Olena Shevchenko has been in the forefront of Ukraine’s LGBTQ campaign for rights, and now, at the center of her country’s resistance against the Russian invasion, she’s been named a Time Woman of the Year (interviewed by Barry McKay in Sydney, Australia).
And in NewsWrap: the U.S. Supreme Court rejects West Virginia’s appeal and blocks the state’s ban on transgender student athletes, majority Republicans in the Kansas legislature overrides the Democratic governor’s veto of an anti-trans school sports ban, North Dakota legislature moves a record-breaking ten bills to deny LGBTQ rights, Governor Phil Murphy declares New Jersey a “safe haven” for those seeking and prescribing gender-affirming healthcare, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issues gender-affirming policy guidance based on “Title IX” civil rights law, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars backup trans ally Kelsea Ballerini at the CMT Awards, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Kalyn Hardman and Michael LeBeau (produced by Brian DeShazor).
All this on the April 10, 2023 edition of This Way Out!
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Complete Program Summary
for the week of April 10, 2023
Ukrainian Lesbian Avenger Shevchenko Pt.1
Program #1,828 distributed 04/10/23
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): The U.S. Supreme Court rejects West Virginia’s emergency request to continue its ban on 12-year-old trans track and field athlete Becky Pepper-Jackson from competing as a member of her middle school’s girls team while lower federal courts consider the ban’s constitutionality; Kansas Republicans shove through a ban on any gender-affirming care for trans young people under the age of 18, and another bill to force trans people to use sex-segregated public facilities, like bathrooms, that match their birth gender; Republican governors in Indiana and Idaho each sign bills outlawing all gender-affirming healthcare for under-18 trans young people, and Idaho adds prison time for any healthcare professional who violates the ban; North Dakota Republican lawmakers set an ugly record by advancing to their Republican governor ten anti-queer bills in just one week that, among other rights restrictions, ban and criminalize gender-affirming care for trans youth under 18, ban kindergarten through college trans athletes from competing as themselves in girls’ and women’s school sports, ban all trans people from changing their legal gender, and ban them from using bathrooms based on their gender identity, along with outlawing family-friendly drag shows; New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, swims against the tide by issuing an Executive Order to protect people providing and seeking gender-affirming healthcare in his state; the Biden administration’s Education Department gets mixed reviews for its proposal to interpret Title IX, the landmark measure that bans bias in education based on gender, to outlaw blanket bans on trans student athletes, but gets heat for allowing certain anti-trans exceptions; and country star and event co-host Kelsea Ballerini performs her hit song If You Go Down (I’m Going Down, Too) at the CMT fan-based country music awards, with RuPaul’s Drag Race veterans Manila Luzon, Kennedy Davenport, Jan Sport and Olivia Lux dancing and singing back-up vocals, to thumb their collective noses at the growing rash of state bans on family-friendly drag shows [includes a song excerpt and brief comments from three of the fierce artistes] (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by KALYN HARDMAN and MICHAEL LeBEAU and produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR)
Feature: Lesbian feminist Olena Shevchenko has been known as a prominent Ukrainian human rights activist for years. On February 24, 2022 her life and the LGBTQ movement in her country was changed forever. Since the Russian invasion her work has become even more significant, making her one of TIME Magazine’s Women of the Year. Shevchenko left her war-torn homeland to speak at the World Pride Human Rights Conference in Sydney, Australia. While she was there, This Way Out correspondent BARRY McKAY sat down with her for this exclusive interview (with intro/outro music from the Ukraine National Anthem, and a tease from next week’s Part 2)
A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending April 8th, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Kalyn Hardman and Michael LeBeau,
produced by Brian DeShazor
The U.S. Supreme Court’s first ruling in a case involving transgender students and sports has come down on the side of the trans athletes. The Court refused West Virginia’s request to reinstate its ban on athletes competing in sports based on the student’s gender identity. The ban has been temporarily enjoined by lower courts while its constitutionality is being challenged.
As is often the case with emergency requests, the justices provided no reasoning. Only far-right conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas wanted the high court to consider the case.
The April 6th decision is a victory for twelve-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson and her transgender counterparts across the state. She’s been competing on her middle school girls’ track and field team while undergoing puberty-delaying treatment and hormone therapy. Her teammates and coaches have welcomed her, even though she’s reportedly not that good. Her performance belies the belief by ban proponents that trans girls and women have an unfair competitive advantage.
Becky is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the queer advocacy group Lambda Legal. Their joint statement points out that Becky has been a member of the girls’ team “for the past three going on four seasons” without any problems. It calls the state’s action “a baseless and cruel effort to keep Becky from where she belongs – playing alongside her peers as a teammate and as a friend.” West Virginia is one of at least 20 Republican-controlled U.S. states to deny transgender athletes the chance to participate in school sports – usually targeting girls and women. Bans in Idaho and Tennessee are also being challenged in federal court. More challenges are expected.
Meanwhile, the U.S. state-level anti-trans frenzy continues around the country.
Democratic Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has been vetoing legislation to ban kindergarten through 12th grade trans females from competing in school sports as themselves for the past three years. Republican super-majorities in the state House and Senate overrode her veto on April 5th.
Governor Kelly is expected to veto another measure to define “sex” as “either male or female at birth.” It would also ban trans people from changing the gender marker on their government ID’s and other legal documents, and deny their right to use bathrooms and other sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity. Her Republican opposition will likely override that veto, too.
