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IEEE adds LGBT support to ethics code

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE, gay news, Washington Blade

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers logo.

NEW YORK—The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Board of Directors on Jan. 8 announced it had approved the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in its ethics code.

Lynn Conway, professor emerita of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Leandra Vicci of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill spearheaded the effort to spur the IEEE Board of Directors to include trans-specific protections in its Code of Ethics. The proposal was subsequently approved by more than two-thirds of the board members.

“It means that hundreds of thousands of engineers worldwide — including in Russia, Uganda and over 60 other nations where being gay or trans is considered a crime — are now honor bound to treat their colleagues with respect,” wrote Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer in the Huffington Post.

The IEEE is the world’s largest professional body of engineers. It has more than 425,000 members from 160 countries.


Mississippi city approves LGBT resolution

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade, Mississippi city

Hattiesburg, Miss. (Photo by Dudemanfellabra; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

HATTIESBURG, Miss.—The Hattiesburg City Council on Feb. 18 unanimously approved a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

“The Hattiesburg City Council took a brave and important step that is aligned with the direction our country is headed in – the recognition that LGBT people are and should be treated equally under the law,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “Equality cannot come fast enough for LGBT people in Mississippi.”

Hattiesburg is the second Mississippi city to add LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman last month approved the Magnolia State’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.


Mississippi city passes LGBT ordinance

Oxford, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade

Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Kathy Jean; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

OXFORD, Miss.–A third Mississippi city has passed a resolution in support of adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen on March 4 unanimously approved the resolution.

“Tolerance and acceptance creates the strongest bonds between neighbors,” said Alderman Jay Hughes in a Human Rights Campaign press release. “I am proud to be on the right side of history in reaffirming Oxford’s long-standing commitment to that most fundamental principle.”

Hattiesburg last month added LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman in January approved the state’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.


Waco adds protections for LGBT city employees

Waco, gay news, Washington Blade

Waco, Texas (Photo by Billy Hathorn; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

WACO, Texas — Without fanfare or controversy, the city of Waco has quietly agreed to bar discrimination against LGBT city employees, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.

City Manager Dale Fisseler said Monday he has made an administrative decision to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s internal personnel policy on nondiscrimination, the paper said.

The policy already bars discrimination based on the federally recognized categories of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, marital status and disability.

“All I’m doing is updating our internal policy . . . just to clarify that we don’t discriminate based on sexual preference and identity,” Fisseler was quoted as having said.

A handful of local pro-LGBT activists, led by Paul Derrick and Carmen Saenz, had been seeking the change since 2013.

The city’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee last summer recommended the policy revision. Then-City Manager Larry Groth turned it down, saying in a February letter that the city has never had a grievance or complaint about LGBT discrimination.

“I believe the policies clearly convey the message to our employees that discrimination and/or harassment is not allowed to any class even without a list,” he wrote to the advisory committee.

Fisseler was city manager in Fort Worth in 2009 when the city council there passed a much more sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance that gave LGBT residents protections not only in municipal employment but private-sector employment, housing and public accommodations, the paper said.

Saenz, who worked with Derrick on the Waco policy, said she ultimately would like to see a broad nondiscrimination ordinance in Waco, but she thought it necessary to take smaller steps.

Saenz, a psychology professional who identifies as lesbian, said she hasn’t experienced discrimination in Waco, but in the last year she has heard from city employees who feel pressure at work to keep their same-sex relationships a secret, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.


Work to make Harvey Milk proud

Harvey Milk, California, San Francisco, Castro District, gay news, Washington Blade

Harvey Milk (Photo by Daniel Nicoletta via Wikimedia Commons)


In the late 1970s, when a nascent LGBT equality movement was under attack across the country, Harvey Milk urged us all to fight back by coming out. “You must come out … to your parents … to your relatives … to your friends … to your neighbors … to your fellow workers,” Milk said. “Once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions.” He believed coming out was the key to winning, and he was right.

More than 30 years later, his advice is changing our country. We are coming out, and the reality of who we are is replacing the lies and distortions pedaled by our opponents.  That’s why voters in Maryland and Washington last year rejected attempts to reverse marriage equality laws. It’s why California enacted an LGBT history requirement for public schools. And it’s the reason the Massachusetts Legislature finally passed a transgender rights law.

Being ourselves, and living our lives with integrity, has opened the eyes of our friends, neighbors, families and coworkers, and research has shown that the more out LGBT people someone knows, the more likely they are to support our equality. Today, brave young people are coming out in high school and even earlier, and the result is record high support among those under 30 for issues like marriage equality and nondiscrimination laws.

That’s why it’s so important that we do more to make it safer for people to come out in places where equality is slow to arrive. Our victories in regions like New England and the West Coast are remarkable, but elsewhere in our country that type of progress seems otherworldly and impossible. Harvey would be proud of our success, but I bet he wouldn’t celebrate for too long before asking how we planned to replicate it in Mississippi, Kansas or Alaska.

