#Transgender

Exclusive: Burgeoning Trans Rapper Braydbunch on Her Booming Career

Groundbreaking people are often seen as ones who are needed to keep the industry they are in on their toes. Trans rapper Braydbunch is setting out to be that shape shifter in the music world in 2019 and beyond as their lyricism, beats and who they identify as has never really been seen before in an arena that is constantly changing.

Braydbunch has done a phenomenal job at developing a major online presence due to her songs that have already racked up millions of views like "Deaf to the Hate" and "BANG!" She's giving the industry a major wake up call, one that appears to be needed given just how boring and redundant the hip-hop world has become lately.

The most important aspect of Braydbunch is the sense that she is doing all of this unapologetically. Getting to the place that she is now has not been easy, with the backlash of her transition and more, but she's doing this not only for her community but the bevy of kids she teaches in New York City. 

Braydbunch sat down with me to discuss all of that and more in a truly eye-opening interview earlier this week. Check it out.

Do you feel as if you are breaking ground in the music scene due to how you identify?

Without a doubt. I think my transgender identity works both for me and against me in many ways. Overall, being transgender is usually a disadvantage for me in the current world we live in. After transition, many of the privileges I had as a white male were ripped out from underneath me. For example, I went from quickly climbing up the ladder as a man in the school system, to having my reputation smeared, was physically assaulted multiple times in the work place and nearly had my career unfairly ruined by supervisors who were transphobic and did not want a transgender teacher in the public school system. However, I used all the hate directed at me to light a fire and did not allow others to unfairly end my career due to my LGBT status.

I held onto receipts, covered my ass and worked harder than ever to prove myself in a work environment that did not want me there. The road has been a long one, but I like to think I came out on top and proved all my haters wrong. However, I know my case is currently being investigated by the EEOC who I hope does the right thing and holds those who did me wrong accountable for breaking laws. However, I currently teach in one of the greatest city schools in the country, much due to my passion for teaching. I also think that my trans status makes people talk more about me than the typical rapper trying to make it in the hip hop game. Some of the talk is positive and others are clearly hating, I am not going to lie, people love to hate on me for being both white and transgender in the hip hop world. In a way, I know I need to try harder than most to prove myself to the world as a rapper.

However, my experiences make me more unique than the typical SoundCloud mumble rapper rising to fame these days. I have things to talk about that others haven't experienced. I offer a different perspective of the world through my music. However, I'm getting better by the day and the haters are slowly getting quieter and quieter. Especially as my download and play counts increase worldwide. People can hate all they want but you can't hate on statistics. I am currently the biggest transgender rapper in the game. I also have built this following all through myself. I don't have a promo team or giant label behind me. Much like Tekashi 6ix9ine, I am building an empire all by myself one day at a time. This is just the beginning for me, and I am touched with the support I have received from my fans. I am definitely going to use my transgender status to help me gain attention, but overall I want to become so good that eventually that will be the last thing people remember about me. 

What made you want to get into the world of hip hop seeing as your day job is much different?

Well, I have always loved music, particularly hip hop. I won my first official rap battle when I was in 8th grade. However, I also tried to be a Rockstar when I was younger. When I was in high school, I had many failed attempts at forming musical groups, such as my high school band The Sophmorons. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that most people weren't as hungry as I was. I couldn't rely on anyone who was as passionate as I was when I was younger, so most of my musical projects ended up hitting a dead end. However, I never gave up on the dream of being a superstar one day. 

You see, a large theme of my early life was always being told that I couldn't accomplish certain things by others. Others were always crushing my dreams and sadly the younger me was more susceptible to the opinions of others. I always had dreams, such as living my life authentically as a trans woman. I reached a point in my life where I felt like I wasn't living my life and decided that I needed to reclaim my time. I decided to focus on myself before everyone else for once. I made a conscious decision to chase down all my dreams that nearly escaped me. I now am making them all happen. I got married to a beautiful woman that I loved with all my heart, I work as an openly transgender high school teacher in NYC and am now starting to make a name for myself in the rap game. 

