New Yorker Saves Life of Someone He Met Online

On Friday night, just before midnight, Liam Blank was casually chatting with several people on Grindr. One person with whom he had been speaking, after about 20 or 30 minutes revealed to him that he was HIV positive. Shortly after the other Grindr user’s revelation, he told Blank what was actually happening: he was nearby, on the George Washington Bridge, ready to jump.

“He was kind of trying to tell me to not come and to not worry about it and I was like, ‘Well, I’m looped into this already, so I’m not going to let it happen on my watch,’” Blank told INTO in a phone interview.



Blank lived near the George Washington Bridge and sprang into action. When he got there, he saw a figure in a hoodie that turned out to be the man from Grindr. When the men in the hoodie turned to face Blank, tears streaked down his face. He had been crying. After convincing him to come back to his apartment, Blank and the man from Grindr spoke for about two hours and got his whole backstory.

The pair spoke for two or three hours. Blank could tell after the man opened up pretty quickly that he was looking for someone to talk to. Aside from a recent diagnosis, he was 22, undocumented and had little to no support system in place. His undocumented status made finding a job difficult and obtaining education difficult.

“I’m a little bit older than him, but I can’t imagine having any of that burden that he had on his shoulders,” Blank said.

After hours of conversation, Blank made sure to make plans with his newfound friend from Grindr. His friend told him he loved spending weekends at a nearby bar, the Castro, so Blank offered to take him there soon.

Since the incident, Blank has had time to reflect on what made him act. He told INTO that, in the last year, he lost a friend to suicide and that he wanted to try to intervene this time.

“A friend of mine from college committed suicide and I spoke to him a week before hedid it,” Blank said. “I felt like I really didn’t go far enough in showing him that I was really there as a friend who could’ve been supportive.”

He added, “I regret that now. When this opportunity came up, someone was making a cry for help, Iwasn’t going to make that mistake again.”

Blank eventually shared the story on Facebook, though he was hesitant due to the stigma of being on Grindr.

“It was a first of me for talking about having a Grindr experience on Facebook, but that wasn’t that hard to overcome because it was such a unique story,” he said. “it felt like I had to share it.”

Blank also said that he felt the story may have ended differently if, like many in the gay community and on hookup apps, he would’ve ignored the person on Grindr because of his HIV status. Blank said that HIV has a very personal meaning to him, as his uncle passed away from an AIDS-related illness.

“When this person was basically making a plea for help, I felt that connection that I had with it I had to do something,” he said. “I couldn’t just let it go or help from my phone. I had to take it past that.”

Since Blank posted the story to his Facebook, it’s gotten over 500 likes.
According to the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24 and LGB youth have rate of suicide attempts 4 times greater than non-LGB youth. Ninety-two percent of trans adults recounted having attempted suicide by age 25, as well.

According to a recent study, people with HIV have a higher rate of suicide than those in the general population, especially those living in the first year after diagnosis.

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Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contactThe Trevor ProjectorTrans Lifelinefor support or any questionsespecially if you feel that you’re currently in crisis.

 

Disclaimer:INTOis a digital magazine that is owned by Grindr. The decision to report this story was in no way connected with better representing the brand or product.

Eddie Izzard Eyes Being the First Out Transgender Member of Parliament

Comedian and actor Eddie Izzard hopes to bring his political ambitions to fruition in the next UK election.

In a new profile in the Guardian, Izzard addressed previous comments indicating he would some day enter the political sphere. After talking a bit about the Brexit decision, Izzard confirmed that he wants to run next chance he gets which will be in 2022, five years after Britain’s 2017 snap election.

“The plan was always to run in 2020, though Theresa May has changed that with her failed power grab. So now it’s the first general election after 2020,” Izzard told The Guardian of his political timetable.

Izzard ran and lost for a spot on the Labour Party’s national executive committee in 2016. He indicated that he plans to run again for the committee this year.

Izzard also said that he would give up acting if he were elected.

