AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Texas officials are facing backlash after deciding to allow social workers to turn away clients on the basis of their disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

At the direction of the governor’s office, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners voted unanimously to eliminate disability, sexual orientation and gender identity from the nondiscrimination clause of the code of conduct.

The board made the decision during a joint meeting Monday with the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which oversees regulatory agencies for professions related to mental health.

The National Association of Social Workers criticized the board’s decision to follow governor’s recommendation rather than seek public comment.

Will Francis, director of the association’s Texas chapter, told the board during public comments that their decision was “incredibly disheartening.”

Abbott’s office said the change was made simply to align the rules with the state’s Occupations Code, which determines how and when the state may discipline social workers.

“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” said Renae Eze, spokeswoman for Abbott’s office.

Francis said the board’s decision creates the impression that people with disabilities can be discriminated against despite federal rules that are in place to protect them.

“It’s disturbing, even if it’s unintentional,” Francis said. “They created space for people to get the impression that this is allowed now. What the governor has done is put people with disabilities at risk for discrimination for no reason.”

Seven advocacy groups, including Equality Texas, Transgender Education Network of Texas and Texas Freedom Network, released a joint statement Thursday decrying the board’s move.

“Pro-discrimination groups couldn’t get this passed into law,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said in the release, “but Gov. Abbott has done their bidding by pushing it through administratively in an obscure meeting when he thought few people were watching.”

Gloria Canseco, presiding officer of the Behavioral Health Council, said topics related to gender and gender identity would be revisited during a council meeting this month. She did not indicate whether the decision to remove protections for people with disabilities would be revisited.

Monica Roberts, a transgender advocate and journalist who chronicled the lives, and sometimes the deaths, of transgender people through her blog, TransGriot, died on Oct. 5 at her home in Houston. She was 58.

Her mother, Mable Roberts, confirmed the death. She said that Ms. Roberts had complained of chest pains the day before her death and a medical examiner had found blood clots in her lungs.

In the West African tradition, a griot is a storyteller, and Ms. Roberts set out to tell the stories and history and lived experiences of the transgender community. She started her blog in 2006, at a time when coverage of transgender issues by the mainstream media was limited and often deemed offensive by those being covered.

“A proud unapologetic Black trans woman speaking truth to power and discussing the world around her” is how Ms. Roberts described her blog.

On TransGriot, she celebrated Breanna Sinclairéa transgender opera singer who performed the national anthem at baseball games, and wrote about Raquel Willis, the former executive editor of Out magazine. She covered issues surrounding transgender rights and, in a blog post one month before her death, expressed support for Mia Mason, a transgender woman who is running for Congress in Maryland’s First District against Andy Harris, the incumbent. In that article, Ms. Roberts offered a capsule history of the transgender community and the world of politics, compiling a list of every transgender person worldwide ever elected to serve in a national legislatures.

On other occasions, Ms. Roberts, a sports fan, gave her N.F.L. picks.

“Her blog was important because she was chronicling the transgender experience deeply in a way that many outlets just weren’t in the mid-2000s,” said Ms. Willis, herself a Black transgender activist, in a phone interview. “Often, she was the only one who noticed and sang our praises.”

Angelica Ross, an actress and the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, an organization that works to give L.G.B.T.Q. people career opportunities in tech, said that transgender readers trusted Ms. Roberts to tell their stories in a way they didn’t trust journalists from mainstream outlets.

“Monica wrote about things when no one else would, and she wrote about them with care,” Ms. Ross said. “She showed attention to the details, such as pronouns or naming us how we were known.”

Ms. Roberts became especially admired for her tireless work to identify transgender murder victims, who are often described by the police and in local media by their birth names. She found that such misgendering known as deadnaming, can make it harder to solve the crime, in part because friends of the deceased often don’t know their given names and may not learn of a death for days or longer.

Her sleuthing, which like her blog was largely self-funded, grew out of frustration, she told The Daily Beast in 2019 — particularly amid a rise in violence against transgender women that the American Medical Association declared an “epidemic.” “When you deliberately misgender a victim, then you’re delaying justice for that trans person who has been murdered,” Ms. Roberts said.

“I got tired of them being disrespected in death,” she added.

Monica Katrice Roberts was born on May 4, 1962, in Houston. Her father, Rick Roberts, was a local disc jockey and radio executive. Her mother was an elementary schoolteacher.

Ms. Roberts graduated from Jesse H. Jones High School (now Jones Futures Academy) in 1980 and went to work for Continental Airlines as a desk agent.

When Ms. Roberts began transitioning in the early 1990s and came to work dressed as a woman, she faced harassment from her co-workers and reprisals from her supervisors, Mable Roberts said.

Ms. Roberts moved to Louisville, Ky., and lived there for several years. She held various jobs, including security guard, before moving back to Houston and starting her career as a writer and advocate.

“There was something visionary about the work Monica Roberts was producing,” Ms. Willis said. “Her writing was the gateway for countless people’s journey to their gender identity.”

She was a force to be reckoned with in the local politics of Houston and “a pioneer in every sense of the word,” the city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement after her death.

