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Heterosexual man assaulted by gay-bashers in Victor; three arrested, charged

Jim Eskildsen

Jim Eskildsen

By Susan Jordan

“This has to end,” Jim Eskildsen said. “This hatred towards anybody has to end.”

Jim, a 42-year-old heterosexual, was attacked by two men screaming homophobic slurs on Feb. 4 as he and a male friend sat in the Victor Village Inn.

“If it can happen to me, a white heterosexual male,” he told The Empty Closet, “it can happen to anybody. It can happen anywhere.”

The three alleged attackers, William Cole, Dominick Wheeler and Robert Bergman, were arrested. On Feb. 23 they were charged with assault second degree, with a mandatory three-year jail sentence, in Ontario Co. Court. The Ontario Co. Grand Jury will rule by the end of March on whether hate crime charges will be added, according to Ontario Co. Assistant D.A. Jim Ritz.

Jim Eskildsen told The Empty Closet, “I would like this to get out so straight people can understand that this can happen to them. What you’re perceived as is where the hate comes from. It’s not who you are – it’s who the haters see you as.”

He continued, “I had never seen these men before. They were standing up against the wall talking and as soon as the bartender walked away and closed the door, one guy said, ‘I’ve been watching you all night long.’ Then they called us ‘f****** fags’ and jumped into action.”

Jim said he was able to jump in front of his smaller friend to protect him. “One guy was 6’2” and the other 5’8” and 200 lbs. You have that wall of force coming at you. They threw a couple of punches – it was more a wrestling match than anything else. One guy grabbed Paul (Jim’s friend) and threw him over a railing. A couple more punches were thrown, then it ended and I honestly don’t know why. They ran out of that part of the bar… I checked to see if Paul was OK.”

After this Jim and Paul left the bar and as soon as they went around the corner, they were again attacked, this time by three men yelling homophobic slurs. Jim said, “The third guy was 6’2” and 220 lbs. They all jumped us.”

Jim and Paul were knocked to the ground and the three perpetrators concentrated on punching and kicking Jim. He suffered a broken nose, broken eye socket, concussion and severely bruised ribs. Jim’s partner Lynn Commisso said, “His eye was swollen shut. This is a guy who played hockey. I couldn’t stop crying for days.”

Jim said, “The three men were driven by such anger at gay men. It’s not just hitting one person – everybody who cares about that person is affected. I was in the fetal position being beaten – and again it just ended. I wasn’t unconscious but I was shocked. Audio/visual just sort of went away.”

A witness in the bar knew who the men were and police made arrests the following Thursday (Feb. 9). Jim said, “I’m still dealing with the medical aspect of it. My eye socket was borderline for surgery. I’m hoping that it heals. I have headaches – the whole thing. I still have trouble breathing. The physical aspects aren’t as hard to deal with as realizing what actually happened. I’m 42 and have led a very full life, but never did I expect anything like this to happen, with such force and blind hate. I’ve had gay friends my whole life; they have experienced verbal harassment but nothing like this.”

 

Trump revokes protections for trans students: LGBTQ groups and allies respond

The Trump administration on Feb. 23 informed the Supreme Court that they are revoking guidance from the Departments of Education and Justice that clarified that transgender students are protected from sex discrimination by Title IX, the federal law that bars gender discrimination. The guidance, which was issued last May, reiterated the rights of transgender students to use restrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Rochester City Councilmember Matt Haag issued the following statement: “Yesterday, the City of Rochester reaffirmed that our city is a place where diversity is celebrated, inclusion is valued and acceptance is cheered. When people question why we took the step of updating our 30-plus year status as a Sanctuary City and specified gender identity and expression in our resolution, today offers one more reason we needed to affirm that our community values all people.

“The Trump administration’s steps to roll back the basic rights of transgender students to be protected in their schools by allowing students to use bathrooms associated with their identified gender is a deeply painful decision. This reversal stands in direct contrast to our city and its values, it promotes bigotry, division and fear. Kids should never have to fear their government or their schools. I want the residents of Rochester to know that we have already taken steps to affirm the rights of transgender citizens and visitors by including language to protect gender identity and expression in our City’s non-discrimination policy. I, along with my colleagues on City Council, will fight this rollback of civil rights and common decency.”