“I would. It’s like Glenda Jackson; she gave up acting for 25 years to concentrate on it, then she turns up back as King Lear,” Izzard said.

Izzard has said that he’s been out as trans since 1985. In an interview earlier this year with NPR, he said:

“I came out in 1985, and it was very difficult to go out and forge a way out and lock it into your life. Once I did that, once I pushed back on all that fear and hatred and the feelings that society all around the world was saying to me, ‘You’re not allowed to do this, this is wrong,’ and I’m saying it’s built into my genetics and I think I have girl genetics and boy genetics, so I’m going to express them, I’m not going to feel shame or guilt, and that has given me the confidence for everything else.”

There has never been an out transgender member of Parliament. According to PinkNews, seven trans candidates ran in the 2017 election. Sophie Cook, a transgender Labour party candidate, almost clinched the MP seat in East Worthing and Shoreham, but lost.

When Diversity Becomes An Empty Word

Model, DJ, activist and all-around wonder woman Munroe Bergdorf has heard her name on the lips and fingertips of numerous people in the last week and a half. The UK-based beauty made history earlier last week when she became the first out transgender woman to be featured in a campaign with L’Oréal UK.

The makeup giant promptly dropped her after learning of social media comments she made in response to the events of Charlottesville last month. Bergdorf posted on Facebook how white people from “micro-aggressions to terrorism” must be held accountable for benefitting from systemic white supremacy and white privilege. The comments have since been deleted after being reported.

Rightly so, numerous people took to the Internet to show their support for her candid discussion of white supremacy. Bergdorf didn’t mince words or coddle her audience around the issues at hand. She also wasn’t alone in her assessment, but clearly L’Oréal disagrees.

The company’s response to Bergdorf’s very raw feelings on the tragedy perfectly elucidates how white supremacy comes in many forms to attack people of color who dare speak out against it. Beyond L’Oréal’s disgusting misstep in penalizing Bergdorf for speaking the truth, there’s actually more to the story.

Her firing was in part due to a white queer man named Adam Pennington spinning a story about her comments into a massive media firestorm in order to “bring her down a massive peg.” Twitter userOtamerereported that Pennington also bragged about getting the story to the Daily Mail on his Facebook page.

Bergdorf later corroborated the story on Twitter saying, “This is what REALLY went down… Sending love to everyone who can see through all of this. I won’t let this beat me.”

After being exposed in a similar way to how he exposed Bergdorf, he has deleted his social media accounts. Unfortunately, Google has left artifacts because the Internet never forgets. (By the way, he probably should take his Plenty of Fish account down too. Or at least use a wack username or pseudonym like everyone else.)

Pennington’s crusade against a transgender woman of color who dares to boldly speak her truth is just one instance of the larger, more insidious systematic white supremacy that Bergdorf has been mentioning. In fact, she stands in the footsteps of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who both sparked the onset of the LGBTQ Rights Movement and worked tirelessly for decades to elevate the most marginalized queer and trans folks. It was mostly white, capitalist cisgender men who sold out and continue to sell out the original radically inclusive mission that Johnson, Rivera and other early LGBTQ activists put forth.

It’s oversimplified to diminish Munroe’s firing from a major beauty campaign, but what has happened to her mirrors a larger awakening in the general public. People of color, especially Black folks, are growing weary of having to silence what they experience, even if it means foregoing a check. DJ Clara Amfo, another Black model on the L’Oréal campaign, bowed out due to Bergdorf’s mistreatment. Just like them, we can no longer allow companies and organizations to profit off of us without listening to us.

We shouldn’t be too surprised that L’Oréal would so quickly abandon a person of color. Just look at its history. The company’s founder, Eugène Schueller, was very pro-Nazi and his nationalist views are well-documented. That is, L’Oréal has a deep history of turning its back on marginalized groups for profit. If your company is known to have been bolstered by one of the greatest instances of genocide in human history, adding token representatives to your roster, then silencing them, definitely doesn’t atone for your connection to bigotry.

