• Jen Stevens

News Briefs

By Kim Stowell

Open Letter Asks Media and Health Officials to Weigh Added Risk During COVID-19 Pandemic

The National LGBT Cancer Network, located in Providence, joined dozens of other organizations to release a letter asking the media to be aware of the increased health risks to LGBTQ+ Americans. In it, health risks such as the increased use of tobacco by the LGBTQ+ community, as well as higher rates of HIV and cancer were outlined, showing that this community is among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus. Discrimination by health care providers was also detailed as adding to the risk.

The letter went on to say that “LGBTQ+ communities are very familiar with the phenomena of stigma and epidemics. We want to urge people involved with the COVID-19 response to ensure that LGBTQ+ communities are adequately served during this outbreak.” This includes requests that information be tailored to LGBTQ+ populations by including imagery of LGBTQ+ persons in any graphic ads, collecting sexual orientation and gender identity demographic information, and utilizing those organizations trusted by the LGBTQ+ community.

Signed by well over 100 organizations located throughout the country, the letter concludes, “The undersigned organizations offer to stand shoulder to shoulder with the mainstream health leadership to make sure we learn from history and do not allow any population to be disproportionately impacted or further stigmatized by a virus.”

Despite Coronavirus, LGBTQ Voters Continue Historic High Turnout

trend: LGBTQ voters are fired up and turning out in record-high numbers. From New Hampshire and South Carolina to Texas and Illinois, LGBTQ voters have more than doubled — and in some cases tripled — their proportion in the voting population. Over the last two decades, our rights have been on the ballot, spurring LGBTQ people to register and participate in politics more than many other demographic groups. LGBTQ voters have consistently punched above their weight and solidified themselves as a constituency to court.

RI Pride Launches Drive to Aid LGBTQIA+ Rhode Islanders During Quarantine

Acting more out of a sense of urgency than inspiration, Rhode Island Pride launched a drive to help folks in need with food, toiletries, and more, in a response to the tremendous loss of income due to the Covid-19 virus and its quarantines. “So many of our community members are in service industry jobs,” said Pride member and Mr. Gay Rhode Island Bret Jacob, “they need help, just to lessen the anxiety they are feeling.”

After a careful study of feasibility and capacity, the drive used social media and email lists to ask for donated items and financial assistance. The Providence Journal helped by picking up the story. Volunteer shoppers spent cash donations on necessities to fill requests. As of March 29, they had helped more than 1,700 people and raised $9000, as well as taking donations of large amounts of food and other supplies. A bakery even sent boxes of pastries. The group says it is abiding by all safety, food handling, and social distancing recommendations.

Other volunteers were dispatched to deliver the food to needy residents. (The organization does not inquire as to the recipients’ orientation or identity before delivering.)

“There is no end in sight,” said Jacob, “but the way this community comes together to fill a need is inspiring.” Now, as a result of participating in a citywide conference call, the organization is considering continuing the drive beyond the need brought on by the coronavirus. They expressed surprise at how many other participants on the call were talking about their own needs and not the greater good.

Will they be able to meet the demand as the pandemic continues? “So far, so good, “said Jacob.

COVID-19 Affects Pride Celebrations

As the number of Pride festivals affected by COVID19 passed 100 on March 20, a new group was formed to coordinate the Pride movement’s overall responses at the international level. The new group met for the first time a few weeks ago, with colleagues from Germany, the UK and InterPride – the International Association of LGBTI Pride Organizers.

“As we face an unprecedented global threat, our Pride movement will come together to support each other and create community at a time when we need it most,” said InterPride Co-President Linda DeMarco, also of Boston Pride.

Pride Organizers Association, said: “Right now, we must all be focusing first on our own well-being and the welfare of those around us, but we are passionate about Pride and we will work together, and do all we can, to help Pride organizers get through this.

“Every Pride organizer in the world has a story of someone whose life was changed by coming to a Pride festival, a story of someone who for the first time felt love and a sense of community. It’s heart-breaking that so many people will miss out on that this year, but we’re determined that Pride will continue and will change many more lives in the future.”

Basic Needs for Youth Provided by Youth Pride, Inc.

n response to COVID-19, Youth Pride, Inc. (YPI) closed its drop-in programs in early March, though their Basic Needs Pantry remains operational by appointment only. Using premade bags for youth to take, the organization has provided enrolled youth with grains or pasta, canned vegetables and beans, and a few miscellaneous nonperishable food items. Submit your contact information and needs through YPI’s online form (forms.gle/ KQeu6YLPwjAhtZkv9), or email info@youthprideri.org and a staff member will contact you as soon as possible to make an appointment time for pick-up.

RI’s LGBTQ Nonprofits Collaborate on Coronavirus Response

by Jen Stevens

Leadership to raise LGBTQIA+ community awareness and resources during this pandemic. Options participated with representatives from Open Door Health, Thundermist Health Center, Interweave at Channing Church, Youth Pride Inc., PFLAG Greater Providence, and Rhode Island Legal Services, Inc. To summarize, all organizations remain operational and may be contacted for information and some services. (See their websites for details and updates.) Both health centers remain open as of March 30. Essentially all in-person events and support groups through April are cancelled or postponed (including the annual Born This Way Prom), though planning for the June 20 RI PrideFest continues.

RI Parents Call for Urgently Needed Comprehensive Parentage Law Reform

“When Eli was born,” said Dr. Sara Watson, who is legally married to his birth mother, “I had no presumed parental rights. Not one. I was not his birth parent and I wasn’t able to put my name on his birth certificate before we left the hospital.” This is just one of many powerful pieces of testimony heard at the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act (H7541) in January. Encouragingly, the Rhode Island Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill, S2136Aaa, on February 11. “I have the unique experience both of going through the drawnout, expensive, and invasive ‘second parent adoption’ process following my first child’s birth, and of being presumed the legal co-parent at my second child’s birth,” said Aarav Sundaresh. “I am transgender, and our first child was born before my gender transition. I am the same person, experiencing very different situations. The law needs to ensure equality for LGBTQ parents so they can establish their parentage like other families, including through a voluntary acknowledgement of parentage. All children – including children born through assisted reproduction – need a route to secure their parentage.” GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Polly Crozier provided testimony as a family lawyer. “I have seen children effectively kidnapped and separated from loving non-legal parents. I have seen non-biological parents run to court for protection so that their child doesn’t go into the foster care system. No child or parent should have to worry about the loss of this most precious and foundational relationship.”

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