Fifty Bandz, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, has become the latest victim of a wave of violence against trans people in the US that activists and physicians have dubbed an “epidemic”.
Bandz was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 28 January by her former partner, Michael Joshua Brooks, 20, according to The Advocate.×
Brooks told law enforcement that he pulled the trigger during an argument at the 5000 block of McClelland Drive in the Brookstown neighbourhood.
The pair had been in a one-year-long relationship, Baton Rouge Police Department detectives said, but began seeing one another again only days before the victim’s death. Brooks has since been arrested.
Witnesses described their relationship as “very volatile”. He “was not open or forthcoming” about dating Bandz, which “caused personal problems” for them both.
Bandz met Brooks in Brookstown to hand him a mobile phone, detectives said. But he became rattled when she made the delivery in from of his girlfriend and brother, witnesses alleged, and then began arguing over the phone.
She borrowed a vehicle and told witnesses she was heading back to grab the phone from Brooks. During the drive there, she dialled a friend and told them what had happened – she then placed the pal on hold, noting Brooks had rung her.
But Bandz never returned the call. She was found dead inside a vehicle at 11pm, suffering from several gunshot wounds that Brooks had fired during a heated exchange, he admitted.
Friends, family and other loved ones released balloons in Bandz’s honour 1 February.
“In just one month, multiple transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed, four of whom were Black trans women,” Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement.
“This level of violence is infuriating and heartbreaking. This is an epidemic of violence that must be stopped.
Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would make it a felony to provide gender-affirming medical treatment, other than counseling, to anyone under the age of 21. Such treatment can alleviate gender dysphoria and postpone puberty to give children time to explore their gender identity. The bill would punish doctors, parents, and even children themselves with penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Oklahoma’s bill is extreme, taking autonomy away from young adults and imposing draconian punishments, and is part of a worrying larger trend. Across the US, state lawmakers are once again introducing a slew of bills that seek to block transgender children from accessing healthcare, sports, and support in schools.
This seemingly coordinated assault on transgender kids flies in the face of what medical professionals, parents, and transgender kids say they need. Studies show that transgender kids can reap huge benefitsfrom being able to socially transition – that is, to have others treat them in a manner consistent with their gender identity. Bills that shut transgender kids out of sports or bar teachers from respecting their gender identity fly in the face of transgender children’s rights and well-being.
It’s equally misguided to restrict medical interventions for transgender or gender non-conforming kids, which are fairly rare. The most common treatment is puberty blockers, which delay the onset of puberty and can alleviate the anxiety and distress that young transgender people might otherwise experience as their body develops. Professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support this treatment for some children, allowing them to further explore their gender identity while suspending physiological changes that can be difficult or impossible to reverse later in life.
Unfortunately, lawmakers have used sensationalistic arguments about irreversible genital surgeries as an excuse to ban any kind of transition-related care. This ignores that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health does not recommend genital surgeries for minors, and they virtually never occur.
Whether puberty blockers or steps toward medical transition are appropriate for a given child is a deeply personal determination. For kids who need them, foreclosing these options is a violation of their bodily autonomy and their right to health.
Lawmakers in Oklahoma and elsewhere should roundly reject this bill, and others like it, and instead turn their attention to the real crises affecting trans kids, such as discrimination, bullying, and suicide.
For the first time, the popular American Girl franchise has released a doll with an LGBT+ storyline, so of course homophobes are trying to stage a boycott.
The iconic dolls were a cultural phenomenon in the ’90s and still command a multi-generational fanbase in the US, with some of the toys selling for thousands online.
Each doll is accompanied by a book telling the character’s story, but the 2021 Girl of the Year, Kira Bailey, is dividing loyal fans – because she has two gay aunts.
In Kira Down Under, the animal-loving 10-year-old goes to Australia to spend the summer at her aunts’ wildlife sanctuary. The book casually mentions that the two women got married “after the law was changed to allow it”.
It’s the first time a same-sex relationship has been mentioned in an American Girl story, and for some, it was a step too far.
“American Girl collectors continue to be the worst people in the world,” said Boston collector Rebecca Nachman as she revealed the debate raging across private fan groups.
“People lost their goddamn minds, there was so much blatant homophobia in the American Girl Facebook groups I’m in, it was horrific. People were saying, ‘children are innocent, they shouldn’t have to read about sex’, as if American Girl is publishing a lesbian porno.”
