All people deserve respect and to be treated fairly and equally, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, legal status, (non)religious beliefs, abilities, or any other way our glorious diversity is used to justify discrimination and the denial of human rights.
Also, with gender, I would like to make clear that I reject the phrase “gender identity” because gender is already a social construct, and by differentiating it from gender, it is both redundant, but more importantly, a subtle but insidious designation of “other” that just reinforces the marginalization of transfolk.
Please share any experience that illustrates your understanding of and interest in the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2000, I worked on Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign as a lead advance. I had the opportunity to create events for two issues I am particularly passionate about- the gun violence epidemic and gay rights. The first one featured families who had lost children in East LA to gun violence, and I had no problem getting approval. For the latter, I took the Senator to the longest surviving gay bar in Des Moines, Iowa, Blazing Saddle. That one was a fight that I ultimately won, and I remember how proud I was of my candidate, as he posed with same-sex families, a boa draped over his shoulders.
Unlike gun control, gay rights has made so much progress in the twenty years since that election. But I fear that it can be undone with one Supreme Court case or another 4 years of GOP leadership. Everything is in peril. The rise of homo- and transphobia and a Supreme Court that is so clearly anti-LGBTQ+ (hang on, RBG!) are indications of where this could go. But it’s not just that. I would imagine that the LGBTQ+ community is just as concerned with access to quality healthcare, the rise of racism and sexism, the regressive tax structure, the growing wealth distribution disparity, childhood poverty, the GOP-NRA blood pact, and privatization of our public goods, just like I am.
How would you lead or support legislation addressing reparative/conversion therapy? As with so much of what I’ve written above, LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and reparative/conversion
therapy represents one of the most vile and negative sides of denying LGBTQ+ individuals those rights, not only as it so often used against children but under the guise of religion. It is not only an attempted erasure through shame and humiliation of someone’s individual rights but also a corruption of their free will utilizing those few lines of trust a child might have as a minor but also when applied to adults. I would ban conversion therapy. If it was possible, I’d strip the non-profit status of churches that promote or implement such practices.
How will you combat Republican efforts to eliminate or severely reduce Ryan White Funding?
We are at a critical juncture in the fight against HIV/AIDS, one that, surreally, President Trump seems to want to take a victory lap for ending while not taking the additional step of making PrEP available. Yes, HIV transmission cases in Texas have seemingly plateaued across most (but not all) communities, but if the federal government is serious about ending the plague of HIV/AIDS for good, PrEP should be universally available and could be administered through an expansion of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program.
Whereas approximately 40% of our youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, how would you lead an effort to combat such a disproportionality, whether through federally funded research or proposed legislation?
Due to the harassment LGBTQ+ youth experience in so many existing facilities for the homeless, I would look for ways to work with and fund existing non-profit organizations to create/expand temporary housing for them, but also provide counseling, addiction recovery services, and other forms of education to those who come looking for help. Homelessness in LGBTQ+ youth is so often associated with traumatic situations that led to an expulsion from a home, so part of any center dedicated to homeless LGBTQ+ youth should also have the funding to not only provide meals or recreation, but also the staff that can help guide the individual into a larger, waiting, and welcoming LGBTQ+ community. As hard as I work to help solve issues of homelessness in Texas cities, I would be certain that any legislation or funding passed would accommodate the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
Long term, we need to create laws that protect these kids, to set the tone of what is unacceptable in our civil society.