Transgender athletes in Connecticut and their advocates secured a victory on Friday when an appeals court ruled that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) may move forward with a policy that allows transgender girls to compete on female sports teams.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that discrimination against transgender students violates Title IX, which prevents educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating based on sex.
“Today’s ruling is a critical victory for fairness, equality, and inclusion,” Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who represented the CIAC, five Connecticut school boards and two former athletes in the case, said in a statement. “This critical victory strikes at the heart of political attacks against transgender youth while helping ensure every young person has the right to play.”
In a 2020 complaint, four cisgender high school athletes — Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith and Ashley Nicoletti — alleged athletic opportunities had been taken away from them by transgender girls and argued that a 2013 CIAC policy permitting transgender athletes to compete on sports teams consistent with their gender identity was discriminatory because it had “regularly” resulted in the displacement of cisgender girls in competitive athletic events.
“In scholastic track competition in Connecticut, more boys than girls are experiencing victory,” the initial lawsuit stated, referring to the transgender female athletes.
The complaint filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal organization, had sought to bar two transgender athletes — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood — from competing in the 2020 spring outdoor track season, which was later canceled due to early pandemic shutdowns.
The lawsuit also demanded an admission from five Connecticut school districts that enforcing the CIAC policy violated Title IX and asked that Miller and Yearwood’s state track records be voided.
Both women graduated high school in 2020 and do not compete at the collegiate level.
After becoming a member of the Carolina Panthers TopCats cheerleaders in March, Justine Lindsay had heard that there was nothing like the team’s first home game of the season. That sentiment proved true.
“It was the best moment I could imagine,” she recalled in an interview earlier this week of the Panthers’ season opener on Sept. 11. “It felt like it was about 115 degrees and there were so many people in the stands. It was a beautiful Sunday.”
Lindsay, 30, is the first openly transgender cheerleader in the NFL. Her arrival on the NFL was first announced in a personal Instagram post back in March and was followed in June by a host of media coverage. Now, more than halfway through the NFL season and in support of Transgender Awareness Week (Nov. 13-19), Lindsay is determined not only to be a role model for others but to enjoy every second of the process.
Lindsay, who was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, recalled the day when TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette told her she made the team. She was driving through an unfamiliar part of Charlotte and pulled into a parking lot of a church filled with people.
“I heard ‘Congratulations’ and I just blacked out,” she said. “The next thing I knew I jumped out of my car and was crying and jumping hysterically. These people came over to me and asked me if I was OK, and when I told them what had happened, they gave me a hug and told me they were so proud of me. It was a beautiful moment, getting that encouragement from people I didn’t even know really hit home.”
LGBTQ+ rights advocates on Tuesday celebrated Tuesday after a federal court became the first in the U.S. to rule that transgender people who suffer from gender dysphoria must be protected from discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Rewire News Group called the ruling in Williams v. Kincaid “a win for gender-affirming care.”
The case stemmed from the experience of Kesha Williams, a transgender woman who was incarcerated in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2018.
“The disorder that my client now has did not exist, at least diagnostically… We must apply a modern understanding.”
When jail staff found out Williams was transgender, they housed her with men, harrassed her, confiscated her bras, and frequently refused to provide her with the hormone treatments she’d been taking for 15 years.
Williams filed a lawsuit arguing the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office had violated her rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), with her lawyers arguing that she should have been protected from discrimination under the law.
They argued that the ADA should extend protections to people with gender dysphoria—defined as the “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.”
A district court ruled against Williams last year, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday reversed that decision.
In 1990, when the ADA was signed into law, it did not mention gender dysphoria but explicitly excluded “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments” from the protections it offered.
As The Washington Post reported in May while the appeals court was considering Williams’ case, right-wing policymakers pushed for the exclusion of “gender identity disorders” along with pedophilia, voyeurism, and exhibitionism, classifying all as “sexual behavior disorders.”
Continuing to exclude people with gender dysphoria from discrimination protections would make the ADA unconstitutional, Williams argued.
“The disorder that my client now has did not exist, at least diagnostically” when the ADA was signed into law, Joshua Erlich told the court. “We must apply a modern understanding.”
