December 17, 2021

December LGBTQ+ Newsletter

Editorial: Get ready to vote like your rights depend on it

by Fred Kuhr, editor

If no other lesson is learned from the recent U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the Mississippi abortion case known formally as Dobbs v. Jackson, it’s that elections have consequences.

This is something Republicans have known for a long time now. Even during the Trump era, many conservatives were willing to overlook a laundry list of anti-democratic moves and statements — as well as a whole host of other issues and problems too long to rehash here — just because it meant getting Supreme Court nominees that would side with them.

And now it looks like the Court is in a position to either severely hamper or simply overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision that has ensured safe and legal abortion rights for almost 50 years.

Make no mistake, if that right can be taken away by the country’s highest court, so could other rights such as marriage equality and sexual freedom, issues that, like abortion, fall under the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of personal privacy.

So, with midterm elections coming up in 2022, the need for progressive, liberal, center-left and centrist voters to support Democratic candidates at all levels of government has never been greater. If we lose the Senate, President Biden will never be able to get another judicial nominee through.

The previous president made a mess of things, even violently radicalizing a segment of the electorate. The only way to reverse the damage before it gets any worse is to strengthen the hand of Democrats.

Plan now to request your ballot from your home state in 2022, and vote like your rights depend on it — because they do.

(Let us know what you think about anything you read in the Newsletter. Or let us know if there’s something we should cover. Email us your feedback to [email protected].)


In the news: LGBTQ+ rights take the stage at abortion hearing

by Fred Kuhr, editor

One of the biggest news stories of the past few weeks involved the United States Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson, which many see as the now-conservative-leaning court’s first step in overturning abortion rights in the country.

And Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh used LGBTQ+ rights as a way of making an argument to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 50 years ago.

“If you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this court’s history, there’s a string of them where the cases overruled precedent,” said Kavanaugh, referring to the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Kansas, which outlawed anti-sodomy laws, and 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized marriage equality on the federal level.

“If we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong, if that,” he continued, “why then doesn’t the history of this court’s practice with respect to those cases tell us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality and not stick with those precedents in the same way that all those other cases didn’t?”

Obama appointee Sonya Sotomayor noted that if the court overturns the “right to privacy” in the U.S. Constitution in this case, LGBTQ+ and other rights afforded under the same principle could be next.

Sharon McGowan, legal director of Lambda Legal, called out the conservative arguments. “Those landmark LGBTQ decisions expanded individual liberty,” she said in a statement, “not the opposite.

In Biden Administration news, the U.S. Senate confirmed Biden nominee Beth Robinson to the federal circuit appeals bench on November 1 by a vote of 51 to 45. Only two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted in favor.

Robinson is now the first out lesbian to sit on a federal circuit appeals court. The Second Circuit includes Vermont, New York and Connecticut.

Until she took the oath of office on November 28, Robinson was a justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. She came to national attention as co-counsel to the plaintiffs in Baker v. State, the case that challenged her state’s ban on marriage equality and led Vermont to create the country’s first civil union laws, the first time a state legally recognized same-sex couples.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said Robinson’s work “served as a blueprint for LGBTQ advocacy across the country.”

The Biden Administration announced its second lesbian nominee to the federal appeals bench on November 17. Current U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan, who has served in the Southern District of New York for 10 years, has also been nominated to the Second Circuit.

In other appointment news, Biden appointed out gay man Gautam Raghavan to lead the White House’s personnel office. He had been serving as deputy director of the White House of Presidential Personnel since Biden was inaugurated. He will be promoted to director as a result of previous director Catherine Russell’s selection to become the executive director of UNICEF.

On November 20, President Biden and the Democratic National Committee observed the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“This year, at least 46 transgender individuals in this country — and hundreds more around the world — were killed in horrifying acts of violence,” Biden said in a statement. “Each of these lives was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people — disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

According to an exclusive in the Washington Blade newspaper, Biden was officially briefed on the record-breaking year for fatal anti-transgender violence before releasing his statement.

On December 1, Biden released a World AIDS Day statement that specifically mentions LGBTQ people, something his predecessor did not do.

“The [COVID-19] pandemic has also interrupted HIV research and highlighted the work that still remains to achieve equitable access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment in every community — particularly for communities of color, adolescent girls and young women, and the LGBTQI+ community,” Biden stated. “…My budget request includes $670 million to support the Department of Health and Human Services’ Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Initiative — to reduce HIV diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths. My Administration has also strengthened the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS by adding members from diverse backgrounds who bring the knowledge and expertise needed to further our Nation’s HIV response.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, however, had other things on his mind on World AIDS Day. He used the occasion to accuse Dr. Anthony Fauci, long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of “overhyping” the AIDS crisis.

