LGBT History is Now Required Teaching in the Garden State

New Jersey: the birthplace of iconic people such as Whitney Houston, Wendy Williams, Grover Cleveland, and, of course, me. For as long as I've been alive, this state has generally been great for LGBTQ equality and has been reliably liberal. Now, with the passing of a recent bill, New Jersey will continue its progression of LGBTQ rights and recognition by requiring middle school teachers to teach their students about LGBT history, according to NorthJersey.com.

New Jersey is now the second state in the nation after California to require LGBT history be taught in schools. Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill on January 31, as a way to promote LGBT equality. Jaime Bruesehoff, a mother of a transgender child, said, "By learning about LGBTQ people who have made amazing contributions to their country, they are seeing possibilities for themselves and hope for the future.” I agree with her - in schools I was never taught about the contributions and sacrifices that LGBTQ people made and had to seek that information out myself. By requiring LGBT history to be taught in middle schools, American youth can familiarize themselves with important LGBT figures and learn about their accomplishments. Additionally, LGBTQ students will finally have representation which, in turn, can make them feel accepted. 

However, not everyone is happy with this bill being signed. Some conservative groups are opposed to students being taught about LGBTQ history as they believe that it could potentially lead to children questioning their sexuality. Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, opposes the bill as he thinks that it "further erodes the right of parents to discuss this sensitive issue with their children." LGBTQ history is only a sensitive issue if someone makes it into one. 

I think that teaching LGBT history is something that is long overdue and I'm glad that it is finally getting done. Now I only hope that the other 48 states follow suit. 

h/t: NorthJersey.com

Cory Booker Announces Presidential Run

Joining the likes of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey senator Cory Booker announced that he will be running for president in 2020, according to CNN.

The Democratic senator has been described as charismatic and as being a great orator and before gaining his position as Senator, he served as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey for eight years. He announced his presidential run in a video early this morning in which he comments on victory can be achieved through collective action, not by individual interests.

He says "The history of our nation is defined by collective action; by interwoven destinies of slaves and abolitionists; of those born here and those who chose America as home; of those who took up arms to defend our country, and those who linked arms to challenge and change it."

Booker is not the only senator who is running for president in 2020, but at 49 he is the youngest candidate. Booker is considered a social liberal and supports women's rights, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, is a proponent of single-payer healthcare, and co-sponsored and voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent discrimination in employment on the basis if sexual orientation and gender identity. 

I heard Senator Booker speak at Maplewood Pride the day after the horrible Pulse Nightclub Massacre in 2016. He spread the message of unity, saying that in the wake of the tragedy, everyone, whether gay or straight, must stand up for what is right and actively oppose injustice. 



h/t: CNN, NJ.com

NJ Will Have a Gender Neutral Option Coming Next Month

New Jersey Governer Phil Murphy signed the Babs Siperstein Bill, a bill that will allow parents to select a gender-neutral marker on their children's birth certificates, into law last year and will come into effect in February, according to News 12 New Jersey.

Effective February 1st, parents will be able to choose a third, gender-neutral or non-binary option for their children on their birth certificates, as well as allowing adults to change their gender marker on their birth and death certificates (I assume a family member of the deceased will have the right to change the death certificate) without proof of reassignment surgery. 

Gender is separate from sex, as sex is a biological concept, while gender is more a means of expression of one's identity and one's gender is not always consistent with one's biological sex. Some people are also born intersex, so this third option on birth certificates will help them more accurately identify themselves. 

The Bill was created because of Babs Siperstein, a resident of Edison and the first transgender woman to be elected into the Democratic National Committee in 2012. California, Oregon, and Washington are other states with similar legislation. 

As a person who has lived in New Jersey his whole life, I am glad to see that my tiny home state is furthering LGBTQ rights for transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people by validating their identities. 

h/t: News 12 New Jersey

New Jersey Health Officials Say More Than 3,000 People May Have Been Exposed To HIV

Thousands of New Jersey Citizen just got a very unsettling surprise.

The New Jersey Department of Health has released a statement that 3,778 patients at a surgery center may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Health Officials say that anyone who had a procedure at the HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook between January 2018 and September 7, 2018 may have been exposed to these diseases.

Betty McCrabe, an administrator at the Surgery Center, shared that this health warning is a result of a lapse in infection control. Specifically, they believe medical instruments and tools for injecting medicine were improperly cleaned.

