St. Louis, Missouri is the latest city to ban the practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors, local NBC affiliate news station KSDK reports.

Mayor Lyda Krewson signed a bill into law Monday, which bans the practice that some believe can "turn" gay people straight.

"A national community of professionals in education, social work, health, mental health, and counseling, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), have determined that there is no scientifically valid evidence that supports the practice of conversion therapy," Board Bill 152 reads.

"Such professionals have also determined that conversion therapy is not only ineffective but is substantially dangerous to an individual's mental and physical well-being and has also been shown to contribute to depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, family rejection and suicide."

There a number of cities and states that have laws banning conversion therapy for minors. Those who violate the law in St. Louis will face a $500 fine.

According to the Human Rights Campaign,  at least 22 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed in 2019 in the U.S, mostly individuals of color.

That includes one transgender woman in Florida, while another barely survived her attack.

Advocates are frustrated with the slow pace of some of these investigations, but some law enforcement agencies in Central Florida are working to change that. 

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Eric Shaun Bridges on Attempted Murder Charges in September for tying a transgender woman to the back of  a pickup truck and dragging her for two miles. However, an arrest still hasn’t been made for the death of Bee Love Slater in Clewiston, who was tied up and shot before being burned in her car. 

Gina Duncan, Director of Transgender Equality at Equality Florida, thinks police could’ve found answers faster if they didn’t misgender Slater. 

“Using her dead name as well as male pronouns,” Duncan said. “What actually happens from that is, besides breeding mistrust with the community, it also impedes the investigation.”

By dead names, Duncan means the person’s birth name versus their chosen name. 

Advocates say that’s what held up the investigation of an Orange County transgender woman’s death. Initial reports in 2018 on the murder of Sasha Garden in Orlando received a lot backlash for the way police and media outlets reported on it. The Sasha Garden case is still active and open more than a year later.

“There were some challenges in that initial disclosure of the victims information,”  said Lieutenant Brandon Ragan at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. “Everybody learns from their mistakes and here at the sheriff’s office, we did as well.”

The mistakes he’s talking about have to do with how they identified Garden in their initial report, as a man wearing a wig and dressed as a woman. 

Gina Duncan said mishaps like that can be avoided by having officers who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.  “By creating an LGBTQ liaison team within law enforcement agency, who is embedded in the community, who knows the community, and in most cases can reach out to people within the community.”

Nikole Parker agrees. She’s a transgender woman of color and says having a liaison makes the community feel safer. “Because if something happens, for instance, Sasha garden and those horrific news headlines, but what happened is we as a community mobilized together and called whoever posted them said that it was inappropriate and it got changed.”

Parker knows what it’s like to be called the wrong name by the police, especially before she changed her I.D. “It was intentional ‘sirs’, it was intentional dead names. Even when I said, clearly, I’m presenting in a different way. ‘Oh, well, I don’t know about that,'” she said. “And that was early on. Now, I will say that I’ve seen a change in a lot of law enforcement, I think especially after Pulse.”

Lieutenant Brandon Ragan was the first person appointed to the Orange County Sheriff’s LGBTQ liaison team. Now, the team has grown to 4 people. Ragan agrees with Parker that there was a shift after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 that left 49 people dead.

He said, “It was instrumental I would like to say kinda like after Pulse. Just to bridge any gap that there may have been in the community or people that may have perceived the gap there, even though there may not have been, for them to know who their point of contact could be if they didn’t feel comfortable coming to someone who wasn’t LGBTQ.”

With the help of the Gay Officers Action League of Central Florida, Ragan is hoping to get a liaison at every police department in Central Florida. So far, the Orlando, Kissimmee, and Edgewood Police Departments have a liaison, among others.

Trans advocate Nikole Parker said she thinks it’s making a difference in Orlando. “And that’s the biggest thing is just law enforcement, being open to it, and implementing an LGBT liaison was the first step and it’s an amazing step.” Parker said it’s not perfect, but it’s progress.

