An exec at gaming giant Gearbox has stated the developer may move outside of Texas if the state continues with legislation targeting the trans community.
David Najjab, the director of institutional partnerships at the Borderlands 3developer, said in testimony before the Texas House of Representatives that bills like the Texas Senate Bill 29 could force the studio to move elsewhere.
“Again we’re looking at another unnecessary bill. Just like the bathroom bill, this is a solution looking for a problem,” he said.
“Our game company is in competition worldwide. We export more than – we sell more to Asia than we do in the United States. We bring a lot of money into this state, we’re headquartered here.
“Don’t drive us to where we have to start expanding outside of Texas and outside the country.”
Bill S29, the “Fair Sports for Women and Girls Act”, requires public school students to participate in athletic competitions based on their assigned gender at birth.
“We are concerned to see a resurgence of efforts to exclude transgenderyouth from full participation in their communities, to criminalise or ban best-practice medical care that is proven to save lives, or to exclude LGBTQ people in a variety of other settings, including accessing healthcare, filling a prescription, or seeking legal representation,” reads the open letter, in part.
Gearbox are strong supporters of the LGBT+ community, with last year’s Borderlands 3 DLC Guns, Love and Tentacles revolving around a gay wedding. The game was nominated for multiple LGBT+ gaming awards.
A trans girl in Texas has received death threats for opposing the anti-trans bill.
Kai Shappley, a fourth-grader, spoke before the Texas state affairs committee against the bill on 12 April for “attacking” her identity.
Her mother has since taken over her social media accounts due to threats received.
Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards has promised to veto any “unnecessary” and “discriminatory” legislation targeting “fragile” trans youth that winds up on his desk.
The Democrat said in a press conference on Monday (19 April) he would oppose bills seeking to ban trans youth in sports, as well as a proposal that would make it illegal for trans minors to access vital gender-affirming medical treatment. Edwards called both measures “unnecessary and discriminatory”, adding that he’s “hopeful” the state’s legislature “will not seek to advance those bills”.
“I am really concerned about emotionally fragile people and the idea that the weight of the state would be put behind something that to me is unnecessary and discriminatory and very hurtful for those individuals when there’s not a compelling reason to do it,” Edwards said.
He also said the proposals would have an “adverse impact to the state” should they be brought into law.
AP reported that New Orleans, Louisiana is scheduled to host the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Final Four basketball tournament in 2022. The NCAA has issued a statement declaring its support for trans student-athletes and said it will choose locations for its tournaments where “hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination”.
Two of the four Louisiana lawmakers sponsoring the bans on trans athletes in school sports have said they intend to move the bills forward despite this.
Republican senator Beth Mizel told the LA Illuminator that the state should “not let the NCAA or any other special interest group tell us what to do”. She claimed any group that said they would boycott the state should the anti-trans bills pass into law was practising a kind of “extortion”.
Louisiana lawmakers introduced four anti-trans measures thus far in 2021. Two bills – Senate Bill 104 and House Bill 575 – would ban trans minors under the age of 18 from receiving healthcare and mental health services related to their gender identity.
SB 104 would require trans youth to get permission from their parents before pursuing any gender-affirming care, including counselling.
HB 575 would prohibit trans minors from getting any prescriptions for drug therapy or even gender-affirming surgery even if they have the permission of their parents. The bill would also force school staff to out trans students to their parents. If it were to pass into law, it would criminalise anyone that provides gender-affirming care to trans minors with a two-year prison sentence or a $10,000 fine.
The Biden administration announced on Thursday it has formally withdrawn a rule proposed in the Trump era by the Department of Housing & Urban Development that would allowed taxpayer-funded homeless shelter to turn away transgender people on the basis of their gender identity.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a statement the proposed regulation, which would have weakened the Equal Access Rule barring discrimination in housing against LGBTQ people and was widely expected to be scrapped in the Biden administration, won’t be implemented.
