HIV-positive Americans are at a high risk for intimate partner violence, with one in four (26.3 per cent) having experienced it at least once, new data has shown.
The findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, used data from the Medical Monitoring Project, “a surveillance system designed to learn more about the experiences and needs of people who are living with HIV”.
The study showed that not only are HIV-positive people in the US at higher risk of physical abuse at the hands of their intimate partners, but that “intimate partner violence is associated with adverse health consequences among people with diagnosed HIV”.
It also showed that 4.4 per cent had experienced intimate partner violence within the last 12 months.
Researchers from the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that people with HIV who had recently suffered intimate partner violence were “more likely to engage in behaviours associated with elevated HIV transmission risk”, like intravenous drug use or high-risk sex, and “have unmet needs for supportive services”.
They were also “less likely to be engaged in routine HIV care but were more likely to seek emergency care services and have poor HIV clinical outcomes”.
The lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence among people with HIV varied depending on gender and sexual orientation. The highest risk group was HIV-positive bisexual women, of whom more than half had experienced physical abuse from a partner.
Those who had been homeless within the past 12 months were also at a higher risk (37.6 per cent) than those who had not (25.2 per cent).
Researchers said it was “important” that HIV-positive Americans are screened for intimate partner violence at initial HIV tests, as well as during routine appointments.
This, they said, “may help address issues of missed medical visits, poor [antiretroviral treatment] adherence, and difficulty attaining and maintaining viral suppression”.
They added: “When intimate partner violence is identified, supportive services should be offered.
“With these additional supportive services, the safety and health of people with HIV may be improved.”
The rights of transgender Americans has been a growing topic of debate on sports fields, in state capitols and in Congress. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, says more than 30 state legislatures have proposed more than 115 bills that would limit transgender rights, from participation on sports teams to access to medical care.
But two-thirds of Americans are against laws that would limit transgender rights, a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found. That opposition includes majorities of every political ideology from liberal to conservative and every age group.
These proposed bills have emerged as a new culture war, with Republican state legislators introducing and voting for them amid Democratic opposition, while a majority of Americans who identify as Republicans are against such laws, according to the poll.
“The parties are speaking to their base people,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducts the poll. “The Democratic coalition is more diverse. It’s broader. The Republicans are speaking to a much narrower base, and that can put you against the overall public opinion within those jurisdictions.”
About one half of one percent of U.S. adults are transgender, according to a recent Gallup survey. In the PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, more than half of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender. That includes 53 percent of Democrats, 39 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of independents.
People under the age of 40 are more than twice as likely as older Americans to personally know someone who is transgender. Sixty-three percent of Gen Z and millennial voters said they do, while just 28 percent of people over 74 years old said the same.
Five years ago, less than a third of Americans said they knew someone who was transgender, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
“It’s really hard once you’re informed or you know a trans person to support one of these bills because it really strikes at the humanity of a trans person,” said Kate Sosin, who reports on LGBTQ+ issues at The 19th. “More than half of people do know transgender people and that number is only going to go up…and if that is the case, this is inevitably going to be a losing issue for lawmakers trying to make this a wedge issue, because even if you don’t support transgender rights, you don’t want to be the lawmaker pushing something that is seen as bigoted.”
Health care and trans youth
The most far-reaching bills introduced this year would limit transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming medical care. Twenty-one state legislatures have considered such bills this year, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA, which also estimates more than 45,000 youth could be affected, including nearly 1,500 kids in Arkansas who will lose medical care after the state became the first in the country to enact such a law just last week.
Fewer than three in ten people support state laws that prohibit gender-affirming care for minors or that criminalize providers of that care. Among Republicans, 26 percent support bills that prohibit this medical care, while 70 percent are opposed. That’s on par with where Democrats landed on the issue, with 26 percent in favor of such bills and 69 percent opposed.
Republican support for criminalizing providing gender transition-related care for minors was markedly higher, at 38 percent, while only 19 percent of Democrats were in agreement. Forty-two percent of people who supported former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election said they support criminalization.
“People aren’t eager to victimize the individual,” Miringoff said, comparing Republican support on these bills to similar shifts in opinion on abortion services. “Tolerance for the individual and not wanting to discriminate against the individual is different than providers for some of the services.”
