One year after the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ+ rights activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera organized an occupation of Weinstein Residence Hall in response to NYU’s abrupt cancellation of a dance-a-thon to benefit the LGBTQ+ community. Although NYU had allowed two dance-a-thons to take place on campus during the summer, once students returned to campus, parents and donors expressed concern about students being influenced by a gay presence on campus. As a result, the university banned gay social events from taking place at NYU. After employing a variety of harsh tactics to drive protestors away — including cranking the air conditioning up all the way to freeze them out and then overheating the room occupied by protestors –– NYU called the riot police, who ended the five-day protest by forcibly removing protesters from the building.

Judging from NYU’s website, it’s hard to tell that the university was an active participant in violence against the LGBTQ+ community 50 years ago. Rather than apologize for its violent response to the Weinstein occupation, NYU published two sentences on the protest that omitted the university’s decision to deploy riot police against protestors.

Now that steps have been taken to establish LGBTQ+ rights around the country, NYU would face backlash if it didn’t champion LGBTQ+ rights. While NYU’s proclaimed dedication to championing LGBTQ+ rights is a step in the right direction, the whitewashing of NYU’s past relationship with the LGBTQ+ community shows that the university is only willing to take a stand when it positively impacts their image.

While NYU has taken a more progressive stance on LGBTQ+ rights since the Weinstein occupation, it still maintains a relationship with the NYPD despite the NYPD’s continued violence toward protestors and Black and Indigenous People of Color

On Friday night, the NYPD employed excessive force against protestors at an Abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) protest outside of Bobst Library. Despite the NYPD beating protestors on NYU’s campus, the university did nothing to address the issue except send a mass text advising students to avoid the Washington Square Park area. Whether NYU calls the police itself — as it did in 1970 — or refuses to condemn the NYPD when protestors are beaten on campus, NYU remains complicit in a system of police brutality that endangers the lives of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities NYU now claims to protect and embrace.

NYU has also continually fallen short in protecting LGBTQ+ students since the Weinstein occupation, including those abroad. Over the years, many have expressed concerns about discrimination against gay students at NYU Abu Dhabi. Although former NYU President John Sexton refuted these concerns, stating, “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories,” it is clear that the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ students were seldom considered. Homosexual activity is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and can even be punishable by death. Mubarak Al Shamesi, director-general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, pushed back on Sexton’s statement, saying, “NYU was aware of our local culture and rules and guidelines, and our policies on Israelis or homosexuality were clearly not a concern for them.” 

It isn’t as if higher-education institutions must accept homophobic policies and human-rights violations — in 2004, Harvard returned a $2.5 million donation when it realized that the country’s laws would violate the school’s nondiscrimination clause. From a university that has repeatedly been named as one of the most gay-friendly in the United States, this type of disregard for LGBTQ+ students is both inappropriate and dangerous.

On the New York campus, students have had difficulty receiving appropriate student-housing accommodations as recently as last year. When CAS sophomore Evelyn Zhang, who is transgender and uses she/her pronouns, indicated her gender identity on her application, she was assigned to a room in University Residence Hall with three cis male suitemates. The following year, after applying for gender neutral housing and expecting to be assigned roommates who identified as women, Zhang received three cis male suitemates again. The previous Vice President of T-Party, a club for transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming members of the NYU community, reported that many students have had their safety and comfort compromised within their own dorms due to their identity. These experiences underscore the failure of NYU housing to live up to its own expectations as an institution that currently “support[s] the LGBTQ+ community.”

NYU can continue to present itself as an inclusive institution, but its refusal to own up to the part it’s played in the oppression of LGBTQ+ rights prevents the university from truly being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Looking back on the Weinstein occupation 50 years later reminds us that even though NYU has become more progressive on the surface, the university only stands up for LGBTQ+ rights when it is beneficial for the university while taking actions that actively harm the LGBTQ+ community itself.

 Transgender activist Sarah McBride won a Democratic state Senate primary in Delaware on Tuesday and is poised to make history as the first transgender person elected to the General Assembly.

