These Are the Bathroom Wars We Have Fought Before

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The Trump administration has rescinded the Obama administration guidance that transgender students are federally protected from sex discrimination under Title IX and will no longer require schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity.

never-about-bathroomsBut it isn’t really about bathrooms. It wasn’t about bathrooms in the past and it isn’t about them now. The issue has always been about who has access to the public sphere.

When someone has to worry about being able to relieve themself when out in public, it discourage them from participating fully in activities outside the home. Historically, public bathrooms were a weapon for in the battle for social control.

For generations of working women, a barrier to employment was that few, if any, workplaces had bathrooms they could use. In 1887, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law requiring workplaces that employed women to have bathrooms for them. It took a while for guaranteed access to become the norm but by the 1920’s most states had passed similar laws. A scholarly article with a number of examples is Taunya Lovell Banks’ “Toilets as a Feminist Issue.”

In the 1940’s and 50’s, segregationists pulled out the bathroom card when fighting to preserve Jim Crow laws. Many African-American travelers found few places to relieve themselves along the interstates across the country as Whites Only signs blocked access to restrooms in gas stations, bus stations, etc. Political opponents of Brown vs Board of Education were very vociferous that interracial school bathrooms were a threat to the very fabric of society. For more information on this time period, read Phoebe Godfrey‘s “Bayonets, Brainwashing, and Bathrooms: The Discourse of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High.”

In the 1960’s, gays were the new bathroom threat. For example, the Florida Legislative Investigative Committee issued a report, Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida, which warned of the menace of gay men in restroom stalls who “posed a threat to the health and moral well-being of a sizable portion of our population, particularly our youth.” I guess lesbians, being invisible, were able to do their business with no fuss.

During her fight throughout the 1970’s against the Equal Rights Amendment, Phyllis Schlafly described three “Horribles” that the ERA would impose on women, one of which was it would bring about public unisex bathrooms (As an aside, Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a great rebuttal in the ABA Journal in September 1973). But, it wasn’t only public safety that was a concern of the opponents of the ERA – they claimed national security would be affected and argued that military cohesion would fall apart if men and women had to share facilities. The Red Scare had nothing on their potty fears and while the ERA didn’t pass, we have advanced women’s rights despite their fear mongering.

The fight against Houston’s HERO and Charlotte’s Ordinance 7056 took things to a new low. The religious extremists reframed anti-discrimination ordinances and twisted them to make the issue no longer about equality but about permitting sexual predators to molest children in women’s bathrooms. North Carolina’s backwards looking legislators responded with the ugly HB2 which in turn caused such a furor among equality minded people that the NBA even pulled the All Star game out of the state and moved it to Louisiana, which had the recently elected governor signed an anti-discrimination Executive Order.

Such a sad, sorry history of bathrooms, isn’t it? It is amazing that such a humble room has been ground zero for those opposed to the advancement civil rights.

Today’s anti’s aren’t any more concerned about women and children being attacked in restrooms than their forefathers.

We know this because then they would have responded with the same fervor when information came out that then presidential candidate Donald Trump would go into the dressing rooms of Miss Teen USA, Miss USA and Miss Universe to “inspect” the participants (Rolling Stone did a timeline on his creepiness). He boasted about it in a 2005 interview with Howard Stern.

Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else. [Y]ou know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good.

The facts are clear: Sexual predators don’t wait to dress up like a woman to go into bathrooms.

Women and children are not in danger from transgender people in bathrooms. Don’t get me wrong – women and children do risk sexual assault in all sorts of places (in our homes, on our streets, etc). However, lawmakers and law enforcement have not been able to show any incidents of transgender violence against women or children in public restrooms despite more than 200 municipalities and 18 states having nondiscrimination laws. As per the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women: “None of those jurisdictions have seen a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues due to nondiscrimination laws. Assaulting another person in a restroom or changing room remains against the law in every single state.”

Do you know who is in danger in public restrooms? A 2013 survey by the Williams Institute found that 70% of trans people reported experiencing denial of access, verbal harassment or physical assault in an attempt to use the bathroom.

By rescinding the guidance baring schools from discriminating against transgender students, the Trump administration sends a message that harassing or bullying someone about using the bathroom is okay.

Is that the message we want to send to our children? Is that the message we want to send to our trans brothers and sisters?

How about instead, we show we value them?

By taking measures to protect transgender students, we can ensure that they have the same opportunity as their classmates to fully participate in school. By passing anti-discrimination measures which include gender identity and expression we will make sure that transgender people will be treated fairly and equally under the law.

And allow them to finally be able to pee in peace.

 

She Persisted

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It is all around the web today, how Mitch McConnell, using a Senate rule (the 1836-44 gag rule) designed to forbid any consideration of abolition to silence Elizabeth Warren during her testimony against the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States.

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Here is Coretta Scott King’s 1986 statement and testimony on Jeff Sessions’s U.S. District Court nomination in Alabama. As she wrote then:

Based on his record, I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband’s dream that he envisioned over twenty years ago.

Contact your elected representatives to OPPOSE Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General of the United States.

Find them HERE

Be like Liz – Persist!

Why I Marched

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I’ve been asked by family and others just what the fuss was all about on January 21st when the Women’s March was held. The election is over, they said. Why are you still making a fuss?

It is more than the election debacle that we were marching about, although the actions in the first week of the new presidency show that our fears were prescient.

