A gay campground in Michigan, has issued a ban on trans men to “build a like-minded atmosphere”.
Camp Boomerang RV Park and Campground has yet to open its site in Orleans, Michigan, but is already in hot water after co-owner Bryan Quinn announced a set of transphobic campground rules on its Facebook page.
Quinn wrote: “Camp Boomerang is a private, membership-only RV park/campground that allows only ‘guys’.
“A ‘guy’, in terms of this discussion, is defined as a person with a penis, [who] presents himself as male and has a state-issued ID that says ‘male’.
“We understand this statement, unfortunately, may not make everyone happy, but feel it needs to be clarified.”
Quinn said it is his hope that visitors to Camp Boomerang enjoy a “comfortable, safe, non-confrontational environment going forward”.
He added that being a membership-only campground “allows us the ability to build a like-minded atmosphere”.
“We don’t mean for this to come off as a ‘like it or leave it’ attitude, but we feel it’s necessary for everyone to know exactly what our vision is for Camp Boomerang,” he continued.
Camp Boomerang boycotted before it’s even opened over transphobic ban
A member of the campground’s page asked if “penis checks will be conducted prior to entry” to the park grounds.
Quinn responded: “We never said anything about ‘penis checks’, but let’s be real here.
“If we let women that act like men in, and they go naked at the pool, that’s when it’s obvious that there’s not a penis.
“Sorry to put it bluntly, but if you don’t like the rules, quietly leave.”
The backlash to the ban was swift. One person posted the campground’s anti-trans policy on Twitter, calling on “gays in the Michigan and Midwest area” to not visit Camp Boomerang.
Another person wrote on Twitter that any gay men in Michigan that support Camp Boomerang can “kindly f**k right off”.
One person shared Camp Boomerang’s policy update on Facebook, calling it “super transphobic“. They added that as a gay-owned business, Camp Boomerang should “know better than to exclude the people that fought for our rights to begin with”.
“Without the trans community, we wouldn’t have any of the rights that we have now,” they added. “Trans men are men. Trans women are women. No debate. No discussion.”
In the days since the announcement, Camp Boomerang – which hasn’t even opened yet – has received a slew of one-star reviews on Google. One person wrote in the reviews that they left the poor rating because of the campground’s “discrimination and transphobia”.
A federal judge has dismissed a discrimination lawsuit by a transgender fire chief who led a rural Georgia city’s fire department for more than a decade, then got fired 18 months after first coming to work as a woman.
U.S. District Court Judge Tilman E. Self III didn’t rule on the merits of Rachel Mosby’s discrimination claims. Instead, the judge decided Mosby had no legal standing to sue because of a technical flaw with the initial complaint she filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Mosby’s attorney, Kenneth Barton, said in a court filing Feb. 2 that he planned to appeal the judge’s dismissal.
City officials in Byron fired Mosby in June 2019, citing poor job performance. She filed suit last April, saying her termination was instead “based on her sex, gender identity, and notions of sex stereotyping.”
Mosby, who had led Byron’s fire department since 2008, said being fired not only cost her wages and financial benefits, but also tarnished her reputation.
Mayor Michael Chidester and other Byron city officials denied Mosby was fired because of her transition.
The judge dismissed the case without wading into that issue. Instead, he focused on problems with the 2019 complaint Mosby filed with the EEOC — a required step before someone can sue an employer for discrimination.
Tilman found Mosby’s initial complaint to the EEOC on June 28, 2019, failed to include a written sworn statement or notarized affirmation as the agency requires. Though Mosby’s attorney tried to amend the complaint to include the missing document last July, the judge ruled that was too late because the EEOC had already closed Mosby’s case and she had filed suit.
Tilman’s ruling Jan. 28 also threw out Mosby’s claims that Byron officials had denied her due process and defamed her character.
In a landmark decision last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits sex discrimination applies to bias against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Bills in at least 20 states are targeting the transgender community in what LGBTQ advocates say is an organized assault by conservative groups.
On Thursday, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban transgender student athletes from joining teams that match their gender identity. The measure, which passed 65 to 26, also calls for withholding state funds from sporting events that allow athletes to play as anything other than their sex assigned at birth. The bill now heads to the state Senate.
Supporters of the bill — including Republican state Rep. Ben Koppelman, its primary sponsor — say they want to protect opportunities for girls in sports, including access to athletic scholarships.
“Some have said this bill just doesn’t follow the science. We’ve got science going back well before the United States that backs this,” Koppelman said in a committee meeting, according to NBC affiliate KFYR-TV. “This isn’t new science. Men and women didn’t just cease to exist. They’ve existed for a long time and we’ve been able to recognize the differences.”
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, a Democrat, countered that the bill would “codify discrimination.”
