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Police in Prince George’s County, Md., have arrested a suspect in the death of transgender woman Zoe Spears.
Gerardo Thomas, 33, of Baltimore, is charged with first-degree murder, The Washington Post reports. Spears, 23, of Washington, D.C., was shot to death June 13 in Fairmount Heights, Md., a D.C. suburb.
Thomas acknowledged to police that he was in the neighborhood where Spears was killed that night and was armed, Brian Reilly, head of the criminal investigations division for Prince George’s County Police, told the Post.
Police are still trying to determine his motive but do not believe the crime was related to Spears’s gender identity. “He did not mention anything about her being a transgender female,” Reilly said, adding that Thomas offered no reason for the crime.
Police also do not think Spears’s murder was connected to that of another trans woman, Ashanti Carmon, in the same area in March. The two women were friends, and Carmon’s body was found just half a mile away from where Spears was killed. In the investigation of Carmon’s death, which remains open, police interviewed Spears as a witness.
A memorial service for Spears was held a few days ago. Spears worked in retail and had ambitions to become a lawyer, according to her friends. “To know Zoe was to know her loving and caring spirit,” said a program for the service. “There are many who would say that Zoe was one who [loved] life and wanted to make it.”
So far this year, 11 murders of transgender people, all women of color, have been reported in the U.S.
Despite a request to keep his identity private, a trans journalist has been publicly revealed as the first trans man in the U.K. seeking to be listed as father on his child’s birth certificate.
Freddy McConnell’s employer, The Guardian, identified him publicly after the courts denied a request to keep his role in the case private.
Of course, McConnell’s story hasn’t been a secret. His personal story of becoming pregnant while transitioning and delivering a child after the government officially granted him a gender recognition certificate is the subject of the Guardian-produced documentary Seahorse.
McConnell spoke to Out at the time about the process of becoming pregnant. He discussed then the fear of publicity impacting his life. It’s why he worked closely with filmmakers on the final product.
“As a single, trans gay man pursuing adoption, I was very intimidated by that,” he said. “I felt like I could be exposed to, you know, transphobia, and homophobia, and gatekeeping, and all sorts of things. So I just wanted to do something that I would feel more in control of.”
After the birth of his child, he asked to be listed as the father, but also filed a request that the courts protect his own identity and that of his child.
Lawyers for the Telegraph Media Group, Associated Newspapers, News Group Newspapers and Reach PLC, aware of McConnell’s identity through other channels, asked the courts not to conceal the identity or order that it be kept private by media.
The documentary played a role in media arguments, with attorneys saying McConnell “put himself at the forefront of the debate on transgender rights,” according to The Guardian.
Attorneys for McConnell said publicly identifying him would put the child at risk of harassment, and risk the baby will one day “be the target of playground bullies was all too plain.”
But McConnell told The Guardian that with the decision to reveal his identity made, he hopes to use the publicity for good.
“Protecting my child has always been and will always be my number one concern. This was the purpose of the anonymity order," McConnell said. "Now that my anonymity has been lifted, I embrace the opportunity to draw focus on to the need for equality in this area of the law."
"All children should be able to have their legal parents correctly and accurately recorded on their birth certificates," McConnell continued.
Transgender and nonbinary detainees at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcment detention facility in New Mexico say they've received inadequate medical treatment and allege abuse from detention guards, according to AZ Mirror.
Twenty-nine migrants detained in ICE's only transgender unit, the Cibola County Correctional Center, handwrote and signed a letter in late June accusing guards at the facility of abuse and medical neglect.
“There is no adequate medical attention to treat people with disabilities, HIV-positive people, those with skin infections (some of which were acquired here), and several of our peers lack medications. We fear retaliations, but more so we are afraid of being in this situation,” the detainees wrote in a translated version.
"Some officials mistreat us daily, verbally and psychologically assaulting us," the migrants added.
Cibola has a history of neglecting detainees and questionable deaths. The facility is owned by the Correctional Corporation of America, a private company, but had a contract with the Bureau of Prisons. Cibola operated as a federal prison for 16 years until the contract was ended early after The Nation investigated the facility.
A Nation reporter "...obtained tens of thousands of pages of medical reports through an open records lawsuit and, working with a panel of medical doctors, found more than two dozen deaths involving substandard care."