As her fame grew, Ms. Roberts became a source for national L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy organizations and news outlets, as well as an outspoken voice on the issue of violence committed against transgender people, and Black transgender people specifically, attending conferences, demonstrating outside state capitol buildings and maintaining a vigilant online presence.

TransGriot received the Glaad Media Award for outstanding blog in 2018 and was nominated four other times.

Ms. Roberts also wrote for Ebony.com, HuffPost, The Advocate and other publications.

In addition to her mother, Ms. Roberts is survived by a brother, Kevin Roberts, and two sisters, Kecia Roberts and Latoya Roberts.

Dee Dee Watters, a close friend of Ms. Roberts, said what motivated her in all her efforts was making the world a little easier for younger generations of transgender people.

“Monica really wanted to make sure that the younger kids coming up would have some kind of life — easier than what we went through when we transitioned. That was the real goal,” Ms. Watters said in a phone interview. “It brought her joy seeing younger trans people being able to exist in their whole selves.”

Paulo Batista is lifting weights and hitting the books, striving to fulfill his father's dying wish for him to join the U.S. military. But he says all he has heard from the armed forces is either silence or a door slamming shut.

Batista is transgender, effectively banned from military service under a policy announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017 and formally adopted in 2019, reversing a policy former President Barack Obama's administration had enacted, after extensive review, to allow transgender military service.

Still, Batista continues his quest, hopeful of a waiver or a policy change that might let him in, even as military recruiters rebuff his entreaties. He pumps iron in his garage, his muscular and tattooed arms able to bench press 275 pounds (125 kg). He pops out 100 push-ups a day.

He is also studying for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a test developed by the Pentagon to measure a recruit's potential.

"My heart is sold for this as a career. There's a feeling about wearing that uniform," said Batista, 36, who is too old for the Army or Marines and has focused on the Navy and Air Force. "When you love what you do, it's no longer a job, and serving my country would never be a job."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the Trump transgender policy can stand while it faces four separate lawsuits in lower courts.

Although most transgender military personnel as of 2019 were allowed to continue serving, new recruits have been kept out.

"To my knowledge, there are zero transgender people who have sought to enlist who have been able to enlist since the ban went into effect," said Jennifer Levi of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, one of the groups suing the Trump administration.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who was Obama's vice president, has pledged to instruct the Pentagon to restore the right of transgender people to serve in the military if he wins the Nov. 3 election. Polls show Biden leading Trump.

The Defense Department said no officials were available to comment for this article and did not respond to a Reuters request for data on the enlistment of transgender recruits.

Batista was still presenting as female in 2002 when he entered the military's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, but dropped out to care for his sick father.

Fred Batista died of cancer in 2007 at age 69.

"I want to do nothing more than to make the one man, my hero, prouder of me from above," Batista said. "The true American dream we all know is pure freedom, no matter who or what you are."

33-year-old transgender woman Felycya Harris was found dead from a gunshot wound in a park in Augusta, Georgia.

Harris’ body was found at Meadowbrook Park around 1pm on Saturday (October 3), according to local news station WRDW.

Her death is being investigated as a homicide. According to the Richmond County Coroners officer, she was shot one time.

In a blog post mourning Harris’ death, the Human Rights Campaign claims that she is the fourth trans or gender non-conforming person to be violently killed in the last three weeks. Harris’ death is at least the 31st violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year, making this the deadliest year on record for trans people.

“With the news of the death of Felycya Harris, we have hit a grim milestone,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “We have now matched the highest number of transgender or gender non-conforming people who were victims of fatal violence in one year—and there are three more months left in the year. This epidemic of violence, which is particularly impacting transgender women of color, must and can be stopped. We must work to address the factors that underpin this culture of violence and openly discuss how the intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia work to deprive transgender and gender non-conforming people of equal access to opportunity and necessities like employment, housing, and health care.”

Harris was an interior decorator with her own company. She’s remembered fondly by friends for her laugh and smile.

“Everybody’s going to remember Felycya,” friend Ricola Collier told WRDW. “That laugh. The smile—the smiles. The talks. The argument. The attitudes. Everybody is going to remember who Felycya Harris is. Nobody would ever forget who that is.”

The Richmond County Sherriff’s Office is still searching for a suspect. Anybody with pertinent information is urged to call 706-821-1080 or 706-821-1020.

Twitter users have reclaimed the Proud Boys hashtag with photos and tweets depicting LGBTQ love in an effort to divert attention from the controversial group. It’s not clear whose idea it was, but the campaign is believed to have taken off thanks to a push from actor George Takei, who tweeted the idea October 1.

“What if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys. I bet it would mess them up real bad. #ReclaimingMyShine,” Takei wrote.

Interest in the Proud Boys spiked days prior following the first presidential debate in which Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists and instead told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

President Trump condemned white supremacy and the Proud Boys two days after the Tuesday debate.

The group was created by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes in 2016 and is considered a designated hate group by the civil rights advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center. “They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric,” the SPLC notes.

Since Takei’s call to action, Twitter users have shared their LGBTQ love.

https://twitter.com/booshoe37/status/1312850076515987456?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1312850076515987456%7Ctwgr%5Eshare_3&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbsnews.com%2Fnews%2Fproud-boys-twitter-hashtag-photos-lgbtq-love%2F

 

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