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Dedicated Transgender Hotline Aims To Stem Epidemic Of Suicides Like Texas Teen Alex DeChiara's

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After relentless bullying at her high school in Texas, transgender teen Alex DeChiara (above) transferred to an alternative school in April. 

But switching schools cut 17-year-old Alex off from her closest friends and her biggest passion: working with special-needs children at Euless Trinity High School, in a conservative suburb of Fort Worth. Alex hoped to one day become a teacher for autistic kids. 

After Alex transferred schools, administrators at Euless Trinity even barred her from campus and threatened her with arrest when she tried to visit. Faced with loneliness and a deepening depression, Alex felt she had nowhere to turn. On May 8, she hung herself from a tree in her family's backyard. 

Alex's father, Rick DeChiara, who came home from work to find Alex and had to cut her down from the tree, told the Texas Observer this week he feels there are a fair amount of resources dedicated to gay youth. But he added: “As far as transgender awareness kind of stuff, that’s a different story. I don’t think that’s quite as popular, as out there in the open.” 

MartelaNow, a San Francisco-based group is hoping to help change that — and to stem the epidemic of trangender suicides like Alex's. According to Greta Gustava Martela (right), the founder of Trans Lifeline, half of people who are openly transgender will attempt suicide at least once in their lives. 

Trans Lifeline is a first-of-its-kind, nonprofit crisis and suicide hotline staffed by transgender people. 

“There are a ton of suicide hotlines. There’s no shortage of them,” Martela told Time.com. “But it’s really difficult to get a person who isn’t trans to understand what it’s like to be trans.”

According to Trans Lifeline's website: "Our hotline is staffed by the true experts on transgender experience, transgender people themselves. Our volunteers are all trans identified and educated in the range of difficulties transgender people experience." 

Although the hotline's goal is to prevent self-harm, it is open to any transgender person in need — as well as the parents of transgender children. 

After a surge in calls thanks to the Time.com story this week, Martela launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for training for additional volunteers. Those interested in volunteering for Trans Lifeline can learn more here. 

The hotline covers the US and Canada and is staffed by volunteers outside the Bay Area.

For those in crisis, the number is 877-565-8860

 

 

 

 


CA Assemblyman Tom Ammiano Marries Carolis Deal: VIDEO

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Longtime LGBT rights activist and friend of Harvey Milk Tom Ammiano recently wed partner Carolis Deal in San Francisco. Ammiano, a California assemblyman, reportedly brought guests together at the Delancey Street Foundation without too many clues as to the precise nature of the event. From the San Francisco Sentinel:

So after several songs from jazz singer Paula West starting out with “Thanks for the Memories” and including “Anything Goes” and “Night and Day” both by Cole Porter, there was a video of Tom accomplishments as a political leader at the Board of Supervisors and at the State legislature. After his response to the video Tom introduced Harry Britt and announced that Harry would preside over his wedding to Carolis Deal

Watch a video tribute shown at the wedding, chronicling Ammiano's many accomplishments over the years, AFTER THE JUMP...

(Photo via Twitter)

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Actors Jonathan Groff and Raul Castillo Hit the Folsom Street Fair + 15 More 'Looking' Set PHOTOS

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Andrew Haigh, the creator of HBO's Looking, Instagrammed this adorable photo of actors Raul Castillo and Jonathan Groff from the streets of San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair yesterday, where the cast was spending a bit more time. Looking has been shooting its second season since late August in and around the Bay area.

Fans of the show will remember a few pivotal scenes from the show last year for which Groff donned some leather.

Castillo, who recently joined Instagram, posted a photo from the Fair as well, with the caption, "Folsom Street Fair 2014. Check."

Several new actors have joined the cast this season including Mean Girls star Daniel Franzese, Crossbones' Chris Perfetti and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon's Bashir Salahuddin.

Check out 15 more Instagram photos from the set and around town shot by the cast, crew and fans, AFTER THE JUMP...

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SF Supervisor Scott Wiener Comes Out of the PrEP Closet: 'Each Morning, I Take a Pill Called Truvada'

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener decided to "come out of the PrEP closet" this week in order to educate the public and destigmatize 'pre-exposure prophylaxis', an HIV prevention strategy that reduces the risk of infection by the use of antiretroviral drugs. In a piece published Wednesday in the Huffington Post, Wiener says that he takes Truvada, the pharmaceutical produced by Gilead, daily.

WienerWrites Wiener:

I recently decided to be public about my use of PrEP in order to raise awareness about this relatively new tool for preventing HIV. It's important to encourage people at risk for HIV to talk to their medical providers about all the tools and methods available for preventing infection, including PrEP, and to choose the methods that are best for them.

As an elected official, disclosing this personal health decision was a hard but necessary choice. After all these years, we still see enormous stigma, shame, and judgment around HIV, and around sexuality in general. That is precisely why I decided to be public about my choice: to contribute to a larger dialogue about our community's health. I have the honor of representing a district that includes the Castro -- ground zero for the HIV epidemic. I represent a community that has been profoundly impacted by HIV, with a large number of HIV-positive people -- nearly one in four gay men in San Francisco is HIV-positive -- and an even larger number of people at risk of becoming positive. As an elected official in this role, I have an obligation to do everything in my power to support those living with HIV, increase public awareness about effective HIV prevention, and reduce stigma and shame.

Wiener notes that, like many in his generation, "I came of age associating sex with illness and death" yet he is bewildered by the fact that many young men and many he have known to be negative for decades still seroconvert.

