Dr Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, has been tipped for a high-ranking position in the Joe Biden administration.
Levine is one of the highest-ranking transgender officials in the US, and has spent this year leading Pennsylvania’s response to the pandemic in the face of shameless transphobia.
Her hard work and decades of medical experience could soon be rewarded, with her name now attached to two key White House roles.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a political action committee (PAC) that helped elect hundreds of queer politicians in the 2020 election, has suggested Biden should appoint Levine either secretary of health and human services or US surgeon general.
Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of the PAC, said the organisation has already had “informal conversations” with the Biden transition team regarding LGBT+ appointments, and is “feeling very confident and very hopeful that we will see trans people serve in high-level roles in this administration”.
“Dr Rachel Levine has served Pennsylvania incredibly well as their secretary of health for a number of years, leading their response on COVID, and leading their response on the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania,” Gonzalez said, via the American Independent.
“I think someone like her is well-poised to serve at a high-level in a Biden administration.”
The LGBQT Victory Fund has made a number of other suggestions, includingPete Buttigieg for UN ambassador; Maura Healey, the first openly gay state attorney general, for US attorney general; Tammy Baldwin, the first out lesbian in Congress, for the Department of Health and Human Services; and Raphael Bostic, the first out gay man and first Black man to lead a regional bank for the Federal Reserve, as secretary of the treasury.
With more than 4,100 roles available in the incoming administration, the LGBTQ Victory Fund says that there should be at least 185 queer appointees in order for the new White House to be properly representative.
As Joe Biden prepares to take office in January, he has already begun naming staff to his presidential transition team.
Among them is Shawn Skelly, who was the first transgender veteran to get a presidential appointment when Barack Obama named her director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat at the Department of Transportation.
The former Navy commander will help Biden evaluate the Department of Defense, understanding how it operates and helping ensure a smooth transfer of power.
Karine Jean-Pierre could become the first out lesbian and first Black woman to be named White House press secretary.
The political heavyweight served as Kamala Harris’ chief of staff during the Biden-Harris campaign, and has now been tipped for a permanent role in the new administration.
NBC’s White House correspondent Geoff Bennett tweeted Wednesday (18 November) that Jean-Pierre has “emerged as a top candidate” for press secretary, citing multiple sources.
Symone Sanders, TV pundit and a senior advisor to the campaign “has also been discussed” for the role, he added.
“No final decisions have been made, officials stress, as the emerging West Wing leadership also considers how to structure the communications office in a rapidly-changing media environment,” Bennett added.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=PinkNews&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1329069612911239171&lang=en-gb&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinknews.co.uk%2F2020%2F11%2F19%2Fpolitical-trailblazer-karine-jean-pierre-tipped-to-be-first-ever-black-and-lgbt-white-house-press-secretary%2F&siteScreenName=PinkNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px
Were Karine Jean-Pierre to clinch the role, she would be the first Black woman in the role as well as the first out LGBT+ press secretary.
Many will recognise her from a viral video in which she jumped to protect Harris after an animal rights activist attempted to grab her microphone during a campaign event in 2019.
A seasoned campaigner, activist and strategist, she has previously worked on presidential campaigns for John Edwards, Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama.
She also served on Obama’s White House staff as a regional political director, and was hired to Harris’ team in August, becoming the first Black person to serve as a presidential candidate’s chief of staff.
She is well-known as a political pundit thanks to numerous appearances on NBC News and MSNBC, and has long been a vocal advocate for LGBT+ rights and equality.
Karine Jean-Pierre fought Trump for the sake of her daughter.
In 2011 she spoke about her experiences working in politics as an openly gay woman.
Shortly after she left her position in the Obama administration, she told The Advocate: “What’s been wonderful is that I was not the only; I was one of many.
A Navy veteran is suing the US government after doctors allegedly forgot to tell him he tested positive for HIV in the 1990s.
The South Carolina man says he was unaware he was living with HIV for more than two decades after government health workers failed to inform him of his test results.Read More
A federal lawsuit explains how he was tested in November 1995 at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centre in Columbia, South Carolina as part of routine lab work.
The veteran, named only as John Doe in the filing, was under the care of the department after being involved in a 1976 shipwreck which left him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
However, “in clear contravention of the standard of care, Mr Doe was not informed of the positive HIV test until decades later”, the lawsuit states.ADVERTISING
In fact, it wasn’t until 2018 that the veteran says he was made aware of his status.
In 2014, a nurse practitioner at the Columbia facility had noted the 1995 test results in a memo. Mr Doe still wasn’t informed, the suit states.
