Showing posts with label Gays In Military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gays In Military. Show all posts

July 12, 2019

In South Korea Gays Can Serve in The Military But Chances Are They Will be Eventually be Prosecuted

                           Related image

SEOUL, South Korea — The army lieutenant knew his career was irrevocably damaged when military investigators visited him in 2017, demanding that he admit having had sex with another male soldier — a crime in South Korea’s military.

When the investigators put him on a video call with his ex-lover, who admitted to the relationship, he felt he had to confess. Then they seized the lieutenant’s smartphone, pressing him to identify gay soldiers in his contact lists. And they humiliated him with questions like “What sex positions did you use?” and “Where did you ejaculate?”

The lieutenant — who in an interview asked to be identified only by his surname, Kim — could have gone to prison, but his indictment was suspended because of his “contrition.” He chose to leave the army, though, believing that he no longer had a future there.

South Korea’s military says it does not discriminate against sexual minorities. But Mr. Kim is one of an increasing number of gay or transgender soldiers who have been persecuted under Article 92-6 of the Army Criminal Act, which has been used to out them and punishes them for consensual sex, Amnesty International said in a report released on Thursday.

Under Article 92-6, “anal sex and other indecent acts” between military personnel can be punished by up to two years in prison, even if they take place off base, while the soldiers are off duty and by mutual consent. Repeated attempts by advocates for L.G.B.T. and intersex people to abolish the law have been unsuccessful.

“South Korea’s military must stop treating L.G.B.T.I. people as the enemy” said Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty International. The group’s report, “Serving in Silence,” also details sexual and other abuses inflicted on gay soldiers, or soldiers perceived as gay, by their superiors and their fellow soldiers.

“It is long overdue for the military to acknowledge that a person’s sexual orientation is totally irrelevant to their ability to serve,” Ms. Rife said.

The South Korean government says Article 92-6 is not meant to punish sexual orientation. Rather, it says, it is needed to deter sexual abuse in the army, which is almost entirely male. The country’s Constitutional Court has repeatedly ruled that the article is justified by the military’s need to preserve discipline and “combat power.”

South Korea, which technically has been in a state of war with North Korea for decades, has a conscript army of about 600,000 soldiers. All able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve for about two years. 

The military says it does not bar gay and transgender people from serving, and the Defense Ministry has expanded training on protecting the rights of sexual minorities. What is forbidden, the army says, is not sexual identity, but what the law calls “indecent” sexual activity.

Enforcement of Article 92-6 has been on the rise. The number of soldiers charged under it went from two per year in 2009 and 2010 to 14 in 2012, then 28 in 2017. Ten soldiers were charged in the first half of 2018, the most recent period for which data was available.

Military veterans have long reported discrimination against homosexuals in the army, as well as more widespread abuses like beatings, hazing, and bullying. Most gay soldiers have hidden their sexual orientation for fear of being outed and harassed.

In 2017, the year Mr. Kim was interrogated, the army launched a particularly aggressive crackdown based on Article 92-6, confiscating soldiers’ cellphones without warrants and forcing them to identify other soldiers with whom they’d had sex, according to the Military Human Rights Center, a civic group based in Seoul, the capital.

Nine active-duty soldiers were indicted, of whom eight were convicted, including a captain who received a suspended prison term. Several of the cases are being appealed, and none of the soldiers have been sent to prison, according to Lim Tae-hoon, director of the Military Human Rights Center of Korea, which provides legal assistance for the soldiers.

Fourteen other soldiers were investigated but not indicted — some of whom, including Mr. Kim, has petitioned the Constitutional Court to rule Article 92-6 unconstitutional, Mr. Lim said.

In South Korea, which has been slow to embrace the rights of sexual minorities, that 2017 crackdown triggered an unusual degree of outrage. 

In recent years, gay people have become more visible in the country. But conservative Christian groups have also escalated demonstrations against homosexuality in major cities, often calling gay soldiers a threat to military readiness.

Those groups helped to scuttle attempts in Parliament to pass an anti-discrimination law, urged on South Korea by the United Nations, that would give sexual minorities the same protections that other minority groups have.

Amnesty International’s report describes in vivid detail how antigay attitudes have translated into physical and sexual abuse within the military.

One former soldier told the rights group he had been forced to have oral and anal sex with another gay soldier, as a superior taunted, “Don’t you want to have sex with a woman like man?” Others have been sexually abused for “not being masculine enough,” walking in an “effeminate” way or having a high-pitched voice, according to the report.

