OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Forced To Resign

Scranton native Allyson Robinson was forcefully ousted yesterday from her position as the Executive Director of OutServe-SDLN by their Board of Directors. The vote compelling Robinson to resign was swiftly met with all of OS-SDLN senior staff and a more than a third of their 15 member Board immediately resigning from their positions. Robinson was the first transgender Executive Director of a national LGBTQ organization that was not trans-specific.

Six members of the Board immediately resigned in protest during the hours following Robinson’s departure. These departures included Board members Sue Fulton, Matthew Phelps and Beth Schissel; Director of External Relations, Zeke Stokes; Director of Chapter and Member Services, Gary Espinas; and Legal Director David McKean have all left the organization.

The Co-Chair of the Board, Josh Seefried, was accused of “rushing decision through,” according to Buzzfeed sources.  The vote to terminate Robinson from her position occurred at a regularly scheduled board meeting, several hours into their executive session, without any prior notice that the Board was planning on seeking Robinson’s resignation.

MillerRobinson did not give any comment to Buzzfeed on her resignation, stating only that “It would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.”

Currently no official statements from Board members who participated in the vote to remove Robinson from her position, including Don’t Ask Don’t Tell activist Katie Miller, have been issued.

In a leaked email to Co-Chair Josh Seefried, Board member Sue Fulton claimed that the voting process to oust Robinson was far from democratic, and that members of the board were not present when the vote was taken.

“I was a member of the OS-SLDN Board yesterday, and I did NOT vote to ask Allyson to resign. Neither did Shannon. Matthew Phelps and Beth Schissel did not have the opportunity to vote either. Did you even ask for a roll call? On a decision like this? You cannot characterize this publicly as a “unanimous” vote of the Board. If you do so, Board members will speak publicly to deny that they voted for it. The details of who was in the room and who wasn’t when you rushed this vote through will not support your case.”

Sue Fulton (Andrew Mills/The Star Ledger)

Sue Fulton (Andrew Mills/The Star Ledger)

Fulton’s departure may represent a serious fallout within the LGBTQ military community. She was heavily involved in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and is a founding member and a former Executive Director of Knights Out, the LGBTQ alumni group at West Point. Fulton also is a founding member of OutServe, and remained on the Board until her recent resignation. President Obama appointed her to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2011, making her the first LGBTQ person serving on the board.

Sources told Buzzfeed that the reason for Allyson’s forced resignation ranged from comments about her fundraising and leadership abilities, to suspicion of anti-transgender bias.

Director of External Relations, Zeke Stokes, criticized the choice to force Robinson to resign in his own resignation email. “Today, the Board of Directors made decisions that have compromised the trust I had placed in it heretofore. They have chosen a direction that is inconsistent with what I believe is necessary to secure a successful future for the organization. In doing so, they have for the foreseeable future sacrificed the viability of the mission.”

Robinson was the first trans leader of a non-trans specific LGBTQ organization. She was also the first executive director of Outserve-SDLN following the merger of the two groups, Outserve and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. While serving in the military, Robinson trained NATO troops and helped advise the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. It is notable that she served as the executive director of a military organization, in a time when transpeople are not allowed in the military.

OS SLDN logo

Robinson, born in Scranton, has joined several other Pennsylvanians in becoming a national LGBTQ community leader. Other national LGBTQ leaders from Pennsylvania include the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling (from Harrisburg); Human Rights Campaign Associate Director of Youth and Campus Outreach Candace Gingrich-Jones (a former co-worker of Robinson, from Harrisburg); Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson (from Pittsburgh), and Board Chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Chris Crespo (of Sharon).

This is the second recent dust up with a major national LGBTQ organization. Last year, GLAAD nearly imploded following a disastrous support of a AT&T merger. GLAAD publicly revealed their support of AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile, resulting in GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios and several Board members to resign over the potential conflict of interest. Mass resignations of Board members and staff typically occur when organizational morale is low, or a scandal has come to light.

Check back here for updates as they are made public.

Image by John Gara/Buzzfeed



First Hispanic and Openly Lesbian Federal Judge Confirmed in PA

Eight months after her nomination, openly lesbian judge, Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro of Philadelphia has been confirmed as a federal court judge for Eastern Pennsylvania, with the unanimous approval of the United States Senate. She will be the first openly lesbian Hispanic woman to serve in the federal court system, as well as the first Hispanic woman on the Eastern Pennsylvania court.

She was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama, who spoke of her accomplishments at a Pride Month reception held at the White House, saying,

“I want to congratulate Nitza Quiñones Alejandro, who just a few hours ago was confirmed by the Senate, making her the first openly gay Hispanic federal judge in our country’s history… good news.”

Judge Quiñones Alejandro is the seventh openly LGBT person to be confirmed as a federal judge.

