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LGBT Discrimination: How Transgender Individuals Are Affected

Discrimination and a unique set of obstacles are common amongst all members of the LGBT community, but oftentimes transgender individuals receive higher rates of discrimination and are faced with more hurdles to overcome than their lesbian, gay, and bisexual companions. The reason for this heightened discrimination may be the simultaneous rejection of both gender and sexual societal norms. Though transgender individuals are often credited with propelling the LGBT movement, they oftentimes becomes a lightening rod for discrimination outside of their community.

In fact, in 1969 during the Stonewall riots two prominent activists were trans-women of color. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were in the front lines during the riots and continued to fight for gay and trans rights in years to come. Though some claim that gender rights and sexual orientation mustn’t be linked together in the same fight for equality, past experience has taught us that the LGBT movement prefers to band together.

But while the transgender community has offered incredible amounts of support and helped to be a voice for the LGBT movement, they face both passive and aggressive demonstrations of discrimination at a higher rate than most LGBT citizens. Transgender individuals experience a higher rate of both teen and adult poverty, harassment in the workplace, and sexual harassment. They also experience sexual harassment and anti-LGBT motivated violence at a higher rate. In fact, according to a study done by the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs, 72 percent of anti LGBT violence is directed to transgender individuals.

Though the road to improvement looks difficult, many are on their way to creating a better way of life through raising awareness, active and open conversation and legislative and legal steps like making bathrooms genderless and making legal documents accessible to transgender individuals. Legal documents dictate many aspects of day to day life from travel to work to education. Having inaccurate documents with incorrect name and gender listed can make services unaccessible and put transgender individuals in danger.

For those who are transgender, there are many resources available both in the greater Bloomington area and nationally. Wether to address discriminatory actions or simply have discussions with other members of the LGBT community that might provide support, there are services like the Transgender Lifetime at 877-565-8860 or Gender Warriors, an Indiana University based private group that is open to all transgender or non-binary individuals for a place to discuss and support one another.

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LGBT Relationships and Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a societal issue that plagues many communities across the world. Study after study and many support groups have been organized to address the issue and we have gleaned quite a bit of knowledge over the past couple of decades, but it is likely that when many people think about domestic abuse, they picture a heterosexual couple. It could surprise many that domestic abuse is equally as likely for lesbian women and gay men as it is for heterosexual women. That is one in four lesbian women or gay men will be abused by their significant other.

So why is our perception so skewed? It likely has much to do with the politics surrounding the LGBT community. Many members of the community keep their abuse under wraps for fear of drawing more negative attention to a community that already receives plenty. Studies and public perception surrounding domestic abuse has favored coverage of heterosexual abuse as well, despite the fact that the LGBT community takes up 4-10 percent of the population.

In addition, the LGBT community probably faces the same kind of unfamiliarity with abusive relationships and what they look like as heterosexual couples do. In a study conducted in 2006, 53 percent of domestically abused LGBT individuals surveyed said that they had been in an emotionally abusive relationship, however 59 percent said they had been emotionally abused but wouldn’t categorize their relationship as abusive. This indicates that many individuals do not recognize what constitutes as an abusive relationship and therefore not all numbers can be taken as exhaustively accurate.

This information is particularly troubling as domestic abuse becomes more common. In 1997, domestic violence was reported to be the third largest risk to gay male health behind AIDS and substance abuse. Since then, the numbers have only risen. The rate at which gay men experienced domestic abuse in 1997 is 11 percent while in 2015 it was 23 percent.

When a person experiences domestic abuse, it is often difficult to talk about. When the political pressures that often face the LGBT community are also applied, it further complicates the situation. It helps to have a list of people you can talk to, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, an organization that has an outlet specifically for LGBT victims or the Gay Man’s Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-832-1901, which is an organization that supports Gay men specifically. Middle Way House and GLBT Student Support Services are good resources for those in the Bloomington area.


A Brief Legislative History of the LGBT Rights Movement

The growth and development of the LGBT community has been marked over the years by political and legal development. The movement, which began with the Stonewall riots in 1969, has slowly taken flight.

The movement had garnered attention at the time and non-profit organizations began to arise like Lamba Legal, a non-profit organization that protects the legal rights of the LGBT community, in 1973 and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a supportive organization, in 1982. Even with all of this change, the LGBT community suffered a set back in 1986 when the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that even in their own home, LGBT citizens did not have a constitutional right to engage in homosexual acts. The decision claiming that their constitutional right to privacy did not extend to LGBT citizens in this case was reversed in 2003.

After what seemed like progress in 1994 when homosexuality was deemed by the World Health Organization and the American Medical Organization to no longer be an illness, The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed in 1996. DOMA stipulated that “no state, territory, or possession of the United States or Indian tribe shall be required to give effect to any marriage between persons of the same sex.” DOMA further limited the definition of “marriage” to be between a man and a woman and the definition of “spouse” to be someone of the opposite sex. In the 2013 Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, DOMA was ruled unconstitutional.  

