California DMV Employee Turns Name Change Into Harassment

Amber Yust, a transgender woman living in California, went to San Francisco’s DMV to get her name changed on her driver’s license. She had a court ordered name change and was easily able to get a new driver’s license with her new name.

But her interactions with the DMV didn’t stop there. The employee who had processed her name change wasn’t happy that he had helped a transgender person. So he took Yust’s personal information from the DMV office, and mailed a letter to her home, calling her an abomination, telling her she was going to hell and that she had made a very evil decision. The letter came complete with quotes from the Bible.

Yust received this letter at her home address on Monday. Turns out that not only did the DMV employee neglect his duties to treat people who come into the DMV respectfully, but he breached security and personally harassed Amber by using the home address she provided to the DMV.

“I was shocked to receive this letter from the person who processed my paperwork at the DMV,” she said. “I would never have expected that a DMV employee could use information from my name change application to reach out and personally attack me. This has been a traumatic experience for me and I want to ensure that nothing like this happens to anyone else.”

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Subway Restaurants Provide a Lesson in Equal Rights

Many of us hit up fast-food chains on our lunch breaks — perhaps even Subway. But one man’s trip to a Subway in Iceland made a turn for the worse when a Subway employee refused to serve him because the employee thought he was gay. The customer was wearing pink, which was enough to make the employee think he was gay.

It looks a little like this in a math equation: Pink = gay = no service from this Subway employee.

The customer and the group he was with left, outraged over the discriminatory treatment. They took their message to the Subway corporation in Iceland, and in a stroke of solid activism, they got a response. The head of Subway in Iceland apologized, and promptly fired the employee.

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Gay Men Now Plastered on Subway Cars

My girlfriend and I were taking the subway home one night when we saw an unexpected ad. Two African American men stood with their arms around each other under phrase “i love my boo.” Suddenly, we weren’t the only queer people on the subway — we had the support of an organization, and of one gay couple willing to stand up and publicly fight for LGBT recognition.

After the recent anti-gay hate crimes in the Bronx, Greenwich Village and Chelsea, some LGBT people might be feeling a bit isolated and perhaps even fearful in their own neighborhoods. A New York-based organization, the Gay Men’s Health Crisislaunched the “I Love My Boo” subway campaign to combat homophobia — and hopefully to help make LGBT people feel more comfortable.

The campaign will put posters up in 1,000 subway cars and 150 subway stations. The posters depict gay relationships among black and Latino men, and each poster carries a message: “We’re about trust, respect and commitment. We’re proud of who we are and how we love.”

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How Accepting LGBT People Boosts the Economy and Strengthens Neighborhoods

There are many factors you may consider when picking a place to live. How expensive is it? Is it accessible to public transportation? How many bedrooms? Is the neighborhood nice? Perhaps, in light of the recent hate crimes against LGBT people, LGBT home buyers may base their decision on whether or not the neighborhood is LGBT-friendly.

But it turns out, straight people should be considering how gay-friendly the neighborhood is, too. A neighborhood’s gay population doesn’t only determine how safe it is for LGBT people — it also affects house prices.

According to research by Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander, neighborhoods with high populations of gay people are more likely to be on the upswing in terms of market values. They created a bohemian-gay index for 331 metropolitan regions in the U.S. The index measured the concentration of creative class individuals, including artists, bohemians, and gay people. They found a positive effect — after controlling for higher incomes, education levels, or population levels, a higher concentration of the creative class did correlate with higher house prices.

So why does a high gay population affect housing prices? Could their research actually be accurate?

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Does American Apparel Support Transgender Equality?

UPDATE: American Apparel has been in touch with Change.org, thanking members for writing the company about the Legalize Trans campaign. According to an email from the company, American Apparel is interested in working with the Legalize Trans campaign. “American Apparel would love to be a part of this great cause and use its resources to contribute in anyway that the organization would like. It’s the right thing to do both as people and as an employer of fantastic and hard working transgendered individuals.” A company official said that an email has been sent to the Legalize Trans campaign, and that they will await a response.

American Apparel scored some major points with gay Americans because of their “Legalize Gay” T-shirts. The shirts have become a popular way of supporting gay marriage and gay equality. The shirts were created after California voters passed Prop 8 in 2008.

According to American Apparel, the company “believes in freedom, expression and equality, things that are inherently condemned in the prohibition of gay marriage.” They also state: “With many of our employees and customers identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, we are a company that is vocal about our support for the protection of gay rights.”

It’s refreshing to hear such vocal support for gay rights coming from such a large company. American Apparel has also made an appearance at Pride rallies and celebrations, partnered with national organizations for marches on Washington, and even carry LGBT-themed publications.

American Apparel’s support for gay rights is definitely appreciated, but the company could do more to help the LGBT community. Oftentimes, the transgender community is an invisible segment of the LGBT community. And though they have good intentions, the “Legalize Gay” shirts encourage transgender invisibility by supporting gay rights without recognizing the struggles of transgender people.

Please ask American Apparel to show their support for transgender equality by selling transgender-inclusive shirts.

