James H O’Keefe MD, is a Board Certified Cardiologist and Director of both the Charles & Barbara Duboc Cardio Health & Wellness Center and the Preventive Cardiology service at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute. He is also Professor of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His postgraduate training included a cardiology fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr O’Keefe is board-certified in Cardiology, Internal Medicine, Nuclear Cardiology, and Cardiac CT Imaging. He is consistently ranked among the ‘Top Doctor’ lists regionally and nationally as one of America’s Top Rated Physicians in Cardiology. He has been named as one of USA Today’s Most Influential Doctors. Dr O’Keefe has contributed more than 300 articles to the medical literature and has authored best-selling cardiovascular books for health professionals including: The Complete Guide to ECGs (which is used for Cardiology Board Certification), Dyslipidemia Essentials, and Diabetes Essential.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx
A cisgender female cancer survivor who had her breasts removed said that public restroom users regularly challenge her gender, making her nervous about such confrontations.
Tiffany Liles-Taylor — a 43-year-old lesbian woman from the English town of Enderby, Leicestershire, about 96 miles north of London — was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy in 2020.
“I’ve had to carry around these really heavy things my whole life,” she told ITV. “I was in my forties and they were starting to get droopy anyway – so I thought ‘these can go’.”
After a long recovery, she returned to work as a ward clerk in a local hospital in spring 2021. However, the short-haired woman now finds that she’s regularly misgendered.
She said that she gets called “Timothy” more than “Tiffany” and has high social anxiety because she has short hair and is quite masculine, causing others to assume that she’s a guy when they see her together with her wife.
“Public toilets are very stressful because people will always challenge me whenever I go in,” she said. “They will ask me if I’m in the right toilet, or get members of staff to question why I’m there— to which I have to constantly explain that I had cancer, not a sex change.”
“It’s that confrontation that I hate. I want people to understand that I am a woman, and I am in the right place,” she added.
When she wears clothing or wigs that are commonly seen as more feminine, she says she still gets mistreated because the clothes make her feel inauthentic and uncomfortable.
England has laws allowing public accommodation access for LGBTQ+ people and forbidding discrimination against queers. But even such legal protections can’t stop misgendering and harassment from ignorant individuals.
Liles-Taylor isn’t the only cis female who has been harassed in a public restroom for her gender presentation.
In November, a young cis woman with short hair recorded another woman harassing her in the public restroom of the Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada because the woman assumed she was transgender.
In the U.S., right-wingers have created a panic about trans individuals using public bathrooms, claiming that trans people are sexual predators and that public accommodation laws allow them to sexually harm women and children. In reality, the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by cisgender men and women.
This story was in a news article how Mark Meadows a high ranking republican / Christian dominionist who did voter fraud in NC. But while like always republicans who scream about all the voter fraud but they excuse it as they keep getting caught doing it. Again I am so sick of the double standard. Here in Florida DeathSantis got a lot of press by going after former felons who were told they could vote with his election police, yet they never go after the known republicans who have been found guilty of voter fraud who live in the Villages. DeathSantis and the local press never mention them and that they are republicans, while screaming about the democrats trying to steal the elections. Hugs
The case of Pamela Moses sparked a national outcry – but newly uncovered documents reveal the extent of its injustice
It was the morning after Labor Day and Pamela Moses was in a rush.
All summer, the outspoken activist had been feuding with election officials in Memphis, Tennessee. She wanted to get her name on the ballot for Memphis’s 2019 mayoral election, even gathering enough signatures to do so. But officials said she could not run – a prior felony conviction made her ineligible to seek office.
Now, there was a new problem. In late August, the local elections commission sent her a letter saying they were going to cancel her voter registration. Moses was confused – she had been voting for years. That day, she was determined to sort it out.
But what unfolded over just a few hours that day on 3 September 2019 would upend her life. It would lead to a sudden arrest months later at O’Hare airport in Chicago and culminate in a six-year prison sentence for voter fraud.
Her case would go on to touch a nerve in the US and cause a national outcry. While there’s no comprehensive data on voter fraud prosecutions based on race, it was one of several recent examples in which Black defendants like Moses have faced long criminal sentences for voting errors, while white people have faced little punishment for more fraud. Long after the abolition of poll taxes and literacy tests, Black Americans still face significant scrutiny for trying to exercise their right to vote.
To make matters worse there is a byzantine bureaucracy in Tennessee and other US states, which can make it nearly impossible for people with felony convictions to vote again. The system has allowed officials to block people from voting for owing small sums of money and prosecutors to bring charges against others who make good-faith mistakes about their voting eligibility.
But at the center of the Moses case was a relatively simple question: should someone who makes a voting mistake face serious criminal charges?
Nearly everyone in Memphis seems to know Moses, 45, or has heard of her.
She’s a self-taught student of the law – the librarians in the county law library know her by name – and has sued many of the top officials in Memphis, frequently representing herself in court. She’s appeared in local papers over the years. She’s had disagreements with other local activists and founded her own non-profit.
