Rachel Levine, who Pennsylvania secretary of health guided her state through the coronavirus, has been tapped to become assistant secretary for health under the Biden administration, setting her up to become the first openly transgender U.S. Senate-confirmed federal official.
The Biden transition team on Tuesday, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration as president, announced in a statement Levine was chosen for the senior health role, which is the No. 3 leadership position at the Department of Health & Human Services.
Biden hailed Levine in a statement announcing her nomination, which builds on several openly LGBTQ appointments, including Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary and Ned Price as State Department spokesperson.
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
No openly transgender person has ever sought or obtained confirmation by the Senate in U.S. history. In the Obama administration, Dylan Orr at Department of Labor and Amanda Simpson at the departments of energy and defense made history as the first openly transgender presidential appointees, but their roles didn’t require Senate approval. Trump, whose administration was marked by open hostility to the transgender community, had no openly transgender appointments.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also hailed the nomination in a statement, saying Levine would contribute to the new administration’s effort to contain the raging coronavirus epidemic.
“Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people,” Harris said. “President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”
The assistant secretary of health oversees the department’s key public health offices, a number of presidential and secretarial advisory committees, 10 regional health offices across the nation, and the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
Biden’s appointment of Levine represents a stark contrast to the approach to transgender health issues compared to Trump, whose administration deleted from U.S. government websites guidance on transgender health and rescinded Obama-era regulations under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act barring discrimination against transgender people in health care.
Although speculation had persisted throughout the 2016 election Levine could be up for a position at the HHS if Biden won the election, she downplayed any prospect of leaving her position in Pennsylvania. During a conference call last week hosted by the Center for American Progress, Levine sidestepped a question from the Washington Blade about possibly obtaining an appointment as a senior health official.
“I am obviously very busy and really totally consumed with my current position, which is protecting the public health of Pennsylvania in the midst of the biggest global pandemic since 1918,” Levine said. “So, I’ve always been proud and privileged to serve in Gov. Wolf’s administration, and I’m fully committed to my current mission.”
Joe Biden’s new secretary of state has made several promises to the LGBT+ community, including “urgently” appointing an LGBT+ envoy.
Antony Blinken, who will lead the Biden-Harris administration’s Department of State, made the comments at his confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday (19 January), according to CNN.
He outlined changes he would make to ensure that the US government was “standing up for and defending” the LGBT+ community once Biden is in office.
The position of LGBT+ envoy, which was created to oversee US government efforts to support LGBT+ human rights, was left vacant during Trump’s presidency.
But Blinken said that filling the role was “a matter, I think, of some real urgency”.
He added: “We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase.
“We’ve seen, I believe, the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of colour, that we’ve seen ever.
“And so I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the department is going to take on and take on immediately.”
The new secretary of state also said that while working for the Biden administration, he would officially repudiate the findings of Trump’s anti-LGBT+ “Commission on Unalienable Rights”.
The commission, which was supposedly based on “natural law”, was formed by the Trump administration in July, 2019, to undercut the US government’s existing human rights laws.
US President-elect Joe Biden should work with global leaders who have sought to shore up a defense of human rights around the world, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2021. His administration should also look for ways to entrench respect for human rights in US policy that are more likely to survive the radical changes among administrations that have become a fixture of the US political landscape.
“After four years of Trump’s indifference and often hostility to human rights, including his provoking a mob assault on democratic processes in the Capitol, the Biden presidency provides an opportunity for fundamental change,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in his introductory essay to the World Report 2021. “Trump’s flouting of human rights at home and his embrace of friendly autocrats abroad severely eroded US credibility abroad. US condemnations of Venezuela, Cuba, or Iran rang hollow when parallel praise was bestowed on Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Israel.”
World Report 2021, Human Rights Watch’s 31st annual review of human rights practices and trends around the globe, reviews developments in more than 100 countries.READ IT HERE
Roth said that other governments recognized that human rights were too important to abandon, even as the US government largely abandoned the protection of human rights, and powerful actors such as China and Russia sought to undermine the global human rights system. New coalitions to protect rights emerged: Latin American governments plus Canada acting on Venezuela, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation defending Rohingya Muslims, a range of European governments acting on such countries as Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Hungary, and Poland, and a growing coalition of governments willing to condemn China’s persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.
“The past four years show that Washington is an important but not indispensable leader on human rights,” Roth said. “Many other governments treated Trump’s retreat as cause for resolve rather than despair and stepped up to protect human rights.”
Biden’s presidency provides an opportunity for fundamental change, Roth said. He said that the president-elect should set an example by strengthening the US government’s commitment to human rights at home in a way that cannot be easily reversed by his successors.
Biden should speak in terms of the human rights involved as he works to expand health care, dismantle systemic racism, lift people out of poverty and hunger, fight climate change, and end discrimination against women and LGBT people. The slim Democratic Party majorities in the US Senate and House may also open possibilities for more lasting legislation. Biden should also allow criminal investigations of Trump to proceed to make clear that no one is outside the rule of law.
