The deeply conservative country of Georgia has legally recognised a trans woman’s gender identity for the first time ever.
On 25 March the Ministry of Justice of Georgia granted a trans woman’s request to change her legal gender status to female. Her birth certificate was also reissued by the authorities, setting a huge precedent for the country.
The historic milestone was first reported by Open Democracy and the Georgian women’s rights group WISG, which said the woman had submitted a medical certificate confirming she had undergone gender-affirming surgery.
WISG noted that, despite this groundbreaking case, Georgia still lacks adequate legislation for transgender people.
Trans people who don’t want to undergo bottom surgery or other invasive medical procedures are barred from having their gender recognised, and the huge costs of this surgery are not covered by the national health service.
In 2017, two transgender men filed a suit against the country at the European Court of Human Rights after authorities refused to change their gender status in official documents unless they underwent surgery.
The issue of legal gender recognition has been repeatedly raised in recent years amid a climate of intense homophobia and transphobia.
And last year a trans woman set herself on fire to highlight the injustices faced by her community. “I am a transgender woman, and I’m setting myself on fire because the Georgian state doesn’t care about me,” she shouted to bystanders.
Months earlier, WISG had issued a statement highlighting how trans women in Georgia are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The group urged the government: “Consider women engaged in sex work, especially transgender women, as a group of special needs and help them according to their needs, for most of them lack moral and financial support from their own families.
The Montana legislature advanced a bill Wednesday (31 March) that would give the all-clear for entities to discriminate against LGBT+ people on the basis of “religious freedom”.
The Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 215, is on track to head to the desk of Republican governor Greg Gianforte– and he’s already signalled his intent to sign it.
The bill, dubbed “dangerous” by activists, would enable service providers to deny queer residents certain goods and aid, from ordering a cake at a bakery to accessing PrEP. Supporters say this would increase legal protections for religious expression.
“The free exercise of religion [is] a fundamental right,” the proposed legislation states.
Such restrictions could soon become a reality after the House voted 61-39 to pass the legislation in its second hearing, The Montana Free Press reported.
Montana lieutenant governor, Kristen Juras, previously flagged the administration’s support of SB215, stressing that the bill is “not a license to discriminate against the LGBT [sic],” the newspaper previously reported.
But the proposals have deeply alarmed state and national advocacy groups.
Not only would the bill allow bakeries, bride salons and photo studios to decline to serve a queer person, it would also drastically curb access to healthcare, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana warns on its website.
Religious workplaces could refuse contraceptives coverage on their healthcare plans, pharmacies could deny birth control subscriptions, therapists could turn away LGBT+ patients and authorities could reject providing security at Pride parades, activists claim.
According to Human Rights Campaign, a top advocacy group, the bill is “so sweeping and so dangerous that under it, LGBT+ Montanans could be denied access to PrEP and PEP and other life-saving medications by pharmacies”.
“Under this bill, businesses could refuse to comply with investigations into child labour laws.”
It comes just days after Montana’s Senate inched closer to banning trans athletes from taking part in high school and college sports, AP reported.
But in an attempt to forestall federal reprisal, lawmakers amended the proposal so it would automatically be voided if the Department of Education withholds federal education funding from the state if passed.
Canadian BMX pro Corey Walsh has come out as gay, making him one of the only openly LGBT+ riders in the industry.
Walsh, 26, is the 10th best BMX rider in the world, according to the Boardr BMX Global Ranking, and competed at the Vans BMX Pro Cup World Championships in 2019.
On Monday (29 March), he opened up about his sexuality for the first time on Instagram.
“If you were to tell me a year ago that today was going to be the day where I said f**k it and let the world in on my personal life I would have told you that’s never going to happen,” he wrote.
“But thanks to the support of my family, friends, and sponsors I can finally accept the fact that I am gay and be open about it.”
Walsh said that in a “perfect world” he would not have to come out, but said: “The reality is there are a lot of people still struggling with the same situations and I just wanted to let people know that they are not alone.
“I feel like the world is shifting into a more understanding place and now is the time to open up the conversation within our communities every chance we get. So here we are.”
He continued: “I understand the privilege I’ve had with my situation and the reality is a lot of members of the LGTBQ community don’t always get positive experiences.
“So I ask you if you can take anything positive from my situation please be open minded to anyone struggling with their own journeys. And to anyone out there dealing with the bad days it does get better. Just take it one day at a time.”
“Also, a huge thank you to anyone else who has previously opened up to tell their story,” he added.
“The only reason I have gotten to this point is because of you. Holy s**t that feels good, I’m stoked.”