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French eBay Excludes Gay Couples From Competition

UPDATE: After receiving a number of complaints about their decision to bar same-sex couples from competing in this competition, eBay has released a statement apologizing, and amending their content rules so that same-sex couples can participate. See the email from Richard Brewer-Hay, a Chief Corporate Blogger for eBay, at the bottom of this post.

The French eBay website is marking its tenth anniversary. To celebrate, they’re holding a competition: two lucky winners will live rent-free in a 50-square-meter apartment in Paris for one year. The winner will also get 8,000 Euros and ten weeks to furnish the apartment with items from eBay.

Unfortunately, the competition isn’t open to gay couples. The rules state: “The game is open to any couple composed of a male adult and a female adult.”

In response to criticisms, eBay said: “We are looking for people who are representative of the range of products sold on eBay.”

What? Last I checked, LGBT people use the same furniture, household products, clothes, and electronics that straight people use. In other words, I’m not buying their attempt at explaining their discrimination.

Please ask eBay France to allow LGBT couples to enter their anniversary competition.

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New York City Campaign To Fight Hate Crimes

As an LGBT person living in New York City, hate crimes have hit a little too close to home. Change.org’s Brandon Miller wrote about brutal hate crimes against gay men that occurred last week in the Bronx. The men were beaten and tortured because of their sexual orientation. And less than two weeks ago, Allison Hope wrote about a gay man that was assaulted in Stonewall Inn and a gay couple that was assaulted in Chelsea.

Now, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and openly gay council speaker Christine Quinn are taking action to combat these crimes. They recently launched a campaign, called “Love Love. Hate Hate.” Print ads touting the campaign will run starting on October 22, and will be placed at 100 bus shelters and 100 phone kiosks in New York City. The campaign also includes a video that will air on NYC Life, NYC Gov, and in New York City taxis.

“In the past weeks and months there have been multiple bias attacks and deaths as a result throughout New York and the country,” Quinn said. “We need to continue our message of acceptance and love for all New Yorkers.”

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Ugandan Tabloid Tells People To Hang Homosexuals

Uganda has a strong anti-gay climate, where the legislature is currently debating a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would further criminalize homosexuality with harsh prison sentences or death.

But one Ugandan tabloid has taken the anti-gay hatred a step further. The newspaper included an article on Uganda’s “top” homosexuals, inviting people to attack the men listed. The front page of the newspaper read “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak,” next to a banner reading “Hang Them.”

The newspaper released the men’s photos, names, and addresses. Since it was published, at least four of the gay men on the list have been attacked, and many others are hiding to protect their lives.

The article was published in Rolling Stone, a Ugandan tabloid (no relation to the U.S. magazine of the same name). It included ridiculous claims — that an unknown, deadly disease was attacking Ugandan homosexuals and that gays were raiding schools and recruiting one million children. The article itself did not  even contain information on 100 gay Ugandans; it only contained information on about two dozen men. But the Rolling Stone threatened three more installments of the “Hang Them” campaign, releasing information on the remaining “top” homosexual Ugandans.

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Turkish Transgender Activists Face Abusive Police and Unfair Charges

In May, five activists from Pembe Hayat, a transgender rights organization based in Ankara, were arbitrarily detained and beaten by police officers.

At the time, the group was driving to a friend’s house when they were cut off by a police car. Officers approached them, and accused the group of intending to commit sex work. They were then asked to get out off their car.

Knowing that the police had no reasonable suspicion or evidence of any crime, the activists refused to get out of the car. And that’s when police attacked the five activists, forcing them out of their car, beating them with batons, kicking them, and spraying them with tear gas.

Considering that Turkey can be a harsh place for LGBT people in general, and that even in liberal cities like New York City and San Francisco police officers foster transphobia, transphobic police officers in Turkey perhaps should come as no surprise. But the lack of investigation into police misconduct and the continued pursuit of imprisoning innocent people is disheartening and outrageous.

The activists in this case filed an official complaint of police abuse, but before the prosecutor finished investigating, the activists were charged with resisting police. They may face up to three years in prison, despite committing no crime. Their trial is set for October 21, 2010.

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Justin Bieber: Anti-Gay Bullying Victim

One of the most recent victims of anti-gay bullying is not only straight, but famous. Justin Bieber was playing laser tag on Friday night, when a 12-year-old boy repeatedly targeted him and harassed him using anti-gay slurs. When Bieber told him “That’s enough,” the boy replied, “What are you gonna do about it, faggot?”

Since the incident, TMZ reported that Bieber will be going public within the next week in support of the anti-bullying campaign.

This certainly isn’t the first time that Bieber has been associated with the LGBT community. A popular tumblr is devoted to sharing pictures of lesbians who look like Justin Bieber. And while Bieber is straight, he was harassed because of his perceived sexual orientation.

Recently, many LGBT youth have made the news after anti-gay bullying, harassment, and hate crimes. This incident shows that even a celebrity isn’t above this harmful behavior. He’s amassed millions of dollars, appeared in television shows, and performed for Obama — but he still is subject to the same sort of anti-gay bullying that many other youth face.

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