However, the real reason I decided to give this a shot is due to David Bowie, believe it or not. Last spring, I was going through a rough time in my life. I was going through a divorce and felt like I was all alone in this world. Writing poetry and listening to music helped heal my damaged soul during this dark time in my life. By chance an old friend happened to contact me while they were visiting NYC for the week. They invited me to the David Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know at the time, but I was going to leave changed forever.

I swear, I feel as if I got more out of that exhibit than anyone else on the planet. I left feeling inspired, almost possessed by Bowie himself. From the fashion, to the music, to the lyrics, to his personal story it all was so relatable to me. He was so ahead of his time in many ways. He blurred the lines of gender and sexuality in the most beautiful way. He also surrounded himself with others who were so talented that he could grow off. Most importantly, he did not try to fit into anyone’s boxes. He lived life how he wanted to. I left that exhibit and never looked back. I no longer was going to try to appease anyone in life with my lifestyle choices. I was just going to be unapologetically me. I went home that night and recorded my first mixtape over the rest of spring break. Were my songs good? Most were horrible to tell the truth. However, like a sport, I knew with practice I would just get better and better. Even Michael Jordan had to start somewhere.

I returned to school from break and informed my students that their next project was going to be to make a historically based mixtape. I was quickly nicknamed Shady Brady by one of my students and the rest is now history. 

 How do your students support you in the process?

At first, many of my students laughed at the idea of a transgender rapper. I was told that I would never make it. I even had some kids challenge me to some rap battles. To be honest I caught a lot of hate from the kids early on. NYC high school kids can be very honest and open. My early stuff wasn't too hot. However, it became clear to me that I was getting better when I released the song “Best Men” online and on Spotify. It was a song I wrote from the heart about the best man at my wedding, who told me I couldn't be part of his wedding party unless I presented as a man. There is more to the story, but this burned my soul. What amazed me was the fact that kids were singing the song on their own in classes. They were sharing it with friends and memorizing the lyrics. Suddenly, kids were coming to me for help with their own music. 

When this current school year started, I realized that many kids had a strong passion for hip hop just like I did. I decided to start an after-school program for beat making and rapping. What started with just a few kids has now turned into one of the largest programs in the school. I have a real producer come in twice a week to help me teach these kids how to make beats and record their own songs. This producer works with some of the biggest artists in the rap game himself. I have even put my own money into getting them the equipment they need to start their own studio at the school. The club has become so successful that I even have former students who are in college showing up to help and participate. Even crazier is the fact that high school kids from other schools are showing up too. Many of my students are now putting on their own live shows and building up large followings online themselves. Students are even popping in to my room during lunch so I can help them with their own songs and beats that they are working on.  I am proud to say that many of them are now talking about going to school for music production when they graduate.

These kids are so talented and have really helped me with my own music making process. They have exposed me to artists I have never heard of and will give me honest feedback on my flow, beats and lyrics. These kids have helped turn me into both a better artist and teacher. 

The most amazing part of all of this is the fact that music brought us all together. Many of these kids never actually knew a transgender person before meeting me. Some of them have shared with me that I have made them look at transgender people in a completely different light. One student told me that he hated LGBTQ people until he got to know me in my hip hop club. He now even hangs out with a trans kid who shows up to my club sometimes. The fact that these students accept me is hard to believe sometimes. Especially because I used to work in schools where I was physically attacked for being transgender in the past.

Would you like to make music your full-time gig?

Yes, I would. However, I would love to be able to keep teaching as well. I dream of a large international tour one day. Maybe I can time my tour dates with my breaks as a teacher. In all seriousness though, I have started my own recording studio known as Braydbunch Studios. The studio is still under construction but should be fully up and running by this summer. 

Although I love the idea that some labels have reached out to me already, if I get signed it would have to be to the right label. I'd love to get signed to A Boogies' label, Queens Bridge the Label. However, I also am thinking of starting my own label much like him and his crew did. I know enough talent to start one and believe that I really am going to slowly take over the New York hip hop scene. Considering I have my own studio, I may just have to make it happen. Much like 6ix9ine, I would love to pave my own road to success. However, I know that getting signed to a major label could only open many doors that I currently do not have access to. I would also love to have the money behind me to expand my reach. 

You just passed half a million views on your song "Deaf to the Hate". How did it feel to reach that milestone?

