Public policy at the federal, state, and local level is made by the people we elect. The U.S. Senate's tax bill, the Tennessee General Assembly's sneaky LGBT Erasure bill, and the Knoxville non-discrimination ordinance were all passed by people voted into office by ourselves and our neighbors.
Here are some issues to consider:
Tennessee ranks near the bottom of all states in voter turnout. That matters because many local and even some state legislative races are decided by fewer than 300 votes. If LGBTQ voters and allies turned out in greater numbers, we could make a bigger impact in the process.
Voter ID laws hamper transgender and non-binary voters. This Reuters piece from last year discusses some of the obstacles. According to Ballotpedia, Tennessee has a strict voter ID law in that the state requires a federal or state ID that includes a photo. These requirements also hinder students since student IDs are not considered acceptable for voting. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security will provide you with a photo ID at no charge. To learn more about that process, go to this link.
Why don't people register to vote? We don't know all the reasons, but one survey indicates that among those not registered to vote, 62% have never been asked to register. And if we don't register more people to vote, we can't help them turn out at the polls on Election Day.
The stakes are high. One city in Tennessee tried to ban drag performance this year. A school board tried to roll back LGBTQ protections for students and employees. State legislators have introduced dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills over the last 12+ years. Only two members of Tennessee's congressional delegation consistently support LGBTQ federal legislation. These are the people chosen by the voters.
Online voter registration in Tennessee is good news. Tennessee recently rolled out online voter registration. We can all now ask our friends to register and they can do it at home or on their phones. All they have to do is go to this link. Make sure you share the link with friends on social media or email it to them.
*Consider supporting TEP with a $5+ monthly contribution at this link. Your support makes it possible for us to fight discrimination and advance equality in Tennessee. We are grateful for your support.
One important public policy issue affecting LGBTQ people in Tennessee is preemption. Preemption is this context means the State of Tennessee preventing cities and counties in Tennessee from going beyond state standards.
A Nashville example that affects the whole state: In 2011 the Metro Nashville Council passed an ordinance that said its contractors and vendors could not discriminate against their employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That same year the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law (HB600) that prevented local governments in Tennessee (cities, counties, public school districts) from applying non-discrimination standards to the private sector that exceed state non-discrimination standards.
In other words, if the state non-discrimination standards don't include sexual orientation and gender identity, then neither can the local rules. Note: Local governments CAN forbid discrimination against their own employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But they can't require their contractors--private entities getting public money--from the doing the same.
The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County contracts with dozens of companies that employ thousands of people every year. If the state law didn't exist, many LGBTQ employees of those firms would have inclusive non-discrimination protections. And that's important in a state that generally lacks them.
But remember that even though Metro Nashville is the only city or county that has passed a contractor ordinance, the state law prevents ALL cities and counties from having a contractor ordinance. So the the 2011 state law affects LGBTQ people in East, West, and Middle Tennessee.
Metro Nashville Council Member Anthony Davis explained why this is a bad idea a few years ago in testimony before a State Senate Committee in this video:
The 2011 state law has been challenged unsuccessfully in court, but new challenges may arise. Overturning the state law with legislative action would require substantial organization throughout Tennessee.
One thing we can do immediately as the new legislative session begins in January is continue to work against the Business License to Discriminate bill. That bill prevents state agencies and local governments from looking at the internal policies of private entities when awarding contracts. It could affect everything from health insurance for married same-sex couples to birth control.
TEP will keep you posted if this bill moves in the new year.
Are you registered to vote? You can register online at this link.
Would you considering making a $5+ monthly donation to support TEP's advocacy efforts at this link?
Get involved in the work of advancing equality in November.
November 6 in Portland, TN. Rally against the ban on drag.
November 9 in Nashville. Will & Grace watch party.
November 11 in Nashville. Coming Out: Stories from Nashville.
November 15 in Memphis. Advocacy 101 with the University of Memphis Stonewall Tigers (details coming)
November 28 throughout the world. Giving Tuesday (details coming)
All Month. Register to vote at this link. Share the link with friends.
December 6 in Murfreesboro. TEP Rutherford County Holiday Social.
One way to help throughout the year is linking your Kroger PLUS card to Tennessee Equality Project Foundation at this link. Thank you for all your help!
Jump in and get involved in these events coming up in Memphis, Knoxville, and Nashville.
