Discrimination complaint filed against Maine nursing facility for allegedly turning away transgender woman

JONESPORT, Maine — CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the facility as Sunrise Care Facility. In 2018, Downeast Community Hospital closed Sunrise Care Facility and donated the building to the town of Jonesport. It then reopened under the ownership of Adult Family Care Homes of Maine and was renamed Sunrise Assisted Living.

A downeast nursing facility is getting national scrutiny for allegedly discriminating against a transgender woman.

The discrimination complaint was filed by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders on behalf of a 78-year-old woman claiming she was denied a room at Sunrise Assisted Living because she is transgender.

According to the organization, it is the first such legal claim of discrimination brought in the U.S. against a senior long-term care facility.

Sunrise’s administrator called the allegations “untrue” and refused to give any further comment to NEWS CENTER Maine.

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Wonder Woman’s Sisters Bring First Transgender Amazon To DC Comics

Wonder Woman DC Comics
Warning! Spoilers for Nubia & The Amazons #1

The newly released Nubia & The Amazons #1 by DC Comics has broken new ground, marking the first time Wonder Woman’s Amazons welcome a transgender woman into their society in a touching and unforgettable moment.

Nubia’s time as Queen of the Amazons is showcased in the new DC series from Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala, Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, Emilio Lopez, and Becca Carey. Beginning with a flashback to Nubia’s own arrival on Themiscyra, readers are reminded of the Amazons’ mystical Well of Souls: a portal through which women who have died as a result of the terror of ‘Man’s World’ are reborn, given new life among the immortal women. The five new sisters born of the Well (who represent the first group of women to come through the well in some time) wake up without knowing who they were, where they are, or what’s to come next. And for one, it is a rebirth they have spent their entire life waiting for.

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Gender-affirming care improves the mental health of transgender youth

Daniel’s birth certificate is marked “female.” But Daniel does not identify as exclusively male nor female. Daniel is nonbinary. “I’m masculine leaning,” the 18-year-old says.

Daniel knew they were not a girl by about age 4. But the disconnect between Daniel’s body and gender identity became unbearable during puberty. “I hated showers because I didn’t like looking at my body,” Daniel says. “I just felt really uncomfortable with the idea of being female.” At age 13, Daniel came out to their mother as transgender. Someone who is transgender has a gender identity that does not match the sex assigned to them at birth.

After coming out, Daniel started seeing a therapist who specialized in gender. The next year, they were referred to a doctor who prescribed testosterone. This hormone caused Daniel to develop more masculine features. For Daniel, the most important effect was a deeper voice. “My biggest problem with getting [seen as a girl] was that my voice was really high,” Daniel says. (Daniel’s last name is not being used to protect their privacy.)

Before starting hormone therapy, Daniel considered suicide. With testosterone, they’re happier with life. “I definitely feel more like myself. Like I was just existing before, but now I’m living — now that I’m open to everyone about who I am, and … I’m open to myself,” says Daniel. “Starting testosterone, for me, saved my life.”

Hormone therapy is just one method of gender-affirming health care. The term includes treatments that help people express their gender identity. This care looks different for people of different ages. In young kids, it involves letting them use a name and pronouns that match their gender. Adolescents may take drugs to delay puberty, followed by hormones. Some later undergo surgery.

Gender-affirming treatment is the standard of care for transgender people in the United States. About 1.8 percent of American high schoolers are transgender. That’s according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But some U.S. lawmakers have recently tried to make these treatments illegal.

In April, Arkansas became the first state to ban gender-affirming care for minors. Similar bills have cropped up in more than a dozen other states. Several of the proposals have failed. Still, experts warn, this legislation may harm the mental health of trans youth.

“Even if the bills don’t pass … the damage is being done,” says Jason Klein. He’s an endocrinologist in New York City. That’s a doctor who specializes in hormones. Klein works at New York University Langone Health. “Many people across this country are already going to be hurt just by the ideas being put out by these bills.”

Those who support health-care restrictions say they want to protect children from procedures they may later regret. They also want to protect kids from any risks such medical treatments may pose. Those risks might include impacts on bone health and fertility. Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics endorses gender-affirming care. So do other medical associations. These groups say that restricting access to gender-affirming care could harm the mental health of trans youth. This population is already at severe risk of depression and self-harm. Transgender youth are three to four times as likely as their peers to have depression or anxiety. And they’re at much higher risk of suicide.