“North Dakota transgender youth, you are seen and you are loved by many,” Boschee later tweeted. “This vote is infuriating and we will continue to work to have it defeated in the Senate.”
The same day the North Dakota House passed its bill, the Mississippi state Senate passed its own athletic ban, which now goes to the state House for consideration. Georgia, Kansas, Utah and Tennessee advanced similar legislation last week, as well.
In 2020, legislators sponsored 20 bills to restrict transgender students’ participation in sports, according to the ACLU. At least as many have been introduced this year.
Bills driven by ‘centralized groups’
To date, the only trans sports bill to become law is Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Barbara Ehardt. Signed by Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, last March, it mandates that “biological sex” be the sole determining factor for inclusion on athletic teams at public schools and universities.
Ehardt worked with the Alliance Defending Freedom in crafting the measure, The Idaho Press reported. Founded in 1994 by Christian conservatives, the Arizona-based group has provided legal counsel for a variety of efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights, from defending gay-marriage bans to ensuring the right of businesses to refuse LGBTQ customers. Perhaps most notably, the ADF defended Jack Phillips, the owner of a Colorado bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in his 2018 Supreme Court case over his refusal to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.
Kate Oakley, state legislative director and attorney for the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, told NBC News that a bill under review in Montana restricting transgender sports participation was also written by the ADF. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a designation the ADF dismisses as groundless and a smear tactic.
The language in the Idaho and Montana measures is strikingly similar — and interchangeable with wording in proposed sports bans in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona, Kansas and elsewhere.
All, for example, include an excerpt from an April 2019 Washington Post opinion piece by tennis legend Martina Navratilova, Olympic track star and NBC Sports analyst Sanya Richards-Ross and Duke law professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman. In it, the three state that “there will always be significant numbers of boys and men who would beat the best girls and women in head-to-head competition.”
The ADF did not confirm that it wrote the Idaho bill or provided template wording for legislation to any state, but Matt Sharp, an attorney for the organization, told NBC News in an email, “As is typical practice for legal organizations, Alliance Defending Freedom is often asked by legislators to review possible legislation and offer advice.”
In February 2016, Sharp claimed “lawmakers in at least five states” had used the ADF’s model legislation to draft so-called bathroom bills, The Washington Post reported. Sharp also said the Alliance mailed template bills to “thousands” of school districts.
“These bills are intended to look constituent-led, but we know it’s driven from these centralized groups,”said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lawyers for the ADF also filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuitagainst the Idaho bill on behalf of two female runners who lost to Juniper Eastwood, the first transgender runner to compete in NCAA Division 1 cross country. (While the case is being decided, the Idaho law is blocked from being enforced.)
And the ADF is representing three cisgender Connecticut women in a suit claiming they were forced to compete against “biological males” in high school track because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows transgender students to join the teams that match their gender identity.
The complaint alleges that two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, won 15 women’s state championship titles previously held by nine different girls and, from 2017 to 2019, “have taken more than 85 opportunities to participate in higher level competitions from female track athletes.”
“There are real physiological differences between boys and girls that affect athletic performance, such as size, muscle mass and bone density,” Sharp told NBC News. “We’ve seen the harms of allowing biological males to compete against women.”
A December study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found transgender women were faster and could do more pushups and situps for two years after starting testosterone blockers. But the study’s lead author, pediatrician Timothy Roberts, told NBC News previously that, “at the recreational level, probably one year is sufficient for most people to be able to compete.”
Another voice leading the fight against transgender athletes in sports is Beth Stelzer, a Minnesota-based amateur powerlifter and founder of Save Women’s Sports. According to its website, the group is a diverse coalition looking “to preserve biology-based eligibility standards for participation in female sports.”
On Thursday, Stelzer testified before Utah’s House Education Committee in favor of a transgender sports ban in that state. She’s also given testimony in support of similar bills in Minnesota, Montana and elsewhere.
Stelzer told NBC News she works more on gathering supporters to testify than on drafting legislation. “However, I do offer advice about the language used,” she said, adding that she was sad the issue had become “partisan.”
“Males participating in female sports is not about religion or politics. It is common sense,” Stelzer said. “We have women from the left, right and center coming together to preserve female sports across the world.”
Jennifer Wagner-Assali, an orthopedic surgeon and semiprofessional track cyclist, is an ambassador for Save Women’s Sports. She claims she unfairly lost the 2018 UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championship to transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon, now known as Veronica Ivy. Ivy took gold in the 200-meter sprint and briefly set a world record for women in the 35-39 age bracket, according to Bicycling magazine. Wagner-Assali took bronze.
