A hit-and-run car crash that killed three men and injured another in front of a Black-owned gay bar early Sunday morning “appears to be intentional,” the Chicago Police Department said in a press conference Monday. Officials said the incident is not currently being investigated as a hate crime.
Police said the crash occurred after an argumentinside the Jeffrey Pub turned into a physical altercation on the street. At one point, one of the parties involved got into his car and slammed it against the group standing outside the pub. Officials said they recovered the vehicle that rammed into four men outside the bar, but they are still searching for the driver.
Brendan Deenihan, the department’s chief of detectives, is asking the public to come forward with information.
“You can’t charge a car with a crime, obviously,” Deenihan said. “We need to know who the driver was, and we know that people out there know that.”
The four male victims were taken to local hospitals, with three succumbing to their injuries, according to the police.
The deceased victims were identified as Donald Huey, 25, Jaylen Ausley, 23, and Devonta Vivetter, 27, according to Brittany Hill, a spokesperson for the Cook County Bureau of Administration. The surviving victim has not been named publicly and is still hospitalized, according to NBC Chicago.
Dashcam footage of the incident obtained by NBC Chicago shows several people on the street when a physical altercation broke out. The video also shows the moments just before the car is about to hit the men but does not show the actual hit-and-run incident.
A woman who witnessed the crash said she saw a car speeding down the street before “a lot of chaos” ensued.
The Biden administration has lodged a federal charge of discrimination against a Florida trailer park and its owner for allegedly demanding a transgender woman present as male to avoid being evicted from her mobile home.
The charge, announced Tuesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleges the owner of the 21 Palms RV Resort in Davenport, Florida, sent a discriminatory and threatening note to the woman after she came out as transgender in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
“No one should have to change how they express their gender identity to maintain their housing,” HUD official Demetria L. McCain said in a statement. “Setting restrictions like these is not only unacceptable, it is illegal.”
According to the charges, the resident, who has not been named publicly, lived at 21 Palms with her child and fiancé for several years before coming out as transgender and “wearing feminine-presenting clothing in public” on Jan. 4, 2021. Just nine days later, the park’s owner and manager, Nathan Dykgraaf, allegedly sent the woman a handwritten notice regarding her appearance.
“I have been informed of your actions to have your sex changed to a female, I am told you have started taking the necessary medication and that after a period of time your change will be completed,” Dykgraaf allegedly wrote. “To avoid problems you must: 1. Act as a man 2. Talk as a man 3. Dress as a man 4. Avoid tight clothing that is revealing sexual organs. If you follow the above steps trouble will be avoided. Sincerely, Nathan D.”
Dykgraaf did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Due to fears of being kicked out, the woman stopped presenting as female, avoided speaking with neighbors and stopped using the park’s amenities after receiving Dykgraaf’s note, the HUD charges allege.
She then filed a complaint with HUD last February, alleging the park violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender identity and other protected classes. Dykgraaf then responded to the complaint a month later, telling HUD the woman is “not free to engage with other tenants about her clothing and transition” and claimed her transition is “disruptive to the community.”
The unnamed complainant and her family moved out of the motor home park in August. She is now seeking damages for emotional distress, lost housing opportunity and out-of-pocket costs.
A bar serving LGBTQ New Yorkers has closed after an arson attack over the weekend, the New York City Police Department confirmed Wednesday.
At approximately 9 p.m. on Sunday, a man walked into the Rash Bar in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood with a bottle of flammable liquid, poured it on the bar’s floor, lit a match and set the venue ablaze, according to the NYPD. Police said the suspect fled as the bar became engulfed in flames.
Jake Sillen, one of the bar’s owners, told NBC News on Wednesday that they are still in shock.
“It’s so hard to believe and process,” said Sillen, 26, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. “It’s more confusing than anything.”
Three people — a bartender, DJ and security guard — were inside when the venue was set on fire. A 25-year-old female was transported to nearby Wyckoff Heights Medical Center with minor burns, while another victim was evaluated on the scene for minor burns to the shoulders, the NYPD said.
Claire Bendiner, a co-owner of Rash, had just stepped outside when the fire broke out.
“Everyone rushed out,” Bendiner told NBC New York. “The side door has a glass front, and I looked over and saw flames to the top of ceiling. It was crazy, it happened so fast.”
The bar was left unrecognizable and torched, NBC New York reported.
Bendiner, who uses they/them pronouns, said the suspect boldly left behind evidence.
“He left the gas canister inside. Kind of calmly placed it on the bar counter. Wasn’t knocked over or anything,” they told NBC New York.
