Educators are facing wrenching new tensions over whether they should tell parents when students socially transition at school.
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.
First seen in common dreams
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.”
This article first appeared in the Courant
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.
Lawmakers in Texas have increasingly tried to prevent access to gender-affirming mental health and medical care for trans youth since last year. Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott have both targeted families providing medical care to their children. In addition, a bill the Texas legislature passed last year bans trans athletes from sports in school.
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.
As first seen in National Today
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.
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