LGBT Rights

LGBT In SoFlo? You Want To Live In Wilton Manors, Not Hollywood

The Human Rights Campaign released its fifth annual Municipal Equality Index, which measures the state of LGBT equality in 506 cities across the country.

The Index also measured 18 Florida cities on a series of 44 criteria that fall into five general categories.

1) Non-discrimination laws
2)Municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and non-discrimination requirements for contractors
3)Inclusiveness of city services
4)Law enforcement, including hate crimes reporting
5)Municipal leadership on matters of equality

“This year, dozens of cities across the nation showed they are willing to stand up for LGBTQ people in their communities even when some state governments are not,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “This builds on a trend we have long observed: that local governments are at the forefront of our fight for equality.”

Here is how the 18 Florida cities fared on the list. South Florida cities are bolded.

  1. Orlando- 100%
  2. St. Petersburg- 100%
  3. Wilton Manors– 100%
  4. Gainesville- 98%
  5. Tallahassee-92%
  6. Miami Shores– 91%
  7. Oakland Park- 86%
  8. Tampa- 86%
  9. Fort Lauderdale- 80%
  10. Pembroke Pines- 78%
  11. Coral Gables- 61%
  12. Hialeah- 49%
  13. Jacksonville- 49%
  14. Miami- 49%
  15. Daytona Beach- 48%
  16. Hollywood- 43%
  17. Port Saint Lucie- 30%
  18. Cape Coral- 25%

Cover Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Meet Eddie Ndopu: The First Disabled African To Attend Oxford University

Eddie Ndopu, a 25 year old South African, is set to become the first disabled African to attend the prestigious Oxford University.

Eddie has his eyes set on Oxford where he plans to revolutionize the lives of disabled people around the world.

I had the privilege of interviewing this out-of-the-box thinker on his journey so far and his plans to revolutionize the world for disabled people.

RISE NEWS: A lot of people see you as the first disabled African to go to Oxford, so how do you feel about being labelled as that person?

Eddie: First, I think it is a symbolic victory for a young, disabled African as well as disabled people throughout the world.

It’s symbolic because statistically there is about 90 ninety percent of children with disabilities across the developing world who have no access to basic education.

So it’s an amazing personal achievement as well as an achievement for disabled people all over the world.

The second perspective I don’t like to subscribe to labels. I choose to move through the world as a dynamic and fluid individual so that I am not tied to any stereotypes or preconceptions that the world may have about me.

RISE: What will you be studying when you go to Oxford?

I will be doing a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

RISE: So what are you looking to gain from your Oxford experience?

I am trying to lay the foundation for an ambitious organization that I have founded with a friend. We are calling it the Evolve Initiative we are trying to help people with disabilities live their best lives. In short, we are trying to provide the institutional support to disabled people so that they can have the same opportunities as able-bodied individuals.


RISE: What are your plans for after you graduate from Oxford?

After Oxford I’ll spend two years trying to get people to understand what the Evolve Initiative is about. That will take the form of this kind of “Beyonce-esque” feature length presentation.

At the end of the presentation I hope to be launching into space as the first disabled person to ever be in space. I also want to address the United Nations from space about the rights of disabled people globally.

RISE: How has the public supported you in achieving this goal of going to Oxford?

The public has been quite amazing and very supportive. People have been very generous giving whatever they had whether it was R500 or R2000 rand. I did expect more support from Corporate South Africa but a lot of the time people want to be associated with you because you making headlines. Yet they aren’t prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

RISE: Are there any things that worry you about leaving South Africa and going to study at Oxford?

No, not really because it’s not my first time abroad. I did my undergraduate in Canada and so I left for four years and it was an incredible experience. I see myself as a global citizen. I am an African of the world. I like to keep moving so I am not anxious at all.

READ MORE: Can This Young South African Change The Way The World Looks At Farming?

RISE: How do you deal with being disabled and queer? Are there challenges?

For me I always say that there is no contradiction in embodying all of these identities. I cannot compartmentalize my identity. When I am doing disability activism I am also doing queer activism and antiracist work. Everybody is not just one thing we embody so many identities at once. I make sure that I am able to always speak about my identities in a nuanced way.


RISE: Could you talk to me a bit more about your ideas surrounding independence versus dependence as well as what it means to be a abled-bodied adult in our society?

For me as a young 25 year-old man I find that people will forever treat you like a child. People always talk down to you when you are disabled. I have realized that with the experience of disability, adulthood becomes hard to navigate.

When we think about what it means to be an adult its always about doing things for yourself. So the societal conception of being an adult does not fit with the experience of a disabled adult who relies on other adults for their survival. People only see a basic surface level of what it means to be independent.

I reject independence because I don’t think it’s real.