“Access to safe, stable housing — and shelter — is a basic necessity,” Fudge said. “Unfortunately, transgender and gender non-conforming people report more instances of housing instability and homelessness than cis-gender people. Today, we are taking a critical step in affirming HUD’s commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity. HUD is open for business for all.”
The Trump administration ended this year without HUD making final, which was proposed in July 2020 under former HUD Secretary Ben Carson. It’s not clear why HUD never went through with making its rule final unlike other changes undoing regulations barring discrimination on the basis of transgender status made during the Obama years, which could be due to the volume of comments, public backlash over the anti-trans regulation or simply incompetence in the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, other regulations seen to enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination went into effect, such as a rule undoing LGBTQ discrimination protections among HHS grantees, including adoption and foster case centers, and a rule expanding the religious exemption in former President Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination among federal contractors. Because those rules went into effect, they can’t be as easily withdrawn as the proposed HUD regulation because of the Administrative Procedure Act, a law governing federal regulations.
Nonetheless, the website for the White House Office of Management & Budget continued to indicate the proposed rule was slated to go into effect in April 2020. The announcement to reject the proposed rule formally takes the proposed regulation off the books.
The Trump administration’s proposed regulation would allow federally funded single-sex homeless shelters to turn away transgender people seeking emergency housing. The sole basis would be the staff perception on whether or not that transgender person appears sufficiently masculine or feminine to be housed in that facility.
The legality behind the proposed rule was dubious in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, therefore illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The underlying reasoning behind the decision applies to all laws banning sex discrimination, essentially making anti-LGBTQ illegal in employment, housing, credit, health care, education and jury service.
Meanwhile, HUD under the Biden administration announced earlier this year it would fully implement the Bostock in its application of the Fair Housing Act and take up cases of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing, which is consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision and the executive order Biden signed on his first day in office ordered federal agencies to implement the ruling across the board for all laws barring sex discrimination.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the withdrawal of the proposed Trump-era rule demonstrates the Biden administration’s commitment to transgender people.
“The Biden administration is living up to its commitment to protect transgender people from discrimination. Today’s announcement by Secretary Fudge is an important step in ensuring access to safe, affirming housing for transgender people,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “This is a decision that will save lives, and help transgender people experiencing homelessness receive the assistance they need.”
Instagram is launching a new anti-bullying feature to filter out “racist, sexist, homophobic” abuse in your DMs.
While Instagram already “proactively looks for hate speech or bullying” in public comments, the new feature will focus the abuse users receive in direct messages.
The new tool will filter DM requests, where users say they receive the most abusive messages, containing “offensive words, phrases and emojis”.
Users will be able to toggle filters on and off for DMs and comments in a new “Hidden Words” privacy section, where they will be able to add words, phrases and emojis that they don’t want to see in addition to a predefined list.
The list of terms already created by Instagram was developed in collaboration with “anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organisations”.
Instagram said: “We understand the impact that abusive content – whether it’s racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other kind of abuse – can have on people.
“Nobody should have to experience that on Instagram. But combatting abuse is a complex challenge and there isn’t one single step we can take to eliminate it completely.”
To further combat hate on the platform, Instagram will also start filtering common misspellings of offensive terms in public comments, “so that even if a word you don’t want to see is accidentally or deliberately spelled wrong, you still won’t see it in your comments”.
In addition, a third new feature means that when a user blocks someone, they will also be able to preemptively block any new accounts the user might create in the future.
A trans woman in Oklahoma was denied the life-saving coronavirus vaccine because she had a “mismatched” identity document.
The resident, who has not been named, was turned away by the Logan County Health Department because her name did not match what was written on her ID card.
She sought to explain this administrative snag to healthcare officials – she was waiting on the paperwork, she claimed – but the department still refused, KOCO5 News reported.
Frustrated, the woman reached out to Freedom Oklahoma, Oklahoma’s sole statewide LGBT+ advocacy group, for help – and they were prepared for a fight.
