The Hotlanta Volleyball Association is hosting their one-day Winter Ball tournament tomorrow (December 15) from 9 A.M to 5 P.M.
Proceeds from the tournament will go to support the work the Atlanta Performance Volleyball does to provide every athlete, regardless of age or ability, with the technical, tactical, and physical training to reach their maximum potential.
“Our organization’s partnership with Atlanta Performance Volleyball provides continuing opportunity to expand and flourish the sport of volleyball in the Atlanta community,” said Dana Zajac, the Social Activities Chair for HVA. “This event empowers HVA to give back to the programs that AVP makes available to the young women and men of Atlanta.”
Registration for the tournament is currently closed and completely full, but spectators are welcome to come and cheer on the teams as well as tour the the Atlanta Performance Volleyball facilities during the tournament.
The event will be held at the Atlanta Performance Volleyball facility at 1045 Research Center Dr. SW, Atlanta, GA 30331.
Republican House Speaker David Ralston talked to the AJC about his thoughts on anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” legislation, of which Gov.-elect Brian Kemp has expressed support.
“I’d have to think through [supporting religious liberty legislation] a little bit,” Ralston said, citing “serious concerns” regarding the legislation.
“The states that have passed it, or have talked about it in the last few years, have not had good experiences,” he told the AJC. “And I don’t want Georgia to have that experience.”
He went on to recognize the change the world has seen since Bill Clinton signed the federal Religious Freedom Act in 1993. “The RFRA discussion then was totally different,” he said. “It wasn’t what it was about now. That’s one of those issues that divide us, and I think if we’re going to continue to move Georgia forward, we have to do it united as opposed to divided.”
This religious freedom legislation has been criticized by LGBTQ groups as only a justification for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
“The ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ places LGBT people at risk by emboldening individuals who would use religion to justify discrimination,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow when similar legislation was introduced in Mississippi. “The law lacks clear provisions preserving the integrity of non-discrimination protections at the local level or possible future state-wide protections.”
Kemp said in August that, while he supports the “religious liberty” legislation, he would veto any legislation that veered from the RFRA signed by Clinton if elected governor. He said he’d only sign a “mirror image” and not any proposal with additional provisions.
President Donald Trump signed a bill into law which will give billions of dollars in lifesaving HIV treatment, reported Vox.
Trump renewed the law, called President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to last until 2023. PEPFAR provides annual funding and technical support for antiretroviral treatment and currently supports the treatment of 14.6 million people.
Research has shown that PEPFAR has been incredibly effective. A 2009 Stanford study found that PEPFAR reduced the HIV death rate by 10.5% between 2004 and 2007 — 1.2 million deaths were prevented cost-effectively, at only $2,450 per life saved.
The law was first introduced by then-President George Bush in 2003 in response to the AIDS crisis in Africa.
The bill was passed with unanimous consent in the Senate and voice vote in the House before the president signed it.
PEPFAR is largely uncontroversial, receiving support throughout its existence from both religious conservatives and faith leaders, like George Bush and Chris Smith, and progressives and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, like Barbara Lee.
“Bipartisanship is not dead,” Jennifer Kates told Vox. Kates is the vice president and director for global health and HIV police at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “This is one of those rare examples in Washington. There’s been an incredible history of bipartisanship around PEPFAR that stands outside the rancor we hear about.”
Trump’s renewal of this law comes after the administration halted research into a possible cure for HIV.
An estimated 18.8 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States say they have guns in their home compared to 35.1 percent of heterosexuals, according to a recently released study by the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank associated with the UCLA School of Law.
Among other things, the study found that LGB adults are more likely than their heterosexual peers to support gun control laws or regulations such as background checks. It also found that among both LGB and heterosexual adults, non-Hispanic whites were more likely to have a gun in their home than people of other races and nationalities.
And, in what may be viewed as an interesting gender role variation, among LGB respondents, 17.3 percent of males and 19.9 percent of females — a statistically insignificant difference — reported having guns in their home.
By contrast, 42.2 percent of heterosexual males reported having guns in their home compared to 30.8 percent of heterosexual females, a finding, according to the study, that shows an approximate 10 percent gender gap in guns in the home between straight men and women.
“Gun violence is a major public concern, and violence against LGBT people is all too common,” said the study’s co-author Adam P. Romero, director of Legal Scholarship and Federal Policy at the Williams Institute.
