The number of queer bars is declining nationwide according to a new study examining the effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns on U.S. LGBTQ spaces. The study’s author, Greggor Mattson, a professor of Sociology at Oberlin College who also curates the Who Needs Gay Bars project on Twitter, found that between 2019 and Spring 2021, the number of gay bars in the U.S. dropped by about 15%.
Compared with the similar decline between 2017 and 2019, Mattson writes, this indicates a steady rate of decline in recent years.
Mattson and his researchers compared historical from the Damron Travel Guide and compared it to an online census of gay bars taken from February to May of 2021.
“36.6% of gay bar listings disappeared between 2007 and 2019,” Mattson tells Chicago’s ABC7 News. “So more than a third of gay bars closed in a 12-year period.”
According to the study, bars serving LGBTQ people of color fared particularly poorly, dropping by nearly 24% between 2019 and Spring 2021. Meanwhile, Mattson and his associates found that no lesbian closed during the pandemic, possibly due to “intensive media and philanthropic attention,” including from the Lesbian Bar Project.
The potential causes for the decline in gay bars around the U.S. cited by Mattson are, on their face, positive. Social equality and greater acceptance of LGBTQ people have led to more welcoming attitudes in bars that don’t cater specifically to the community, as well as a greater willingness of queer people to socialize in non-gay venues. There’s also the rise of social media and the prevalence of location-based apps like Grinder and Scruff that allow LGBTQ people to meet virtually.
The study cautions, however that “Rates of change in listings may not reflect actual changes in the number of establishments.” It also suggests that the decline in gay bar listings was not dramatically increased by the pandemic.
Still, Mattson finds the numbers troubling. “In most parts of the country, gay bars are the only public LGBTQ+ place,” he says. “In other words, they’re the only place where queer people can reliably encounter other queer people in public.”
That could certainly have larger implications for LGBTQ culture. “If the only bar with a purpose-built drag stage closes, then it leaves drag queens and drag kings without a place to practice their art,” Mattson added. “If they’re doing diverse things, then I get really sad when such a bar goes away because they’re special.”
A Wednesday morning fire in Baltimore that put three people in the hospital is being investigated as a possible hate crime, authorities told WJZ.
Based on a preliminary investigation, authorities believe someone set fire to at least one Pride flag outside a row home in the 300 block of E. 31st Street and the flames spread to the home and neighboring homes, a Baltimore Police spokesperson said.
Three victims were taken to Shock Trauma for treatment, he said. A 30-year-old woman and 57-year-old man were hospitalized in critical condition, and a 74-year-old man is in serious condition, the Baltimore City Fire Department told WJZ.
Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives unanimously voted to strike the word “homosexuality” from the state’s criminal code where it had been listed in the definition of prohibited sex acts.
Supporters say said the word doesn’t belong since being gay isn’t a crime, according to The Associated Press.
“This bill provides a long-overdue update to our crimes code to ensure nobody is prosecuted because of who they love,” state Rep. Todd Stephens, a Republican who also introduced the bill, said. “Eliminating this archaic language will also help promote a culture of acceptance and inclusion for our LGBTQ community across Pennsylvania.”
Stephens had first introduced the bill last year, according to Patch.
Pennsylvania’s law against sex work defines sexual activity so that it references “homosexual and other deviate sexual relations.”
The new definition that has been sent to the state’s Senate now reads “includes sexual intercourse and deviate sexual intercourse … and any touching on the sexual or other intimate parts of an individual for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either person,” according to the AP.
“Homosexuality” was also struck from the definition of sexual conduct, the news wire reports, in a section covering “obscene and other sexual materials and performances.”
“In this General Assembly, sadly, it’s a huge lift to merely agree that being gay shouldn’t be illegal,” Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel said.
Frankel urged lawmakers to go further and pass antidiscrimination legislation protecting LGBTQ+ people.
Another Democratic representative, Malcolm Kenyatta, agreed.
