About Victoria Martin

Victoria Martin is a senior Public Health major at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She is originally from Shippensburg, PA in Cumberland County. Victoria aspires to work in LGBT health upon graduation. She can be reached at vmartin@pennsec.org.

Boy Scouts of America Consider Policy Change

The Boy Scouts of America announced January 28 that they are considering lifting their long standing ban on gay scouts and adult leaders. A proposed new policy would allow individual councils and troops to set their own guidelines for their leaders and members. Spokespeople for the BSA claim that these new guidelines would allow charter organizations, such as churches, to choose their own position, and let parents find a troop which suits their child’s needs. The final decision is to be made next week.

The BSA is one of the longest running youth organizations in the United States. One of the first Boy Scouts troops was established in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. There are seventeen Boy Scout Councils in Pennsylvania.

The BSA has not allowed gay members since 1978. As recently as July of 2012, the BSA reaffirmed the ban after a two year study conducted by the organization. The announcement led to widespread public criticism, the loss of major corporate donors, and a petition of over a million signatures to reverse the policy. Many Eagle Scouts turned in their medals in protest of the upheld ban.

The Boy Scouts sister organization, The Girl Scouts of America, does not share the BSA’s views on LGBTQ membership. The Girl Scouts’ policy forbids exclusion due to sexual orientation, and allows all children identifying as girls, regardless of biological gender, to join the organization.

The newly proposed policy by the BSA will not bring about organization-wide inclusion, however, if it is passed, it will be the first LGBTQ-friendly policy from the organization since their founding in 1910.

Image from: GLAAD
Boy Scout Pack leader Jennifer Tyrell was removed from her position by the Boy Scouts of America under their policy banning homosexual members and leaders.

Some Ridiculous Sexism and Racism in Pennsylvania Universities

Occasionally while browsing the news, I find an article which is so ridiculous that I assume it’s from The Onion, or taken verbatim from a Colbert Report diatribe. A few web searches on the headline later, and I’m typically left shaking my head, still holding out on the slight glimmer of hope that it’s all a misunderstanding, and that no one would really ever find it acceptable to publish an article about the swamp creature-like horror of their girlfriend’s menstrual cycle, or dress up as racist caricatures of Hispanic men and post pictures of themselves on Facebook. But, alas, both of these events really did happen at Pennsylvania universities this week.

Temple University newspaper romance columnist John Corrigan penned what is sure to be a Pulitzer Prize winning article—as well as a solid recommendation to any future employer who Googles his name—on the delicate nature of the female menstrual cycle. Corrigan lovingly describes his girlfriend as waking him with a “lion’s roar,” and demanding 7-Eleven jalapeno taquitos, and sexual satisfaction longer than “a quickie.” The horror!

Although any man can sympathize with the crotch shots suffered on every episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, imagine Sandshrew digging in your nether regions like the mini game in Pokemon Stadium.

Ouch. I’ll give you a moment to recover from that mental image.

The article then goes on to lament the plight of women everywhere, claiming that “Maybe Chaz Bono had the right idea,” because, obviously the only reason someone born biologically female would elect for gender reassignment surgery would be to escape the horror of their period. Uh huh.

While I don’t think Corrigan meant to touch on anything more than some “bro-humor” with his article, it’s an indication of how acceptable sexism still is within our society. Men are urged to duck and cover when their lady friend’s fragile emotional state utterly shatters with the addition of some extra hormones, and the thought of—gasp—actually spending some time watching a movie with their girlfriend is treated as some kind of Herculean sacrifice.

If you’d like to read his advice in full, it’s up on Temple-News, with a comment section that’s sure to provide you with at least a few minutes of entertainment.

In another prime example of how to utilize the internet to make sure you are never hired, Penn State University’s Chi Omega sorority chapter is facing public backlash after a picture from their “Fiesta” themed sorority social was posted on Facebook, with several members tagged. The picture in question is of multiple members of the sorority, dressed in sombrero hats and ponchos, with two members in the front of the group holding cardboard signs reading, “Will mow lawn for weed+beer,” and “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.” Penn State has not confirmed if the sorority will be facing any penalties for their actions.

The President of the Penn State chapter of Chi Omega gave a statement to the campus newspaper, The Daily Collegian, saying, “Our chapter of Chi Omega sincerely apologizes for portraying inappropriate and untrue stereotypes. The picture in question does not support any of Chi Omega’s values or reflect what the organization aspires to be.”

I find it rather disheartening that there is a need to clarify that Chi Omega’s values do not include racism. Once again, the fact that this sort of action can be justified as “humorous” says a lot about what we as a society find acceptable.

There’s no place in our communities for sexist and racist attitudes. Just because something looks like it might be funny at first glance doesn’t mean it really is. When prejudiced behavior is dismissed as humor, it becomes easier and easier for people to think that it’s acceptable. But, the truth is, it’s not okay to post yourself ranting about “women—am I right?”, or posting pictures on the internet claiming that Hispanics all smoke weed.