If white and cisgender people want to espouse beliefs in equality and diversity, they must respectfully engage with the existence of transgender women of color. That means valuing us beyond what we can provide in labor, aesthetics and fulfilling quotas. That means listening and elevating our voices and experiences especially when they criticize the privileges that simultaneously benefit them and oppress us.

In the aftermath of all that has happened to Bergdorf, it is L’Oréal that comes out worse off. The company has reaffirmed its true values by aligning itself with white supremacy and that it’s understanding of diversity and inclusion truly is only skin deep. It hired Bergdorf to give the illusion that the company is invested in diversity, but it’s clear elevating the narratives of people of color isn’t on their agenda.

Bergdorf has made an even larger splash in the beauty and fashion world beyond the campaign by sticking to her beliefs. Whether Rihanna’s new beauty company, Fenty Beauty, brings her on board for its campaign (like I hope), her authentic voice will inevitably carry her even further.

The Failure Of Michael Sam’s Coming Out

The moment Michael Sam came out just before embarking on his dream to play in the NFL was the same moment that quest started coming to an end.

It was February 2014, two months before the NFL draft and Sam, a defensive end, wanted to get ahead of any whispers there would be about his college career at the University of Missouri, where Sam had come out to his teammates.

“I am an openly, proud gay man,” Sam said at the time.

His coming out made headlines across the country, much like former NBA player Jason Collins did in 2013. Some of the coverage focused on how Sam and Collins were the beginning of a wave that would inspire gay athletes in all professional sports leagues to come out.

But that wave never crested, and Sam’s experience is why in 2017 Robbie Rogers, who plays Major League Soccer, is the only publicly out gay man currently playing in America’s five major professional sports leagues – the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS.

Sam lived the nightmare that causes torment for every closeted athlete – the revelation that he was gay directly affected his ability to obtain a job and have security in that line of work.

After his announcement, Sports Illustrated polled NFL executives, who had the task of evaluating Sam’s talent and determining where he might fall in the upcoming NFL draft. The whisper campaign had begun. Executives and NFL coaches, whom Sports Illustrated granted anonymity for the piece, feared Sam would “chemically imbalance” a locker room and some said the NFL was still decades away from welcoming an openly gay player.

Before his coming out, Sam had a draft grade in the third round, meaning his talent should have been enough for teams to take him in that round of the seven-round NFL draft. After his coming out, that grade began to slip round by round until the actual draft, when the St. Louis Rams selected Sam with one of the last picks.

Those in power in the NFL used the excuse that taking Sam would have been too much of a distraction for their clubs, so they chose to take players who would come without a media circus or annoyance in the locker room, which is bullshit, because NFL teams take on players with criminal records and rap sheets so long as they can play.

Look no further for this attitude than former coach Tony Dungy, a revered figure in the NFL, but someone who has long opposed LGBTQ rights. Dungy fought for teams to give quarterback Michael Vick a second chance in 2009 after Vick served his time in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring, a chance Vick deserved. Vick’s signing would come with a media circus, and Dungy helped him secure a place on the Philadelphia Eagles, where Vick thrived in the second act of his career. But when it came to Sam, Dungy told the Tampa Tribune: “I wouldn’t have taken him. Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”

“All of it.”

That sums up the kind of ignorant, poisonous group think Sam was facing. Colin Kaepernick is fighting the same battle now after protesting during the national anthem last season. Across sports in general, but especially in the NFL, individuality is akin to a vice, and those in power believe they must quash anything that disrupts a harmonious team atmosphere. You must subsume yourself as an individual for the good of the team. Even if Sam’s would-be teammates would have been fine with his sexuality, those in power in the NFL — those of an older generation – still see being gay as toxic. This is why no one has come forward in the last three years.