Tweeting the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the group wrote: “Why is Logan Co Health Department turning away a trans woman trying to get a vaccine and telling us to take it up with the state?”
The department replied on 14 April that it is coordinating with both county health officials and activists to “rectify” what happened.
“It is a top priority to ensure equity in our state’s public health system, including ensuring every Oklahoman has access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” it added.
State officials later stressed that the incident was a one-time thing in a statement to activists.
“The equity of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution has always been paramount in the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s effort to vaccinate Oklahoma,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, a situation with a resident being denied a vaccine, due to a mismatched ID, at one of our county health departments was handled poorly.”
In Oklahoma, trans locals face an uphill climb all too common in the US to have their name and gender changed on identification documents.
But policymakers aren’t exactly lacking in reasons to iron out these processes.
According to a report from the Williams Institute, 42 per cent of trans people who are eligible to vote in 45 American states do not have accurate identification documents. Researchers estimate that’s more than 350,000 trans Americans.
Moreover, a trans person simply having a passport or birth certificate with the correct gender can drastically improve their mental health, a studyfound.
Suicide rates among young people have been on the rise in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but gay and bisexual youths are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers.
And, despite advances in the fight for LGBTQ equality, a new report finds that young gay people today are even more likely to have attempted suicide than in previous generations.
Researchers at the Williams Institute, a sexual orientation and gender identity think tank at UCLA School of Law, found that 30 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents ages 18 to 25 reported at least one suicide attempt, compared to 24 percent of those 34-41 and 21 percent of those 52-59.
The study, published last month in the journal PLOS One, also revealed that these young adults are experiencing higher levels of victimization, psychological distress and internalized homophobia than older generations.
“We had really expected it would be better for the younger group,” said lead author Ilan H. Meyer, a distinguished senior scholar of public policy at the institute. “But at the same time, we knew data from other studies has shown LGB youth do a lot worse than straight youth — and not much better now than in earlier times.”
Meyer and his colleagues surveyed 1,518 respondents who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (trans people were included in a separate study). Participants were divided into three cohorts: the “Pride” generation, those born from 1956 to 1963; the “Visibility” generation, born from 1974 to 1981; and the “Equality” generation, born from 1990 to 1997.
Using the Kessler Scale, a clinical measure of psychological distress, they found that members of the Equality generation reported almost twice as many symptoms of anxiety and depression as the Pride generation. Many factors influenced the data, Meyer said, including the fact that people are coming out younger than ever.
“That can be a positive, of course,” he said. “But it can also backfire and expose you to a lot of harassment and victimization. You might not be prepared for the consequences.”
Members of the Equality generation reported coming out to a family member at age 16 on average, compared to 22 for the Visibility generation and 26 for the Pride generation.
That can put them at risk of rejection at a time when they rely most on family for emotional and financial support, said Amy Green, vice president of research for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization.
According to a survey by the organization last year, 40 percent of LGBTQ youths ages 13 to 24 had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months.
“It’s not that the world isn’t making progress for LGBTQ people, it’s that recent progress has resulted in an amazing community of young people who understand who they are but still live in a world where others may be unkind to them, reject them, bully them or discriminate against them,” Green said in an email. “And we know these experiences of victimization can compound and produce negative mental health outcomes.”
The advent of social media and the internet has also greatly affected the Equality generation’s sense of identity.
“When we asked them about other people in the community, the younger group’s answers were always — always — about social media, not about real-life encounters,” Meyer said. “People are very cruel online, whether it’s Twitter or Grindr.”
Meyer said that before he examined interviews accompanying the survey, he expected to hear people in their teens and 20s present “a different way of being gay.”
“But one of the first narratives I listened to was from an 18-year-old Latino from San Francisco, and his narrative was the same as we’ve heard for generations — homophobia, exclusion, shame. The evolution [in LGBTQ rights] hadn’t impacted his life as much as you’d expect.”
