To join the Spahr Senior GroupMonday, 7 to 8 pm,click the purple button below the Butterfly Heart.New participants are warmly welcomed!
Topical Thursdays12:30 to 2 pm January 7 Nancy Flaxman Facilitates! TransitionsWhen I first began working in the LGBT senior program, I was struck by how many people I met with individually who told me that their life was in transition. In my early 40’s, I thought somehow when we reach our 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, we arrive. I then realized that we are always changing and evolving. How is your life in transition?
Check-in Mondays7 to 8 pm We catch up with each other on how we’re doing and have unstructured conversations focused on listening and deepening community.
Jerry Schmitz can be reached at email@example.comDebbie Alcouloumre at firstname.lastname@example.org We encourage you to consider offering a song or a poem, play a favorite piece of music or maybe a tap dance, comedy routine or drag number. Jerry, our impresario, is incredibly skilled and patient in recording our acts on zoom well ahead of the show, making sure we performers are satisfied with the result. He will then strings them together to be shown in late February.
The Social Committee has been consistently offering fun events to offset the boredom of the pandemic. They want to celebrate your birthday if you’ll let them know when it is. They offer a women’s coffee plus a number of times to gather on zoom over games and conversation. In January, they are offering Farkle Fridays with Elizabeth, a Games Day, a Women’s Coffee, and a Birthday Celebration of everyone born in January on zoom, 1/12. Let them know your birthday date to be included! If you love movies, you’ll be sure to want to participate in their Special Event of the month at 3pm on January 19! To see their January flyer, click here. (note: the flyer date for the birthday celebration isn’t correct…)To sign up for their emails, click here.
Resiliency in the Time of CoronavirusHere’s a great article in a recent Marin IJ that provides us with strategies to cope with our current circumstances, developing creative ways to engage with our lives and each other as we move into winter here.
Tis the season of hope and connectedness. Tis also, unfortunately, tis the season of scams – especially those aimed at us seniors. AARP has good advice for ways we can protect ourselves here.
The Spahr Center has a number of tablets, i.e., small mobile computers, available to give to seniors for free!We’re also seeking ways to help teach seniors how to use them. If you would like to receive a tablet, please let Bill know: 415/450-5339 or email@example.com. The tablet would enable you to join our senior groups on zoom with video as well as access other parts of the internet. Please Note: We’re hoping to have the tablets individuals have requested begin to be available next week.
Also in this email (below):Spahr has skilled therapists ready to work with seniors on a sliding-scale basis.Rental Assistance available.Nutrition ResourcesBisexual Support zoom group forming through The Spahr Center.
Building Community in the Midst of Sheltering-in-PlaceSee old friends and make new ones! Join us!The Spahr Center’s LGBT Senior Discussion Groupscontinue everyMonday, 7 to 8 pm& Thursday, 12:30 to 2 pm on zoom
To Join Group by Video using Computer, Smart Phone or TabletJust click this button at the start time, 6:55 pm Mondays / 12:25 pm Thursdays:Join GroupAlways the same link! Try it, it’s easy!
To Join Group by Phone CallIf you don’t have internet connections or prefer joining by phone,call the following number at the start time,6:55 pm Mondays / 12:25 pm Thursdays:1-669-900-6833The Meeting id is 820 7368 6606#(no participant id required)The password, if requested, is 135296# If you want to be called into the group by phone, notify Bill Blackburn at 415/450-5339
Spahr’s skilled therapists are available to work with seniors on a sliding-scale basis. Write firstname.lastname@example.org. A Bisexual Support Group is forming with The Spahr Center, facilitated by a therapist. Let Bill Blackburn know if you are interested. Whistlestop, recently renamed Vivalon, provides access to resources including rides for older adults. Please note: there is a 3-week registration process for the ride program so register now if you think you may need rides in the future. They also offer free classes on zoom including zumba, yoga, chair exercises, & ukulele! Click here. Adult and Aging Service’s Information and Assistance Line, providing information and referrals to the full range of services available to older adults, adults with disabilities and their family caregivers, has a new phone number and email address: 415/473-INFO (4636) 8:30 am to 4:30 pm weekdays473INFO@marincounty.org
The Spahr Center is opening its Food Pantryto seniors who need support in meeting their nutrition needs. We want to help! Items such as fresh meats, eggs and dairy, prepared meals, pasta, sauces, and canned goods are delivered weekly to people who sign up. Contact The Spahr Center for more information: email@example.com or 415/457.2487
Questions? Assistance? We have resources and volunteers for:grocery deliveryfood assistancehelp with technology issues such as using zoomproviding weekly comfort calls to check in on youtherapy with Spahr therapists on a sliding scale basisplus more!
Nicholas Yatromanolakis has become the first ever openly gay cabinet minister in Greece after he was named deputy minister of culture on Monday (4 January).
Yatromanolakis was promoted from his previous role of general secretary at the ministry as a part of prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ cabinet reshuffle.
The prime minister left most key cabinet officials in place, with both the ministers for health and finance remaining in their positions, the Associated Pressreports.
Yatromanolakis and other ministers in the centre-right government will be sworn in on Tuesday, according to local media reports.
The new deputy minister of culture has been a vocal supporter of LGBT+ rights throughout his career, according to Greek website Ta Nea.
