The Women’s Institute (WI) has featured a trans woman on the cover of its magazine for the first time ever: 74-year-old activist Petra Wenham.
Petra, a member of the Cake and Revolution WI in Suffolk, said she was “honoured” to be the first trans person to grace the cover of WI Life.
In the magazine, she explained that she came out as trans to her wife, Loraine, in 2015 and came out publicly in 2018.
Around the same time, she began delivering a talk to other WI groups titled: “Have you ever met a trans woman?”
In it, she explains to members the difference between sex and gender, what it’s like to grow up trans, what it means to be intersex and the cost of transitioning, among other topics.
Petra wants to show WI members that “the human condition is complex and gloriously so”.
Throughout Petra’s coming out journey her wife, with whom she has two children and two grandchildren, has been her “rock”.
“I’m very fortunate that I still have my wife Loraine and we’ve been happily married for 48 years,” she said.
“She’s my rock and that gives me a much better base to talk from than some trans people who have been kicked out by their partner or are suffering from depression.”
Just as her wife has fully embraced her, so has the WI.
She said: “WI members are not just accepting, but actively supportive and are welcoming me to the sisterhood… The WI gives me access to build friendships with other women, which is what I need, to build a friendship base besides Loraine.”
t released a public statement in the 2000s to clarify its position, and has since worked with trans education charity Gendered Intelligence to draft it Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy.
Melissa Green, general secretary for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), told the East Anglian Daily Times: “The WI is proudly a trans-inclusive organisation… Trans women are welcome to join the WI and participate in meetings and activities in the same way as any other woman.
“We were delighted to feature Petra on the cover of the latest WI Life magazine and share her inspiring work as a speaker and activist.
“It is wonderful that Petra has been welcomed into her WI with such kindness and that reflects the ethos of the WI – it’s about women coming together in a friendly and inclusive environment, learning new things and making a difference in their communities.”
New Jersey has adopted a policy that requires state prisons to house transgender people according to their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth.
The policy change is part of a settlement the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey announced Tuesday, and it puts the state among the handful of others with similar policies.
The ACLU of New Jersey and attorney Robyn Gigl of GluckWalrath LLP sued the N.J. Department of Corrections and its officers in August 2019 on behalf of a trans woman who went by the pseudonym Sonia Doe in court documents.
Prior to Doe’s lawsuit, the department’s policy was to house people according to their genitalia, according to Tess Borden, an ACLU of New Jersey staff attorney on the case.
‘Those memories still haunt me’
Doe was housed in four different men’s prisons over 18 months, according to her complaint, which stated that she was incarcerated for “offenses stemming from her addiction” to painkillers. During that time, she alleged, corrections officers misgendered her, denied her female commissary items and didn’t protect her from other inmates who harassed her. She alleged that three officers also physically assaulted her in May 2019 after she corrected them for misgendering her.
The department, in response, charged and found her guilty of assault and forced her to spend 270 days in isolation, among other sanctions, according to the ACLU of New Jersey.
A few weeks after Doe’s lawyers filed the complaint, the department transferred her to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.
Chris Carden, a public information officer for the department of corrections, told NBC News in an email that it “views this settlement agreement as significant steps in the right direction.”
“While the Department did have existing processes in place, the policy outlined in this settlement is an update to those processes,” he wrote. “Anyone incarcerated under NJDOC care may at any time provide information regarding their gender identity to the NJDOC. The Department then takes careful measures to ensure they are properly housed in-line with their gender identity and their housing preferences, while ensuring both their safety and the security of the institution. Overall, the steps being taken support the important cultural changes being made throughout the Department.”
As part of the settlement, which the ACLU of New Jersey filed in the Mercer County Superior Court on Tuesday, the department will adopt an agencywide policy meant to protect people in state custody who are transgender, intersex and nonbinary, according to a press release.
In addition to the policy change, the department will pay Doe $125,000 in damages and will pay her attorney fees.
“When I was forced to live in men’s prisons, I was terrified I wouldn’t make it out alive,” Doe said in a statement. “Those memories still haunt me. Though I still have nightmares about that time, it’s a relief to know that as a result of my experience the NJDOC has adopted substantial policy changes so no person should be subjected to the horrors I survived.”
New Jersey is now one of a handful of states that have passed laws or implemented policies requiring that inmates be housed according to their gender identity. Borden said the state’s policy goes further than most others, though, because it includes provisions that will help the department of corrections implement the policy.