Able-bodied people get help all the time, but as I said in the my YouTube video the help that they get disappears into the background and it makes it look like independence. The world is constructed around the needs of your able-bodied experience and because of that you are being helped on an institutional level.

RISE: I heard you say that you want people to see disabled people as gifts to humanity. Could you explain that a bit more?

It comes from the deep recognition that changes happen on the margins of society. Marginalized people are the most innovative people because they need to figure out creative ways of surviving.

So because disabled people are one of the most marginalized groups in society we are able to challenge the status quo and reimagine a world that opens up equal opportunities for all people. If you can address the needs of people with disabilities you can change the world because every part of society will be different from the way we design our environments to the way we relate to each other as human beings.

Eddie is set to begin his Masters in September of 2016.

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Eddie Ndopu/ Submitted

Why Are There So Few Minority Characters In YA Books?

Representation in all walks of life has been in the spotlight recently. And one area that is full of controversy is what young people are exposed to in books that often help inform them during some of the most important years of their lives.

A study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that out of the 3,400 books that they received for 2015, 106 were by Black authors and 269 were about Black characters, and 58 were by Latino authors and 82 were about Latino characters.

Malinda Lo, a YA novelist, has been following the uptick in LGBT+ YA.

According to Lo, “In 2014, mainstream publishers published 47 LGBT YA books. This is a 59% increase from 2013, when only 29 LGBT YA books were published by mainstream publishers.”

Yes, these statistics look optimistic, but they are still not what they should be.

So what is the damage done when proper representation can’t be ascertained?

All groups suffer because such lack of representation fails to encapsulate the differences between different people; essentially, one person is not the whole.

“I think the tendency has been to reduce Latino characters as this one thing or Asian characters as this one thing, Muslim characters as one thing, and the fact is that we’re people,” Meg Medina, a Cuban-American writer of YA books and an Advisory Chair for the group We Need Diverse Books, said in a interview with RISE NEWS. “And all of those very specific identifiers and experiences shape how we move. It’s what makes us people.”

Meg Medina, a well known Cuban-American YA author. Photo Credit: Meg Medina/ Facebook.

Meg Medina, a well known Cuban-American YA author. Photo Credit: Meg Medina/ Facebook.

Read More: #IfMenHadPeriods Is Well Intentioned But Also Very Flawed

The effects of poor representation of minority groups are not limited to people of color.

Alex Gino uses the singular they pronoun and wrote George, a YA book about a trans girl that won the 2016 Stonewall Book Award.

“It’s important to remember that each trans experience is unique and different the way that each cis experience, the way that each trans experience, the way that each gay or queer experience is unique,” Gino said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “And so I wouldn’t even say that one trans story can cover it, or one gay story would cover it. There’s nothing quite like finding someone like yourself in a book.”

Leaps and bounds have been made in representation, however, despite this work, there are still advances to be made.

For example, Lo estimated that 1.9% to 2.4% of YA books published in 2013 had LGBT+ characters or dealt with LGBT+ issues.

YA author Alex Gino at a book signing in 2015. Photo Credit: Alex Gino/Facebook

YA author Alex Gino at a book signing in 2015. Photo Credit: Alex Gino/Facebook

“There is a lot of work to be done. I think that we only started to drill down into the many experiences that make up being a young person,” Medina said. “I think there are lots of questions in publishing now, like who’s writing these stories? Are they authentic, are they not authentic, are they written from sort of an outsider point of view, people imagining what it’s like to be x y or z, are they generally writers of color? I think when we have many people at the table with many points of view, the books that get published are richer, are more nuanced, are truer stories of real peoples’ lives.”

Gino seemed to agree with that sentiment.

“I think that we are scratching the surface of the stories that are available to be told, and the stories that are available to read,” Gino said. “I think that we need more books by diverse people and we also need more diverse groups of people publishing the books, so that stories that are being picked have more things to offer.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Amber McKinney/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

#IfMenHadPeriods Is Well Intentioned But Also Very Flawed

By Courtney Anderson

On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, the hashtag #IfMenHadPeriods started trending on Twitter.

The intent of the hashtag seems simple enough: it appears that it was designed to give people who have periods a space to ventilate and make jokes about how those who don’t have periods would react to them.

Here’s a typical example:

After all, periods are no joke.

In addition to the 4-7 days of blood and the inevitable cramps, some people can experience extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and feelings of depression and anxiety as a part of their menstruation.

Not to mention physical disorders such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome that make menstrual cycles even more hellish.

And it’s pretty well-known that periods are treated as dirty things that women do that make them irrational and overly emotional.

So it would be nice to have a hashtag that called out those attitudes and discussed issues involving menstruation and sexism.

But #IfMenHadPeriods, like so many things, is well-intentioned, but very flawed.

