August Newsletter

Register now for the Equality Walk!

This year, Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the Supreme Court’s majority has signaled that it wants to reconsider LGBTQ+ rights, and attacks against LGBTQ+ youth—especially trans youth—continue to escalate across the country. Join us this October 6–9 in Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Montclair, or Trenton as we come together and say: We must move forward. We won’t go back!

Register now and start raising funds for your team! Funds raised at the Equality Walk support the work Garden State Equality’s team does every day to advance legal and lived equality, defend against rollbacks of our rights, and ensure that LGBTQ+ people in New Jersey can thrive.

A Forgotten Population, and Our Fight for Elders for Equality

Jahmila Smith, Project Manager & Trainer

Garden State Equality’s mission is to advocate, educate, and protect the lives of all LGBTQ+ people in the state of New Jersey. One sector in our program initiatives is our pledge to protect our older adult community. Older adults over 50 are often a forgotten population. We know that with an aging population comes challenges. For LGBTQ+ people, this poses an additional hindrance. These barriers stem from current discrimination along with the accumulation of a lifetime of legal and structural discrimination, social stigma, economic insecurity and isolation.

While many LGBTQ+ older adults have survived and thrived, others live with the burdens of poverty and social isolation. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world we engage in, and the impact has plagued older adults significantly. When speaking to our members, I posed the question, “What have been some of the current challenges that older adults are facing right now?” Most have responded with lack of transportation, social isolation, and loneliness.

As we work to push our state forward, Garden State Equality aims to ensure that we advocate and uplift the voices that often go unheard. In efforts to strengthen our outreach, this summer I have focused on ways to re-engage our older adult community. Our older adults group Elders for Equality is aimed to provide our members with social networking opportunities, community, and resources. My goal is not only to strengthen our audience, but also expand our reach.

While Garden State Equality is located in Asbury Park, our hope is that we can impact those in counties outside of ours, bridging the gap with the support of our staff and other passionate older adult organizations and leaders like Out Montclair, SAGE, the Alzheimer’s Association, Bergen County LGBTQ+ Alliance, and more. Successful aging includes health and wellbeing, economic security and social connectedness. Our vision is to create a network of support for those who are looking for programming, education, and community support tailored to their needs. To stay connected to our work and updates, find us here.

No Hate in the Garden State: Reaffirming Trans Rights in New Jersey

Damien Lopez, Project Manager & Trainer

This month, I had the pleasure of leading a rally outside the Edison Diner. Erin, a transgender woman, was discriminated against in this diner by management. She reached out to Garden State Equality about her situation and we were able to rally together to reiterate that trans rights are human rights in New Jersey.

The annual global Transgender Day of Remembrance list is released every year with the names of those who were killed by violence against the transgender community. It is held on November 20 each year. In 2021, 375 transgender people were killed, making 2021 the ‘deadliest year’ of violence against gender diverse people since records began. One in four of those murdered were killed in their own home. Transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

As an out and proud trans man, I resonated with Erin’s situation, because I too have been discriminated against or harassed simply because of who I am. When we acknowledge information about the transgender community that directly correlates to their experiences, we understand that any discrimination at any level is unacceptable. In our work here at Garden State Equality, we always want to uplift marginalized communities and remind them that we are here for them. Whether it’s a free chest binder for trans or nonbinary youth to affirm their gender, or a rally to stand up against hate, we are always with our trans siblings and continue to tell them that their lives matter.

Inclusive Curriculum: Common Misconceptions

Samantha Hanson, Project Manager & Trainer

This past week I had the eye-opening experience of attending and speaking at the Toms River School Board Special Topics Meeting, focused on hearing parents’ concerns around inclusive sex education and LGBTQ-inclusive curricula. What I witnessed was upsetting and hurtful, not only as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but as an educator dedicated to equity in our schools.

The meeting started with a 30-minute presentation from the school board, which showed the learning standards, example lessons, and continued to reiterate that the curriculum is age appropriate and pedagogically sound. After that, I sat and watched parent after parent get up and speak about how learning about different identities, family dynamics or gender expressions would create divisiveness in schools and would be inappropriate for their children. I heard parents talk about pulling their children out of school, calling the curriculum creepy and bizarre, hurling insults at trans students, and making a mockery out of comprehensive sex education.

The truth is, comprehensive sex ed drastically reduces instances of teen pregnancies and reduces the contraction of sexually transmitted infections. In addition, schools that have an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum see an overall decrease in bullying and harassment among all students. Learn more about the inclusive curriculum and our safe schools trainings.

LGBTQ Police Liaison Program

Aleyah Lopez, 2021–2022 Fellow

This month, I had the pleasure of joining Garden State Equality Action Fund board member and Chief Investigator David D’Amico on a call with the Port Authority Public Safety Department and the Anti-Violence Project. Chief Investigator D’Amico leads the New Jersey LGBTQ Law Enforcement Liaison Program, so after this call, I really wanted to learn more about what the liaisons are responsible for and how they support the community they serve.

The New Jersey LGBTQ Law Enforcement Liaisons are committed to fostering positive relationships between the LGBTQ+ community and law enforcement agencies within the State of New Jersey. Each liaison reaches out to community members in the jurisdiction that they are appointed to. If there is a specific issue, upon request, the liaisons will host a town hall meeting to to rebuild trust between the community and the police department.

As their mission states, “The mission of the LGBTQ Law Enforcement Liaison team is to ensure trust and promote a positive working relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community through education and community outreach efforts.”

When I spoke to Chief Investigator D’Amico, he informed me that there has been a rise in bias incidents across the state of New Jersey, as well as the country. The LGBTQ Law Enforcement Liaisons have conducted a series of community outreach programs and events focused on bias, as that is the most urgent need in the community right now. The LGBTQ+ community is the third most likely to report bias incidents in New Jersey, after the Black and Jewish communities.

However, a lot of bias incidents are most likely going unreported by LGBTQ+ folks due to a very warranted lack of trust between the community and police departments. That is why this liaison program is so important, as they aim to bridge the gap between community members and police departments to rebuild trust between the two, in an effort to better serve and protect this very vulnerable community.

Special thanks to Ocean Casino Resort for their generous gift of $5,000 to Garden State Equality! 

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