Transgender students’ rights shouldn’t be subject to partisan feuds

Acoalition of 20 states recently filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the Biden administration had overstepped in extending anti-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity. The federal agencies targeted by the litigation include the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit argues, for example, that the federal government cannot require schools to allow students to join athletic teams and use bathrooms based on their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth.

As with so much else happening in education today, the issue of transgender student rights is deeply partisan. Each of the 20 states involved—shaded orange in the map below—has a Republican attorney general spearheading the effort. Several Republican-leaning states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, South Dakota and West Virginia—have enacted legislation or executive orders restricting transgender students’ participation in sports. Other legislative efforts have targeted bathroom and locker room access or restrictions on transgender medical care. Collectively, this legislative activity has made for the most active year to date for anti-transgender bills at the state level. Many states’ athletic associations also have issued guidance aimed to restrict transgender students’ access to team sports.

Acoalition of 20 states recently filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the Biden administration had overstepped in extending anti-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity. The federal agencies targeted by the litigation include the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit argues, for example, that the federal government cannot require schools to allow students to join athletic teams and use bathrooms based on their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth.

As with so much else happening in education today, the issue of transgender student rights is deeply partisan. Each of the 20 states involved—shaded orange in the map below—has a Republican attorney general spearheading the effort. Several Republican-leaning states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, South Dakota and West Virginia—have enacted legislation or executive orders restricting transgender students’ participation in sports. Other legislative efforts have targeted bathroom and locker room access or restrictions on transgender medical care. Collectively, this legislative activity has made for the most active year to date for anti-transgender bills at the state level. Many states’ athletic associations also have issued guidance aimed to restrict transgender students’ access to team sports.

F1 State participation in LGBTQ protections lawsuit and High School YRBS 2019 transgender identity survey item

The specific legal issues involved are complicated and beyond the scope of this post. For those interested in more detail on these issues, Suzanne Eckes and Maria Lewis wrote an excellent primer on this blog last October.

Rather, we intend this post as a reminder—grounded in data—that when culture wars descend upon schools, vulnerable children are often caught in the crossfire. That is certainly the case with transgender students’ rights. The data available, limited as they are, reveal clear vulnerabilities among many students who identify as transgender.

DATA ON TRANSGENDER STUDENTS FROM THE YRBS

We explored data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The CDC, in partnership with states and school districts, has administered the YRBS and related surveys since the early 1990s to monitor the health and well-being of U.S. high school students in most states. (Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington did not participate in 2019.) It contains a set of standard questions, asked of all students in schools randomly selected to participate. It also contains a few optional questions that states (and districts) can decide whether to include. One of these optional questions asks students whether they identify as transgender. (“Some people describe themselves as transgender when their sex at birth does not match the way they think or feel about their gender. Are you transgender?”) Since this item appeared on the state YRBS but not the national YRBS, responses to this item are representative of the participating states but not necessarily the country as a whole.

In 2019, 15 states opted to include the transgender question in their YRBS (with Massachusetts including the question but not making its data publicly available). In doing so, these states not only provided a glimpse of what percentage of their high school students identify as transgender (roughly 2% by our calculations, which is similar to CDC estimates from the 2017 YRBS), but they also enabled researchers to examine these students’ experiences and well-being.

Notably, the states that included this question—shaded in blue in Figure 1 above—are completely distinct from the 20 states that filed the lawsuit against the Biden administration. As a result, we have the least data on transgender students’ experiences in the states that are most hostile to them legislatively. For transgender students, even data collection seems partisan.

While there is, of course, a great deal of variation within any subgroup of students, the YRBS data from states that asked about transgender identity paint a concerning picture. Figure 2 compares responses from transgender students (those who responded, “Yes, I am transgender,” to the item above) and cisgender students (those who responded, “No, I am not transgender”). Differences between transgender and cisgender students’ responses do not necessarily mean that identifying as transgender increases children’s victimization or mental health risk, but the differences are striking and provide insight into the difficulties that many transgender students face.

F2 Victimization and mental health of high school students

Transgender students are more than twice as likely as cisgender students in these states to report having been bullied at school (43% vs. 17%) and bullied online (34% vs. 14%) in the last 12 months. Over one-third did not go to school at least once in the last 30 days because they felt unsafe, and, jarringly, nearly as many (28%) reported being forced to have sex in the last 12 months. A majority (61%) of transgender students reported having felt sad or hopeless for two weeks, and disturbingly large percentages had considered (45%) or attempted (29%) suicide at least once in the last year. Across the board, these percentages are significantly higher than the corresponding percentages for cisgender students. Self-reported drug use by transgender-identifying students is also strikingly high, especially for harder drugs such as heroin and methamphetamines (as seen in the 2017 YRBS data).