LGBT+ people have celebrated the promotion of Nicholas Yatromanolakis
His appointment has been heralded as a victory for LGBT+ visibility, with many praising the deputy minister of culture for representing queer people at the highest echelons of Greek politics.
Yatromanolakis, who regularly posts snaps of his rescue dog Vrasidas and his cat Patrick on Instagram, studied political science and international relations at Panteion University in Greece, before heading to the United States for a master’s in public policy from Harvard.
Throughout his time in government, Yatromanolakis has advocated for the rights of children and has advocated for the advancement of LGBT+ rights.
He has also been vocal in urging Greeks to wear face masks in public in an effort to stem rising coronavirus cases.
Yatromanolakis’ appointment comes after several years of advancements in LGBT+ rights in Greece. Same-sex unions have been legally recognised since 2015 – however, full marriage equality is not yet a reality.
There was also a significant advancement in trans rights in 2017, when transgender people were finally granted the right to have their gender legally recognised without undergoing gender affirmation surgery.
A prominent transgender activist in Colombia died on Saturday.
Laura Weinstein, director of Fundación Grupo de Acción y Apoyo a Personas Trans (GAAT), a trans rights group based in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, passed away four days after she was hospitalized with difficulty breathing.
“I have been hospitalized since yesterday because of breathing difficulties,” tweeted Weinstein on Dec. 31. “They gave me a COVID test and we are waiting for the results, but not being able to breath is something that I never wish upon anyone.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=mklavers81&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1344582721356656641&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonblade.com%2F2021%2F01%2F02%2Fprominent-transgender-activist-in-colombia-dies%2F&siteScreenName=WashBlade&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px
Wilson Castañeda Castro, director of Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBTQ advocacy group that works in areas along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, on Saturday told the Washington Blade that Weinstein’s coronavirus test came back negative.
Weinstein had previously fought cancer. Castañeda told the Blade her health had deteriorated in recent months.
“We mourn the death of GAAT Director Laura Weinstein,” tweeted Caribe Afirmativo on Saturday. “The joint work and collaborative effort for all these years forged a great friendship between us and her! We are devastated.”
Castañeda told the Blade that GAAT and Caribe Afirmativo in November requested Colombia’s National Electoral Council develop protocols to ensure trans Colombians can vote, regardless of their gender identity.
Weinstein over the last year worked with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to reduce HIV rates among Venezuelans who have migrated to Colombia. Castañeda said she worked with trans women and in particular sex workers.
Castañeda noted Weinstein a few months ago launched a campaign in Bogotá to support trans women and Venezuelan migrants. Weinstein was also among the Colombian LGBTQ activists who backed the 2016 peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that ended the country’s decades-long civil war.
“We will always remember her as a great ally, friend and tireless worker for human rights,” tweeted Colombia Diversa, another Colombian LGBTQ advocacy group.
Tatiana Piñeros, a trans woman who ran for the Colombian Senate in 2018, described Weinstein’s death to the Blade as a “big loss.” Mauricio Toro, who is the first openly gay man elected to the Colombian House of Representatives, is among those who also mourned Weinstein’s passing.
“Her fight and her inspiration will endure forever,” he tweeted.
The coronavirus pandemic was the dominant international story in 2020, but other news impacted the LGBTQ community around the world over the past year. Here are our picks for top 10 international stories of 2020.
No. 10: Anti-democracy crackdown looms over Hong Kong Gay Games
Organizers of the 2022 Gay Games that are slated to take place in Hong Kong insist the event will take place as scheduled, despite ongoing human rights abuses in the former British colony.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government continues to target pro-democracy protesters. The U.S. and other countries have criticized the crackdown.
Shiv Paul, a spokesperson for the Federation of Gay Games, which will oversee the games, in November told the Blade the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 committee has a contingency plan that will address “potential scenarios/risks such as an ongoing pandemic, social unrest or unseasonal weather events.” The games’ opening ceremony is scheduled to take place on Nov. 12, 2022.
No. 9: Sudan repeals death penalty for homosexuality
Sudan in July repealed a provision of its Penal Code that imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Article 148 of the Sudanese Penal Code from 1991 said anyone who is convicted of sodomy three times “shall be punished with death, or with life imprisonment.” Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chair of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, which was created in 2019 to govern the country on an interim basis after then-President Omar al-Bashir’s ouster, approved the removal of the death penalty provision from Article 148.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.
Lawmakers in Bhutan on Dec. 10 voted to amend portions of their country’s Penal Code that have been used to criminalize homosexuality. The amendment will become law once King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck signs it.
No. 8: Costa Rica becomes first Central American country with marriage equality
Costa Rica on May 26 became the first country in Central America to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Two women became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Costa Rica when they exchanged vows in the municipality of Heredia shortly after midnight. President Carlos Alvarado Quesada is among those who celebrated the historic milestone.
“Today we celebrate liberty, equality and democratic institutions,” tweeted Alvarado. “May empathy and love be the moral compass that allows us to move forward and build a country where everyone belongs.”
No. 7: Anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Poland draws international condemnation
The Polish government’s continued anti-LGBTQ crackdown sparked global outrage in 2020.