Closeted gay athletes see what happened to Sam, and if they are average players fighting to keep their jobs on a roster, they are going to clam up and hide their sexuality as long as possible. Their livelihoods may depend on it. If they came out, their front offices might cut them, not wanting to deal with “all of it.” This is why it is going to take a star athlete – multiple star athletes – to come out before sports became a safe place for LGBTQ people. Athletes whose value and worth is unimpeachable to their team need to be the ones who make it easier for the Michael Sams of the world, the average players, to come out and live their lives free of torment.

Teams only care about winning, and if a star quarterback or receiver in the NFL, or an All-Star NBA player were to come out, it would go a long way toward making sports a more comfortable environment. Their teams wouldn’t cut them, and it would help diminish ridiculous stereotypes that gay men aren’t “masculine” enough to play sports (whatever that means).

Most importantly, they would set an example for younger generations of athletes who play in youth leagues and high schools who think their teammates might bully them if they come out.

The website Outsports.com chronicles the stories of athletes who come out across all levels of sports. A common theme of these stories is that gay athletes fear reaction from their teammates if they reveal their sexuality.

Almost every time, those teammates embrace the gay athlete. But the problem is young gay athletes have no recognizable face to point to and say, “If he did it, maybe I can do it too.”

Michael Sam couldn’t do it when he had his chance. Now it’s as if he never came out at all.

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Chris Hine is a sports writer for the Chicago Tribune who covers the Chicago Blackhawks and writes about gay issues that affect the sports world. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ChristopherHine.

Dubai Police Are Targeting Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People for ‘Dressing Like Women’

A human rights organization is calling on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to stop persecuting trans and gender-nonconforming people under a law prohibiting cross-dressing.

The arrest of two Singaporean nationals in August sparked international outcry after they were detained and sentenced to a year in prison without legal representation. Muhammed Fadli Abdul Rahman and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, who had traveled to the Arab country for a photoshoot, were reportedly apprehended by police for “looking feminine.” Rahman, 27, is a fashion photographer, and Ibrahim, 37, works as a model.

Rahman’s family has challenged authorities’ claim that he violated the local law against men dressing as women. They told media that he was wearing a white shirt, a tie, and earrings at the time of his arrest. Ibrahim, a transgender woman, is identified as a male in her identification.

Human Rights Watch, who condemned their treatment in a Thursday press release, argues that their arrest was a misapplication of the decade-old cross-dressing law.

“It’s bad enough that the UAE is arresting people solely on the basis of hairstyles and accessories, which the police rely on to make wild guesses about people’s gender identities,” says Sarah Leah Whitson, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director, in a statement. “Worse, the authorities are going far beyond the letter of the law, which only applies to spaces designated for womennot shopping malls.”

As written, Article 359 of the country’s penal code would prohibit a man wearing a burka in order to gain access to a women’s-only park. That incident actually happened in the town of Sharjah in 2012. The peeping tom was exposed when women gathered in the segregated space spotted his mustache.

But the issue of trans and gender nonconforming people being targeted under the cross-dressing code is an old one.

Just days after the UAE banned cross-dressing in July 2008, 40 tourists were reportedly arrested in Dubai after locals complained about the presence of “transvestites” in shopping centers. General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim claimed at the time that their appearance was “against the UAE’s traditions and social values.”

Two tourists were fined the equivalent of $2,700 U.S. dollars for wearing dresses to a nightclub in 2014. Although the defendants were identified as “men” in local reports, media state that the pair were taking feminizing hormones.

Rahman and Ibrahim personally attest to the routine persecution of LGBTQ people. Following their imprisonment, the two were detained in a cell for “effeminate” inmates. Their fellow prisoners included a transgender woman who was arrested while wearing men’s clothing; police claimed that the problem was her “long hair.” Two detainees were waiting in line at a movie theater while they were accosted by police due to their gender presentation.

After their case gained media attention around the world, friends and family for the defendants raised more than $18,000 to fund their successful appeal. Rahman and Ibrahim’s sentence was lowered to a fine and deportation back to Singapore, which took place on August 28. Many others won’t be as lucky.