Although it feels amazing, I know this is just the beginning. I am currently working on finishing a music video for a song that I believe is going to be a true hit. One of the record labels that helped 6ix9ine blow up is planning on releasing my next single and video on their end. I believe that I will pass a million views in no time. In fact, I am all about progress so I know that I am going to release a couple of videos that will easily pass a million views. 

Furthermore, I am more excited about the success of my recent mixtape that I have been sharing on my SoundCloud. If anyone hasn't heard it yet, you are missing out and should give it a try at www.soundcloud.com/braydbunch. My current single “Why You So Mad Bro?” Feat. Xhristian!, Shandrika and Young the Third (Prod. LeftyLouC) has almost 300k plays in less than two weeks. “The Heart Bursts” FEAT. Xhristian! x Sxlitary x Stezie (Prod LeftyLouC) has well over 300k plays in a little more than two weeks and other songs from The Shady Brady MixTape are doing just as well if not better. I even have around 40 k followers on SoundCloud which I believe will only increase in time. 

It also blows my mind that “Deaf to the Hate” has been Shazam’d over 20k times. Many mainstream artists have smaller numbers than I do.

Lastly, I am proud of the fact that I have around 1 million streams on Spotify in less than a year. My monthly listener count is around 40k people each month as well. This is amazing considering I am an independent transgender artist. Even better is the fact that most of my good stuff hasn't even been released on their yet. I have millions of streams worldwide on other streaming platforms at well. I hope to just increase my following each month from here on out. 

Speaking of "hate", how do you silence them in such a politically-charged time?

Well, the lyrics to my song “Deaf to the Hate” are pretty much it. I block them out and don't listen. I keep my eye on the prize. I will never make everyone happy and am used to the hate from both the cisgender and transgender community. In fact, some of the most hate comes from the transgender community itself. This is one of the reasons I have embraced the non-binary movement. I refuse to squeeze into anyone’s boxes. I've been told how to act as a trans woman from both cisgender people and transgender people who had no right to tell me how to live my life. Just like I block out the "Transplainers", I try my best to block out the haters.

All the hate I receive just makes me stronger. I know that each time I release a better song or video, that I will silence some of these haters as I already have some. Others will continue to hate on me, but as say in my song, that's just a sign "that the games about to me mine."

Furthermore, as a transgender woman. I have seen true hate up close and personal many times. I even had my own aunt & uncle disinvite themselves from my wedding when they found out about my transition. They even took me out of their wills and left all their inheritance to my two sisters, one who is even a lesbian. I know there are certain people out there who hate me simply for being trans. I'd say that is more their problem than mine. I keep my circle small these days and only let in people I truly trust. I lost most of "closest" friends and family after I transitioned. I am used to the hate and it only makes me stronger.

What does the future hold for your budding career in 2019 and beyond?

2019 is going to be my year, I can just feel it. I am excited for Braydbunch Studios to be up and running this summer. I can't wait to release my next single because I know it is going to be a hit. A leaked clip of the song went viral in NYC on both Snapchat and Instagram with hundreds of thousands seeing it in a day. My Instagram just seems to grow each day. It seems everyone wants to learn more about Braydbunch these days.

I also think my success comes from believing in myself. I know I am special. I know I will be a star. I know I will be signed to a label or will start my own. I will continue to grow in popularity. I will get the Instagram blue badge lol. Most importantly though is the large show I have planned for this summer. I have done a few local small shows in Brooklyn that have been amazing. However, I am almost done securing the location to my first large Brooklyn based show this summer. Tickets should be announced shortly, and it is going to be EPIC, I promise. After that, I plan on trying to do a small American and Canadian Tour. I have a large following in Canada and want to possibly perform some shows in Montreal or Toronto this summer as well. 

I am also finishing up my first official EP that I hope to release by April. I know the world is going to love it.

I also am curious to see if the EEOC does the right thing with my claims. If not, I may have to decide whether to take my case to Federal Court to fight for trans rights. 

Lastly, I hope to find true love this year. Video models are fun and all, but I want something real. Need to find my queen so we can build an empire together like Jay-Z and Beyonce

For more information on Braydbunch, check out their official Instagram

 

Utah Lawmakers Want to Make it Impossible to Correct Gender Markers

House Bill 153, a new bill in Utah that will be in consideration for the legislative session next week, will potentially prevent transgender and intersex people from correcting their gender identity on identification cards, according to the Advocate.