“If she sees something that she feels is unjust, she’s going to say something about it,” said Dawn Harrington, who has been friends with Moses for over two decades and is the executive director of Free Hearts, a criminal justice non-profit. “She’s not going to be afraid of the backlash that might happen.”
“She’ll always take you to the limit,” said Michael Working, a criminal defense attorney in Memphis who has represented Moses and known her for a decade. “She’s willing very often to be publicly flogged by the government on principle.”
In person, Moses is at times mercurial, but often charming. She can rattle off the history of Memphis neighborhoods, the names of local judges, lawyers and statutes that she’s researched, sprinkling in bits of hip-hop history (she also writes and produces her own music). She is fiercely protective of Taj, her teenage son.
Few officials attracted Moses’s ire as much as Amy Weirich, a Republican who served as the district attorney in Shelby county, which includes Memphis. Several years ago, Moses made local headlines when Weirich prosecuted her for stalking and harassing a local judge, tampering with evidence and forgery.
In 2015, Moses pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced to several years of probation. Years later, she would say that pleading guilty and not fighting the case “was the worst mistake of my life”. She believed she was innocent, but the conviction led people to think she was guilty.
Harrington, her longtime friend, said that the case cemented her status as someone who was disliked by people in high office in Memphis. “She had been on the bad side of the powers that be there,” she said.
When Moses pleaded guilty, there was a hearing in which a judge questioned her and made sure she understood the consequences of her decision. But there was one ramification that neither the judge nor any of the lawyers present brought up: Moses would lose the right to vote for life.
To understand Moses’s case, one needs to know that America has long stripped people convicted of felonies of the vote.
After constitutional amendments in the 19th century expanded the franchise to Black Americans, many states passed felon disenfranchisement laws as a way to continue to keep African Americans from the ballot box and therefore prevent them from wielding political power, said Christopher Uggen, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied the topic closely. He suggested the laws had persisted because people with criminal convictions are stigmatized, and so seeking redress for them is politically fraught.
Today, the laws continue to heavily affect Black Americans – 5.3% of the adult Black population is disenfranchised because of a felony, compared to 1.5% of the non-Black adult population. Overall, an estimated 4.6 million people can’t vote because of a felony conviction in the US.
Moses’s home state of Tennessee strips any person convicted of a felony of the right to vote. Nearly 472,000 people of voting age can’t vote in Tennessee because of a felony conviction, the vast majority of whom have completed their sentence, according to the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice non-profit. It’s estimated that more than one in five Black people of voting age in the state can’t vote because of a felony.
In Tennessee, it is also extremely difficult for these people to get their voting rights back once they complete their sentences. There are three different sets of rules, depending on when the person was convicted. A request to even just fill out the state’s required application for the restoration of voting rights can be rejected for any reason – without explanation.
Tennessee’s confusing system isn’t unusual. Many US states, particularly in the south, require anyone with a felony conviction to go through a bureaucratic process if they want to vote again.
In Mississippi, people with certain felony convictions have to petition the legislature to restore their voting rights individually – and hardly anyone makes it through.
In Florida, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to repeal the state’s lifetime voting ban for most people with felonies. But the Florida legislature quickly stepped in and passed a measure that said completing a sentence meant paying all outstanding fines and court fees, which put voting again out of reach for many. Even if people can afford to pay, it’s extremely difficult to figure out how much they owe since the state has no centralized way of keeping track.
That uncertainty is the point of these laws, said Nicole Porter, the senior director of advocacy at the Sentencing Project.
“I think there is intentionality behind the complications,” she said. “It’s about chilling or minimizing participation in the electorate by certain constituencies. It’s the modern-day manifestation of very hard policies that dominated the Jim Crow era.”
This was the tangled web Moses stepped into just after Labor Day in 2019.
Because she didn’t realize she had lost her voting rights, she had been voting regularly until the summer of 2019. When she was informed that her voter registration was about to be canceled, Moses called the elections commission and asked what to do. She said a staffer advised her to go through the restoration process. (The elections commission declined to say to the Guardian whether it had ever advised her to do so.)
The next step Moses took was the one on which her conviction – and its reversal – rested.
One of the people required to fill out the form for her voting rights restoration was a probation officer, who had to confirm that Moses’s criminal sentence had concluded. When Moses showed up at the probation office on 3 September, she met with the manager on duty, named Kristoffer Billington, who had worked for the probation office for five years. He had never filled out the form before, he would later testify in court.
Moses told him her probation was finished, and he went to the back of the office to research her case. Billington called a colleague in a different office for help. They both looked at Moses’s file in the computer system.
According to the information they saw, it looked like Moses had finished her probation in 2018. But there was a problem – Moses’s computer file still showed she was on unsupervised probation. Billington thought this was a bureaucratic error and believed someone had forgotten to close out her file.
