California Does The Right Thing On HIV, But The Gays Are Flipping Out

We can't say this reaction was unexpected. 

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that reduces the crime for knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor. Across social media, a not insignificant number of gay, bisexual, and MSM (men who have sex with men) are up in arms about the move. Most of the responses say that this encourages HIV+ men to no longer disclose their status. But let's walk through this. 

Most of these laws that criminalize those with HIV (and here is a map and listing of those laws as kept by the Centers for Disease Control) were enacted at the height of public panic over HIV and AIDS. Why panic? Because at the time, this was thought to be a "gay disease" (at first it was called "gay cancer"), and that fed into public opinion at the time. Throughout most of the 1980s, a majority--nearly 60% of Americans--believed that homosexuality should be illegal, according to Gallup. And the combination of these factors led Congress to not just enact federal funding for states to combat HIV, but also to criminalize knowingly exposing others to the virus. Yes, in order to receive help, states had to promise to criminalize HIV that was a nothing more than a thinly masked effort to criminalize homosexuality. Bigotry and fear are at the heart of these laws still on the books. 

The problem is that, like many laws, these aren't a matter of effective health policy or reductions in occurrence. Rather, they are rooted in fear and punishment. This lingers in the LGBTQ community, and especially in the gay community, to the point where gay men demonstrate serious gaps in medical knowledge about sexual health despite that gay men continue to have consensual sex under the veil of such ignorance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as recently as 2014, fewer than half of gay men know that proper treatment reduces the risk of HIV transmission. and only 25% knew about PrEP, the preventative medication and medical health program that reduces HIV transmission to less than a statistical anomaly. 

The move by California comes just weeks after the CDC joined public health experts in the consensus scientific view: "undetectable = untransmittable". But gay men lack this knowledge and instead continue to rely on outdated understanding, internalized homophobia, and perpetuation of stigma that falsely believes the HIV is a death sentence. By no means are we saying that a poz HIV status is both simple and easy to navigate, but it shouldn't be treated as a criminalized state of existence. By looking at HIV--at all stages of sexual health--as a public health issue and not a criminal issue, it allows us to have the conversations we need to have, do the teaching and learning that is needed, and extend prevention and treatment policies where they are needed. 

Bravo, California. And we have more work yet to do. 

Latinx Unemployment Is Way Down (Yay!), But Racial & Ethnic Disparities Persist (Damnit.)

Some good economic news for Latinxs: the unemployment rate for Latinx workers is now at its pre-Great Recession levels. That only took the better part of a decade to recover and reach the point where we are *supposed* to be. The breakdowns show a particular disparity in gender: Latinx women are more likely to work in "social assistance, education, health care and accommodation and food services" which have seen growth since the Recession, while Latinx men are more likely to work in "information, construction and manufacturing" which have lost jobs over the same time. 

But the broader context matters, because there remains a disparity in the unemployment rate from white  to Latinx to Black workers. Latinx unemployment (4.7%) is higher than white unemployment (3.9%); Black unemployment (7.7%) is even higher than Latinx unemployment, often twice the rate of white unemployment. This is important to this discussion because of the reasons involved. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis says that this disparity between white, Latinx, and Black unemployment has several factors, and none of them is educational attainment. Yes, educational attainment among Black folks is lowest across the entire population. But even among college educated workers, the Black unemployment rate remains highest. Why? Historic legacy of racist housing policy for one. Black workers are far more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods; Latinx workers are more likely to live in ethnic neighborhoods with commonalities in national origin. And this means access and proximity to jobs and opportunities is lowest. 

Another possible reason is that Black workers are more likely to be looking for work. That is, if you are jobless but not looking, you don't count as unemployed. So with more Black folks looking and jobless, the unemployment rate appears higher, when it really means that Black workers are just not giving up. 

But there's another reason few people want to point to: the simple fact that employment discrimination exists, and even if they are qualified, educated, get an interview, Black workers are simply scrutinized more broadly because of their skin color. As NPR reported, Black workers are found in higher rates in government jobs "in part because of the strong anti-discrimination laws" in these jobs. 

The reasons for disparities are multiple, and contextualizing the story is crucial when talking about these issues. And to be honest, it is so easy to start talking in racist tropes and stereotypes, and we're here to combat those, not perpetuate them. 

