Democratic convention makes history with first openly transgender speaker

HRC Foundation National Press Secretary Sarah McBride will be the first openly transgender person to speak at a major party's convention

Sarah McBride will make history this week at the Democratic National Convention. The national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign’s Foundation will be the first out transgender speaker at a convention of a a major US political party.

The largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the country  made the announcement today (24 July). She  is scheduled to speak on the assembly’s last day (28 July). Chad Griffin, the organization’s president will also speak that day.

McBride volunteers for the steering committee Trans United for Hillary; the political group supports the party’s presumptive nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

‘People must understand that even as we face daily harassment, tragic violence, and an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ political attacks across the country, we are real people merely seeking to be treated with the dignity and respect every person deserves,’ McBride said in a statement. ‘I’m so proud to stand with the LGBT Caucus and speak out in support of Hillary Clinton, because we know she stands with us.’

‘Sarah’s inclusion in Thursday’s program is a significant milestone for our community, and it sends a strong message that transgender people and their voices matter,’ Griffin said in a statement.

When Clinton is officially nominated this week, she will become the first woman in the US to run for the White House representing a major party.

The HRC endorsed Clinton this past January.

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‘Romeo and Juliet’ balcony open to civil unions

This amazing part of Verona's heritage is now available to gay couples

The most iconic location in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is open for civil unions, the city of Verona has announced.

The balcony in Verona is said to have belonged to the family who inspired Shakespeare’s Capulet family, to which Juliet belonged.

The city of Verona (the setting of Romeo and Juliet) announced that all venues available to straight couples to be married must now be available to same sex couples – this includes the famous balcony.

Verona’s mayor Flavio Tosi called the decision a ‘symbol’.

The house was home to the many centuries old del Cappello family.

It’s an extremely popular tourist attraction, which has recently been renovated to include a fresco depicting the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

A Valentine’s Day special wedding in the house with period accoutrements costs €600 ($658.50) for others, but just €300 ($329.25) for Veronese residents.

Civil unions have only just been made legal in Italy, passing in May this year, making it the last of the major European countries to do so. Civil unions will begin in mid-August, Democratic party senator Monica Cirinnà has said.

While the new bill passed amid heavy controversy and debate, it was a slimmed down version from what was originally planned.

A greater rights bill would’ve included better parental rights for same sex couples and gay marriage, but it was defeated.

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Homophobic pastor who praised Orlando massacre rides wave of fame to host ‘conference’

Roger Jimenez is a controversial pastor from Sacramento, California

Roger Jimenez, the pastor who electrified responses to the Orlando tragedy in June, will be hosting a conference with other homophobic and controversial religious leaders.

The ‘Red Hot Preaching Conference’ will feature a series of sermons over the course of four days in Sacramento, California from Baptist preachers, with Jimenez closing on the last day.

One attendee notes: ‘How epic! Less than 100 miles from the sodomite capital of the world, San Francisco.’

‘It will be red hot, I will tell you that,’ Jimenez told the Sacramento Bee, pointing out the sermons will focus on sin and punishment.

‘It will be controversial. I’m going to preach the Bible,’ Jimenez said. He has said he doesn’t know that will speak on yet.

Besides Jimenez, the conference will feature other controversial speakers: like Steven Anderson, whose Arizona church has been branded a ‘hate group’.

In 2009 Anderson drew attention for claiming he prayed that President Barack Obama would die and ‘go to hell’. They also believe gay people should be put to death.

Jimenez drew notoriety and criticism in June when he praised Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the Orlando massacre, who killed 49 people in a gay club in the state of Florida.

Besides praising the killings, he called for more.

‘I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out,’ he said.

When asked ‘Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?’ Jimenez replied: ‘Um no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight.’

He added: ‘The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job — because these people are predators. They are abusers.’

The mayor of Sacramento made a special point that this pastor’s opinions and conference do not reflect the feelings of the state capital.

Mayor Kevin Johnson said in a statement: ‘I join other faith leaders, officials and community members to clearly say: Sacramento does not have a welcome mat for hate.’

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Gay Star Trek writer ‘we need gay representation’ on why he made Sulu gay

John Cho plays Sulu in three Star Trek feature films, including the latest, Beyond

One of the writers of Star Trek Beyond and Hollywood mainstay Bryan Fuller has said writing the character of Sulu as gay was key to better ‘representation’.

In Star Trek Beyond, Sulu – played by John Cho – has a same-sex partner with whom he is raising a daughter.

