St. Tammany Parish, LA.— The governing board of St. Tammany Parish Library is meeting one August evening in the squint-inducing fluorescence of council chambers. The agenda includes the summer reading program, the latest financial reports, and whether a young adult novel about two teenagers seeking to break a world record for kissing should remain on shelves. There has been a public complaint. “We’ll move on now to the statement of concern regarding the title Two Boys Kissing,” says Rebecca Taylor, board president of the library, which is in southeastern Louisiana. “As a reminder, your public comment must directly relate to this agenda item.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a lawsuit challenging Washington state's ban on the harmful practice of so-called "conversion therapy" for minors, a move welcomed by LGBTQ+ rights advocates. The nation's highest court rejected an appeal from Washington, where the 2018 law prohibiting therapists from attempting to change a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity has been upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Although right-wing Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas dissented, their votes fell one shy of the four needed to get the case on the court's shortlist for full review.
When teens and librarians planned a Drag Make-Up Hour at the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, MA (a small town about 25 miles north of Boston) they drew fury from a handful of right-wingers—and heartfelt support from the community, including dozens of union members from the North Shore Labor Council. Holding rainbow signs that read “North Shore Labor Council: Where No Worker and No Union Stands Alone,” they joined hundreds of others from LBGTQ+, faith, peace, and environmental communities. Altogether, more than 350 counter-protestors formed a “wall of love” outside the library at the May 2023 event, greatly outnumbering the 10 protestors who held signs reading “Make America Great Again: Vote Republican” and “Straight Pride.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a record-breaking military budget of $886 billion for the coming fiscal year. The National Defense Authorization Act was passed by lawmakers on July 14 by a slim margin of 219 to 210, with the majority of Democrats opposing it. However, the bill is unlikely to be approved in the Senate, as Republicans have introduced amendments that would restrict Pentagon funding to access abortions and prohibit gender-affirming medical care and hormone therapy for transgender personnel. In addition, the display of LGBTQIA2S+ Pride flags at military bases was banned. Rep. Greg Stanton from Arizona has pointed out that nearly 50% of women in the military do not have access to abortion care, largely due to state bans, making it difficult for them to obtain this necessary medical treatment.
Tallahassee, FL - On July 13 Tallahassee community organizers and experts gave presentations at the Mayor's LGBTQ+ Advisory Council at City Hall. The presentation's focus was the demand to transform Tallahassee into an LGBTQ sanctuary city. The Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), represented by its president, Delilah Pierre, and communications director, Regina Joseph, led the program. The presentation was created in response to the anti-LGBTQ policies enacted under Governor Ron DeSantis' administration. These laws include the anti-trans law that forces people to use the bathroom associated with their assigned sex at birth and the ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
A majority of workers at The Trevor Project, a widely-praised nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth, decided to come together this spring and unionize as Friends of Trevor United. About a month later, they celebrated when management at the nonprofit agreed to voluntarily recognize their union. The Trevor Project has grown exponentially over the past few years, leading to what one union organizer describes as difficult workloads for crisis counselors dealing with increasing numbers of distress calls. Amy Solar-Greco, an organizer with Communications Workers of America — the union representing Friends of Trevor United — says Trevor’s rapid growth was “unsustainable and burdensome” for employees who are tasked with “performing intense, highly stressful and lifesaving work.”
Students in the Boise School District have filed a federal lawsuit against Idaho school officials to keep them from enforcing a new law meant to prevent transgender students from using school restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Signed into law by Idaho Gov. Brad Little on March 22, Senate Bill 1100 requires that public schools maintain two separate multi-occupancy restrooms, showers, changing facilities and overnight accommodations for students based on their sex assigned at birth. The law took effect July 1. According to the law, “no person shall enter a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility that is designated for one sex unless such a person is a member of that sex.”