Amnesty said it interviewed 21 former, current and future soldiers for the report, most of whom used pseudonyms, including Mr. Kim. One of them, Jeram Yunghun Kang, agreed to the use of his full name in an interview with The New York Times.

Mr. Kang, who joined the army in 2008, said other soldiers in his unit harassed him by groping him, kissing his neck and pulling down his underwear. After he confided to an officer that he was gay and asked for help, his battalion commander outed him in front of his entire unit, asking him, “Who did you seduce last night?”

From that day on, Mr. Kang said, he had to wear a “smiley face” pin on his chest, marking him as a “soldier of special interest.” 

“I had to take showers alone,” Mr. Kang said by telephone from London. “I was considered dirty, someone neither male nor female who should not be naked in the presence of other men.”

Mr. Kang was eventually sent to a military psychiatric ward, where he was forced to take antidepressants twice a day. Staffers there advised him to pretend to be insane so he could be ruled unfit for service and expelled from the military.

Mr. Kang refused. Instead, he said, he attempted suicide twice. He was put in solitary confinement, his limbs tied to a bed.

“While I was tied there in a room where there was no sound or light allowed in, I felt that there was nowhere for me to run in South Korea,” he said. After 116 days in a hospital, he was expelled from the military in 2009 for psychiatric reasons.

Mr. Kang’s mother, who raised him alone, sold her house so he could go to London, to live and study in a more accepting environment. Since moving there in 2016, he has drawn on his experience in the military to create installation art and a self-published book.

Now, his student visa about to expire, Mr. Kang is afraid to come home.

“I left South Korea as if I were fleeing,” he said. “I dread going back there. I feel like I am a refugee.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 11, 2019, Section A, Page 9 of the New York edition with the headline: Gay Soldiers Can Serve. But They May Face Prison

March 25, 2018

Trump Moves to Ban Most Transgender People From The Military

 Can You Tell the difference? Not in looks which is not important but  in combat  definetly not, they get  the job done

 President Donald Trump released an order Friday night banning most transgender troops from serving in military except under "limited circumstances," following up on his calls last year to ban transgender individuals from serving.

The White House said retaining troops with a history or diagnosis of "gender dysphoria" — those who may require substantial medical treatment — "presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality."

Trump surprised the Pentagon's leadership in a 2017 tweet when he declared he would reverse an Obama-era plan to allow transgender individuals to serve openly. His push for the ban has been blocked by several legal challenges, and three federal courts have ruled against the ban. The Pentagon responded by allowing those serving to stay in the military, and began allowing transgender individuals to enlist beginning Jan. 1.

"This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, accused the Trump administration of pushing "anti-transgender prejudices onto the military."

"There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops," said HRC President Chad Griffin. 

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, president of Service members, Partners and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All, or SPART*A, accused the administration of announcing the move on Friday in order to "hide what they're doing." And he said the policy's implications for transgender members of the armed forces weren't entirely clear: "There’s still some interpretation to be had there."

"We will continue to serve at the standard required by the military until we are told otherwise," Dremann told NBC News. "Transgender service members are currently deployed all over the world, and there's been no demonstrable impact on readiness."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., expressed his opposition to the move on Twitter Friday night. 

Trump received recommendations from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in February for dealing with transgender individuals serving in the military. The White House said Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen agreed with the policy.

In Mattis's Feb. 22 memo to Trump explaining his recommendation, which the Pentagon made public late Friday night, he cited exceptions to the ban.

"Currently serving service members who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria since the previous administration's policy took effect and prior to the effective date of this new policy, may continue to serve in their preferred gender and receive medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria," Mattis wrote.

Earlier Friday, Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said the announcement of a new policy would have no immediate practical effect on the military because the Pentagon is obliged to continue to recruit and retain transgender people in accordance with current law.

The issue has become mired in a complicated string of political statements, court decisions and policy reviews since Trump first stunned his administration with his tweets last July. It's unclear how much impact the court decisions will have on Trump's decision. 

The Justice Department issued a statement Friday saying it will continue to defend the Pentagon's "lawful authority to create and implement personnel policies they have determined are necessary to best defend our nation. Consistent with this new policy, we are asking the courts to lift all related preliminary injunctions."

Activist groups had worried the administration could enact such strict enlistment and health care restrictions that it would become all but impossible for transgender troops to join or continue serving.