Two years after The Nation's investigation, seven organizations investigated Cibola in April 2016 and reported abuse and neglect of detainees. Among their report they listed that the center had inadequate medical and mental health care, abuses related to solitary confinement, discrimination and verbal abuse, and inappropriate meals, among other issues.
There was also a case of a transgender woman dying in Cibola in May 2018. Roxsana Hernandez, a 33-year-old Honduran trans woman seeking asylum, died in custody at Cibola. Many believe it was due to medical neglect.
"Days after she presented for asylum and was detained, Department of Homeland Security officials rushed Roxsana to an emergency department in Chula Vista, California. Once there, she was diagnosed with cough, congestion, fever, and unmedicated HIV. Despite the overwhelming medical consensus as to the standard of care in such situations, she was not admitted for treatment or monitored," according to the Transgender Law Center.
The Transgender Law Center also reported Hernandez's autopsy report included blunt force trauma to her head, deep tissue damage, and handcuff injuries.
The letter from detainees directly contrasts with the summer-camp like images shown to the media last month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Reporters from The Washington Blade toured Cibola, but did not get a full look at the camp.
"The reporters were not allowed to speak with individual detainees and were not granted access to the unit in which detainees are held in solitary confinement. The reporters were also not allowed to bring telephones or recording devices into the facility." The Washington Blade reported last month.
"...Officials from our unit have carried out activities to create an opposite image of reality," the migrants said in response to ICE's portrayal of Cibola. "They deceived us, forcing us to sign documents that weren’t explained at all. We didn’t even know what they were about."
ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa responded to the migrants' letter, according to the AZ Mirror.
“ICE takes seriously all allegations and investigates them thoroughly,” Zamarripa said. “However, ICE cannot research or provide individual comment on any allegations, including alleged medical mistreatment without the specific details. ICE encourages such specific reporting so that all allegations can be thoroughly researched and corrected, if necessary, or debunked.”
“The Transgender Care Memorandum reaffirms ICE’s commitment to provide a safe, secure, and respectful environment for all those in our custody, including those individuals who identify as transgender,” said ICE ERO Executive Assistant Director Thomas Homan. “We want to make sure our employees have the tools and resources available to learn more about how to interact with transgender individuals and ensure effective standards exist to house and care for them throughout the custody cycle.”
The trans detainees insist that ICE's statements are all talk and the situation on the ground does not match their descriptions.
“Our feelings, our worries, our indignation, the violation of our rights, our vulnerability before ICE and the officials that work here: it is for all these reasons we are expressing ourselves through this letter not just as trans women but also as human beings,” the letter reads. “We are dismayed by the worrying circumstances that we are living in.”
"We are not criminals, we are human beings and we have rights like any other person."
Zach Barack made history this year when it was announced that he would appear in Spider-Man: Far From Home, making him the first openly trans actor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While there are a few canonically trans superheroes in Marvel Comics — the best-known being Loki, Thor’s brother, who’s trans and nonbinary — and a few supporting trans feminine characters in the Marvel TV Universe (Mj Rodriguez as Sister Boy in Luke Cage; Shakina Nayfack as Frankie and Aneesh Sheth as Gillian in Jessica Jones), there’s never before been an out transgender actor or obviously trans character in the Marvel movie world.
Barack is not only a trans actor making history but a singer and comedian as well, all while studying music industry at the University of Southern California. He spoke with The Advocate about his trans identity, his breakout role, and navigating a superhero film’s set.
The Advocate: What inspired you to pursue acting? Zach Barack: As a kid I liked attention, so that’s the basic part of it. No, I grew up in a family with three older brothers, so I think just by nature it’s hard not to occasionally fall on the shadow of each other, and I think that we were a little competitive. I wanted everyone to look at me. But I also just sort of fell into it. I saw an open casting call through [Transgender Talent, a talent management agency] and was like, you know, why not? I got one job before [Spider-Man]. It’s a social work video [for USC]. I play a trans alcoholic, but no one can view it unless they want to pay full tuition.