Orange County Detectives are still processing some of the physical evidence from the Sasha Garden case. They are also still actively following up on any new leads which come in. They encourage anyone with information about the events of that night or Garden’s death to come forward. It can be done anonymously by calling Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.

 

Four years after North Carolina enacted House Bill 2, the state could get its first openly transgender lawmaker. Or two.

Attorney Gray Ellis of Durham and Angela Bridgman of Wendell  are both Democrats, transgender and seeking seats in the state Senate.

HB2, which became known as the “bathroom bill,” required people in government buildings to use the restroom that corresponded to the gender on their birth certificate. Most of the bill was overturned in 2017, after national criticism and boycotts of the state.

Virginia voters elected the first openly transgender candidate in the country in 2017, Danica Roem, who is serving her first term in the Virginia House of Delegates.

In North Carolina, there are only a few LGBT state lawmakers, and no lawmakers who are openly transgender.

Ames Simmons, policy director for Equality NC, said that Bridgman, a transgender woman, and Ellis, a transgender man, are the first openly transgender candidates for the state legislature, as far as his organization is aware. Equality NC is a statewide organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights.

“There was the beginning of a blue (Democratic) wave in 2018 that was encouraging to trans people. I’m a trans person myself, but don’t speak on behalf of the community. I was personally inspired by the runs and elections of trans people who ran elsewhere, like Danica Roem in Virginia,” Simmons said.

He said that it’s a personal decision if someone is going to be open about their LGBTQ status and if they are transgender. Some might consider it a closed chapter in their life, and some might not feel safe from violence and discrimination, he said.

“I think to some degree it depends on where you live and how you feel about your job,” Simmons said. “Most trans people have to make calculations on a daily basis of who gets to know and who doesn’t.”

THE CANDIDATES

Bridgman is running in Senate District 18 in Wake County, where incumbent Republican Sen. John Alexander is not seeking reelection. Ellis is running in Senate District 20, which is being vacated by Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr.

Ellis, a transgender man, is owner and managing partner of Ellis Family Law in Durham. His campaign platform includes mental health reform and Medicaid expansion.

“We must expand Medicaid coverage to cover more people who are uncovered or only have partial coverage for mental health disorders and ensure that insurance carriers in North Carolina are compliant with the law of parity, requiring that mental and physical health be covered in the same way,” Ellis wrote.

In a telephone interview with The News & Observer, Ellis cited his law career and his desire to serve people directly — rather than being a career politician — as among his strengths. Ellis, who called the state’s passage of HB2 “horrifying,” said he wants everyone to have a seat at the table.

“I’ve lived in Durham for 20 years, and been in a safe environment that’s very accepting of me. ... I’ve been fortunate, but I know that’s not true for most trans people,” he said.

Bridgman is a former Wake County Democratic Party precinct chair, who has stepped down because she is running in a contested primary. She lives in an unincorporated area outside Wendell and runs a home business.

HB2 was a factor in Bridgman wanting to run for office, but only one of several, she said in a phone interview with The News & Observer. Her campaign issues include education, Medicaid expansion and economic and social justice.

Bridgman has testified at the legislature about redistricting and HB2, which she urged legislators to oppose. It didn’t affect her directly, she said, because she is post-operative and her Illinois birth certificate had previously been changed to reflect her gender.

As a college student in Kentucky in the late 1990s, Bridgman was living as a woman and using women’s restrooms. She was also an activist, she said, so people knew she was transgender. Bridgman said she was told to start using men’s restrooms instead.

“So I was forced to choose between my education and my personal safety,” she said. HB2 did the same for college students in North Carolina, Bridgman said.

Bridgman faces Democrat Sarah Crawford in the primary. Republicans running in the District 18 primary are Scott McKaig of Wake Forest and Larry E. Norman of Louisburg. Libertarian candidate Jason Loeback of Wake Forest is also running.

Ellis also faces primary challengers: Natalie Murdock, an incumbent Durham County Soil and Water District supervisor; and Pierce Freelon, a former mayoral candidate.