Despite how alarming this message may seem, the health department doesn’t want to incite panic. They say that the rate of infection is low and no actual diagnoses have been reported in connection to this issue. Health officials are being extremely cautious and ask that citizens do the same.

If you have received a procedure at the HealthPlus Surgery Center during the times mentioned above, they are desiring you get tested. To assist, the Surgery Center is offering to pay for the medical costs associated with any testing related to this occurrence.

Major NBC Stations and ABC News Stations are taking the recommendations to the airwaves.



h/t: NBC News , ABC News

This is not the first time referee has allegedly made some questionable decisions.

A referee allegedly forced a New Jersey high school student to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his wrestling match, according to local station SNJ Today.

A video tweeted by Mike Frankel, SNJ Today News division's sports director, is raising more than eye brows this weekend. The video shows a Buena High School student getting his dreadlocks cut amid a wrestling match.

On Thursday night, Andrew Johnson was told by the referee that he would not be allowed to wrestle by wearing a cover over his dreadlocks. 

"It was either an impromptu haircut, or a forfeit. Johnson chose the haircut, then won by sudden victory in OT to help spark Buena to a win," the news director wrote.



The referee, Alan Maloney, has had some issues in the past. In March 2016, it was alleged that he used a racial slur at a social gathering when he disagreed with a fellow referee, who is African-American.  Preston Hamilton, the referee on the receiving end of the slur, reportedly slammed Maloney to the ground because of the remark.

Earlier this year, New Jersey became the first state in the mid-Atlantic and just the 14thin the country to offer girls wrestling as an official varsity sport. As a result, more girls around the state than ever have been wrestling, many with long hair. - highschoolsportsnj.com

The NJ high school sports governing body has recommended that Maloney be sidelined from future matches until the incident undergoes a thorough review and the civil rights division has opened an investigation into the incident.

Was this a case of discrimination? Against an African-American student for having dreadlocks?  Against a male student for having long hair? Against someone who is different? 

We're going to have to see how this one ends up.

What do you think?

h/t:  thehill.comhighschoolsportsnj.com

NJ University Rejects Chick-fil-A Due to Corporate Values

Rider University, a private college located in Lawrence Township, New Jersey decided to reject student demands to build a Chick-fil-A on campus, saying that the popular chain's "corporate values" are not in line with those of the college's, The Washington Times reports.

Administrators at the university sent out a survey to students asking what eatery they want on the campus and the majority of people said that they wanted a Chick-fil-A to be built. However, the school decided to not put the restaurant on campus, saying that the school's staff has a problem with the chicken chain's corporate values.

The university sent out a mass email to students explaining their decision to reject the results of the survey, saying that Chick-fil-A's corporate values have not sufficiently progressed enough to align with those of Rider." In the past, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, has openly said that he does not approve of same-sex marriage, saying that, as a nation, The United States is inviting God's wrath by allowing same-sex marriage, as we are displaying our arrogance by saying we know better than God by redefining marriage. Dan Cathy has also said that he is "supportive of... the biblical definition of the family unit." 

Additionally, Chick-fil-A continues to donate to anti-LGBT organizations such as Paul Anderson Youth Home, an organization that teaches that abuse in childhood leads to homosexuality (which is just not true) and is in favor of conversion therapy. 

The vice president of Student Affairs at Rider, Jan Friedman-Krupnick, said that the decision to reject the building of Chick-fil-A came about after officials listened to the concerns from Rider's community, which includes faculty, staff, and students alike. She said that the decision was made by a number of factors and while Chick-fil-A was among the restaurants that students wanted, many members of Rider's community opposed having the chain on their campus.

I have never eaten at a Chick-fil-A but I've heard that it is delicious, so it is no surprise that many students wanted it to be on campus and many are most likely upset about the college's decision. But is it a good idea to sacrifice one's moral values to appease the majority? This decision is definitely one that I can see being very polarizing. 

h/t: The Washington Times, The Washington Post, Think Progress

Chelsea Spa in Legal Trouble After New Jersey Man Inappropriately Touched

Living Fresh Men's Spa, a spa located in Chelsea, NYC is getting sued after one New Jersey man alleges that he was inappropriately touched by one of the spa's masseurs, according to the New York Post

Ronnie Arnau, a man from Woodland Park, New Jersey, went to the spa in Chelsea with his husband expecting to get only a massage and a facial but got more than he bargained for, and nothing that he actually wanted. As he lay prone on the massage table, he recalls that his masseur, Pei Tien started giving him what he felt was a normal massage, but about ten minutes into the massage things started to go south. 