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Apparently, for some, it’s not.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day comes only once a year, but for the 37,000 Pennsylvanians with HIV/AIDS, it’s a daily reality. Infection rates of HIV/AIDS continue to rise every year, despite numerous public health efforts. Pennsylvania had the eighth highest rate of HIV/AIDS diagnosis in the United States in 2010. The Philadelphia AIDS Library reports that 19,000 residents of Philadelphia live with HIV/AIDS. The disease disproportionately affects gay men, as well as the African American and Hispanic population. Almost half of the gay men infected with HIV/AIDS do not know they are infected. While HIV/AIDS research has made great strides in the past thirty years, there is still no sure cure for the disease, only treatment.

Regardless of your sexual orientation, it’s important to get tested every year if you are sexually active, and every time you have a new sexual partner.

For free HIV/AIDS testing in Pennsylvania, see one of these locations.


Openly Lesbian Judge Nominated in Pennsylvania

President Barack Obama nominated  Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania this afternoon. If her nomination is confirmed, she will be the first openly lesbian Hispanic woman to serve in the federal court system. Judge Quiñones Alejandro has presided for the past 11 years on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Judge Quiñones Alejandro is a native of Puerto Rico, where she attended college and law school. She moved to Pennsylvania upon her graduation. Her legal career in Philadelphia began in 1975 as an attorney for Community Legal Services, where she helped defend low income residents. She later served as an attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs and as an advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services. In 1980 she became an arbitrator for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, before her appointment as a judge in 1991.

She was recommended for federal service by both Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R). Senator Toomey praised Judge Quiñones Alejandro’s involvement within the Pennsylvania community, saying in a statement, “In her 21 years on the bench, Nitza Quiñones Alejandro has presided over many cases incorporating different facets of the law. In addition to her extensive experience in the courtroom, she has also remained active in her community through her work with schools and mentoring summer law interns.” The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition has written to the Senators to commend them for their support of Judge Quiñones Alejandro, and working towards a federal bench which better represents the constituents it serves.

President Obama has nominated eight openly gay judges for federal service over his first term, including Judge William L. Thomas, a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College in Washington County, PA  and Temple University Law School in Philadelphia, earlier this month.

Pennsylvania Honors Transgender Day of Remembrance

Across the nation and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the international Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was observed yesterday, November 20.  One of the highly visible TDOR vigils took place on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol building. Trans activists and allies from across the state gathered for a ceremony honoring the fifteen known trans individuals who were murdered in the country this year as the result of hate crimes, including Philadelphian Kyra Cordova. The event was organized by TransCentral PA and included several speakers from Pennsylvania LGBTQ organizations, beginning with the president of TransCentral PA, Jeanine Ruhsam. The second part of the ceremony was a candle-lit vigil, in which volunteers read the murder victim’s stories as if they were one of the fifteen transgender individuals who were murdered this year (see photo).

Multiple events took place across the state. Two vigils were held in Philadelphia, at Drexel University and the William Way Community Center. The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh also held a ceremony.  Each year more vigils are held in Pennsylvania, more visibility is raised, but the violence continues, and noticeably, becomes more pervasive.

Progress continues to be made within the federal government on transgender issues. Yesterday for TDOR, the White House hosted over twenty-five national transgender community leaders from across the country met with White House staff for the first time to discuss equal rights and violence against trans people. Those in attendance included Pennsylvanian and NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, the Trevor Project’s Government Affairs Director Alison Gill, and John Berry, the Director of the Federal Office of Personnel Management. In September of this year, the DC Trans Coalition along with Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence submitted a statement on transgender issues to a US Senate hearing on hate crimes. The trans leader gathering yesterday by the White House of  is a huge step forward in the visibility of the trans community within the federal government, as well as a hopeful sign for continued efforts to advance legal protections and equal rights for trans Americans.

National leaders in the trans communality gathered in Washington DC to meet with White House staff.
Image from The Transgender Law Center

While great strides are being made for the trans community, in the days following TDOR we continue to see such great physical violence against trans individuals, especially against trans women of color. NCTE and NGLTF’s Injustice at Every Turn survey found extraordinary disparities in healthcare, discrimination, poverty, homelessness, and basic safety compared to cis-gendered people.

Lebanon Valley Students March Against Hate

Thursday afternoon, over 400 students at Lebanon Valley College held a Unity March in response to recent incidents of intolerance and hatred on their campus. On November 5th, upon leaving the classroom and returning, a black student found a doodle of a lynched figure with a darkened face on her seat. During the same week, two lesbian students found the message, “Be normal,” written on their dorm whiteboard. Recognizing that bigotry has no place on their campus, the students, faculty, and staff of Lebanon Valley College banded together to take action.

