When Uganda President Yoweri Museveni visited the White House during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last month, a high court had just overturned his country’s widely reviled “Anti-Homosexuality Law” which penalized “aggravated homosexuality” with life in prison, and criminalized the provision of services and support to gay people, threatening progress in that country’s long battle against HIV.
The elimination of the law, which President Barack Obama had warned Museveni would “complicate” the relationship between their two countries, allowed Museveni to focus on the summit, centered around growth, economic development, and the theme of “investing in the next generation.” In many sub-Saharan African countries, no greater threat to growth exists than the impact of HIV on human resources, development and income.
The irony is that by then, Museveni had apparently decided to sign the “HIV Prevention and Control Act,” a new setback to Uganda’s HIV fight. The law criminalizes HIV transmission and “attempted” transmission; forces involuntary testing on survivors of sexual assault, all pregnant women, and anyone who “unreasonably” withholds consent for testing; and encourages medical providers to divulge patients’ HIV status. In addition to promising a further erosion of human rights in Uganda, the law provides a powerful disincentive for Ugandans to risk criminal culpability by getting tested for HIV, or seek medical care at all. United States Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx, who leads the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Uganda’s longtime partner and funder in fighting its HIV epidemic , called on the government of Uganda to reject the bill when the parliament passed it in May.
While Museveni’s signature on the law, revealed only after the Washington summit, is dated July 31, 2014, reports say it was backdated, making it likely he signed the law after posting a photo to Twitter of himself between President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. Either way, he signed it within a few days of meeting with U.S. leaders to discuss ways to foster growth and opportunity in Africa, while being aware that his support for such legislation was in conflict with the goals of PEPFAR, and the U.S. Government.
The latest law raises questions of how many opportunities have been squandered, not just during the week of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ summit but also during the last decade of the global HIV response, to communicate the importance of human rights and sound public health approaches to “investing in the next generation.” Museveni was representing a country with grave human rights abuses enshrined in law. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who signed his country’s anti-homosexuality law earlier this year, also attended. Other leaders represented countries that already had HIV criminalization laws, as well as laws abusing the rights of gay people, women, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and migrants, and other important populations to reach if these countries hope to have lasting success in controlling their national HIV epidemics.
To communicate the link between health and human rights, however, the United States has to set a credible example. The ability to do that is challenged by HIV criminalization laws on the books of at least 33 states in this country. It also is challenged by an inconsistency. President Obama rightly issued sanctions in response to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law, and those may have factored into the nullification of that law. However, PEPFAR had by then been funding activities for a decade at the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, an organization that urged the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Law, and then celebrated when it was signed. When their funding ended in the wake of the new law, the group’s leaders claimed surprise that their stance was held against them, apparently still unaware that homophobic abuse ran counter to the mission they had been enlisted to carry out.
A decade-long public health partnership between the U.S. and African countries should have clarified, by words, actions and example, that human rights are critical to success in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the world, particularly in those countries hardest hit by the epidemic. Any new public health partnerships must make this a priority.
Kenneth Mayer, MD is founder, Co-Chair, and Medical Research Director of The Fenway Institute, the research, training and health policy division of Fenway Health, an ambulatory facility caring for HIV-infected patients. He is also a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health; attending physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston where he serves as director of HIV Prevention Research; and serves as co-chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Center for Global Health Policy that focuses on the U.S. response to HIV and TB globally.
In a gracious and surprising move, the president of the nation’s largest LGBT organization offered an apology to the transgender community at the same time he said the group would take a lead in advocating fully comprehensive federal LGBT civil-rights legislation.
“I want to cut right to the chase here today,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in Atlanta Friday, September 5, addressing several hundred people at the annual Southern Comfort conference, a major gathering for transgender people.
“There’s an elephant in this room, and, well, it’s me,” he said.
“So I am here today, at Southern Comfort, to deliver a message. … HRC has done wrong by the transgender community in the past, and I am here to formally apologize,” said Griffin.
As he explained, “I am sorry for the times when we stood apart when we should have been standing together.
“Even more than that, I am sorry for the times you have been underrepresented or unrepresented by this organization. What happens to trans people is absolutely central to the LGBT struggle. And as the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, HRC has a responsibility to do that struggle justice, or else we are failing at our fundamental mission.”