“All these rules were put into place, basically by stealth,” she told host Julian Vigo this month on the Substack podcast Savage Minds. “Women were not asked their opinion. These things were changed a few years ago, and they’ve just kind of become part of the rule structure. Now they’re starting to be exploited, obviously.”
‘Uncontrolled human medical experimentation’
While athletic bans are the most common forms of legislation targeting transgender individuals this session, a number of states are also considering prohibiting transition-related medical care for minors, some including criminal penalties.
Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act would institute felony charges for health care professionals who performed procedures or prescribed medication “intended to alter the appearance of [a minor’s] gender or delay puberty, with certain exceptions.”
The bill calls puberty blockers and other transition-related treatments “dangerous and uncontrolled human medical experimentation.” It also requires teachers, principals, nurses and other school officials to tell parents if a child believes their gender is different from their sex assigned at birth.
A similar bill in Texas would redefine providing transition-related care to minors as a form of child abuse.
One of the first such bills was introduced last year by South Dakota state Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican. Originally, the bill would have made it a Class 4 felony to provide transition-related care to patients 16 or younger, even if they’re emancipated, but the felony charge was eventually amended to a misdemeanor. If it had passed, it would have also allowed those unhappy with their gender-affirming care to sue up until the age of 38, according to South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
In October 2019, three months before sponsoring the bill, Deutsch attended the Summit on Protecting Children From Sexualization in Washington, D.C. Panelists included representatives from the ADF, the Heritage Foundation, the Family Policy Alliance and the Kelsey Coalition, a group of parents who claim their children have been harmed by transgender health care practices. Attendees were given a gender resource guide for parents detailing how to oppose trans-affirming policies in their schools and communities, according to The Washington Post.
“In the fall of 2019, you have ADF, Heritage Foundation and these other groups start getting together and working up templates to ship out to state lawmakers,” Strangio told NBC News. “It was at the end of 2019 when we started to hear about them.”
Deutsch has also said he sent drafts of his bill to legislators in other states considering similar bans, The New York Times reported. But while a similar bill passed the South Dakota House of Representatives by a wide margin, it died in the state Senate.
Some lawmakers are opposing medical treatment for transgender youth with “conscience” bills, like a Kentucky bill that would let medical professionals in the state refuse to perform procedures that violated their religious or moral convictions.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Stephen Meredith, argues it will protect children from “misguided” parents who want to force them to change genders.
“You have a 12-year-old girl who’s a tomboy,” Meredith told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, according to The Lexington Herald-Leader. “And her parents, who are misguided, think that she’s really a girl trapped in a boy’s body. And they don’t want to see her go through the rest of her life miserable. So they’re going to go and transition her.”
“Does the surgeon have the right to say, ‘No, I’m not going to do this surgery’?” he asked, according to the Herald-Leader. “So this protects everybody.”
Meredith said the language in Kentucky’s bill was based on model legislation sent to him by the conservative Kentucky Family Foundation. The foundation’s executive director, Kent Ostrander, confirmed to NBC News that the group worked with Meredith on the bill in the last legislative session.“The bill is purely designed to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals as they practice their healing arts,” Ostrander said in an email.
Oakley, of the Human Rights Campaign, and other LGBTQ rights advocates say the failure to stop the legalization of same-sex marriage or pass so-called transgender bathroom bills has led groups like ADF to turn their focus toward trans youth. In a statement, HRC called the current raft of transgender-focused bills “simply the latest iteration of their failing fight.”
“Opponents of equality failed to claw back marriage equality and failed in their push for bathroom bills,” the group said. “These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they’re not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to sow fear and hate.”
Strangio said proponents of these measures are being disingenuous about protecting children and women.
“They claim children can’t consent to wanting to transition, but the bills all have the same carve-out for performing surgery on intersex infants,” he said. “It’s not about protecting, it’s about normative control.”
As for girls’ sports, Strangio said no state is anywhere near Title IX compliance, “but there’s crickets from supposed champions of women’s sports in the GOP.”
“No one is introducing legislation to increase funding to women’s sports or to ensure equal pay for female coaches,” he said. “Instead, they’re fighting hypothetical problems about 14-year-old trans girls.”
An Arizona state representative is facing an ethics complaint after he compared transgender people to farm animals at a Wednesday committee hearing.
The hearing was for House Bill 2725, which would require state identification documents to contain only a male or female gender marker. The bill pre-emptively bans nonbinary people, who are neither exclusively male nor female, from using gender-neutral X markers on their IDs, even though Arizona law doesn’t currently permit that.
State Rep. John Fillmore, the bill’s sponsor, said during the hearing that he “proposed this bill just to give clarity in government documents and was hoping to avoid the whole gender identity issue on the gender dysphoria,” according to a video of the hearing.
