23 JAN 2017: Donald Trump is officially the President of the United States. Now, what’s next in President Trump’s quest to “Make America Great Again” in a nation that is clearly divided over numerous issues - many of which directly impact the LGBT community?
Moments after the inauguration took place, a new Trump White House website took the place of the previous Obama one, which has now been archived. Moments later, LGBT activists were up in arms once again when they tried to search for LGBT on the website, and nothing appeared. Yes, there is a lot of fear and paranoia in the air these days, but apparently the website still has plenty more updates to be done.
Right now the nation is left with the following top priority issues - America First Energy Plan, America First Foreign Policy, Bringing Back Jobs And Growth, Making Our Military Strong Again, Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community, and Trade Deals Working For All Americans – all which were alluded to in Trump’s address.
President Trump has yet to assign the White House’s official liaison for the LGBT community, whose role it is to assist with LGBT equality issues. President Bill Clinton was the first to have a LGBT liaison official, and President Obama followed suit, yet in between George W Bush didn’t appoint anyone to this position. The role is currently held by Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the first out transgender woman to be employed at the White House.
In a departure from usual protocol, Trump ordered the “immediate” removal of all ambassadors appointed by President Obama, among the are gay ambassadors appointed by President Obama - Rufus Gifford (Denmark), John Berry (Australia), Daniel Baer (Austria), James Costos (Spain), and Wally Brewster (Dominican Republic).
Meanwhile, a new 2016 Gallup poll shows that more than 10 million American adults now identify within the LGBT spectrum, showing an overall percentage increase from 3.5% in 2012 to 4.1% in 2016. Unsurprisingly, the increase was highest within the “millennial” bracket, those born between 1980 and 1998.
The gay Log Cabin Republicans hosted a post-inaugural bash on January 21 in Washington D.C. dubbed a ‘T Party’ (pun intended), while Gays for Trump threw a party on January 20 in Potomac, MD, called “Deploraball”, referring to the term “deplorables” that Hillary Clinton used to describe some Trump supporters during the election race.
And Then There’s Pence
As FDR stated during his inaugural speech back on March 4th, 1933 - “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”. Many gay Americans feel that VP Mike Pence is more feared than Trump himself, particularly for his staunch stance on LGBT rights, abortion rights, Planned Parenthood, and the religious freedom. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by Pence as governor in 2015, would have allowed business owners to deny services to gay, lesbian and transgender citizens for religious reasons. An economic boycott forced him to reconsider.
Nevertheless, he has vowed to roll back many legislative protection acts that were put in place by Obama.
One of Obama’s last actions was to commute the sentences of several incarcerated individuals, one of which was transgender activist and former US soldier, Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for sending classified government documents to WikiLeaks. She will now be freed on May 17 this year, as opposed to 2045, unless this decision can be overturned by the incoming government. Obama also commuted the sentence of 209 other individuals on Tuesday, and pardoned 64 others, according to a White House press release.
Obama’s LGBT legacy also includes the legalization of same-sex marriage across the nation, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military, and of course the still controversial transgender “bathroom bill”.
Here’s what the Obama’s will be up to next. They have launched the Obama Foundation, a working centre for citizenship, indicating that they remain committed to achieving the goals they set out to achieve for the United States of America.
Leave it to Ellen DeGeneres to make one of the most fitting video tributes to Obama.
The recent Pride Toronto Board’s decision to honour all of Black Lives Matters requests for more inclusiveness has caused quite a stir, partially due to one of the requests being the “exclusion of uniformed police officers marching in the parade.” The LGBT community is becoming more fractured as a result of this decision, which was voted in unanimously at the AGM held on January 17th.
Many are applauding the decision, while others are fully opposed. There are a few things that may have caused this latest difference of opinions. The AGM is open to any members of the public who choose to show an interest in the direction the Pride organization takes. Those who show up get to vote, and that’s how decisions are made. However, it appears that those now opposed to the changes were either not aware of the meeting, or chose not to attend. Either way, these individuals are now vocalizing their displeasure with the results.
There are now a couple petitions online calling for the reversal of this decision, and some asking for corporations to pull sponsorship. Sooner rather than later, Pride Toronto should hold one of its infamous “Town Hall” meetings, where the AGM meeting decisions can be “discussed in person” with all who attend. Everyone will be invited, including members of the Toronto Police Services Board.
The flurry of Facebook posts and tweets from both sides only reinforces the fact that EVERYONE is passionate about what Pride means to them. However, it’s time to take this conflicting negativity offline and create a proper dialogue, with a positive outcome for all. It’s only six months until Pride season is upon us, so let’s resolve all of this now. We can start by stopping the name-calling and labelling as well.