Under guidelines presented in December, the Pentagon could disqualify potential recruits with gender dysphoria, those with a history of medical treatments associated with gender transition and those who underwent reconstruction. Such recruits could be allowed in if a medical provider certified they've been clinically stable in the preferred sex for 18 months and are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas.

Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy must be stable on their medication for 18 months.

The requirements make it challenging for a transgender recruit to pass. But they mirror conditions laid out by President Barack Obama's administration in 2016, when the Pentagon initially lifted its ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military.

by Associated Press and NBC News

It is adamfoxie's 10th🦊Anniversay. 10 years witnessing the world and bringing you a pieace whcih is ussually not getting its due coverage.

January 23, 2018

2 Army Captains Make History At West Point by Getting Married There

"The New York Timeson Friday
He remembered thinking, “this guy has a lot of guts, and he’s kind of cute, too.” (And both, now active-duty Apache helicopter pilots, were in the Army.)'  Tweeter

Two Army captains who met in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era of the military, became the first active-duty, same-sex couple to get married at West Point when they exchanged vows last weekend.

Capt. Daniel Hall, 30, and Capt. Vinny Franchino, 26, both Apache helicopter pilots, were married at the New York military academy’s picturesque chapel, the New York Times reported on Friday.

The couple met in 2009 when Hall was a senior and Franchino was a freshman. At the time, former President Bill Clinton’s policy, “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in effect, barring homosexual or bisexual members of the military from disclosing his or her sexual orientation and from speaking about homosexual relationships. 

“We couldn’t tell the truth for fear of what would happen to us,” Franchino told The Times. “So we put it in our minds that we were never going to say we were gay, we were never going to get made fun of, and we were certainly never going to get kicked out of the Army.”

Congress repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” in September 2011, clearing the way for the pair the pair to come out and go on their first date, which happened in 2012. 

“That’s where some guy called us both faggots,” Franchino told The Times.

They then found out that Hall was being deployed to South Korea with his Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and began dating other people, but eventually got back together.

Soon enough, the pair were walking down the aisle of West Point’s chapel donning their pressed blue formal uniforms, reading their vows, and ducking under a saber-arch salute as an officially married couple.

Franchino said that although he’s been through a lot with his new husband, nothing was worse than when he had to hide his identity.

“We’ve experienced everything from people feeling awkward around us to being called faggots while holding hands and walking down the street, stuff like that,” Franino said. “But despite what we’ve been through, nothing was worse than having served during the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ years.”

December 13, 2017

Opposing Trump Court Rules Military Can Start Recruiting Transgenders After Jan 1

Transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform 
during a July interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen
 near Regensburg, Germany.
Matthias Schrader/AP 
Following a federal court ruling, the Pentagon has confirmed it will allow openly transgender individuals to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1. The Trump administration had resisted that deadline in court, seeking to have its ban on new transgender troops reinstated — but on Monday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly upheld an earlier decision to temporarily block President Trump's ban.
That ban has been under fire since it was issued in a presidential memorandum in August. It quickly drew several lawsuits, and two federal judges — including Kollar-Kotelly in October — moved to put it on hold while those cases were decided in the courts. As NPR's Camila Domonoske explained then, Kollar-Kotelly found "that trans members of the military have a strong case that the president's ban would violate their Fifth Amendment rights."
The administration appealed that ruling, seeking to implement its ban during the pending court cases, only to see the appeal denied by Kollar-Kotelly on Monday.
Later on Monday, a third judge issued a ruling blocking the president's ban on transgender recruits. U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman ruled in Seattle in the case of a soldier based in Washington state and two men who hope to enlist.
In her decision, she noted that she was "not convinced by the vague claims" that the Jan. 1 deadline needed to be delayed. At the same time, she reiterated her October argument that trans service members have a strong case and questioned the administration's "portrayal of their situation as an emergency," considering more than three weeks passed before it filed the appeal.
"If complying with the military's previously established January 1, 2018 deadline to begin accession was as unmanageable as Defendants now suggest, one would have expected Defendants to act with more alacrity," she added in the final line of her decision. The Department of Defense has announced it will comply with the order to allow transgender recruits — but in a statement Monday, the department made clear that it is doing so reluctantly.
"This policy will be implemented while the Department of Justice appeals those court orders," a Pentagon spokesperson said in the statement, adding: "DoD and the Department of Justice are actively pursuing relief from those court orders in order to allow an ongoing policy review scheduled to be completed before the end of March."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Justice Department is also "reviewing legal options" to ensure that the president's directive can be implemented.
Kollar-Kotelly's ruling marks a new step in a twisting legal drama that promises to continue for some time — and traces its origins to an Obama-era policy announced 18 months ago.
In June 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the Pentagon would be lifting a long-running ban on openly transgender service members. As part of that announcement, a one-year deadline was set for the military to begin admitting new transgender troops. But before that deadline could take effect earlier this year, it was quietly extended by six months — to Jan. 1, 2018.
Then, this past July, Trump tweeted that "the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." He later issued an official presidential memo, slightly dialing back the severity suggested in his tweet: That order prohibited the enlistment of new troops who are openly transgender, halted the use of federal funds for sex reassignment surgeries, and left it to his defense secretary to decide whether to expel trans troops who are currently serving.
Secretary Jim Mattis announced just days later that current trans troops could remain in the military "in the interim."
Now, under the injunction that was upheld Monday, new trans troops can enlist, as well — at least temporarily as long as the lawsuits against Trump's ban are still pending, and perhaps permanently, if those lawsuits are successful.
"Today's announcements — both by the court and the Pentagon — signal that there is an awareness that it's not right to make military policy by tweets," Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, which works on LGBT issues in the military, tells NPR's Greg Myre. "And when there's a deliberate process of study, then that process should be respected and implemented."

