioners who are non-judgmental, by studying the science of the latest techniques and opportunities for reproductive technology. So I care deeply about ensuring that the workforce of reproductive justice advocates can find places of employment that are gainful, dignified, and respectful.
LGBTQ NATION: Since you were first elected in 2016, do you feel like the conversations you’re having about rights have changed?
PK: I remember when I ran in 2016 and made it clear that I would run openly queer, specifically. I was met with disbelief. I was met with concern, people saying, “Why can’t you just say you’re a lesbian? How are you going to express that in the Bible Belt?”
I had to remind people that authenticity on the election trail can secure trust, confidence and votes. So to now see that the Georgia House of Representatives has a queer representative, has a lesbian, has a gay man – the first gay Asian man we’ve ever had, and now we have two – to see that the Georgia Senate has an openly queer female pastor, that we recently elected another lesbian, a Black lesbian to the house, it’s magical.
It feels like the rainbow wave that I’ve wished for and that I’m also a part of. And I’m really proud that organizations who otherwise could have been edged out over the years for their stances and their supporters are now at the White House in positions of leadership and bringing the issues that matter to us along. It’s not just about representation; it’s about the legislation that can come from an intergenerational and intersectional perspective.
LGBTQ NATION:How do we deal with the relentless right-wing rhetoric leading to book bans, attacks on drag shows, and attacks on trans youth?
PK: The truth is that growing into a positive self-identity can be complicated, but it can also be really fun. I know the feeling of coming out in the South and expecting that there would be hate. And there was, but there was also a lot of fun and exploration and resistance that teaches people more than they could ever imagine.
So I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to look at LGBTQ culture as groundbreaking and inclusive and not look at it as anything but that.
A freshman lawmaker from Wyoming has already begun efforts to remove LGBTQ+ books for youth from both school and public libraries in the state.
Republican Rep.-elect Jeanette Ward has introduced House Bill 87, which expands the definition of “child pornography” to mean “any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, cartoon, drawing, computer or computer generated image or picture, whether or not made or produced by electronic, mechanical or other means, or any other form of depiction of explicit sexual conduct.”
The bill also repeals a law that gives exemptions for those who “possess or disseminate obscene material” for activities related to schools, universities, colleges, museums, and public libraries.
Based on this definition, many books that provide sexual health information to youth would be banned, along with several books that help LGBTQ+ youth learn about their identities.
“Not requiring tax payers to pay for obscenity is reasonable and just,” Ward told the Casper Star Tribune. “These books will continue to be available in the marketplace, but not paid for by taxpayer dollars. Reasonable people everywhere recognize these books as obscene and reasonable people do not want their money used to subsidize obscenity.”
According to the Tribune, Ward, herself, has passionately advocated for the removal of two LGBTQ+ books from a high school library in her district – speaking at multiple school board meetings against the acclaimed graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and a trans resource guide called Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.
Ward also helped members of the anti-LGBTQ+ group Moms for Liberty get elected to the Natrona County school board. Moms for Liberty members have been running for school board positions across the country as part of the right-wing effort to shift schools toward a more conservative ideology.
On boards where Moms for Liberty is in control, curricula is likely to exclude LGBTQ+-inclusive and anti-racist education.
In Florida, anti-LGBTQ+ Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, himself, helped Moms for Liberty members get elected to local school boards. The newly seated members repaid DeSantis by ousting school officials who dared defy his orders against school mask mandates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ward’s bill in Wyoming currently has 13 Republic cosponsors. If it passes, it will go into effect on July 1st.
Progressive Democrat Davante Lewis has become the first out LGBTQ+ person elected to statewide office in Louisiana as well as the first out LGBTQ+ Black person elected to any public office in the state.
Lewis, 30, recently won a runoff election and was elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, a regulatory agency focused on ensuring reasonably priced public utilities. It also works on state energy policy.
