On Friday, Amanda Simpson — Executive Director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives, and the first openly transgender woman Presidential appointee ever — sent the following message to the White House email list. Her message explains why “conversion therapy” is so harmful to all of us, and why it was important for the White House to stand up against the practice:
Across the country, there are doctors working to convince people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s known as “conversion therapy,” but it could also be called brainwashing, or reprogramming.
Loving and compassionate parents and ministers who are trying to do the right thing are doing just the opposite. They are influenced by bad science, not grounded in fact. This so-called “conversion therapy” is harmful.
A couple of days ago, the White House came out in support of efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy. And as a transgender woman, this is especially personal to me.
No one should be forced to be someone they’re not. Everyone should be valued for their authentic, true self — who they are — regardless of the gender with which they identify, or who they love.
I recently talked with a few other people in the Administration about why conversion therapy is so dangerous, and why it was so important for the White House to take a strong stance against the practice.
Here’s what we have to say:
This isn’t just a transgender issue or an LGBT issue — it’s an American issue. Our nation was founded on the ideals of equality and acceptance for everyone, and forcing an individual to be someone they aren’t goes directly against what this country stands for.
If we’re going to grow as a society, we must move beyond the way things are, to the way things should be.
That’s why I’m glad our Administration is standing up and making it clear that conversion therapy is unacceptable. Our society should allow every child and every person the freedom to be whoever they aspire to be.
And we’ve already seen the tragic effects of this therapy. Countless people have taken their own lives because they feel they can’t fit into the standards that society demands. Others, although they haven’t lost their lives, have been forced to live unfulfilled lives and to repress their feelings in the process — feelings that come out in other ways that we can’t always anticipate.
We can be better than this. We are better than this. We owe it to ourselves, and to all of the children growing up in this country, to work toward a society where everyone is accepted and treated equally.
I hope you’ll take the time to listen to what we said, and learn more about why the White House came out in support of banning conversion therapy.
U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives
Sunday, April 12th, 3:00pm
First United Methodist Church, 350 11th Avenue, Longmont, CO 80501.
RSVP on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/832621296773298/
After the birth of a child, the first question is often: “What is it, a boy or a girl?” For many species that question makes no sense at all. Turtles have no sex at birth. Neither do crocodiles, alligators and caimans. Spotted hyenas all appear to be males. Clownfish, like Nemo, may undergo multiple sex changes during the course of their lives. And of course, labeling an infant human as a boy or a girl is a pretty iffy and sometimes arbitrary action. In the real world, life, sex, gender, and sexual orientation come in a variety of hues beyond black and white. Here’s an article listing some instances in nature that break gender stereotypes and illustrate gender fluidity: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/symbiartic/2013/05/17/is-homosexuality-natural-yes-so-is-male-lactation/
Panelists Gerald N. Callahan, Ph.D. and Dana Zyymm will discuss these issues surrounding Intersex, Gender Identity and more.
A confidential support group meets an hour before the program, at 2 p.m.
Article in The Washington Post by Ana Swanson:
The broader trend in recent years has been toward expanded rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, including changing legal definitions of marriage and more civil rights protections. But as a new report from the Human Rights Campaign shows, many legislative proposals are being considered at the state level that might reverse some of those recent changes.
According to HRC, more than 85 such bills have been filed in 28 states for the 2015 state legislative sessions.
The map from HRC above (click to enlarge) shows proposed legislation that relates to LGBT issues at the state level as of March 24, 2015. The most common type of legislation, marked in red, concerns so-called “religious refusals,” which allow individuals or institutions to challenge or opt out of certain state or local laws based on their religious beliefs. These laws allow business owners to, for example, refuse marriage-related services or deny adoption services to particular couples based on their religious beliefs. Critics charge that these laws make it easier for individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.
The states marked in dark blue, including Minnesota, South Dakota, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas, are considering laws that would affect transgender people, according to HRC. Most of these laws restrict access to gender-segregated facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms in public accommodations or schools, or gendered activities like school sports.
States marked in light blue – West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas — are introducing legislation that would nullify non-discrimination protections at the city level and prevent city councils from passing new protections, according to HRC. Orange indicates states that have introduced legislation to expressly protect therapists who conduct “conversion therapy” – just Oklahoma.