Despite its cosmopolitan image, homosexuality and premarital sex are illegal in Dubai. There have also been several arrests in recent years for kissing in public.

Hate Crime Rates in the U.K. Increase Nearly 80 Percent, New Report Finds

A disturbing report from YouGov released this week shows that homophobia is alive and well in the United Kingdom: Around one in five LGBTQ people claims to have been the victim of a hate crimeor 21 percent.

The number of people targeted for their sexual orientation has increased more than 78 percent from four years ago.

The survey, which polled more than 5,000 members of the LGBTQ community, revealed a number of alarming findings. Forty-one percent of trans people allege that they have been the victim of a bias attack in the past 12 months. Nearly a third of LGBTQ people with disabilities (27 percent) say they’ve been subjected to abuse or violence in the same time span. A slightly higher percentage of queer people of color (34 percent) claim to have been targeted for a hate crime.

LGBTQ people surveyed by YouGov attest to the difficulty of being visible in daily life, even despite recent advances in equality. The U.K. legalized same-sex unions in 2013.

The survey respondents claim that they’ve been spit on, punched, stalked, and sexually assaulted. George, 29, claimed that someone poured a drink over his head at a bar and called him a “faggot.”

Ffion, 42, was tossed out of a cab by the driver after kissing her girlfriend. Ava, 56, said that someone threatened to slit her throat.

Thirty-six percent of LGBTQ people claimed that they were concerned about holding hands with a same-sex partner in public, in fear they would be harassed. This figure climbs to 58 percent among gay men.

Researchers note that this data should be taken into context. When the survey was conducted four years ago, queer and trans victims were less likely to report a hate crime. But even as things have somewhat improved, that remains an issue in the current survey. Results show that 56 percent of trans youth between the ages of 15 and 24 and 33 percent of queer young people have been harassed or attacked in the past year. But just 12 percent reported it to police.

Ruth Hunt, CEO of the LGBTQ rights group Stonewall, said that the results of the YouGov survey should serve as a “call to action for everyone who supports equality.”

“This report warns against complacency,” Hunt said on Wednesday. “We now need to work together, to bring forward the day when no individual faces hatred or discrimination simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Stonewall, who released the findings on its website, timed the survey to coincide with the group’s “Come Out for LGBT” campaign. The London-based equality organization is asking people to help create “a world where everyone, everywhere can be themselves” by combating homophobia in their daily lives.

You can sign the pledge on Stonewall’s website.

HIV-Positive Venezuelans Aren’t Getting Their HIV Meds

On August 10, Pedro*, an HIV-positive man living in Valencia, Venezuela, reached out to a man 1,537 miles away on Grindr. Pedro had been living with HIV since March 2017, but he took his last HIV medication on June 8. Since then, he’d been living without Atripla, the medication he took to suppress his virus.

Pedro switched the filter on his Grindr profile to look for people in the “Poz” tribe and began to message people in hopes of spreading the word. The person he spoke to, Sam Graper, posted the message from Pedro on his Facebook.

“I have days without taking my treatment,” Pedro wrote to a stranger living in Orlando, Florida, on Grindr. “I would appreciate if you know any foundation that provides humanitarian aid to my country I write you because someone who does not have the virus does not understand the need to to take the daily medicine. Put yourself in my place; I’m desperate.”

“I no longer had any options,” Pedro said in a phone interview with INTO. Pedro didn’t only message Sam or just Grindr users. He sent emails to dozens of staff at humanitarian organizations the World Health Organization, the Gates Foundation and more. In each subject line, he wrote the same thing: “Please help me,” in English or “Ayuda” in Spanish.

“It is a difficult situation,” Pedro said. “Nobody answers back.”

According to Jhonatan Rodriguez, president of Venezuelan AIDS advocacy organization StopVIH, Pedro is not alone. Rodriguez told INTO in a phone interview that he’s heard of shortages of at least six medications, including Atripla.