“But we know little from a research perspective about how guns are used against and by LGBT people,” Romero said in a statement. “Given high rates of suicide attempts among LGBT people, comparable rates of intimate partner violence, and elevated risk of other interpersonal violence, it is critical to gather more data about the extent to which guns are present at these moments.”
The Williams Institute says its study is based on an analysis of two U.S. national surveys of gun ownership and attitudes toward gun control policies conducted by two other organizations that asked respondents to identify their sexual orientation but not their gender identity.
“Data about gun ownership and attitudes toward gun control among transgender adults have not yet, to our knowledge, been collected,” the study says.
One of the two surveys from which it based its findings is an annual nationally representative survey of adults known as the General Social Survey (GSS), which monitors social characteristics and attitudes of Americans. The Williams Institute says its study used data collected by the relatively small GSS survey sample each year from 2008 to 2016 to obtain a statistically significant sample of LGB respondents.
The Williams Institute says the other source of data for its study is the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, an online attitudinal survey of U.S. adults weighted to reflect the larger U.S. adult population. That survey included results from a total of 55,121 respondents, 50,942 of whom self-identified as heterosexual and 4,179 self-identified as LGB.
The Williams Institute study’s findings are outlined and analyzed with multiple tables of data in a 21-page reported entitled, “Gun Violence and LGBT Adults: Findings from the General Social Survey and the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey.”
Although the findings focus solely on LGB people, the study provides an overview of current research on gun violence that impacts the entire LGBT community, including the transgender community, which is why the study’s title includes the “T,” according to Williams Institute spokesperson Rachel Dowd.
A summary released by the Williams Institute includes what it considers some of the study’s key findings:
• Controlling for age, race and regional distribution, heterosexual men were more likely to have guns in the home than gay and bisexual men.
• Among LGB adults, women and men had comparable rates of guns in the home (19.9% and 17.3% respectively).
• Among both LGB and heterosexual adults, non-Hispanic whites were more likely to have a gun in their home than other races/ethnicities.
• LGB adults were somewhat more likely to favor laws that would require people to obtain a police permit before they could buy a gun compared to heterosexuals (81.4 % and 73.9 percent respectively).
• Among LGB adults, there is strong support for background checks (93.3%) and opposition to making it easier to obtain concealed weapon permits (73.3%).
• In a “conclusion and recommendations” section the study says federal and state crime data reporting, which mostly does not include sexual orientation and gender identity data, should be changed to include such data.
“SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity] measures are not included on death certificates; nor are they included in the administrative systems that track injury, or on the core demographic sections of the Uniform Crime Reports, or all relevant population based surveys,” the report says.
“The report finds that LGB people have fewer guns in the home; and from a harm reduction standpoint, when there is less access to guns, the risk of death by suicide and homicide decrease,” said Brian Malte, executive director of the Hope and Heal Fund, which funded the study.
“Yet, there is a dearth of information on how gun violence affects LGBT people,” Malte said in a statement. “We are excited to learn more about how to fill these gaps in knowledge through this important project.”
A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals gave no clear signal during oral arguments Monday on whether they’d keep in place one of four injunctions against President Trump’s transgender military ban, raising the real possibility the panel would reverse the order against the policy.
After one hour of arguments in which a dominant theme was hair-splitting over the difference between being transgender and having gender dysphoria, the questioning left no clear indication of the eventual ruling. One judge seemed poised to reverse the injunction, another seemed inclined to keep it and the other gave mixed signals.
At issue is whether U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly should have lifted her preliminary injunction against Trump’s transgender military ban in the aftermath of the report of Defense Secretary James Mattis in March justifying Trump’s plan to exclude transgender people. Although the Mattis policy generally bars transgender people from service, it exempts those who’ve already come out during the period of open service that started under Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the Obama years. The Mattis policy also allows transgender troops who enlist in the future or who have yet to come out to continue to serve as long as they don’t transition.
U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams, a Reagan appointee, raised questions that were overtly in favor of allowing the ban to proceed. U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee, had mixed questioning for both sides. U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee, seemed inclined to keep the injunction in place, asking questions about whether the Mattis policy has changed anything.