The hashtag #IfMenHadPeriods erases many of the men who do have periods.

Read More: Black-Listed-How Discrimination Forces Transgender People Of Color Into Poverty And Prostitution

Pre-transition female-to-male trans men, as well as many other masculine-presenting people who do not follow the gender binary, are people who identify as men and have menstrual cycles.

And because they are men, they are often left out of conversations that involve menstrual health, menstruation products, vaginal and uterine health and other issues associated with having a period.

Transgender writer Mitch Kellaway spoke to his experience as a trans man who menstruates in the article, “Here’s What It’s Like to Have Your Period When You’re a Trans Man.”

“As a trans man, I am so used to not being considered in any conversation when it comes to menstruation, anything having to do with vaginal, cervical or uterine health,” he said. “It’s a symptom of a larger thing where I’ve become very used to people being unaware of the possibility of the fullness of my existence.”

Kellaway made this comment to while explaining his response to a trans-inclusive advertisement for Thinx, a brand that specializes in creating underwear people can comfortably wear while they are on their period.

It was the first time he saw a menstruation product that was inclusive of men who menstruate.

The hashtag is unintentionally exclusive, and participates in the form of sexism: cissexism, wherein being cis gender is the “norm” and anything else is the deviant.

Read More: Everyone Should Read This Incredibly Powerful Poem A Man Wrote To His Transgender Sister

If the hashtag had been #IfCisMenHadPeriods, it would have avoided this erasure.

It is a point several Twitter users brought up while the hashtag was trending.

Social media does not exist in a vacuum.

#IfMenHadPeriods is indicative of a larger problem many trans people have with certain forms of feminism.

Trans antagonism and the exclusion of trans people in the name of radical feminism is a problem that is still all too prevalent.

Whether accidental (like this hashtag) or intentional (as in the case of trans-exclusive radical feminists, a.k.a TERFS), feminism that does not include the liberation of trans people is incomplete at best and perpetuates the transphobia in patriarchal society at worst.

The article “Why the Feminist Movement Must Be Trans-Inclusive,” provides a straight-forward reason.

“Transgender people face institutional discrimination, oppression, and violence as a result of transphobia as well as sexism – due to a structural obsession with the gender binary, with a cultural and political policing of gender roles, and an overall devaluation of feminine qualities,” the article’s author, Laura Kacere, writes.

The most effective form of feminism is one that analyzes an oppressive society through an intersectional lens and advocates for all marginalized people.

It will advocate for people of color, LGBTQ people, people with physical disabilities, mentally ill people and anyone else who is oppressed.

And the best feminist hashtags make sure to denote the difference between a cis gender man and every other man that’s out there.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Miami Graffiti Artists Honor The Victims Of The Orlando Shooting

Less than two weeks after the nation’s largest mass shooting took place at an Orlando gay nightclub, Pedro AMOS was approached by an old friend to commission an art piece for the victims of the attack.

The friend in question was Roxana Rauseo, manager of the Wynwood Yard, and the aim of the project was to memorialize the identities of those lost on June 12th by creating a giant public mural located on the back wall of O Cinema’s building.

AMOS, whose artist owned and operated company had recently been named The Miami’s New Times best graffiti guide, called upon colleagues Luis Valle and Jona Cerwinske to aid in the mural’s initial construction.

All three of them donated their free time in order to finish the painting as soon as possible, a process that meant trading alternating shifts amid the oppressive Florida heat with little supervision and a lot of donated paint.

The mural itself, scenically located across from the The Wynwood Yard’s own urban garden, depicts the full names of every person killed during the night of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.

Those names, 49 in total, were purposely rendered in the same six colors that typically make up the rainbow LGBT flag.

AMOS describes the experience of receiving the notecards from Rauseo bearing the identities of the dead, later admitting he still cannot bring himself to throw the papers away even after the project had already finished.

“I was all like work, work, work and trying to organize everyone and put everything together but [then] she gave me all these cards and it was really heavy to get all that, it really made it all real. And then you’ll be painting [a name] and this girl would come and say ‘Oh my god, my mother worked with him.”’

Construction of the mural was often marred by inclement weather and a host of technical mishaps, eventually stalling completion of the painting an extra four days over what was initially scheduled.

13522580_883478271760477_286745480_nProblems with a donated forklift meant that Valle had to fill in a majority of a giant, multicolored heart using only a paint roller and a very sore back (his efforts were later compensated with a complementary massage at The Standard).

Regardless of the conditions, many locals still stopped to gather on Thursday night and hold a prayer vigil for those lost in the Pulse shooting, even bringing bouquets of flowers and lighting candles in order to honor the dead.

