By Junior Mayema,
Despite the city’s standing as the geographic heart of the American LGBTQI movement, San Francisco and the Bay Area is not immune to homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination that exist today.
“Historically, there has been very little data collected on our community,” said Rebecca Rolfe, Executive Director of the SF LGBT Center. “The report gives us a deeper lens on what’s actually happening and how we can effectively address it.”
Please read the full report here.
Despite San Francisco’s renown as a safe haven for LGBT people, more than two-thirds of LGBT people in the city have experienced physical violence, according to a report issued today.
For transgender people, who are amidst a national homicide epidemic, those rates are even higher: Nearly 4 out of 5 transgender people in San Francisco reported experiencing physical violence.
“When people say homophobia isn’t a problem here in San Francisco, it is very hard to refute that,” said Rebecca Rolfe, executive director of the SF LGBT Center, which conducted the first-of-its-kind survey with funding from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. “We continue to come up against a lack of data and a mistaken belief that homophobia and transphobia are no longer a problem.”
“This data is important to help people understand this is a very significant problem,” Rolfe told BuzzFeed News. “And if this is a serious problem in San Francisco, it has got to be even more true in other parts of the United States.”
Researchers found that among LGBT people, 48% had experienced sexual violence, 68% experienced physical violence, and 81% reported harassment.
Sixty percent of transgender Latinas said they felt unsafe walking around during the daytime, compared with just 12% of other LGBT people.
Rolfe’s team found that transgender people not only reported higher rates of violence in every category — with 65% reporting sexual violence and 79% reporting physical violence — but also felt less safe in the city than other LGBT people. For example, 60% of transgender Latinas said they felt unsafe walking around during the daytime, compared with just 12% of other LGBT people.
The fear appears justified. Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, a Latina transgender woman, wasfatally stabbed earlier this month in San Francisco, less than two weeks after another transgender woman of color was killed in a stabbing in Los Angeles.
But transgender people did not report feeling safest in the city’s traditionally gay neighborhood, the Castro, which attracts many white gay men. “Frequently people of color, women, and transgender people do not feel welcome there,” Rolfe said. “They can feel excluded based on race, gender, or gender presentation.” The area also has a “higher level of gay bashings that get reported,” she said.
“The Tenderloin is frequently seen as one of the least safe neighborhoods in city, but for many transgender people, that is where they feel safest because they have been able to build a community there,” Rolfe said.
In addition to transgender people, violence for was most severe among LGBT people of color, along with those who are disabled, poor, homeless, or formerly incarcerated. “Violence patterns and disparities with the LGBTQI population suggests that the root causes underlying experiences with violence include racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination,” researchers found.
LGBT people reported feeling least safe walking alone at night, 46%, and riding transit, 33%.
The figures in the report, posted here, do not compare LGBT violence rates with the population at large.
In part, this is due to a need to break ground by focusing on an LGBT population, Rolfe explained. “In research, people often do not ask about gender identity or sexual orientation, so there is very little information about the circumstances about how LGBT people live their lives,” she said.
Police around the United States often do not track the sexual orientation or gender identity of victims, even in potential hate crimes, rendering law enforcement data spotty or meaningless. For example, an FBI hate crimes report in December found only 33 people in the United States were targeted in bias crimes for their gender identity, an implausibly low figure. The report found that one-fifth of all hate-crime victims in the country, or 1,461 people, were targeted for their sexual orientation.
Rather than relying on law enforcement data, the SF LGBT Center and its partners conducted surveys with more than 400 people who live, work, socialize, or receive services in San Francisco.
The report accounts for all types of violence, including between intimate partners, and found LGBT people are reluctant to tell authorities. “There are high levels of mistrust that police will help them if needed,” researchers found. “Thrity-six percent overall don’t believe the police would help.” The researchers found 44% of physically violent incidents went entirely unreported.
“Even though this is a local report, I think it has national implications,” Rolfe said. “We have never seen data like this on a national scale before.”
And one of the be main cause of this is religious gay conversation therapies, here is one victory on that inhumane practices below :
Chaim Levin prayed to God to cure his homosexuality—and Alan Downing promised to answer his prayers. Levin, an 18-year-old orthodox Jew and a victim of childhood sexual abuse, believed his attraction to men was a disorder; Downing, a gay conversion “therapist,” said he could heal him. At one therapy session, for which Levin’s parents paid $100, Downing told Levin to remove a piece of clothing, say something bad about himself, then repeat the process. Levin complied until he was naked. Downing instructed Levin to touch his penis, then his buttocks, while Downing watched. This, Downing said, would help Levin become straight.
Today, Levin is one of four gay mensuing Downing and his colleagues for subjecting them to humiliating and discredited treatments. Their lawsuit posits that Downing and his fellow counselors violated a New Jersey consumer protection statute by claiming, falsely, that their services would actually work. That is, Levin and his fellow victims are suing them for being quacks. Downing assured Levin he could cure his homosexuality. Now Levin is suing to prove that assurance was a lie. And if he wins, gay conversion therapists around the country could find their jobs at risk.
The legal theory behind Levin’s lawsuit is surprisingly simple. New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act bars any organization from advertising a good or service that doesn’t work by pretending that it does. Downing and his organization, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, offer gay conversion therapy—a service that, licensed psychologists almost unanimously agree, does not work at all. Yet JONAH’s counselors routinely insisted that, through bizarre and often sexually charged activities, they could stifle same-sex desire and ignite opposite-sex attraction. Levin and his co-plaintiffs, who are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, gave JONAH a good chunk of money to receive these worthless services, then paid even more money for real therapists to help them process the trauma they underwent at JONAH. Under New Jersey law, they’re suing to get that money back—with damages.
