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Brazilian transgender dancer shatters Carnival parade taboo

   When dancer Camila Prins entered Sao Paulo's Carnival parade grounds, a costume of feathers clinging to her sinuous body, she fulfilled a dream of feminine beauty nearly three decades old.

   Prins says she first realized she wanted to be a woman at a Carnival party at age 11, when, like the other boys, she was allowed to dress like a girl as part of the burlesque festivities. Now, in the final minutes of Feb. 22, she became the first transgender woman to lead the drum section of a top samba school in Brazil’s renowned Carnival parades.

   Prins, 40, was handpicked to be “godmother” of the Colorado do Bras samba school's drum section, an iconic role fought over by dozens of models and TV celebrities. Her duty was to dance infectiously for 65 minutes in front of the drummers, using her legs to drive their rhythm while judges assessed the school's parade.

   “Gorgeous women wanted to be here. I'm very excited because this shows we can be anywhere. We can be godmother of the drummers, we can be owners of a samba school,” Prins told The Associated Press before the parade. “Soon they will see many other transgender girls, who will find it easier than I did.”

   Colorado do Bras, which rose to Sao Paulo's top samba league only two years ago, made a bold decision in picking Prins for the role, despite Brazil's Carnival being a party at which few things have never been tried.

   Transgender people remain something of a taboo among Brazilians, even in Sao Paulo, the country's most cosmopolitan city and host to the world's largest gay pride parade. Brazil has more slayings of transvestites and transgender people than any country in the world. In 2019, 124 were killed, 21 of them in Sao Paulo state.

 

Polish couple who took explosives to Pride sentenced to year in prison

   A married couple have each been sentenced to just one year in prison for bringing three homemade explosive devices to a Pride parade in Lubin, Poland, last year.

   The couple, whose surnames have not been disclosed under Polish law, are known as Karolina S, 21, and Arkadiusz S, 27. They were among around 200 counter-protestors hurling eggs, bottles and firecrackers at the event in September.

   They were stopped by non-uniformed police in the crowd and found to be in possession of three explosives, which were made from gas canisters and fireworks. The explosives were detonated under controlled conditions and expert analysis showed that they could have injured or killed several people within an eight-meter radius.

   During questioning, Arkadiusz confessed to making the explosives himself using information he found on the internet. He claimed he didn’t actually intend to hurt anyone, just to make a “big bang.”

   However, he later confirmed that he was strongly opposed to LGBT+ people and the concept of Pride marches. He repeated a common Polish anti-LGBT+ slogan – “A boy, a girl: a normal family” – and said that he wears the Celtic cross symbol, which is often used by the far-right in Poland and elsewhere.

   Prosecutors opted to charge the couple not with terrorism offences but instead with the possession of explosive devices that threatened the health or life of a large number of people.

   This carries a maximum sentence of eight years, but when the couple pleaded guilty the judge veered towards the lower end of the possible sentence – just one year in prison, minus their time in pre-trial detention.

   The verdict was immediately condemned by Bartosz Staszewski, organizer of Lubin’s Pride march, who pointed out that the same sentence is given to those who refuse to pay alimony. 

 

Reporting via Associated Press

 

Governor makes history by attending gay rights rally

  The Washington Post reports Gov. Andy Beshear, during a historic appearance at a gay-rights rally Feb. 19 at Kentucky's Capitol, spoke against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and supported a ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

  Beshear became Kentucky's first sitting governor to attend a rally staged by the Fairness Campaign in the Capitol Rotunda, a few steps from the governor's office. The rallies by gay-rights supporters date back to the 1990s, activists said.

  The Democratic governor received loud cheers from the crowd.

  “Diversity and inclusion, they aren't buzz words,” Beshear said. “They are values. And they are keys to making Kentucky stronger. Kentucky cannot reach its full potential if all of our people don't feel supported to be themselves.”

  Beshear's appearance was politically courageous, said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.

  “To have support in the highest office in the commonwealth of Kentucky is so meaningful for so many LGBTQ people who have never felt seen by lawmakers who can make a difference,” he said.

  Beshear spoke in favor of a so-called “statewide fairness” measure. It would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

  Beshear also endorsed legislation to ban conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. He denounced the practice as hurtful and dangerous.