The bill states that females have ovaries and "anatomical characteristics that appear to have the purpose... of providing eggs and receiving sperm from a male donor" and males have testes and the reproductive function of producing and delivering sperm to females. While this is technically true in terms of sex, gender and sex are separate entities. 

Merrill Nelson, a Republican politician said that the bill is not motivated by "phobia" or "hate," but instead a way to "maintain the integrity of the birth certificate." However, Nelson works for a law firm that represents the Mormon church that I've recently written about.  He also said that gender is much like race in that it is innate and immutable personal characteristic. Ralph Okerlund, the politician sponsoring the bill, said, “What is a physical fact at birth, gender, is put on the birth certificate and should stay at all times of life.” This ignores the fact that some people's gender identity doesn't match their biological sex.

LGBT activists say that this bill unconstitutional and discriminatory, as the definitions of gender in the bill are problematic and that many feel that the Supreme Court should not have the authority to approve gender changes on birth certificates. 

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said that the bill is also transphobic because Nelson hasn't made much effort to actually to get to know any transgender people and the unique struggles they face. 

I don't fully understand how transgender and intersex people correcting their gender markers on birth certificates or other identifiers is anyone's business other than the people correcting it, so it doesn't make sense to me why people would try to legislate something like this. However, with the influx of anti-gay and anti-trans bills and laws in the United States, anything may happen. 

Hopefully people will realize that this will only hurt people and not get this bill passed.


h/t: The Advocate

Japan's Supreme Court Ruled That Trans People Should Still Get Sterilized

Japan’s Supreme Court is not budging on the mistreatment of trans people.

According to Japan Today, the Supreme Court of Japan released a ruling on Thursday (January 24) stating the current law concerning transgender people needing to be sterilized will stay.

The No. 111 law from 2003 says that transgender citizens will need to be diagnosed with gender identity disorder. The person also has to be at least 20-years-old, unmarried, without any underage children, and not have a body that is “endowed with genitalia that closely resemble the physical form of an alternative gender.”

Related Post: French Alters Sterilization Policy For Transgender People (October 17, 2016)

After all of that, they then must be sterilized before they can change their gender on official records.

With the unanimous ruling, the court admitted that doubts were developing over the law, but stated that it remains constitutional. The original appeal was filed by Takakito Usui, a transgender man who wants to change his documents that currently identify him as a woman.

The four Supreme Court justices say that despite doubts, the measure was made to prevent “problems” with parent-child relations and society changes.

The court celebrated the community’s interest in having the law looked at as laws should be updated according to society’s and the family unit’s changing values.

That said, many LGBTQ advocates are expressing displeasure with the recent court ruling.

"In this day and age, I can't believe there is a law that requires people to have surgery," said Tomoyasu Oyama, Takakito’s lawyer, to AFP.

"We have been at this case for two years. And every month, every six months, we can see an improved understanding of the issue by society," Oyama said.

h/t: Japan Today

SCOTUS Rules Trump Anti-Transgender Military Policy Can Take Effect Immediately

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down orders that allow Donald Trump’s ban of transgender military service members to go into effect immediately while appeals work their way through the lower courts, according to The New York Times.

The high court issued a brief, unsigned order this morning saying SCOTUS had lifted the injunctions that, until now, blocked the anti-trans policy.

The vote was 5-4 with Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen dissenting.

This morning’s orders stay the injunctions initially issued by Federal District Court judges in Washington State (Trump v. Karnoski) and California (Trump v Stockman), both in the Ninth Circuit.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had previously vacated a third injunction on January 4.

For the time being, current trans soldiers will not be booted out immediately.

The policy, as tweaked by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, allows transgender service members who are already serving openly to continue to do so and to receive transition-related care.

 

 

In July of 2017, President Trump surprised American military leaders and the world when he announced his plan to ban trans military service members after “consultation with my Generals and military experts” due to the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender service members. 

At the time of Trump's announcement, Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland (pictured above) told Air Force News, “I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military.”

“You are not going to deny me my right to serve my country when I am fully qualified and able and willing to give my life," he added.