From PFLAG National (amended to reflect updates):
Dear PFLAG Members and Supporters:
Governor Michael Pence of Indiana on Thursday signed into law revisions in the state’s divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) aimed at removing fears that it would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. While much of the original law (giving people permission to discriminate against others by citing their religious beliefs) has been preserved, the amendment now clarifies that RFRA does not “authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.” We are so proud of Indiana PFLAGers who have been relentless, vocal, and organized in letting all other Hoosiers know the real impact of the Indiana law. On CNN, on local news, in social media, and even organizing and leading the charge at rallies, PFLAGers are sending an unequivocal message that PFLAG’s values are America’s values.
In Arkansas, a similar “revised” religious freedom bill (mirroring the federal RFRA) was signed into law by Governor Hutchinson. In that case, leaders at Walmart, including their CEO Doug McMillan, have called the proposed law a threat to “the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas.” Meanwhile, in Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida, our transgender community is being subjected to bills that criminalize and/or fine their ability to use a restroom.
There have been more than 70 state legislative bills in more than half the states in our country that would harm people who are LGBTQ, and some states have introduced multiple bills; Texas alone has 20. To date, three have become law–in Indiana, Utah, and Arkansas.
Across the country, PFLAGers’ voices are strong, clear, and heard. Many PFLAGers who identify as people of faith, have expressed shock, anger, and sadness that some of their elected officials would shamefully attempt to make discrimination the law of their state and use religious liberty as the rationale for doing so. PFLAG family and ally voices have always had a critical role to play in moving equality forward. Today is no exception. In fact, PFLAGers are standing up and demanding that this be called out for what it is–discrimination is wrong, no matter how it gets packaged. To pair it with religious liberty is an insult to those of us whose family, culture, and traditions are steeply rooted in faith tradition.
Our family and ally stories mirror how people’s lives are affected by potentially harmful actions, and not just those who are LGBTQ. PFLAG voices represent a large number of people–parents, family members, and allies–who might not otherwise be visible and whose opinions may not be represented anywhere else. PFLAG voices are the voices of our neighbors, our coworkers, the people with whom we gather in our faith communities. PFLAG voices are the voices of local communities across each state and throughout the country. PFLAG voices truly are America’s voices.
PFLAG will not accept actions by any level of government in our country that enshrines into law the permission for people to legally discriminate against our children and grandchildren, our loved ones, ourselves. We will continue to raise our collective family and ally voices against discrimination.
Tell your elected officials, your neighbors, your colleagues–anyone you think will have influence to stop this onslaught of discriminatory bills–that PFLAG’s values are America’s values, and we won’t let up until each and every one of these bills ends up on the legislative trash heap where they belong.
Yours in PFLAG solidarity,
Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director
We must keep the pressure on!
From PFLAG National: When we announced our National Convention dates a few months ago, we knew that the combination of southern hospitality and the opportunity to attend trainings, workshops, and more would be great incentive to our members and supporters to register. But the early-bird registration prices REALLY must have been inspiring! We are filling up at a rapid rate and it’s only March 25th! We’re so glad that word is getting out for what is promising to be the best PFLAG National Convention yet!
And we’re so excited that YOU are excited…we’re extending our early-bird registration deadline through April 30th to give everyone who wants to attend the opportunity to register now, at the best available pricing. That’s right: four more weeks for you to take advantage of the lowest rates we’ll be offering for the 2015 PFLAG National Convention. Now’s the time: don’t miss this opportunity to come together in Nashville, Tennessee to learn, share best practices, and get a first-hand look at a city and state that is representative of so many of the successes, challenges, and opportunities facing equality in the future.
Bring your own expertise to the table, and hear from others about the work they’re doing to make sure equal really means EQUAL!
April 30th is right around the corner! Act fast and register now!
Sunday, March 8, 3:00 p.m.
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO 80302.
RSVP on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/321183148075083
Author Michelle Theall, Boulder resident and an out gay Christian, will speak about her recent book, Teaching the Cat To Sit: A Memoir. The book is about growing up gay and Catholic in the Texas Bible Belt and experiencing discrimination for her family in church. She hopes her talk will inspire timely discussion about the modern issues of family, motherhood, bullying and faith. Michelle’s goal is that in sharing her experiences that her audience will gain “a measure of courage to become who they are supposed to be in the world.”
Michelle says she was inspired to pen the memoir in 2010, after she learned her adopted son would be expelled from Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic school in Boulder because his parents were lesbians. Interestingly, the book’s title was inspired by a Siamese cat she had as a child. Since Theall had initially wanted a puppy, she spent much of her free time trying to get the cat to do a dog’s tricks–a metaphor, the author says, for her own life in the closet.
A confidential support group meets an hour before the program, at 2 p.m.