Ashjian did not return requests for comment, but during a radio interview on Thursday showed his support for Jonnason Rosas. “It was my idea to rotate (who serves as president),” he said. “It should change every year.”
Also during the KMJ interview, Ashjian stood by the words that got him in hot water. “The truth of the matter is I didn’t kneel to the pagan god,” Ashjian said. “I stood for what I believed in.”
HRC Foundation and the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) released A Time to Act: Fatal Violence Against Transgender People in America in 2017, a heartbreaking report documenting the often deadly violence faced by transgender people and exploring factors that have made this year the deadliest on record for the transgender community. The report came in advance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors transgender people who lost their lives during the previous year, and amidst reports of a surge in hate-based violence and harassment that began during Donald Trump's campaign, and continues under the Trump-Pence administration. "The epidemic of violence against transgender people is an urgent crisis that demands the nations immediate attention,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The unique and tragic stories featured in this report reflect the obstacles that many transgender Americans — especially trans women of color — face in their daily lives. It is crucial that we know these stories in order to combat the transphobia, misogyny and racism fueling this violence so that we can end this epidemic before it takes any more lives." Since the start of the year, at least 25 transgender people have been killed in the U.S. the most on record. Eighty-four percent were people of color and 80 percent were women. Since January 2013 HRC has documented at least 102 transgender people who were victims of fatal violence: at least 87 were transgender people of color and these disturbing numbers likely underreport deadly violence targeting transgender people, who may not be properly identified as transgender. "Each of the stories featured in this report is unique, tragic and devastating.” said TPOCC Executive Director Kylar Broadus. “Unpacking these stories is a difficult but necessary process if we as a society want to protect the most vulnerable and address the root causes for their unjust and premature deaths." The report explores many of the factors that can contribute to or facilitate fatal violence. In many instances, the violence is fueled by anti-LGBTQ prejudice, racism, easy access to guns and increasing political attacks on the transgender community at both the state and federal level. There are a number of actions lawmakers can take to address the violence, including enhancing law enforcement response and training; improving data collection and reporting; passing non-discrimination protections; and adopting common-sense gun violence protections. Since the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there has been a notable increase in the vitriol and anti-transgender rhetoric - from the top levels of government down through the rest of American society. Seventy percent of respondents to HRC’s post-2016 election youth survey reported witnessing bullying and harassment during or since the 2016 election, and almost half of LGBTQ youth said they have taken steps to hide who they are since the election. FBI data released earlier this week recorded an overall increase in hate crimes in 2016, including a rise in bias-motivated violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The release of A Time to Acc Fatal Violence Against Transgender People in America 2017 marks the conclusion of Transgender Awareness Week, which is dedicated to the progress and unfinished work in the fight for transgender equality. Earlier this week, HRC announced that more than 1,400 parents of transgender young people have signed a National Declaration of Rights in response to continued attacks on transgender equality.Throughout the week, HRC has been highlighting areas of focus and continued challenges for the transgender community, from workplace equality to access to inclusive and respectful health care.
Support the LGBT community - Make your voice heard
“My biggest fear in teaching this – which we’re going to do it because it’s the law – but you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way. It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.” -Fresno Unified School Board President Brooke Ashjian
Brooke Ashjian made this comment to the Fresno Bee regarding the California Healthy Youth Act, a law requiring schools to teach unbiased and medically accurate sex education. He is a devout Mormon and Trump supporter who has been vocal about his stances on abortion, premarital sex, and LGBT relationships (spoiler: he's against all of them).
At a school board meeting on August 9th, the community came together to voice their concern at this derogatory comment. Ashjian responded: “For you to come all the way down here, whether you agreed with me or didn’t, it’s truly in my heart an apology to you that you many have been slighted. That was never the intent. My position here is about the children. I’ve never distinguished between whether they were gay or this or that or white or from north Fresno, south Fresno, whatever. They were always children.”
First, that’s not an apology. He is only “apologizing” that feelings were hurt, NOT for what he said. His apology is really, “I’m sorry you were offended that I don’t want gay kids to exist.”
And second, he DID distinguish gay kids. In fact, he distinguished them as his “greatest fear.” His greatest fear is not an unplanned pregnancy, an STD, or a dead child (three of which could be prevented by this law), but a gay child (which would not be prevented OR caused by this law, as this law will not change someone’s innate orientation).