In a piece for the international BMX magazine Dig, his best friend Kris Fox detailed the slow process of Walsh building up the courage to publicly come out.SPONSORED CONTENT
You may have heard of Abby and Brittany Hensel before, either on Oprah, in Time…
Fox wrote: “The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is this: everything is the same now with an added bonus.
“We’re still traveling and riding in the same ways with the same goals, but now we have the real Corey Walsh with us.”
It was December 9, 2010. Joe Manchin, the former Democratic Governor of West Virginia, cast his first vote as a newly-sworn-in U.S. Senator. He voted against repealing the discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
“As a Senator of just three weeks, I have not had the opportunity to visit and hear the full range of viewpoints from the citizens of West Virginia.”
That’s the same Joe Manchin who in 1982 had begun his political career as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.
After nearly three decades of serving as a lawmaker, Secretary of State, and a governor, Senator Manchin felt he wasn’t sufficiently well-enough informed to do the right thing and vote to protect America’s LGBTQ service men and women.
Fast forward to today, when Joe Manchin has now been in public service for almost 40 years.
On the campaign trail Joe Biden indicated his top priority was passing the LGBTQ Equality Act, legislation that has been introduced into Congress in various forms since the 1970’s, even longer than the 73-year old Senator from West Virginia has been in politics. Biden said he wanted to sign the Equality Act into law in his first 100 days.
There are three things getting in the way of legislation that seven out of 10 Americans not only support, but think is already federal law: the filibuster, Republicans, and Joe Manchin. Ironically, Manchin, like Republicans, opposes killing the filibuster and opposes passing the Equality Act.
“A little more than two months into Biden’s term,” The Daily Beast reports, “Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has taken on the role of perpetual fly in the ointment of progressive legislation. The Equality Act is no exception.”
Make no mistake, Manchin is anti-LGBTQ. He opposes same-sex marriage (although agrees it is settled law) and echoing the massive conservative campaign against transgender people, opposes the Equality Act (in part) because, he claims, it does not provide “sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.”
That is not the function of legislation, that is the function of the Dept. of Education, something Manchin certainly must know.
“In private, according to those familiar, Manchin has been equally skeptical this time around, citing a massive call-in campaign organized by conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation intended to sink the bill. Manchin told one co-sponsor of the Equality Act that the calls to his office were opposed to the legislation ‘a thousand to one.'”
The Beast calls getting 60 votes to pass the Equality Act without one of them being Manchin’s “functionally impossible, given the Senate’s current makeup.”
The Pentagon on Wednesday will sweep away Trump-era policies that largely banned transgender people from serving in the military, issuing new rules that offer them wider access to medical care and assistance with gender transition, defense officials told The Associated Press.
The new department regulations allow transgender people who meet military standards to enlist and serve openly in their self-identified gender, and they will be able to get medically necessary transition-related care authorized by law, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal decisions not yet made public.
The changes come after a two-month Pentagon review aimed at developing guidelines for the new policy, which was announced by President Joe Biden just days after he took office in January.
Biden’s executive order overturned the Trump policy and immediately prohibited any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of gender identity. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin then gave the Pentagon two months to finalize the more detailed regulations that the military services will follow.
The new rules also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Their expected release Wednesday coincides with International Transgender Day of Visibility.MORE STORIES:
Austin has also called for a reexamination of the records of service members who were discharged or denied reenlistment because of gender identity issues under the previous policy. Results of that review have not been released.
Until a few years ago, service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender, but that changed during the Obama administration. In 2016, the Pentagon announced that transgender people already serving in the military would be allowed to serve openly, and that by July 2017, they would be allowed to enlist.
After Donald Trump took office, however, his administration delayed the enlistment date and called for additional study. A few weeks later, Trump caught military leaders by surprise, tweeting that the government wouldn’t accept or allow transgender people to serve “in any capacity” in the military.
After a lengthy and complicated legal battle and additional reviews, the Defense Department in April 2019 approved a policy that fell short of an all-out ban but barred transgender troops and recruits from transitioning to another sex and required most individuals to serve in what the administration called their “birth gender.”
Under that policy, currently serving transgender troops and anyone who had signed an enlistment contract before the effective date could continue with plans for hormone treatments and gender transition if they had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
But after that date, no one with gender dysphoria who was taking hormones or had transitioned to another gender was allowed to enlist. Troops that were already serving and were diagnosed with gender dysphoria were required to serve in the gender assigned at birth and were barred from taking hormones or getting transition surgery.
The new policies being released Wednesday are similar to those developed in 2016.