He saw another VA doctor in 2015 who asked if he knew who his infectious disease doctor was. When he replied that he didn’t have one, the doctor reportedly asked the veteran if he knew whether he was living with HIV. Even still, the suit states, Mr Doe wasn’t made aware of his positive status.
Finally, in September 2018, the veteran visited an emergency room not affiliated with the department. It was here that he says he was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, and immediately began treatment.
According to the suit, the veteran had by this time developed a number of related illnesses including an infection of his brain tissue.
“[He] needlessly suffered for decades with co-existing conditions common in HIV infected persons, including lymphadenopathy, neurotoxoplasmosis, muscle aches and joint pain,” the lawsuit says.
“Had defendants acted within the standard of care, Mr Doe would not have suffered the losses he has suffered, and will continue to suffer in the future, and more likely than not, he would not have developed AIDS.”
The veteran’s lawyer Chad McGowan said he is responding to antiretroviral therapy, but has “had essentially 25 years of wear and tear for having no treatment”.
“He feels extremely guilty about the girlfriends he’s had over the last 25 years because he didn’t know.”
The Department of Veteran Affairs told the Associated Press it “does not typically comment on pending litigation”.
According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, a person who is diagnosed and starts treatment early can expect to live as long as person without HIV.
Once the treatment has lowered the levels of the virus in a person’s blood – their viral load – they are unable to pass on HIV and the virus is no longer able to damage their immune system. This is known as being undetectable (meaning tests can no longer detect HIV in a person’s blood). Undetectable equals untransmittable.
JK Rowling refuted allegations that she is transphobic while returning a Ripple of Hope award to the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights organisation.
Rowling announced she is giving back the honour after Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late senator and president of the human rights nonprofit, shared her “profound disappointment” in the author’s remarks on trans rights.
Kerry Kennedy released a statement on August 3, eight months after Rowling received the award for her work on behalf of children. She joined previous honourees including Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu and Hillary Clinton.
“I have spoken with JK Rowling to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and non-binary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community,” she wrote, citing Rowling’s tweets and essay on trans lives, as well her liking a tweet “that opposed a bill to ban conversion therapy”.
Kennedy rejected what she understands Rowling’s position to be: that sex as assigned at birth “is the primary and determinative factor of one’s gender, regardless of one’s gender identity”.
“The science is clear and conclusive: Sex is not binary,” she continued.
“Trans rights are human rights. JK Rowling’s attacks upon the transgender community are inconsistent with the fundamental beliefs and values of RFK Human Rights and represent a repudiation of my father’s vision.”ADVERTISING
JK Rowling can’t keep Robert Kennedy award in good conscience.
In response, Rowling wrote Thursday (August 27): “The statement incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.
“As a longstanding donor to LGBT charities and a supporter of trans people’s right to live free of persecution, I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill, or that standing up for the rights of women is wrong, discriminatory, or incites harm or violence to the trans community.”
She continued by repeating her claim that she “feels nothing but sympathy towards those with gender dysphoria”, and her baseless allegation that “an ethical and medical scandal is brewing” regarding gender-affirming therapies.
Rowling ended her statement by disagreeing with the Kennedy organisation’s stance on trans rights: that they do not clash with women’s rights.
“The thousands of women who’ve got in touch with me disagree, and, like me, believe this clash of rights can only be resolved if more nuance is permitted in the debate.”
She concluded: “I am deeply saddened that RFKHR has felt compelled to adopt this stance, but no award or honour, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience.”
Queer Black American men suffer disproportionate levels of police discrimination, which in turn may contribute to increased risks of HIV, depression and anxiety, a study has found.
Research by Rutgers University, published in Social Science & Medicine, asked over 1,100 queer Black men to self-report any incidents of police discrimination, arrests and incarceration.
Between 2017 and 2018, some 43 per cent reported suffering discrimination at the hands of police and other law enforcement.
The results reinforced the notion that injustice is systemic and cyclical, with prior incarceration linked to later police and law enforcement discrimination, which in turn was linked to further arrest.
Lead study author Devin English, assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said that despite the evidence suggesting queer Black men in the US may face “some of the highest rates of policing and incarceration in the world… research examining the health impacts of the US carceral system rarely focuses on their experiences”.
“This study helps to address this gap,” he added.
Scott Greenberg, executive director of the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, was unsurprised by the research. He told PinkNews: “With Black people five times more likely to be imprisoned in the US and sexual minorities three-fold more likely to be incarcerated, Black LGBTQ people occupy a reconstitutive crossing of inequity in the criminal legal system.