The SPLC assumed that much of the court battle would revolve around the question of whether homosexuality can, in accordance with current scientific knowledge, be deemed a disorder. JONAH’s entire practice revolves around this presumption, as well as the idea that, as a disorder, homosexuality can be “cured.” If the judge allowed JONAH to argue that part of the scientific community views same-sex attraction as a fixable flaw, the jury might hesitate to find that the promise of a gay cure constituted false advertising.
If, on the other hand, JONAH were forbidden from putting forth ostensible scientific evidence that homosexuality is a disorder, the SPLC’s case would become nearly airtight. If homosexuality is not a disorder, and gay desires can’t be “cured,” then JONAH was, objectively, lying to its clients—in clear violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.
This debate could have dogged the SPLC throughout the trial. But earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso threw JONAH’s pseudoscience out the window. JONAH had moved to put six defense experts on the stand who would testify that homosexuality is a disorder. The SPLC moved to block all six experts, noting that in New Jersey, expert testimony related to a scientific technique is allowed only where that technique has “general acceptance” in its particular field. Since the vast majorityof scientists, doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists believe homosexuality is not a disorder and gay conversion therapy is futile, the SPLC argued, all of JONAH’s expert testimony should be excluded.
In an emphatic order, Bariso agreed. “The theory that homosexuality is a disorder,” Bariso wrote, “is not novel but—like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it—instead is outdated and refuted.” Bariso barred five of JONAH’s experts from testifying at all, since their opinions would be based in the “obsolete and discredited scientific theor[y]” that homosexuality is a curable affliction. (The sixth expert will be permitted to testify about an unrelated matter.) As a result of this blunt ruling, JONAH has no experts to speak to the validity of its allegedly therapeutic practices. (Update, Feb. 10: Soon after publication, Bariso ruled that, as a matter of law, JONAH’s description of homosexuality as an illness constituted “misrepresentation” in violation of New Jersey’s statute. Thus, JONAH cannot even argue in court that homosexuality is, indeed, a disorder.) The backbone of its legal defense has been effectively shattered.
The challenging post-gay-marriage terrain for LGBT Americans
For instance, 21 states and the District of Columbia have anti-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation. But only 18 of them cover both sexual orientation and gender identity. Those states are also among the 37 where same-sex couples can legally marry. That means folks in Alabama and Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia can marry legally today and be fired legally tomorrow for being gay or lesbian. The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Senate in November 2013 with 64 votes, went nowhere in the House.
Added to the remaining legal hurdles the LGBT community must face are the cultural ones that have been ignored or not seen because of a decade of progress on LGBT issues. GLAAD, an organization that monitors the portrayal of the gay community in the media, released a troubling surveyMonday conducted on its behalf by the Harris poll. What it reveals is an uncomfortable cultural divide and a lack of real acceptance of LGBT Americans.
The data also show that 34 percent of Americans are uncomfortable attending a same-sex wedding, 43 percent said they would be uncomfortable bringing their child to a same-sex wedding and 36 percent are uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple holding hands. While 29 percent would be uncomfortable having a playdate supervised by a gay dad, 28 percent would be uncomfortable with gay moms.
Now, the GLAAD-Harris data are of all respondents. But when the responses are teased out from LGBT allies, the very people who have helped propel increased public support and legal recognition, the level of their discomfort with LGBT humanity reveals how much more work has to be done. For instance, 19 percent of gay allies said they were uncomfortable learning a family member is LGBT, 20 percent said they were uncomfortable attending a same-sex wedding and 16 percent said they were uncomfortable hearing people talk positively about LGBT community.
This conditional acceptance was vividly played out in a Washington Post story last month about Tracy Curtis and Kathryn Frazier, a lesbian couple in Oklahoma planning their January wedding. Kathryn’s boss Tim Lashar and his wife, Kelly, were among their closest friends. Kathryn and Tim talked about homosexuality and the Bible all the time. Tracy’s Bible study group was led by Kelly. “The two of you have been special to our family in many ways, and we pray nothing but happiness for you,” wrote Tim and Kelly in a note declining to attend the ceremony. Tim told the Post reporter, “I’m sure we’ll discuss it at some point. Because I have to wonder if they think, deep down, that we don’t accept them.” He need not wonder.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, summed up what is going on culturally. “Support for legal rights for the LGBT community should not be confused with acceptance toward the LGBT community in general,” she told me. “You cannot legislate acceptance or create it merely by judicial decision. Dialogue and exposure are the building blocks of greater acceptance and we need, more than ever, to engage our fellow citizens.” That engagement must not only be between gays and straights. It must also happen within the LGBT community. And I’ll get to that and what it means for transgender Americans and making common cause with others fighting discrimination in the next post.
Democrats Condemn Anti-Gay State Action
A decision by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to narrow an anti-discrimination policy for Kansas government workers has prompted a Democratic lawmaker to introduce a bill aimed at protecting gays and lesbians.
Democratic state Rep. John Carmichael of Wichita on Tuesday asked the Kansas House Judiciary Committee to sponsor a measure to bar discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The committee agreed to do so.
Carmichael’s bill would expand the state’s existing anti-discrimination act, which does not specifically cover gays, lesbians and transgendered residents.
He said he acted in response to Brownback’s decision to rescind a previous Democratic governor’s executive order barring such discrimination in state government hiring and employment.
House Minority Leader and Kansas City Democrat Tom Burroughs also condemned Brownback’s action.