Stu Rasmussen, 73, First Openly Transgender Mayor in America, Dies

Stu Rasmussen, who in 2008 became what is believed to be the first openly transgender mayor in America, died on Nov. 17 at his home in Silverton, Ore., where he had served in various elected offices for the better part of 30 years. Mr. Rasmussen, who identified as a woman but typically used masculine pronouns, was 73.

His wife, Victoria Sage, said the cause was prostate cancer.

Silverton, an agricultural community with about 9,200 residents and a jewel box of a downtown, sits about an hour south of Portland and a half hour east of Salem, the state capital. Despite an influx of people that tripled the population since Mr. Rasmussen was young, it was hardly the sort of place one might expect to find such a pathbreaking politician.

But Mr. Rasmussen defied many conventions, gender being just one of them. He belonged to both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association. He was socially progressive but fiscally conservative, and he butted heads with growth-oriented city leaders when he blocked new subdivisions or upgrades to local infrastructure.

He was intensely private — but also, according to Oregon Encyclopedia, “easily the most recognized person in the community,” a fact established long before he went public with his new gender identity, in 1998.

A lifelong resident of Silverton, he was an engineer and entrepreneur who brought cable TV to the town in the 1970s — often wiring customers himself — and remained a reliable Mr. Fix-It for his neighbors, the person they called to repair a janky fuse box or a buggy computer.

He also co-owned and operated Silverton’s only first-run movie theater, the Palace. He sold the tickets, served the popcorn, ran the projector and often stood out front dressed as a character from whatever film was showing inside.

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He entered politics in the mid-1980s, first on the City Council and then for two two-year terms as mayor, both times identifying as a man. He ran unsuccessfully for the State Legislature, twice, before returning to Silverton politics in 2004, this time as a woman.

By then, the community had largely come to accept his new identity.

“Nobody really cared,” Kyle Palmer, the current mayor of Silverton, said in an interview. “Everyone knew him, so that part of him didn’t get a reaction.”

He served two terms on the council before running again for mayor in 2008, defeating an eight-term incumbent and drawing international headlines for taking to the hustings in high heels and a low-cut blouse.

Three weeks after the election, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a religious group in Topeka, Kan., known for staging hate-filled, antigay protests at military funerals and other ceremonies, held a small rally in Silverton, where they lofted signs condemning Mr. Rasmussen and the town.

But an even larger number of locals turned out for a counterprotest. Some 200 people, including several men who had dressed in women’s clothing for the occasion, held their own signs, reading “Jesus Loves Stu” and “Stu Rocks.”

The encounter, which also drew national attention, later inspired a musical, “Stu for Silverton,” which debuted in Seattle in 2013.

Despite his celebrity, Mr. Rasmussen spent his second stint as mayor, from 2009 to 2015, with his head down, focused on the sort of issues that undergird most of life in small-town America. He built a skate park and a senior center. He established an early-warning system at a nearby dam. He ran City Council meetings. He was, in most ways that mattered, no different from any other politician, and the town treated him that way.

“A lot of people who are transgender think, ‘I can’t be myself here. I have to go somewhere else, go to Portland or to San Francisco, and let the other side of me come out,’” he told The Salem Statesman-Journal in 2015. “I transitioned in place. And the community came along with me.”

Stewart Alan Rasmussen was born on Sept. 9, 1948. His father, Albert, was a Danish immigrant who at various points in his life panned for gold, delivered mail and managed the Palace Theater. His mother, Nan (Dowling) Rasmussen, was a homemaker.

Stu received an associate’s degree in electrical engineering in 1971 from what is now Chemeketa Community College, in Salem, after which he spent nearly eight years working for a tech company in Beaverton, a western suburb of Portland. It was the only time in his life he lived outside Silverton.

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Kataluna Enriquez is the first openly transgender contestant in the American pageant.

Kataluna Enriquez, the first openly transgender Miss USA contestant, was eliminated before the round of 16 at the pageant Monday, prompting social media responses lamenting her finish.

The pageant ultimately awarded its crown to Elle Smith, a reporter at Louisville, Kentucky, television station WHAS. “This is quite the accomplishment!!” the station tweeted. “Our Elle Smith is your new MISS USA!”