While many collectors called for a boycott of the beloved brand, others took their anger out on Amazon, where a third of the reviews for the book give only one star.
“Homosexuality is an inappropriate topic for a children’s book and I am very disappointed that it was woven so blatantly into the storyline for Kira,” read one negative review.
“The storyline is inappropriate and far too mature for young readers,” wrote another, and “Parents are not informed of lesbian relationship in the story”.
It’s not the first time American Girl has been hit with a backlash for supporting the LGBT+ community.
In 2005 several homophobes organised a boycott after learning the brand supported the pro-LGBT+ charity Girls Inc. Yet another boycott was called in 2015, after a girl with two fathers featured in American Girl magazine.
American Girl defended the decision to introduce an LGBT+ storyline, saying it was important that the characters reflected the modern world.
“From the beginning, our ‘Girl of the Year’ characters have been designed to reflect girls’ lives today and the realities of the times,” Julie Parks, an American Girl spokesperson, told Yahoo Life.
“As a brand, we’ve always strived to share the message that there’s no ‘magic recipe’ for a family and that families can be made up of all kinds of ingredients – and each is unique and lovely.
“We know for girls who can directly relate to Kira’s circumstances (i.e. a father who has passed away or a couple in a same-sex marriage), we’re glad to show them that the make-up of one’s family doesn’t matter – it’s still a family and that’s all the counts. It’s a sentiment we love at American Girl.”
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Alabama’s policy requiring transgender people to have undergone gender-affirming surgery before they can get state IDs that accurately reflect their gender identities is unconstitutional, a federal court ruled this month.
Fewer than 10 states now require proof of surgery to update the gender marker on a driver’s license.
The Alabama case began in 2018, when three transgender people — Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark and an unnamed third person — sued the state after they were denied driver’s licenses that reflected their genders, opposed to their sexes assigned at birth, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The policy for driver’s licenses, which is what we challenged with this lawsuit, requires that people either submit an amended birth certificate or submit proof of having had what they call ‘complete surgery,'” which Alabama interprets to mean both “genital surgery and top surgery,” said the lawyer who litigated the case, Gabriel Arkles, senior counsel at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. An amended birth certificate also requires proof of surgery, although this case didn’t challenge that rule.
On Jan. 15, the U.S. District Court for Middle Alabama, part of the 11th Circuit, ruled that Policy Order 63, the state’s driver’s license policy for transgender people, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it discriminates based on sex.
“By making the content of people’s driver licenses depend on the nature of their genitalia, the policy classifies by sex; under Equal Protection Clause doctrine, it is subject to an intermediate form of heightened scrutiny,” Senior Judge Myron Thompson, who was nominated to the court by President Jimmy Carter, wrote in the opinion.
Arkles said that any time officials make a policy that treats people differently based on sex, “they have to have a very good reason for what they’re doing, and here they really did not.”
The state argued that the surgery requirement “serves the important government interests in maintaining consistency between the sex designation on an Alabama birth certificate and an Alabama driver’s license,” according to court documents. In addition, the state said Policy Order 63 provides “information related to physical identification” to law enforcement officers.
But the court ruled that those justifications didn’t allow the policy to pass intermediate scrutiny and that the “injuries” it caused were “severe,” acknowledging a number of Arkles’ arguments. The surgery the policy requires “results in permanent infertility in ‘almost all cases,'” the court wrote. Some transgender people might not want or need surgery, and even if they do, it might be inaccessible or unaffordable, as it was for the unnamed plaintiff, the court continued.
“It’s not acceptable for the government to force people to undergo a procedure like that just to get a license that they can use safely and go about their daily life,” Arkles said.
Only 25 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming people reported having undergone some form of transition-related surgery, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
Arkles and his team also argued that Alabama’s policy violates the privacy of transgender people and puts them in danger.
“Any time a trans person shows an ID with the wrong gender marker on it, that outs us, which also puts people at real, real risk of experiencing discrimination and violence,” he said.
The court ruled on only the first argument, that the policy violates the Equal Protection Clause, but it acknowledged the danger and distress the policy poses to the plaintiffs.