Members of the Equality generation reported more anti-LGBTQ victimization than their older counterparts, Meyer said. Nearly 3 out of 4 (72 percent) said they had been verbally insulted about their identity, and almost half (46 percent) said they had been threatened with violence. More than a third (37 percent) reported having been physically attacked or sexually assaulted.
“I believe in the power of institutions and social structures changing. I really do,” Meyer said. “But I think real progress takes longer than we think. Just because we’re seeing change doesn’t mean every gay kid’s parents are accepting or that their friends are embracing them.”
There were some silver linings: Of the three groups, members of the Equality generation most reported feeling connected to the LGBTQ community.
“That was actually surprising, because we hear so much about people feeling like they don’t belong,” Meyer said. “But this suggests there is still pride, despite the difficulties and negativity, sometimes even from within our own community.”
Coming out younger has also given them more resiliency, he added.
“Coming out earlier gives you a great start on life, even if you face hardships,” he said. “This generation is already out when they get to college. They have a better sense of who they are. Older generations had to wait longer to live their authentic lives.”
If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.
Amy and Stephanie Mudd drove an hour from their home in Glasgow, Kentucky, to the city of Radcliff on April 3 to meet with an accountant at Aries Tax Service.
Mudd said her mother-in-law, who lives in the area, recommended the business because it offers a $55 flat fee to file taxes electronically.
When they got there, they saw a sign on the door that listed 10 things customers should have with them if they want the business to e-file their tax return. But the last item on the list stopped them from opening the door. It read, “Homosexual marriage not recognized.”
Stephanie Mudd said the first emotion she felt was anger that businesses can still turn away same-sex couples.
“It just kind of makes your heart fall into your stomach,” Amy Mudd said.
The couple took a photo of the sign and left.
“We wanted to bring attention to it, so that he knows that that’s not OK,” Amy Mudd said. “Nowadays, you’re providing a public service, and it’s federal taxes, and in the United States, it’s OK for us to be married.”
Kenneth Randall, owner of Aries Tax Service, said the issue “is a matter of personal conviction.”
“I put it to any reasonable person: ‘If you have a matter that’s a central conviction for you, are you willing to stand up for it?’” he said. “I am.”
He added that there are other tax preparers in the area that same-sex couples could use and that he’s protected by federal law.
There’s no federal law that explicitly allows people, based on their personal beliefs, to turn away same-sex couples or other classes of people, but there’s also no federal or Kentucky state law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in public accommodations, such as businesses.
Legal advocates say situations like the Mudds’ are on the rise as conservative religious organizations, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, have been building campaigns and lawsuits for years to challenge civil rights laws.
“They want to get legal rulings that there are religious and free speech rights to violate these laws,” said Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director at Lambda Legal, a national LGBTQ legal organization. “We have seen a significant rise and a very troubling rise in these cases, and it’s not an accident.”
For years, same-sex couples have been turned away by business owners who don’t want to provide wedding-related services, citing their religious or moral beliefs. In 2018, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. The court ruled on a technicality — avoiding the issue of whether a business owner, due to their religious beliefs, could refuse to serve a same-sex couple.
Earlier this month, the ADF filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York arguing that the state’s nondiscrimination law unconstitutionally prohibits wedding photographer Emilee Carpenter “from adopting an editorial policy consistent with her beliefs about marriage.”
The complaint says Carpenter “is already willing to work with clients no matter who they are, including those in the LGBT community” but that the state goes too far by requiring that she “celebrate” same-sex marriage in images on her website.
The ADF also argues that part of the state law limiting statements that certain customers are “unwelcome, objectionable or not accepted, desired, or solicited” interferes with Carpenter’s free speech, because it doesn’t allow her to express her views about same-sex marriage on her website.
Pizer said the New York case represents an area of law that is unsettled, specifically as it relates to people who work in artistic fields like photography.
For the most part, courts have upheld nondiscrimination laws, but in the instances they haven’t, they often rule on technicalities or rule that the laws violate the freedom of expression of creative professionals, Pizer said. For instance, in September 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state’s nondiscrimination law violated the free speech of two artists who create custom wedding invitations by compelling them to promote same-sex weddings.
