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This Way Out Radio Episode #1842: George Michael: A Life

Music biographer James Gavin takes a deep dive into the life of enigmatic gay rock star George Michael in his latest book, celebrated at the Grammy Museum.

And in NewsWrap: a mob of violent rightwing protesters attacks Tblisi Pride and forces the attendees to evacuate, a Southeast Asian LGBTQ conference in Jakarta relocates after social media threats, Japan’s Supreme Court rules in favor of a trans woman’s right to use office bathrooms that conform to her gender identity, Russia’s lower house of parliament passes the final reading of a proposal to ban all medical and legal gender changes, anti-transgender rights court decisions handed down in three U.S. states, a Wisconsin trans girl temporarily has the right to use the appropriate campus bathrooms, a Wisconsin teacher is fired for teaching her first graders to sing the Miley Cyrus-Dolly Parton duet “Rainbowland,” and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Michael LeBeau and Ava Davis (produced by Brian DeShazor).

Complete Program Summary
for the week of July 15, 2023

George Michael: A Life

Program #1,842 distributed 07/17/23
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Thousands of anti-queer ultra-religious nationalists violently storm the annual LGBTQ Pride Festival in Tbilisi, the capital of the Eastern European-West Asian nation of Georgia, vandalizing the stage, burning rainbow flags and setting other fires in the outdoor venue, and looting the bar, forcing the evacuation of attendees … a regional queer conference scheduled this week for the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and co-sponsored by a Philippines LGBTQ advocacy group is moved to an undisclosed location after Islamic fundamentalist objections and social media threats … Japan’s Supreme Court rules for a trans woman government employee’s right to use office bathrooms that match her gender identity in the high court’s first decision directly addressing anti-LGBTQ workplace bias … the lower house of Russia’s parliament advances a bill expected to reach Vladimir Putin’s desk for his signature to outlaw all healthcare for trans people, including puberty blockers, hormone therapies and gender affirmation surgery … a U.S. federal appeals court reverses a temporary ban on a Tennessee law banning gender-affirming care for trans young people under the age of 18 while its constitutionality is being challenged in a lower court … a federal judge in Georgia allows that state’s trans youth healthcare ban to stay in effect while its constitutionality is being challenged … a Kansas judge sides with the state’s Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach and halts an initiative by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly to allow trans people to change the gender marker on their driver’s licenses … a Wisconsin judge rules for an 11-year-old trans girl’s right to use school bathrooms that match her gender identity … Wisconsin elementary school teacher MELISSA TEMPEL is officially fired for publicly criticizing district officials’ ban on her first graders singing the Miley Cyrus-Dolly Parton duet Rainbowland at an annual school assembly (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by MICHAEL LeBEAU and AVA DAVIS, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).

Feature:When award-winning music biographer James Gavin takes a deep dive into the life of enigmatic gay rock star George Michael, the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles takes notice. At the Museum’s special evening celebrating George Michael: A Life, This Way Out’s BRIAN DeSHAZOR was on hand to capture some of the highlights with their permission (with excerpts from Michael’s Kissing A Fool, Jesus to a Child, Spinning the Wheel, Father Figure, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Careless Whisper, I Knew You Were Waiting, and Faith).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending July 15th, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Michael LeBeau and Ava Davis,
produced by Brian DeShazor

[SOUND: Tblisi Pride]

A mob of rightwing protesters attacked LGBTQ Pride in Tblisi, Georgia, forcing the abrupt cancellation of the festivities on July 8th. An estimated five thousand opponents carrying national flags and religious symbols vandalized the event stage at a lakeside park in the capital, burned rainbow flags, set other fires, and looted the bar.

Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandre Darakhvelidze swears that police officers on the scene were overwhelmed by the rampage and chose to evacuate attendees by bus before the horde arrived. However the 0rganizers condemned the police for failing to monitor the major road into the festival site, and for having an insufficient number of officers on hand. Some accused police officers of being more sympathetic to the protestors than the Pride-goers. There were no serious injuries, but no one was arrested, either.

It’s not the first time Pride celebrations in the Eastern European-West Asian nation have come under attack. Dozens of journalists were assaulted during Tblisi Pride in 2021, and a TV cameraman died after being beaten by anti-queer protestors.

The Georgian Orthodox Church has opposed efforts to expand the rights of sexual and gender minorities. Politically powerful Church officials recently called for ban on what they called “LGBTQ propaganda.”

Georgia has expressed interest in joining the European Union, but E.U. officials have accused the government of failing to advance human rights and liberties. Georgian officials have also been criticized for attempting to forge closer ties with Russia since Vladimir invaded Ukraine.

Violent threats on social media have forced the cancellation of a Southeast Asian LGBTQ conference scheduled to begin this week in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

The Indonesian Ulema Council is a powerful Islamic clerical body. Its spokesperson Anwar Abbas told reporters, "The government must not give a permit to an event that contradicts the values of religions in Indonesia."

