#Georgia

Sam Park, Georgia's First Out Asian-American Politician, Was Re-elected Into Office

It’s a great reality when we are still collecting stories from last Tuesday’s elections of LGBTQ politicians winning their races. The latest wonderful news is about Democratic Representative Samuel Park.

Park is the first Asian-American man elected to Georgia’s state legislature as a State Representative. He won that title last year when he became the representative for House District 101, and now he is able to retain that position for another term.

 

 

One main reason the 33-year-old Sam Park originally ran for office was to fight for health equality. A cause near and dear to him as his mother was fighting a battle with cancer.

"While we still have not expanded Medicaid to cover more than half a million Georgians, that's still a fight that I'm continuing." - NBC News

While his mother lived long enough to witness her son win his candidacy the first time and see him take office, she sadly died earlier this year.

Another factor playing into Park’s political goals was his desire to stop harmful anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ legislation. This is in part because of his belief in basic human rights, but also because he is a gay man who was raised by South Korean immigrants.

Park hopes to harness the diversity that exists in Georgia to help move the state forward. He did so in his own county of Gwinnett (where the median age is 35 and where a quarter of voters are below the age of 30) and he hopes to do it with the whole state in the future.

The Republican Party still holds the majority in the State's House of Representatives, something Sam Park will have to contend with.

“It’s important for us to introduce and work on passing legislation we think would benefit the state to at least demonstrate to those we represent what exactly it is that we are fighting for,” he said. “Being in the minority, it’s difficult to pass legislation, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t do it.” - NBC News

Congratulations to Sam Park on the re-election win and best of luck in the future. We're sure you will continue to help our community and show it support, like in this #NationalComingOutDay video released earlier this year.

 

 

h/t: NBC News

Identical Twins Come Out As Transgender And Transition At The Same Time


Jack and Jace Grafe, who live in Georgia, recently shared their amazing journey as identical twins who came out to each other as transgender and transitioned together.

Fox5Atlanta recently reported the story of the twins who were identified as female at birth, but came out to each other at the age of 15. That was just a year after they had even heard the word ‘transgender.’

“It’s like being in prison except it’s in your own body,” Jack told Fox5Atlanta. “And the older I got, the harder it was to swallow. And I was like, can’t do this for the rest of my life, I just can’t do it.”

Both men admit the fear of coming out was huge, but having a twin going through the same experience provided incredible emotional support.

“Fear is like the biggest thing to keep you away from anything,” Jack says. “That’s what kept me in my box.”

“I feel like we’ve saved each other from a lot of really dark and depressing moments,” added Jace. “Sometimes, I wonder if he wasn’t here, if I would have been by myself, if I would have had suicidal thoughts. I’m not saying I would have, but it’s very possible. I would have been most definitely alone.”

Study after study shows that transgender teens are much more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety which, in some cases, can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Even though they came out to each other at 15-years-old, the two continued to present as female until they graduated from high school.

"But as soon as I got out of there, I cut my hair, and I changed my clothes," Jace says.

Both men are in long-term relationships and work as corrections officers in East Georgia. They say their coworkers have been supportive throughout the transition.

Looking to begin careers in law enforcement, Jace has already begun study at the police academy and Jack plans to follow in his footsteps.

It wasn’t until they reached the age of 21 that they began giving each other male hormone injections which deepened their voices and made their appearance more masculine.

And in August of this year, the twins underwent top surgery on the same day which removed excess breast tissue and contoured their chests for a more masculine shape.

The twins turned to Georgia Plastic Surgery's Dr. Sheldon Lincenberg for the final step in their transition.

Dr. Lincenberg told Fox5Atlanta that the surgery helps both Jace and Jack to look the way they feel inside - male.

"Their identity is set inside themselves," Dr. Lincenberg says.  "They're not trying to change that. They just want the world to see them as they are."

Thanks to the gender-confirming survey, the twins were able to obtain new driver’s licenses that identify their gender as male.

"It's real now, it's official," Jack says. “It’s like the biggest relief you could ever feel.”

"It's perfect to me, I'm finally perfect to me," added Jace. "I'm just excited to finally go out there and be exactly what I've been dreaming about for a long time.”

Watch the report from Fox5Atlanta below.

 

 

(h/t Fox5Atlanta)

Religious Freedom Supporter & Georgia Governor Nominee Brian Kemp's Ad Popped Up On Grindr

Using Grindr to get votes? That’s apparently what one Republican nominee for Georgia governor is doing.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Brian Kemp, the current secretary of state of Georgia and a religious freedom supporter, had cmapign advertisements on gay dating app Grindr.

Of course, this is more of an insult than a compliment because Kemp’s ad was an attack ad against Democratic rival Stacy Abrams and her stance on sex offender legislation. This leaves the implication that Kemp is trying to reach to gay voters and still think of them all as sex offenders.

The AJC reached out to Kemp’s campaign team and they responded by saying anyone who saw the ad probably visited his website recently.

In response, the Democratic Party of Georgia had this to say:

“But we don’t expect him to find much support,” added party spokesman Seth Bringman. “He has made clear that he would sign discrimination into law if he is elected governor, even though 400+ major Georgia employers have said that doing so would harm the state’s economy.”