James Shepard, County Legislator of the 23rd Legislative District and candidate for Rochester Mayor, stated, “I would like to reaffirm my unconditional support for the rights of our transgender citizens. I would also like to applaud Rochester City Council for singling out gender identity in their recent legislation updating Rochester’s status as a Sanctuary city. Rochester has long prided itself on being an inclusive and progressive community – and that means protecting everyone’s rights, particularly the most vulnerable among us. President Trump has rescinded the Obama Administration’s guidelines instructing schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity – a move that was embraced by the LBGTQ community as a civil rights victory. I continue to stand with our LBGTQ brothers and sisters, as I have since my time in the RPD when we revised our policies to be more inclusive, and in 2012 when I was proud to advocate in Albany on behalf of marriage and gender equality.”

ACLU responds

American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project Director James Esseks had the following reaction: “Revoking the guidance shows that the president’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. But the bottom line is that this does not undo legal protections for trans students, and school districts can and must continue to protect them and all students from discrimination. School districts that recognize that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we’ll see them in court. We will continue to fight for the rights and dignity of transgender youth, especially now that the Trump administration has decided to turn its back on them.”

ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block, who is lead counsel for Gavin Grimm at the Supreme Court in March in the case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., said: “While it’s disappointing to see the Trump administration revoke the guidance, the administration cannot change what Title IX means. When it decided to hear Gavin Grimm’s case, the Supreme Court said it would decide which interpretation of Title IX is correct, without taking any administration’s guidance into consideration. We’re confident that that the law is on Gavin’s side and he will prevail just as he did in the Fourth Circuit.”

OUTServe SLDN responds:

OutServe-SLDN issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s Justice and Education Departments’ action today, rescinding guidelines the Obama Administration implemented for transgender students. The statement may be attributed to OutServe-SLDN’s Executive Director, Matt Thorn.
“Rescission of the Obama Administration’s guidelines and protections for transgender students is an appalling and devastating action by the Departments of Justice and Education. This administration, and this President, has vowed to be an ally of the LGBTQ community; yet this action is a direct contradiction to that declaration. The removal of this guidance strikes at the heart of our nation – a nation which should proudly provide an education system that is free of discrimination, protects all our students, and provides a healthy and sustainable environment to learn.

“This action also strikes in contradiction to First Lady Melania Trumps’ mission to eradicate bullying and marginalization of our youth in this country. This rescission directly and emphatically opens the door for discrimination and bullying of already vulnerable students who need nurturing and protection.

“The removal of this guidance particularly hurts our military families. Families that have dedicated their livelihood to protecting this great nation, and do not have a choice in their location of residence. Those families who wish to have the best educational environment for their transgender children now face a critical situation in which they have little, if any, latitude. Leaving this decision to the states creates a broken system that directly and adversely impacts all families, but especially our military families.

“OutServe-SLDN will provide any and all advocative and legal assistance possible, to any military and veteran families that experience discriminatory actions as a result of the rescission of these essential guidelines and protections. You may contact our legal department directly at 800-538-7418 or legal@outserve.org. We stand at the ready to serve you.”

Katharine Prescott, who lost her transgender son Kyler to suicide after he faced discrimination at his school, was a key advocate for the guidance issued by the Obama administration. She issued the following statement:

“After losing my son, I was compelled to help prevent this from happening to any other parent in any way possible. I was gratified to work with the Obama administration to ensure that this life-saving guidance was issued to help schools do the right thing by transgender students. Kyler’s story made a difference. Kyler was victimized daily by teachers, administrators, and peers who did not understand his gender identity and by a school that did not do what was needed to protect him. I pulled him out of the traditional classroom and put him in independent study. I could support and protect him at home, but not in school. I would welcome the chance to share my story with Secretary DeVos and Attorney General Sessions to help them understand the real-life implications of reversing the Title IX guidance for protecting transgender students.”

GLSEN’s Executive Director, Dr. Eliza Byard, issued the following statement:

“While the Trump Administration may abandon transgender students, GLSEN never will. This guidance was developed and issued to support transgender students because the reality is that transgender students are far more likely to face severe violence and discrimination at school than their peers, placing them at greatly increased risk of suicide and self-harm as a result. When students are allowed to be themselves, they thrive. This guidance changes and saves lives and hurts no one. It should not be withdrawn.”

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union, reiterated its pledge to double-down on protecting the civil rights of our LGBTQ students and members.

Withdrawing the guidance does not change the law. As most courts have held, Title IX protects transgender students, and only courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, can change that. Schools have a legal and a moral duty to support all students, including transgender students. In fact, states, school districts, and schools nationwide are supporting and affirming transgender students, and we believe they will continue to do so with or without guidance from the Trump administration.

