Editorial: Doing what we can in a time of war

by Irene Chriss, associate editor

Biden’s State of the Union address was not just front-loaded with calls to challenge Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but it also delivered a bold and unequivocal message for LGBTQ+ Americans.

“And for our LGBTQ+ Americans, let’s finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk. The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is simply wrong,” Biden said. “… I’ll always have your back as your president, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD reacted, “The state of our union is only as strong as our action and commitment to ensure no marginalized person is left behind. LGBTQ voters are more motivated than ever to hold elected officials accountable in the midterms.”

The Equality Act continues to languish in the Senate due to inadequate Republican support. This underscores the importance of your vote in the midterm elections, and it’s easy to register online and receive an online ballot. Just go to https://www.votefromabroad.org/request/your-information for more information.

On the Ukrainian front, “All Americans should leave Ukraine,” Biden told NBC News, adding that he could not risk a clash with Russian troops that might trigger a broader military engagement. Biden insisted he would not use the military to extract anyone trapped by a Russian attack. According to a New York Times article, Biden officials made clear that the 2021 Kabul airlift was “unique” and U.S. officials would not rescue its citizens who remain in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a recent interview with a Ukrainian television station, said this decision had been made “out of an abundance of precaution.”

“It’s the prudent thing to do,” Blinken added, “because my personal responsibility is the safety and security of our people.”

If Kyiv falls, those who remain might be at particular risk of persecution. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations office in Geneva warns that Russia has plans to kill or round up journalists, activists, minorities, dissidents, and LGBTQ Ukrainians to be placed in camps.

The U.S. has no requirements for the approximately nine million Americans living abroad to declare where they live, reported State Department spokesperson Ned Price. Despite not knowing how many American residents are in Ukraine, we do know they are in peril and no rescuers will be coming for those who stayed behind.

Organizations from the grassroots to the international level are taking steps to protect refugees who face additional layers of danger. A word of caution: While mass grassroots efforts can surface overnight, there is also a potential for scams. Do your research. Verify the organizations’ non-profit Form 990 or check social media accounts to see if they’ve posted any receipts of how they’re using people’s money.

Some resources have been provided by reputable publications such as the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

Here are some others:

Do you have a story to tell about a Ukrainian relative or yourself? If you wish to share your story, email [email protected]. Any information, including your name, will not be published. Rather, all comments with be synthesized into an overview to keep our members safe and our readers informed.

(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: Biden renews push for Equality Act, Republican governors target LGBTQ+ students

by Fred Kuhr, editor

While the war in Ukraine has captured the attention of the world, domestic LGBTQ+ politics continued apace.

In President Joseph Biden’s first State of the Union speech on March 1, he renewed calls to pass the Equality Act, the federal LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination bill that has been stalled in the U.S. Senate.

“And for our LGBTQ+ Americans, let’s finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk,” Biden said, in his most vigorous rhetorical support yet for the legislation. “The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong. As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your president, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.”

Congressman David Cicilline, the openly gay Rhode Island Democrat who is one of the lead sponsors of the Equality Act, put out a statement after the address praising Biden for his comments.

“If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the bipartisan Equality Act wills strengthen the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide protections for LGBTQ+ Americans,” Cicilline said. “Now, we need the legislative power to send [this bill] to President Biden’s desk. With Republicans blocking every inch of progress that Democrats put forth, we must expand our Democratic majority to make these legislative initiatives a political reality.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), said in a statement after Biden’s speech that his words in support of LGBTQ people come at critical time given what is going on in several states. For example, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared in a recent memo that parents who arrange transition-related care for their children would be prosecuted for child abuse.

“President Biden has delivered on commitments to include LGBTQ citizens in the promise of America,” Ellis said. “Every lawmaker at every level of government must commit to do the same, especially for LGBTQ families and children under attack.”

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison had already voiced opposition to Abbott’s targeting of transgender youth.

“Republican governors and legislators have targeted innocent children solely aiming to exist as their truest selves,” said Harrison. “Medical experts have reaffirmed the reality that gender-affirming care saves lives. But instead, Governor Abbott is cynically using Texas children as a political weapon and perpetuating senseless hatred towards the transgender and gender non-conforming community. We cannot be silent in the face of injustice and we must protect our nation’s children from Republican extremism. I admire the courage of the LGBTQ+ community in the face of an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills moving across the country and am proud to lead the Democratic Party that continues to fight alongside them against these shameful attacks.”

