An LGBT activist’s view of entertainment and world news.
As an LGBT activist, the promotion of queer rights is #1 on my homosexual agenda. This weekly column serves as a forum for me to comment on issues and causes currently affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. My “rundown” of these topics is from the perspective of an LGBT activist; it is my goal that by keeping our community informed, we can all help contribute to the battle for equality.
Medicare Surgery Questions
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal government’s national insurance program, is reconsidering whether or not it should cover gender reassignment surgery (often called sex reassignment surgery) for transgender people who have Medicare. It has offered the public 30 days to offer opinions on the matter. Since around 48 million people are covered by Medicare, if the agency decides to allow coverage, the change would have a significant impact on transgender people in the U.S. This official reconsideration of coverage began last week and goes for 29 more days in which the public can comment. The center states that it “considers all public comments, and is particularly interested in clinical studies and other scientific information relevant to the topic under review. Surgical Treatment for Gender Identity Disorder is currently non-covered under the Medicare Part A and Part B programs. The existing policy, which became effective in 1981, states that transsexual surgery is considered experimental. Please note that we are making an administrative change to the NCD title under this reconsideration to reflect current medical terminology. The new title for Section 140.3 will be Surgical Treatment for Gender Identity Disorder.” Trans activists and medical professionals are urging everyone to comment in support of a change. Without medical coverage, the cost of gender reassignment surgery in the U.S. can far exceed $50,000. Visit CMS.gov to comment.
Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill
The state Arizona House Appropriations Committee approved SB 1045 last week, which would protect businesses that require transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with their sex assigned at birth. After seven hours of testimony that stretched into Wednesday evening, an Arizona State House committee approved legislation that would bar transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, reports the Associated. The state-level legislation seeks to override local antidiscrimination policies that already protect transgender people. The Arizona House Appropriations Committee voted 7-4, along party lines, to advance committee chairman Rep. John Kavanagh’s Senate Bill 1045. In its original incarnation, the bill sought to impose criminal penalties for any person found using a restroom other than that which corresponds with the gender listed on their birth certificate. But after swift, vocal outrage from the transgender community and advocates, Kavanagh amended the bill to legally protect businesses that bar transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice. The legislation now heads to the Republican-controlled House for a full vote. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, the bill seeks to legalize discrimination against transgender people, and puts them at risk for harassment and stigmatization. “The Arizona Appropriations Committee approved an incredibly discriminatory and hateful bill that specifically targets transgender people,” said NCTE executive director Mara Keisling in a statement. “Rejecting the thousands of people who’ve spoken out against SB1045 in Arizona and across the United States, Rep. Kavanagh and his six allies instead chose to defend discrimination and protect discriminators. SB1045 brings more shame to Arizona’s legislature for isolating and targeting another marginalized community. Transgender Arizonans and our allies stand stronger and more determined to put an end to Rep. Kavanagh’s anti-transgender campaign.” Kavanagh’s bill arose in response to a recent Phoenix antidiscrimination ordinance that allows transgender people to use the restroom, locker room, and shower of their choice. Within seven hours of testimony, only one person testified in favor of the bill, according to the AP, while more than 200 turned out to testify in opposition. Brynn Tannehill, a transgender veteran and advocate, said that even if passed, the legislation would likely be unconstitutional based on the landmark ruling in Romer v. Evans, which struck down Colorado’s Amendment 2 prohibiting any jurisdiction from enacting LGBT antidiscrimination protections.
Southern Baptist Blames Gays
During a recent radio interview, Fred Luter claimed Kim Jong-un’s threats to attack America were the result of debates on marriage equality and gays in the Boy Scouts. Right Wing Watch reports the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Fred Luter, is blaming North Korea leader Kim Jong-un’s recent threat to attack America on debates over marriage equality and lifting the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts of America. “I would not be surprised that at the time when we are debating same-sex marriage, at a time when we are debating whether or not we should have gays leading the Boy Scout movement, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that we have a mad man in Asia who is saying some of the things that he’s saying,” Luter told radio host Rick Wiles.
Luter, who became the first African-American head of the Southern Baptist Convention last year, was responding to Willes’ suggestion that Jong-un’s threat was a punishment from God due to “our slide into Immorality.” “You know at precisely the same time the Supreme Court is hearing these arguments on same-sex marriage in Asia a crazy man in possession of nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-un, is openly saying: I have ordered our military to position our rockets on US targets in Hawaii, Japan, Guam and the mainland of the United States,” Willes said. “He has gone into a full state of war this week. I don’t know, Pastor Luter, I don’t know if anybody is — I know they’re not — they’re just not putting this together.”
Former NFL Player Glad to Be Out
Former San Francisco 49er Kwame Harris wants to inspire kids and other athletes. A few months after being outed by the media — after an alleged assault of an ex-boyfriend — former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris tells CNN Newsroom, essentially, that he’s glad it happened (the outing, not the assault). This morning Harris appeared in his first interview since being publicly outed and talked about the pain of being closeted in the NFL. “You want to escape the despair and turmoil and your mind goes to dark places,” he said. “I’m happy today, and I’m glad they were just ideas and I didn’t act on any of them.” The athlete, who played five seasons for the 49ers and one year with the Oakland Raiders, admits he never considered coming out while an active player but wishes he had: “The cost was great not [being] candidly open about myself in complete manner. If I could have done it differently, I would have hoped I found the strength [to come out].” In the interview, filmed at his alma mater, Stanford University, Harris also says he hopes his outing helps other people. “I want people, whether gay athletes, athletes still in the closet, or youths who are not sure what their sexuality is to know those are common feelings,” he said. “Don’t feel alone in having them. I’m gay. I’m a former athlete. And I think I’m a pretty normal guy.”
Lesbian Track Coach Forced Out
A lesbian track coach who was forced out of her position at University of Texas for having a relationship with a female athlete in 2002 has filed a complaint against the University for Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Bev Kearney filed a complaint last week with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the Dallas Voice. She coached the team to six NCAA track championships since she took the position in 1993. Kearney, a black lesbian, was put on leave at the end of last year but decided to leave her position officially in January after news surfaced that she was in a relationship with one of the female athletes (who, at the time, was of age). However, UT assistant football coach Major Applewhite, who is white and male, had an inappropriate relationship with a student trainer during a bowl trip in 2008. He was reprimanded by the athletic director, and his pay was frozen for a year. “We think there is a double standard at the University of Texas, giving men the opportunity to engage in inappropriate relationships without fear of being caught or punished,” Kearney attorney Derek Howard said Saturday, according to the Voice.
That’s all folks and I hope you tune in next week!