Gay Couple Attacked For Holding Hands At Food Truck

Four men in Washington state have been arrested for allegedly harassing and physically attacking a gay couple for holding hands at a food truck.

Pedro Mata Contreras, 36, Oscar Emestor Mata, 38, Ulises Missael Reyes-Mata, 24, and Jose Torres, 37, were charged with Felony Malicious Harassment. All four maintain their innocence.

Local CBS News affiliate KEPR reports eight witnesses told police the group of four men verbally harassed the gay couple early Sunday morning at a food truck in Pasco, using the word “fag.”

The incident escalated as the men reportedly punched one of the victims in the face. As he fell to the ground, the other men began to kick him repeatedly.

The victim, left bleeding on the ground as the men ran away, suffered bone fractures in his face and a concussion.

Witnesses were able to identify the four accused attackers.

The four men are scheduled to be arraigned on December 31.

(mugshots via Franklin County)

(lead image via Depositphotos)

Asst Principal Bullies Trans Student In Bathroom “If You Can’t Use This Urinal, You Shouldn’t Be In Here”

(image via Depositphotos)

An assistant principal at a West Virginia high school has been suspended after a complaint was filed alleging he had bullied a transgender male student in a bathroom.

Late last month, before boarding a bus for an after-school marching band trip, 15-year-old Michael Critchfield went to the boys bathroom and asked if anyone was present before entering a stall. As a trans boy, he had made a habit of checking to avoid potential confrontations.

Critchfield and his parents have been open with the school administration, since he began attending as a freshman last year, that he is transgender.

According to Critchfield, Liberty High School assistant principal Lee Livengood entered the bathroom and began harassing the student from outside the stall.

Critchfield says Livengood yelled, “Why are you in here? You shouldn’t be in here.”

Livengood reportedly misgendered Critchfield continually and ordered him to “come out here and use the urinal” to prove he was a boy.

“If you can’t use this urinal, then you shouldn’t be in here,” Livengood yelled, according to Critchfield. “What if a student said you were checking them out in here?”

Critchfield later told the ACLU of West Virginia he felt “degraded and discriminated against.”

According to The Huffington Post, other students could hear the screaming coming from the bathroom and alerted a parent who was acting as a chaperone that day.

The chaperone confronted the assistant principal outside the bathroom where Livengood allegedly admitted in front of Critchfield, “Not going to lie. You freak me out.”

When Caroline Critchfield picked up her son later that day, she found Michael terrified and traumatized.

The mother addressed the issue with Liberty High School administrators the next day where she was told Livengood would not have any further contact with her son and that an investigation would be launched into the matter.

But after several weeks, no update was forthcoming from the administration.

Additionally, Livengood would reportedly station himself in the cafeteria during Michael’s lunch period, which he hadn’t done before.

The family reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia for help regarding the incident.

‘It shocks the conscience that they’ve apparently taken no steps to discipline Mr. Livengood on this,’ ACLU-WV Executive Director Joseph Cohen told The Daily Beast.

After sending a letter to the superintendent of Harrison County Schools, Dr. Mark A. Manchin, requesting a meeting about the altercation, neither the Critchfields nor the ACLU received a response.

That is, until the media began reporting on the incident.

On Tuesday this week, Manchin told local media that Livengood would be suspended without pay until 2019.

“I was able to confirm the interaction with Mr. Livengood and that indeed he acted inappropriately,” Manchin told West Virginia MetroNews. “We need to address it and we will address it.”

With the Christmas holiday next week, that suspension ‘without pay until 2019′ amounts for four days.

“While we are heartened to hear the administration admit to wrongdoing, a four day paid suspension of an employee is not sufficient,” Cohen said in a public statement. “The Harrison County School District needs to make significant changes to its culture.”

Cohen’s statement continued, “We look forward to meeting with Mr. Manchin and developing a real plan to ensure that every student is safe.”

Cohen also underscored how the issue of harassment of transgender teens is literally a life or death issue as the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study earlier this year indicating 51 percent of trans male adolescents had attempted suicide.

Progress For Schools Becoming More LGBTQ Inclusive Is Slowing

GSA bus in Pride parade (image via Flickr/jglsongsCC License)

According to the 2017 National School Climate Survey from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), progress in making schools more inclusive and less hostile for LGBTQ students has slowed down after years of improvement.

The survey polled more than 23,000 students across the United States ages 13-21 between April and August of 2017.

The average age of participants was 15.6 years-old and four in ten of those surveyed identified as gay or lesbian.

The results of the survey showed that after years of declining harassment, the improving climate seems to have plateaued (see graphic below).

