Greetings from the LGBTQ+ Caucus team! We're in the middle of one strange summer and are all missing Pride festivities, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing for us to do! The election is fast approaching and we need every one of you to grab your ballot at www.votefromabroad.org if you haven't done so already. Every vote counts! Don't let your voice remain unheard.
We would like to welcome Fred Kuhr to the team. He’s our new Senior Reporter at Large and is a seasoned LGBTQ+ reporter. We are glad to have him on our team.
In this month’s newsletter, Betsy shares the history of our hard-won ability to vote. Alex gives us a glimpse into the work of radical feminist Jill Johnston. For our member spotlight, Nathalie interviewed the amazing Angela Fobbs, Chair of the DA Global Black Caucus and vocal activist who is working tirelessly to get out the vote, especially among those Americans who are not in the urban hubs of the world. Finally, Matthew sat down with Antonina Vykhrest, a queer activist whose work has taken her from Brooklyn to various parts of Europe and back again.
Also, congratulations to our own co-editor, Sarah, for being appointed Chair of the LGBTQ+ Caucus for Germany!
Betsy Ettorre & Sarah Fancy, Co-editors
LGBTQ+ WRITING TEAM
WELCOME, FRED KUHR
Fred Kuhr has over 25 years of journalism experience, much of it in LGBTQ+ media in Boston, Burlington (Vt.), and Toronto. Currently, he is editor of Press Pass Q, the only trade publication for professionals working in LGBTQ+ media. He is a former contributing writer at The Advocate and most notably reported from the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston for the magazine. Additionally, he is a filmmaker, actor, and social-media broadcaster. A native New Yorker living in Toronto, he is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Communications in Chicago.
EVENT: Drop-in Sundays: Live voter registration assistance via Zoom
DATE: Starting July 26th, join us any Sunday till November from midnight to midnight Eastern time to talk to a volunteer LIVE on Zoom about questions you have about voting from abroad.
Click here for Zoom link connection details
Meeting number: 97024609692
EVENT: Women to Win Forum
DATE: Tuesday June 21
TIME: 18:00 CEST (12:00 D.C. time)
LGBTQ+ Congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones will speak on the DA Women’s Caucus Women to Win webinar.
EVENT: Phonebanking training and Q&A
DATE: July 22- August 19
November is fast approaching. Help to mobilize voters by phone banking. Training sessions are open to all DA members!
EVENT: Progressive Caucus Book Club
DATE: July 27
TIME: 18:00 CEST (12 D.C. time)
Join the progressive caucus Book Club, which meets every month and is led by two members of the LGBTQ+ Caucus (Betsy Ettorre and John Esteban Rodriguez).
EVENT: DNC LGBT Caucus Meeting
DATE: Tuesday, August 18 and Thursday, August 20
TIME: 17:00-19:00 CEST (11:00 -13:00 D.C. time)
Attend the LGBT Caucus meeting at the Democratic National Convention next month! Between the two days, approximately 45 speakers will present, including elected officials, former administration officials, candidates, and celebrities.
In case you missed our webinar with Dustin Lance Black, where he shared his personal experiences meeting with VP Biden, including a firsthand account of the pivotal moment when VP Biden expressed his support for marriage equality, as well as his own journey to becoming a Biden supporter, you can watch the replay here. Dustin also talked about his meeting with Biden while researching a project on Bayard Rustin.
NEWS FROM ABROAD
Community loses when autocrats win
By Fred Kuhr
An ultra-conservative, autocratic, anti-LGBTQ+ nationalist president has won reelection.
As a harbinger of what hopefully will not come to pass in the United States, incumbent President Andrzej Duda of Poland won a second term with 51 percent of the votes cast on July 12. His opponent, liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, received 49 percent. Duda has been overtly pro-Trump.
And overtly anti-LGBTQ+ as well. During the campaign, Duda said that “LGBT ideology” was “more destructive than communist indoctrination.” He also promised to ban marriage equality. As if that weren’t enough, he used anti-Semitic tropes, calling his opponent someone who would sell out Poland to Jewish interests.
So of course, Trump was quick to congratulate Duda. He tweeted, “Looking forward to continuing our important work together across many issues, including defence, trade, energy, and telecommunications security!”
Jan Zielonka, a professor of European politics at the University of Oxford, told the Indecent newspaper that “only a Democratic victory in the U.S.’s November elections could lead to significant pressure being applied against the Polish government.”
The History of Voting
By Betsy Ettorre
That Greek civilization created a firm democracy based on equality around 500 BC is equivocal (1). Voters were male landowners, who voted annually for the political leader they wanted to be exiled, which meant that voting was a form of ostracism. If any "candidate" received more than 6,000 votes, the one with the largest number of votes was exiled. If no politician received 6,000 votes, they all remained. Since voters were only male landowners, the number of voters was small. Usually only very unpopular political leaders were ostracized or exiled (2).
