THE forceful removal of a group of transgender women and a gay man from a Los Angeles bar is being investigated as a possible hate crime, police said Monday.

Cell phone video showing security guards shoving and dragging two transgender women and a gay man out of the downtown bar was widely shared on social media over the weekend. Top police officials and Mayor Eric Garcetti promised a thorough investigation.

A complaint about an incident at Las Perlas bar Friday was filed with police and detectives are investigating, said department spokesman Officer Jay Chaves.

"Los Angeles is a place where hate against any person, regardless of gender identity, is not tolerated. My office is in communication with @LAPDHQ about the incident at Las Perlas, and will ensure a proper investigation is completed," Garcetti said in a tweet.

Khloe Rios, who recorded the video, said she and a group of colleagues from Bienestar Human Services, a nonprofit that focuses on health issues in Latino and LGBTQ communities, were having dinner when a straight couple approached them and started yelling slurs.

"They said, 'You guys are all men. You are not women. You don't belong here,'" Rios said.

Rios, a program manager at the nonprofit, said she and her friends ignored the comments but then the woman became more aggressive and spat at them, pushed her and slapped a colleague.

The group stood up and huddled together to protect each other and that's when security guards intervened and asked everyone to leave. They escorted the couple out but became aggressive with them, pushing and shoving them and even dragging one of her colleagues by the neck, she said.

"We thought the security team was going to protect us but instead they threw us out like trash," Rios said.

Outside, the couple continued to yell slurs at them and threatened to kill them, she said. The couple ran away when they saw police patrol cars approaching, she added.

"Every single day I see trans women being harassed, being bullied and being discriminated. This was a horrible experience," Rios said. "I knew I needed to record this to show how they treat us."

Cedd Moses, chief executive of Pouring With Heart, which owns the bar, said in a statement posted to the Las Perlas' Facebook page on Saturday the incident was "an escalated verbal altercation" that led the manager to remove those patrons who didn't comply with a request to leave.

After a protest outside the bar that prompted the bar to close Saturday night, Moses apologized to the transgender community and said the security company working at the bar would be replaced.

"We are committed to working with the community and we are researching the right partner to help us move forward in the most positive way possible including staff and vendor training," he wrote in a statement Sunday.

A transgender athlete at Kamehameha Schools Maui switched from the boys to the girls volleyball team because she now identifies as a female.

HONOLULU - A transgender athlete at Kamehameha Schools Maui switched from the boys to the girls volleyball team because she now identifies as a female. 
The school acknowledged the change but some parents tell KITV4 they still aren't comfortable.

An anonymous parent says he feels uncomfortable his daughters at Kamehameha Schools Maui have to share a locker room with a biological boy, even if that boy now identifies as a girl. 

The school says the student has permission to be there. Administrators says they'll continue to support transgender students across campuses in hopes for a competitive season for all. 

Transgender advocates say people should be who they want to be without judgement. Gia Gunn, a well known international transgender performer and trans-rights activist, was in Hawaii at the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival to screen her documentary about her transition. We caught up with her there for her reaction to this story. She reminds people, "There's not just one way of being human. There's not just one way of being a man and there's definitely not just one way of being a woman."

Joshua Wisch, the executive direction of ACLU Hawaii (https://acluhi.org/), a civil rights group, says, "These are people who are in our schools, they're in our communities, they belong, they should be proud of who they are and they should be able to participate, just like everybody else."

Schools have developed policies to protect trans students. Other advocates say that's a good step in the right direction, but there's still more work to do.
Dean Hamer, who is on the board of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation (hglcf.org), suggests schools should "not just have a rule that says you're not supposed to bully people but to show kids and teachers and administrators what a positive affirming atmosphere looks like."

Hamer, who spoke as an individual and not an HGLCF board member, says if students feel uncomfortable, they should change at the nurse's office or in a separate room. "Accommodations should be made for them too because everyone should feel comfortable."

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association established a transgender policy in October 2017. It plans to start tracking the number of trans athletes in their member schools this school year.
 
The organization tells KITV4 transgender students can play sports in the gender identity they're comfortable with. Part of its policy reads, "The HHSAA believes that athletic participation is valuable to students' physical, intellectual, social, and character development and accordingly, we value inclusion."

Every Thursday night, Tracy Williams’ larger-than-life personality charmed the entire room at a dinner for youth experiencing homelessness at Montrose Grace Place.

Those who dined with the 22-year-old each week said she was outgoing, spontaneous and wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself and those she loved. She was an expert fashionista, enamored of drag and taught her peers and mentors how to dance.