  Both proposals face long odds in the Republican-controlled legislature.

 

Michigan teacher won't let student write about gay marriage

  Detroit News reports a Michigan teacher has denied a request from a student with two mothers to write about same-sex marriage for a class assignment.

  Destiny McDermitt, a junior at Hill McCloy High School in Montrose, was given an assignment earlier this month to write a speech discussing an issue she felt strongly about and to take a stand for or against it.

  The teacher, who the district is not naming, allegedly told McDermitt she couldn't write about same-sex marriage because the topic could offend someone in the class, according to McDermitt and other students in the classroom at the time.

  McDermitt wanted to ask her classmates if the topic offended them, but the teacher allegedly said no. The student wrote a complaint letter to school administrators and later moved to a different class.

  “(It) offended me because I have two moms (who) are married and I really thought it was inappropriate,'' McDermitt wrote.

   Linden Moore, Montrose Community Schools superintendent, said the district investigated the incident and concluded McDermitt's topic was not the only one denied and that the teacher needed to be more clear about the perimeters of her assignments.

   “The teacher was thinking smaller and the kids were thinking bigger,'' Moore said.

   In the description of the “Take a Stand Speech” assignment, there were no restrictions that applied specifically to same-sex marriage. The only topics banned from being picked were issues written about in another class or “anything that is awkward or inappropriate for a school audience.'' Abortion was listed as an example.

   A section of the school policy titled “Controversial Issues” states the Montrose Board of Education believes that the consideration of controversial issues have a legitimate place in the instruction in schools.

 

Parents sue Madison schools over transgender policy

   A group of parents filed a lawsuit Feb. 18 alleging that the Madison school district's transgender policy, part of which allows students to pick new names and pronouns to use at school regardless of whether they have a parent's permission, is unconstitutional because it prohibits teachers and staff from informing parents that their children want to switch sexes.

   Conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit on the parents' behalf in Dane County Circuit Court.

   According to the lawsuit, Madison schools adopted a policy in 2018 that states a person's gender identity can be male, female, a blend of both or neither and is determined by a person's sense of self. The policy states that the district is committed to affirming each student's self-designated gender identity and the district will strive to “disrupt the gender binary” with books and lessons stating that everyone has the right to choose their gender. 

The district requires parental consent before students can change their name and gender in official district records. All teachers and district staff must refer to students by their chosen names and pronouns even though the names aren't official in district systems.

   The policy also prohibits teachers and staff from revealing a student's gender identity, including any new names or pronouns, used at school to parents or guardians, according to the lawsuit. The policy goes on to state that staff must use the child's legal name with family.

   The parents argue the policy violates the state constitution's due process clause, which protects parents' right to raise their children according to the parents’ beliefs.

   District spokesman Tim LeMonds said Tuesday that the district had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment until it had a chance to review it.

   But LeMonds said the district stands by its guidance on transgender and nonbinary students. He said the district recognizes its tremendous responsibility to uphold the right of every child to be educated in a safe, inclusive and nondiscriminatory environment. 

 

Reporting via Associated Press

 

Governor makes history by attending gay rights rally

  The Washington Post reports Gov. Andy Beshear, during a historic appearance at a gay-rights rally Feb. 19 at Kentucky's Capitol, spoke against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and supported a ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

  Beshear became Kentucky's first sitting governor to attend a rally staged by the Fairness Campaign in the Capitol Rotunda, a few steps from the governor's office. The rallies by gay-rights supporters date back to the 1990s, activists said.

  The Democratic governor received loud cheers from the crowd.

  “Diversity and inclusion, they aren't buzz words,” Beshear said. “They are values. And they are keys to making Kentucky stronger. Kentucky cannot reach its full potential if all of our people don't feel supported to be themselves.”

  Beshear's appearance was politically courageous, said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.

  “To have support in the highest office in the commonwealth of Kentucky is so meaningful for so many LGBTQ people who have never felt seen by lawmakers who can make a difference,” he said.

  Beshear spoke in favor of a so-called “statewide fairness” measure. It would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

  Beshear also endorsed legislation to ban conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. He denounced the practice as hurtful and dangerous.

  Both proposals face long odds in the Republican-controlled legislature.