Transgender students’ participation in team sports has become an especially relevant issue, and the YRBS contains an item, administered to students from select states, that asks “on how many sports teams did you play” during the past 12 months. In the states where we can disaggregate responses by gender identity and sports team participation status—Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, and Pennsylvania —we find that 42% of transgender students played at least one sport, compared to 52% of cisgender students. The survey does not ask whether these students played on teams aligned with their gender identity or sex assigned at birth.

This makes it possible to compare responses for transgender students who played team sports and transgender students who did not. Importantly, this does not allow for a causal interpretation of the effects of sports participation on transgender students’ mental health and well-being. There is too much that we can’t observe to make a causal analysis possible, such as personality differences between transgender children who play and don’t play sports.

Figure 3 shows victimization and mental health outcomes for transgender-identifying students, disaggregated by whether they reported playing on a sports team in the last year. We don’t see substantial differences between these groups. However, some of the samples are quite small and corresponding error bars quite large. For context, YRBS data also show similar outcomes between cisgender students who played sports and cisgender students who did not. (Though cisgender students who played sports were slightly less likely other cisgender students to have felt sad/hopeless and considered suicide.)

F3 Comparison of transgender student victimization and mental health, by sports participation status

While the argument for making team sports accessible does not depend on sports participation having positive outcomes for transgender students, this is a topic worth exploring with richer data. Some research—on all students, not just transgender students—suggests possible (positive) links between youth sports participation and students’ longer-term mental healthpsychological and social health, and educational and economic outcomes. Effects along these lines for transgender students are certainly plausible, as are negative effects from being denied opportunities on the basis of gender identity.

This brings us to our two primary takeaways.

The first is about data. Our ability to assess the mental health and needs of transgender students shouldn’t be limited to blue states or any other subset of states or districts. Hopefully, the YRBS item on gender identity will soon move from the optional list to the standard list of survey items. Beyond the YRBS, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has, during the Biden administration, prioritized resources and protections for transgender youth—and expanded its collection of civil rights data. OCR, as well as local and state leaders, could explore appropriate ways to collect data on transgender students’ experiences.

The second is about politics and people. Schools have long been a battleground for culture war issues, but seldom to the extent they are now. Whether the issue is critical race theory, masks, or transgender students’ rights, politicians—specifically, conservative politicians—are finding opportunities to score political points by running with controversial issues in schools. These actions have real consequences for children. Kids know when adults are talking about them, and they get the message when those adults are saying they’re unwanted. Transgender students, as a group, are especially vulnerable, and the numbers above should give anyone pause. We should be going out of our way to ensure that transgender students feel welcome and embraced, not excluded and ostracized.

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Elliot Page makes first red carpet appearance since disclosing he’s transgender

Although the look seems understated, Page’s pop of green is a statement in itself as a symbol of queer love, originating from poet Oscar Wilde who often wore a green carnation on his own lapel.

The green carnation came to represent queer men, as it “embodied the decadent and the unnatural,” according to Oscar Wilde Tours. For Page, the inclusion of such an homage was likely important after years of disconnect between his public image and true identity.

“I just never recognized myself,” Page told Time of his prior red carpet appearances and magazine spreads. “For a long time I could not even look at a photo of myself.”

And while people are quick to make judgments on the best dressed on the carpet, Page also shared his stance on those “crushing standards” that he was subjected to for so long.

The post appeared first on Yahoo.

Oklahoma School Ordered to Reinstate Transgender Professor

In the latest development in a long-running case, a federal appeals court orders Southeastern Oklahoma State University to rehire and award tenure to a professor who says she was denied tenure and fired for transitioning to a woman.

RACHEL TUDOR
Rachel Tudor

A federal appeals court said this week that Southeastern Oklahoma State University must reinstate, with tenure, a former professor of English who says she was denied tenure for being transgender.

A jury previously awarded the professor, Rachel Tudor, more than $1 million in damages. But the court capped that amount at $300,000, plus front-pay wages of some $60,000. The lower court also sided with the university in saying that Tudor should not be reinstated due to hostility between the parties.