Williams, also known as Tracy Single, was found murdered in the early-morning hours of July 30 in a parking lot at 11009 Katy Freeway, according to the Houston Police Department. She suffered multiple lacerations and puncture wounds. Her identity was made public by law enforcement officials on Aug. 14. Police said there is no known motive in the killing and that they had not yet made any arrests.

Friends this week remembered Williams as funny, creative and courageous. Her slaying, they say, has left a permanent void in their lives.

“This is a big loss for the community,” said Courtney Sellers, executive director of Montrose Grace Place. “It’s hard for so many reasons.”

Calls to action

Williams’ killing is the third of a transgender woman in Texas this year, and the 16th of a transgender person in the nation since January. Of those victims, all but one were black women.

In 2017, 26-year-old Brandi Seals was murdered at a construction site in Houston. Her killer has not yet been arrested. In January, Candy Elease Pinky was shot five times at a Houston gas station on Richmond Avenue. She survived and her shooter has not yet been identified.

“We’ve been living with that reality for years now,” said Monica Roberts of Houston, a board member of Black Trans Women, Inc. “The threat of violence is everywhere for us and it can pop up rather quickly.”

There has been a steady rise in the number of homicides of transgender women of color in recent years, according to a 2017 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Of the homicides included in the report, 71 percent of the victims were people of color. Texas had the highest numbers of anti-LGBTQ murders in the nation, according to the report.

Advocates say Williams’ killing underscores the importance of passing legislative protections at the state level for transgender people.

“The James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Act is not inclusive of transgender folks,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas.

Roberts said she’s been working for decades with other advocates and legislators to add transgender protections to the landmark Texas bill that strengthened penalties for violent crimes targeting other minorities and groups, including gay and lesbian people. The law was named for an African-American man who was killed in 1998 by three white supremacists who dragged him for three miles behind a pickup truck.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he’s introduced a bill every year for the past seven years to add such protections for transgender people.

“Gender identity or expression should be added to this current list of attributes [in the Byrd Act] because, like the currently listed attributes, it is a universal trait that has historically been a target for widespread and systemic discrimination and violence in our culture,” Coleman said.

President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in 2009. It expanded the federal hate-crime law to cover crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. But some activists have expressed disappointment that prosecutors haven’t brought more cases involving the LGBT community under the law.

Advocates also note that Texas law does not prohibit the so-called “gay and transgender panic” defense, a legal strategy used to justify murder and assault on the grounds that the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity caused a defendant’s violent reaction.

“If the person who killed Tracy is caught, they could use the trans panic defense,” Roberts said.

In addition to advocating for hate-crime protections, Schelling said his group is still pushing for basic human rights to be afforded to transgender people in the state.

“We often spend the session trying to retain what little dignity is afforded to us by the law here,” he said. “All we want is the same confidence we will be able to be who we are and maintain employment and stay in our homes.”

In Texas, there are no state laws explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. No state or federal law prohibits housing discrimination based on gender identity. Those policies strip away basic security for transgender people and put them at even greater risk of violence, Schelling said.

“I think the political battles about bathrooms put trans women at more risk,” Coleman said, referring to heated clashes over bills limiting transgender people’s access to bathrooms in public schools and government buildings. “The rhetoric gives license to anyone who wants to act on feelings of hatred toward trans women and Texans of color.”

Remembering Tracy

Williams’ homicide has shaken her community and brought many together in grief.

Since those at Grace Place learned of Williams’ murder, there has been a place saved at the community dinner table for her. A memorial adorned with a photograph of Williams, lights, artwork and a box filled with notes from her friends has served as a way for those mourning her loss to say goodbye, Sellers said.

In her honor, Houston City Hall and the bridges over Texas 59 were lit up in light blue, red and white, the colors represented on the Transgender Pride Flag.

Williams began transitioning about eight months before her death, according to Dee Dee Watters of Black Trans Women Inc., who didn’t know Williams but has learned about her from her family since she died.

Watters organized and raised money to start the burial and funeral process for Williams.

“Everything that took place with Tracy could have taken place with me,” Watters explained. “I could be murdered and I could need this help too.”

Watters worked with the family to ensure Williams would be buried and memorialized with her correct gender identity.

“It’s really important to be there for the family and advocate for Tracy so her family knows this is who she was,” Watters said.

Though Williams’ life ended abruptly a short time after she transitioned, Watters said she is grateful that Williams had the chance to be her authentic self.

“I’m just glad she was able to express who she was and people were able to see who she was before her life was taken from her,” said Watters. “Being your true authentic self is a remarkable thing and a revolutionary act. We’ll never know who she came into contact with and (inspired to show) their true self because they met her.”

Roberts said she hopes the tragedy will motivate people who are not transgender to be allies.

“Support us when we’re not in the room,” she said. “If you hear people trashing trans folks, call them out on it. We need that to happen moreso now than we ever did. Silence is complicity.”