Gender-affirming care offers hope, says Jack Turban. He’s a child and adolescent psychiatry researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. “All existing research suggests that gender-affirming medical interventions improve the mental health of transgender youth.”

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Colorado to require private health insurance carriers to cover gender-affirming care for transgender patients

 

The change, which goes into effect in 2023, requires carriers to cover care like hormone therapy, facial feminization, and top surgery.
 
 
 
Colorado to require private health insurance carriers to cover gender-affirming care for transgender patients
 

COLORADO, USA — At ONE Colorado, Nadine Bridges works to change the lives of LGBTQ Coloradans. 

“We just want folks to live their lives and thrive and survive in this world,” the executive director said. 

In 2023, Bridges said living will get a little easier for some because of a change in Colorado’s Essential Health Benefits that will require insurance carriers to cover gender affirming care and surgeries for transgender patients. 

It’s the first time the federal government has approved a requirement like this in individual and small group health plans, and the decision means specific treatments must be covered if a doctor deems them medically necessary. 

According to a Health and Human Services press release, those treatments will include “eye and lid modifications, face tightening, facial bone remodeling for facial feminization, breast/chest construction and reductions, and laser hair removal.” 

“I think what people don’t realize is some of these surgeries, like top surgery and electrolysis and facial feminization, some folks feel like that is more cosmetic and there are many in our community who really need that,” said Bridges. 

Blair Sagan knows that need. 

Three years ago, the 33-year-old paid $10,000 out of pocket to get top surgery, a procedure to remove breast tissue and reshape the chest. 

“I was in a very deep depression, and I knew that it had to happen and it changed my life,” Sagan said. “And the feeling after, I want every trans person to have. You know, gender euphoria.” 

Sagan said even within trans health care coverage, there are disparities, and to know that many Colorado insurance carriers will no longer be able to call certain care elective or cosmetic is a win for transgender rights. 

“There are so many other surgeries that, especially cis-gendered men can get, that are covered,” said Sagan. “And it’s such a fight, it’s such a battle to be able to just have the basics for trans folx.” 

Colorado Medicaid does currently cover gender affirming care but it is not a federal requirement for state’s Medicaid programs to do so.

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Netflix Employees Stage Walkout in Support of Transgender Staff

Netflix employees are staging a walkout today in protest of the internal handling of Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, The Closer. The special, which was released on the streaming service on October 5th, has drawn intense criticism for Chapelle’s transphobic comments.

As reported by Bloomberg, Netflix staff expressed concerns over the content of The Closer prior to its release, sharing “dismay that the company continues to release programming with transphobic sentiments” and that “a series of jokes about gender-neutral pronouns and the genitalia of transgender people was potentially inflammatory and damaging.”

Last week, Netflix suspended and then reinstated Terra Field, a trans software engineer who tweeted a viral thread about the potential harm of the special, and two other employees for attempting to join a director-level meeting they did not have access to. Netflix quickly released a statement to The Verge after issuing the suspensions, clarifying that their employees were not penalized for being openly critical about the special. “It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employee for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.” (All three employees have since been reinstated.)

However, Netflix fired B. Pagels-Minor, a Black trans program manager and former leader of the trans employee resource group at the company, for allegedly leaking confidential metrics about the special to the media — a claim Pagels-Minor “categorically denies.”

“The tone of the message was basically like: You employees can’t possibly understand the nuance of comedy, and that’s why you’re upset,” Pagels-Minor said in an interview with the New York Times. “That’s not the point. It’s not that we don’t understand comedy. It’s that this comedy has tones of hatred. And what are we going to do to mitigate that?”

“I don’t have any ill will toward Netflix,” they added. “I want them to be successful, but the only way to succeed is to hold themselves to the values they expound.”

Netflix executives have shown continued and explicit support of Dave Chappelle over the past few weeks, defending the special and its content even after employees began asking questions about Netflix’s stance against transphobia on social media and internal forums. In a memo sent to staff, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos doubled down on his belief that Chappelle’s pointed humor does not have real-life consequences.

“With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.),” Sarandos wrote. “Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”

Sarandos went on to rationalize Chappelle’s transphobic jokes as part of “his style.”

“Stand-up comedians often expose issues that are uncomfortable because the art by nature is highly provocative,” he wrote. “As a leadership team, we do not believe that The Closer is intended to incite hatred or violence against anyone (per our Sensitive Content guidelines).”

