Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bathroom Bill Halted in TN Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 3:44 PM

The 2017 version of Tennessee's "Bathroom Bill" may not be completely dead, but it is on life-support after failing to get the required motion to be heard in the Senate Education Committee.

The bill, which would require students in public schools and higher-ed institutions to use restroom and locker facilities that correspond with the gender indicated on their birth certificate, is unlikely to move to House Committee next week.

The attempt to regulate which bathroom a student uses is of a particular danger to transgender students, who are safer using a facility that matches their outward gender expression, according to the Tennessee Equality Project.

During a press conference yesterday, TEP chairwoman Ginger Leonard referenced a study conducted by the Williams Institute at the Univeristy of California Los Angeles School of Law that reported more than 70 percent of transgender people surveyed have been verbally and physically harassed, attacked, or denied entries to public restrooms because of gender identity.

There are no reports of any attacks carried out by transgender individuals who used their preferred gender identity to gain access to a restroom.

There are still five more bills up for consideration in the Tennessee Legislature that have been deemed a threat to the LGBTQ community by associated advocacy organizations.

TEP: Laws That Target LGBTQ Community Could Cost State Billions

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 11:26 AM

During a joint press conference, representatives from the Tennessee Equality Project and OUTMemphis dissected six bills that, if made into law, could cost the state of Tennessee billions in federal funding and have unintended consequences for all Tennesseans regardless of sexual and gender identity.

If passed, HB 892, or the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act" could cost the state of Tennessee billions in federal funding allotted to TennCare and the Department of Human Services, to the tune of $9.5 billion, according to TEP chairwoman Ginger Leonard and the bill's own fiscal note.

"This bill comes with an enormous price tag," said Leonard, who stressed that economic boycotts could also cost the state heavily in revenue and job losses resulting from economic boycotts.

Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law legislation that allowed counselors to refuse treatment of an LGBTQ individual if treating them violated "sincerely held religious principles". The American Counseling Association promptly cancelled their conference scheduled to be held in Nashville, costing the state an estimated $4 million in revenue.

The Natural Marriage Defense Act is one of six bills that TEP officials say targets LGBTQ citizens. Among other bills is a revived attempt at forcing students in the state to use restroom and locker facilities that correspond with their gender that appears on their birth certificate. 
Senator Mae Beavers is one of the lawmakers defying the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.
  • Senator Mae Beavers is one of the lawmakers defying the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.

The fiscal impact of the so-called "Bathroom Bill" could also come in the form of economic boycotts.

Referring to the state of North Carolina, which passed a similar law last year, Leonard wondered,"How much has North Carolina already lost?"

According to Forbes, North Carolina has already lost $630 million in tourism dollars as of November last year.

Beyond economic impact, Leonard and OUTMemphis executive director Will Batts implored concerned citizens to think about the dangers posed to same-sex families.

HB1111, dubbed the "Erasure Bill" by its opponents, will require undefined words be given their "natural and ordinary meaning". In other words, terms like "husband", "wife", "father", and "mother" must correspond with their traditional biological association in legal documents.

Should HB1111 pass, Tennessee judges could potentially use the language to deny a couple's marital status in divorce proceedings, child custody, or matters relating to inheritance or hospital visitations. TEP asserts that the full legal ramifications of the bill have gone unexplored.

"This one is sneaky, but not so sneaky that we can't see what they're doing," said Batts. "They want us to disappear. We know this because that's what this bill does. It erases us."

This is the full line up of all six bills.

SB771/HB8888: Sponsored by Se. Mae Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody
As introduced, requires students in public school and public institutions of higher education to use restrooms and locker rooms that are assigned to persons of the same sex as that indicated on the student's birth certificate.

SB1085/HB1111: Sponsored by Sen. John Stevens and Rep. Andrew Ellis Farmer
As introduced, requires that undefined words be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest. (This bill is similar to SB30/HB33, but discussed under SB1085/HB1111)

SB127/HB54: Sponsored by Sen. Mark Green and Rep. Jason Zachary
As introduced, prohibits state and local governments from taking discriminatory action against a business based on that business' internal policies.

SB752/HB892 Sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody
As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act", which states the policy of Tennessee to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.

