Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020

The OutCenter of Southwest Michigan stands with the trans community and hope that by remembering those lost, that we can adequately honor and cherish those who were lost this year and continuously work to empower those who remain to live their most authentic lives. 

Transgender Day of Remembrance has been held on November 20th since 1999, and this year, we have the honor of being a part of a virtual vigil on that day. From International Transgender Day of Remembrance’s website:

“Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.”

Over the past year, there were 47 confirmed violent trans deaths in the United States, with a 41% increase of violence against trans people (from 2018). And these numbers do not include underreporting in Michigan and across the country. This increase in violence parallels the increase of hate crimes across the county. According to the FBI, 2019 had the highest number of hate crimes in the past 16 years, including an increase of racial hate crimes. We know that BIPOC trans femmes are the most targeted by hate, to suffer trauma, and we believe to suffer additional impacts due to COVID19. 

Globally, there were 386 trans deaths worldwide: this includes death by violence, by self-harm, those who died in ways yet to be determined and sadly, this year, from COVID-19. All of these people, their deaths and murders, deserve to be remembered, as we know that trans individuals are more likely to come to harm than their cis counterparts.

In today’s climate, there has never been a more appropriate time to stand with and remember with the trans community and those lost. We aim to pay homage to those who were lost this year and continuously work to empower those who remain to live their most authentic lives with our joint vigil service (see below). 

Join us for this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance Service as we honor and remember our Transgender community members who lost their lives to violence in the past year. Due to safety concerns regarding Covid-19, this year’s service will be live streamed on Facebook at 7:00pm on Friday November 20th. 

This event is a collaboration of Mosaic Health & Healing Arts, The LGBTQ Center, TREES, The OutCenter of Southwest Michigan, St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Grace United Church of Christ, and members of the local LGBTQ+ community. 

Join us for the streamed vigil service here:  https://fb.me/e/fCqPuxLDN

Regarding the Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

With more than 60 million pre-election votes already cast and over 225,000 Americans dead (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), we are dismayed at the rushed confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett instead of a national focus and leadership on a pandemic relief package for the millions of Americans who are suffering. Because we just hit a record-high average national number of daily cases and election day is one week away, a Supreme Court confirmation is not only inappropriate, but puts at risk decades of progress for LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive freedom and affordable healthcare.

Justice Barrett’s history shows she is not a friend of the LGBTQ+ community:

  • Barrett defended the Supreme Court’s dissenters on the landmark marriage equality case of Obergefell v. Hodges, questioning the role of the court in deciding the case.
  • Claimed Title IX protections do not extend to transgender Americans, claiming it’s a “strain on the text” to reach that interpretation.
  • Repeatedly misgendered transgender people, referring to a transgender women as “physiological males,” while casting doubt on transgender rights.
  • Refused to rehear a racial segregation case, raising concerns about her approach to Civil Rights issues.
  • Consistently demonstrated opposition to reproductive rights: calling Roe an “erroneous decision” and a “dramatic shift.”

Barrett’s testimony coupled with her judicial record confirmed that she could be a decisive vote to take away access to critical health care, reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ equality, and many more of our hard-fought rights. It’s more important than ever to elect legislators who will fight for the LGBTQ+ community. While the OutCenter stands with all LGBTQ+ resource centers who opposed this nomination via a formal letter to our Senators, we also recognize that we must focus on state-level policies and legislators who are going to actively work to protect us in every system that we are a part of.

If anyone had any reservations about voting next week, know that your vote will help not only protect the LGBT community, but will help determine the future of the county. While the newest Justice may sit on the court for the next 40+ years, the LGBT+ community and solidarity is forever. Now, and every election, we must show our solidarity and our power through voting for pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot.

OutCenter Statement Against Homophobia

In light of the recent reporting by Between The Lines, a trusted LGBTQ+ magazine, the OutCenter presents the following statement:

The OutCenter of Southwest Michigan has long been actively working to create a Southwest Michigan that is free from homophobia, including homophobic violence, words, and actions. We expect those elected to higher office to carry the torch in regards to the work that we have started across the tri-county area (Van Buren, Cass, and Berrien counties). Part of carrying this torch is expressing dignity and respect to all, including those that you disagree or are actively in competition with.

