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Councilmember-at-Large Helen Gym introduced two bills aimed at protecting and expanding the rights of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ-plus community. 

One mandates the city’s youth organizations to implement policies protecting young trans and gender-nonconforming people. The other requires Philadelphia City Hall to install at least one gender-neutral bathroom on each of its floors.

“Trans rights are human rights and trans existence is not up for debate,” Gym said in a statement last week. “While we have a federal government hellbent on erasing transpeople, we in Philadelphia have an obligation to raise the bar for inclusive and supporting spaces. That means everyone should have the basic dignity of using a bathroom that feels safe and affirming. It means every young person in our city should be able to trust in and be protected by the institutions serving them.”

The youth-related bill would ensure that organizations serving transgender and gender-nonconforming youth have policies compliant with the School District of Philadelphia’s Policy 252, which outlines “safety, equity and justice for all students regardless of gender identity or gender expression.”

The institutions’ policies would have to meet or exceed the district’s policy standards on gender-segregated activities, culturally sensitive language choices, discrimination and harassment and more. Gym’s bill would apply to facilities including charter schools, after-school programs and residential treatment facilities.

The Trevor Project’s newly released National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth — including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth — seriously considered suicide in the last year. Two-thirds of the LGBTQ youth surveyed reported that someone tried to convince them to change their gender identity or sexual orientation.

“We need to support youth in there now, and this bill is a strong step forward to ensure that youth-serving organizations are truly serving and supporting all young people,” said Hazel Edwards, interim director of the Bryson Institute at The Attic Youth Center. “If we believe that youth are the future, then we need to let them live in their authentic true selves, or unfortunately we could lose them to an oppressive system and never experience the power from our future leaders.”

Under the policy, staff also would undergo regular training on interacting with LGBTQ youth.

Gym said the city needs to “be bolder” about transgender and gender-nonconforming residents.

“I still think we have a long way to go to ensure that they feel like they can participate fully and are fully welcomed,” she added.

The councilmember’s second bill would vastly increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms in City Hall, which currently offers only one, on the seventh floor. The mandate would build on 2012 legislation introduced by Mayor Jim Kenney, then a councilmember, that required new and renovated public buildings to have gender-neutral bathrooms.

“City Hall is the central gathering place for the public and it’s the most welcoming building in the entire city of Philadelphia,” said Gym. “We have one gender-neutral bathroom, which I guarantee nobody at all can really find.”

She proposed the bill so “everybody can feel welcome,” adding City Hall needs to “practice what we preach.”

Organizations like William Way LGBT Community Center and The Attic Youth Center helped shape the bills.

“In a time of increasing violence directed toward transpeople, it’s important that we continue Philadelphia’s historic leadership in advocating for and centering them,” said Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way.

Julien Terrell, executive director of Philadelphia Student Union, said the proposed legislation goes beyond providing a welcoming space for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals.

“It’s also about challenging and shifting culture away from an oppressive and unnecessary binary to one that is truly honoring the realities of all young people,” he said.

City Council will address the bills in the fall, Gym said. 

6/13/19 5:00 p.m.

Updated 6/20/19 1:09 p.m.

Panic at D.C. Pride parade sends people running, some injured

Newsweek reported officials in Washington, D.C., said several people were injured after a panic at the LGBTQ Pride parade sent people running through the streets of the nation’s capital.

It happened June 8 near Dupont Circle, where hundreds of people gathered to celebrate.

London police arrest fifth suspect in attack on lesbian couple

Police in London have arrested a fifth suspect on suspicion of punching two women on a bus because they are lesbians.

Authorities didn’t identify the victims in the May 30 attack, but Melania Geymonat posted an image on her Facebook page showing her bloodied face and that of her girlfriend’s.

Geymonat said in the post that they were on the upper deck of the bus when a gang of “hooligans” demanded that they kiss. The women tried to reason with them, but the incident escalated.

Police said June 8 all of suspects are 15-18 years old.

Detective Superintendent Andy Cox said that while attacks like this are rare on London buses, extra uniformed and plain-clothes officers will be on patrol this weekend to offer reassurance.

Warsaw’s pride parade comes amid fears and threats in Poland

Thousands of people are expected to join Central and Eastern Europe’s largest gay pride parade in Warsaw at a time when Poland is divided over the demand for LGBT rights.

U.S., Canadian and other Western diplomats will continue a recent tradition of joining the colorful Equality Parade on June 8 to show their support for what is considered a basic human right in many places. The Warsaw mayor will also take part for the first time.

While many Poles in Warsaw and other cities have grown increasingly supportive of gay rights, a backlash is also underway.

In recent months, officials from the right-wing ruling party, including party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have portrayed the LGBT rights movement as a threat to families and children.

Court convicts three Germans of beating gay man to death

A court in the eastern German city of Chemnitz has convicted three men of manslaughter over the killing of a 27-year-old gay man.

The Chemnitz regional court on June 7 sentenced 26-year-old Terenc H. to 14 years in prison and 22-year-olds Stephan H. and Jens H. to 11 years each.

The men’s surnames weren’t released for privacy reasons.

The defendants were accused of brutally beating Christopher W. on a railroad yard in the nearby town of Aue last year.

A gay rights group, LAG Queer Network Saxony, criticized the court for failing to sufficiently recognize the role the defendants’ far-right and homophobic views played in the killing.

Jerusalem pride draws thousands of gay revelers and police

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Jerusalem June 6 in the city’s annual gay pride parade, a festival that exposes deep divisions between Israel’s secular and Jewish ultra-Orthodox camps.

Some 10,000 revelers waving rainbow and Israeli flags joined the procession Thursday, as thousands of police officers in plain clothes and uniform patrolled the crowd.

The gay community’s visibility in conservative Jerusalem tends to draw protest from the city’s substantial Orthodox population. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews reject the public display of homosexuality as an “abomination” that desecrates the biblical city and flouts Jewish law.

Police said they arrested 17 suspects who planned to disrupt the event, including a man carrying a knife near the parade route. At the 2015 march, an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed a 16-year-old girl to death.

Hong Kong court: Denying same-sex spousal benefits unlawful

Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal said June 6 the government cannot deny spousal employment benefits to same-sex couples, in a ruling hailed as a major step forward for same-sex equality in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The court overturned an earlier judgment, saying unanimously that denying same-sex couples access to spousal benefits is unlawful.

“It follows therefore that the `prevailing views of the community on marriage’ ... even if this can confidently be gauged in the first place, are simply not relevant to a consideration of the justification exercise,” the ruling said.

Although same-sex marriage is not recognized in Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal ruled last year that the same-sex partner of a British expatriate married abroad was entitled to equal visa treatment under immigration law.

Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, called the June 6 judgment a “huge step forward for equality” that brings Hong Kong ``more in line with its international obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of people with different sexual orientations.’’ 

This May, physical therapist and longtime activist Jessica Rothchild was one of two Democratic candidates to excel in the Scranton City Council primary race. If she wins the general election in November, she will be the first openly gay person to hold such a position in Scranton.


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