Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith Calls Trump Out on Russia Lies

Donald Trump continues to falsely claim the Russia scandal is a Democratic hoax, but Shepard Smith is not having it.

Trump claimed on Wednesday there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, even though his team attended secret meetings with Russian officials, some that included the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump often tries to flip the script and blame collusion on Clinton, ostensibly over an unflattering — and not yet unproven — dossier partly paid for by the former secretary of State’s presidential campaign. Trump also points to a 2010 uranium sale to Russia that Clinton signed on to; Smith has already debunked the conspiracy theory that Clinton had a nefarious role in the uranium deal.

When asked by journalists whether Trump would agree to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating his connections to Russia, the president said he wouldn’t need to: “There was absolutely no collusion, everybody knows it. I’ve been in office for 11 months, for 11 months they’ve had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government, and it has hurt our government. It is a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election that frankly the Democrats should have won because they have such a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College.”

Smith put these lies to rest during the Wednesday broadcast of his Fox News show.

“The president again calling the Russia investigation a ‘Democratic hoax’,” Smith said. “It is not. Fox News has been reporting and will continue to report that two people have pleaded guilty.”

Unlike Tucker Carlson and the Fox & Friends crew, Smith is unflinchingly honest with his viewers, reminding them that the Russia investigation is, in fact, very real — and very likely to engulf this failing presidency.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills Leaves Victory Fund, Succeeded by Annise Parker

Victory Fund is getting a change in leadership.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills announced today that she’s resigning as president and CEO of Victory Fund and its sister organization, Victory Institute, and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker will take over the post Monday. The groups train and support openly LGBT candidates and elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.

Moodie-Mills, who has been in the position for two and a half years, made her announcement at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. “Politics are so personal for me, for all of us,” she said, according to the Washington Blade. “Our lives are on the chopping block. And so, it is with a heavy heart but clear purpose that is time for me to leave Victory. This past election has upended the normalcy [of] our politics and our discourse, and I see it as my redefined mission to help progressives set a new course.”

Moodie-Mills did not specify what her next move will be. Victory Fund director of communications Elliot Imse, speaking to The Advocate afterward, did not offer specifics either, but said Moodie-Mills wants to work in the broader progressive movement, incorporating LGBT issues and more. She plans to move from Washington to join her wife in New York City. “With the 2018 election cycle heating up, the timing worked out for everyone,” he said.

Parker said that’s certainly the case for her. Since leaving office as mayor two years ago, she’s been working for nonprofit organizations in Houston, including BakerRipley, which aids immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized communities. She resigned from BakerRipley at the beginning of November, and she soon got the call from Victory Fund. “The stars aligned, and the timing was perfect,” she told The Advocate. “The right call came in on the right day, and I said yes.”

“I am really, really passionate about LGBT issues and bringing more people into the political process,” she added, further noting, “I’m a lesbian activist at heart.”

Parker wants to build on Victory Fund’s successes, she said. “We’re going to do more of the same,” she said. Moodie-Mills helped inspire more LGBT people of color to run for office, for instance, and Parker wants to continue increasing those numbers.

It’s also important to continue increasing the number of transgender candidates, she said, after a year that saw some major victories for trans candidates endorsed by Victory Fund, with Danica Roem defeating anti-LGBT incumbent Bob Marshall for the Virginia House of Delegates, and Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham elected to the Minneapolis City Council.

“One of the reasons it’s really important to support transgender candidates is that there’s been a ramp-up in attacks on the transgender community,” she said. While many straight and cisgender people know someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, far fewer know someone who is transgender, and that makes it easy for anti-trans forces to create an image of trans people as a “feared other,” she said.

She saw that happen up close during the effort to repeal the trans-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which voters did in 2015. Opponents of the ordinance, which the City Council passed in 2014, ran a fearmongering campaign alleging that it would allow predatory men disguised as women to terrorize women and girls in public restrooms.