Earlier in the day, Enriquez, 27, was celebrated as a champion in her home state, Nevada.

“Kataluna represents the best of her community and our state and when she takes the stage, she’ll make history!” Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted Monday night.https://iframe.nbcnews.com/gMo8vAM?_showcaption=true&app=1

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., agreed, tweeting, “Kataluna is making history as the first openly transgender woman to compete in Miss USA, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to represent the Silver State.”

In June, Enriquez outperformed 21 other contestants at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas to take the Miss Nevada crown in her adopted hometown.

That took her to Monday’s event at River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Smith, the night’s winner, will head to the Miss Universe pageant next month in Eilat, Israel.

The Miss Universe pageant system, including Miss USA, began allowing transgender entrants in 2012. In 2018, Spain’s Angela Ponce became the first transgender contestant at the global pageant.

Donald Trump sold the U.S. contest to a Hollywood talent agency in 2015 amid backlash to xenophobic remarks about Mexican immigrants he made during the launch of his campaign for the White House.

Today Miss USA’s slogan is “Pageantry Reimagined.”

Enriquez, who is Filipina American, said she designs her own pageant clothing.

In March, after she won a preliminary pageant in Nevada, she spoke about being trans.

“Today I am a proud transgender woman of color. Personally, I’ve learned that my differences do not make me less than, it makes me more than,” she said, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “I know that my uniqueness will take me to all my destinations, and whatever I need to go through in life.”

This post first appeared on NBC News.

Dutch government apologizes for discredited transgender law

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government made a public apology Saturday for a now discredited and scrapped law that required transgender people to undergo surgery and sterilization if they wanted to change their gender on their birth certificate.

“Nobody should have experienced what you have experienced. I am truly sorry that it happened,” said Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven in an emotional speech at a ceremony in the historic Knights Hall in the Dutch parliamentary complex.

The law was in place for nearly 30 years until being scrapped in 2014.

“For decades, people underwent medical procedures that they did not want at all. But they knew they had no other choice,” Van Engelshoven said. “Others have waited because of this law; they were forced to postpone becoming themselves for years.”

She said that “standards about what a body should look like do not belong in a law and a law should never force people to undergo an operation. And today I make our deeply sincere apologies for this on behalf of the full Cabinet.”

Transgender Network Nederland welcomed the ceremony, saying the Netherlands is the first country in the world to make such an apology, but said that it took the government too long to scrap the law and that compensation of 5,000 euros ($5,650) offered to people affected by the law was too low.

It said hundreds of people were “faced with an impossible choice. They could indeed choose for papers that aligned with their gender identity, but for a price that was far too high.”

Willemijn van Kempen, who campaigned for the apology, said in a statement that the government “structurally disadvantaged and damaged transgender and intersex people for almost thirty years. It is important that it now apologizes.”

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Individuals remembered during Transgender Awareness Week

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Staffing shortages are impacting many businesses across the east right now, and law enforcement agencies are no exception.

Kinston’s interim police chief Jenee Spencer said they’ve lost 16 officers in the past year and are now down 13 officers. She said a lot of them are leaving for more competitive salaries in other locations.

“We’re just looking to be in the ballpark of agencies like Ayden, Mount Olive, New Bern, little Washington and Pink Hill,” Spencer said.

This is why she made a proposal to the Kinston City Council Tuesday night to increase starting salaries from $32,869 to $37,799. This is in exchange for freezing six positions in the department.

“We understand the city of Kinston doesn’t want to do tax increases or touch our general fund so we made a proposal where we are willing to adjust our police department budget,” Spencer added.

She said officers are working overtime to fill the vacant positions to keep the community safe.

“We have a patrol division which are the typical officers you see responding to 911 calls and calls for service, and we’ve had to pull officers who are not only off work or should be on vacation,” said Spencer. “We’ve had officers willing to step up and work overtime and willing to move from one position to another to still provide the same police services to our community.”

Tonight’s presentation by Spencer was only a proposal for the council to now consider. Kinston City Council will have to place it on the agenda and take a vote on the matter.

This post first appeared first on WNCT 9 News.