The use of attacks against minorities for political gain only permits those represented to dislike those minorities and in time, leads to an increase of violence against said minority. We estimate that there are about 11,000 LGBTQ+ citizens in Southwest Michigan, and they deserve to feel safe and welcomed in our area. It is not only on the OutCenter to create this safe environment, but also on those elected to represent the area on all levels. We expect more out of those who are both role models and those in a position to make inclusion and acceptance into codified law.

We have seen the massive growth of protections for LGBTQ individuals in the United States by the Supreme Court, legislature, and in Michigan. We expect that those representing us would continue on the path towards equality and acceptance.

We know that there is a great deal more work to be done and we implore all elected officials, local, state, and federal, to join us.

Statement of Support to Kalamazoo Residents

The OutCenter of Southwest Michigan stands with all counter-protestors who participated in anti-racist work this weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Proud Boys organized a march in which about 50 members attended on August 15th, and were met by about 150-200 counter-protestors. Two counter-protests were scheduled throughout the day, one of which was a peaceful vigil organized by the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. 

The Proud Boys, founded in 2016 in New York, is a far-right extremist organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC has also declared this hate group a white nationalist group that actively distributes hateful internet content against Muslism, BIPOC citizens, and women. This group instigated violence against both counter-protesters and homeless people in Arcadia Creek Festival Place in Kalamazoo, MI. 

We stand with all protestors who are standing up against systemic racism within our country and at the state level. We understand that it is not our place to tell those who are fighting their own oppression how to fight back, though we recognize and salute the anti-violent and peaceful call to action from Reverend Dannison of the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. 

We thank all organizers involved in protesting against white supremacy, systemic racism, and unjust policing practices in Michigan. 

ACLU, Same-Sex Couple Seek to Join Lawsuit to Keep a License to Discriminate Out of Michigan’s Child Welfare System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2019
 

CONTACT: Tyler Richard, 646-905-8868, trichard@aclu.org

DETROIT — Kristy and Dana Dumont are prospective foster parents who were turned away from two taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies in 2016 and 2017 because those agencies had a religious objection to accepting same-sex couples. The Dumonts sued the state of Michigan for allowing agencies, like the one that turned them away, to use religious criteria to turn away same-sex couples who could provide families for children. In March of this year, the state of Michigan settled the lawsuit and announced that it will require all agencies with state contracts to comply with non-discrimination requirements and accept all qualified families.

Now, one of the agencies that turned away the Dumonts, St. Vincent Catholic Charities, has sued the state, claiming that the Constitution entitles it to both get a taxpayer-funded contract and be exempt from the state’s requirement to accept all qualified families. Because this lawsuit is a direct attack on the settlement in the Dumonts’ case, the couple, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan, has asked to join the lawsuit.

“With 13,000 children in foster care in Michigan, we can’t afford to have good families cast aside based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child,” said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. “In settling the lawsuit, the state noted that discrimination in the public foster care system is not only illegal but undermines the state’s goal of finding a home for every child. When agencies choose to accept tax dollars to provide public child welfare services, they must put the needs of the children first.”   

“After the settlement of our lawsuit, we were so thrilled that families like ours seeking to adopt a child from foster care would be judged based on one thing only — our ability to care for a child — and children would not needlessly lose out on families to love and support them,” said Kristy Dumont. “It is distressing that a taxpayer-funded agency is challenging the settlement, claiming that its interests trump the well-being of the children in need of families. We are seeking to participate in this lawsuit to ensure that it doesn’t overturn the important progress made in ending discrimination against families and putting the needs of children first.”

The case, Buck v. Gordon, was filed on April 15 in the Western District of Michigan.

The motion to intervene and related documents can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/buck-v-gordon

This release is available online here: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-same-sex-couple-seek-join-lawsuit-keep-license-discriminate-out-michigans-child