In an amicus brief, LGBTQ+ rights groups including GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the National Center for Transgender Equality wrote that gender dysphoria “results from an atypical interaction of sex hormones with the developing brain.”
“This atypical interaction, which results in a person being born with circulating hormones inconsistent with their gender identity, is a physical impairment,” said the groups.
In what rights activist Erin Reed called a “massive win for transgender people,” the appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Williams “plausibly alleged that gender dysphoria does not fall within the ADA’s exclusion.”
Williams’s case against Sheriff Stacy Kincaid’s office alleging disability discrimination will now be able to proceed.
Hartford — A gender-nonconforming student’s face lit up when Jackie Harris-Stone, a Farmington resident who has children in the Hartford Public Schools system, showed the school district’s new “Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth” policy to the student.
“Remember all the trouble you had last year?” Harris-Stone recalled telling the student as they spoke at the Hartford Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday. “This bit will stop that. Your district says it cares about you.”
The school board unanimously adopted the comprehensive policy during its meeting at Weaver High School on Tuesday.
“The Hartford Board of Education is dedicated to creating an environment that is physically and emotionally and intellectually safe for all of the individuals who attend our schools and serve our students,” school board Vice Chairman Rev. AJ Johnson said, reading the policy’s preamble. “This policy is designed in keeping with these mandates to create a safe learning environment for all students and ensure all students have equal access to all school programs and activities.”
It’s important for us to stand up for equity for all our children and not be afraid of the naysayers,” school board Second Vice Chair Kimberly Oliver added.
The policy addresses numerous points, including privacy, official records, names and pronouns, gender-segregated activities, restroom and locker room accessibility, interscholastic sports (“Transgender and gender non-conforming students shall be permitted to participate in interscholastic athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity and in compliance with the applicable regulations of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Association”) and dress codes.
“This policy sets out guidelines for schools and district staff to address the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students and clarifies how state law should be implemented in situations where questions may arise about how to protect the legal rights or safety of such students,” the policy said. “This policy does not anticipate every situation that might occur with respect to transgender or gender non-conforming students and the needs of each transgender or gender non-conforming student must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”
The policy also requires the superintendent of schools to provide for the training of district staff in transgender sensitivity, as well as “developmentally age-appropriate training” for all students.
Several people, including Harris-Stone, enthusiastically endorsed the policy.
“This policy is going to make the lives of transgender and nonbinary and gender nonconforming students better, safer and, in some cases, literally longer,” Harris-Stone said, adding that given a school district of Hartford’s size, up to 13 students “will not commit suicide with proper support like this.”
“That’s good work,” she said, noting that the possible hostilities the school board faces from people who object to the policy highlights its necessity. “Your policy is the first step in normalizing that transgender students have unique needs that need to be taken care of even if not everybody doesn’t understand. Thank you for caring about our trans kids.”
Lindsey Pasquale, the national northeast regional director of PFLAG, said they were impressed with how the school board handled the policy.
“This is really comprehensive,” they said. “This is a step, and as you go forward you still want to continue to look at education for your staff, education and engagement for your student body and baseline survey of attitudes of [the] student body and staff and every few years do a checkpoint. This is a big benefit for the student body.”
On its Facebook page, PFLAG Hartford commended Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, school board Chairman Philip Rigueur, Johnson “and the entire Hartford Public School Board of Education in this moment.”
“PFLAG Hartford looks forward to seeing how these words are now carried forward and put into action,” the post said. “Most important of all, we are really happy for the students in the Hartford school system tonight.”
Carol Gale, president of the Hartford Teachers Federation, also thanked the school board for adopting the policy,
“Thank you in your efforts in making Hartford Public Schools safe and welcoming to all our students,” she said. “Thank you for recognizing the training of staff is important in order to carry this out. Equally important is recognizing transgender youth, as all youth, are growing and developing which also means they may be exploring and experimenting as they seek to define themselves or remain undefined. Thank you for capturing this in your recognition this policy does not anticipate every situation that might occur with trans or nonconforming students and their needs must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”
Texas leaders have targeted trans youth, their families and gender-affirming care practices for months. It’s exacerbated feelings of anxiety and fear in trans youth, who already experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide than their cis peers. Mental health practitioners can help navigate these feelings, but finding and accessing an affirming therapist in Texas can be a challenge.