The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a statement saying there is ‘no medically valid reason’ for banning transgender people from serving in the United States military, but all four service chiefs (Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force) have testified they’ve seen no negative effects from transgender military personnel serving the country they love.

According to a 2016 RAND Corporation study, there are an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender individuals out of the 1.3 million service members on active duty.

From The New York Times:

The policy, announced on Twitter by President Trump and refined by the defense secretary at the time, Jim Mattis, generally prohibits people identifying with a gender different from their biological sex from military service. It makes exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly and for those willing to serve “in their biological sex.”

 

Lambda Legal, which along with OutServe-SLDN, filed the lawsuit Trump v. Karnoski, issued this statement:

 

“The Supreme Court’s decisions today are perplexing to say the least: on the one hand denying the Trump administration’s premature request for review of lower court rulings before appellate courts have ruled and rebuffing the administration’s attempt to skirt established rules; and yet on the other allowing the administration to begin to discriminate, at least for now, as the litigation plays out,” Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn said.

“For more than 30 months, transgender troops have been serving our country openly with valor and distinction, but now the rug has been ripped out from under them, once again. We will redouble our efforts to send this discriminatory ban to the trash heap of history where it belongs.”

(h/t The New York Times)

Transgender Patron Wins In Washington DC Bathroom Complaint

During a visit last summer to Cuba Libre, a popular Washington DC bar and restaurant, Charlotte Clymer was stopped as she attempted to use the women restroom by an employee.

The employee demanded to see the transgender woman’s ID claiming the restaurant ‘required’ her to show legal identification to prove she was female.

Clymer, who was at the venue celebrating a friend’s bachelorette party, dismissed the employee and entered the ladies room. According to the Washington Blade, the employee didn’t ask anyone else for identification.

After entering a stall to do her business, Clymer heard the man walk into the bathroom in an attempt to search for her.

“I go into a stall to do my business and I hear him walk in and search for me in this busy restroom full of women,” Clymer shared on her Facebook. “He is doing everything but opening the stall doors. I ignore him, and after a few minutes, he leaves. I do my business, wash my hands, and walk out.”

“On the other side of the door are the attendant and the manager, who says it’s D.C. law that you must have ‘female’ on your ID to use the women’s restroom,” added Clymer. “I tell him he’s wrong and there’s no chance I’m showing him my ID.”

This is where it’s important to note that Clymer works with the Human Rights Campaign, and if anyone knows the law on transgender protections, it’s Clymer. 

In fact, she pulled up the DC Human Rights Act on her phone and showed the manager the ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression in regard to housing, employment and (ahem) public accommodations.

After the manager, who Clymer described as “condescending and dismissive,”  threatened to call the police, she was eventually ejected from the restaurant.

Standing outside the restaurant, an angry Clymer called the police herself. According to the Washington Post, the officers showed up and reassured her the law was on her side.

Eventually, Clymer filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights, and the DC Attorney General's office launched an investigation as well.

As a result of her complaint, the owner of Cuba Libre has apologized and been ordered to pay a $7,000 fine for violating the Human Rights Act. Additionally, the settlement with the Attorney General calls for the restaurant to “institute policies on civil rights compliance and training.”

Plus, signage is now required in the establishment that states the local ordinance that “all individuals are allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity or expression.”

For her part, Clymer Clymer told the Washington Blade that she’s pleased with the outcome.

“I am quite grateful for the work of Attorney General Racine and his staff to ensure that discrimination has no place in D.C., and I am thankful that Cuba Libre and CEO Barry Gutin have worked in good faith since the fall to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Clymer said.

“All parties worked together to make sure a terrible night was turned into a great teaching moment, which was built on the history of advocacy by trans folks in D.C., particularly trans women of color,” she added.

(h/t Washington Blade)

Former Soldier from Texas Accused of Murdering Trans Woman

Anthony Michael Bowden, a former Fort Bliss soldier, was tried and convicted of murder of a transgender woman, according to El Paso Times.

