Friday, May 26, 2017

Confirmed: Torture of Dozens of Gay Men in Chechnya

Content Note: abuse, torture, murder,

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Dozens of gay men have now been confirmed to have been subjected to horrific torture at the hands of the authoritarian regime of Chechnya’s autocratic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov , according to a new report issued Friday by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization.

"Law enforcement and security agencies under Kadyrov's de facto control have abducted people from homes, work places, and the streets, held them in secret locations, and carried out enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions, and collective punishment practices," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

First disclosed in a series of articles by the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta early last month, gay men from this autonomous Russian Republic in the North Caucasus region have been disclosing to human rights campaigners as well as journalists from international media outlets the extent of their persecution.

All of the victims suffered repeated beatings," the HRW report says. "Security officials kicked them with booted feet, beat them with polypropylene pipes and sticks, and made other inmates beat them," mostly on the men’s buttocks and legs.

"They put you face down on the floor and beat you with pipes," one victim said. "They force other prisoners to carry on with the beating. Each man gets some 70 to 80 blows," the report continues. "And you literally turn black and blue from waist to toes."

The report also details use of electrocution devices to torture the victims. One man described a machine with a single knob and metal clips at the ends, which were attached to the victims' fingers, toes, and earlobes.

"They turn the knob, electric current hits you, and you start shaking," he said. "And they keep turning the hellish machine, and the pain is just insane. You scream and scream and you no longer know who you are. […] Finally, you faint, it all goes dark. But when you come to your senses, they start all over again. And once they’re done with you and you get your bearings, you hear other inmates screaming. The sounds of torture are just there all day, and at some point you start losing your mind."

According to the 29-page Human Rights Watch report along with the reporting from Novaya Gazeta, the initial "anti-gay purge" lasted from late February through to at least early April. The arrests and purge began during the last week of February after the arrest of a young gay man and LGBTQ human rights campaigner in the city of Argun, about 11 miles east of the Chechen capital city of Grozny, during the last week of February.

The Chechen authorities searched his mobile phone and after discovering "intimate photographs and messages" which disclosed his sexual orientation, they tortured him forcing him to reveal numerous of his gay friends and contacts.

"The police officials reported their findings to their superior, who apparently raised it with Magomed Daudov," the speaker of Chechnya’s parliament, HRW's report also disclosed.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

PRIDE Around the State.

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June is a BUSY month for us LGBT Californias!

First off... you probably know about our very own FRESNO: Rainbow Pride Parade & Festival June 4, 2016, 
10 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Parade: 10 a.m., Festival: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free to attend parade. Festival $5 Fresno, Tower District (Olive & Wishon Avenues)
(559) 486-3464

Here are a few other dates and locations worth note!

SACRAMENTO June 3, 2017, 11 a.m. at Capitol Mall

Sacramento Pride consists of a parade and festival. The parade is free and starts at 11:00am traveling towards the Capital along N Street between 3rd and 10th. The festival costs $10 per person (children five and under are free) and is located on Capitol Mall between 3rd and 7th streets and goes from 11am-5pm.

SANTA CRUZ Pride Parade, Festival June 4, 2017, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Parade at 11 a.m. |
Annual Santa Cruz Pride PARADE and FESTIVAL
Parade: kicks off at 11 a.m., starts at Pacific Avenue and Church Street in downtown Santa Cruz. Ends at Cathart & Center
Festival: 11a.m.-4 p.m., Cathart & Cedar - Lincoln

SAN MATEO: Pride San Mateo County Without Borders June 10, 2017, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Celebrate the annual San Mateo County Pride Festival at San Mateo Central Park with a fun-filled day of live music, family friendly activities, local art and merchandise, entertainment, and local resources. This is a family friendly, free event and everyone is welcome! Last year's theme was Pride without Borders: Embracing Culture and Diversity, which emphasizes the importance of recognizing how culture, race, marginalized sexual orientation, and gender identity overlap and affect our community. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Two-Spirited (LGBTQQI2S) Pride Celebration provides an opportunity for all communities to come together, learn from each other, and share a common experience.

