Rachel Levine calls state anti-LGBTQ bills disturbing and dangerous to trans youth

The highest ranking transgender official in U.S. history will give a speech in Texas Saturday, urging physicians-in-training to fight political attacks against young trans people and their families.

Adm. Rachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health, will make a speech in Fort Worth at the Out For Health Conference at Texas Christian University.

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.

How?

So, for example, [the federal HHS] Office for Civil Rights has issued a formal interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, where it says you cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, and that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

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.

[In medicine], there is an evidence-based standard of care for the evaluation and treatment of trans individuals, whether they’re youth or adults. That standard is set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, or WPATH. The last formal standards of care were [released] in 2011, and we expect the new standards of care in 2022.

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.

As you mentioned, the Florida Department of Health published a fact sheet last week about trans health and cited many studies (although many groups have refuted its claims). When your office in March published a fact sheet, it also cited many studies. Where is the research on this? Is there a dispute?

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.

This post originally appeared in NPR

Vermont Conversation: Transgender Vermont educator responds to Fox News with ‘love and light

Laws targeting LGBTQ+ people are proliferating across the country. Some 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have so far been filed — more than three per day — mostly targeting transgender people In Idaho, Texas and Alabama, Republican leaders have passed laws criminalizing transgender health care, while Florida has banned discussions of LGBTQ+ issues in elementary school in a law that critics dub the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Vermont is also under anti-trans attack.

On April 6, conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham aired a segment titled “Groom & Doom,”which singled out a webinar offered in February by the Burlington School District titled “Let’s Talk About Gender Identity and Expression.” The webinar was led by Nikki Ellis, an assistant principal at Edmunds Middle School who is transgender. Ingraham charged that middle school students are “bombarded by efforts to undo any semblance of traditional values that their parents might have taught them.”

In the days following the broadcast, Ellis and the Burlington schools were flooded with hate mail. Burlington School Superintendent Tom Flanagan denounced the attacks, reassuring LGBTQ+ community members that “we care about them and that we are here for them.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ attacks are not limited to schools. The head of the Burlington Republican Party, Christopher-Aaron Felker, who has a history of making transphobic social media posts, tweeted out photos of Vermont legislators who support a transgender rights bill and labeled each of them a “groomer.”

On Tuesday, transphobia took a deadly turn when a trans woman was killed in Morristown.

“It’s sad and unfortunate that being transgender or being queer is being compared to sexual abuse and pedophilia because being who you are in your identity as a queer person doesn’t mean that you’re trying to impose on anyone else,” Ellis told The Vermont Conversation. “The reality is that there are traumas and turmoil and abuse that happen for kids across all identities and all experiences and all communities. But that’s completely unrelated to, you know, being LGBTQ+.”

Rep. Taylor Small, Vermont’s first openly transgender legislator, said the anti-trans backlash comes at a time when LGBTQ+ people are winning legal protection in Vermont.

“Last year, we were able to pass a bill to ban the LGBTQ+ ‘panic’ defense. And just last week, the governor signed a bill to make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to amend their birth certificates to see themselves and their identity reflected on their vital records.”

Ellis is unbowed by the transphobic attacks. They responded to critics with an invitation: “Hey, Laura Ingraham, I’d love to take you out for coffee or dinner. And I’d love to be able to have an opportunity for you to see me for who I am, the person that I am, the passions that I have and the way that I care deeply about my community. And to everybody else out there, the love that I have and the love of this work is unconditional. And that means that we will just continue to wrap ourselves, wrap other queer folks up in love and light.”

Post first appeared in Vtdigger

Salem-Keizer school district has new transgender student policies. Here’s what they do

Andi Mudyrk becomes 1st openly transgender judge appointed to the California bench

Andi Mudyrk

Andi Mudyrk

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the appointment of the first openly transgender judge to the bench in California.

Andi Mudyrk, 58, of Sacramento, will serve as a judge in the Sacramento County Superior Couty, the governor’s office said.

She is the first transgender person to be appointed to the California bench, but she is also the second openly transgender person to serve as a judge. She follows in the path of Alameda Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski, who became the first openly transgender judge after being elected in 2010.

Mudyrk’s appointment comes as political battles are waged over transgender rights in the U.S. amid a culture war, and as Newsom seeks to leave a legacy of diversity on California courts.

Newsom is scheduled Monday to swear in Justice Patricia Guerrero as the first Latina on the California Supreme Court. She was confirmed unanimously on Tuesday. In 2020, he nominated the first openly gay justice, Martin Jenkins, who is the third Black person to serve on the high court.

