A doctor refused to let a Republican Congressman derail a House Judiciary Hearing by asking for a definition of the word “woman.”
The hearing was held to look address how the Supreme Court is probably going to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the federal right to an abortion in the U.S., and Dr. Yashica Robinson, who provides abortions in Alabama and is on the board of directors of the group Physicians for Reproductive Health, was called to testify about abortion access.
But that didn’t stop Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) from trying to troll her and bringing up a random conservative grievance about the practice of sharing one’s pronouns to help others avoid misgendering people.
“In your written testimony, I noticed you said that you use she/her pronouns,” Rep. Bishop asked her in the hearing. “You’re a medical doctor. What’s a woman?”
“It’s important for you to understand why I said I use she/her pronouns,” Dr. Robinson responded.
Bishop tried to stop her from explaining why she shared her pronouns and again asked, “What is a woman?”
Robinson wasn’t deterred: “I think it’s important that we educate people like you about why we’re doing the things that we do.”
“So the reason I use she and her pronouns is because I understand that there are people who become pregnant that may not identify that way and I think it is discriminatory to speak to people or to call them in such a way as they desire not to be called,” she continued. “It’s important that we respect each individual person.”
Bishop cut her off again: “Can you answer my question of what’s a woman?”
“I’m a woman,” she said.
“Is that as comprehensive of a definition as you can give me?” Bishop asked.
Robinson had had enough and reminded Bishop that the hearing was about abortion, not pronouns or the definition of a woman: “That’s as comprehensive of a definition as I will give you today because I think that it’s important that we focus on what we’re here for, and it’s to talk about access to abortion.”
A Trump-appointed judge just blocked federal agencies from enforcing part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the grounds that it would require doctors to perform gender-affirming care, including surgery, on babies. The wild claim is patently false.
Section 1557 of the ACA states that healthcare cannot be denied to any individual because of discrimination based on their sex, race, disability status, and a variety of other reasons.
Jump to October 2021, the Christian Employers Alliance alleged that the implementation of section 1557 of the ACA was an affront to their religious freedom. Essentially, the suit said that being required to treat patients with gender dysphoria would “[prevent] them from maintaining views and facilities in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
The suit sought to bring an injunction barring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from carrying out their job duties by ensuring transgender patients are not discriminated against.
Judge Daniel Traynor, a Trump appointee, sided with the Christian Employers Alliance in saying that refusing care to transgender people was an expression of the plaintiff’s religious freedom.
Traynor’s opinion seems to be founded upon the idea that the HHS will be prosecuting doctors for refusing to medically transition infants.
“The thought that a newborn child could be surgically altered to change gender is the result of the Biden HHS Notification and HHS Guidance that brands a medical professional’s refusal to do so as discrimination,” the suit reads. “Indeed, the HHS Guidance specifically invites the public to file complaints for acting in a manner the Alliance says is consistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The judge has essentially implied that the Christian Employers Alliance’s religious freedom outweighs transgender people’s right to be treated for their gender dysphoria, on the false claim that babies are being transitioned.
A basic search shows that no infants are transitioning. Puberty blockers, the first step for childhood transition, cannot be prescribed until age 12.
What is an issue, though, is the effects of living without proper gender-affirming care.
“Gender dysphoria can have serious health impacts,” wrote Samantha Schmidt for The Washington Post in February. “It can affect a person’s ability to function at school or work and can lead to intense anxiety, depression and suicide risk.”
So a Trump-appointed judge saw fit to side with a religious organization, prioritizing their religious freedom so as to ensure babies don’t transition, something that isn’t an issue to begin with, and as a result, transgender people are in danger of not receiving life-saving healthcare.
A federal judge struck down a Tennessee law Tuesday that would have required businesses in the state to post warning notices on their public restrooms if they have policies allowing transgender patrons to use the facilities that match their gender identities.
The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law in June on behalf of two business owners — the owner of Sanctuary, a performing arts and community center in Chattanooga, and the owner of Fido, a restaurant in Nashville, among other businesses.
The law went into effect on July 1, but U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger issued a preliminary injunction against it a week later. Then on Tuesday, Trauger permanently blocked the law by granting the ACLU’s motion for summary judgment, which asks a court to decide a case without a full trial.
She wrote in a 40-page decision that the law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution because it compels speech that is controversial and with which the plaintiffs disagree.
“It would do a disservice to the First Amendment to judge the Act for anything other than what it is: a brazen attempt to single out trans-inclusive establishments and force them to parrot a message that they reasonably believe would sow fear and misunderstanding about the very transgender Tennesseans whom those establishments are trying to provide with some semblance of a safe and welcoming environment,” Trauger wrote.