Griffin’s speech also decried violence against transgender people, calling it a “national crisis.” He listed a number of ways HRC is working toward transgender equality in the workplace and toward raising the visibility of transgender persons through story telling. Griffin asked that both he and HRC be held “accountable.”
He reaffirmed that HRC would continue to press for a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace bias on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
But Griffin also pledged support for broader protections.
In the next Congress, he said, “HRC will lead the campaign for a fully-inclusive, comprehensive, LGBT civil rights bill. A bill with non-discrimination protections that don’t stop at employment, but that finally touch every aspect of our lives – from housing, to public accommodations, to credit, to federal funding, to the education we all need to succeed and thrive.
“And I’m going to keep being honest with you, this is not going to be an easy fight.”
HRC posted the text of Griffin’s 2,400-word speech on the organization’s blog (http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/speaking-at-southern-comfort-2014).
A healing speech
HRC has long had a fraught relationship with the transgender community. Some progress was made by former leader Elizabeth Birch, when in 2003 the organization added the “T” to its goals and ostensibly included the entire LGBT community. But HRC has regularly been criticized for not reaching out to trans groups and not having many trans people on its board. Currently HRC has at least one trans-identified board member, Meghan Stabler of Austin, Texas.
In addressing Southern Comfort, Griffin aimed to heal the most recent rift between HRC and the transgender community, which dates back to 2007. That year Joe Solmonese, then HRC president, told Southern Comfort attendees that the organization would advocate federal employment protections, fully inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.
But when former Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) said that ENDA with gender identity provisions would not pass in Congress, HRC followed his lead and supported a measure inclusive only of protections for sexual orientation. Many transgender people felt betrayed by HRC’s backing of Frank, and a deep, if not bitter, divide ensued.
Locally, trans leaders attended what they described as an “angry and tense” meeting in January 2008 when Solmonese came to San Francisco to meet with them in an effort to mend fences.
More recently, while ENDA passed the Senate on November 7, 2013 by a 64-32 vote, marking the first time that legislative body approved federal civil rights legislation banning anti-LGBT employment bias, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said repeatedly that he would not bring ENDA to a vote, claiming the legislation is unnecessary and would lead to frivolous litigation.
Meanwhile, a growing number of national and statewide LGBT organizations, including the Transgender Law Center and National Center for Lesbian Rights, have come out against the proposed ENDA, saying that while it bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the federal law also would allow religious organizations to discriminate against LGBTs even in non-ministerial or pastoral capacities.
Currently, 21 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, with 17 states and D.C. also barring discrimination based on gender identity.
Transgender activists, leadership pleased
Transgender activists and organizational leaders said they are heartened by Griffin and HRC’s reconciliatory outreach. Those who spoke with the Bay Area Reporter were not at the conference, but all were aware of Griffin’s remarks.
“I believe Griffin’s speech may well prove a milestone in the relationship between HRC and the trans community, if the organization follows through on its promises,” said North Brunswick, New Jersey-based Rebecca Juro, a transgender woman, freelance journalist, and radio talk show host, who has often been critical of HRC.
In email correspondence, she added, “I think the greatest sense of betrayal felt by the trans community about HRC revolves around the organization’s advocacy in the past of legislation that didn’t include gender identity and expression protections. Griffin not only pledged that the organization would only support fully-inclusive legislation, but also announced an effort to pass an omnibus bill that would include protections not only for LGBT people in employment, but also in housing, health care, credit, public accommodations, federal funding, and education. I believe that’s important, particularly because it challenges the notion that the piecemeal approach to LGBT rights we’ve seen thus far at the federal level is the only way to go.”
Transgender activist, blogger, and columnist Autumn Sandeen of San Diego also voiced praise for HRC’s bridge-building gesture.
“Chad Griffin apologizing to trans people, identifying a path to change the relationship between the HRC and trans community, and then asking to hold the HRC and him to account is important,” she said in an email. “That he made the apology where one of the HRC’s most significant breakings of faith toward trans community began as well signals a real sincerity. I’m hopeful – I’m optimistic – that Chad Griffin and the HRC will make good on this Southern Comfort conference delivered promise to trans community.”
Some local trans leaders said the apology was “overdue.”
Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center Photo: Courtesy TLC
Masen Davis, executive director of the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, said in a phone interview that he was “very impressed by the content and what seemed to be the spirit behind the speech at Southern Comfort,” even though “it was in many ways long overdue to approach the transgender community and apologize for what happened in 2007.”