SB1153/HB1406 Sponsored by Sen. Joey Hensley and Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver
As introduced, repeals statute that deems a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman's husband, to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.

Monday, March 20, 2017

TEP and OUTMemphis Team Up to Address State Bills

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 4:02 PM

There will be a joint press conference tomorrow between the Tennessee Equality Project and OUTMemphis in response to the slate of anti-LGBTQ bills that are snaking their way through this year's state legislative session.

The conference, dubbed the "Slate of Hate", is scheduled to take place in front of OUTMemphis at 3:00 p.m.. Local representatives from both organizations will inform attendees the intent and current status of each anti-LGBTQ bill currently in the works.

This year, state representative Mark Pody and state senator May Beavers have concentrated their efforts on two bills considered extremely threatening by TEP, and possibly just about every other LGBTQ citizen in Tennessee.

The two have sponsored HB0892, or the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act", which predictably enough, seeks to establish marriage in Tennessee as only occurring between one cisgender man and one cisgender woman, "regardless of any court decision to the contrary".

This is the same Rep. Pody who once declared that God had called upon him to stop same-sex sinners and their enablers, and encourage them to repent.

The dynamic duo has also concerned themselves with a familiar and ongoing theme of policing genitalia and its owner's corresponding bathroom usage by introducing this year's version of a "Bathroom Bill".

If passed, the bill would require transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender assigned on birth certificates.

It's a similar bill to the one that was passed in North Carolina in 2016, HB2. Consequently, it is now estimated that HB2 has cost the state of North Carolina more than half a billion in tourism dollars, and an unknown number of jobs.

Finally, the press conference is also expected to address HB1406, a bill that if passed would deem children conceived through artificial insemination as illegitimate. This charming piece of legislation is sponsored by state senator Joey Hensley and state representative Terri Lynn Weaver.

Rep. Weaver has stated that the bill's intent is not to harm the LGBTQ community in Tennessee, and maybe she means it. Maybe Rep. Weaver was adversely affected by the 1948 classic, "Test Tube Babies".

Either way, if this bill becomes law then its very possible that any couple who conceives a child through artificial insemination would have their child listed as an "illegitimate offspring".

OUTMemphis is located at 892 Cooper St. in Midtown. Come and find out more about the antics of Beaver, Weaver, and Co. and learn how concerned citizens can get involved.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Trans Equality Rally Planned for Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 2:43 PM

  • Courtesy of Trans Equality Rally Planning Committee

OUTMemphis will hold a rally in support of transgender rights and protections tomorrow at the Overton Park Greensward from 5:00p.m. to 7:00p.m. in response to the Trump administration's revocation of federal protections for transgender students in public schools.

Last week, officials with the federal departments of education and justice notified the U.S. Supreme court that the administration will order that public schools disregard Obama's federal guidelines that say prohibiting a transgender student's ability to use the restroom that aligns with their gender-identity is a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.

OUTMemphis' transgender services coordinator, Kayla Gore reiterated OUTMemphis' commitment to fight the federal revocation and all future measures out of the Trump administration that could harm LGBTQ individuals.

"The LGBTQ community, and specifically the transgender community refuses to be silent in the face of deliberate and targeted discrimination," said Gore. 

Several Memphis organizations have signed on to attend the rally including Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and the Tennessee Equality Project. The rally will host several speakers from these and other community organizations.

The state of Tennessee has also joined in on the federal efforts to police bathroom use by transgender individuals.

State lawmakers Rep. Mark Pody and Sen. Mae Beavers have revived the "bathroom bill" for this year's legislative session. Last year a similar piece of legislation was introduced by Rep. Susan Lynn but was ultimately scrapped amid growing resistance and controversy.

The state of North Carolina passed their own version of the "bathroom bill" in 2016, and saw immediate backlash from national sports organizations like the NBA and the NCAA, who both pulled multi-million dollar events from North Carolina venues. Forbes estimates that the state has lost $630 million in tourism revenue as a result of the law's backlash.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fed Ex, St.Jude Among Memphis Names Aligning Against Anti-LGBTQ Bill

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Memphis' largest employer, FedEx, is among some of the area organizations that have signed on to the Tennessee Thrives pledge. - COURTESY OF FEDEX
  • Courtesy of FedEx
  • Memphis' largest employer, FedEx, is among some of the area organizations that have signed on to the Tennessee Thrives pledge.
Some of the most recognized organizations in Memphis including FedEx, St.Jude, and International Paper added their names to the Tennessee Thrives pledge, a coalition of more than 300 Tennessee businesses signaling their displeasure with a recently passed anti-LGBTQ law and calling for an inclusive Tennessee.