“What’s going to happen when someday someone wakes up and they want to go to a far extreme and identify as a chicken or something, for crying out loud,” he added. “Where do we draw the line?”
Megan Mogan, who is the mom of a 15-year-old nonbinary child and testified against the bill Wednesday, said Fillmore’s comment was dehumanizing.
“I don’t think you have to be the parent of a nonbinary person, you can just be the parent of anyone, and if someone dehumanizes your child, it’s like one of the worst possible feelings you can have,” Mogan told NBC News on Friday.
She tweeted after the hearing, “Still shaking after an elected GOP state rep just compared my non-binary child to a barnyard animal.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=NBCNews&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1359599151525203970&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Farizona-legislator-compares-transgender-people-farm-animals-n1257763&siteScreenName=NBCNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px
Riley Behrens, a Harvard University graduate student who was previously a Democratic campaign staffer in Arizona, called Fillmore’s “chicken” comment “disgusting.”
“We were all just in shock,” Behrens, who said he was texting some of the Democratic House members during the hearing, said. “It’s heartbreaking to be in a room and hear people talk about our community that way. … It’s not what we expect from an elected official and shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Behrens said he left the Capitol around 1 p.m. on Wednesday and returned with a notarized ethics complaint against Fillmore at 4:45 p.m.
“I wanted to make a statement,” Behrens said. “You’re not going to say this without some sort of repercussion or public statement back at you.”
Andrew Wilder, director of communications for the Arizona House’s Republican Majority Caucus, shared a statement Friday with NBC News on Fillmore’s behalf.
“The complaint is entirely without merit, and it’s rather unfortunate that some opponents of the bill have unfairly and grossly mischaracterized my comments at Wednesday’s hearing,” the statement read. “I invite people to listen to my actual remarks, which do not remotely match the distorted version critics have alleged.”
On Saturday morning, however, Fillmore emailed NBC News directly, calling the situation “silly and dangerous” and saying words “have consequences.”
“I believe this whole darn conversation is just childish silly,” he wrote. “When a person wants to change the meanings of words because of their ‘feelings’ how can a society have a reasonable discussion about anything if for instance they feel the word ‘blue’ is in fact ‘red’ to them, and then add the word ‘green’ to the color ‘yellow,’ now try to go have an intelligent conversation with an oil artistic painter.”
Behrens also filed a second complaint against Republican state Rep. Kevin Payne in which Behrens alleges Payne “continuously disrupted public testimony.” During Mogan’s testimony about her child, Behrens alleges Payne said, “So it doesn’t know who it is?”
“Referencing any person as ‘it,’ particularly a child, is discriminatory and cannot be tolerated,” Behrens’ complaint, which was shared with NBC News, stated. “By his actions, Representative Payne has engaged in conduct that compromises the character of himself, the integrity of the Arizona State House of Representatives, and shows a lack of respect for members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Wilder told NBC News in an email, “Representative Payne has stated that he does not recall saying anything like what is alleged in the complaint, nor are such words by him heard in the committee hearing video – an important fact the complainant conceded Thursday to the Arizona Mirror.”
Behrens said Payne’s comment can’t be heard in the hearing video because they were made while Mogan was testifying, but Behrens said he heard them firsthand, as he was sitting about 10 feet away from Payne at the hearing.
Bridget Sharpe, the Arizona state director for the Human Rights Campaign, said she doesn’t think Fillmore “understands the gravity of what he said” or the effects the bill would have on nonbinary people.
“I truly don’t think he understands what this means for nonbinary Arizonans, because he doesn’t believe that, you know, nonbinary is a choice,” Sharpe said. “That’s very difficult to take in. I think that was very offensive. I was upset, mostly for the mothers that were in the Zoom room, and [Mogan] took the time to be vulnerable and testify, only to be met with that comment.”
Sharpe said she and some other advocates reached out to Fillmore’s office to offer him education on the impacts of his statement and the bill but that she hasn’t received a response.
HB 2725 is unnecessary, Sharpe said, because Arizona state law currently only permits people to use a male or female gender marker on their IDs. The bill “takes it a step further and writes it into statute, which is much harder to change down the line,” Sharpe said. “We believe this is cruel, because nonbinary folks should be given a chance at some point to be able to have that X gender marker on state documents including things like their driver’s licenses.”
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently offer nonbinary residents the option to use a gender-neutral “X” on IDs, in lieu of an “M” or “F,” according to Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank.
Sharpe said Democratic state Sen. Rosanna Gabaldón has introduced a bill for the last few sessions that would allow nonbinary Arizonans to use an X marker on their IDs, but “so many times, bills like that do not even get hearings, essentially because Republicans feel it’s controversial,” Sharpe said.
Gabaldón introduced the measure, Senate Bill 1162, again in January, but it has not yet been given a hearing.