“The alternative to surgery is to bear a driver license with a sex designation that does not match the plaintiffs’ identity or appearance,” the court wrote. “That too comes with pain and risk. … For these plaintiffs, being reminded that they were once identified as a different sex is so painful that they redacted their prior names from exhibits they filed with the court.”
Mike Lewis, a spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office, said the office intends to appeal and has “no further comment.”
Arkles said the three plaintiffs have “been through so much” because of the ID policy: Corbitt hasn’t had a license or been able to drive for the last several months, Clark “sort of shaped her life around trying to minimize situations where she would have to show ID,” and the unnamed client, after she showed her ID to a bank teller, was told that she was going to hell.
Corbitt celebrated that “finally the state of Alabama will be required to respect me and provide an accurate driver’s license.”
“Since my out-of-state license expired, I have had to rely on friends and family to help me pick up groceries, get to church and get to my job. I missed a family member’s funeral because I just had no way to get there,” she said. “But the alternative — lying about who I am to get an Alabama license that endangered and humiliated me every time I used it — was not an option. I’m relieved that I will be able to drive again. While much work remains, this decision will make Alabama a safer place for me and other transgender people.”
The state plans to comply with a court order to give the plaintiffs IDs that accurately reflect their genders, but because it plans to appeal, Arkles said, “it may be quite some time before we know what the ultimate outcome is and what will be required of trans people in Alabama.”
A ‘patchwork’ of ID laws
Only eight states and two U.S. territories now require proof of surgery to change a driver’s license gender marker, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank, and the National Center for Trans Equality.
The remaining states have a variety of policies, according to the Movement Advancement Project, which reports that four states (now including Alabama) have “unclear” policies and that 20 states have “burdensome” policies and/or require medical provider certification of gender transition, which doesn’t include surgery.
Arli Christian, a campaign strategist for the ACLU, said 20 states allow people to decide what gender markers are appropriate for them and “what will keep them safe.”
“And that is hands down the best policy for ensuring that all people have the most accurate gender marker on their ID,” Christian said.
Nineteen states also allow residents to mark M, F or X, a nonbinary gender marker, on their driver’s licenses. Christian said the ACLU is pushing for President Joe Biden to create a policy that would allow transgender people to receive federal IDs, such as passports, that accurately reflect their genders without certification from medical providers. It also wants the policy to allow people to choose the gender-neutral X.
“We have a whole patchwork of gender marker change policies across the country,” Christian said. “Many of them need to be updated and modernized so that we can make sure that everybody has access to that accurate marker to be able to go through their lives without discrimination and harassment.”
Although Arkles is preparing for Alabama’s appeal, he said the ruling is a big step forward.
“While we’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to have to keep fighting this case, it is incredibly, incredibly exciting to have a decision from a judge recognizing that this is unconstitutional and to know that our clients are going to get some relief,” he said.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Emily Shilling came out as transgender on April 14, 2019, two days after a Trump administration policy barring trans people from serving openly in the military took effect.
The policy prevented trans people from enlisting, and it forced “non-exempt” service members like Shilling, who came out after the ban took effect, to continue serving as their assigned sex at birth.
“It was kind of like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” she said. “I could be whoever I wanted to be at home. I just couldn’t do anything at work.”
Shilling was depending on the outcome of the presidential election and President Joe Biden’s executive order reversing the Trump administration’s transgender military ban to continue her 15-year career. She said she has completed 60 combat missions and more than 1,700 hours as a pilot flying high-performance jets. Now, she oversees acquisitions for a fleet.
“I was committed to the Navy,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do if the election went differently, if Biden wasn’t putting out this executive order. I would probably have to be leaving the Navy, and they’ve invested 15 years in me. They’ve invested over $40 million in flight training and flight hours,” she said.
The Trump administration had maintained that its policy wasn’t a ban, because service members who wanted to transition and civilians who wanted to enlist were able to apply for waivers. But since the policy took effect, only one waiver has been granted, according to CNN. Shilling said that she had friends who applied for waivers but that they were jeopardizing their careers and their retirements. Many of them had served about 15 years, as she had, and to receive lifetime monthly retirement benefits, you have to serve for at least 20.
“You have to decide that you’re more important than your career, which is unfortunate, given our core values: honor, courage, commitment,” Shilling said.
“I now feel safe to continue my career, to give return on investment of the 15 years that I’ve already given the Navy and that they’ve given me,” Shilling said.