While the position is not something voters often pay close attention to, Nola.com said far more eyes were on this race due to high natural gas prices causing increased utility bills and a weak electrical grid that has proven to be no match for hurricanes.
Lewis’s platform included holding utility monopolies accountable for the way they use their profits, investing in green jobs, pushing utility companies to adopt clean and renewable energy sources, and protecting the rights of those paying for utilities by banning excessive late fees, providing a fixed billing system for senior citizens, ending service disconnections, and more.
He is also focused on ensuring the durability of the electrical grid after it has proved insufficient against increasingly severe weather driven by climate change. Last year, for example, millions in the state had no power for weeks after Hurricane Ida.
Davante won out against three-term incumbent Lambert Boissiere III.
In a speech to supporters after his victory, Lewis declared “a new chapter for Louisiana.”
“Tonight, the people of Louisiana start taking our power back. Tonight, Louisiana has a Public Service Commissioner who’s unafraid to hold Entergy [a utility company] accountable, because I owe this victory to the people of Louisiana and their commitment to a brighter, cleaner, and 100 percent renewable future.”
“Realizing this vision will take hard work from our entire movement,” he added, after thanking supporters. “The monopoly utility companies, oil, gas and petrochemical industries and political establishment who tried to sink our movement will not disappear because of this election. We must continue to root out corruption and unrig the system, to hold me and my fellow commissioners accountable, and to advocate for bold, new solutions.”
“But tonight shows that together, we are up to the challenge and I look forward to spending the next six years fighting every day for you.”
In a statement from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed Lewis, President and CEO Annise Parker celebrated the victory.
“For far too long, Black people and the LGBTQ community have lacked equitable representation in government —with the scars to show for it. Davante shattered this lavender ceiling because voters were enthusiastic about his life-long service to Louisiana, his commitment to working families and his keen ability to forge and activate diverse coalitions.”
“We are confident these qualities and his exceptional career as a climate champion and public policy expert will make him an effective leader for all Louisianans, especially the LGBTQ community who have faced a sharp uptick in homophobia and transphobia this year. His election is a shining example that when LGBTQ people run, we win.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has appointed far-right anti-LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Rufo to the board of trustees of the New College of Florida – a school with a reputation for being progressive and queer-friendly.
In addition to virulently targeting the LGBTQ+ community, Rufo has spent years helping to build a movement against the teaching of so-called critical race theory – an academic term conservatives have manipulated to essentially mean teaching children anything about the history of racism in the U.S.
Rufo – who does not live in Florida – admitted in a 2021 speech that right-wing activists “appropriated” the term critical race theory and that he doesn’t “give a shit” about its actual definition.
He has also spoken out against diversity and inclusion initiatives at public universities, saying that taxpayers are “funding private political activism with public dollars.” He called universities “patronage systems for left-wing activists” and called for the establishment of a “conservative center” at these schools.
He has repeatedly spoken out against teaching what he calls “a radical gender curriculum” – which is really just basic instruction on gender and tolerance of their trans peers – to young kids.
Trans activist and Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Alejandra Caraballo named Rufo’s campaigns against drag queens as partially responsible for the threats, protests, and violence taking place at drag shows around the country.
With Rufo’s appointment to the New College board, along with other conservatives, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg accused DeSantis of plotting a “hostile takeover of a liberal college”
“We want to provide an alternative for conservative families in the state of Florida to say there is a public university that reflects your values,” Rufo told Goldberg.
He added, “If we can take this high-risk, high-reward gambit and turn it into a victory, we’re going to see conservative state legislators starting to reconquer public institutions all over the United States.”
Rufo said the board is planning a “top-down restructuring” of the school that will involve designing “a new core curriculum from scratch.”
“We’re happy to work with them to make New College a great place to continue their education,” Rufo said of the progressive students already attending the school, “Or we’d be happy to work with them to help them find something that suits them better.”
He also said, “We anticipate that this is going to be a process that involves conflict.”