Mogan said a gender-neutral ID option would relieve her kid and others of “this constant threat of being outed, of being misgendered” in public settings, including those where they might be bullied or discriminated against.
“When you’re free from that constant level of anxiety, you can do other things like be a kid, or be happy,” she said.
Sharpe said she’s not sure whether HB 2725 will pass. It will go to the House Rules Committee next, and then it would move to the floor for discussion, which Sharpe said could happen as early as next week.
A transgender activist said he encountered two women allegedly posting transphobic stickers in New York City and decided to confront them.
“You know being transphobic kills people? You want to kill innocent people with your hatred?” Simon Chartrand can be heard telling the women in a video he recorded and shared with NBC New York.
The neon-pink stickers read, in part, “Transwomen are men.”https://nbcnewyork.com/video-layout/amp_video/?noid=1:2:2866308&videoID=1853390915852&origin=nbcnewyork.com&fullWidth=y&turl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Factivist-confronts-women-he-says-posted-disgusting-transphobic-stickers-n-n1256754&ourl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&lp=5&fullWidth=y&random=p7qpff&callletters=wnbc&embedded=true
Chartrand, who was with his partner when he confronted the women, said that once he “made sure it was them putting the stickers up, I had to act, I had to record it, I had to call it out. I had to call out the hatred for what it was.”
The video shows the unidentified women walking away from Chartrand, with one of them responding to him with just one word: “misogynist.” To that, Chartrand responded, “It’s not misogynist, you’re transphobic.”
Chartrand, who is transgender and works for Translatinx Network, a trans advocacy nonprofit, told NBC New York that the incident has motivated him to work even harder for equality.
“I want you to feel it from our hearts. We are human beings, and we deserve the same rights as every other human — no more, no less,” he said.
Activists and politicians have also condemned the transphobic stickers.
“This is bigotry that inflicts pain & violence on transgender New Yorkers. We reject and condemn this hateful act,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer tweeted.
Transgender singer and activist Mila Jam shared an Instagram post about Chartrand’s encounter, shutting down the “rancid narrative.
Drag performer and LGBTQ activist Marti Gould Cummings shared a Twitter post about the incident, saying “transphobia has no place” in New York City and telling friends to “stay safe.”
Fifty Bandz, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, has become the latest victim of a wave of violence against trans people in the US that activists and physicians have dubbed an “epidemic”.
Bandz was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 28 January by her former partner, Michael Joshua Brooks, 20, according to The Advocate.×
Brooks told law enforcement that he pulled the trigger during an argument at the 5000 block of McClelland Drive in the Brookstown neighbourhood.
The pair had been in a one-year-long relationship, Baton Rouge Police Department detectives said, but began seeing one another again only days before the victim’s death. Brooks has since been arrested.
Witnesses described their relationship as “very volatile”. He “was not open or forthcoming” about dating Bandz, which “caused personal problems” for them both.
Bandz met Brooks in Brookstown to hand him a mobile phone, detectives said. But he became rattled when she made the delivery in from of his girlfriend and brother, witnesses alleged, and then began arguing over the phone.
She borrowed a vehicle and told witnesses she was heading back to grab the phone from Brooks. During the drive there, she dialled a friend and told them what had happened – she then placed the pal on hold, noting Brooks had rung her.
But Bandz never returned the call. She was found dead inside a vehicle at 11pm, suffering from several gunshot wounds that Brooks had fired during a heated exchange, he admitted.
Friends, family and other loved ones released balloons in Bandz’s honour 1 February.
“In just one month, multiple transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed, four of whom were Black trans women,” Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement.
“This level of violence is infuriating and heartbreaking. This is an epidemic of violence that must be stopped.
Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would make it a felony to provide gender-affirming medical treatment, other than counseling, to anyone under the age of 21. Such treatment can alleviate gender dysphoria and postpone puberty to give children time to explore their gender identity. The bill would punish doctors, parents, and even children themselves with penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Oklahoma’s bill is extreme, taking autonomy away from young adults and imposing draconian punishments, and is part of a worrying larger trend. Across the US, state lawmakers are once again introducing a slew of bills that seek to block transgender children from accessing healthcare, sports, and support in schools.
This seemingly coordinated assault on transgender kids flies in the face of what medical professionals, parents, and transgender kids say they need. Studies show that transgender kids can reap huge benefitsfrom being able to socially transition – that is, to have others treat them in a manner consistent with their gender identity. Bills that shut transgender kids out of sports or bar teachers from respecting their gender identity fly in the face of transgender children’s rights and well-being.