Abroad, to better entrench human rights as a guiding principle, Roth said, Biden should affirm and then act on that principle even when it is politically difficult. That should include:
Curbing military aid or arms sales to abusive friendly governments such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel absent significant improvements in their human rights practices;
Condemning the Indian government’s encouragement of discrimination and violence against Muslims, even if India is seen as an important ally against China;
Re-embracing the UN Human Rights Council, even though it criticizes Israeli abuses;
Voiding Trump’s sanctions on the International Criminal Court, even if he doesn’t like the prosecutor’s investigations; and
Abandoning Trump’s inconsistent, transactional unilateral policy towards China and adopting a more principled, consistent, and multilateral approach that will encourage others to join.
“The big news of recent years isn’t Trump’s well-known abandonment of rights but the less-noticed emergence of so many other countries in leadership roles,” Roth said. “The Biden administration should join, not supplant, these shared efforts. These governments should maintain their important defense of rights, not relinquish their leadership to Washington, while Biden works to entrench a less variable US commitment to human rights.”
We asked four partners to respond to Human Rights Watch’s call on US President-elect Joe Biden and other leaders to prioritize human rights at home and abroad, and why international attention is important to their work. Here are selected quotes:
In 1921, it was a lie that incited the Tulsa race massacre where mobs of white rioters burned down the Black community of Greenwood. And almost 100 years later on January 6, 2021, it was a lie that incited mobs of white rioters to storm our nation’s capital to overthrow our democracy. Confederate flags were waved, nooses were erected, and white supremacy showed its ugly head.
Which is why I’m calling on the Biden administration to attack white supremacy head on its first 30, 60, 90 days of taking office. You must prioritize racial justice and you must re-engage on the issues of human rights, and most importantly you must reverse the regressions from the Trump administration. We don’t need another Breonna Taylor, we don’t need another Tamir Rice, another George Floyd, another Terence Crutcher. You must demand a just America and be the change that we so desperately need in this country right now.
Russia Tatiana Glushkova, a board member of the Russian group Memorial Human Rights Center, recalls the arrest on bogus charges of Memorial’s lead researcher in Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, and the difference international attention made in his fate:
The goal was to force Memorial to close its office in Grozny and to complicate the collection of information about human rights violations in Chechnya. However, the case itself was so crudely and clumsily fabricated and so obviously in retaliation for Oyub’s human rights work, that it attracted intense attention from the international community. Oyub’s case was discussed at the Council of Europe, the UN, European parliament, and FIFA. It was discussed in foreign ministries of many different countries, and numerous human rights organizations, both Russian and international. For nine months, foreign diplomats and journalists regularly visited the Shali city court [where Titiev’s trial was held].
Such attention did not escape the authorities of the Chechen Republic. Their most important reaction was, of course, the fact that Oyub’s verdict was relatively light, and also that he was very quickly released on parole. Such a reaction by the Chechen authorities, given their longstanding and deep hatred for Memorial, can only be explained by their desire to quickly turn this page, get rid of this case, of this political prisoner, and of the intense interest of the international community. The result we now have, that our colleague has been free for over a year, would not have been possible without [this] international attention. We are extremely grateful to everyone who took part in this effort.
Cameroon Cyrille Rolande Bechon, head of Nouveaux Droits de l’Homme Cameroun, a human rights organization based in Yaoundé, discusses the international response to the massacre of 21 civilians in Ngarbuh, Cameroon:
This is the place for me to thank the organizations that come together in the Coalition for Human Rights and Peace in the Anglophone Regions, international organizations like Human Rights Watch, [and countries like] France, the United States, who supported us and conveyed the message with us about the need to set up a commission of inquiry into this massacre.
Although this commission has announced its conclusions and a trial opened last December 17 against the four members of the security forces identified by the commission as having participated in this massacre, we’re still dissatisfied. Dissatisfied because the chain of responsibility in this massacre has yet to be established. We would like all those responsible, whether directly or indirectly, including high-ranking army officials, to be prosecuted and sentenced.
Venezuela Feliciano Reyes, a Venezuelan human rights defender deeply involved in providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans in need, on the country’s humanitarian emergency:
The complex humanitarian emergency that has affected Venezuela for at least four years has caused enormous damage to the population, for example, their lack of access to food, health services, [and] education. [These things] also generate mass forced migration because it’s so hard to survive in the country. The root causes include political conflict and years of abuse of power, of erosion of the rule of law. The international community has a fundamental role to play, not only in terms of diplomatic political actions in fora such as the Human Rights Council, the United Nations General Assembly, [and] the Security Council, to help find solutions to the political conflict, but also in providing vital international humanitarian assistance for Venezuela.