Roswell Gray, 17, has seen a lot of different therapists’ offices. They’re always some variation of black and white and gray, the muted tones matching the monotony of having to explain everything over and over again to a new person, in the hopes they’ll be the right fit.
But Gray said walking into a new office, about an hour away from their home in Sherman, felt different.
“It was really simplistic, but there was a lot of beautiful art, a lot of different colors and stuff that made me smile,” Gray said. “She had a little mini fridge with snacks and drinks. And it was just like, super welcoming and inviting.”
But beyond the fully-stocked fridge and the décor, Gray’s therapist used their pronouns and asked about their gender identity. Their previous therapist “wasn’t great in many aspects,” and they had been looking for a provider who was trans-affirming and could talk about their Mormon faith.
“I was partially nervous because a lot of people of faith aren’t as accepting as I would like them to be,” said Gray. “It was really nice to hear her talk about how she’s dealt with other clients like me, who are also queer.”
Because of the drive to the office outside of Grayson County, gas prices and the pandemic, Gray hasn’t gone to therapy as often as they’d like. And it’s been hard to navigate the past few months, they said, as gender-affirming care has been caught up in a legal back-and-forth.
On a hot summer’s night in New York on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, which resulted in bar patrons, staff, and neighborhood residents rioting onto Christopher Street outside. Among the many leaders of the riots was a black, trans, bisexual woman, Marsha P. Johnson, leading the movement to continue over six days with protests and clashes. The message was clear — protestors demanded the establishment of places where LGBT+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest.
Pride Month is largely credited as being started by bisexual activist Brenda Howard. Known as ‘The Mother of Pride,’ Brenda organized Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year after the Stonewall Riots. This eventually morphed into what we now know as the New York City Pride March and was the catalyst for the formation of similar parades and marches across the world.
Speaking of the rainbow flag, it was actually gay politician Harvey Milk who asked a talented designer friend, Gilbert Baker, to design an all-encompassing symbol to take to San Francisco’s Pride March in 1978. Sadly, Harvey Milk was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone on November 23, 1978, in San Francisco City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor who was angry at Milk for lobbying against having him reappointed on the Board of Supervisors.
Bill Clinton was the first U.S. President to officially recognize Pride Month in 1999 and 2000. Then, from 2009 to 2016, Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. In May 2019, Donald Trump recognized Pride Month with a tweet announcing that his administration had launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality, although critics have noted that actions speak louder than words.
The New York Pride Parade is one of the largest and most well-known parades to take place, with over 2 million people estimated to have taken part in 2019.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday announced an ambitious plan to spend $6.5 million to end homelessness for transgender individuals in five years.
The mayor’s office will work with several city agencies and local non-profit groups to end homelessness for the estimated 400 transgender and gender nonconforming homeless people in the city, according to a news release from Breed’s office. The plan is included in her proposed two-year budget.
“Transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming San Franciscans are eighteen times more likely to experience homelessness compared to the general population, and we know that the rates are even higher for our minority trans communities,” Breed said in a statement. “With one of the largest TGNC populations in the country, we not only must ensure that all San Franciscans have access to housing and essential resources through continued investments, but we can show the country that we continue to be a leader on supporting and protecting our trans communities.”https://c90501e396fa3bdd625454e2123ba4e1.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Included in her plan are 150 long-term investments through the city’s housing subsidy pool program, $6 million over two years to fund short-term rentals and $500,000 for behavioral science health services for transgender people experiencing homelessness or at-risk for homelessness.
In honor of upcoming Pride Month, NBC Out is highlighting and celebrating a new generation of LGBTQ trailblazers, creators and newsmakers.
Navajo Nation citizen Charlie Amáyá Scott, 27, is a transgender social media influencer, scholar and advocate. Scott, of Aurora, Colorado, who uses she and they pronouns, leverages her platform to highlight issues affecting the queer Indigenous community. She is also focusing on her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Denver.
In one of her most recent Instagram videos, Scott shares “trans joy” with a story involving her grandmother who saw her dressed in traditional clothing worn by Navajo and Diné women for the first time. Scott had not previously shared with her grandmother that she is transgender.