During the massage, Tian began to focus exclusively on Arnau's buttocks for a disproportionately long period of time, making Arnau very uncomfortable. Still uncomfortable, Tian moved his finger beneath Arnau's buttocks and began to caress, which, I assume, is not part of a normal massage. Arnau never said that he consented to anyone touching his penis and he never indicated that he wanted anyone to. Shaken by this, Arnau was shocked until his masseur threw off the towel and told him to turn over. 

Arnau quickly got up from the massage table and told Tian to leave the room and immediately called the police. Tian has been charged with forcible touching and sexual abuse. His criminal case is still pending. Tian has never commented on this incident, but the spa owner says that he is still working there.

The receptionist of Living Fresh Men's Spa, Sean, commented that it is "not that kind of spa." Arnau's suit says that the owner of the spa is fully aware of the lewd and illicit activity that occurs within the spa but does nothing about it. Arnau's lawyer, Carrie Goldberg, commented on the inaction of the spa owner, saying that by ignoring Arnau's complaint, he is silently allowing the idea that gay men at spas welcome inappropriate touching from spa staff.

Goldberg's comment speaks to a much deeper issue: the idea that men "always want it" and that gay men specifically are sex crazed. Sexual assault has become somewhat of a hot topic, with people bringing awareness to how prevalent it is with the #MeToo movement, so one would think that maybe touching someone inappropriately without their consent would be the wrong thing to do, but some people never learn. It saddens me to think about how Arnau's complaints were completely ignored by the spa's staff, as it is very telling of the sad fact that sexual assault victims are not believed.  

h/t: New York Post

New Jersey Club Owner Sues Town For Prohibiting Black And Gay Patrons

A New Jersey club owner is suing his municipality after he says they tried to limit the amount of black and gay patrons in his establishment.

According to app.com, Karma club owner John P. Saddy field a lawsuit on November 14 against Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz, Borough Council members Richard Tompkins, Michael Carbone, Louis DiGiulio, Agnes Polhemus, Harry Smith and Victoria Graichen, Administrator Christopher Vaz, Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Police Sgt. Luigi Violante, and other municipal employees.

The lawsuit says that the borough’s group of government employees “has implemented and maintain an unconstitutional, discriminatory and racist policy, practice and/or custom of discouraging and limiting African-American and LGBTQ (Lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer/questioning) visitors to Seaside Heights.”

Some examples of Borough interference listed in the lawsuit include being prohibited from playing hip hop or rap music in the club, an “unjustified police raid” during a “Hyperglow” theme night, and the rejection of LGBTQ events by Administrator Christopher Vaz who warned that “the police would be living” at his venues.

"When they say 'family friendly, they mean white, straight people," said attorney Thomas J. Mallon, who is representing Saddy.

That said, Borough attorney Jean Cipriani says that Saddy’s argument is made up of "outrageous, false and inflammatory allegations made by an individual who is looking for money and who is willing to make wild and unsupported smears about public servants in pursuit of that money.

In a statement, Cipriani says that, "The Borough of Seaside Heights does not discriminate on the basis of race or sexual preference or identity. Period.”

Cipriani also alleges that Saddy’s real mission is to get revenge on the borough for trying to revoke his liquor and mercantile licenses earlier this year.

As compensation, Saddy is looking for an unspecified amount of money to make up for his loss of income from rejecting patrons and to pay for his attorney’s fees.

h/t: APP

New Jersey Schools Create a Safe Home Environment by not Telling Parents of Trans Students About Their Identity

Coming out is never an easy process as it is impossible to tell how people will react. For many, coming out to their parents is not a possibility, as plenty of parents have a difficult time accepting their LGBT children and will go out of the way to cause harm, either physical or mental, and even kick them out of the house. Schools in New Jersey have recognized the potential dangers of coming out and created a new state guidance that protects transgender students by telling teachers that they do not have to tell parents if a student comes out to them as transgender, NJ.com reports. By putting this guidance in place, New Jersey has become a national leader in protecting transgender rights. 

Of course, not everyone is pleased with the new guidance. Parents argue that schools have no right to keep such an important detail about their children from them, as they believe that they have a right to know. In an ideal world, trans and other LGBT people would be comfortable telling their parents about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but we do not live in such a world. Some people can predict how their parents will react, with some believing that they will get disowned or physically abused. If a student confides in a teacher that they are trans and tells them that there will be negative consequences if their parents find out, the teacher should be able from refraining from telling their student's parents. 