In February, Science wrote that Venezuela was facing a med shortage that could negatively affect its 110,000 HIV-positive citizens.

According to The Globe and Mail, Venezuela’s efforts against HIV were once one of the world’s most effective. However, during the country’s ongoing economic and political crisis, the country has had frequent shortages of HIV meds, leaving people like Pedro without treatment options. Medications are not available in pharmacies. And while some pharmacies do sell condoms, they’re wildly expensive.

Without proper HIV treatment, HIV can cause people to develop AIDS and potentially pass the virus to others. Also, for those who have started meds and go off them, the threat of developing resistance to the medication looms.

Rodriguez told INTO that there are currently no government-run HIV prevention programs and that condoms and HIV tests are no longer available from the government. Rodriguez added that med shortages are not all that spell trouble for people living with HIV. A lack of baby formula means some mothers with HIV face a tough decision: watch their child starve or potentially pass HIV onto them through their breast milk.

Pedro told INTO that he blames “the president and all those who are for him” for his lack of medications.

“People here are afraid to protest,” he said. “They play with our lives.”

Rodriguez said that StopVIH is currently receiving private funding to continue helping those living with HIV, but he said that people outside Venezuela need to spread the word about the plight of Venezuelan citizens, noting that “people are dying because of the shortage.”

Recently, StopVIH announced on its website the program “Pura Vida,” which will see StopVIH team up with AID for AIDS International as well as other groups in Venezuela to try to get recycled HIV meds from other countries into the hands of Venezuelans.

“One antiretroviral pill translate to one day of life for each person with HIV. That’s why our program is called Pura Vida, because it gives patients that hope, that day,” Rodriguez said in a press release for the program.

While the program will certainly help combat the day-to-day needs of those living in Venezuela, it will only be a small intervention into a nationwide structural crisis.

“It is a human rights compromise because it is the right to health and life,” Rodriguez said. “Nothing should be above that. No political interests, no money, nothing.”

*Pedro’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.

Australia Will Hold Controversial Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Following Court Ruling

A controversial referendum on same-sex marriage in Australia will proceed after the nation’s highest bench gave the OK to a postal vote set for next week.

The High Court of Australia heard two challenges to a postal vote pushed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, one that LGBTQ advocates warned would incite bigotry. One case was brought by PFLAG, politician Andrew Wilkie, and Felicity Marlowe, a lesbian mother in Melbourne. The other challenge was filed by the Australian Marriage Equality campaign and Janet Rice, a parliamentary member representing the Green Party.

On Wednesday, the seven judges unanimously ruled against the plaintiffs in an expedited decision made just 24 hours after arguments concluded. The justices’ reasoning will reportedly be made public later this week.

The two cases challenged whether the government had the proper authority to allocate $122 million for the plebiscite. Although funding for such an undertaking has to be appropriated through a vote of the Parliament, Turnbull acted unilaterally. The prime minister has said that he will not allow a free vote on marriage equality without a poll of the Australian public.

Marlowe added that the pollwhich is non-binding and voluntarywould be an emotional strain on her family.

Her concerns were likely voiced in response to a number of incidents since the plebiscite’s announcement that put LGBTQ people in the crosshairs. Written in both English and Chinese, a flier distributed in Hurstville mailboxes in August refers to homosexuality as the “tragedy of a family, a grave to the family bloodline, [and] a curse of family sonlessness.”

The leaflet, taking a page from U.S. anti-LGBTQ groups, also claimed that legalizing marriage equality would give transgender people permission to assault people in public bathrooms.

But the court ruled plaintiffs did not have sufficient standing to challenge the vote.

LGBTQ rights groups in Australia immediately blasted the decision. Anna Brown, director of the Human Rights Law Center, called the plebiscite “completely unnecessary” and said it would do further harm to queer and trans people.