Police over the summer arrested Margot Szutowicz, a non-binary person, three times. One of the arrests stems from charges she allegedly damaged a truck promoting anti-LGBTQ messages and assaulted a pro-life demonstrator on June 2.
President Andrzej Duda in the lead up to the Polish presidential election said LGBTQ “ideology” is more harmful than communism.
Duda on June 24 met with President Trump at the White House. Duda on July 12 won re-election.
No. 6: ICE releases Blade contributor from Cuba
A Blade contributor who was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for nearly a year was released on March 4.
An immigration judge in September 2019 granted Yariel Valdés González asylum based on the persecution he suffered in Cuba because he was an independent journalist. The Board of Immigration Appeals on Feb. 28 dismissed an appeal of the judge’s ruling.
“I really feel that I am alive now,” Valdés told the Blade after he reunited with his aunt and uncle in Miami. “It is a wonderful feeling to feel free and to be able to take control of your life and above all knowing that you will not be persecuted again because of your ideas or your work.”
Valdés now lives with his boyfriend in Wilton Manors, Fla., and continues to contribute to the Blade.
No. 5: U.N. calls for global conversion therapy ban
The U.N. in July formally called for a ban on so-called conversion therapy.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, submitted a report with 130 submissions on practices and testimonies of victims who have experienced conversion therapy from civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, medical practitioners and individuals.
Germany, Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Taiwan have all banned the widely discredited practice. Maryland, D.C. and Virginia are among the U.S. jurisdictions that ban conversion therapy for minors.
A federal appeals court in November ruled bans on conversion therapy for minors in the Florida cities of Boca Raton and Palm Beach are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
No. 4: Trump policies further endanger LGBTQ migrants, asylum seekers
The Trump administration’s hardline immigration policy continued to put LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers at even more risk in 2020.
Three police officers in El Salvador who were convicted of murdering Camila Díaz Córdova, a transgender woman who the U.S. deported in 2017 after she fled anti-LGBTQ violence, were sentenced to 20 years in prison on July 28.
Activists say LGBTQ asylum seekers who are forced to await the outcome of their cases in Mexico under the Trump administration’s “return to Mexico” (MPP) policy puts them at increased risk of violence and human trafficking. A Human Rights Watch report notes the closure of the U.S.-Mexico border in March left asylum seekers “to suffer persecution in their home countries or in Mexico.
People with HIV, among other vulnerable groups, who were in ICE custody in 2020 were also at increased risk for the coronavirus as the pandemic spread throughout the U.S.
No. 3: Pope Francis publicly supports civil unions
LGBTQ Catholics and activists around the world in October welcomed Pope Francis’ public support of civil unions for same-sex couples.
Francis made the comments in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life that debuted at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, described Francis’ comments as a “historic moment” that “signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues.” Esteban Paulón, an activist in Argentina, noted Francis “in private expressed his support” for civil unions for same-sex couples during the marriage equality debate in his homeland before he became pope.
The Vatican’s tone toward LGBTQ Catholics has become more moderate under Francis’ papacy. Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged.
No. 2: Biden election celebrated around the world
President-elect Biden’s election in November renewed hopes the U.S. will once again champion LGBTQ rights abroad in an impactful way.
The incoming administration has said Biden will “immediately appoint” a special LGBTQ rights envoy at the State Department and a special coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development to handle the aforementioned issues. Biden has, among other things, also pledged to use the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Act to sanction those responsible for anti-LGBTQ rights abuses.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell led the Trump administration’s initiative that encouraged countries to decriminalize homosexuality, but many LGBTQ activists around the world remained highly skeptical of it.
“The planet is crying out for more compassionate, mature, visionary, unifying and empathetic leaders, and we now look to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to be an example,” ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis told the Blade after the election.
No. 1: Coronavirus sweeps the world
The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating impact on LGBTQ people around the world in 2020.
The vast majority of Pride celebrations took place virtually, with Global Pride drawing an audience of more than 57 million people on June 27. Ecuador is among the countries in which advocacy groups launched relief efforts to help LGBTQ people pay their rent and buy food and other basic supplies during coronavirus lockdowns.
The pandemic further exacerbated existing economic, social and racial inequalities. Efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus — such as “pico y género” rules in Panamá, Colombia and Perú that allowed people to leave their homes on certain days based on their gender — sparked criticism among transgender activists who felt they caused further discrimination based on gender identity.
Newsrooms around the world were stretched to the limit in 2020, as journalists, including those at the Blade, struggled to cover multiple once-in-a-lifetime crises at once: a pandemic, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a reckoning over racial justice and police brutality, and the 2020 presidential election.
Here are the Blade staff picks for the top 10 national news stories of 2020.
10: Methodist Church faces split
Amid division in the denomination over LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage, the Methodist Church proposed a formal plan this year to separate on the lack of agreement on religious views toward LGBTQ people.
The Methodist Church agreed to adopt a more LGBTQ-inclusive doctrine while allowing a coalition of conservative congregations in the United States and Africa who objected to change to separate. The “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” would allow the departing congregations to keep their property and give them $25 million to form a new denomination.
The plan would have needed approval in May 2020 in General Conference for ratification. The vote, however, never took place and was postponed until 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.