Bowden, who was recently found guilty of murder, stabbed 36-year-old trans woman Erykah Tijerina twenty-four times at the Rio Grande Government Apartment Complex in Texas with a chisel in 2016. He claims that this was done in self defense because he says that she raped him and was planning on blackmailing him. Erykah did in fact have a history of blackmailing her clients, but that is hardly any reason to kill her.

Erykah Tijerina, born Eric Tijerina, worked as a prostitute and identified as a transgender woman. The prosecutor referred to her as Erykah, while the defense team referred to her as Eric.

According to the defense, Erykah threatened to tell military personnel that Bowden had slept with a transgender woman and that he was her pimp. 

One of the defense lawyers, William Ahee, said “On Aug. 8, 2016, Eric threatened Anthony Michael Bowden,” Ahee said in his closing arguments. “She blackmailed him. He went to the apartment, and Eric started undressing him (Bowden). He (Tijerina) threatened him. He (Bowden) feared he was going to be raped again. He went to his car, got the chisel. Eric threatened him, and he (Bowden) had the right to defend himself.” 

That's a lot of misgendering.

Anyway, the prosecutors told the court that Bowden repeatedly lied during the trial and went to Tijerina's apartment with then intent to kill her and that he was never raped. Additionally, it was found that Bowden used Craigslist to solicit sex from Tijerina and after meeting with her in August 8th, he said that he was going to his car to get money to pay her but instead returned with a chisel and stabbed her to death.

Denise Butterworth, a state prosecutor, told the court that in order for the self defense claim to hold any water, there needed to be an imminent threat. The fact that Bowden left the apartment to go to his car to get the chisel shows that he could have left at any time and, as such, proves that he was not in any danger.

After hearing the verdict Bowden had no reaction, while his family wept. 

Blackmail is never a good thing but it's also not a good reason to murder someone and his claim of self defense was clearly a lie. I don't know if it was shock or apathy, but him not having a reaction to his verdict does not sit well with me. Now, did he kill Erykah because she was transgender or because he was embarrassed by wanting to have sex with a transgender woman? Either way, he shouldn't have done it.


h/t: El Paso Times.

Women's Shelter In Alaska Is Suing To Turn Away Homeless Trans Women In Freezing Weather

Virulently anti-LGBTQ legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, is representing a ‘Christian’ women’s shelter that is suing to deny transgender women shelter from the freezing winter cold.

The conservative law firm, which represented Colorado baker Jack Phillips in his fight to deny services to gay people, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the ironically named Downtown Hope Center against the city of Anchorage, Alaska, to deny services to transgender women.

The issue arises from an incident that occurred in January 2018, when a transgender woman was turned away from the shelter, according to local news station KTUU.

Downtown Hope Center says the woman, identified in court papers as “Jessie Doe,” was denied shelter because she was allegedly inebriated. The shelter claims she was put into a taxi and sent to a hospital for treatment for a cut on her forehead.

But the same woman showed up the next day and again was turned away.

The average temperature in Anchorage at night during January is 9 degrees.

In September 2015, the Anchorage Assembly passed AO-09, a city ordinance which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The ordinance added protections to Anchorage’s equal rights laws for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people in housing, employment and public accommodations and includes exemptions for religious groups and those with ministerial duties.

In a press release, ADF asserts the ordinance exempts homeless shelters like the Hope Center. ADF attorney Ryan Tucker told U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason that the homeless women in the shelter would “rather sleep in the woods” than spend a night in a shelter with a transgender woman.

In a further slap to trans women, the ADF also says that because many of the women at the shelter have been battered or sexually abused by men, they shouldn’t have to sleep in proximity to ‘men.’ ADF calls the idea of trans women sleeping in the shelter ‘dangerous.’

But the Southern Poverty Law Center disagrees.

“There is simply no evidence that transgender people are more of a threat to anyone whether that be in bathrooms, locker rooms or homeless shelters,” David Dinielli, Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told KTUU. “In fact we know transgender people are among the most, if not the most likely to be targeted for abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse."

It’s worth noting that the Hope Center receives some of its operating funds from public tax payer monies via a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The ADF, which has represented so-called ‘religious freedoms’ lawsuits in more than a dozen states, has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group which works to push trans people “back into the shadows.”