McBride defeated Joseph McCole to advance to the November general election. The Senate district in contention stretches from northern Wilmington to the Pennsylvania border, and has been held by Democrat Harris McDowell since 1976. McDowell, who is retiring and has endorsed McBride, is the longest-serving legislator in Delaware history.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by more than 3-to-1, and McBride is the heavy favorite against Republican Steve Washington in November.

Transgender activist Sarah McBride won a Democratic state Senate primary in Delaware on Tuesday and is poised to make history as the first transgender person elected to the General Assembly.

McBride defeated Joseph McCole to advance to the November general election. The Senate district in contention stretches from northern Wilmington to the Pennsylvania border, and has been held by Democrat Harris McDowell since 1976. McDowell, who is retiring and has endorsed McBride, is the longest-serving legislator in Delaware history.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by more than 3-to-1, and McBride is the heavy favorite against Republican Steve Washington in November.

“I would be legislating based not on my identity,” McBride added. “I would be legislating based on my values and on the needs of my constituents.”

McBride’s campaign has generated interest from around the country and more than $250,000 in donations, eclipsing fundraising totals even for candidates for statewide office in Delaware.

McBride’s priorities include paid family and medical leave for all workers, reducing costs and increasing competition in the health care industry, and strengthening public schools.

After serving as student body president at American University, McBride started in politics as a volunteer for Matt Denn during his successful 2004 campaign for attorney general. Denn and McBride’s father both worked at a Wilmington law firm known for its close ties to the Democratic Party establishment.

McBride later worked on the campaigns of former governor Jack Markell and former state attorney general Beau Biden.

McBride, who interned at the White House during President Barack Obama’s administration, made history at the 2016 Democratic National Convention by becoming the first transgender person to speak at a major party convention. McBride later served as national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign.

California Seeks to Expand its Board Diversity Mandate

After testing the waters with SB 826’s gender diversity mandate, California’s legislature has further committed the state to equitable board representation with its new measure, AB 979, which was passed on September 1. If Governor Newsom signs the bill into law by the September 30 deadline, California will (once again) lead the way in statutory diversity and inclusion mandates for public company boards.

It remains to be seen whether the measure (if signed) will survive legal challenge. Multiple lawsuits have attacked the constitutionality of its predecessor legislation, SB 826, and while two cases challenging SB 826 have already been dismissed on procedural grounds, one case that taxpayers mounted to its constitutionality has, to date, survived efforts by State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to dismiss the challenge.

If AB 979 is signed into law, it will require, by the end of 2021, that a corporation subject to the law’s terms (public companies headquartered in California), must have at least one board member from an underrepresented community (in addition to the mandates for female representation). The law defines an individual from an underrepresented community as someone who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or someone who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

The bill notes some of the following metrics in support of the measure:

  • There are 662 publicly traded companies headquartered in California; of this number 233 currently have all white boards of directors.

  • Of 662 publicly traded companies, 13% have at least one Latino board member, 16% have one African American board member, 42% percent have one Asian board member, and 6% have at least one non-white or “other” board member.

  • 100% of the 662 publicly traded company boards have one white board member.

Some critics of the legislative solution to board diversity note the legal challenges that quotas pose and also the significant but potentially more impactful efforts that shareholder activism has on effectuating diversity and inclusion in the boardroom. That activism – together with the growing significance of the ESG movement – may speed the process more organically and possibly more effectively as corporations recalibrate their mission and purpose in light of current events, such as the demand for racial equity and the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on our economy and social welfare generally.

The impact of SB 826 on gender representation on public company boards is undeniable and perhaps even understated due to potential flaws in the timing and methodology of reporting to the California Secretary of State. That beneficial impact has certainly motivated the California legislature to pursue tackling diversity and inclusion in the boardroom on a much broader scale.  If Governor Newsom signs AB 979, it will open a new chapter in the efforts to make the boardroom more closely reflect the communities that its corporation serves.

*Jen Rubin is a Co-Chair of the 2020 Women on Boards Leadership Committee for San Diego.

Geo Soctomah Neptune, 32, is a Two Spirit member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe who describes themselves as non-binary, trans feminine and gender non-conforming.

They have just won election to the school board in the Passamaquoddy Indian Township, where they will proudly serve a four-year term.