Serving openly will allow her to step into more senior leadership roles and be herself at work. She will be able to change her name, wear makeup if she would like and get the health care she needs. The messaging of Trump’s executive order, she said, “put us in a not worthy group,” so with the reversal, she hopes her command will support her and she’ll have more recourse if she faces harassment.
“I’ve fully transitioned outside of the Navy,” Shilling said. “Now it’s time to start the process where I don’t have to take one hat off and put a new one on to go into work.”
Advocates say people affected by the Trump administration’s policy generally fell into one of three groups. There were the “exempt” transgender service members who received diagnoses of gender dysphoria before April 12, 2019, and were therefore grandfathered in, meaning they could continue to serve openly and transition as their medical providers deemed necessary. Then there were the “non-exempt” trans service members who, like Shilling, came out or received diagnoses of gender dysphoria after the policy took effect and were therefore unable to change their names at work or get access to transition care other than therapy. Last, there were the transgender civilians who wanted to enlist in the military but couldn’t.
Now that the ban has been reversed, trans service members and civilians are figuring out what comes next. Biden directed the secretaries of defense and homeland security to update him in 60 days about their progress implementing the order, but it’s unclear just how soon a new policy will take effect.
‘Your very existence is the issue’
For exempt service members who were serving openly before the ban, the challenge was “operating under this cloud of them being a burden as the official position of the military,” said Lt. Col. Bree Fram, an astronautical engineer in the Air Force and vice president of the trans military group SPARTA.
“So despite what their units may think or despite what their commander may think, it’s a challenge just to continue to go to work and get the job done in this environment where you’re officially a challenge or a problem,” Fram said. “Your very existence is the issue.”
In June 2019, Trump cited the cost of medical care for transgender people as his reason for the ban, even though, Fram said, it makes up a tiny fraction of the Defense Department’s overall health care budget. From 2016 to 2019, the cost of treating trans troops was about $8 million, or about 0.02 percent of the Pentagon’s health care budget, according to data from the Defense Department.
The idea that trans people’s care costs more singled them out “as a special class” for no reason, Fram said. Cisgender service members could get access to hormone therapy for medical reasons if necessary, but transgender service members who came out after the ban couldn’t. “It was the singling out for special treatment that really had no rationale,” Fram said.
The singling out had an effect on military culture, too, said retired Staff Sgt. Adrianna Guevarra, who worked in IT for the Army.
Guevarra, who was serving openly before the ban, said that her command was very supportive but that she experienced more hostility from some of her peers after Trump announced the ban on Twitter. She said that in 2017, while they were training in Hawaii, some other service members said it would be a “security threat” for her to use the women’s bathroom. The situation “got really bad,” she said, so her superiors designated a single bathroom at battalion headquarters just for her.
“It was all the way downstairs, and it was, like, four floors,” Guevarra said. “So every time I had to use the bathroom or I had to change” for physical training, “I would go down to the bathroom and change, come back up, and that’s just not ideal, especially if you’re in a position where you’re needed as quick as possible.”
Overall, however, transgender service members — both those who have been serving openly and those who haven’t — reported overwhelmingly positive experiences, despite the Trump administration’s claims that the presence of trans service members negatively affected “cohesion” and “readiness.”
“As for affecting cohesion, my peers, seniors, everybody are also upset that I’m not allowed to transition,” Sgt. Liam Aguirre, a physical therapy technician based at Fort Carson, Colorado, said about his unit’s sentiment before the ban was lifted.
Aguirre, like Shilling, is non-exempt. “It’s been more of a burden not allowing people to be who they are and not allowing people to actually just be the best that they can be,” Aguirre said.
Fram came out June 30, 2016, the same day the Obama administration announced that it would permit transgender people to serve openly in the military. Fram said that shortly after the announcement, she came out in a Facebook post and in an email to her colleagues.
“I was a little hesitant,” Fram said. She said that she was uncertain what the impact would be but that she hit send anyway and then headed to the Pentagon gym, where she went “faster than I ever” had before on the elliptical machine.
She said that when she returned to her desk, she was overwhelmed by the in-person and Facebook responses.
“It was nothing but love and support, but even more so, it was my colleagues who, one by one, walked over to my desk, shook my hand and said, ‘It’s an honor to serve with you,'” she said. “I was floored.”
