One Equal World

The state of California in rainbow colors.

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The state of California has made it quite clear over the last few years that they will not tolerate bigotry or discrimination. The Golden State is working to push equality past their own borders. California recently issued travel bans for states that write anti-LGBT+ discrimination into law.

So to clarify: Assembly Bill 1887 makes it so that one cannot travel to North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, or Kansas on tax payer money. That means that state funded or state sponsored travel to those state has now been banned. Those states in particular are banned because each has passed laws that directly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

For example, Tennessee recently passed a law that allows counselors to turn away LGBTQ+ people with mental health illnesses. Mississippi allows individuals, companies, or religious organizations to deny services to anyone (not just LGBTQ+ people) who offend their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” And Kansas? Well, Governor Sam Brownback just recently signed a bill into law that allows campus religious groups to deny membership to LGBTQ+ students and faculty.

But California won’t have any of it. While the ban on state sponsored travel to those states probably won’t pummel their economies into submission, it’s likely to at least have an impact. But regardless, it’s more about the intent. California is literally doing everything in its power to create a more just and equal society.

When North Carolina passed HB 2 (which the state’s new Democratic governor is doing everything he can to repeal) a number of states, sports organizations, and businesses withdrew their support by deciding not to host events or expand business there. The American people, as well as a number of state and local governments, have made it abundantly clear that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people will no longer be tolerated. The future is definitely looking brighter for LGBTQ+ people.

A close-up photo of an older African American male.

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On the lower end of the economic spectrum, especially those with less than a high school education, the earnings gap between black and white men has returned to the rate it was at in 1950. The job market for less educated individuals has all but collapsed, which has dragged down the median income for black men because, even among the most economically disadvantaged, black men are in the worst position.

While that gap narrowed between 1950 and the Civil Rights Movement, by 1970 it was beginning to open up again as more and more jobs required college degrees. In 1940, not having a high school diploma wasn’t much of a problem. But by 2014, it essentially kept people from working, or at least making enough to get by.

The Civil Rights Movement did help open up access to universities and to higher paying jobs, and top black salaries have continued to go up since the 1960s, but that is true of top salaries across the board. But as working class jobs have declined and mass incarceration policies have unfairly targeted black men, it has become increasingly difficult for some to land worthwhile jobs.

This, of course, highlights the very real racial inequalities that plague the United States. Thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of these racial inequalities are finally being openly talked about.

Ironically, the racially-charged presidential campaign of Donald Trump also highlighted these inequalities, as we saw the campaign pin the loss of working class jobs on minorities and immigrants. But now that he’s officially been elected, it’s up to us, the people, to hold public demonstrations that bring this issue to light. We need to let the government know that we will not tolerate discrimination in any form. We are moving forward, not backwards, and so we cannot let the income gap further dismantle our progress.

A trans woman is shown smiling at the camera.

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Whether or not the new data released by a government survey team about transgender American citizens matters is up to the beholder. To some, it matters a great deal to know the size of the community of which we’re speaking.

The percentage of the population made up by transgender people is, to one way of thinking, related to how much they and their issues really matter. To many, however, the numbers don’t matter. If there were only one transgender person in all the world, their rights would matter just as much.

But the numbers are in, and there is definitely more than one. In fact, according to data compiled recently out of a 2014 U.S. government survey, there are approximately 1.3 million transgender adults across the United States.

That’s approximately 0.53 percent of the adult population, or one out of every 189 people. It’s also more than the population of San Francisco or Washington D.C. Five US states have populations smaller than that. You could populate Maine or New Hampshire with only transgender people.

The researchers, a team from the University of Michigan led by Dr. Halley Crissman, go on to say that their margin of error probably swings low rather than high, since many trans people might have avoided the survey out of privacy concerns.

They also found that transgender adults were more common in nonwhite populations, and nearly twice as likely to be living below the poverty line and half as likely to have attended college. But in other ways, they fit neatly into the statistics of the general populationthey were just as likely to be married as the cisgender population and had the same unemployment statistics, though they were prone to holding lower-paying jobs.

The findings of Crissman and their team were published on December 20th, 2016 in the online American Journal of Public Health.

A rainbow flag with a crucifix on the front.

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Although he himself has stated that he’s “fine” with the 2015 Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex couples to marry across the country, Trump has been appointing many anti-LGBTQ+ people to his cabinet and other important positions. Overall, Trump won 81% of the white, evangelical Christian vote, which will most likely leave him obligated to actually hold up some of his promises to that demographic.

And that leaves a lot of people, not the least of which are LGBTQ+ clergy, with some serious concerns. While we generally hear more about clergy who are opposed to LGBTQ+ rights, there are a number of clergy out there who support the community and are even members of it.

For them, these are dark times. They have to help members of their church or temple come to grips with some very dangerous threats to the community, while also having to figure out how to deal with those threats themselves.

Still, the LGBTQ+ rabbis, ministers, and other religious leaders in the country aren’t going to give up hope any time soon. After all, they wouldn’t be in these positions if they gave up hope that easily.

The LGBTQ+ community has been fighting tooth and nail for equality and a lot of the resistance to that fight has come from “religious” arguments. This means that those in the community who now serve as religious leaders have had to fight even harder than most.