This has produced visible effects but is still insufficient. We hope the World Food Program will enter the country this year, for example, since there are reports of Venezuelans facing serious levels of food insecurity. This work is fundamental. This work of political and diplomatic pressure and humanitarian cooperation to restore decent living conditions for the Venezuelan people, and, eventually, to redirect the country towards development and well-being for its people.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is calling on the LGBTQ community to participate in several planned virtual inaugural events that reflect the theme of “America United,” an inaugural official told LGBTQ representatives at a Jan. 12 online briefing.
“We are looking forward to the inaugural ceremonies in which the American people and the world will witness the peaceful transition of power,” said Rina Patel, the inaugural committee’s Associate Director of Coalitions before a Zoom gathering of close to 50 representatives of LGBTQ organizations from across the country.
“This will mark a new day for the American people focused on healing our nation, bringing our country together, and building back together,” she said.
Patel noted that the inaugural swearing-in ceremony for Biden and Harris, which will take place outside the U.S. Capitol, will not be open for in-person viewing and will be restricted mainly to members of Congress.
“In order to be mindful of COVID-19 guidelines there are no public tickets available for the inauguration,” she said. “I know some folks are excited about being in D.C., but we are really encouraging everyone to stay home and not to travel to D.C.”
At least three national LGBTQ organizations, meanwhile, were scheduled to hold their own inaugural celebrations in honor of the incoming Biden-Harris administration.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced it is joining “community partners” in holding a virtual LGBTQ Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20 called the Power of Unity.
“This not-to-be-missed virtual event will feature musical performances and special appearances from equality leaders across the LGBTQ movement,” a statement promoting the event says. Among the performers scheduled to appear, the statement says, is Billy Porter, the Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor, singer and activist who stars in the FX hit series “Pose.”
HRC is billing the event as a fundraiser with suggested levels of donations of $400, $250, $175, $100, and $35, with financial supporters having access to an online reception and having their name posted as an official sponsor. But HRC says people can also attend the online Inaugural Ball free of charge by registering in advance of the event.
The Center for Black Equity, the D.C.-based national LGBTQ advocacy organization that organizes the nation’s Black Pride events, is holding its own virtual inaugural ball on Jan. 20, according to Executive Director Earl Fowlkes. Fowlkes said some LGBTQ elected officials were expected to speak at the event along with Reggie Greer, who served as the LGBTQ liaison for the Biden presidential campaign.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which raises money and provides logistical support for openly LGBTQ candidates running for public office, was scheduled to hold a virtual Inauguration 2021 fundraising event on Jan. 14.
In a statement on its website, the group said the event would celebrate “the queerest U.S. Congress in history!” a reference to the record number of LGBTQ candidates elected or re-elected to Congress in the 2020 election. Nine U.S. House members and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), were expected to appear at the Victory Fund event.
The Biden inauguration was scheduled to take place two weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots in which hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building in a siege that took the lives of five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
The Biden-Harris inaugural committee has said it was working closely with the U.S. Secret Service, D.C. police, and a Capitol Police force with new leadership to ensure the security and safety of all those participating in the few in-person inaugural events.
Patel and Carrie Gay, another inaugural committee official, told the LGBTQ representatives at the Jan. 12 online briefing about at least three virtual inaugural events that community-based organizations, including LGBTQ groups, could participate in.
The two said one of the events scheduled for Jan. 18 was being organized in conjunction with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. Community organizations throughout the country, including LGBTQ organizations, were being invited to organize events assisting those in need that would be publicized on the inaugural committee’s website, Gay told the briefing. Most of the events were to be virtual.
“Events will focus on COVID-19 relief and address challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, such as poverty, hunger, racial injustice, homelessness, mental health, and educational disparities,” a statement released by the inaugural committee says.
“The Presidential Inaugural Committee is asking Americans everywhere to participate in community service and urging them to sign up to volunteer at bideninaugural.org/day-of-service and encourage their friends, family, and neighbors to join,” the statement says.
Three North Carolina municipalities passed discrimination protections for LGBTQ people this past week, shortly after the expiration of a yearslong moratorium on such measures.
Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill passed ordinances protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people from discrimination in public accommodations and employment on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
The three bills that passed so far are similar, though the Carrboro and Hillsborough ordinances carry a $500 penalty for violation and, according to their text, “Each and every day during which such discrimination continues shall be deemed a separate offense.” Officials in Orange County and the city of Durham are expected to vote on nondiscrimination measures Tuesday, and the Greensboro City Council is expected to discuss a similar ordinance in the coming weeks.
Advocates say it’s been a long time coming.
“We’ve been talking with elected officials since well before HB2 and trying to get these kinds of progressive policies passed,” Allison Scott, director of policy and programs at the Campaign for Southern Equality, told NBC News. “So to see these actually coming up to a vote feels amazing.”