"None of this is preordained. People don't need to continue to get infected, and we know that PrEP has the potential to help stop the epidemic in its tracks by ending new HIV infections," Wiener writes.

TruvadaWiener is introducing a resolution in San Francisco today hoping to begin a process that will allow PrEP to become more available, reports Josh Barro in the NYT:

On Thursday, the board will hold a hearing about increasing that number. David Campos, a supervisor who like Mr. Wiener is openly gay, will introduce a resolution directing the city’s health department to develop a plan by December that “addresses the educational and affordability issues” around Truvada. In particular, he and Mr. Wiener are focused on bringing down costs for people who would like to be on PrEP but can’t afford it.

PrEP is widely covered by health insurers, including Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid. Medi-Cal covers PrEP’s entire cost and many high-quality private plans cover most costs. Mr. Wiener pays just a $15 monthly co-payment under his city-provided health plan. But health plans with high deductibles may leave patients “covered” yet unable to afford their share of the cost of Truvada, whose list price is over $1,000 per month. The price is also forbidding for the uninsured; federally funded programs provide free medication to H.I.V.-positive people without insurance, but they do not cover PrEP.

Wiener told Barro: “A much larger segment of gay men should be taking a close look at PrEP...I hope that my being public about my use of PrEP can help people take a second look at it.”


Facebook Agrees To Meet With Drag Community Members Following 'Real Name' Controversy

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In response to a planned protest at their headquarters, representatives from Facebook have agreed to meet with Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, about Facebook’s recent crackdown on the use of drag names.

Hundreds of drag queens found their public Facebook profiles deactivated last week after Facebook began to enforce its rules stating that all users must attach their birth names to personal pages. While members of the drag community were not explicitly targeted by the crackdown, drag queens seems to have been disproportionately affected given their tendency to embody their personae as public figures.

“I’ve had this name for 20 years now,” San Francisco-based performer Heklina explained to Tech Crunch “I walk down the street and people say ‘Hi Heklina.’ People know me by my drag name.”

Heklina claimed that every single drag performer that she knew in the Bay Area had been affected by Facebook’s enforcement of the policy, robbing them of the ability to keep their drag lives separate from their personal ones.

“This is like in the 1950’s when drag queens would perform at the club and then had to quickly change into their boy clothes after to keep from getting harassed,” she said, citing the many queens that were effectively forced to out themselves.

Initially Facebook responded by suggesting that drag performers attach their aliases to profiles featuring their actual names or create fan pages for their characters as an alternative. Fan pages, says Heklina, often don’t really capture what all it means to be a drag fixture in a local community.

“While many drag queens are 'out' about who they are, not all drag queens have that luxury," San Francisco Boardmember Scott Weiner wrote in a Facebook post. "Preventing drag queens from using the names that actually define who they are also puts a number of people in the untenable position of having to choose between telling the world that they’re drag queens and abandoning Facebook for their drag personas.”


Embarrassing Typos Mar Otherwise Sparkling Roll-Out of LGBT 'Rainbow Honor Walk' in SF: VIDEO

Wilde

Yesterday, in San Francisco's Castro District, organizers unveiled the first bronze sidewalk plaques dedicated to LGBT heroes in the Rainbow Honor Walk, a queer take on Hollywood Boulevard's "Walk of Fame" meant to honor those "self-expressed LGBT individuals, now deceased, who made significant contributions in their fields."

The first 20 honorees are Jane Addams, James Baldwin, George Choy, Federico Garcia Lorca, Allen Ginsberg, Keith Haring, Harry Hay, Sylvester James, Christine Jorgensen, Frida Kahlo, Del Martin, Yukio Mishima, Bayard Rustin, Randy Shilts, Gertrude Stein, Alan Turing, Tom Waddell, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, and Virginia Woolf.

JorgensenThe unveiling was marred by some unfortunate typos which immediately made their way to social media. Oscar Wilde's plaque celebrated the writer's "bitting" wit while trans pioneer Christine Jorgensen was described as "trangendered". More than $100,000 in donations which paid for the plaques will cover the cost of corrections, reports KGO.

According to Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin, who was there to help unveil the Virginia Woolf plaque (see below) with his husband Chris Turner and their dog Philo, the plaques with errors will be auctioned off to benefit the Honor Walk campaign and replaced.

Other attendees included Senator Mark Leno and SF Supervisor Scott Wiener, as well as activist and veteran Dan Choi.

The Walk has been in development for years:

The idea for the project had a dual genesis. In 1994, Perry suggested the idea and received media attention and the support of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. However, the overwhelming priorities of the AIDS/HIV pandemic put the project, and its fundraising goals, on hiatus. In 2009, Lindenauer, unaware of the earlier effort, envisioned the Rainbow Honor Walk. Lindenauer and Perry joined forces, put together a volunteer committee of community leaders and received the unanimous support of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

“These are just the first 20 of what we hope will be hundreds of names,” says Lindenauer, noting the Walk stretches from Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy on 19th Street at Diamond down to Castro. On Castro Street — the LGBT community’s “Main Street” – the walk will continue up to Market Street with additional wings along 18th Street. On Market Street, San Francisco’s main thoroughfare, the Walk will continue to the LGBT Center at Octavia Boulevard.

Check out a big Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter gallery of the roll-out and all the sidewalk plaques as well as some local news coverage from KGO, AFTER THE JUMP....

 

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