“I was up on a ladder and I’m painting and everybody came around during the vigil and I had my back turned. I turned around and I realized everybody was there with their cameras and it was a moment that just kind of hit me, you know?” Valle said.

The Nicaraguan-born artist had previously painted a memorial piece in New York as part of a fundraising effort for a deceased person, but had never attempted anything on this particular scale before the events in Orlando occurred.

The commemorative mural comes as a result of the devastating mass shooting that took place in in Central Florida earlier this month, one that resulted in the collective deaths and injuries of 102 individuals when a lone shooter, Omar Mateen, opened fire inside of a popular nightclub.

“I thought it was bigger than an LGBT community problem. I thought it was a world problem. I thought it was a failure on behalf of all humans. It’s disgusting and it rocks everyone, gay straight Latino, black, white, to their core. It’s just a terrible scenario.” AMOS said at one point, alluding to a speech he gave to expectant attendees on the night of the Wynwood vigil.

Maybe so, but both the location of the attack as well as the hateful rhetoric spouted by its perpetrator would suggest otherwise.

LGBT activists and civilians alike have fought for decades to create safe spaces within the queer community.

For better or worse, their struggles have always been the subject of punditry and social scrutiny, a fact further evidenced by the controversy surrounding the recent reactions that conservative Florida legislators maintained in the wake of the Pulse shooting.

It’s not surprising that the deaths of these individuals would be politicized in the wake of this tragedy, not when we know that discriminatory laws already politicized many aspects of their lives to begin with.

Still, if there’s anything to glean from the memorial in question it’s the cathartic role, however modest, that public art can play in the wake of these tragedies.

The swiftness with which the different facets of Wynwood life responded to the events in Orlando reflects the collective empathy expressed by local entrepreneurs, artists, managers, and volunteers for the LGBT community as a whole.

More importantly, these kinds of displays have the potential to galvanize residents against incidents of homophobia, pressuring otherwise reluctant allies to openly express support. It’s also viscerally, laudably beautiful to look at, a kaleidoscope of vibrant images framed by the urban greenery surrounding it.

“As artists, we have the ability to make a difference and [either] do something about this or at least put a voice out there.” Valle said at one point during the interview, “It’s the least we can do for something so horrible.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Donald Trump, Your Idea For People To Come To Clubs With Guns Is The Dumbest Damn Thing Ever

By Nate Nkumbu

On early Sunday morning at 2 a.m., the deadliest mass shooting in American history and the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in decades happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed and 53 others were injured.

Current presidential candidate Donald Trump said to CNN that If some people in the club had some guns, this would of never happened.


As a person that has gone out with large groups of people, the last thing that you want to do is bring a gun into a club or an event.

This isn’t exactly rocket science.

Club are supposed to be places of enjoyment, where one goes to relax and have fun.

Not everybody is going to be thinking in the right state of mind.

Alcohol, drugs, hormones, etc.

Adding guns into that equation is recipe for disaster waiting to happen.

What could go wrong? Photo Credit: njaminjami/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What could go wrong? Photo Credit: njaminjami/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Clubs by nature are going to tightly pack places with bodies next to another. Often conflict will happen because of some perceived slight such as stepping on someone’s shoes, grabbing or dancing with the wrong person.

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Now add several guns into the picture.

That same situation occurs and next thing you know, you’re waking up in a hospital gown with a few bullets logged in you and your name and face on local news.

Pro-gun rights organisations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) will argue that arming the “good guys” will help to save lives in a mass shooting, but a study done by Mother Jones found that in 62 cases of mass shootings prior to the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, none were stopped by the “good guys”.

The study even went as far as saying “Attempts by armed citizens to stop shooters are rare. At least two such attempts in recent years ended badly, with the would-be good guys gravely wounded or killed,”

All of that exist even with laws making it easier for people to carry firearms in public places and the largest influx of guns in the marketplace.

What happened in Orlando is indeed sad and has continued a heated debate about gun control, LGBT rights and terrorism.

But with the call to arm our citizens to protect themselves coming from multiple sources, I think adding guns to already over saturated market full of them and handing them out without discretion doesn’t fix the problem.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Ted Van Pelt/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

You Can Donate To Support The Victims Of The Orlando Mass Shooting

The mass shooting in Orlando has taken at least 50 lives and over 50 more people are still fighting to survive in area hospitals.

You can make a difference.

Equality Florida, an LGBT civil rights organization has opened up a GoFundMe page to raise money to support the victims of the attack.

From the group:

“We are reeling from the tragic news that a gunman opened fire on the 2am capacity crowd at Pulse leaving 50 people dead and over 50 injured according to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country.

Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.

We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy.”

As of 12:00 PM EST, over $21,000 has been raised out of a goal of $100,000.

Click here to donate.


Cover Photo Credit: Tim Evanson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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