People who live in the municipalities that pass these ordinances will not only be protected on the local level from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — but also based on race, national origin, marital or familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religious belief, age and disability. That’s because North Carolina is one of five states that only have statewide discrimination protections for people with disabilities, leaving LGBTQ people and other groups open to discrimination in areas where they aren’t currently protected by federal law.
Even in areas where LGBTQ individuals are protected by federal law, there may be loopholes that leave some people out. Scott cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, as an example: The landmark 2020 decision ruled that LGBTQ people are protected under federal civil rights law from employment discrimination, but this doesn’t include individuals who work at small businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Those individuals, however, will now be protected from discrimination under these new local ordinances.
“It just shows the importance of why these laws are needed and why cities and counties need to step up,” Scott said.
HB2’s lasting impact
In early 2016, the Charlotte City Council passed North Carolina’s first public accommodations law protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. The ordinance, however, drew criticism due to a clause that said transgender people would be allowed to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth.
Shortly after, the North Carolina General Assembly called a special session to debate the ordinance. Lee Storrow, executive director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, said the ordeal was disheartening to many LGBTQ people in the state.
“That whole debate was just really hard to be a part of,” said Storrow, who has lived in Chapel Hill since 2007. “Because of the debate in 2016, people are so aware that they’re not protected, and it may not be that they have a specific moment where they’ve directly been discriminated against, but just the threat and knowing that they have no legal protections, that really has an impact on folks.”
In March 2016, just a few weeks after Charlotte passed its nondiscrimination ordinance, then-Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed into law HB2, or the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.
When the General Assembly did finally repeal HB2 the following year, municipalities still weren’t allowed to pass their own nondiscrimination measures. While advocates have waited for the moratorium to expire, LGBTQ North Carolinians have continued to face discrimination, they say.
“Just this month, someone in our network reached out about a person who was denied gender-affirming care who works for the state,” Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said.
The statewide LGBTQ advocacy group also received calls during the election about people being “policed around their identity, because their name does not match what the particular poll worker thought they should look like if they had a certain gender marker on their ID,” according to Johnson.
“It’s every single month we hear cases of discrimination,” Johnson added. “I know that these measures are necessary because we don’t have comprehensive nondiscrimination in the state, and we do not have it on the federal level, so we have to start where people live and work, and that’s cities and towns.”
The end of the moratorium means municipalities can start passing their own nondiscrimination ordinances, but there are limits. Scott said there’s a clause in HB142 that gives only the General Assemblythe power to legislate bathrooms and public changing facilities.
“That’s why we still need a full repeal of 142,” she said. “We know fully 67 percent of North Carolinians, a supermajority, believe that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination.”
‘A sense of relief’
After Carrboro passed its ordinance Tuesday, Mayor Lydia Lavelle said it reminded her of how she felt when same-sex marriage became legal.
“It’s kind of like, ‘About time,’” she said. “I’m feeling like it was long overdue.”
North Carolina will join 47 other states that either have statewide protections for LGBTQ people or allow cities and counties to create their own protections, according to Lavelle, who is a law professor at North Carolina Central University.
“We were an outlier before,” she said. “We’re joining the strong, strong majority of states that allow communities to do this.”
Tiz Giordano, who works in Carrboro, said they’re “elated” that the town passed discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
“I’ve been able to build queer community, have chosen family and live in safety as my true self due to living in Carrboro and working in an affirming workplace,” they said. “I just want other queer and trans people to be able to feel this way and feel protected, especially in medical settings.”
Though Carrboro is a relatively progressive community, Giordano said their spouse has faced medical discrimination in the past. Under the new ordinance, hospitals and physicians’ offices will be considered public accommodations and LGBTQ people will be protected.
“Knowing that people will be able to have a case in court if they are being discriminated against definitely gives me a sense of relief,” Giordano said.
Vanity Reid Deterville, program director of the LGBTQ Center of Durham, said nondiscrimination laws at any level of government are especially important after the Trump administration rolled back certain federal protections for LGBTQ people over the last four years.
“Protections of any sort when it comes to the LGBT community — and, more specifically, queer and trans Black women, people of color — is critical,” she said, pointing to their level of marginalization in society.
Johnson said she’s confident the newly passed ordinances will help better protect LGBTQ people in the state, but she said she’s also happy to see elected officials coming together to do something for their constituents.
“I think we’re in a moment where there’s been a real ‘us versus them’ mentality coming from the White House down,” she said. “It’s nice to see elected officials recognizing that yes, there is discrimination, people should have the right to pursue their livelihood, to have housing, to not be discriminated [against] in health care and to be treated as equal and valuable citizens of towns, and acting to actually start to make that a reality.”