“I hope that we have these same votes for enshrining nondiscrimination protections, which we sorely need to do,” he said.
The president’s order comes during LBGTQ Pride month and as advocates fight against a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in states across the country this year — more than 320, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.
“President Biden always stands up to bullies and that’s what these extreme MAGA laws and policies do — they bully kids,” a senior administration official told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday. “Hateful, discriminatory laws that target children are out of line with where the American people are, and President Biden is going to use his executive authority to protect kids and families.”
A bulk of the bills signed into law in recent months — 24 in 13 states, according to the HRC — aim to limit access to gender affirming care for transgender youth, prohibit trans girls and women from competing on girls’ sports teams in school, and bar the instruction of LGBTQ issues in school.
Under the executive order, a coordinating committee will also be established to lead efforts across federal agencies to strengthen the collection of data on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It will also direct the Department of Health and Human Services to expand resources to address LGBTQ youth suicide and homelessness and study barriers same-sex married couples face in accessing government benefits.
Advocates have been urging public officials against using the charged rhetoric, warning that it could cause violence directed at LGBTQ Americans.
At least three LGBTQ events were targeted by white nationalist groups last weekend, with police arresting 31 people at an annual Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on charges of suspicion of conspiracy to riot. Those arrested came to the event with gas masks and shields.
The president has been urging Congress to pass comprehensive LGBTQ rights legislation in the form of the Equality Act. But after passing in the House last year, the bill stalled in the Senate. Biden again called on Congress to take action in a White House fact sheet.
Gloria Allen, a Black transgender icon and activist who dedicated her life to Chicago’s trans community, died on Monday at the age of 76.
Allen — also known as “Mama Gloria” — is believed to have died peacefully while asleep in her Chicago apartment at an LGBTQ senior residence home, according to a statement from Luchina Fisher, who directed a documentary about Allen in 2020.
Allen transitioned in the 1950s, prior to the modern LGBTQ rights movement that began with the 1969 Stonewall riots and long before the term “transgender” became mainstream. In a previous interview with NBC News, she credited her coming out to the love and support of her mother, Alma, a showgirl and former Jet magazine centerfold, and her grandmother, Mildred, a seamstress for cross-dressers and strippers.
“I didn’t have all the tools that they have out today for the younger people. So I had to do my thing, and I did it. I walked with my head up high due to my family,” she said, noting there weren’t any community centers or resources for LGBTQ people that she could readily access. “I didn’t know anything about lesbians and gays, because we didn’t have any rights back then.”
Allen worked at the University of Chicago Hospital as a licensed practical nurse and then in private homes as a nurse’s aide. But she was best known for her work in transgender activism.
More than a decade ago, as a trans elder, Allen started a charm school at Center on Halsted in Chicago to educate trans youth about etiquette and proper behavior. Her school inspired the 2015 play “Charm,” written by Philip Dawkins, which ran in Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.
Allen then rose to national prominence nearly two years ago, when she became the subject of a documentary feature “Mama Gloria.” The documentary showcased the intersection of race- and gender-based oppression, and it showed how trans people can thrive when they are loved and supported by their families.
“I want the world to know I have a life, and I have a right to be here on this planet,” Allen told NBC News shortly after the documentary’s release. “I’m happy to tell my story.”
Fisher paid tribute on Tuesday to Allen and her accomplishments for trans rights.
“Mama Gloria Allen always called me her angel. But she was my angel,” Fisher wrote on Twitter. “These last four years have been life-changing. I will carry her love and spirit with me always. RIP #mamagloria“
Tuesday’s primary elections represented significant milestones for LGBTQ candidates in California, Iowa, and Montana. In total, six candidates endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which tracks out LGBTQ elected officials nationally, advanced their campaigns to the November elections.
California saw four Victory Fund “Game Changer” candidates advance their campaigns in national and statewide races. In the state’s 41st Congressional District, out Democrat Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, won his primary and will now face off against incumbent Ken Calvert. The Victory Fund calls Calvert “one of the most anti-LGBTQ members of Congress.”