Dr. Robert Garofalo, a pediatrician who treats transgender youth at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said gender-affirming care, which can include puberty blockers and hormones like testosterone for transgender boys and estrogen for transgender girls, is considered best practice by most medical experts.
“Who would want anything less for their child than the ability to live their lives with an element of authenticity? That’s what gender-affirming care is,” Garofalo said. “There’s no evidence to suggest that these treatments are experimental…There’s a common understanding within most mainstream medical organizations that access to gender-affirming care for these young people saves lives.”
Bills that affect access to medical care might have serious health implications, but the legislation that is getting the most attention seeks to bar transgender people from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. More than half of the proposed legislation around transgender rights this year is about limiting sports participation, and governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have all signed bills into law.
But nationally, these proposed laws are unpopular. Only 28 percent of Americans overall support bills to bar transgender youth from competing on teams that align with their gender, while two-thirds oppose the bills. Opposition is consistent across the political spectrum with two-thirds of Democrats, Republicans and independents all in agreement. People who know someone who is transgender are five-points more likely to oppose these efforts than people who do not.
But while Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly agree that states shouldn’t pass laws regulating trans participation in sports, they are more evenly divided on whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete on teams that match their gender identity. For grade school, 50 percent of people said transgender children should be allowed to play on teams that match their gender identity, while 44 percent said they should not. In middle school, the split was 49 percent for, and 47 percent against. In high school, 47 percent were for and 48 percent against. And in college, 49 percent were in favor and 45 percent opposed.
Support for transgender participation in sports is where American are more sharply divided along party lines. Seventy-five percent of Democrats say transgender high school athletes should be allowed to play on teams where they identify with their team mates, while more than 80 percent of Republicans say they should not. Independents are more closely divided with 44 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed.
The statewide bans were tested last year when Idaho became the first state in the country to enact a ban on transgender women joining women’s teams. A judge temporarily stopped the law from going into effect.
At the center of the lawsuit was Lindsay Hecox, a 20-year-old student at Boise State University and a transgender athlete. She was a track and cross-country runner in high school and hopes to one day join her university team.
“The legislation is basically being used as fear mongering against trans people, and I think trans athletes were an easy target,” Hecox told PBS NewsHour. “They word it so that I’m othered and made different when it doesn’t need to be that way.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association and state athletic associations don’t track the number of transgender athletes competing, but a recent Associated Press analysis found only a handful of instances where such participation has led to a complaint, out of hundreds of thousands of high school athletes. Some of the lawmakers supporting the bans say they know of no transgender athletes competing in their states, but that they consider the bills to be proactive.
Advocates for the sports bans say transgender girls and women have an unfair competitive advantage, but medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, say there’s no evidence to support those claims.
“There is nothing in these pieces of legislation that I think are supported by any element of truth or any element of science,” Dr. Garofalo said. “We’re not legislating sports participation based on the size of your shoe or based upon your height or other sort of immutable characteristics.”
The International Olympic Committee first outlined its guidelines for participation of trans athletes in 2003. The NCAA has allowed transgender athletes to compete for nearly a decade, and in order to play college sports, transgender women must first complete a full year of testosterone suppression treatment, because after that time, medical experts generally agree any advantage in strength or endurance from previous testosterone levels would have disappeared.
Protection from discrimination
The efforts in Republican-controlled state legislatures to limit transgender rights are in sharp contrast with the Democrat-controlled Congress and White House, which are pushing to expand protections for LGBTQ people. On his first day in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Last month, three Republicans joined House Democrats to pass the Equality Act, which would extend those protections in employment and housing discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Senate has not voted on the measure.
Sixty-three percent of Americans in this latest poll support the Equality Act, but that support is sharply divided along party lines. While 90 percent of Democrats support the bill, just 32 percent of Republicans say the same. Support also drops significantly among older populations. Nearly eight in ten adults under the age of 40 support the Equality Act. Less than half of Americans aged 75 and older agree.
Hecox said she hopes public opinion will continue to shift in favor of transgender rights as more people hear stories like hers. In the meantime, she said she’ll continue to fight anti-LGBTQ laws in the courts.
“Things will get better, and this legislation is just a momentary setback for trans acceptance,” Hecox said. “I don’t want to just fade from the world and not have any impact on it.”
Kellogg’s is launching a limited edition LGBT-themed cereal in celebration of Pride, so you can start your day with the breakfast of champions: glitter.