9: Trump campaign stages Pride events
Upon stepping down from the Trump administration, Richard Grenell took on a new role as senior adviser for the Trump campaign on LGBTQ outreach and was made co-chair of the Trump Pride coalition, marking the first time a Republican presidential nominee had an LGBTQ political coalition.
Trump Pride held events in states deemed competitive in the election, including Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Tiffany Trump, who had heretofore kept a low profile during her dad’s administration, participated in Trump Pride events in full support of her father, although she was mocked on Twitter during her public appearances.
Arguably, the Trump Pride coalition found success in convincing some LGBTQ voters to come to their side. Exit polls revealed 61 percent of LGBTQ voters backed Biden, the lowest percentage of support ever for a Democratic nominee, while 28 percent backed Trump, doubling his LGBTQ support from 2016.
8: Ric Grenell named acting DNI, 1st out gay Cabinet official
A Republican administration made the historic first of appointing the first openly gay person to a Cabinet post when President Trump named Richard Grenell, who had been serving as U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence.
Critics pointed out Trump never sought or won Senate confirmation for the role. Grenell also used the position as a political tool to declassify documents, seeking to impugn Biden for unmasking individuals caught up in surveillance during the Michael Flynn investigation.
But Grenell also used the position to highlight the global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality he spearheaded, threatening to cut off U.S. partners overseas from shared intelligence if they didn’t respect LGBTQ human rights.
Upon his departure, Grenell posted a photo to Instagram asserting President Trump gave him his Cabinet chair because being the first openly gay person to serve at that level was a “big deal.”
7: LGBTQ candidates win big on election night
LGBTQ candidates in the 2020 election achieved historic firsts, breaking barriers and demonstrating political aspirants in marginalized communities have no limit in winning public office.
The LGBTQ Equality Caucus in the U.S. House will be expanded and diversified with the addition of Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones of New York, who will be the first Black, openly gay men elected to Congress. Torres is also the first openly gay Afro-Latino elected to Congress.
Sarah McBride, a transgender advocate famous for her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, was elected to a seat in the Delaware State Senate, setting her up to become the highest-ranking openly transgender legislator in the United States. Other transgender candidates, Taylor Small in Vermont and Stephanie Byer in Kansas, won seats in state legislatures, nearly doubling the number of transgender legislators in the United States.
6: FDA eases gay blood ban
In a move uncharacteristically positive for the LGBTQ community from the Trump administration, the Food & Drug Administration this year eased the ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The previous policy, set up by the Obama administration, required men to abstain from having sex with men for 12 months before making a donation. The FDA, amid a blood shortage during the coronavirus pandemic, shortened the deferral period to three months. The 12-month wait instituted during the Obama administration was a drastic change from the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men instituted in 1983.
President Trump said he had no hand in the FDA decision. When asked by the Blade about the change during a White House news conference, Trump replied, “No. I didn’t know anything about that. That was done by the FDA, very capable people at the FDA.”
5: RBG dies weeks before election
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known as a champion of LGBTQ rights as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, died after 27 years on the bench. Hundreds gathered at the Supreme Court on the night of her death to adorn the ground with memorabilia in mourning over her passing.
Ginsburg had joined each of the milestone rulings in favor of LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage, including Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, Windsor v. United States and Obergefell v. Hodges. Most recently, Ginsburg joined the Bostock decision finding anti-LGBTQ discrimination is illegal under federal civil rights law.
President Trump, however, chose to fill Ginsburg’s seat with Amy Coney Barrett, a jurist who’s a favorite among the Christian right. Shortly after confirmation, Barrett participated in arguments for the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which will determine whether a Catholic foster care agency has a First Amendment right to reject LGBTQ families over religious objections.
4: Landmark SCOTUS ruling on LGBTQ workplace rights
In a historic ruling ending a long fight to prohibit employment discrimination against LGBTQ people in federal law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the consolidated case of Bostock v. Clayton County that anti-LGBTQ discrimination constitutes a form of sex discrimination.
Although the ruling pertained to employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the decision has broad applications to all laws banning sex discrimination, including civil rights law in housing, health care, education, and credit.
The litigation came about after Gerald Bostock was fired from his job as a municipal worker after expressing interest in a gay softball league and Aimee Stephens, a funeral home director in Michigan, who was fired for being transgender. Stephens died shortly before the decision was handed down.
The Trump administration, however, never fully implemented the decision, and outright flouted it with regard to access to sex-segregated spaces for transgender people. Biden is expected to recognize Bostock fully upon taking office.
3: Calls for racial justice after George Floyd killed
The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police ignited a firestorm of protests and energized the Black Lives Matter movement, bringing calls for police reform, if not to outright defund the police, and end systemic racism.
LGBTQ Pride events, which had been cancelled amid the coronavirus epidemic, were in some cases back on with a renewed focus on anti-racism. (Drama followed, however, when LA Pride planned a solidarity march and sought cooperation with police. Organizers ended up handing over the reins to All Black Lives Matter, an advisory board of Black LGBTQ activists.)
Much of the outrage was directed at President Trump, who reportedly hid in a bunker amid protests that became violent outside the White House. Afterwards, Trump went to St. John’s Church near Lafayette Square with Cabinet officials to hold up a Bible in a controversial photo-op.