‘The clouds parted’
Some trans civilians, like Kaycen Bradley, 22, who lives in San Bruno, California, have been waiting years to enlist. Before Trump reinstated the ban, the Obama administration policy required trans people who wanted to enlist to be stable in their gender for at least 18 months before enlistment.
Bradley had planned to enlist in the Marine Corps in August 2019, which would have been 18 months after his last medical procedure. But the ban took effect in April.
“At that point, I was just devastated, because … I only had a few more months to go,” Bradley said. “That’s all I had left, and … it definitely broke my spirits a little bit.”
Since then, he’s been working in a gym, training and keeping in touch with military recruiters. His desired branch has changed — once Biden’s reversal takes effect, he plans to enlist in the Army — but his desire to be part of the military hasn’t wavered.
“I want to try to be the first one that actually gets to go in,” Bradley said. “Just because I’ve been waiting for so long. So … this is going to be pretty big.”
Paulo Batista, 36, who lives in San Diego and works in technical maintenance, said the day Biden issued his executive order reversing the ban, “it was just like the clouds parted.” He wants to join the Navy or Air Force and become an information technician or an aviation technician in aeronautics.
“I love to tinker with everything, and it’s just a passion,” he said. “To do it in uniform, it would just be me living my dream on a daily basis, getting to do what I like, getting to learn and work with a group of people that, you know, when you join the military, they have your back.”
Shilling wants Congress and the Biden administration to enact legislation to ensure that transgender Americans’ ability to serve their country openly doesn’t change “with the next administration or the whim of politics.”
Until then, trans service members and hopeful enlistees say they will keep fighting for their right to serve. Army Maj. Kara Corcoran said she often hears people say trans people are joining the military “just so you can transition.”
“No. I joined to serve my country, and that’s what the rest of transgender service members did, as well,” she said. “They joined to serve their country, because we love this country, and we’re willing to fight for this country. And we’re willing to fight for our right to fight for this country.”
Two organizations have entered into a partnership that seeks to improve the health and quality of life of transgender and non-binary people in Puerto Rico.
The collaboration between the South Florida-based Arianna’s Center and the Puerto Rico-based Waves Ahead seeks to strengthen and improve programs and/or services to these communities. They include free mobile HIV testing, prevention and care, case management to help with name changes, legal referrals and links to medical care and mental health services.
Both organizations will offer workshops to help trans women and non-binary people enter the workforce.
Arianna’s Center and Waves Ahead will also train trans women to become activists and help elected officials at all levels of government on issues and policies that are vital to people who are trans or non-binary.
This partnership will allow Waves Ahead to uphold its commitment to the community and expand its capacity to serve LGBTQ seniors in Puerto Rico.
Arianna’s Center CEO Arianna Lint told the Washington Blade that another one of her organization’s goals is “to empower the trans community over 50 with support groups.”
“We will have two offices: One in the San Juan metropolitan area and the other in Cabo Rojo (in southwestern Puerto Rico),” she said. “We are also developing a fundraising project for these two organizations to continue with the services. We are starting this work with very few financial resources, but with a lot of energy and the faith that we are going to move forward and that many people are going to support us.”
“Puerto Rico has become the heart of Arianna’s Center. Since 2019 we have been here supporting the trans and non-binary community with the services and advocacy that characterize our work in the United States,” added Arianna’s Center Operations Director Tony Lima in a press release. “We are proud to start 2021 by announcing Kimberly Vázquez, with vast experience and is highly recognized by her own community, is an official part of our family who will continue our trans legacy here on the island.”
Vázquez, who is in charge of coordinating Arianna’s Center work in Puerto Rico, told the Blade that joining forces with Arianna’s Center will create more opportunities for trans people who need and deserve dignified and fair treatment.
“I think it is a great alliance that, in the end, will support many more people and I know that, by receiving all their medical and support services, we will finally restore the dignity that has been taken from them for no other reason than to exclude them because they are different,” said Vázquez.
Wilfred Labiosa, executive director of Waves Ahead and SAGE Puerto Rico, said they “are extremely proud to be able to continue the work that Arianna started in 2019 in Puerto Rico.”
“Ms. Vázquez will work with our existing staff and from our centers to add more services for our Transgender and non-binary community in Puerto Rico,” said Labiosa. “New year, new beginnings.”