“One startling demographic disparity aggravates the other, in vicious cycles of poverty and discrimination — in school, employment, policing, family, and society at large.”
Police discrimination may contribute to high levels of HIV among Black queer men.
Respondents were also quizzed on their metal health and sexual behaviour, including their willingness to take PrEP.
Researchers found that those who had suffered high levels of police discrimination were also likely to be at higher risk of HIV and psychological distress, and were more reluctant to take PrEP than their peers.
Those who had been incarcerated or recently arrested were also vulnerable to a higher HIV risk and were less willing to take PrEP.
The study’s authors suggest that police discrimination and incarceration may lead to “a conscious, and potentially adaptive, avoidance of institutions” with a history of discriminating against queer Black men.
Queer Black men are the group most at risk of acquiring HIV in the US. In 2018, they made up 26 per cent of all new HIV diagnoses and 37 per cent of new diagnoses among queer men. Black Americans make up 13 per cent of the US population.
As Matthew Hodson, executive director of the UK-based Aidsmap, told PinkNews, it is these many and layered forms of discrimination that is perpetuating the epidemic of HIV among Black queer men, who are “at the intersection of two communities with high HIV rates”.
“Experience of mistreatment in healthcare services, racism, homophobia and a number of structural inequalities all intersect to deter black men who have sex with men from seeking out PrEP as a means of preventing HIV infection,” Hodson said.
“Although the US was the first country to introduce PrEP, take up among Black and Hispanic queer men has always lagged behind that of white men. A recent projection estimated that half of all US Black men who have sex with men were likely to acquire HIV in their lifetime, compared to one in four Hispanic men and nine per cent of white gay or bisexual men.”
He added: “The racial patterns of PrEP use we see in the US are also reflected in other western countries, including the UK, France, and Australia.”
Lisa Bowleg, professor of psychology at The George Washington University and co-author on the study, said the new findings “rightly directs attention to the structural intersectional discrimination that negatively affects Black sexual minority men’s health”.
“Despite experiencing a disproportionate burden of violence and discrimination at the hands of the police, and extremely high carceral rates, Black queer men are largely invisible in discourse on anti-Black policing and incarceration,” added co-author Joseph Carter, doctoral student of health psychology at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.
“Our study provides empirical support for the intersectional health impacts of police and carceral discrimination that have been systemically perpetrated onto Black queer men.”
Last week two Black men, George Floyd and Tony McDade, were killed by police, leading to countless people protesting around the world in support of Black Lives Matter.
George Floyd died after a police officer pinned him down by the neck using his knee until he went limp. Tony McDade, a trans man, was shot and killed by officers while being chased in connection with a fatal stabbing.
For people of color – gay or straight, trans or cis – these stories, sadly, aren’t unique. Frankly, they’re commonplace. Black people have been dying at the hands of police in horrifying numbers for centuries – only now, the internet is being used to share these stories more widely than ever before.
The police violence being directed at those protesting racism in Minneapolis and in other cities around the world is, again, nothing new. The Black Lives Matter movement and associated groups have been organising protests against police brutality since the 2014 killing of Michael Brown Jr, an 18-year-old Black man shot dead by a white police officer.
Before that, Black people have been asking police to stop killing us for as long as there have been police. But all too often these efforts are welcomed with tear gas, rubber bullets and further violence. And at the end of it all, Black people are still being killed.
Just as the LGBT+ rights movement – which, it pays to remember, was spearheaded by Black trans women and butch lesbians – has been bolstered by straight-cis allies, and has furthered LGBT+ rights by winning over the straight cis (mostly) men who run our world, the Black community needs allies of all races to stand with us. Our voices, our bodies and our actions alone aren’t enough – to affect change as quickly as possible, we need your help.
If you want to stand up and be counted, here is a non-exhaustive list of things you can do.
1. Call for accountability.
The most immediate thing allies can do is to sign petitions and contact political representatives to demand justice for both George Floyd and Tony McDade.
A petition calling for charges to be filed against all four officers involved in Floyd’s death has so far attracted 10 million signatures. The officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck has been charged with murder, but each additional name added will help build pressure for officials to take action against the other three.
A separate petition is simply calling for “Justice for Tony McDade”, and at the time of publication has been signed more than 430,000 times. McDade’s case is currently shrouded in uncertainties – signing his petition will help bring visibility and hopefully answers.
If you feel safe doing so, consider joining a protest. Understandably not all queer people will be able to do this. If being in large groups and/or around police poses a danger to you, or if you are disabled and concerned about access/making a safe exit, do not feel compelled to protest. There are many lanes of resistance, and each of us can’t occupy all of them.