“The fight over HERO was the start of a wave of very focused attacks on the transgender community,” she said. It was also a learning experience for Parker and others who support equal rights for trans people. “It was a great reminder that we have to get out early and we have to own the narrative in these political campaigns,” she said. That’s a lesson she plans to bring to her work with Victory Fund, she said, adding that greater acceptance of trans people will be transformative for the whole LGBT community.

Parker served three terms as mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city, the largest ever to have a mayor drawn from the LGBT population, and left office due to term limits. Before that, she spent three terms as city controller and three on the City Council. She received Victory Fund support at each level.

Previously, she worked for 20 years in the oil and gas industry, a major part of Houston’s economy. She had a conservative Republican boss – Robert Mosbacher, who was also a member of President George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet and has a lesbian daughter, Dee. Parker was “oil company employee by day, activist by night” in those years, she said. “I was about the most visible lesbian activist in Houston in the 1980s,” she said. Her activism actually goes back even farther; she attended her first LGBT political event in 1975, which was before Moodie-Mills was born.

Now, she said, she sees a great increase in young people interested in politics, and the size of Victory Institute’s candidate training classes has grown enormously. “They’re young, they’re driven, and they’re really passionate,” she said of these aspiring pols. “The trick will be translating that into the nuts and bolts of campaigning.”

She doesn’t plan to relocate to Washington, although she will be at Victory Fund’s headquarters frequently. The group is involved in campaigns nationwide, and it’s often easier to travel from Houston. Parker shares her home there with wife Kathy Hubbard; they’ve been together for 27 years and married for four. They have four children, the youngest of whom is 22, and one grandchild.

Victory Fund/Victory Institute leaders expressed faith in Parker and were proud of Moodie-Mills’s record. “As the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Houston, Annise understands the challenges inherent in running and winning elected office, and she’s ideally positioned to help us fulfill our mission now and in the future,” One Victory board chair Kim Hoover said in a press release. “During Aisha’s tenure we grew the organization’s leadership initiatives to ensure LGBTQ people from across the country were prepared to run for office and be a voice for our community. We invested in game-changing campaigns and took on anti-equality incumbents with historic LGBTQ candidates, and won. And we strengthened and grew our network of LGBTQ elected officials, who work tirelessly to be the change we want to see in the world. We are grateful for her leadership, and now we are excited to build on her great work and use Annise’s experience and expertise to ensure Victory Fund and Victory Institute have an even greater impact moving forward. And she is eager to get started.”

“Over the last two years I’ve been fortunate to lead an incredible team at Victory, and together we have achieved great progress in in our efforts to elect LGBTQ candidates across the country,” Moodie-Mill, said in the same release. “We witnessed a surge in the number of LGBTQ people from across the country who want to run for office and be our voice in the halls of power – and it has been so personally rewarding for me to have helped historic candidates win elections thought impossible just a few years ago. Most importantly, I am proud that we’ve positioned the organizations for growth at a critically important time – a turning point in our movement to build LGBTQ political power and wield it on behalf of equality. I am so happy that such a capable leader like Annise will be continuing the vital work of Victory Fund and Victory Institute, and look forward to supporting the organizations as they continue to secure representation for our community.”

U.N. Officials Condemn Mass Gay, Trans Arrests in Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia

United Nations officials have spoken out against what they see as a troubling global trend involving the mass arrests, detainment, and torture of LGBT people.

On Friday, officials said authorities in Azerbaijan, Egypt, and Indonesia had violated international law for committing such actions in recent weeks, reports the New York Times.

In October, authorities in Azerbaijan released around 83 gay bisexual, and transgender detainees, who had been arrested in September. While in detainment, some were subjected to torture such as beatings and shock treatments, said Rupert Colville, from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at a Geneva press conference.

Authorities in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, claimed they detained these people for charges involving sex work, “hooliganism,” and “resisting a police order,” although lawyers dismissed these claims as pretext.

“Any arrest based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is by definition arbitrary and violates international law,” Colville said.

In September, Egyptian authorites detained at least 11 men for waving a rainbow flag at a concert, and for using gay meetup apps. Those arrested were subjected to forced anal examinations that are nothing more than torture, reports Amnesty International.