It's unfortunate but it does happen. According to The Williams Institute, between 30% to 43% of the homeless youth identify as LGBT, a staggering number no doubt caused my parents who do not accept their child's identity. By allowing teachers to keep their students' identity hidden from their family, New Jersey schools will potentially decrease cases of discrimination and abuse. Transgender individuals face unique challenges, as the concept of one's gender not matching their biological sex is still unfathomable to many people, including the parents and family members of trans people.

That's why this state guidance is so important: it protects trans students from the potential dangers of coming out. Hopefully more people will become better educated on transgender identity so that such laws do not have to exist, but for now, New Jersey took a step in the right direction. 

h/t: NJ.gov,  NJ.comThe Williams Institute

GOP Congressman: Orphanages Could Be Better Option Than Gay Parents


A Republican congressman from New Jersey appears to have told a group of high school students in his district that kids without families might be better off living in an orphanage instead of same-sex adoptive parents.

The Los Angeles Blade's Chris Johnson reports that Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who has served in Congress since 1981, attended an assembly of high school students at Colts Neck High School on May 29 this year.

During the Q&A session, high school senior Hannah Valdes asked the congressman about his opposition to same-sex couples adopting children.

In 1999, Smith had voted for a legislative amendment that would have prevented gay parents to adopt in the District of Columbia.

Valdes shared that she has a lesbian sister who would like to adopt at some point in the future, and so wanted to know why Smith felt her sister would be “less of a legitimate parent” than folks in heterosexual relationships.

Smith, according to a recording provided to the Blade, seemed to dodge the question saying “the issue, legally, is moot at this point especially with the Supreme Court decision” in an apparent reference to the 2015 case, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Smith added, that Valdes’ sister is “free to adopt.”

To be clear, however, in the aftermath of the 2015 SCOTUS ruling, states have begun to enact legislation allowing faith-based adoption agencies to decline placement of children with LGBT parents via a claim of ‘religious freedom.’

So, Valdes’ sister may not find herself so “free to adopt” at some point in the future.

When pressed further on the subject, Smith also alluded to the idea that “there are many others who would like to adopt who can acquire a child,” and for those folks “the waiting periods are extremely long.”

Another student asked about these “others” and why they would be more suitable for adopting than, say, Valdes’ sister.

Smith began his reply saying, “In my opinion, every child needs every possibility of,” but stopped short of finishing his thought. Many in the audience felt he was heading down the path of saying children should have every chance of being raised by a mother and a father.

It’s at that point that Smith switched things up saying, “Somebody mentioned orphanages before. I mean, orphanages are still a possibility for some kids.”

Wait - what?

According to the Blade, one shocked student followed that statement up with the question, “You’d rather have kids in an orphanage than with…?”

When asked whether Smith still felt that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, he said he did.

Valdes told the Blade, “Smith responded by saying he does not approve of gay adoption because gay households are not healthy environments for children to grow up in.”

He also referenced “numerous household studies” that indicate children do better with heterosexual parents than LGBT parents.

That statement is not accurate, however.

Dozens of studies have shown children of gay parents fare equally as well as children of straight parents.

The exchange was eventually cut off by an administrator who interrupted to change the subject.

It will come as no surprise that Smith has an abysmal record on LGBT issue in Congress.

He voted for the hideous Defense of Marriage Act as well as a constitutional amendment that would have banned marriage equality across the nation.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” Yep, he voted for that, too. When it came time to repeal the military ban, he voted against that.

He’s also a co-sponsor on the First Amendment Defense Act which aims to legalize LGBT discrimination via deeply-held “religious beliefs.”

Basically, Rep. Smith doesn’t seem to have met an anti-LGBT bill he didn’t like.

Smith’s opponent in the upcoming mid-term elections, Democrat Josh Welle, was asked by the Blade for his response to the assembly chat.

“Chris Smith’s out-of-touch views might have flown in 1980 when he was elected, but his time has passed,” Welle said. “In 2018, in Central Jersey, it is unacceptable to imply a child would be better off in an orphanage than with a loving LGBTQ family. As a veteran, I fought on the front lines alongside men and women who gave their lives to protect and defend the civil liberties that our Constitution ensures for everyone, not just a few. Chris Smith takes us backwards on inclusion and basic human rights for all.”

Here's wishing Welle luck in the mid-terms, although, considering the 4th district has been held by Smith for 37 years, he may need it.

(h/t Los Angeles Blade)