“While that debacle did not happen on Chad’s leadership, I thought it was an important step forward to acknowledge it and pledge to work differently with the transgender community,” Davis added.
With respect to ENDA, Davis said TLC is supportive of “any effort to secure strong [employment] non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the federal level” provided that the protections “are strong and that they stand the test of time and protect all members of our community, including those who work for religious institutions.”
He also voiced support for Griffin’s call for an omnibus, federal LGBT civil rights measure.
“I am a big believer that we have an important responsibility to ensure that our communities get the protections that they need,” Davis said. “Obviously, employment is so critical, but employment is just one of the many areas that we need to make sure our people are protected.”
Davis cited other areas, including housing discrimination, health care discrimination and discrimination in credit.
“All areas of life where LGBT people run into challenges and to the extent that the federal government has any jurisdiction,” he said.
Davis acknowledged that it will likely take time before a broader LGBT civil rights law is passed in Congress.
“It may take time for that to be crafted and get the champions we need for its passage,” Davis said. “But it wasn’t that long ago that people were concerned that marriage would not get the support it needed, and here we are with a slew of marriage victories. I think we need to set high standards for ourselves and our community and start putting forward the kinds of legal support we need and deserve.”
Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Griffin’s speech was “an important moment in HRC’s relationship with the transgender community.”
“It took guts for Chad to acknowledge that HRC has made some past mistakes without attempting to gloss over the pain and mistrust those mistakes have caused,” Minter said in an email. “I give him huge credit for stepping up and taking that on, even though he was not at the helm when those mistakes were made. That shows true leadership and foresight. I think his remarks were heartfelt and that he is genuinely committed to including transgender people in HRC’s work, which is essential if we are to continue to make progress.”
Looking beyond Griffin’s Southern Comfort speech, Minter said that “the biggest challenge for HRC and all of the national organizations in doing effective advocacy for transgender people is to find ways to stay in touch with what is happening on the ground and to support local transgender activism and leaders, especially transgender leaders of color who far too often are passed over when it comes to funding, visibility, and credit.”
In his remarks, Griffin mentioned the leadership of Davis and Minter, among others, as an “inspiration” to the LGBT movement and “to me personally,” he said.
Marichuy Leal Gamino is a 23-year-old transgender woman who has spent more than a year living in an immigration detention facility, housed with men. Though she spent most of her life growing up in Arizona, she was born a Mexican citizen, making her an undocumented immigrant. After repeatedly experiencing harassment and threats of abuse, she says she was sexually assaulted last week by her cellmate. When she reported the abuse to the staff of the for-profit facility, they allegedly responded by asking her to sign a statement claiming that she had consented.
A number of LGBT and immigrant rights groups are lifting up Gamino’s story as an example of the many flaws in current immigration policy, as well as the disparate impact that detention has on LGBT immigrants. A growing coalition has signed onto a petition calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release Gamino from the Eloy Detention Center. In the coalition’s letter, Francisco Luna of Arcoiris Liberation Team asserts that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “has shown that they are incapable of ensuring Marichuy’s protection from future assaults or retaliation for reporting the awful sexual abuse she has survived.”
It’s been over two years since DHS announced it would begin implementing new guidelines from the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in its immigration detention and holding facilities. These guidelines, finalized nine years after PREA’s passage in 2003, call for specific protections for LGBT detainees, including training for facility staff and reporting structures to catch if LGBT inmates are being targeted for their identities.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the private for-profit that owns and manages the Eloy Detention Center, claims to abide by PREA’s requirements. CCA’s Human Rights Policy includes protections based on sex and gender, and it also maintains a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual abuse and sexual harassment. That policy includes guidance that transgender detainees will be considered for housing on a case-by-case basis to “ensure the inmate/resident’s health and safety.”
According to Gamino’s report of her experience in the center, these guidelines were clearly not followed. Despite identifying as a woman in name and appearance, she has been housed with men for the entirety of her detainment — over a full year. According to the Transgender Law Center, which has been lifting up Gamino’s story using the #FreeMarichuy hashtag on Twitter, she experienced weeks of “bullying, lewd comments, and threats of rape” from her cellmate, all of which she reported to detention officers, who told her to “deal with it.” After she was raped, she was not only pressured to admit that she consented to it, but she “has still been offered no real recourse or assurance that her safety will be protected.” CCA did not immediately reply to a ThinkProgress inquiry regarding Gamino’s situation, but told the Phoenix New Times that the allegations will be investigated. ICE also confirmed that the Eloy Detention Center has been inspected and found in compliance with PREA standards.