It’s equally misguided to restrict medical interventions for transgender or gender non-conforming kids, which are fairly rare. The most common treatment is puberty blockers, which delay the onset of puberty and can alleviate the anxiety and distress that young transgender people might otherwise experience as their body develops. Professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support this treatment for some children, allowing them to further explore their gender identity while suspending physiological changes that can be difficult or impossible to reverse later in life.
Unfortunately, lawmakers have used sensationalistic arguments about irreversible genital surgeries as an excuse to ban any kind of transition-related care. This ignores that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health does not recommend genital surgeries for minors, and they virtually never occur.
Whether puberty blockers or steps toward medical transition are appropriate for a given child is a deeply personal determination. For kids who need them, foreclosing these options is a violation of their bodily autonomy and their right to health.
Lawmakers in Oklahoma and elsewhere should roundly reject this bill, and others like it, and instead turn their attention to the real crises affecting trans kids, such as discrimination, bullying, and suicide.
Alabama’s policy requiring transgender people to have undergone gender-affirming surgery before they can get state IDs that accurately reflect their gender identities is unconstitutional, a federal court ruled this month.
Fewer than 10 states now require proof of surgery to update the gender marker on a driver’s license.
The Alabama case began in 2018, when three transgender people — Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark and an unnamed third person — sued the state after they were denied driver’s licenses that reflected their genders, opposed to their sexes assigned at birth, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The policy for driver’s licenses, which is what we challenged with this lawsuit, requires that people either submit an amended birth certificate or submit proof of having had what they call ‘complete surgery,'” which Alabama interprets to mean both “genital surgery and top surgery,” said the lawyer who litigated the case, Gabriel Arkles, senior counsel at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. An amended birth certificate also requires proof of surgery, although this case didn’t challenge that rule.
On Jan. 15, the U.S. District Court for Middle Alabama, part of the 11th Circuit, ruled that Policy Order 63, the state’s driver’s license policy for transgender people, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it discriminates based on sex.
“By making the content of people’s driver licenses depend on the nature of their genitalia, the policy classifies by sex; under Equal Protection Clause doctrine, it is subject to an intermediate form of heightened scrutiny,” Senior Judge Myron Thompson, who was nominated to the court by President Jimmy Carter, wrote in the opinion.
Arkles said that any time officials make a policy that treats people differently based on sex, “they have to have a very good reason for what they’re doing, and here they really did not.”
The state argued that the surgery requirement “serves the important government interests in maintaining consistency between the sex designation on an Alabama birth certificate and an Alabama driver’s license,” according to court documents. In addition, the state said Policy Order 63 provides “information related to physical identification” to law enforcement officers.
But the court ruled that those justifications didn’t allow the policy to pass intermediate scrutiny and that the “injuries” it caused were “severe,” acknowledging a number of Arkles’ arguments. The surgery the policy requires “results in permanent infertility in ‘almost all cases,'” the court wrote. Some transgender people might not want or need surgery, and even if they do, it might be inaccessible or unaffordable, as it was for the unnamed plaintiff, the court continued.
“It’s not acceptable for the government to force people to undergo a procedure like that just to get a license that they can use safely and go about their daily life,” Arkles said.
Only 25 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming people reported having undergone some form of transition-related surgery, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
Arkles and his team also argued that Alabama’s policy violates the privacy of transgender people and puts them in danger.
“Any time a trans person shows an ID with the wrong gender marker on it, that outs us, which also puts people at real, real risk of experiencing discrimination and violence,” he said.
The court ruled on only the first argument, that the policy violates the Equal Protection Clause, but it acknowledged the danger and distress the policy poses to the plaintiffs.
“The alternative to surgery is to bear a driver license with a sex designation that does not match the plaintiffs’ identity or appearance,” the court wrote. “That too comes with pain and risk. … For these plaintiffs, being reminded that they were once identified as a different sex is so painful that they redacted their prior names from exhibits they filed with the court.”
Mike Lewis, a spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office, said the office intends to appeal and has “no further comment.”
Arkles said the three plaintiffs have “been through so much” because of the ID policy: Corbitt hasn’t had a license or been able to drive for the last several months, Clark “sort of shaped her life around trying to minimize situations where she would have to show ID,” and the unnamed client, after she showed her ID to a bank teller, was told that she was going to hell.
Corbitt celebrated that “finally the state of Alabama will be required to respect me and provide an accurate driver’s license.”
“Since my out-of-state license expired, I have had to rely on friends and family to help me pick up groceries, get to church and get to my job. I missed a family member’s funeral because I just had no way to get there,” she said. “But the alternative — lying about who I am to get an Alabama license that endangered and humiliated me every time I used it — was not an option. I’m relieved that I will be able to drive again. While much work remains, this decision will make Alabama a safer place for me and other transgender people.”