NEA responds

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Every student matters, and every student has the right to feel safe, welcomed, and valued in our public schools. This is our legal, ethical and moral obligation. The Trump administration’s plans to reverse protections for transgender students by rescinding the Title IX guidance, is dangerous, ill-advised, and unnecessary.

“We reject this discriminatory plan because it is a drastic departure from our core values. We don’t teach hate, we do not tell people how to pray, and we do not discriminate against people based on their religion, gender, or identity. Period.

“As the Trump administration threatens our students and our values, we will double-down on our efforts to protect our most vulnerable citizens, including our LGBTQ students and members. We urge more states, school districts, and schools to adopt protections for transgender students. We owe to our students because they need to see us take a bold stand against discrimination whatever form it takes.”

News outlets are reporting that the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice will withdraw legal guidance that protects over 350,000 transgender youth and young adults in the United States from discrimination in education.  The Williams Institute is providing this fact sheet to assist with reporting on the issue.  Williams Institute scholars are available for comment.

The Guidance

In May 2016, under the Obama administration, the Departments of Education and Justice jointly released Guidance to school administrators about the rights of transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”). Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. The Guidance confirms that discrimination against transgender students on the basis of gender identity violates Title IX, consistent with a growing body of case law from federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on this issue on March 28, 2017 in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.
On February 21, 2017, news outlets began to report that the Trump administration plans to withdraw the Guidance.
Transgender Students in the United States

In the United States, there are approximately 150,000 transgender youth (age 13-17) and 206,000 young adults (18 to 24).
Widespread Bullying & Harassment Impacts Access to Education

The Guidance aimed to protect these students from school-based bullying, harassment, and discrimination that impairs their access to equal education. Research demonstrates the high prevalence of bullying and harassment of transgender students.

  • According to one study, 82 percent of transgender students reported hearing negative comments based on gender presentation from students sometimes or often, and 31 percent reported sometimes or often hearing negative comments by school personnel.
  • According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) – the largest survey of transgender people to date – 77 percent of respondents who were “out” or perceived as transgender in grades K-12 had negative experiences at school from being transgender, such as being verbally harassed or physically assaulted.
    • One USTS respondent recounted: “I was constantly bullied and physically assaulted by my classmates. Teachers would often see it happen and make no move to intervene. The harassment continued, and eventually I had to change high schools three times, each time just as bad as the last, until I finally gave up on public schools.”
    • Another USTS respondent described abuse so persistent – including being pelted with spit-balls, paper airplanes of hate mail, and soda cans – that the respondent avoided the school bus and restrooms from fear for personal safety.
  • One in six USTS respondents who were out as transgender in grades K-12 left school entirely because of harassment.
  • Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of USTS respondents who had attended college or vocational school reported verbal and physical harassment there, and, among them, 16 percent left college or vocational schooling because the harassment was so bad.

Restrooms: Denial of Access and a Location for Harassment

With respect to restroom access specifically, transgender people report being denied access, harassed, or assaulted while trying the access restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

  • Sixty percent of transgender students between the ages of 13 and 21 who responded to the 2015 National School Climate Survey had been required to use a bathroom or locker room of their legal sex.
  • In a Washington, DC survey, 70 percent of transgender respondents reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted while trying to access or using public restrooms.
    • Fifty-four percent of respondents reported having some sort of physical problem from trying to avoid using public bathrooms, all of whom reported that they “held it” to avoid public restrooms. Health problems included dehydration, urinary tract infections, kidney infection, and other kidney-related problems.

The Life Long Impacts of Harassment & Discrimination in Education

Educational attainment is a significant determinant of economic status and health across the life course. But discrimination, harassment, and victimization impairs many transgender students’ access to education, and is associated with lower educational attainment, reduced economic prospects, increased risk of homelessness, and other negative outcomes.

  • Stigma and mistreatment results in transgender individuals experiencing disproportionately high rates of depression, anxiety, and other psychological distress.
  • Research shows high rates of suicide attempts among transgender youth are related to experiences of discrimination, harassment, or assault/sexual violence.
  • Fully 82 percent of transgender people responding to the USTS seriously considered killing themselves at some point in their lives; nearly half (48 percent) in the year previous. Among respondents who had attempted suicide, more than a third (34 percent) made their first attempt at age 13 or younger; three-quarters did so before age 18.
  • Research shows high rates of suicide attempts among transgender youth are related to experiences of discrimination, harassment, or assault/sexual violence.
  • With respect to restroom access specifically, transgender students who are prohibited from using, or experience problems accessing, restrooms consistent with their gender identity report greater absenteeism, poorer school performance, withdrawing from public spaces and events, physical and mental health impacts (such as bladder infections, discomfort, and anxiety), having to change schools, or dropping out.