Police are reviewing surveillance footage that shows someone filling up a gas can minutes before the fire.
Police are still investigating a motive for the incident, and no arrests have been made. The bar’s owner declined to comment on the suspect’s intentions but noted that serving a large LGBTQ clientele makes the space vulnerable.
“I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, because we don’t know anything about the person that did this,” Sillen said. “It could easily turn out to be a motive that we aren’t expecting.”
“It’s easy to see why our space would be an easy target for someone looking to do harm to the queer community,” they said, adding that in Rash Bar, “people feel safe to be themselves, and it’s a shame that anybody would do anything to threaten this.”
Since the bar opened nearly five months ago, it has become a staple in LGBTQ nightlife and a refuge for queer young adults and performers. It is also known for being packed late into the night, according to NBC New York.
This is not the only reported incidenttargeting bars in or near the Bushwick neighborhood that are popular with the city’s LGBTQ community: In February, someone threw a pepper-bomb spray on the dance floor at a party for the Black queer community at Nowadays, and last summer there was a wave of attacks at Happyfun Hideaway.
“We, definitely in the last year, have seen a rise in anti-LGBT violence,” Sillen said, noting that more people are taking cars to and from parties. “The streets haven’t been as safe as they were three or four years ago.”
“What we’re doing is important, and no matter what, we will be reopening,” Sillen said. “We’ve never once thought about that not being a possibility.”
Sillen, who is still on edge after the fire, said they have a message for the arsonist.
“Turn yourself in,” Sillen said. “You’ve harmed so many people. Not just physically, but the waves that this is going to create — between the loss of income, wages and just the space for as long as it’s going to be gone. … It’s a lot of loss.”
O’Keefe’s lawyer, Kevin Jacobs, accused the school of discrimination and said the school unfairly disciplined the longtime professor.
“Letting students expect a world where you may be different is the message Mr. O’Keefe wanted his students to hear. That’s the message this speaker delivered, not an advocacy of gay rights,” Jacobs said in a statement to KFOR. “Unfortunately, that’s not permitted at Oklahoma Christian University today. It cost Mr. O’Keefe his job.”
The speaker that allegedly cost O’Keefe his job was a guest in his senior-level class The Business of Branding Yourself, where one of the topics addressed was “overcoming obstacles and developing resilience and character,” according to Jacobs’ statement. The openly gay speaker, the statement noted, was also an Oklahoma Christian University alumnus and was employed as an adjunct professor at the university for nearly 20 years.
In his statement, Jacobs said his client was still “evaluating all the options he has to address this unjustified and wrongful action.”
Neither O’Keefe nor his lawyer immediately responded to requests for comment.
In an email to NBC News, the university shared a brief statement from Oklahoma Christian University lawyer Stephen Eck: “The decision to end employment was made after a thorough review process. The university will always put first the wellbeing of our students in every decision we make.”
The university also shared a link to its “mission, vision and values” statement, which read, in part: “We strive to treat our bodies with the honor due the temple of the Holy Spirit — honoring God’s plan that sexual relations be a part of a marriage between a man and a woman, dressing modestly and avoiding any self-destructive practices (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).”
Emily Thornton, a 2019 graduate of the university, said O’Keefe’s firing will be felt across the school community.
“He guides the students from start to finish,” she said, adding that he was invested in their success throughout their time at Oklahoma Christian University. “So losing him suddenly, those students are now abandoned.”
Thornton said when she was a student at Oklahoma Christian, LGBTQ students and allies were frequently targeted, with students facing the risk of expulsion for hosting LGBTQ meetings on campus. She said the school’s policies took a toll on the mental health of some of her LGBTQ classmates.
“It was tough watching some of my best friends go through that,” Thornton, 24, told NBC News. “They had a relationship with God and a relationship with someone of the same sex, and the school wasn’t accepting of that.”
“You have to give up one or the other if you’re at that school, and that’s not a decision that needs to be made, but it was being forced to be made,” she added.
Thornton also condemned the administration’s decision to fire O’Keefe as discriminatory.
“I wish they could look me in the eyes and tell me, ‘Because students are homosexual, we’re not going to accept them,’” she said. “What they’re doing is really telling the students straight up, ‘We discriminate. We don’t accept you. You’re not welcome here.’”
Miami eighth grader Zen Nelson, who is Afro Latinx and uses gender-neutral pronouns, said they have been subjected to homophobic slurs from their classmates for at least the past four years.
Zen said they didn’t bring this up to school administrators because they feared their complaints would not be taken as seriously as those of their white and wealthier peers who were harassing them.