Social media platforms have a major anti-LGBTQ disinformation problem that enables myths, lies, and misleading content to spread to large audiences and earn high engagement. These platforms have occasionally shown that they are capable of quelling disinformation and removing or flagging misleading content, but they are not consistent in enforcing their own policies and protecting LGBTQ people. There are several actions that they can take to do so in 2021.
In July, a Media Matters study found that during a year-long time period, right-wing sources earned nearly two-thirds of total Facebook interactions on trans-related content that had more than 100,000 interactions (reactions, comments, shares). In particular, over one-third of content that met the criteria for the study was content about trans athletes and medical care for trans youth published by right-leaning outlets.
When YouTube and Facebook allow anti-LGBTQ groups and media to attack and spread disinformation about trans people, there are real world consequences. Harmful narratives divert attention from important issues facing the community such as employment discrimination and high rates of violence. And when trans youth and their families use these platforms, they are fed a stream of disinformation that could result in parents denying their children critical care or rejecting their identities, which can harm trans kids’ physical and mental well-being.
The failure of social media platforms to prevent the spread of anti-LGBTQ disinformation also comes as conservatives allege bias against right-wing content, especially on Facebook, which Media Matters has extensively and repeatedly debunked. Despite this, Facebook has consistently caved to conservative demands.
Under existing or new community guidelines, social media platforms have removed anti-LGBTQ content, including content that compares being trans to having a mental illness and that promotes conversion therapy, a harmful practice that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people. However, platforms’ enforcement of these rules is inconsistent and inadequate, and disinformation still runs rampant.
Here are five actions the platforms can take to help stop the spread of anti-LGBTQ disinformation:
1. YouTube should enforce its hate speech policy prohibiting content that says being trans is a mental illness. YouTube has a hate speech policy that forbids claims “that individuals or groups are physically or mentally inferior, deficient, or diseased” based on sexual orientation or gender identity, among other categories. Under this policy, it has removed several videos for comparing being trans to having a mental illness, yet many others remain on the platform. YouTube must consistently enforce this existing policy and remove videos that break it.
In November, the platform removed two anti-trans videos from right-wing propaganda network PragerU’s The Candace Owens Show for violating this policy. In both videos, host Candace Owens compared being trans to having schizophrenia. She compared being trans to having a “mental disorder” in one and trans people to “anorexics” in the other.
However, Media Matters found several other videos still on YouTube that do the same thing. For example, another episode of The Candace Owens Show features “ex-trans” activist Walt Heyer, who called being trans a “psychological disorder” and said that adult trans people are not actually transgender but rather have “a sexual fetish disorder.” During a clip of an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience on YouTube, host Joe Rogan and his guest anti-trans author Abigail Shrier compared being trans to convincing yourself you have a problem with “cutting, demonic possession, witchcraft, anorexia, bulimia.” Additionally, another video of an anti-trans conference at right-wing group the Heritage Foundation includes panelists saying that many trans kids have “neuropsychiatric conditions” and that affirming them is “causing them to be depressed and anxious about who they are.” In fact, trans youth are less likely to suffer from depression and suicidal ideation if they are accepted.
2. Facebook should continue removing pro-conversion therapy posts and pages. In July, Facebook and Instagram announced a policy banning posts that “advertise or promote” conversion therapy, and after Media Matters’ reporting, Facebook subsequently removed several posts and a page for doing so. Despite the policy and action, some of the removed posts have been reinstated and other similar posts and pro-conversion therapy pages remain active on the site. Facebook must consistently enforce its policy and take action against posts and pages that repeatedly break the rules.
In October, Facebook removed the page for pro-conversion therapy group Restored Hope Network, which consistently promoted the practice. That page has remained off the platform since then. However, in July, Facebook removed several posts from the Facebook page for International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC), a worldwide network of conversion therapy practitioners, but later reinstated several of those posts. Those posts cite prominent conversion “therapists” and include a video with advice for conversion therapy practitioners and others that falsely suggest “Schema therapy” and “professionals and pastoral mentors” can successfully change LGBTQ people. It is unclear why those posts were reinstated, as Facebook is notoriously opaque on its policies and their enforcement.
Several of IFTCC’s posts were never removed, including several posts that suggest people are not innately LGBTQ and another that says, “Not only is it inaccurate to tell clients that change is not possible, it is also unethical for therapists to impose their agendas on clients.”
Additionally, the Facebook page for pro-conversion therapy group Voice of the Voiceless (VoV) has posted testimony from people claiming conversion therapy is effective or who have otherwise claimed to have changed their sexual orientation. It has also highlighted conversion therapy practitioners, conferences and webinars. Thus far, Facebook has not taken any action on these posts or the VoV page.
3. Platforms should adopt policies explicitly prohibiting deadnaming and misgendering. In 2018, Twitter updated its hateful conduct policy — which prohibits “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone” — to include “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.” Facebook and YouTube, however, do not have these same protections; they must follow Twitter’s example in order to protect LGBTQ users from harassment and discrimination.