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Biden signs off on Colorado’s expansion of transgender-related health coverage

Under a groundbreaking decision by state and federal officials, many private health plans sold in Colorado will soon be required to cover hormone therapy, genital reconstructive services and other procedures sought by transgender patients.

The change, which would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, would mark the first time the federal government has approved a requirement for transition-related coverage in individual and small-group health plans. More than a dozen states, including Colorado, already cover such services in their Medicaid plans.

Biden officials cited discrimination facing transgender patients and predicted the Colorado decision would serve as a road map for other states seeking to broaden such coverage. They also said the approval helps fulfill the president’s campaign pledge to expand access to coverage for LGBTQ Americans, including requiring insurers to cover care related to transitions.

“Colorado’s taking a very important step,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in an interview. “Transgender [people] face discrimination on a constant basis. And it is, to some degree, intensified by the inability for transgender Americans to get the health-care services they need.”

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in a series of Biden administration decisions to codify policies sought by LGBTQ Americans, including a May 2021 announcement to broaden anti-discrimination protections for transgender patients. The Trump administration narrowed access to those protections.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure and other officials announced the policy in Denver on Tuesday. The new coverage for transition-related procedures, which was authorized under a Trump-era policy that allows states to request modifications to their health insurance markets governed by the Affordable Care Act, would require Colorado health plans to provide “gender-affirming care” among the essential benefits guaranteed to their customers.

“We hope this marks a historic beginning, and that other states look to Colorado as a model,” Brooks-LaSure said. “We invite other states to follow suit.”

The decision was cheered by patient advocates, but panned by some conservatives, who challenged the evidence supporting it, and argued the administration’s move is inappropriate.

“This is a liberal administration and governor colluding to mandate coverage for a lifetime of cross-sex hormones and removal of healthy organs, including for minors,” said Roger Severino, a former Trump appointee who served as the health department’s civil rights chief. “Their end game is clear, to push these dangerous experimental treatments on kids and unwilling families as a national insurance mandate.”

Some transgender patients have detailed the challenges they face obtaining costly services like hormone therapy, saying that interruptions or delays in care can lead to long-lasting setbacks in their transitions. A November 2020 study by Out2Enroll, an organization that helps the LGBTQ community obtain health insurance, found that most plans sold through the government’s health insurance website, HealthCare.gov, failed to specify whether they covered care for transgender patients. In 7 percent of cases, health plans explicitly excluded procedures for transgender patients, Out2Enroll found.

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Transgender woman, who previously ran Free Press Marathon as a man, returns this year

Sara Anne Fay owns one of the most unique distinctions among the more than 13,000 people competing this weekend in the 44th annual Detroit Free Press Marathon lineup of races.

This year, she is running the half-marathon as a transgender woman. In previous years, she ran either the full 26.2-mile marathon or the half when she still identified as a man.

Fay, 63, who started hormone treatment in 2017 and last year underwent sex reassignment surgery, said she notices a big difference in how her body now responds to running and race training as compared to before.

Half-marathon runner Sara Anne Fay of Detroit at Parr Park in Dearborn Heights on Oct. 13, 2021.

The changes definitely slowed her down, she said, and way more than one expects from simply getting older.

“My stamina and strength have been impacted — I feel that every time I go out for a run,” she said. “So it takes me longer to get to my goal than it would be before. Some of it is certainly due to age, but I think the majority of it is the transition.”

On Sunday, Fay will join thousands in downtown Detroit for the 7 a.m. start of both the half and the full marathon. Because of COVID-19 border restrictions, neither race this year crosses into Canada and instead follow all-new routes in Detroit. Race organizers hope to bring back the international courses in 2022.

“That is unfortunate, but I understand,” Fay said. “Running across the bridge was always a highlight for me.”

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Premier Hockey Federation updates participation policy for transgender and non-binary athletes

The Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) — formerly the National Women’s Hockley League — announced on Friday an updated policy governing participation for transgender and non-binary athletes. The new policy will be in effect immediately for the 2021-2022 season.

“Transgender and non-binary athletes deserve equal opportunity to compete in the Premier Hockey Federation,” PHF commissioner Tyler Tumminia said in a statement. “And we embrace our power and responsibility as leaders to make progressive change.”