“The purpose section includes the word ‘dignity’ — that it’s the purpose of this policy in the New Jersey Department of Corrections to recognize the dignity of transgender, intersex and nonbinary people in its custody,” she said. The policy also requires officers to use a trans inmate’s proper pronouns, including gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them, and the gender neutral honorific “Mx.” instead of “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
“It is a commitment, on paper, to really affirm trans lives and the lives of nonbinary and intersex folks in DOC custody as well,” she said.
‘A new era in New Jersey prisons’
One of the key components of the new policy created as part of the settlement establishes a presumption that people in state custody will be housed in line with their gender identity, and a “commitment that placement in line with gender identity will never be considered a management or security problem solely due to the person’s gender identity,” according to the ACLU of New Jersey.
California, Massachusetts and Connecticut also have policies in place that establish a presumption that trans inmates will be housed according to their gender identity, though Borden said there are carve-outs in all of those states that allow officials to go against that policy if they have a “security or management” concern.
New Jersey’s policy will also establish intake and identification procedures that include questions about gender identity and pronouns, and it will recognize self-attestations, which means someone doesn’t have to prove their gender identity through invasive searches or other means.
The policy will also prohibit staff harassment and discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived gender identity, and will guarantee gender-affirming undergarments, clothing and other personal property, among other policy changes.
There’s also language in the policy that states an incarcerated person’s own views of their health and safety will be taken into account. Borden noted that some trans men, for example, may feel safer in a women’s prison, and this part of the policy would allow for that flexibility.
Finally, the settlement will require the department to actually implement the policy by distributing it to all staff, requiring them to sign a form acknowledging that they’ve read it and holding additional training for some high-level staff members.
“Having a policy that now explicitly recognizes the dignity of transgender, intersex, and non-binary people begins a new chapter at the DOC,” Gigl said in a statement. “While we know trans, intersex, and nonbinary people still face extraordinary risk of harm, it is our hope that this policy will shepherd in a new era in New Jersey prisons of protecting and affirming transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people’s lives.”
‘A step in the right direction’
Borden said Doe feels that the victory isn’t just for her, but for many other trans people who have been in similar situations.
A 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 21 percent of transgender women confined in men’s facilities reported suffering physical abuse while in prison, and 20 percent reported sexual violence.
More than one-third (37 percent) of survey respondents who were taking hormones before their incarceration said they were prevented from taking their hormones while incarcerated.
The settlement and resulting policy change are part of a larger shift by the department since the Department of Justice found last year that conditions at the Edna Mahan facility violated the Constitution, Borden said.
“My hope is that this policy is a step in the right direction in New Jersey’s commitment to keeping people in this prison safe,” she said.
As cities around the United States celebrated Pride this month — including here in Denver on Saturday — there’s been a great deal of attention given to the prominent role that transgender folks have played in the LGBTQ rights movement in the country.
There’s also been a serious look into the ways anti-LGBTQ jackals have disproportionately focused their attention on trans people and trans kids over the last few years.
But, as with every June, there is often less acknowledgment given to the fact that Indigenous LGBTQ people were the first people on this continent victimized by the white Christians who arrived as Bible-thumping invaders — Indigenous peoples who are not only accepted, but also often venerated by their own people.
To be gay, lesbian, gender-nonconforming, nonbinary or trans is a blessing to Indigenous peoples; it’s a spiritual role in many nations and tribes known as Two-Spirit. If a Native person is Two-Spirit, they are holy people.
Long before the white man and their Bible came to this land, Two Spirit individuals were holy, healers of the people, and they still are today.
Historically — as my Oglala Lakota elders told me as a kid — to be Two-Spirit means that you have the spirit of a man and a spirit of a woman. It means that you’ve been blessed by the creator with the lens of both, and that’s what we call good medicine.
A straight man, after all, has only the lens of a straight man, and a straight woman has only the lens of a straight woman. A Two-Spirit person has at least the lens of both — and sometimes even more lenses, as some nations acknowledge that there exists more than just men and women, and have a long list of gender identities.
But when Christians blundered onto our ancestral lands, they waved the Christian Bible in our ancestors’ collective faces and called any Two-Spirit person “a sin” and “an abomination against God and nature.”
They were, of course, already aghast when they witnessed Indigenous women involved in politics; they would go into fits of rage at even the idea of Two-Spirit people sitting among them during meetings or discussions.
And though the U.S. government only legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, such unions had been commonplace between Two-Spirit people and recognized within Indigenous communities for thousands of years before the Christian encroachers arrived.
If a Native person is Two-Spirit, they are holy people.
