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LGBT disaster victims the subject of new HRC awareness campaign for emergency workers

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

guide The nation’s largest gay-rights group has chosen South Florida to launch a program making emergency management workers more sensitive to the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender disaster victims.

“Not only is South Florida prone to major storms that often become disaster situations with forced evacuations, it’s also home to a large population of LGBT people and families,” said Charles Joughin, deputy press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C.

HRC has posted online a seven-page booklet, “A Cultural Competence Guide for Emergency Responders and Volunteers,” that describes different scenarios in very basic terms.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people make up a diverse community,” reads the brochure. “Members of the LGBT community come from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, religious traditions, and geographic regions. Identification and participation with the LGBT community can also change across the lifespan.”

Joughin explains why HRC started with the basics: “Poll after poll shows that American people are comfortable and supportive of LGBT people, but the fact is that there are many people who have never met an LGBT person or LGBT families. We think it’s important to start this conversation from the ground up.”

The program began to come together after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. A transgender woman, displaced by the storm, ended up being jailed on criminal trespassing charges for twice using a women’s restroom in a Texas shelter.

“Somebody complained and she got arrested for using the wrong restroom,” said Brian Moulton, HRC’s legal director. “She spent a night in jail. It was a traumatic episode for her after having a traumatic episode in the hurricane.”

The brochure, developed with input from American Red Cross, begins by defining “who is LGBT.” The section tries to bust stereotypes by concluding “some people may not outwardly identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, but may be in a same-sex relationship.”

A section is devoted to discussion about LGBT families, same-sex couples and single gay people raising children.

“If two women come into a shelter with children, those women and their children should be treated as a family,” said Robin Maril, HRC’s legislative counsel. “Preventing that family from receiving services as a family, questioning the women about their relationship — questioning the women about their relationship in front of their children — it can be extremely damaging after a disaster situation.”

The HRC booklet also refers to “chosen families.”

“These are usually made up of a group of close friends who fill the traditional role of the nuclear and extended family. These are especially common for older LGBT individuals who came of age at a time when rejection by biological family was common.”

Other topics: assisting people with HIV (including associated patient confidentiality issues); keeping LGBT people safe from bullying and harassment; and being respectful to people who don’t identify with — or present themselves as — their birth-assigned genders.

The directors of South Florida’s emergency management offices say they’re open to working with HRC.

“I certainly want them to be sensitive to the needs of [the gay] community,” said Broward County Emergency Management Director Chuck Lanza. “Any guidelines would be helpful. And we would shepherd it through.”

“It certainly seems appropriate, something that would be needed,” said Miami Dade Emergency Management Director Curt Sommerhoff.

Irene Toner, director of Monroe County’s Emergency Management Division, seemed surprised a booklet like this is still needed.

“My staff and myself understand those issues,” said Toner, assuring that discrimination against a gay family “wouldn’t be tolerated” in a Keys shelter.

“It shouldn’t be tolerated any other place,” she added. “Whether it’s the traditional husband -wife family, or husband-husband or wife-wife, it’s the same. It’s still family.”

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What a waste of government resources! Yet another reason to vote Obama out of office.

How stupid can these gay people really be? Really?
They want more "we want equal, but special rights". If they would quit pissing people off by trying to force their gay agenda on everyone else that desn't think exactly the way they do, peole would accept them. Protesting a franchise because the owner voices his opinion that doesn't match theirs? Them having a kiss-a-thon in protest? No wonder peole are turning against them. If they would act civil, instead of acting like the Emergency Shelter was a Gay Disney World, people wouldn't care if they stayed there. The bring this stuff on themselves.

The voices of tolerance! Who said there was public money involved. Oh, gay people should pay taxes while millionaires get tax breaks and have these views shoved down their throats. Just what special rights are being requested? The HRC is a private group. Just like one of your right-wing churches.

The gays should build their own Evacuation center. No one wants them in one for normal people.

I predict that businesses will be forced to install urinals in women's restrooms.

FJ, is the HRC going to pay for the training? Is the LGBT going to pay for it? No, the taxpayer will have to. Like tididit says, the taxpayers will probably have to buy urinals for the lesbians, and bodets for the gays and transgenders. Those really aren't "Special needs' now, are they?
Do blondes get special consideration in an evacuation center? Do pet owners? There is your special provelages that you say that don't exist. Don't be such a hypocrite.

No, Jeeper. It will be the business owner who will pay to have the urinals installed. The taxpayers will pay for the new government agency which will be created to enforce the regulation.

So, we'll all end up paying higher prices for the purchases that we make from the buisnesses that we frequent because of a new requirement and regulation, and we'll end up paying higher taxes to pay for a government agency that will enforce the requirements and regulations to provide Lesbian urinals and gay/transgender bidets to those with "special" needs, who claim they want no special rights? Sounds real fair to me.

I thought the urinals were for transgenders. But it would be unfair to restrict use to transgenders, wouldn't it? So we need a sub-agency to oversee fairness in restroom hardware use. That would create at least 100 jobs in S. Fla. alone. And there will have to be a sub-sub agency to oversee fairness among fairness agencies. More jobs!

OK, LBGTs will need special "sit down" urinals for the gay transgenders, "stand-up" urinals for the lesbians, and a government oversight group to regulate the whole thing.
More jobs will also be created because only specially trained plumbers will be able to install and maintain all this "special needs" urinals/bidets.
The LGBT people will also need "special needs" parking due to the long walk to the Evacuation Center, so "special needs" parking spaces or lot will need to be established. This will require special parking permits (with a silhouette of a guy in a dress sitting on a bidet), more jobs created. This, in turn, will create even more jobs because the parking lot will require special Lesbian/Gay/Transgender trained parking attendants.

I see the majority of the commenters here failed to read or comprehend the article before posting their responses. There's nothing wrong with being sensitive to the needs of those with alternative family structures, or to those whose gender identity differs from their physicality, particularly in the wake of natural disaster. LGBT Americans pay taxes, too, as do their families and friends. Those of you who obsess on the toilet habits of others should probably seek therapy.

Somebody turn the lights out,America is over ....Every freak and its brother wants special treatment !

There is nothing wrong with respecting Dan Cathy's personal views either, but you people turned that into a circus. What a bunch of hypocrites you people are with your talk about sensitivity and tolerance then you try to destroy a buisness just because the owner has different view than you do. No wonder people have no tolerance for your type and your "equal, but special" rights.

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