The law, which was signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam allows mental health counselors to refuse treatment to LGBTQ patients if their sexual orientation or gender identity conflicts with the therapist's religious beliefs.

Just two weeks after the law's passage in late April, the American Counseling Association cancelled a scheduled conference in Nashville, saying the law was in clear violation of the ACA code of ethics and they would stand firm against it. The ACA projected a local economic loss of $10 million for Nashville as a result of the conference's cancellation.

It's a similar tale to North Carolina, where the NBA and the NCAA immediately cancelled games in response to the state's passage of laws meant to force transgender citizens to use bathroom and locker facilities that correspond with the biological sex on their birth certificate.

Other private organizations and even musicians such as Bruce Springsteen began to quickly follow suit.

The Center for American Progress estimated that economic loss in North Caroline could soar to more than $568 million in private sector activity based on the growing list of organizations distancing themselves from the state.

Tennessee Thrives signees are hoping to avoid similar economic repercussions.

Some of the Memphis-based organizations that have signed the Tennessee Thrives pledge are: FedEx, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, International Paper, AutoZone, Baker Donelson, Memphis College of Art, Rhodes College, and Little Bird Innovations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advocacy Groups Team Up to Decorate Holiday Cards for Incarcerated LGBTQ Community

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Healthy and Free Tennessee will be teaming up with GenQ Memphis to host the Black and Pink Holiday Card Decorating Party at OUTMemphis, where guests can decorate cards that will be sent to incarcerated members of the LGBTQ community.

Black & Pink, a national advocacy organization that joins incarcerated LGBTQ individuals with "free world" allies, hosted 150 similar card decorating parties across several countries last year, resulting in the distribution of more than 7,000 cards.

Especially poignant to this cause is the fact that in 2016, some men are still arrested under "anti-sodomy" laws in the U.S., according to recent reporting in The Advocate. The Supreme Court found these laws to be unconstitutional in the landmark ruling of Lawrence v Texas in 2003, yet as many as 12 states still have outdated versions of these laws in their books.

The event will last from 7-9:00p.m. on Friday, December 16. Card supplies will be provided.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

OUTMemphis Set to Host Open House for Area LGBTQ Seniors

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 2:26 PM

  • OUTMemphis
This Sunday, December 11, OUTMemphis is hosting an open house for LGBTQ seniors from 11:00a.m. until 1:00p.m.

OUTMemphis' senior committee is hoping to see some new faces, as the center continues its outreach work for all segments of the Midsouth's LGBTQ population.

Coffee and light refreshments will be served. The event is free to all, and offers a chance for LGBTQ seniors to learn how they can get involved with the community center.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Stay Calm and Prepare for the Queens

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 3:39 PM

Miss Gay America 2016, Asia T. O'Hara, will be on hand to crown the new winner for 2017. - KRISTOFER REYNOLDS
  • Kristofer Reynolds
  • Miss Gay America 2016, Asia T. O'Hara, will be on hand to crown the new winner for 2017.

When you think about the queer-centric areas of Memphis, the area around the airport may not be the first part of town that jumps to your mind. But, this week an otherwise bleak intersection will be infused with ample doses of glitter and choreography as the 44th annual Miss Gay America Pageant comes to the Holiday Inn on Democrat Road and Airways Boulevard.

Forty of America's best queens will descend upon the hotel's conference center for five nights
starting October 5 for the chance to win the most prestigious crown in all the land for female impersonators in the longest running female impersonator competition (sorry, RuPaul).

The new MGA will be crowned on October 9, after five days of pageant classics including Evening
Gown, On-Stage Interview, and Talent. Tickets to the crowning event are $45 and can be purchased here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hey You, Go To Memphis Pride Fest This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 11:40 AM

  • Frank Chin
Thirteen years running, Mid-South Pride returns this weekend with an extended three-day celebration and a new name: Memphis Pride Festival. Sure, you could spend your weekend elsewhere, but why would you?