As of 2019, an estimated 14,700 troops on active duty and in the reserves identify as transgender, but not all seek treatment. There are more than 1.3 million active-duty troops and close to 800,000 in the National Guard and Reserves.
Since July 2016, more than 1,500 service members were diagnosed with gender dysphoria; as of Feb. 1, 2019, there were 1,071 currently serving. According to the Pentagon, the department spent about $8 million on transgender care from 2016 to 2019. The military’s annual health care budget tops $50 billion.
All four service chiefs told Congress in 2018 that they had seen no discipline, morale or unit readiness problems with transgender troops serving openly in the military. But they also acknowledged that some commanders were spending a lot of time with transgender people who were working through medical requirements and other transition issues.
Lucas Wilson said he received conversion therapy from a student club called Band of Brothers at Liberty University from 2008 to 2012, when he was an undergraduate student.
Wilson, now 30, said when he visited campus prior to enrolling, he saw an ad for “struggling with same-sex attraction.”
“The biggest factor in why I chose Liberty was ultimately the conversion therapy program because I, in fact, believed that one could become straight,” Wilson said.
He is now one of 33 LGBTQ students who are suing the Department of Education in a class-action lawsuit filed Monday. The students allege that they faced discrimination at 25 federally funded Christian colleges and universities in 18 states.
Wilson said Liberty University is a “thoroughly homophobic institution” and that, in addition to offering conversion therapy in the form of a student club, he also had several classes that taught “the evils of the homosexual lifestyle.”
He said the conversion therapy group, and the culture at Liberty, “amplified and compounded feelings of self-hatred, feelings of shame and guilt and anxiety that ultimately took years to deconstruct.”
The Religious Exemption Accountability Project, or REAP, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ students at taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Oregon on behalf of former and current students.
Liberty University has not responded to NBC News’ requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the Biden administration is “fully committed to equal education access for all students.”
The spokesperson added that President Joe Biden stated in an executive order earlier this month, “It is the policy of my Administration that all students should be guaranteed an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence, and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Many Christian colleges and universities receive federal funding and are still allowed to enforce policies that, for example, prohibit same-sex relationships on campus. That’s because Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination, contains an exemption for religious entities.
The students’ lawsuit argues that the religious exemption is unconstitutional and that it allows the Department of Education “to breach its duty” to LGBTQ students at religious colleges and universities “where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is codified in campus policies and openly practiced.”
The ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to strike down Title IX’s religious exemption.
Paul Southwick, the director of REAP, said the main premise of his argument is that the federal government is “not allowed to pass laws or take actions that target a politically unpopular group.”
“Here, what the religious exemption to Title IX is doing is, it really targets people based on sex, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, for inferior treatment,” Southwick said.
His argument claims that the religious exemption is unconstitutional because it violates the due process and equal protection rights afforded to LGBTQ people and it violates the establishment clause because it “favors certain fundamentalist religious organizations and gives them preferential treatment above all other educational institutions, including religious educational institutions that have affirming beliefs about LGBTQ people.”
Regarding the religious exemption, the Department of Education spokesperson said the text of Title IX states it does not apply to “an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization” where its application “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”
Southwick’s constitutional argument is based on a number of cases, but he said one of the most important is Bob Jones University v. United States, which found in 1983 that Bob Jones University did not get to maintain its tax-exempt status due to an interracial dating ban — a policy the university claimed was based in its sincerely held religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court held in an 8-1 decision that limitations on religious liberty can be justified by an “overriding governmental interest” such as prohibiting racial discrimination. As a result, it found that “not all burdens on religion are unconstitutional.”
Southwick said mainstream LGBTQ organizations haven’t done enough to fight for LGBTQ students at religious colleges, and that’s because “when you talk about queer kids at Christian colleges, their responses are ‘What the hell are they doing there?’”
LGBTQ students often attend religious colleges for a host of reasons, but mainly because they’re born into fundamentalist Christian families, Southwick said.
“The natural consequence of that is that — gay or straight — a lot of them will end up at Christian colleges, and when they’re there, they’re treated inhumanely and subjected to these dangerous and abusive policies and practices,” he said.
Some of the plaintiffs claim they were denied admission to or expelled from religious colleges due to being LGBTQ. Others say their colleges have strict policies surrounding sexuality and purity.
“The general language that you’ll find in a lot of the policies is as follows: The schools prohibit homosexual conduct, homosexual relationships, transgender conduct, which they struggle with how to describe,” Southwick said. “And they prohibit same-sex marriages. So what that means is kids are getting engaged and hiding it because they’ll be expelled. Kids who are found out are being expelled. What it means is when a nonbinary or a trans student is dressing and grooming and using names and pronouns consistent with their gender identity, they’re punished.”