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. She was appointed in 1991 by then Governor Robert P. Casey to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and was the first Hispanic woman to be a judge on the court.

Boy Scouts of America Ends Ban on Gay Youth

The Boy Scouts of America voted today, May 23, to end their controversial policy banning openly gay scouts from the organization. The new resolution reads, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”  Over 60% of the 1,400 delegates in the National Council’s voted to remove the ban. The change will take effect on January 1, 2014.

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) is pleased with the organization’s choice to become more inclusive and open to all boys. Many PSEC leaders are Eagle Scouts, including Kevin McKeon, of Bucks County and the Convener of the PSEC Coordinating Committee. McKeon said of the decision,

As an Eagle Scout awarded in 2007, I think this is an excellent opportunity for the Boy Scouts to move forward socially and financially.” -Kevin McKeon, Bucks County

He cited the Boy Scouts loss of funding from organizations which did not support their anti-gay policies.

Kevin McKeon“There have always been gay scouts. This decision affirms the inclusion of gay youth as integral members of the scouting community” said Jason Landau Goodman, the Executive Director of PSEC. He continued,  “The implementation of this policy will only serve to secure the safety and dignity of all members, in strengthening the Boy Scouts’ legacy of responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance.”

The Boy Scouts’ policies on gay membership and leaders have been the subject of much debate in Pennsylvania. Earlier this month a lawsuit, dragged through years of litigation, between the city of Philadelphia and the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America ended with the Boy Scouts being forced to vacate their city owned headquarters by June 30, because the organization’s policies are in violation of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. In Central Pennsylvania, a small group of scouts from the New Birth of Freedom Council protested the potential inclusion of gay scouts outside of the council headquarters, in coordination with the national group , On My Honor. Pennsylvania is home to one of the first claimed Boy Scout Troops; Troop Number 1, located in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County.

While gay scouts will be allowed in the organization, the ban on LGBT adult volunteers and leaders remains in place. Until this ban on adults is lifted, LGBT parents will not be able to volunteer with their son’s troop. Matt Kridel, a PSEC Coordinating Committee member and student at Gannon University in Erie who became an Eagle Scout in 2005, said, “The decision to accept gay scouts is huge first step, but it’s not the last one. I am looking forward to the Boy Scouts of America accepting all scouts and all leaders into the organization.”

There is question as to what will happen to openly gay members who turn eighteen while enrolled in the organization. There has been speculation that the prospect of kicking these members out when they become adults will lead to a change in policy for adult leaders in years to come. However, there are no plans to change the ban on openly LGBT adults in the near future.

The Keystone Student Voice will follow how this policy is implemented at the 22 local Boy Scout councils that operate in Pennsylvania.


Justin Gilmore, a PSEC co-founder.

Trans Student’s Application Rejected From Smith College

For many students, senior year of high school is a waiting game to hear back from colleges and universities. High school senior Calliope Wong’s first choice was Smith College, an all women’s school in Massachusetts. But, twice, Smith College Admissions rejected Calliope’s application without being read. The reason? Calliope is a male-to-female transgender woman, who has identified as female through her adolescence.

Yet, to be recognized as a female in her home state of Connecticut, Calliope would have to undergo sexual confirmation surgery: a costly procedure that is not often a realistic option for a teenager. Without this change, Smith College’s current policies make it impossible for Calliope to attend.

The Smith College website offers multiple resources for current students who identify as transgender, and states that, “Smith does not maintain records related to the gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation of its students. Once admitted, any student who completes the college’s graduation requirements will be awarded a degree.”

However, their current policies in place for admission prevent transgender women from attending. Smith further provides a policy regarding women who change their gender identity while enrolled. “As a women’s college, Smith only considers female applicants for undergraduate admission.” Calliope described Smith’s policy as “essentially gate keeping twofold.” Smith does not have any clear criteria for their definition of female, and requires all documents submitted by the student to read “female,” which can cause serious issues with legal documents, such as the FASFA.

After communicating with the Dean of Admissions over the summer between her junior and senior year, Calliope was told that she would be able to attend Smith if she submitted her application with her gender declared as female. Calliope posted on her personal blog that the dean wrote to her, “It seems to me that if your teachers provide the language you suggest, all your pronouns would be female and therefore consistent with what Smith is expecting.”

On March 5, Calliope’s application was returned to her with a letter from the Dean of Admissions, reading,

“We are returning your application for admission…As you may remember from our previous correspondence, Smith is a women’s college, which means that undergraduate applicants to Smith must be female at the time of admission. Our expectation is that it is consistently reflected through the application that the student is a woman. Upon reviewing your file, this is not the case. Your FAFSA indicates your gender as male. Therefore, Smith cannot process your application.

While Smith was her first choice, there are other schools Calliope is interested in attending.

