It’s been reported that Monika is the fourth trans or gender non-conforming person to be murdered in America this year.

Trans woman Monika Diamond, 34, has become the fourth trans or gender non-conforming person to be murdered in the United States this year. Monika was killed after a man, identified as Prentice Bess, 32, entered the ambulance she was in and shot her.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reports that Monika was active in the LGBTQ scene in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was the co-owner and founder of Ncphyne Promotion Company LLC, an events promotion company about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. She was also the co-CEO of the International Mother of the Year Pageantry System, which honours LGBTQ mothers.

Paying tribute to her, the HRC wrote: “Through her work, Diamond spent her adult life creating community and spaces for LGBTQ people in Charlotte and beyond to come together and celebrate their lives.

“She was a chosen mother to countless. She was a business owner, a loving friend and she did not deserve to have her life taken from her.”

WBTV reports that police and paramedics were called to the Days Inn/Azteca Mexican Restaurant parking lot on E Woodlawn Road near Old Pineville Road at around 4am on Friday (20 March) following a disturbance.

Police responded to a group of five to six people and paramedics were called when one of the group experienced shortness of breath.

Monika was placed inside the ambulance to be treated and paramedics refused entry to Prentice when he tried to get in. Prentice then left the scene and returned with a gun where he shot Monika “several times.”

Paramedics attempted to save her life, but she pronounced dead at the scene, while Prentice was arrested and now faces murder charges.

Police described it as a “very volatile situation.”

Anyone with additional information is asked to call homicide detectives at 704-432-TIPS.

Monika was the fourth trans or gender non-conforming person to be murdered in the United States this year. Dustin Parker, a 25-year-old trans man was shot on New Year’s Day in McAlester, Oklahoma; Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, known as Alexa, was killed in Puerto Rico in February, and 19-year-old trans man Yampi Méndez Arocho was murdered in Puerto Rico in early March.

The Department of Health and Human Services plans to unlawfully stop enforcing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans, a lawsuit filed Thursday claims.

The suit centers on a “notice of nonenforcement” and a proposed rule issued by the Trump administration in November that would reverse a 2016 Obama-era rule prohibiting discrimination in HHS-funded grant programs and permit federally funded organizations to turn people away claiming conflicts with religious beliefs. The suit was filed by civil rights group Lambda Legal and nonprofit Democracy Forward on behalf of three LGBTQ advocacy groups — True Colors United, SAGE and Family Equality.

“In conflict with HHS’s established rules and policy, Defendants have engaged in systematic efforts to undermine the civil rights of, and non-discrimination protections for, LGBTQ people in the United States,” the suit states. “HHS’s decision to walk away entirely from enforcing the still-valid 2016 Grants Rule is a glaring example.
 
According to the lawsuit, there’s about $500 billion in HHS grant money at stake. This is the amount the department administers to fund organizations across the country who provide a variety of services, including child placement, homeless shelters and elder care.

The HHS Office of Public Affairs told NBC News it would “not comment on pending litigation.” However, in its November statement regarding the notice of nonenforcement, the department said it is “committed to fully enforcing the civil rights laws passed by Congress” and stated that this proposal would “better align” HHS grant regulations with “federal statutes, eliminating regulatory burden, including burden on the free exercise of religion.”

Civil rights advocates say the November measure is another example of the Trump administration prioritizing “religious freedom” at the expense of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans. In fact, a report issued in November by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights claimed the administration is “undoing decades of civil and human rights progress” — especially when it comes to LGBTQ issues.

‘Heightened vulnerability’

Puneet Cheema, a Lambda Legal attorney working on the suit, said this HHS policy reversal will affect the most vulnerable within the LGBTQ community, notably youth and older adults. The current coronavirus pandemic, she added, will only make the impact more devastating.

“Youth who are experiencing homelessness, seniors who have difficulties accessing health care generally,” she said, “they may have heightened need for care and heightened vulnerability in this epidemic.”

According to the lawsuit, there’s about $500 billion in HHS grant money at stake. This is the amount the department administers to fund organizations across the country who provide a variety of services, including child placement, homeless shelters and elder care.

The HHS Office of Public Affairs told NBC News it would “not comment on pending litigation.” However, in its November statement regarding the notice of nonenforcement, the department said it is “committed to fully enforcing the civil rights laws passed by Congress” and stated that this proposal would “better align” HHS grant regulations with “federal statutes, eliminating regulatory burden, including burden on the free exercise of religion.”