October 19-Nashville. Will & Grace watch party. https://www.facebook.com/events/515272498806744/
October 21-Nashville. Victory Fund/Victory Institute Training. Learn about running for office, managing campaigns, and other leadership issues. https://www.facebook.com/events/294860820989013/ .
October 22-Memphis. Cookout at the Pump. https://www.facebook.com/events/2069013929985150/ .
October 23--Memphis. Hate Crime Training at the National Civil Rights Museum. TEP is on a panel. Event link is https://www.facebook.com/events/127662261223292/
October 26-Knoxville. Dr. Leticia Flores and others will be speaking to the Knox Blue Dots about TEP's work. https://www.facebook.com/events/178368909405329/
October 27-29--Nashville. Healthy and Free Tennessee convening. TEP is on a panel. https://www.facebook.com/events/1405373189531356/
October is a busy month. I hope you'll join us for some of these upcoming Nashville events:
Wednesday, October 11. Tell YOUR coming out story on National Coming Out Day. Learn more at the link.
Thursday, October 12. Nashville Black Pride kickoff. Event details here.
Thursday, October 12. Will & Grace watch party. RSVP at the link.
Saturday, October 21. Victory Institute Leadership Summit. Learn more at the link.
Get involved. Work for equality. Change your community.
On the anniversary of historic Supreme Court marriage equality rulings and in the face of a massive reaction against LGBTQ people, we ask you to join us to CHALLENGE DISCRIMINATION.
We need you: Below we discuss the threatening legislation that is coming and the opportunities to advance good legislation in Tennessee. To move forward we need you!
*If you haven't done so, tell us your two state legislative districts at this link.
*Consider a one-time donation to assist with your Pride outreach throughout the state to bring new people into the work.
Negative Legislation awaits us: When the Tennessee General Assembly returns in January, waiting for us is the Business License to Discriminate bill and the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act and possibly legislation that attacks LGBTQ parents. We can also expect more attacks on transgender and gender non-conforming people.
We will CHALLENGE DISCRIMINATION: We are developing new teams in key conservative districts to fight back against these bills, but we believe that to be successful in turning the conversation we must advance positive legislation. It will not be easy to pass a positive bill in Tennessee, but we need to move the marker and fight to get some good bills out of committee as we have done in the past.
The Legislative Agenda: Among the items that are at the top of our legislative agenda for 2018 are the following:
*Work with TTPC to advance the transgender-inclusive penalty enhancement to Tennessee's hate crimes law because right now the federal hate crimes law does not adequately deal with anti-trans vandalism and the state hate crimes law does not include gender identity or expression.
*Repeal 2011's HB600 because Tennessee's cities and counties should be able to protect their residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
*Advance the Dignity for All Students Act. Every student in Tennessee's public schools deserves to be protected from bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and other relevant factors. We almost succeeded in getting this bill out of committee a few years ago, and it's time to try again!
Building up district teams: The most important thing we can do to fight discriminatory bills and advance the good ones is to build our strength in every part of the state. We will resume regional committee meetings around the state starting in July, so look for updates on those. But, again, we really need to have YOUR name, email, and state legislative districts at this form.
Are you ready to take the battle in Tennessee to the far Right? I am, but we can't do it without you.
Tennessee's LGBTQ community is on the far Right's agenda as the race for governor heats up.
This weekend, according to The Tennessean's online story and video, Sen. Mae Beavers attacked marriage equality and brought up anti-transgender bathroom policies when she announced her bid for governor.
A few days before at a party event, The Nashville Ledger reports that Diane Black, who represents Tennessee's 6th congressional district and may be considering a gubernatorial bid, said, "They try to say there are other things such as gay rights that we have to accept in our schools, a bathroom that should be used just to go in and do whatever you do in the bathroom and leave."
The anti-equality faction in this state is becoming more brazen, though perhaps less eloquent.
One thing we can do is build power in state legislative districts. The day may actually come when we need the Legislature to be a check on a governor with an anti-LGBTQ agenda. So we need everyone who lives in Tennessee who receives this email to let us know your state legislative districts--your one state senator and your one state representative. You can do so at this link. We are grateful to those who have already let us know.
Wherever you live, you can invest in TEP's Pride outreach with a $5+ contribution at the link. We are working hard at Pride celebrations around the state to help organize the community to resist discriminatory rhetoric and actions. We made a wonderful start of it at Upper Cumberland Pride in Cookeville this past weekend. On June 17, we'll be in Knoxville for PrideFest and many more throughout the summer and fall.