October 31, 2017

Trump's Anti Transgender Military Order is Blocked by Federal Judge

A federal judge on Monday partially blocked enforcement of key provisions of President Donald Trump's memorandum banning transgender people serving in the military.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly blocked provisions of the memorandum concerning the enlistment and retention of transgender military service members, holding that the plaintiffs "have established that they will be injured by these directives, due both to the inherent inequality they impose, and the risk of discharge and denial of accession that they engender. "

The judge also blasted Trump's initial abrupt announcement via Twitter that came "without any of the formality or deliberative processes that generally accompany the development and announcement of major policy changes that will gravely affect the lives of many Americans."

In partially granting a preliminary injunction pending appeal, the judge said the plaintiffs -- current and aspiring service members who are transgender -- are "likely to succeed" on their due process claims. 

The judge said that the effect of her order was to "revert to the status quo" that existed before the memo that was issued August 25. The memo indefinitely extended a prohibition against transgender individuals entering the military and it required the military to authorize, by no later than March 23, 2018, the discharge of transgender service members. 

Trump administration lawyers had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was premature because the Pentagon is currently studying how to implement the President's directive and no action would be taken until after the policy review is completed.

They also argued that "federal courts owe the utmost deference to the political branches in the field of national defense and military affairs, both because the Constitution commits military decisions exclusively to those branches and because courts have less competence to second-guess military decision making."

But Kollar-Kotelly, of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, declined to wait, ruling that even though the policy was still subject to review, the government's arguments "wither away under scrutiny."

"The Memorandum unequivocally directs the military to prohibit indefinitely the accession of transgender individuals and to authorize their discharge," she wrote, "this decision has already been made."  

Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said, "we disagree with the court's ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps."

Ehrsam added: "Plaintiffs' lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the President ordered, and because none of the Plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service." 

Kollar-Kotelly also had harsh words for the administration, highlighting the "unusual circumstances surrounding the President's announcement" of the ban that initially came in a July 26 tweet and the fact that the "reasons given to them do not appear to be supported by any facts."

In her 76-page opinion, she actually posted a screen grab of the President's tweets on the subject.

"After Consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," read one July 26 tweet.
Sessions says civil rights law doesn't protect transgender workers

And Kollar-Kotelly said that the President's decision was not supported by the facts.
"All of the reasons proffered by the President for excluding transgender individuals from the military, in this case, were not merely unsupported, but were actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions, and judgment of the military itself," she wrote.

Shannon Minter, a plaintiffs' lawyer and legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the ruling "a complete victory for our plaintiffs and all transgender service members who are now once again able to serve on equal terms and without the threat of being discharged."

"Although this ruling is very preliminary, it's significant in at least two respects," said Steve Vladeck, CNN legal analyst, and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "First, it is based on the judge's conclusion that the Constitution in some way limits the government's ability to discriminate against transgendered individuals. Second, it once again recognizes that the President's words (and tweets) have consequences, especially when those words are turned into official policy."

