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This Way Out Radio Episode #1870: First Black Lesbian U.S. Senator Praises Youth

U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler (D-CA) is the first Black lesbian to ever serve in Congress’ upper chamber. Appointed to fill the seat of the legendary Senator Dianne Feinstein, the life-long labor and community organizer devoted her maiden speech to the upcoming generations of political activists.

And in NewsWrap: a report by Human Rights Watch finds Meta and other social media companies complicit in the persecution and arrests of queer people in the Middle East and North Africa, Texas activists go to the United Nations to seek relief from laws that target LGBTQ people, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban doubles down on homophobia as the EU withholds funds, Ohio trans adults and trans children’s families flee lawmakers’ restrictions on gender-affirming care and student athletes, a California judge blocks a rule forcing trans cops to out themselves, U.S. Gen Z-ers are more queer than Republican, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Ava Davis and Alan Tijamo (produced by Brian DeShazor).

All this on the January 29, 2024 edition of This Way Out!

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Complete Program Summary
for the week of January 29, 2024

First Black Lesbian U.S. Senator Praises Youth

Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Human Rights Watch tells Meta and other leading social media sites to better protect its queer users in the Middle East and North Africa and stop enabling anti-queer harassment and arrests in the region … top U.S. rights groups file a formal human rights complaint at the United Nations against Texas for its unrelenting legislative assaults on the state’s LGBTQ people … Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban renews his feud with the European Union [his brief comments with voice-over English translation] by insisting this week that no amount of E.U. funding would lead him to advance queer rights there … Ohio’s Republican-dominated legislature overrides Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill to outlaw gender-affirming healthcare for trans people under the age of 18, and a state advocacy group reports that dozens of families with trans kids are already applying for emergency financial aid to flee the state … a Sacramento judge temporarily halts enforcement of a new out of character regulation from California's Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta that virtually requires transgender law enforcement officers to out themselves to the state … a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals that U.S. Gen-Z adults — aged 18 to 25 — are more likely to identify as LGBTQ than as Republican (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by AVA DAVIS and ALLAN TIJAMO, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR.


Feature: U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler made her first speech to her colleagues on January 17th. Butler is the first out Black lesbian to ever serve in Congress’ upper chamber. She was one of the youngest people to become a leader in the healthcare, public sector and property workers’ Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. She went on to serve as president of Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice women to public office. In October 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed her to fill out the term of the legendary Senator Diane Feinstein. Butler talked about her road to the Senate and the key issues she’ll focus on while there (with intro/outro music from a cover of Foreigner’s Urgent by MAGGY LUYTEN and CHRISTOPHE GODIN).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending January 27th, 2024
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Ava Davis and Allan Tijamo,
produced by Brian DeShazor

   The world’s largest social media company is complicit in the persecution and arrests of queer people in the Middle East and North Africa – that’s according to a report issued this week by Human Rights Watch.  The global human rights group singled out Meta because of its online dominance as the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsAppTwitter/X and the gay dating site Grindr did not escape criticism. They could also to do a better job of protecting their queer users.

In the report entitled Digital Targeting and Its Offline Consequences for LGBT People in the Middle East and North Africa, Human Rights Watch highlights Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia. It documents how legal and religious authorities use social media to “entrap and harass” LGBTQ people. Same-gender sex is illegal in those countries, and queer online posts can be used as evidence in prosecutions. The report charges that those tactics lead to the “arbitrary detention and torture” of LGBTQ people.

Activists and transgender people were found to be the most vulnerable because of their online visibility. They face digital targeting because of overlapping stigma, discrimination, and the absence of legal protections.

Rasha Younes is acting LGBT Rights Deputy Director at Human Rights Watch.  She said in a statement, “Meta has underinvested in user safety and underestimated the role its platforms play in facilitating abuses against LGBT people … [its management] should always be accountable for the security of users on its platforms, but especially when it can protect them from egregious harm.”

Meta has yet to respond.

    The state of Texas is being brought before the United Nations, accused of enacting laws that intentionally target or disproportionately negatively affect LGBTQ people. A consortium of U.S. rights groups submitted a Joint Allegation Letter on January 22nd to 17 independent experts, working groups and special rapporteurs at the U.N. The official complaint details how legislation passed by the Republican-dominated state legislature constitutes a human rights crisis for the state’s LGBTQ people.