The company teamed up with GLAAD to create the special cereal, “Together with Pride”, which is made of rainbow heart-shaped pieces and – yes – edible glitter.
The boxes will hit shelves this May, just in time for Pride month, and for each one sold Kellogg’s will donate three dollars to GLAAD to support their efforts to accelerate LGBT+ rights.
The 7.8-ounce boxes have a suggested retail price of around $4, and shoppers must upload a copy of their receipt to Kellogg’s Family Rewards to support the donation.
The box features a variety of familiar Kellogg’s characters – Tony the Tiger, Snap, Crackle and Pop, Toucan Sam and the frosted Mini Wheat – to “celebrate everyone having a seat at the breakfast table together,” Kellogg’s said.
It’s not the first time Kellogg’s has joined forces with the GLAAD. The two have a long-standing partnership after they created another Pride-themed breakfast, called “All Together Cereal,” in 2019.
Unlike their latest offering, the special edition boxes were only available online and retailed at a much pricier $19.99.
Each one contained six mini cereal boxes packaged inside one “to celebrate the belief that we all belong together”.
“The box brings together six of the famous Kellogg mascots and cereals inside the same carton as a symbol of acceptance no matter how you look, where you’re from or who you love,” the company said at the time.
Chief diversity officer Priscilla Koranteng added: “At Kellogg, we are firmly committed to equality and inclusion in the workplace, marketplace and in the communities where we work and live.
“We have long been allies and supporters of LGBTQ employees, their families and the community. For more than 100 years, Kellogg has nourished families so they can flourish and thrive, and the company continues to welcome everyone to the table.”
The co-founder of an organization that provides housing and other services to transgender and gender non-conforming people in New Orleans hopes to make history as the first Black trans woman elected in Louisiana.
Mariah Moore, who co-founded House of Tulip with Milan Nicole Sherry, another Black trans activist, is running to represent District D, which includes New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood.
The primary is scheduled to take place on Oct. 9. The general election will take place on Nov. 13.
“Being a Black trans woman and being someone that holds a position like that, I will honestly have the opportunity to change so many hearts and minds about the way that people see us and the stereotypes that they cast on us,” Moore told the Washington Blade on March 1 during an interview at House of Tulip’s offices in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood.
Moore is originally from New Orleans’ 7th Ward.
Her family has deep roots throughout the Crescent City and in Madisonville and Slidell on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Moore was also a foster child.
“That’s another piece of my story that a lot of people don’t know,” she said.
Moore added New Orleans “has always been that anchor for me.”
“Even though I was navigating a very broken state foster care system, I still found my way back home,” she said. “New Orleans will be some place where I will always live. I was born here and I will die here.”
Moore said more affordable housing, higher wages and better infrastructure are among the issues on which she would work if elected.
“I understand, like myself, there’s a single mother out there who has to take public transportation. There’s a single mom out there somewhere who doesn’t have health insurance. There’s a single mom out there who’s relying on $7.25 to feed her three kids and she doesn’t get food stamps because she makes too much and we know that $7.25 an hour at less than 40 hours a week is not a livable wage in New Orleans, and it’s not a livable wage anyway,” she told the Blade.
“I’m a renter, so I know how hard it is to find a quality unit at an affordable price,” added Moore. “I understand these things, but most of all I know that solutions are possible because I created one, and so I’m not just talking about what needs to happen, I’m providing the solutions for the many problems and the circumstances that people are in.”
House of Tulip helps ‘community house community’
Moore and Sherry first conceived the idea that became House of Tulip in 2020 after the pandemic largely shut down New Orleans’ hospitality and tourism industries.
A GoFundMe campaign that House of Tulip launched raised more than $400,000.
House of Tulip in January bought a 5-bedroom double in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood.
Moore said the home is furnished. She told the Blade that House of Tulip plans to paint a mural in the backyard and add seating, plants and a fountain to “make it a more tranquil healing space and restorative space.”
Two people are now living in the Tremé house. A 3-bedroom property in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood that House of Tulip is renting currently has three residents.
“The idea is to help community house community,” said Moore.
Moore also pointed out that House of Tulip offers a variety of other services to trans and gender non-conforming people who don’t live in their properties. These include access to job training programs, health care and mental health services.