Mudyrk has been the chief deputy director at the California Department of Rehabilitation since 2020 and previously worked as a chief counsel there.

She has also worked in roles at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and for Disability Rights California.

She earned her law degree from George Washington University Law School and is a person with a disability, brittle bone disease, the governor’s office said.

This post first appeared in kcra

10 Transgender Athletes To Watch

From setting NCAA records to taking home gold at the Olympics, these trans athletes are making themselves known.

illustration of three basketball players embracingShare on Pinterest
Illustrations by Alyssa Kiefer

Transgender athletes are not a new phenomenon. Yet, although trans people have almost certainly competed in sports over the past thousands of years, the modern history of elite trans athletes began with Renée Richards in the 1970s.

Richards, an ophthalmologist and professional tennis player, had long competed against men at a high level. After her transition, she wanted to keep playing, this time against fellow women. However, officials denied her entry to the 1976 U.S. Open. Richards sued and won, earning the right to compete at the tournament in 1977.

Like trans athletes today, Richards had both strong supporters and detractors. Many people saw the discrimination she faced and helped her combat it.

Still, many others attempted to ban her from women’s competitions. They accused her of having a biological advantage and made her undergo intensive testing to determine whether she was “woman enough” to compete.

In the years since, the challenges facing trans athletes have shifted, but they haven’t disappeared. State lawmakers are barring transgender youth from sports. Athletes have signed petitions stating that trans women athletes have unfair advantages.

Sports organizations have been working on setting fair rules for when trans athletes can compete, with requirements ranging from maintaining certain hormone levels to having surgery on their genitals to — for some trans male athletes in particular — nothing at all.

Understanding of how being transgender, particularly a trans woman, affects an athlete’s play is still evolving. But in the meantime, trans athletes are training alongside their cisgender peers — with the extra burden of having to overcome the transphobia they face from the media, public, and people in their personal lives.

They have done so to great results, from smashing records in NCAA Division I sports to winning Olympic gold medals — and inspiring the next generation of trans athletes in the process.

Here are 10 transgender athletes to watch, today.

Timothy LeDuc
illustration of Timothy Leduc

Timothy LeDuc became the first openly nonbinary person to compete at the Winter Olympics in 2022 when they placed eighth in pairs figure skating with their partner Ashley Cain-Gribble.

This isn’t LeDuc’s first “first.” In 2019, they became the first openly queer person to win gold in pairs skating at the U.S. Championship. Together, LeDuc and Cain-Gribble have won two U.S. championships and medaled in the Grand Prix Series three times.

LeDuc has spoken out about resisting the cis-normativity and heteronormativity historically seen and expected in pairs skating, for example, by not portraying a romantic couple in their skating routines with Cain-Gribble.

Laurel Hubbard
illustration of Laurel Hubbard

New Zealander Laurel Hubbard made her Olympic debut in weightlifting at the 2020 Summer Olympics. She was the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Olympics and the first openly trans athlete to compete at an individual event in the Summer Olympics.

Her inclusion in the women’s +87kg group was controversial, throwing her in the spotlight, despite three other trans athletes competing in the 2020 Summer Games. Ultimately, Hubbard did not earn a spot on the podium, and her official result was “did not finish” after she was unable to complete a clean lift in the snatch section of the competition.

Hubbard’s weightlifting career has long been notable. Before her transition, she set a men’s national junior record, but she left the sport in her 20s because it was “too much to bear” as she figured out her identity.

After a 15-year break from the sport, Hubbard returned to set a women’s Oceania record at the 2017 North Island Games, then a gold at the Australian Championships and a silver at the World Championships.

In 2018, Hubbard suffered a nearly career-ending injury: a ruptured ligament in her arm. However, she continued competing in 2019, winning two gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games, then lifting at the 2020 Summer Olympics at age 43 — 10 years older than the next oldest competitor in her group.

Chris Mosier
illustration of Chris Mosier

Chris Mosier, a trans man, became the first transgender athlete to represent the United States in an international competition after earning a spot at the men’s sprint duathlon in 2015. Mosier is a hall of fame triathlete, All-American duathlete, two-time National Champion, and he has made Team USA six times.

Mosier is also a powerful advocate for transgender athletes. He is credited with prompting the International Olympic Committee to change their rules in 2016 to be more inclusive of trans competitors, leaving no restrictions for trans men to compete with other men and dropping the requirement that trans women undergo genital surgery.