Grindr has been fined £8.5 million for illegally selling user data, including tracking codes and precise locations, in a serious violation of European privacy law.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority revealed on Monday (25 January) that the global hook-up app had shared users’ private details with at least five advertisers, including Twitter’s own advertising platform, which may in turn share data with more than 100 partners.
The app had illegally transmitted users’ IP address, advertising ID, GPS location, age and gender, essentially tagging individuals as LGBT+ without obtaining their explicit consent.
The fine of 100 million Norwegian kroner (£8.5m or $11.7m US) is the highest ever issued by the authority and amounts to around 10 per cent of Grindr’s estimated global annual revenue, reflecting the “very severe” nature of the breach.
The agency notes that, as the world’s most popular gay dating app, Grindr is active in nearly every country in the world; the privacy violation could have put users at serious risk in countries like Qatar and Pakistan, where homosexuality is criminalised.
“If someone finds out that they are gay and knows their movements, they may be harmed,” said Tobias Judin, head of the Norwegian Data Protection Authority’s international department.
“We’re trying to make these apps and services understand that this approach – not informing users, not gaining a valid consent to share their data – is completely unacceptable.”
In a statement to the New York Times, a spokesperson for Grindr said the company had obtained “valid legal consent from all” of its users in Europe on multiple occasions and was confident that its “approach to user privacy is first in class” among social apps.
“We continually enhance our privacy practices in consideration of evolving privacy laws and regulations, and look forward to entering into a productive dialogue with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority,” they added.
Grindr has until 15 February to officially respond to the ruling, after which the Data Protection Authority will make its final decision in the case.
Declaring “God is on your side,” a Roman Catholic cardinal, an archbishop and six other U.S. bishops issued a statement Monday expressing support for LGBTQ youth and denouncing the bullying often directed at them.
“All people of goodwill should help, support and defend LGBT youth,” said the statement released by the Tyler Clementi Foundation, named for the Rutgers University student who took his own life in 2010 after being recorded on a webcam kissing another man.
Among those signing the statement were Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
According to Catholic teaching, gays and lesbians should be respected, loved and not discriminated against, but homosexual activity is considered “intrinsically disordered.” The church leadership in the U.S. vigorously opposes same-sex marriage and has not supported efforts to boost acceptance of transgender people.
The bishops’ statement said LGBTQ youth attempt suicide at much higher rates, are often homeless because of families who reject them and “are the target of violent acts at alarming rates.”
“We take this opportunity to say to our LGBT friends, especially young people, that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you,” it read. “Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.
Along with Tobin and Wester, the statement was signed by Bishops John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky; Robert McElroy of San Diego; Steven Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Edward Weisenberger of Tucson, Arizona, as well as two retired auxiliary bishops, Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Dennis Madden of Baltimore.
After the statement was issued, another auxiliary bishop, John Dolan of San Diego, also endorsed it.
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest whose book “Building a Bridge” advocates for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the Catholic church, hailed the statement as “an historic step forward.”
“It’s a reminder that Jesus always stood on the side of the persecuted,” Martin said, expressing hope that more of the country’s over 400 active and retired bishops would endorse the statement.
Stowe and Wester had been scheduled to attend a conference last June, organized by Martin, to address LGBTQ inclusion in the church, but it was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those welcoming the bishops’ declaration was Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.
″I am appreciative of this reaffirmation of the Church’s care for those who are struggling with sexual identity issues, especially when they are targets of bullying and suffer rejection even from the very ones who should love and support them,” he said via email. “The Church stands in solidarity with them, and all of her children, to help them live a life of virtue.”
The country of late has seen mixed messages, for transgender youth in particular, in terms of acceptance.
President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order rescinding former President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people joining the military.
In more than a dozen Republican-governed states, meanwhile, lawmakers have proposed bills that would bar young transgender people from playing on school sports teams that reflect their gender identity or from obtaining certain types of gender-related medical treatments.
Bernie Sanders’ iconic inauguration mittens, immortalised in countless memes, were handmade by a lesbian teacher.
Some of the United States’ most powerful political figures turned out on Wednesday (20 January) to watch Joe Biden and Kamala Harris be sworn in as the new president and vice-president of the United States.