“We have to build a very robust program to support those things, so now that we have the properties and we’re starting to see more and more community members that we’re able to serve in the properties that we have, we’re building our programming,” said Moore.
Three Black trans women murdered in La. over last year
The U.S. Census notes New Orleans has a 23.7 percent poverty rate.
Sherry told the Blade last July during an interview at her home in New Orleans’ Garden District that this figure is even higher among the city’s Black trans residents. She and Moore both said Black trans people in New Orleans and across Louisiana are also more vulnerable to discrimination and violence because of their gender identity.
Fifty Bandz, a Black trans woman, was murdered in Baton Rouge on Jan. 28. Two other Black trans women — Draya McCarty and Shakie Peters — were killed last summer in Baton Rouge and Amite City, which is roughly 60 miles north of New Orleans, respectively.
Moore worked with Peters’ family after her murder.
“They’re wonderful people and they loved and affirmed Shakie,” said Moore. “I don’t ever want people to think that just because it is the South that nobody has family support, but Shakie did have a family that loved her, very deeply.”
Moore told the Blade that Chyna Gibson, who she described as a “dear sister of mine,” was murdered in New Orleans in 2017 as she was leaving a clothing store before a Mardi Gras ball “everyone was planning to attend.” Moore also said that “after the police conduct their investigation, all we can do is wait and hope that justice is served.”
“I’ve only experienced heartbreak continuing to try and get the police to further investigate … to bring justice to everyone that I have personally lost,” she said.
Moore told the Blade that it remains very difficult for Black trans women to obtain state-issued IDs that accurately reflect their gender identity. Moore also said most health insurance plans in Louisiana do not cover transition-related care.
Pandemic made trans New Orleanians even more vulnerable
Moore told the Blade violence in New Orleans increased last summer, in part, because people were not working. She also said people who engage in survival sex “were very vulnerable and quite frankly left out of the conversation about people who need to be prioritized and really getting aid to these folks.”
“Our undocumented community is totally left out of the conversation,” added Moore. “We often forget that because of our undocumented community, because of our Latinx community, New Orleans is back up and thriving just as it was pre-Katrina because of those wonderful folks who came and really lent their amazing craftsmanship and everything to our great city.”
“To only include these people when it’s beneficial is a disservice and a slap in the face to all their hard work and also a slap in the face to the culture that Black trans women bring to New Orleans and to the rest of world, whether they are survival sex workers, whether they are navigating sobriety,” added Moore. “No matter where they are and what they’re doing, they add such a preciousness to the city and none of it would be what it is without each and every one of us.”
A chilling new bill in Texas would define the parents of trans kids who consenting to their affirming healthcare as “child abusers”.
Texas Senate Bill 1646 was filed on 11 March, 2021, and is sponsored by 13 Republican state senators.
The bill states that a person will be considered guilty of child abuse by “consenting to or assisting in the administering or supplying of, a puberty suppression prescription drug or cross-sex hormone to a child, other than an intersex child, for the purpose of gender transitioning or gender reassignment” or “performing or consenting to the performance of surgery or another medical procedure on a child, other than an intersex child, for the purpose of gender transitioning or gender reassignment”.
The bill places Texas parents consenting to gender-affirming care for their trans kids alongside those who create child porn, sexually abuse children, give illegal drugs to children and those who facilitate forced child marriages.
Penalties for child abuse in Texas include jail time, fines, and removal of the child.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff attorney Chase Strangio wrote on Twitter: “This bill in Texas, SB1646, would remove trans kids from their homes if a parent affirms their gender. Truly barbaric.”
In response, the Texas charity Doctors For Change wrote an open letter to state senator Bryan Hughes, who chairs the Senate State Affairs Committee, condemning the bill and its implications for both parents and healthcare providers.
It wrote that its “more than 1,000 healthcare provider members… vehemently oppose SB1646”.
The letter continued: “We care for Texans of all ages, including transgender and non-binary children, youth, and adults, and we are appalled by the blatant intention of SB1646 to characterise the provision of our compassionate, evidence-based care as ‘child abuse’ and to levy criminal penalties against providers who are putting the health and wellbeing of patients first, as is our duty to do, as well as parents/ guardians who are properly ensuring their children receive necessary care.”
