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November 20, 2015 0

Today We Remember Transgender Lives Lost and Recommit to Justice

For the past six­teen years on Novem­ber 20th, trans­gen­der peo­ple and allies around the world have come together to mark Trans­gen­der Day of Remem­brance (TDOR). It is a day to honor trans­gen­der peo­ple whose lives trag­i­cally ended in the last year as a result of anti-transgender vio­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion and cel­e­brate the resilience of those who are liv­ing. At memo­r­ial ser­vices around the coun­try, the names of trans­gen­der peo­ple who have been killed in the last year are read.


Much like observ­ing a yahrtzeit (the anniver­sary of a death), it is a time for reflec­tion and intro­spec­tion. This year was an espe­cially vio­lent year, with at least 22 reported mur­ders in the United States since Jan­u­ary, almost dou­ble the num­ber of trans mur­ders in all of 2014. This year has also wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant increase in reported non-lethal anti-trans vio­lence. And the major­ity of this year’s vic­tims were trans­gen­der women of color.

Just this past week, the Con­gres­sional LGBT Equal­ity Cau­cus hosted a forum that brought together advo­cates and com­mu­nity lead­ers to dis­cuss how to address soar­ing lev­els of vio­lence against trans­gen­der peo­ple. Unsur­pris­ingly, issues of racism, poverty, the sys­tem­atic mar­gin­al­iza­tion of trans peo­ple, includ­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools, jobs and hous­ing were high­lighted. Advo­cates pri­or­i­tized com­pre­hen­sive nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions and immi­gra­tion and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform as a way to reduce vio­lence against trans people.

Also ear­lier this week, the FBI released the 2014 Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act (HCSA) report. While the report doc­u­mented a decrease in the num­ber of reported hate crimes in the United States, crimes tar­get­ing vic­tims on the basis of their gen­der iden­tity tripled. Tripled. And the vio­lence against trans­gen­der peo­ple is not lim­ited to the United States.  Trans Mur­der Mon­i­tor­ing (TMM) project, a pro­gram of Trans­gen­der Europe, sys­tem­at­i­cally mon­i­tors, col­lects and ana­lyzes reports of homi­cides of trans peo­ple world­wide. This year TMM iden­ti­fied 271 trans per­sons to be added to the list to be remembered.

It is impor­tant to take this day to mourn and to honor the lives of those trag­i­cally cut short by hatred and vio­lence. And it is also a day to re-commit to nam­ing the prob­lems work­ing on solutions.

A com­pre­hen­sive fed­eral anti-discrimination law that explic­itly includes gen­der iden­tity is essen­tial. We must ensure that trans­gen­der peo­ple are explic­itly pro­tected from dis­crim­i­na­tion in hous­ing, employ­ment, pub­lic accom­mo­da­tions, edu­ca­tion, fed­eral fund­ing, credit, and jury ser­vice. These legal pro­tec­tions will go far in reduc­ing the num­ber of trans­gen­der peo­ple put in vul­ner­a­ble posi­tions as a result of discrimination.

State hate crime laws must cover hate crimes com­mit­ted on the basis of gen­der iden­tity and expres­sion. An inclu­sive fed­eral hate crime law is not enough. We must redou­ble our efforts to ful­fill the goals of ADL’s 50 States Against Hate cam­paign, par­tic­u­larly enhanced train­ing for law enforce­ment offi­cers on how to iden­tify and respond to hate crimes com­mit­ted against trans peo­ple, bet­ter data col­lec­tion and report­ing by law enforce­ment agen­cies, and increased pub­lic education.

And we must edu­cate young peo­ple and edu­ca­tors about trans­gen­der lives. Our schools must be places where trans­gen­der and gen­der non-conforming youth are able to thrive in an envi­ron­ment that is safe and free from bul­ly­ing and harassment.

So today, we remem­ber and mourn. Tomor­row we con­tinue to fight fiercely for secur­ing jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all.