We marched on Saturday because that is how change comes. Throughout history, protests, social activism and resistance are how gains were made. As Frederick Douglass said in a speech at Canandaigua, New York on August 3, 1857:

The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

That is so true. For example:

      • Miners (1912) and seamstresses (1911) marched to get better wages, safer workplaces, fewer hours and better benefits for all employees.
      • On March 3, 1913, women marched to get the right to vote that many of us exercised in November.
      • In 1932, WWI veterans marched for early payment of their bonuses for overseas deployment. While it took an act of Congress to finally get their payments, the soldier’s protest led to the GI Bill.
      • August 28, 1963, African-Americans marched to demand political and civil rights denied to them by law and tradition.
      • On November 15, 1969, students marched end the Vietnam War.
      • Women marched on August 26, 1970 for equal opportunity in the workplace, as well as to secure credit and property in their own name.
      • LGBTQ people marched on October 14, 1979 to repeal discriminatory laws and policies. This was followed by another LGBTQ rights march on October 11, 1987 to demand increased AIDS research and funding and still another on April 25, 1993 to demand legislation to protect the civil rights of the LGBTQ community and to end discrimination in the military and federal government.
      • Women marched in April 9, 1989 to fight for reproductive choice and again in April 25, 2004 to protect women’s lives and reproductive freedom.
      • Those of us to whom black lives matter have been marching for the past couple of years across the nation to protest extra-judicial killings by police and injustices in the legal system.

I went to Washington, DC and took part in the marches in 1989, 1993 and 2004. On Saturday, January 21, 2017 I was in New Orleans and I marched with 3 million others across the world for equal rights, reproductive choice and an end to violence against women.

Holding my sign high at the Women's March. Photo by Nora Ghobrial

Holding my sign high at the Women’s March. Photo by Nora Ghobrial

If you weren’t able to march, we marched for you. If you’re actively anti-feminist, we marched for you. Even if you don’t think that any of the issues I’ve listed apply to you, we still marched for your privileged self.

We live in a world created by the actions of activists who fought for generations for your right to piss on our parade. And you can piss and moan all you want but know that millions across the nation are engaged and mobilized. We intend to actively resist the encroachment of fascism and the erosion of our hard earned rights.

If you’re with us in the fight, some of the ways you can join the effort include:

Check out the Indivisible Guide. Written by former Congressional legislative aides, it is a distillation of what they learned from being on the receiving end of right-wing extremist activism. The guide is free, easy to read, and extremely practical about ways to effectively influence your elected representatives.

The organizers of the Women’s March have come up with 10 Actions 100 Days. Their website has simple but effective actions to constructively engage with your elected officials.

There are many organizations working to counter anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-POC, anti-Muslim, anti-woman and other regressive political efforts. Two I’m personally active with are the Independent Women’s Organization (a New Orleans based Democratic women’s organization) and the Forum for Equality (a statewide LGBTQ organization dedicated to the establishment of a society free from discrimination here in Louisiana). Please support them, if you can.

And, if the marching has gotten into your blood, there are at least two more planned this year. The March for Science (date TBD) and National Pride March on June 11.

Hopefully, I’ll see you in the hall of government or in the streets.

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest

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Women’s March New Orleans winds down Decatur Street. Photo by Paul Broussard

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Women’s March-New Orleans. It was one of over 600 sister marches to the Women’s March on Washington, DC that followed the inauguration of Donald Trump as 45 President of the United States.

The news reports pegged the numbers in DC at half a million and over 10,000 here in New Orleans! About 3 million all told around the country and world.

It was marvelous being surrounded by so many who are passionate about their resistance. I had to wonder, though, where was all this passion in November?

Did you know 110,450,842 members of the eligible voting population did not vote?

The crowd in New Orleans was pretty diverse but there were more white women than any other demographic. It made me reflect on those in the state of Louisiana and across the nation who voted for Trump.

Did you know that 62,979,636 total votes for Trump were cast, of which 53%  were from white women?

People joked prior to the election about writing in Mickey Mouse on their ballots. I wonder how many of the people didn’t even vote for the top of the ticket.

Did you know that 2,395,271 people voted but didn’t vote for president?

Sexism was a strong theme to the season with Trump being openly misogynistic and many others mansplaining away their issues with Clinton. While I adore the feminist men who are marching in solidarity today, I can’t help considering the bros who trolled me on Twitter in support of third party candidates.

Did you know Gary Johnson brought in 4,484,244 votes while Jill Stein took another 1,454,244 votes?

I had so many negative discussions about the election and I believe that, more than the bad media coverage, those conversations might have convinced many in crucial swing states to stay away from their polling place on election day.

Did you know that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.86 million votes, which is unfortunately irrelevant as only the Electoral College matters?

Of course, many of those who didn’t vote did so because they had been disenfranchised by Republican led attacks on voting rights.

Did you know that fourteen critical states enacted laws restricting voter access including cutting back early voting, restricting voter registration, and imposing strict voter ID requirements? Such laws disproportionately harm students, the poor and people of color. A report from the Williams Institute found that around 34,000 transgender voters may be effectively blocked from voting in states that require photo IDs because the IDs may not accurately reflect their gender. In 2014, the Government Accounting Office attributed a 2 to 3% drop in voter participation that was attributable to changes in voter ID requirements. (GAO-14-634).

I am very concerned that many of the people who seem so energized this weekend won’t vote in the next election. Here in Louisiana, we have a municipal election on March 25 in addition to the fall election.

Did you know that voter turnout in mid-term elections drops significantly and is getting worse? In 2014, just under 37% of eligible voters turned out to vote, the lowest level seen in a midterm since World War II.

I cling to the hope that our anger from the presidential election lasts beyond the time it takes us to disperse to our individual homes. Echoing the speakers, I implore all who were inspired by the sheer number of people in the streets to step up now. Trust me, the real work of resistance hasn’t yet begun.