Tudor disagreed about reinstatement, arguing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that she wanted to return to Southeastern Oklahoma State. Her lawyers said that litigation-related hostility is not a valid reason to refuse to rehire someone.

The university, meanwhile, appealed the jury’s verdict in favor of Tudor.

In the end, the appeals court mostly agreed with Tudor and her lawyers and with the jury’s determination that Tudor was denied tenure due to sex discrimination.

The decision is unusual in that courts generally shy away from intervening in tenure decisions. And in those rare instances where courts are favorable to professors denied tenure, the professors involved don’t necessarily want to return to the institutions that spurned them.

“A court’s inquiry into whether reinstatement is appropriate after a jury verdict of discrimination and retaliation in plaintiff’s favor therefore does not take place on a level playing field,” Judge David M. Ebel wrote in an opinion on behalf of the three-judge panel. “Instead, courts must start with the strong preference for reinstatement, and then ask if the defendant has overcome this presumption by establishing the existence of extreme hostility between the parties.”

Such an “extreme hostility test” doesn’t require “complete harmony among the plaintiff, the employer and other employees,” Ebel said. “There are plenty of workarounds and solutions making reinstatement possible in cases where some animosity exists, such as a remote office, a new supervisor, or a clear set of workplace guidelines.”

Ebel acknowledged that the current chair of English at Southeastern Oklahoma State said he didn’t think it would be a “good thing” for Tudor to return to the English department and that his colleagues were “split at best” on the issue. But this doesn’t equal extreme hostility, Ebel said, and in higher education, in particular, “teaching and scholarship are inherently fairly insulated from the adverse sentiments of colleagues.” Tenured positions are especially “insulated,” he also said.

Most of the “primary antagonists” in the case have since left the university, and a “large institution” such as Southeastern Oklahoma State “should have sufficient resources to eliminate or otherwise ameliorate any hostility on its side toward the plaintiff,” Ebel wrote. He also noted that the U.S. Justice Department settled with the university regarding a related complaint and that, as a result, trainings and other measures to reduce discrimination such as what Tudor faced were already in place.

The appellate court also ordered the lower court to recalculate Tudor’s front-pay wages.

Through the office of her lawyer, Jillian T. Weiss, Tudor, who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, said in a statement that she is “looking forward to being the first tenured Native American professor in her department in the 100-plus-year history of the Native-American-serving institution that is Southeastern Oklahoma State.”

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First openly transgender bishop installed in Evangelical Lutheran church

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has installed their first openly transgender bishop, the Associated Press reported. 

The church elected Rev. Megan Rohrer to serve a six-year term as bishop in May, replacing a bishop who retired.

Rohrer, who uses the pronoun “they,” will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing 200 congregations in the California and Nevada regions, according to the AP.

“I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,” Rohrer said in a statement. “My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has installed their first openly transgender bishop, the Associated Press reported. 

The church elected Rev. Megan Rohrer to serve a six-year term as bishop in May, replacing a bishop who retired.

Rohrer, who uses the pronoun “they,” will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing 200 congregations in the California and Nevada regions, according to the AP.

“I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,” Rohrer said in a statement. “My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward.”

Rohrer becomes one of the seven LGBTQ pastors accepted by the progressive church since 2010, when it began allowing pastors in same-sex relationships. Rohrer is married and has two children.

Rohrer previously served as pastor of San Francisco’s Grace Lutheran Church and the chaplain coordinator of the city’s police department, the AP reported.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has about 3.3 million members across the nation, the AP noted.

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Transgender fighter Alana McLaughlin submits Celine Provost in MMA debut

Alana McLaughlin, the first openly transgender athlete to compete in mixed martial arts in the United States since 2014, won her MMA debut Friday night, beating Celine Provost via submission on the Combate Global prelims in Miami.

McLaughlin used a rear-naked choke to get the finish at 3 minutes, 32 seconds of the second round.

A former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, McLaughlin is just the second transgender woman to fight in MMA. Fallon Fox, who was the first, was cageside watching McLaughlin.

In the first round, Provost rocked McLaughlin with punches several times and looked to be on the verge of a finish. But in the second, McLaughlin took Provost down, got her back and cinched in the choke.

McLaughlin, 38, passed all the medicals, including a hormone panel, issued by the Florida State Boxing Commission in order to compete Friday night, according to Combate Global executive Mike Afromowitz. McLaughlin has been training at MMA Masters in the Miami area.