“Will’s victory sets the stage for a battle between an LGBTQ candidate and an incumbent member who opposes that candidate’s most basic rights,” the organization’s President and CEO Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement Tuesday morning. “As anti-LGBTQ bills flood legislatures across the country, voters will have the opportunity to elect someone who has made it his life’s work to increase equity in his community and fight for justice and accountability.”
In California’s newly formed 42nd Congressional District, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (D) will face off against Republican John Briscoe in November. Garcia lead with 44.7-percent of the vote according to the New York Times, indicating he could become the first LGBTQ immigrant ever elected to Congress. And Rep. Mark Takano, the Democrat incumbent representing the state’s 39th Congressional District, will advance to November’s general election.
Elsewhere in California, out incumbent state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, won his race against Republican Robert Howell, while Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin appears to have lost his bid for State Controller.
In Montana, Zooey Zephyr made history, winning the Democratic primary in the state’s 100th state district. Competing in the heavily Democratic district in November, the progressive candidate could become the first out trans woman ever elected to the Montana state legislature. If elected, Zephyr will become one of only eight out trans state legislators in the country, according to the Victory Fund.
Meanwhile, Iowa state Rep. Liz Bennett (D) advanced her candidacy in the state’s 39th senate district. Bennett remains Iowa’s only LGBTQ-identified state legislator, and if elected she will become the first LGBTQ woman ever to serve in the state’s senate.
Both Zephyr and Bennett were named “Spotlight” candidates by the Victory Fund, which provided additional support and services to their history-making campaigns.
Police in Idaho arrested 31 people who had face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, shields and an “operations plan” to riot near an LGBTQ Pride event on Saturday afternoon. Police said they were affiliated with Patriot Front, a white-supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested.
Authorities received a tip about a “little army” loading into a U-Haul truck at a hotel Saturday afternoon, said Lee White, the police chief in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a city of about 50,000 near the border with Washington. Local and state law enforcement pulled over the truck about 10 minutes later, White said at a news conference.
Many of those arrested were wearing logos representing Patriot Front, which rebranded after one of its members plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.
The men were standing inside the truck wearing khakis, navy blue shirts and beige hats with white balaclavas covering their faces when Coeur d’Alene police stopped the U-Haul and began arresting them on the side of the road.
“They came to riot downtown,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said at a news conference. All 31 were charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor, White said. The men were going through the booking process Saturday afternoon and are scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, he said.
Police led the men, one by one, to the front of patrol cars, took off their masks and then brought them to a police van. The group’s manifesto calls for the formation of a white ethnostate in the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
Right wingers and Trump cultists are flooding social media with their usual claims that Patriot Front is a secret FBI operation to make them look bad.
Patriot Front first appeared on JMG in February 2020 when over 150 members chanted “reclaim America” as they marched through Washington DC.
We heard from them again last summer when they were chased back to their U-Haul by counter-protesters in downtown Philadelphia.
The special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad in an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade ahead of Pride month highlighted the White House’s efforts in support of LGBTQ rights around the world.
Jessica Stern pointed out to the Blade the State Department’s decision to offer passports with an “X” gender marker “is an important example of how we’re expanding resources to people who are targeted because of gender identity and expression.” She also noted U.S. embassies and consulates over the last year have publicly condemned violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Andrea González, a transgender activist in Guatemala who was shot to death on June 11, 2021, near her Guatemala City home, participated in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program.
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols is among the U.S. officials who condemned González’s murder. William Popp, the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power visited the headquarters of González’s group, Reinas de la Noche, to express their condolences over her death.
The U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, condemned the so-called honor killing of Doski Azad, a trans woman whose brother reportedly shot her in the head and chest in January after she returned to the region. The State Department in May 2021 in a statement to the Blade described the so-called honor killing of Ali Fazeli Monfared, an Iranian man whose relatives murdered him after they learned he was gay, as “appalling.”