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

Washington CNN

October 9, 2017

2 Iraqi Gay Men In Military Found Love Amid War But Not Peace Nor Safety

In Seattle each night, when the guns fell silent in Iraq, Btoo Allami would invite his friend Nayyef Hrebid over for dinner.
The two first locked eyes on a dusty battlefield in Ramadi. After days of exchanging hasty glances amid gunfire, they snuck away one night to listen to Michael Jackson on shared earbuds.
The music stopped, but a love story was just beginning. 
A decade ago, Allami was a sergeant in the Iraqi military when he met Hrebid, then a translator for the US Marines. 
Militants had seized a hospital in Ramadi, and they were part of a mission to reclaim it.
When not defusing bombs, they'd talk late into the night at a pitch black lot surrounded by Humvees. Allami fell in love, unafraid of the war, yet terrified by what was happening with Hrebid. 
Nayyef Hrebid and Btoo Allami at their home in Seattle on August 13, 2017.
Their love story would take them through two continents as they joined the 22 million refugees in the world, all fleeing war, grinding poverty and in their case, persecution from militants and relatives. Last year, only 14,700 Iraqi refugees were resettled worldwide, says Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. The UN does not have the number of applicants who claim asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Few countries, if any, collect such statistics, he says. 

Taking Chances 

Neither Hrebid nor Allami knew the other was gay.  Iraq is not a country where the same-sex attraction is discussed in the open. 
LGBT people in Iraq risk harassment, beatings, and brutal killings -- sometimes by family members. ISIS, which held large swaths of Iraqi territory until recently, has also targeted gay men, tossing many to their deaths from tall buildings.
Despite the risks, Allami took a chance two weeks after they met. "I love you," he told Hrebid.
Hrebid did not say a word, but drew him close and kissed him.
Allami was so excited, he didn't eat for two days. At the time, he didn't know that Hrebid loved his calm demeanor and the way his dark hair shone in the sunlight. 
Their relationship grew but in secret. They knew loving each other openly could be deadly. Even during the days of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, when the US did not officially allow gay people to serve in the military, Hrebid says a base officer allowed them to spend time together at the American base. 
Their talks put them in a bubble. During those moments, war and bloodshed did not exist.

One last night

Hrebid loved his job as a translator. 
At the base, his American buddies called him David to protect his identity. But word got out that he was gay, and that he was a US translator. His name was added to a militant hit list posted on the streets of Ramadi.
When the two men were separated by continents,  Hrebid would draw sketches of  him and Allami.
People started talking. It was time to leave. 
In March 2009, Hrebid applied for asylum as part of a program that gives preference to Iraqis and Afghans who translated for the US government overseas. Hrebid's application was approved eight months later. 
The night he got his US visa, they sat up all night in a candlelit room, hugging each other and crying. 
As much as it crushed him, Hrebid flew to Seattle in December 2009, leaving Allami behind.
But they kept their promise to stay in touch. One night, as they chatted on Skype, Allami's relatives overheard them and realized he was gay. 
Some of his relatives accused him of bringing shame to the family, and wanted him killed, he says. Terrified, Allami deserted the military and stuffed a backpack with pants and a few T-shirts. Hrebid paid for his ticket to flee to Lebanon in November 2010.
Seven thousand miles away, Hrebid started his new life in Seattle, the only place he knew someone in the US. 
But while he was finally safe, he'd lie awake worrying. What if Allami was detained for overstaying his 30-day tourist visa and deported back to Iraq? A return home now included the risk of arrest by the military for desertion.  
One day, while at a party, Hrebid met activist Michael Failla and told him about his relationship with Allami. His new friend would become their lifeline. 