 

On Comic Books And Women Heroes From The Creator of Wonder Woman

We loved this essay by William Moulton Marston, who created Wonder Woman back in 1941. The essay is 73 years old, but resonates with us today. More than anything, he not only points to the same value in comic books that we can see in today's tellings of superheroes, but also his then-contemporary justification for the Wonder Woman character at all. The sensibilities of the time he considered? Those weren't even kept quiet like today's version of polite misogyny (with a smile!). Yes, we cringed at some of the language and argument, and yet we know what can be done when women and those who don't subscribe to the binary are given the proper treatment and support. 

My suggestion was met by a storm of mingled protests and guffaws. Didn’t I know that girl heroines had been tried in pulps and comics and, without exception, found failures? Yes, I pointed out, but they weren’t superwomen ... After five months the publishers ran a popularity contest between Wonder Woman and seven rival men heroes, with startling results. Wonder Woman proved a forty to one favorite over her nearest male competitor, capturing more than 80 per cent of all the votes cast by thousands of juvenile comics fans. ... So there’s the latest formula in comics—super­ strength, altruism, and feminine love allure, combined in a single character.

But it also reminds us of some of the modern odes to comic books. When Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote on Doom and his own love of comic books, he nailed what the genre means for us:

Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It's really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.

We couldn't have said it better if we tried. Comic books and the movie genre have a long way to go, but there's a reason we stick around to watch. Because we can relate, and we can aspire to a better world, too. 

More: https://theamericanscholar.org/wonder-woman/

California: Sanctuary Becomes Law For The Entire State

Bravo, California Governor Jerry Brown. 

While the federal government continues to wage war on immigrant communities, California's state legislature and governor passed and signed into a law protections for our most populous state's more than 2 million unauthorized immigrants. And let's face it, given the stories of ICE targeting and harassing even authorized immigrants and Latinx people, broad legislation like this is absolutely necessary to protect people from the vindictiveness coming out of federal agencies as 2017 goes on. There are more battles to fight when it comes to protecting our immigrant family members, and sending unauthorized LGBTQ+ immigrants back to countries where they may be in real, physical danger is not something we can condone.

So we praise this action, and we continue the work because there is more work to be done. 

More: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-brown-california-sanctuary-state-bill-20171005-story.html

Editor's Desk: Backing DACA Is A Moral Duty, To Hell With Economic Pragmatism

If you support DACA and the DREAMers, remember this:

  • Stop equating human worth with college degrees
  • Stop equating human value with incomes and wealth
  • Stop equating human dignity with labor, productivity, entrepreneurialism, heroism, and sacrifice

Human dignity is innate, is something we are all born with, and this can't be stated enough: 

You are worthy no matter who you are or what you do or what America or white America or anyone else says. You are deserving because you are human. 

I don't give a good goddam about Steve Jobs, valedictorians, marriages, homes bought, or some economic indicator. People deserve our care, our concern, our kindness, they deserve open doors, open arms, open hearts, they deserve to rise and fall just like the rest of us, and still be treated like human beings all along that journey.

I don't care if they are poor, uneducated, single with no relatives, have a chronic illness and a mental health condition. There is no bar, no price of admission I can morally set to refuse and deny a person the better opportunity of what America can provide when America is being their best self. Let them in!

If progressives want to win this argument, if they want to demonstrate that they actually value human life and not data points and statistics, if they want to show they support people and people of color, they need to stop this garbage where they implicitly name a "desirable" and "respectable" type of human being based on market ourput.

That is, if you support DACA and the DREAMers.

 

Chief is the founder and editor-in-chief of EFNIKS. Send comments and feedback to feedback@efniks.com. 

Ending DACA Is White Supremacy, Full Stop

We have friends of EFNIKS who are DREAMers, benefitting from Obama's DACA policy and executive order. But even if they weren't friends, they are human beings, who have done nothing wrong, who are deserving of dignity and care and the thoughtfulness afforded to all human beings. By every measure, this is the wrong decision:

DACA recipients are integrated, law-abiding, and functioning members of society. But their production numbers alone don't warrant DACA's protection. If not their humanity, if not their labor, if not anything else, then what purpose does it serve to end DACA at all? 