White people showed up here, claimed to be more civilized than us and prided themselves on their faith and supposed logic, but then acted illogically, uncivilized and without the love for their neighbors as their Jesus preached.
Kayla Shaggy is Diné and Anishinaabe, and she’s Two-Spirit, which she points out is today a reclaimed identity, even among some Native peoples.
As a result of the Christian brainwashing endemic in those often-compulsory boarding schools, there’s a whole generation of Christian Indians who have largely forgotten or will not acknowledge the spiritual significance of Two-Spirit individuals; they shun them and speak (in the way of the white man) by referring to anyone like Shaggy as “a sinner.”
“That effect of colonization and the boarding school era created that animosity,” Shaggy said. “It’s a learned cycle of hate.”
Non-Native LGBTQ people should not identify as Two-Spirit because it’s not a synonym but an ancient role in our communities.
Still, long before the white man and their Bible came to this land, Two Spirit individuals were holy, healers of the people, and they still are today. “It’s more than just an identity to take on,” Shaggy said. “It’s a ceremonial role.”
Two-Spirit is, indeed, exclusively Indigenous; it is not synonymous with all people who are LGBTQ, and non-Native LGBTQ people should not identify as such because it’s not a synonym but an ancient role in our communities.
“It was something we had to reclaim after colonization and an attempted erasure” Shaggy said. “If people want to be supportive and have solidarity with us, then they should have respect for that and not co-opt it.”
I’ve seen for myself the respect that Two-Spirit people command among our elders. One day, years ago, I was at the Four Winds American Indian Council Center in Denver when an elder with bad knees struggled to stand; his grandson told him to “sit down,” and that he’d get his grandfather whatever he needed. The elder told his grandson that he was standing in respect of the Two-Spirit who’d just arrived at the center, and then thanked the Two-Spirit for bringing good medicine into the space.
This is what Christians didn’t understand when they stumbled our way, and some still don’t today: It’s a blessing to be LGBTQ, and it’s holy to be Two-Spirit.
Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, said he plans to introduce the first resolution to condemn state bills targeting transgender people this week.
This year, state legislatures have considered more than 100 bills targeting trans people, “making 2021 the worst year for legislation that discriminates against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community since 2015,” the bill states. Eighteen anti-LGBTQ bills have passed, and 10 await governors’ final signatures, it adds.
Most of the bills target transgender youth by seeking to ban them from school sports teams that align with their gender identity or limit their access to gender-affirming medical care. Governors in nine states have signed athlete bans into law, and two have signed restrictions on medical care.
“It is shameful to witness legislatures across the country endorse policies that endanger the safety of trans individuals and block access to critical services,” Torres said in a statement to NBC News. “My resolution makes it clear that Congress denounces the rise in anti-trans legislation and hate crimes, and that as a body we will pursue legislation that protects the well-being and safety of the trans community.”
The legislation specifically mentions an Arkansas law that will ban gender-affirming care, including hormones and puberty blockers.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, vetoed the bill in April, calling it a “vast government overreach,” but the Legislature overrode the veto, and the bill will become law next month unless a judge intervenes. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuitlast month in an effort to block the law.
Nearly 1,500 trans kids will lose access to medical care if takes effect, according to Torres’ bill.
Legislation like Arkansas’ “discriminates against the transgender community, is not based in science and is intended to sow division and instill animosity toward our fellow Americans,” the bill states.
The bill also connects “laws and political rhetoric that deny the humanity of transgender people” to negative mental health outcomes for LGBTQ youth and rising anti-trans violence. By blocking trans people from accessing health care, housing, public spaces and employment, the bills “give license to others to take violent action based on their biases,” the bill says.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday challenged bans involving transgender people that target athletes in West Virginia and children in Arkansas, slamming them as violations of federal law.
The department filed statements of interest in lawsuits that seek to overturn new laws in those states. In West Virginia, a law prohibits transgender athletes from competing in female sports. Arkansas became the first state to ban gender confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youth.
The DOJ said the laws in both states violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It also said the West Virginia law violates Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal funds.
And in a third case, West Virginia’s Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated a lawsuit filed on behalf of a transgender male student who said an assistant principal harassed him when he tried to use the boys bathroom.
The American Civil Liberties Union, its West Virginia chapter and LGBTQ interest group Lambda Legal challenged the athlete ban on behalf of an 11-year-old transgender girl who had hoped to compete in cross-country in middle school.