If you want to protest, it’s easy to find organised demonstrations through social media. Follow trusted Black organisers, protest with a buddy, and maintain social distancing. A widely-shared infographic has other good pieces of advice for protecting yourself.
If you can afford to do so, there are many Black organisations that need funding at this critical time.
The Minnesota Freedom Fund – which, among other things, is working to free jailed protestors by paying bail and legal fees – has raised over $20 million in the past week and is now asking people to consider donating to other groups.
Its suggestions include the Black Visions Collective – a Black-led, queer and trans-centring organisation dedicated to Black liberation.
It also recommends people donate to Reclaim the Block, a coalition demanding that Minneapolis divest from policing and invest in long-term community alternatives, and the North Star Health Collective, which works with organisers to create safe and health events.
Further afield, there are local organisations working to free protestors across the US. The National Bail Fund Network is maintaining an updated thread of places where people can donate.
Saturday THREAD – So much solidarity from coast to coast! This is an updated thread on bail funds supporting people arrested for demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, & all victims of police violence. 1/#FreeThemAll
4. Educate yourself and others on being anti-racist.
Not being racist isn’t enough. Now as much as ever, it’s important to be vocally and actively against racism in all its forms.
If you aren’t sure what this means, or aren’t comfortable in your knowledge of these issues, take the time to educate yourself. Read books by Black authors, such as Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi, or Back to Black by Kehinde Andrews.
Share what you learn with white friends, challenge them when you see or hear them making ill-informed statements, and further the conversation as much as you can.
5. Be mindful on social media.
As journalist Paula Akpan recently tweeted: “Being online right now as a Black person is f**king exhausting.”
Be mindful of sharing videos showing violence against Black bodies without a proper warning. Be considerate in who and what you are retweeting. While racists must be held accountable, there are ways of doing this without amplifying their message of hate – by reporting them to social networks and/or, when appropriate, by informing their employers.
If you are unsure about what to share on social media, often the best thing to do is to amplify the voices of the oppressed – in this case, Black people. Retweet posts and share articles. It’s fine to contribute your own words of course, but be mindful and open to constructive criticism. Above all, remember if you have a platform – even a small one – and want to make a difference, use it.
6. Check in on your queer Black friends.
Amid all of this, don’t forget to keep in contact with your Black friends as you would at any other time. Remember that we won’t always want to talk about race and racism, even when it is dominating topic in the media and online. When we do, be sure to listen more than you do speak, and try not to use us as a resource for your own development.
7. Keep the energy going.
Right now it’s impossible to predict what the future will bring. But regardless, remember to remain committed to anti-racism. Whether the current protests beget sweeping change or whether the status quo returns, continue to make your voice heard, improve your own learning, and support Black people and Black causes.
Mike Pence was governor of Indiana when it experienced “the largest concentrated outbreak of HIV ever documented in the United States” in 2014-15.
Pence’s contribution to the crisis has been put under the microscope after Donald Trump put the vice president in charge of America’s response to the Covid-19 coronavirus.
It was back in early 2015 when public health officials noticed a spike in new HIV and hepatitis C transmissions in Austin, Indiana, with NPR reporting it as the “largest HIV outbreak in Indiana’s history” at the time.
Most the cases were linked to drug use, specifically the injection of prescription opioids.
At the time there was a ban on needle exchanges throughout the state, despite such programmes being a proven method of HIV prevention.
Before the crisis broke, Pence was a fervent critic of needle exchanges, and continued to oppose them for months after the crisis emerged.
By this time Scott County had identified 80 new HIV transmissions, up from an annual average of five. The 4,200 population town would eventually count 215 new cases, a 5 per cent rate.
Two months later Pence signed a law allowing for needle exchanges across the state.
Mike Pence defunded Planned Parenthood, eliminating Indiana’s HIV test centres.
Compounding the issue was the complete lack of HIV testing centres in Scott County.
A Planned Parenthood which was the county’s only such facility closed in 2013, Mike Pence’s first year as governor, because of public health spending cuts.
Two years earlier, in 2011, the House of Representatives had passed an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, tabled by then congressperson Pence.
Criticism continues to this day.
In 2017 Dr Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the Austin outbreak the largest fuelled HIV outbreak to hit rural America in recent history, and “the largest concentrated outbreak ever documented in the United States.”
It was suggested in a 2018 study that if Pence had acted sooner in introducing needle exchanges, the number of new HIV cases could be been reduced “substantially”.
