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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 14, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 15
Oklahoma lawmakers shocked by LGBT youth visit: 'Cross-dressers are in the building!'
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Oklahoma lawmakers shocked by LGBT youth visit: 'Cross-dressers are in the building!'

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

'There are cross-dressers in the building,' warned an Oklahoma legislative staffer on April 10.

The warning email - sent to pages in the Oklahoma State House - was prompted by the visit of 70 LGBT students visiting the state capitol to lobby for HIV education funding.

Staffer Karen Kipgen thought it wise to warn legislative pages that they should use restrooms normally reserved for lawmakers, to avoid possible contact with 'cross-dressing' visitors.

'As per the Speaker's office, pages are being allowed access to the ladies restroom across from 401, for today,' Kipgen wrote in a mass email to legislative staff and members. 'Again, there are cross-dressers in the building.'

Needless to say, the student lobbyists were insulted by Kipgen's email.

'We came down to the Capitol to talk about laws,' said Ella Gambino, 17, a Union High School senior. 'To be referred to as cross-dressers is something you say as an insult.'

'Never have I felt so unsupported,' said Pickles Lee, 18, a senior at Owasso High School. 'This email sort of escalated everything.'

Oklahomans for Equality director Toby Jenkins, whose organization sponsored the group, said the visit had been uneventful to that point, though the group had a hard time finding legislators to talk to.

Ironically, Jenkins added, most bills directly discriminating against LGBT people had already been killed in committee, and his students were there to talk about public health issues.

House Speaker Charles McCall's office quickly disavowed the message, saying it was not approved by McCall or any of his immediate staff.

'The email was not authorized by me, my staff, or my office,' McCall said in a statement.

'It was sent unilaterally by a House staff member without any input or permission. I was unaware that such an email was being sent, and the remarks contained in the email are not condoned by me or the Office of the Speaker. As Speaker, all Oklahomans should feel welcome in the Oklahoma Capitol building. We are looking into this matter, and it will be taken seriously.'

A spokesman for McCall said the incident is being investigated.

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