“A state law that limits or denies a particular class of people’s ability to participate in public, federally funded educational programs and activities solely because their gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth violates both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause,” the Justice Department filing said. The state law “does exactly this.”
In Arkansas, the ACLU filed a lawsuit last month challenging the transgender youth prohibition, which is set to take effect on July 28. It prohibits doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender confirming treatments. The lawsuit argues the prohibition will severely harm transgender youth in the state and violate their constitutional rights.
“A state law that specifically denies a limited class of people the ability to receive medically necessary care from their healthcare providers solely on the basis of their sex assigned at birth violates the Equal Protection Clause,” the Justice Department filing said. “These restrictions explicitly target transgender people.”
Republican lawmakers enacted the ban in April, overriding a veto by GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The Arkansas governor vetoed the ban following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide.
Hutchinson said the law went too far, especially since it wouldn’t exempt youth already receiving the care. Gender confirming surgery is currently not performed on minors in Arkansas.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, also a Republican, asked a federal judge this week to dismiss the lawsuit over the state’s ban. And West Virginia Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Thursday asked a judge to allow him to intervene on the state’s behalf to defend the athlete ban.
Rutledge’s office rejected the Justice Department’s argument, saying the state’s prohibition “absolutely doesn’t discriminate based on transgender status.”
“The Biden Administration’s brief makes the frivolous argument that it does,” Stephanie Sharp, a spokesperson for Rutledge, said in a statement. “But that brief illustrates the weakness of its position — so weak that the Administration resorts to pages of personal attacks against Arkansans’ elected representatives.”
Several other states also have enacted bills this year over school sports participation bans. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem implemented the move by executive order. Other states, including Kansas and North Dakota, passed bans only to have them vetoed by the governor.
In February, the Biden administration withdrew government support for a federal lawsuit in Connecticut that seeks to ban transgender athletes from participating in girls high school sports. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in April.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, which oversees scholastic sports, said earlier this year that it had not received any complaints about transgender athletes on girls teams.
Several Democrats said the West Virginia bill was discriminatory, but supporters have argued that transgender athletes would have physical advantages in female sports.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill despite warnings from some lawmakers that the NCAA could retaliate and decide not to hold college tournaments in the state. Justice had said that while it concerned him that the state could miss out on a sporting event, he believed the benefits of the law “way outweigh the bad part of it.”
In the transgender bathroom case, the West Virginia Supreme Court reinstated some negligence claims and sent the lawsuit back to a lower court for further proceedings. A circuit judge had dismissed the lawsuit, saying the Harrison County school board was immune from liability for the actions of an assistant principal.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of student Michael Critchfield accused the board of failing to create a safe school environment. The ACLU had said Liberty High School Assistant Principal Lee Livengood followed Critchfield into the boys bathroom in November 2018 at the school and said, “You freak me out.” Critchfield said he also was ordered to prove his gender by using a urinal. He was 15 at the time.
An attorney for Livengood had previously argued that his client was unaware of Critchfield’s gender identity and was not told of an arrangement Critchfield had with the principal to use the boys restrooms.
A Colorado baker who won a partial victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to make a birthday cake for a transgender woman, a state judge has ruled.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones said Autumn Scardina was denied a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate her gender transition on her birthday because of her transgender status in violation of the law. While Jack Phillips said he could not make the cake because of its message, Jones said the case was about a refusal to sell a product, not compelled speech.
He pointed out that Phillips testified during a trial in March that he did not think someone could change their gender and he would not celebrate “somebody who thinks that they can.”
“The anti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others,’” Jones wrote.
The group representing Phillips, Alliance Defending Freedom, said Wednesday that it would appeal the ruling, which ordered him to pay a $500 fine. The maximum fine for each violation of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act is $500. But it was not clear from the ruling if the fine was for the two attempts that Scardina made to order the cake or just one.
“Radical activists and government officials are targeting artists like Jack because they won’t promote messages on marriage and sexuality that violate their core convictions,” the group’s general counsel, Kristen Waggoner, said in a statement.
Scardina, an attorney, attempted to order the cake on the same day in 2017 that the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear Phillips’ appeal in the wedding cake case. Scardina said she wanted to “challenge the veracity” f Phillips statements that he would serve LGBT customers, but her attempt to get a cake was not a “set up” intended to file a lawsuit, Jones said.
One of Scardina’s attorneys, John McHugh, said the case is about how LGBTQ people are treated, not just what happened to her.
“This is about a business that is open to the public that simply says to an entire class of people in the community that your identity, who you are, is something that is objectional,” he said.