The policy itself provides guidance for the participation of transgender and non-binary athletes. In a departure from other policies applying to transgender athletes at the collegiate, professional and Olympic levels, the PHF policy does not use hormone therapy as the primary basis for eligibility.

Transgender men are eligible to compete in the PHF, and they are not immediately ineligible if taking testosterone for medical transition purposes. They must consult with the PHF for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). This is a change from the previous policy, which made no allowance for transgender men to medically transition while remaining part of the PHF. Transgender women are eligible to compete in the PHF after living in their transgender identity for at least two years.

This policy is also one of the first to specifically address non-binary athletes. The process is similar to that which governs transgender women and transgender men. Athletes assigned female at birth are eligible to participate in the PHF, but if they wish to take testosterone for transition-related purposes, they must apply for a TUE. For athletes assigned male at birth, they are eligible to compete in the PHF after living in their non-binary identity for at least two years.

“The PHF leads by example in prioritizing the inclusion, health and safety of all athletes in the league. Fairness in hockey and the inclusion of transgender and non-binary athletes are not at odds with one another,” Athlete Ally Director of Policy & Programs Anne Lieberman said in a statement.

The updated policy was crafted in consultation with Athlete Ally, a nonprofit advocacy group working at the intersection of LGBTQ issues and sports, and Chris Mosier, a transgender elite athlete and six-time member of Team USA, as well as the founder of TransAthete.com.

The organization first adopted its transgender inclusion policy in 2016, following Harrison Browne sharing that he is transgender and would continue playing hockey in the PHF (then the NWHL). Few professional sports leagues in the United States have adopted any policy considering the inclusion of transgender athletes.

“I am so proud to play for a league that is leading the way to ensure all athletes feel safe, welcomed and respected in hockey,” Boston Pride player Mallory Souliotis said.

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NH lawmakers reject bill to regulate participation of transgender athletes

Lawmakers in Concord agreed on Thursday to reject legislation aimed at restricting the participation of transgender athletes in inter-scholastic sports.

House Bill 198 would have allowed transgender girls, who were born biologically male, to be banned from participation in all-female athletics. The House Education Committee voted unanimously to declare the bill “inexpedient to legislate.”

Democrats opposed the bill as an affront to civil rights, while the Republican sponsor of the bill said legislation was “not ready for primetime” but concerns over protecting girls’ sports remain.

“We’ve made a lot of gains in the last 20, 30 years with Title IX. I would really caution folks in moving in a direction that could stop that movement,” Rep. Rick Ladd said, R-Haverhill.

On an 11-9 party-line vote, the committee also rejected legislation that would have required schools to update documents and software to include the option of identifying a student as non-binary.

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New documentary salutes transgender ‘AIDS diva’ Connie Norman

AIDS activist Connie Norman in the documentary “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman."

AIDS activist Connie Norman in the documentary “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman.”Courtesy Chuck Stallard

An outspoken leader in AIDS activism is finally getting her due 25 years after her death with the documentary “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman,” screening Oct. 17 as part of NewFest, the New York City LGBTQ film festival.

“AIDS Diva” was a title Norman, a transgender woman and ex-sex worker who overcame addiction and abuse to become a leader in ACT UP L.A. in the late 1980s, gave herself. It was a hint at the warm, humorous woman behind the forceful activist who got arrested, went on hunger strikes and carried a bullhorn like it was an extension of her hand.

“We’re not doing enough!” Norman can be seen shouting at fellow demonstrators in one clip from the film. “You’re not doing enough, I’m not doing enough. And AIDS is not going away!”

Director Dante Alencastre has documented the experiences of other transgender women, including youth activist Zoey Luna, TransLatin@ Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo and the trans community in Lima, Peru. He was looking for his next subject when a friend suggested Norman.

“I had heard of her, but I knew very little,” said Alencastre, who moved to Los Angeles 14 years ago. “Almost like she was a ghost from the past.”

Around the time he started his research, someone put up an alumni page on Facebook for members of the L.A. chapter of ACT UP, or the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. They used Norman’s picture for the cover photo.

“I immediately reached out and said, ‘I want to talk to anyone who knew her,’” Alencastre said. “It was like opening up Pandora’s box.”

He was put in touch with Peter Cashman, a journalist and founding ACT UP L.A. member, who appears in “AIDS Diva.” Cashman filmed Norman extensively and had boxes full of VHS tapes.