PFLAG Manistee to share transgender man’s story

MANISTEE — PFLAG Manistee’s October meeting was scheduled to have a recording of member Eden Akins sharing his experiences from his 10 weeks of basic training in the Michigan National Guard. Due to technical difficulties, the recording was not accessible, so Akins will be sharing his story directly at the November meeting.

The meeting will be held virtually via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

 Akins is an 18-year-old transgender man. Although he presents himself and identifies as male, he signed up at the age of 17 and entered the National Guard as his birth gender of female. Having graduated from basic training in August, he now fulfills his commitment by spending one weekend a month training with the National Guard. Eden is also enrolled at West Shore Community College where he is studying for his Bachelor of Arts.

“Akins has many enlightening stories to share about his experiences as a transgender man in the National Guard. Some of these experiences are positive and others are negative and hurtful,” reads a news release. “Akins’ experiences living and working in the area may open minds to a much wider view of the diversity in the community and to an appreciation of the challenges and the triumphs of one young person who lives his life with courage and pride.”

Anyone who would like to attend the meeting and hear Akins’ story should register online at pflag-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcrdu2vpj0uH9yo3gzXFjOGRswn98_KtuLI.

This post first appeared on Manistee News.

Kindergarten Students in Connecticut Learn about Being Transgender in Line with ‘Social Justice Standards’

Elementary school students in West Hartford, Conn. public schools are being forced to undergo “social emotional learning through an equity lens” as district officials have reportedly told parents they may not opt-out of the curriculum, which aims to teach students a set of “social justice standards.”

Parents from the district contacted the non-profit Parents Defending Education to share concerns over materials being used to teach elementary students about group identities, including transgender content being taught to kindergarten students.

One parent raised a red flag about When Aidan Became a Brother, a book being taught to fourth grade students that the parent described as “full on gender theory” which is teaching students that the sex you’re assigned at birth is “wrong.”

“When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing,” the description of the book reads. “After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of his life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.”

When Aidan’s parents announce they’re having a second child, Aidan “wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning” including choosing the best name and picking out the right decor and clothes. The book asks what “making things right” actually means.

Another fourth-grade mentor text is a book about pronouns called They She HE Me; Free to Be!

The lessons are supposed to teach students in kindergarten through fifth grade about social justice standards including identity, diversity, justice and action.

The “identity” standard includes texts that teach students about transgender people and the use of preferred pronouns, including the inclusive singular “they.”

A mentor text for kindergarten students is Introducing Teddy which tells the story about a character and his teddy, Thomas. Thomas says, “I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.” Another text for the kindergarten age group is Let’s Talk About Race.

Meanwhile, a first grade texts include Jacob’s New Dress, a story about a boy who wants to wear a dress to school and Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?, a book about a character who “prefers not to tell other children whether they are a boy or a girl.”

Third grade students read a similar book called 10,000 dresses about a boy named Bailey who dreams of magical dresses but people in his life tell him he should not be thinking about dresses because he is a boy but later he begins making dresses with a new friend.

Fifth graders also read several books on gender identity including I am Jazz about a character who “knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body,” and It Feels Good to be Yourself which says, “Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither or somewhere in between.”

In an email to parents, the district’s director of equity advancement, Dr. Roszena Haskins, explains that the schools have “redoubled district-wide efforts to attend to the social and emotional needs of children and adults.”

It explains that the aforementioned “social justice standards” come from the framework o the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Haskins writes that “CASEL acknowledges that ‘While SEL alone will not solve longstanding and deep-seated inequities in the education system, it can help schools to promote understanding, examine biases, reflect on and address the impact of racism…close opportunity gaps and create a more inclusive school community.’”

“Essentially, SEL provides students with understandings and skills that they need to increase their social consciousness and act in ways that foster respect, empathy, fairness, and universal humanity,” Haskins writes. “SEL instruction sits at the cross-section of prosocial education that fosters safe, positive, inclusive, equitable and supportive learning environments.”

“WHPS teaches SEL through an equity lens, adapted from the Learning for Justice social justice and anti-bias framework,” the email adds.

This post first appeared on Yahoo News.

Students Stage Walkout in Support of Targeted Trans Classmate

Students at a high school in Berlin, Wis. rallied around a trans classmate earlier this month after he was allegedly made by a group of students to pull his pants down and lift his shirt. In response to authorities saying they found no evidence of an assault, students at the school organized a walkout.