In Indonesia, police arrested around 50 men at a sauna earlier this month, the latest in a string of raids targeting LGBT people that have resulted in arrests, public flogging, and forced HIV tests.

Colville also challenged the truth regarding the charges of sex work — common in all three of these nations against LGBT people — noting that “in almost all cases the accused have denied such allegations or indicated that they were coerced into confessing involvement.”

U.N. officials demanded anyone detained due to their LGBT identity in Azerbaijan, Egypt, and Indonesia be released immediately.

At Values Voter Summit, Trump Boasts of Homophobic, Sexist Victories

Donald Trump told his religious right supporters what they wanted to hear today at the Values Voter Summit — that he’s protecting religious freedom and bringing Judeo-Christian values back to America.

The first sitting president to address the gathering, he took the stage this morning at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., to applause and chants of “USA!” and then praised Tony Perkins, president of the event’s sponsor, the Family Research Council, as a “tremendous guy.” (The far-right, anti-LGBT organization is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

Trump noted the frequent invocations of God by the nation’s founders, then said, “How times have changed. But now they’re changing back again.”

He touted the “religious freedom” guidance issued by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, last week, which gives federal employees and contractors a wide berth to claim religious objections to their duties, constituting a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people and others who might offend their religious sensibilities.

He boasted of reinstating the policy of denying U.S. funds to any overseas family planning organization that so much as mentions abortion and of broadening exceptions to the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act. (His latest action concerning the ACA is announcing an end to subsidies that help low-income Americans buy health insurance, yet he told the gathering, “We’re gonna have great health care in our country.”)

He spoke proudly of the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a man “in the mold of the late, great Antonin Scalia.” And he noted that with the holiday season approaching, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” as if anyone had been prevented from saying that.

He said he hoped that Congress would pass his proposed tax cuts “as a Christmas gift to hardworking families,” although the cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the most wealthy. He bragged of his administration’s response to natural disasters, ignoring that the response to hurricane destruction in Puerto Rico is widely seen as inadequate and that relief workers treated themselves to a “spa day” there.

He hit other expected points — about respecting the flag, our history, law enforcement, and military members (not mentioning, of course, that he is drumming transgender people out of the military), and that in foreign policy, he is standing up to “radical Islamic terrorism” and bad actors around the world.

“Above all else, we know this,” he said. “In America we don’t worship government. We worship God. Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face.”

He also said, “When America is unified, no force on earth can break us apart” — but in reality, his presidency has been extremely divisive.

Other speakers this morning included Kellyanne Conway, his former campaign manager who has continued as an adviser, who was introduced as “the woman who saved the world” by helping prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Among the others scheduled to speak at the conference, which continues through Sunday, include former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka; religious right activist brothers David and Jason Benham; former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; current members of Congress Mark Meadows, Mark Walker, Chris Smith, and Vicky Hartzler; Roy Moore, the anti-LGBT, anti-abortion former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from the state; Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House; Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart and a former Trump campaign chairman and White House adviser; Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson; longtime religious right leader Gary Bauer; Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel; Fox News host Laura Ingraham; Fox News contributor Todd Starnes; Edwin Meese, U.S. attorney general in the Reagan administration; and former Army officer Oliver North, known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

Trump’s full speech is below.

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Trump Won't Call Las Vegas Shooter a Terrorist but Plenty on Twitter Have

Donald Trump and authorities in Las Vegas won’t label the gunning down of at least 58 people and the injuring of more than 550 that occurred at a country music festival in Las Vegas at the hands of a lone white male shooter an act of terrorism, despite a state statute in Nevada that defines it as such. But since the Trump administration and the authorities have been loathe to call the insidious act terrorism, people on Twitter are doing it for them. 

An “act of terrorism means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population,” according to Nevada law, which would mean that the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was a domestic terrorist. 

Bedlam broke out when, from his room at the Mandalay Bay Resort, Paddock began picking off concertgoers watching headliner Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, according to the New York Times. Bullets rained down for more than five minutes as Paddock fired hundreds of rounds from an automatic weapon into the crowd. By the time a SWAT team reached the 32nd floor of the hotel, they found 10 rifles and Paddock dead of an apparent suicide, according to NYT

In the aftermath of the tragedy, when Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo was asked if the shooting was being treated as terror-related, he said,  “No not at this point, we believe it is a local individual, he resides here locally. We don’t know what his belief system was at this time.”