Even if the D.C. Circuit were to reverse Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s injunction against the Trump policy, three other nationwide injunctions against the policy remain in effect and those court orders against the policy would remain in effect. The Trump administration would still be enjoined from implementing its ban on transgender service.
Much attention was placed on the distinction Mattis placed in his implementation on service members who are transgender and transition and those who continue serving in their biological sex. The Mattis policy would allow transgender people to serve as long as they serve in their biological sex and “do not require a change of gender and remain deployable within applicable retention standards.”
Representing the Trump administration before the court was Justice Department trial attorney Brinton Lucas, who argued that provision in the policy — as well as the part allowing the estimated 937 transgender troops who came out in the Obama years to stay in the military — demonstrates the Trump administration has changed its approach and lifting the injunction is warranted.
“Their entire argument is we haven’t changed,” Lucas said. “We believe that we have.”
In his closing remarks, Lucas called it “truly extraordinary” four separate courts have placed injunctions against the transgender military ban and said the U.S. government is calling for a “simple amount of deference,” much like the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately awarded the Trump administration on the travel ban to Muslim countries.
Arguing on behalf of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders in favor of keeping the court injunction in place was Jennifer Levi, who said the Mattis policy “bans only transgender people and all transgender people” and gender dysphoria is a “defining characteristic” of being transgender.
Williams — who told Levi “the record in the case is against you” — repeatedly referenced the portion of the Mattis recommendations allowing transgender people to serve in their biological sex, pointing to a RAND Corp. study finding 18 percent of transgender service members reported having no desire to undertake transition.
“There seem to be people who spend decades in their biological sex and then decide to transition,” Williams said.
When Levi responded those service members don’t wish to transition “because of discrimination,” Williams said the terms “do not wish” demonstrates a subsection of transgender people who are fine for the time being in their biological sex. Levi, however, said the distinction “doesn’t remedy the constitutional injury” against transgender and warrant lifting the injunction against the policy.
“Gender dysphoria here is being used as a proxy to exclude transgender individuals,” Levi said.
When Williams suggested the transgender ban could be justified because of the high suicide rates in the transgender population, Levi said the military doesn’t apply the standards, for example, to white people compared to black people, drawing on findings white people suffer a higher suicide rate than black individuals.
A couple of times issues became contentious between Williams and Levi. When the judge asked the attorney to comment on the transgender experience in terms of the “world” as opposed to proposed policy, Levi commented on the “Carter world” of open service, Williams scoffed and said that wasn’t sufficient.
“The government is playing word games by arguing that transgender people can serve in their birth sex. That is a contradiction in terms,” Levi said in a statement after the arguments. “This is not a game. What’s at stake here is the lives of dedicated service members, who are willing and able to serve—and are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”
In contrast to Williams, Griffith repeatedly asked whether heightened scrutiny for laws against sex discrimination should apply to the transgender military ban, indicating he may be inclined to uphold the order against the policy.
Additionally, Griffith asked whether allowing transgender service members to stay in the military as long as they remain in their biological sex creates a “null set” that essentially bars all transgender service members.
“You can be a transgender individual as long as you don’t act like one, as long as you suppress your gender identity,” Griffith said.
When Griffith asked Lucas whether there are transgender people who can serve in their biological sex, Lucas replied, “Yes,” referencing those who don’t wish to transition because, for example, they identify as non-binary. But when Griffith posed the same question to Levi, she compared the situation to allowing gays to serve in the military while requiring them “to act heterosexually.”
Griffith also asked Lucas whether the grandfather clause in the Mattis policy allowing transgender people who came out during the Obama years undercuts the rationale for the policy. In response, Lucas said the military has different standards for accession than it does for retention, noting the military keeps service members with PTSD, high blood pressure and sleep apnea, but doesn’t have the same policy for their enlistment.
Despite those questions, Griffith also voiced concerns over judicial precedent requiring the judiciary to give deference to the military over combat readiness, pointing out the proposed ban used to be the policy of the military until the final year of the Obama administration.
“You are asking the court to make decisions we are not equipped to make: Who is combat ready and who is not” Griffith said.
Levi responded the courts must still apply the “same level of scrutiny” they would otherwise apply to discriminatory policy.
“Under any level of scrutiny the Mattis plan fails because it’s rooted in discrimination,” Levi said.