A crowd of students and members of faculty gathered on the campus social quad with signs promoting love and acceptance. Eight speakers took the podium to reaffirm the campus community’s commitment to fighting bigotry. The group then left the campus and marched through the town of Annville, chanting slogans such as, “No more hate!”

First year LVC student, Paige Riddle, was one of the community leaders chosen to speak during the event and was at the forefront of the march. Riddle was approached by fellow student activist, Tito Valdes, on Wednesday about speaking during the event in regards to LGBTQ students on campus. Hailing from York, PA, where she was the President of her high school GSA, Riddle describes herself as an advocate for LGBTQ rights on campus. She shared with the Keystone Student Voice that she wants to be someone who helps advance the movement for LGBTQ equality in Pennsylvania.

Riddle found the general mood at the march as being very positive, and said that she heard no negative remarks from anyone in attendance.

Bias incidents are an issue on campuses across the state, and far too often go unsolved or unreported. Lebanon Valley College should be commended for taking such a visible stand against intolerance in their community.


Victoria Martin is a second year student at West Chester University. She is originally from Shippensburg, PA in Cumberland County. She can be reached at vmartin@pennsec.org.

Trans murder victims in Philadelphia

The recent shooting of a transgender woman and her mother in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia has left a community wondering when transphobic violence will end, and how much is being done to stop it?

On the evening of October 7th, a transgender woman and her mother were shot in their Northern Liberties home, killing the mother and leaving the woman in critical condition. While the motivation for the shooting has been stated to be robbery, none of the other occupants of the house were harmed. This shooting comes just a month after the murder of Kyra Cordova, a Philadelphia transgender woman who was active in AIDS education and outreach. Two years ago,  Stacey Blahnik, a transgender woman, was found strangled to death in her Philadelphia home. No arrests have been made in the case, nor suspect identified. Likewise, no suspects have been identified in the murder of Kyra Cordova. While we can’t be sure what happened on the evening of October 7th, we can continue to seek answers until justice is found for the victims of transphobic violence.

Rates of violent crime are high in Philadelphia, and affect citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, individuals identifying as trans face higher rates of violence and discrimination in almost every aspect of life, including employment, health care, and access to public services. The lack of government advocacy for trans rights in Pennsylvania, particularly Philadelphia, is disheartening, and disturbing. Trans individuals are just as much citizens as cisgender individuals are, and deserve full protection under the law. It sounds so obvious, yet, statistics show that trans individuals nationwide are subject to mistreatment by the justice system, as well as their neighbors, families, and community.

Washington DC is particularly infamous for a recent series of unsolved murders of trans individuals. However, the DC community is taking steps to make their city more aware of trans issues. This fall, the Washington DC Office of Human Rights launched a historic advertising campaign advocating for respect for all gender identities. While a visibility campaign can’t heal years of transphobic violence, they show that DC is taking an official stand against the hatred of trans people.

Pennsylvania communities need to take a public stand against hate as well. The 2nd Annual Philly Trans March last week was groundbreaking and significantly important for rallying trans advocates. Thinking proactively: an organized City government campaign that promotes the acceptance of trans Philadelphians could help gain widespread support against this violence. While it would not end transphobia overnight, it could be the first step in ending a legacy of unsolved murders.

Victoria Martin is a second year student at West Chester University. She is originally from Shippensburg, PA in Cumberland County. She can be reached at vmartin@pennsec.org.

Former Pittsburgh Pirates Owner Comes Out

Fresh out of the closet locker room! The recent coming out of former Pittsburgh Pirates owner and CEO (from 1996-2007), Kevin McClatchy, shines light on a multi-faceted anti-LGBTQ culture in professional American athletics. McClatchy, who reveals his sexuality today in the New York Times, claims that he was dissuaded from coming out while he was still working in the world of sports by the homophobic attitudes of his colleagues. In an interesting turn of events, McClatchy met his current partner through their mutual friend—a staff member of former US Senator of Pennsylvania and presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Santorum, a notable opponent of marriage equality, is presumably as surprised as we are.


While great strides are being made in LGBTQ visibility in the media, politics, and business – even in the military – we still see professional athletics as lagging behind. In 2012, the athletic community has a better chance to lead on the respect and acceptance of LGBT folks than ever. In 1975, David Kopay of the NFL became the first major league athlete to publicly disclose his sexuality. Since Kopay, very few major league athletes have come out as LGBTQ. Both Kopay and McClatchy have expressed that the culture of athletics is largely not LGBTQ friendly. In one extremely troubling incident in 1985, an offensive lineman for the University of Pittsburgh attempted suicide after having sexual urges for another man.


Hopefully, McClathy’s recent coming out will encourage more figures in the world of professional sports – both players and their corporate leaders – to come out themselves, and open up an opportunity for dialogue about ending the deep seeded homophobic attitudes prevalent in sports culture. Anyways, isn’t a locker room just one big shared closet?


Further Reading: http://espn.go.com/otl/world/timeline.html

This post is by Victoria Martin, West Chester University ’15.