Let’s jump forward in voting history to 1776, when our constitution pronounced that “all men are created equal.” As we know, that equality only applied to some. When America was a young country, only white men over the age of 21 were allowed to vote. However, it could be argued that one of the strengths of our country is our ability to grow, change, and adapt. There were landmark changes in our voting system. For example, the “Civil War Amendments” following the Civil War. These were the 13th (in 1865, it abolished slavery), 14th (in 1868, it granted citizenship to slaves), and 15th (in 1870, it granted voting rights to slaves) Amendments. While civil rights and voting rights were extended to former slaves, numerous restrictions kept many blacks from voting until the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (Watch the film “The 13th”, directed by Ava DuVernay, to learn why large numbers of black people are still prevented from voting, even today). The 17th (1913) Amendment made U.S. Senators directly elected by popular vote rather than appointed. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. In 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
Spotlight of Inspiration: Jill Johnston
By Alex Colley Hart
Radical change requires radical thinking. As Democrats across the country continue to fight (and vote!) for radical change, it can be inspiring to look to trailblazers who helped forge the path we travel today. One such person is the outspoken feminist writer Jill Johnston.
Johnston described her approach to feminism in her seminal work entitled Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution as, “…east west flower child beat hip psychedelic paradise now love peace do you own thing approach to the [feminist] revolution.”
Like her writing style, Johnston was a free-spirited cultural critic and feminist activist. Johnston was born in London in 1929 and raised in the US where she earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts in 1951 and studied dance at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Johnston then moved to New York City, where she became a longtime journalist for The Village Voice, an acclaimed weekly newspaper primarily covering the creative downtown community.
Global LGBTQ+ Member Profile
Angela Fobbs, DA Black Caucus Founder: Encouraging Turnout Across the Globe
By Nathalie Stein
“I know that a better world is possible,” said Angela Fobbs, creator of the Democrats Abroad Black Caucus based in Germany. “We have to imagine something different.”
Just over twenty years have passed since Fobbs first moved to Frankfurt in the fall of 1999. Though she now teaches business English, Fobbs originally worked with the American military, at first under Bill Clinton, continuing through George W. Bush’s administration.
“It made me more radical,” she said. “I was always on the left [...] it just pushed me over the edge.”
Fobb’s involvement with Democrats Abroad began in 2016 after she learned of a local women’s march. In 2017, she was elected communications coordinator of Democrats Abroad Germany and worked with the women’s caucus. However, she found the lack of a black caucus disappointing.
The logical solution was to create one. She quickly found others willing to help and established a steering committee in August of 2017. Just two months later, the Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus was up and running. Today, the caucus has 1600 members across the globe, and focuses on issues of “universal justice.” It seeks to engage with a variety of issues impacting African-Americans both domestically and abroad, such as the justice system, economic inequality, and subconscious bias. (Click here to read more about the Global Black Caucus).
LGBTQ+ Country Voices
ANTONINA VYKHREST: QUEER HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE
By Matthew Won Piker
I recently sat down with Antonina Vykhrest, to whom I was introduced through a mutual friend. As a child, Antonina immigrated to the United States from Ukraine, following the fall of the Soviet Union. Growing up in Brooklyn, her interest in the humanities led to degrees in political science and international comparative studies from Duke University and later a master’s in international law of human rights and criminal justice at Utrecht University. As a 2014 Fulbright Fellow, Antonina returned to Ukraine to be involved in addressing violence against women during armed conflicts rocking the eastern part of the country.
She has worked for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, cofounded her own NGO (ACCESS), and is currently studying at Harvard Business School’s MBA program to better understand the implication of tech and innovation in the social sector.
During our conversation, Antonina shared her experiences and views on returning to Europe as an American national, her role as an American living abroad, her identity as a bisexual woman, and why voting is a civic duty.
Matthew Piker (MP): Thanks for agreeing to talk. Could you start by sharing where you are from in the United States?
Antonina Vykhrest (AV): It’s my pleasure. Thanks for the invitation. So, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York to a Ukrainian family. But I was born in Odessa, Ukraine, a Southern seaport city on the Black Sea. I immigrated to the US with my family when I was eight years old.
MP: What made your family decide to move to the US?
AV: We moved in the mid-90s, a few years after the Soviet Union collapsed, and it was a very chaotic, painful transition for Ukraine at-large, from an era of communism to a [system] of hyper capitalism. Institutions failed; there was a lot of turmoil, crime, violence, and corruption. At that time, there were few opportunities to make an honest living. And my parents, being doctors – and who, in-theory, should have been OK – were not getting paid for months at a time. So, we came as immigrants looking for a more stable life and greater opportunities.