Visibility matters.

For the youth of today to see young transgender characters on shows like Butterfly, a mainstream TV show with famous actors, is monumental. Not only does it serve as a powerful representation for trans youth fighting against the hostility towards their identities, but it also works as an important source of knowledge for the general public who might be unfamiliar with the trials and tribulations of the LGBT+ community.

It’s easy to forget that it’s taken years of campaigners working for better representation to bring a story like Butterfly to mainstream television.

Up until the 1990s and mid-2000s, transgender issues weren’t often seen on screen, and when they were, it was through portrayals by straight, cisgender actors like Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, or Felicity Huffman in Transamerica. It wasnˆt until Netflix’s Orange is the New Black launched in 2013 that we saw a real breakthrough for transgender culture, with Laverne Cox in the role of transgender prisoner Sophia Burset.

 

It’s important for minority communities such as ours to reflect on those breakthrough moments to appreciate how far we’ve come – and how much further we still need to go; because it’s only by looking back at our history that we can pave the way forward.

It’s been just over 50 years since same-sex activity between men was decriminalised in the UK, led by John Wolfenden; it’s been almost 50 years since the first Pride march in London, with campaigners like Peter Tatchell; 20 years since television shows with regular LGBT+ characters like Ellen, Friends and Will & Grace first appeared on our screens; 14 years since civil partnerships were introduced in the UK and six years since same-sex marriage became legal.

The UK is now one of the best countries in the world for LGBT+ equality.

However, despite our community’s progress and rich LGBT+ history, there are still many people who don’t see themselves represented in daily life.

That’s why celebrations like LGBT+ History Month, Pride Month, or queer-focused awards allow us to promote LGBT+ causes and raise awareness about the modern issues that affect the community, while celebrating our achievements and increasing the visibility of LGBT+ trailblazers who inspire the next generation of change-makers.

I’m proud that the nominees of the British LGBT Awards reflect that, with a wealth of intersectional role models to be found in this year’s shortlist for the 17 May ceremony.

It’s clear that despite the many strides that have been made in the past, many young LGBT+ people are still struggling to come out today – especially people of colour, who are often marginalised from the mainstream discourses of LGBT+ equality.

Some of the diverse and groundbreaking stars nominated by the British public this year include: pansexual singer Janelle Monáe; gender fluid drag star Courtney Act; Amazon Prime series The Bold Type’s interracial lesbian couple featuring two women of colour; gender fluid model Cara Delevingne; “lesbian Jesus” singer Hayley Kiyoko; actress and political campaigner Cynthia Nixon; drag icon RuPaul; and trans activist Munroe Bergdorf.

While it’s clear that times are changing, it’s important that young LGBT+ people today and the generations to come know our community’s past, and use it as a foundation to give a voice to all of the beautiful intersectionalities within the LGBT+ community.

My hope is that even if LGBT+ youth can’t see themselves represented in history, they will see themselves in the people fighting for their rights today, and grow up knowing that they aren’t alone.

 

MILWAUKEE — Emotions took over the moment Nick and Brad Schlaikowski stepped foot into the newly furnished Courage House on Milwaukee's south side.

The house was purchased a year ago by the Schlaikowski's and their non-profit Courage MKE to create Wisconsin's first group home and shelter dedicated to homeless LGBTQ teens.

"Parents are kicking them out of their homes just because they're trying to be their authentic self, and so here we are to bring them to a place 

where they can be themselves," said Nick, co-founder of Courage MKE.

Nick and Brad gave Kohls the green light to design and decorate the home themselves, giving way to an overwhelming surprise reveal Tuesday.

"Every little nook and cranny is filled with some sort of enormous hug for these kids," said Brad, co-founder and executive director of Courage MKE.

From top to bottom, Courage House was covered with thoughtful items. It included custom art highlighting the group's mission and making the house feel like a home.

Lowe's, Sherwin Williams, Kohls, Kauffman Counters and Kohler are just some of the businesses who stepped up to donate materials and time.

"In the climate we have in our country right now, to know that there's this many people that know this mission of this house is for LGBT children, it gives me hope that we don't have to worry about that anymore," said Brad.

In addition to housing, Courage House will offer therapy, life skills coaching, tutoring and job training.

Courage House can host five teens. Courage MKE has a vision to create not only a larger home, but multiple homes in Wisconsin.

Courage MKE will host a ribbon cutting at the home Feb. 28.

Stories of hate against the LGBTQ community in Portland have been circulating on social media.

The Portland Police Bureau said it is looking into the attacks but coming forward may not be as easy as it sounds.

"Hate happens in the dark. Hate happens when no one is watching," Q Center executive director Cameron Whitten said. 

The disturbing stories spreading online say members of the LGBTQ community have been targeted in multiple attacks. 

"We are not shocked. We are seriously, seriously disappointed but we are not surprised," Whitten said. "For generations, LGBTQ people have been fighting against violence, harassment and discrimination."

With people turning to Facebook and Twitter with their stories, police are taking notice.

Police said they can't confirm any bias-related crimes lately but officers did respond to an assault on February 10 near SE 15th and Morrison that may have been one. 

Police went to the area of SE 15th and Morrison about a person who may have been assaulted. Police said the person was intoxicated and may have fallen. The person was taken to the hospital and later reported the incident as an assault. 

A bias crime detective was assigned to the case but wasn't able to confirm whether there was a crime. Police said social media posts "suggested the victim believed it may have been" a bias crime. 