A 23-year-old trans man was fatally shot outside a dollar store in Lynchburg, Virginia.
At around 5:55pm on Monday afternoon (12 June), police arrived at the Family Dollar at 2029 Fort Avenue to find Novaa Ru Watson suffering from “malicious wounds”.
He was rushed to the Lynchburg General Hospital where he later died of his injuries, the Lynchburg Police Department said in a statement.
Police officials confirmed to The News & Avenue that investigators are looking into whether the shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute.
They confirmed that a child was found at the scene of the shooting and was unharmed, but did not provide any other details.
Detectives added that they are investigating the shooting as a homicide but there is currently no evidence of a hate crime.
Watson’s family confirmed to the authorities that the victim was a trans man and his pronouns were he/him.
While they were reportedly not aware of him going by a name other than his deadname, they claimed, friends said his name was Novaa, which is listed on his personal Facebook profile. Others said he went by ‘EJ’ and ‘E’.
He is, at the least, the 29th trans person slain in the US, according to LGBT+ groups, yet another victim of what the American Medical Association has dubbed an “epidemic of violence“.
Novaa Watson was a person full of ‘good vibes’, says friend
Watson, who grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, had only days ago celebrated his 23rd birthday.
On his social media, he often rapped and shared quotes from his favourite artists, such as Drake.
Loved ones described him as a reliable and high-spirited person who would answer a person’s phone call no matter what, in tributes posted to Facebook.
“He was loved and like[d] by everyone,” Torri Chippe, a friend of Watson’s since middle school, told The News & Avenue.
“He was one of those people that was just good vibes and energy.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) has delivered a firm rebuke to the spate of anti-trans bills attempting to criminalise healthcare for trans youth.
Arkansas became the first state to ban puberty blockers and gender affirming treatment for trans minors in April, while similar bills are currently being considered in up to 20 state legislatures
State representatives are pushing their discriminatory bans through despite firm opposition from medical and healthcare advocacy groups, including the AMA – which is the largest association of physicians in the United States.
The American Medical Association recommitted to its already established position in a wide-ranging statement issued on Tuesday (15 June).
The group characterised such bills as “governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine” and said efforts to ban healthcare for trans minors will ultimately prove “detrimental”.
“Legislatures in 20 states this year proposed banning physicians and other health care professionals from providing medically necessary gender-affirming care to transgender and gender-diverse youth,” the AMA said in a statement.
“In response to this legislative trend, physicians and medical students at the AMA’s House of Delegates meeting voted to meaningfully expand the organisation’s strong opposition to undue restrictions on medical care to populations that have been politicised in state legislatures.”
AMA will support human rights by opposing anti-trans bills
Michael Suk, AMA board member, said that gender-affirming care is “medically necessary” and “evidence based” and insisted that it “improves the physical and mental health of transgender and gender-diverse people.”
The AMA drew attention to a letter it delivered to the National Governors Association in April which argued government overreach in healthcare can have “tragic consequences for transgender individuals”.
“The AMA is a strong supporter of human rights and freedoms and will continue to strongly oppose discrimination based on an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” the statement said.
The group promised to keep working to protect trans and gender diverse young people’s right to “explore their gender identity under the safe and supportive care of a physician”.
There was widespread outcry when Arkansas legislators banned healthcare for trans youth in April – but that law is far from the end of the road for transgender people in the United States.
Similar bills are either currently being considered, or have already been considered, in Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Montana, Louisiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Utah, Georgia and others.
State lawmakers across the country have introduced at least 171 pieces of legislation that target the rights of transgender people this year, according to a new legislative database compiled by the Progressive Caucus Action Fund, a grassroots group that opposes the bills.
At least 19 of the bills ― 13 that specifically target trans people and six more that could more broadly hurt LGBTQ rights ― have already become law.
“We’re only six months into 2021 and it’s already been a devastating year for protecting transgender people,” said Ricardo Pacheco, a researcher at the Progressive Caucus Action Fund who compiled the database. “The expectation that quite a few more of these will pass in the next few months.”
Republican lawmakers have introduced the vast majority of the bills, both in states the GOP controls and those where Democrats hold majorities. Ten states, all with Republican legislative majorities and governors, have enacted new anti-trans laws this year. Four other bills have passed through GOP legislatures but have been vetoed by governors.