Mosier runs transathlete.com, through which he provides information about competing in sports as a trans person, including competition policies at various levels in various sports.

Quinn
illustration of quinn

A nonbinary person who goes only by one name, Quinnbecame the first transgender person to win a gold medal at the Olympics in the 2020 Summer Games with the Canadian women’s soccer team.

Quinn, who plays both a central defender and a midfielder, had previously competed in the 2019 World Cup and won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games, but they hadn’t yet come out at that time.

Chelsea Wolfe
illustration of chelsea wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe, a trans woman, is the third-ranked BMX freestyler in the United States. She earned a spot as an alternate for the women’s competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics — the first time the sport was included in the Olympic Games — by winning fifth place at the World Championships in 2021.

Wolfe didn’t get to compete at the Olympics, but she did become the first out trans person to make Team USA. She had just started to compete nationally in 2016 when it was announced that the sport would be added to the 2020 Olympics.

Alana Smith
illustration of Alana Smith

Nonbinary athlete Alana Smith competed in the inaugural women’s street skateboarding event at the 2020 Summer Olympics. They came out shortly before the Summer Games, wanting to enter the competition as their full authentic self.

Smith has also competed at four World Championships and won the bronze medal in 2015. They’ve been a big name in skateboarding since they were just 12 years old, when they won silver at the 2013 X Games.

Layshia Clarendon
illustration of Layshia Clarendon

Layshia Clarendon, a guard for the Minnesota Lynx who uses all pronouns, is the first openly transgender and nonbinary player to compete in the WNBA. They won a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, and Clarendon won the WNBA Community Assist Award in 2021 for her advocacy work for Black and brown youth and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Clarendon previously played for the University of California, Berkeley, and he finished his college career as the fourth highest scorer in Cal’s history, earning 1,820 points across four seasons.

Kye Allums
illustration of kye allums

Kye Allums became the first openly trans person to compete in an NCAA Division I sport when he came out as a trans man while playing basketball for the George Washington University’s women’s team in 2010.

Allums, a guard, played a total of three seasons, ending his college basketball career in 2011 after a string of concussions. In 2015, he was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

Allums is a public speaker and mentor to LGBTQIA+ youth, and he was featured in “The T Word,” a documentary by Laverne Cox about living as a young trans person.

Schuyler Bailar
illustration of schuyler bailar

Schuyler Bailar, a trans man, was the first openly trans NCAA Division I athlete to compete on a men’s team. He swam for Harvard’s men’s team for four seasons before graduating in 2019, and his last swim placed him in the top 15 percent of NCAA competitors in his event.

Bailar had an impressive career before college, too, competing in the Junior Olympics at age 10 and ranking in the top 20 for 15-year-old breaststroke swimmers in the United States.

He is an international speaker and advocate who posts on social media about body image, racism, and, of course, transgender inclusion in sports.

“People are attacking trans kids,” he says about the recent wave of bills banning transgender children from sports. “It doesn’t even matter whether or not they have these competitive differences or whatever; these are kids.

“I think people forget that, and they dehumanize and adultify these children as if they’re these threats to women’s sport, but they’re not. They’re just kids. Just kids who want to play soccer. They’re just kids who want to run around the track.”

Lia Thomas
illustration of lia thomas

A senior at the University of Pennsylvania, Lia Thomas, a trans woman and NCAA Division I freestyle swimmer, holds the fastest women’s times of the 2022 season in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events. In March, she competed at the NCAA championships in these and the 1,650-yard event.

Thomas swam on Penn’s men’s team for 2 years before coming out and getting approved by the NCAA to compete with women during summer 2020. However, the following season was canceled due to the pandemic, so this season is her first time competing against women.

Because she has excelled in swimming, Thomas has come under fire, prompting the NCAA to change their rules about trans women’s eligibility in all sports.

Although 16 members of Penn’s team wrote a letter stating that it’s unfair for Thomas to compete as a woman, 310 current and former NCAA, Team USA, and international swimmers and divers recently signed a letter in support of her.

At the NCAA championships, Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle event, making her the first out trans woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. She also finished fifth in the 200-yard finals and eighth in the 100-yard event.

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‘None of your business’: Parents push back on Arizona bills targeting transgender youth

PHOENIX — Arizona’s transgender youth have become a target at the state Capitol this year. 

Several bills putting limits on their freedom are moving quickly at the Legislature. 