As he was examining the case, the receptionist repeatedly called Billington’s office to tell him Moses was growing impatient and wanted to turn in the form to the election office, he would later testify. After about an hour of research, he wrote on the form that Moses had completed her probation, signed it and returned it to her.
Billington had made a mistake. Unbeknown to him, there were more case files that showed Moses’s felony probation wouldn’t expire until the following year, 2020. In parallel, Moses had been fighting in court that summer to have a judge declare that her sentence was over because she wanted to run for mayor. In court filings, she argued that her probation had expired. But courts disagreed. Moses didn’t think those rulings were correct and thought Billington and the probation office would be able to give her a more definitive answer.
It might seem hard to believe that there was a dispute about something as basic as when Moses’s sentence ended. But those kinds of ambiguities are actually quite common, Uggen said.
“People who aren’t subject to supervision don’t really understand how fuzzy things like release and supervision dates are,” he said. “Anybody inside the system or across jurisdictions knows that what’s written on this piece of paper might be very different than that other piece of paper.”
And these bureaucratic mistakes can land people in prison.
Just 30 minutes after Moses left his office, Billington got a call from someone in the Tennessee attorney general’s office telling him he made a mistake on the form. And after Moses turned in the form, the elections office quickly caught the mistake too. A few days earlier, they had referred her to prosecutors for potential voter fraud, owing to the fact they had learned she had been regularly voting while on probation.
“Isn’t whether or not she completed the required probationary period for the 2015 felonies the subject of the [ongoing court case],” Pablo Varela, an attorney for the elections commission, emailed Kirby May, a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office shortly after Moses turned in the form. “How can the Court Clerk issue this attached document stating she has been granted final release from incarceration or supervision?”
May responded later that afternoon and attached a copy of a July court order saying Moses was still on probation. She was still ineligible to vote, he said.
Vicki Collins, a staffer at the elections commission, forwarded Moses’s application to the Tennessee secretary of state’s office to review. “The Shelby County Election Commission has been in an ongoing lawsuit with Ms. Moses. She has been denied the right to be on the ballot for Mayor because she is still on probation until 2020,” wrote Collins, who specialized in helping people with felony convictions get their voting rights back. A little over an hour later, a lawyer with the secretary of state’s office wrote back. She agreed Moses was ineligible to vote, but offered a new reason for why.
In 2015, one of the crimes Moses pleaded guilty to was tampering with evidence, which causes a permanent loss of voting rights in Tennessee. All of the research Billington had done at the probation office was irrelevant. It didn’t matter whether she was on probation or not.
The next morning, Collins, the elections staffer, appeared happy to learn Moses was permanently barred from voting. “LOOK AT HER STATUS!!! PERMANENTLY INELIGIBLE,” she wrote in an email, including a smiley face.
The same day, the elections office also received a letter from the Tennessee department of corrections alerting them to Billington’s error. The letter didn’t say that Moses was to blame or that Billington was deceived.
The elections office quickly wrote to Moses explaining she was permanently banned. “Absent a change in state law, future attempts to register to vote anywhere in Tennessee may be considered a class D felony,” read the letter from Linda Phillips, the election administrator in Shelby county.
Later that evening, Phillips expressed concern that she hadn’t received a reply from Moses. “I am a bit concerned that Pamela Moses did not respond to my email telling her she would never be able to register to vote.” She hinted at concerns for her own safety over the issue, writing “I do have a concealed carry permit,” in an email to a member of the election commission.
In a response to questions from the Guardian, Phillips said: “If incorrect information is provided to our office, intentionally or unintentionally, the state of Tennessee alerts us about the inaccuracies. That’s what happened in Ms Moses’s case.”
She also defended the emails she and Collins sent after learning Moses was ineligible to vote.
“Any email exchanges within [the elections commission] regarding announcements of Ms Moses’s ineligibility to vote should be perceived as urgent notice to ensure staff awareness, considering Ms Moses’s frequent and sometimes harassing visits to our offices,” she said.
Two months later, prosecutors filed a 14-count indictment, charging Moses with illegally voting nearly a dozen times after her 2015 guilty plea. She was arrested at O’Hare airport while returning to the US from a trip abroad.
Later, prosecutors offered her a deal, saying if she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge she would get six months of unsupervised probation and no additional prison time. She refused.
“It was about the principle to me,” Moses said. “I hadn’t done anything wrong. All I did was try to get my right to vote back and you don’t like me,” she said. “I was OK with going to jail if people could understand what this is really about. I don’t regret making that decision.”
Just before the trial began, prosecutors dropped 12 of the 14 charges, declining to prosecute her for illegally voting. There was no evidence that anyone had told Moses she was ineligible to vote, and the fact that the elections office had sent her voter information made it harder to prove she knew.
The trial began on 3 November 2021 and lasted just two days. A single question remained: did Moses knowingly trick Billington to falsely say she was off probation when he filled out the form?
May, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, zeroed in on the numerous times after 2015 that Moses had asked courts to declare she was off probation and judges had rejected her requests.