WEST HOLLYWOOD L.A. Pride June 5-11, 2017 Parade Sunday 11 a.m.
Route: Santa Monica Boulevard – West Hollywood, Crescent Heights Blvd. to Robertson Blvd.
Parade: with over 400,000 participants, spectators and marchers, this emotionally charged experience, gathers together a colorful and diverse look at our creative community showcasing all that is great about the TLGB community. Attendees should plan to arrive early. Traffic will be closed on Santa Monica Blvd. between Fairfax Ave. and Doheny Dr. starting at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday. Santa Monica Blvd. will re-open immediately at the end of the end of the Parade, which may be as late as 4:00 p.m.
2017 TBA | 2016 info: $45-125, 3 day pass
$25-up single day 

PRIDE VISALIA  June 24th 10-6pm 
300 E Oak Ave
PRIDE Visalia is a celebration of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance, not only for LGBT+ people, but for an entire community. The Source LGBT+ Center is proud to be a hub of resources, education, and support for our LGBT+ population. Our hope is that you can feel the LOVE we have for the city of Visalia and Tulare and Kings County. Food trucks and vendors, exhibits, entertainment, a Kid's Zone, education, outreach, but most of all YOU.
$5 admission 

SAN FRANCISCO Pride June 24-25, 2017
Parade is June 25, 2017, 10: 30 a.m.
The Parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. at Market & Beale and ends at Market & 8th Street in downtown San Francisco

Go to SF Pride with GCV! Our Pride Bus will take you there and back in saftey and comfort! Tickets on sale now!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

EVENT: Screening of "Raising Zoey"

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Fresno Building Healthy Communities is proud to present a special screening of "Raising Zoey" on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at Roosevelt High School, 4250 E. Tulare Avenue. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

"Raising Zoey", directed by Dante Alencastre, is the heartwarming story of a family faced with the insurmountable challenges of a youth’s gender transition.

Affecting the lives of countless kids, teenagers and even adults, 13 year-old trans activist Zoey Luna wants nothing more than to simply go to school, learn, have fun with her friends in Downey, CA. Unfortunately, ignorance and intolerance have not always made this easy. With the help of her mother Ofelia, her older sister Leticia and the ACLU, Zoey fought school officials for her right to self-identify in school. Even in the face of bullying and endless teasing from both school officials and students, Zoey determinedly continues to live her life as she is and tells her story in the hopes of helping others persevere in living their authentic lives.

Tickets for the special screening are free for the community. Reserve your tickets today! FB Event page HERE 

For more information about the screening, contact Fresno Building Healthy Communities at (559) 256-8722 or

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Harvey Milk Day

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Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in a major city, serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1977-1978. He worked to pass a gay rights ordinance and defeated Proposition 6, commonly known as the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Milk encouraged Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people to be visible in society and believed coming out was the only way they could achieve true social equality.

Harvey Milk’s legacy as a civil rights leader is still felt today. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people of the 20th century. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and was the subject of a movie for which Sean Penn won the Academy Award for best actor. Many Institutions and organizations are named for Harvey Milk to commemorate his life and social contributions.

In October of 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill to create a state day of recognition for Harvey Milk, to be observed on Harvey Milk’s birthday, May 22. May 22, 2010 marked the first Harvey Milk Day to commemorate the life and legacy of Milk. The civil rights leader would have been 85 this year.

“Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and with that courage and sacrifice he gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored. – Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) 

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Open Letter to Fresno Unified School District

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On behalf of Gay Central Valley and the cpmmunity we serve, we want to thank you for inviting our feedback into Fresno Unified School District’s current superintendent search.

According to the most recent California Healthy Kids Survey, 23% of our youth do not identify as “straight.” LGBT youth have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, higher rates of being victims of bullying, of depression, of dropping out of school, and of suicide.

We would encourage FUSD to choose a superintendent candidate who will be willing to do a CCT with us, who is on record of supporting the LGBT+ community, and who is willing to represent the needs of all FUSD students. 