The group also pointed out that because of mandatory reporting of child abuse, the bill would “mandate any healthcare provider report minors receiving certain care which would irreparably damage the trust and confidentiality of patient-provider relationships”.
The White House is not ruling out any legal action being taken in the future against states in which lawmakers are pushing anti-trans laws, including banning transgender athletes from female sports teams.
Press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday (8 April) that president Joe Bidenwould continue to advocate for LGBT+ rights amid the flurry of new state laws against trans youth. But she stopped short of committing to any legal action against them.
Chris Johnson, the White House correspondent for the Washington Blade, asked Psaki if Biden would “reach out to the attorney general” to begin legal action against states which enacted anti-trans bills. He pointed out that state legislatures had been ‘warned’ that “anti-transgender bills are an illegal form of sex discrimination”.
Johnson specifically cited the actions of the Arkansas legislature, which overrode its governor’s veto to pass an anti-trans healthcare bill. The cruel ban, which passed into law on Tuesday (6 April), makes it illegal for healthcare professionals in Arkansas to offer gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormone treatment to trans youth.
Arkansas has also become the second state to ban transgender athletes from female sports teams. Mississippi’s governor has also signed a law banning transgender athletes from girls’ school sports.
Psaki said she can’t “stand here and predict legal action” as the ultimate decision on if action would go forward lies with the Justice Department and attorney general, Merrick Garland. However, she said Joe Biden remains committed to advocating for LGBT+ rights and transgender equality in the US.
“What I can say is that the president’s view is that all persons should receive equal treatment under law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Psaki said.
“That’s fundamental to how he will make laws — advocate for laws, I should say; how he will communicate about his views on the rights of transgender individuals in the country; and certainly, you know, what his view is as it relates to any actions by the government.”
In a follow-up question, Johnson asked if Biden would engage in communication with Garland about the anti-trans legislation. Psaki said the president “certainly can”, but she reiterated: “I don’t have anything to predict for you at this time.”
Garland has said he will advocate for stronger protections for trans Americans. In a hearing before the Senate about his nomination to the office of the attorney general, he promised to combat violence against the trans committee, especially Black, trans women, in the US.
He said it was the “job of the Justice Department to stop” the murders of transgender Americans and protect trans youth. Garland said: “It’s clear to me that this kind of hateful activity has to stop, and yes, we need to put resources into it.”
But in the same hearing, Garland dodged questions about bans on transgender athletes being included in girls’ and women’s sports. He declined to comment on questions, saying he hasn’t had the “chance to consider these kinds of issues” in his career.
Heather Hughes, a music and math teacher at a private school in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, said a 16-year-old student pulled out her phone Monday afternoon and announced that Gov. Asa Hutchinson had vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming medical care.
Hughes said it shows that young people understand the national conversation about trans youth, who are the focus of a wave of state bills that seek to restrict their access to transition-related medical care and sports.
“They get that something’s up, and they understand enough to be like, ‘This is a bad idea,’” Hughes said of her students. “They think it’s asinine. They don’t understand why it’s a big deal in the first place, like why bother making these bills, and so then anytime it’s brought up, they’re mostly infuriated.”
Another student, who is 15, talked to Hughes last week about how they wanted to start testosterone soon. But on Tuesday, the Arkansas Legislature overrode Hutchinson’s veto, and the state is now poised to become the first to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors.
The law bans insurance plans from covering or reimbursing the cost of transition-related care for minors, including puberty blockers and hormones. After it takes effect this summer, Hughes’ student won’t be able to use testosterone unless they pay out of pocket, which Hughes said is “not that likely given their situation.”
Hughes, who is also trans, called the Arkansas law “ridiculous” and said it “opens up the door to more restrictions.” She said her doctor informed her that part of the law will also explicitly allow private insurance companies in the state to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for trans people of any age.
“We’re already getting priced out of so many things and already face enough — why make it worse?”
Hughes is one of 17,300 educators in the U.S. and Canada who signed an open letter to President Joe Biden Monday calling on him to do more to directly address the wave of state bills targeting transgender young people. There are currently 20 states that have introduced bills that would prohibit or restrict transition care for trans minors, according to the ACLU, and more than 30 that have introduced measures that would ban trans student athletes from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity. According to the Movement Advancement Project, five states — Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Dakota — have passed such legislation, though a federal judge stopped Idaho’s law from taking effect last August.