Fuller, who is gay and married, said at the Star Trek 50th anniversary panel: ‘I think the bigger picture is that we need gay representation.

‘And the fact that they embraced that idea and made John Cho’s portrayal as Sulu a gay man was a lovely move of inclusivity.

‘With the science-fiction extrapolation of one universe to the other and the fluidity of sexuality, it feels like there’s an explanation that both of those things exist.’

While the decision to make Sulu gay has been met mostly with praise, ironically the out gay actor of the original Sulu George Takei called the alteration ‘really unfortunate‘.

‘I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,’ Takei told The Hollywood Reporter. ‘Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought.

‘I think it’s really unfortunate.

‘I told [John Cho], ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted,’ Takei explained.

Fuller felt Takei was ‘absolutely entitled’ to his opinion. ‘It is that interpretation that you worked with, with the creator of the show, that has been cemented in your mind.

‘So I think he is absolutely entitled to feel that way, because I absolutely understand why he feels that way.’

Cho said the decision by writer Simon Pegg and the director Justin Lin to make Sulu gay was a loving tribute to Takei, and a sign of the ‘changing times’.

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I was injected with HIV at the age of 12

Mark Ward

Back in the dark ages of the 1970s I was diagnosed with severe haemophilia.

It’s a rare genetic blood disorder which prevents the body’s natural blood clotting protein, Factor VIII, from being produced.

We all suffer bumps and cuts sometimes in every day life. If you are haemophiliac, the bleeding does not stop.

This can be life-threatening in some situations. The treatment used to control my bleeding episodes used products made from whole blood.

Unfortunately, during the 1970s and 80s the mega rich pharmaceutical companies did not care where they got the blood from.

In the USA they paid vulnerable and desperate people to sell their blood. Drug addicts, prostitutes and prisoners were used.

They would even wait in mobile blood transfusion trucks outside gay saunas or bath houses, in cities like San Francisco and New York, then offer the guys money to sell their blood.

There were even cases of using blood from dead bodies.

All the blood gathered from the various sources was mixed together in huge vats and processed to separate it into different components, like Factor VIII.

This would be freeze-dried, bottled and shipped around the world and then injected straight into the veins of babies, children, teenagers, anybody.

The dangers of viruses, such as hepatitis, were known and governments, including the United Kingdom, were warned of these infection risks. But even warnings from the World Health Organization were ignored.

At that time, the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were approximately 5,000 haemophiliacs in the UK.

I was told I’d be dead by 18

I was given my first injection of the deadly contaminated Factor VIII in the middle of the night, against my parents’ wishes, in 1976.

By the age of 10, I had been infected with millions of pathogens, multiple strains of various contaminants including hepatitis viruses A, B, C, and G.

Then at the age of 12, I was infected, almost on a daily basis with treatment contaminated with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

I was told at the age of 14, I probably would not leave school, certainly not living long enough to see my 18th birthday.

The entire world was full of hatred towards anyone with HIV, regardless of their infection circumstances.

Across the USA families feared for their lives, little boys were treated worse than lepers, even having their homes set on fire.

Ryan White, an infected American haemophiliac, became famous for standing up to his abusers, but sadly lost his fight for life aged just 18.

The UK, was no different. Many lives were lost due to the stigma of AIDS or the ‘Gay Plague’ as the British media named it.

I’d like you to imagine what it was like growing up with all that terror, hatred, stigma and discrimination. Still being injected with the deadly treatment. Friends dying, used for research by doctors like laboratory rats.

Then on top of that realizing you are not just different from ‘normal’ people because of your disability but you are also gay.

That’s what happened to me.

Anti-gay prejudice

And after more than 2,000 haemophiliacs died, with thousands more ‘super-infected’, homosexuality is still a taboo subject in the haemophilia world today.

In most countries, including the UK, no information or support is offered to people with a bleeding disorder who identify as LGBTI.

The CEO of one national haemophilia society in Europe told me: ‘We have not identified any gay haemophiliacs, therefore we do not need to provide information.’

The World Federation of Hemophilia has just one reference to ‘gay’ issues on its website. It’s a single article focusing on the ban on gay men donating blood.

This year’s WFH Congress starts in Orlando, Florida today (24 July). The site of the horrific attack in the Pulse nightclub. Sadly no mention of the LGBTI community has been made by the WFH.

But together, we can all beat intolerance, fear and hate.

I believe the WFH and I can swiftly implement an acceptable timeline for education and sexual health information for the LBGTI bleeding disorder community.