A congressional mandate requires that 34,000 immigrants be held in detention facilities every day. Because many LGBT people flee countries where laws criminalize their identities, they are more likely to be swept up in this quota. A Center for American Progress report details how these LGBT detainees are unfairly treated in immigration detention facilities, including sexual assaults that took place in the same facility where Gamino is held. Transgender detainees are also often forced into solitary confinement instead of being housed with the gender by which they identify.
The Government Accountability Office found that between October 2009 and March 2013, 40 percent of sexual assault allegations were never reported to ICE. That’s because ICE field officers were not complying with reporting requirements, and because detainees were not even able to report their abuse due to an ineffective hotline. Of the 215 investigations during that time, only 7 percent were substantiated.
Conducted by Australia’s University of Melbourne, the new research aimed to “describe the physical, mental and social wellbeing” of children with gay and lesbian parents, and “the impact that stigma has on them.” On average, children raised by same-sex couples scored six percent higher than the general population when it came to general health and family cohesion.
Meanwhile, in other categories — such as behavior, mental health and self-esteem — those children reportedly scored the same as those raised by heterosexual parents.
“It appears that same-sex parent families get along well and this has a positive impact on health,” Dr. Simon Crouch from the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, Centre for Health Equity at the University of Melbourne, told CNBC of the results.
Crouch believes that an emphasis on skills, as opposed to traditional gender roles, accounted for the survey’s results.
“So what this means is that people take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes,” he is quoted as saying. “What this leads to is a more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and wellbeing.”
You can read more about the new research here.
The study comprised input from 500 children and 315 parents who are in same-sex relationships, and seemed mostly in line with previous research. Earlier this year, a Williams Institute report found that children of lesbians reported having higher self-esteem and lower conduct problems than those of heterosexual couples.
A 2012 study, “Adolescents with Lesbian Mothers Describe Their Own Lives,” found that teens with two moms maintained solid high school GPAs while having strong family bonds with their mothers, according to CBS Las Vegas.
We can’t expect to get appropriate care from our health providers if we don’t come out to them. Conversely, our providers have to be well-versed in the healthcare needs of LGBT people. Aside from our spouses, significant others, or romantic partners, our providers are the people who most need to be aware of our gender identity, sexuality, and sexual behavior.
The reason for this is simple: As lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people, we face unique health challenges, and the only way our providers can give us the best care possible is if they are aware of issues impacting us that range from coming out to the desire to raise a family.
Although it makes little sense to talk about LGBT people as if we form one monolithic community, it is true that LGBT people as a group face stigma and discrimination — and even bias within the healthcare system — that negatively impacts health. In childhood and adolescence, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are at an increased risk for suicide attempts and depression, and evidence is emerging that the same holds true for youth who are transgender. Up to 40 percent of youth who are homeless and living without a parent or adult guardian are LGBT.
In early and middle adulthood, LGBT adults experience more mood and anxiety disorders than the general population, and gay and bisexual men are at least 44 times more vulnerable to HIV infection than the general population. It is estimated that the rates of HIV among transgender women is nearly 20 percent, and greater than 50 percent in transgender women of color. Transgender adults also face higher rates of homelessness, unemployment, and violence than the general population.
In order to give care that is personalized to your needs, or make referrals to specialists who are LGBT-friendly, your healthcare provider needs to know your sexual orientation and your gender identity. But quality health care isn’t just about treating or preventing illness; it is also about comprehensive care that supports you in mind, body, and spirit. It means having conversations about your intimate relationships, conversations about parenting, and conversations about marriage.
Having such frank discussions with a professional you may only see a few times a year in a clinical setting isn’t easy. This is why the National LGBT Health Education Center at The Fenway Institute launched its “Do Ask, Do Tell” campaign with tips on how to come out to healthcare providers. We’ve created brochures in English and Spanish (scroll down to the “Patient Handouts” section) detailing the importance of making discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity as routine as discussions about aches and pains and exercise regimens. Beyond our website, you can also find the brochures at health clinics and doctors’ offices across the country.