Living in the shadows

Allami's new life in Beirut did not involve parties and new friendships. He lived in the shadows and worked illegally as a shoe salesman for $250 a month. Hrebid sent him money to help with upkeep as he desperately sought a way to get him to Seattle. 
With every day spent away from Hrebid, Allami sank further into depression. He'd sit in bed at night and guzzle bottles of beer.
Hrebid blamed himself as Allami languished in a new country. Despite the time difference, they did their best to maintain a "normal" relationship. They would Skype and virtually eat together -- breakfast for one and dinner for the other.
"We would cook together, and discuss things almost like we lived together," Hrebid recalls. 
They also showered each other with sentimental gifts, including locks of each other's hair.
Hrebid would sit in bed, smell Allami's hair and cry. Other days, he'd send Allami long letters describing his undying love. 
"My heart melts at the sound of your voice," one letter says. "When I look at you, I see clear skies." 
In December 2010, desperate to join Hrebid, Allami filed for asylum from the United Nations refugee agency, not knowing it would take years. 
The United Nations refugee agency interviewed Allami eight times, but his application was bogged down by translation errors, according to Failla, who attended several interviews with him. 
One error in particular complicated his case. During one asylum interview, he was asked whether as a soldier, he was familiar with the Abu Ghraib prison torture. He said he watched it on TV -- but it was translated that he witnessed it first-hand, implying he was complicit, Failla says. 
In the process of seeking asylum, applicants can have a preference for country of resettlement, but countries decide whether to accept an applicant.
Allami's preference was the US. But the agonizing wait for a decision was so long, he applied for a separate visa to Canada at its embassy in Beirut. 
In March 2013, nearly three years after he escaped from Iraq, Canada said yes. 
Allami arrived in Vancouver in May of the same year. He was now 150 miles away from Hrebid, and their dream of living together suddenly seemed within reach.
Hrebid would drive to Vancouver every weekend to see him. On Valentine's Day 2014, they got married at a courthouse in Vancouver, with Failla as a witness. 
"We always say Michael was our angel -- the world needs more angels like Michael," Hrebid says. 

Washington state recognized same-sex marriages at the time, and Hrebid quickly applied for a visa for his new husband at the US Consulate in Montreal.
When the consular official approved it, Allami sat down on the embassy floor and wept. Hrebid covered his mouth and screamed.
"I was shaking so hard," Allami says. "I asked the embassy person to repeat again just to be sure."

A new chapter

The date March 6, 2015, will forever be etched in Allami's mind. He finally moved to Seattle to be with Hrebid.
A few months later, on August 8 of the same year, they had their dream wedding at Failla's house, surrounded by friends. 
Allami (left) and Hrebid  on their wedding day in Seattle.
Allami then applied for permanent residency -- known as a green card -- as Hrebid's husband. The couple relishes their life in Seattle, where they live with their Siberian Husky, Cesar, and cat, Lodus. A rainbow flag draped over the balcony of their new townhome flutters in the wind. 
Inside their home, black and white photos of their wedding day line the walls. In other photos, they are hiking through the mountains or simply gazing into each other's eyes. 
After six years of living on different continents, their new life is idyllic. Hrebid is a kitchen specialist at a home improvement store while Allami is a maintenance worker for a residential building.
Failla describes the couple as "major influencers" in the gay community in Seattle. They open their home to LGBT people who've fled the Middle East, help them get jobs and into schools, and teach them about their new culture in the US. They've helped 21 people find jobs and places to stay, and are working with several rights groups such as Canada's Rainbow Refugee to assist more.
Hrebid and Allami play with their dog, Cesar, outside their home.
"First we were the ones who needed help now it's our turn to help," Hrebid says. "Anything we can do, even if it's changing people's minds just by sharing our story."
Their story is already bringing about change.
Christine Matthews, a deputy director for the UN refugee agency, said last year they used the gaps in Allami's case as a learning experience. They have since launched an effort to sensitize staff on the best ways to process such claims. 
"We need to do better for refugees, all refugees including LGBT refugees," she said.
And after years of separation, Hrebid still wakes up at night and asks: Am I dreaming or is this real? Are we really married? Will I wake up one day and find you gone?
"It's almost like that fear never leaves you," he says. 
In Iraq, the two say they are considered an embarrassment to their communities, and family members don't utter their names. 
"Out of Iraq," a documentary on their romance and fight for asylum, recently won an Emmy, but its two stars say they are hardly feted back home. 
Even though they can't go back to Iraq for fear of being killed, they've learned to define "home" in their own way.
"He's my family, he's my safe place, my love," Allami says as Hrebid gently strokes his face. 
"I may not have my country anymore, but he's my country now."

September 12, 2017

How The LGBT Orgs Prevented Trump's Order Taking Effect on Transgenders/Military

 Who is Transgender in this unit?

In August, President Trump instructed the Defense Department to stop recruiting transgender people for the military. LGBT and human rights organizations quickly filed two lawsuits to prevent the ban from being enforced.

In doing so, LGBT organizations and factions that used to battle one another are now working together, and swiftly. That’s likely to make a big difference in whether Trump’s ban on open transgender service will survive. Here’s how and why that happened — and what it means for the future.