Stern noted the Biden administration’s continued support of LGBTQ rights abroad also includes marriage equality in countries where activists say such a thing is possible through legislation or the judicial process.
“The administration acknowledges that married or not, LGBTQI+ people, couples and their families deserve full equality, access to legal protections and should have their families legally recognized,” she said. “All of this is consistent with President Biden’s commitment to LGBTQI+ equality and marriage equality specifically.”
President Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House four months later named Stern, who was previously the executive director of OutRight Action International, as the next special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.
Biden, who is Catholic, was vice president in 2012 when he publicly backed marriage equality during on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He spoke in favor of the issue before then-President Obama did.
A law that allows same-sex couples to marry and adopt children took effect in Chile in March.
Same-sex couples in Switzerland will be able to legally on July 1 after voters last November overwhelmingly approved a “Marriage for All” law.
Lawmakers in Cuba continue to consider a new family code that could pave the way for marriage equality on the island. Honduran President Xiomara Castro, who took office in January, has publicly backed marriage equality in her country.
The Privy Council’s Judicial Committee in London in March upheld a Bermuda law that rescinded marriage rights for same-sex couples. The same judicial body, which is an appellate court for British territories, also ruled same-sex couples don’t have a constitutional right to marry in the Cayman Islands.
She spoke with the Blade before she traveled to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam. Stern will also visit Lithuania, Sweden and the Netherlands before she returns to the U.S. on June 8.
Malaysia is one of the upwards of 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania are three of the handful of nations in which homosexuality remains punished by death.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who is openly gay, during a May 2021 interview with the Blade said the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the Biden administration’s five priorities in its efforts to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. Stern noted that “among a wider set of priorities, marriage equality is one element of our longstanding and ongoing commitment to advance the rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
“All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, regardless of who they love,” she said.
Stern acknowledged potential critics of the White House’s efforts to champion marriage equality and other LGBTQ-specific issues around the world. Stern stressed, however, the “only thing that holds us back is hatred and intolerance.”
“We see autocracy is on the rise globally. We see that democratic institutions and democracies themselves are being undermined and we see LGBTQI+ people are often the canary in the coal mine,” she said. “We need to fight back against these homophobic and transphobic trends.”
The State Department on April 28 released a report on the implementation of Biden’s memo.
Stern noted Canada and Germany are among the other countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ rights abroad as part of their respective foreign policies.
“Every administration sets its own priorities. We know what a positive impact President Biden’s staunch support of LGBTQI+ rights has had on this community domestically and on our support for LGBTQI+ people internationally,” she said. “Thankfully, governments around the world are increasingly normalizing the idea that LGBTQI+ people are entitled to recognition under the law and affirming that their rights need to be an explicit part of a human rights agenda.”
A North Carolina teacher has resigned amid a controversy over the use of LGBTQ-themed flashcards to teach inclusivity and colours in her preschool classroom.
The preschool teacher, who has not been identified by the Wake County school system, resigned from Ballentine Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. Wake County Public School System spokesperson Lisa Luten told WRALthat the district was “concerned to learn of the inappropriate instructional resource” found in the preschool classroom.
“An initial review determined that flashcards were not tied to the district’s Pre-K curriculum, did not complement, enrich or extend the curriculum and were used without the principal’s review, knowledge and/or approval,” Luten added.
Luten also said that extra security was stationed in the school after the backlash against the LGBTQ+ flashcards.
The backlash started to mount against the school after state House speaker Tim Moore said he’d been informed about the flashcard by Republican representative Erin Paré.
Moore released a statement on Friday (27 May) in which he said a “concerned constituent” emailed Paré about the LGBTQ+ flashcards – including one he said depicted a “pregnant man” – which were being used to teach colours to kids in a preschool class.
Paré said in an interview with Fox Newsthat “loving families come in all different shapes and sizes” and that “kids need loving families right now”. But she drew the line at the card’s depiction of a pregnant person with short hair being embraced by their partner.