Two days after his State of the Union, Biden released a statement condemning Abbott’s move.

“This is government overreach at its worst,” Biden said. “Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points. These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”

In response, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has requested Texas families contact the department’s civil rights office if they were “targeted by a child welfare investigation because of this discriminatory gubernatorial order.”

But no state’s anti-LGBTQ+ move has galvanized the community like Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, officially called the Parental Rights in Education Bill, which would ban any LGBTQ-related discussions in primary schools. The legislation was approved by Florida state senators on March 8 and now advances to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been championing the bill.

Biden’s Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, has put Florida on notice. “The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law,” said Cardona in a statement. “We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.”

In response, Florida students staged school walkouts. Students across the state waved rainbow protest signs and shouted “We say gay!”

“The language and the supporters of the bill and the rhetoric around the bill really shows what this bill really is,” Jack Petocz, statewide protest organizer and Flagler Palm Coast High School senior, told NBC News. “It’s an attempt to hurt queer people like me.”

Unfortunately, Petocz was suspended for distributing pride flags for the rally at his high school. “I believe this attempt to threaten me and remove me from campus is riddled with homophobia and bigotry,” he said. “You’re silencing a queer student standing up for what he believes in, in his rights, and you’re disciplining him for challenging you on the allowance of pride flags in a gay rally? It’s ridiculous.”


Autocracy and the LGBTQ+ community

by Betsy Ettorre, member of the LGBTQ+ Steering Committee and chair of the Global Seniors Caucus

The word “autocracy” has three meanings according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Firstly, “the authority or rule of an autocrat”; secondly, “government in which one person possesses unlimited power”; and lastly, “a community or state governed by autocracy.”

No matter how we define “autocracy,” it’s not good for LGBTQ+ individuals who may live under this type of system. So, why is autocracy bad for the LGBTQ+ community? Most, if not all, members of the LGBTQ+ community want to live without restrictions on how they express their gender and/or sexuality. In an autocracy, normality is defined by tradition and, in the area of sexuality and gender, heterosexuality. Autocracies need heterosexual families to build their power base and the LGBTQ+ community does not fit into this view of “normal.” Our community is viewed as anti-authoritarian; deviant; against social norms; a threat to those in power; and for some a social menace, according to M.J. Bosia’s “The Oxford Handbook of Global LGBT and Sexual Diversity Politics.” For LGBTQ+ individuals, living in an autocratic state is traumatic.

Additionally, autocrats say that their “people … bear no strange moral agenda. They are offended by Western governments and NGOs who tell us to embrace homosexuality and reject traditional gender roles and identities.” They rant, “Our churches and mosques and temples … reject imposed liberal immorality... We … stand strong for our cultural sovereignty and right to live as we will.” For us as Americans in the LGBTQ+ community, we are acutely aware that these sorts of messages reverberate among U.S. conservatives who feel abandoned by our leaders on matters of sex and gender identity.

In thinking of the Nazi regime as an autocratic state par excellence, we know that Nazis considered the elimination of all manifestations of homosexuality in Germany one of its goals. “Men were often arrested after denunciation, police raids, and through information uncovered during interrogations of other homosexuals. Those arrested were presumed guilty, and subjected to harsh interrogation and torture to elicit a confession… After the war, homosexuals were initially not counted as victims of Nazism because homosexuality continued to be illegal in Nazi Germany's successor states. Few victims came forward to discuss their experiences. The persecution came to wider public attention during the gay liberation movement of the 1970s, and the pink triangle was reappropriated as an LGBT symbol," according to Wikipedia.

In America, the powerful lgbtfunders.org notes, “We need to continue to fight for a world where anti-Black violence and anti-trans violence are not permitted with impunity.” They ask for more funders, in this crucial movement moment — that is, of growing autocracy around the world — “to increase their commitment and funding for LGBTQ communities, especially trans communities and Black LGBTQ communities.”

So how can we work against autocracy? For those of our brothers and sisters living in autocracies, they often hide from society and remain in the closet. Yes, they can protest but protesting will often lead to arrest and imprisonment. Some leave their autocratic countries. Others remain and try to fight bravely sometimes with dire consequences.The bottom line is that LGBTQ+ individuals cannot live well under autocratic states.