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state, New York City, Connecticut and Vermont sued the federal government Tuesday over new Trump administration rules blocking green cards for many immigrants who use public assistance including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.

The states and city join a growing list of entities suing over the change, one of the Republican administration's most aggressive moves to restrict legal immigration.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said the new rules fly in the face of American values and 100 years of case law.

"Generations of citizens landed on the welcoming shores of Ellis Island with nothing more than a dream in their pockets," she said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "The Trump Administration's thinly veiled efforts to only allow those who meet their narrow ethnic, racial and economic criteria to enter our nation is a clear violation of our laws and our values."

More than 15 other states have already sued to challenge the new rule, including California , Washington state and Pennsylvania.

 

The rules set to take effect in October would broaden a range of programs that can disqualify immigrants from legal status if they are deemed to be a burden to the U.S.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said earlier this month that the rule change will ensure those who come to the country don't become a burden, though they pay taxes.

"We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient," Cuccinelli said. "That's a core principle of the American dream. It's deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration."

A Hawaii high school girls volleyball team now has a transgender girl on its roster, and some people are upset.

In Hawaiian culture, the word “Mahu” is historically a third gender designation, and is now used as slang for “transgender” among Hawaiians. From the island of Maui, comes news of a new Mahu: a transgender student athlete, who reportedly is finding acceptance from her high school, her coaches and volleyball teammates.

So far, her only obstacle appears to be one bigoted coach, who refused to give his name to the newspaper reporting on her debut last week.

According to Maui News, the girl attends Kamehameha School in Maui, and while the report did not reveal her name or her age, it did say the athlete played for the KSM boys junior varsity volleyball team as a freshman in 2017.

She warmed up and was in uniform for the Warriors’ 25-14, 25-17, 27-25 win over Baldwin High School in the girls volleyball opener at Kaulaheanuiokamoku Gym one week ago today.

“I’m not going to say anything about our transgender athlete,” Kamehameha Maui Athletic Director Jon Viela said last Tuesday, reported the Maui News. Kamehameha Maui coach Alex Akana also declined comment following the match, as did the coach for Baldwin.

A Baldwin High administrator told the paper his school was aware of the situation going into Tuesday’s match. “We are OK with it,” the official said, and requested anonymity.

But one rival girls volleyball coach in the Maui Interscholastic League, who also asked the Maui News to withhold his name, said he wasn’t informed about the participation of a trans athlete before the season opened Tuesday night. He said his team wasn’t the only one left in the dark, and he feared for his girls’ safety.

“In my opinion, it’s very irresponsible for the league to place these young women, who are minors, in an elevated level of risk,” the unnamed coach told Maui News. Then he said he spoke for the parents who entrust their girls to him.

“They all sign off on an assumption of risk form for an understandable amount of risk. Now, there’s an elevated level of risk their daughters are going through and being put through without any notification to the parents at all.

“I have no problem with the kid being who (they) want to be, but now these girls are being put in an unsafe situation without giving the parents the opportunity to make an educated decision on whether they want their daughter in that position.”

How unsafe, exactly? The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in Rosemont, Ill., says “volleyball injuries rank lowest for all major sports.” That said, volleyball players can of course incur both traumatic and overuse injuries.

Maui News reporter Robert Collias asked a transgender woman who transitioned as a youngster and played volleyball at Wahiawa Intermediate School on Oahu, to weigh in.

Tiare Sua defended the Kamehameha Maui student, and pushed back on the notion that males are necessarily stronger than females. Girls should not be underestimated, Sua said.

I just want to say that, for me, I don’t compare females to males in that kind of strategy because I feel that females are stronger than men think,” said Sua, who is project coordinator for the Hawaii Empowered Alliance Reaching Transgender Services program at the Maui AIDS Foundation.

“I don’t like to degrade women as thinking that they are weaker than men,” she told Maui News. “Like, you would be surprised at how strong women are… To have somebody transgender or saying that somebody who’s trans is stronger than a female opponent, to me, is just biased.

“To me, females are strong, just the same… Women are not weak, they are strong beings.”

“This is kind of something new, so everybody’s learning,” Maui Interscholastic League Executive Director Joe Balangitao told the Maui News.

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association adopted its policy on transgender student-athletes in October 2017. HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun called the policy — which he wrote — a work in progress.

“I wrote the policy about trying to be inclusive and letting student-athletes of all kinds of groups participate, which will make them feel comfortable,” Chun told the Maui News last week.

“I don’t feel comfortable getting into specifics or a specific sport, but safety is always a concern and competitive advantage is also a concern,” Chun said. “So even though we have a policy, it’s kind of like a guideline. It’s still in its early, early transition stages.”

 

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