Misgendering is when someone is referred to as a different gender than the one that person identifies with, and deadnaming is when someone calls a trans person by “the name they used before they transitioned” rather than the name they currently go by.
Facebook’s hate speech policy under its community standards specifically prohibits “statements denying existence” and referring to transgender or nonbinary people as “it.” Its bullying and harassment policies prohibit targeting private individuals with “claims about romantic involvement, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Similarly, YouTube’s harassment and cyberbullying policy states, “We also do not allow content that targets an individual with prolonged or malicious insults based on intrinsic attributes” including sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, the platform’s hate speech policy says it will “remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on” attributes including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex or gender.
4. Platforms should stop monetizing anti-trans disinformation and hate. Social media platforms YouTube and Facebook have earned money from anti-LGBTQ advertisements and helped right-wing groups raise money off of anti-trans content, despite having policies that allegedly prohibit this. They should enforce and strengthen those policies and prevent the monetization of transphobia.
During the 2020 election, Facebook earned thousands of dollars from the American Principles Project, an anti-LGBTQ group that ran misleading ads about trans kids and the Equality Act in order to campaign against Democratic candidates including Joe Biden. Facebook removed some of the ads after Politifact found that the ads’ claims include predictions “we can’t fact-check” and that one ad was “missing context and could mislead people.” Despite this, the group eventually ran ads repeating those claims that were not removed. Furthermore, Facebook has allowed anti-LGBTQ outlet The Daily Wire to run paid political ads — including at least one that targets and misgenders actor Elliot Page for coming out as trans — despite its temporary ban on them.
Similarly, YouTube allowed PragerU to raise more than $25,000 off of a video featuring a client of extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom, who repeatedly misgendered trans athletes and fear-mongered about their participation in sports. The YouTube Giving program says that nonprofits must follow YouTube’s Community Guidelines that supposedly protect trans people. The program says that participating organizations must “follow YouTube’s monetization policies both on and off of YouTube,” which PragerU has repeatedly run afoul of.
5. Facebook should stop allowing The Daily Wire to use a coordinated network of pages to spread disinformation. The Daily Wire is a wildly successful right-wing outlet that regularly spreads anti-LGBTQ disinformation and bigotry through online content, podcasts, and social media. It operates a network of Facebook pages that share the same content at the same time, helping it reach large audiences. Facebook should stop allowing these pages to spread the outlet’s content in a coordinated manner.
Facebook started marking these pages as operated by Daily Wire after a series of reports from Judd Legum’s Popular Information, and several pages now display language that they are “Proudly managed by the Daily Wire.” These pages previously did not disclose that relationship. Although the relationship between the pages and the outlet is more transparent, Facebook still allows the coordinated network to game the system and earn high engagement.
In October 2019, Legum reported on how Daily Wire’s network seemed to violate Facebook’s Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior policy, which removes networks of pages that mislead “about the identity, purpose, or origin of the entity that they represent” and use “multiple Facebook or Instagram assets” to do so. Facebook originally denied that Daily Wire had broken content-sharing rules, but Popular Information reported in July that Facebook finally acknowledged that the outlet was violating “policies against undisclosed paid relationships between publishers.”
The Daily Wire’s use of this network helps it spread anti-trans and other right-wing content and disinformation to large audiences. In fact, a Media Matters study found that The Daily Wire was one of the most successful outlets posting about trans issues during a year time period.
The Daily Wire has several anti-LGBTQ pundits with large media platforms, including Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, and Ben Shapiro, the site’s founder. Their Facebook pages also share content at the exact same time as other pages in the outlet’s network.
Ralph Lauren has terminated its sponsorship deal with disgraced golfer Justin Thomas after he blurted out a homophobic slur at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
The world number three golf star had worn the company’s clothing since he turned pro, reaching number one in the world on two occasions and winning a major at 24.×
He quickly fell from grace on Saturday (9 January), when he was caughtangrily muttering the slur “faggot” live on air at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
“We are disheartened by Mr Thomas’s recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values,” Ralph Lauren said in a statement.
“While we acknowledge that he has apologised and recognises the severity of his words, he is a paid ambassador of our brand and his actions conflict with the inclusive culture that we strive to uphold.
“In reflecting on the responsibility we have to all of our stakeholders, we have decided to discontinue our sponsorship of Mr Thomas at this time.”
Ralph Lauren added that it hopes Thomas “does the hard and necessary work in order to partner with us again – truly examining this incident, learning, growing and ultimately using his platform to promote inclusion.”
Thomas apologised profusely for using the slur, which slipped out when he botched a five-foot putt on the fourth hole.
“There’s just no excuse,” he admitted to Reuters. “There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. It’s not the kind of person that I am.
“I need to do better. I deeply apologise to anyone and everybody who I offended and I’ll be better because of it.”