The Women’s March page has ways to get folks started with their 10 actions in 100 Days.

We must build on our numbers in order to stop harmful legislation as well as to get beneficial legislation passed. If you can’t make it to Baton Rouge (or your state capital) or Washington, DC, during the legislative session to have your voice heard, please support the organizations on the front lines doing so with financial contributions and/or volunteer time. A number of these organizations are members of Louisiana Legislative Agenda for Women (Greater New Orleans NOW, NCJW New Orleans, ACLU-LA, IWO, WWAV-NO, Louisiana Progress, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Greater New Orleans AAUW, etc, etc) and could use your support.

We must engage with our elected officials! Here in Louisiana, the Secretary of State has lists of all elected representatives – go to the Find Elected Officials page and search the database or download the excel file. If those in Congress or in State legislatures or on City councils or serving on school boards prove unresponsive to We the People, gird your loins to work on electing someone else who will be. I also hope that some of those in the crowd considering running for office themselves.

Most crucially, I implore each and everyone of you to vote in the next election. And the one after that.

Please? For the sake of all of us, we must vote.

******

The title of this post comes from the Sweet Honey in the Rock song “Ella’s Song: We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until it Comes”

Inauguration Weekend

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There are lots of events happening nationally, around the state and in New Orleans over inauguration weekend of January 20-21 for folks to demonstrate and protest.

Yes, the election is over. While my candidate didn’t win, my greater concern is that the country lost. We saw during the campaign clear racism, outright advocacy for nuclear proliferation and environmental degredation, full throated support for discrimination against Muslims and the LGBTQ community and an erasure of women’s worth outside of her appearance. A bully won where it mattered and that is why I won’t be getting over it anytime soon. I stand firmly against those who equate cruelty with strength and who would undercut basic American values to burnish their bottom line.

Patriotic swan loves America but is no longer so sure about her fellow Americans.

Patriotic swan loves America but is no longer so sure about her fellow Americans.

Resistance is more than a single demonstration, though. It is doing the hard work to advocate for the issues which are important to us and the future of this nation. We must monitor the goings on in the White House, in Congress and in our Statehouses. We must become participants in the political process and engage with our allies to defend one another from attack and disenfranchisement.

We need more than armchair activists. We need those who will build community coalitions toward a better, more just society. A good way to start is by getting out next weekend and seeing the people and organizations who are out there, voicing their opposition. Please support them and help further the work.

There is the National Women’s Strike happening by those who can abstain from all labor for two full days beginning on January 20th. Instead of laboring, women are encouraged to demonstrate full access to birth control and abortion, a $15 minimum wage, universal childcare, and paid parental leave as well as talk to families, friends, and coworkers about what is needed to make women’s lives fairer, happier, less hectic and more secure.

J20Nola: Anti Trump Inauguration Rally & March event on Friday, January 20th at Duncan Plaza is a counter-inaguration and the first day of united mobilizations to resist and stop the war on the people.

The Women’s March will be the day after the inauguration in Washington, DC. The march invites people to “come together in solidarity to express to the new administration & Congress that women’s rights are human rights and our power cannot be ignored.”

The official Women’s March New Orleans event page says it is a combined event with Millennials March, March for Louisiana and the March for Revolution NOLA. It will be held on Saturday, January 21st. Folks will meet up at Washington Square Park (700 Elysian Fields Ave). At 2pm, the march will begin down Elysian Fields Avenue, turn right on Decatur Street, cross Canal and continue on Tchoupitoulas St., then turning right up Poydras Street, a right on Loyola Avenue and continue left onto Perdido Street to congregate in front of City Hall. This will be happening at the same time as the Women’s March in DC.

Also on January 21, 2017 at 1:00pm EST, will be one minute of silence for equality. At 1:00pm, all who believe in equality beyond all ages, races, abilities, genders, orientations, economic status, man-made boundaries or cultural borders will stand together in unity. All women, especially those who can not attend a march due to responsibilities, health concerns, lack of liberty or other reasons are expressly invited to join, exactly where they are, through one all-inclusive act: 1@1.

Oh, and don’t forget about the BLUSH BALL 2017 – Party with a Purpose happening on Friday, January 20th at Generations Hall. Tickets available at their website: www.blushball.org Proceeds go to benefit Metropolitan Center for Women and Children.

We can make change happen. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Entertaining Angels

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I’ve got to admit that I don’t understand the anger and controversy over wishing someone happy holidays. As someone who works part-time in retail, I can report that it has gotten pretty tense out there in the greetings department.

I usually respond with whatever the person says to me. If I’m initiating the good wishes, I say Happy Holidays. I’m not trying to take Christ out of Christmas by doing so. I’m simply recognizing that there are other celebrations during December and I don’t want to assume that everyone I interact with is a practicing Christian.

Here are a few of the other December holidays:

  • Bodhi Day: December 8 – Buddhist Day of Enlightenment
  • Chalica: first week of December – celebrated by some Unitarian Universalists.
  • Festivus: December 23 (popularized by Seinfeld)
  • Hanukkah or Chanukah: the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December.
  • Kwanzaa: December 26 through January 1 – Pan-African festival
  • Milad un Nabi: December 12 or 17 –  Commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. It is celebrated in the third month of the Islamic calendar with the Shias celebrating it on the 17th of December and the Sunnis celebrating on the 12th.
  • Newtonmas: December 25 – Some atheists and skeptics celebrate December 25 due to it being Isaac Newton’s birthday.
  • Omisoka: December 31 – Japanese New Year takes place on the last day of the year
  • Pancha Ganapati: December 21–25 – Hindu five-day festival in honor of Lord Ganesha
  • Saturnalia: December 17-23 – A Roman winter solstice festival
  • Yalda: December 21 – is an Iranian festival celebrating the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil.
  • Yule: Pagan winter festival that is celebrated from late December to early January.