2: Biden wins; Kamala Harris makes history
Joe Biden won the presidential election this year, ensuring Donald Trump would be a one-term president and bringing an end to an administration with a record of anti-LGBTQ policies.
Biden, whose comments in favor of same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press” in 2012 are still remembered for their impact, has long-standing connections to the LGBTQ community and issued a detailed policy plan for LGBTQ initiatives he’d pursue in his administration. Biden has pledged to end the transgender military ban and sign the Equality Act into law within 100 days.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman of color elected as part of a presidential ticket, also has deep ties to the LGBTQ community. As California attorney general, Harris declined to defend California’s ban on same-sex marriage on Proposition 8 in court and raised LGBTQ issues as U.S. senator.
In another historic move, Biden tapped Pete Buttigieg for Transportation Secretary. He would become the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet official if approved in 2021.
1: Coronavirus ravages U.S. public health, economy
The coronavirus pandemic left hundreds of thousands dead, disrupted lives and threw the economy into a tailspin, stoking fears in a way no other public health crisis has done since the HIV/AIDS epidemic as the virus continued to spread. The outbreak is the Washington Blade’s top national news event of 2020.
COVID-19, which originated in China, had killed by mid-December an estimated 300,000 people in the United States and infected 16 million. Although states kept tabs on racial, ethnic, and gender demographics on the disease, few recorded data on LGBTQ casualties.
An estimated 100,000 businesses across the nation closed their doors as governors ordered residents to remain at home, much to the consternation of conservative activists who said the directives were unconstitutional. The annual Pride month celebrations and parades were among the events cancelled.
The downturn in the economy forced many small business to close and put many workers on unemployment. Hospitality workers, many of whom are LGBTQ people, were hit especially hard. The Paycheck Protection Program saved many jobs, but as of late December, Congress had not come to an agreement on additional stimulus.
President Trump, who continued to insist the coronavirus would simply “go away,” faced heavy criticism for failing to contain the epidemic, leading to major change in the 2020 election.
Honorable mention: Blade reporter refuses to move seat in WH briefing room
When Blade reporter Chris Johnson was fulfilling his role in the pool rotation for the White House press corps, the White House press office sought to humiliate CNN’s Kaitlan Collins by ordering Johnson to switch seats with her. Collins had an assigned seat in the front row of the briefing room, while the seating arrangements had the Blade toward the back.
Johnson refused to move, pointing out the White House Correspondents Association controls the seating assignments, not the White House. Johnson held firm even though he was told the Secret Service was involved in wanting the switch. Secret Service later denied any involvement. Johnson won widespread praise from mainstream media colleagues for his cool-headed, brave handling of the situation. (By Kevin Naff)
Sonoma County is unlikely to end its current stay-at-home order when it is set to expire the night of Jan. 9, Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said during her final public briefing of 2020.
As coronavirus spreads locally at the highest rate of the pandemic while parts of the state are struggling to provide enough hospital beds for patients, it’s no shock that Mase is less than optimistic about reopening in a week and a half.
That order, announced by California Gov. Gavin Newsom Dec. 3, ties the ability to gather in backyards and eat outdoors at restaurants to a region’s ICU bed availability. On Dec. 10, Sonoma and 10 other Bay Area counties preemptively adopted a collective stay-at-home order as the region approached the 15% availability threshold established by Newsom.
It’s hard to gain an accurate read on ICU capacity, a measure that can be fluid based on staffing and contingency plans. But the most up-to-date data from the California Department of Public Health shows Sonoma County with 20 available staffed ICU beds as of Tuesday. The county is licensed for 77 ICU beds, though that number can be lower based on available staffing.
Twenty available beds would put local hospitals above the 15% mark. But Mase said the overall Bay Area availability rate is at 7.5%, giving Sonoma and the other 10 counties little chance of escaping what many refer to as a “lockdown.”
While Sonoma County hospital officials insist there are no current shortages of beds or staffing at their facilities, most of the metrics have gotten considerably worse since Mase issued the local order three weeks ago. In the 19 days following her announcement on Dec. 10, the county reported 3,170 new coronavirus cases, or 16.8% of all cases since the start of the pandemic. The daily average since Dec. 10 has been 242. Before then, Sonoma County exceeded that number just two days in seven months.
Even the good news is being tempered. One positive note through most of December has been the absence of fatality clusters at local skilled nursing centers and other congregant living sites for seniors. But as the county acknowledged Wednesday, that doesn’t mean the virus isn’t infiltrating local nursing homes again.
Kate Pack, health program manager of Sonoma County’s epidemiology team, said that since Dec. 8, 44 elder care facilities have reported at least one case among staff or residents, with 24 categorized as outbreaks — defined as three or more cases among staff, or one COVID-positive resident if the infection is determined to have been acquired on-site. Pack cited a total of between 243 and 249 cases here during the month in senior homes, including 137 in Santa Rosa and 59 in Petaluma.
California surpassed 25,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic and officials disclosed Thursday that three more cases involving a mutant variant of the virus have been confirmed in San Diego County.
The grim developments came as an ongoing surge swamps hospitals and pushes nurses and doctors to the breaking point as they brace for another likely increase after the holidays.
