Queer & Present: October 2017

November 6, 2017 in inQueery

Hello and welcome to Queer & Present! Here are a couple of pieces of LGBTQIA+ news that made headlines in October with some of my own opinion.

Victories for LGBTQIA+ and HIV-Positive Californians

Three big laws protecting LGBTQIA+ rights were signed this month by governor Jerry Brown. Signed on Oct. 15, the Gender Recognition Act (SB 179) makes it easier for trans and intersex individuals to get state-issued documents that better reflect their gender. The law makes the process of changing gender easier, and in addition to M and F, SB 179 adds “X” to the options for gender. On Oct. 4, Brown signed SB 219, or the LGBT Senior Bill of Rights, which guarantees that senior homes cannot bar entry to seniors based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or HIV status. “Our LGBT seniors built the modern LGBT community and were on the front lines of so many battles to expand our civil rights and fight the AIDS epidemic in its earliest and most horrific days,” said one of the senators who introduced the bill, Scott Wiener.“They deserve to age with dignity and respect, and that means making sure our long-term care facilities have culturally competent policies and procedures in place.” On Oct. 6, Brown updated SB 239, so now all felony charges for having sex while knowingly HIV-positive are now downgraded to misdemeanors. “You have someone who is HIV-positive like me, where their disease is completely suppressed, who can have sex with someone who is on PrEP, and the risk of transmission is zero,” said Sup. Jeff Sheehy, Wiener’s replacement in district 8. “Yet according to the way this law [was] written, the HIV-positive person would be liable for prosecution. This law should never have been written in the first place, it’s absolutely terrible for public health.”

In light of the LGBTQIA-unfriendly administration, it’s wonderful to see some sort of progress wherever we can find it. Usually progress comes in little pieces over time, but it seems for LGBTQIA+ Californians, this month has been full of victories. I’ve been following SB 179, and like I said in August’s Q&P, the old system was expensive, traumatic, and out of reach for so many trans individuals. The addition of a state-recognized third gender is so, so important towards the recognition of non-binary individuals as well. I’m also so excited for local groups like the Lavender Seniors to finally have protections. Queer seniors are often isolated and mistreated. They deserve so much more. Finally, good riddance to the antiquated and ineffective SB 239. It should have been struck down all the way, but a misdemeanor is a lot less impactful than a felony charge. It’s a little bit of progress. Overall, it’s been a good month for us. I think it’s important that California be a shining example in what would otherwise be a dark trash abyss of a country.


Egypt Cracks Down on Queer Population

Egyptian authorities began arresting more LGBTQIA+ people after a video of concert-goers waving a rainbow flag went viral in September. Though the crackdown on queer people really started ramping up in 2013, the video of the flag sparked public outrage and was considered an attack on Egyptian morals. The lead singer of the band, Mashrou Leila, is openly gay. We denounce the demonization and prosecution of victimless acts between consenting adults,” the band said. “It is sickening to think that all this hysteria has been generated over a couple of kids raising a piece of cloth that stands for love.” The administration has mostly targeted gay men and trans women using dating apps and social media, and at least 71 people have been arrested since the concert. Though homosexuality isn’t technically illegal, queer people are targeted through anti-prostitution and debauchery laws. In the wake of this, an Egyptian lawmaker introduced a bill earlier this month that extends maximum sentences for these “crimes” from 3 years to 25 years.

These events in Egypt are painful reminders of the danger of simply flying a flag. It may not even be to show queerness: one of the people arrested for holding the flag in the video said he was holding it in support of the band’s singer. Whether that’s true or not, as an American living in a fairly progressive area, it’s hard to remember how subversive queerness (and the support of queerness) is in other parts of the world. Though Americans still have battles to fight — re: Trump — we’re all under the same flag as our Egyptian friends.



Amelia McBain is a Staff Contributor at InQueery.