Two big rifts within the LGBT coalition have historically hampered its effectiveness

First, in 1986, the then-nascent gay movement’s legal organizations formed a Litigators’ Roundtable to hash out legal targets and strategies, as recently detailed in Nathaniel Frank’s book, “Awakening.” Political organizations were not invited to these meetings, resulting in angry movement rifts and gaps.

Second, the LGBT movement is made up of various communities, with different letters in the coalition’s acronym joining over time. Individuals in those different columns have different experiences and needs and don’t always agree. As the most recent addition to the coalition and its acronym, transgender identity isn’t always supported by the rest of the movement.

During the 2000s, the movement breach on trans issues became very pronounced — and resulted in change

Two events during the 2000s highlighted this breach — and pushed both the political and legal wings of the movement to offer a united front on sexual orientation and gender identity.

First, during the 2000s, the effort to pass a federal law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation resulted in a pitched battle over whether to include “gender identity” in the bill. Since then, the major LGBT political organizations and leaders have closed ranks in favor of including transgender people under the rainbow banner — despite occasional push back from different factions or funders.

Second, in 2003, Michael Silverman founded the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, arguing that the mainstream LGBT litigation organizations within the Litigators’ Roundtable were not attentive enough to trans issues. And in 2010, lawyers from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a New York legal aid organization for people who are trans or gender nonconforming, broke the Roundtable’s confidentiality rule by publishing a criticism of what they viewed as a trans-exclusive approach. In interviews with advocates involved in the Roundtable, I found that these criticisms prompted internal discussions and new internal education on trans issues.

In part because of these public breaches, both legal and political organizations expanded their trans outreach and focus; changed their names and mission statements to explicitly include trans rights; added more trans and gender non-conforming staff members; and consulted trans leadership more regularly. Meanwhile, trans groups were establishing legal and political organizations of their own. All this helped lead to the quick reaction to the trans military ban.

Coalitions built on specific issues and goals grew stronger 

The treatment of gay men by the military prompted one of the first gay rights demonstrations in 1964 and was listed on a “Homosexual Bill of Rights” distributed at a national meeting of early “homophile” organizations in 1968. After Stonewall led to modern gay rights (later, LGBT) organizations, open military service became a central movement goal.

Between 1975 and 2010, advocates regularly pivoted between legal and political efforts. Waves of litigation since the 1970s invited judges to scrutinize policies that excluded gay men and lesbians from service, including Ben-Shalom v. Marsh, Steffan v. Cheney and Cook v. Gates. In response, the political branches of government codified the exclusion, facing strong pressure from LGBT organizations each time.

For instance, under President Ronald Reagan, in 1982, Defense Department Directive 1332.14 declared that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” In 1992, President Bill Clinton announced that he would undo the ban on openly gay military members; to prevent that, Congress passed a law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). LGB, and later, LGBT advocates organized for years against this law, securing its repeal under President Barack Obama in 2010. Continued advocacy pushed the Obama administration to end the trans ban 2016 — which Trump’s memo now seeks to override.

Within the LGBT movement, military advocacy was ad hoc in the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 1988, the National Gay Task Force formed the Military Freedom Project, which was the first home of political advocacy on open service. In the 1990s, this campaign was supplanted by the independent Campaign for Military Service. Archives show that both were intended to be temporary — but were formalized after DADT was enacted. These laid the foundations for a new organization called the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, which had the explicit mission of enabling lesbians and gay men to serve openly. Once DADT was repealed, SLDN reorganized to fight for open trans service — and is now among the organizations suing against Trump’s trans ban.

In other words, a movement infrastructure built to resist earlier bans based on sexual orientation has been activated to fight a ban based on gender identity. The unity forged among different aspects of the movement has made it possible to act swiftly now.

Those coalitions built over 40 years allowed the movement to effectively pivot between legal and political advocacy while bridging internal divisions. The efforts to bridge the LGB and T gap and the gap among the movement’s political and legal wings made it more effective in pursuing its self-defined goals.

The pushback against Trump’s trans military ban shows that decades of effort to bridge tensions over identity and tactics have come together — to defend trans rights broadly and the right to serve specifically.

The LGBT movement’s long-term efforts to build effective internal coalitions may offer a model for other movements built on shared goals but with internal skirmishes over identities and tactics. Internal divisions can seriously challenge movements. But prioritizing policy goals and constructing durable coalitions to pursue them can lead to success.

By Eric van der Vort

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