Now, as the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, prepares to sign the the Parental Rights in Education bill — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics — Zen worries that school will become an even more hostile environment.
“Every day, every class, I make a choice on, ‘Am I going tospeak out about this?’ Zen, 13, told NBC News. “Every time, when I make that choice, it is terrifying … the passage of this bill will exacerbate everything that makes me scared to go to school.”
Students of color in Florida, like Zen, say they have been on edge as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advances in the state. The measure would ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity “in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Critics say the “age appropriate” part of the bill is overly vague and could allow the ban to be enforced well past the third grade.
This proposed legislation passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature shortly before passing of the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, or the Stop WOKE Act, which is also expected to be signed by DeSantis. This measure would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory — a decades-old academic framework that recognizes how racism is upheld in America’s institutions and policies — in grades K-12.
With more than half of Black LGBTQ students saying they feel unsafe in school due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a 2020 survey from the LGBTQ youth advocacy group GLSEN and the National Black Justice Coalition, advocates say the “Don’t Say Gay” bill will have an outsize effect on students of color.
“This legislation is a direct attack on LGBTQ+ kids, undermining their mental and emotional health, and fostering an environment of intolerance and ignorance,” David Johns, the coalition’s executive director, said in a statement, adding that Black LGBTQ kids “who already face barriers to feeling safe and supported at schools, those harms will be amplified tenfold.”
Regina Livingston, a Black transgender woman and the founder of the trans advocacy group Unspoken Treasure Society, said students of color are already scared about this proposed legislation’s effect on their safety.
“It’s going to be catastrophic,” Livingston said. “Children are panicking because they shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable in school, and I feel like this is a gateway to more to come.”
‘A form of erasure’
Tatiana Williams, executive director of Transinclusive Group, worries that the measure, once it’s enacted, will contribute to an increased risk of suicide. She also said it would make students of color feel less supported.
“All of it is a form of erasure,” Williams said. “It forces them into a place of isolation.”
According to a 2019 survey by GLSEN, the vast majority of LGBTQ students in Florida say they regularly hear anti-LGBTQ remarks from other students, with 94 percent saying they’ve heard “gay” said in a negative way, and 72 percent saying they heard negative remarks about transgender students.
Three Latino seniors at Felix Varela Senior High School in Miami, who are also part of Safe Schools South Florida, a group advocating for LGBTQ students, said the bill is causing panic.
Denise Santiago, 18, said not teaching about LGBTQ issues will only further stigmatize LGBTQ students.
“Homophobia is bullying and now homophobia can go unpunished,” Santiago said. “Now, teaching about the 80s and the HIV/AIDS epidemic and all of that is going to go like pretty much out the window.”
Sophia Ramirez, 18, slammed the bill as childish, adding that this is a step in the wrong direction.
“We will be going backwards,” Ramirez said. “It’s going to discriminate the youth and just discourage us to evolve.”
Gianna Mulle, 17, echoed these fears about the bill’s impact.
“I feel like as soon as this bill is going to be passed, I’m going to be so terrified for all of my peers,” said Mulle, who uses “she” and “they” pronouns and is a lesbian. “It’s going to hurt no matter what.”
Students push back
Earlier this month, students across Florida walked out of schools in Tampa, Orlando, Tallahassee, Miami and other cities in protest of the legislation. Javier Gomez, 17, president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Miami’s iPrep Academy, said he led a walkout to help show students that their voices matter.
“I really just wanted my school to understand how pivotal and monumental their participation is,” said Gomez, a senior, who also protested the bill at the state’s capitol. “It shows Florida legislators that this is important. This is an affected community, and we need to stand for it.”
Raymond Adderly, a senior at Fort Lauderdale High School who attended similar walkouts, said students are decrying the legislation for its outsize impact on the LGBTQ community.
“The response here has been: ‘Absolutely no, we don’t want this bill to pass. We don’t want this bill to be signed,’” Adderly, who is Black, said. “That has been the loudest cry from students across this district.”
While students are largely speaking out about the bill, Adderly said those who will not be affected by it are making jokes about it in school.
Gomez, who is gay, recalls being bullied in school for feminine characteristics. At that time, he also struggled with receiving support for his LGBTQ identity at home.
“My family was very a part of the machismo culture, and that really hurt me a lot,” he said. “I know a lot of people that come from Latin American families, and I understand their kind of really conservative views of what you can be or what you cannot be.”
However, teachers became an outlet for him after he came out, he said, adding that this provided him a sense of hope when he was in middle school.