Justin Thomas outburst is the tip of the iceberg in golf, says former pro
The PGA Tour agreed that Thomas’ comment was “unacceptable”, but the gay former professional golfer Maya Reddy suggested it was entirely consistent with the exclusive, anti-LGBT+ culture that is “embedded” in golf.
“There seemed to be permission given to people to say things and be more blatantly hateful… I experienced a lot of that on the golf course,” she told Sky Sports.
“I had tournament directors on mini-tours say xenophobic, racist, and homophobic things to me on the first tee, in the guise of a joke. Which makes it difficult, because as soon as you say something in response, they question your sense of humour and say they’re only joking.
“I felt like I just didn’t belong there and had to constantly prove I had a place on this golf course.”
The Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver has resigned from the group after admitting to sending sexually inappropriate messages to several men online.
The veteran strategist, who has a wife and children, is accused by at least 30 young men of dangling his political connections and access to high-profile job opportunities “in an attempt to receive sexual favours,” according to aForensic News report.
Weaver later issued a statement apologising in full for his actions while coming out as gay.
“To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry,” he told Axios. “They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you.”
“The truth is that I’m gay,” Weaver added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonising place.
“I have the most beautiful, loving and courageous family who I deceived all these years. I don’t deserve you. But I love you with all my heart and I’m sorry that you have to suffer for my mistakes.”
The Lincoln Project started in 2019 as a coalition of Republican operatives, including Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway, who united to help prevent Donald Trump’s re-election.
The group gained a reputation for its viral memes bashing Trump and his administration, including billboards in New York City mocking Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
Weaver, 61, became one of the most prominent members of the group – until earlier this week, when allegations of his inappropriate behaviour began to surface.
Forensic News claimed that at least 30 individuals had come forward, accusing Weaver of sending them unsolicited pictures, flying “politically-ambitious men to his location for massages,” and offering jobs in exchange for sexual relations.
The men were reportedly aged between 19 and 28, and most indicated that they were in college or had recently graduated and were looking for jobs in politics. The crux of the complaints levied by the men is that Weaver used his position of power to exploit them as they were beginning their careers.
While Weaver said he took “full responsibility” for the inappropriate messages and conversations, he attributed the emergence of the allegations to critics’ animosity for the Lincoln Project.
“I want to state clearly that the other smears being levelled at me by Donald Trump’s enablers as a way to get back at the Lincoln Project for our principled stand for democracy are categorically false and outrageous,” he asserted.
A spokesperson for The Lincoln Project said simply: “John’s statement speaks for itself.”
The Swiss 3×3 basketball star Marco Lehmann has come out as gay, revealing that he’s been living a painful double life throughout his sporting career.
Lehmann, 27, has played full-court basketball professionally since 2012. He now represents Switzerland on the international stage, where he is considered one of the best shooters on the 3×3 basketball circuit.
He recently opened his heart in an article for FIBA, the official website for the International Basketball Federation, explaining that he couldn’t wait until retirement to be his true self.
“This is for all the people who do not want to live a double life anymore, those who live in a system where they don’t even exist,” he said.
“This is for the future generations so they can live a free sporting life without hiding. Not gonna lie, this is also for me so I can live free of this burden.”
Over the years Lehmann played seven seasons across 20 countries, always saying he didn’t have a girlfriend because he was focused on his career. His dedication to the game made him the second-best player in Switzerland – “and yet I wasn’t happy,” he admitted.
“I had been switching personalities for so long now, that it was affecting my mental health. Every week the same old thing: my boyfriend would drive me to the airport and the minute I would go through security, the happy gay man in a relationship turned into the emotionless pro athlete, who didn’t want to talk about his personal life.”
Explaining why he kept his silence for so long, Lehmann related several examples of the homophobia he’d experienced from coaches and players, which constantly reinforced the sense that to be gay was “taboo” in team sports.
He recalled how one coach berated the team for “playing like gays,” and a fellow player on a tour bus described homosexuality as “a sickness”.
“[Homosexuals] should kill themselves,” he heard them say. “Imagine you have to play with somebody like this on your team?”
For a time he was able to convince himself that he loved basketball so much that he should hide who he was for the sake of the game – until December 2019, when he hit rock bottom.
“I started to have emotional outbursts, tears, cold sweat running down my back. And for what? Just thinking about the next practice,” he said. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of having to switch from my home personality to my competitive one once more.”
Those days are now firmly behind him as Lehmann joins a handful of gay professional basketball players to come out while still playing, including Jason Collins, Derrick Gordon and Uri Kokia.
The time has come, he said, to simply be happy and enjoy his hard-earned career without the fear of living a double life.
“Starting today I will be Marco Lehmann, gay 3×3 basketball player,” he declared. “And if you’ll excuse me, I’m trying to win the World Tour and take Switzerland to the 2024 Olympics.”