But Sanders ultimately stole the show with his cosy, casual look, expertly tied together with a pair of woolly mittens. Social media went into overdrive, and it wasn’t long before the Vermont senator found himself supplanted into every meme going.
Now, the creator of those mittens has come forward to claim some much-deserved glory for her gorgeous creation.
Jen Ellis, 42, told Jewish Insiderthat she is a longtime admirer of Bernie Sanders, and decided to gift him with the mittens in 2016 after he lost his bid to become the Democratic nominee for the presidency to Hillary Clinton.
The lesbian second grade teacher, who lives in Essex Junction outside Burlington, where Sanders served as mayor in the 1980s, revealed that she saw a unique opportunity to gift the Vermont senator in 2016.
At that time, Ellis’ daughter was attending a pre-school where Sanders’ daughter-in-law worked as a director. Ellis was making some of her special homemade mittens – which she calls “swittens” as she makes them from old sweaters – for staff, and decided to make a pair for Sanders too.
“I was making mittens for holiday gifts for the preschool teachers, and I made an extra pair for Bernie,” she said, explaining that she gave them to Sanders’ daughter-in-law to pass on to him.
Ellis – who has never met Sanders in person but agrees with his politics – added: “He must really like them if he chose to wear them.”
She said that she is a “fan” of Sanders, adding: “I’ve always voted for him. I agree with his politics. As a teacher, I work with people from all walks of life, and I can see how a lot of people need more help and support.
“Some of the things that Bernie talks about, like forgiving student loans and free education and just a lot of his humanitarian ideas and things, really align with what I see as a need in our country every day.”
The lesbian teacher said she hopes to one day meet Bernie Sanders, adding: “I want him to keep doing what he’s doing and fighting the good fight.”
Sadly for fans of Ellis’ “swittens”, it won’t be possible to get a pair anytime soon. She has received more than 6,000 emails from people wanting to buy a pair of her handmade creations, but she doesn’t have the time or inclination to mass-produce them.
“I’m not going to quit my day job. I am a second grade teacher, and I’m a mom, and all that keeps me really busy.”
President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order repealing the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, a ban that former President Donald Trump had put in effect, the White House said.
In a statement, the White House said Biden’s order “sets the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve.”
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” the White House said.
Biden’s order “immediately prohibits involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity or under circumstances relating to gender identity,” the White House said
The order also directs the immediate “correction of” military records for any who had been affected by Trump’s ban.
Biden’s action to reverse the ban had been widely expected. He had vowed to reverse the Trump administration’s transgender military policy “on Day One” of his administration, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Inauguration Day that the move was imminent.
Psaki said last Wednesday that the action would be among the “additional executive actions” that will be taken “in the coming days and weeks.”
During his Senate confirmation hearing last week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he supports reversing the ban. “If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve, and you can expect that I will support that throughout,” he said.
Human rights groups immediately lauded the move by Biden.
“Today, those who believe in fact-based public policy and a strong, smart national defense have reason to be proud. The Biden administration has made good on its pledge to put military readiness above political expediency by restoring inclusive policy for transgender troops,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a nonpartisan organization that studies LGBTQ military issues. “The ban will now be replaced with a single standard for everyone that, as in the successful previous policy, will apply equally to all service members.”
“President Biden’s reversal of the Transgender Military Ban is a huge step towards full equality for the LGBTQ community and serves to make us stronger as a nation,” said Erin Uritus, the CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a LGBTQ workplace equality advocacy organization.
Trump, in a series of unexpected tweets in July 2017, announced transgender people would be barred from serving in the military “in any capacity,” reversing a policy decision announced by the Obama administration in June 2016.
While the Trump administration maintained its policy was not a “ban,” it did prevent transgender people who plan to pursue gender-affirming hormones or surgery from enlisting. Transgender individuals who were already serving openly were grandfathered in, meaning they could continue to serve. But those service members who came out as trans after the policy could not pursue transition and were required to serve as their assigned sex at birth.
Thousands of transgender people already serve in the military. A 2016 Department of Defense survey estimated that 1 percent, or 8,980, active duty troops were transgender. Using the same data, the Palm Center, which studies LGBTQ people in the military, estimated that an additional 5,727 transgender people were in the Selected Reserve, bringing the total estimated number of transgender troops serving in 2016 to 14,707.