Glenn Funk and Neal Pinkston, both district attorneys; Christopher Bainbridge, the state director of code enforcement; and Carter Lawrence, the state fire marshal, are named as defendants. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A representative for Gov. Bill Lee has also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The law required business owners with even informal policies that allow people to use whichever bathroom they want to post a sign that reads, “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex regardless of the designation on the restroom,” at the entrances of single-sex public restrooms, locker rooms, dressing areas or other facilities that are “designated for a specific biological sex … where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The law said the sign must be at least 8 inches wide and 6 inches tall and use the colors red and yellow, with a boldface typeface, among other requirements.
Representatives for the state argued that the law is a “content-neutral” rule meant to clarify restroom signage and is not meant to be an endorsement of how gender identity should be understood, according to the opinion. The ACLU’s clients, they argued, have “imagined an idiosyncratic, hidden undertone to the [required] signage.”
Trauger, who was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton, disagreed, noting that the government’s preferred view of how gender works — that it is dictated by “biological sex,” which is assigned at birth and is limited to male or female — is contested.
“The only thing that is imaginary in this case, though, is the imagined consensus on issues of sex and gender on which the defendants seek to rely,” Trauger wrote. “Transgender Tennesseans are real. The businesses and establishments that wish to welcome them are real. And the viewpoints that those individuals and businesses hold are real, even if they differ from the views of some legislators or government officials.”
“We applaud the court for recognizing that this law violates the First Amendment and harms transgender people,” Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said in a statement.“Transgender individuals should be able to live their lives free of harassment and discrimination. Today’s decision ensures that the businesses who welcome them are not forced to become instruments for politicians’ discrimination.”
Bob Bernstein, the owner of the Nashville restaurant Fido, has an informal policy that allows customers to use the restroom they feel is most appropriate. He said he has not had any complaints or concerns about the policy, and he objected to the “stigmatizing” message the law required.
“As a former journalist, I believe strongly in free speech,” Bernstein said in a statement. “The government can’t just force people to post discriminatory, inaccurate, and divisive signs in their places of business. I am glad that the court recognized that this law violates the First Amendment.”
Advocates have described the law as a new iteration of “bathroom bills” passed in 2016, such as House Bill 2 in North Carolina, which sought to bar trans people from using the bathrooms that aligned with their gender identities.
The sponsor of Tennessee’s law, Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, said in legislative debate in May 2021 that the bill is meant to protect women and children “against sexual predators that could be taking advantage of policies, executive orders or legislation that may allow the opposite sex to enter a restroom, shower or locker room,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
Trauger wrote in her opinion that Rudd “was unable to provide examples or evidence of such a problem,” although he argued that “we shouldn’t wait for people’s rights to be abused” to potentially prevent “an attack.”
The issue is not new, advocates have said, and proponents of bathroom bills passed in 2016 cited similar arguments. A 2018 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found there is no evidence that trans-inclusive policies for public facilities increase safety risks.
A federal judge blocked part of a newly enacted Alabama law that made it a felony for doctors to provide certain gender-affirming medical care to minors.
Alabama was the third state to pass restrictions on transgender health care, following Arkansas and Tennessee, but the first to add felony penalties. Doctors and other health care providers who violate the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which took effect May 8 and is partially still in effect, could face up to 10 years in prison or a $15,000 fine, or both.
Civil rights groups and the Justice Department argued against the law on behalf of doctors and transgender minors in the state last week, and in an opinion issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke found “substantial likelihood” that part of Alabama’s law was unconstitutional.
He put a temporary block on the portion of the law that bars minors from receivingnonsurgical care such as puberty blockers and hormones, writing that parents “have a fundamental right to direct the medical care of their children.”
“This right includes the more specific right to treat their children with transitioning medications subject to medically accepted standards,” he said. “The Act infringes on that right and, as such, is subject to strict scrutiny. At this stage of litigation, the Act falls short of that standard because it is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.”
Burke allowed other parts of the law to remain in effect, including the ban on gender-affirming surgery for minors. He also allowed two provisions related to education to remain in effect: one that prohibits school officials from keeping information about a child’s gender identity secret from their parents, and another that prohibits school officials from “encouraging or compelling children to keep certain gender-identity information secret from their parents.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday morning.
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a plaintiff in one of the suits challenging the law and a co-lead of UAB Pediatrics’ gender health team, said late Friday that the decision “is a huge relief for transgender children and their families.
“The court’s decision recognizes that this is well established care that has been endorsed by 22 major medical associations,” she said. “This decision will ensure transgender children in Alabama, and beyond, can continue to receive this evidence-based well-known lifesaving care.”
Ladinsky told NBC News after the Legislature passed the bill in March that there were no surgeons in the state who perform gender-affirming surgeries on minors.She said Monday that if thefull law had been allowed to remain in effect, it would’ve forced many of her patients to cease their ongoing treatment, because the law had no grandfather clause for transgender youths who were already receiving care.
“That is one of … the most cruel and ignorant parts of the law,” she said.
Shay Shelnutt, the bill’s primary sponsor, said during a Senate debate in March that the bill seeks to “protect our children” and “stop these surgeries and these drugs on our children,” local news outlet AL.com reported.
