Queer Notes, July-August 2014

From the July-August 2014 issue of News & Letters

by Dee Perkins

“The best way you can help somebody is by telling them your story,” states Ricardo Amunjera in the short film “It’s All About Love,” (www.aidsalliance.org/itsallaboutlove), which introduces him and his husband Marc Themba to the world as Namibia’s first gay married couple. Launched May 17 for this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the seven-minute documentary combines moving footage and still photography with gorgeous result. The couple speaks about their activism, their Christianity, their families, and their loving relationship in a country where being gay is against the law (they married in South Africa just over a year ago). “We need to start thinking differently as Africans,” says Themba. Yes. And we need to start thinking differently about Africans. This collaborative effort of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Positive Vibes, and Out-Right Namibia furthers both of those goals.

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Sex-reassignment surgery can no longer be categorically denied to recipients of Medicare. The May 30 announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services reverses the 1981 exclusion. The challenge to the ban was made by a civil rights lawyer along with the ACLU, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of Denee Mallon, a 74-year-old army veteran whose doctors recommended genital reconstruction as treatment for her gender dysphoria, a medical condition in which individuals suffer from serious conflict with their self-conception and their assigned biological sex. “The coverage exclusion is no longer reasonable,” wrote the appeals board, enabling officials to consider requests for coverage of the procedure, recognizing it as any other medically legitimate treatment. This is a victory for transgender people in their fight for the right to access appropriate healthcare.

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Laverne Cox, critically acclaimed actor and star of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” graced the cover of Time’s June 9 issue as its first openly transgender person. The magazine has been criticized for not including Ms. Cox in its April list of 100 most influential people. The article, “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier,” has generated much negative and positive discussion. Cox thwarted attempts to essentialize and truncate people’s aspirations: “There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one experience,” she states in the interview.

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