The state plans to comply with a court order to give the plaintiffs IDs that accurately reflect their genders, but because it plans to appeal, Arkles said, “it may be quite some time before we know what the ultimate outcome is and what will be required of trans people in Alabama.”
A ‘patchwork’ of ID laws
Only eight states and two U.S. territories now require proof of surgery to change a driver’s license gender marker, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank, and the National Center for Trans Equality.
The remaining states have a variety of policies, according to the Movement Advancement Project, which reports that four states (now including Alabama) have “unclear” policies and that 20 states have “burdensome” policies and/or require medical provider certification of gender transition, which doesn’t include surgery.
Arli Christian, a campaign strategist for the ACLU, said 20 states allow people to decide what gender markers are appropriate for them and “what will keep them safe.”
“And that is hands down the best policy for ensuring that all people have the most accurate gender marker on their ID,” Christian said.
Nineteen states also allow residents to mark M, F or X, a nonbinary gender marker, on their driver’s licenses. Christian said the ACLU is pushing for President Joe Biden to create a policy that would allow transgender people to receive federal IDs, such as passports, that accurately reflect their genders without certification from medical providers. It also wants the policy to allow people to choose the gender-neutral X.
“We have a whole patchwork of gender marker change policies across the country,” Christian said. “Many of them need to be updated and modernized so that we can make sure that everybody has access to that accurate marker to be able to go through their lives without discrimination and harassment.”
Although Arkles is preparing for Alabama’s appeal, he said the ruling is a big step forward.
“While we’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to have to keep fighting this case, it is incredibly, incredibly exciting to have a decision from a judge recognizing that this is unconstitutional and to know that our clients are going to get some relief,” he said.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Emily Shilling came out as transgender on April 14, 2019, two days after a Trump administration policy barring trans people from serving openly in the military took effect.
The policy prevented trans people from enlisting, and it forced “non-exempt” service members like Shilling, who came out after the ban took effect, to continue serving as their assigned sex at birth.
“It was kind of like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” she said. “I could be whoever I wanted to be at home. I just couldn’t do anything at work.”
Shilling was depending on the outcome of the presidential election and President Joe Biden’s executive order reversing the Trump administration’s transgender military ban to continue her 15-year career. She said she has completed 60 combat missions and more than 1,700 hours as a pilot flying high-performance jets. Now, she oversees acquisitions for a fleet.
“I was committed to the Navy,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do if the election went differently, if Biden wasn’t putting out this executive order. I would probably have to be leaving the Navy, and they’ve invested 15 years in me. They’ve invested over $40 million in flight training and flight hours,” she said.
The Trump administration had maintained that its policy wasn’t a ban, because service members who wanted to transition and civilians who wanted to enlist were able to apply for waivers. But since the policy took effect, only one waiver has been granted, according to CNN. Shilling said that she had friends who applied for waivers but that they were jeopardizing their careers and their retirements. Many of them had served about 15 years, as she had, and to receive lifetime monthly retirement benefits, you have to serve for at least 20.
“You have to decide that you’re more important than your career, which is unfortunate, given our core values: honor, courage, commitment,” Shilling said.
“I now feel safe to continue my career, to give return on investment of the 15 years that I’ve already given the Navy and that they’ve given me,” Shilling said.
Serving openly will allow her to step into more senior leadership roles and be herself at work. She will be able to change her name, wear makeup if she would like and get the health care she needs. The messaging of Trump’s executive order, she said, “put us in a not worthy group,” so with the reversal, she hopes her command will support her and she’ll have more recourse if she faces harassment.
“I’ve fully transitioned outside of the Navy,” Shilling said. “Now it’s time to start the process where I don’t have to take one hat off and put a new one on to go into work.”
Advocates say people affected by the Trump administration’s policy generally fell into one of three groups. There were the “exempt” transgender service members who received diagnoses of gender dysphoria before April 12, 2019, and were therefore grandfathered in, meaning they could continue to serve openly and transition as their medical providers deemed necessary. Then there were the “non-exempt” trans service members who, like Shilling, came out or received diagnoses of gender dysphoria after the policy took effect and were therefore unable to change their names at work or get access to transition care other than therapy. Last, there were the transgender civilians who wanted to enlist in the military but couldn’t.
Now that the ban has been reversed, trans service members and civilians are figuring out what comes next. Biden directed the secretaries of defense and homeland security to update him in 60 days about their progress implementing the order, but it’s unclear just how soon a new policy will take effect.
‘Your very existence is the issue’
For exempt service members who were serving openly before the ban, the challenge was “operating under this cloud of them being a burden as the official position of the military,” said Lt. Col. Bree Fram, an astronautical engineer in the Air Force and vice president of the trans military group SPARTA.