“We’re exhausted and it’s the calm before the storm,” said Jahmaal Willis, a nurse and emergency room leader at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley. “It’s like we’re fighting a war, a never-ending war, and we’re running out of ammo. We have to get it together before the next fight.”
Public health officials continued to plead with residents just hours before the start of 2021 not to gather for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
In Los Angeles County, where an average of six people die every hour from COVID-19, the Department of Public Health tweeted out snippets every 10 minutes on lives that have been lost.
“The hair stylist who worked for 20 years to finally open her own shop.”
“A grandmother who loved to sing to her grandchildren.”
“The bus driver who put her daughter through college and was beaming with pride.”
The tweets, which included messages to wear a mask, physically distance, stay home and “Slow the spread. Save a life,” came on a day when the county reported a record 290 deaths. That would be a rate of one death every five minutes, though it included a backlog.
Los Angeles County, which has a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, has had 40% of the deaths in California, the third state to reach the 25,000 death count. New York has had nearly 38,000 deaths, and Texas has had more than 27,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Infections are spreading rapidly. San Diego County confirmed Thursday that it had found a total of four cases of the virus variant that appears to be more contagious. A 30-year-old man tested positive for the variant on Wednesday and three more men — two in their 40s and one in his 50s — also have been confirmed to have the strain. Other cases involving the variant have been confirmed in Florida and Colorado.
At least two of the men in San Diego County hadn’t traveled outside of the country and none had “any known interaction with each other,” the county said. Officials believed many more cases will surface.
San Diego County also reported a record high number of new deaths in a single day at 62, well over the previous record of 39 reported only a week earlier.
Hospitals, particularly in Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley in the middle of the state, have been overrun with virus patients and don’t have any more intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients.
In Los Angeles County, hospitals have been pushed “to the brink of catastrophe,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, health services director. “This is simply not sustainable. Not just for our hospitals, for our entire health system.”
Cathy Chidester, director of the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency, said hospitals are facing problems with oxygen with so many COVID-19 patients needing it because they are struggling to breathe. Older hospitals are having difficulty maintaining oxygen pressure in aging infrastructure and some are scrambling to locate additional oxygen tanks for discharged patients to take home.
Ambulances are being forced to wait in bays as long as eight hours before they can transfer patients inside hospitals — and in some cases, doctors are treating patients inside ambulances, she said.
At Providence St. Mary Medical Center, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, there is a cacophany of alarms that sound when a patient’s heart stops and a constant hiss from the oxygen keeping so many alive, Willis said. The hospital has filled the triage area with beds and is assessing new arrivals in the parking lot. Three dozen patients were waiting to be admitted.
“We’re overflowing,” Willis said. “We’re treating patients in chairs, we’re treating patients in the hallways.”
In Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, only 8% of ICU beds were available, which is better than many places. Hospitals are still “stretched to the limit,” said Dr. Ahmad Kamal, county director of healthcare preparedness.
Two months ago, the county had 4.5 cases per 100,000 people. Now it has 50 cases per 100,000.
“What we are seeing now is not normal,” Kamal said. “It is an order of magnitude more than we saw just two months ago. We are not out of the woods. We are in the thick of the woods. And we all need to redouble our efforts.”
Kamal said the one bit of good news was that hospitals hadn’t felt the additional pressure of new cases after Christmas that they did after Thanksgiving, which has led to the current surge.
But public health officials fear a double-whammy from people who gathered at Christmas and New Year’s will create a surge upon a surge. They made their final pleas to persuade people to stay home on what is typically one of the biggest party nights of the year.
“We recognize the temptation and the frustration,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “You may simply want to stray for one night to celebrate with friends. However, all it takes is one slip to have one exposure and the coronavirus has found another host, another victim, and our dangerous surge continues.”
Most of the state is under a 10 p.m. curfew and newly extended restrictions that have closed or reduced capacity of businesses. People people are being urged to stay home as much as possible to try to slow the spread of infections.
Police in Los Angeles will be patrolling streets and looking to shut down large New Year’s Eve gatherings, Mayor Eric Garcetti said. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria issued an executive order directing stricter enforcement of state and local public health rules.
Health insurance providers in California have been warned by an insurance commissioner they cannot deny gender-affirming surgery for young trans people based on their age.
Ricardo Lara, California’s insurance commissioner, took the step to ensure that trans youth are not denied gender-affirming surgery after reports that insurance companies were using the age of trans patients to refuse treatment.
On 30 December, Lara directed the Department of Insurance to issue a General Counsel Opinion Letter clarifying that under state law, insurance companies cannot refuse to cover gender-affirming top surgery based on a patient’s age.
“For far too long, individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria have had to battle a host of challenges to get access to gender-affirming care in order to be their true selves,” Lara, who is gay, told the Bay Area Reporter.
“Social stigma, misconceptions about gender dysphoria and its treatment, and outdated medical criteria create barriers to necessary medical care that can lead to tragic results for individuals with gender dysphoria, especially for our transgender youth,” he said.
The clarification issued to insurers states that under-18s who have been referred for gender-affirming surgery by their medical team should not be denied coverage, but instead that the insurance company should consider patients – and their specific clinical situation – on a case-by-case basis.
According to the state agency, health insurance companies should avoid needlessly delaying or interfering with healthcare recommended by a patient’s doctor.