The student club that offers conversion therapy at Liberty University still exists, though now it’s called Armor Bearers, according to the school’s 2020 “Pathways Handbook,” which provides students with a “menu” of “educational opportunities” to choose from if they violate school policy.
Wilson said the lawsuit will help shed light on the policies at Liberty and other religious schools.
“We’re putting pressure on these schools to change how they treat their LGBTQ students, so for me, this is very important work,” he said. “It’s work that is long overdue.”
The letter calls for an end to the ongoing discriminatory rhetoric and attacks against trans people, and serves as a proud statement of solidarity between cis and transgender women.
Signatories include A-list celebrities such as Regina King, Selena Gomez and Megan Rapinoe, as well as activists and women’s rights groups like Gloria Steinem, the Me Too Movement and Planned Parenthood.
Others who signed include Mj Rodriguez, Patricia Arquette, Judith Light, Cynthia Erivo, Anna Wintour, Chelsea Clinton, Sarah Paulson, Peppermint, Lena Dunham, Beanie Feldstein, Alison Brie, Bella Hadid, Lena Waithe, Wanda Sykes and Janelle Monáe.
“Trans women and girls have been an integral part of the fight for gender liberation. We uphold that truth and denounce the ongoing anti-transgender rhetoric and efforts we witness in various industries,”
“We acknowledge with clarity and strength that transgender women are women and that transgender girls are girls. And we believe that honouring the diversity of women’s experiences is a strength, not a detriment to the feminist cause.
“All of us deserve the same access, freedoms, and opportunities. We deserveequal access to education, employment, healthcare, housing, recreation, and public accommodations. And we must respect each person’s right to bodily autonomy and self-determination.”
The signatories highlight the “wave of bigoted governmental policies and legislation” launched this year in the form of bills banning trans healthcare and inclusion in sports. They draw parallels with past efforts to legislate cis women’s healthcare, warning: “We refuse to let youth endure that now.”
The letter calls on others to fight against these “unnecessary and unethical barriers” placed on trans women and girls by lawmakers, as well as “those who co-opt the feminist label in the name of division and hatred”.
“Our feminism must be unapologetically expansive so that we can leave the door open for future generations,” they state conclusively. You can read their letter here in full.
Today, we honor and celebrate the achievements and resiliency of transgender individuals and communities. Transgender Day of Visibility recognizes the generations of struggle, activism, and courage that have brought our country closer to full equality for transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and around the world.
Their trailblazing work has given countless transgender individuals the bravery to live openly and authentically. This hard-fought progress is also shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community.
In spite of our progress in advancing civil rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, too many transgender people — adults and youth alike — still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality. Transgender Americans of all ages face high rates of violence, harassment, and discrimination.
Nearly one in three transgender Americans have experienced homelessness at some point in life. Transgender Americans continue to face discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and public accommodations. The crisis of violence against transgender women, especially transgender women of color, is a stain on our Nation’s conscience.
To ensure that the Federal Government protects the civil rights of transgender Americans, I signed, on my first day in office, an Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.
Today, we are proud to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility alongside barrier-breaking public servants, including the first openly transgender American to be confirmed by the United States Senate, and alongside patriotic transgender service members, who are once again able to proudly and openly serve their country.
We also celebrate together with transgender Americans across the country who will benefit from our efforts to stop discrimination and advance inclusion for transgender Americans in housing, in credit and lending services, in the care we provide for our veterans, and more.
“I was really disappointed because their own website had a point for LGBTI people, and so I felt very welcome,” Monro told the Washington Blade last month during a Zoom interview from her home near the city of Cologne. “It was a government institution.”
Germany as of January has officially amended Police Service Regulation 300 (PDV 300) that was used to prevent openly trans and intersex people to work as police officers.
PDV 300 specifically mentioned men and women, but not trans or intersex people.
Joschua Thuir, a police inspector who is an instructor at a German Federal Police center for basic training and further education, is the trans ambassador of VelsPol Deutschland, an NGO that represents LGBTQ police officers in the country. Thuir, who is a trans man, has also written a diploma thesis about the experiences of trans and intersex people who have applied to become police officers in Germany.
Thuir described PDV 300 as “a list that includes different physical and psychological criterion of exclusion.” He also told the Blade that he transitioned after his 3-year probation period ended to make sure he wouldn’t jeopardize his job.