Your support of any amount at this link helps us confront the hate and organize throughout Tennessee.
Whatever our beliefs, we should resist Senator Green's dichotomy between religious values and our existence
Just like the rest of the population, many LGBTQ people are not religious and many are. But whatever our beliefs, we should resist the dichotomy that Sen. Mark Green presents--his version of Christianity vs. the morality of our existence.
In withdrawing his name from nomination as Secretary of the Army, Sen. Green has put much of the blame on our community. We are blamed for defending ourselves from past attacks. That in itself is ridiculous. Our community didn't pick any fights with Sen. Green. Sorry if I sound like a 5-year-old on a playground, but he started it. There's not a one of us who singled out the senator before he opened his mouth.
You see, no one forced him to run an anti-LGBTQ bill like SB127 (Business License to Discriminate) or sponsor others. And no one forced him to tell a group of people his personal views of transgender people or to frame the discussion in terms of morality.
So we won't accept the blame for the collapse of his nomination because we didn't care one way or the other about him until he attacked us.
And we won't allow him to say that he is speaking for Christianity or that he is defending religious values. Picking on transgender people isn't a commandment or an article of the Nicene Creed or any other important summary of the Christian religion. He can't deflect rightful criticism of his legislative record and his remarks by donning a religious cloak.
Almost 100 clergy (most of them Christian) opposed his SB127 this year. So what do we make of the conflicting interpretations? Sen. Green has the right to call himself a Christian and he has the right to argue that his views are the correct interpretation of the religion. He does not have the right to have it taken for granted by the rest of us that he speaks for Christianity and he does not have the right to make assertions about others without them being challenged.
State lawmakers, take note. You will not be allowed to argue that you represent Christianity and you will not get away with using religion to beat us up with the law.
The TEP Foundation is pleased to announce our honorary co-chairs for The Big Payback, which is an annual giving day presented by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. A variety of Middle Tennessee non-profits will be participating and the TEP Foundation has participated every year. Starting at Midnight on May 3, participants can make $10+ contributions to the TEP Foundation at this link.
Hon. Anthony Davis of Nashville Hon. Erica Gilmore of Nashville
Hon. Nancy and Ms. Joan Van Reece of Madison Hon. Zach Young of Goodlettsville
Karen K. Reynolds, MSG, USA Retired of Clarksville
Jef Laudieri and Will Peyton of Franklin
Brandon Thomas and Michael Finch of Smyrna
Jerry and Benjamin Camarena-Jones
Sam Felker and Keith Little
Jen Sheridan and Sabrina Torres
My Existence is Not Up For Debate
by TEP Board officer Brendon Holloway
My name is Brendon. I’m a Tennessean at heart, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and a transgender man.
When I was 18, I embarked on this journey of owning my trans identity. I came out to my friends, family, and classmates and asked them to call me Brendon and use he/him pronouns. My friends and classmates at Middle Tennessee State University accepted me and encouraged me. My family accepted me and for that, I will always be grateful.
At 20, I discovered the field of social work. I discovered a field that would not only support me as a trans man, but a profession that would allow me to advocate for trans people and openly speak up for trans rights. After some time, I began an internship at Tennessee Equality Project and found my people: the LGBTQ community. I spent many days at legislative plaza combatting anti-trans legislation and many hours at night contemplating my existence as a trans person. The fight for trans equality was strong and worth it, but the harsh words and actions from others made it difficult to sleep at night. At that point in time, I had no idea where I’d be a year later.
A year has passed and I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan working toward my MSW. I will graduate in July with a new chest and possibly a mustache. Since moving to the Midwest, I have started hormone therapy and undergone gender reassignment surgery (otherwise known as top surgery). Every single day I realize more and more that I am enough, I am worthy, and I am thankful for being trans. On Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV), I am very privileged to be able to be openly trans and wear a shirt with the trans colors on it that basically screams I am a trans person. But not everyone is able to. For those who can’t be out: you are authentic and you are loved. Not being out does not make you any less trans or authentic. You are strong and you are trans. Not being on hormones does not make you any less trans and not having surgery does not make you less trans. You are wonderful just as you are.
For those of you who have supported me over the years, thank you. Thank you for taking me in and pushing me to transform society. I feel blessed to be trans and to be surrounded by love and support, especially from my trans family.
In the video below, Brendon takes you through the process of a T injection. Note: Be advised that the video shows needles used to extract and inject testosterone.