 

(h/t KTUU, FriendlyAtheist - Image by Eric Ward via Unsplash)

EXCLUSIVE! Gia Gunn Talks Transitioning, All Stars 4 and Finding Love

I am a firm believer that season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race remains their best yet (outside of All Stars).  Chicago’s very own Gia Gunn was a big part in making her season so much fun to watch, even though she didn’t make it too far as the season went on.

Regardless, she became one of the most talked about queens that year due to her catchphrases like “ABSOLUTELYYYYYY” and “let me feel my oats,” not to mention her bold and brash personality that was seen during the episodes and on Untucked.

Gia became known for so much more after season 6 was over with, as she proved to be more than just a GIF or meme-worthy queen with her brave admission that she herself is trans. It’s something that some other queens have been able to discuss after their initial season, and Gia opening about her transition and how it changed her life has only opened yet another door for inclusivity and acceptance when it comes to the T in LGBTQ.

She re-emerged in the Drag Race scene at the end of 2018 on All Stars 4, where she made it to 8th place amid a very competitive group of queens. Gia also became the first openly trans queen to compete on The Emmy-winning show, which broke ground with how millions of people typically view drag and all that goes with it.

I spoke with Gia about her AS4 experience, transitioning, finding love and so much more. Take a look.


INSTINCT: How did it feel to be the first openly trans queen competing on RuPaul's Drag Race?

GIA GUNN: It first and foremost is an honor to be the first openly trans woman on Drag Race.  But with that sense of reward also comes a great amount of pressure.  I have gained responsibility to not only make sure I am representing my community as a whole and being mindful that everyone's journey is completely different but also staying true to myself.  I can only hope that my participation can lead to greater things for other trans individuals and open doors for more opportunities to arise.

Do you think that your appearance will inspire other trans women to audition for future seasons?

Absolutely!  Honestly the only reason that I even agreed to go on the show was to hopefully provide a sense of faith for others to encourage them to never give up and stay inspired.  Keep creating and know their craft/talent is just as worthy as any other drag queen in the world.  Whether WOW continues to make this possible for others, that I have no control over and can only hope for the best!

At what point did you realize that you were trans and what was the process like when you not only started transitioning but telling your loved ones about this in real life?

I saw my very first drag performer at the age of 18 and they happened to be a beautiful trans woman.  At that moment I remember my mind sparking and seeing something in her that I knew I had in me.  However, I decided to continue living as I was and continuing to educate myself on what trans life was really like beyond the stage.  My mother had asked me to wait until I was 25 to make a decision and she suggested that this is when one's brain is fully developed.  Sure enough at 25 I started my hormone replacement therapy and it has been pretty much uphill since then.  I am blessed to have friends and family who decided to not only support my transition but also go through this process with me.  My parents took it upon them to educate themselves on what this meant for them as parents and how they could be better parents to their child who was going through this. 

Did you lose friends and family members as a result? What was the most challenging this in this experience for you?

I fortunately didn't lose anyone due to my decision and if anything I feel like it brought me closer to my loved ones. However, I realize for some people the decision to transition can distance them and that is why I continue to be public about my journey to help shed some light!  The most challenging part of coming out was the fact that some people felt like they were losing me or in my parent's mind that they were losing their "son."  This was difficult for me to accept but putting myself in their shoes gave me a better perspective.  That's why with anything in life communication is key and educating those around you about things they are ignorant to is a very healthy motive!

Can you tell us about your mini-doc and what fans can expect from it?

My mini documentary on my YouTube channel, GiaGunnEntertainment, is basically showcasing the 6-month process leading up to my surgery.  From the very first consultations to the morning of the surgery, the process of the actual surgery and the aftercare as well.  I choose to document this to show other trans individuals the proper options we have in terms of changing our bodies and to help educate people on what happens during surgery and gain a better idea what the actual physical process is like.

Outside of all of that, are you dating anyone right now? If not, what do you look for in your significant other?

After 28 years of searching for love I have been so fortunate in being able to meet a man that I thought never existed!  For many years I spent so much time looking for someone to love me and validate me as female.  Not realizing that this had to come from within first before expecting someone to come along and do this for me.  Dating as a trans person can be so difficult as we suffer from inner insecurities, the shame society puts on us and our potential partners and simply finding love in general is hard!  However, what I've learned is that love will find you and if your true to yourself, others will be true to you.