“This is why it’s so important for counselors and teachers to have the ability to speak on this,” he said, adding that it gives LGBTQ students, “an affirming space to really talk about who they are.”
While the One Male Condom is not markedly different from the hundreds of other condoms on the market, it is the first that will be allowed to use the “safe and effective use” label for reducing sexually transmitted infections during anal sex. It is also approved for use as a contraceptive and as a means to reduce STIs during vaginal intercourse.
“This landmark shift demonstrates that when researchers, advocates, and companies come together, we can create a lasting impact in public health efforts,” Davin Wedel, president and founder of Boston-based Global Protection Corp, maker of the One Male Condom, said in a statement. “There have been over 300 condoms approved for use with vaginal sex data, and never before has a condom been approved based on anal sex data.”
Courtney Lias, director of the FDA’s Office of GastroRenal, ObGyn, General Hospital and Urology Devices, noted that the risk of STI transmission during anal intercourse is “significantly higher” than during vaginal intercourse.
“The FDA’s authorization of a condom that is specifically indicated, evaluated and labeled for anal intercourse may improve the likelihood of condom use during anal intercourse,” Lias said in a statement. “Furthermore, this authorization helps us accomplish our priority to advance health equity through the development of safe and effective products that meet the needs of diverse populations.”
Anal sex poses the highest risk for contracting HIV, with the risk of HIV transmission from receptive anal sex about 18 times higher than receptive vaginal sex. Gay and bisexual men accounted for 69 percent of the 36,801 new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Queer men of color were overrepresented within this group, with Black men representing 37 percent, Latino men representing 32 percent and white men representing 25 percent of these new diagnoses, according to the CDC.
One Male Condoms are available in standard, thin and fitted versions, and the fitted version is available in 54 different sizes.
A clinical trial of 252 men who have sex with men and 252 men who have sex with women found the One Male Condom has a failure rate of 0.68 percent for anal sex and 1.89 percent for vaginal sex, according to the FDA, which defined condom failure as condom slippage or breakage.
Dr. Will DeWitt, clinical director of anal health at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City, said the newly approved condoms could be a helpful tool for HIV/AIDS prevention.
“The hope would be that people would be more willing to use condoms for anal sex and to have that direct encouragement would increase the rates of people using them,” DeWitt said. “Condoms still remain an important tool for people who don’t want to or can’t use PrEP.”
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is typically taken in the form of a daily pill to prevent HIV/AIDS in people who are not diagnosed with the virus. Last year, the FDA also approved an injectable PrEP shot that can be given every two months.
DeWitt did, however, add that he is worried the One Male Condom name and marketing could alienate those who engage in anal sex but do not identify as male.
“Anal sex really does belong to everyone,” DeWitt said. “Even if it’s the perspective of who has to wear the condom, it’s not just male bodies and male identified folks who need to use it.”
While health experts have long encouraged the use of condoms for STI prevention through anal sex, DeWitt said FDA’s official approval is long overdue.
“Here we are in 2022, and we are only now getting condoms approved for anal sex,” DeWitt said, noting that it’s been more than three decades since the start of the HIV crisis. “It’s a little frustrating that it’s taken this long to have this kind of official endorsement.
More than 1 in 4 LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives, a new report from The Trevor Project shows, including nearly half of Native/Indigenous LGBTQ youth and nearly 40 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth.
Thirty-five percent of LGBTQ youth who are homeless and 28 percent who have experienced housing instability also reported a suicide attempt in the last year, compared to 10 percent of LGBTQ youth who are not housing insecure. Homeless LGBTQ youth are also two to four times more likely to report depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
These findings, said Jonah DeChants, one of the authors of the study and a research scientist for The Trevor Project — an LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization — “paint a pretty serious picture about the need to provide better mental health services for folks who are experiencing housing instability.”
It came as no surprise to the researchers that LGBTQ youth of color and trans and nonbinary youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness and mental health issues.
“When you start adding homophobia, plus racism or transphobia, plus anti-Indigenous racism,” DeChants said, “then we again start to see that young people who are experiencing multiple forms of marginalization and oppression — those are the folks who tend to be pushed out of housing supports and experiencing homelessness.”
Experts say the pandemic has also exacerbated housing and mental health concerns. Last year more than 80 percent of LGBTQ youth reported that the pandemic has worsened their housing situations, according to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.
“Nothing repairs the damage that is typically done by being rejected by your family, your community, the culture at large,” Bill Torres, director of drop-in support services at the Ali Forney Center in New York, one of the largest LGBTQ youth homeless shelters in the U.S., said. “In regards to the impact of how Covid is affecting everyone, it just increased those issues tenfold.”