“Thinking about it makes me cry, because for the first time in my entire life my grandmother saw how I see myself, and she called me ‘beautiful’ for it,” Scott says in the video.
What is the most important thing that you want to share on your social platforms?
My tagline is “inspiring joy and justice,” and that is the most important thing I want to share, is that when people see my videos, they feel inspired and motivated to change the world. But I also want them to smile. I want them to have an amazing day. It’s those moments of joy that I think are the most impactful for movements of justice and refusal.
In prepared remarks shared exclusively with NPR, she writes: “Trans youth in particular are being hounded in public and driven to deaths of despair at an alarming rate. Fifty-two percent of all transgender and nonbinary young people in the U.S. seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2020. Think about how many of them thought it was better to die than to put up with any more harassment, scapegoating and intentional abuse.”
Political attacks against trans young people are on the rise across the country. Over 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state houses this year, according to an analysis by Freedom for All Americans and the Guardian. Many of these legislative attacks use scientific language to justify their political aims, she says. In her prepared remarks, she concludes: “The language of medicine and science is being used to drive people to suicide.”
Levine is a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist by training. “I’m not a political person,” she tells NPR. But in this context, she says, when young trans people are being attacked by their own governments, she thinks medical professionals “need to stand up and be more vocal — and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
NPR spoke to Levine before she flew to Texas about what many Americans still don’t understand about sex and gender, how federal policy can counterbalance anti-trans legislation in the states, and how she sublimates personal attacks to drive her advocacy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
You will be speaking at Texas Christian University on Saturday at the Out For Health Conference, which was founded and organized by medical students. Why this event and what is the message of your speech?
I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to speak with young professionals about health equity, diversity and inclusion.
One of the biggest messages I have at this time is really to speak about the challenges that the LGBTQI+ community face, particularly youth. The challenges come from very disturbing – and frankly discriminatory – laws and actions that many states are taking that are potentially dangerous, and costing the lives of young people. I think it’s a very important message to give young physicians in training.
In your prepared remarks, you write, “Anyone who believes that words are not the same as actions, who believe that LGBTQI people should just toughen up, should walk a mile in our shoes.” What would people learn from walking a mile in your shoes?
For some people, I think that these issues of gender identity are beyond their experience. They don’t understand it, and so they fear it, and that fear can lead to negative feelings and emotions. My goal is to educate about the LGBTQ+ community in general, and to educate about the trans community – that we are people just like everyone else.
We are doctors, we are lawyers, we are business people, we are teachers, we function in every part of society and we’re all just doing our part and living our lives and working towards the common good. And that might help dispel some of this fear and some of this discrimination.
“To walk in our shoes” is to have empathy for other people. I am such a big fan of diversity in all of its different aspects. I think diversity helps society. It helps any community. It helps any business, school, governmental agency. We have this beautiful tapestry of diversity in the United States. And so I think that it really is incumbent upon us to have empathy and compassion for those that are different from us.
Pew did a survey in 2021 that found that most Americans think that whether someone is a man or woman is fixed at birth. Most Americans also say they don’t know anyone who is trans. There’s a gap of understanding. Is there a role for the federal government in closing that gap?
I think there’s a role for community, medical and public health organizations to educate the public about these issues.
[Most people’s] experience might be that there is a simple binary of male and female, but it is actually much more complicated.
There is sex. You might think that that is simple, but it is not. There’s chromosomal sex, there are [primary] sex characteristics, secondary sexual characteristics. Of course, there are individuals as part of our LGBTQ+ community who are intersex. And so it is multi-dimensional.
Then there’s gender. Gender is really that self-concept in terms of your gender that is also multidimensional. There are sex roles, which have changed tremendously in our society over the last 50 to 70 years. And then there’s sexual orientation – whom one is attracted to and wants to have intimate relations with – and that is also multidimensional. We want to educate people about those somewhat complex features and help them understand our rainbow family.
Texas has been one of the loudest states in going after trans kids and families. The state has investigated the parents of trans kids for child abuse. Families have moved out of the state because they felt unsafe, and the state attorney general attacked you recently on Twitter. As a trans person, how are you thinking of all that as you head to Texas?
I use all of those challenges and sublimate that into my work. Those egregious actions, one might say insidious actions, that are politically motivated and really harm trans and gender-diverse youth and their families – I take my feelings about that and I put it into my advocacy and our policy work to support trans youth and their families.