Heck, if we took out all the Jews, Arabs and Africans from the birth of Christ, it would look like this:

 

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Nativity scene without Arabs, Jews, Africans and refugees

To those that say this is a Christian nation and we shouldn’t worry about being politically correct, I respond that the Christian thing to do is respect the Other among us.

The bible is filled with passages about being welcoming to strangers (Genesis 19, Leviticus 19:34). Jesus himself was pretty clear about it, too. Give a reread to Matthew 25:31-45:

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled in front of him, and he will cull them out, one from another, like a shepherd separates sheep from goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left.

34 Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, 35 because I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”

37 Then the righteous will say to him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you something to eat, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or see you naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?”

40 The king will answer them, “I tell all of you with certainty, since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”

41 Then he will say to those on his left, “Get away from me, you who are accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42 Here’s why: I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked, and you didn’t clothe me. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.”

44 Then they will reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?”

45 Then he will say to them, “I tell all of you with certainty, since you didn’t do it for one of the least important of these, you didn’t do it for me.”

If you want to do the Christian thing, just be kind to everyone.

And, please, please, don’t be mean to those minimum wage employees in the stores and restaurants you frequent. Most of them are required by their employers to use specific greetings. Instead of reacting badly to either Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas, put a smile on your lips and in your heart and return their good wishes.

That is the true spirit of the season.

 

The title of this piece comes from Hebrews 13:2 – “Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Just Little Bits of History Repeating

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Two of HWWNBN’s* surrogates have spoken to the media about ways to implement his “extreme vetting” of some Muslim immigrants.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach first said there could be a reinstatement of a national registry of immigrants and visitors. He helped design the original program, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), while serving in George W. Bush’s Department of Justice after September 11.

NSEERS was abandoned in 2011 after much criticism by civil rights groups for unfairly targeting immigrants from Muslim majority nations but only after the Department of Homeland Security declared it redundant.

Then, Carl Higbie, a spokesman for the Great America PAC, appeared on Fox News’ “The Kelly File” said about precedents: “We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region,” he said. “We’ve done it with Iran back — back a while ago. We did it during World War II with [the] Japanese.”

Seriously? A solution for anything is to bring back internment camps?

A registry is wrong. Singling out people of one religion for special scrutiny is unconstitutional and violates the 1st Amendment protections for religious liberty.

Additionally, the idea of collective guilt based on religious affiliation goes against basic legal principles. Guilt is personal and based on behavior. Surveillance and other kinds of investigations must be triggered by conduct, not religious, racial, or ethnic classifications.

Furthermore, setting apart any single group, whether it be for a crescent they must sew onto their clothes or registration in digital databases, provides a basis for the brutalization of that group.

Think I’m over exaggerating? There have been many acts of bullying and harassment across the nation since the election (149 at last count). Our leadership should be acting to reduce hate crimes, not stoking the fires that could burn us all.

Combating racism and bigotry will take action from us all. We must protest against such plans – either in the streets, working with allies like The Council on American-Islamic Relations or by contacting our elected representatives (here is a phone script with several advocacy issues).

We must intervene when we witness harassment or intimidation. Here are a couple of things you can do if you witness such attacks:

Be prepared to keep calm

In advance, think about a situation in which a person is threatened, harassed or attacked. Imagine how you would feel and what you could do to help. Think of things you can say to support the victim. Then, when you witness such a thing, concentrate on what you imagined. Don’t let fear or anger distract you.

Direct, Distract, Delegate

React quickly and don’t wait until other people help. The longer you hesitate, the more difficult it becomes. You can directly intervene (say “Hey, that’s not cool. Please stop”), distract either party by beginning a new conversation (“Want to see pictures of the world’s cutest dog?”) and/or delegate to involve other bystanders (“You there in the blue jacket, please get the manager.”).

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a useful guide on Speaking-Up to Everyday Bigotry: https://www.splcenter.org/20150126/speak-responding-everyday-bigotry

Because if we stay silent, there is one thing I know for sure: we will be next.

The title is from History Repeating by the Propellorheads featuring Shirley Bassey – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzLT6_TQmq8

*HWWNBN means He Who Will Not Be Named. It worked for those fighting Voldemort and it works here!

Not Going Any Damn Where!

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As results started to come in last night indicating that Donald Trump was on his way to becoming the next president of the United States, the Canadian immigration website crashed.

So many searches…so many, in fact, that the iconic photograph from the fall of Saigon came to mind.

I understand where those folks are coming from – the frustration at seeing that bloviating orange nightmare winning precinct after precinct churned my stomach. It was very personal and emotional to me because I live in New Orleans, an island of blue afloat in the sea of red which is the great state of Louisiana.

I have been told more times than I can count that I should just move. Some are from friends who live in more welcoming places – places where I couldn’t be fired from my job for being a lesbian or kicked out of a restaurant for public displays of affection with my girlfriend or evicted from my home because the landlord has a moral objection to someone being gender non-conforming.

Some of those who say it are just plain mean – these are the people who snarl out that I should like it or leave it.

The hell I will! Not only is this my home, they need me here.

And we need you here, too!

We need you to stay and do the work to keep this country moving forward. We need ALL of you to help make it better.

