Tuesday, March 19, 2019

An openly gay professional strongman marries his boyfriend

Rob Kearney and Joey Aleixo were married in Australia on Sunday, just days after Rob took first place at the Arnold Australia Pro Strongman sports festival. 

Rob made history by being the first openly gay competitor to take part in professional or international strongmen competitions back in 2014. He came out five years ago in a social media post announcing that Joey was his boyfriend at the time.

Following their wedding, Rob Instagrammed a photo with Joey at Half Moon Bay Beach in Australia and wrote: “So we did a thing. We didn’t tell many people, but on March 17, 2019 @worlds_gayest_strongman and I got MARRIED!! To call this man my husband is a dream come true and he is and always will be my soulmate. I am so excited to start this new journey as a married couple and my heart has never been so full of love 💙💙 #husbands”

Joey also wrote: “March 17th, 2019 is a day that i will never forget. Today is the day that I OFFICIALLY MARRIED MY BEST-FRIEND!"

Former California governor, movie star, and body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger also celebrated the wedding of Rob and Joey with an Instagram post showing the three men together. 

Congrats to the newlyweds!!!

Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote: "Congratulations guys. 
I was honored to celebrate with you"

Monday, March 18, 2019

The first pro-LGBT rights march unleashes bad reactions in Kyrgyzstan

What many consider the first gay-pride march ever held in Central Asia has unleashed a storm of controversy in the former Sovietic republic of Kyrgyzstan, with threats of violence against participants, counterprotests, and fiery parliamentary debate over whether to rein in civil society.

Last weekend, in what was believed to be one of the first public LGBT pride events in Central Asia, 400 people took part in a Women’s March in the capital, Bishkek. It included demands for LGBT rights.

But visibility has sparked an ugly backlash. Kyrgyz parliament deputy Jyldyz Musabekova wrote on Facebook: "The men who do not want to have children and the girls who do not want to pour tea…must not only be cursed, they must be beaten".

What’s more, during a fierce parliamentary debate she warned Kyrgyzstan could become ‘Gayistan’. Some members spoke out against Musabekova’s comments, but others echoed anti-LGBT comments saying the march had ‘disgraced’ Kyrgyzstan in front of its neighbors.

Kyrgyzstan is the only democracy and most-progressive country in Central Asia. But, Russia’s 2013 crackdown on its LGBT population and ongoing purge in Chechnya has increased homophobia in the region.

In 2014 and 2016, Kyrgyz Parliament attempted to pass 
proposals for a Russian-style anti-gay propaganda laws 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Giant Little Ones

Giant Little Ones is a Canadian drama film, directed by Keith Behrman and released in 2018. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello as the parents of a teenage boy played by Josh Wiggins, whose lives are upended after their son and a friend are involved in an incident at a party.

Ray Winter (Kyle MacLachlan) leaves his wife, Carly (Maria Bello), for another man. Ray's popular, athletic son, Franky (Josh Wiggins), refuses to talk to his father despite Ray's pleas.

The film begins some time later, as Franky is about to celebrate a birthday. His best friend, fellow swimmer Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann), pressures Franky to sleep with girlfriend Priscilla (Hailey Kittle) just as Ballas and his girlfriend, Jess (Kiandra Madeira), have done. 

After Franky's birthday party, a drunk Ballas attempts a homosexual act with an equally intoxicated Franky. Ballas is terrified that his actions have outed him, and he and his girlfriend begin to spread rumors that it is Franky who initiated the sex. 

When several members of the high school swim team bully Michael (Carson MacCormac), Franky stands up to his teammates and defends the shy, skinny boy, reinforcing the belief by most kids at the school that Franky is gay.

Franky begins to piece his life back together by befriending potentially transgender friend Mouse (Niamh Wilson). He also rekindles his friendship with Ballas' sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson), whom everyone (including Franky) ostracized some time ago as a "slut" after she had sex with another boy. 

Franky finds himself romantically involved with Natasha. He realizes that being pushed into a straight relationship is just as bad as being bullied for being gay, and that he should put off a serious relationship or sex until he's ready. The insight helps Franky come to terms with his father's homosexuality.