What impact has your queer identity had on your art? With everything I do, whether it’s music, comedy, or acting, there’s a lot of things I want to say in the moment, and I tend to struggle with that. I think part of that is because a lot of my life people looked at me as being a woman. I was socialized and absorbed the norms of not taking up space. I went to an all-girls school, which obviously made things very complicated as a trans person. But the one thing it did empower me to do is realize how to take up space. When you’re in a room with people that are also struggling with that, you figure it out together, and art was one of the ways I did that. With comedy, it’s been empowering and such a cathartic outlet for me. With Spider-Man specifically, I’m always trans, so it permeates everything, right? It’s always going to be there. So even if I’m not playing a character that’s explicitly trans, it’s always going to be true for me. You can’t remove that. It’s always going to be part of my heart.
Zack Barack on set.
What was it like working on such a big project, particularly as, I believe, the only out trans actor? There was another trans actor on the movie who’s also one of the classmates. But the truth is when I first got there, I didn’t know he was trans. So for most of the movie, I was functioning like [I was] the only trans person. I was really afraid. I didn’t know if I should tell people or not. The three boys [who lived near me], Tony [Revolori], Jacob [Batalon], and Remy [Hill] — Flash, Ned, and Brad [in the movie] — they were such nice guys, inviting me to everything, and one of those things was swimming. I was like, well, I’m going to take my shirt off, I’m going to have scars, and then it just won’t be a choice anymore. Then in the back of my head, I was like, they might already know.
I hopped into the pool and no one said a thing and it was fine. There was one day, actually, when I was with Jacob and we were talking about identity politics in a really loose way. He was talking about his stuff as a person of color, and I was talking about my stuff, and he said we all like each other and that’s where it ends. You know what I mean? And I think there was sort of an implication in that, like we get it, we’re here for you.
While trans feminine folks are becoming more prominent in film and TV, trans masc people remain largely unseen. Do you have any thoughts on that? How does it feel to be the face of such a big milestone in terms of trans representation? Well, there’s a lot of pressure. I really want to do it right, and I also want Sony and Marvel to do it right. I think they did, but there’s this feeling of “I have no control of what’s going to happen!” So you cross your fingers. But at the end of the day, and I think this is just true of most art, people are going to garner whatever meaning they are from it. And I hope and sincerely believe that it will be meaningful and powerful. Because for me, even just knowing there was a trans person in the movie would’ve changed everything when I was a kid. Absolutely everything. Things would have happened a lot sooner for me in terms of coming out, in terms of feeling like I could be myself. I mean, the only exposure I had was really violent movies, especially with trans men. The only one in the mainstream was Boys Don’t Cry. And while I think it was a really beautiful movie in a lot of ways, it also made me feel like I couldn’t come out and that I didn’t want [that experience] for myself.
So I want trans men to be shown on-screen because the experience of [Boys Don’t Cry] is true. We need to be out there in a positive way so people know that we exist and aren’t afraid of us and don’t want to treat us that way. We need to stop being the butt of the joke and start being people, in the eyes of cis folks specifically. And the only way we’re going to do that is showing positive representation — not just us getting killed or assaulted. I think it’s taking longer with trans masc [representation] for frankly kind of gross reasons, which is that there’s this weird fascination with trans people, and trans women in particular, who are romanticized in this inappropriate way where people ogle at them. We’re people, you know? Our stories are interesting too.
Did you have any input on your character? It was a Marvel movie, so we got things day of. I read the script once in a locked room and never saw the full thing again. But they were so kind — Jon Watts, our director, was very receptive to [any concerns]. I never had complaints explicitly, but if I had, it would have been met with nothing but positivity. Even [if that wasn’t the case], Zendaya, Tom [Holland], Jacob, Tony, Remy — they would not have let it go. So I think it’s important, having people with clout, people who have a voice, in the room.
Can you tell us anything about your character? He’s a classmate along for the ride. I think the truth is that what Sony and Marvel were trying to do and did very successfully was create a class that looks [realistic]. It’s so unrealistic to have a group of kids that all look the same, and yet that’s what it’s been. It’s not just that main characters haven’t been cast as people of color or trans people, it’s also the folks who participate in the exposition. I think being there, adjacent to all the action, is really important in that way.
