Tag Archives: transgender

President Obama Wants Conversion Therapy Banned

Transgender 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn wrote in her suicide note that one of the ways her family rejected her was by forcing her to see “Christian therapists.”  These therapists told her that she was selfish and wrong, and should look to God for help. Soon after her suicide, a White House petition was started, calling for “Leelah’s Law,”  which would ban all forms of the cruel ex-transgender and ex-gay conversion therapies.

Recently, the White House responded to the petition in agreement that conversion therapy should be banned.  Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor, said, “The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.”  She added, “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

President Obama Wants Conversion Therapy Banned

Jarrett believes that even with the best intentions, families can cause harm to their children who are LGBTQ. She said, “Countless families and guardians across the country proudly support their LGBTQ+ children. Too many LGBTQ+ youth, however, lack this support system, which can have devastating consequences. Negative family reactions to LGBTQ+ youth can be perceived as rejection by children, often contributing to serious health issues and inhibiting a child’s development and well-being. And when it comes to LGBTQ+ youth, some actions by family and caregivers can be harmful, despite even the best intentions.”

This year, Republican lawmakers have defeated several legislative bans that were pending in various states; some are still pending. Currently, only California, New Jersey, and Washington, DC have banned conversion therapy for minors. According to Jarrett, a national ban would require congressional action. But, she said: “We’re hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the action taken by the states will lead to broader action that the administration would support.”

Jarrett stated in an interview with the New York Times that Obama was incredibly moved by Alcorn’s story and added that it’s not a unique experience: “It’s not the story of one young person,” she said. “It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”


Many Transgender People are Completely Avoiding Doctors

It can be difficult for many individuals to have discussions about their sexual history with a physician. It’s not uncommon for people to consider it uncomfortable. But, for many transgender people, the conversation never happens because they do not seek out health care, according to Adrian Juarez, PhD, a public health nurse and assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Nursing.

A preliminary study (“Examining the Role of Social Networks on Venue-Based HIV Testing Access and Decision Making in an Urban, Transgendered Population”) that examined health-based decision making and access to HIV testing in urban, transgender populations, showed that many transgender individuals withheld from pursuing necessary care due to social stigma and lack of affordability.

Many Transgender People are Completely Avoiding Doctors

“There is evidence that health care providers do tend to be judgmental, and it’s unwelcoming,” says Juarez.  Of course, people are not going to visit health care providers if they fear that they’re going to face discrimination and stigma.

The results of the study are especially cause for concern because, according to a 2009 report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about one third of transgender people in the U.S. are HIV positive. And, transgender women of color are even more at risk of HIV infection. According to the NIH study, more than 56 percent of black transgender women are HIV positive.

Among other reasons, an inability to afford medical care is keeping transgender patients away from doctors. Transgender people are more than twice as likely to be homeless and four times more likely to experience extreme poverty (compared to the general population)…having a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This data comes from a 2011 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality. It’s not as if it’s easy for transgender people to get work, either. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, out of more than 6,000 transgender people surveyed in the nation, 90 percent said they were subject to mistreatment, harassment, and discrimination at work.

If a transgender person does happen to visit a healthcare provider, some doctors are not informed on how to properly treat the  patients. Juarez says, “It puzzles me how doctors will still refer to trans individuals by their biological name. That’s their identity.”

The line between identifying and biological gender can be blurry in healthcare settings. For example, transgender men still need Pap smears and transgender women need prostate screenings, but some health care providers might not offer these tests in order to keep from making suggestions that go against the patient’s identified gender. There is an urgent need to address stigmatization and provide health care professionals education on how to appropriately and compassionately treat transgender patients.

Transgender Activists and Radical Feminists Battle on Social Media

There’s something trending on Twitter—but also offline. Both transgender activists, and feminists who do not view trans women as women are debating online and on college campuses.

#TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists is a hashtag being used and is a pejorative term used on Twitter to describe anti-trans feminists. Anti-sex work, anti-porn, anti-trans feminists seem to be reappearing from the 1970’s. Many wonder why.

An open letter published in the Guardian of London and the Observer that claimed those who expressed opinions regarded as “transphobic” were being censored on England’s college campuses triggered a significant debate on social media. The letter posted revealed a strong hostility that many wouldn’t be aware of unless they were in specific activist or academic circles, that is occurring between transgender activists and a certain group of feminists who do not believe transgender women are ‘real’ women. Beliefs they hold include, transgender women should not be let into feminist events or female bathrooms. Some of these women are even doxing transgender teens, which means they are revealing their identities to the public online.

Transgender Activists and Radical Feminists Battle on Social Media

These radical feminists have been nicknamed “the Westboro Baptist Church of feminism”, referring to the church known for its hate speech that pickets at funerals of LGBTQ people. Urban Dictionary has a definition listed, which describes them as “group of feminists that claims that trans women aren’t really women, as biological determinism is only a fallacy when it used against them, not when they use it against others.”

One of the loudest anti-trans feminists is Germaine Greer, a 1970’s feminist who wrote the book “The Female Eunuch”.  Greer, now 76, has said that transgender women are a “ghastly parody”, that they are men with “delusions” who use their male privilege to sneak their way into the feminist movement. She believes that transgender women don’t know what it is to “have a big, hairy, smelly vagina”.

Some people regard this as transphobic hate speech and connected to essentialist ideas regarding sex that have been challenged since around the 1990’s, when debate was shifted from sex to gender and its social construction.