The push for anti-trans laws has intensified as part of a broader Republican culture war against the basic and individual rights of women, Black people, immigrants and LGBTQ people. Right-wing lawmakers believe they can weaponize trans rights — and people’s very right to exist as trans — as a wedge issue. This has exhausted activists and had demonstrably negative mental health effects on members of the trans community, said Dr. Ruadhán Woods, a trans and queer organizer for Hometown Action, a group in Alabama that opposed an anti-trans bill that became law in that state.
“There’s just a lot of helpless feelings,” Woods told HuffPost. “People in our community really are looking for support and solidarity, and for representation in the government. And the fact that legislation is actively trying to essentially erase trans kids from being able to get support, and really criminalize existing … The morale is extremely low, even though the bar has been low for a long time.”
The aggressive nature of the GOP’s effort to restrict trans rights is on full display in the database, as are the ways that effort has changed. The so-called “bathroom bills” that were once in vogue as Republicans tried to block trans people from using restrooms and public facilities that correspond with their gender identity have largely given way to other types of legislation.
This year, Republicans are largely taking aim at trans students’ ability to play scholastic sports that correspond with their gender identity, a push that has largely targeted trans girls and women in high school and college. Lawmakers have introduced 76 bills aiming to limit trans people’s participation in sports, according to the database, and such bills make up roughly 45% of all anti-trans legislation introduced this year.
It’s clear that the anti-trans bills that are centered around sports really just want sports to be something that trans people don’t participate in.Ruadhán Woods, Hometown Action in Alabama organizer
Seven states with Republican legislatures ― Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia ― have enacted such laws. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vetoed similar bills after they were passed by GOP legislatures. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) also vetoed a bill barring trans youth from playing school sports that match their gender identity — but later signed two executive orders doing just that.
Those bills have largely sought to vilify trans identity, and curtail the right of trans women and girls to play sports against cisgender athletes. Republicans have touted the laws as a way to protect women’s sports and Title IX, the federal law meant to guarantee equal access to education and sports participation for women. They have adopted the mantle even though many conservatives have long been skeptical of Title IX and efforts to bolster women’s equality in sports, and despite the fact that many GOP lawmakers have been unable to point to incidents of trans women and girls taking spots away from cisgender athletes.
Activists, education experts and health professionals have for years pointed to evidence that increasing sports participation could bolster mental health, self esteem and other health and education outcomes for trans youth. But no amount of pushback, data or discussion about trans athletes or their basic right to play sports has swayed Republicans.
“It’s clear that the anti-trans bills that are centered around sports really just want sports to be something that trans people don’t participate in,” Woods said from Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed one such bill into law in April.
Legislation targeting trans peoples’ ability to access health care and treatment make up the second largest share of bills under consideration in state houses across the country. Republican lawmakers have introduced 51 such bills this year, according to the database.
Tennessee Republicans have passed at least two bills that are similar to the “bathroom bills” that many GOP states sought in recent years. One requires businesses that have multi-person bathrooms or locker rooms to post signs if they let trans people use bathrooms of their choice; another allows students and teachers to refuse to use such facilities at school if trans people are allowed to use them, and requires schools to provide those students and staff separate bathrooms to use.
The Progressive Caucus Action Fund’s database includes the latter law in its count, along with others that have passed in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota that more broadly restrict LGBTQ rights on religious freedom or free speech grounds. Oklahoma Republicans approved a new law that prohibits mandatory diversity training “regarding gender identity, sexual orientation, race stereotyping and sex stereotyping.” The broader laws, LGBTQ advocates say, provide an example of how the GOP’s culture war legislation can often target multiple groups at once, including LGBTQ people, Black people, Native Americans and women.
Most state legislative sessions have ended and more GOP proposals failed than passed, even in red states like Arizona, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas. But it’s still possible that more anti-trans laws could pass in Ohio and other states where lawmakers are still in session.
The legislative onslaught has already had negative effects on trans youth: A common view among trans people, Woods said, was that they weren’t surprised by efforts to target their rights in Alabama and nationwide “because nobody cares about our community anyway, so we just have to care for each other.”
“That’s a very sad and tragic thing for most young people to have already embraced or come to understand,” Woods said. “So for me, it’s more than just fighting legislation. It’s really fighting for community members to be able to be represented and for our rights to be protected and upheld.”
Legal challenges could ultimately thwart some of the new laws. Last year, a federal court ruled that an Idaho law barring trans women and girls from participating in sports that match their gender identities was unconstitutional. The ruling is subject to an appeal that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard in early May.
Civil rights groups have already filed legal claims against several other new laws passed this year. Progressives and LGBTQ rights groups are also pushing Senate Democrats to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public facilities, education, employment and other areas, and help preempt many of the new state laws.