After the announcement that Pence would head up the White House’s response to the coronavirus, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the vice president of “literally does not believe in science”.
“It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic,” she tweeted.
This decision could cost people their lives. Pence’s past decisions already have.
Gregg Gonsalves, assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale University, said that the decision “endangers us all”.
“It’s like putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department, a bank robber in charge of the US Mint,” he tweeted.
“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue – we have the potential for coronavirus outbreak in the US and we needed to rise above the partisan fray.”
Mike Pence defends his record.
In the face of renewed criticism, Mike Pence appeared on Fox News on Thursday, February 27, saying: “Indiana would go on to change the law to mirror what action I had taken, but it was a moment where we had brought all of the resources to bear, first from a health perspective, a law enforcement perspective, and I’m glad to say that we got all of those people treated.”
He added that he maintains his opposition to needle exchanges as a way to combat drug abuse, “but in this case we came to the conclusion that we had a public health emergency and so I took executive action to make a limited needle exchange available.”
The body of a 56-year-old Australian man was found hours after he allegedly left home for a Grindr hook-up.
The unidentified Canberra man was discovered dead on February 2 by a man walking his dog in Boulee, New South Wales.
His body had been dumped in bushland a few metres away from the purple Honda Jazz he had been driving.
He had no visible injuries, and police are waiting for autopsy results to determine his cause of death.
Officers believe the man had been on his way to a Grindr hook-up, as he was known to use the app and others like it.
They will be using these apps to determine who the man was speaking with in the hours before his death.
Police urge locals and Grindr users to come forward with information.
Homicide squad commander detective superintendent Danny Doherty urged locals with any information to come forward.
“This is a small community and we hope that someone may be able to assist our investigators — either through sightings of the car, or who also may have been using dating applications to meet people in the area,” he said, according to Star Observer.
“Someone may come forward who may have knowledge of this person, this area might be an area where people have met before, they may have knowledge of this man in the car that’s important.”
The deceased was found wearing blue jeans, a sleeveless dark blue fitted t-shirt and white sneakers, and was driving a car with ACT number plates YFD 00H.
If you have any information which could assist police, contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
While Grindr and apps like it are used safely by millions of queer people ever day, there are rare occasions where hook-ups end in tragedy.
CBS New York has confirmed that a reporter who named a man and revealed his HIV status in a dangerously misleading report has been dismissed.
The journalist was sacked after writing an article suggesting that a man put a police officer at risk of acquiring HIV by spitting in his mouth after he had been arrested for stealing a yoghurt at LaGuardia Airport.ADVERTISING
The alleged incident was described as a “HIV attack” in a tweet penned by the reporter, who also wrote that the “suspect admitted they spit into an officer’s mouth knowing they had HIV”.
“This online story should not have been published. It does not meet our journalistic standards, nor does it reflect our core values,” CBS New York told Gay City News (GCN).
CBS refuses to identify reporter who named man living with HIV.
While the “suspect” was named in the article, the author was not, with the byline left empty.
CBS New York has allowed the reporter to remain anonymous, declining a request by GCN to identify them.
“The person who wrote and published the story and social media post failed to review the copy with our news managers,” its statement continued.
“This individual is no longer employed by CBS New York.”
A spokesperson made clear that Tony Aiello, who was listed under the “filed under” section of the article, was not the journalist in question despite social media speculation. PinkNews has contacted CBS New York for further comment.
Port Authority union criticised for furthering stigma.
The article relied on quotes from the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association (PAPBA) union, which continued to connect the man’s HIV status to his arrest after the initial report.
“The problem is when a person with an infectious disease has a weapon, we have a problem with that,” the union’s public information officer Bob Egbert told GCN after the CBS story went viral.
GCN said that PAPBA has “not apologised or retracted any comments” a month after the report was first published, leading to heavy criticism from campaigners and LGBT+ groups. The union has been contacted by PinkNewsfor further comment.
Housing Works, which work to combat “the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness”, accused the union of trying to “create hysteria” around New York bail reforms which allowed the man to be released while facing charges.
Sean Strub, founder of POZ magazine, called it “a disappointing reality that HIV stigma is alive and well”.
“But when HIV stigma is perpetuated by law enforcement leadership, as in the comment from the PBA spokesperson, it is not only disappointing and irresponsible, but dangerous,” he told GCN.
“Just as bad was the CBS stations’ tweet headline referring to an ‘HIV attack’. That newsroom needs some serious remedial education, starting with a basic science course about what the actual routes and risks of HIV transmission.”