It’s important to remember that conversations with your clinician are confidential, and there are laws and policies in place in every state to keep your medical information private. If you still have privacy concerns, you always have the option of asking your provider not to enter some of the personal information you disclose into your medical record.
One critical tip about coming out to your provider: Be patient. If your healthcare provider uses the wrong terms or pronouns in reference to you or your spouse, simply let them know how you describe yourself and what terms you and your partner(s) prefer, and they should start to use those words. Although you should not necessarily be in the position of having to teach your healthcare provider, sometimes that is simply going to be the case. Most providers will be grateful for the education and apply it elsewhere in their practice.
To get the care you deserve, you need to take charge. Coming out to your healthcare provider is an important step in that process.
U.S. health officials on Wednesday issued new recommendations urging healthcare workers to consider offering an HIV prevention pill to healthy individuals who are at substantial risk for HIV infection.
The strategy builds on a landmark 2010 study that found Gilead Sciences Inc’s Truvada – a pill already widely used to treat the human immunodeficiency virus – was more than 90 percent effective at preventing HIV infections among test subjects who took the drug as prescribed.
According to the new guidelines, healthcare providers should consider PrEP for anyone who meets specific risk criteria, such as being in a relationship with an HIV-infected partner or having sex without condoms with partners known to be at risk for HIV, such as injecting drug users.
The guidelines offer the first comprehensive guidance from the CDC, replacing interim guidance that emerged after studies showed PrEP to be effective in different patient populations.
The CDC now estimates as many as 275,000 uninfected gay men and 140,000 heterosexual couples, in which one partner is HIV-infected, could benefit from PrEP.
Some 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV, and new infections are estimated at 50,000 each year.
NCTE welcomes guidance issued today by the U.S. Department of Education which makes clear that the federal Title IX law prohibits discrimination against transgender students. The guidance, from the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), states: “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation.”
“This announcement is a breakthrough for transgender students, who too often face hostility at school and refusal by school officials to accept them for who they truly are,” said NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin. “It is now clearer than ever that schools nationwide are responsible for ensuring that transgender students are respected and safe, and students can seek protection from the Department of Education and the courts if schools fail to do so.”
Recent research indicates that 80% of transgender students feel unsafe at school because of who they are [GLSEN 2012]. While the guidance does not address specific forms of discrimination against transgender students, recent actions by the Departments of Justice and Education make clear that schools must provide equal access to all school facilities and programs consistent with a student’s gender identity. A 2013 federal settlement with the Arcadia, California school district, on behalf of a transgender boy excluded from school restrooms and field trip accommodations, requires school officials to treat the student as male for all purposes. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued guidance stating the nondiscrimination based on gender identity requires domestic violence shelters and other grantees under the Violence Against Women ACT (VAWA) to provide equal access consistent with a person’s gender identity.
This historic statement on gender identity is embedded in a larger guidance document on the responsibilities of schools to prevent and respond to sexual violence against any studentâ€”part of a package of guidance and resources announced by the Obama Administration today to address this widespread problem. Also being launched is a new website, NotAlone.gov, collecting resources for students and schools and reporting settlements with schools related to sexual violence on campus. NCTE applauds the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the federal agencies involved in this effort.
“Sexual violence in schools is shockingly common in the U.S. and needs to stop,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “That the Federal Government is addressing sexual violence is so important. And it is also important, and honestly a relief, that the Department of Education is clarifying Title IX in a way that will make schools safer for transgender students.”
While the Department of Education took the opportunity of issuing the sexual violence guidance to also clarify that transgender students are protected under Title IX, this protection is not limited to the context of physical or sexual violence and extends to all forms of discrimination in education. NCTE has long pressed for this guidance along with other LGBT advocates, and now urges the Department of Education to issue further detailed guidance on the rights of transgender students.
To ensure compliance with Title IX, NCTE urges schools to use our Model School District Policy on Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students, developed by NCTE and our partners at GLSEN, to update their own policies. Students or anyone aware of discrimination based on gender identity can file a complaint with the Department of Education at https://ocrcas.ed.gov/.
To learn more or to speak with Mara Keisling or Harper Jean Tobin, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / email@example.com / 202-631-9640.
April 28, 2014
The Pentagon today released the Human Goals Charter, a document that outlines the guiding principles for the treatment of Department of Defense uniform and civilian workforce that, for the first time, affirms gay and lesbian military service members.