As Margaret Mead so eloquently said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

If not you and me, then who?

Here in Louisiana 779,535 votes went for Hillary Clinton. Those voters are my natural allies. The task I choose to accept is to join up with those hundreds of thousands of other people who are also fighting for tomorrow.

I’m a progressive, lesbian, feminist, Democrat living in New Orleans. And I am not alone.

What I want from Trump supporters

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new-yorker-pres-react-to-trumpYou know that whirring noise we’ve been hearing?

It is all the dead presidents spinning in their graves. The cartoon from the New Yorker, with George Washington’s face palm nails exactly what many of us are feeling.

I mean, just consider that every single one of the still living presidents (whether Democrat or Republican) has stated that they do not support Trump.

Seriously – the very people we have elected in the past, who have served our nation, do not think he should be president.

As Hillary Clinton said in the second debate:

You know, with prior Republican nominees for president, I disagreed with them on politics, policies, principles, but I never questioned their fitness to serve.

Donald Trump is different. I said starting back in June that he was not fit to be president and commander-in-chief. And many Republicans and independents have said the same thing. What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women. And he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is.

But I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is.

Not just his fitness but his mendacity is a concern for me and many others. I’m genuinely surprised by those who continue to endorse him. I have real questions for those who usually speak about family values but now flat out ignore his demonstrated misogyny and immorality. In fact, many of the warriors of the fight against marriage equality are doubling down on their support of a man who has failed to honor his own marriages or those of others.

This goes beyond politics. It is intensely personal to me. And I have to wonder about those on the other side who tweet that I shouldn’t be so emotional about this election.

How can I not?

I don’t understand those who ignore Trump’s rampant misogyny. Don’t try to deflect with the sexual misconduct of Bill Clinton (there is no denying it is a long and shameful list but it is not hers) nor is it comparable to Donald Trump’s own or his weak-ass non-apology that it is locker room talk. How on earth does her record of working for women and children around the globe matters less than what Trump has committed over his lifetime of predatory behavior against women and girls?

I don’t know how anyone who is or knows or loves someone who is LGBTQ could vote for a person who signed a pledge to reverse marriage equality and has a running mate with some serious homophobia issues. Explain to me why I shouldn’t be scared when the Republican nominee surrounds himself with those who believe discrimination against me and people like me is justified by their religion and who make using the bathroom a life or death situation?

Trump began his career fighting against one of the biggest federal housing discrimination suits brought in the 1970’s and he continues to defend disproven and unconstitutional policing practices like Stop and Frisk. If you have any interest in addressing, much less healing the racial divisions that are tearing apart our country, how can you vote for him?

While Trump used to be pro-choice, he recently advocated punishing women who get abortions (and his running mate has actively tried to restrict access, de-fund Planned Parenthood and signed legislation to force women who miscarry to pay for funerals for their fetuses). I’m flummoxed by any woman who can support them and am desperate to understand your reasoning.

I just can’t see how anyone can look at the flood ravaged parishes in Louisiana and vote for someone who denies climate change. How anyone who has driven down past Cancer Alley would be willing to vote for someone who has pledged to end environmental protection as we know it. Can you explain it to me?

Will a Trump supporter tell me how your access to military grade weaponry could possibly outweigh the lives that are lost to the senseless mass shootings? Simple steps like closing gun show loopholes and improving background checks aren’t an infringement for law-abiding gun owners (of which I am one). First though, you should maybe take a moment to review the process to repeal the 2nd amendment and see just how little power (or interest) the president has to take away your guns before answering.

Please, please give me some reasons that I can share with those I love who have disabilities on why you’re helping to empower a man so fond of mocking them (and kicking them out of his rallies). While you’re at it, tell me just how patriotic it is to support a man who has denigrated veterans (as well as dismissed POW’s and insulted Gold Star families) by a man who dodged the draft?

I ask because it seems that your hatred of Hillary Clinton is more powerful than your love for me and for the country we share.

Please tell me I’m wrong.

Please tell me that the vote you’re casting tomorrow is for a better future for us all and not the first of seven trumpets heralding the end of the world as we know it.

Nasty Women and Bad Hombres Vote!

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i-want-you-to-voteDon’t think that any post-debate/pre-election surge in the polls means you can stay home on November 8. Despite his insane statements about not conceding at the third and final debate, the number one threat to democracy in the United States is not Donald Trump.

It is apathy.

We must mobilize voters across the nation to make it abundantly clear that the will and power of the people is behind Hillary Clinton.

Frankly, it isn’t enough to just elect her President of the United States. We have to elect her with a landslide. We must send Hillary Clinton to DC with such a colossal vote margin that it will stand for all time as our condemnation of the racist, misogynistic, anti-immigration and all other alt-right prejudices that Trump’s rhetoric has advanced. Only by beating him very soundly at the polls, will we provide her with a mandate to continue the forward momentum of President Barack Obama and forge her own path.

Additionally, we have a chance to flip enough seats in the Senate and House of Representatives to turn them blue. With a Democrat led Congress, ending the deadlock on judicial seats, including those on the Supreme Court will be possible. It is a terrific opportunity to advance the course of fairness and equality for all.

Once eligible voters get out there and get counted, the loser won’t be able to claim the media or corporations rigged the election. Besides the fact that rigging the election is nigh impossible (this article outlines why), the far bigger issue is now, and has been, voter disenfranchisement, which has been part of the Republican party strategy for years. In fact, several GOP controlled states have even refused to comply with court orders to stop suppressing the vote.

So, I call on you, you nasty women and bad hombres! Exercise your hard fought for right to vote on November 8. Raise your voice by casting your vote.