Festivities kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with a concert hosted by local queen Freak Nasty at Handy Park. Tori WhoDat, DJ Spaceage, and Seeing Red will perform.

Saturday's Pride Festival, with activities for kids, a VIP area, work from various artists, and free HIV testing, lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Pride Parade begins at 1 p.m. and a wave of marchers will take Beale Street's two-mile stretch. 

Cap your weekend with the Pride Brunch Crawl, which starts at 1 p.m. at Celtic Crossing and will move to other Cooper-Young restaurants.

Mid-South Pride Festival attracts more than 9,000 attendees each year. 2015's theme, "Love equals love,"
followed the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 ruling in June that made marriage equality law of the land. This year, despite Tennessee's attempted anti-transgender bathroom bill, Memphis Pride Festival continues to celebrate progress made in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

OUTMemphis Closes on Property for Youth Housing Project

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM

This map shows where the OUTMemphis youth homeless shelter will be located.
  • This map shows where the OUTMemphis youth homeless shelter will be located.

OUTMemphis (formerly the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center) has closed on a piece of Shelby County Land Bank property at 2059 Southern for its project to house homeless LGBTQ young adults ages 18 to 25.

The sale closed on Wednesday. According to a letter from OUTMemphis to the Shelby County Board of Adjustments (BOA), the proposed project will span three parcels on Southern near the Cooper-Young neighborhood. OUTMemphis is requesting a zoning variance from the BOA to use shipping containers to create "comfortable and unique living spaces for our youth."

They're also requesting a variance to increase the number of parking spaces allowed on the site to five spaces. Each parcel will have a maximum of four residents, so the parking will allow for one guest spot.

"We have modeled the project after other, similar facilities in cities such as New York and Ohio and have taken into account things that have proven to be successful. We plan to have 24-hour surveillance cameras around the facility for protection of our young adults as well as for neighborhood security. The site will have 24-hour staff supervision of all young adults present on the property to ensure order and respect of the neighborhood," reads the letter to the BOA.

The project serves a need currently unmet in Memphis, according to the letter.

"Currently there are no secure options in Memphis for this population. Emergency shelters currently in place have proven themselves unsafe for our LGBT young adults. LGBT people make up 7 to 10 percent of the general population but homeless LGBT youth make up between 20 to 40 percent of the homeless youth population. The numbers are overwhelming and have given us a reason to come up with a solution to help our youth here in Memphis. Our project will be a safe haven for young adults who are trying to improve their lives and move forward to a more stable place of their own," according to the letter.

The variance request will be heard at the BOA meeting on Wednesday, September 28th.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

OUTMemphis is New Name for MGLCC

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 12:33 PM

The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) has changed its name to OUTMemphis in an effort to be more inclusive of the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

OUTMemphis was established as the MGLCC more than 27 years ago, and although the center has served the entire community through its programs, the original name didn't include a mention of the bi, trans, and queer communities that may not identify as gay or lesbian. The center began considering a name change eight years ago as it began adding paid staff and expanding its services.

"Changing our name reflects our efforts to be more responsive to and inclusive of all LGBTQ people in Memphis and the surrounding areas," says Will Batts, OUTMemphis Executive Director, in a press release. "Our new name mirrors the change this organization began eight years ago. It honors the diversity of our board, our staff, our volunteers, our visitors, and our services."

OUTMemphis' programs range from support networks, social activities (like potlucks), HIV testing, and workshops to educate the wider public about LGBTQ issues. OUTMemphis is also working to launch a project that will house homeless LGBTQ teens.

Here's a statement from OUTMemphis' press release on the name change:
We have known for a while that our name did not reflect our full identity — as individuals, as an agency, or as a community. So we set about to change it. No combination of letters describing our individual identities could do full justice to our diversity; no acronym would encompass every way in which we define and describe ourselves. So rather than focus primarily on our individual identities, we chose a name that would express our vision, our mission, our hopes, and our dreams of a living in a world that respects all LGBTQ people. Thus we have become OUTMemphis: The LGBTQ Center for the Mid-South.