In response to the absence of the inclusion of transgender people in the document, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:
“While this is a positive step, it’s very disappointing that the Department of Defense (DOD) missed this opportunity to make clear its commitment to equal opportunity for transgender civilian workers. Transgender civilian workers at the Department of Defense are protected under sex discrimination laws because EEOC precedent makes clear that sex discrimination law protect transgender workers in all federal civilian contexts including the Department of Defense. We hope the Department will make this explicit in its civilian EEO policy, and will soon review the outdated rules, and remove the prejudice from those rules, that prevent transgender service members from serving openly and safely.
Another obvious deficiency in federal employment policy that can and should be addressed immediately is the President should sign the Executive Order that will explicitly disallow job discrimination by federal contractors including military contractors.”
To speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-631-9640.
LGBT Advocates Commend New VAWA Non-Discrimination Guidance, Urge Other Federal Agencies to Follow Lead
April 24, 2014
As advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, we applaud the Department of Justice for issuing strong implementing guidelines for the historic non-discrimination provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), ensuring that LGBT survivors of violence receive equal services and treatment free from unlawful discrimination. The recently released Frequently Asked Questions about the new provisions are precedent-setting and will be a guide for other federal agencies on how to implement LGBT non-discrimination provisions. These provisions mark the first ever explicit protections from discrimination for LGBT people under federal law.
This guidance is a significant step forward because it makes clear that federal tax dollars under VAWA can’t be used to discriminate against LGBT people. If a grantee receives any funding under VAWA, all activities of that entity are covered by the non-discrimination mandate (including employment), as well as activities that aren’t related to or funded by the Department of Justice. This is hugely important because VAWA funding is disbursed to many agencies and programs around the country, including many rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, legal services, housing programs, education and prevention campaigns, courts, prosecutors, police and sheriff’s departments, as well as state agencies that administer VAWA funds.
As part of this guidance, the Office of Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice (OVW) announced a framework for analyzing the limited conditions for services that are segregated or specific to gender and prohibited justifications based on overbroad assumptions or past practice. In the limited case where gender-segregated services are proven to be essential, meaningful comparable services must be provided. The policy is also historic because it is the first time a federal agency has clearly stated that non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity means that all transgender people are to be housed and provided with other services according to their self-identified gender. The guidance makes clear that transgender people can’t be turned away or treated differently just because another client complains about being around a transgender person, and that staff cannot ask invasive personal questions to get a transgender person to “prove” their gender.
We urge the Department of Justice to formalize this historic guidance in binding regulations, as is standard practice with other major civil rights laws. We look forward to other federal agencies following the lead of the Department of Justice and applying similar interpretations of other laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Is it a violation of a 16-year-old’s rights to place her in a prison with adult inmates even though she has not been charged with any crime?
Her treatment is appropriate and legal because she has “an extensive history of violence” against staffers and other residents of psychiatric facilities, according to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
The youth is a female transgender child who was born male but identifies as a female. In court documents she is identified as Jane Doe in order to protect her identity.
She has been in DCF custody since age 5. A legal complaint filed in federal court by attorney Aaron J. Romano and the girl’s affidavit describe a series of hellishly violent homes in which she has lived off-and-on since that age.
“I was placed in DCF custody because my father was incarcerated and my mother was using heroin, crack, alcohol and possibly other drugs,” the girl wrote.
“While in DCF custody, I have suffered immensely,” she added. “I feel that DCF has failed to protect me from harm and I am now thrown into prison because they have refused to help me.”
The federal court complaint was filed against DCF and its commissioner, Joette Katz, as well as against the state Department of Correction and its commissioner, James Dzurenda.
Romano charged: “While under the supervision and care of DCF, from ages eight through 16, Jane Doe was repeatedly drugged, beaten, raped, homeless and was being commercially sexually exploited.”
DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt issued a statement noting a Superior Court judge April 8 ordered the girl transferred from DCF and the state’s juvenile justice system to DOC custody and thus to York Correctional Institution in East Lyme, a women’s prison, because of her alleged violent attacks on others.
The DCF said, “We are sensitive to the traumatic and difficult experiences the youth has encountered over her life.”
But the agency’s statement added: “The judge who issued the transfer order heard evidence over a six-day period in which there was ample evidence provided by numerous witnesses stating under oath that the youth has a propensity for violence.”