“It’s like a child going up to both her parents, ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme’ … They make the mistake and give it, even though they’d told no, no, no. It’s the same thing, she knew what she was doing on September 3rd,” he said at the trial. “She was desperate to try to get her rights restored, she wanted to run for mayor, whatever, she was desperate. She didn’t care, she was going to try anyway. This was her last stitch [sic] effort.”
When Billington testified, he owned up to his mistake. But May argued Moses had deceived him, even though she was not in the room when he did his research and signed off on the form. Billington said Moses had told him she was off probation when she walked into the office and was acting impatient as he researched her case.
Ferguson, Moses’s lawyer, argued that the state was punishing Moses for its own mistake. “If they can’t get it right, we can’t convict her for not getting it right,” he said in his closing argument.
Ultimately the jurors found Moses guilty. In late January, W Mark Ward, the judge overseeing the case, sentenced Moses to six years in prison. Weirich, the prosecutor, said Moses had brought a trial and any harsh punishment on herself by refusing to take the plea.
“I gave her a chance to plead to a misdemeanor with no prison time. She requested a jury trial instead. She set this unfortunate result in motion and a jury of her peers heard the evidence and convicted her,” she said at the time.
Local reporters had been following Moses’s case, but in early February, it started to receive national attention. The Guardian published a story highlighting Moses’s punishment. The next evening, Rachel Maddow did a segment on Moses’s case, comparing her six-year sentence to those of white Trump supporters who had received lesser sentences for intentional acts of voting fraud. The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press, among other outlets, followed. Moses, detained in prison, didn’t know her case was getting more attention.
Then, a few weeks later, new information came to light.
Through a public records request, the Guardian obtained the result of an internal investigation from the Tennessee department of corrections looking into why Billington had signed off on Moses’s voting eligibility. The supervisors who had investigated squarely placed the blame on Billington for the error, undercutting the prosecution’s idea that Moses had deceived him into signing off on the form.
Perhaps most significantly, Moses’s lawyers had never seen the document before – prosecutors hadn’t turned it over with all of the other evidence in the case. That lack of disclosure was potentially unconstitutional and entitled Moses to a new trial.
The day after the Guardian published the document, Moses had a previously scheduled hearing to request a fresh trial. Judges rarely granted such requests – the hearing was supposed to be a formality on the way to an appeal. At any rate, that morning, Moses’s lawyer submitted the missing document to the court.
Remarkably, Ward unexpectedly granted Moses’s request for a new trial. He said that the document should have been turned over to Moses’s lawyers before the initial trial and that he had erroneously allowed certain other evidence to be admitted. Moses, who had been in jail, broke down in tears in the courtroom.
It wasn’t the first time Weirich’s office has come under fire for failing to disclose evidence to a defendant. A 2014 study by the Fair Punishment Project found her office ranked first in Tennessee in prosecutorial misconduct. Weirich sought to distance herself from the error. The department of corrections, not her office, was to blame for not turning over the missing document, she said.
Two months later, Weirich announced she would drop all charges against Moses. “She has spent 82 days in custody on this case, which is sufficient,” she said in a statement, also noting Moses remained permanently barred from voting. “In the interest of judicial economy, we are dismissing her illegal registration case and her violation of probation.”
Both Weirich and Ward would go on to lose their re-election bids in August.
Moses’s case may have prompted a national outpouring of disapproval, but tendentious-seeming voter fraud charges have not disappeared.
In August, for instance, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, announced the state was prosecuting 19 people with prior criminal records for voter fraud. Many of the people charged said they were confused about their eligibility and that no one had told them they couldn’t vote.
Crystal Mason, a Black woman in Texas, is still appealing a five-year prison sentence for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while on supervised release for a federal felony. Mason has said she had no idea she was ineligible, and the ballot had even been rejected.
Moses, as well as those who have followed her case, doubt that it will be one of the last.
Both the Shelby county elections commission and the Tennessee department of corrections declined to say whether they had changed their processes for helping people determine their voting eligibility in the wake of Moses’s case. “Any changes in that process would be done at the state level,” Phillips said.
One morning at the end of April, just after the charges were dropped against her, Moses held a press conference at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. She was there to speak publicly for the first time about Weirich’s decisions to drop the charges against her.
“When it comes to Black people in the south, whatever we do, if it’s wrong, you’ve got to pay for it,” she said. “If there was a white person and I got treated the way I did, I would be just as upset. But you don’t see white people getting treated like that.”
Since her case was dropped Moses has been working on an album and documentary, and she’s continued to push to be able to vote again.
She’s still seeking a gubernatorial pardon from her 2015 conviction and is suing Tennessee to try to get the state’s felon disenfranchisement law declared unconstitutional. She’s also suing local officials for damages in her voter fraud case. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know I will get to vote again,” she said.
“I want people to take away that it’s not over just because Pamela is free,” said Dawn Harrington, Moses’s friend.” Because there are so many other Pamelas all across the state.”