Democrats in the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act in February, but prospects for the bill’s ultimate approval in the Senate, where it must overcome Republican opposition and the legislative filibuster, are dim.
“That’s where the next push needs to be,” Pacheco said. “It’s not necessarily just reacting to what states are doing, but it’s being proactive and it’s being preemptive by passing the Equality Act to make sure that LGBT youth and trans youth in our communities have those protections.”
But the nature of attacks on trans rights, Woods said, makes it clear that one piece of federal legislation won’t be enough. Efforts to curb those rights are likely to continue, and there’s no silver bullet argument or piece of legislation that can fully stop them when “the majority of people who are making these decisions are doing a really intentional job of not listening to the voices of the people who are most affected,” Woods said. So even if the Equality Act passes, there will “still be a lot of work to do” to create the cultural, social and political shifts necessary to fully protect trans people nationwide, and convince lawmakers and the public to see trans rights through the lens of basic human rights.
“We have people actively working against our community’s existence,” they said. “This is going to take some time and there is a lot of work left to do for people who insist on pushing trans identity and rights into a position of debate.”
Dr. Stephanie Ho, a family medicine physician in Fayetteville, Arkansas, said she’s had state legislators in her exam room before.
Ho, who has provided gender-affirming care to transgender people in the state since 2015, is also an abortion provider, so she is familiar with lawmakers’ restricting the care she provides. She said she wasn’t surprised when the Legislature overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of a bill last month that would ban puberty blockers, hormones and surgery for transgender minors.
“I think that it’s kind of ridiculous that we’ve gotten to the point that we’re letting politicians dictate how health care is delivered and what kind of care can be given to whom,” said Ho, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health.
“I think the last thing I’ve ever wanted, being an abortion provider or somebody who provides gender-affirming care, is to have a politician in the back of my mind in the exam room making me think about ‘Oh, I wonder if I should do this, if it’s OK,’” she said. “They’re essentially trying to practice medicine without a license. And that’s incredibly wrong.”
Arkansas was the first state to pass a ban on transition care for minors. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee last week signed a similar billbarring prepubertal youths’ access to transition care like hormone therapy. Advocates say no doctors in the state provide hormone therapy for prepubertal youths, The Associated Press reported.
So far this year, state legislatures have considered 35 bills to ban or limit gender-affirming care for trans minors, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Physicians say that the bills negatively affect their patients’ health before they even become law and that they require doctors to go against medical standards of care. Legal experts say the bans could also open providers and hospitals up to lawsuits or put them at risk of losing federal funding.
Ho is trying to support her patients as best she can until Arkansas’ law takes effect this summer.
“It’s just a matter of making sure that my patients know that, whether I can provide them hormones or not, we’re still here for them to support them in any way that we can,” she said. “Of course, I’m going to practice within the bounds of the law, whether I agree with it or not, because me being in jail doesn’t help any of my other patients at all.”
Creating ‘contingency plans’
Some physicians, like Dr. Izzy Lowell, who founded a telemedicine practice called QMed in Atlanta in 2017, started planning for the bills months ago.
In April, Alabama’s Senate passed a bill that would have made it a felony for doctors to provide minors with gender-affirming care. The bill died Monday after the House missed the deadline to vote on it. Lowell said that when it first passed, the minor patients she treats in Alabama were scared and frustrated.
“It was clear that the state of Alabama was coming after transgender teens, and we talked about some contingency plans,” she said. “Based on each case, I tried to give them as many refills as possible and told them: ‘Go pick up as much of your medicine as you can. I don’t know when I’ll see you again.’”
Lowell is licensed and practices in 10 states via telemedicine, so she also talked with her legal team and with patients in states considering bans about how her patients could continue care should their states ban it. She said her patients’ parents would have to drive to other states, which would “place an extraordinary burden on these families.”
“If they were, for example, able to get over the border into Tennessee or South Carolina and sit in a parking lot somewhere, I could see them technically with my South Carolina license or Tennessee license or my North Carolina license and perhaps find a local pharmacy there and have them pick up the prescription, but it would be a day’s worth of driving for them to get somewhere where I could see them legally,” she said.
Because leaving the state just to get care would be a burden, families in states where transition care restrictions have passed have movedor are considering moving.
The costs of losing ‘lifesaving’ care
Many minors whose parents don’t have the time or money to drive out of state would be forced to stop transition care if their states passed laws like Arkansas’, which comes with potentially life-threatening health risks, physicians say.