A Republican lawmaker in Montana has introduced a pair of bills targeting transgender youth.
House Bill 112, authored by state Rep. John Fuller, requires athletic teams at all public educational institutions — from elementary schools to colleges — to be designated based on “biological sex.” The measure, also known as the Save Women’s Sports Act, would prohibit transgender students from joining teams that match their gender identity, no matter how long ago they transitioned.
“Athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex,” it reads in part.
Fuller told Montana Public Radio that, as a former women’s soccer coach, he believes allowing transgender girls to play on women’s teams is unfair. His bill would allow students to sue if they feel they’ve been deprived or harmed in some way by a trans athlete participating in school sports.
“I want to protect and defend women’s sports,” he told the Helena Independent Record. “I believe this continued practice of allowing males to compete as females … is egregious and wrong.”
Another bill, also penned by Fuller, would bar health care professionals from providing transgender minors certain transition-related care.
Under House Bill 113, also known as An Act Providing for Youth Health Protection, physicians and other medical professionals are prohibited from treating gender dysphoria in minors by prescribing, providing or administering puberty-suppressing drugs or cross-sex hormones (including estrogen and testosterone); performing gender-reassignment surgery; or removing “any otherwise healthy or nondiseased body part or tissue.” Penalties for providers who violate the law would include fines of up to $50,000.
Fuller said it was “deeply wrong” for young people to undergo such procedures, according to Montana Public Radio. “We don’t let children do all kinds of things,” he told the Helena Independent Record. “Why should we allow this to happen? The state has a vested interest to protect children from such barbaric behavior.”
Fuller did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that after the fallout from North Carolina’s House Bill 2, conservatives pivoted away from so-called “bathroom bills” toward legislation targeting trans youth.
“After the marriage decision, there was an immediate backlash on trans people using the bathroom — you saw dozens of these bills,” Strangio told NBC News. “Then you see the extremely affirming response — from companies, from the NCAA — and between 2017 and 2019 they lose the bathroom fight. There’s no more laws, they lose their court fights and they lose ballot initiatives.”
In 2018, Montana’s own bathroom bill garnered less than half of the 25,000 signatures needed to qualify for a state referendum.
Then, in 2019, Juniper Eastwood, a student at the University of Montana, became the first transgender runner to compete at the Division I level. That, according to Strangio, is “when conservatives start shifting to sports.”
“They start forming this narrative about trans student athletes that appears on Fox News, Breitbart, the Daily Caller. It attracts some cis women groups who were worried about female athletes,” he said, using a shortened term for the word cisgender, which means nontransgender.
“By summer 2020, you have the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation drafting these model trans-youth bills,” he added. “They’re not constituent-led. They’re put together by well-funded right- wing groups and shipped out to state legislatures. And they play on people’s fears and misconceptions.”
In 2020, the Michigan-based American Principles Project spent $4 million on political ads denouncing transgender athletes and access to gender-affirming health care for people under 18.
In addition to Montana, at least six other states — including Alabama, Indiana, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Missouri and Utah — are currently considering bills levying criminal or civil penalties for offering transition care to minors, according to the ACLU.
Lawmakers have sponsored legislation restricting transgender students from sports participation in at least 12 states, including Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington. Only Idaho’s bill has passed so far.
Idaho’s House Bill 500, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, was signed by Republican Gov. Brad Little last March. A month later, Lindsay Hecox, a transgender student athlete at Boise State University, filed a lawsuit challenging the law. After a lower court issued an injunction against enforcement, HB 500 is now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, nearly 200 elite female athletes — including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe and Candace Parker — argued HB 500 “flies in the face of bedrock principles of equality and diversity in sports.”
“The global athletic community grows stronger when we welcome and champion all athletes — including LGBTQI+ athletes.” King said in a statement.
Strangio said Montana’s HB 112 is practically “a carbon copy” of Idaho’s law.
Readings for both Montana bills were rescheduled from Wednesday to Jan. 20 to allow for public comment. Republicans, who currently control both chambers of the Montana state Legislature, will have until April to pass the measure this legislative session.
On Thursday, more than 150 state nonprofits, businesses and professional groups joined the organization in opposing Fuller.
“Make no mistake: these bills target and attack trans youth and will cause them serious and lasting harm,” ACLU of Montana Executive Director Caitlin Borgmann said in a statement. “We cannot let fear mongering and lies about what it means to be transgender result in laws that would stigmatize trans youth, harm families and communities, and drive businesses away from Montana.”
Bozeman restaurateur Pete Strom pointed to the economic toll HB 112 and 113 could take by recalling the fallout from North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill.” In 2016, North Carolina lost an estimated $630 million in economic activity related to HB2, according to Forbes.
“Montana doesn’t need that,” he said in a statement. “It’s simply common sense to oppose these out-of-touch and harmful anti-trans bills.”