Supportive Environments Work

Despite these findings, research shows that creating a supportive environment that treats transgender people consistent with their gender identity can ameliorate these negative outcomes. Transgender people who are accepted and supported at home and in their community report lower rates of negative outcomes, including lower rates of mental distress, homelessness, and suicide.

National LGBT Bar Association responds:

The National LGBT Bar Association – the country’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and allied legal professionals – vehemently condemns the anti-transgender actions taken by the Trump Administration.

Today, the Departments of Education and Justice issued a letter rolling back the guidelines put in place by the Obama Administration that serve to protect transgender students in public spaces under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act. The withdrawal of these protections creates an unsafe environment for transgender students and allows for discrimination in our public institutions.

“The rollback of these protections is about more than using the restroom. Stripping away Title IX protections from transgender students sends a message that they are less valued than their cisgender counterparts,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar. “Children are guaranteed the right to a public education in this country. Forcing a transgender student to use public facilities not in line with their gender identity not only threatens their right to an education, but puts them at risk for very real physical harm. The LGBT Bar unequivocally condemns these actions by the Trump Administration and calls for an immediate reversal of this decision.”

The LGBT Bar remains dedicated to ensuring that all members of the LGBT community receive protections under the law. As an especially vulnerable section of the community, transgender students must be provided with the opportunity to live authentically in public spaces.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLSEN, the National Women’s Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, and MALDEF issued the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s rescission of Title IX guidance, which clarifies protections for transgender students under the law:

“The U.S. Department of Education has a critical and well-established role in clarifying and enforcing civil rights protections for all students. The department has an obligation to ensure that all students have equal educational opportunities, a mandate that applies regardless of a student’s gender identity. Transgender students who face discrimination in schools have worse educational outcomes, and poorer psychological well-being than their cisgender peers.

The guidance released by the Departments of Justice and Education last May clarified for school districts across the country that transgender students are protected under Title IX, an existing federal civil rights law that protects students from discrimination based on sex. The guidance presented best practices from schools across the country and advised schools on complying with the law. School districts received much-needed clarification that, under federal law, they must treat students equally and with dignity, consistent with their gender identity. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of transgender students received a clear message: the law was on their side.

By rescinding the guidance today, the Trump administration has taken the opposite stance. They have sent a deeply troubling message to students that the administration will not stand up for students’ civil rights. We condemn the administration’s decision, vow to fight to enforce Title IX, which continues to protect transgender students, and call on individual schools and districts to treat students consistent with their gender identity and consistent with the rescinded guidance that accurately explained the law.”

Today The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLSEN, the National Women’s Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, and MALDEF issued the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s rescission of Title IX guidance, which clarifies protections for transgender students under the law:

“The U.S. Department of Education has a critical and well-established role in clarifying and enforcing civil rights protections for all students. The department has an obligation to ensure that all students have equal educational opportunities, a mandate that applies regardless of a student’s gender identity. Transgender students who face discrimination in schools have worse educational outcomes, and poorer psychological well-being than their cisgender peers.

The guidance released by the Departments of Justice and Education last May clarified for school districts across the country that transgender students are protected under Title IX, an existing federal civil rights law that protects students from discrimination based on sex. The guidance presented best practices from schools across the country and advised schools on complying with the law. School districts received much-needed clarification that, under federal law, they must treat students equally and with dignity, consistent with their gender identity. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of transgender students received a clear message: the law was on their side.

By rescinding the guidance today, the Trump administration has taken the opposite stance. They have sent a deeply troubling message to students that the administration will not stand up for students’ civil rights. We condemn the administration’s decision, vow to fight to enforce Title IX, which continues to protect transgender students, and call on individual schools and districts to treat students consistent with their gender identity and consistent with the rescinded guidance that accurately explained the law.”

Center for American Progress responds:

Center for American Progress Vice President for the LGBT Research and Communications Project Laura E. Durso issued the following statement after the Trump administration rescinded guidance clarifying protections for transgender students from discrimination in schools.

President Donald Trump and his administration have a duty to uphold the principle of equal access to education for all students, but instead, they’re choosing discrimination over basic civil rights.