The groups behind the action include the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the statewide queer rights group Equality Texas. They got help from the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin.  Their press release describes how queer Texans now suffer from laws that eliminate pediatric gender-affirming healthcare, ban queer-supportive books from libraries, prohibit trans athletes from participating in collegiate sports, and threaten drag performances.  The groups call the laws gleefully signed by Republican Governor Gregg Abbott a systemic attack on the fundamental rights, dignities and identities of LGBTQ+ people.

The U.N. complaint calls for the repeal of all anti-queer laws in the state, and the passage of legislation to thoroughly protect LGBTQ rights.

Texas officials have been uncharacteristically mum. It’s worth noting that shortly before his assassination, Malcolm X endeavored to take the cause of African-American civil rights to the U.N.

    In the words of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban …

[SOUND – Orban (fades under translation)]

“There is not enough money in the world to force us to let migrants in, and there is not enough money in the world for which we would put our children or grandchildren in the hands of LGBTQ+ activists.”

That was Orban’s latest social media-delivered response in his ongoing war against the European Union.  European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced this week that more than the equivalent of 25 billion U.S. dollars in funding will remain frozen until Hungary meets minimum E.U. human rights standards.

Funds are being withheld because of the government’s dismantling of democratic norms, gags on academic freedoms and persecution of minorities – especially LGBTQ people and would-be immigrants.

The feud began in earnest in 2021 after Orban’s government enacted a “no promo homo” law that banned discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools or in the media. One of Donald Trump’s favorite autocrats, Orban is also accused of rampant corruption.

    Ohio’s trans people under the age of 18 can no longer access gender-affirming healthcare, and trans girls and women are banned from competing in school sports. The Republican-dominated House and Senate overrode Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s recent veto of the legislation.

Families with trans children are already fleeing the state, or traveling outside Ohio to access pediatric gender-affirming healthcare.  The advocacy group TransOhio has launched a fund to provide emergency financial assistance. Spokesperson Dara Adkinson told NBC News this week that 68 families and seven transgender adults have applied for emergency relocation funding.  The new legislation also makes it more difficult for adults to get treatment. In Adkinson’s words, “Their government is forcing them to uproot their lives. They’re selling their homes, they’re changing jobs and careers and closing out all of their savings.  They’re closing their businesses, [and] leaving their medical practices.  The intense amount of personal and community trauma that is being inflicted by the government right now and putting these families through who just love their f-ing kids is so cruel.”

Ohio has now become the 22nd U.S. state to halt access to gender-affirming healthcare for minors, and the 24th to ban trans girls and women from competing in school sports.

    A California regulation that requires transgender law enforcement officers to out themselves when providing demographic information about traffic stops is on hold this week. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger slapped a temporary injunction on new regulations issued by Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta. They mandate that officers specify whether they are cisgender, transgender or nonbinary.  Each law enforcement agency is then required to relay that information to a state anti-discrimination board.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and organizations of police chiefs and sheriffs are challenging those requirements in Krueger’s court. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, officers can be fired for refusing to comply, or for lying about it.

The police organizations had previously opposed the collection of demographic information to study profiling. Bonta’s rationale for the new regulation is unclear, and his office has yet to respond to the court ruling.  They seem to contradict the Attorney General’s stated position that California law unequivocally protects transgender students from being outed to their parents or legal guardians.                          

Judge Kreuger set a trial date of March 19th to determine whether his preliminary injunction should be extended while the regulation continues to be litigated.

    Finally, 28 percent of “Generation Z” adults identify as LGBTQ.  This new data issued by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals that people between the ages of 18 and 25 are increasingly comfortable embracing their sexuality and gender identity. The information comes from polling and focus groups held in the U.S. in August and September 2023. The results were first reported by Axios this week.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said of the survey, “Whether at the polls, in marches and rallies, or online, LGBTQ+ visibility matters, and Gen Z is a force for change.”

According to these statistics, more Gen Z-ers identify as queer than the 21 percent who identify as Republican.

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