Those of us not living in autocracies need to offer our support by calling out autocratic regimes and spreading the word that being gay or trans is not evil or wrong. Funders for LGBTQ issues provide a lot of money for our community. But not all of us can give monetary aid.

Being gay or trans is not part of a “strange moral agenda.” One thing we learned from the Gay and Lesbian Liberation movements of the 1970s is that we are strong when we fight together, and we must offer our strength and courage to those of our brothers and sisters living in autocratic regimes. Support them to identify their autocratic leader’s ignorance and intolerance. We must keep lines of communication open with them and for them. Help them if they need to leave their countries and provide shelter.

As James Baldwin once said, “It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”


Upcoming Events

Stop AAPI Hate: Reflecting and Remembering
March 23, 2022
7:30 p.m. Berlin Time

Join the Democrats Abroad Global AAPI Caucus as we come together to reflect and remember the lives lost over the past year to anti-AAPI hate. We will provide a space for individuals to come together to share their thoughts and emotions, as well as discuss ways to move forward.

RSVP and information

Jeopardy! Virtual After-Work Fundraiser and Social Hour
March 24, 2022
12-1:30 a.m. Stockholm Time

Joel Parthemore (Secretary, Western Sweden Chapter) is back with another round of Jeopardy! This time, he's teamed-up with Michael Kaplan (Chair, Skåne Chapter) for a fun round of trivia, featuring topics on women's history, the Supreme Court, and other current issues.

RSVP and information

LGBTQ+ KickOff: The Gay Agenda for 2022
March 24, 2022
6-7 p.m. London Time

Join members of the LGBTQ+ community for our Caucus Kickoff & Happy Hour. We will be joined by a panel of Democratic leaders and activists from around the world to discuss the “gay agenda for 2022” and what is at stake for the LGBTQ+ community in the midterm elections. Whether you're a longtime member of the LGBTQ+ Caucus, or an ally looking to get more involved, this event is for you!

RSVP and information

Women’s History March
March 27, 2022
5-7 p.m. Berlin Time

The National Women's History Alliance's theme of Women's History Month 2022 is "Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” This event is sponsored by the DAG Women's Caucus and Wiesbaden Mainz Chapter.

Reproductive rights are hanging in the balance. Please join us for the short film and discussion on Reproductive justice. We will also discuss what you can do to help.

RSVP and information

Progressive Prescription: Healthcare For Americans at Home+Abroad
March 28, 2022
12-1:30pm Eastern Time (US & Canada)

A discussion on the healthcare challenges Americans face in the U.S. and abroad, as well as actions for a progressive prescription to improve healthcare for all. Healthcare experts from Public Citizen respond to the lived experiences, challenges, and policy priorities for seniors, veteran families, those living with disabilities, the Democrats Abroad Medicare Portability Task Force, and the Progressive Caucus.

RSVP and information

Germany Progressive Caucus with Igor Satanovsky
March 29, 2022
7-8:30 p.m. Berlin Time

Join the Germany Progressive Caucus for our monthly meeting. In this session, we will discuss the war in Ukraine. We are grateful to be joined in our conversation by special guest Igor Satanovsky, a Ukrainian-American poet, visual artist, and publisher based in New York City. He will share with us his perspective on the current events in Ukraine, as well as take questions from the audience. In preparing and attending the event, we urge everyone to remember the highly sensitive and personal nature of the topic to our guest and other participants. We look forward to an enriching conversation as we seek to better understand the crisis — and what we can do as private citizens to make a difference.

RSVP and information

Environment & Climate Crisis Council: Climate Cafe
March 30, 2022
6-8 p.m. Berlin Time

Are you concerned/frightened by the climate crisis? Join the ECCC for our monthly climate cafe. This month, we will talk about the recent IPCC Report and what we can do to help make a difference. You can read the report here.

During the meeting, we will have a break-out room set up to help you make a 60-second video asking people to #ClimateVote in the midterm elections this year. You can find more information on the #ClimateVote Initiative 2022 here.

Why is this important? Because if the Republicans take control of the House or the Senate there will be no more action on Climate. There is no time to waste.

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.