It was not easy for Combate to find her a foe, she said.

“It was a nightmare trying to find an opponent,” McLaughlin said before the bout. “I have nothing but respect for [Provost].”

McLaughlin is hoping to be a pioneer for transgender athletes in combat sports, saying she wants to “open the door” and “make space” for others like her.

Fox fought six times in MMA from 2012 to 2014.

Patricio Manuel made boxing history in 2018 when he became the first transgender male to compete in a pro boxing match in the United States. Manuel beat Hugo Aguilar via unanimous decision.

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Knox Co. School Board approves policy that restricts transgender students’ rights per new TN laws, critics say

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knox County School Board approved two policies on second readings, which critics say those policies restrict transgender students’ rights.

The first policy does not allow students to use a “multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility” aligning to their gender identity.

The policy said the school principal can provide a “reasonable accommodation” to students who ask for it, including access to a single-person restroom or changing facility.

The post appeared first on WBIR.

Ozy Studios Inks Development Deals With Trio Of Transgender Talent

Ozy Studios inked development deals with three breakthrough transgender artists. They include Puerto Rican chef Paxx Caraballo Moll, Alabama-based activist Dan Eggers and model Rosalynne Montoya.

Beginning as a digital magazine in 2013, Ozy has moved into podcasts, events and original TV series featured on A+E, History, Lifetime, Amazon, Hulu, OWN, PBS and BBC. Chef Paxx, Eggers and Montoya will now be part of those multi-platform storytelling initiatives.

“At Ozy we feel the immense responsibility of pushing culture forward with the content we share and conversations we foster with our audience,” said CEO Carlos Watson. “We feel this is an important moment to highlight the complexity of humanity and the truly diverse life experiences of these incredible talents are one important way in which we can do that.”

“Amplifying voices from within the trans community is not just in-line with Ozy’s philosophy: It’s personal,” said Executive Director of Ozy Studios Chris Rantamaki. “As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I know the impact of seeing ourselves reflected in pop culture. I’m excited about showcasing a wide spectrum of trans talent in our content, alongside some of the biggest celebrities in the world.”

Chef Paxx is a Puerto Rican trans man who was named Best New Chef in 2019 by Food and Wine magazine. “I’m excited to work with Ozy because I felt at home with them immediately,” says Chef Paxx. “I can’t wait to highlight my culinary skills and bring my queer kitchen sensibilities to the entire world.”

The Alabama-born Eggers is one of the first openly transgender people to enter a top college musical theater program. Of his new deal Eggers said, “I felt that my experience would be properly honored in the Ozy family rather than tokenized…Ozy sincerely brings forward those who have often been left behind. I am ready to help #ResetAmerica!”

Montoya, who identifies as a non-binary trans woman, is a makeup artist and model well-known on TikTok and Instagram. “Queer people need accurate representation,” said Montoya. “When I felt like I didn’t have a future or life wasn’t worth living, it was seeing positive representations in the media that proved to me that I have a happy and successful life ahead.”

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Native transgender lobbyist sues conservative news website for libel

A Native American lobbyist is suing an online newspaper in eastern Montana for libel, claiming the publication made claims that damaged her ability to perform her job, and is seeking $250,000 in damages from the Montana Daily Gazette.

Adrian Jawort, a transgender lobbyist for Montana Native Voice, is suing the paper for claiming that she cornered a state Senator and Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Laszloffy, who escorted the Senator to the sergeant-at-arms for his protection.

Jawort denied the allegations in the paper and asked the Montana Daily Gazette to remove the written account of the alleged incident and correct the reporting. The Montana Daily Gazette refused to do so, standing by its account. That account offers no source and neither Laszloffy nor the state Senator, nor the sergeant-at-arms appear to have been contacted by the online outlet.

Lawyers Rylee Sommers-Flanagan and Raph Graybill are representing Jawort and said they’ve talked to the parties named in the publication and are prepared to prove the event which alleged lawmakers needed protection from Jawort “never happened.”

“This obviously causes immense reputation damage and harms my performance to do my duties to not only me, but the organization I work for, Montana Native Voice,” Jawort wrote in her complaint.

Matthew Monforton, the attorney for the Gideon Knox Group, the organization that runs the Montana Daily Gazette, said his client stands by the reporting.

“We are confident that at the end of the day, the Montana Daily Gazette will be fully vindicated,” he said.