The threat from viruses like hepatitis and HIV has not gone away from the world or the bleeding disorder community. It has simply shifted to a different infection route – sex.

Are you Haemosexual?

As this subject is seen to be ‘too explicit’ by some, I am now reaching out to those who are at risk by setting up my own project.

Haemosexual has been designed to offer practical advice and information, along with providing education to patients, medical professionals and other organizations.

We want vulnerable people to get proper protection – and that means communicating with them.

Safety information and support on sexual health is much more effective if it is provided in a way people feel comfortable with.

Speaking to likeminded makes it easier to talk openly about your lives, body, physical and mental health.

Haemosexual will stand for equality, education and better healthcare for everyone with a bleeding disorder no matter what their sexual orientation is.

It is in memory of all my friends.

I hope it will also highlight how a small, vulnerable group of disabled people were so cruelly treated by those who inflicted these death sentences and compounded the suffering for more than 40 years.

I cannot stand by and watch another generation, condemned to suffer with the same homophobic and ignorant attitudes.

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Gay Republican insists party is turning more LGBTI friendly

Out Republican Party delegate Rachel Hoff insists the GOP is changing on LGBTI issues

Rachel Hoff, the first out person to be part of the Republican National Convention’s platform committee, sees a brighter future for her party when it comes to LGBTI rights. Last week, during the GOP convention, she pushed back against fellow delegates insisting on including the following in the platform: support of conversion therapy, a call to repeal marriage equality, and anti-transgender planks.

While her pleas for inclusion and tolerance were ignored, Hoff has hope for the GOP.

‘Outside of the platform committee, our party is ready to move on,’ Hoff said in an interview with Think Progress.

Hoff, a member of the Washington, DC delegation, noted how multiple party members came up to her last week to thank her for trying to move the party on LGBTI rights.

‘A huge number of people have come up and thanked me for being their voice in the room,’ Hoff said to Think Progress. ‘It’s especially touching when it’s fellow LGBT Republicans. Most of the people are just people who want to see our party either fully support pro-LGBT policies or move on from anti-LGBT policies.’

There is evidence to support Hoff’s idea Republicans are prepared to ‘move on.’ Donald Trump is the first Republican presidential nominee to offer support to the LGBTI community in an acceptance speech.

‘As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens,’ the nominee said.

Billionaire Peter Thiel is the first openly gay speaker in 16 years at the GOP convention.

‘I am proud to be gay,’ Thiel said. ‘I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.’

On Facebook, Gregory Angelo, head of Log Cabin Republicans pointed to the stark differences between what the party says it stands for and actual conversations with fellow Republicans.

‘GOP Platform: Most anti-LGBT in the Party’s 162-year history,’ Angelo wrote. ‘GOP Convention: Most pr-LGBT in the party’s 162-year history.’

Below is a copy of Angelo’s Facebook post:

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North Carolina governor slams NBA for pulling All-Star game out of state

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has lashed out State Attorney Ray Cooper's criticism of HB2

Pat McCrory is mad at the NBA (National Basketball Association) and doesn’t care who knows it. The North Carolina governor went after the league for pulling its 2017 All-Star Game out of the state in protest of HB2, an anti-LGBTI law.

The regulation, which is now being fought over in courts, prohibits  local governments from passing anti-discrimination laws and requires transgender citizens to use public restrooms according to their birth certificate gender.

According to the Associated Press, the governor told Charlotte radio station WFAE the league’s decision was  ‘total P.C. B.S.’

‘P.C.’ is shorthand for political correctness.

‘It’s an insult to our city,’ McCrory continued. ‘It’s an insult to our state. And I think it sets a dangerous precedent of the corporate sports and entertainment elite basically asking for a quid pro quo on legislation or else they’ll deny their service.’

The game was scheduled to be played in Charlotte, home of the Hornets. The exhibition includes a week of planned activities, including present and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans.

The AP notes local tourism officials estimate the event was set to rank second in terms of economic impact for the city, behind the $164 (€149) million the Democratic National Convention brought in in 2012.

‘It’s definitely going to hit us pretty hard,’  Morgan Conroy, marketing director for The Bottle Cap Group, which owns several bars and restaurants in Charlotte, said to the Associated Press.

The league’s statement about the cancellation included a comment about the impact on the city.

‘We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league,’ the NBA statement said.

‘It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons – including members of the LGBT community – feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena.’

An olive branch was offered. The league hinted the 2019 All-Star Game would be played in Charlotte ‘provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.’

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