Lara’s move comes after TransFamily Support Services, an organisation that supports young trans people and their families through medical transition, contacted the state department to report that under-18s had been refused cover for gender-affirming healthcare by their insurance companies.
“TransFamily Support Services is proud to partner with the California Department of Insurance to remove the age barrier for gender-affirming care,” said Kathie Moehlig, the agency’s executive director.
“This barrier was discriminatory and detrimental to the lives of trans youth. To have to navigate the overwhelming barriers to health care should not be a part of their experience. Transgender youth already face so many challenges from unsupportive families, bullying at school, social stigmas, and even violence.”
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health states that gender-affirming surgeries can be offered to under-18s “depending on an adolescent’s specific clinical situation and goals for gender identity expression”.
Queer MPs such as Charlotte Nichols, Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake reflect a Britain where young people feel comfortable with and empowered by expressing their identities.
In December 2019, three more MPs in the House of Commons came out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual or queer, bringing the total number of out LGB MPs to a remarkable 56. Of course, Britain is still without its first transgender MP.
The Labour MPs Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East), Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) and Olivia Blake (Sheffield Hallam) came out as queer and bisexual. At 24, 28 and 30 years of age, they represent a new Britain where rapidly growing numbers of young people, in particular young women, now feel they have the space to identify as queer, bi or pansexual.
The average age of an MP is 52, but the average age of an queer MP is 45. Today, nine per cent of the 650 MPs identify as LGB+ but a remarkable 21 per cent of the 130 MPs aged 40 or younger say they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual or queer. When it comes to the 20-somethings who were elected in the general election of 2019 the proportion is one-third.
In contrast, only five per cent of MPs over 50 identify as queer.
This level of representation may seem surprisingly high but it reflects British society today.
Westminster is becoming a place where politicians, young and old, can express their identities honestly.
A June 2020 Ipsos-Mori poll found eight per cent of UK citizens 18 and above said they were only attracted to the same sex (gay or lesbian), three per cent said they were mostly attracted to the same sex, while four per cent were equally attracted to both sexes.
Another eight per cent said they were mostly attracted to the opposite sex but not uniformly. In sum at least 15 per cent of Britons identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, alongside another eight per cent who, in theory, could because they acknowledge their own same-sex attractions.
The growing number of people saying they are same-sex loving is driven by a younger generation who have found space to honestly express their identity.
The 33 per cent of MPs 30 years old or younger mirrors the 25 per cent of 18-30 Brits who say they are only attracted to the same sex (eight per cent), mostly attracted to the same sex (five per cent) or equally attracted to both sexes (12 per cent).
In 2020 just three-quarters of Generation Z (18-24) identify as heterosexual. Similarly, the 21 per cent of MPs under 40 who say they are LGBT+ matches the 22 per cent of Brits 18-40 who say they are same-sex attracted.
The 56 queer MPs represent parties across the political spectrum: 24 Conservatives, 21 Labour, 10 Scottish Nationalist and one Liberal Democrat.
All parties with multiple queer MPs have a broad mix of young and old but all the women MPs are Labour, SNP, or Liberal Democrat. Since Justine Greening and Margot James left the House at the last election, the Tories are without a woman in their LGBT+ caucus.
Whittome, Nichols and Blake illustrate something more about the politics of queer youth. There is evidence that bisexual/pansexual Brits are more left-wing than their gay and lesbian counterparts.
In the Ipsos-Mori 2020 poll, the gay and lesbians split equally into thirds between Tory and Labour voters and others including the Lib Dems, SNP and Greens.
But nearly half of all voters who expressed a degree of same-sex attraction (bisexual/pansexual) went for Labour and only 25 per cent for the Tories. Similarly, gay and lesbians were split 50/50 on how they voted on Brexit, half voting to remain, half voting to leave, but bisexual voters went 57 per cent for remain against only 43 per cent for leave.
Meet the 56 LGBT+ MPs sitting in the House of Commons.
Nadia Whittome, Labour, 24 Mhairi Black, SNP, 26 Jacob Young, Conservative, 27 Charlotte Nichols, Labour, 28 Elliot Colburn, Conservative, 28 Olivia Blake, Labour, 30 Antony Higginbotham, Conservative, 30 Gary Sambrook, Conservative, 31 Paul Holmes, Conservative, 32 William Wragg, Conservative, 33 Angela Crawley, SNP, 33 Dan Carden, Labour, 34 Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour, 34 Stewart McDonald, SNP, 34 Cat Smith, Labour, 35 Mark Fletcher, Conservative, 35 Kieran Mullan, Conservative, 36 Hannah Bardell, SNP, 37 Wes Streeting, Labour, 37 James Murray, Labour, 37 Chris Clarkson, Conservative, 38 Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat, 38 Stephen Morgan, Labour, 39 Luke Pollard, Labour, 40 Stephen Doughty, Labour, 40 Damien Moore, Conservative, 40 Lee Rowley, Conservative, 40 Rob Roberts, Conservative, 41 Stuart McDonald, SNP, 42 Peter Gibson, Conservative, 45 Alyn Smith, SNP, 47 Conor Burns, Conservative, 48 Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative, 48 Iain Stewart, Conservative, 48 Mark Menzies, Conservative, 49 Stuart Andrew, Conservative, 49 Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP, 49 Peter Kyle, Labour, 50 Gerald Jones, Labour, 50 Kate Osborne, Labour, 54 Joanna Cherry, SNP, 54 Neale Hanvey, SNP, 56 Steve Reed, Labour, 57 David Mundell, Conservative, 58 Chris Bryant, Labour, 58 Angela Eagle, Labour, 59 John Nicolson, SNP, 59 Ben Bradshaw, Labour, 60 Crispin Blunt, Conservative, 60 Mike Freer, Conservative, 60 Nick Gibb, Conservative, 60 Nigel Evans, Conservative, 63 Nia Griffith, Labour, 64 Nick Brown, Labour, 70 Michael Fabricant, Conservative, 70 Clive Betts, Labour, 70
Andrew Reynolds teaches politics and public policy at Princeton University and is director of Queer Politics at Princeton.