What was your favorite moment on set? When we filmed in Venice on a boat. It was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. There was no dialogue or anything; it was just us. So we had Jon on the floor of the boat, filming, and they gave Martin, who plays our teacher, a walkie-talkie. It felt very much like we were on a field trip in that moment, and we were all being completely irreverent. They were like, “Zach, stick your hand in the water!” So I did and then everyone was like, “Don’t do that, it’s not safe!” We were just being kids and it was so much fun.
Tony Revolori, Zack Barack, Remy Hii, Zendaya, Angourie Rice.
Did superhero narratives have an impact on you growing up as a trans person, since superhero stories are very queer and trans? I think I said that a hundred times on the carpet. It’s similar to how, if you’re an outsider, playing video games is a really good way to live the experience that you sometimes can’t be. If you can’t express yourself for fear of safety or if you’re just not ready or the way you want to be in real life, there’s an opportunity for you. I always used boy avatars when I would play games and I was like oh, they’re just cooler, but deep down I’m thinking because I want to be that! I have a TED X where I talked about this, but superheroes were really meaningful to me in that sense. Spider-Man is a really good example. In Homecoming, he’s a kid, and a big thing he’s dealing with is “I want to go to this school dance, but also, I’m Spider-Man, so how do I deal with both of those identities coming into conflict?” It’s like [it was] on set — you just don’t know what to expect when you reveal that part of yourself or when it comes up, you know? It’s such a parallel, having identities that challenge each other while trying to live in the world and fit in, but also wanting to actively be proud of who you are and wanting that to be something people know about you.
I know lots of people headcanon Peter Parker as trans! Yeah! Someone made this fantastic — they called it a Spider-Trans suit — for a convention recently, and it’s down to every detail exactly like his suit, but it’s pink and blue like the trans flag. I thought it was really impressive. I think it makes a lot of sense that people interpret that character in a way that they need to. It means something to them.
Do you have any trans role models? I know you’ve spoken on how you didn’t have any growing up, but what about now? Yeah, and some are not even people I saw on media. I was fortunate enough to go to a student diversity leadership my junior year of high school, and that was my first time coming into contact with people my age who were trans, and not just people I saw on a 20/20 episode in the background when I was 10. So having these young people, some of whom are younger than me, dealing with the same insecurities and being out — I was like, you all are really brave, because I’ve been keeping this to myself for a long time, and you’re already two years on testosterone as a freshman in high school. Also, there were a couple of older kids that had also graduated from my all-girls’ high school and came back like, “We’re boys now!” Alexandra Billings is someone I’ve gotten to work with, and that’s like having someone direct positivity and support at you. Without even saying anything or even generally talking to a group, you feel noticed and spoken to directly. Alexandra Grey was also on [Transparent] — amazing, talented singer. Meeting people who are given and giving opportunities like Jill Soloway, who gave us that opportunity to be in [Transparent], is really rad. I don’t know if I would say that I have anybody at this moment that I look up to, so much as people I can look around to for support.
So you mentioned Transparent — what’s next for you? It comes out in September — it’s a musical. It’s beautiful, and I really think people are going to love it. I’m Jewish, and it’s something I don’t talk about a lot because the trans thing kind of comes first, but it’s something that culturally is really important to me and is a big part of my identity. My favorite things about Judaism are honestly some of my favorite things about being trans. It’s a lot about questioning things, and I’m not religious, but just on a cultural level, I really connect with that aspect of my identity. Both of my parents are Jewish, and Transparent has a lot of those elements in it in addition to being about trans things. Jill is nonbinary and talks about that openly, so it was meaningful to get to be a part of that and work for people like that.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in theaters now. You can watch Barack’s TED X speech on superheroes and identity below:
What Is Your Origin Story? | Zach Barack | TEDxBoulder - YouTube
Spiderman: Far From Home Features Marvel's First Openly Trans Actor
Now in its second season, Good Trouble, The Fosters’ spin-off that introduced rarely depicted characters including an Asian-American lesbian and a bisexual Latinx man as part of its lead ensemble when it premiered, continues to boldly portray the lives of LGBTQ-identified people and people of color. Having already tackled social issues including gender equality in the workplace, trans workers’ rights, and the shooting of an unarmed young Black man by white police officers, Good Trouble took off running into its sophomore season.