Pizer said using free speech rights to justify discrimination “represents a dramatic shift from what the law has been for a long time.”
“Why would you think that a video of a couple’s wedding would be the message of the person holding the camera?” she said. “If the law changes in that way, then it’s hard to see where there’s a limiting principle, and it means that civil rights laws, at best, have a big hole in them and maybe, at worst, have very little effect at all.”
The free speech argument could also represent a potential challenge to the Equality Act, proposed federal legislation that would protect LGBTQ people in many areas. The measure passed the House in February but has not yet been voted on in the Senate.
Pizer said that, because Kenneth Randall is an accountant and not a creative professional, she doesn’t think an argument related to free speech would apply if there were a federal or state nondiscrimination law in Kentucky.
But Randall said he refuses to file taxes for same-sex couples because it would require him to express recognition of their marriage. Randall also sells insurance, and he said he has both sold insurance to and filed taxes for single gay people. But if a same-sex couple asked him to sell them insurance, he would only do it if he could put them down as single, he said.
“I don’t hate a particular individual. It’s a stand on a particular institution that I find wrong,” he said, adding that he’s been harassed and threatened since local news outlets published stories about his sign. “If people are willing to accept that, fine. If they are not willing to accept it, there’s plenty of other places to go for insurance.”
Pizer said the idea that people can receive services elsewhere “ignores a core purpose of civil rights laws.” She said the lunch counter sit-ins held by Black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960 to protest racial segregation weren’t about whether they could “get a sandwich.”
“It was about whether they were being treated the same as other people,” she said.
In the absence of a federal measure like the Equality Act or a statewide nondiscrimination law, the Mudds and couples like them don’t have any options for legal recourse, Pizer said, and businesses can — and do — continue to refuse to serve them.
Pizer said growing acceptance of LGBTQ people has pressured some religious people “to stop doing types of discrimination that they’ve done for a long time.” That pressure has made them uncomfortable and it has made them feel victimized, in some cases, she said, and they’re fighting back.
“Being encouraged to treat everyone according to the golden rule is not being victimized and it’s not being excluded and it’s not being discriminated against,” she said. “When we’re operating in the public marketplace, being asked to stop discriminating is not to suffer discrimination yourself. It’s to be invited to play by the same rules that everybody else is expected to play by.”
As for the Mudds, they said they wouldn’t pursue legal action even if they could, but they wanted to make a statement about Randall’s choice to refuse same-sex couples.
“I understand that there’s freedom in this country, and that is what we were founded on,” Amy Mudd said. “And I understand that as a private practice, I guess he is allowed to do that … but to provide a service to the public and deny such a huge population is bad business.”
Stephanie Mudd added, “If we’re talking about morals, that’s quite the opposite of morals. People often hide behind their religion to justify their hate, and that is what is so frustrating.”
Parler will reportedly return to the Apple App Store, three months after the “free speech” social network was pulled from all major platforms.
Parler became one of America’s fastest-growing apps last year as Trump supporters flocked to it following November’s US election.
Racism, homophobia and transphobia, as well as spurious misinformation, soon became rife on the network, and the breaks were ultimately pulled soon after the Capitol riots in early January. Apple and Google blocked Parler from its app stores, while Amazon booted it from its web-hosting service, sending it briefly offline.
Now, Apple has reportedly approved Parler’s return to its App Store, according to a letter released by senator Mike Lee.
The letter, sent by Apple and dated Monday (19 April), states the app has made true on its word to improve moderation and better detect hate speech and incitements of violence.
This means that the app’s millions of users, which has included the likes of Graham Linehan, Katie Hopkins and Milo Yiannopoulos, will soon be able to download Parler on Apple devices.
Lee and representative Ken Buck had asked Apple for details as to why it removed Parler in January. The consumer electronic company explained in the letter it did so as Parler, on several occasions, “failed” to tame hate speech.