Civil rights advocates say the November measure is another example of the Trump administration prioritizing “religious freedom” at the expense of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans. In fact, a report issued in November by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights claimed the administration is “undoing decades of civil and human rights progress” — especially when it comes to LGBTQ issues.

‘Heightened vulnerability’

Puneet Cheema, a Lambda Legal attorney working on the suit, said this HHS policy reversal will affect the most vulnerable within the LGBTQ community, notably youth and older adults. The current coronavirus pandemic, she added, will only make the impact more devastating.

“Youth who are experiencing homelessness, seniors who have difficulties accessing health care generally,” she said, “they may have heightened need for care and heightened vulnerability in this epidemic.”Dylan Waguespack is the public policy and external affairs director at True Colors United, a national organization assisting LGBTQ homeless youth. Waguespack told NBC News that when HHS announced it would no longer enforce the nondiscrimination rule, the organization decided to take action by joining Thursday’s lawsuit.

Dylan Waguespack is the public policy and external affairs director at True Colors United, a national organization assisting LGBTQ homeless youth. Waguespack told NBC News that when HHS announced it would no longer enforce the nondiscrimination rule, the organization decided to take action by joining Thursday’s lawsuit.

“We immediately recognized it could cause a great deal of harm to young people,” he said, noting the department’s proposed rule could make a young person less willing to report discrimination or prompt them to leave a shelter altogether.

Echoing Cheema, he also noted the particularly perilous situation these vulnerable young people are in amid the current public health crisis.

“Making young people less likely to come inside is particularly dangerous right now when we are looking at this pandemic and expecting an increase in young people coming in to use these services because of home situations becoming more and more unstable and schools and campuses shutting down,” he said.

HHS’s decision may also negatively affect older LGBTQ adults, many of whom rely on services funded by the department, such as meal delivery or transportation.

“LGBTQ older adults are already more economically insecure because of the lifetime of discrimination they have experienced,” Cheema explained. “They have a right to age with dignity and HHS is denying them that.”

Cheema said HHS’s November nonenforcement notice and rule proposal is yet “another example of the Trump administration turning its back on LGBTQ people” and “flouting the rule of law.”

“It’s infuriating,” she added.

Having gender-affirming documents, such as a passport, driver’s license, or birth certificate, may improve mental health among transgender adults, according to findings published in The Lancet Public Health from researchers at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

“Having IDs that don’t reflect how you see yourself, and how you present yourself to the world, can be upsetting,” said lead author Ayden Scheim, PhD, an assistant professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health. “It can also potentially expose people to harassment, violence, and denial of service. Despite this, the relationship between gender-concordant ID and mental health had not previously been examined in the US.”

The study used data from 22,286 adults in the United States who participated in the 2015 US Transgender Survey — conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality — and were living day-to-day in a gender different from the one assigned at birth. Just under half – 45% – did not have their preferred name and gender designation on any identification documents, 44% had limited gender-affirming identification and just 10% had their preferred information on all documentation.

As compared to those with no gender-affirming identification, those with their preferred name and gender on all documents were 32% less likely to be classified as seriously psychological distressed, 22% less likely to have seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 25% less likely to have made a suicide plan in the last year.

The work is first study in the United States to look at the connection between identification documents and improvements in multiple measures of mental health, including suicidal thoughts. A previous study from Canada found that, among trans men and women living full-time in their gender, having updated documentation lowered suicide thoughts and attempts.

“The process, costs, and restrictions associated with updating identification documents vary from state to state,” said Scheim. “These roadblocks prevent many people from getting the documents they need.”

In addition to benefits in social interactions, such as ordering a drink in a bar, having ID is typically required to receive health care, obtain employment, open a bank account and other aspects of life. The process for changing identification documents can vary greatly.

California Rep. Ro Khana recently introduced a bill championed by transgender rights groups that would allow an unspecified or “X” option on a passport, in addition to the “M” or “F” genders currently listed. If the bill becomes law, this option would be available to any U.S. citizens identifying as nonbinary or intersex, even if their home state does not allow the X option on driver’s license or other state issued IDs.

Although previous studies have looked into how medical gender affirmation procedures, such as hormones and surgery, impact mental health, very little is known about how legal identification affects mental health.

“Having accurate identification should be a fundamental human right. While many of us take it for granted, obtaining IDs can be very difficult for trans people,” Scheim said. “This is an area where tangible and relatively simple policy changes could aid public health.”