The obvious answer is to press for federal laws and policies that would end the patchwork of municipal and state laws that leave so many LGBT Americans living in fear. But until those are in place, we must work to bring hope to a lesbian teenager in Arkansas afraid to hold her girlfriend’s hand, a trans woman in North Dakota who hides her identity to keep a job, or a kid with two dads in Alabama who wonders why others don’t see the loving parents he does.

Coming out delivers that hope. Seeing yourself reflected in a gay local elected official, a lesbian school principal, a bisexual member of Congress — that has the power to transform how people think about themselves and what they can accomplish. They begin to hope that they can change their own communities, and then they turn that hope into action.

Harvey believed in personal politics and making change where he lived. He helped spark a generation of LGBT people to live more authentic lives, but that started in his tiny Castro camera shop.

“To sit on the front steps — whether it’s a veranda in a small town or a concrete stoop in a big city — and to talk to our neighborhoods is infinitely more important than to huddle on the living-room lounger and watch a make-believe world in not-quite living color,” he once said.

We have much left to do before all LGBT Americans enjoy the equal protection of our laws, so let’s make Harvey proud. Come out, stand up and help deliver hope. Everywhere.

Chuck Wolfe is president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute.


Queery: Kye Allums

Kye Allums, gay news, sports, basketball, Washington Blade

Kye Allums (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When Kye Allums told his fellow players on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University during his sophomore year that he wanted them to start using male pronouns and his new name it took a little time for them to get it.

“They laughed at first,” the 23-year-old St. Paul, Minn., native says. “They were like, ‘Yeah, you woke up, now you’re a boy, whatever,’ but when they knew I was serious, they didn’t understand it at all, but they started seeing how it was affecting me. I was smiling then. In the end, they started to switch because they could see using the appropriate name made me happy and in the end they wanted to support me.”

Allums says the issue of being male on a women’s team “didn’t bother me at all.”

After graduating, Allums ( parlayed his career into trans advocacy work — mostly visiting college campuses where he spreads his belief that “I am enough — what I say, what I feel, that is enough. You shouldn’t have to tweak yourself to make somebody else happy.” He splits his time between New York and Washington when he’s not traveling (which he says was about 93 percent of the time in the last year). He just got back from London and Scotland where he worked on a documentary about the experiences of trans people around the world. He hopes to finish it with a trip to the United Arab Emirates and Thailand in December.

Allums is single — one of the downsides of constant travel, he says. He enjoys writing, shopping for shoes, Netflix and traveling in his down time.


How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I’ve always known who I was. However, I didn’t always have the vocabulary to describe myself. When I was 14, I came out to my friends as a gay female. The hardest person to tell was my best friend at the time. In the end I never told her. I let someone else (who loved to spread other people’s business) tell her for me. When I was 18, I found out what being a trans man meant. Then I came out to myself. Honestly I’d say coming out to myself was harder than coming out to anyone. I had these negative views of trans people and what I thought it meant and I hated that I fit under that “label.” Little did I know that being trans is simply customizing my identity to what I want it to be. Not my parents, friends or society. Me. I get to be who I choose to be and I love everything about that. Oh yeah, and I recently came out as a gay man!


Who’s your LGBT hero?

That’s difficult. There are so many people in the LGBT community who have helped me get to where I am today, and are still doing so as I write down these answers. The first people who come to mind are:

L: Pat Griffin, Sue Rankin and Helen Carroll
G: LZ Granderson and Cyd Zeigler
B: Anna Aagenes and Robin Ochs
T:  Laverne Cox and CeCe McDonald


What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

I love a crowd and I love to dance. Town nightclub (on a Friday) has yet to let me down.


Describe your dream wedding.

Marrying my best friend and love of my life, all my friends being there and my mother in attendance with love and support.


What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Racial justice.


What historical outcome would you change?

Slavery and all of the deaths that occurred/are still occurring because of the “color value system” we have been taught to embrace.


What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Seeing Usher at the Verizon Center.


On what do you insist?

Do what makes you happy. Life is too short.


What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I was in London for the first time working on a project so I asked this of my Facebook friends: “For those of you who have been to London before where exactly is the gayborhood?” It was well worth asking.


If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“It’s Not a Guy Thing, It’s a Kye Thing”


If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Continue to be the person I worked so hard to love unconditionally — a black gay man.


What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe there is something greater than us and this world we live in.


What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Don’t reinvent the wheel. I’ve seen many people go into this work, myself included, making their lives harder than it has to be. Many times, something that we are thinking of doing has already been done, or is being done right now. Look to collaborate with others and take your leadership and efforts to the next level.


What would you walk across hot coals for?

I would walk across hot coals for my family, a pint of Magnolias banana pudding and Hugh Jackman.


What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

I don’t know which is worse, assuming that all trans people are straight or that all trans people must have surgery or take hormones to complete “the” transition. Life is a transition. We all transition. Not just trans people. Remember that.


What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Noah’s Ark: Jumping the Broom.”


What’s the most overrated social custom?