We all know that representation matters, especially to youth. We strongly believe that our youth will be best served by knowing that they have an ally at the top of the food chain and seeing the practical effects of a leader who is accepting and supportive,

We also believe that Fresno Unified School District is uniquely poised to be able to combat the high rates of LGBT youth feeling disconnected and unhappy in their school environments through ongoing Cultural Competency Trainings (Diversity Trainings) offered to teachers, staff, and administrators. 

Fresno's ciriculum should reflect the specific health and safety needs of the LGBT+ community. Promotional materials should showcase a variety of family types. Schools should encorage the creation of GSA clubs and organizations.

Thank you again for meeting with us. We look forward to continuing our community involvement with FUSD and to meeting the next Fresno Unified School district Superintendent.

Gay Central Valley board of Directors. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GSA Activist Camp!

Every year GSA Network hosts Activist Camp and registration is now open for 2017!

"GSA Activist Camp is a three-day (includes overnight stay), youth-led training camp for trans, queer, and straight ally youth. At Activist Camp, you will learn about power, oppression, and how to build the LGBTQ+ youth movement!

Be a young person between the ages 14-18 attending middle school, high school, or alternative school (i.e. continuation school) during the 2016-2017 school year, or people under 18 who are not in school due to personal circumstances.
Commit to creating local change for LGBTQIA+ youth with a racial justice and gender justice lens."

This year it will be held at UC Merced from July 14th to 16th. The event is free with housing, transportation, and food provided. Participants gain leadership skills, build community, and learn about oppressive systems in our society like capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy.

The deadline to apply is June 1st. If you know anyone that's interested, please share this link with them to register: Nor Cal/Central Valley Registration--

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

INTERVIEW: Marsha Conant

Written by Chris Jarvis

I’ve known Marsha for 25 years and she’s always been a force to reckoned with. While she’s been political her whole life, she recently found the opportunity to throw herself into her passion, and her voice has never been stronger. Last year she was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention during possibly the most chaotic campaign in American history. I asked Marsha what motivates her, where she sees American politics headed, and what drives the divide in this nation.  

What sparked your recent interest in stepping into the political arena?

In 2016 with Hillary Clinton running to be the Democratic nominee for President, I decided I could not let this election go without becoming re-involved. As I looked at the Republican candidates I felt they were ALL a threat to the rights and issues that were vital to me. LGBTQ rights, equality for women, health care, gun control, etc. All the issues that are currently being challenged, defunded and threatened.
Our daughters are both away at college and I felt I had the freedom to follow my passion which is political activism. I have long been a fan of Hillary Clinton and felt she was the candidate who best represented my values. In 1992, as a member of the Majority Council of Emily’s List, a PAC that raises money for pro-choice Democratic Women I was invited to the White House and met Secretary Clinton.

How did you get chosen to be a representative at the Democratic National Convention? What’s the process?

To become a delegate to a National Convention you choose the candidate you want to represent and run at a Congressional District meeting. I ran as a Clinton delegate and was elected with four other Clinton Delegates. There was a Sanders Delegate election happening at the same time and 5 Sanders delegates were elected. The district only sends a total of 5 delegates and it reflects the actual vote in the primary. There were three Clinton Delegates and two Sanders delegates from CD22. 

What was the most heartening thing you experienced at the Democratic convention and the most disheartening? 
It was very heartening that there were so many LGBTQ delegates, around 500, over 10% of the total number of delegates at the convention. Also, around 36 tans-gendered delegates, the first trans keynote speaker, Sarah McBride, who work for HRC.
The belief that we really were going to elect the first woman president of the United States was very emotional and exciting. For some of us, who have been fighting for women’s rights most of our lives it was almost overwhelming. The convention was amazing, inspiring and motivating speakers, encouraging, validating, story after story unfolding demonstrating how we really were #strongertogether, how we could live in a country that was inclusive where everyone was valued and appreciated for who they were.  
Who was the most exciting person you met?