As assistance this election, here are links to some of the organizations I support who have made endorsements or have provided guidance on the ballot measures.

Forum for Equality

Independent Women’s Organization

League of Women Voters of Louisiana

Public Affairs Research Council

If we all VOTE, we can harness our power and effect positive change.

Early voting in Louisiana begins on October 25 and runs through November 1st (excluding Sunday) from 8:30am to 6pm.

Election day is Tuesday, November 8. Polling place hours are 6am to 8pm. All voters in line at 8pm have the right to vote.

For questions, go to the Voter Portal of the Louisiana Secretary of State.

Don’t let anyone intimidate you and keep you from voting. Through the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline (866-687-8683), Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting. For more information about Election Protection, please visit: www.866ourvote.org.

Now, get out there and GEAUX VOTE!

Dastardly Deeds from the AG

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jeff-landry-speaksFrom the late Middle Ages comes a great word – dastard. Probably a combination of dazed, dotard and bastard; it means a dishonorable or despicable man.

There is a reason Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s picture appears next to the definition.

First, let me give a little background.

I worked for the election of John Bel Edwards to be governor of Louisiana. There were many reasons for my support of his candidacy but most notably, it was his commitment to issuing an executive order to protect LGBTQ state employees from discrimination and harassment that compelled me to canvass and make calls.

After he won the election, I was part of the coalition that came together to craft the language of the order. The Forum for Equality, along with Equality Louisiana and the Louisiana Trans Advocates helped negotiate an inclusive executive order.

We succeeded and on April 13, Governor John Bel Edwards signed the order ( JBE 2016-11) with most of the advocates there in his office.

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I’m standing next to Governor Edwards in the wrinkled blue shirt

While Louisiana has twice before had executive orders (the first signed by Gov Edwards in February 17, 1992 – EWE 92-7 and, the second by Gov Blanco on December 4 2004 – KBB 04-54) which added sexual orientation protection, this is the first one to include gender identity. It was a first for Louisiana and first in the South!

Attorney General Jeff Landry immediately began to undermine the order. In May, he issued an opinion that the order could not be enforced legally. All of the organizations involved in getting the original executive order plus several more responded quickly with a statement: “Landry’s Opinion is based on obsolete caselaw and outdated scientific information, and demonstrates that he is out of touch with current interpretations and understanding. Landry’s political posturing cannot be allowed to harm victims of discrimination merely to advance his own mean-spirited political agenda.”

Also in May, he issued an opinion against the Department of Education and Department of Justice’s Title IX Guidance on Transgender Students, declaring the “Obama transgender mandate is unlawful federal overreach.”

In mid-August (not so coincidently right in the middle of a massive natural disaster and truly terrible flooding, when everyone else in the state was focused on recovery), he began refusing to approve contracts that contain the language of the executive order. There are at least 37 state government contracts for legal work which have been blocked.

It should be noted that the Louisiana Bar Association, an organization for attorneys, encourages the adoption of non-discrimination policies in law firms protecting both sexual orientation and gender identity. On the issue of the AG’s role, it has stated that the attorney general is only supposed to review state legal contracts with private attorneys to make sure the lawyers are qualified to do the work. Further, they say the law doesn’t give his office oversight over language such as the LGBT nondiscrimination clause.

This week, AG Landry filed a lawsuit against the executive order. He claims “Executive Overreach” and is asking a judge to prohibit enforcement of the order. One of his claims is that “enforcement of the order, affording protection from ‘discrimination’ based upon ‘gender identity,’ undermines this State’s anti-discrimination laws and hundreds of other laws in that it creates a protected class which is premised solely upon subjective and arbitrary factors unlike other recognized and legislatively established protected classes.”

Seriously? An order protecting people from discrimination undermines other people from protection of anti-discrimination laws? I call bullshit.

Instead of doing the job he was elected to do, Landry is dastardly carrying the banner for the extremists in their opposition to equal rights for LGBTQ people.

The office of the Attorney General is supposed to protect the people and resources of the state of Louisiana. Instead, it has become a partisan hack’s playground where he picks and chooses who he will protect.

Landry does not believe that gender identity should be a legally protected class. This despite the fact that the EEOC has held that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender (also known as gender identity discrimination) is discrimination because of sex and therefore is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

He fears what he doesn’t understand and is attempting legal maneuvers to classify transgender people as second class citizens. He can’t be allowed to negate the right to equal treatment under the law for all Louisianians, including transgender people.

Transgender Americans deserve equal dignity and respect at work, in receiving an education, or when seeking respectful and appropriate healthcare. Transgender people make valuable contributions to society and, like everyone else, they should be treated fairly in all areas of life.

This lawsuit illustrates how vital it is to ensure that transgender protections are permanently codified into state law. Protection from discrimination is too foundational and important a value to leave to the discretion of the Attorney General.

Governor Edwards released a statement and said, “Discrimination, of any kind, is not a Louisiana value, and I will do everything in my power, including enforcing this order, to foster a productive and welcoming work environment in Louisiana’s state government.”

Thank you, Governor!

You can join the fight to protect LGBTQ people in Louisiana from discrimination by becoming a member of the Forum for Equality at this link here. I’m proud to be a member as they continue the fight for fairness, equality and equal treatment under the law. I encourage you to get involved, too.

The Wreath of Victory

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rio2016

I really enjoy the Olympics. There is pageantry, patriotism and performances to dazzle the senses and quicken the heart. I watch as much as I can (cursing the broadcasters decision to not televise some sports or  only televise them on cable channels I don’t get or being sexist in their coverage) and grow misty eyed at the stories of athletes overcoming much to reach the Olympics. I cheer as Team USA climbs to the top of the podium.