Harper Keenan, an assistant professor in the department of curriculum and pedagogy at the University of British Columbia, helped organize the letter.
Keenan taught elementary students in New York City public schools for five years, and said the bills create a dangerous power dynamic. Legislation that bans transgender student athletes from competing on the sports teams that align with their gender identity, for example, positions transgender girls “as predators invading girls’ spaces,” he said.
“This is a violation of some of our most fundamental responsibilities as educators, which is to support and protect the young people that we work with,” Keenan said. “When we position young people as predators, especially a particular group of young people as predators, we really put them in danger.”
The letter from educators calls on the Biden administration to protect transgender young people’s access to health care, school facilities and activities, and school records and identification that reflects their self-identified gender.
“Anti-trans bills are merely the tip of a much larger iceberg of anti-trans sentiment, gender misunderstandings, and the scapegoating of trans youth that serves to mobilize a conservative base,” the letter states.
The Biden administration did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on the letter, but an official did confirm that Biden issued an executive order this month stating that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects students at schools receiving public funds from sex-based discrimination, also protects them from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The Department of Justice supported Biden’s order in a memo released Monday, which said it interprets Title IX to protect LGBTQ students.
The official also said the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced on Tuesday that it will conduct a comprehensive review of Title IX regulations to fulfill Biden’s recent executive order.
Lawmakers who support restrictions on trans student athletes have said these measures are necessary to protect cisgender girls’ opportunities in sports. However, legislators in almost all the states considering bans could not cite any known cases where trans girls’ participation in sports caused a problem in their state or region, according to an Associated Press report published last month.
Still, Hutchinson said the state’s ban on trans athletes in sports, which he signed March 25, “will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
Supporters of the gender-affirming care restrictions argue that they’re protecting minors who are too young to make medical decisions. The sponsor of Arkansas’ recently passed trans health bill, state Rep. Robin Lundstrum, a Republican, compared it to laws that prevent minors from purchasing alcohol until they’re 21.
“They need to get to be 18 before they make those decisions,” Lundstum said, according to The Associated Press.
Some teachers believe the debate over trans minors’ access to care is really a debate over their existence. Elizabeth-Marie Helms, a trans middle school social studies teacher in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said legislators “don’t really have any interest in science-based medicine.” She noted that lawmakers in Indiana, like those in Arkansas, want to ban trans minors’ access to puberty blockers, even though they have long been used to treat precocious puberty in cisgender youth and wouldn’t be banned for cisgender young people.
“I try to teach my students, ‘Listen to others with empathy. Even if you don’t agree with them, try to understand their points of view,’” Helms said. “In these cases at the state level, it’s just really unclear what a sincere approach to these Republican talking points would even look like, because it just nakedly looks like they’re trying to erase trans people.”
Some cisgender educators like Melissa Tracy, who teaches at a high school in Delaware, said they’re worried about the effects of the bills on trans students at school.
“It’s personal for me, because I think of every trans student who has ever sat in my classroom, and, frankly, they deserve better,” she said. “They are not political pawns.”
Tracy said she participated in a workshop 10 years ago that changed her understanding of the needs of LGBTQ youth. The presenter said that 30 to 40 percent of LGBTQ students will experience suicidal ideation. (That number is higher for trans youth: Fifty-two percent reported that they seriously considered suicide from December 2019 to March 2020, according to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.)
“Since then, I’ve tried to really do right by the students that I teach,” Tracy said.
Several states, including Alabama and Iowa, are considering bills that would force state employees, including teachers, to out students to their parents if they believe a student is questioning their gender. Being forced to “out” a student takes away their agency and jeopardizes one of the few places that some trans youth feel safer, according to Tracy.
“Why wouldn’t we want to do whatever we can to create safe spaces for our students, because, frankly, some of the students that I have taught have not been accepted at home, and literally the only place where they might feel accepted is at school,” she said. “And then you remove that space of acceptance, and they can’t be who they want to be, and that’s just not right.”
Some teachers and advocates say they’re already seeing the national conversation affect trans students.
Julia Cuneo, a youth organizer and educator who helps high school students in Detroit with advocacy campaigns, said a few students have reached out to “express fear and concern” after Republican lawmakers in Michigan introduced a trans athlete ban.