The weird thing is this entire lie is not needed unless they want to claim to be victims and then vindicated. Every article on this I have read states that what he demanded the libraries do is to give him the space and promote his Christian religious readings. That was the rub he wanted the libraries to sponsor him, pay him, and promote his religion. They refused. But they all allowed him to book a room and promote it himself, but that wouldn’t give him the media anti-drag queen vibe he wanted. So then he agrees to book a room, holds his reading which has very few kids and lots of adults, and lies about the mass of people attending. He claims 2,500 people attended, look how much more popular god is than the sinful drag queens. But as the library says, their biggest room only holds 300 people. And he did not book the biggest room. Why the need to lie? To push the idea that his god is great and popular and yes the right wing rabid media will report that number as truth knowing it is a lie. As I was once told it is not a lie if it is for Christ or if it helps us win. Hugs.
Actor Kirk Cameron went on Fox News Channel on Friday to discuss his fight against libraries who have been turning down story-hour book-reading pitches from the publisher of Cameron’s new children’s book As You Grow.
The sit-down came after a reading Thursday a the Indianapolis Public Library drew a sizable crowd — though the library disputes the attendance figures given by publisher Brave Books and repeated by Cameron on air.
Brave Books tweeted out Thursday that the event drew “over 2,500 people,” calling it a record crowd in the library’s 137-year history — stats Cameron referenced on the air. The library disputed that today.
Read the full article. The video below from Cameron’s publisher has 1.1 million views at this writing.
Kirk Cameron Lied…and this is news to who exactly?
A time-honored Christian value: lying.
When you’re a white Christian, they just let you do it.
The same Heritage Foundation judicial organization funded by wealthy Christion dominionists billionaires that also are funding the rabid right wing groups attacking the trans kids and drag queens. All in an attempt to stop the US from joining every other industrial advanced nation in the world in advancing civil rights and social understanding. These people are demanding the US retreat into a world they think existed long ago written about 2,500 years ago by people who did not understand anything about germs, the earth being round, space itself, or biology because they thought / wrote that striped sticks seen while animals bred would cause the color of the offspring. Think of that last alone. The people the fundamentalists are basing their anti-trans idea on comes from people who thought striped sticks (some versions say just sticks or branches) caused a difference in the color of the birthed offspring if the animals seen them while fucking. Really that is the level of understanding these people are basing their anti-trans, they’re there is no such thing as a different gender ID than the one identified at birth? I am tired of trying to play nice on this with these assholes. These are the same people that bankrolled a bunch of ideologs on to the SCOTUS who rushed to help trump because he was promoting their god and a future theocracy and are doing everything they can to deny Biden the same presidential powers because they want to enforce racism and religion. Let those with eyes see the truth of it. Hugs
Arizona v. Mayorkas, the Court’s new Title 42 decision, appears to be the latest act of gamesmanship by a Republican Supreme Court.
Best Wishes and Hugs,
For those who had any doubts that this was not really the people rising up but actually a well funded well organized by right wing billionaires’ effort to stop society from progressing further from the bible views of how to live. This article points out how these groups get started and funded. It points out the ones driving these issues are the religious ones founded by Christian fundamentalist billionaires with the goal of creating a repressive society that will conform to a hierarchical theocracy with them at the top being the rulers. It is not so much about god as it is power to rule over others as god’s messengers. The interview is not long but really informative. Hugs
Imara Jones is an award-winning journalist, thought leader, and content creator whose work focuses on trans people and the intersection of religious fundamentalism, the LGBTQ+ community, and civil rights. The sequel to her award-winning podcast The Anti-Trans Hate Machine drops in March.
Jones shared some time on a chilly afternoon in Brooklyn to describe the state of the far right’s campaign targeting trans kids, drag queens, and “groomers,” from a billionaire Christian cabal spreading nationalist gospel and unlimited cash to a new and made-to-order frontline hate group called Gays Against Groomers.
LGBTQ Nation: I imagine for your work it’s got to be a full-time job just keeping up with all the connections between attacks and protests and media fueling them, and the money fueling the organizations. Do you have a giant bulletin board in your office, like a detective, with pictures and pushpins and strings connecting everything?
IJ: Yes, we have. Generally, we create what we call sitemaps. And we kind of look for who’s where, and who are they connected to, and how they link back. And at a certain point it, you know, you don’t even have to do that as much anymore because you hear a name, or you see an organization, and you go, “Oh yeah, there are links to X.” In the right-wing space that fuels a lot of his hate, you see the usual suspects and don’t have to look that hard.
LGBTQ Nation: There’s been a recent focus on drag shows and story time hours by frontline groups and media outlets like Libs of TikTok and Project Veritas. Is that a shift away from casting young people as villains, like the ones playing girls’ sports and 10-year-olds testifying in state legislatures, and moving to adults as villains or what they’re calling groomers? Is that an easier sell for hate groups and far-right media than attacks on kids and parents?