The data from the survey shows:

• Almost 60% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; 44% because of their gender expression

• Almost 35% of LGBTQ students say they missed a day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe

• 4 in 10 avoided gender-segregated spaces like bathrooms or locker rooms due to safety concerns

• 98.5% of LGBTQ students have heard the term “gay” used in a negative way; 70% say they hear these remarks frequently

• 70.1% of LGBTQ students say they’ve experienced verbal harassment based on sexual orientation; almost 60% based on gender expression

• Almost 30% say they’ve been physically harassed (pushed, shoved) based on sexual orientation; 24.4% based on gender expression

• 12.4% of LGBTQ students say they’ve been physically assaulted (punched, kicked) based on sexual orientation; 11.2% based on gender expression

• 42.2% of LGBTQ students say they considered dropping out of school due to harassment

• 48.7% of LGBTQ students have experienced cyberbullying in the past year

• 57.3% of LGBTQ students reported being sexually harassed in the past year at school

The majority of LGBTQ students (55.3%) who were victimized in school did not report the incident believing no effective intervention would happen or the situation could become worse.

Of the students who did report an incident, 60.4% say school staff did nothing or told the student to ignore it.

One piece of good news: more students reported having a Gay/Straight Alliance (53.3%) at their school than ever before.

The data shows that when a school offers a GSA, LGBTQ students were less likely to hear homophobic or transphobic slurs; saw more intervention by school personnel; and were less likely to feel unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation.

Head over to GLSEN to read the full report.

Illinois: Court Win For Elderly Lesbian In Senior Home Harassment Suit

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an elderly woman who alleges she was discriminated against and harassed while living in a senior retirement home in Illinois for being lesbian.
Marsha Wetzel of Illinois

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an elderly lesbian woman who alleges she was discriminated against and harassed while living in a senior retirement home in Illinois.

Marsha Wetzel moved into the Glen St. Andrew Living Community, near Chicago, in 2014 after her longtime partner Judy had died of colon cancer.

In the aftermath of Judy’s passing, Judy’s family did not respect the 30 year relationship. The family took possession of Judy’s assets including the home they’d shared.

And so, Marsha had to find a place to live, and she found Glen St. Andrew.

But by 2016, she was forced to file a lawsuit after she experienced ugly, homophobic abuse at the hands of other residents and Glen St. Andrew did nothing about it.

Marsha says she was called anti-gay slurs and spit upon by residents. In her lawsuit she also alleged that she had been attacked and hit in the head in the community laundry room.

Additionally, she fell and bruised her arm when another resident rammed into her scooter knocking her over.

When Marsha took her concerns to management, nothing was done and she was retaliated against, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Lambda Legal created the heartbreaking video below when Marsha began her legal battle in 2016.

When the case went to trial last year, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

But undeterred, Marsha soldiered on to the 7th Circuit Appeals Court where yesterday a panel of three judges overturned the 2017 ruling and sent the case back to be tried.

The panel came to the conclusion that Glen St. Andrew could be held liable for housing discrimination.

Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote in the ruling, ‘“Not only does it (the Fair Housing Act) create liability when a landlord intentionally discriminates against a tenant based on a protected characteristic; it also creates liability against a landlord that has actual notice of tenant-on-tenant harassment … yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop that harassment.”

The win at the 7th Circuit was celebrated by Lambda Legal senior counsel Karen Loewy, who said in a statement after the ruling, “This is a tremendous victory for Marsha.”

“She, just like all people living in rental housing, whether LGBT or not, should be assured that they will at least be safe from discriminatory harassment in their own homes, “ Loewy continued. “What happened to Marsha was illegal and unconscionable, and the Court has now put all landlords on notice that they have an obligation to take action to stop known harassment.”

A statement released by a Glen St. Andrew spokesperson said while the senior home “is committed to providing fair, safe and non-discriminatory housing, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex or sexual orientation,” the retirement home still denies the allegations.

“At this stage, the court was required to assume the factual allegations of plaintiff’s complaint were true for purposes of determining the legal issues,” they said in a statement. “Glen St. Andrew strongly denies the factual allegations of the complaint and will present its case in court at the appropriate time.”

Olympian Gus Kenworthy Shares YouTube Comments: “Go Die Of AIDS”

(image via Parker Malloy)

Along with the increased visibility that comes with being one of the first openly gay U.S. Olympic athletes, freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has also become something of a target for hateful homophobic comments on his YouTube videos, making the point that homophobia is alive and well in 2018.

In a tweet, Kenworthy shared comments he’s received calling him “faggot” and wishes for him to die an agonizing death from AIDS or some accident.

The tweet began, “Them: It’s 2018 nobody cares that you’re gay. Homophobia doesn’t exist anymore. Get over yourself.”

That was followed with screen captures of the hateful messages.

“Gross faggot. Fuck you. Go die of aids. Sodom and Gomorrah will return. Sick nasty pedi-fag.”

“But you are not a “champion” you are a faggot. With any luck you die a horribly painful and drawn out death mangled in a car wreck. Or a mussy pushes you off a building would also be just fine. Or maybe someone just walks up to you and play the “knock-out” game on you and your skull cracks wide open when you hit the ground and bleed out in the street.”