“We have some students who are trans and genderqueer and who are really worried about the ways that their school will target them, and the ways that they won’t be able to express themselves in their classes,” Cuneo, who uses gender neutral pronouns, said. Some students fear their identity could be both disrespected and used against them or that they could be outed.
“They don’t know exactly how this will manifest,” Cuneo said. “The legislators write the law but then it’s kind of up to schools how it gets enforced, and so that uncertainty is really really scary.”
Cuneo said the bills put students and teachers against each other. They said they don’t know of any teachers who openly support Michigan’s athlete ban, but “I’ve definitely talked to teachers who feel like, ‘Well, the law is the law, and I have to do it or I’ll get in trouble.’”
Currently, both teachers and students want to create a safe environment for learning, but if the bills become law, their interests would clash, according to Cuneo.
“I think that’s really the end goal of the GOP in this moment, is to try and put that wedge between supporters and allies, people who are in solidarity with queer people, and the young people who are coming out,” they said.
Tracy said she wonders whether the sponsors of the bills know any trans youth or have spoken with any.
“I guarantee you that if they took even just 10 minutes out of their busy schedule to talk to somebody that perhaps their viewpoint might change,” she said. “Ultimately, I think this is just what I want to tell those legislators: It’s not about you. It’s not about you. It’s about the kids of America. It’s about the kids in your state.”
President Biden, unveiling on Friday his initial budget request to Congress in the first year of his administration, called for ramping up funds to beat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, signaling he’d continue the PrEP-centric initiative that began in the previous administration.
In the preliminary budget request for fiscal year 2022, known in Washington parlance as the “skinny budget” in anticipation of broader request at a later time, Biden seeks an increase of $267 million for Ending the HIV Epidemic, building on the more than $400 million Congress has appropriated for the program since 2019.
As it was launched in the Trump administration, the initiative sought a 90 percent decrease in new incidents of HIV infections across the United States by 2030, although Biden campaigned on beating that goal by five years and ending the domestic HIV epidemic by 2025.
Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, hailed in a statement the proposed increased funds for the initiative, but said it falls short of the amount advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS were seeking.
“While it falls short of what the community has requested, if this funding is realized it will continue the momentum already created and make further progress in ending HIV in the U.S. Efforts to end HIV will help eradicate an infectious disease that we have been battling for the last 40 years and help correct racial and health inequities in our nation,” Schmid said.
Counterintuitively, Trump had sought more funds to beat HIV/AIDS in his final year in office than Biden has in his first year in office. Last year, President Trump’s budget called for an increase of $412 million for the second year of the initiative for a total of $716 million while Congress settled on an increase of approximately $137 million.
Biden seeks increased funds for HIV/AIDS at a time when advocates in the fight against HIV were at a crossroads at the start of a new administration. Questions had persisted about whether or not the Biden administration would continue the initiative, which was the brainchild of health officials in the Trump administration.
The head of trans healthcare at one of the largest hospitals in the US has reminded the public that puberty blockers are an “incredibly safe” and “reversible” treatment for transgender children.
Dr Joshua Safer, executive director at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City, was speaking to NPR alongside Republican Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson – who recently tried and failed to veto a bill restricting gender-affirming treatments, including puberty blockers, for under-18s.
“The reason I vetoed the bill,” Hutchinson said, “is because we did not want to interrupt a treatment that the parents had agreed to, the patient agreed to and the physician recommended.”SPONSORED CONTENTWhat’s Huel’s Black Edition?By Huel
Hutchinson was overruled by Republican lawmakers, and Arkansas became the first US state to ban puberty blockers for trans kids. But Safer said that in his medical experience, puberty blockers are a “conservative options and they are reversible”.
“Puberty blockers are used in a number of medical situations, specifically so that hormones can be adjusted to a certain degree, and then they can be stopped, and things will revert to how they were,” he said.
“When we use these medications for transgender kids as well as for kids with precocious puberty, they’re incredibly safe,” Safer added. “That’s the reason why they are the conservative go-to medication for these kids.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is preparing litigation in Arkansas, stating that the anti-trans bill “will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state and send a terrible and heart-breaking message to the transgender young people who are watching in fear”.
“This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over – and we’re in it for the long haul,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of ACLU in Arkansas.
Dozens of similar bills attacking trans people, backed by the anti-abortion Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, are making their way through legislatures across the US.