ACLU of Kansas LGBTQ+ legal fellow D.C. Hiegert put it bluntly: “We know their real goal is to erase trans people from public life and push us back into the closet.”
Indiana and Idaho’s Republican governors both signed bans on gender-affirming care for
trans people under the age of 18.
Governor Eric Holcomb of Indiana expressed concerns about a legal challenge when he signed the bill outlawing hormone treatment and puberty blockers for the purpose of gender transition for young trans people on April 5th. He justified the measure by citing its ban on gender-affirming surgeries for trans teens, even though such medical intervention is extremely rare. Holcomb said, “Permanent gender-changing [surgery] … should occur as an adult, not as a minor.”
Governor Brad Little of Idaho took it even farther to the Republican right by making it a felony for doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide gender-affirming care for under-18 trans people. That legislation includes prison terms of up to 10 years. Little’s April 4th letter to lawmakers on signing the measure explains that, “... our society plays a role in protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that can irreversibly damage their healthy bodies.”
About a dozen other Republican-dominated states have now enacted laws to deny gender-affirming healthcare to young transgender people.
North Dakota Republicans set a scary record by advancing 10 anti-LGBTQ bills just this week. Eight of them are already heading to Governor Doug Burgum.
They include a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors, and criminal penalties for doctors who provide it. Another bans kindergarten through college-aged trans athletes from competing based on their gender identity in school sports.
Two bills amended by the Senate have gone back to the House for consideration. They would prevent trans people from changing their legal gender on government documents, and force them to use bathrooms and other sex-segregated public facilities based on their birth certificate gender.
It’s not clear how Governor Burgum will respond to the anti-queer avalanche on his desk. He vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed teachers and other school personnel to misgender and “dead name” trans students. The Senate had enough votes to override that veto, but the effort failed in the House.
Another measure awaiting Burgum’s signature virtually bans family-friend drag shows as “adult-oriented performances.”
By most accounts lawmakers in Republican-controlled U.S. states have introduced more than 450 bills to restrict the rights and self-expression of LGBTQ people just in the first three months of this year.
New Jersey is the rare exception for state-level trans rights. Democratic Governor Phil Murphy’s April 4th Executive Order designates his state a “safe haven” for people seeking gender-affirming care. The order directs departments and agencies to protect people in the Garden State who both receive and provide gender-affirming care. It explicitly forbids state officials from cooperating with other states seeking to “impose civil or criminal liability or professional sanctions” on gender-affirming healthcare providers.
Murphy is the second Democratic governor to order protections for trans people and their healthcare providers in recent months. Minnesota’s Governor Tim Walz issued a similar executive order in early March.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced new interpretations this week of Title IX, which would prohibit schools, colleges and universities from “categorically [banning] transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity just because of who they are.” The landmark 1972 civil rights amendment bans bias in education based on gender. The proposals now enter a public comment period.
Equality activists are giving the proposed new rules mixed reviews because of the allowed exceptions. An Education Department statement said that the new interpretations “allow schools flexibility to develop team eligibility criteria that serve important educational objectives, such as ensuring fairness in competition or preventing sports-related injury.”
University of Colorado Law School associate professor Scott Skinner-Thompson specializes in LGBTQ+ issues. He told the Washington Post, “The proposed rule helps clarify that these blanket bans on transgender athletes are in violation of Title IX and is a really positive development.” However Skinner-Thompson found allowing exclusion in some cases “deeply troubling.” He said, “When it comes to the hard cases, this is saying that trans kids can be discriminated against.”
Progressive Democratic U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York criticized the exceptions in a tweet, saying, “Absolutely no reason for the Biden administration to do this. It is indefensible and embarrassing. The admin can still walk this back, and they should. It’s a disgrace.”
The Biden administration has been denouncing the wave of anti-queer, mostly anti-trans state legislation for several weeks, mostly through out White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Finally, a federal judge in Tennessee has extended his temporary restraining order preventing a state law banning family-friendly drag shows from taking effect until May 26th – this according to one of the attorneys representing a drag-centric theater group challenging the law. A trial date has been set for May 22nd. Trump-appointed U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker has already suggested that the wording of the law is vague, and that it may cross the line regarding free speech and other constitutionally protected rights.
A number of high-profile country music stars have already spoken out against the proposed drag show ban, including Maren Morris, Brooke Eden, and Dolly Parton. They were joined on April 2nd by co-host Kelsea Ballerini at the CMT Awards, a fan-based celebration of country music. Singing her hit If You Go Down (I’m Going Down, Too) on a stage featuring a typical “traditional family values white-picket fence,” Ballerini was accompanied by RuPaul’s Drag Race veterans Manila Luzon, Kennedy Davenport, Jan Sport and Olivia Lux, who danced and performed back-up vocals:
[SOUND: If You Go Down (I’m Going Down, Too) excerpt]
In an exclusive post-performance interview backstage, three of the fierce queens told Entertainment Tonight what the inclusive appearance meant to them:
Manila Luzon: Just like all these amazing country music artists, we drag queens are also artists and we deserve a space to to ourselves, express ourselves and create something wonderful for everyone to enjoy.
Olivia Lux: I feel like even the song, you know, “if you’re going down, then I’m going down, too.” It is about celebration of being a community. I think that’s what we did on the stage tonight, and I really hope that that transcended to people tonight, and I felt like it did.
Jan Sport: And if there’s one thing, do not mess with the LGBTQ+ community, okay? We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it, baby!