Heather R. who lives in a small town about an hour northwest of Birmingham with her 15-year-old transgender son, Rob, said Saturday that she feels that the decision gives them some “breathing room.” She asked that her last name be withheld for safety and privacy reasons.
“I am worried this is going to increase violence and harassment toward trans people and their families, so I don’t feel we can start celebrating like it’s over,” she said.
Heather created a GoFundMe account so that she could move her family to a more supportive state.
“I don’t think it’s going to get better here, and we’re isolated here,” she said after the law took effect. She had originally planned to move to Maryland but recently decided to move to one of the 19 states that are considering legislation to protect transgender youths.
She said lawmakers who support restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors rely on misinformation to support their views and don’t seem to understand that trans kids are just like other kids. Rob said he likes video games, and when asked how many pets the family has, he said his answer would be “lengthy” before adding, “we have two dogs and a pack of cats.”
Though the part of the law that would affect Rob’s medical care has been blocked, at least temporarily, she said the family still plans to move.
“I do think we need to move somewhere safer so he can have a community of trans and LGBT people to hang out with in his late teens,” she said.
Countless trans people are speaking out about their childhoods by writing letters in an effort to humanise the often cruel “debates” about them.
Under the hashtag “Letters 4 Trans Kids“, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming Twitter users told their own stories.
As adults, they are thriving – and they want to help young people do the same. In a news cycle so often dominated by stories that dwell on bullying, murder and whether to remove their rights, trans people brought the conversation back to joy.
Among them was Arthur Webber, a 24-year-old writer based in London, England, who recalled nights “praying” that he would “wake up a boy” and now considers being trans a “gift”.
In many nations, from the US to Britain, trans folk are facing fire seemingly from all sides. From a belligerent press and politicians that see them as a “culture war”, to the spectre of rising violence and dwindling healthcare options.
But before then, Webber was a young person wishing he could throw on boy’s school uniform and use the men’s bathroom.
“My nights were spent praying that in the morning I would be a boy. I would wake up disappointed,” he tweeted. “However, I already was a boy – no divine intervention required.”
Webber recounted a Christmas Eve when he was seven spent cutting his hair off and rushing to tell his family about it. “I had been watching The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, so perhaps took the time of children coming out of a closet a bit too literally,” he joked.
“However, I already was a boy – no (terrible) haircut needed.”
Holidays provided a young Webber with a chance to be himself, a feeling so often stripped from trans kids. “I’d avoid giving them my name and say I was born without one,” he said, “which everybody is, really.
“The devastation I felt when my family would fetch me using my deadname and reveal that the outside world believes I was a girl still lingers with me.”
“Until I had sex ed in year five, I was convinced that I was just a really late starter at being a boy and one day my d**k would just grow,” he said. “I’d be like all the other boys so sometimes I would look at men out in public and wonder at what age theirs showed up.”
Visiting a train exhibition at a Doncaster museum with his father and grandfather, the pair let him use the washroom with them “because they weren’t about to leave a five-year-old alone”.
“I was so happy to be there,” Webber recalled, “even though it smells.”
“As a child, I thought that eyelashes were a female thing so I would pull them out,” he added.
“So now they’re very thin because when you pull them out for years they sort of stop growing back.”
The Letters 4 Trans Kids hashtag was first started by Ina Fried, chief technology correspondent for Axios. She sought to “find a way to support” trans and non-binary youth amid an anti-trans legislative onslaught in America.
Fried called on social media users to pen a letter to share their experiences growing up trans or show their emphatic support for the community’s rights.
“I can only imagine what it is like to be a trans kid right now, trying to find your own way while having to have your humanity and basic human rights up for discussion every day,” Fried wrote on Facebook on 10 April.
“And then there is the message that debate sends to their community, to their friends and even to them – that they are not seen or valued for who they are.”
“What if everyone who supports trans kids wrote a letter, or made a short video or posted on social media,” Fried added. “Well, why not? Let’s do it.”
And hundreds of people did just that. Trans actors, filmmakers, drag artists and leading LGBT+ advocates grabbed their pens and wrote about figuring their identities out just like any other kid.
The letters are a testament to just how possible it could be for trans youth to flourish when supported, affirmed and loved.
A question so many of the letters raised was how the adults in trans children’s lives – from parents and caregivers to educators and politicians – can choose to care for them, not abandon them, so they grow up into the people they know they can be.
But things started to change for Katie when the Texas Children’s Hospital announced last month that it would pause gender-affirming services for minors in light of the directive. Her son lost access to his care program for three weeks until a judge paused the state’s investigations.
“That just really shook me,” said Katie, who asked that her full name not be published to protect her family’s privacy. “The things that you never would think would happen somehow are reality, and I can’t live with the uncertainty. It’s eating us up.”
A spokesperson for the Texas Children’s Hospital said in an email that the hospital “remains deeply committed to our transgender and gender-diverse patients” and will “continue to monitor the ongoing legal proceedings in determining how best to proceed.”