Regardless of how we identify as individuals, we all seek a world where we can live openly, honestly and authentically. We desire a community that celebrates and respects us fully as parts of the whole. A community that respects US, and not a caricature or incomplete identity we put on simply to live in peace. We each deserve to live as openly as WE choose to be. We expect the freedom to be open about who we are and about whom we love. We deserve to be OUT, as OUT as we choose to be. Working to make that vision a reality is what we do every day at — in dozens of ways, in hundreds of settings, and for thousands of clients and allies each year.

Just as our new name highlights our vision of a better world, our new image reflects our mission. The rainbow illustrates the diversity, passion, and POWER of our people, interlocked and CONNECTED through a central hub, working to EDUCATE ourselves and others about the LGBTQ experience, and turning that knowledge into ADVOCACY that demands equality and safety for all of us wherever we are. We do not imagine ourselves the only place where this happens. However, as the only center like us for several hundred miles in every direction, we have a special responsibility to serve as many people as we can, as best as we can, and in as many ways as we can.

Our movement — the LGBTQ struggle for full equality and inclusion — has made too many advances to accept retreat. We understand that not every person can be out and fully honest. We know that right now we live in a world where the costs of being out can be too high to bear for some people. As an agency and as a movement, even with that understanding, we can no longer accept being silent, being hidden, or being in the closet. Someday in the future, there may be no need for coming out, because there is no "in." Until that day, we will continue to fight, to educate, to support, and to stand proud. Open, authentic, and OUT.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Big Gay Yard Sale

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 12:53 PM

From MAGY Facebook page
  • From MAGY Facebook page
Memphis Area Gay Youth (MAGY) is hosting a yard sale fundraiser on Saturday, August 13th, to benefit its programs.

The sale begins at 7 a.m. at First Congregational Church. Proceeds will go toward MAGY's goal of creating safe space for LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 20.

MAGY's youth social and support group meets every Friday night at First Congo, and on an average Friday, they serve between 15 and 20 teens and young adults from Memphis and surrounding areas in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. They also host an annual MAGY Prom, the most recent of which had an attendance of more than 50 youth.

They're still accepting items to sale. Anyone who'd like to donate items can contact MAGY at

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Club Spectrum to Hold Benefit for Pulse Nightclub Employees

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 2:55 PM

New Orleans and Memphis-based rapper Tori WhoDat will join local rockers Seeing Red and Pulse Nightclub performer MRMS Adrien in a benefit at Club Spectrum on Saturday, July 9th. 

Proceeds raised from the event will benefit the employees of Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the scene of the nation's deadliest mass shooting earlier this month.

In response to the Pulse shooting, Club Spectrum has begun wanding guests before entry. They've also asked the Memphis Police to step up patrols in the area around the club. 

The benefit starts at 7 p.m. at 616 Marshall. The cover is $10. 


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pride on the Greensward This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 1:11 PM

The folks at Overton Park's Greensward are throwing a Pride picnic on Saturday, June 25th at 10 a.m. Attendees are asked to bring a picnic lunch and "a willingness to participate in silly games," according to the event's Facebook page.

Pain't It Cool Body Art will be there painting faces and accepting donations for Hearts of Gold Pit Rescue.

June is LGBTQ Pride month across the country, and most cities are having their big Pride celebrations this coming weekend (which also coincides with the first anniversary of nationwide marriage equality).

Memphis' official Pride event, hosted by Mid-South Pride, was moved to the fall several years ago due to the area's wickedly hot summer weather. The official Mid-South Pride parade and festival is scheduled for September 24th on Beale Street. 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

OutBid Celebrates First Anniversary of Marriage Equality

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 12:10 PM

Marriage equality became the law of the land on June 26, 2015 after the momentous Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) will commemorate the first anniversary of marriage equality in its annual Outbid auction.

Themed “Paper & Pansies: A Celebration of the First Anniversary of Marriage Equality," the auction to benefit MGLCC will take place on Saturday, June 25th at the Clark Opera Memphis Center at 6:30 p.m.

Paper is the traditional first anniversary gift, symbolizing the strength that comes from the interlaced connection of the paper's individual threads. And an alternate tradition recommends pansies, which symbolize thought or remembrance.

The auction event will also feature live music and comedy, as well as food and libations. Tickets are $50 for a single, $90 for a double, and $350 for a table of eight. To purchase tickets, go here.


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