While Trump’s election isn’t likely to result in the expulsion of LGBTQ+ clergy, because that simply isn’t something that the government has any say over whatsoever, it has emboldened people to express their bigotry with far less fear of reprisal. That’s something that could very well get worse after Trump actually takes office. But these pro-LGBTQ+ clergy members will continue to preach love and acceptance regardless of what happens.

A bronze statue of a lion sitting outside of HSBC bank in Hong Kong.

CC courtesy of Ronald Woan on Flickr.

Who knew that lion statues could cause so much controversy? In Hong Kong, an iconic pair of lions sits out front of the HSBC bank. Traditionally, they’ve been featured in bronze. But on November 30, 2016, HSBC introduced two new replicas painted in rainbow colors. The colors were intended to reflect the bank’s pro-LGBT stance.

So far, the lions have been a pretty big hit among Chinese progressives. Many people have been posing for pictures alongside the statues. Rights activists have even praised the bank for taking such a firm stance on equality.

But not everyone was enthusiastic about the lions. As you can imagine, it caused quite the uproar among conservative groups. Much like the U.S., Hong Kong is pretty divided when it comes to LGBT rights.

For example, a 2011 survey reveals that 22% of Chinese respondents were “not accepting” of lesbian, gay, and transgender people. An additional 21% were “unsure” or “ambivalent” on the issue. But most upsetting is the fact that 25% of respondents said it was “acceptable” or “sometimes acceptable” to refuse to offer a job to an LGBT person.

Several pro-family groups have publicly voiced their disdain for the lions. The Family Schools Sodo Concern Group, Parents for the Family Association, and Overturning LGBT Agenda have teamed up to release a joint statement. The statement accuses HSBC of “trampling on the existing family values of Hong Kong.”

In an interview with BBC News, Roger Wong from the Family Schools Sodo Concern Group said:

“The lions are an icon of Hong Kong. A lot of Hong Kongers have a certain affection for them and it’s not right that they are projecting meanings on to them that a lot of people may disagree with. The male lions represent the stability and power of the bank. By adding a rainbow on the lions—does that mean they’re homosexual? I find that objectionable, and they don’t look that aesthetically good either.”

But HSBC has shown no signs of backing down.

“Understanding and embracing everyone’s unique perspectives, beliefs and experiences is core to HSBC’s values. This campaign demonstrates our commitment to achieving a truly open and diverse working environment,” said Kevin Martin, HSBC Group General Manager.

You go, HSBC! You may not have everyone’s support, but you certainly have ours.

A homeless teenager sitting on the street curb.

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Approximately a thousand and a half youth are homeless in Arizona at last count, and an estimated third of them are LGBT, according to Phoenix nonprofit one*n*ten. The group provides aid and services to LGBT youth who are homeless, hungry, or have mental health needs in the Phoenix area.

One*n*ten’s program, called “Promise of a New Day” or P.O.N.D., is focused on getting LGBT teens off the street and into supportive housing through financial aid and career training. Like all initiatives of their like, every dollar is a struggle, but they’ve just recently received a huge hand up. Phoenix IDA, an organization focused on supporting underserved communities (their own focus is autism), has awarded one*n*ten with a $50,000 grant this holiday season.

That money will make one*n*ten’s new housing program for P.O.N.D. possible. It will also provide more than 600 hours of behavioral health services, including therapy and doctor’s visits for those most in need.

“This award, generously funded by Phoenix IDA, will get our youth off the street and into behavioral health services at our youth center and our five satellite program locations, enabling us to directly impact the homeless challenges they face,” said Linda Elliott, the executive director of one*n*ten.

The amount of good that can be done by a grant like this one is inestimable. Hopefully, more donations will follow, but the problem has to be addressed by more than just small nonprofits like IDA and one*n*ten.

Nationwide, an estimated 40% of homeless people under the age of 18 identify as LGBT. Most of them cite family rejection as the reason they live on the streets. They are likely to become homeless younger than straight youths, and more likely to commit suicide as well. Systemic change, far more than just the right to marry, is still vital to work for.

A photo of Mormons marching for LGBT equality.

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The LGBTQ+ community has never had a very good relationship with the Mormon church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) was featured prominently in California’s Prop 8 which reversed the state’s original legalization of gay marriage. Last year, it also banned children in same-sex households from being baptized and declared people in same-sex marriages to be apostates. According to Trevor Johnson, a gay man who was raised in the church, acting upon his homosexuality would have been considered a sin akin to murder.

But the LDS leadership, like any such group, doesn’t speak for everyone. There are a number of Mormons who want to showcase the loving side of their religion and who don’t think the church’s stance on the LGBTQ+ community is okay. This is why the town of Provo, Utah is opening a resource center for LGBTQ+ people, right across the street from an LDS temple.

The positioning works on two fronts. It will hopefully remind people visiting the center about the positive side of the Mormon faith, but whether or not that pans out, it makes it impossible for people visiting that temple to ignore. Not ignoring the LGBTQ+ community is a big part of moving forward and improving the lives of people in that community. When faced with a society or religion that would rather kick them out than talk to them, LGBTQ+ youth stay in the closet, at best, which isn’t fair or healthy.

Youth in the community are more likely to commit suicide or otherwise harm themselves, but those statistics are reduced whenever children have someone to talk to. That’s why centers like the one are being built. It is aimed at helping youth (and their families) come to terms with and explore their LGBTQ+ identities in a safe space.