Brett Parson, an openly gay man who previously led the Metropolitan Police Department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, is among those who Thuir considers a mentor. Bee Bailey, a member of the Gloucestershire Constabulary in England who is a founding member of Trans Cops Europe, is among the other police officers who have also supported Thuir’s work.
Policy change ‘sends a strong signal’
Monro reached out to Thuir when she wanted to change the policy.
Thuir, for his part, spoke with different equal opportunity officers in the German Federal Police, among others. Thuir also connected with other VelsPol Deutschland members across Germany.
“I asked the contact officers to get in touch with the medical services of the different police units to ask how they handle the medical examination for trans and intersex applicants, and to make them see that we need new regulations,” he said. “Together we achieved that just a hand full of trans men got a special admission for exceptional cases, to start the police basic training in 5 years.”
Monro told the Blade that she spoke with German politicians who told her it would take the government “a long time” to amend PDV 300. Thuir also met with members of the German Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament.
“The government answered on an interpretation in 2019, that the PDV 300 needs to open up for trans people because different criteria cause discrimination for trans men,” Thuir said, noting he spoke to the Blade in his capacity as VelsPol Deutschland’s trans ambassador. “They didn’t reform the PDV 300 only for trans and intersex people. The progress of the revision of the PDV 300 started years before.”
Thuir said he was invited to ask questions about the criteria that “caused discrimination explicit for trans women.” Thuir told the Blade he also had the chance to ask the government about “the binary construct that also excluded intersex people” in 2020.
The new policy took effect in all of Germany’s 19 police departments in January.
“We wanted to make a positive report so that a lot of transgender people can now take their chance to go to the police,” said Monro. “We wanted to show the police is a good institution for transgender people to work.”
Monro said there has thus far been no backlash against the new policy. She told the Blade she is not sure whether she will once again apply to become a police officer, but added the new regulation sends a positive message to trans and intersex Germans.
“It sends a strong signal out to the community that it’s always worth fighting for something,” said Monro. “This process took me almost three years, and if you stand together with your community and you focus on your target while you fight and be patient, then you will get victory in everything you want.”
Bailey in an email to the Blade praised Thuir and his efforts to change the policy.
“This is absolutely down to the phenomenal hero we know as Joschua Thuir and his efforts made to encourage greater change of the outdated PVD300 regulation within the Polizei(police) in Germany,” said Bailey.
“All our public desire from police and policing is that we are capable of doing our role as police to ‘protect and serve,’” added Bailey.
Thuir said a labor union plans to unveil a photo project on March 31 in commemoration of the Transgender Day of Visibility. Thuir added the German government’s implementation of the new policy remains slow, in part, because police officials lack the proper information about it.
Republican governor Kristi Noem has issued two executive orders to prohibit trans girls from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams in South Dakota.
Noem partially vetoed HB 1217 – also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports bill – which would ban trans women athletes from playing in sports teams that align with their gender identity. The move shocked her conservative supporters as Noem had been a staunch supporter of the bill.
During an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Noem explained that she rejected the bill in its current form over fear that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) would seek punitive action if it was passed. She argued that she declined the bill unless several stylistic changes are made.
However, the South Dakota state legislature voted Monday (29 March) to reject Noem’s “style and form” veto of the trans athlete bill, by a 67-2 vote. Republican congressmen Fred Deutsch wrote on Twitter: “Vote to pass the governor’s style and form veto on the Fairness for [Women’s] Sports bill fails 2-67.
“The bill now goes back to the governor for her to either sign or veto. House believes her style-and-form is unconstitutional.”
On the same day, Kristi Noem announced two executive orders would be put in place in South Dakota to ban trans athletes from participating in school sports as their correct gender. Noem said on Twitter: “Only girls should play girls’ sports.
“Given the legislature’s failure to accept my proposed revisions to HR 1217, I am immediately signing two executive orders to address this issue: one to protect fairness in K-12 athletics, and another to do so in college athletics.”
She added that she will be working with state lawmakers to “schedule a special legislative session in late May or early June” to address “this important issue” as well as “medical marijuana” and federal spending.
Under the new executive order, the department of education and the board of regents in South Dakota will need to ensure that publicly-funded K-12 school districts, colleges and universities restrict participation in girls’ and women’s sports to athletes who can prove their assigned sex at birth.
The ACLU of South Dakota vowed on Twitter that it will not “stop defending the right for everyone to live and thrive” in the state. It posted an image with text on it that read: “The fight isn’t over. If only for a moment, we were able to take a deep sigh of relief.”