Recent Posts by Preston Mitchum

4 Years Later: Examining Bias-Motivated Crimes Against LGBT People After the Shepard-Byrd Act

Four years ago this week, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, or Shepard-Byrd Act, into law, saying that the bill was meant to “help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray.” This measure expanded federal law to include bias-motivated hate crimes based on a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Despite these legal protections, however, LGBT people—particularly black transgender women and gender-nonconforming gay men—are victimized, persecuted, and murdered at alarming rates.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Is Rape Culture Getting Worse?

“If only you didn’t get drunk…If only you didn’t wear that short skirt…If only you didn’t dance so provocatively.” If you are familiar with these expressions, chances are, you understand—at a minimum—the power of living in a society that promotes rape culture.

But if you think rape culture and victim-blaming has reached an all-time high, think again. As Dahlia Lithwick eloquently stated in a recent Slate article, “when it’s the easy cases that start to make bad law, it’s really time to worry.” If we have learned anything from a recent Montana decision that epitomized rape culture and victim blaming, it’s that we should be worried.

Read the full article in Role Reboot.

Workplace Discrimination Series: Faith Cheltenham

“The prevailing logic has remained that if I am out as a bisexual woman, I must be asking for something: discrimination, harassment, or even sexual assault.” — Faith Cheltenham

No one should ever feel that they are “asking” for discrimination, harassment, or sexual assault, either in or out of the workplace. Unfortunately, however, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, individuals are made to believe they deserve discrimination simply due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Lessons from Bayard Rustin: Why Economic Justice Is an LGBT Issue

Most Americans who have heard of Bayard Rustin know him by the historical taboo of his identity—that he was both black and gay—and as the man who orchestrated the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, more popularly known as the March on Washington. But the individual behind these labels was so much more complex, and his impact within and beyond the civil rights movement was much more profound than this description suggests.

The radical nature of Rustin cannot be underscored enough. To be a not-so-closeted gay man and thrive in the conservative upper echelons of black society during the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s was indeed remarkable. His lifetime of navigating race and sexuality—his “time on two crosses,” as coined by George Chauncey Jr. in his interview with Rustin just before his death in 1987—is iconic for LGBT people of color today, who find inspiration in his story as they wrestle with many of the same cultural and political dichotomies that he faced.

Download the full report at the Center for American Progress.

Workplace Discrimination Series: Officer Michael Carney

“Discrimination impacts the lives of everyone. It not only deprives people of jobs and safe working conditions, it also robs our most vulnerable citizens of the vital services that they would have received from talented and dedicated [LGBT] workers.” – Officer Michael Carney

In Officer Carney’s testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives on September 5, 2007, he describes how he was terminated because of his sexual orientation. After nearly three years of internal battles, Officer Carney won his job back using anti-discrimination laws in Massachusetts—only 1 of 21 states that protect workers on the basis of sexual orientation.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Fearing Life With HIV: Using ‘HIV-Negative’ as a Substitution for ‘Haven’t Been Tested’

Hello. My name is Preston, and I am HIV-negative.

Typically you would hear this statement from someone elated to discover that they are not HIV-positive. But since I think there is an inherent danger with congratulating and privileging an HIV-negative status, I do not ask for a warm welcome. Instead, I ask for your indulgence of something rather difficult to write: I am a liar. Admitting this is extremely frustrating, not only because I value honesty but because I value myself. So in the most forthright way I know how, I want to explain my story, and hopefully people in similar situations will know that they are not alone in this journey of life and decision making.

My first time meeting Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition, was during the Out on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit last fall. During our first encounter, she said three simple yet powerful words that continue to reverberate in my mind: “Own your power.” This is exactly what I intend to do while writing this post. And though divulging my truth may cause some disarray, it is my hope that this story will resonate with at least one person who understands that they should be neither embarrassed nor fearful of the known. In fact, the true fear, especially with HIV, is deeply entrenched in the unknown — an unknown that can be changed in a matter of minutes.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post.