“So despite what their units may think or despite what their commander may think, it’s a challenge just to continue to go to work and get the job done in this environment where you’re officially a challenge or a problem,” Fram said. “Your very existence is the issue.”
In June 2019, Trump cited the cost of medical care for transgender people as his reason for the ban, even though, Fram said, it makes up a tiny fraction of the Defense Department’s overall health care budget. From 2016 to 2019, the cost of treating trans troops was about $8 million, or about 0.02 percent of the Pentagon’s health care budget, according to data from the Defense Department.
The idea that trans people’s care costs more singled them out “as a special class” for no reason, Fram said. Cisgender service members could get access to hormone therapy for medical reasons if necessary, but transgender service members who came out after the ban couldn’t. “It was the singling out for special treatment that really had no rationale,” Fram said.
The singling out had an effect on military culture, too, said retired Staff Sgt. Adrianna Guevarra, who worked in IT for the Army.
Guevarra, who was serving openly before the ban, said that her command was very supportive but that she experienced more hostility from some of her peers after Trump announced the ban on Twitter. She said that in 2017, while they were training in Hawaii, some other service members said it would be a “security threat” for her to use the women’s bathroom. The situation “got really bad,” she said, so her superiors designated a single bathroom at battalion headquarters just for her.
“It was all the way downstairs, and it was, like, four floors,” Guevarra said. “So every time I had to use the bathroom or I had to change” for physical training, “I would go down to the bathroom and change, come back up, and that’s just not ideal, especially if you’re in a position where you’re needed as quick as possible.”
Overall, however, transgender service members — both those who have been serving openly and those who haven’t — reported overwhelmingly positive experiences, despite the Trump administration’s claims that the presence of trans service members negatively affected “cohesion” and “readiness.”
“As for affecting cohesion, my peers, seniors, everybody are also upset that I’m not allowed to transition,” Sgt. Liam Aguirre, a physical therapy technician based at Fort Carson, Colorado, said about his unit’s sentiment before the ban was lifted.
Aguirre, like Shilling, is non-exempt. “It’s been more of a burden not allowing people to be who they are and not allowing people to actually just be the best that they can be,” Aguirre said.
Fram came out June 30, 2016, the same day the Obama administration announced that it would permit transgender people to serve openly in the military. Fram said that shortly after the announcement, she came out in a Facebook post and in an email to her colleagues.
“I was a little hesitant,” Fram said. She said that she was uncertain what the impact would be but that she hit send anyway and then headed to the Pentagon gym, where she went “faster than I ever” had before on the elliptical machine.
She said that when she returned to her desk, she was overwhelmed by the in-person and Facebook responses.
“It was nothing but love and support, but even more so, it was my colleagues who, one by one, walked over to my desk, shook my hand and said, ‘It’s an honor to serve with you,'” she said. “I was floored.”
‘The clouds parted’
Some trans civilians, like Kaycen Bradley, 22, who lives in San Bruno, California, have been waiting years to enlist. Before Trump reinstated the ban, the Obama administration policy required trans people who wanted to enlist to be stable in their gender for at least 18 months before enlistment.
Bradley had planned to enlist in the Marine Corps in August 2019, which would have been 18 months after his last medical procedure. But the ban took effect in April.
“At that point, I was just devastated, because … I only had a few more months to go,” Bradley said. “That’s all I had left, and … it definitely broke my spirits a little bit.”
Since then, he’s been working in a gym, training and keeping in touch with military recruiters. His desired branch has changed — once Biden’s reversal takes effect, he plans to enlist in the Army — but his desire to be part of the military hasn’t wavered.
“I want to try to be the first one that actually gets to go in,” Bradley said. “Just because I’ve been waiting for so long. So … this is going to be pretty big.”
Paulo Batista, 36, who lives in San Diego and works in technical maintenance, said the day Biden issued his executive order reversing the ban, “it was just like the clouds parted.” He wants to join the Navy or Air Force and become an information technician or an aviation technician in aeronautics.
“I love to tinker with everything, and it’s just a passion,” he said. “To do it in uniform, it would just be me living my dream on a daily basis, getting to do what I like, getting to learn and work with a group of people that, you know, when you join the military, they have your back.”
Shilling wants Congress and the Biden administration to enact legislation to ensure that transgender Americans’ ability to serve their country openly doesn’t change “with the next administration or the whim of politics.”
Until then, trans service members and hopeful enlistees say they will keep fighting for their right to serve. Army Maj. Kara Corcoran said she often hears people say trans people are joining the military “just so you can transition.”
“No. I joined to serve my country, and that’s what the rest of transgender service members did, as well,” she said. “They joined to serve their country, because we love this country, and we’re willing to fight for this country. And we’re willing to fight for our right to fight for this country.”