Her son’s initial loss of gender-affirming care was the turning point for Katie and her family. Katie decided that after her son finishes 10th grade this summer, the family would move to Denver.
Her son, N., told NBC News last month that things have been “awful” since the governor’s directive. “It was hard to stay in one piece and not break down on everything,” he said.
Katie said that since the family decided to move, N. has been doing the best he can to stay positive about it.
“But his heart is broken,” she said. “We’re leaving Texas temporarily on our terms with the hope and prayer that come November, we’re going to get to come back home and it will be a joyous homecoming.”
Last month, NBC News spoke to a dozen parents of transgender children, as well as to trans teens, following Abbott’s directive. At the time, only one of those families had planned to move. Now, three, including Katie’s family, have said they will leave the state.
The three families who are departing said they didn’t make their decisions overnight. But they had watched Texas officials become increasingly bold in targeting transgender people in recent years.
In 2015, the state began to consider a “bathroom bill” that would have banned transgender people from using public and school restrooms that aligned with their gender identity.
Since then, the Legislature has ramped up its efforts. Last year, it considered more than 50 bills targeting transgender people. Only one made it to Abbott for a signature: a bill that bars transgender students from playing on school sports teams that aligned with their gender identity.
But one of the other failed bills prompted an opinion from state Attorney General Ken Paxton, who declared on Feb. 21that gender-affirming medical care such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery cause “irreparable harm” to minors and were child abuse under Texas law. Abbott followed with his directive to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services the following day.
“I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans,” Paxton said at the time, arguing in his opinion that minors cannot consent to gender-affirming medical care.
He has since taken several actions to defend and double down on his position. He appealed both injunctions issued by judges: a narrow injunction on March 2 that paused one of the state’s investigations into a Child Protective Services employee and a statewide one issued March 11 that paused all investigations. An appeals court reinstated the statewide injunction and it remains in place.
Paxton also filed investigative demands on March 24 against two pharmaceutical companies, Endo Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie Inc., alleging that they advertised their products as treatment for gender dysphoria rather than the medical conditions they were approved to treat.
The efforts from Paxton, Abbott and the state Legislature have had widespread effects. The Children’s Medical Center in Dallas removed all references to Genecis, its gender-affirming care program for minors, from its website in November and said the program would no longer take new patients. Last month, 850 doctors, medical students and employees at two Dallas hospitals signed a petition opposing the decision.
Paxton has also tweeted about transgender people, even repeatedly misgendering Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant U.S. health secretary and the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed federal official, prompting Twitter to flag the tweets.
All of it is adding up, and parents and LGBTQ advocates say they are exhausted. The Rev. Remington Johnson, a Presbyterian clergy member and a trans advocate, said she spends her days texting with the parents of trans kids in Texas and doesn’t know of any family who hasn’t considered leaving the state.
Even if advocates continue to defeat anti-trans bills, and even if the courts ultimately shoot down Abbott’s directive, they will leave behind a persistent “climate of terror,” she said.
“This is why there have been doctors that have just stopped treating trans kids,” she said. “It’s not because there’s a law, it’s because this is what terror-inducing bills do. It is the same playbook as the bounty-hunter style abortion bill, where it’s about causing anxiety and fear to stop the thing that you don’t want to be happening.”
“Texas will work to pass what Florida passed but make it worse,” Johnson said. “It will be harsher, it will be more extreme.”
K., another Austin mom of a 10-year-old trans daughter testified against anti-trans bills at the Capitol last year, when the Legislature held three special sessions to pass the trans athlete restriction. She said that once it was over, she and the other advocates planned to take time off to recover and strategize for the next session.
But then Paxton and Abbott released their letters two months into the new year.
“Here we see that these two extremist politicians circumvented the legal process in order to implement these policies,” she said.
K., who also asked that her full name not be published out of privacy concerns, said that she realized that even though she and the other parents and advocates “followed the rules” and won, they’re still losing. “It makes me uncertain that we would be protected even though our kids have not received gender-affirming medical care at this point,” she said. “And I can’t fight offensively when I’m already down on the ground just trying to fend people off of my kids.”
She plans to move her family to Oregon this summer.
Parents also expect that the next legislative session, which starts in 2023, will be worse than the last. That’s why Heather Crawford, an Austin mom whose 15-year-old is trans, said she plans to move her family to Minnesota this summer.
“I have zero faith that it will stop,” she said. Her 15-year-old, Cass, was born and raised in Texas, but “I cannot ask them to spend the last years of their childhood in a state that wants to criminalize their existence.”
Cass, who uses “he” and “they” pronouns, said the idea of moving to a state with a number of pro-LGBTQ laws — and was the first to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in 1993 — is a huge relief. He said Paxton’s and Abbott’s efforts will put trans people in danger. “It’s saying that people can get away with transphobia towards everyone in the community, including kids,” he said.
Heather Peto had been feeling run down for a while before she realised there might be something wrong.