Parler hosted content prohibited by its App Store guidelines, Apple added.
Parler had long played fast and loose when it came to moderation – enticing users tired of what they saw as Twitter and Facebook’s increased crackdown on free speech.
In the days leading up to the Capitol riot, which saw a swarm of white supremacists and far-right militia groups storm the Capitol complex, Parler churned with conspiracy theories.
False accusations that Donald Trump had the election stolen from him heaved, as did a loose plot to confront Congress as it certified Joe Biden’s electoral win with violence and aggression.
As Apple’s senior director of government affairs Americas Timothy Powderly explained in the letter, Parler was full of posts that encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence against specific people”.
Shunned by tech companies, the letter shows that Pariah pleaded to Apple, “proposing updates to its app and the app’s content moderation practices”.
Across a review stage, a lengthy back-and-forth between Parler and Apple’s app review team unfolded.
“As a result of those conversations, Parler has proposed updates to its app and the app’s content moderation practices, and the App Review Team has informed Parler as of April 14, 2021, that its proposed updated app will be approved for reinstatement to the App Store,” Powderly wrote.
“Apple anticipates that the updated Parler app will become available immediately upon Parler releasing it.”
Powderly, however, did not detail what specific changes to its platform Parler has made, other than stress that it now meets Apple’s content moderation policies.
On Parler’s claims that the tech companies had plotted together to oust it, Powderly wrote: “Apple made an independent decision to remove Parler for non-compliance with the guidelines, and it did not coordinate or otherwise consult with Google or Amazon with respect to that decision.
George and Emily Spurrier are leaving their home of 16 years in central Arkansas due to a new law that will ban the health care that they say their 17-year-old transgender son needs.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, vetoed the measure earlier this month, calling it “a vast government overreach.” But the Arkansas General Assembly overrode the veto, and the bill will become law this summer.
Emily Spurrier said when her son heard the news, he sat in her car and cried for an hour.
“It was just kind of a wave of emotions, thinking about moving and then him worrying about some friends that he has here in the Little Rock area,” she said. “And then just the thought that this is really the only place he ever remembers living.”
Arkansas is the first state in the country to pass a law banning transition care for minors. The measure will bar access to reversible puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries, though surgeries aren’t included in global standards of care for transgender minors and aren’t performed on them in Arkansas, Hutchinson said during his veto.
The Spurriers’ son, who just started using testosterone, will no longer be able to access this physician-prescribed hormone once the new law is implemented, so his family is raising money on GoFundMe to move to New Mexico by August.
“The benefits are not going to outweigh the dangers of raising our children here in this state.”
The Spurriers, along with some families in Texas and North Carolina, which are considering similar legislation, told NBC News they are prepared to move to protect their children.
Fourteen states are considering bans or restrictions on transition care for trans minors, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law, found that 45,100 trans youth are at risk of losing access to care because of the proposals. Major medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the Pediatric Endocrine Society oppose the bills.
George Spurrier said that, in addition to the transition-care ban, the Arkansas Legislature is considering several other bills that create an unsafe environment for his son.
“If it had been one or two bills, we may have been more optimistic about fighting and getting through all of it,” he said. “But the fact that they just kept coming one after another after another … has just kind of demoralized us. Even if everything gets defeated or repealed, the spirit behind them is still here, and we just can’t help but feel like it’s not safe.”
In addition to the recently passed trans health care bill, Arkansas is considering four other bills targeting LGBTQ people, and the governor has signed two others into law, according to the ACLU. For example, Hutchinson signed a bill into law on March 26 that allows doctors to refuse to treat someone based on their religious or moral beliefs, a measure that advocates say would allow physicians to refuse to treat trans patients even in the emergency room.
Another Arkansas family is also facing a deadline. Amanda Dennis, who has lived in the state for most of her life, said her family has about two to three years to figure out how they’re going to get care for their transgender 8-year-old, Brooke, by the time she begins puberty.