“Terrorism,” as defined by Merriam Webster is “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” But in a story on Monday about look-ups of the word spiking, Merriam Webster wrote, “Its use to refer to terrible violent acts without a clear political motive may constitute an emerging new sense of the word.” 

The reference site also noted that under Nevada law, Paddock would be considered a terrorist. But that didn’t stop White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from balking at the idea of naming the act of violence as terrorism when a reporter asked at a press conference if the president believes what happened amounts to an act of domestic terrorism. 

“We’re still on a fact-finding mission. This is an ongoing investigation and it would be premature to weigh in on something like that before we have any more facts,” Sanders said.  

The thing is that she does have the facts — a man murdered nearly 60 people and injured hundreds more in a senseless act of violence, which is terrorism under Nevada law. Furthermore, not knowing a motive didn’t stop Trump from using the Orlando massacre, in which 49 people were gunned down at an LGBT club, as fulcrum to push through his anti-Islamic agenda, although facts about the shooter, Omar Mateen, an American of Afghan descent, were not fully formed at the time he sent out the disgustingly opportunistic tweet, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

It’s not lost on people on social media that when a nonwhite shooter massacred people in Orlando in June of 2016, Trump jumped on the terrorism narrative. And now that the shooter is white, Trump’s White House won’t call it terrorism even when Nevada law clearly states that it is. 

Here’s the Twitter pushback from people who are calling Paddock a terrorist and his shooting an act terrorism. 

Janet Napolitano: Law Must Serve the Marginalized

In today’s political climate, public interest lawyers — those working for human rights and social justice — are needed more than ever, says Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system and former secretary of Homeland Security.

Napolitano, who’s also a former Arizona governor and attorney general as well as U.S. attorney for the state, made the remarks in a speech and interviews at the UC system’s first Public Service Law Conference, held this weekend at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Today, our nation grapples with serious cultural clashes, political divisiveness, and difficult questions about our national identity,” said Napolitano, a longtime Democrat who ran Homeland Security during President Barack Obama’s first term, in her keynote speech Saturday morning. “At times, these conflicts have caused some Americans — such as people of color, undocumented individuals, Jews and Muslims, and the LGBT community — to feel as though their civil rights are under attack. Through that turmoil, we have witnessed an increasing need — and a growing role — for people with legal training who are devoted to public service.”

She did not mention a primary source of that turmoil, Donald Trump, until a post-speech question-and-answer session, but she didn’t have to. She is already challenging the Trump administration, as the UC system has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent deportation of immigrants who have so far been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump has announced his administration will end in a few months if Congress does not establish it through legislation.

It’s a program that Napolitano created when she was Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, and it was established by executive action after Congress failed to act on legislation with similar provisions. DACA allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children to stay in the U.S. and obtain work permits if they meet certain strict qualifications. “I felt compelled to take action to protect these young immigrants,” she said.

The lawsuit contends that by rescinding DACA, the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act — a law that prohibits the federal agencies from acting capriciously — and the right to due process under the law, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, Napolitano said.

Napolitano’s speech was briefly interrupted by protesters; among the issues they brought up were deportations carried out under her watch at Homeland Security. She said later that was responsible for enforcing flawed immigration law.

She also touched on LGBT rights during her appearance. In her speech she praised Zackory Burns, a law student at UC’s Irvine campus, who two years ago cofounded the Transgender Name and Gender Change Clinic there and is now director of the clinic. In partnership with Orange County LGBT Center, the clinic has now assisted more than 250 people with legal paperwork to change their names and gender markers, and Burns and his classmates want to create similar clinics elsewhere in the state.

Napolitano is a longtime ally of LGBT people. As head of the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, the year after the nation adopted its infamous “gay propaganda” law, she scrutinized the treatment of LGBT athletes, noting at the time that she winessed no problems within the limited environment of the games and related events.