In explaining his position that Fauci has “overhyped” the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson told Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, “Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS. He overhyped it. He created all kinds of fear, saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn’t. And he’s doing, he’s using the exact same playbook with COVID, ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine.”

And now for some LGBTQ+ royal history

by Irene Chriss, associate editor

There are royals now living in America, and we’ve watched over the years how some royals are now permitted to enter a same-sex marriage without relinquishing the crown.
Do you know some of the LGBTQ royals in history, or why the term “cut sleeve” is a euphemism for male homosexuality? Thanks to Dan Avery, a journalist for the New York Times, NBC News and Newsweek, you can read a comprehensive list of royal love affairs and marriages over the centuries.

So now, a quick and queer royal history lesson:

Emperor Ai of Han (27 - 1 B.C.)

Emperor Ai of the Han Dynasty was known to be romantically involved with one of his ministers. As the story goes, he and his minister had fallen asleep together on a mat and, upon waking, the emperor cut the sleeve off his robe rather than disturb his lover. The term “cut sleeve” remained a Chinese euphemism for male homosexuality for centuries.

Emperor Hadrian of Rome (76 - 138 A.D.)

Another leader who showered his male lover with attention, Hadrian was in a politically arranged marriage to the great-niece of his predecessor — a loveless union that bore no children. Hadrian was devoted to his young consort, Antinous. In 130 AD, Antinous mysteriously drowned in the Nile and a grief-stricken Hadrian deified him with monuments everywhere. According to a curator at the British Museum, when a city in Egypt was founded close to the spot where Antinous drowned, Hadrian named the city Antinopolis to memorialize this lover.

King Edward II of England (1284 - 1327) 

King Edward II of England’s intense relationship with Piers Gaveston drew the ire of many nobles at court and forced Edward to send Gaveston away more than once. The sexual nature of their relationship has been alluded to in Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 play, “Edward II.”

King James I of England (1566 - 1625)

The son of Mary, Queen of Scots, known as both King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England, has been described by historian Michael B. Young as “​​the most prominent homosexual figure in the early modern period.” A popular epigram at the time compared the Jacobean monarch to his Tudor predecessor, Elizabeth I, declaring, “Elizabeth was King, now James is Queen.”

Queen Christina of Sweden (1626 - 1689)  

Since childhood, the queen’s closest companion was Countess Ebba Sparre, whom she introduced as “my bed-fellow.” “How happy I should be if only I could see you, Beautiful One,” Christina wrote to Sparre in 1656. “But I am condemned by destiny to love and cherish you always without seeing you. I cannot be completely happy when I am separated from you.” Christina, who abdicated rather than marry, wrote in her memoir that she felt, “an insurmountable distaste for marriage” and “for all the things that females talked about and did.” Though the 1933 film “Queen Christina” inserts a fictional heterosexual romance, the movie cemented screen goddess Greta Garbo's status as a queer icon.
Queen Anne of England (1665 - 1714)

Anne, who suffered from frail health throughout her life, met Sarah Churchill when the two were girls. They quickly became close confidantes, embarking on a relationship that lasted well into adulthood. “The Favourite,” a somewhat fictionalized 2018 account of Anne’s relationships with Sarah and Abigail — complete with lesbian liaisons — earned Olivia Colman a best actress Oscar as the conflicted queen.

Princess Isabella of Parma (1741 - 1763)

Wed to Archduke Joseph of Austria, Isabella was rumored to be in love with Joseph’s sister, Archduchess Maria Christina, known affectionately as Mimi. The relationship was also a great source of conflict for Isabella, because it meant betraying her duties as the wife of a prince. More significantly, though, Isabella realized this was the great love of her life, but she knew that for Mimi, it was more of a youthful dalliance.
Mwanga II of Buganda (1868 - 1903)

Discussion of Uganda’s treatment of homosexuality usually settles on President Yoweri Museveni’s “Kill the Gays” bill, but this 19th century kabaka, or king, of Buganda allegedly had sexual relationships with men along with his 16 wives. In 1886, Mwanga II ordered the brutal torture and deaths of dozens of courtiers and pages, with many burned alive. While some sources claimed the incident stemmed from the victims’ attempt to save a British missionary, The New York Times reported the massacre was sparked by “the refusal of a Christian lad acting as the king’s page to commit an abominable crime.”

According to Andrew Kiwanuka, who witnessed the massacre, that crime involved “the works of Sodom.” Modern historians have suggested Mwanga saw their refusal to have sex as an unfathomable act of disobedience to his absolute authority.  Whatever the cause, the mass slaughter earned international condemnation and further destabilized Mwanga’s rule, leading to his eventual exile and British annexation of Uganda in the 1890s.