“I will have to fly to another state — and the problem is we’re surrounded by states that are doing the same thing,” she said, adding that Kansas, Missouri and Texas are all considering similar bills.
Flying to another state wouldn’t be financially sustainable for the family, Dennis said, and like the Spurriers, she’s also worried about how other recent laws and proposed bills will affect Brooke. Dennis said her daughter wants to try out for gymnastics, cheerleading and dance, but she wouldn’t be able to compete on a girls’ team due to a bill Hutchinson signed in March that bans trans student athletes from competing on teams that align with their gender identity.
“It breaks my heart that I’m going to have to, at one point, should we choose to stay in Arkansas … tell her, ‘Brooke, you won’t be able to try out for any of these teams.’”
Arkansas is also considering a bill that would prohibit schools from requiring teachers to refer to trans students by a name and pronoun that isn’t consistent with their sex assigned at birth.
“So there’s more things coming down the pike that will really eventually force us to leave the state,” Dennis said. “The benefits are not going to outweigh the dangers of raising our children here in this state.”
Texas is considering a bill similar to Arkansas’ transition-care ban, but with criminal penalties. The bill would make it a felony for parents to provide their trans children with access to gender-affirming care. It would classify the act as child abuse, and parents who violate the proposed law could face up to 10 years in prison, have their child removed from their home and face civil litigation.
Texas mom Amber Briggle, who lives north of Dallas, testified against the bill last week.
“I’m afraid that by speaking here today my words will be used against me should SB 1646 or SB 1311 pass, and my sweet son, whom I love more than life itself, will be taken from me,” she said.
Briggle said taking away her son’s access to care would “destroy him.”
“We gave him the support that he needed, and it was like a light switch turned on and like my baby came back to me and was perfect again,” she told NBC News, adding that the 13-year-old is a straight-A student and a great musician. “He can play the opening riff to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ on his ukulele — I will say I taught him that.”
Briggle said to have that familial support taken away would be “devastating” for her son.
“It’s devastating because he is as successful as he is because he has that support,” she said. “It’s also devastating and terrifying to think that taking away that support means taking him away from his family, and placing him with, who knows.”
Moving wouldn’t be easy for the family, Briggle said. She’s a small business owner, and her husband is a tenured professor.
“It’d be really complicated for us, but it’s certainly not out of the question,” she added. “My son always comes first.”
Texas’ bill would also make it a felony for medical providers to administer transition care to minors. Kimberly Shappley, who has a trans 10-year-old named Kai and is a nurse at a clinic that serves LGBTQ people, said it’s a “double whammy” for her, because it would affect both her work and her family.
Shappley, a former conservative Christian minister, moved from her small Texas hometown to Austin in 2018, because she said the relatively liberal capital city has more supportive local policies for Kai.
“But if these laws passed, even Austin can’t protect us,” she said. “It’ll take everything we have — just living in Austin has been super expensive — it’ll take everything we have to relocate. I’ll do it. I’ll have to.”
Shappley said she wants to see more action from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden released an executive orderlast month affirming that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but he hasn’t made a statement directly addressing the flurry of bills targeting transgender minors.
Shappley said she took time off of work to campaign for the Biden-Harris ticket, so she’s angry that they haven’t explicitly mentioned the bills.
“Even if they can’t do anything right now, tell us what your plan is,” Shappley said. “Kamala Harris had a trans flag outside of her office. OK, if you’re an ally, why aren’t you loudly telling my kid she’s gonna be OK? Why aren’t you loudly saying, ‘You know what, Mrs. Shappley, you don’t have to move; we’ve got your back.’ I want somebody to say something.”
North Carolina is also considering a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Advocates say it would likely be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, but Katie Jenifer and her daughter Maddie said the debate over the bill is itself harmful.
“If I didn’t have my hormones or my [puberty] blocker, I’d be very unhappy, and I wouldn’t want to leave the house sometimes,” Maddie, 13, said.