The film puts a complex and refreshingly nuanced spin on the traditional coming of age drama, further elevated by the admirable efforts of a talented cast. This is a confidently shot and beautifully acted story that manages to transcend quite a few of the coming-of-age genre’s cliches by delving into how the Millennial generation experiences sexuality, ostracism and growing up and how they try to relate to their parents and peers. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Gay singer stuns American Idol judges

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon did a lot of his singing while working as a janitor in his father’s church, but he stunned American Idol judges with a heavenly performance.

The gay son of a Catonsville pastor, Harmon was the last person to appear in front of Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan on the day he auditioned.

Perry, the daughter of evangelical Pentecostal pastors who has been open about her struggles with her religious upbringing, immediately related to Harmon as a fellow pastor’s kid and told him: “I feel you, I know you.”

Harmon then made his mark performing a song he wrote, “Almost Heaven,” sitting at the piano. In the audition tape, Harmon says the song is about questioning whether there is place in Heaven for someone like him. He also discussed realising he was gay at nine years old, and having to then come out to his religious family.

He said: “It wasn’t always easy growing up as a pastor’s kid. I can say that. I felt a sense of… there are certain parts of me that do belong and there are certain parts of me that don’t belong.” And he continued: “I first came out to my family three years ago. The consensus seemed to be that this is not a path that I should follow."

“There’s times when I do feel along. The hardest part for me is seeing how difficult it is for my family. I’m hopeful it’s an experience that we can learn to grow together.” As for his own religious views, he said: “All of my religion has been stripped down to I love you, no matter what.”

Harmon’s heartfelt performance made a positive impression on the judges. “You need to lose the broom my friend,” Richie told him.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Trump is ready to ban and kick out trans troops

Trump's administration is now ready to implement the transgender military ban.

A memo from the Department of Defense outlining how the ban will be put into effect. Under its terms, the military will discharge or deny enlistment to anyone who won’t serve in the gender to which they were assigned at birth, or who are undergoing hormone therapy or other gender-confirmation procedures.

The order says the military services must implement the new policy in 30 days, by April 12, giving some individuals a short window of time to qualify for gender transition if needed. 

Signed by David L. Norquist, who is serving as deputy defense secretary, the document appears to be largely in keeping with the memo prepared by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis last year and approved by the White House. It says service members can be discharged due to a diagnosis of gender dysphoria if they are “unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with his or her biological sex, or seeks transition to another gender.”

The Mattis memo came several months after Trump announced, via Twitter, his intention to bar transgender people from military service, reversing the Obama administration’s decision to allow trans people to serve openly. The Trump policy is the subject of four court challenges, and judges had issued injunctions in these lawsuits to block the policy from going into effect while the suits are heard. However, as of last week all these injunctions had been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ban’s implementation would mean the discharge of an estimated 13,700 transgender service members, the largest single layoff of trans people in history. And it would come despite testimony from service chiefs that they had seen no discipline, morale or unit readiness problems with transgender troops serving openly in the military.

Of course, LGBT rights groups and allies were quick to condemn the administration’s move.

Shame on you Trump!!

Monday, March 11, 2019

U.S. Women's National Team sues U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay

The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) sued U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) for “institutionalized gender discrimination.” Attorneys for the team cited the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when they filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The suit names all 28 members of the team as plaintiffs and because they seek class-action status, any one who played since February 2015 to join the civil action. This comes just three months before the team’s title defense at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

The lawsuit seeks an end to the USSF’s discriminatory practices, and financial damages in order to address the pay gap for USWNT players, as well as liquidated and punitive damages and all other appropriate relief

The players said: ”The USSF discriminates against plaintiffs, and the class that they seek to represent, by paying them less than members of the MNT [men’s national team] for substantially equal work and by denying them at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their games; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment equal to the MNT.”

”Despite gains achieved by the 2017 collective bargaining agreement between the USWNT players association and the USSF, the USSF’s ongoing policies and practices of systemic gender discrimination also extend beyond pay and into nearly every aspect of players’ work conditions. This includes playing, training, and travel conditions; promotion of games; staffing including coaching, medical personnel and training, and operations; support and development for games and other terms and conditions of employment that are less favorable for female players than their male counterparts," they added.

