National and world briefs

Light and dark in HIV stats

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1.2 million people live with HIV in the U.S. and estimated that 13 percent of people living with HIV are unaware of it. New HIV infections in the U.S. dropped from 36,500 in 2017 to 32,100 in 2021 — a drop of 12 percent. The CDC thinks it is due to PrEP use and greater HIV awareness by younger people. The number of HIV-related deaths decreased by over 50 percent from 2010 to 2017. Early testing and antiretroviral therapy are credited for the drop. The U. S. Federal Government spends $7.7 billion on prevention and treatment, with $20 billion spent worldwide. The dark side of HIV success is a lower condom use by youngsters, causing an explosion in gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia infections.

Nyet, from Russia

The Supreme Court of Russia approved the Ministry of Justice labeling the “international LGBT social movement” as “extremist.” The policy does not say which international groups are covered. This may lead to a crackdown on Russian LGBT advocacy groups. Critics say it could jeopardize international family planning organizations and other benign non-governmental groups. It could also force foreign embassies to scale back Pride celebration or advocacy for LGBT civil rights. Said the Russian MOJ, “It is not individuals of a specific orientation that are prohibited, but a specific organization that uses its agenda for engaging in destructive activities.”

Photo by Peter Gray

Martina Navratilova back in the TERF war

Martina Navratilova, retired tennis super-star and lesbian rights activist, re-entered the TERF wars in Great Britain. Stonewall, a leading U.K. LGBTQ+ advocacy group, included a transgender woman, activist and firefighter who speaks on transgender issues, Katie Cornhill, in an encomium to LGTGQ+ people identifying as women. On social media, Martina wrote, “A bloke cannot be a lesbian. No matter what they say, no matter how they feel, no matter how much they try to convince us otherwise.” Navratilova, despite her previous activism, was sent back into outer darkness by media and other critics of her stand on this issue.

LGBTQ+ History Month founder dismayed by exclusion

The retired teacher credited with founding “LGBTQ+ History Month,” Rodney Wilson, says he is dismayed with the movement “LGB without the TQ+,” which seeks to separate transgender and other identities from the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. His proposal for “Gay History Month” received acceptance from some school districts, higher ed, and some “big” cities, in 1997. It has since grown to be recognized in most areas as a positive event. As the celebration aged it took on the LGBTQ+ mantle and is now the object of some controversy. Wilson, now 79 years old, says, “It did not cross my mind in 1994 to call it Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History Month. But we are supposed to learn and evolve and grow and continue to open ourselves up to new individuals, new understanding, new information, new identities.”  

Nada to NDAA anti-transgender provisions

The National Defense Authorization Act, authorizing the U. S. Department of Defense funds, left the House of Representatives bristling with agenda-driven policy. It contained provisions prohibiting federal funds from being used for hormone therapy, pharmaceuticals, and surgery for transgender service members and family; prohibition of teaching Critical Race Theory-based management, and restrictions on abortion activity. The U.S. Senate took up the NDAA and passed it without the agenda-driven provisions. The two houses must confer on the new bill. The Senate version is forecast to become law.

Disney won’t even sing Gay in Florida

Correlation may not be causation, but the producers of Walt Disney World Resort’s Holiday-themed “Jollywood Nights” after-hours event changed the lyrics of some favorite Christmas Carols. The show producers looked at the troubles brought on by the Florida state government and decided to omit any lyrics containing the words “gay” and “queer.” So, in the show, Mickey sings the traditional version of “O Christmas Tree.” However, Minnie’s lyrics in “Deck the Halls” changed from, “Don we now our gay apparel… Toll the ancient Yule-tide carol,” to, “Don we now our cozy sweaters… I can think of nothing better.” If Disney can “think of nothing better,” the show’s producers need to think again.

Culture war has real casualties

The culture wars have had a casualty. Support for LGBTQ issues has declined a bit. While America’s support for marriage equality and anti-discrimination policies has marginally gone down, support for the notion of “LGBTQ+ rights” has gone down “across the board.” This is according to the Public Religion Research Institute, a non-partisan, non-denominational research group. The main driver of the decline is partisanship over transgender women using “women’s restrooms,” and early childhood “gender” education and library books, and resultant legislative restrictions introduced or passed in many states. Approval of “restroom restrictions” has gone from 44 to 80 perrcent among Republican voters. Democrats’ support for restrictions has remained at 31 percent in the last few surveys. Younger people — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — are more tolerant of restroom use.

Poland pulled to progress

Ten Polish gay and lesbian couples sued the Polish national government in the European Court of Human Rights over refusing to offer legal recognition of same-sex relationships. The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, telling the Polish government to extend “couples’ benefits” to people in same sex relationships. Marriage equality is still not recognized in Poland. The government that got sued is no longer in the hands of the party refusing to offer the rights, the “Law and Justice Party” (the Polish acronym for the party’s name is PiS). In a recent election Polish voters said, “PiS off,” and returned the less conservative Civic Coalition party to power. It is anticipated that there will be no appeal of the ruling and S/S couples will get government recognition.

Miami street art celebrates drag

Public art in Miami Beach is now as exuberant and flamboyant as the life on the street, with the installation of an an ode to drag, “Adora Vanessa Athena Fantasia,” The art is a colorful series of aluminum panels suspended over the bustling Española Way shopping district. The panels feature portraits inspired by 11 local drag queens. There is also a 30-foot-tall mural of “dramatic manicures, doll-like eyelashes and full, pouty lips.” The work is by Brazilian artist Eli Sudbrack, sponsored by the Assume Vivid Astro Focus artist cooperative headquartered in New York City. The work was motivated by implementation of the “Protection of Children Act” banning drag performances which can be viewed by minors. The law has been suspended by court (Not Imperial Court, but Federal Court) action. The suspension is under appeal by the state.

Wisconsin pols: Get marriage “unequality” out of constitution

The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling made bans on same-sex marriage unenforceable, but the bans remain on the books in several states, Utah for one. Wisconsin legislators have introduced legislation to take the reference to “one man and one woman” out the State Constitution. Like Utah, that language was added to the constitution in the run up to Obergefell. The legislators have also introduced non-discrimination and parental rights for same-sex couples’ legislation. “It is long past time for our state constitution and statute to reflect that marriage equality is the law of the land and has been for nearly a decade,” said sponsor, Democratic Sen. Mark Spreitzer. The non-discrimination legislation would increase legal protections for LGBTQ+ couples surrounding adoption, pregnancy, parental rights, insurance, and other benefits. It also calls for change of “outdated” references to “husbands and wives,” to “spouses,” in state family and tax law. Former Utah State Senator Derek Kitchen proposed such removal in Utah’s constitution and code, but the effort was ignored by Republican leaders.

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