Workplace Discrimination Series: Brooke Waits

“Work was more than work to me. It was part of what I know about myself, what I feel about myself. I never went to work simply to get through another day, I went to work to be a rock star.” – Brooke Waits

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, workers experience multiple barriers in the workplace, including bias and discrimination in recruitment and hiring, inequality and unfairness at work, wage gaps and penalties, and lack of legal protections. Without legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, employers are allowed to legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression unless states have laws that prohibit such discrimination.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Workplace Discrimination Series: Kimya Afi Ayodele

“I remember thinking, ‘What do I say to my daughter? I’m going to be home before she gets home.’ … I remember thinking rent is due. … I remember thinking practical matters about finances.” – Kimya Afi Ayodele

Very few options for legal recourse exist when addressing workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, workers. This comes at a time when most Americans support federal workplace protections for LGBT workers. In a 2011 Center for American Progress poll, 73 percent of likely 2012 voters supported protecting LGBT workers from workplace discrimination. This tremendous support even crossed political party affiliation—81 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans supported nondiscrimination laws that would protect LGBT workers.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Workplace Discrimination Series: Kylar Broadus

“People have always related to me as male; that is my essence and my soul. The transition was a matter of actually living the truth, of sharing the truth with the world.” – Kylar Broadus

Employment is essential to an individual’s ability to support himself or herself, as well as his or her family. Although everyone deserves equal treatment under the law, those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, are far too often unemployed or underemployed because of discrimination based solely on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Data suggest that transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans suffer worse rates of workplace discrimination—and did so even prior to the Great Recession—having a negative impact on the lives of many Americans. Moreover, workplace discrimination has caused many transgender men and women to seek other sources of income—from sex work or drug sales, for example—simply to maintain a living.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Workplace Discrimination Series: Sam Hall

Discrimination has no place in our society, and the workplace is no exception.

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, workers, it is harder to find and keep a good job; this is rooted in discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Since there are no federal workplace protections for LGBT workers, many experience countless hardships and barriers.

In the United States it is assumed if an individual works diligently he or she will be assessed on employment qualifications—not on factors unrelated to job performance. LGBT workers, however, often experience the opposite. As with other workers, LGBT workers deserve a job with a safe and supportive environment where a person’s abilities to succeed will be evaluated rather than a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Workplace Discrimination Series: Mia Macy

Make no mistake: Workplace discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, community is an ongoing problem that has made it difficult for many LGBT workers to financially provide for their families.

In the United States, LGBT workers often face a broken bargain from the lack of federal employment protections. Since no federal law exists, LGBT individuals are often terminated solely based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Generally, this means that LGBT individuals are either not hired for positions for which they are qualified or they are currently employed at places where they experience daily harassment.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Why the LGBT Community Still Needs the Ryan White Program

Recent estimates of new HIV infections, or HIV incidence, suggest that HIV continues to be a severe problem in the United States. In a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, approximately 47,500 people in the United States contracted HIV in 2010. Compared to 2008, HIV incidence stayed relatively stable in most groups, even decreasing by 21 percent (from 7,700 infections to 6,100 infections) among black women. The statistics among men who have sex with men, or MSM,* and transgender women, however, did not improve to the same degree. There was even a significant increase in HIV incidence among black MSM and transgender women.

For all individuals living with HIV, and especially those populations with increased infection rates, reauthorization of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, also known simply as the Ryan White program, is crucial. Ryan White is the largest federal programthat provides treatment specifically for people living with HIV/AIDS. If the Ryan White program is not reauthorized, many people living with HIV will face serious and possibly life-threatening consequences, such as gaps in care not met by other payers and decreased access to medical treatment and services from health care providers.

Read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

An Open Letter to My Fellow Gay Men: We Need a Woman’s Consent Too

When I was growing up as a gay boy in Youngstown, Ohio, my mother always said, “Son, you must operate in this world intentionally, you must treat others with respect, and you must keep your hands to yourself.” As a child, all I wanted to do was play with my Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and Easy-Bake Oven. Yes, my Easy-Bake Oven. Like many children, I sometimes ignored my mother, so statements like this went into one ear and out the other. But now, as I reflect on my childhood and place those moments into my daily existence, I realize that “keep your hands to yourself” taught me to respect myself, taught me to respect women, and taught me that we all have the right to our own body.

Last Thursday night, as I was coming home from work, I noticed a fellow gay man whom I have seen around Washington, D.C., at various nightclubs and bars. As we both entered onto the metro, we sat in seats relatively close to a young woman. The woman, who appeared tired, smiled at both of us and put headphones in her ears. In D.C., this is usually a subtle way to ask someone to allow you to reach your destination in peace without being disturbed. Since I understood this unwritten transit rule, I respected it and pulled out an article to read. Unfortunately, my fellow gay man took this as an invitation to engage in a one-way conversation.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post.

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