Parents and transgender advocates are pushing back.

“Why does it matter? Why, why does it matter to you? … I don’t get it,” Tami Staas, executive director of the Arizona Trans Youth and Parent Organization, said of Republican lawmakers supporting the bills.

“Dear Legislature, this is none of your business.”

Staas is also a Mesa schoolteacher whose 23-year-old son came out to her as transgender 11 years ago.

Three pieces of legislation were scheduled to be heard Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • Under the umbrella of “parental rights,” HB 2161 would bar school districts and charter school employees from “withholding or concealing information from or facilitating, encouraging or coercing students to withhold or conceal information from the student’s parents about the student’s physical, emotional or mental health.”

RELATED: Arizona bill bans gender reassignment surgery for minors

A student’s discussions with a teacher about gender identity or pregnancy could be considered information about the student’s health. Schools that fail to comply could be sued.

“A teenager doesn’t always know how a parent’s going to react,” House Education Committee Chair Michelle Udall, a Mesa Republican, said during a hearing on the bill in January.

“By not telling the parent, we’re not giving the parent the chance to support them.”

Udall, a candidate for Arizona school superintendent, supported the bill.

The bill was passed by the House and was to have been heard Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. A committee member’s absence resulted in the bill being held.

These bills are scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee:

  • SB 1165 would ban transgender girls from competing on a school’s sports teams for girls. 
  • SB 1138 would “prohibit physicians from performing irreversible gender reassignment surgeries on minors.”

All three bills are two votes away — by a committee, then the full House or Senate — from reaching the governor’s desk for his signature into law.

The Arizona legislation is part of a nationwide wave of Republican bills and actions targeting young people who are transgender.

This post originally appeared in 12news

 

Biden tells transgender youths ‘I will always have your back’ in SOTU

​President Biden urged Congress to pass the federal Equality Act during Tuesday’s State of the Union address after a number of states enacted legislation barring transgender female athletes from competing in girls’ sports.

​”For our LGBTQ+ Americans, let’s finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk. The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong​,” Biden told a joint session of lawmakers.

“​As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your ​p​resident, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential,” the president went on.

The Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect people from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity, passed the House last year but has faced opposition in the Senate​ and elsewhere over concerns it would weaken religious liberty. ​

Most of those bills dealt with the controversy surrounding transgender youth playing sports consistent with t​heir gender identity.​

South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill last month that bans transgender girls and college-age women from competing in female school sports. ​

“This bill’s about fairness,” she said at the bill’s signing. “It’s about allowing biological females in their sex to compete fairly in a level playing field that gives them opportunities for success​.”

Joe Biden.
“The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong​,” President Biden said.
Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS

States like Florida, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi have passed similar laws.

Passage of bills restricting transgender athletes took on new momentum after Lia Thomas, a transgender female swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, began to break Ivy League records.

Thomas set a new record for the 200-meter freestyle competition last month with a time of 1:43.12, beating second-place finisher Samantha Shelton by more than 2.5 seconds.

Trans rights supporters.
More than 147 pieces of anti-transgender legislation were introduced by state lawmakers in 2021.
Tom Brenner/REUTERS

The day before, Thomas won the Ivy League’s 500-meter freestyle championship with a time of 4:37.32.

Thomas swam for Penn for three years as a male before transitioning. ​

Some states have also enacted so-called “bathroom bills” that require locker rooms, showers and restrooms in public schools be separated by “biological sex.”​

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an order last month that designates giving trans children hormone therapy as “child abuse.”

The ACLU has sued Abbott on behalf of a woman identified in court papers as Jane Doe, who is being investigated by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services officials for child abuse.

Kristi Noem.
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill that bans transgender girls and college-age women from competing in female school sports. ​
Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The mom, who works in the agency, was placed on leave after asking her superiors for clarification about Abbott’s order.

Republicans have made legislation limiting transgender rights a large part of their campaign proposals for the 2022 midterms.

Sen. Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released an 11-point policy blueprint last week for how the GOP will regain control of Congress.

One of the points addresses transgender people.

“Men and women are biologically different, ‘male and female He created them,’” the Florida Republican wrote. “Facts are facts, the earth is round, the sun is hot, there are two genders, and abortion stops a beating heart. To say otherwise is to deny science.

Post first appeared in NYPOST

How an Ivy League swimmer became the face of the debate on transgender women in sports

Boston (CNN)Lia Thomas stood tall and smiled wide atop the championship podium, her nearly 6-foot-4 frame pushing her head past the top of the Ivy League’s green photo backdrop.

