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National: Trans-inclusive sorority, agender activist, Athlete Ally
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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A sorority has become the first in the country to welcome transgender women into all of its chapters nationwide, according to . On Feb. 17, the national headquarters for Alpha Chi Omega, a 132-year-old Greek formed at Indiana's DePauw University, announced it was lifting its ban on transgender women. "We want everyone to feel included and feel like they're being respected just as much as anyone else," Ronni Jackson, the recruitment chair for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Alpha Chi Omega chapter, told the Daily Nebraskan. Local chapters of other sororities have begun welcoming trans people, and there are a few LGBT-specific Greek social organizations, like Gamma Rho Lambda and Delta Lambda Phi.

Virginia activist and YouTube personality Chandler Wilson, 18, has shared their agender experience with hundreds of thousands of online followers, reported. "One of the biggest issues is that LGBTQ people aren't normalized, so there's no representation or very limited representation," Wilson said to GayRVA. Agender, which falls under the gender non-binary umbrella, means a person does not identify as 100-percent male or female. The YouTube personality, who was recently featured in a BuzzFeed video titled "Things Non-Binary People Want You To Know," originally began making their own videos about three years ago.

Athlete Ally has organized more than 50 members of the athletic community to sign an open letter criticizing the Texas state legislature for considering Senate Bill 6 ( SB6 ), which regulates bathroom access based on birth certificate and overrides local ordinances that allow bathroom use in accordance with gender identity, ESPN reported. Signed by athletes such as Sue Bird, Martina Navratilova, Breanna Stewart and Greg Louganis, the letter states, "As long as bills like these remain a possibility, Texas is sending a clear signal that LGBT players, fans, coaches and administrators are not welcomed or respected, both on and off the field." The athletes join more than 100 entertainers who have signed an open letter asking the Texas legislature not to pass SB6.

YouTube has apologized after its family-friendly "Restricted Mode" recently blocked videos by LGBT creators, sparking complaints from users, according to CNN. Restricted mode is an optional parental-control feature that users can activate to avoid content that's been flagged by an algorithm. LGBTQ YouTubers began protesting late last week after fans alerted them on social media that their videos were being hidden.

Also, the Human Rights ( HRC ) Foundation and Athlete Ally sent a letter signed by more than 80 national, state and local LGBTQ organizations to the National Collegiate Athletic Association ( NCAA ), urging the organization to reaffirm its commitment to ensuring safe and welcoming environments for championship tournaments and events, a press release noted. The letter, addressed to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors, comes as the organization is deliberating about where to hold future championship tournaments and major events. The letter specifically urges the NCAA to avoid awarding championship events to venues in cities or states with laws that sanction discrimination against LGBTQ people in goods, services and/or public accommodations, among other things.

The military scandal involving the sharing of sexually explicit images of troops has expanded beyond the social-media site Marines United to gay-porn web pages with images of men wearing military uniforms engaged in sex acts, USA Today revealed. In the case of the sites with gay porn, military investigators will have to determine if active-duty troops were involved in conduct that could bring discredit on their service—a potential violation of military law.

A hate-crimes researcher has said that such crimes in nine U.S. metropolitan areas rose more than 20 percent last year, fueled by inflamed passions during the presidential campaign and more willingness for victims to step forward, NBC News reported. Brian Levin ( director of the nonpartisan Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino ) said that bias crimes appeared to increase in some cities following the Nov. 8 election of President Donald Trump—a trend that has extended into this year with a wave of bomb threats and desecrations at synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.

In North Carolina, Brandon Ray Davis, 30, was arrested by the Onslow County sheriff's department with an extraditable warrant on hate-crime charges, QNotes reported. The incident occurred in downtown Key West, Florida, and involved anti-gay slurs. Davis will be charged with felony aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is accused of nearly running down two bicycle riders with his rental scooter while using anti-gay language in the early-morning hours of Feb. 23.

Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders ( SAGE ) is launching a nationwide effort to oppose what it says is the Trump administration's proposed erasure of LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants ( NSOAAP ), a press release noted. Specifically, SAGE opposes changes that would eliminate questions that allow the federal government to assess the extent to which LGBT older adults are receiving federally funded elder services. Per the Federal Register, the 60-day deadline to make comments on the proposed Survey and LGBT exclusion is May 12; see .

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said it's been difficult for him to find work since leaving office because of backlash over the transgender bathroom law he signed last year, The Washington Times noted. McCrory told WORLD in a podcast interview that House Bill 2 "has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, 'oh my gosh, he's a bigot' —which is the last thing I am." The ex-governor, who was narrowly defeated by Democrat Roy Cooper in November, told The News & Observer that he thinks he's being treated unfairly.