There was an amazing woman, Jerry Emmet, 102 years old from Arizona at the convention. She was so excited and enthusiastic. She believed there would finally be a woman President in her lifetime! She was an inspiration! I also met Gloria Allred, Jessie Jackson, Kathleen Spillmire, Head of the Feminist Majority, Delores Huerta, Amanda Renteria, Ellie Smeal, Gavin Newsome, Barbara Boxer, Jessie Jackson. I decided to collect political signatures on a rainbow flag.


What tactics do you use when met with flagrant prejudice or ignorance? How hard is it for you to walk away from certain situations?

I try to listen to their comments and opinions and respond calmly, respectfully, and non-emotionally. I shared my opinion or make a statement that expresses my very different truth or reality. Sometimes, people will listen or consider my opinion, often not. Some people just like to argue, I don’t. I also have learned, my opinion is not always right! There have been many times I have changed my position on an issue after hearing other opinions and getting more information. I once had a difference of opinion at a CDC Convention with Harvey Milk. He could be very persuasive, I changed my vote! LOL

Why do you think there is such a disconnect in this country between sides in the political climate?

When President Obama was elected I believe many Americans felt they were losing control of their country. People came out and voted for him, who had never voted before. As more liberal and progressive ideas were adopted legislatively and backed by the courts I believe the sense of lack of control and anger continued to grow. I think they felt as though they were no longer being heard! Once there was a candidate who expressed their outrage and promised to return the country to something they were comfortable with, they latched on! As a candidate his outlandish comments and brutish behavior gave people permission to act the same way. It is shocking the amount of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and prejudice that has been revealed! The divide is deep! People have permission to be bullies! A very sad and tragic situation!
Although. I will always find this kind of hate intolerable I believe we must continue to reach out to these people. We must educate and we must listen. I still believe fundamentally people are good and want to do the right thing. Hate is never the right thing! 


What do you think motivates those who want to reverse progress and civil rights?

I think misogyny runs very deep, 53% of women voters did not vote for a qualified woman candidate. Churches have a huge influence in elections and are very effective at getting voters out! I guess that leaves LGBT!

What are your thoughts on what will happen first…the first female President, the first LGBT President or the first atheist President?

Before that can happen, we must elect LGBT candidates up and down the ticket and in local elections! In order to do that we must become actively involved in local politics. We must work in political campaigns, register voters, give money and our resources to candidates that represent us, find qualified LGBT candidates to run for school boards, appointments to commissions, City Council, Board of Supervisors, and make sure candidates seek our endorsement, because they know we are organized and can impact a local election! 

This is not currently the case in Fresno.
  The LGBT community does not have a large political presence. I am going to continue to work toward changing that. I want to encourage people to join Democratic Clubs and to become involved. 

I am a member of the Kennedy Club, Democratic Women in Action, Stonewall Democratic Club, Fresno County Democratic Women’s Club and the Fresno Chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus! All of those Clubs support LGBT rights and all of them have been very supportive of me. We must get involved to have an impact in our community.  
What’s your take on the media these days?

The news media was unduly harsh on Clinton in the last election and gave Trump entirely too much free publicity! Some newscasters and networks biases tilt the information and story. Sometimes we will watch the BBC news just to get a different perspective on the world. If you only watch FOX or CNN you only are hearing one side. I of course love Rachel Maddow!
How do you feel about the rallies and protests happening now? Do you think it’s something people will maintain or will it burn out? And how do we get more people to vote?

I have been participating in the demonstrations and rallies! I think the demonstrations will continue to grow. We participated in the Women’s March in Sacramento and a group of us have been meeting monthly to write postcards to our elected officials expressing our opinions and outrage about the threats to LGBT Rights, the ACA, Immigration, planned parenthood, the environment, Medicare, etc. We have sent over 1,300 postcards!
How do you feel about the future, politically?

I think things will move back to a more moderate position. I believe there will be a significant change in 2018. I do not believe the current policies of the administration reflect true American values. I believe we are an inclusive and kind nation. 

You have two daughters with your wife Marilyn. What is the most important value you hope you have instilled in them? 

I hope we have taught our daughters to be respectful of all people. To not be afraid to speak up when they see something is wrong and to be kind, loving and brave!