With one hand she held a placard reading “Ivy 2022 Champion,” and with the other she stuck up two fingers in that classic sign of victory. Her hair nestled alongside the medal around her neck as a blue University of Pennsylvania jacket hung from her broad swimmer’s shoulders.
Inside Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool, not far from a large banner reading “8 Against Hate,” referring to the Ivy’s eight schools, her victories in the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday, the 200-yard freestyle on Friday and the 100-yard freestyle on Saturday showed a star athlete going about her business. The crowd of family and friends cheered politely, and Thomas posed for photos with Penn teammates and shook the hands of her closest competitors.
Lia Thomas smiles on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday.

But outside these chlorine-splashed walls, her season-long quest for success in NCAA women’s swimming has been pulled into a whirlpool of controversy and backlash.
With each victory, Thomas, a transgender woman who previously swam for Penn’s men’s team, has brought renewed attention to the ongoing debate on trans women’s participation in sports and the balance between inclusion and fair play.
Her face has been prominently featured on Fox News and right-wing news sites critical of society’s changing views on sex and gender. In the past couple of years, Republican-led states across the country have passed laws to keep trans women and girls from participating in girls’ and women’s sports in the name of “fairness,” and Thomas quickly became the personification of those fears. Last week, a Republican Senate candidate in Missouri featured Thomas in a campaign ad and asserted that “Women’s sports are for women, not men pretending to be women,” a transphobic trope belittling trans women.
Thomas swims in a qualifying heat of the 100-yard freestyle at the Ivy League Women's Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday.

Yet Thomas’ success has vexed even those who say they support her transition, including some of her fellow swimmers. An anonymous letter written on behalf of 16 of her 40 Penn teammates earlier this month criticized what they saw as her “unfair advantage,” saying they supported her gender transition out of the pool but not necessarily in it.
This post was originally posted on CNN

Transgender Swimmers Bring Spotlight to Ivy Championship

There isn’t much to indicate anything other than a typical college swim meet is taking place this week at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool.

No demonstrations or protests outside the building. But there is evidence of the discussion surrounding the sport during the past year.

An “8 Against Hate” sign is displayed above the pool between flags representing each of the schools competing in the Ivy League women’s swimming championship. Athletes from several schools also wore shirts featuring the statement.

There’s also the public address announcement made before every session that reminds spectators the conference is committed to putting on an event “free of racist, homophobic or transphobic discrimination.”

For Lia Thomas and Iszac Henig, it’s an example of the environment that has surrounded both for more than a year as they’ve sought to showcase their talents and compete at the sport’s highest level.

Their personal journeys and participation in the Ivy championships are the latest in an ongoing national conversation about the rules that govern the participation of transgender athletes in college athletics.

Both Thomas, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, and Henig, a junior at Yale University, are transgender.

Thomas is a transgender woman and former male swimmer for the Quakers, and has followed the NCAA and Ivy League’s rules since she began her transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy. Henig is swimming for Yale’s women’s team while transitioning to male, and he competes in some of the same events as Thomas.

Thomas has been a star this season, entering this week’s championship as the top qualifier in the 200-, 500- and 1,650-meter freestyle events. Some of her wins this season have been by wide margins, including in Thursday’s 500-meter freestyle final, which she won by half a pool length and set a new pool record in a time of 4:37.32.

It’s prompted some — purportedly on her own team — to question whether she has an advantage since she was born as a biological male.

At Penn’s final home swim meet of the season, protesters who opposed her participation yelled things like, “Stand up for women! Even when they’re swimming! Men cannot be women!”

But Thomas has also been beaten by Henig, who won a meeting last month in the 100-meter freestyle. Thomas finished sixth. They have a chance to go head-to-head again on Friday; Henig and Thomas are the top two qualifiers in the 100 freestyle.

Henig won Friday’s 50-meter freestyle final in a pool-record time of 21.93 and qualified fifth in the 200 freestyle.

Several states either have or are considering laws that would keep transgender girls and college-age women from playing in school sports leagues that match their gender identity. South Dakota’s governor signed a law that’s set to take effect July 1 to do just that, and Utah is considering creating a state commission to make decisions about transgender student-athletes participating in youth sports.

Ever-shifting requirements for transgender athletes at the NCAA and college levels briefly left Thomas’ participation in the Ivy championships and next month’s NCAA championships in doubt.