Like its parent show before, the Freeform series, about 20-somethings navigating love and career in a hip downtown Los Angeles communal living space, balances humor and heart with the social issues it amplifies. A newer plotline involving Sherry Cola’s Alice, who’s Asian-American and newly out to her parents, and her partner, Joey (Daisy Eagan), who has recently begun using they/them pronouns, implements Good Trouble’s brand of thoughtful storytelling to great effect as it delves into the nuances of dating while both parties are coming into their identities — specifically when one of the people involved is nonbinary.
“My girlfriend, excuse me, my date/friend just changed her pronouns from her/she to they/them, which blows my mind because I’m not even sure who I/me is,” Alice delivers clumsily but with a measure of self-awareness as part of a joke in her fledgling stand-up routine at a fundraising event for trans military personnel.
Later, she introduces Joey as her “girlfriend” before Joey corrects her with “partner.” The back-to-back missteps on Alice’s part lead to an argument and a near breakup before the two people who love each other realize they haven’t been paying attention to each other’s needs.
Sherry Cola and Daisy Eagan
“I'm extremely grateful to be a part of bringing that story out more into the public eye and to hear that people are grateful. It just makes everything that much better for me as an actor,” Eagan tells The Advocate.
Eagan, a musical theater veteran who won a Tony Award for The Secret Garden when she was 11, came out as queer a few years ago. She has since written openly about her own questioning of the gender binary.
Still, when she received the script introducing Joey’s nonbinary storyline, she checked in with Bradley Bredeweg (one of Good Trouble’s trio of out creators, along with Joanna Johnson and Peter Paige) with her concerns about representation.
“I'm certainly gender-nonconforming, whatever that means, so they felt safe putting the story in my hands,” Eagan says of wanting to be wholly respectful of nonbinary identities.
“It's very interesting timing because it's been over this past year that I've sort of been questioning what it means to be a woman. I've been on my own gender journey, so it was sort of real life mirroring art. I'm very lucky in that way,” she adds, sharing a story of being on set with Paige between shots when he asked her why she appeared sad.
"I'm not sad. It's just intense. A lot of my personal stuff is being reflected here," Eagan says she replied. "It felt very vulnerable to put yourself out there to the world."
While nonbinary characters have sprung up on TV here and there on shows including One Day at a Time, Billions, and Degrassi: Next Class, they’re still a group of people that is wildly underrepresented. Joey’s presence on Good Trouble, especially in conjunction with Alice’s coming out to her parents while finding her way as a queer stand-up comic, tells a cross-sectional love story like nothing else out there.
Cola, a stand-up comic when she’s not on set for Good Trouble, praises the show’s creators for their care in excavating the messiness of 20-something life.
“Alice is as real as it can get. She's so flawed and she's figuring it out and things are so messy. That's the case truthfully with everyone on this show. I think we keep it really real. These are just people in their 20s,” Cola tells The Advocate.
Not only is Alice “real,” but she’s also a character in an underrepresented demographic, and Cola’s proud of what Alice may mean to viewers who identify with her.
“I've talked about this before about [Alice], a first-generation Asian-American lesbian who is not out to her parents and who is going to bizarre lengths to hide who she is. … It is a struggle, it is a roller coaster. It is such a tender and specific story that I never saw growing up,” Cola says. “To be able to portray this character means the world to me.”
“For those two random Asian girls in the Midwest who don't see themselves in anyone, who cannot relate and they feel different and they don't feel confident about who they are or where they are, I hope that they can see Alice,” she adds.
Similarly, Eagan, who's received feedback from young and some older nonbinary folks who are happy for Joey's presence, believes in the power of that visibility to provide some solace for people who feel isolated.
"Even if they're in situations where their families are unaccepting or where they feel like they have to hide who they are because it's not safe, I think just even to see somebody who looks like them and has a similar background on TV — the character being loved and accepted goes a long way for people to start to love themselves and accept themselves," Eagan says.
"Even if they can't come out publicly. I think it's so important," she adds.
As with most of Good Trouble's plotlines, Alice and Joey's story is socially and politically prescient, but it's also, at its center, just a universal story of love.