And climb they did!

The United States won 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze medals. That puts our medal total at 121. The next highest country, China, only had 70 medals total.

And our women! My, how far we’ve come.

In 2016, almost half (44%) of the Olympic medals were awarded to women’s events. That is huge increase from the only 25% in 1984 and not even being allowed to watch, much less participate in the ancient games.

The US Olympic team was comprised of 554 members, of which 291 were women. Those women went on to earn 61 of those 121 medals – including more than half (27) of the gold medals. Sakes alive but I love Title IX!

Team LGBT had a very big presence at the 2016 games as well. A record 55 Out athletes competed. Of special note is that TEAM LGBT’s medal count beat every country that criminalizes gay sex with twenty five Out athletes winning medals.

The athletes were smart, too – there are 1,018 incoming, current and former NCAA student-athletes representing 107 countries and 223 US colleges and universities scheduled to compete.

There are certainly problems with the games – corruption in the awarding of games, financial ruin for many nations/cities who host, issues around gender defining, use of performance enhancing drugs, marketing gone amok, etc. But, to see those smiling faces of the athletes as they hold their medals and hear their nation’s anthem play is to make it all worthwhile.

Because the Olympic ideal IS worthwhile – the best and the brightest, putting their bodies and hearts on the line and achieving excellence through competition. The Olympic motto is inspiring, too – “Citius, altius, fortius” meaning “swifter, higher, stronger.”

As the crafter of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, put it: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

Exactly.

Now I just have to get through the next four years until the next Olympics.

* The title of this blog post comes from a poem by Pindar:

Who, then was given
the wreath of victory
for his speed of foot,
putting before his eyes
the game’s glory,
achieving thought in action?

They’re trying to wash us away

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The Aaron Neville performance of the Randy Newman song, Louisiana 1927, keeps playing in my mind:

Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re trying to wash us away
They’re trying to wash us away
Oh Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re trying to wash us away
They’re trying to wash us away

That song is about the great Mississippi River flood of 1927 that left 700,000 homeless in Louisiana and Mississippi.

flooding picHere are some statistics from the August 10-13 flooding that is currently devastating much of Southern Louisiana:

Over 30,000 people had to be rescued. Eight people are dead, a unknown number are still missing and 10,000 people are in shelters (Update – 11 dead)

More than 40,000 homes were damaged including 90% of the homes in Denham Springs and 75% of the home in Livingston parish which are considered damaged or destroyed

34,000 homes and businesses are still without electricity

Interstate I-12 was closed for 40 miles in both directions between Baton Rouge and Covington. I-10 was closed for 20 miles between Baton Rouge and Gonzales.

Much of area remains underwater.

20 parishes have been declared a major disaster by the federal government

Acadia
Ascension
Avoyelles
East Baton Rouge
East Feliciana
Evangeline
Iberia
Iberville
Jefferson Davis
Lafayette
Livingston
Pointe Coupee
St. Helena
St. Landry
St. Martin
St. Tammany
Tangipahoa
Vermilion
Washington
West Feliciana

It may seem like we’re whining about being ignored by the national media. Trust me, that attention really will help the Louisiana congressional delegation in getting needed assistance from the federal government during the long recovery process ahead.

Thanks to all who have contacted me to check in and make sure that I’m okay. New Orleans escaped the flooding and while we got pretty wet from the rain, we aren’t underwater like the rest of the area.

It is our turn to help all those who stepped up to help us after the levee breaks following Hurricane Katrina.

 

Here are some resources:

Resources For flood Victims:

Shelter information for Affected Parishes

The Louisiana governor’s office can be reached at (225) 342-7015. The Gov Office webpage on disaster relief can be found here.

FEMA Claims Handbook

If you are are in a parish currently included in the federal disaster declaration, you can register with FEMA at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362. If your parish is not yet included in the federal declaration, you must register by calling 1-800-621-3362.

For those who want to help:

Read this first: When Disaster Relief Brings Anything But Relief

New Orleans Moms blog on how to help

Info on preparing and shipping a cleaning bucket.

Dirty Coast is updating its famous Soul is Waterproof t-shirt, with proceeds to go to the Second Harvest Food Bank

Acknowledging all the help and support locals provided to their neighbors, $15 from each sale of the Cajun Navy t-shirt will go to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation Louisiana Flood Relief fund.

Hope this helps.

We are #OneLouisiana

 

 

Let’s Get To Work

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I wish I could say I’m surprised at the number of people who have a hate on for Hillary Clinton but, after an an almost thirty year, very well-funded campaign against her, I can’t. While the crowd’s heckling during the Republican National Convention was (unfortunately) what passes as partisan politics these days, Chris Christie’s mock witch trial was pretty low even for the new normal.

I admit I do find it surprising when the same sort of vitriol is repeated by those on the progressive side of the political spectrum. Especially by folks like Jill Stein, who has actually argued Trump and Clinton would be equally harmful to the causes she as a Green holds dear.

cartoon cave after electionFrankly, I just can’t understand those who claim there is no difference between the two presidential candidates; who assert that choosing between them is like deciding between cholera and gonorrhea.

There are miles and miles of differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Those who say otherwise are exhibiting a very selfish kind of privilege, the kind which lets them overlook mountains of evidence to the contrary because they think they would be safe from the negative repercussions of their support for Trump or a third party candidate.

Those of us lined up in the cross hairs, know we are targets. We know there are lives on the line this election.