“Gus you are nothing but a sperm drinking, ass fucking FAG – a fucking FREAK of nature, hurry and get AIDS.”

Lovely people, no?

Yes, kids, homophobia is alive and well in Trump country.

But, that said, there were lots of folks who spoke out on Gus’s behalf.

My “Me Too” Interview With NBC News – LGBT Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment/assault stories, social media created the #MeToo campaign to encourage those folks who have been assaulted or harassed in the workplace to come forward; to show how widespread the issue truly is.

I joined that campaign posting “Me too” on my Facebook wall a couple of days ago. I had been the target of sexual harassment years ago when I was working in NYC in my first Broadway show.

A journalist from NBC Out sent out a request looking for LGBTs willing to share their stories. I paused thinking long and hard about this.

I’ve never shared this with anyone other than two people at the time: my husband, Michael, and one other cast member of the show.

I’m hoping, by my sharing, others – especially men – will know they aren’t the only ones. And that there are degrees of harassment that vary that can make you question whether something was or was not “harassment.”

After living with the story for so many years, it’s surprisingly uncomfortable seeing it in print. I can only imagine what the women who dealt with Harvey Weinstein felt.

From John Paul Brammer at NBC Out:

Randy Slovacek, a former Broadway performer and a working choreographer, said his experience with sexual harassment negatively impacted his career.

“My first Broadway show was the last revival of ‘Hello Dolly’ with Carol Channing. I was 31, and a little naive about my stage manager making passes at me,” Slovacek said. “At first, I thought it was just silly, the way gay guys can be. Then it got more overt and heavy-handed.”

Slovacek said he met his husband, Michael, while recording the Broadway cast album for ‘Hello Dolly.’ He said his stage manager noticed him looking at Michael and pulled Slovacek onto his lap.

“It was almost territorial,” Slovacek said. “It was forceful and in front of a lot of people. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he did it three times.”

But the worst, Slovacek said, happened after he was late to a curtain call in Boston. He had been a model employee, he said, and he ran to the office to apologize to the stage manager who, to Slovacek’s surprise, immediately waived it off. But then, Slovacek said, the stage manager turned the discussion to the jacuzzi in Slovacek’s Boston apartment.

“He knew the place, and he said, ‘That’s the place with the jacuzzi. When am I going to come over?'” Slovacek said. “I kind of laughed it off, but he kept pushing. I finally found a way to gracefully exit, but then I got a letter saying I had been written up for being late, and it was a serious violation.”

Slovacek said the stage manager, who is now deceased, declared Slovacek late again to another performance in D.C. by a minute, even though Slovacek said he was on time, and sent him home. “Who gets sent home for one minute?” Slovacek said. “I thought, ‘This guy is really after me.'”

Munoz, Slovacek and Brown all said they struggled to report and come to terms with their experiences. Munoz and Slovacek said they frequently second-guessed if what had happened to them would be considered harassment at all, but the Weinstein story made them reflect.

“This week, having people speaking out, it might seem like a small thing, but it makes other people more willing to speak out,” Munoz said. “It’s powerful, those moments of people being willing to examine their experience and decide they have something to say.”

Slovacek echoed that sentiment and said what needs to happen, in both the gay community and beyond, is people need to be willing to challenge their peers.

“If your buddy comes back after cracking a joke or doing something inappropriate, especially if they’re in a place of authority, you need to say that’s not cool,” Slovacek said. “Or if someone tells you a story about something they’ve done, you need to tell them to not do that.”

“Somebody has to say something,” Slovacek said.

I encourage you to read the full article at NBC Out.

#Forward

Starbucks Joins Seattle Police Department’s Safe Place Program

Starbucks demonstrates yet again why the coffee retailer is a great LGBT ally.

Earlier this year, Jim Ritter – LGBTQ liaison officer for the Seattle Police Department – launched the Seattle Police Department Safe Place program to help stave off anti-LGBTQ-related crimes and harassment.

Now, coffee giant Starbucks has signed on to the program which will include all 97 company-owned stores in the great Seattle area.

Via press release:

Designed to identify plentiful safe and secure places for victims of anti-LGBTQ-related crimes and harassment, SPD Safe Place’s mission is intentionally uncomplicated. Window clings with the program’s rainbow logo are circulated to Seattle area businesses and public facilities identifying them as places where staff who’ve received SPD Safe Place training will call 911 and allow victims to remain on the premises until police arrive.

“We’re not wanting employees to tackle the suspect who is doing this,” he emphasized. “We want to make sure the employees stay safe and people in the businesses stay safe. I think the way this was designed, that’s certainly happening. Remember, these suspects don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to be following victims into a room full of people who can identify them.”

Officer Ritter says not one company he has approached in taking part in the program has turned him away.

Happy Friday, folks!