We'll let Cristina Jiminez, Executive Director of United We Dream say it for us:

"All the rumors on DACA would give anyone whiplash. Sarah Huckabee Sanders just denied the latest leak from Fox News and clearly, there are divisions between White House advisors who know DACA works and between the white supremacists who want to intimidate, detain and deport immigrants.

“We are escalating our fight to defend DACA and confront white supremacy. But no matter what their decision, our priority will always be to fight for justice and dignity for all immigrant youth and their families.”

It is absolutely white supremacy. And we will fight it, in all its forms. 

More: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/31/16226934/daca-trump-dreamers-immigration

Neighborhood Preservation Is Gentrification Code For Keeping Them White

This is effectively something you can replicate beyond the nation's capital. "Stable neighborhoods" is just the zoning and development code for "white neighborhoods". Designate something as "stable" or pretend that the phrase and concept aren't used primarily by white neighborhood residents, and you end up with changes almost exclusively in neighborhoods of color, in working class neighborhoods (side note: notice how "working class" tends to mean white in political discourse when we all know that working class people exist in urban areas and they tend to be of color). It's often times not the case that advocates against development are opposed too all development. Rather, it's that they know development happens where working and middle class people of color live. Multi family dwellings like apartment buildings? Not in the white or upper-income 'hoods. Below market rate housing, government assisted housing, the "projects"? Not in white or upper-income neighborhoods. And that's in part due to concepts like this, where "stable neighborhoods" is the depoliticized, race-neutral trigger that is anything but neutral on race. 

Image: Redlining San Francisco in the 1930s, via Mapping Inequality

More: https://ggwash.org/view/64620/how-dcs-comp-plan-promotes-segregation-and-what-we-can-do-about-it

Another Symbol of White Supremacy Goes Down in Los Angeles

The nation's second largest city voted today to dump Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples' Day, a reminder of the land we are on and the people we owe an incredible debt to for now sharing this land with us. Columbus shouldn't make people particularly proud, despite the calls by some Italians that this is their heritage and... Sound familiar? Because it is. There are many aspects to culture and heritage that don't rely on upholding symbols of destruction and genocide. And that Italians have centuries of other contributions to both American society and to global heritage means that fighting by some to maintain Columbus Day is just fighting to maintain an attachment to a harmful, hurtful symbol to all Indigenous people who first called the continent home. With so many options, why fight that one? With a people hurt for centuries and only asking for a symbol to create awareness, why fight them on it? We know why, and we saw it one August weekend in Charlottesville, VA back in the summer of 2017...

More: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-indigenous-peoples-day-20170829-story.html

California Curriculum Says Goodbye To Problematic 4th Grade Mission Project

Students in California have long completed their paper, sugar-cube, and lego-crafted models of the state's 21 Spanish-era missions as part of the public ed curriculum on California history. The problem, you might already be able to see in this, is that the project offered almost no real value in the way of learning about the state's Spanish past. Building a mission involves a lot of names, listing materials, and cataloguing the daily life of the religious leaders in each settlement of the Spanish occupation. But that negated the horrors of history: it involved no perspectives of Native American people and way of life, and erased almost entirely the involvement of Asians and other non-Indigenous people in the state's past. The stated purpose of the mission project belied its function as a means of whitewashing history and making it falsely appear benevolent and idyllic, a notion of a California where we all lived in white stucco pueblos amid livestock and drought-tolerant flowers and dresses and music, tended to by happy and docile Natives aiming to please. That's not unlike a romanticized notion of Medieval Europe that puts us in castles and drinking pints over banquets, when in reality most of us would have lived Hobbes' "Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" lives. This change is welcome, indeed. 

More: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/California-public-schools-mission-project-model-11953722.php

Illinois Is Now The 2nd (SECOND) State To Ban The "Gay Panic" Defense

You ride the bus or train, you pay the clerk, your food is served, your records are kept, your finances are handled, your technology is maintained, your country defended. All things that you do without a care as to whether a gay or trans person is on the other end of that interaction with food, tech, or living in society. Yet some do worry about it, so much so that in 2017 we have to ask why is it that only 2 states in the country ban the "gay panic" or "trans panic" defense for violent crime? Why is it possible to use the defense, "He was gay and flirting so" or "I found out they were trans and" as excuses for violent behavior? The defense is only valid if you see LGBTQ people as a menace, as lying in secret waiting to prey on cis hetero people and assault them. It's a homophobic and transphobic bit of nonsense to accuse us of being particularly threatening, and therefor worthy of assault, for courts to say "I understand" when it comes to panic and violent behavior toward us. And it's also a joke.