The Indonesian and Filipino advocacy groups that are jointly sponsoring the conference have now moved the event outside Indonesia. Their media statement says that the change is "to ensure the safety and security of both the participants and the organizers." In their words, “threats to the very existence of our lives and dignity are part of the everyday realities of LGBTQIA+ persons.”

For security reasons, conference organizers are refusing to name the new location.

In its first decision directly addressing the workplace rights of LGBTQ people, Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a trans woman’s right to use office bathrooms that conform to her gender identity.

The unidentified 50-year-old trans woman works at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. She filed suit in 2015 after her superiors banned her from using the women’s bathrooms. A district court found in her favor, but the Tokyo High Court overturned that ruling.

The Supreme Court said this week that denying the plaintiff access to her preferred bathroom was an “illegal abuse of power” that caused her significant inconvenience. It rejected the government’s claim that the comfort of her fellow employees was more important.

The plaintiff told reporters that the high court’s July 11th opinion “could also apply in other human rights issues where discrimination still happens.”

Japan’s conservative federal government has lagged behind public opinion and the nation’s judiciary in advancing LGBTQ equality. The G7 meeting in June made lawmakers feel more pressure as the only major economic power in the world without marriage equality. They passed what critics called a meaningless measure to “promote understanding” of the LGBTQ community.

Vladimir Putin’s cronies in Russia’s lower house of parliament on July 14th passed the final reading of a proposal to ban all medical and legal gender changes. That includes hormone therapies and gender affirmation surgeries.

The measure also bans transgender people from adopting or fostering children, and annuls a marriage if one of the spouses seeks to change their gender.

Medical professionals and transgender rights advocates warned that such legislation would create an “underground market” for hormone therapy substitutes. They also predict an increase in suicide attempts by younger trans people who would be denied access to healthcare.

The bill now goes to parliament’s upper house for expected approval before going to Putin for his signature.

It’s just the latest in Russia’s escalating crackdown on the humanity of LGBTQ people. Putin took time away from his illegal invasion of Ukraine to push a measure through parliament late last year that expanded the country’s notorious “no promo homo” law to muzzle all citizens from expressing public support for LGBTQ rights.

U.S. judges ruled against transgender rights in three states this week.

A three-judge panel of the Ohio-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit voted 2-to-1 to temporarily reverse a lower court’s injunction that blocked Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans people under the age of 18. The law can now take effect even as a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality goes forward. Unlike the rulings in similar cases in other states, the 6th Circuit majority decided that such a constitutional challenge is likely to fail. A lower district court continues to hear a challenge to the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision was repeatedly referenced by the opinion’s author, Judge Jeffrey Sutton. Dobbs returned the issue of a woman’s right to choose to the states. Sutton concluded that the issue of gender-affirming healthcare for minors should also be decided on a state-by-state basis.

Advocates for Tennessee healthcare professionals and families with transgender children are being represented by the ACLU. Their joint statement calls the ruling “beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development.”

Georgia’s state ban on healthcare for transgender minors will also be enforced as its constitutionality is being challenged. U.S District Judge Sarah E. Geraghty claimed that a request to temporarily block the measure was filed too late. Although hormone treatments are reversible, the law uses the guise of “protecting children” from “irreversible harm” to prevent Georgia families from seeking gender-affirming care for their trans children. Healthcare professionals are forbidden from providing it.

A Kansas judge has issued a restraining order preventing the state government from issuing or changing a trans person’s driver’s license that differs from their biological gender at birth.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Teresa Watson sided with Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach, who challenged Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s support for those changes.

Watson’s ruling cited “public safety concerns.” Her restraining order can expire after 14 days, or she can renew it.

In better gender news, an 11-year-old Wisconsin trans girl temporarily has the right to use campus bathrooms that conform to her gender identity.

The legal filing identified her only as “Jane Doe #1.” The sixth grader has been using the girl’s bathroom since third grade, but school officials inexplicably told her parents last month that she must now use either the boys’ or a gender-neutral toilet. District Judge Lynn Adelman decided that “the plaintiff will suffer significant irreparable harm” without a temporary restraining order against the school.

Finally, Wisconsin elementary school teacher Melissa Tempel was officially fired on July 12th by the Waukesha School District Board of Education. Tempel came under fire for choosing the Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton duet Rainbowland for her first graders to sing at an annual school assembly. Milwaukee-area school district Superintendent Jim Sebert banned the performance in March after he decided that it could be perceived as “controversial.”

[SOUND: Rainbowland excerpt]

The reason given for her firing was not her choice of songs. Sebert claimed that Tempel had “deliberately brought negative attention to the school district” with her social media posts and print and broadcast interviews criticizing the ban.

Tempel’s lawyer said she’s filing a First Amendment claim challenging the Board’s decision. In the meantime, the veteran teacher told Milwaukee-area TV station WTMJ:

[SOUND: Tempel]

I tried to say thanks to everyone who came today and thank you for everybody who sent me such sweet messages and support and I really appreciate it … and I also wanted to just say “hi” to my students because I haven’t been able to talk to them since March … and I really miss you guys and I love you and I really wanted to be with you this year, and I hope that we get to see each other really soon.

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