“All Australians deserve the same opportunity for love, commitment, and happiness. All people in Australia should be able to marry the person they love,” Brown told reporters while handing out pro-marriage equality fliers outside the courthouse. “LGBTQ people didn’t ask for this plebiscite but now the court has determined [the vote] will go ahead.”

Equal Marriage Rights Australia, one of the leading voices in the “Yes” campaign to legalize same-sex marriage, said history was on the LGBTQ community’s side.

“It’s not the outcome we wanted but it’s something we must accept,” the advocacy group said in a statement. “Just 30 to 40 years ago homosexuality was a crime; just 20 years ago our relationships had no legal rights and just 10 years ago most Australians opposed marriage equality. We changed all this and we can change the marriage laws, too.”

But forces opposed to marriage equality applauded the court’s ruling.

Lyle Shelton, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Marriage campaign, claimed that LGBTQ rights groups “have done everything they can to stop the Australian people from having their say” on the issue of same sex marriage. Shelton added that he is “confident in the judgement of the Australian people.”

Ballots will be mailed out to Australians beginning September 12, and those who choose to respond will have until October to do so. The results will be announced in November.

Turnbull, who has said that he plans on voting “Yes” to marriage equality, claimed that legislation to legalize same-sex unions will be introduced in Parliament if the Australian public agrees. A Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey conducted in August found that 67 percent of the population is in favor of allowing LGBTQ couples to marry.

Trump Civil Rights Pick Has Spent Career Attacking LGBTQ People, Women, Minorities

Forty-seven LGBTQ advocacy groups have come out against the appointment of Trump nominee Eric Dreiband, who is poised to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Office.

In a Tuesday letter, organizations like Lambda Legal, People for the American Way, and National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund called on Congress to oppose Dreiband’s nomination. The signatories claim that he would be “ill-suited” to defend the rights of LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups, including women and people of color.

“The message being sent…could not be more clear,” the statement reads. “The Civil Rights Division will no longer be in the business of defending civil rights.”

As an attorney at Jones Day, Dreiband defended the University of North Carolina’s position on House Bill 2, the divisive anti-LGBTQ bathroom bill passed in 2016. The university initially stated that it would comply with the law but reversed its decision following lawsuits from trans students and staff members.

But Vanita Gupta, who headed up the DOJ’s civil rights office under Obama, says that Dreiband’s poor record of equality extends beyond the LGBTQ community.

Calling him “woefully unqualified” for the post, Gupta claims in a statement that Drieband “has made a name for himself as one of corporate America’s go-to lawyers in an effort to restrict the rights and remedies for discrimination victims.”

Despite serving in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under George W. Bush, Dreiband has continually defended companies accused of discrimination.

His prior clients include Abercrombie & Fitch, which was sued by a Muslim woman who claimed she was denied a job at the clothing retailer for wearing a headscarf. When Bloomberg L.P. was accused of discriminating against female employees by docking their pay if they became pregnant, Dreiband helped the New York-based consulting company win that case.

The NAACP additionally claimed in a statement that Dreiband has “[advocated] for weaker anti-discrimination protections in the workplace.”

Drieband’s record, though, is in the model of previous Trump appointees to the DOJ’s civil rights office, which has been a revolving door since his inauguration. After Thomas E. Wheeler stepped down from the post in July, the office has been led in the interim by John M. Gore, a fellow Jones Day attorney who worked on the HB 2 case. Throughout his career, Gore has repeatedly defended red states accused of unlawful gerrymandering.

The White House has previously defended the nominee’s controversial history on civil rights.

“The White House judges nominees on the merits of their character and not on the clients they once represented as counsel,” White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said in a statement to CNN. “Mr. Dreiband is highly qualified to run the civil rights division, and we are privileged to have his service.”

Drieband’s pending appointment follows numerous moves by the Trump administration to curtail its civil rights offices. The president’s proposed 2017-2018 budget would ax 600 jobs from the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which oversees discrimination complaints among federal contractors. It also calls for drastic cuts to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights.