This is on top of a bizarre series of posts made on the site Ripoffreport.com about Gay Fresno (the former name for LGBT Fresno) that were tracked back to Ashjian’s computer (he did not use his real name in the posts). In a series of depositions, he admitted to making comments (he was upset that Gay Fresno was calling for a boycott due to him having donated to Prop 8), but couldn’t recall what they were (although they were only two years prior and he had clear memories of events that took place even earlier) or what language he used (only three comments regarding Gay Fresno were on the site, all were derogatory, and all were of a grammar level that one expects to find in the bathroom of a middle school that caters to sexually-repressed remedial English students with anger issues, not a school board president). All three comments were also of an oddly sexual nature. And finally, when attorneys were going to do a forensic examination of his computer, it was mysteriously stolen from his office (although, not the cash that was in there). Weird.
To sum it up so far: • His biggest fear is a gay child (not a dead one) • He said this out loud to a reporter (maybe thinking it was still 2008) • It is 2017 (he may have missed the memo) • He has admitted to being an internet troll, albeit not a very good one
In the last week, human rights organizations have called for Ashjian’s resignation. His response was to tweet “NO!!” His follow up was that he would never resign. “And second of all, I don't back up. I don't even have reverse in my car. I'm not backing up,” he stated.
Putting aside the ludicrous analogy of a car that cannot go backwards, is this how we go forward? We have a school board president that cannot see how his words will affect children in his schools, cannot see how stubborn and divisive he is being, and has no idea how to diffuse the situation. How do we go forward when he has pushed himself into a position and refuses to rethink it based on an admitted inability to do so (“I don’t back up”)? And, using his car analogy, how can he not see that he’s been going in reverse this whole time?
We need your help.
We are asking you to call, email or write (details below) Fresno Unified School District board trustees and demand that Brooke Ashjian be removed from the Fresno Unified School Board, both as president and as a member. He is toxic to our youth, both gay and straight. Between his obvious contention for the gay community (of which some of his students belong) and his inability to take either ownership for his words OR to learn from them, he has shown himself to be incapable of leading our youth towards the kind of world we all need: an honest, inclusive, and fair one.
We invite you all to show up on August 23, 2017 at 5:30 pm for the Fresno Unified school board meeting at 2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721. Bring small signs to show your support for his removal or resignation. Be emotionally prepared for anti-LGBT supporters.
We know. You’re tired. You’ve probably spent the last decade fighting about this and thought it was time to rest. Me, too.
But, I really, really don’t want to tell a Fresno Unified child who needs someone to talk to and, because the teachers at his school feel emboldened to share their homophobic views, doesn’t have anyone. I don’t want to tell any kid that.
Lastly, as many of you know, the LBGT center has recently closed. LGBT Fresno is stepping up to begin a referral/resource line, but we need to raise $2500 to get it going. This will be an important resource in an area that (while it’s come far) is lacking in LGBT resources. Your donation will provide us with the needed funds to open and maintain the line for one year. The IT provider fees that will allow us to offer multiple volunteers the connection to those who need help and resources. Imagine a teen will be able to call, text, facebook message and get a friendly and helpful reply to connect them to the resources they so desperately need.
Gay Central Valley officially formed as a nonprofit in January of 2009. Prior to that, we were a group of Central Valley websites run by volunteers from their homes. Once we were granted official 501c3 status by the IRS, Gay Central Valley forged ahead with a force, opening the first LGBT Community Center in Fresno in 20 years as one of our first projects. The Community Center opened officially in January of 2010 and has been going strong ever since.
Led by Chris Jarvis, a veteran LGBT rights activist, Gay Central Valley has faced an uphill battle from the start. Issues such as funding, staffing, volunteer / leadership changes and our ongoing philosophy of an all-volunteer organization (where no one receives compensation and all money raised is funneled back into the community) presented ongoing challenges. Keeping a community center open to the public for 5-6 days a week for seven years is a massive accomplishment in itself. But we didn't stop there; we have done so much more. From countless outreach events, over a hundred support group meetings, and spearheading unique projects like the first ever Central Valley Transgender Clothing Closet and the international awareness program The Rainbow Delegation, Gay Central Valley continued to expand itself to match the ever changing needs of the Fresno LGBT community.
Running a community center with a 24 hour phone line, supporting and mentoring another center in a city an hour away, creating and providing social and political events and actions, participating and partnering with other organizations, publishing and updating websites and blogs, training others in cultural competency, and hosting the most successful one day LGBT fundraiser in Fresno history (NO H8 2012) has been both an honor and a privilege.
We have been successful year after year. Board members and volunteer staffs have come and gone, but through all the changes and the challenges, we've persevered. Our primary foundation has been to serve the LGBT community.
Now, we're announcing a change.
Gay Central Valley will be closing the Fresno LGBT Community Center as of August 1st, 2017. The organization itself will cease operations by the end of the year.