At any march for rights there’s no shortage of creative chants. This year in New York City at the annual Queer Liberation March, a new one debuted. Playing on the lyrics to RuPaul’s “Cover Girl,” queer rights activists chanted “Socialists, put that bass in your walk! Unionize, let the whole workplace drop!” This was one of several labor-themed chants from a Left and Labor contingent which formed to amplify a labor movement that increasingly represents the LGBTQ+ community and is organizing for LGBTQ+ rights. Left Voice, an all-volunteer socialist publication, initiated the contingent. Around two dozen unions and politically left organizations joined the initiative, endorsing it, bringing out their members and publicizing the march.
In addition to firings, Starbucks has leveraged its own benefits against LGBTQ+ workers. Starbucks has offered various types of coverage for gender-affirming health care procedures, which were then held hostage against workers after the launch of the union campaign. Many LGBTQ+ workers were told that if they voted for the union, they might lose their coverage — the implication being “vote no, or we take it away.” Many of these procedures can be lifesaving, and for Starbucks to hold them over trans workers’ heads is violent and coercive.
June is Pride Month, which celebrates and commemorates the struggles of LGBTQ+ people for freedom. It is held in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, several days of protests that began on June 28, 1969, and launched the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights. This June also marks the 80th anniversary of a remarkable strike at the giant R.J. Reynolds tobacco plant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which established Local 22 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural, and Allied Workers (FTA). One of those strikers, a sharecropper’s daughter named Moranda Smith, would be elected to the national union’s executive committee three and a half years later, making her the first Black woman in the national leadership of a U.S. union.
Louisiana just banned abortion at six weeks, before many people even know they’re pregnant, while also saying 16-year-old girls are mature enough to marry. Arkansas says there’s no need for employers to check the age of workers they hire. As one state legislator put it, “There’s no reason why anyone should get the government’s permission to get a job.” And Wisconsin says 14-year-olds, sure, can serve alcohol. Iowa says they can shift loads in freezers and meat coolers. Simultaneously and in the same country, we have a raft of legislation saying that young people should not be in charge of what they look at online. Bone saws: cool. TikTok: bad.
The violent anti-trans political landscape we’re currently experiencing is devastating. Cruelty weaponized by lawmakers, lack of health care access for trans people, fear mongering op-eds in mainstream newspapers and brutal assaults and homicides targeting trans people — especially Black trans women — are just some of the daily hazards of being trans. With the relentless persecution of the trans community and the bleak reality that trans people face staggering amounts of violence, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and despairing. How do activists committed to liberation maintain focus and dedication when threats are everywhere?
This Pride Month comes amid a rising wave of anti-trans policies across the country. Over 500 anti-trans bills have been proposed in the past year, state after state is banning gender affirming care for trans minors, and many are beginning to also severely limit it for trans adults. With the recent presidential announcement of Florida governor Ron DeSantis, it’s clear that these anti-trans politics aren’t going anywhere soon. Right-wingers are harassing and attacking queer people, corporations are abandoning even the most self-serving attempts at inclusion, and the response from the Biden Administration has been limited to paying the most insultingly insufficient lip service.
More than a thousand Chicagoans of all ages, genders and sexualities packed tightly into the Metro for its sold-out “Chicago Loves Drag!” show on April 14. The balconies overflowed with people dressed in exuberant color, eagerly peering over one another to get a view of the night’s 41 performers. Drag kings and queens made the room their own, claiming the audience’s full attention with lip syncs, comedy acts and dance routines, a radiant variety show highlighting the broad — and liberatory — entertainment that drag offers. Proceeds benefited the work of LGBTQ organizations in Chicago and Tennessee.
Several different legislative trackers have noted that, in the first five months of this year leading up to Pride Month, which began on June 1, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed in statehouses across the country, with dozens of them passing. A tracker managed by Erin Reed, a transgender journalist and activist who provides daily updates on LGBTQ-focused legislation (both negative and positive bills), found that more than 530 anti-LGBTQ bills have been drafted and proposed in state legislatures and in Congress. Of those bills, which were submitted between January 1 and May 31, 68 have been enacted into law, with only 122 officially failing so far.