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November 5, 2015 2

Prioritizing Trans Rights in the Face of Hate and Lies

On Elec­tion Day, 60% of just one quar­ter of eli­gi­ble Hous­ton vot­ers dis­ap­point­ingly rejected the Hous­ton Equal Rights Ordi­nance (HERO) when they voted No on Prop #1. HERO cre­ated a broad swath of nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions for the city of Hous­ton, includ­ing pro­tec­tions based on race, reli­gion, sex, mil­i­tary sta­tus, preg­nancy, genetic infor­ma­tion, dis­abil­ity, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, and gen­der iden­tity. The cam­paign to repeal HERO was grounded in fear and decep­tion, rely­ing on the lie that the anti-discrimination ordi­nance would per­mit men to use women’s bathrooms.

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

There is a sad irony here. Oppo­nents of the ordi­nance can­not cite a sin­gle instance of a trans­gen­der per­son harass­ing a non-transgender per­son in a pub­lic restroom. Why? Because it doesn’t hap­pen. Not in Hous­ton nor in the 17 states and 200 cities that already have explicit pro­tec­tions for trans peo­ple. To the con­trary, it is trans­gen­der peo­ple them­selves who are most vul­ner­a­ble, with 70 per­cent of trans­gen­der or gen­der non-conforming respon­dents in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. report­ing that they have been, “denied access, ver­bally harassed, or phys­i­cally assaulted in pub­lic restrooms.” And it is pre­cisely this vio­lence that high­lights the need for com­pre­hen­sive hate crime laws in all 50 states.

But while the loss in Hous­ton still stings, the news for LGBT peo­ple around the coun­try is not all bad. Just last week, in the 4th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals in a case out of Vir­ginia, the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion filed a friend-of-the-court brief sup­port­ing a trans­gen­der stu­dent barred by his school from using the restroom that cor­re­sponds with his gen­der iden­tity.  And in Illi­nois, the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion found Mon­day that an Illi­nois school dis­trict vio­lated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a trans­gen­der girl who par­tic­i­pates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room with­out restrictions.

In other good news, a dis­trict court in Alabama recently issued a deci­sion in Isaacs v. Felder Ser­vices LLC that agreed with the EEOC that dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is always a form of sex discrimination.

But make no mis­take, the ugli­ness and hate we saw in the cam­paign lead­ing up to the vote in Hous­ton was real and has a real impact on the lives of trans­gen­der peo­ple — not just in Hous­ton, but across the coun­try. Rather than retreat, this is an oppor­tu­nity for LGBT com­mu­ni­ties and allies to rally. We must pri­or­i­tize trans­gen­der rights, hold elected offi­cials account­able for their words and actions, and find ways to edu­cate com­mu­ni­ties, and par­tic­u­larly to reach young peo­ple.

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July 24, 2015 4

Lafayette Shooting Suspect Fixated on Perceived Moral Decay


John Rus­sell Hauser (Louisiana State Police)

A pre­lim­i­nary exam­i­na­tion of the on-line writ­ings of John Rus­sell Houser, who killed him­self last night after a vicious shoot­ing spree at a movie the­ater in Lafayette, Louisiana, that left two dead and nine oth­ers injured, reveals a twisted, angry man upset at a per­ceived moral decay that he thought was destroy­ing the United States.

Houser, orig­i­nally from Geor­gia but who had lived in var­i­ous places across the South prior to the shoot­ing, spent much of his free time in recent years mak­ing short, angry posts to on-line dis­cus­sion forums and com­ment sec­tions on var­i­ous web­sites, often using the screen name “Rusty Houser.” In many of these posts, Houser dis­cussed his belief that the United States was “about to fall.”

His dis­con­tent with the United States led him to make extreme anti-American state­ments, such as describ­ing the United States as “the enemy of the world.” When, in the win­ter of 2015, some 200 cars piled up in a multi-vehicle snow­storm acci­dent, Houser claimed that “the lack of moral Amer­i­cans stand­ing for any­thing makes me wish it were 200 747’s.”

In another post­ing, he wrote that he was “with all those who hate the filth farm known as the U.S.” In 2014, Houser claimed that “all coun­tries that hate the U.S.” needed to unite.

As some of these state­ments indi­cate, Houser was obsessed with the notion of moral decay in the United States; this obses­sion fueled much of his anger.

Anti-black racism played an impor­tant role in Houser’s vision of decay and doom. He repeat­edly argued that blacks should be deported because they, as he said in one 2013 post­ing, “WILL NOT WORK and have NO FAMILY VALUES.” This was lan­guage Houser used again and again, some­times refer­ring to blacks explic­itly, at other times describ­ing them in other ways, such as “another race, not Latinos.”