IJ: I don’t see it as an either/or. I see it as an expansion of the battlespace rather than a conversion of it from one thing to the other. We have to understand from the perspective of the right that these distinctions about gender and gender identity, it’s like blurred into one thing. Drag is very threatening because it has wide acceptance. It’s about bending gender, right? And about the part of gender that’s an illusion. And so for them that fits very much in the space of trans people.
And when I look at conservative media, they haven’t let up at all on trans people and trans kids. You know, we have anti-trans bills that were passed this year in Georgia and in Florida, and as a centerpiece of the campaigns of [Republican Gov. of Texas] Greg Abbott and [Republican Gov. of Florida] Ron DeSantis, and on and on and on. There was a huge emphasis in Uvalde in an online campaign that moved to conservative media that then moved to a member of Congress to say that the shooter was trans. So, I don’t think that it’s a flip. It’s looking new to us because it’s greatly expanded, but it’s actually not.
LGBTQ Nation: Tell us about the Betsy DeVos/Prince clan, and why we don’t hear about their influence.
IJ: Can I take those questions in reverse? I would say why don’t we hear about it, one, because they’re powerful people and people are afraid of powerful people, including newspapers, and we know that. Secondly, I think it’s because they have a degree of mainstream credibility because she was a secretary of education, even in the midst of a controversial administration. And one of the reasons why they’re so effective is because their extremism is cloaked behind this air of comity and rectitude. There’s a certain way in which she composes herself, which I think doesn’t scream extremist.
LGBTQ Nation: And how about the DeVos/Prince clan itself?
IJ: When we say the DeVos family, we’re talking about the fusion of two billionaire families into one. Betsy DeVos was born Betsy Prince into the really wealthy Prince family. And then she married Richard DeVos. It’s actually a giant clan, a billionaire clan. And there is not a far-right organization, and in many cases designated hate groups, who exist without the largess of that family. Betsy DeVos, or Betsy Prince and her husband, Richard DeVos are the second generation in this billionaire kind of clan.
Richard DeVos’ father, for example, was extremely important to the founding of the Heritage Foundation. The Prince family, which is Betsy DeVos, helped to fund the headquarters of the Family Research Council, which is designated by the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center] as a hate group. And they’ve been involved in so many far-right organizations throughout the decades. And so what you have here in this second generation is kind of a sophistication of their operation and particularly in Betsy Prince, this kind of fusion of strategy, of money and a whole host of other things.
LGBTQ Nation: How does that manifest itself?
IJ: So this family is kind of the royal family of the Christian nationalist movement. And they set the example for how to move money throughout the right wing for all of the other really wealthy families. They participated in an annual gathering of Christian nationalist billionaires called The Gathering, in which Betsy DeVos is on tape coaching them in terms of how, as a wealthy person in this far-right movement, you move money to other things, and encouraging them to do so. There is religious extremism in their views, which is what’s driving a lot of this.
As well, all of the Trump administration’s anti-trans policies came out of the DeVos Center for Family and Religion that’s housed in the Heritage Foundation. People were moved from that center into the Trump administration where they began to disseminate these policies. I think that we have to keep in mind that Betsy DeVos is just the most visible person of this large, far-right billionaire clan that has been active for over 40 years.
LGBTQ Nation: How did DeVos end up as education secretary in the Trump Administration?
IJ: They didn’t know who to appoint to anything because their win was a surprise, right? So they were like, “What in the world are we going to do?” So they turned to Erik Prince. It’s gonna sound familiar, younger brother of Betsy. And he’s like, okay, we’ll get you linked up with the right people. And one, he clued them into his sister and, two, they went to the Heritage Foundation, and the Heritage Foundation said, “Boy, you know, this is actually what we’ve wanted to do for a really long time.”
And so it flows that the Heritage Foundation would recommend Betsy DeVos because their family is a longtime founder at that center and they know that she’s been really active in education and educational circles. And then they basically started to populate the entire administration with people recommended by a combination of the Heritage Foundation and Erik Prince and that’s literally how she got in the mix.
LGBTQ Nation: The DeVos family are adherents of Dominionism. What is that?
In Ecclesiastes, there is the charge to basically create theocracies that are based on kind of a real religious caste system. And so how do you do that? The way you do that is something called Dominionism. And that is to say that you seize the seven mountains of society, you gain control of those things. And once you have control of them, you can then move society towards this theocratic vision. And so what are some of the seven mountains? They’re business and finance, they’re education, they’re the media, arts, etc. So the charge for Betsy DeVos at this epic gathering in the early 2000s was to charge really wealthy people and billionaires to pick their mountain, and then focus on it. As people who have been told over and over and over that their wealth flows from the fact that they are chosen and special, you can see how they gravitate towards something like Dominionism, and they have. Their whole family has.
LGBTQ Nation: I’d like to zero in on one particular group as an example of one at the bottom of this organizational hierarchy. What can you tell us about Gays Against Groomers? It appeared out of nowhere about six months ago, fully formed and led by a woman named Jaimee Michell. Do you think it’s organic?