The student, Lucas, said he had been sexually assaulted several times in the bathroom but feared coming forward. On November 3, a group of students surrounded him while he was in a bathroom stall and recorded a video of him through a hole in the door.

“I went back to my classroom crying and asked my teacher to see the counselor,” Lucas told local station WLWK. “I was uncomfortable, scared. I didn’t really want to walk around the hallways after that. I tried to ignore it, but it was hard. I finally spoke up to my friends about it, and now everybody knows about it.”

Lucas told the outlet he reported the incident to the school and filed a police report.

The police, in a statement to the media, said, “After multiple interviews and examining the associated evidence of the alleged assault, our investigation discovered no physical assault or attack against the alleged victim took place.”

Authorities have asked anyone with information about the video to come forward.

High school students then staged a walkout in protest of the police response.

“We sat there for a while and we were trying to get our questions answered, and we were kind of getting blown off and they were trying to get us inside, but we wanted this to be public, we wanted people to see us, hear us,” Berlin High School senior Amber Olmstead, the organizer of the walkout told local TV station WBAY.

“We want students to feel safe at a school because we’re expected to be there. So we should be expected to be safe,” Olmstead told WLWK. “At the end of the day, they are the adults. We are children. I understand they can’t control these students. They’re their own person at the end of the day. But they need to at least try and prevent them from being able to do all of this.”

Another student, junior Autumn Peterson, added, “There’s been a big past of assault and homophobia in our school, and it just needs to come to an end.”

A video showing the walkout has more than 700,000 views on TikTok. In the video, students can be heard yelling “Trans lives matter!”

The Berlin Area School District said in a statement to WLWK that it was “aware of a student walkout in response to allegations of a student assault at the high school.

“The Berlin Area School District is committed to the success of all students in a safe learning environment and we take such allegations seriously. The school district is cooperating with local law enforcement who are investigating this situation. The district is also conducting its own investigation.”

This post appeared first on Advocate.

International Olympic Committee issues new guidelines on transgender athletes

The International Olympic Committee announced a new framework for transgender and intersex athletes Tuesday, dropping controversial policies that required competing athletes to undergo “medically unnecessary” procedures or treatment.

In a six-page document, the IOC outlined 10 principles, which it described as “grounded on the respect for internationally recognised human rights,” that sports competitions should follow. It also said it will no longer require athletes to undergo hormone level modifications to compete.

“This Framework recognises both the need to ensure that everyone, irrespective of their gender identity or sex variations, can practise sport in a safe, harassment-free environment that recognises and respects their needs and identities,” the committee said.

The new framework is not legally binding and was developed following an “extensive consultation” with athletes, other sports organizations and experts in the fields of human rights, law and medicine, the IOC said. It comes just three months after the Tokyo Olympics, which saw the first transgender and intersex athletes compete in the Games’ history.

Tuesday’s framework replaces guidelines the IOC released in 2015, which put a limit on athletes’ testosterone levels that required some of them to undergo treatments the IOC now describes as “medically unnecessary.” Before 2015, the IOC required athletes to undergo genital surgery.

Chris Mosier was the first out trans athlete to compete on a U.S. national team, in the 2016 world championship for the sprint duathlon, and has challenged some of the previous guidelines. Mosier applauded the release of the new framework, writing on Twitter that it “takes the next step in centering human rights as the foundation of sport.”

“The new IOC Framework makes clear that no athlete has an inherent advantage & moves away from eligibility criteria focused on testosterone levels, a practice that caused harmful & abusive practices such as invasive physical examinations & sex testing,” he wrote.

Canadian soccer gold medalist Quinn, who in July became the first openly transgender athlete to participate in the Olympics, also chimed in, calling the new framework “groundbreaking.”

“Far too often, sport policy does not reflect the lived experience of marginalized athletes, and that’s especially true when it comes to transgender athletes and athletes with sex variations,” Quinn said in a statement. “This new IOC framework is groundbreaking in the way that it reflects what we know to be true — that athletes like me and my peers participate in sports without any inherent advantage, and that our humanity deserves to be respected.”