Major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society and the American Psychological Association, support gender-affirming care for trans youths and oppose efforts to restrict access.
Supporters of the Arkansas bill argue that transition care for minors is “experimental” and that trans minors often change their minds about their genders and detransition later in life. Medical experts say neither of those claims are backed by scientific evidence. On the contrary, research has found that access to gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers reduces the risk of suicide among trans youths.
Ho said the danger is evidenced by what happened when Arkansas’ bill passed through one legislative chamber. Dr. Michele Hutchinson, a physician at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Gender Spectrum Clinic, testified before the state Senate in March that there were “multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide, just in the last week,” after the House passed the bill.
Ho said that “since then, I have had one of my own patients attempt suicide,” adding that she has talked to her patients about what would happen if a judge doesn’t block Arkansas’ law from taking effect. The law also bars her from referring her patients to other physicians who provide gender-affirming care. Unless her patients were able to leave the state, they would be likely to lose access to hormones, so she talked to them about what that would mean.
Lowell said forcing people who were assigned female at birth to stop testosterone would cause them to suffer symptoms of low testosterone, which include inability to concentrate and low energy. “They would start doing badly in school most likely, until their bodies started producing estrogen a few months later, and then they would restart their periods, restart breast growth, and it would undo all of the changes that we tried to achieve with testosterone.”
If people assigned male at birth were forced to stop taking estrogen, it “would be like going through instantaneous menopause,” Lowell said. For about a year, they could have symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, irritability and mood swings, among other issues, such as negative impacts on emotional well-being.
Doctors worry that minors who already receive and rely on transition care would get hormones illegally if they had to. Dr. Ricardo Correa, a board member of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, treats trans veterans in Phoenix, where, he said, trans people have traveled to the border to buy hormones illegally when they can’t get them. He said state bans would worsen the problem.
“It will just create chaos in the system from black markets that are going to start selling this kind of medication in that state,” he said.
Lowell said that hormone therapy is safe when it is monitored by a doctor but that using it without medical supervision could cause health problems, such as liver failure, kidney failure or heart problems.
“There’s very serious consequences of completely unmonitored, sort of black market medication use in this situation,” she said.
‘A form of medical malpractice’
Legal experts and advocates say that in addition to having dangerous health impacts, bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youths could expose health care providers to legal and regulatory problems.
Valarie Blake, a law professor at West Virginia University specializing in health care law, said there’s “a pretty strong case” that Arkansas’ law is discriminatory under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which protects against discrimination based on sex.
The Biden administration announced this month that it would interpret Section 1557 to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — reversing a Trump-era policy that cut protections for transgender people.
Hospitals and physicians receiving federal funding, such as Medicare and Medicaid payments, are required to comply with laws like Section 1557, Blake said; otherwise, they risk losing the funding.
Arkansas’ law could trigger that risk by allowing physicians and hospitals to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to cisgender minors for precocious puberty but not transgender teens.
“If the reason that they’re not doing it for transgender teens is because of the fact that they’re transgender, then there’s a very good case that the reason that they’re refusing the treatment is based on the gender identity and not anything else,” Blake said.
“It really puts health care workers in an untenable position when the federal government makes it plain that this is discrimination and has the money to back it up to basically say, ‘We can pull away all of the resources,’ and yet the state persists,” she said.
“We don’t have clear precedent on the books yet to suggest that LGBTQ categories are fully protected in that manner, which is why we’ve been seeing various kinds of Equal Rights Amendment-type laws trying to work their way through Congress,” she said, referring to the Equality Act, a bill that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, education and other areas of life.
The bill passed the House in February, but it has stalled in the Senate. “If something like that passes, then suddenly Arkansas as a state is in big trouble,” Blake said.
Lowell said thinking about the potential legal issues “keeps me up at night.” Physicians are required to give patients several months’ warning when they can’t see them anymore and to do their best to find other providers who can see them if they’re unable to.
But laws like Arkansas’ bar physicians from referring patients to other providers for transition care. “In this case, I can’t do any of those things, and I just have to say, ‘Bye,’ and ‘I’m not allowed to see you anymore,’” she said. “That’s patient abandonment, which is a form of malpractice.”
Lowell said that when the first restrictions were introduced several months ago, she felt angry and anxious all the time.
“I worry about what might happen to my patients if these bills are passed and worry about going to jail myself,” she said. “I struggle with the question of what I would do: continue to support my patients and risk going to jail for years or follow these hateful laws? Thankfully, I have not had to answer this question yet, but I will never abandon my patients.”