Even if advocates are saying the bill won’t become law, “there is still the smallest bit of chance, and that alone just makes me very anxious,” Maddie added.
Jenifer said she has told Maddie they would move should the bill or a similar one become law, but she acknowledged not everyone has that option.
“That’s the real crux of the issue: How do we help those families?” she said.
Back in Arkansas, Dennis said Brooke, who’s currently in third grade, is ready to be part of a potential legal battle against the state’s new laws.
“She wants to be someone that can be a light to other kids her age, and she really wants to be a part of the conversation,” she said, adding that Brooke is “ready to put on her activist hat and help.”
While Dennis said she and her husband are proud of their daughter, “at the same time, we do get a little bit sad that an 8-year-old has to be the voice.”
Police arrested two men in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday in connection with the shooting deaths of two Black transgender women whose bodies were found in hotel rooms less than two weeks apart.
Police found the first woman, Jaida Peterson, at the Quality Inn & Suites Airport on April 4 and the second woman, Remy Fennell, at the Sleep Inn University Place on Thursday, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
The cases were so similar — both victims were Black trans women, were engaged in sex work and were fatally shot in hotel rooms — that police issued an “urgent” message to the LGBTQ community, particularly those engaged in sex work, during a news conference Thursday evening.
Rob Tufano, the department’s public affairs director, said sex workers needed to be “hypercautious, hypervigilant in who they’re engaged with” and aware of their surroundings.
On Friday, police announced they arrested two men whom they allege were both involved in the killings. Dontarius Long and Joel Brewer were each charged with two counts of murder, two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Following the announcement, Lt. Bryan Crum said during a Friday news conference the department doesn’t believe “there’s any further risk to public safety.”
“I can tell you that our investigation has advanced to the point that I feel confident in telling you there is no one else at large that was a part of this,” he said.
Investigators are still looking into the suspects’ alleged motives, Crum said, and they’re working with the FBI to determine whether the killings could be considered hate crimes.
“If hate crime charges are appropriate, we will absolutely pursue those,” he said.
Peterson and Fennell are among 15 transgender people killed so far in 2021, though that number could be higher because police often deadname and misgender them — use a trans person’s name and pronouns assigned at birth — in reports about their deaths. So far, nine of the known trans victims are Black trans women.
Prior to the arrests, advocates in Charlotte said Black trans women were scared.
“Many of them use hotels as their primary form of housing, and they don’t feel safe to be there right now,” Ash Williams, a trans organizer in Charlotte, said. “So, many of us are moving up to try to raise funds for safer, nonhotel housing for the Black trans women that live in Charlotte.”
But even after the arrests, Williams said trans people in Charlotte don’t feel safer, because police “criminalize” Black trans sex workers.
“We keep us safe,” he said. “The police do not keep us safe — they made that clear last week when they deadnamed and misgendered Jaida, so we don’t give a f— about what the police are talking about.”
In a statement to NBC News, Tufano said “Community members should have an expectation to live and work without the fear of violence.”
He added “Because of the tireless work of members of the CMPD, two dangerous people can no longer prey on vulnerable members of our community. The arrests will never bring back the lives of the two innocent souls lost, but may bring some measure of peace to their loved ones.”
After the shootings, Charlotte groups House of Kanautica, Charlotte Uprising, Feed the Movement CLT and End Trans Hate in North Carolina began raising funds to help safely house Black trans women and sex workers, potentially in long-term Airbnbs.
Eventually, activists would like to start a housing initiative similar to My Sistah’s House in Memphis, Tennessee, where a group is building tiny homes for Black trans women.
In the meantime, Williams said Black trans women will continue to push for the same support they’ve demanded for years: better access to hormone therapy, employment and housing.
“They’re underemployed or not employed because people don’t want to hire them,” he said.
“That’s the reality that the girls are dealing with every single day,” he added. “They deserve housing all the time — not just when a lot of girls are getting killed in our community.”