Wilkins was the hardest judge to read on the panel, but seemed inclined to allow the injunction against the ban to remain in place. Wilkins asked for a distinction between the transgender polices as they evolved during the Obama and Trump eras, asking whether anything has really changed with the new policy Mattis proposed.
Arguments took place before the D.C. Circuit shortly after the Justice Department filed petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court calling for review before appellate courts made their decisions on the policy. It would be highly unusual for the Supreme Court to take up the case at this stage in the litigation process. On Friday, Kollar-Kotelly denied a request from the Justice Department to lift her injunction against the ban as the Supreme Court considers whether to take up the petitions.
A new study found that bisexual people are more likely than other group to be liberal.
Meredith Worthen, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma, conducted a study entitled “All the Gays Are Liberal?” The study was published December 6 in the Sexuality Research and Social Policy Journal.
The study explored “sexuality and gender gaps in political perspectives among college students enrolled at a university in the southern USA.”
Worthen looked at political affiliation across categories of sexual identity – lesbian, gay, bisexual, mostly heterosexual, and heterosexual – as well as gender. She initially hypothesized that “liberal social justice perspectives may be particularly common among LGB people as a group and perhaps especially among lesbian and bisexual women due to their multiple oppressed identities.”
The results confirmed a large gap between heterosexual people and those of other sexualities. The study also found “evidence of a bisexual woman consciousness that relates to strong liberalism among bisexual college women.”
A prior study done in July of this year found that individuals who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were more likely than heterosexuals to be active in liberal social movements.
This study by Eric Swank, entitled “Sexual identities and participation in liberal and conservative social movements,” analyzed the American National Election Surveys of 2012.
It found that “gays and lesbians were about twenty times more likely to join LGB justice campaigns than heterosexuals.”
This study also noted “crossover,” as “LGBs were more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to join antiwar, environmental, and anti-corporate movements.”
Swank’s conclusion, however, also pointed out that “the majority of people from all sexualities never joined social movements.”
In the face of this need for greater collaboration and unity, Worthen said her study on liberalism “works toward a deeper understanding of ways college students can promote political change and advocate for social justice.”
The Trump administration shut down a study into treatment for HIV in September, reported Science magazine.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) forbid National Institute of Health (NIH) scientists from acquiring new human fetal matter in a study that implanted the tissue into mice to find new treatments for HIV.
The human fetal tissue came from elective abortions, a legal process which is largely opposed by anti-abortion groups.
HHS told researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, that the contract for work involving human fetal tissue would only be extended 90 days instead of the usual one year. This prompted reports that the department was preparing to cancel the contract, which HHS denied, saying it made no decisions regarding federal funding of the research.
However, a spokesperson for NIH confirmed that it had requested researchers to “pause procurements of fetal tissue,” pending the outcome of an HHS review.
This pause impacted the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), which was studying new treatments for HIV. RML was carrying out a study which could prevent HIV establishing latent reservoirs in the body. Eliminating these reservoirs has been a key target among those wishing to cure the disease.
RML received an email from a bioscience contractor in late September, saying, “[The Department of Health and Human Services] has directed me to discontinue procuring fetal tissue from ABR, the only source from us. I think that they are the only provider of fetal tissue for scientists in the nation who don’t have direct access to aborted fetal tissue. This effectively stops all of our research to discover a cure for HIV.”
The director of Gladstone Center for HIV Cure Research – which was collaborating on the RML research – Warner Greene told Science the agency was “devasted” by the news. “We were all poised to go and then the bombshell was dropped,” he said. “The decision completely knocked our collaboration off the rails.”
A spokesperson for HHS said in a statement to Gay Star News that the pause on the use of the fetal tissue was to allow an audit to be conducted “of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations.”
Melani Sofía Rosales Quiñones, a transgender woman from Guatemala City, was on her way home one night in July 2017 when she saw a group of homophobes waiting for her. She said good evening to them and that alone provoked an atrocious attack.
“They hit me with bats and sticks,” Melani now recalls. “They broke my jaw and left jaw bone. I was in a coma in the hospital for three days and 15 days later I had surgery to reconstruct my face. They put in plates and screws. It took me four months to recover.”
A year later the gangs, who are full of hate and violence in Latin America, took over their house and turned it into a stash house. Melani’s mother never accepted this and filed a harassment complaint against the so-called “gangs.”