In New Mexico, a lesbian Santa Fe couple say they were left covered in blood after they were beat up by a straight couple accompanied by their children, reported. The couple, Haley Pryor and Amelia Allen, said they took photographs as evidence moments after they say they were targeted and beat up because of their sexuality. Pryor and Allen say if police do find the suspects, they plan on showing up to court to testify against them.

A man has ben arrested and charged with a hate crime assault for allegedly attacking two transgender women on St. Patrick's Day in Queens, New York, LGBTQ Nation reported, citing NBC New York. Police say that the man, 38-year-old Patrick O'Meara, verbally harassed two transgender women walking into a McDonald's Friday afternoon before launching into a violent assault. At his arraignment, O'Meara's bond was set at $5,000; his next court date is March 31.

An LGBT youth-advocacy group in Charlotte, North Carolina, received a $1.5-million donation from a prestigious local family, noted. Sarah Belk Gambrell, 98-year-old heiress to the Belk chain of department stores, donated the money from the Gambrell Family Foundation. It amounts to almost half of the $3.4 million Time Out Youth is attempting to raise to build its first shelter for LGBT homeless youth.

The Fenway Institute of Fenway Health released a policy brief titled "What the American Health Care Act means for LGBT people and people living with HIV," outlining how President Trump's proposed American Health Care Act ( AHCA ) could impact LGBT people, people living with HIV ( PLWH ), and Black and Latino Americans, a press release noted. "This bill holds potentially devastating consequences for low-income LGBT people, people living with HIV, and Black and Latino people," said Sean Cahill, Ph.D., director of health policy research for The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health. The brief is at

In Tampa, Florida, LGBT individuals and groups celebrated a major win, as the Tampa City Council unanimously voted to ban mental-health professionals from using gay conversion therapy, ABC Action News reported. Under the ordinance, anyone caught providing conversion therapy to a minor would be fined up to a $1,000; repeat offenders would face a fine up to $5,000. A second reading of the ordinance takes place next month.

A member of Congress has renewed the call for legislation protecting LGBT Americans after a Pride flag was ripped down outside his office, noted. Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California said an unnamed man threw the rainbow flag outside his Capitol Hill offices on the ground yesterday and stomped on it, calling it "disgusting and immoral." Lowenthal, who represents Long Beach, has had the flag on view since 2013, and believes he is the first member of Congress to do so.

The National LGBT Bar Association announces the reintroduction of the Jury ACCESS and Juror Non-Discrimination Acts, in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, with bipartisan support, a press release noted. The companion bills ensure that potential jurors are not stricken on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. D'Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar, said, "This issue ... moves beyond equality to guaranteeing that all Americans are called upon to fulfill their civic duties."

Former Fairfax City, Virginia Mayor Richard "Scott" Silverthorne pled guilty to charges he agreed to provide illegal drugs in exchange for sex with other men, On Top Magazine reported. After he pled guilty to one count of distributing methamphetamine, Fairfax County Circuit Judge Grace Burke Carroll ordered Silverthorne held in jail while he awaits sentencing in June. Undercover detectives arrested Silverthorne, 50, in August after he allegedly attempted to exchange methamphetamine for sex.

The National Association of Women Lawyers ( NAWL ) Committee for the Evaluation of Supreme Court Nominees completed an extensive review of the qualifications and background of Neil Gorsuch, the presidential nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Business Wire reported. The committee concluded that Gorsuch's views of the religious rights of individuals and corporations take precedence over women's liberty interests, including women's reproductive rights; and that he has engaged in narrow readings of the holdings in key cases where the application of substantive due process was held to protect individual liberties of women and minorities.

A Republican Oklahoma lawmaker who's a 35-year-old married father of two was hit with a child-prostitution charge after he was caught in a motel room with a 17-year-old boy, NBC News reported. State Sen. Ralph Shortey was charged a day after the Oklahoma Senate—voting 43 to zero—passed a resolution that suspended nearly all his privileges. Shortey is charged with engaging in child prostitution, engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church, and transporting a minor for prostitution/lewdness.

The United States women's national ice-hockey team will not play in the upcoming IIHF World Championship unless "significant progress has been made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support," AOL News reported. The team is currently the defending world champion, and have won six of the last eight World Championships; however, team members feel that USA Hockey has not compensated them accordingly. The tournament begins on March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha ( UNO ) will host the 2018 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference ( MBLGTACC ) on Feb. 16-18, according to . MBLTGACC is the largest LGBT college conference in the nation, according to Jessi Hitchins, director of UNO's Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Hitchins added that the theme will be "All Roads Lead to Intersectionality." The 2017 conference took place in Chicago.

Memorial Day will be the last day for gay business Little Pete's in Center City Philadelphia, as a new hotel is set to rise later this year at that location—across from another hotel where LGBTQ journalists and bloggers held a conference in 2015, LGBTQ Nation noted. Across the country in San Francisco, the Paper Doll is believed to be that famously welcoming city's first restaurant and nightclub catering to the gay community.

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