Op-Ed

 Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) stood outside in a blizzard on Feb. 10 and declared her candidacy for president of the United States, becoming the fourth woman senator to announce in the past few weeks.

Klobuchar joined fellow senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). House Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and bestselling author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson have also announced their candidacies.

The scorecard for Democratic hopefuls, crowded though it might be, suggests one of these women will be the the Democratic nominee by summer 2020.

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The news was shocking. On Jan. 15, Grindr laid off the entire editorial staff of INTO, their award-winning news site. According to Business Insider, the move was spurred by a “shift to video content,” but associate editor Mary Emily O’Hara tweeted, “I see a lot of comments about Grindr closing down INTO in a ‘pivot to video’ and want to clarify for the record: INTO’s video staff was also let go today.”

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The Second Lady, Karen Pence, has announced she will be taking a position teaching art at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Va. Mrs. Pence, an educator, painter and art therapist, previously taught art at the school for 12 years while her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, was a congressman.

In a statement issued by her office, Mrs. Pence said, “I am excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do. I have missed teaching art.”

Lovely.

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Among the worst and most consequential policy decisions we’ve ever made as a nation was choosing to treat drug addiction as a crime. The stigmatization and criminalization of what is essentially a medical problem has cost us many billions of dollars and destroyed many thousands of lives. Human frailty and/or desperation, resulting in the use of drugs such as opioids like heroin has been met with contempt, demonization, incarceration and general cruelty for too long. It’s time we stop punishing people who need help, and actually help them instead.

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“Whenever someone yells, ‘Dude, that’s so gay,’ we’ll be there.”

“Freedom. to speak. to choose. to marry. to participate. to be. to disagree. to inhale. to believe. to love. to live. it’s all good.”

At first glance, these slogans seem to be from an LGBTQ organization or activist group. They seem to promote wellness, equality and safety for the queer community. They leave the reader wondering which organization offers these promises.

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I tell friends I found two loves during medical school: My husband was the first and the field of infertility, my current specialty, was the second. It was clear the two were not mutually exclusive; I’d need help from a doctor like myself to have a child with my husband one day.

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I came out almost 30 years ago to my family and friends. Personally, I have lived my life authentically as a gay woman in a remarkable and loving relationship for 23 years. Professionally, not so much. For a good part of my career path, I left my true self at home. 

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Jane Shull at Philadelphia FIGHT doesn’t know me. She knew my brother Brett, though.

Brett had a lot of challenges. He died in 2009 at 38 after spending most of the previous 10 years homeless, addicted and living with HIV disease. He died because he was what they call a “non-compliant” client — he couldn’t be relied on to take his meds, show up for appointments or tell the truth to the doctors. He spent his adult life depressed and angry.

I accompanied my brother to various kinds of appointments at FIGHT over the three years he went there. Brett told me that when he was there, they got him to believe that maybe he could do something about all his problems. He was an ex-offender, and despite that, he felt that FIGHT treated him like a human being. When he was there, he said he found himself wanting to take his meds, wanting to show up for the support group, maybe evens wanting to stay alive. But when he went back to the streets, it just seemed too hard.

The Black and Brown Workers Collective, which seems to be made up of a small, unhappy group of former FIGHT workers, is out to get Jane Shull, the founder and director of FIGHT, fired. Despite the overt racism of many LGBT community leaders, they say that the woman who has dedicated her life to saving the lives of poor LGBT people of color is the biggest racist of all. Her 30 years of service on the frontlines means nothing, in their minds. Her day-in, day-out, showing up to do God’s work for longer than most of BBWC’s tiny membership has been alive, means nothing. Her commitment to do the right thing for people weaker than her — something BBWC seems to know nothing about — means nothing. Instead, BBWC denies history and the truth to continue a personal vendetta that is nothing but dangerous for the people who rely on FIGHT for their care.

I don’t know Jane Shull. She doesn’t know me. But she did know Brett. Even though she’s known so many Bretts, she probably doesn’t remember him. And it’s in Brett’s memory that I say to BBWC: Leave Jane Shull alone. 

One of the first disco albums I ever owned was “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. I didn’t actually buy it; I won it in a radio call-in contest in the spring of 1979. I was living at home at the time and remember driving down to the local Southwest Michigan radio station to pick it up, excited to have won.

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