Speaking with The Advocate after her address, she explained her empathy for LGBT people by saying, “It’s a group that has been discriminated against historically and hasn’t had full access to its protection of its human rights and civil rights — that seems to me fundamentally unfair.”

She mentioned various other issues, such as her work representing Anita Hill in her appearances before the Senate when Clarence Thomas was under consideration as a Supreme Court justice in 1991; Thomas was confirmed to the court despite Hill’s accusations that he has sexually harassed her when they worked together. “I think I still have PTSD from that hearing,” she told the conference audience, adding that it was a significant event because “it was probably the first time sexual harassment in the workplace had gotten that kind of exposure.”

Freedom of speech on campus is an issue that’s gotten much attention lately, with heated protests over some guest speakers believed to be purveyors of hate. But even hate speech is protected against government censorship by the First Amendment to the Constitution, she noted, so public universities cannot shut down such speech, but must try to assure the safety of all students and staff. (Later in the day, a conservative group planning to hold a Free Speech Week at UC Berkeley starting today canceled the event, claiming the university was hostile to it, something a university spokesman denied. Right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos said he and others would hold an unofficial event Sunday nonetheless.)

Yiannopoulos and his allies tend to support Trump, and they generally feel supported by him. Many other Americans, however, feel they’re under attack from Trump. Asked by The Advocate about how those in the latter group can stay committed and optimistic, Napolitano said, “Keep your eye on the long game, and recognize … that history is not a straight line.”

“LGBT rights,” she added, “are on the right side of history.”

And lawyers, she reminded her L.A. audience — which included both present and future legal professionals — can play a big role in getting LGBT people and other marginalized groups the equal rights they deserve. “At times like these, we must do more than lament the assault on intrinsic American values or the violations of civil rights we see around us,” she said. “It is incumbent upon us to use our expertise and skills as lawyers to take meaningful action — to stop injustice in its tracks, to protect the most vulnerable, and to serve our communities when they need us most.”

Clinton Writes of Devastating Choice to 'Remain Calm' While Trump Stalked Her

The first excerpt from Hillary Clinton’s book What Happened, due out in September, reveals that she was thinking what a lot of us were during that second debate with Donald Trump last October when he stalked her around the stage attempting to intimidate her by invading her space. And it turns out the options that ran through her head were a lot like what goes through women’s minds when they’re faced with aggressive men in everyday life. Clinton wrote of the experience she endured on national television: 

“Well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling, and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, ‘Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.'”

Trump, who was under fire at the time because the infamous “I grab ’em by the pussy” tape had been revealed just days before, attempted to intimidate Clinton psychologically as well, holding a press conference prior to the debate with women who’d accused her husband, Bill Clinton (who was not his opponent), of various levels of sexual harassment. But Trump, who is tall and wields plenty of girth despite the tiny hands rumor, took his harassment to a physical level, lurking behind Clinton on the debate stage as she managed to spell out policy points despite the fact that he was making her “skin crawl,” she wrote in her book, according to The Hill, citing excerpts obtained by MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

In the excerpt, Clinton elucidated that she had two choices on how to handle the situation, and while she opted to remain calm, because, truth be told, if she’d reacted in any way angrily or emotionally or with full force to his bullying tactics, misogynists on the right and the left would have labeled her “unfit” for office, she wondered, like a lot of women do, if she should have stood up for herself. 
“I chose option A. I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off. I did, however, grip the microphone extra hard,” Clinton wrote. “I wonder, though, whether I should have chosen option B. It certainly would have been better TV.” 

But more than being “better TV,” Clinton’s decision to not square off with her bully, illustrated the conundrum of being a woman in public and in private life. 

“Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world,” Clinton lamented in her book. 

Still, Clinton stood strong on that debate stage despite a looming monstrosity breathing down her neck, and she laid out solid, tangible plans to improve the state of the country for all people, yet, with the help of the Electoral College, possible Russian influence, and plenty of complacent “conscience” voters,  she lost to her bully. 

So while Clinton ponders her decision to be the woman she was groomed to be by decades of socialization and dealing with the backlash of failing to “bake cookies” when she was first lady, it’s time for the rest of the country to take a deep, hard look at the misogyny that led them to the decisions they made. 