“They called my mom and threatened her as she was leaving the police station,” says Melani. “They said she can’t play with them and they will kill my younger brother who is 15.”
Melani shared part of her life with the Washington Blade from a guest house in downtown Tijuana where LGBTI members of the migrant caravan who arrived in this border city weeks earlier receive temporary refuge. Melani and other LGBTI migrants in Tijuana all hope to seek asylum in the U.S., a nation in which they think they can live without fear and with economic prosperity.
The LGBTI migrants, like other members of the caravan, are now scattered along Mexico’s northern border. They were a small group that faced abuse and mistreatment while traveling with the caravan itself before arriving in Mexico. Today the LGBTI migrants are nothing more than small and vulnerable groups scattered in Tijuana, Baja California state and Nogales, another border town in Sonora state.
Crossing this wall and safely entering U.S. territory is the dream of the thousands of migrants who are stuck in Tijuana. They are only looking for an opportunity to live in the U.S. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)
Stories behind the American dream
It is not the first time that Melani has launched herself north in order to reach American soil. She “went up” to Tijuana in May of this year with another caravan, but another attack made her think twice. “I was very disappointed because Tijuana officials beat me when I went to the El Chaparral checkpoint,” she says. “I later went to the hospital and filed a complaint against the immigration officers.”
Melani returned to a small town between Guatemala and Mexico she says was “in no man’s land” with the hope that she could once again hit the road and seek the American dream at any moment. She was unable to return to Guatemala or Tijuana. She had almost become a hermit during that time. Melani, an extroverted and sociable girl, was living far away from people.
“I worked in a bakery and from there I went to my house without saying a word, without saying hello to anyone,” she adds.
Melani fled from a Guatemala, where violence is seen as a normal part of life and is worse for members of LGBTI communities. One report on the situation for LGBTI people in four Central American countries says they endure “insults, bribes, arbitrary detentions and physical attacks that often lead to murders, but they do not report them because of fear of reprisals.”
“LGBTI people live in fear and don’t depend on community support networks that help them deal with the violent scenarios in which they live,” reads the report.
The Observatory of Murdered Trans People notes 39 trans women were killed in Guatemala between January and July 2017. Guatemala has the sixth highest rate of trans murders out of any country in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Honduras’ National Commission for Human Rights says 40 LGBTI people have died between 2007 and May of this year. Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist network, indicates 288 LGBTI people have been killed in Honduras between 2009-2018.
Insecurity is not the only situation the Honduran LGBTI community faces. Infobae, an Argentina-based news website, once reported “there is no record of any trans person who has been hired by a private company or a government agency in Honduras.”
Amelia Frank-Vitale, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan who has spent more than a year living in Honduras studying issues related to deportation, migration and violence, confirmed to the Blade “people from the LGBTI community are exposed to all forms of violence that exists against any person in Honduras, which is mainly urban, young and poor.”
“But they are nevertheless discriminated against and stigmatized because of their sexual orientation and in many cases the government is absent on justice-related issues,” she added. “It is always more critical for the LGBTI community.”
It is this situation from which Alexis Rápalos and Solanyi, two identities that live inside the same robust 38-year-old body, fled.
Alexis was wearing a knit hat that covered a nearly shaved head when he spoke with the Blade.
He comes from a family with few resources and he revealed he has suffered the scourge of discrimination in the streets of his city, San Pedro Sula, which for four years was recognized as the world’s most dangerous city, since he was 10. He has lived alone since his mother died a year ago.
A tailor and a chef, he worked in a restaurant in his native country but he decided to join the caravan in search of a future with more security and a life without the harsh realities of rampant homophobia.
He left with nothing more than a pair of pants and a shirt in his backpack and joined the caravan at the Guatemala-Mexico border. “I was discovering friends in the caravan,” says Alexis. “And then the gay community. We came fighting, fighting many things because we are discriminated against, insulted constantly.”
“The road has been very hard,” he adds. “Sometimes we slept in very cold places, with storms. I had the flu with a horrible cough, people gave us medicine, clothes, thank God.”
They reached Tijuana by hitchhiking, and sometimes by bus while depending on charity groups to eat. “We arrived at the shelter that had been at the Benito Juárez Sports Complex, but we were in our own group. They treated us well with clothes, medicine and food,” he said, insisting he is thankful for the assistance he received while there.