At first, she blamed her recent experience with COVID for her feelings of exhaustion – but gradually, she started to notice other, more troubling symptoms creeping in. Eventually, she realised that she was exhibiting some of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.
Getting to that realisation wasn’t easy. As a trans woman, Heather often has to fight to access the healthcare she needs. Some doctors and specialists are unaware of the specific symptoms trans women might experience when they have prostate cancer, while others don’t even know trans women can get prostate cancer.
Right now, Heather is undergoing tests to determine what’s causing her prostate issues. In the mean time, she wants to speak out about the symptoms she is experiencing so others will know what they need to watch out for.
Aside from the exhaustion, the first thing Heather noticed was that she started to experience urinary incontinence during sex.
“It was only a small amount, but that had never happened before,” Heather tells PinkNews. “It then started to happen regularly… One of the key things to get across is that if you’re noticed a change in your urinary habits, whether that’s incontinence or other things, then it’s important to get it checked out.”
Increasingly worried about her symptoms, Heather went to her GP for blood tests.
“The blood test measures something called prostate-specific antigen (PSA), and if you’ve got higher levels of that it tends to mean there’s something wrong with the prostate – it could be cancer, could be prostatitis,” Heather explains. Prostatitis refers to the inflammation of the prostate gland.
“Mine was quite high for my age,” Heather says. The tests were evidence enough that something was wrong, but that’s where Heather’s issues with the healthcare system begin. As a trans woman who has had hormone treatment, she should in general have lower PSA levels than a cis man would have.
The result is that some trans women and non-binary people with prostates can show lower levels of PSA in blood tests, but they could still have prostate cancer. According to Prostate Cancer UK, some experts believe a PSA level above 1 ng/ml in a trans woman should warrant further investigation.
Trans women can experience different symptoms of prostate cancer
Another barrier to treatment and diagnosis for trans women is that the symptoms can be different. One of the symptoms most commonly associated with prostate cancer is the need to get up and urinate frequently during the night – but that’s largely based on the experiences of cis men. Heather noticed some different symptoms.
“One of those symptoms is that there’s a form of incontinence by which you go to the toilet for a wee but you don’t expel all your wee… so you have that little residual amount that you can’t seem to expel. You know it’s there but it’s not completely gone. When it discharges, which it does, it ends up leaking all at once.”
Something else Heather experienced is that she would orgasm spontaneously during urination. “It’s very awkward,” she says. Unfortunately, Heather experienced some “disinterest” from medical professionals when she raised concerns about the symptoms she was experiencing – although she stresses that the care she has received has generally been good.
I’m left in this never-never of not knowing if it’s cancer that’s getting worse or if there’s another, more benign explanation such as prostatitis.
After noticing those symptoms, Heather went to her GP and was referred to a specialist. She was supposed to have a urine test in November 2021, but it was subsequently pushed back several times.
“I’m left in this never-never of not knowing if it’s cancer that’s getting worse or if there’s another, more benign explanation such as prostatitis, or if it could be another form of cancer that’s affecting the area. My health is getting worse, I’m OK but not OK in terms of living a normal live. So that’s my experience.”
Heather is speaking out about her experience because she wants both the medical field and the wider public to have greater awareness about the fact that trans and non-binary people with prostates are susceptible to developing prostate cancer too.
“There is this list on the NHS website of symptoms that you might experience with prostate cancer, but it does seem to me to neglect certain things trans and non-binary people with prostates might experience, and it possibly neglects people who have sex with men.
“There needs to be more research and more guidance around trans people with prostate cancer,” Heather says. “I don’t want to be too alarmist, but I think we need to communicate this – there are people who are needlessly being treated further along in their prostate cancer than is necessary.”
Heather says there’s a level of ignorance in the medical field about the reality of prostate cancer for trans people. That’s not necessarily anybody’s fault, she points out – but she would like to see better education and training for GPs and other medical professionals. Right now, trans and non-binary people with prostates often have to educate healthcare professionals themselves.
“People need to talk more broadly about the problems trans people have,” she says. “We need to make sure GPs know about it, but also patients know about it so they can go to their GP in the first place… Your life is in their hands.”
Heather still doesn’t know what her symptoms mean, but she’s trying to remain optimistic while she waits on a firm answer.
“There’s always that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that it’s something worse that’s not being tackled, that I’ll end up dying from it, or that I’ll end up being more seriously ill than I need to be.”
What’s worse is that Heather knows she will likely experience transphobic abuse online because she’s daring to speak out about her experience. She has received brutal, cruel messages on social media over the years – all because she’s a trans woman. Some of those have wished cancer on her.
This culture of abuse only further silences trans people and makes them less likely to seek the support they need.
There needs to be greater awareness in the medical field about trans women’s medical needs
Heather’s experience is echoed by Suzanna Hopwood, also a trans woman. She developed prostatitis a number of years ago – she went to her GP and was referred to a consultant. The care she received was excellent.
