News Briefs: Russian Crime Gangs Point Gays As Easy Targets, Drag Queen to Run for Alabama Governor & More!

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Check out this week's latest news from around the world!

 

National – Texas schools urged to defy transgender directive

(WO) The fight over bathroom rights for transgender students escalated in Texas on May 31 as the state’s lieutenant governor urged schools to defy the Obama administration while parents of transgender children accused Republican leaders of stoking intolerance and making their kids targets for bullying.

Few states are as publicly and persistently pushing back on transgender rights as Texas. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pledged at a press conference to support for schools that refuse to let transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice. Texas is leading an 11-state lawsuit that accuses the federal government of turning schools into “laboratories for a massive social experiment.”

“Transgender students deserve the rights of anyone else. It does not mean they get to use the girls’ room if they’re a boy,” Patrick said.

Parents of transgender students said Patrick’s comments are provoking hostilities in school hallways. Like many other Republicans across the country, Patrick says the privacy and safety of students are put at risk by letting transgender people use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

“You, specifically you, are endangering my child’s life,” said Ann Elder, mother of a 10-year-old transgender child near Houston. “You have now told everyone in the state of Texas it is OK to harass my child.”

Transgender-rights advocates say claims of bathroom rights posing a public safety risk are malicious and false. They say that 18 states and scores of cities have experienced no significant public safety problems linked to their existing laws allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice.

Patrick, a former conservative talk radio host, suggested that the Texas Legislature will take up school bathroom access in 2017. He has also asked Paxton to determine whether the Fort Worth school district – the sixth-largest in Texas – is breaking state education law with privacy rules that opponents say keeps conversations between transgender students and school officials from their parents.

 

International – Russian crime gangs find homosexuals to be easy blackmail targets

A St. Petersburg economist, one of their latest victims, said several men burst into the apartment where he was meeting his date. Claiming that his date was under age, they threatened to call the police and to release a video they had secretly filmed unless he paid up.

The gay rights group Vykhod, or Coming Out, said they registered 12 such attacks in St. Petersburg in 2015 and at least six more gay men have come to them so far this year. LGBT activists believe the real number is far higher and say the attacks have increased in the past two years.

Since homosexuality finds little acceptance in Russian society, many gays keep their sexual orientation hidden from their families, friends and co-workers. This makes them easy extortion targets for criminals.

Vykhod spokeswoman Nika Yuryeva said most of the recent attacks have followed the same pattern as the one seen by the St. Petersburg economist.

Alexander Loza, a legal adviser at Positive Dialogue, an organization that provides consulting services for gays, particularly those living with the HIV virus, has heard similar stories.

"Many gay people in Russia lead a double life, unwilling to disclose their sexual orientation to their family or at work," Loza said. "In the case of such setup dates, they are afraid to disclose their status, to be accused of pedophilia, and therefore they are afraid to appeal to the police."

For prominent television journalist Anton Krasovsky, coming out ended his career in Russia. He was fired after he came out on the air in 2013 and has been unable to find a job in television since.

Krasovsky said it will be a long time before gays in Russia feel protected enough to speak publicly about their sexual orientation.

 

Politics – Bernie Sanders and Wilson Cruz hit up WeHo drag brunch

Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders made the rounds in L.A.'s West Hollywood neighborhood Sunday, stopping at popular drag brunch haunt Hamburger Mary's to shake hands and meet voters.

Accompanying Sanders was actor Wilson Cruz who took to Facebook Sunday morning to alert fans to the Vermont senator's visit.

"GOOD MORNING WEHO!" Cruz wrote. "Senator Sanders is in town and has asked me to take a walk with him. We'll be on Santa Monica Blvd in front of City Hall at 1130 AM and we'll be visiting some brunch spots! Come out and say hi!"

Cruz, 42, who is best known for his work on the 1990's TV series "My So Called Life" and "Party of Five" as well as the films "Nixon" and "Party Monster," has turned his attentions largely to LGBT activism in recent years. In 2012, he joined the staff of GLAAD as National Spokesperson and Strategic Giving Officer.

The Sanders campaign has focused largely on delegate-heavy California in recent weeks where he is neck and neck in the polls with frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

 

Health – Bob the drag queen encourages people to take PrEP

The most recent winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bob the Drag Queen, is urging people to take PrEP, the anti-HIV medicine, according to PinkNews.

PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis drug Truvada, if taken daily, can reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by up to 99 percent.

Bob, in the latest HIV Beats video by the #endHIV campaign, says: “Oh hey! Prepare yourself! There is a once a day pill called PrEP … its been shown to lower the risk of getting HIV by more than 90%.”

“Any doctor can prescribe PrEP, but not all doctors know about PrEP,” she said. “You can find a PrEP friendly doctor in your neighborhood by heading to getprep.greaterthan.org.”

Though the drug is endorsed by the World Health Organisation and is available to at-risk gay men in a number of countries, last week NHS England ruled out a large scale roll-out for PrEP, instead funding a further two-yea trial at “early implementer” sites.

