One Equal World

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The logo for the American Mortgage Diversity Council.

More than half of America’s states don’t have protections for LGBT identities in their housing discrimination laws. Same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, but a queer person in Texas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, or 27 other states could come home from their honeymoon to a perfectly legal eviction notice on their door. It’s worse for transgender individuals, as only a few states have language that explicitly includes them in legal protections.

On Thursday, December 7th, the American Mortgage Diversity Council, supported by Bank of America, hosted a roundtable conference in Dallas, Texas to discuss legislation that includes sexuality and gender identity in Fair Housing Act protections.

The council also discussed instituting programs that encourage LGBT home ownership, particularly programs at the federal level. This would also include a training program about unconscious bias for industry professionals in loans and realty.

“This round-table Town Hall connects the leaders of the Dallas LGBT community into a collaborative dialogue with the leaders of the mortgage banking and financial services industry to shed light on the challenges facing all facets of their community in an effort to ensure that diversity and inclusion remains a top priority,” said John Rieger, the Executive Director for the American Mortgage Diversity Council.

The reason why it needs to be a top priority is apparent in the words of Neil Cazares-Thomas, Senior Paster at the inclusive Cathedral of Hope:

“It is imperative that the full power of the banking industry is both seen as being diverse and supporting the many causes that support the fight of discrimination and stigma that is seen in the LGBT community, which leads to homelessness, issues with addiction, and other social needs.”

The American Mortgage Diversity Council intends this to be the first of many such roundtables held in cities around the country. In each, it will loop local LGBT resource centers and educational programs in with banking professionals and experts in property loans.

An image that reads, "Feminist as fuck."

Image: Shutterstock

A pop-up gallery titled Fuck the Patriarchy is making headlines for all the same reasons Donald Trump has—it’s vulgar, it’s blunt, and it’s certainly not politically correct.

Located inside of a step-up truck, Fuck the Patriarchy is part of a travelling gallery known as Gas. The exhibition features works from 10 different artists/organizations: Jibz Cameron, Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited, Gallery Y2K, Angélica Maria Millán Lozano, Roy Martinez, Seth Price, Ana Roldán, Lauren Satlowski, Cristina Victor, and YERBAMALA COLLECTIVE.

For many of these artists, their entire life’s work revolves around social inequality. Angélica Maria Millán Lozano, for example, is known for centering her artwork on the theme of racism and sexism. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Lozano relocated to Portland, OR, where she earned her MFA in Visual Studies from Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). She lends a unique perspective to the types of issues that Latina women face in modern-day America.

And then there’s Lauren Satlowski, who crafted a dagger for the Fuck the Patriarchy exhibition. The weapon, which has white flowers painted on its surface, is meant to symbolize a woman’s defense against male aggression. A Detroit-native, Satlowski is known for blurring the line between cute and scary, which are metaphors for masculine and feminine energies.

Then there’s Roy Martinez, who goes by the Spanish name Lambe Culo (translation: “lick ass”). A gender-fluid visual artist, Martinez’s work is often centered on queer themes. As a Mexican-American, he goes beyond the surface level to explore what it means to be a non-gender-conforming Chicano. His works lends powerful insight into the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity.

Together, these artists have created something beyond just an exhibition—they have created a movement. By having the courage to express their raw emotions, they inspire others to speak their truths and fight back against an oppressive regime.

The non-binary flag (yellow, white, purple, and black stripes) with a non-binary symbol in the middle of it.

The non-binary flag complete with a non-binary symbol in the middle of it.
Image credit: Shutterstock

There are two incredibly valuable aspects to California’s new Gender Recognition Act, which was signed on Sunday, October 15th by state Governor Jerry Brown.

The gist of it: California residents will now be able to select “non-binary” on official documents. That is an umbrella term, and perhaps it may be refined in the future, but for now, it is exceptional that people who are neither men nor women will be able to document their identity. The ruling covers birth certificates, state-issued IDs, and driver’s licenses. It continues to leave out medical and school records, along with federally-issued passports unfortunately, but the changes will make the day-to-day lives of non-binary persons easier.

Another major win in this ruling: the process of changing one’s gender on legal identification has been streamlined. Previously, changing the gender marker on a driver’s license required a doctor’s statement that one had medically transitioned. What that meant was up to the doctor, and it was a major, painful, expensive, and even disfiguring hurdle to jump through. But that hoop is now gone.

The transgender and non-binary communities are often overlooked in the broad discussion of identity-based rights. Few states have any protections for gender identity at all, and California is the first to entrench the existence of non-binary identities into law (though a similar bill is being proposed in New York this November).

With two on the table, perhaps it will inspire the same sort of ripple effect that gay marriage did, where state after state legalized it until it became federal law.

“With Governor Brown’s signature on this bill, transgender and non-binary people will now be able to identify themselves as they are, not as who society tells them they should be,” said Scott Weiner, California State Senator and one of the co-sponsors of the bill. 

That agency is a kind of dignity owed to everyone.

A photo of a sign that reads, "Welcome to Cleveland State University."

Photo credit: Bill Ragan / Shutterstock

The fliers found in Cleveland State University’s main classrooms building last week might have seemed innocuous at first glance, but not after a second’s thought.

A cover-sheet showed a man and woman, over the words “We have a right to exist.” But if the art looks familiar, that’s because it’s taken from ’40s propaganda posters of the Nazi Aryan ideal. And lifting the cover sheet makes the poster even worse.

The second page is a hanged man in silhouette. In rainbow text and a slur, the poster exhorts LGBT viewers to commit suicide. The poster was signed “Fascist Solutions.”

While it was an isolated posting on CSU’s campus, a similar poster was found at a bus stop in Texas in May.