“They don’t want to do any surgery on me, they’re just treating it with drugs. They didn’t think there was anything sinister lurking in my prostate and it wasn’t hugely big. That’s the process that I went through and I came out the other side reasonably satisfied,” Suzanna says.
“On the other side, you can fall into a bit of a hole really and not get properly diagnosed.”
That’s why Suzanna worked with Prostate Cancer UK to help help bring its information on prostate cancer in trans and non-binary people up to date. She reached out to the charity when she started having issues with prostatitis and learned that the charity was already working on updating its information to make it more inclusive.
Today, Prostate Cancer UK provides in-depth information about the realities facing trans women and non-binary people with prostates. Worryingly, the charity points out that many people don’t even know that trans women and some non-binary people have prostates, meaning they’re less likely to seek and access the right supports.
For Heather and Suzanna, the path forward is education – both for medical professionals and for trans and non-binary people. Without that, lives could continue to be needlessly lost.
If you’re trans or non-binary and are worried about prostate cancer or prostatitis, you can visit the Prostate Cancer UK website to find out more.
An internet forum where people pretending to be parents forcing their children to be transgender has gotten shut down after it was found to be full of fake stories.
As the U.S. plunges even deeper into a moral panic over children who are supposedly being forced to transition, some anti-transgender people are reacting to the fact that that never happens by making up stories about it and trying to pass them off as real.
“Anyone else have trouble convincing your teen kids to continue transitioning?” user “Funkyduffy” wrote on the subreddit r/TransParentTransKid. “My 15-year-old daughter (AMAB) has started refusing her estradiol so I’ve been crushing the pills and putting it in her cereal in the morning.”
Reddit is a largely anonymous internet platform where most users create unidentifiable handles and connections between users aren’t the focus, a contrast to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This makes it easier and more accepted for people to create temporary profiles to say whatever they want on various forums called subreddits.
One such subreddit, r/TransParentTransKid, was started last August when some users decided to post fake stories to it to promote the negative stereotype that parents and schools are forcing kids to be transgender. In reality it is common for schools and parents to be obstacles to trans kids expressing their identities while it’s unheard of for schools and parents to impede cisgender kids the same way.
The user who called for the subreddit’s creation said that it would be “filled with stories about how our real/adoptive children magically learned they were also trans after finding out about their parents,” according to Reuters.
According to another subreddit, r/AgainstHateSubreddits, r/TransParentTransKid was shut down for violating Reddit’s rules because they were “engaged in promoting hatred of transgender people, as well as targeted harassment.”
But the stories still spread outside of Reddit to rightwingers who were all too willing to believe them.
“This is fucking child abuse and I’ll die on this Hill,” wrote libertarian author Justin O’Donnell on Twitter, posting a picture of Funkyduffy’s fake story. He got almost 46,000 likes for it.
Ian Miles Cheong – who has a history of posting misinformation about trans people online and even riling Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) up – shared the story with the words “Good parenting.”
The story comes as conservative politicians and activists are claiming that there is a massive effort by schools and parents to turn children transgender.
For example, Rep. Greene said in February that there are “these mothers that think [having a trans child] is like having a handbag. They need to have a boy, a girl, and a trans child like as if they’re some kind of accessory.”
Funkyduffy’s story may have been one that pushed her to believe that such parents exist.
“I have never – not once – heard of a child being forced to transition,” said the ACLU’s Gillian Branstetter. “The exception is intersex children who are frequently forced into surgeries, yet every effort to ban gender-affirming care exempts those surgeries.”
In the first three months of 2022, nearly 199 anti-trans pieces of legislation have been proposed, after a whopping 147 in 2021. These laws prohibit, punish, or severely limit medical transition, athletic involvement, bathroom access, and identity privacy among providers and educators. The reality is that these laws are based on damaging misinformation about transgender children, their caregivers, & their providers.
As a transgender man who has worked with gender-diverse children as young as three years old, I know how vital it is to have scientifically accurate and evidence-based information to keep our children safe and healthy.
So let’s explore some of the most common myths about transgender children:
There are only two genders
One word: science. There is a wide spectrum of genders acknowledged by science and biology, well beyond the binary of male or female. Many people confuse sex assigned at birth (sometimes called “biological sex”) with someone’s gender identity, their deeply-held sense of what their gender is. All people have a gender identity, it simply becomes highlighted when that identity doesn’t match our sex assigned at birth. Sex assigned at birth is not as simple as chromosomes or genitals. Politicians and anti-trans advocates who insist on completely rigid binary genders are hurting all of us and know that this kind of fear-mongering is their most effective weapon in the face of a culture still learning about the reality of trans identities.