“I never imagined I would be alive to see the day when a pill was created that could actually prevent HIV,” said Stephen Fry, actor and TV host.

Fry was upset with NHS England’s decision to not commission HIV-preventing PrEP drugs: “It is remarkable and thrilling to witness so tremendous an achievement, but deeply frustrating in equal measure to discover that our national health service has pointedly refused to provide it to people at significant risk of infection from HIV.”

 

Politics – Drag Queen to run for Alabama governor

Ambrosia Starling, the drag queen from Alabama known for butting heads with anti-LGBT State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, may end up running against Moore for Alabama Governor, Towleroad reports.

Starling, who is sticking to her drag name to protect her family, is seriously considering running for governor if Moore decides to participate in the 2018 race, as he is expected to do.

Moore was recently suspended from his Supreme Court post due to his defiance of the ruling on gay marriage, singling out “professed transvestite” Starling as leading the effort to remove him from the bench, even though it was a joint effort involving many people, according to the Huffington Post.

“He’s going to run again for governor,” Starling said, noting that he will use the controversy over marriage equality and the activism it has inspired to gain support among conservatives. “Be very sure and understand this. I told the group at [a] rally, ‘It’s very possible I’m handing Roy Moore the governorship on a silver platter.’”

If Starling does run, she will run as an independent and in drag – and will legally change her name to her drag name in order to protect her family.

Starling wants to “straighten out the circus of politics,” adding: “If it takes a drag queen to get everyone to face the front, same direction, and listening, I’ll do that.”

Starling will spend the time before the race taking on the fight in Alabama that has turned to bathroom bills, which has involved legislators such as Rep. Will Ainsworth attacking transgender students.

 

International – British fundamentalist schools are teaching children being gay is ‘unnatural,’ it has been claimed

According to Pink News, some Christian fundamentalist schools in Britain are teaching students that homosexuals are “unnatural” and that girls need to be submissive to men.

An investigation by the Independent spoke to former students who have exposed the schools for not preparing children for life.

Students are forced to teach themselves in order to “get closer to God.” The textbooks the school provided taught them that creationism was fact, women were beneath men and that homosexuality was wrong.

The definition of homosexuality in one textbook read, “having unnatural sexual feelings towards one of the same sex. Homosexual activity is another of man’s corruptions of God’s plan.”

Children work in booths specially designed to prevent interaction with peers, and they also allegedly receive little guidance from teachers.

Former pupils report that this leaves children, especially those with disabilities, unequipped to deal with modern life.

Upon completion of the school, children are not given any formal qualifications other than a “Christian certificate,” hurting their chances of pursuing higher education.

“No one outside of the schools knows about what happens inside them, that’s why they’ve been able to go on like this for so long,” a former pupil reported.

The fundamentalist schools, known formally as Accelerated Christian Education schools (Ace), developed in the southern United States before expanding to other countries around the worl. Between 20 and 60 students are believed to attend each one, and more than 1,000 children worldwide are believed to currently be enrolled in one.

 

Health – 50 men on PrEP give blood to protest FDA’s policy on blood donation

50 HIV-negative men who all take PrEP, an HIV-preventative drug, came together and each donated a tube of their blood to the ongoing sculpture “Blood Mirror” by queer artist Jordan Eagles.

The 50 tubes of equal a pint of blood, and the donation Is a form of protest against the FDA’s policy that requires that men who have sex with other men to be celibate for a year before donating blood, the Huffington Post reports.

“It doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, male, female, young, old, or where in the world you were born,” Eagles said. “This is both an equality and a science issue, that affects us all on so many levels. We have the ability to save lives and do what’s right.”

Eagle’s blood mirror is a massive seven-foot-tall structure that allows viewers to see themselves reflected in the preserved blood of the men who have contributed to its formation.

“[The policy is] bad science and it is prejudice,” activist Leo Herrera said in a statement. “The belief that gay men are inherently prone to disease is the equivalent to racial phrenology, striking at the fragile ability to view ourselves as healthy and ‘clean.’”

On World Blood Donor Day, June 14 2006, the blood of these 50 men will be projected on NYC High Line’s 14th street passage as part of a #BloodEquality event. Visitors will be able to take their pictures against the projection and show their support when it comes to donation equality for men who have sex with men.

 

National – leader of Honduras’ gay community abducted and murdered

A leader in Honduras' gay community has been buried several days after he was kidnapped and killed in the city of San Pedro Sula.

Rene Martinez, 39, was a city employee working in anti-violence outreach programs and a rising member of the National Party.

The attorney general's office said in a statement that his body showed signs of having been strangled. No motive for his murder was given.

Martinez's family said in a statement that assailants kidnapped him on Wednesday after he arrived home, forcing him into a vehicle. Family members alerted police but his body was found two days later in another neighborhood. He was buried on Saturday.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Honduras condemned his murder and called for a thorough investigation.

Joani Garcia, director of the National Forum on AIDS, called Martinez "one of the main defenders of lesbians, gays, transsexuals and intransexuals in the country."


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