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  • Nic F. Anderson

Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Makes an Announcement with LGBTQ+ Advocates



Kalima McKenzie Simms, LGBTQ Programs Manager, NYC Department of Education: Good morning, everybody. My name is Kalima Mckenzie Simms, and I'm the manager of LGBTQ programs at the New York City Department of Education. I'd like to first acknowledge all the LGBTQ advocates here today who are on the front lines promoting equality and justice for all. I'd like to also acknowledge deputy chancellor of school leadership, Desmond Blackburn, Dr. Jawana Johnson, chief of school culture and wellbeing, and council members Bottcher and Ossé.

McKenzie Simms: The Department of Education understands and acknowledges that every student deserves to be heard, seen, affirmed, especially our LGBTQ young people. We are proud to host proactive LGBTQ inclusive curriculum, robust policy that supports our transgender and gender nonconforming students, and we encourage gender and sexuality alliances at schools. We believe we can end hate and foster empathy and understanding by creating a space where everyone can freely discover who they are.

McKenzie Simms: The work we do can even keep our students alive. A staggering 50% of transgender youth who are not supported in their community are more likely to attempt suicide. It's hard enough being a kid and a teenager. Let's not add to their pain by telling them they have to be ashamed of who they are when they come to school. I know this firsthand, because when I was growing up as a young person discovering my identity within the LGBTQ community, these topics weren't spoken about in my community. They weren't spoken about in my school. They were extremely taboo. And because of that, when I started to discover who I was, I was forced to be living with shame because I thought something was wrong with me, because no one was allowed to talk about it. And that is not how any young person should grow up.

McKenzie Simms: I'm proud to work for the Department of Education and a city who understands at the end of the day that we are all human beings and our different identities are what makes us and our city a one of a kind melting pot.

McKenzie Simms: And now I would like to introduce Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you.

McKenzie Simms: Thank you.

Mayor Adams: Thank you, Kalima, and really for that personal narrative around what life was like. I remember being a captain in the sixth precinct in downtown Manhattan, going over to Christopher Street to the park or the pier talking to some of the young people, who when they decided to talk to their parents about who they wanted to be, and their parents, some of them were thrown from their homes. They were runaways. And I think that you're right. It's a matter of life and death that we are joining this conversation.

Mayor Adams: And I want to thank the advocates here. Alan, you have been an advocate for these issues for so long, and this is the city of Stonewall. This is the city where we are proud to talk about how you can live in a comfortable setting and not be harassed, not be abused, not only as adults, but also as young people.

Mayor Adams: And so I'm the mayor of this city, the city of the LGBTQ+ community, as we see people in government and out of government understanding how your voice is respected here in the city. And that's what this movement of "Don't Say Gay" is about. This political showmanship of attempting to demonize a particular group or community is unacceptable, and we are going to loudly show our support and say to those who are living in Florida, "Listen, we want you here in New York. We want you right here in New York City." And it's more than just saying that. It's also standing up and aligning ourselves with the men and women of the LGBTQ+ community and stating that we are in unison with you and your right to have self-identification, your right to live the lifestyle and live the lives that you choose to live without any form of harassment.

Mayor Adams: And New York values free speech. We value making sure that people don't feel abused, no matter what ethnicity, no matter how you self-identify. This is very important to us, and we're proud to be a part of this. And we're partnering with WPP to put up billboards in major markets across Florida to let everyone know. We're targeting Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. We believe we're going to get about five million impressions, and they're going to be up for an eight-week period celebrating diversity and acceptance of New York City. We will show this in the billboards, and the billboards you have here right now. Very clear statement, and we're proud of it. Other folks want people to hide their color. We like to show our color, and that's the rainbow that's representative of this community.

Mayor Adams: We want to remind everyone that New York City is full of people who will be celebrated now and in the future. And as I stated, this is the city of Stonewall, and we will continue to stand fast and be supportive of this community that has contributed to the diversity of our city, and we believe that this is the city that will always allow that diversity to take place. So thank you, and I'll turn it back over to you.

Mayor Adams: I'd like to now introduce Kevin Jennings, chief executive officer at Lambda Legal.

[Applause]

[...]

[Applause]

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Mayor Adams: Thank you so much. I'd like to now introduce longtime LGBTQ+ advocate, Allen Roskoff.

[Applause]

[...]

[Applause]

Question: Yes. Mayor, last week, Governor DeSantis of Florida said something along the lines of, "New Yorkers, people in high tax democratic states are fleeing and coming to Florida." What do you say in the context of this situation, where his state is, according to you, making itself unwelcome to certain people?

Mayor Adams: I never thought in my life I would be quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they'll be back.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. A lot of the folks around you right now last month were speaking out very forcefully against the three hires of pastors who had made anti-gay remarks in the past. I want to see how you reconcile those hires with this message, and if folks like Mr. Roskoff want to speak to this reconciliation as well.

Mayor Adams: Well, this community has, I think, as the councilman stated, that they have always turned up the heat on topics that they believe are important. I've joined them in many of them, as Allen alluded to. Days on the Senate floor fighting for marriage. And this is not a community that's going to be silenced. If they see something they don't like, they're going to let you know.

Mayor Adams: But my rich history, as we sat around the room and talked with former Senator Tom Duane and others of how long we've worked together. So we can work through anything, but we will never go to the days where we will publicly demonize a group, and that's what's happening now. And so they've always said they're concerned about the hires that we made, and we're going to continue to move forward. And these are not just citizens. These are personal friends on the fight to deal with the progress in LGBTQ+ community.

Question: Mr. Roskoff, would you like to speak to it?

Allen Roskoff: Of course, we were very disappointed and outraged over the appointments, but we decided to move on and work with the mayor, who we believe made a big mistake in making those appointments. But there's a lot that we can do together, and we remembered the mayor's history on behalf of the LGBTQ community. So we're moving onward. Thank you.

Question: Mr. Mayor, previously, earlier at the press conference, Mr. Roskoff brought us a list of ideas that he wants you to pursue during pride month in schools, putting up these posters and acting more as part of the curriculum. What do you think of those ideas? Is that something you can-

Mayor Adams: I think they're good ideas. We have our rep here from the Department of Education. I'm sure Alan is going to sit down with them, and those that we can do, we look forward to doing so.

Question: Can you commit to right now [inaudible]?

Mayor Adams: No. Next question.

Question: Obviously, spending millions of dollars on this campaign, so people might see a time when you're doing belt tightening of the city budget and wonder, "how does this benefit New York?" You might be sending a message to people in Florida, but is there really any benefit accruing to New York that makes it worth the expense?

Mayor Adams: I just love that question. This is costing New York City taxpayers nothing. Space is donated. Billboards are donated. Advertisement is donated. Outside people who live in this city that understands we cannot treat people unfairly are standing up the way New Yorkers do. New Yorkers lead the entire country on conscious and what is the right thing to do. So taxpayers are not paying one penny for that, and I hope that you report that, that it costs us nothing. It's the right thing to do because we're New Yorkers.