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This Way Out Episode #1884: Augusten Burroughs, The Early Years

The world’s best-known memoirist whose the long series of books about his horrible and hilarious life began with “Running with Scissors” and “Dry.” Augusten Burroughs talks about writing, living, and queering the memoir form. (Interviewed by Steve Pride.)

And in NewsWrap: the United Methodist Church ends its 40-year ban on queer clergy and opens its doors to same-gender weddings, a Mombassa court orders a halt to anti-queer protests and incitement to violence by groups opposed to LGBTQ equality, Queensland expands its Anti-Discrimination Act to cover gender diversity and decriminalizes sex work, a U.S. appeals court rules that state-funded healthcare plans must include coverage for gender-affirming treatments and surgeries, the Biden administration reinstates protections from the denial of care based on sexual orientation or gender identity under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updates its regulations to better protect transgender workers from harassment and discrimination, two Mississippi anti-trans rights bills die of Republican infighting in the state legislature, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Ava Davis and Joe Boehnlein (produced by Brian DeShazor). 

Complete Program Summary
for the week of May 6, 2024

Augusten Burroughs, The Early Years

Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Delegates to the General Conference of the worldwide United Methodist Church lift the denomination’s 40-year ban on openly-queer clergy and will now allow church weddings for gay and lesbian couples … a court in Mombasa, Kenya temporarily rules against violence-threatening anti-queer incitement … lawmakers in Queensland add non-binary, gender-diverse and intersex people to the Australian state’s Anti-Discrimination Act protections, and then fully decriminalize consensual adult sex work … the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals becomes the first to order state-funded healthcare programs to cover gender-affirming care, including surgeries … the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services restores anti-bias protections for LGBTQ people under the Affordable Care Act that had been rescinded by the Trump administration … the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declares that federal statutes banning workplace discrimination include the refusal to use a trans worker’s preferred pronouns and denying them access to bathrooms that match their gender identity … and two anti-trans bills die in Mississippi because Republican majority lawmakers can’t reconcile the different versions of each bill passed in the House and Senate before the end of the legislative session (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by AVA DAVIS and JOE BOEHNLEIN, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).


Feature: Augusten Burroughs is one of the world’s leading memoirists. His first book about his life was Running With Scissors, a 70-week New York Times best-seller published in 2002. Before he wrote Running with Scissors, Burroughs wrote Dry, but it came out second in 2003. His truth is stranger than fiction, but Burroughs makes surviving his horrific childhood and addicted young adulthood at times hilariously funny. Running with Scissors and Dry were still changing the memoir genre, and his 2004 book Magical Thinking was just about to debut, when met with STEVE PRIDE (with intro/outro music from A Little Better by PAXTON FIELIES, Burroughs reading from both books, and his vintage TWO ID about midway in).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending May 4th, 2024
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Daniel Huecias and Michael LeBeau,
produced by Brian DeShazor

    The United Methodist Church’s 40-year ban on queer clergy is over. There was no debate at the General Conference meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the vote was overwhelming: 692 delegates voted in favor and only 51 opposed.  The prohibition against what it called “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy that began in 1984 ended on May 1st.

The General Conference’s LGBTQ-positive resolutions continued.  United Methodist clergy will now be allowed to officiate church weddings for gay and lesbian couples, with no sanctions against those who refuse to do so.  It will now be permissible to use of Church funds to do what the old rule blocked: “promote acceptance of homosexuality” as it said.

The United Methodists have been battling their way toward becoming a more queer-welcoming church.  At the 2019 General Conference, it was agreed that churches would be allowed to leave the denomination if they were uncomfortable with full LGBTQ inclusion in the Church.  More than one in five congregations has since been approved to disaffiliate, according to the United Methodist News Service.

Most have joined the Global Methodist Church. The newly established denomination’s creed states, “human sexuality is a gift of God that is to be affirmed as it is exercised within the legal and spiritual covenant of a loving and monogamous marriage between one man and one woman.”

   Anti-queer protests and incitement to violence by groups opposed to LGBTQ equality in Kenya must stop. A court in Mombasa ruled this week in a case naming certain faith leaders and politicians.

The plaintiff individuals and the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation filed suit after members of a national lobby group called the Anti-LGBTQ Movement invaded a health clinic that welcomes queer people. They charge that the assailants spread ‘hateful misinformation.”  The attack was in response to the Supreme Court’s order that the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission must be registered as a non-governmental organization. Individual activists and the queer advocacy group sued Police Inspector General Japhet Koome last October for not intervening in the rabidly anti-queer street demonstrations.