Once at the shelter, where unsanitary conditions and overcrowding were a constant, they experienced homophobia that follows some of their fellow travelers and places them in an even worse situation than the rest of the migrants. Alexis says they were booed in food lines and there were times when they were not allowed to eat. The situation repeated itself in the cold outdoor showers where privacy was an unthinkable luxury.
He felt the harshness of the early morning cold while he and roughly 6,000 Central Americans were staying at the shelter that city officials set up. Alexis slept in the street because he didn’t have a tent to protect himself. The unusually heavy seasonal rains that soaked his meager belongings chilled him to the bone.
“In the (Benito Juárez) shelter we saw humiliations, criticisms and they even made us take down our gay flag,” says Bairon Paolo González Morena, a 27-year-old gay man from Guatemala. “We were discriminated against a lot. They told us we could not make the same line for food and they made us stand at the end of the line for the bathroom and here (at Enclave Caracol, a new shelter) they are treating us much better. They gave us our place. We have a separate bathroom and everything.”
LGBTI members of the caravan that arrived in Tijuana were housed at the Benito Juárez Sports Complex that had been converted into a shelter. They were discriminated against by their fellow migrants. The LGBTI migrants were forced to take down their gay flag. They were also not allowed into food lines and were the last ones to use public showers. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)
Bairon was a cross-dresser known as Kaira Paola at night and was a sex worker, which left him with many scars on his body. “I worked to provide food for my twin brother and younger brother,” he says. “My family there found out that I was gay. My stepmother discriminated against me and my dad did not support me and until this day I am fighting for my well-being.”
He lived alone and decided to join the caravan because he was constantly extorted for money. He was already working in a restaurant in Tuxpan in Veracruz state when the migrants reached Mexico, and he didn’t think twice about joining the caravan that Frank-Vitale says is “a civil disobedience movement against a global regime.”
“The caravan is the form that has been recognized as the way one can cross Mexico without being as exposed to criminal groups, corrupt authorities and without paying a smuggler to seek an opportunity to live,” she says.
Paolo González Morena, a 27-year-old gay man from Guatemala, was a sex worker in his country and was constantly extorted and mistreated because of his sexual orientation. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)
Waiting for asylum
A long line has formed outside Enclave Caracol, a community center located on First Street in downtown Tijuana that has welcomed this portion of the LGBTI caravan that arrived weeks after the first.
Under tents, the migrants organize themselves to distribute food they prepared themselves inside the building in which a wedding for several gay couples took place weeks earlier.
Nacho, who asked the Blade only to use his first name, works for Enclave Caracol. He said (he and his colleagues) are supporting “the community with food and water, (allowing them to) use the bathroom, Internet access, use of telephones that allows them to call practically any part of the world and at some moments it has functioned as a shelter.”
At same migrants who receive services at Enclave Caracol have cooked and organized their lives there. Donations from members of civil society in various cities have made it possible for Enclave Caracol to provide assistance to the dozens of migrants who are taking shelter there. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)
Enclave Caracol’s employees were the ones who cooked most of the food and did the cleaning when the center first provided aid to these displaced people. But Nacho says “people from the caravan have been getting involved bit by bit.”
“No one from Enclave has actually ever been in the kitchen,” he tells the Blade. “Over the last few weeks we have received donations and we have also been going to the markets for leftover fruits and vegetables and we clean them, process them and they’re cooked. They are organizing the cleaning and delivery of food themselves.”
Nacho said many civil society members in Los Angeles, San Diego and in Tijuana itself are donating money, food, cleaning products, disposable plates and cups to alleviate the tense situation that exists with the arrival of thousands of migrants, many of whom have not begun the political asylum process, to this urban border city. These civil society members are also volunteering their time.
“There is a very long list of people who are seeking asylum, who have been brought to the port of entry and are looking to following the correct process under international law,” says Frank-Vitale, noting the U.S. asylum process has been made intentionally difficult. “It has been said that they are going to have to wait up to two months to have the opportunity to make their case and this is truly a deadly humanitarian crisis for vulnerable people who have fled persecution, who live in the rain, the cold, outside all this time.”
“Sometimes one becomes hopeless because there is no stable place,” says Alexis, who remains hopeful. “We are going from here to there. They say that today they are going to bring us to another house to wait for lawyers who are going to help us with our papers.”