McKissick, the incumbent, was appointed to the N.C. Utilities Commission. His party will appoint someone to serve the rest of his term, and the seat is up for election in 2020.

Murdock and Freelon already have some endorsements. Murdock has been endorsed by Durham County Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs and Durham City Council members Vernetta Alston and Mark-Anthony Middleton. Alston is seeking the state House seat of Rep. MaryAnn Black, who is not running again. Freelon has been endorsed by Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, who defeated him in the 2017 municipal primary election.

Republican John Tarantino has also filed for the District 20 seat.

OTHER LGBT LAWMAKER IN NORTH CAROLINA

According to the Wilmington Star-News and other sources, former Democratic state Sen. Julia Boseman was the first openly gay state legislator. Boseman served from 2005 to 2011 and represented New Hanover County. She was followed by former Rep. Marcus Brandon, a Guilford County Democrat, and others.

There are now four openly LGBT members of the General Assembly currently serving. All are Democrats.

“I think it’s right and it’s time for (transgender people) to have a seat at the table. We’re completely unrepresented,” Ellis said.

“We’ve arrived as transgender people when someone like Gray or myself can be elected, and it’s no big deal,” Bridgman said.

One of the biggest barriers to care for transgender individuals is a lack of knowledgeable providers. In a move that reflects a growing recognition of transgender care needs within established medicine in the United States, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a new review on the topic authored by experts from the Mount Sinai Health System.

The new review, titled “Care of Transgender Persons,” appears in the December 19 issue of NEJM. Itaims to serve as a fundamental resource to help the medical community separate what is known from what is not in transgender health care.

In the United States, studies estimate that approximately 150,000 youths and 1.4 million adults identify as transgender. As sociocultural acceptance patterns evolve, clinicians will likely care for an increasing number of transgender people.  

“The intention of the review is to provide straightforward guidance to address the gap that transgender individuals may face in their care,” said the lead author of the review, Joshua Safer, MD, Executive Director of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, and Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Bone Disease) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The feature begins with a case vignette that highlights a common clinical problem. Evidence supporting various strategies is then presented, followed by a review of formal guidelines, when they exist. Dr. Safer and his colleague, Vin Tangpricha, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, then provide clinical recommendations.

Recommendations from the review include:

  • Determining readiness for treatment for those who seek it by establishing that the patient has persistent gender incongruence and is competent to make medical decisions.
  • Prescribing and managing hormone therapy based on expected impact and awareness of the potential adverse effects of the treatment.
  • Screening by the clinician or mental health consultant for mental health conditions that may confound the assessment of gender identity or complicate management of care.
  • Understanding the various surgical options for transgender individuals with consideration of the challenges associated with each.

“The most influential vehicle to effect long-lasting, meaningful change across current and future generations of clinicians in all specialties caring for transgender individuals is education,” added Dr. Safer.

Dominick Gonzales, 38, changed his plea Dec. 13 and was convicted of first-degree bias crime for punching the woman in Northwest Portland in September, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said in a news release.

The victim was standing in line for free coffee and food for homeless people on Sept. 29 when Gonzales started yelling at her, using racial and homophobic hate speech, the release said.

Gonzales punched her in the face, splitting her lower lip open. Gonzales fled on a bicycle before police caught him.

He received three years of probation and credit for time served. He served 75 days in jail and is expected to be released to his probation officer.

“These bias crimes are extremely hurtful for the victims and our community,” said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney BJ Park, who prosecuted this case. “Everyone deserves to feel safe. When someone commits a crime, especially one rooted in hate, we must act to ensure accountability.”

While on probation, he will not be allowed to contact the victim. He must also complete evaluations for mental health and substance abuse disorder.

“I wasn’t raised like that, and I do apologize and regret my actions,” he said in court after pleading no contest to the hate crime, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

“What was going on that day?” asked Multnomah County Circuit Judge Angel Lopez.

“It was a mistake,” Gonzales said.

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