This is just another point on top of the shady business going on with Kemp and Georgia in preparation of the November vote.

For instance, more than 50,000 newly registered Black voters have had their registrations frozen due to the exploitation of a controversial verification law.

According to CNN and an Associated Press report, over 53,000 voter registration applications, 70%  of which belong to African-Americans, were deemed insufficient for the “exact match” standard.

Under that policy, minor mistakes like a single typo or a missing letter can cause a red flag.

"As he has done for years, Brian Kemp is maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain and silence the voices of thousands of eligible voters -- the majority of them people of color," said Abigail Collazo, a spokesperson for Kemp’s political opponent Stacy Abrams, said in a statement.

Collazo also asked for Kemp to step down "so that Georgia voters can have confidence that their Secretary of State competently and impartially oversees this election." 

h/t: AJC, CNN

PrEP Use Is On The Rise In the US... Except For One State

PrEP is becoming more and more accessible here in the United States of America, but one state is lagging behind the rest.

An expansion of ADISVu, an interactive map that tracks HIV prevalence, new diagnoses, and mortality, has revealed that the state of Georgia is getting left behind by the rest of America.

New data was released on ADISVu and shows a 880 percent increase in PrEP since 2012 with 73 percent increasing each year.

Patrick Sullivan, the head scientist for AIDSVu and a professor at Emory University, commented on the numbers by saying they’re impressive.

"This is so important because PrEP really is a key part in prevention campaigns. For the first time, there are numbers available state by state to give us a sense of how things are going with PrEP across the country," Sullivan added.

Unfortunately, however, Georgia is not doing as well as the rest of the country.

Georgia is ranked fifth in the list of US states with the highest number new of HIV diagnoses.

"Georgia routinely ranks in the top of new HIV diagnoses. Certainly, we'd like to see Georgia have one of the highest rates of PrEP uptake given that it has one of the highest numbers of new diagnoses. There is a lot of opportunity for an increase in PrEP use given Georgia's epidemic," Sullivan said.

On top of that, Georgia is not alone. Most Southern states have the highest number of new HIV diagnoses and the lowest proportional use of PrEP.

Because of that, researchers like Sullivan and some politicians are working to find a solution.

In January, Representative Park Cannon, one of the four openly gay lawmakers in Georgia’s House of Reps, introduced House Bill 755. If passed, that bill would create medical services and PrEP accessibility for people at high risk of HIV contraction. Unfortunately, the bill has stalled on the House floor.

That said, Sullivan appreciates the effort.

"When health departments are engaged in those states, when they have health department web pages talk about their programs for PrEP, those are areas we look to. Those are certainly state that are above the averages in their regions – for sure," Sullivan said.

TV Show Producers Threaten To Boycott If Georgia Passes Its Anti-Gay Adoption Bill

TV makers are taking a stand against a ridiculous religious freedom bill.

As we reported a couple days ago, some politicians within the American state of Georgia are trying to pass a religious freedom bill. If passed, State Senate Bill 375, or the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act,” would let adoption agencies use their religious beliefs as an excuse to reject gay couples looking to adopt.

The official reasoning for this bill is that it's to protect adoption agencies from being discriminated and persecuted for not approving of gay couples and gay parents.

That said, many have pointed out that no such problems have been reported by adoption agencies. As such, the bill is just an excuse to open a window for discriminating against gay people, and making adoption harder for them.

Despite those protests in the State Senate, the bill ultimately passed on a vote of 35-19. Now, its on its way to the State House of Representatives.

In the meantime, showrunners and producers of popular tv shows are saying they might pull their show productions from the state as a result.

Atlanta, Georgia has become a major spot for Hollywood productions. Not only do multiple tv shows like Queer Eye, The Walking Dead, and Black Lightening, film there, but major movies like Black Panther film there as well.

Due to this, Georgia makes about $7 billion a year from productions and filming. But, all that could come crumbling down thanks to Bill 375 and the words of Ben Wexler.

Ben Wexler is a producer who’s worked on shows like The Grinder, Community, The Michael J. Fox Show, and Arrested Development.

After hearing about Georgia State Senate Bill 375, Wexler tweeted out the following, “To my fellow showrunners: if this dumb bill becomes law, let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia.”

Soon, other tv executives/creatives like Difficult People creator Julie Klausner, Difficult People star Billy Eichner, Starz’s Spartacus creator Steven DeKinght, and When We Rise creator Dustin Lance Black were agreeing with Wexler.

 

In addition, many have asked the creators of the Walking Dead, which is probably the biggest tv show filmed in Georgia, and Marvel Studios to share their thoughts on the situation.

Meanwhile, many LGBTQ advocates are expressing how unjust Bill 375 really is. For instance, Marty Rouse, who’s the national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said:

“Plain and simple – SB 375 is discrimination dressed up as a ‘solution’ to a fake problem.”

“It creates an unnecessary hardship for potential LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents in Georgia and primarily harms the children looking for a loving home.”