• Jen Stevens

NEWS BRIEF: Dec 2019/Jan 2020

by Myra Shays

RI Pride Announces Plans for a Community Center in 2020

On November 3, at the RI Pride Honors event in Providence, RI Pride President Emeritus Joe Lazzerini called the Pride board of directors to join him on stage for a “big announcement,” revealing that the Pride team was very close to securing space for a community center set to open in fall 2020. The space is said to be around 5,000 square feet and located somewhere on Westminster Street in Providence. Attendees were urged to text PRIDERI to 44321 to donate toward the center because a donor match was in effect.

Said Pride Board Secretary Tina Blenke, “We’ve dreamed of building an inviting and inclusive, safe space for us to gather, that would house not only our offices but space for gatherings and events, a library for our own history, a kitchen for home-cooked meals, a living area for computers, and soft sofas for relaxing…. Next fall, we hope to welcome everyone to help us celebrate the grand opening of the Rhode Island Pride Community Center.”

RI Department of Health Accepts Non-binary Birth Certificates

As of October 1, people born in Rhode Island who identify as nonbinary can get birth certificates marked "X" to reflect that gender identity, rather than "M" or "F," for male or female. People of any age can make this change; however, minors will need the consent of a parent or guardian to do so.

Instructions for changing birth certificates are at www.health.ri.gov. For more information, write to the Deputy Director: Ana.Novais@ health.ri.gov, or call 222-5117.

New England Patriots Sponsor PVD Gay Flag Football League

The New England Patriots announced in late September that they are sponsoring the Providence Gay Flag Football League (PVDGFFL) to make the league more affordable. PVDGFFL Commissioner Duane Gosley said this news was "fantastic." Gosley noted that there are 162 participants: 85% are LGBTQ, 20% are women, and 20% are people of color. For more information, visit www.pvdgffl.org.

RI Foundation Awards Grants to LGBTQ Groups

The RI Foundation’s Equity Action Fund announced grants totaling $53K in October to organizations serving the LGBTQ community. Among the eight agencies are GLAD, Family Service of RI, New Urban Arts, Project Weber/Renew, SAGE-RI, Girls Rock! RI, Sojourner House, and Thundermist Health Center.

The announcement comes as the Equity Action Fund celebrates its 15th anniversary. It is guided by a volunteer advisory committee comprised of leaders in the LGBTQ community. Equity Action has given nearly $1 million to dozens of organizations. For more information, or to contribute, go to rifoundation.org.

Mental Health Support Groups Meet in PVD

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has formed "Connections," a support group open to LGBTQ people with any kind of mental health issues. It meets at the Beneficent Church on Weybosset Street in Providence each Wednesday from 6-7:30pm, facilitated by NAMI professionals who are LGBT peers. It is free and open to the public. For further information write to info@ namirhodeisland.org, or call 331-3060.

Support is also available at Oasis Wellness and Recovery Center of Rhode Island. Their meetings are at 134 Mathewson Street, Providence, and are also free. For information, call 831-6937.

Faith-based Adoption Groups Exclude LGBTQ Parents

The Trump Administration is proposing a rule for the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to continue getting taxpayer funding while they exclude LGBTQ families from their services, based on religious beliefs. Under the proposal, HHS would undo an Obama-era rule that included sexual orientation as a protected trait under antidiscrimination protections.

Said the CEO of GLAAD: "The Trump administration has again demonstrated that they prioritize the work of anti-LGBT activists over the safety and well-being of our children." One estimate shows 123,000 foster children are awaiting adoption, and this rule would make even fewer families available.

"This rule is…the federal government enshrining discrimination into law," stated a Children's Rights attorney. The UCLA Law School finds that same-sex couples are significantly more likely than different-sex couples to be raising adopted or foster children.

Workers Leave National Transgender Organization

In early November, the National Center for Transgender Equality lost about two-thirds of its staff in just a few weeks. At least eight staffers resigned over frustrations with the organization and a failed attempt to oust the executive and deputy executive directors. There was a record high of 23 employees at the start of this year; only seven remain.

An unfair labor practice charge was filed against the center "for discharging all employees in the bargaining unit, in retaliation against the staff asking for recognition of their union," the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union. Last August some staffers walked out to protest the firing of an outreach coordinator who is black and Nicaraguan. Some workers also claim that there is not enough diversity on staff. Tensions at the center have been building for years, along with the feeling that the executive team had an inconsistent view towards "making the organization a strong social justice movement."

Matthew Shepard’s Parents Rebuke Attorney General Barr

In October, at a Justice Department event in Washington marking the anniversary of a hate crimes law named for Matthew Shepard, his parents sent a message of rebuke for Attorney General William Barr. Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of Matthew, a young Wyoming man killed in a homophobic attack in 1998, said, "Mr. Barr, you cannot have it both ways. If you believe that employers have the right to terminate transgender employees just because they are transgender, then you believe they are not worthy of protection. You need not invite us to future events at the Department of Justice…celebrating a law that protects these individuals from hate crimes."

An Administration spokesman later said the hate crimes law as written does not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but that Congress could change the law.

Gender-Neutral Dolls Offered by Mattel

Mattel, the company that makes Barbie and Ken dolls, introduced in September a new line called "Creatable World," according to The NY Times. Available in different skin tones, each doll comes with two wigs of different lengths and hair textures, and several wardrobe options that allow children to style the doll in a skirt, pants, or both. Each "kit" costs about $30.

The designer said they are not supposed to be adults, as Barbie and Ken are, but were "designed specifically to have a youthful, gender-neutral appearance." Mattel worked for about 18 months with doctors and people knowledgeable about gender identity, as well as with 250 families across the country, including children of all gender identities. While Mattel is the first major company to offer such dolls, a small firm named Tonner has sold them since 2017, as has a Canadian non-profit.

RIDOH Celebrates First Anniversary of RIghtTime Sexual Health App

In November, the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) celebrated the first anniversary of “RIghtTime, Rhode Island’s Sexual Health App,” believed to be the first app of its kind from a state health department. It has been downloaded over 3,500 times.

RIghtTime offers resources and videos on sexual health topics such as: Prevention, testing, and treatment of HIV/STIs; a health services locator to find free condoms, HIV rapid testing, and Title X Health Centers; PrEP and PEP (medications to prevent HIV); and dating and healthy relationships.

The app also features a partner notification tool that allows people to anonymously notify sexual partners that they tested positive for an STD, and encourage them to get tested. Users may also utilize the app’s “Ask the Expert” feature to anonymously ask questions of an expert from RIDOH via text, email, or phone. To learn more, visit righttimeapp.com/lgbt, download RIghtTime from the App Store or Google Play, or call 222-5960.

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