“The youth has an extensive history of violence, including targeting female staff at several programs as well as other girls in the programs,” DCF said.
According to DCF, this included: stabbing a female peer with a fork; four assaults or threats on female staffers as well as an assault on a female peer resident at the Bridgeport Detention Center; and 10 assaults and several attempted assaults on staffers at the Solnit Psychiatric Center.
The most recent violent episode, DCF stated, came at a Massachusetts residential program where the youth assaulted a female staffer, “breaking her jaw and temporarily blinding her in one eye.”
DCF described her as “uniquely dangerous, in that no other youth at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School has exhibited such a long-established pattern of assaults.”
But Romano said, “Victims of violent sexual abuse frequently will exhibit aggression because they misinterpret signals.” Commenting on the Massachusetts episode, he said, “She was walking away (from an encounter), calming herself down, when a staff member came from behind and put her in a bear hug. She interpreted this as an attack.”
Romano said the youth is “in lockdown” at York’s mental health unit for 22-23 hours daily in order to keep her separated from others. “Her condition is deteriorating. She is receiving no counseling, nothing,” he said, as of last Wednesday.
The DCF statement said the youth will be allowed to participate in group activities, including education and treatment programs.
DOC spokesman Andrius Banevicius said, “We’re not going to comment on conditions or anything generally surrounding this situation. Since this would be in an article about Jane Doe, I’m not at liberty to say anything.”
Romano said the girl should be in a treatment center with a peer group and adult mentors rather than a prison. “She’s in a setting where aggression is the norm. Why would you put a child you want to reform in an aggressive setting where that’s encouraged?”
In her affidavit, the girl described her conditions: “During the day and night, I can hear the adult inmates screaming, banging and crying. I find it difficult to fall asleep.”
“I can feel myself growing more and more isolated, frustrated and feeling alone in my current isolation,” she wrote. “I need to be given treatment and services specific to my needs. I need to deal with the trauma I’ve experienced in my life. This prison cannot do that for me.”
The only positive comment in her nine-page affidavit was her saying: “I have been provided with hormone treatments through DCF to further develop physical characteristics, including breasts.”
Romano said only once before in Connecticut has a judge granted DCF permission to transfer custody to DOC.
In his legal complaint, Romano charged the state law used to transfer the girl is illegal because it violates two federal laws: the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act and the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Romano is seeking to have a federal judge overturn the youth’s “unconstitutional transfer” by DCF to DOC. The complaint also seeks an order requiring DCF “to institute programming specific to the treatment and rehabilitation of transgender youth and children, which Doe would be permitted to attend.”
A new study by England’s University of Westminster found what appears to be a disturbing uptick in the number of young gay men who find unprotected sex with a stranger “exciting.”
The study, first published in Pink News, found that a staggering 70 percent of young gay men surveyed in London said they believed sex without condoms is more pleasurable. Meanwhile, 94 percent of respondents said they were more likely to have unprotected sex with a stranger if he was good-looking.
One HIV-positive participant, identified simply as 25-year-old Jason from London, described his “addiction” to the gay networking app Grindr in an interview with Pink News.
“I was constantly checking it meeting guys to have sex with,” he said. “It became a habit and I spent all my free time and days off meeting and having sex, then going to group sex parties where I tried drugs and had long sessions of unprotected sex with guys often not aware of what was happening.”
Read more about the survey here.
The results are in line with a January survey similarly focused on gay and bisexual men who use apps such as Grindr, Scruff and Manhunt to meet sexual partners, which found that nearly half had engaged in unprotected sex.
Conducted by New York’s Community Healthcare Network (CHN), “Zero Feet Away: Perpective on HIV/AIDS and Unprotected Sex in Men Who Have Sex With Men Utilizing Location-based Mobile Apps” found that although 80 percent of respondents said they were knowledgable in how the HIV virus was transmitted, 46.4 percent admitted to having bareback sex always, often or sometimes.
Meanwhile, barebacking is also the subject of “Chaser,” a new short film by director Sal Bardo.
“I had encountered young men…who were seeking to have unprotected sex with the objective of being infected with HIV,” Bardo, who also co-produced the movie, told HuffPost Live earlier this month. “So it was something I was simultaneously intrigued by and a little disturbed by.”