IJ: There’s very little on the right that’s organic. It’s really funny, because I have to explain this a lot to mainstream and even the liberal funders, where, you know, on the left, a lot of things are organic, and people just form them and then they get funded. A lot of times, what happens on the right is, they’ll say, “Who’s gonna start an organization that will do X?” And then someone raises their hand.
This is one of the things we’re going to document next year on the podcast, but one of the things that they do on the right is that they go out and they shop for people from the communities that they’re targeting who are willing to essentially carry the message that they want them to carry if they give them a large enough check. And so they will go out and they’ll look for a Jaimee Michell — this is not uncommon — they’ll be actively looking for these people online or elsewhere. And once they find them, they will either engage them or platform them or say, “Can we introduce you to other people?” and that’s literally how it gets started.
A lot of the TERFs that you see platformed, and TERF organizations, it’s all because the Heritage Foundation went and found them and put them on a panel, and after that, all those people began to be kind of off to the races in terms of their public voice and platforming and a whole host of other things.
LGBTQ Nation: It says very prominently on the Gays Against Groomers website that they’re “a 100% independent, self-funded nonprofit organization.”
IJ: They’re not an official 501(c)(3). I think they claim that. I don’t think there are any 990’s on them. So, to self-assert that you’re self-funded, without in any way showing that you’re self-funded, and the fact that they have so many people — I can look at it right now and say they have a budget of close to a million dollars? Or over a million dollars? So where did that come from? There’s not a million dollars-worth of Gays Against Groomers money in the gay community, right? It’s not an organic conversation. Whereas like, okay, Gays Against Guns. Can they go out and do a GoFundMe campaign amongst people, raise money? Yeah. There’s support for that. But no, there’s nothing organic about this. It reads to me like a slick version of the ex-gay organizations that were funded and founded by Focus on the Family in the 1980’s.
LGBTQ Nation: What’s in store for Season 2 of Anti-Trans Hate Machine?
IJ: We are focusing on the way that the right has manufactured a cultural and media debate about the validity and worthiness of trans people and trans kids, and then has gone on to weaponize that to justify both political and actual violence.
LGBTQ Nation: What do you mean by weaponize, exactly?
IJ: So, you create a conversation. It’s like what happened in the 1930s — and there’s nothing analogous to the Holocaust — but there is an analogy to how you got there as a society. And one of the things that happened in the 1930s is that they just started a conversation about the bad people that needed to be separated from Germany. And that conversation was actually started by the Nazis. Once that conversation had reached a certain level, they use it as justification — they weaponized it — to then begin this campaign of physical separation and then targeting. You create the conversation, and then you recognize the conversation that you created, in order to take the action that you really want to take.
It was one of the most elaborate mid-winter parties in human history. Fragrant boughs of fir trees decked the halls, genitalia-shaped cakes accented banquet tables overflowing with food, and rich slave owners – sometimes tarted up in elaborate drag – served their domestics the best cuts of meat while high on a combination of booze, sex, and gratitude. Social norms were paused for a whole week of December, pranks and taboos prioritized, and all workers given PTO.
It was called Saturnalia, and the church snuffed it out.
But this ancient Pagan festival honoring Saturn, Greek titan of agriculture, and not starving to death, developed beyond being a colorful end-of-the-year bash for Zeus’ Zaddy (according to mythology Saturn, aka Cronus, was father to gods Poseidon, Hades, and Zeus, among others). In the hands of the Romans, the celebration was curated to not only encourage egalitarianism, but also to appreciate working class and enslaved peoples’ contributions to functioning society.
And because all of it was rooted in Greek traditions, Saturnalia was more than a little gay.
I asked Susan Lanigan, anthropologist and bioarchaeologist, to rate how queer Saturnalia was on a scale of Nick Cannon to Harvey Fierstein.
“Somewhere in the Fierstein category, cuddled firmly between Elton John and Liberace,” Lanigan explains without hesitation. “It’s no secret Ancient Greece was super queer, but the Romans were a bit more prudish and often kept queer relationships in the taboo category. However, Saturnalia was all about emulating the social freedom integral to Greek culture. Hence, drag was openly encouraged. We have more than one record from the period describing boys running naked through the streets, men dressed as women, women dressed as men, masters of the house waiting on slaves, and an overabundance of wine, cunnilingus, and fruitcake. In that order.”
Which is the correct order. Fruitcake before cunnilingus is how infections happen.
The heyday that Lanigan references begins around 133 B.C. Saturnalia did exist before this, but as a shorter, day-long feast on December 25, and with less of the stylized shenanigans which would eventually characterize the festival’s approximate stretch from December 17-23.
One hallmark of the longer, more-involved Saturnalia festivities was the election of a Saturnalicius princeps, who became each household’s designated “King of Saturnalia.” This agent of chaos, usually plucked from the servant class, was chosen specifically to lead the home in celebratory debauchery, which could range from elaborate pranks to Friar’s Club-style roasts of guests; erotic cake bake-offs to scavenger hunts; nude choral performances to full-on orgies.