After Trump Defends Nazis, His Business Councils Implode

The White House’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and its Strategic and Policy Forum disbanded on Wednesday after President Trump partially blamed the “alt-left” for this weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va. and sympathized with supporters of Confederate monuments.

The business executives that make up the two councils — which are mostly ceremonial, but serve as symbolic alliances between the White House and corporate America — began jumping ship after Trump’s abysmal behavior over the past few days. Leaders of companies like Merck, Under Armour, Tesla, and Intel left the manufacturing council after Trump’s response to Charlottesville on Saturday, where he said there were “many sides” to the issue.

Under intense pressure, Trump on Monday condemned the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville. But he abruptly reversed course on Tuesday, with an epically disastrous press conference that will likely define the rest of his presidency.

A conference call occurred between remaining members of the councils on Wednesday morning and the decision to disband was made, according to The New York Times. Per usual, Trump lied about what went down and claimed he made the decision to close the councils. Sure, Jan.

Navy Secretary Pushes Back Against Military Ban

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer

August 11 2017 2:50 PM EDT

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said Thursday he’ll follow any orders relating to the announced ban on transgender people in the military, but he appeared to disagree with the ban.

“We will process and take direction on a policy that will be developed by the secretary [of Defense with] direction from the president — and march out smartly,” Spencer, a former Marine aviator and businessman, said while visiting Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, reports the Daily Press of Newport News. “As I said before, on a fundamental basis, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military.”

During his confirmation hearing last month, Spencer at first seemed opposed to changes to social policy in the military, saying it shouldn’t be a “petri dish for social experiments.” But then he elaborated, saying changes should be implemented consistently across the armed forces, with care taken to make sure they don’t undermine the military’s mission.

“I totally believe that policy [changes] should be developed on the [Department of Defense] level, and then discussed and socialized and deployed and then obeyed,” he said at the time, as reported by USNI News. “We have to work together, including all our service people, to make sure that they are given what they need, whether that be spiritually, whether that be psychologically, whether that’s materialistically, to fight forward, so readiness is the key and lethality is the product.”

Another service leader, Adm. Paul Zukunft of the Coast Guard, has also spoken out against the ban, saying he had told a trans service member, “I will not turn my back” on her and her colleagues. Also, 56 retired generals and admirals have written an open letter opposing the ban.

Donald Trump, who announced the ban via Twitter July 26, touted it as “a great favor” to the military during a news conference Thursday. His staff has reportedly prepared guidelines for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on implementing the ban, but sources have told the Washington Blade that implementation is likely on hold given the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

How the Americans With Disabilities Act Helps People Every Day

I am a transgender woman who lives with two largely invisible disabilities. Most people who interact with me have no idea I live with both bipolar disorder and severe gastroesophageal issues, both of which can be debilitating. While being transgender is not a disability, I have faced many struggles accessing transition-related care, and I have undergone gender-confirming surgeries, which have left me unable to work for extended periods.

Last month we celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which granted civil rights protections to people with disabilities. I am thankful the law allows me the opportunity to have a career despite many challenges related to my health. It has helped me access accommodations that assure my success at my current workplace. It also helped protect me at prior points in my career when I was on part-time or full-time disability. 

At the National LGBTQ Task Force, we believe that the fights for LGBTQ justice and disability justice are deeply intertwined. Our philosophy in how we conduct this work is “nothing about us without us,” meaning we believe that LGBTQ people with disabilities are the experts on their own lives and should be leading the fight for their liberation. That’s why, as the Task Force’s digital strategy manager, I often share my experiences of being a trans woman living with disabilities and help others share their stories so that our community can build power from within to advocate for our rights — including protections like the ADA.

Like many people with disabilities, I appear very able-bodied. I bike, do yoga, work full-time, and do activism outside of work. But what people don’t see is how much work goes into managing disabilities every hour of every day, including having to work with employers on accommodations. Recently, while I was traveling to speak at a conference, I was stuck in an airport because of flight delays past 2 a.m. without access to proper food, unable to take my medication on its normal schedule, and unable to do exercises to help me manage GE pain. The after-effects of just that one night lasted for three days, during which I was able to attend only half the events I had planned, had to take many breaks, and experienced severe pain throughout each day.