California was the first state in the United States to legalize gay partnership in 1999. It was also the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2008 along with Connecticut. Some states at the time allowed domestic partnerships, but these partnerships did not have all of the protections and provisions that marriage did at the time. The movement still pushed for full marital rights.

After 2010, the LGBT movement seemed to be looking up. Although former president Barrack Obama had started his presidential campaign with his support limited to civil unions, in 2013 he stated that he supported complete marital equality for LGBT couples. Just two years later, LGBT couples were granted that right. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision expanded marital rights to LGBT citizens.

Though this fight for marital equality was successful, the movement continues to challenge discriminatory legislation and practices in the hopes that the LGBT community might one day enjoy the same rights and privileges as their straight and cisgender neighbors.


Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. “Obergefell v. Hodges.” Oyez.
Rowan, Beth. “Important Supreme Court Decisions in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History.” Infoplease.
“LGBT Rights Milestones Fast Facts.” CNN. May 16, 2017.
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Signs of a Healthy Relationship

When a person enters into a relationship, they know that there are certain ideals they should work toward. Both the other person and the people around them will tell the couple what they should do, how they should act, and what a “healthy” relationship looks like, but that definition is rarely clear. Here are a couple of behaviors that emotional and relations experts have said each relationship should have in order to be healthy.

The phrase is a cliche for a reason. Many experts agree that open communication is one of the best ways to ensure that a relationship is and remains healthy. Marshall B. Rosenberg said that nonviolent communication is the best way to ensure that communication remains healthy and positive in his book “Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life.” “Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting,” Rosenberg said. By choosing words carefully and communicating in a compassionate way, couples can ensure that conflicts are dealt with constructively, Rosenberg said. Communication with your partner and with yourself support a healthy partnership.

Honest communication with yourself has been proven to be a trait in those engaged in healthy relationships. Self-compassion, or the idea of extending compassion to yourself when feelings of inadequacy arise, is a character trait present in the individuals of many healthy romantic relationships. The difference between self-esteem and self-compassion was discussed in Kriston D. Neff’s article The Role of Self-compassion in Romantic Relationships for Self and Identity Journal in 2013. “Self-compassion was also a stronger predictor of positive relationship behavior than trait self-esteem or attachment style,” Neff said about the two character traits. In order to have the kind of honesty with yourself and your partner, you must have an understanding regarding what each person stands for and wants.

Awareness is an ambiguous concept but can be very important for the health of a relationship. By simply remaining aware of the emotions, goals, and reservations of your partner, you can bring understanding to a conversation regarding a conflict and resolve with lasting compassion. “Having relationship awareness in one’s marriage narrative seems to reflect a positive commitment to the marriage in general,” said Mark A. Young in his article “Healthy Relationships: Where’s the Research?” for the Idaho State Literature Review.

Studies have shown that the degree of intimacy in a couples relationship sometimes indicates that that the relationship is supportive and healthy. “If true intimacy is to be part of a healthy couple relationship, each partner must feel totally secure in sharing his or her innermost thoughts, feelings, and self-disclosures with his or her partner without the fear of being judged, evaluated, or ridiculed,” said Dennis A. Bagarozzi in “Marital intimacy needs questionnaire: Preliminary report” in the. American Journal of Family Therapy. The relationship between trust and intimacy and trust is very strong and if intimacy remains in a relationship, trust must as well. When trust breaks down, it could be the sign of a malfunctioning relationship, Bagarozzi said.

Barges said that the idea of reciprocity has a lot to do with intimacy and trust as well. There needs to be a level of give and take in every relationship, said Bagarozzi. “One must also feel that one’s partner is reciprocating on similar levels of self-disclosure for intimacy to be maintained,” Bagarozzi said. “This mutuality and reciprocity allow a relationship to move forward into greater depths of intimacy and trust.” Each partner must feel as though the other is doing just as much for the health and happiness of a relationship as they are. In this way couples can ensure relationship health, Bagarozzi said.

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New Term, New Topic

Justice Unlocked is committed to making sure that our clients and sponsors are as legally educated as possible. This is why we have made a quarterly plan to enlighten our supporters on a different legal topic every couple of months. This process will have a variety of impacts on what you see on our social media feeds and on our blog posts. This quarter, Justice Unlocked has committed itself to providing resources, information, and support to those who could be or have been victims of sexual assault or know victims of sexual assault. The information we will be providing here forth will advance knowledge on this subject until our Sexual Assault Seminar on April 24th.
Justice Unlocked will be outlining a variety of aspects, resources, and testimonials regarding sexual assault and ways to legally address and combat it. We will address the elements of a positive relationship, the cycle of abuse, and relevant legislation amongst other topics. We will make sure that our subscribers are made aware each time a new blog post with this kind of in depth information is shared. Beyond our informative blog posts, social media accounts will focus a majority of their feeds to the stories, legislation, and resources related to sexual assault and abuse. We will, of course, focus on other matters and issues, but as this quarter’s legal topic of choice, a majority of our attention will be dedicated to educating our supporters on this specific topic for the remainder of the quarter.
Our seminar will seek to bring both community members and organizations together to help inform the public on legal issues surrounding sexual assault including how to about filing a protective order and what one’s rights are if they find themselves in a sexual assault situation. The seminar will include a speaker as well as informational packets and be accessible for absolutely everyone. We aim to assist anyone who needs it and this seminar goes toward this goal.
Additionally, we hope that you, our clients and sponsors, engage with us on this topic. This is an issue that has affected many and will continue to do so without the efforts of communities. We invite you all to discuss how sexual assault and abuse has affected people in your life and your own ideas surrounding it and what our community can do to help. Education is a group effort. Please join Justice Unlocked in it’s aim to educate, assist, and engage with people about this topic.
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Justice Unlocked Celebrates its First Year