A new trend seems to be all the rage for anti-LGBTQ+ parents, who have been increasingly touting the need to “deprogram” their progressive children and turn them conservative.
A recent report from the New York Post features a group of mothers who say their children refuse to talk to them after being “indoctrinated” with “gender and race ideology” by progressive high schools and colleges.
The article likens progressive values to being in a cult and details the mothers’ desire to find a “deprogrammer” to jolt their children back to reality.
The mothers were inspired by another story from the New York Post, that of Annabella Rockwell, a pharmaceutical fortune heiress, a rightwing activist, and a Mount Holyoke alumna who claimed that her mother hired a $300/day “deprogrammer” to turn her conservative after college.
“I saw Annabella’s story and my life turned upside down,” said 54-year-old Beth Pensky, whose son and daughter don’t speak to her.
“I realized I wasn’t alone and I saw what happened to her was similar to what I think happened to my kids. I never even considered trying to find a deprogrammer. I didn’t know they existed. But I think it’s too late for me and my kids. They won’t even talk to me.”
A mother named Dorothy, whose last name was not given, also connected to Rockwell.
“Reading about Annabella was the first time I connected the dots to everything that had happened with my daughter,” she said.
“She had what she called ‘an awakening’ and became very angry at me and her father. It was a big personality change. We are conservatives so [our political views] became a huge problem. We were not allowed to visit her on campus. She went on a mission to convert her brother against us. She told him that he should be against us because we’re conservatives and that we all should be against men.”
Pensky and Dorothy also both claimed they did not have any problem with the fact that they each had daughters come out as gay. Rather, they say it was the way their daughters treated them in the aftermath that was the problem.
The article also featured an anonymous mother of five daughters who she claimed were turned against her by the upscale New York City private school Dalton and then further lured into the cult of progressivism in college.
“The emotional stress is unbelievable,” she said. “I consider myself a Democrat and a liberal but it doesn’t matter. I’ve had fights with some of my girls just because I wouldn’t get myself a Rainbow pride Starbucks cup. The cup itself became this huge battleground. Apparently it matters what cup you hold.”
And the deprogramming business is apparently booming.
36-year-old K. Yang was once a trans and gay rights activist who used they/them pronouns but has since “deprogrammed” herself. She said she is extremely busy these days as a full-time deprogrammer
Yang’s website claims to be “exposing the trans agenda.”
“There’s a war for our bodies & minds and it’s all connected,” it says.
Yang touts the ideology of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), claiming that advancing trans rights somehow contributes to a lessening of rights for cisgender women.
“A lot of these parents are completely bewildered,” Yang told the Post. “A lot of them noticed a marked difference in their children’s behavior. Then all of a sudden ‘she’ identifies as ‘he.’ A lot of this is like a cult except parents don’t realize their child is being indoctrinated — not from an old-fashioned cult that takes you away somewhere but through schools and their devices. This is happening to kids everywhere, even those with a robust family life.”
Yang claimed there is a global conspiracy to “restructure society” that goes all the way up the United Nations.
“They are undermining the sexually dimorphic nature of reality and breaking down the differences between the sexes to break down our identity. They are constructing identities for us and they want us to adopt them.”
The article even featured the so-called “father of deprogramming,” 92-year-old Ted Patrick who was known in the 1970s and 1980s for helping parents “deprogram” their kids who had fallen victim to cults. Patrick’s controversial practices led to multiple jail sentences and dozens of indictments on grounds like kidnapping and conspiracy.
Patrick claims young people today are in a state of emergency and essentially says they should be kidnapped to fix it.
“It’s worse now than it was then,” Patrick said. “But parents are more scared and weak than they were then. You’ve got to get these kids alone. I’ve snatched people from Yale. I deal with the mind. You have to go into the mind, into that container, and bring the real person out. Once you get the person out you have to get the person thinking again — thinking like a critical thinker.”