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Gay man planning Pride flight around the world

by Heather Cassell

A gay man plans to circumnavigate the globe in a restored World War II era DC-3 plane to bring hope, goodwill, and support to LGBT people around the world with Pride Flight 2018.

Denis James "DJ" Dorn's goal is to acquire the plane, and he has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds.

Dorn, who has been a pilot for 25 years, also plans to use the plane to help local communities by transporting supplies and other necessary missions for local LGBT communities, he said.

Another goal is to set a Guinness World Record as the first openly gay pilot to travel the globe.

The plane currently resides in Mexico and has been used predominantly for flying tourists to coastal locations for whale watching, according to the Pride Flight 2018's Kickstarter campaign.

Dorn is currently in the first round of raising the $100,000 needed to acquire the 85-year-old plane and bring it home to Indiana for restoration.

He has already invested $35,000, placing a down payment on the aircraft and other initial planning costs. He has worked with about 20 volunteers on the project so far, he said.

He's currently waiting to be approved for nonprofit status for Pride Flight 2018. He's also working on securing sponsors.

Dorn anticipates the total cost of the project will be about $500,000.

He realizes that the mission is dangerous. He and his crew will have to navigate a plane that has limited capabilities, such as not being able to fly over high mountains and will be challenged flying over wide expanses of ocean, where he and the crew will need to refuel on small islands. He also anticipates having to work around being a gay man flying into anti-gay countries where he or his crew could be arrested, refused to be sold fuel, or they could not be allowed to land at all, he said.

"My husband and I both realize there is a pretty high chance of catastrophic failure," Dorn told the Bay Area Reporter. "I can't let my mind dwell on that. Once the flight is complete, not only will it be a great milestone, but it will be a positive thing that we have done for our community."

Dorn plans to document the journey with bloggers and vloggers on board (according to Wikipedia, the aircraft has a capacity for 21-32 passengers) and to produce a documentary of the journey after its completed. He plans to tour the U.S. and educate people about the mission and LGBT communities in other countries.

The Kickstarter campaign closes May 31. So far the campaign has raised $345.

For more information, visit http://prideflight2018.com or to donate, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1940308364/prideflight2018 .

SF IDAHOT rally focuses on Chechnya
San Francisco's Harvey Milk Plaza was adorned with a pink triangle that greeted people exiting the Castro Muni station as a crowd gathered for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia May 17.

Nearly 400 people turned out for the event that called attention to the atrocity happening against gay men in Chechnya and the murders of transgender women around the world.

The crowd remembered the victims of last year's shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The event also celebrated the release of transgender army whistleblower Chelsea Manning (see article, page 1].

"This is the largest and most impactful IDAHOT in the history of San Francisco that I know of," said Gary Virginia, a representative of Gays Without Borders, a grassroots volunteer-run group focused on international LGBT rights issues, who organized the rally.

The sun shone through the rainbow flag blowing in the evening breeze. The pink triangle, a symbol once used to identify gay men in Nazi concentration camps, draped over Harvey Milk Plaza. Patrick Carney, co-founder of Friends of the Pink Triangle, reminded the crowd of the importance of reclaiming symbols.

"Sometimes the best way to keep a symbol pertinent is to own it, to give it a new purpose," said Carney of the pink triangle. "This symbol of hate and persecution has been repurposed and is now a symbol of survival, defiance, courage, strength, and diversity."

Carney told the crowd that gay men are being hunted down, arrested, and detained for being of "nontraditional sexual orientation," in Chechnya.

"There are only three options: they can leave the country, they can kill themselves, or they can be killed," said Carney.

An estimated 100 gay men have been detained in two separate waves of arrests since December 2016, according to human rights experts in the region and media reports. Three men have been reported to have been killed, however, human rights experts believe the number could be as high as 20.

At the same time, Chechen Republic President Ramzan Kadyrov has reportedly denied that gays exist in Chechnya, while authorities ordered a cleansing of gay men in the Muslim-majority Russian state.

Last month, Novaya Gazeta reporters Elena Milashina and Irinia Gordiyenko broke the news of gay men being rounded up and sent to detention camps.

Accurate information is difficult to obtain due to secrecy and government sponsored propaganda in Russia.

However, earlier this month Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly bowed to international pressure and agreed to investigate the situation in Chechnya.

Virginia reiterated Carney's message that the detainment of gay men was basically "being repeated in our lifetime and we need to stop this."

However, he was quick to point out the irony that during the week of the IDAHOT rally President Donald Trump's administration shut the door on Chechen LGBTs who are fleeing the region to come to the U.S.

"The Trump administration basically said that they were not accepting any refugees in danger from the Chechnya capturing and torturing," said Virginia. "So, here we have Canada working with the Rainbow Railroad Organization and the Russian LGBT Network to help people get out of harm's way and our country is denying visas or asylum to these victims."

In recent weeks, Canada and Lithuania have both opened their borders to welcome LGBT Russians fleeing Chechnya.

Global Respect Act reintroduced to Congress
Gay Congressman David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) and Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Global Respect Act to Congress May 17.

The bill was co-sponsored by 60 House members and eight senators.

The legislation would provide a new mechanism to prevent the world's most anti-LGBT state actors from receiving visas and entering the United States, reported the Human Rights Campaign's blog.

"The Global Respect Act would make clear to the world that the U.S. is not open to those who abuse, harass, and murder LGBTQ people," said David Stacy, government affairs director at HRC, reported the blog. "This is the right moment to send that message, when the government in Chechnya is trying to eliminate all gay people from their territory and gay Chechens are literally fleeing for their lives."

The legislation would send a clear signal to anti-LGBT countries by revoking and denying visas of foreign officials who have a significant role in the violation of LGBT people's rights in their home countries.

"Recent reports of LGBT persecution in Russia and Indonesia are horrifying," Shaheen said in a statement from her office. "No one should live in fear of physical violence or oppression because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Global Respect Act would send a strong message to the international community that those who persecute LGBT individuals are in violation of human rights and are not welcome in the United States."

Currently, an estimated 72 countries criminalize homosexuality and 10 countries authorize the death penalty for same-sex relationships. Furthermore, anti-homosexuality propaganda laws prohibit same-sex expression in at least three countries, according to HRC.

For more information, visit http://www.hrc.org/resources/global-respect-act .

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at Skype: heather.cassell, or oitwnews@gmail.com .

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