  • We’ve heard his rhetoric against undocumented workers, refugees and asylum seekers. He has been plain as day with his talk of walls and banning Muslims even traveling to the United States. In contrast, Hillary speaks of a path to full and equal citizenship and how American has always built our economy with the efforts of immigrants.
  • The LGBTQ community has every reason to be concerned about how fairly we will be treated if Trump becomes president. Besides running on his party’s tremendously anti-LGBTQ platform, Trump has vowed to appoint judges to overturn marriage equality and has expressed support for the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) which would lead to more discrimination. Clinton vows to fight for full equality (including transgender equality) both here and abroad.
  • And it is of vital importance for the health of the nation and the lives of our African American brothers and sisters that we confront racial injustice and enact police reform. Can you even envision addressing systemic racism in a world where Trump is president? After Trump has encouraged his supporters to attack protestors of color and after he said Black Lives Matter activists instigated the recent killings of police officers? Clinton has had missteps but she has started a dialogue and stated she would seek to overhaul of drug sentencing laws, prohibit racial profiling, end private prisons and detention centers and “ban the box.”
  • Just think about those of the most vulnerable among us like those with impairments or disabilities – how many vital social programs will he work to cut? Remember, Trump openly mocked the differently abled while Clinton fights for expanding Medicare, protecting Social Security and disability rights.
  • Equal pay and reproductive justice are two of the many issues facing women and families in the upcoming election. While Trump may be wishy washy on abortion access, his running mate is clearly not. Hillary Clinton has been an advocate for women and families her entire career and makes such issues a cornerstone of her campaign.
  • Even the Pentagon recognizes that environmental issues impact national security. Trump, on the other hand, calls global warming a “hoax” and claims climate science is “bullshit,” while Clinton has a ten year plan to address climate change and advance clean energy.

I could go on but I’d rather have you seriously consider that even if you are personally protected from the consequences of a Trump presidency if you would be willing to risk the actual lives of your fellow Americans?

Hillary Clinton might not be the candidate you want, but she’s the most qualified candidate we have and is definitely the most prepared to work for best for the country.

As Senator Bernie Sanders said:

Hillary Clinton will nominate justices to the Supreme Court who are prepared to overturn Citizens United. Her Supreme Court appointments will also defend a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants and the government’s ability to protect the environment.

If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.

Exactly.

Hillary Clinton has put forth achievable policy prescriptions for a lot of issues I care about. Check here for her statement of positions. Despite the accusations to the contrary, she has one of the most progressive voting records in her time in the Senate, putting her to the left of Obama and 93% in line with Sanders. As she said during one of the debates, “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive that likes to get things done.”

And we can get it done if we get out the vote.

As First Lady Michelle Obama said in her speech at the DNC:

In this election, we cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best, we cannot afford to be tired or frustrated or cynical. Hear me: Between now and November, we need to do what we did eight years ago and four years ago. We need to knock on every door, we need to get out every vote, we need to pour every last ounce of passion into electing Hillary Clinton as president of the United States of America. Let’s get to work.

Agreed. Let’s get to work because Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th – just 100 days away!

RNC to the World: “We are the Mendacious, My Friends”

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cnsbuxgwgaagzovThe first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was a doozy. There was plenty of fodder for a myriad of blog posts, especially when they blasted “We are the Champions” by Queen as Donald Trump brought his plagiarizing wife to the stage.

On Monday, the Republican party adopted a platform which has been called one of the most extreme and anti-LGBT in recent history. It includes planks against marriage equality (three separate statements) and bathroom access and planks supporting businesses that seek to discriminate against LGBT customers and conversion therapy for LGBT kids. Later on the same day, they played an anthem that was written and performed by the proudly out musician Freddy Mercury, who died in 1991 of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.

What did we learn from this?

That the GOP will capitalize on the creations and efforts of LGBT people while they unequivocally stand against recognizing the humanity of their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. To that end, they’ll wrap themselves in religion to justify ignoring the parts of the Constitution they disagree with and while supporting a candidate who makes a mockery of the Christian values they espouse. This same candidate who chose as his running mate a man whose signing of an extreme anti-LGBT law seriously damaged Indiana’s reputation and economy (in the aftermath, the state lost 12 large conventions and one study estimated that the total economic cost of Pence’s RFRA has been $250 million).

In this election, being a lesbian is going to make voting quite easy. There is a party actively trying to strip from me my dignity as a human being and there is another that isn’t. Even if I could have agreed with other parts of their platform, how can I possibly vote against my own status as an American citizen deserving of equal rights and equal protection under the law?

For most Republicans, I realize that it doesn’t matter what LGBT people think of the platform, their presumptive nominee or his running mate. They know we’re not going to vote for Trump anyway.

But anyone who understands how elections are won, knows it does matter what moderate Republicans and Independents think. For many of them, using religion as a pretext for discrimination is a bridge too far.

Just look at the response over the extremist RFRA’s (Georgia, Indiana, Arizona, Louisiana, etc) that were specifically designed to protect businesses which discriminate. Or the negative reaction against North Carolina’s HB2 or the backlash to Mississippi’s HB 1523. Residents and tourists alike realize being unwelcoming is a bad idea (check out Forum for Equality’s Louisiana’s Equality Means Business page for plenty of reasons why diversity and equality is good for businesses).

This election, you need look no further than the platforms of the parties (Democrat vs Republican) when making your decision. I urge you to read them. And I urge you to vote in November.

It is about more than just the presidency. There are a number of down ballot candidates who are seeking to win on a platform of “Take America Backward Again.” (ht to HRC)

We can’t let them.