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March 22, 2016

Intended or Not, SJP’s Actions Have Consequences for LGBTQ People

By Seth M. Marnin, Vice President for Civil Rights

Recent homophobic and anti-Semitic incidents at Brown University came on the heels of the announcement that Janet Mock, transgender author and founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women, had cancelled her scheduled speaking engagement there. Mock’s talk, Redefining Realness, was sponsored by Moral Voices, the Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center, Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Swearer Center for Public Service, Office of the Chaplains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, and Brown/RISD Hillel.

Reacting to the fact that Hillel was one of the co-sponsors of program, the Brown University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) launched a change.org petition urging Ms. Mock to reject Hillel’s invitation to speak, saying that she should accept “Brown students’ sponsorship instead of Hillel’s.”  Although they were only able to gain 159 supporters (of the nearly 9,000 students who attend Brown), SJP’s divisive efforts led to Ms. Mock cancelling her talk.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

While some may be quick to criticize Ms. Mock’s decision, condemnation should instead be leveled against SJP and their efforts to splinter a community and use Ms. Mock as a pawn. In their effort to link Hillel’s Moral Voices’ campaign – a largely domestic initiative highlighting violence against LGBT+ individuals and communities – to violence in the Middle East, SJP forced a transgender woman of color to choose between silencing herself or allowing herself to be exploited for their unrelated crusade.  She should never have been put in that position.

The homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti that appeared on Brown’s campus just days later occurred in an environment that SJP helped create. Their claim to be surprised is unpersuasive.   Moreover, the graffiti is only one visible sign of the consequences of SJP’s actions. While SJP’s efforts to alienate Jewish students are well documented, there are other implications too.

There are far too few visible transgender role models and leaders. Efforts that have the effect of quashing those scarce voices have far-reaching repercussions.  For example, studies have shown that the suicide attempt rate among transgender men and women exceeds 41%, greatly surpassing the 4.6% of the overall U.S. population who report a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. The elevated rates of suicide attempts are connected with survivors’ experiences of family rejection and discrimination and violence at school and work. The absence of transgender voices in mainstream discourse also plays a role. There few role models for young transgender people, and families, co-workers, and friends of transgender people have limited opportunities to hear from transgender leaders.  Such an experience would better equip them to be allies in the future. Unfortunately, SJP’s actions foreclosed that possibility for the Brown University campus.

The importance of providing platform for transgender voices is underscored by the fact that, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ most recent report, violence against transgender women and particularly transgender women of color remains at an alarmingly high rate. At present, only 17 states and the District of Columbia have hate crime laws that explicitly cover gender identity. Critical efforts to address violence against LGBTQ people, including advocacy for inclusive hate crime laws like the 50 States Against Hate campaign, are undermined by organizations that engage in activism that results in silencing transgender voices. That too is what SJP did.

SJP encouraged a speaker – wholly unrelated to Israel – to reject an invitation from a broad coalition of student organizations solely because one of those organizations is Jewish. Intended or not, SJP harmed the LGBTQ community at Brown and beyond.  It’s well beyond time to reject these divisive tactics.

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November 20, 2015

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.

TDOR-forblog

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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August 31, 2015

A Special Trip to Atlanta, and a New Campaign to Combat Hate Crimes in America

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League

ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt with  Congressman John Lewis at an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Leo Frank.

ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt with Congressman John Lewis at an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Leo Frank.

Last week was a special week for me personally and more importantly, I hope, for the Anti-Defamation League as we began a campaign to ensure every American is protected by a state hate crime law.

In Atlanta, Georgia, near the site of the lynching of Jewish pencil factory manager Leo Frank a century ago (an incident which, coming just two years after the formation of ADL, sent shock waves through the Jewish community and galvanized our work), we launched #50StatesAgainstHate, a nationwide effort to shore up hate crime laws in America.

Along with two dozen groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Council of La Raza, we made a commitment to pass hate crime laws in the five states that do not have them (including Georgia and South Carolina, site of the horrible Charleston 9 murders earlier this summer), strengthen laws on the books in other states so they include crimes against the LGBT community, and train law enforcement on how to prosecute these crimes.

This work embodies ADL’s founding mission: To stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.

This dual and complementary mission is what we brought me to Atlanta – to launch this new campaign and to speak with leaders of both the Jewish and African-American communities there, two peoples with very different histories, but a shared commitment to an inclusive America where equal treatment and opportunity are available to all.

Mr. Greenblatt in Atlanta discussing ADL's new campaign for tougher hate crimes laws across the country

Mr. Greenblatt in Atlanta discussing ADL’s new campaign for tougher hate crimes laws across the country

My family and I celebrated Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) with Congregation Or Hadash, a synagogue that relatives of mine attend which has made social justice a key part of its mission. There, I spoke about the Iran deal and how the Jewish-American community must not let it disagreements over it tear us apart.

The next day, I was honored to take the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s church and center of the Civil Rights Movement. There, we mourned the news of Julian Bond’s death, and then looked forward to the work ahead: including passing a hate crimes law in Georgia. It was wonderful to meet Martin Luther King III and his family who was at the service, and the warm welcome that the congregation gave me – a man of a different race and faith – is something that I will always remember.

On Monday, the anniversary of the Leo Frank lynching, our local ADL leadership was joined by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, and Congressman John Lewis as we marked the somber occasion and kicked off the #50StatesAgainstHate campaign. For those that doubt the Jewish and African-American communities can come together, I say: come to Atlanta and see how ADL and Jewish communal leaders are working together toward shared goals that will protect us both and make our country stronger.

While the weekend was inspirational and invigorating, I am under no illusions that the work ahead of us will take many months – and even many years. But knowing that our cause is just, I know that ADL and our partners will keep at it – day after day – until we are able to say that we honored the memory of Leo Frank and all those killed by hate-filled murderers and passed hate crimes laws in all 50 states.

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