The researchers note that psychological distress and suicidal thoughts might have made it more difficult for participants to obtain updated identification, rather than the lack of identification leading to the poor mental health. Despite this limitation, the study’s data comes from the largest sample of trans adults ever surveyed and controls for other factors that could contribute to the connection between identification and mental health.

In light of this finding, the authors advocate for reducing or removing the barriers to changing gender and name on forms of identification, or possibly even removing the mention of gender.

“Beyond reducing barriers to changing gender and name on ID, we should be asking why gender needs to be indicated on photo ID at all,” Scheim said. “Including this attribute serves no clear purpose for identifying people — that’s what the photo is for.”

The Trump administration is trying to rescind protections for LGBTQ workers at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that have been in place since 2002, prompting outrage from the NLRB Professional Association, an organization that represents NLRB workers.

NLRBPA President Karen Cook sent a letter on Thursday, March 5 to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) that LGBTQ Nation has obtained. The letter informs Feinstein of how two administration officials are attempting to get rid of protections for LGBTQ workers.

The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing labor law, particularly when it comes to collective bargaining and unjust labor practices.

Currently, LGBTQ workers at the NLRB are protected by terms of a collective bargaining agreement that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2002. In 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed to by the NLRB and the NLRBPA also banned discrimination based on gender identity.

The collective bargaining agreement ended in 2019 and the organizations are currently negotiating a new contract. According to Cook’s letter, NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb and NLRB Chair John Ring – who were both appointed by Trump – sent a proposed contract that eliminated the ban on anti-LGBTQ discrimination and said, “prior MOUs, agreements, or settlements executed prior to the latest date below are not incorporated into this agreement.”

The contract also proposes eliminating the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Committee that was operated by both workers and management, which Cook said has “turned what was historically a cooperative relationship between management and the union into an adversarial relationship.”

Last, Cook wrote that Robb and Ring are attacking the union’s grievance and arbitration system that handles workers’ complaints, and not just for LGBTQ people, but for all “allegations of discrimination including but not limited to: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or retaliation, that could be filed as an EEO complaint.”

This means that workers who have suffered discrimination at the NLRB won’t be allowed to go to their union to rectify the situation and will instead have to file a formal complaint with a different federal agency, taking away an option to address discrimination. Cook said in the letter that the Trump administration’s hostility to LGBTQ equality means that “our LBGTQ members will have no legal protection from discrimination.”

“It is a mark of shame that employment discrimination against LGBTQ employees, including federal employees, has been tolerated for so long, and to callously take those protections away after so long a struggle for equal treatment would be unconscionable,” Cook concluded.

Ed Egee, Director of Office of Congressional & Public Affairs at the NLRB, told LGBTQ Nation that the agency has “no comment on ongoing collective bargaining.”

Jerame Davis, Executive Director of Pride At Work, told LGBTQ Nation, “This administration is wildly inconsistent in nearly everything they do, but when it comes to screwing working people and attacking the LGBTQ community, they’re like a well-oiled machine.” The organization represents LGBTQ working people’s interests within the labor movement.

“The NLRB exists to protect working people from unfair labor practices, so how better to combine the administration’s distaste for working people and LGBTQ folks than to strip workers in that agency of protections they’ve had since 2002? It’s a disgrace.”

The Trump administration has long opposed protections for LGBTQ workers. In January, the Department of Interior removed anti-discrimination guidelines from its employee ethics guide. The Trump administration also eliminated mentions of LGBTQ people from several government websites.

Trump also banned transgender people from serving openly in the military, making anti-LGBTQ discrimination official policy.

Moreover, the Trump administration has fought against LGBTQ job protections outside of the government. The administration has filed multiple briefs in federal court cases arguing that federal law does not and should not protect LGBTQ people from job discrimination.

Trump has also said that he opposes adding protections for LGBTQ people to federal law, threatening to veto the Equality Act if it passes. His administration went so far as to eliminate LGBTQ protections from a trade deal.

Today, HRC issued the following statement from its president, Alphonso David:

“We are facing a global health crisis, and the Human Rights Campaign’s number one priority is to look out for the health and safety of our members, supporters, staff, the LGBTQ community and the community at large.

For that reason, we have decided to cancel or postpone all of our public events through the weekend of April 4, including our large-scale fundraising dinners in Nashville on March 14, Los Angeles on March 28 and Houston on April 4. 

Our focus remains on the goal of advancing the rights of LGBTQ people around the world and on the  defeat of Donald Trump and Mike Pence in November. We will continue to work toward this goal, and weather this crisis as we have weathered crises before — by uniting as a community.”

 

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