On January 26, Justice Unlocked celebrated its first anniversary with several of its closest friends, family and clients. The evening was meant to celebrate our organizations growth and how far we have come since Justice Unlocked started taking clients one year ago. Many of the employees behind Justice Unlocked looked forward to the evening as a way to reflect on how we’ve grown and will grow in the future and enjoy the company of coworkers. One such person was deputy development director Lasserina Dowell. “It’s a chance for our organization to be seen throughout our community,” said Lasserina. “It’s also an internal thing. It’s a chance for our organization and all of the people who have worked so hard to have a night of relaxation.”

Lasserina started the evening by introducing the event and speaking on what it means to us. CEO and founder Jamie Sutton also spoke on the organizations growth and significance and on why he founded the organization in the first place. His speech was followed by a speech by Kim Bombgarnder which gave a first hand account of how Justice Unlocked has helped people and contributed to their lives. “I'm excited we've gotten to help so many people, while saddened and motivated by the fact there are so many people that need help,” said Jamie.

The night wouldn’t have been complete without the cooperation of Cardinal Spirits, a local brewery in Bloomington, who donated drinks for the evening’s event, Bucceto’s, an Italian restaurant in Bloomington that catered the food, and of course our wonderful clients and supporters. The night’s festivities were accompanied by Emily Lehman and her guitar and ended with a raffle prize won by Kim.

Jamie said that the growth of the organization has astounded him and that the dinner was a way to commemorate and honor the success the year has fostered. “When we started in December of 2015, it was literally just me and Michael LoPrete, our senior staff attorney, said Jamie. “Now there's a total of 9 employees, full-time support staff, formal intake and case management processes. It's amazing.”

Justice Unlocked looks forward to another year of success, of helping others, and of spending time with all of our supportive friends, family, former and present clients and supporters. We hope to expand our reach within our next year and provide services to those who truly need it. “This time next year, I'd hope that we're fundraising to open up our first branch office outside of Bloomington,” said Justice Unlocked attorney Michael LoPrete. “The need we seek to fill can be found all over the state, and with a little luck and a lot of hard work, we might be able help people all over the state.”

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Justice Unlocked is Getting Bigger

Justice Unlocked is continuing to expand its reach and is working toward helping even more people within our community. In order to do this, we rely on our incredible team of passionate employees eager to help where they can. We’ve recently had the opportunity to make two exciting new additions to this team and are excited to see how they help Justice Unlocked grow.

IU student and journalism major Mallory Haag has taken her position as the social media manager. She’s worked for publications like IDS and PBS in the past as well as for nonprofit publications in a variety of locations globally. Mallory will be working toward making our social media networks more useful and she looks forward to helping Justice Unlocked continue to serve their community and clients alongside our legal team through open communication pathways and providing a helpful resource outlet.

Third year law student Evan Stahr has worked in Indiana and Illinois with incarcerated individuals in both state and federal prisons and he’ll now be interning with us performing intakes and other legal intern responsibilities. “I wanted to come to Justice Unlocked because it seemed natural to continue assisting underrepresented individuals in my local community,” said Evan.

Austin Andreas is a legal intern here at Justice Unlocked. The second year law student has worked in New Delhi at a corporate law firm to the Indiana Supreme Court extorting for Justice Slaughter. Austin will be providing assistance to our attorneys here at Justice Unlocked in the form of intakes and client meetings. Austin is looking forward to helping with more cases and getting involved in litigation.

There will be yet another legal intern adding to our ranks. Molly Morgan, a second year law student at Indiana University, has worked with The Protective Order Project in the past performing intakes and assisting domestic violence victims in issuing a protective order. She’ll continue to help clients here at Justice Unlocked. Though Molly still supports the Protective Order Project, she looks forward to working with clients at Justice Unlocked. “It will be a great opportunity to have a positive impact in the community,” Molly said. “I expect it will also be a great learning experience.”

Justice Unlocked is looking forward to assisting clients with a more dynamic staff. In Expanding our offices and the people who work within them, we are better able to properly handle more cases in a more efficient fashion. Thank you for all of your continued support and please welcome our new employees to Justice Unlocked!