Federal Prisons Finally Acknowledge How Some Women's Bodies Work

Gender inequality runs through society, even to the point of placing undue burdens on women in the prison system. Why was a basic human function not adequately supplied for? Why were women forced to pay extra for things they needed just as an act of living? Because anything that does not fit a man's narrow experience is considered "excess" and therefore shouldn't be a "burden" on men (budgets, awareness, learning, sharing society, etc). This is how we end up with headlines like this, where providing a basic product like a tampon is considered an innovation in policies for women. 

More: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/29/health/federal-prisons-free-tampons-pads/index.html

The Times Op-Ed Defending Appropriation Is Garbage

Appropriation isn't "borrowing" from another culture, nor is it about respecting a culture, honoring a culture, any artistic homage to a culture. This is why appropriation is problematic: it is stealing and passing off culture as one's own; it is profiting off another culture, giving little or nothing to that culture or its people; it is wearing, selling, and owning with no sense of understanding and little regard for a people and its culture as anything more than a cheap good to buy, sell, and throw away; it's pretending to know a culture because you visited once, saw it on Netflix once, got a tattoo once; it is the way the culture isn't considered valid or normal until a white person does it; it is the way culture is seen as non-existent until a white person does it or "discovers it". 

But the author merges all things into one, pretending that appropriation and liking a burrito (yes, that's actually in there) are one and the same. It disregards power structures, context, and history entirely. It's the same "Becky and the n-word are both racist terms!" attempt at depoliticized justification for causing harm to people of color that we always see. 

And from a Becky, no less. 

More (but, like, don't): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html 

No, General Mattis Didn't Freeze Trump's Transphobic Policy

It's being reported that General Mattis, as Secretary of Defense, has put Trump's transphobic policy on hold pending a study on implementation and readiness of the US military. That might fit a narrative that places Mattis as an "adult" and a "responsible" member of Trump's regime, but it isn't wholly true. While Trump's July tweet may have put a full ban into play, the military actually responded at the time that tweets are not policy. The actual memo outlining implementation was released just this past Friday (nearly a month after the tweet), and it directs Mattis to study the issue. So, effectively and actually, Mattis is just doing what he was told to do and isn't some kind of hero. A good Marine following orders, but this isn't a reprieve as much as it is just the course of process even in the Age of Trump. As some noted on Twitter, the interesting question goes back to the issue of whether statements, tweets, memos or otherwise constitute actual policy, and if so, which do the military have to abide by. Oh, 2017...

More: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/08/29/mattis-orders-pentagon-allow-transgender-troops-continue-serving-pending-study/614711001/

Full Memo Text: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trumps-memo-on-transgender-troops-full-text/article/2632632

#Harvey: List of Resources for PoC and Marginalized Communities (via Colorlines)

This is a valuable resource and we urge to to repost. While not everyone has the resources or time to research every charity, and every local charity, to give to, we are glad that folks have been sharing their links and organizations in the wake of Harvey's historic flooding. We're not going to get into the business of shaming people for giving to non-profits and other groups with problematic efforts in their histories--we get that not everyone knows what to do. Instead, we'll try to share things like this, to help rather than chastise those who want to do anything to assist. While the link does specifically say "people of color", the list provided also has a number of ways to help other marginalized communities. 

More: http://www.colorlines.com/articles/how-donate-money-and-other-aid-communities-color-houston

The "Nashville Statement": Homophobic Church Leaders Are Homophobic

150 conservative Christian leaders pen a statement that homosexuality and transgender people are not compatible with God or Christianity. This is nothing new, of course. But they go as far as to say we are sinners, that anyone who "approves" of us is a sinner, and even differ on the matter of marriage equality or our love being compatible at all with a Christian God's vision. Don't forget that if 2017 is the year that overt white supremacy feels empowered and compelled to speak up and show out, it's also a year where homophobia and transphobia are resurgent in statements like this. So as QTPoC, we face a social fight for equality and acceptance on multiple fronts, but what else is new? Stand together, fam. 

More: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/08/29/evangelical-manifesto-human-sexuality/614201001/

The Statement: https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement