One Equal World

Posts Tagged ‘LGBT

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.

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A shattered rainbow heart.

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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 photo of a legal document that's titled "lawsuit."

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Donna Kikkert calls herself a “mainstream” student. By that, the 59-year-old woman chasing her first degree at the University of Wisconsin means that she is straight, white, and Christian. She took a poetry class, and is suing the professor for choosing a reading selection that did not “serve her needs.”

Without naming titles, Kikkert claimed in course records that the assigned readings for her Creative Writing Poetry course focused on “lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest, and frequent swearing.” She had demanded more “classic” works, and when that was denied, she complained first to the professor, then to the university, and then, after her failing grade was upheld and the course was finished, to court.

Kikkert’s demands included not only an A grade for herself, but also that the teacher, Professor Patricia Dyjak, be fired or suspended without pay for a full year—four times the length of the course. Kikkert also made personal accusations of inappropriate behavior against Dyjak, accusations refuted by other students.

For generations, literature studies have included only the works of white men and the occasional white woman, only the experiences of the majority. Decades of poetry written by LGBT people, people of color, women, and other “fringe” populations have been left out of the curriculum, and now that they are there, the “mainstream” students feel attacked by their very presence.

There’s a supported study by Australian Dale Spender which indicates that men feel that women are dominating the conversation if women speak 30% of the time. One assumes the same winds up true no matter which majority and minority you substitute in.

Kikkert could have chosen to include the titles from her professor’s curriculum. That she didn’t implies that she knew an actual review of the content wouldn’t support her accusation. And even if those accusations were true, there’s nothing in the law or in the tenants of University of Wisconsin that requires a course to cater to her. That’s why the court not only dismissed her case, but also her request for free counsel.

A businessman dressed in a suit and tie rips open his shirt, revealing a rainbow shirt underneath.

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In all fifty states, same-sex marriage has been made legal. But in 28 of those states, mentioning your fiance’s name when asking for time off for your honeymoon can get you fired, because in more than half the country it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace. And in the midst of the current conservative backlash against gay rights, it’s important to take grassroots stands in the workplace.

Here are a few suggestions for what you, your coworkers, and your boss can do to make acceptance one of your core values.

1. The big one: benefits. This is your employer putting their money where their mouth is. Make sure your coworkers with same-sex partners and non-traditional families have the same access to health care that you do, including gender-blind parental options, allowances for adoption and surrogacy, and gender-affirmation and transition-related care.

2. Help support resource groups for LGBT employees, particularly if you are in a state that still supports discrimination. They need a place where they can discuss the weight of those issues.

3. Ask what your company is doing to support LGBT people outside their walls. Do they give preference to relationships with other inclusive companies? Devote any resources to outreach? Does your leadership do any communicating on this issue, or is it just a line for show in the company’s values posters?

4. Track what’s actually happening. Does the data indicate that your goals for diversity are being met? This doesn’t mean hiring to a quota–if you’re truly inclusive, that should be entirely unnecessary. If you can’t have this data, ask your HR why.

5. Speak up when you hear ugly speech at work. It only takes one bigot to make LGBT employees feel unwelcome and under fire if everyone else lets their behavior go unremarked. Report what you hear, and hold your employer responsible for responding.

There are many, many more tactics to take to make your job a shelter for those who still need it. Most of these tactics can be applied to any under-served population, and will make you a role model for other employers in your community.

A photo of a skyscraper with rainbow colors on it.

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Although the White House backed away from an executive order that would have allowed federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, it is still clear that this is not an administration that will go out of the way to defend the LGBTQ+ community. With a number of states having passed or considered passing various “bathroom bills” or “religious freedom” bills that would enshrine discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, the situation for LGBTQ+ rights is precarious.

But there are allies, especially in the one sector that conservatives value more than any other: business. As we’ve seen, discriminatory laws don’t work out well for the states that enact them, and in a number of cases, it is local and national companies that are first in line to oppose such bills.

For example, 82% of Fortune 500 companies explicitly forbid discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In Texas, 1,200 companies came forward in opposition to SB-6. And in Tennessee, the Hospital Corporation of America, FedEx, Jack Daniels, and Country Music Television opposed a proposed law that would allow mental health counselors to refuse treatment based on their religion. In Georgia, Salesforce, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Intel, and Home Depot urged the governor to veto that state’s discrimination bill, which worked.

Republicans have made it clear that they don’t listen to people who won’t tell them what they want to hear, and this administration will absolutely be no different in that. But that’s people. When it comes to businesses, they’re a lot more likely to listen. While it may bother many of us that companies have so much more clout with politicians than do the people of the United States, when they use that clout to help prevent the passage of discriminatory bills, it would be absurd to turn away such allies.

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 photo of Pope Francis.

Photo credit: softdelusion66 / Shutterstock

Pope Francis, despite a reputation as being the “cool” Pope for the Roman Catholic Church, has always been more accepting of the LGBT community in theory than in practice. Even as he’s preached increased tolerance, he’s done so in a “hate the sin, not the sinner” way that is not truly accepting. And recently, he’s been extending that to the transgender populace as well.

He’s claimed that transgender people are waging a “world war against marriage” without providing any particular reasons why, and believes that teaching any kind of gender theory in schools is a form of indoctrination. Specifically, he called it “ideological colonization.” Which is particularly rich, coming from the head of the Catholic Church.

His “coolness” with LGBT people begins and ends with his stance that clergy should not refuse to minister to queer people. It’s hard to see that as acceptance, coming hand-in-hand with his belief that any discussion of gender identity is telling children they can “choose” their gender, which he called terrible.

In practice, that puts LGBT churchgoers right alongside murderers and habitual criminalssinners forever, but still attended to by the church.

After the shootings at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Pope Francis was one of the voices that joined an international song of support for the queer community. At the time, he said that gays were owed an apology by Christians for the long history between the two groups. No one could disagree with him. But his recent comments seem to illustrate that he does not quite understand just what the Church needs to apologize for.

Also demonstrated is how important it is for the dialogue between LGBT leaders and the Church, or all churches really, needs to make certain to feature transgender people, their needs, and their history. All too often, they’re left out of the discussion to avoid “complicating” it, and this needs to end.