More than a century later, right-wing religious and political leaders like Museveni still use the martyrs to justify attacks on the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda.

King Umberto II of Italy (1904 - 1983)

After Mussolini’s fall, Umberto’s father, King Victor Emmanuel III, was viewed as a Fascist sympathizer. Under pressure from Allied forces, he abdicated in favor of his wastrel son, Umberto, in 1943. Umberto was married to Queen Marie-José of Belgium and the couple had four children. But the Orva, Mussolini’s secret police, had kept dossiers on Umberto’s male lovers, who reportedly included famed filmmaker Luchino Visconti, boxer Primo Carnero, and French actor Jean Marais. Critics decried Umberto as dim-witted, shallow and a poor leader. The same year he was made regent, Umberto was outed by the Fascist press in an attempt to discredit him. It worked. After just 34 days, the public voted to abolish the monarchy.

Upcoming Events

December 15 - January 22
Participate in book reviews, political forums or a vital discussion on the January 6, 2021, insurgence that shook the nation — all via Zoom and, at no charge. All DA members invited to attend.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021, at 1pm Eastern / 7pm Europe
LGBTQ+ Caucus Strategy Planning
Getting out the vote of the LGBTQ+ community is critical to Democrats winning elections. The DA LGBTQ+ caucus is crafting a strategy to engage Americans abroad in this critical election year. Wondering how you can best engage on LGBTQ+ topics at the country or chapter level?
Our strategy highlights include: Engaging the LGBTQ+ and allies community; Continuing to advocate for equality legislation; Connecting LGBTQ+ candidates and elected officials with DA through events and social media; Coordinating and providing materials for Pride events at country and chapter level; Organizing global events to educate and empower DA members and leaders to speak to and advocate for LGBTQ+ issues.

RSVP and information

Monday, December 27, 2021, at 12 noon Eastern
The Fight for Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great by Harvey Kaye -- Monthly Mondays for Your Progressive Minds (formerly proDA Book Club)
All are welcome to attend. Join us!

RSVP and information

Thursday, December 30, 2021, at 9pm Seoul
Progressive Book Club - Cursed Bunny
Join our Progressive Caucus Book Club as we read this month's selection, "Cursed Bunny" by Bora Chung.

RSVP and information

Monday, January 03, 2022, at 7pm Paris
Political Forum
Join Political Forum host Jean-Pierre LaRochelle and leaders of Democrats Abroad France in a free-wheeling discussion of current events and news of the month.

RSVP and information

Tuesday, January 04, 2022, at 6:30pm Bern
Zoom and Private Residence in GVA - RSVP to receive details in Geneva, Switzerland
DACH Geneva Book Club - January 2022
For January, we will be reading "Our Constitutional Crisis is Already Here," a September 2021 Washington Post op-ed from by Robert Kagan.

RSVP and information

Saturday, January 08, 2022, at 8am Eastern
Progress for Progressives
Ride the wave of enthusiasm from our December events - join proDA members to hear how you can take action on voting rights, student loan justice, reparative justice, and net neutrality.

RSVP and information

Thursday, January 06, 2022, at 7:30pm Berlin
Defending Democracy Together with Malcolm Nance
Almost exactly a year to the hour when many of us witnessed the events of January 6 unfold in real time, we will hear from Malcolm Nance a national security expert, bestselling author, and a long-time friend of Democrats Abroad Germany.  He is uniquely qualified to strengthen our determination as we face these unprecedented challenges to our democracy.  Mr. Nance will remind us both of what we can do from abroad and why it is of such vital importance that we do it.

RSVP and information

Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 1pm Berlin Time
Book Club: Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder
This month, we will be reading 'Nomadland' by Jessica Bruder.

RSVP and information

Tuesday, January 18, 2022, at 7pm Lisbon
Virtual - on Zoom in Porto, Portugal
January Virtual Volunteer Huddle
As a newly re-established Democrats Abroad country committee, we are recruiting new volunteers and re-engaging former volunteers to help gear up for the 2022 midterm elections.

RSVP and information

Looking for Reporters/Writers
Help us report on key events related to the Democrats Abroad LGBTQ+ Caucus both at home and abroad.

What does being a reporter involve?

• Good writing skills
• Meeting via Zoom once a month (usually the 2nd or 3rd Thursday) for an hour (12.00 or 13.00 EST) with the Newsletter team 
• Viewing the LGBTQ+ events during the month assigned to you and writing a 800-1000 word report
• Submitting contributions by the deadline date
• Being a member of DA LGBTQ+ Caucus

If you are interested in being a reporter and member of our Newsletter team, email [email protected] with the subject “Newsletter Reporter” and tell us about yourself, your experience and why you’d like to join our team. We look forward to hearing from you.