The U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association released a statement in support of the USWNT:

”The United States National Soccer Team Players Association fully supports the efforts of the U.S. Women’s National Team Players to achieve equal pay,” the statement said. “Specifically, we are committed to the concept of a revenue-sharing model to address the U.S. Soccer Federation’s ‘market realities’ and find a way towards fair compensation.

”An equal division of revenue attributable to the MNT and WNT programs is our primary pursuit as we engage with the US Soccer Federation in collective bargaining. Our collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of 2018 and we have already raised an equal division of attributable revenue. We wait on US Soccer to respond to both players associations with a way to move forward with fair and equal compensation for all US Soccer players."

Equality now!!!

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team has won three world cups

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Equality Act will be introduced in U.S. Congress next week

The Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBT discrimination nationwide in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas, will be introduced in Congress next week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“Next week, will be launching our Equality Act to end discrimination for the LGBT community,” the Democrat said. The Equality Act, which stalled in the two previous sessions of Congress, is the much broader successor to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that never passed the House and Senate in the same session.

While the exact wording of the 2019 version of the Equality Act has not yet been released, in previous versions it sought to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs, and credit.

It would also ban sex discrimination in public accommodations and update the definition of public accommodations to include retailers, banks, transportation, and health care services, and assure that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could not be used to condone anti-LGBT discrimination.

Pelosi did not say when the Equality Act would come up for a vote in the House of Representatives, but she was sure the Democratic-controlled chamber would pass it. The Senate has a Republican majority, making approval less likely there, but Pelosi remained optimistic.

“As we go along, it’s the tempo of the floor, but it is a priority for us,” she told. “I’m very pleased because we have a great deal of outside support for it, which I hope will help us pass it in the Senate. We most certainly will pass it overwhelmingly in the House,” she added.

A survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority of people in the U.S. support the idea of an Equality Act.

LGBT Equality Act back to U.S. Congress

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Gay student wins lawsuit against pizzeria who denied him service in Jerusalem

A gay student in Jerusalem won his lawsuit against a pizzeria who refused to serve him.

Sammy Kanter, currently studying at Hebrew Union College in Jersusalem, sued a local pizzeria in October 2018. He alleged they refused to serve him due to his sexuality.

Kanter was in the city a day after Jerusalem Pride in August. He was wearing a t-shirt with rainbow letters spelling out ‘Cincy’. The shirt was from his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

He and some friends went into Ben Yehuda 2 pizzeria when the alleged discrimination took place. He wrote in a Facebook post: "Today, for the first time in my life, I was denied service at a pizza store for being who I am (in Jerusalem). I walked in with the shirt below, and the guy behind the counter said "Atah Homo (are you gay)?" I said yes. He said "out" and pointed at the door. My jaw dropped, and he instructed my classmates and I to leave."

A claims court judge found in favor of Kanter, and now the pizzeria needs to pay nearly $5,000 in damages to him. 

Israel is considered the most progressive country in the Middle East regarding LGBT rights, though they still don’t legally allow things like same-sex marriage.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Russia disregards OSCE recommendations on alleged human rights violation in Chechnya

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) report on alleged human rights violations and impunity in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, issued in December 2018, explicitly stated that the allegations of "very serious human rights violations in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation have been found confirmed". Despite the undoubful evidence for crimes, Russian authorities continue giving no adequate response to these atrocitis and refuse to protect its citizens from severe persecution on grounds of sexual orientation in Chechnya.

On January 29, 2019, Igor Kochetkov filed a report to the Investigative Committee on the renewal of mass illegal detentions and sophisticated tortures organized by police within the state-sponsored campaign against people who are, or percieved to be LGBI. Recently he received a reply from the Central Investigation Department of the North Caucasus District, notifiyng that the case was delivered to the Head of the Investigation Department in Chechnya for cosideration. Technically this means that the perpetrators should now investigate again whether or not they were participating in persecution.

According to the facts established by the Russian LGBT Network, in the end of December 2018 - January 2019, at least 40 people were detained by police in Chechnya on grounds of homosexuality, 14 of them were held hostage in the same law-enforcement facility (Zavodskoye RUVD) among them was Beckham Usupov, whose name was in the list of missing persons, also reported to the Investigative Committee.