Mombasa High Court Judge Olga Sewe’s April 29th ruling was only temporary.  She set another hearing for July 24th. The petitioners, respondent Koome, and the Anti-LGBTQ Movement must file their witness lists and counterarguments within 14 days thereafter.

Sewe’s order states, “Pending the [July 24th] hearing and determination of this petition, this Honorable Court (does) hereby issue a conservatory order restraining the … Respondents from calling on or inciting members of the public to carry out extra-judicial killing, lynching, punishing, stoning, forcible conversion, or any other means of harming LGBTQ+ identifying persons and their homes.”  Sewe also forbade them from attempting any “expulsion from Kenya or any party of Kenya of LGBTQ+ identifying persons or closure of organizations serving LGBTQ+ identifying persons.” 

   The Australian state of Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act will now include gender diverse, nonbinary, and intersex people. New laws will also decriminalize sex work.

The anti-discrimination additions came into effect on April 29th. There are now enhanced penalties for crimes “motivated by hatred or serious contempt,” and beefed-up vilification protections.

The legislation is “long overdue” to Queensland Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall. He pointed out that it also criminalizes the display of certain hate symbols.

Queensland’s Parliament approved a bill to decriminalize consensual adult sex work on May 2nd.  It had been legal under certain circumstances. The new measure protects all sex workers with specific health and safety rules and regulates their industry like any other business.  It also outlaws discrimination against sex workers, and protects anyone from being coerced into sex work, including children.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said that the new laws “ensure workers have access to the same human rights and workplace health and safety protections as other Queensland workers. … These reforms will make the sex work industry safer, fairer and reduce stigma and discrimination.”

Activist groups like Respect, Inc, Decrim QLD and the Scarlet Alliance have been lobbying for full decriminalization for many years.

Respect Inc State Coordinator Lulu Holiday said, “Under current laws sex workers are reluctant to report crime. Barriers to accessing justice are reduced when sex work is no longer criminalized.”

Queensland joins the states of Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory to fully legalize adult sex work.

    U.S. state-funded healthcare plans must include coverage for gender-affirming treatments, including surgeries – this according to a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on April 29th.

The Richmond, Virginia-based bench became the first federal appeals court to come to that conclusion. It had combined similar cases under its jurisdiction filed in North Carolina and West Virginia.  Both state attorneys argued that their denial of coverage was not discriminatory because it was based strictly on cost concerns.

Lower courts in both cases had declared the denials unconstitutional. The appeals court upheld those conclusions. Fourth Circuit Judge Roger L. Gregory wrote for the majority that denying coverage was “obviously discriminatory … on the basis of [both] gender and sex.”

North Carolina and West Virginia officials are promising appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

   Meanwhile, the Biden administration was busy reinstating protections from the denial of care based on sexual orientation or gender identity under the Affordable Care Act.

Donald Trump‘s administration rescinded those Obama-era provisions.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued the decision this week reaffirming that Section 1557 protects LGBTQ people because it outlaws sex-based discrimination.

Secretary Xavier Becerra declared, “I am very proud that our Office for Civil Rights is standing up against discrimination, no matter who you are, who you love, your faith or where you live.  Once again, we are reminding Americans we have your back.”

   The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is updating its regulations involving transgender workers for the first time in more than two decades. These revised federal guidelines will better protect them from harassment and discrimination.  The EEOC defines such offenses as mis-gendering, dead-naming, or denying access to the appropriate bathroom as violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It bans workplace bias based on sex.

The new guidelines take effect immediately. They also specifically prohibit harassment of workers who are pregnant, have just had a child, are breastfeeding, or have had an abortion.

EEOC’s announcement referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s twenty-twenty Bostock decision. It defined anti-queer employment bias as a form of sex-based discrimination.

EEOC guidelines are not considered to be federal law, but they’re frequently cited in workplace discrimination lawsuits.

    Finally, two bills intended to further restrict the rights of transgender people in Mississippi died of Republican infighting in the state legislature this week.

One proposal declared, “There are only two sexes, and every individual is either male or female.”  The other was to deny trans people access to bathrooms, changing rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities that match their gender identity.

The state House of Representatives and Senate had approved different versions of the bills. Members from each chamber could not reconcile them before the legislative session ended this week.

Republican Governor Tate Reeves was likely eager to sign them.  He enthusiastically signed a ban on trans female athletes competing in women’s sports. Most recently he approved outlawing pediatric gender-affirming healthcare.

Black Democratic Mississippi State Representative Zakiya Summers condemned the bathroom bill during debate, saying, “It reminded me of what my ancestors had to deal with … at a time when they couldn’t go in the bathroom, either.”

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