Kids aren’t old enough to know their true gender
Some critics argue that children cannot separate imaginary play from a deeply-held identity, believing that children can be coached into expressing a transgender identity, or that youth may be influenced by social media to be transgender. The American Psychological Association states that most children have a firm idea of their gender identity by age 2, including transgender children. I have worked with kids whose first words were “I not boy” or “No dress,” suggesting that even some pre-verbal children are aware of the potential mismatch between their gender identity and how their caregivers see them. Research has established that trans kids’ gender identities are as strong as their cisgender counterparts’ gender identities, emphasizing that even very young children who say they are not the sex they were assigned at birth can and do know their authentic gender.
Medical transition is dangerous for transgender youth
Some people fear that doctors are unquestioningly recommending medical transition (puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and/or surgery) for young children without regard for the permanent changes their bodies will undergo. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and other major medical/mental health organizations all support gender-affirming care for pubescent youth when appropriate, especially in cases where youth are so dysphoric that they self-harm, sometimes resulting in suicide attempts. Child and adolescent gender clinics employ rigorous, constant evaluation of youth that can extend over 6+ months, to determine what medical path, if any, is appropriate. Medical transition is not utilized for youth who have not entered puberty, and there is plenty of youth with no desire to medically transition. However, access to these services can be lifesaving for transgender youth. Early studies show low rates of transition regret.
Many kids experience transition regret
There can be some confusion in understanding research about trans, gender nonconforming, and gender creative kids. Certain interpretations of early studies suggested that there were high rates of trans children later detransitioning. It has become clear that many of these young people were probably not transgender to begin with. Many of the kids in these studies were recruited from gender clinics their parents brought them to in order to change gender nonconforming behaviors or gender exploration. Many of them did not consistently, insistently, and persistently state they were a gender other than their sex assigned at birth, a hallmark of transgender identity.
Trans kids confuse or upset other kids
Some fear that if children interact with or learn about transgender people, they will be confused about their own gender. In my experience supporting trans kids and their siblings at camps through Gender Spectrum and Camp Aranu’tiq, young children often intuitively understand gender transition and are readily accepting of their trans peers.
If my child is trans, they will be bullied and have mental health issues
Transgender athletes have an unfair advantage over cisgender athletes
Many of the laws targeting transgender children prevent trans youth athletes from participating in sports based on their authentic gender identity. Most public discourse about such laws focuses on a purported advantage of transgirls/transwomen over cisgirls/ciswomen, though research is inconclusive at best. This myth begs larger questions about fairness in sports, and the purpose of youth participation in sports. What is the purpose of youth participating in sports? What do we lose by limiting the goal of these sports to winning, rather than using athletics as an activity that builds community and character?
Allowing transgender youth to use the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity is unsafe
Every major world religion has historically acknowledged both humans and deities who move fluidly between male and female categories. Hundreds of cultures throughout human history have acknowledged people who identify with a social category beyond male or female, often referred to as a third gender. Third gender people are often viewed as especially sacred, having a special connection to the divine within their given spiritual tradition. Nearly every mainstream Protestant denomination accepts/ordains transgender people, and every faith community I’ve ever researched has some kind of network, formal or informal, that embraces trans people.
We must get past these myths and instead look to science and facts. The lives of trans and nonbinary people are literally at stake.
Kelsey Pacha is the Board President of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, the organization responsible for the groundbreaking book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, and the owner of Kelsey Pacha Consulting, working with clinicians, parents, corporations, & other providers to support the health of LGBTQ people. Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, first published in 2014, is a 728-page resource written by and for transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people. The second edition of the book releases on April 15th, 2022.
News centered on the trans community is often dominated by such trends, but across the country, grassroots nonprofit groups led by transgender people are creating spaces for their communities to find safety and joy.
Transgender Day of Visibility on Thursday is an annual awareness day dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of transgender people while still acknowledging the violence and discrimination they continue to face. Here are 11 grassroots groups that do just that by providing their communities with home-cooked meals, health care, space for creativity and other services.
bklyn boihood — Brooklyn, New York
bklyn boihood started as “a vision and space for masculine of center people of color to feel seen,” Van Bailey, a member of the group, said in an email. “Our mission is to create spaces where black, brown, queer and trans bois* can cultivate stories, dreams and creative work.”
The group has created spaces for safer gatherings and parties, storytelling, intergenerational connections, fashion, body movement work and reconnecting with nature. Bailey said the organization is excited to partner with groups like NYC Pridethis year to provide a social space for Pride season.
The project supports LGBTQ youths experiencing homelessness by connecting them with resources such as housing, employment, education, health care and other basic needs. It strives to create a “brave environment” that allows the youths “to explore their history, investigate new ways to address their struggles and to celebrate their strengths through personal, leadership and community development programming that incorporate different art-expression forms,” Bermúdez said in an email.
The Knights and Orchids Society — Selma, Alabama
“Black trans gender non conforming people have been systematically denied access to the resources needed to survive and thrive so The Knights and Orchids Society strives to build the power of these individuals by providing a spectrum of health and wellness services to them across the South,” Christina Nicholson, the group’s communications director, said in an email.