“To my knowledge, I am the first Two Spirit person to run for any kind of office in our community,” Neptune wrote on Facebook.

“I mention this because it is a big part of who I am; being transgender and non-binary is part of who I am, and part of who you would be electing, should you select my name.”

Neptune ran for the school board after being urged by community members and tribal youth, who were familiar with their work as an art teacher in an after-school program. Of the three candidates elected, Neptune received the most votes — about half.

“To almost stand up and say that they’re embracing me in this leadership role as a Two Spirit was incredibly affirming,” Neptune told Maine Public. “I feel very lucky that I live in a place where my community accepts me because a lot of trans people don’t have that.”

Quinn Gormley, executive director of MaineTransNet, says Neptune’s election is a mark of progress in the community.

We expect these electoral victories to happen in Portland,” Gormley said, “but often small communities are more willing to embrace whole identities.”

"As a member of the school board, Neptune hopes to increase student and teacher access to Passamaquoddy culture and ceremonial teachings, and work towards revitalising the native language.

“I feel confident saying that I am a person who makes their opinions known, and is not afraid to speak out against injustice when I see it,” they said as part of their campaign.

“I care for our culture very deeply, and see the preservation of our language and other traditions for future generations as being my first priority… confidence in one’s cultural identity translates to confidence in life.”

The need for universal access to safe, stable housing may have never been more urgent. The grave health risks faced by those experiencing homelessness are only made more severe by this pandemic. Los Angeles, which has one of the highest rates of unsheltered homelessness in the country, has seen numerous COVID outbreaks among unhoused communities, and experts predict that Los Angeles may be facing an increase in homelessness of up to 16% due to COVID. The most marginalized among us are left particularly vulnerable to both the virus and its lasting economic impact.

By permitting shelters to serve people on the basis of "biological sex" without regard for gender identity, this rule would explicitly grant single-gender shelters permission to close their doors to transgender people experiencing homelessness. Mixed-gender shelters would be allowed to force transgender people to access services based on the gender they were assigned at birth instead of their gender identity. This places them at increased risk of gender-based violence and sexual assault. HUD's stated mission is "to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all," and to "build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination."

Transgender people face devastating rates of homelessness across the United States. Nearly one-third of respondents to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey - a major accounting of the experiences of trans Americans - reported being homeless at some point. One in eight said they had been homeless within the previous year.

The survey results paint an even more dire picture for Black trans women, a group especially vulnerable to abuse, violence and HIV. More than 50% of respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, and nearly one-quarter of them reported being homeless within the previous year.

If this rule is adopted, it will endanger trans people. Many of those experiencing homelessness will not seek shelter, fearing discrimination (which nearly 30% of transgender people seeking shelter have experienced) and potential violence (22% of trans people experiencing homelessness report being sexually assaulted by shelter staff or residents). Those who do seek shelter will be more likely to be turned away or harassed for who they are.

In the context of COVID-19, this means that trans people experiencing homelessness will be at a heightened risk of falling ill, since shelters are many communities' best access point to the safe, individual housing options that the CDC stresses must be made available to people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. It's true that, in the time of COVID, shelters might not always be safer than unsheltered living. But individual housing options - such as the hotel rooms offered through California's Project Roomkey - absolutely are. To ensure equitable access to housing, we need to ensure equitable access to emergency shelters.

Enforcing equal access to shelter is the least we can do for transgender people in our communities. They are ordinary people whose lives should never be used as a political wedge issue in cynical campaigns that try to turn neighbors against one another.

Rather than thinking of new ways to make trans people's lives more difficult, the Trump administration should be developing and executing strategies that build on the progress made under the Obama administration, which dramatically reduced homelessness for LGBTQ+ people, veterans and families. The federal government should not target the rights of trans people. Instead, as a society we should be dedicated to helping the trans community, which has historically experienced social and economic harm because of who they are.

All too often, American society has failed to provide crucial and necessary support for the estimated 1.4 million transgender Americans - including one in 50 teenagers - who have lived authentically despite great obstacles. That cannot be the case once again. The Housing Saves Lives campaign is working to stop this discriminatory new proposal, which has a comment due date of Sept. 22. The HUD must uphold its own Equal Access Rule, in both letter and spirit.

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