Last month, the NCAA said it would defer to the rules of each sport’s governing body to determine the eligibility of transgender athletes. On Feb. 1, USA Swimming released an update to its policies, requiring transgender women competing at the elite level to have small levels of testosterone — half the previous level Thomas was allowed to compete under — for 36 months before being eligible.

But citing “potentially detrimental impacts to schools and student-athletes,” the NCAA said in a statement last week that it wouldn’t alter the previously approved testosterone threshold for transgender women to compete at this year’s championships. It cleared the way for Thomas to be in the pool this week and next month.

Thomas and Penn coach Mike Schnur declined an interview request through an Ivy League official. Yale’s swim team and coaching staff won’t be conducting media interviews during this week’s championship, the same official said.

But in an interview prior to the NCAA’s policy change, Henigtold The Associated Press that the constant changes in policies were unwarranted.

“At every level, from elementary to collegiate, trans athletes have been competing for years — and the extremely negative predictions about what will happen to sports have already been shown to be false,” he said. “In every sport, at every level, there is a wide range of athletic abilities on display. Trans athletes are no different and don’t change this.”

Thomas’ only public interview this season was in December on the SwimSwam podcast. She said that she’s starting to find peace after feeling “trapped” in a man’s body for years prior to starting her transition.

“I’m feeling confident and good in my swimming and all my personal relationships,” she said, “and transitioning has allowed me to be more confident in all of those aspects of my life where I was struggling a lot before I came out.”

Post originally appeared in NBCChicago

Judges side with transgender man in protecting privacy of name changes

An appeals court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a transgender man who sought to seal his name change from the public record, declaring transgender people deserve privacy and protection from the harms that could arise from publicizing their name changes.

Superior Court Judge Michael J. Haas, writing for a unanimous three-judge appellate panel, overturned a lower court’s 2020 decision that would have required the Mercer County man, identified as A.B.C. in court records, to publish his new name and deadname in a newspaper. The lower court judge also refused to seal court records to avoid public disclosure of the man’s name and transgender identity.

A.B.C.’s name change has “no meaningful public interest,” Haas wrote.

“It is difficult to imagine a more intimate, personal, and private matter than whether a person’s gender identity conforms with the sex they were assigned at birth, typically based upon the existence and appearance of their reproductive organs, and their chromosomal makeup,” the ruling says.

Attorney Celeste Fiore, who represented A.B.C., called the ruling an example of “New Jersey law being at the forefront of equal rights nationwide.”

“These are some of the strongest statements by the courts describing the privacy interests, but also the human rights interests, in a transgender person having control over who knows things about their identity,” Fiore said.

The lower court judge in this case is Mercer County Judge William Anklowitz. Haas’ ruling says Anklowitz erred when he discounted A.B.C.’s fear that people who discover he is transgender could physically harm or discriminate against him. Anklowitz also should not have required A.B.C. to either show he’d personally experienced violence or discrimination because he is transgender, or cite study data of such transgender-related violence in New Jersey, the panel ruled.

The New Jersey Supreme Court in December 2020 — two months after Anklowitz’s ruling — eliminated requirements that name change applications and judgments be published, citing the need to protect the privacy and safety of transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary people who change their names to align with their gender identity.

A.B.C. asked Anklowitz to reconsider his ruling in light of the Supreme Court’s action, but Anklowitz in January 2021 instead doubled down on his refusal to seal A.B.C.’s name change filings. Haas called that “especially puzzling” — and potentially dangerous.

“By requiring that appellant’s name change application be publicly available, and thereby publicly identifying appellant as transgender, the court would violate appellant’s right to privacy and could heighten the risk of physical harm to appellant, or even facilitate such harm by making it easier for people to identify him as transgender,” Haas wrote.

Anklowitz did not respond to a request for comment.

“It is definitely a victory for A.B.C. to have his name change be sealed, certainly, but this is a statement to trans people saying, ‘We see you,’” Fiore said. “He is very excited that his name change is going to be confidential, and if this decision can help other people, he is thrilled that this process is going to result in an easier time for others.”

This case isn’t the first time Anklowitz upset the LGBT community with one of his rulings. In 2016, he used disparaging terms like “family-ish” when referring to a lesbian couple during proceedings in a civil lawsuit a woman filed after a Trenton fire truck hit and killed her partner in 2009, according to the Trentonian. Anklowitz’s decision and comments in that case drew rebukes from Garden State Equality and the New Jersey Bar Association.

Post originally appeared in New Jersey Monitor

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