LGBTQ advocates welcomed the IOC’s new guidelines but stressed that following the implementation process is necessary.

“As with any set of guidelines, the success of this new framework in ensuring a safe and welcoming environment within the Olympic movement will largely depend on the education and implementation process with national governing bodies, international federations, and other key stakeholders,” Anne Lieberman, the director of policy and programs at LGBTQ advocacy group Athlete Ally, said in a statement.

Some advocates argued that while the IOC’s new framework is intended for elite athletes, it bolsters their case in their fight against state bills in the United States that restrict transgender students’ participation in school sports.

“On the heels of the most anti-LGBTQ legislative session in history with the majority of bills targeting trans youth in sports, every state and lawmaker should listen to the experts from the world of sports, medicine, and athletes themselves to allow transgender youth the same opportunities to play with their friends, have fun, learn, grow, and benefit from the lasting life lessons and supportive community sports can provide,” Alex Schmider, the associate director of transgender representation at LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, said in a statement.

Ten U.S. states have enacted laws restricting trans students’ participation in school sports, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank. An additional 21 states have considered similar bills in 2021, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Star Trek: Prodigy introduces kids to a new frontier of inclusion with non-binary lead character

The animated Star Trek kids’ series premiered on Paramount+ last week with a star-studded voice cast including Ella Purnell, Brett Gray, Rylee Alazraqui, Angus Imrie and Jason Mantzoukas.

The show is already winning praise for its thoughtful messaging, which teaches children the importance of acceptance, individuality and looking beyond appearances.

This careful inclusivity is established from the first episode when a simple pronoun correction is defly handled by Gwyn, voiced by Ella Purnell. “Fugitive Zero isn’t a ‘him’ or a ‘her,” she says after one character refers to them as ‘he’.

Zero is a Medusan, an energy-based species that have no gender or corporeal form. That’s hardly new to Star Trek: Medusans have been around since the Original Series, and the show has dealt with non-binary and shifting genders many times since.

Director Ben Hibon says continuing the show’s egalitarian legacy was a big focus for the creative team.

“I feel like Trek has always been the story of many rather than the story of one. By taking that approach, it has such a wider appeal and way to connect with an audience,” he told TV Fanatic.

“It never isolates. It never judges. And it always tries to include. In my opinion, that is one of the strengths. There are many, but that is one of them.”

This message is affirmed in another gender non-conforming moment: when the ship’s translators kick in and Rok-Tahk’s deep growls are transformed into a little girl’s voice.

The other characters momentarily express surprise and then move on, a normal reaction from people in a world inhabited by aliens without a binary sense of gender.

It’s entirely in keeping with the open-minded vision of the future that’s characterised Star Trek since its inception, and the moment firmly establishes Prodigy on well-trodden ground.

After the first episode aired scores of Trekkies took to Twitter to share their love for a show that’s still boldly going where none have gone before, 55 years after it first began.

The post appeared first on Pink News.

Spain grants free fertility treatment to queer women, single women, trans and non-binary people

While queer and single people were previously able to access publicly funded fertility treatments, in 2013 the conservative Popular Party, in power at the time, rolled back this right.

The party changed the law to only allow straight, married couples to access fertility treatment in public hospitals free of charge, and left queer couples to spend thousands of euros to grow their families.

But on Friday (5 November), health minister Carolina Darias of the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) signed an order restoring these fundamental reproductive rights.

Darias signed the order at a ceremony, attended by LGBT+ activists, and later wrote on Twitter: “Starting today, single women, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people will have access to [reproductive technologies] on the [public health service].

“We have restored rights that should never have been abolished.”

They said in a statement: “We have always understood that achieving rights such as assisted reproduction benefits lesbian and bisexual women and pregnant trans people, without harming anyone.

“It is an example of how recognizing LGBT+ rights means recognising human rights for society as a whole.

“We will not be able to be citizens with all rights fully recognised as long as the conditions of freedom and equality of all people are not guaranteed, whatever their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

Sangil said that “we are not going to stop because our struggle is daily, resilient and active”, and insisted that queer activists are “more necessary than ever”.

They added: “We have history, we have memory, we have strength, we have conviction and we are right; they will never stop us.”

The post first appeared on Pink News.