It is 6 p.m. on a recent Tuesday night in Cathedral City, California. In the small worship hall of a local church are 10 members from Trans Palm Springs and Transgender Day of Remembrance. The first Transgender Medical Summit, organized by Trans Palm Springs, is just getting started, and attendees are eager to share their stories about bias and dissatisfaction with local healthcare providers and policies. Ricardo Gonzalez from California's Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program and Vanessa Shanks from Eisenhower Medical Center are there. Eisenhower has been at the forefront of inclusive policies for the lesbian, gay and bisexual community—but is slack when it comes to the trans community. Representatives from MediCal and Riverside's Departments of Mental Health and Social Services were invited but didn’t attend.
(Editor’s note: Last week, on Jan. 9, Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed his 2014-2015 state budget focusing on long-term stability, drawing down the debt, adding to the rainy-day fund and investing in public schools and health care—principles dear to Democratic progressives. But those principles can become murky in an election year. For instance, last year Congressional Democrats approved a budget deal that failed to extend emergency unemployment insurance for 3.1 million Americans, promising to fix it in 2014. But on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Democratically controlledSenate failed to find a solution. As the Center for American Progress points out, this is a high-stakes gamble for the LGBT community, which has high rates of unemployment and poverty. In this op-ed, former Get Equal activist-turned journalist Dan Fotou takes a look at the political Left in Congress and new progressive heroine, Elizabeth Warren. —Karen Ocamb) When I was a child, we had a set of rules established by parents, teachers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. The rules were simple: play nicely, welcome everyone, share and help where and when you can. We referred to these as The Sandbox Rules. Today, in Washington, D.C., those rules have seemingly been discarded by many for a much easier, much more harmful ideology: I'll get mine, protect it with all my might and forget about those left behind or suffering in the wake of my success.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! There'll be much mistletoing, and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near. It's the most wonderful time of the year!The beautiful winter sun sets behind the snowcapped mountains and white lights illuminate the Palm Springs strip that welcomes the brisk winter chill and holiday giddiness. Christmas carols pour from local shops as the scents of roasted chestnuts, chocolate fudge, fresh-baked bread and apple cider take us back to our idyllic, joyful youth. The warm memories of exchanging gifts with close friends and family, sharing delicious, made-with-love meals and the patter of little footsteps and laughter recall our innocence of a simpler day. Joyous nostalgia for better times past. Today, for some, is quite different. We needn't look very far to know someone who is suffering through sleepless nights, cloudy days and debilitating loneliness. In fact, for many in the LGBT community holidays are a reminder of pain, struggle, heartbreak, loss and fear. Of the pain of family rejection, the heartbreak of losing a partner to AIDS, the unrelenting fear that being alone in your golden years has become a stark reality.
(Editor's note: There was a moment of hope when the Senate passed ENDA last month that maybe—just maybe—House Speaker John Boehner would bring the bill to the floor for a straight up or down vote, where many thought it would pass. Hope turned to nope since Boehner thinks LGBT people already have job protections! But Get Equal activist-turned-journalist Dan Fotou is happy this version of ENDA didn't pass. In fact, he thinks the whole thing should be scrapped and re-done. He tells us why below. BTW, I'm writing an analysis of ENDA for Frontiers, including a field hearing in L.A. by Rep. Linda Sanchez —Karen Ocamb) Much has been made of the passage of the latest version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Democratically-controlled Senate last month. In spite of its potentially harmful religious exemptions, leading LGBT civil rights organizations—including the Human Rights Campaign—championed the victory and are calling on their members to help get the legislation through the Republican-controlled House.