The incident, which was reported by the Montana Daily Gazette, was part of a profile it did on Jawort, titled “Who’s the Gothic Transvestite Haunting the Halls of the Montana Capitol.” While the author doesn’t have a byline other than “Publisher,” Monforton confirmed the identity of the writer is Pastor Jordan “J.D.” Hall.

The article, which claims Jawort is mentally ill and is debilitated with gender dysphoria, is a mix of a little reporting and a lot of commentary about her.

“Fooling precisely no one, the man has been seen wandering the Montana State Capitol like an out-of-place Sasquatch in goth make-up, looking for a snack or someone to yell at. The ill-tempered, dress-wearing man was regularly seen in the gallery of both the House and Senate, chastising legislators with his wagging, giant man fingers, and sitting in fish-net stockings reapplying his make-up with all the precision of a birthday clown with a bad hangover,” the article stated.

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Transgender March on Broadway protests producer’s casting comments

Transgender actors and advocates for greater trans inclusion on Broadway gathered in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district on Monday. Called the Trans March on Broadway, the event was organized in response to producer Cameron Mackintosh’s recent statements that transgender casting in classic musicals is a “gimmick.” Participants seized upon the opportunity for transgender members of the industry to reclaim an ongoing debate about casting, inclusion and access.

“I’m not marching because of Cameron Mackintosh. I’m marching because there is trans erasure in this industry, and I want to have a conversation about trans people, led by trans people,” Sis, the actor, activist and founder of the Next Generation Project who organized the march told Variety in an interview before the event.

“When I look out, I see so many beautiful faces,” Peppermint, the “Rupaul’s Drag Race” star and transgender theater actress, said before the gathered crowd Monday afternoon, made up of a few hundred members of the New York theater community. “Of the trans faces I see, I see actors, performers, speakers, writers and creators. And I don’t see a single ‘gimmick.’ What I see are opportunities, and it’s time that they—they who are in the business of Broadway—know it.”

The event, which began in Central Park’s Sheep’s Meadow at noon and culminated in a march down Broadway to Schubert Alley — the geographic center of the Broadway universe. It drew roughly 200 people and featured speeches from transgender advocates and actors including Sis, Peppermint, Ianne Fields Stewart, Jayae Riley Jr., Qween Jean, and former “Jagged Little Pill” cast-members Iris and Nora Shell.

The march allowed an opportunity for several of the few transgender actors who’ve held roles on Broadway, despite a litany of contemporary shows like “Tootsie” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which advocates say profit from transgender stereotypes while casting cis gender performers, to share their experiences in the business.

Mackintosh, the powerhouse producer of “Les Misérables” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” subsequently tried to clarify his remarks, insisting that he was speaking specifically about re-casting the lead role in his musical version of “Mary Poppins” with a trans actress.

“Unfortunately, my answer has been misinterpreted to suggest that I am opposed to casting a transgender performer to play the role,” Mackintosh said in a statement. “This is absolutely not true. I meant only that I would not as a producer disregard the author P.L. Travers’ original intention for the character.”

“To be clear, whether a person is trans has no bearing on their suitability for any role in any of my shows, including Mary Poppins, as long as they can perform the role as written,” he added. “I am very sorry for any distress caused by my remarks being misrepresented. Trans actors are welcome to submit and audition for any of my productions.”

Peppermint, who in 2018 became the first Black trans woman to originate a principal role in an original Broadway cast with “Head Over Heels,” offered what she learned from her experience.

“I felt it was my responsibility to be the one person in the production who was the protector of anyone who was trans or gender nonconforming,” she told the crowd.

“When we were starting to rehearse ‘Head Over Heels,’ there was one person who identified as nonbinary and was sorting that out during the rehearsal process. They asked their supervisor to use their pronouns and their name, went through so much turmoil, and was eventually fired. I felt so horrible that I couldn’t protect this person,” she continued, suggesting that the crew members’ firing was due in part to their transition. “This Broadway show that was claiming cred in every newspaper also had other transgender and nonbinary people who were feeling unsafe.”

“I had to educate everyone else,” Peppermint said, speaking before the crowd, which included several Black trans women who carried sign that read ‘We want our stories told, too.’ “I thought I was there to do a job and get on stage and sing some songs—but I was holding seminars backstage,” she narrated. “I didn’t get paid for any of that work, but at the time, it was work that was necessary.”