“But I think when you’re looking at a card in front of a preschooler that has a mommy hugging a daddy with a baby in his belly, that’s just not age-appropriate material to be showing preschoolers, and I’m glad that this principal and the district acted immediately,” Paré said.
Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert also joined the pile-on against the teacher on Twitter and alleged it was an example of how “the Left” are “grooming” children.
“A North Carolina preschool is using LGBT flag flashcards with a pregnant man to teach kids colors,” Boebert wrote. “We went from Reading Rainbow to Randy Rainbow in a few decades, but don’t dare say the Left is grooming our kids!”
But one parent has shared her devastation that her child was losing the teacher. Jackie Milazzo, who has a three-year-old son in the class, told WRAL that the preschool educator was “one of the most remarkable teachers I have ever met” and it was “such a loss for our community”.
She described how parents were crying and hugging each other after they learned that the teacher was resigning over the LGBTQ+ flashcards.
Milazzo added in a separate interview for ABC 11that the preschool kids are “being used as a publicity stunt” by conservative lawmakers.
“We are not upset about what’s in the classroom,” Milazzo said. “I know a lot of the community at Ballentine Elementary aren’t upset about this being in the classroom.”
She added that a “picture of a same-sex couple” doesn’t “make my child unsafe” but the horrific waves of hate she’s received do.
“I’ve been receiving messages that our teachers are groomers, my child is being brainwashed… like how am I supposed to feel safe sending my child to school like this?” Milazzo said.
“These actions are not supporting our schools, they’re not supporting our teachers, they’re not supporting our kids, my child has now lost his teacher.”
The backlash comes as Republican lawmakers are considering a bill (HB 755) that would prevent instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade classrooms.
The legislation – which has been dubbed a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by LGBTQ+ advocates – would also require parents to be notified if a student chooses to change their name, update their pronouns or use school counselling services.
The Reverend Vance Haywood, senior pastor of St John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, said the bill “proposes forced outing of queer kids”, the Associated Pressreported.
“It’s creating an environment where we’re telling folks that it’s not OK to be yourself,” Haywood said. “You have to hide parts of who you are.”
Support for same-sex marriage has reached an all-time high in the US, according to new polling.
Seventy-one per cent of Americans said they support same-sex marriage in Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, released Wednesday (1 June).
This is one percentage point more than last year, and the highest level of support since Gallup began asking Americans about marriage equality in 1996. That year, just 27 per cent of Americans supported same-sex unions.
According to Gallup, the statistic reflects a “steady increase [of support]among most subgroups of the population, even those who have traditionally been the most resistant to gay marriage.”
Support for same-sex marriage reached a majority among adults aged 65 or older in 2016, protestants in 2017, and Republicans in 2021.
Weekly churchgoers remain the main outlier, with 58 per cent opposing same-sex marriage.
In contrast, as of 2004, Americans that almost never attend church are the predominant supporter of same-sex marriage.
As of 2022, 82 per cent of those who seldom/never attend church support gay marriage, while 70 per cent of monthly attendees are in support.
Overall, since 2011, the majority of Americans have backed same-sex marriage. It hit 60 per cent in 2015, just one month before the historic Obergefell V. Hodges decision by the Supreme Court that guaranteed the right to same-sex marriages.
“As Gallup’s trend on support for legal same-sex marriage inches ever upward, the question is when it will reach its ceiling,” the report said.
“Some observers of the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion related to Roe V Wade in May have questioned whether an overturning of Roe would clear a path for the conservative-leaning court to also overturn Obergefell.”
“If this were to happen, the court would be moving in opposition to a public opinion trend that has shown increasing support,” it continued.
The poll is based on telephone interviews conducted every year to a random sample of 1,007 American adults, living in all 50 US states, as well as the District of Columbia. There is a 95 per cent confidence level in the report, with sampling errors at around ±4 percentage points.