In view of the shortcomings of the pre-investigation procedure led by the regional Committee on Investigation, Russian LGBT Network many times argued that such redirection eliminates justice for the survivors: it prevents fair investigation and trial, and should not be taken as a measure to examine the situation.

The OSCE report under the Moscow Mechanism also articulated it as the obstacle on the way to proper and transparent examination of the facts of persecution and issued a recommendation to the Russian Investigation, urging to assure that the "pre-investigation in politically sensitive cases in the Chechen Republic should be led by investigators from the federal and not the regional level".

Considering that this was ignored, we conclude that Russian authorities has no intention to follow the recommendations prepared as a result of analysis under the auspicies of the OSCE to ensure effective investigation of crimes. The government deliberatly deprives its citizens from enjoing their right on access to justice and connives at severe human rights violation committed on its land in Chechnya.

Kadyrov, Chechnya's president, has the support of Putin

Monday, March 4, 2019

Canada, Portugal and Sweden share the 1st place of Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2019

The friendliest countries for LGBT travellers are Canada, Portugal and Sweden, according to Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2019, a gay travel index released earlier this week. The index ranked 197 countries based on 14 criteria in three categories. 

The first category consists of civil rights. Among other things, it assesses whether gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, whether anti-discrimination laws exist or whether the age of consent is the same for heterosexual and homosexual couples. Discrimination is included in the second category. These include, for example, travel restrictions for HIV-positive persons and the prohibition of Pride parades and other demonstrations. The third category includes threats to the person through persecution, imprisonment or death penalty.

Three countries tied for first place while 13 countries, almost all in Europe, tied for fourth place. The countries are: Austria, Belgium,  Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Reunion, Spain and United Kingdom.

However, the US failed to make the top 45, instead sharing 47th place. The index pointed to President Trump’s ‘attempts to curtail transgender rights in the military’ for the decline. It ranked with: Bermuda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Macao, Seychelles and Thailand.

Out of 197 countries ranked, Chechnya is bottom. The country is involved in ‘state-organized persecution and killings of homosexuals.’ Furthermore, rounding out the bottom five were: Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Yemen.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Australian scientists light up telescope in rainbow colors for Pride

Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) has lit up its famous Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope in rainbow colors for Pride.

The ASKAP is the world’s fastest survey radio telescope. Its 36 antennas are located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), approximately 800km north of Perth. Six of the 36 12-meter wide dish antennas had a rainbow makeover in time for Sydney Mardi Gras.

The location is ideal for listening to faint ‘whispers’ from space. Its low levels of radio-frequency interference and sophisticated on-site infrastructure are essential for exploring the origins of the universe.

50 CSIRO staff will also march in the parade on 2 March. They will be holding a giant double helix (DNA), celebrating the organization’s commitment to diversity.

"We really value the diversity of our people, and how they bring different perspectives to innovate and shape the future for everyone," Sarah Pearce said. Pearce is Deputy Director of CSIRO. She also is an ally of the LGBT community.

"Diversity is in our DNA, and our LGBT community is part of that DNA. In fact, a research says people who work in an inclusive team are nine times more likely to innovate, and ten times more likely to be highly effective than workers in non-inclusive teams," she added.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The cost of treating transgender troops is insignificant

USA Today published data about the cost of treating transgender troops allegedly obtained from the Pentagon.

According to the outlet, there are around approximately 1,500 transgender troops across US military service, comprising a tiny fraction of the total 2.1 million military personnel.

In the active-duty forces, there are 500 transgender troops in the Army, 442 in the Navy, 354 in the Air Force, 101 in the Marine Corps, and 33 in the Coast Guard, USA Today said.

Despite Donald Trump’s reported rage at transgender soldiers getting “clipped” before announcing the ban, USA Today‘s report claims just 17 genital surgery procedures have been performed since 2016, alongside 37 hysterectomies, four breast augmentations and 103 breast reductions.

The alleged Pentagon data shows that since 2016, just $2 million was spent on surgery for transgender troops. Transgender troops also had a total of 22,992 psychotherapy visits and received 9,321 prescriptions for hormones over the period, bringing the total cost of their specific healthcare needed nearly $8 million in three years.

The total cost of treating transgender troops over three years amounts to less than 0.001 percent of the military’s 2019 budget of $716 billion.