 

Michigan teacher won't let student write about gay marriage

  Detroit News reports a Michigan teacher has denied a request from a student with two mothers to write about same-sex marriage for a class assignment.

  Destiny McDermitt, a junior at Hill McCloy High School in Montrose, was given an assignment earlier this month to write a speech discussing an issue she felt strongly about and to take a stand for or against it.

  The teacher, who the district is not naming, allegedly told McDermitt she couldn't write about same-sex marriage because the topic could offend someone in the class, according to McDermitt and other students in the classroom at the time.

  McDermitt wanted to ask her classmates if the topic offended them, but the teacher allegedly said no. The student wrote a complaint letter to school administrators and later moved to a different class.

  “(It) offended me because I have two moms (who) are married and I really thought it was inappropriate,'' McDermitt wrote.

   Linden Moore, Montrose Community Schools superintendent, said the district investigated the incident and concluded McDermitt's topic was not the only one denied and that the teacher needed to be more clear about the perimeters of her assignments.

   “The teacher was thinking smaller and the kids were thinking bigger,'' Moore said.

   In the description of the “Take a Stand Speech” assignment, there were no restrictions that applied specifically to same-sex marriage. The only topics banned from being picked were issues written about in another class or “anything that is awkward or inappropriate for a school audience.'' Abortion was listed as an example.

   A section of the school policy titled “Controversial Issues” states the Montrose Board of Education believes that the consideration of controversial issues have a legitimate place in the instruction in schools.

 

Parents sue Madison schools over transgender policy

   A group of parents filed a lawsuit Feb. 18 alleging that the Madison school district's transgender policy, part of which allows students to pick new names and pronouns to use at school regardless of whether they have a parent's permission, is unconstitutional because it prohibits teachers and staff from informing parents that their children want to switch sexes.

   Conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit on the parents' behalf in Dane County Circuit Court.

   According to the lawsuit, Madison schools adopted a policy in 2018 that states a person's gender identity can be male, female, a blend of both or neither and is determined by a person's sense of self. The policy states that the district is committed to affirming each student's self-designated gender identity and the district will strive to “disrupt the gender binary” with books and lessons stating that everyone has the right to choose their gender. 

The district requires parental consent before students can change their name and gender in official district records. All teachers and district staff must refer to students by their chosen names and pronouns even though the names aren't official in district systems.

   The policy also prohibits teachers and staff from revealing a student's gender identity, including any new names or pronouns, used at school to parents or guardians, according to the lawsuit. The policy goes on to state that staff must use the child's legal name with family.

   The parents argue the policy violates the state constitution's due process clause, which protects parents' right to raise their children according to the parents’ beliefs.

   District spokesman Tim LeMonds said Tuesday that the district had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment until it had a chance to review it.

   But LeMonds said the district stands by its guidance on transgender and nonbinary students. He said the district recognizes its tremendous responsibility to uphold the right of every child to be educated in a safe, inclusive and nondiscriminatory environment. 

 

Reporting via Associated Press

 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, released its 2020 Presidential Questionnaire on Feb. 24. All but one — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) — of the eight remaining Democratic candidates responded to the 18 questions. 

Pennsylvania Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta recently introduced a co-sponsorship memo for a forthcoming bill requiring all state forms that collect demographic information to provide an optional LGBTQ+ identification question. According to Kenyatta, an increase in data will facilitate state-level proposals and the implementation of more robust resources for LGBTQ communities in Pennsylvania. 

The Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement announced that the City of Philadelphia will begin accepting applications for the new Mayor’s Commission on Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs. Comprised of 21 diverse faith leaders, the commission will advise the Mayor’s Office on all faith-related issues and work to foster strategic partnerships between faith-based communities and City government. 

"When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him." 

— Bayard Rustin

Socialist. Black Civil Rights leader. Out gay man.

Alchemy Hair Lab in Philadelphia will host a mixer in celebration of Trans Day of Visibility. On the evening of March 31,  guests can network with local professionals and discuss aesthetic, cultural and legal topics related to transitioning. 

Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims held a town hall meeting on Sept. 24 at the Palumbo Recreation Center in Queen Village. In front of a crowd of roughly 20 people, Sims discussed some of the major bills he introduced as well as the issues he deems most important as state representative, such as women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and immigrants’ rights.

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