Melani is nevertheless more realistic when speaking about her asylum claim. “Our situation is a bit difficult because many people continue to arrive,” she says. “Donald Trump closed the border and the crossing is very complicated. This is why people who are going to the border are under stress.”
Frank-Vitale thinks the actual asylum system should be changed in order to recognize modern forms of violence and persecution to which people are exposed and especially LGBTI groups. “Taking all of this into account, yes, it is possible,” she says. “There are cases from Central America that perfectly enter the system, always and when they have a founded fear of their lives in their countries and many people have a very real fear.”
This fear, which has been with Melani for most of her life, will follow her to the U.S., because in “the previous caravan there was a girl named Roxana (Hernández) who died because she had HIV, but the autopsy revealed that she had been beaten by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.”
The original autopsy performed on Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who died in ICE custody in New Mexico on May 25, lists the cause of death as cardiac arrest. The second autopsy to which Melani referred shows Hernández was beaten, but does not identify who attacked her while she was in custody.
Hernández’s case has reached the U.S. Senate with three senators recently asking U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide them with documents relating to her death.
In spite of all of these situations, in spite of a xenophobic president who commands the other side of the border, in spite of a powerful army positioned on the border, in spite of the long lines to be heard, in spite of the constant uncertainty, Bairon remains firm in his decision: “We are here. With everything we have given up, I will not return.”
Tracee McDaniel, the CEO and founder of Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc. who is on the LGBTQ Institute’s Advisory Board, and Ryan Roemerman, the executive director of the LGBTQ Institute and Senior Strategist for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, represented the mayor’s board. The two were joined by Dr. Eric R. Wright, chair of the Department of Sociology and a professor of Sociology and Public Health at Georgia State University.
The survey aimed to “amplify the voice of LGBTQ Southerners and highlight the issues affecting their lives, in order to create a more safe and welcoming South.” A diverse sample of 6500 participants – a third of which were people of color, more than 1000 transgender – gave data in the first effort to understand LGBTQ experiences in the South.
“It’s always good to have the data and numbers to back up what we’ve been feeling for a long time now,” said McDaniel when asked why the study was so important.
Listen to the whole interview here to learn more about the results of the study.
Lips, Atlanta’s ultimate drag show palace, is celebrating five fabulous years this Christmas with a brand new “Holiday Spectacular Show.” The merry mayhem takes place every Wednesday at 7:30pm through the month of December.
“It’s a holly jolly, sprinkling, and twinkling kinda show,” promises Edie Cheezburger, who stars as one of the Dragettes in the Vegas-style show. “We perform everyone’s favorite holiday classics but jazz ’em up as only a true Christmas queen can!”
Lips Atlanta has a lot to celebrate in 2018. “We are five,” proclaims an exuberant Yvonne Lame’. She and investors Michael Pacca, Edward LaFaye, Mitch Albert, Paul Galluccio, and Robert DeBenedictis opened the Buford Highway dining experience five years ago, basing it on the NYC eatery they had opened fifteen years earlier.
“We’re not surprised by our enormous success,” she continues. “Atlanta loves the uniqueness of the Lips experience. We are more than a stage show. We are over-the-top glamorous fun!”
It’s true. Glam does take center stage at Lips and not just at Christmas, but every day of the year. The red-and-gold dining room features huge chandeliers, lush fabrics, and revolving disco balls. Wherever guests look — on the drag queens or on the walls — they are blinded by glitter.
The menu is also delightful. Appetizers include calamari, chicken tenders, and butterfly coconut shrimp. Entrées run the gamut from pasta primavera and grilled chicken Caesar salad to blackened salmon and pan-roasted filet mignon.
But possibly the best part of the Lips experience is that the performers are the waitresses too. Guests enjoy full access to the talent and are sometimes even dragged into the show!
Lips Atlanta employs over twenty local drag queens. Most got their start in drag at Lips and have perfected their craft on its stages. Some have even gone on to become international drag superstars, including Violet Chachki, season seven winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Lame’ is looking forward to 2019 and describes the future of Lips Atlanta, and the Lips franchise as a whole, as unstoppable and exciting. She and partners Edward LaFaye and Michael Pacca are currently searching Texas, Washington and Washington DC for suitable locations to expand the chain. Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Boston are also on their radar.
For more information on Lips and the “Holiday Spectacular Show,” visit LipsAtl.com.