In 2014, Houser claimed that “fail­ing to men­tion the role of Blacks in build­ing and main­tain­ing the alliance of evil that lit­er­ally grips the globe” would slow the re-taking of Amer­ica. “Else­where, this par­tic­u­lar role is the Jew. Here in the U.S., it is the Black.” In another 2014 post­ing, Houser elab­o­rated on the morality-hating peo­ple who allegedly con­trolled Amer­ica, an alliance con­sist­ing of 1) upper class whites; 2) Blacks; and 3) “mis­fits,” which Houser listed as “homos, trans­ves­tites, peo­ple who will not work, peo­ple with no cul­ture, etc.”

Other sources of decay for Houser included athe­ists, lib­er­als, and gays—in the lat­ter instance, Houser even sup­ported the rabidly homo­pho­bic West­boro Bap­tist Church.

In con­trast, Houser admired other eth­nic or reli­gious groups, such as Lati­nos or Mus­lims. This was because he viewed such groups as either hard work­ing or with strong moral val­ues, or both. “I will never under­stand,” he posted in 2013,” why the hard work­ing, morally supe­rior Lati­nos never bring up for dis­cus­sion the other race which is known to be com­pletely the oppo­site for the most part.”

Refer­ring to Mus­lim immi­grants, for exam­ple, he said, “those com­ing in are far more decent morally than the aver­age Amer­i­can.” Ira­ni­ans, he wrote in late 2013, were “far higher morally than this finan­cially fail­ing filth farm.”

Faced with this fan­tasy sce­nario of doom and decay, Hauser seemed to have hoped for a man on horse­back who would sweep away all the per­ceived moral filth—a Travis Bickle writ large. “The one bright spot,” he wrote on one forum in 2013, “is that all mat­ters in need of tidy­ing up will be dealt with in sum­mary fash­ion soon.”

One of his mod­els for such a leader was Adolf Hitler, whom he repeat­edly praised. In 2013, he wrote that “Hitler’s reac­tion to much would be invalu­able now, if 98% weren’t brain­washed in the U.S.” In early 2015, he claimed that Hitler “accom­plished far more” than any other lead­ers. Around the same time, he claimed that “decent peo­ple can retake the entire world, as Hitler proved.”

In a dif­fer­ent 2015 post­ing, Houser wrote that “Hitler is loved for the results of his prag­ma­tism” and that “the U.S. is no more than a finan­cially fail­ing filth farm. Soon the phrase ‘rul­ing with an iron hand’ will be palat­able anew.”

In 2013, Houser had sim­i­lar views on Amer­i­can white suprema­cist fig­ure David Duke, writ­ing that “at one time [Duke] appeared exactly what the U.S. needed.”

Houser also admired the Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Nazi polit­i­cal party, describ­ing them in 2014 as “com­posed of moral peo­ple.” Else­where, he described their ideas as “a legit­i­mate effort to solve prob­lems” and their lead­ers as “intel­li­gent, well spo­ken, and exer­cis­ing good faith.”

Houser had sim­i­larly admir­ing views of a vari­ety of other extrem­ist groups and move­ments, includ­ing rad­i­cal Islamists. “Yes, I am salut­ing the fun­da­men­tal­ist Mus­lims,” he said in Jan­u­ary 2015, “They have stood against evil.” He added, in a follow-up post, “They have my com­plete Chris­t­ian respect.”

These atti­tudes and opin­ions, which reveal them­selves so strik­ingly in Houser’s writ­ings, raise the unset­tling but real pos­si­bil­ity that he delib­er­ately chose a show­ing of the movie Train­wreck at which to launch a Taxi Dri­ver–like spree of vio­lence. The writer and star of the movie, tal­ented young come­dian Amy Schumer, has received con­sid­er­able media atten­tion thanks to the movie and her pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion show, and, given her cho­sen comedic per­sona of a sex­u­ally free-wheeling woman, as well as her lib­eral opin­ions, one could imag­ine how a dis­turbed mind like Houser’s could come to focus on the movie as a sym­bol for all of his dark fan­tasies about moral decay in America.

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