“He told me he never looked at them, but we were welcome to use whatever we wanted,” Alencastre said. As he digitized hours of Norman’s interviews and speeches, he said he could tell how ahead of her time she was.

“I was kind of surprised by the frank and explicit way she would talk about herself,” he said. “Back then, I imagine people were taken aback. But she was bold enough to make an audience look beyond her appearance. There was no consciousness of trans back then. There was no ‘T’ in LGBT.”

AIDS activist Connie Norman in the documentary “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman."
AIDS activist Connie Norman in the documentary “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman.”Courtesy Chuck Stallard

Michael Weinstein, president of the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, recalls working alongside Norman and credits her willingness to engage with friends and foes alike.

“She’d speak to people I would ignore, who I didn’t think were worth the time of day,” Weinstein said.

One of those people was Wally George, a conservative Southern California talk show host whose stage she appeared on. (In “AIDS Diva,” we see Norman stand up to taunts from George’s audience.)

“She believed that through the force of her personality and her words she could get people to think and feel,” Weinstein added. “And she succeeded a lot more often than I thought possible.”

Being a professional activist requires a thick skin and a loud voice. And Norman had both.

“She had a mouth on her. Thankfully it was connected to a mind,” David Reid, producer of XEK-AM’s short-lived “The Connie Norman Show” radio show, told The Pride in 2016. “And she was a she; on many occasions, I heard her say, ‘I paid $50,000 to be who I am, and I get to pick my pronouns.’”

Torie Osborn, director from 1987 to 1993 of what was then known as the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, said it was sometimes shocking to see the anger Norman could summon with a megaphone.

“She’d say, ‘Oh, I’m just a Midwestern girl.’ But I don’t think she ever forgot her struggles or where she came from,” Osborn said.

That ferocity was tempered with a genuine sweetness, Osborn added. “I think it’s a gift of the LGBT community to be both tough and soft, if we allow ourselves to access those parts. And Connie did, absolutely.”

Longtime transgender activist Valerie Spencer, who was mentored by Norman, jokingly called her “a fake and a fraud.”

“Publicly she was this bombastic warrior. People thought ‘Oh here she comes!’ And, yeah, she could shake the building with her vibrato,” Spencer said. “But inside, she was so tender. She gave me jewelry — a beautiful garnet necklace. … At the heart of who she was, she was a tender pussycat.”

“AIDS Diva” co-producer John Johnston remembered Norman lending him her jacket to keep warm during a vigil at the University of Southern California in 1989.

“In the height of everything, even as she was battling for her own life, she’d ask if you were OK,” Weinstein said.

Born in small-town Texas, Norman ran away from home at 14 and lived on the streets of Hollywood before getting off drugs and transitioning in the mid-1970s. She was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 and soon became active with local AIDS groups.

“I often tell people that I am an ex-drag queen, ex-hooker, ex-IV drug user, ex-high risk youth and current postoperative transsexual woman who is HIV-positive,” Norman told The Los Angeles Times shortly before her death in 1996. “I have everything I ever wanted, including a husband of 10 years, a home and five adorable longhaired cats. … I do, however, regret the presence of this virus.”

She didn’t have the education or polish of other activists, but she had the survival skills she learned on the streets, Spencer said. And more important, “she was a person confronting her own mortality and the lack of compassion in our society. When you’re in that situation it can just fuel you with a powerful rage.”

Among other roles, Norman was director of public policy for the All Saints AIDS Service Center in Pasadena, California, and sat on the L.A. County Commission on HIV. She wrote a bimonthly column, “Tribal Writes,” for the San Diego gay magazine Update and co-hosted “The Gay and Lesbian News Magazine,” a cable-access show out of Long Beach, California.

On all those fronts Norman called out those she felt had allowed the epidemic to continue, either through action or inaction, including the Reagan and Bush administrations, the FDA and the state of California. When Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have prohibited discrimination against workers because of sexual orientation, Norman helped lead a march on the state capital in Sacramento.

“It boils down to how much you want to live,” she wrote of her advocacy in POZ magazine in 1995.

“I want to be here on this planet every minute that I can and I’m willing to do whatever I can do — comfortably — to stay here,” she said. “Sue me, but I believe that all of the medicines and all of the prophylactics are eventually going to come up against this virus and lose. You can either sit and wait for that to happen or you can go ahead and live your life.”

Norman threw herself into her activism until the end, likely at the expense of her own well-being.

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