“It’s cool that Alice and Joey are both figuring it out and checking in,” Cola says. “We're so grateful to be a part of a show that isn't afraid to be calling things out, talking about things that are real — reflecting real live people, and making sure that whoever is watching the show feels seen.”
“Alice and Joey are real people in the world who 100 percent just have a story to tell,” she adds.
Good Trouble airs Tuesday nights on Freeform.
Good Trouble Tackles Coming Out as Nonbinary — While Dating!
Two former Dell employees allege the major tech company discriminated against them based on gender identity.
The company, meanwhile, has denied liability in a similar case but settled for a six-figure amount, according to NPR.
Helen Harris, who is gender nonconforming, and Cecilia Gilbert, a trans woman, both said they faced barriers to advancement at work.
Both now have pending claims with New York City’s Commission of Human Rights.
Gilbert, a former systems engineer with Dell, was fired in the middle of her transition. That came after another trans employee had advised her to stay in the closet, saying "Don't tell these people that you're transgender. It's a career ender."
By Gilbert’s telling, bosses specifically cited her ongoing transition as a problem.
"They said, 'We're laying you off because your transgender transition is impeding your ability to travel,'" Gilbert told NPR.
Officials at Dell say that’s not true and that Gilbert was laid off at the same time as hundreds of others as part of a restructuring.
But Helen Harris said she worked at the company for three years and was kept in extensive training while being mocked for her appearance. Harris in 2015 started taking hormones to become more masculine, she said.
Dell and Harris ultimately parted ways amicably, according to the company, though Harris’ interview with NPR clearly indicates hard feelings remain.
NPR journalists say they spoke with co-workers for Gilbert and Harris who confirmed both faces difficulties at work based on their gender identity.
Dell seperately settled a discrimination case with a differnt trans employee in Massachusetts, as reported by the Boston Business Journal.
The company paid $60,000 to the employee and donated $25,000 each to two nonprofits, as well as agreeing to submit all diversity policies to the state for review.
Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson dropped out of playing a trans man in the film Rub & Tug last summer after the announcement of her casting was met with outcry from the trans community and allies. Now, in an interview with As If magazine, and ignoring the outcry from transgender actresses, she’s doubled down on her assertion that because she’s an artist she should be allowed to play any part she likes.
“As an actor, I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job,” Johansson said, according to the Daily Mail.
“I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions,” she continued.
“I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do.”
The backlash from trans activists and allies was fierce in the wake of Johansson’s landing the role Dante "Tex" Gill, a trans man who ran massage parlors and prostitution rings in ’70s-era Pittsburgh, in Rub & Tug from director Rupert Sanders. And that was not the first time a Sanders project involving Johansson stirred controversy. Previously, she played an Asian woman in his movie Ghost in the Shell.
Responding to outrage from trans actresses including Jamie Clayton, Trace Lysette, and Jen Richards, Johansson initially defended her decision to play Gill. When faced with criticism for agreeing to play trans, Johansson, referring to cisgender actors whose performances in trans role have been roundly praised, said through her representative, "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment.”
Eventually, Johansson dropped out of the role, giving an exclusive statement to The Advocate’s sibling publication Out magazine:
"In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project, Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.
"I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film," she continued, "I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide."
After Trans Outcry, Scarlett Johansson Still Wants to Play Any Role
The U.S. House of Representatives today gave final approval to undoing Donald Trump’s transgender military ban.
A provision reversing the ban was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill setting defense spending for the coming fiscal year. The bill must now be reconciled with a version passed by the Republican-controlled Senate last month, which did not contain the repeal amendment and other pro-LGBTQ measures. These parts of the bill may not survive the reconciliation process, but today’s action was still cause for celebration for LGBTQ activists.
“Today’s vote sends a powerful message to our transgender troops, their families, and their fellow service members that they have our country’s full support,” Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release. “We are grateful to all the troops and veterans who spoke out against this discriminatory ban, and to our partners who helped lead the fight. Reps. Adam Smith and Jackie Speier, along with fellow members of Congress, tirelessly advocated for equality in our country and helped ensure that transgender service members can serve our nation openly and freely.”