In Other News
The New York City AIDS Memorial was unveiled this past December, acting as the gateway to the New York City AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle in the West Village (West 12th street & Greenwich Ave.). The design features an 18-foot steel canopy with a central granite water feature and benches. The memorial is intended both to honour and acknowledge the past, and energize and inspire current and future generations of activists, caregivers and people living with HIV.
The grand-daddy of whisky manufacturers, Jack Daniels, joined a group of approximately 200 businesses in Tennessee, to form a coalition against LGBT discrimination. Nashville’s Music Row also signed up to keep Tennessee free of discrimination. This move might have been ignited by recent measures such as California's ban on state-funded and state-sponsored travel to North Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, and Tennessee.
North Carolina’s controversial discriminatory HB2 law remains in effect, despite huge revenue losses from both businesses and tourism. Over the past year, more than 200 bills have been filed in state legislatures across the US that would eliminate or limit current protections. Mississippi is also using religious freedom as a means to deflect discriminatory practices.
The Orlando City Soccer Club unveiled a permanent memorial to the 49 people killed inside the Pulse nightclub last year. The rainbow coloured seats are in section 12, referencing the June 12th date of the incident, and each seat is marked with the #orlandounited hashtag. The first regular season game of 2017 will be held on March 5th, against New York City FC.
Earlier this month, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a new marketing campaign that features queer and transgender individuals. The ads appear in mainstream publications, including the New York Times and USA Today Travel Magazine. Richard Gray, managing director LGBTQ Market for the GFLCVB stated, “We are the only destination in the world that is using Trans people in mainstream marketing initiatives.”
The organization was also the first CVB to launch a 24/7 digital TV network – “Hello Sunny TV” – highlighting the destination’s growing appeal to affluent and millennial travellers. The CVB first started marketing to the LGBT market in 1996, and now welcomes 1.5 million individuals annually from within this demographic
Guatemala may be on its way to reforming legislation to allow same-sex marriages, while Mexico is still implementing laws state-by-state, and Colombia commemorated its first same-sex marriage ceremony. A Peruvian judge recently recognized the same-sex marriage of two individuals who married legally in Mexico City, and the government agency charged with registering marriages says it will appeal.
A recent study by Berlin’s independent Dalia Research GmbH organization has revealed that Germany has the largest LGBT population in Europe, estimated at 7.4% out of the total population, despite not having legalized same-sex marriage legislation. The country does however have laws in place allowing for same-sex adoption, civil unions, and the legal right to change gender. Another related study done by Germany’s Federal Anti-Discriminatory Agency found that 83% of the population supports marriage equality.
Russia has the highest number of new HIV cases on the European continent, with nearly 100, 000 new infections recorded in 2015, the most current year with published data. This accounts for 64% of all HIV cases in Europe, with most being attributed to drug use and needles.
Bologna, Italy followed the lead of Germany by creating a welcome centre specifically for LGBT refugees, featuring housing, counselling, and outreach services.
A coalition of local LGBT groups in Bangkok, Thailand, including Out BKK, are planning to organize a Pride event toward the end of this year, which will be the first Pride held in the city in over a decade.
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, Mimi Imfurst, became the first American drag queen to perform in Cuba since the US sanctions were lifted last year. She performed New Year's Eve in Havana, to the appropriately titled “Express Yourself” by Madonna.
Pride Fort Lauderdale – the first Pride event of the new year, and first under Trump’s administration, happens February 26, 2017. It’s the 40th anniversary and will be going back to its roots, with festivities taking place right on the beach.
World OutGames Miami – brings together more than 450 events across three areas: Sport, Culture and Human Rights. May 26 to June 4, 2017
Austin OutSider Fest – celebrates original and creative nonconformity within the LGBT community through the presentation of provocative, overlooked and out-of-the-box film, dance, theatre, performance art, music, writing and visual art. Feb 15 to 19, 2017
WorldPride in Madrid – this year is a double celebration, marking the 40th anniversary of the first LGBT Pride demonstration in Spain, as well as WorldPride, with events taking place between June 23 and July 2, 2017
Hot Travel Destination – Canada
We were voted top in several publications, including the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveller, and Lonely Planet. We are celebrating our 150th anniversary as a nation, and there are parties planned across the country throughout the year. The 2017 Gay Friendly Canada Guide promises a collection of events of interest to LGBT travellers.
So here’s to a great year of global travels, or one filled with discovering our home and native land!