We have a president, President Biden, who sees us and supports us. We have a vice president, Vice President Harris, who sees us and supports us. Secretary Becerra of the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Cardona of the Department of Education – really across the administration in the federal government, it is just remarkable how supportive they are to the LGBTQ+ community.
But we are seeing in many states – including Texas – laws and actions which are discriminatory, politically motivated and they need to be fought against.
People who feel that they are being discriminated against can contact the Office for Civil Rights, and they will open a case and investigate. And so we encourage trans and gender-diverse youth and their families [who] are feeling they are being discriminated against in Texas or any other state [to] contact our office.
In addition, [federal agencies] are looking at Title IX – particularly in the Department of Education and the Department of Health – in terms of support for sexual and gender minorities. We are going to be looking – throughout the administration – at policies that, again, support, affirm and empower our community.
Prior to this role, you were the secretary of health in Pennsylvania. A lot of people might not realize that you in HHS are not in charge of, say, the Florida Department of Health. That’s not how it works. Do you think that is a problem in the case of trans youth?
We have a republic in which the states have a lot of individual power. One thing we learned through the pandemic is how important it is to coordinate between local, state and federal public health authorities. When they’re not coordinated, that makes our work very difficult.
These negative and discriminatory actions and laws are politically based. It’s not public health-based. It’s not medically based in any way.
There are many other standards set by organized medicine, for example, the Endocrine Society, which is an international organization of hormone specialists – endocrinologists – has a standard of care. There have been comments from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, from the [American Medical Association], from the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association – [all] in support of evidence-based standards of care for [gender-affirming] treatment.
So when, for example, the surgeon general of Florida puts out a statement based upon political considerations, that is not appropriate. We need to stand against that both from a medical and public health point of view.
I will disagree that there are many studies cited in the Florida statement – there are a few studies. I’ve looked at them. A lot of them say that we need more research. We agree. This is no different from any other medical field in which there’s a research base that might inform a standard of care for treatment of other conditions, whether that’s diabetes or hypothyroidism or other hormonal endocrine conditions – those change over time as the research changes.
When you look at the forthcoming WPATH standards of care and you see the hundreds and hundreds of articles, you will be able to see the difference between the research base for the standards of care and the few studies cited by Florida.
There is no argument among medical professionals – pediatricians, pediatric endocrinologists, adolescent medicine physicians, adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. – about the value and the importance of gender-affirming care.
Idaho, Alabama, Arizona and other states have introduced more than 100 bills related to trans kids this year. There are bills about what can be taught in schools related to sexuality and gender – the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bills. Some limit gender-affirming treatment to young trans people. Others limit trans kids’ participation in sports. What do you think is happening in these states with all of these bills?
I think that they’re all related in terms of their political motivation, and trying to stigmatize a vulnerable community — and particularly to stigmatize LGBTQ+ youth. We have a mental health crisis in this country, particularly among our young people, with increasing rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, suicidal behavior. Our surgeon general, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, highlighted that in a surgeon general’s advisory in December of 2021.
One of the most vulnerable groups of young people are LGBTQI+ youth, and particularly – the focus of many of these issues – trans youth. We need to affirm them. We need to empower them because they are at risk, and they have a very high rate of suicidal thought and we have to act to prevent them from harming themselves. [We have] to support those young people and their families.
You said on a podcast recently that “being trans doesn’t have to define who I am.” I’ve heard from trans friends and colleagues that it can be exhausting to have to explain your personal experience and talk about gender all the time. How do you think about this part of your job and your role?
I am honored to be the assistant secretary for health, and a four star admiral and the leader of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. I recognize that I am the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate and to have these roles. It is a privilege. I want to use that – how fortunate I am to be in these roles – to work toward the common good in all of the different medical and public health issues that we’ve been discussing and more.
I understand the significance of my role to stand up and be counted as a very open and proud LGBTQ+ individual and openly transgender woman. And to use that to support more of our vulnerable LGBTQ+ community in all ways that I can.
[Talking about it] doesn’t bother me. I mean, I’ve been in these [public] positions for seven, eight years now, and so it doesn’t surprise me. I’m used to it.