No student should ever be denied the opportunity to learn because of their gender identity. The administration is sending the dangerous message that it will turn a blind eye to schools that violate transgender students’ rights under federal civil rights law. Transgender young people have the right to learn free from harassment and discrimination and the rescinded guidance was a tool that helped schools address that discrimination. A month into his presidency with little to show for it, Trump should be focused on creating opportunity for all Americans—not denying it to transgender youth. This shameful, irresponsible action serves no purpose but to harm students’ health, limit their opportunities for achievement, and deny them a fair shot to succeed in school.

The Department of Education and the Department of Justice tonight issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter changing their position from that of the previous administration by rescinding guidance that clarified the rights of transgender students under Title IX, the federal antidiscrimination law that applies to schools.

The new Trump administration guidance cannot undo the legal protections under Title IX and the Constitution that apply to transgender students. The majority of federal courts have upheld the Obama administration’s guidance, and the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to definitely vindicate the rights of transgender students under federal law in March when it hears a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of Gavin Grimm. Moreover, there are independent protections for students in New York State law that will be unaffected by the guidance.

NY Civil Liberties Union responds:

The following statement is attributable to New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman:

“The Trump administration has made it clear that it will not protect the rights of the transgender community – one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. Even as the law remains on the side of transgender students, the administration’s new guidance sends them a terrible message about their right to receive an education as the people that they are, and creates national confusion around our civil rights laws that will put countless transgender children’s lives and well-being at risk.”

“There is no question that state law independently continues to protect the rights of transgender students here in New York. But with the federal government embracing a dangerous, discriminatory position, we urge Governor Cuomo to strengthen state protections for transgender students by fixing a loophole in the state Human Rights Law to ensure that it applies to students facing discrimination, and improving existing protections by passing the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).”

Regardless of federal law, students in New York have the right to:

  • Use the restroom and locker room in accordance with their gender identity
  • Participate in gender-segregated activities in accordance with their gender identity
  • Adhere to dress codes in accordance with their gender identity and expression
  • Be protected from harassment based on their gender identity and expression
  • Maintain privacy regarding their gender identity, among other protections.

For more information, visit: https://www.nyclu.org/en/press-releases/trump-administration-rescinds-critical-protections-transgender-students-nyclu-urges

 

NBA joins NFL to warn Texas: anti-gay laws will lose All Star Game, Super Bowl

The NCAA pulled out of North Carolina to protest HB2...

The NCAA as well as the NBA pulled out of North Carolina to protest HB2…

On Feb. 17 the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hailed comments from the National Basketball Association, warning Texas lawmakers that any legislative attack on LGBTQ people would factor into a decision as to where big-ticket games, such as the All-Star Game, would be played. The NBA joins the NFL in issuing a warning to lawmakers in Texas, after the National Football League cautioned last week that anti-LGBTQ legislation such as Texas’ SB 6 could affect Texas cities’ future bids for the Super Bowl.

“The NBA’s commitment to the safety, dignity and worth of its players, employees and fans is clear. It’s time for Texas to make the same commitment,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “This weekend the city of New Orleans will celebrate an All-Star Weekend originally slated for Charlotte. Is that the kind of loss Texas lawmakers want to see? We hope that Texas lawmakers will heed this warning better than their North Carolinian counterparts did. Bills such as SB 6 are discriminatory, costly and wrong, and we are glad to see that the NBA and the NFL continue to stand on the side of equality and fairness.”

In July of 2016, the NBA pulled its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC after North Carolina specifically because lawmakers refused to repeal the harmful, discriminatory HB2. Despite the NBA’s repeated warnings that it would have to consider moving the high-profile game out of the state if the anti-LGBTQ law was not repealed, the state’s General Assembly neglected to act to repeal HB2. The 2017 All-Star Game will be played this weekend in New Orleans.

In a statement, an NBA spokesperson said, “ensuring the environment where those who participate and attend are treated fairly and equally,” is a key factor in the league’s decision-making process when selecting sites for the All-Star Game and others. Last week, the NFL issued a similar statement, saying, “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”

SB 6 is a discriminatory, anti-transgender bill. ?The bill would overturn non-discrimination ordinances currently providing critical protections in several major Texas cities; further, it would force state agencies, municipalities, public schools and public universities to discriminate against transgender people. By making it illegal for transgender people in Texas to be afforded access to facilities consistent with their identity, it opens them up to increased discrimination and harassment as they simply live their everyday lives. It also exposes Texas to tremendous risk of the kind of financial, legal, and political blowback that North Carolina has continued to reckon with after the passage of HB2.?

 

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