Men opening doors for women.


What trophy or prize do you most covet?

My siblings loving me as their brother is a trophy and prize in itself. Without their love I don’t know what I would do.


What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Everything I know now. College would have been a lot different if I had this focus and drive that I have at age 23.


Why Washington?

It was the farthest place from Minnesota, and at the time I thought it was cool to live right down the street from the White House, which gets old pretty fast. I have grown to love it though. It’s not as fast as New York and not as chill as Chicago. It’s perfect.


LGBT questions voluntary in health screening

LGBT Health, gay news, Washington Blade

(Public domain image)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The UC Davis Health System announced last week that it will become the first academic health system in the country to include voluntary sexual orientation and gender identity on its standard demographic questionnaire. Doctors there said the new procedure will improve care for LGBT patients who sometimes avoid treatment out of fear of being humiliated or rejected. UC Davis Health announced the change in a press release issued June 13.

“Patients and physicians, even in the clinical setting, are not very good at talking about sex,” said Edward Callahan, professor of family and community medicine and one of the key coordinators for the new initiative. “Unfortunately, the problem is more than just one of embarrassment. LGBT individuals face significant health challenges that can be better addressed when a doctor’s office is seen as a truly welcoming and understanding environment. We’re inviting patients to voluntarily share their gender identity and sexual orientation information to help us create an atmosphere in which we’re able to provide the most knowledgeable and informed care possible.”

UC Davis Health System’s LGBT questionnaire is voluntary. It simply invites patients to declare their sexual orientation and gender identity as part of each individual’s highly confidential health record.


San Antonio passes LGBT rights ordinance

The San Antonio City Council voted 8-3 on Thursday to add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing city ordinance that bans discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and city contracting.

The vote came after more than 700 people testified for and against the proposed expansion of the ordinance in a marathon hearing that lasted past midnight on Wednesday and continued Thursday morning before the vote.

Approval of the ordinance in the nation’s seventh largest city also followed a heated campaign by the state’s conservative Republican leaders and religious-right activists to oppose the bill. Much of the opposition targeted the bill’s provision to protect transgender people from discrimination.

Among the bill’s strongest supporters was San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a Democrat, who told the City Council minutes before the vote, “This is a city that belongs to everyone.”

Among the most vocal opponents of the bill was Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is a Republican candidate for governor. Abbott argued that the expanded ordinance would trigger a flurry of lawsuits by people of faith and others who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. He predicted opponents would challenge in the courts the bill’s provision preventing them from refusing to hire or refusing to sell goods such as wedding cakes to LGBT people.

Supporters of the measure noted that the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and El Paso passed similar legislation years earlier banning discrimination against gays and transgender people and predictions of problems such as multiple lawsuits never materialized.

“The right wing extremists really threw everything at this and really put on a major offensive and they lost,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington.

“And that is a big deal,” Keisling said. “Our side stood up. Our allies were just rock solid and we won.”

Chad Griffin, president of the D.C. based Human Rights Campaign, which was part of a coalition of LGBT and mainline civil rights groups pushing for the ordinance, said the City Council’s action reflects what he believes is the support by a majority of San Antonio residents for equality under the law.

“Today’s vote is a victory, but the attacks we saw from our opposition in the run-up to this – particularly the trans phobic messaging – remind us of the ruthless tactics they use to promote discrimination against LGBT people,” Griffin said.


Colo. panel rules for trans student

Denver, Colo., Colorado, Gay News, Transgender, Washington Blade

The Denver City and County Building. (Photo by Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons)

DENVER—The Colorado Civil Rights Division on June 17 announced a local school district had discriminated against a transgender student when it refused to allow her to use the girls’ bathroom.

The Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 last December told Coy Mathis’ parents that she would have to use the boys’ restroom or a staff or nurse’s bathroom after winter break. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund urged the district to reconsider its decision, but it filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division in February on behalf of Coy Mathis and her parents.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division described the school district’s request as “hostile, intimidating” and “offensive.”

TLDEF said the ruling is the first-of-its-kind in the country that states trans students must be allowed to use the bathroom that is consistent with their gender identity and expression.


AFL-CIO bans anti-trans discrimination

AFL-CIO, American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations, gay news, Washington Blade

The AFL-CIO added gender identity and expression to the group’s constitutionally protected classes. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz via Wikimedia Commons)

LOS ANGELES — At its national convention in California this week, the nation’s largest federation of labor organizations added gender identity and expression to the group’s constitutionally protected classes.

The AFL-CIO — which represents 57 national and international unions — also considered a resolution to eliminate barriers to adequate healthcare for the group’s trans employees, and advocate for trans-inclusive healthcare for its members and members’ dependents during bargaining negotiations with employers. However, according to BuzzFeed, the resolution was scrapped temporarily due to technicalities, though the DC-Baltimore chapter of the AFL CIO’s LGBT organization, Pride at Work, pledges the language is slated to be introduced at a future gathering.

Currently 17 states and the District of Columbia bar discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity in the law.