Kate Barnhart, the executive director of New Alternatives, a drop-in crisis center for homeless LGBTQ youth and people living with HIV in New York, said the hopelessness of the pandemic is driving some suicides among clients.
“We’re seeing people who’ve gotten disconnected from their medical and their mental health services,” Barnhart said. “Telehealth is fine if you’re middle class, but if you don’t have a device, or you don’t have Wi-Fi or you’re in an eight-man room at the shelter, and you don’t have the privacy to talk to your psychiatrist … that doesn’t work that well.”
Researchers note that the passage of LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections and LGBTQ competent housing programs can help close the gaps in care.
Elisa Crespo, the executive director of the New Pride Agenda, an LGBTQ advocacy group, advised that increased access to employment and permanent housing can also help LGBTQ young adults who are experiencing homelessness.
“That means putting funding behind the implementation and education process of the policies that may already exist — so that not only young people understand their rights and protections, but housing providers understand as well,” Crespo said.
Hundreds of residents in Hastings, Minnesota, took to the streets over the weekend to rally in support of LGBTQ youth after an official’s transgender child was publicly outed.
The demonstrations in support of the child come after Concerned Parents of Hastings, a Facebook group for conservative parents, publicly outed Kit, 8, in the wake of a bitter school board election, KARE-TV, an NBC affiliate based in Minnesota, reported.
The child’s mother, Kelsey Waits, was running for re-election to the town school board in November when opponents of her campaign outed her child, who is nonbinary and uses gender-neutral pronouns. In light of the rally, Waits said she is proud that the community is denouncing the harassment.
“Seeing so many people rally behind a child is particularly meaningful. … It meant a lot to [Kit],” Waits told NBC News on Monday. “It was amazing. I would not have expected almost a thousand people to come out for my kid.”
The rally highlighted dozens of LGBTQ speakers, groups and elected officials who rallied in support of transgender children. This comes as transgender youth face a wave of anti-trans bills limiting their participation in school sports and use of bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.
In a tweet on Saturday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz voiced his support for the Waits family.
“Everyone deserves to live in a state that values them for who they are — especially our kids,” Walz, a Democrat, wrote.
One of the participants at the rally, Ren Olive, a 30-year-old transgender person, said they want Kit to continue being themself even in the face of transphobic bullying.
“My message to Kit is to don’t give up,” Olive told KARE-TV. “We’re here, we’re loud, we’re queer and we have your back.”
Before her child’s gender identity was publicly disclosed, Waits said her family “spent years trying to be incredibly private.” Following the incident, Kit has been misgendered by classmates and is experiencing more anxiety and fear, Waits said in a statement.
Waits said this is the latest in a string of harassment facing the family. She hopes the demonstrations can hold the harassers accountable and prevent future incidents.
“If we moved away and didn’t say anything, the bullies would have won,” Waits said. “What does that teach? That teaches that they can do all of these things and that there are no repercussions and that no one is going to push back against them, and that just makes them bully harder for the next person.”
One of the administrators of the Concerned Parents of Hastings Facebook group issued a statement on Tuesday denying that they harassed the family.
“Many members were confused about why they were mentioned in relation to the harassment that the Waits family had received in this town,” the administrator wrote in a Facebook post, according to a photo Waits shared with NBC News. “Many of them said they had no idea Kelsey has a transgender child, let alone bullied her or her child.”
The administrator added that the controversy stems from Wait’s position on the school board.
“The only reason Kelsey’s parental decision was a concern to the members was because she was not just an average mom, but someone who was running for a position where she would be in charge of making decisions for other parents’ children,” the administrator wrote in the same post. “Most parents in the group believe that a child needs to be mature enough to make life-altering decisions.”
Following the demonstrations, Waits said residents are reckoning with the community’s lack of action on this issue.
“It’s woken a lot of people up to their silence,” she said. “A lot of leaders in the community were aware of what was happening and did not say anything because they didn’t want it to impact them. Now they are seeing the damage that silence can cause.”
While it’s unclear whether Waits will seek legal action, she is weighing her options with the support of the Minnesota-based advocacy group Gender Justice. As a result of the alleged harassment, Waits said her family is fleeing the city.
“We need to keep this work moving forward in this community for everyone who does not have the option to leave,” Waits said. “This was the final event for us, but really this neighborhood, this house, there is a lot of trauma here. A lot of negativity has been brought into our home, and we need a fresh start for our own mental health.”