Smith, a Democrat from Washington State, chairs the House Armed Service Committee and sponsored the bill as a whole. Speier, a California Democrat, sponsored the amendment that would undo the trans ban by mandating that the armed forces cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The House added her amendment to the funding bill Thursday.
The final bill also contained an amendment offered by Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who is gay, to make it easier for service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” to upgrade their discharge status, and one by Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland, also a Democrat, that requires the gathering of data on how many transgender people were denied enlistment in the military.
“By passing the NDAA with these incredibly important amendments, the U.S. House of Representatives just sent a powerful message of support to all of the brave patriots who serve our nation in uniform — including LGBTQ service members and veterans,” Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, said in a statement, according to Metro Weekly. He urged members of Congress to include these amendments in the reconciled version of the bill.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 220 to 197, with all Republicans and only eight Democrats in opposition, Politico reports. In addition to its pro-LGBTQ amendments, it has other provisions that are likely to set up conflicts with Trump and Senate Republicans. For one, it would limit the president’s ability to take military action against Iran without congressional approval. It also calls for curtailing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and expanding benefits available to military personnel. And the House bill provides for a lower amount of spending, $733 billion, than the Senate bill, $750 billion.
While an epidemic of anti-trans violence unfolds across the globe, there has also been a dramatic rise in the number of people seeking out porn that features trans people.
According to Pornhub's 2018 Year In Review, which averages over 92 million visitors a day, the website has seen a massive increase in the number of searches for trans porn.
Trans porn has become one of the top searches across all of the site's content categories.
This week, The Ten podcast breaks down how to reconcile this new data about the porn industry during a time when the amount of violence directed at the trans community continues to grow.
Zach Stafford is joined by Venus Lux, a porn star who's trans and runs her own production company, and Matt Slusarenko, the VP of Marketing and Businesses development at Kink.com, which was a pioneer in creating trans-inclusive porn.
Another transgender woman has been murdered in Honduras, the third this month.
Bessy Ferrera, 40, was shot to death Sunday night on a street in the city of Comayagüela, which is near the capital city, Tegucigalpa, human rights group Frontline Defenders reports. She was a transgender and sex rights activist, and a member of the LGBTQ rights organization Asociación Arcoíris, according to Frontline Defenders.
Two men drove up to her in a car with darkened windows and opened fire, the group reports. She was struck by multiple bullets and died instantly. A woman who was with her was wounded and required hospitalization. The police have detained two men in connection with the attack, but their names have not been made public.
“Today we woke up with the painful news that our companion, friend and sister was murdered,” Asociación Arcoíris wrote on its Facebook page. “No doubt this news has taken us by surprise, leaving us with a lump in the throat and a feeling of impotence to see how we are being killed cruelly and the authorities of this country do nothing.”
Even though arrests have been made in Ferrera’s death, there is widespread police indifference to violence against LGBTQ people in the country, especially violence against trans people, attorney Astrid Ramos told NBC News. And sometimes police are the perpetrators; Ferrera was beaten nearly to death by police 10 years ago, but they have yet to be convicted, Ramos said.
Ferrera was the sister of Rihanna Ferrera, also a trans woman, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Honduran Congress in 2017.
Her death came two days after that of TV personality Santiago “Santi” Carbajal. Carbajal, host of the La Galaxia de Santi program, which dealt with LGBTQ life, was fatally shot last Friday by a group of strangers in the city of Puerto Cortes.
Two days before Carvajal was killed, Antonia Lainez, a 38-year-old stylist, was shot to death in El Negrito, NBC News reports.
“This week was particularly tragic,” Paul Jansen, program director at OutRight Action International, told the network. “Although violence against trans people in Central America is continuous, we haven’t seen this level of violence in the last year.”
Jansen said he doesn’t think the three deaths are linked, but they are indicative of a culture of violence in the nation. There are many criminal gangs in Honduras, and while straight and cisgender people are sometimes victims of violence, rampant homophobia and transphobia heighten the risk of violence against LGBTQ people and particularly trans people, human rights groups said.
“It’s the ideal cocktail for people to do what they please,” Jansen told NBC. “Trans people in Honduras are viewed as the lowest of the low; they’re seen as horrible people, and when they are visible and vocal, people take it as an invitation to kill them, which is unacceptable and unjustifiable.”