In an interview before the event, Peppermint made it clear why she felt unsupported in her work as a transgender leader. She believes that putting too narrow a focus on Cameron Mackintosh’s recent statements is unproductive. “What Cameron Mackintosh said only reflected his practices,” she told Variety. “He was telling the truth about what he thinks. He was giving us a signal that this is where he—where himself and every other casting director and producer in the business who I’ve ever experienced—stand.”

Iris, who joined the original Broadway cast of “Jagged Little Pill,” Alanis Morissette’s 2019 jukebox musical bent on exploring modern issues of social justice, offered her experiences publicly for the first time.

“What happened to me was insidious and violent transphobia,” zie told her audience, gathered in a circle on the expansive Central Park lawn. “I’ve spent countless hours untangling the messaging in my head that I received from people in positions of power who claimed to support me and my community, and I’ve cried in rage about the fact that none of my cisgender cast members spoke out against the transphobia I was facing.”

Iris said zie learned of her position as the company’s only transgender actor when zie arrived for rehearsals, and zie soon began to question her safety at work. “I was bombarded with invasive questions about my experiences as a trans person from cast members and members of the creative and producing team. I understand now that my position was simple,” zie explained: “Offer up my trans experience as consumption as cis people in positions of power took from [my] lived experience, decided what to keep in their cis re-telling of [my] experiences, and chose to call it a trans narrative.”

Broadway, Sis told Variety, must continue to be the locus for new and innovative transgender stories and must strive to do so while uplifting the artists producers and creators choose to cast.

“If you get a show on Broadway, that show can be licensed,” Sis explained in an interview with Variety, just before the activist rallied her crowd and placed a group of open, Black transgender women directly in front of the theaters that have largely excluded them. “The minute a Black trans woman leads a new work or an original Broadway cast, that sets a precedent for everything that follows. Every time you cast that show, whether you’re in Minnesota or a high school in Texas or a South Korean tour, there must be a Black trans woman who tells that story.”

Casting a transgender actor in a Broadway role doesn’t have to be at odds with the demands of commercialization, Sis says.

“Disney is successful, Apple is successful, because they’ve found a way to innovate while making a commercially viable product,” Sis explained to Variety before the march. “We have to learn to take chances. All performers know that for something to be good, it must be special. You need a gimmick, if you will,” she continued, with a wink.

“If you want to tell a story, and you need something special, look at what’s working, what’s hot right now. Let’s put people in space on a Broadway stage,” she offered, only half joking. “Remember the movie ‘Gravity?’ What if we put the movie ‘Gravity’ on the stage, and the actress happened to be trans? The gimmick isn’t the trans person. The gimmick is seeing someone in space on a Broadway stage. Now, we have a story led by a trans woman—that humanizes and embraces her, and it’s innovative,” said Sis, arguably doing the work over which producers agonize.

“You can do two things at once, and they’re things that are of value to this industry,” she finished. “Tell a story and make money.”

The post appeared first on NBC.

Transgender insureds can sue over health plan exclusion, U.S. appeals court affirms

Transgender people who are enrolled in the North Carolina State Health Plan can proceed with a lawsuit over its 2018 decision to exclude all coverage for gender dysphoria counseling, hormone therapy, surgical care or other treatment, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

The 2-1 decision affirmed a federal judge in Greensboro’s 2020 ruling that NCSHP lacks sovereign immunity from the suit, which was filed by Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis on behalf of seven state workers or their dependents under the antidiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

NCSHP waived its 11th Amendment protections against the discrimination lawsuit by accepting federal funds, Chief Circuit Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the majority.

He quoted from the Civil Rights Remedies Equalization Act (CRREA), which provides that states have no sovereign immunity from suits alleging a violation of “the provisions of any other Federal statute prohibiting discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance.”

Circuit Judge Albert Diaz concurred in the result, specifying that he did so based on the combined effect of CRREA and the Affordable Care Act rather than the ACA’s antidiscrimination section alone.

The dissenter, Circuit Judge G. Steven Agee, said a state’s waiver of sovereign immunity must be knowing and voluntary, and CRREA — which predates the Affordable Care Act, and never mentions it — fails to provide the requisite notice.

“The NCSHP’s sovereign immunity from suit should have been confirmed and the case dismissed,” Agee concluded. “The Supreme Court should proceed expeditiously to correct the constitutional error here.”

The case is Maxwell Kadel et al. v. North Carolina State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees et al., 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-1409.

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