The nominee is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Indonesian Police Evict 12 ‘Suspected Lesbians’ From Their Home Following Raid

Police have apprehended 12 women accused by neighbors of being lesbians in Tugu Jaya, the latest Indonesian city to be targeted in a series of anti-LGBTQ sting operations.

The women’s home was raided on Saturday night following allegations from community members of “immoral activities” taking place in the shared residence. Local complaints included that the women had “short hair” and acted “as men.” Although there’s no confirmation about whether the occupants were LGBTQ, the residents worked together at a garment factory.

Indonesia doesn’t have a national law criminalizing homosexuality, but an unnamed official told Human Rights Watch that the women’s alleged sexuality violated common morality.

“It’s not acceptable to have female couples living together,” he said. “It’s obscene.”

What’s worth noting in the Human Rights Watch report is that authorities claimed that the housing situation contravened Sharia law. But the province of West Java, where Tugu Jaya is located, isn’t under the authority of Islamic codes. Aceh, a historically independent territory, was granted special permissions in 2005 to govern through Sharia regulations. It’s the only province with such authority.

Aceh made international headlines when two men were caned 83 times in May for being in a same-sex relationship, but Indonesia has witnessed a wider crackdown on LGBTQ lives in the past year.

Although the majority-Muslim country has historically been permissive toward queer and trans people, that began to change last year following a series of homophobic remarks from government officials. Mohammad Nasir, minister of research, technology, and higher education, “forbid” the existence of LGBTQ student groups in a January 2016 statement. He said they are not “in accordance with the values and morals of Indonesia.”

Those comments, while seemingly isolated, had a galvanizing effect. They served to ignite opposition to the very existence of LGBTQ people.

The nation’s top Muslim clerical body, known as the Indonesian Ulema Council, would call for the “stern prohibition of LGBTQ activities and other deviant sexual activities” in a statement released just a month later. It also advocated for the adoption of “legislation that categorizes” same-sex behavior as a “crime.”

The country’s queer and trans population have felt the weight of that recent backlash. In addition to a rise in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, gay spaces have faced a constant assault by authorities.

The same month that 14 men were arrested in Surabaya during what authorities claimed was a “sex party,” a Jakarta sauna known as a gay “hot spot” was ransacked by police. More than 140 men were arrested during the May raid. Detainees were allegedly forced by police to take an HIV test, and reports claim that the results of those tests were subsequently publicized.

But according to the United Nations, the forced eviction of LGBTQ residents predates even the recent backlash.

A 2013 report from the General Assembly’s Human Rights Council noted “several” cases of housing discrimination against queer and trans people in Indonesia, primarily by landlords. The Special Raconteur concluded that these abuses are a “gross violation of a wide range of internationally recognized human rights” and recommended that the country take steps to protect LGBTQ groups.

Although President Jokoki has claimed that Indonesia does not permit “discrimination against anyone,” his government has done little to address these issues.

Following the Saturday raid, authorities say the 12 women taken into custody have been “asked to leave” Tugu Jaya. Chief Sumantrai, the head of local law enforcement, told the press that their presence in the South Sumatran village “created a public disturbance in the area.” He added that the local community could “become anarchic” if action weren’t taken to remove the women.

Human Rights Watch noted that the group’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Andreas Harsono, the organization’s senior Indonesia researcher, condemned the raid as yet another in a long history of LGBTQ rights violations.

“What’s most offensive about this incident is that police and government officials steamrolled privacy rights and rule of law to appease the bigotry of a few neighbors,” Harsono said in a statement. “Evicting these women based on prejudiced assumptions of their sexual identity threatens the privacy of all Indonesians and has no place in a country whose motto is ‘unity in diversity.’”

This isn’t the first time the women were evicted due to the perception of their sexual identity. Reports claim they were previously forced out of Kutajaya, a nearby town.