Back in Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, an all women’s school in the seven sister consortium with Smith, also has language in their policies which could prevent transgender women from attending. A 2011 interview with the college’s admissions office by a Bryn Mawr student revealed that only cisgender women are eligible for admission at the school. Yet, transgender men are eligible if their legal documentation lists them as female. “The policy is basically to have no policy, from what I understand. Everything is dealt with on a ‘case by case’ basis,” said Bryn Mawr student and former BMC Rainbow Alliance President Maria Aghazarian.

Bryn Mawr students are taking steps towards making the school accessible to all women, either cisgender or transgender. A Bryn Mawr student drafted a potential resolution to the university’s policies, which would allow the admission of transgender women without their gender being reflected in all legal documentation.

A Smith College group, Q&A, hosted a letter writing and photo campaign on March 13, where students at the school wrote to administrators regarding the decision to not review Calliope’s application, and took pictures of themselves holding signs in support of admitting transgender women. A Facebook group titled “Trans Women Belong at Smith College,” has garnered the attention of current students, alumni, and students at other women’s colleges. You can check out the photo campaign online here.

The complications of legal gender can put transgender women at a major disadvantage. Women’s college admissions processes which necessitate that all legal documents read “female” are essentially requiring applicants to drop their pants at the door. It’s not realistic to expect young transgender women to have undergone full gender confirmation surgeries at the age of seventeen or eighteen, and they should not be denied equal access to women’s spaces because they have not. Having gender reassignment surgeries are major and costly procedures, and not every transgender individual finds it necessary or desirable to do so. It’s a serious problem that bottom surgery is required to legally change one’s gender to female in many states, and institutions of higher education must work to overcome this inequality, rather than reinforcing it.

There will be other great schools for Calliope, but the unique perspective and talents she could have offered the Smith College community are now lost to them.

Photos courtesy of Smith College Q&A. Image of Smith College Admission letter is from Calliope Wong.

Jon Huntsman Announces Support for Marriage Equality

Jon Huntsman, 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate, former governor of Utah, and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania recently wrote a column for a prominent Republican publication, stating that marriage equality should be a Republican cause. Huntsman supported civil unions during his presidential campaign and term as governor. He has since altered his position to supporting full marriage equality .

Huntsman wrote in his editorial, “Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry. I’ve been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.”

Seventy-five prominent members of the Republican Party have signed a brief to be submitted to the Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage. The brief is to be included in the Proposition 8 trial, in support of overturning the California law which bans same-sex marriage. Politicians who have signed the position statement include several members of the Bush administration and multiple former governors, including Huntsman.

While Huntsman and several other members of the Republican Party are committed to marriage equality, the official stance of the Republican party continues to define marriage as “between a man and a woman.”

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.

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.


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.

Gay African-American Judge Nominated to Federal Bench

This afternoon, President Barack Obama nominated out Judge William L. Thomas to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. If confirmed, Judge Thomas would become the second out black federal judge, the first being Judge Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

This breaking news has close ties to Pennsylvania. The Honorable William L. Thomas is a 1991 graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, located in Washington County, PA. While at W&J, he helped create the first student multi-cultural organization, the Cultural Awareness Support Enrichment Group.

Following his undergraduate studies, Judge Thomas went directly to Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia for his JD. He graduated in 1994 and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1995.

After graduating law school, he became an Assistant Public Defender in the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s office. From 1997-2005, he was an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Southern District of Florida. Since 2005, Judge Thomas is currently serving as a judge in Florida’s Eleventh Circuit.

The KSV is working to find out more information from his Pennsylvania roots and will post more information as it become available.

Scranton Native to Lead Outserve/SLDN

Allyson Robinson has just been selected to become the new Executive Director of Outserve/SDLN.

The two largest organizations working on behalf of LGBTQ servicemembers is set to merge this month. Following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the groups see a stronger future together as one force.

Allyson is a native of Scranton, PA and has become a visible leader in the national LGBTQ equality movement. She recently finished a several year post at the Human Rights Campaign as the Associate Director for Diversity.

Allyson was the keynote speaker last year for TransCentral PA’s Keystone Conference in Harrisburg. Also a Scranton native is Mara Keisling, who is the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Allyson has now become the first trans person to be the Executive Director of a national LGBTQ organization that is not trans-specific.

We sincerely appreciate the groundbreaking leadership on the national level by Pennsylvanians. There is important work to be done to secure the equal access and safety of all servicemembers – certainly with the advocacy ahead to allow trans members to serve openly and with pride. With Allyson at the helm, we look forward to great progress ahead.

Here is Allyson’s welcome video – featuring several national LGBTQ leaders including HRC’s Chad Griffin and Sue Fulton of Knight’s Out: http://youtu.be/9I4Ny1RrXSk

Jason Landau Goodman is a student at the University of Pennsylvania and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. He can be reached at jgoodman@pennsec.org.