If you’ve ever been to a New Orleans Mardi Gras, or celebrated Venetian Carnival, you’re familiar with this socially playful “king for a day” concept, as well as the grace extended to Lords of Misrule for whatever they pulled before everyone sobered up.
Many elements of ancient Saturnalia are still visible in the contemporary West today. Wreaths of evergreen trees, candlelit altars and dinner tables, stacks of gifts, and seasonal songs are just a few. The combination of drag, social inversion, and bawdy jokes are hallmarks of the long holiday tradition of British pantomime pageants, as well as countless TV specials in the USA.
As the 4th century came to a close Saturnalia was systematically replaced with a party for Jesus Christ. Despite evidence that Jesus was actually a Spring baby, it was decided through a combination of politicking and purposeful cultural appropriation – shoehorning pagan traditions into Christianity made the viral religion more appealing to potential converts – that December 25th was henceforth Christ’s birthday.
Christmas rituals began to supplant centuries of Greek-style revelry. Saturnia’s admirable practice of giving working-class people a seat at the table, and repaying the lowest social castes for their struggle with gifts, was diluted over the next several centuries to sung platitudes like “peace on earth, goodwill to men,” which is a nice idea with no assimilable nutritional value.
Saturnalia’s cheery December cries of “io Saturnalia!” (“io” is pronounced “ho”) mutated into Santa’s “Ho Ho Ho” and “Merry Christmas,” and wandering choruses started wearing Puritanical robes instead of showing up buck naked. **sad trombone sounds here**
None of this means modern-day revelers can’t close their calendar year with their own Saturnalia, however. For the sake of not getting arrested some changes to the O.G. itinerary are necessary, but many parts of the ancient festival are still accessible to anyone with a little altruism and/or a decent wig collection.
“Since Saturnalia was like the lovechild of Carnival and Christmas, elaborate costumes and thoughtful gift-giving are the way to go,” Lanigan offers to anyone looking to partake. “If you happen to do both of those things while getting drunk at an orgy, well…you’re on the right track. Just make sure everyone involved is good, giving, and game, friends.”
This is what the right wing religious bigots are desperate to stop. As more people become comfortable with same sex marriages and as more same sex couples get married with none of the horrible things happening that the rabid religious claimed such as no straight couples getting married. They are too late with same sex marriage except in a few rabid red area. That is why they are desperate to attack trans kids / drag queens and get the growing acceptance of them stopped before that is too late for them to stop also. Keep the kids from understanding that their peers who are gay and trans are just kids like them then they grow up possible bigots who have to learn acceptance as adults when it is much harder. They attack drag queens because they have become so popular that it worries the fundamentalist religious horribly. They are desperate to stop the advances in society that is leaving their regressive way of living behind. Think of it this way, just as the Amish / Mennonites couldn’t handle the changes in society and prefer to live in the 1800s, so the Christian fundamentalist cannot handle the modern society and want to live in the 1900s. The problem is the Christian fundamentalist are attempting to force the rest of us to live as they demand also. If they would just go live in their own regressive lives no one would care. but they are demanding to rule over the rest of us who don’t agree with them. Hugs
Over 1.2 million same-sex couple households exist within the United States, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The data also showed that there are more married same-sex couples living in the U.S. than ever before, which makes sense considering that marriage equality was only legalized nationwide in 2015.
The data comes from the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual survey sent to nearly 3.5 million households across the nation. The ACS collects demographic information to provide a comprehensive, ongoing view of the U.S. public.
ACS data shows that the number of same-sex households in the U.S. has steadily increased from approximately 540,000 in 2008 to 980,000 in 2019, and then to 1.2 million in 2021 – a more than 122 percent increase from 2008 to 2021.
From 2008 to 2015, ACS data showed that the number of households with unmarried same-sex couples in the U.S. was consistently higher than the number of households with married same-sex couples. This is hardly surprising considering that only 16 states had legalized same-sex marriage before 2014.
However, every year since 2016, the ACS has reported the number of households with married same-sex couples has surpassed the number of households with unmarried same-sex couples.
In 2021, the ACS counted around 500,000 households of unmarried same-sex couples. Interestingly, this is about the same number as was counted by the ACS in 2013. Also in 2021, the ACS counted over 700,000 households with married same-sex couples in the U.S. — an all-time high.
ACS data also showed that 31.6 percent of same-sex married couples were interracial, compared to just 18.4 percent of married couples, according to The Washington Blade.
While 29.6 percent of unmarried same-sex couples both had bachelor’s degrees, only 18.1 percent of unmarried opposite-sex couples held the same degrees.
The data also showed that while the average age of same-sex married couples was 48.9 years, the average age of opposite-sex married couples was 52.8 years. Comparatively, the average age of same-sex unmarried couples was 42 years while the average age of opposite-sex unmarried couples was 39.9 years.