On October 6, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Tunisia raised their voices and banners in the street, amid the hundreds of demonstrators who were peacefully protesting a draft law that would drastically limit criminal accountability for the use of force by the security forces. By a cruel irony, police attacked the demonstrators, including LGBT activists, and arbitrarily arrested them.
The proposed law, if passed, would embolden security forces in their use of excessive force and send an alarming message to Tunisians, especially members of marginalized groups, already vulnerable to police misconduct, that they will not be protected from police violence.
For LGBT people, who are often excluded from government protection, the passage of this law is terrifying. Here’s why:
On August 5, Ahmed El-Tounsi, a transgender Tunisian man and founder of the trans rights organization OutCasts, thought he would bleed to death on the street.
El-Tounsi and other trans activists were walking near the French Embassy in Tunis when police officers guarding the embassy approached them and asked for their IDs. When the officers saw the mismatch between their IDs and their gender expression, and after a verbal altercation, the police physically and verbally assaulted them, the activists said.
Bloodied and humiliated, they tried to run, but additional police officers arrived and beat the activists, while inciting bystanders to join in – cursing, hitting, and dragging the activists by their clothes on the street, they told me.
“Kill them, they are sodomites,” the officers told bystanders, El-Tounsi said.
“They [private individuals] followed us into alleyways and beat us unconscious,” he said. “They snatched our phones to delete evidence of the assault, and said, ‘We will slaughter you,’ It felt like our entire country beat us that day.”
When he sought medical care at Habib Thameur Hospital, El-Tounsi was denied treatment based on his gender expression. “The doctor said, “You’re a special case, I can’t treat you here. Go somewhere else,”” El-Tounsi said.
“My chest was swollen from the beatings, I couldn’t breathe, I was bleeding profusely, I could barely stay conscious,” he said. When he went to Charles Nicole Hospital, administrative staff refused him entry after seeing his ID, and referred him to a women’s hospital, despite his self-identification as a man.
Activists took El-Tounsi to Wassila Bourguiba Hospital, which specializes in women’s health. “I’m bleeding, I’m going to die, please treat me,” El-Tounsi pleaded, but the doctor responded, “You look like a man, this is a women’s hospital.”
After he waited for hours and negotiated with the doctor, she checked El-Tounsi’s injuries while seven nurses stood around him, interrogating him about his gender identity, and addressing him with female pronouns. “They mocked me. They didn’t treat my injuries. They didn’t even give me a medical report.”
Activists turned to the courts and filed a complaint, seeking to hold police and embassy officers accountable. Several lawyers involved in the case told me that the head of a first instance court in Tunis dismissed the request to review camera footage near the embassy, which lawyers said would show the officers’ role in the assaults. The lawyers appealed in late October and await a decision.
Saif Ayadi, a social worker at Damj, a Tunis-based LGBT rights group, was there during the attacks on trans activists in August, and was among those arbitrarily arrested and beaten at the protest in October. He spoke to me about the increasing police violence against LGBT people in Tunisia, and the insurmountable dangers that would accompany the passage of the draft impunity law.
Ayadi said that in 2020, Damj provided legal assistance to LGBT people at police stations in 75 cases and responded to 98 requests for legal consultations. “These figures are five times higher than those we recorded in 2019, indicating an alarming increase in persecutions of LGBT people during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he told me.
Ayadi said that between March and September, his organization recorded 21 cases of violence against trans people in public, 10 torture cases, and 2 cases of bullying by security officers against trans people in detention facilities. There were also 12 prison sentences against trans people and gay men under articles 230, 225, and 125 of Tunisia’s penal code, which criminalize “sodomy,” “indecent behavior in public,” and “insulting a public officer,” respectively.
Tunisian law does not provide a clear or accessible path to legal gender recognition for transgender people, who face systemic discrimination compounded by the incongruity between their official documents and gender expression.
Amal Ayari, a prominent advocate for women’s and LGBT rights in Tunisia, told me, “Tunisia is considered a country where rights and freedoms are protected, but such flagrant violations of citizens’ rights show that this discourse is just slogans, and is an attempt to whitewash Tunisia’s international image.”
Instead of granting more power to the police, the Tunisian government should decriminalize same-sex conduct and protect LGBT people from discrimination and police violence. The proposed bill, Number 25/2015, a shameful step backward, should not pass.