The poster itself, however, is not the spark of the outrage currently entangling the campus. Rather, it is that CSU’s president Ronald Berkman took pains to remind students that free speech protected the poster, in lieu of any statement assuring LGBT students of their safety. Only after the outcry did he address that matter.

The poster was removed, but only because it had not been approved to be posted through the required channels. Berkman’s insistence that he would have had to post it, had the source followed proper procedure, is what has angered students.

The jury has never been in on the fine and nebulous line between freedom of speech and protection from hate speech. It’s a controversial matter, and one that arises frequently at state-funded universities which are on the fringe of being entities of the government. But speech exhorting violence or crime is explicitly not covered under free speech, and this poster undeniably promoted both, in a vicious manner.

And as for the cover sheet? “We have a right to exist.” Cleveland State University is 66% white, its faculty even more so. Perhaps they should check their remedial math courses for the culprit.

A photo of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson. The words, "Nice girls don't make history" are written across the bottom of the photo.

Marsha P. Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Glaurung Quena via Flickr Creative Commons.

It’s about time that Marsha “pay it no mind” Johnson had a modern documentary about her life. The legacy of this black trans woman and activist is writ large across American LBGT history. And it should be cause for celebration that “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” is trending on Netflix this week. But there’s ugliness just under the surface.

David France, the filmmaker releasing the new Netflix documentary, is a white, cis, gay man with a history of writing about the dramatic and tragic in queer history. He has books on sexual abuse and Iraq’s death penalties, and a book-turned-documentary about the AIDS crisis, titled “How to Survive a Plague.” He’s undeniably a part of the queer community, but not always a part of the stories he chooses to tell.

Now, another filmmaker, Reina Gossett has spoken up to say that France has stolen from her years of work on Johnson. She alleges that France stole her language and research, got websites to remove her work, stole her contacts and hired away her research adviser. Gossett, who is black and trans, took to social media to air her grievances, which France has claimed are baseless.

“This kind of extraction/excavation of black life, disabled life, poor life, trans life, is so old and so deeply connected to the violence Marsha had to deal with throughout her life,” Gossett said on Instagram.

In the wake of the terrible 2015 movie about the Stonewall riots which completely erased Johnson and the other non-white, non-cis originators of that iconic event, it is tone-deaf to pretend to be blind to these identities. The pool of funding for a documentary on a trans woman of color is not bottomless, and Gossett’s production, titled “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” is stalled in the cradle after three years of work. Whether or not France has done what Gossett alleges, the controversy stands—which of these two artists should have the multi-million dollar Netflix deal?

A shattered rainbow heart.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Like more than half the country, Michigan’s current state laws don’t include protections for sexuality in employment or housing law. Same-sex marriage may be legal under the federal umbrella, but if you invite your boss to your Friday wedding, it’s perfectly legal for him to fire you on Monday. Drive your can-and-streamer-decorated car home to enjoy seeing “just married” in your driveway for a few days, and you can wake up to a 30-day order to vacate.

Attempting to address this injustice, pro-LGBT advocacy group Equality Michigan requested a review of the state’s existing laws by the Civil Rights Commission to see if there was a way to extend anti-discrimination protection to LGBT citizens. Whether or not such a re-interpretation is up to the commission has been a controversial matter, but they did intend to put it to a vote.

But instead, Attorney General Bill Schuette brought down the hammer by sending law enforcement to the commission hearing to inform them that his office had unilaterally decided they did not in fact have that authority.

Schuette’s input is far from unbiased. He defended Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2016 all the way to the Supreme Court (and lost), claiming he had no choice but to “defend” his constituents in that manner. Who is he defending?

Certainly not the estimated 30% of LGBT Michiganders who experience workplace discrimination, or the 20%  of trans individuals who report housing discrimination (from a 2013 study). Nor is he defending local business. Large corporations across the nation are cutting ties with states who persist in remaining in the stagnant back-eddies of progress, costing states who dig their heels in billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Hopefully, while Schuette runs for governor of Michigan in the current election year, his voters will remember his backward thinking, and ensure that he does not gain even more authority to keep Michigan state in the dark ages.

A pregnant businesswoman working at her computer.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Wall Street firms don’t exactly have a reputation for being family-friendly work environments. The stereotype is often true, that employees are expected to work long hours and forego their personal lives. But that’s all changing, thanks to evolving attitudes around work-life balance.

Perhaps the biggest improvement can be seen in how Wall Street views childcare. Once upon a time, it was virtually unheard of for a company to offer paid maternity leave. Now, high finance companies are offering gender-neutral paid parental leave. Take investment firm KKR, for example.

While KKR has had separate maternity and paternity leave policies in place for quite some time, the firm only recently decided to revamp their policy to be more gender inclusive. Their new policy, called “parental leave,” has been expanded to include 16 weeks of paid time off for the primary caregiver.

This radical new approach to childcare comes with approval from KKR co-CEOs Henry Kravis and George Roberts, who for years have been pushing to make the finance industry more family-friendly. The firm also hopes that this new policy will attract more female talent, resulting in more gender diversity.

But KKR isn’t the only investment firm making changes to its childcare leave policies. In November 2015, Swiss financial services holding company Credit Suisse became the first major bank to offer 20 weeks of paid parental leave.

Asset management company The Blackstone Group has also followed suit. After reevaluating their childcare leave policy, the private equity firm now offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Even Goldman Sachs, which is notorious for having a demanding workload, has upped its paid leave for “secondary caregivers” from two to four weeks.

Keep in mind that there is no federal law that requires U.S. companies to offer paid paternity/maternity leave. These companies are genuinely trying to create more diverse and inclusive work environments, and in doing so, will hopefully inspire other companies to do the same.