She added that the organization is looking forward to expanding its food and nutrition program through its newly developed Black Sheep Farm and Innovation Center: “This program is dedicated to increasing our clients’ access to nutritious food by maintaining a community garden that teaches youth and other community members farming techniques that can be used in rural or urban settings and operating a food bank stocked with purchased food goods (including meat, milk, eggs, and perishable goods) and produce harvested from our community garden.”
Transgender Education Network of Texas — Austin, Texas
The Transgender Education Network of Texas, or TENT, is the largest policy organization in the state led by trans people of color, said Gin Pham, the group’s communications and outreach manager. TENT provides gender-inclusive training for state leaders and engages in policy advocacy.
“This year, regardless of attacks on trans and gender expansive communities, we will continue to work to deepen our network and provide our communities with the relevant and accurate resources and information throughout the state of Texas,” Pham said in an emailed statement.
Transgender Day of Visibility, Pham added, “means different things to the different members of our community, as we all have our own personal relationships with being visible, but at the heart of it, it’s a celebration of one another.”
The Okra Project — Brooklyn, New York
The Okra Project is a mutual aid organization that provides home-cooked meals to Black trans people in New York City, Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey.
“There is a special place that The Okra Project sits in — the mission to invest in the manifestation of the most incredible life a Black Trans or Gender Expansive person can dream of,” Dominique Morgan, the group’s executive director, said in an email. “The approach can be diverse: eliminating food insecurity, naming and addressing health disparities, whole person health or maybe just a space to dance and feel free — it’s all about manifesting a life for Black Trans and Gender Expansive people filled with joy and radical liberation.”
Phoenix Transition Program — Atlanta
Lupa Brandt and her husband, Jamil-Jack Abreu, founded the Phoenix Transition Program in June 2020 to provide services and support to trans people across the country, although they focus primarily on supporting transmasculine people, who Brandt said are often overlooked.
The group provides free chest binders to transmasculine people nationwide and Thanksgiving meals to those who need them.
It also helps trans people start businesses by paying for their websites and state registrations, and it supports those who have recently been incarcerated.
“We’re just trying to adapt and continue to keep our community safe and free and housed and fed,” Brandt said.
Baltimore Safe Haven
Baltimore Safe Haven provides at-risk trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex and asexual people in Baltimore “with opportunities to transform their lives,” said Iya Dammons, the organization’s founder and executive director.
The Black trans-led LGBTQ organization provides low-barrier shelter to those experiencing homelessness, transitional housing, middle-age housing and senior housing. It also provides social services, such as HIV testing, access to food and clothing pantries and a drop-in center with daytime and nighttime outreach.
“The accumulation of those allows us to see a broad amount of community members who are not just TLGBQ, but also everyone who crosses our threshold,” said Ja’Nae Tyler, the director of operations.
Alianza Translatinx — Orange County, California
Alianza Translatinx, the first and only trans-led organization in Orange County, “has become a community cornerstone” for trans and gender-nonconforming people living in the largely conservative area, Khloe Rios-Wyatt, the group’s president and CEO, said in an email.
“Through education, community empowerment and social justice, Alianza Translatinx uplifts the TGNC community to eradicate stigma and hate against TGNC people, while at the same time fulfilling our mission to protect, defend and advocate for the needs and the rights of the TGNC community, especially people of color,” Rios-Wyatt said, using an initialism for transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex immigrant women in Los Angeles. The group provides legal services such as name and gender-marker changes, re-entry assistance for people in detention centers and jails, anti-violence response, HIV-prevention services, transitional and emergency housing, clothing and free daily lunches.
“The mission of The [email protected] Coalition (TLC) is to advocate for the specific needs of the Trans [email protected] community that resides in the U.S.A. and to plan strategies that improve our quality of life,” Steve Landaverde, one of the group’s directors, said in an email.
Intransitive — Little Rock, Arkansas
Intransitive is a trans migrant-led organization in Arkansas that supports the trans community through advocacy, organizing, art, education and culture, said Rumba Yambú, the group’s director.
“At the end of last year we opened the first Trans Community Center in Arkansas, and this year we’ll spend it creating spaces for Trans joy, supporting Trans youth, and growing and building with Trans Arkansans,” Yambú said in an email.
The group was closely involved in advocating against anti-trans legislation in the state, which was the first to ban certain gender-affirming medical care procedures for minors last year. A judge blocked the law from taking effect in July.
Transinclusive Group — Wilton Manors, Florida
Transinclusive Group is a trans-led group with a special focus on racial justice, accessibility and ensuring that social, political and economic systems treat LGBTQ people equally.
“We envision a community where all Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer+ individuals can achieve their human potential equally and equitably through education, healthy lives, and financial stability, free of stigma and discrimination,” Tatiana Williams, the group’s co-founder and executive director, said in an email. “Our work in community is dedicated to ensuring that trans joy, wellness, and opportunity are not out of reach for any of our siblings.”
Transinclusive Group’s region of focus is South Florida, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.