"When a hate crime happens, people already have a sense of distrust in whether the authorities will do something," Whitten said. "The fact that we have not done a good enough job to protect people is a testament to why we have hate crimes that are under-reported. So we're trying to do better and we're focused on keeping our communities safe, that's what's important."

Portland police said they are looking into the numerous social media reports about the "rash of attacks on LGBTQ community members in Southeast Portland," but said they haven't received any reports. They urge anyone who is a victim to come forward.

"PPB has proactively reached out to community stakeholders to brief them on what we have learned, and to encourage any victims or witnesses to contact law enforcement," police said in a press release. 

By standing together and being vigilant, Whitten said victory is within reach. He also said the Q Center is another resource for help. 

"The fact that we're being vocal, saying enough is enough, gives me hope that we can actually end this awful wave of hate happening in our communities," he said. 

The Q Center is holding a town hall on Sunday at 6 p.m. to talk about the reports. 

If you were the victim of a bias crime assault or you witness one, call 911 right away. If you were the victim of vandalism or graffiti, call the non-emergency line at 503.823.3333.

For nearly four years, Gavin Grimm has been suing his former school district after it banned him from using the boys bathrooms in high school.

Along the way, he's became a national face for transgender rights. His case almost went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He graduated and moved to California but kept fighting.

"I have fought this legal battle for the past four years because I want to make sure that other transgender students do not have to go through the same pain and humiliation that I did," he said.

The Gloucester County School Board's meeting comes just months before a trial is set to begin over its current bathroom rules.

Grimm said the proposed policy "is far from perfect, but would represent an important first step for Gloucester." The policy "would also send the message to school districts across (Virginia) and the country that discrimination is unacceptable," he said.

Grimm has also been expanding his case against the school board. A federal judge ruled Thursday that he can sue over its refusal to change the gender on his high school transcript, which still lists him as female.

Grimm said the unchanged transcript will stigmatize him every time he applies to a college or potential employer that asks for it.

"I shouldn't have to be outed against my will in every situation where I would have to give that document," Grimm said during a phone interview from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he moved after graduating in 2017.

A court order legally made Grimm a man. And he is listed as male on his birth certificate, passport and a state-issued identification card in California.

The issue of Grimm's transcript highlights another concern in the transgender community that, like bathroom policies, remains far from settled across the nation.

Federal law does not directly address the issue. Some states, such as Massachusetts, provide explicit guidance to schools for updating records. Others, such as Virginia, do not provide a clear path forward to schools.

"The issue is certainly rising as more students express their gender identity," said Francisco M. Negron Jr., chief legal officer for the National School Boards Association.

"We would hope states offer clear guidance," he added. "The alternative is that students would have to make the case on their own, and school districts would not have the benefit of clarity under state law."

Paul D. Castillo, an attorney for the LGBTQ rights group Lambda Legal, said Grimm's effort to update his transcript is "not an isolated incident."

"But it might be one of the first challenges based on federal law to update a student's legal record," Castillo said.

David Corrigan, the lead attorney for the Gloucester County School Board, declined to comment on the case or on how it could be impacted by a possible policy change. The district is located about an hour east of Richmond.

While campaigning in New Hampshire, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she supports a third gender marker for non-binary people and would back federal policy that protects it. Gillibrand said "yes" when asked if she supported "X" as a possible third gender marker for official documents, according to CBS News on Saturday morning.

American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire organizer Palana Belken, who is also a trans woman, asked the question during an LGBTQ rights meeting, CBS News reported. In New Hampshire, a state lawmaker has introduced two bills for third gender markers in the Granite State, according to CBS.

The National Center For Transgender Equality described a non-binary person as someone who does not identify as either male or female. A third gender marker is one way of acknowledging non-binary people. If a third gender marker were to pass at a federal level, it would mean documents such as a passport could reflect a non-binary person's identity more accurately.

New Hampshire state Rep. Gerri Cannon introduced the state bills. As one of two transgender women elected to the legislature, Cannon said she knows the importance of unified documentation. "Right now, especially non-binary people, when they go to one state to another some state trooper may take a look at a license with an 'X' on it and go, 'What is this?'" Cannon told CBS News.

Cannon posted about Gillibrand's visit on Twitter. "It was great to Have Senator Gilabrand [sic] in Somersworth today. A real impressive Candidate!" Cannon tweeted on Friday night.

While supporting the third gender marker, The Associated Press reported that Gillibrand said she would also advocate for transgender rights more broadly. She called President Trump's anti-trans policies like the military service ban "an outrage," according to the AP.

While no third gender marker exists on a federal level, numerous states have instituted their own use of an "X" as a gender marker. CBS News reported that Maine started offering an "X" option back in June 2018, starting with stickers for those who signed up for the third option. Permanent licenses can be printed with either M, F, or X starting in June 2019, according to CBS News.

In January, California started issuing identification cards such as driver's licenses with a "X" option, according to The Guardian. "I'm glad that finally non-binary people are recognized, that we exist," one of the first people in line to get a new ID card, Alon Altman, told The Guardian.

In June 2017, Oregon became the first state in the country to offer a third gender marker on official documents for "nonbinary, intersex and agender people," according to NBC News. The rule went into effect in July 2017. "We must proactively break down the barriers of institutional bias," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told NBC News when the rule passed the state Transportation Commission.

While a handful of states have passed these laws, entire countries have as well. Canada introduced a third gender marker on passports in August 2017, according to The Guardian, joining Australia, New ZealandGermany, and Pakistan in their efforts to provide accurate documentation with third gender markers.

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