Anything else coming up in the year that you want to discuss?

I really look forward to launching my one woman show "This is me" and continuing to write my book and have it published!  I also am focusing on collaborating with more influencers and brands that support what I stand for and creating more content to help in advocating for my community but also sharing my story with the world.

For more information on Gia, take a trip over to her homepage.

Netflix Says 'No' To North Carolina Over Anti-LGBTQ Laws

North Carolina just can’t get its act together regarding anti-LGBTQ laws.

And now, according to StarNewsOnline, the state may have just lost $60 million in revenue thanks to the inaction of state lawmakers to repeal those laws.

Streaming giant, Netflix, was looking to shoot a new series, OBX, in the Tar Heel state but balked thanks to HB 142.

The law, enacted in 2017 was meant to be a ‘fix’ on previous legislation HB 2, which marginalized transgender people by requiring them to use public bathrooms that align with the gender on their birth certificates.

HB 142 partially repealed HB 2, but left in place bans on local communities passing their own anti-discrimination laws through 2020.

Ten episodes of the new project have been ordered by Netflix, and Jonas Pate, who created the show, wanted to shoot in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina. But the ban on local municipalities enacting their own legislation is a sticking point for Netflix.

“This tiny law is costing this town 70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs and also sending a message to those people who can bring these jobs and more that North Carolina still doesn’t get it,” Pate said.

Pate added that the production is projected to spend in the neighborhood of $60 million in whatever state the series shoots.

Pate, and his brother Josh, have previously created the NBC series Surface, which was shot in Wilmington.

But this past weekend, Pate found himself scouting sections of Charleston, South Carolina, for the new production.

Freshman state Sen. Harper Peterson, a Democrat from Hanover, hopes to see the issue addressed this week as the state Assembly is in session. 

“That is a decision the legislature has to make and realize that it is one more opportunity we are losing if we don’t,” Peterson told StarNewsOnline. “We have to get back and be competitive with other states. It just hurts to see a production about North Carolina go to South Carolina.”

OBX is described as a coming-of-age story that follows four teens in the Outer Banks whose lives are changed when a hurricane cuts off all power to the islands.

“When these lifelines for teens like phones and Snapchat are gone, it really reorients the generational divisions,” says Pate.

(h/t StarNewsOnline)

Two Women Arrested For Sexually Assaulting Trans Woman In Public Bathroom

Two women have been charged with misdemeanor sexual battery and felony second-degree kidnapping after violently attacking a transgender woman in the ladies room of a downtown Raleigh bar.

According to the NewsObserver, Amber Nicole Harrell, 38, and Jessica Leann Fowler, 31, struck up what began as a ‘friendly conversation’ with the victim at Milk Bar on December 9. 

But the women reportedly became violent and grabbed the trans woman’s genitals asking if she had a penis.

The assault was reported the next day by a friend of the victim who called 911. 

A recording of the call, made public by the Raleigh Police Department, indicates the two women started laughing as they pulled up the victim’s shirt in an attempt to see her breasts. They also grabbed the victim’s buttocks as the victim repeatedly told them to stop.

The assault continued after the three left the ladies room as the women openly groped the victim’s stomach and buttocks. 

The bartender eventually told Fowler and Harrell to stop.

Harrell turned herself in to the police over the weekend and was released on $50,000 bail Monday morning.

Fowler turned herself in on Tuesday and is being held in the Wake County jail under a $30,000 bond.

In 2016, North Carolina state lawmakers passed HB2, an anti-LGBTQ law which prohibited transgender people from using public bathrooms which aligned with their gender identity unless they had changed the gender listed on their birth certificate.

The law was repealed a year later but replaced with HB142, which still did not ensure trans people would have access to public restrooms. Additionally, the new law left prohibitions in place that bans any local communities from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances.

It's a popular trope among anti-transgender activists that trans people are a threat in public bathrooms, but the facts show that trans people are the ones who are attacked in bathrooms, not the other way around. A 2016 study showed 60% of trans people avoid public bathrooms out of fear for personal safety.

To date, there is no record of any transgender person attacking a cisgender person in a public bathroom.

 

(h/t NewsObserver)

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