One of the most important things for anyone living with disabilities is self-care. Sleep, my mental health, and my GE issues are inseparable. I need eight to nine hours of sleep every night to manage my conditions. If I don’t get that, it can lead to severe pain, anxiety, dehydration, inability to eat, and extreme tiredness, leaving me unable to work. My body doesn’t tolerate caffeine, so morning coffee is never an option. Nor is leaving straight from work to socialize, especially at a happy hour, as my system is sensitive to alcohol. Instead, every morning before work and every evening after work I have to do yoga and/or other exercise to manage my mental health and physical symptoms.

Yes, socializing and having supportive community around me is important — in fact, crucial —to my health. As a queer transgender woman, I need to find time outside work to be part of queer and transgender community. Yet the safe space we all need is harder to access if you have any form of disability. Because of my health limitations, I have to socialize on my own terms and at different hours than others, but if I don’t make that time, my mental health will suffer.

Navigating health needs leaves people with disabilities open to many personal questions, especially in the workplace. People often ask me about my diet. Most often people notice the tempeh and dairy-free products I eat and guess I’m vegan. When people notice my gluten-free food they guess I have celiac disease. I get baffled stares when I turn down anything with caffeine, including chocolate.

It would be easy to respond to these questions by saying, “I’m gluten-free and dairy-free.” Some people want to ascribe a diagnosis to me or assume I have to provide them one—which can be highly stigmatizing. Instead, for whenever someone needs to know my dietary restrictions, I have a full-page document of restrictions, allergies, and dietary needs I developed with my doctors. I also have documents detailing what I need to manage my mental health, including flexible work hours and a strict sleep schedule when I’m traveling and/or working at a conference. These documents have been crucial to my accessing disability accommodations at work, which is possible because of the ADA.

In past jobs, I didn’t know how to advocate for myself using the ADA, and it affected my performance and even led to once having my position filled while I was on medical leave. But since I began accepting my body’s limitations and working with doctors to advocate for my health, I’ve had a much more successful career.

Thanks to the ADA, I don’t have to explain all my diagnoses to my employers to access accommodations. This is especially important because I don’t have one readily understood diagnosis. No one or two medical conditions can describe all my symptoms — especially because of how they interact with my bipolar disorder.

My life is extremely regulated. I must plan every meal, with multiple contingency plans if something fails. I own a collection of Tupperware containers and lunchboxes that could fill two milk crates, and I keep a week’s worth of food in fridges and freezers. If I’m traveling, I call hotels to see if they have fridges and microwaves. If I’m invited to a restaurant, I call to check on all the ingredients in the food I might eat, and sometimes I have to suggest a different restaurant or offer to meet somewhere after. What is easy for anyone without disabilities — planning a trip or even simply going out with friends — is anything but for myself and others. And the stigma that comes with it may be the more painful part of all.

The stigma regarding my dietary and sleep needs comes in addition to the stigma of being bipolar, which is widely misunderstood as making someone incapable of normal social interactions. However, since being diagnosed as bipolar 12 years ago, I’ve learned to manage my symptoms through medication, therapy, sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet. If I notice symptoms flaring up, I have the ability to take medical leave from work — again, thanks to the ADA.

No two experiences of living with disability are the same. I share my story for all those whose disabilities are invisible or misunderstood. At the National LGBTQ Task Force we’re working every day to advocate for people with disabilities, and I’m proud to help lead that work. We can never take the ADA for granted; it provides crucial protections that must be defended. The ADA strengthens workplaces, strengthens communities, and builds a better society. I have to thank it for providing opportunities for me I would never have been able to access otherwise.

KAYLEY WHALEN, an activist who works at the intersections of racial justice, LGBTQ issues, humanism, disability advocacy, immigration, and drug policy reform. is the digital strategies and social media manager at the National LGBTQ Task Force.