It seems that that, according to the “TERFs”, one must be a woman who has suffered sexism in order to be a feminist. Thankfully, present day feminists tend to believe this is an outdated and narrow-minded approach. More and more people are understanding the importance of inclusion, and not rigid definitions about what it means to be a man or a woman. Hopefully this will only continue.

Kentucky Senate OKs Bill to Make Transgender Students Use Separate Restrooms

Recently, Kentucky’s state Senate voted for segregation of transgender students when using public school bathrooms. Atherton High School in Louisville made a decision to allow a student born male, but identifying as a female to use their girls’ restroom—this was reversed when the Senate voted 27-9 in favor of a bill against this decision.

When the school allowed the transgender student to use the girls’ bathroom, some students and parents objected due to their reported discomfort in sharing a bathroom with someone they felt should not be using, having been born of the opposite sex. This is when Republican Sen. C.B. Embry of Morgantown decided to introduce legislation, which is receiving support from the Family Foundation of Kentucky.

Republican Sen. Mike Wilson of Bowling Green does want those, such as his daughter, to be uncomfortable in a bathroom. He thinks society is being pressured to change because we live in a day of political correctness. He said, “I don’t want that situation for my daughter to be in a place and a state of undress in front of the opposite sex, whether they identify with her sex or not.”

Kentucky Senate OKs Bill to Make Transgender Students Use Separate Restrooms

However, some voted against the bill; 3 Republicans and 6 Democrats, for various reasons from believing this should be a decision made at the level of the school involved, to the belief that this is a dangerous step towards discrimination.

This bill requires school officials to provide the “best available accommodation” to students who say their gender is not that of their biological sex, who also have parental consent in writing. The bill even defines biological sex as “identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.” Some of the accommodations include: unisex bathrooms, single-stall restrooms, or “controlled use” of faculty bathrooms.

A 16-year-old transgender student, who attends a private Louisville school, spoke of his experience when his school made him use a separate bathroom and testified before lawmakers saying, “It was outing me every time I had to walk in there because nobody else used them.” And, “For me and other trans kids it’s especially hard being in a biological body that simply doesn’t match my gender identity: how I feel in my heart and mind.”

Language in the bill that would have allowed students to sue their school for not enforcing the law, has been removed.

Planet Fitness Upholds Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Policy, Cancels Woman’s Membership

After a woman in Michigan complained about a transgender person in the women’s locker room, Planet Fitness revoked her membership.

Forty-eight year old Yvette Cormier, said she saw someone “dressed like a man” when she she walked into the locker room at Midland Planet Fitness. She remarked that the person was wearing a wig and “a little bit of blush”, but was “huge” and looked “very manly”.  She reported to ABC News, “I just stopped right there in my tracks,” she said. “It was a man for sure.”

Cormier went to the front desk of the gym to inquire why there was a man in the women’s locker room; the employee at the desk told her that the man identified as a woman. Cormier decided to take it to the corporate office and was told that Planet Fitness Policy is  “whatever gender you feel you are, that’s the locker room you’re allowed to go in… We’ve had lots of complaints about him but we told him to go change in a stall… if you’re uncomfortable with that you can wait until he’s done in there.”

Planet Fitness Upholds Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Policy, Cancels Woman's Membership

Cormier had asked if he (the transgender person) could wait until she was done in the women’s locker room or get a unisex bathroom. The employee then asked if she wanted to speak with the manager and Cormier said, “I’m calling corporate.”

Since Cormier reportedly went back to the gym every day through Thursday and told other women about what she saw, Planet Fitness’ corporate office called and told her that she was violating their policy of “no judgement”. After they asked her to stop speaking to women in the gym about the issue, she refused. Planet Fitness then suspended her membership.

PR director for Planet Fitness, McCall Gosselin, said that whatever gender identity a person decides to use will allow them into that gender’s locker room. Gosselin’s statement read:

Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity. The manner in which this member expressed her concerns about the policy exhibited behavior that management at the Midland club deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled.

Cormier does not feel that the policy is safe for women and feels as if she’s the one being punished. Her solution would be to add a third locker room for transgender people, even though there are private changing stalls and bathroom stalls with doors in the women’s locker room.

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

There’s a difference between sex work that is legal and that which is criminalized, as far as protection and health-regulation goes, but it’s all work. People are doing this work for many different reasons, very rarely because they want to. It can be incredibly dangerous.

What appears to be a study that is the first of its kind, was released by an Urban Institute report on survival sex and LGBTQ youth in NYC. The study took interviews from 300 participants between 13 and 21 years of age and was done in collaboration with the organization Streetwise and Safe. The study was conducted with participants speaking to their peers, which likely made it much more effective.

This approach seems to have been a good move, resulting in straightforward and complex responses from LGBTQ teens who have taken part in survival sex. To say they choose to do this is misleading and damaging–it’s for survival; they’ve often run out of options. The main reason LGBTQ teens turn to survival sex is homelessness. As many as 50 percent of youth who are homeless or runaway, trade sex for money to care for themselves or for shelter. Forty-eight percent of transgender people who engage in sex work report that they’re homeless.

A 2007 study of LGBTQ teens in New York showed that transgender teens were eight times more likely to have traded sex for shelter than heterosexual teens and that LGBTQ youth in general were seven times more likely. More than half of the respondents of the study said they used the money from survival sex to buy food first.

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

Often, LGBTQ youth are introduced to this way of survival by a friend. Meredith Dank, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute believes these are relationships and circumstances too fraught to be labeled as “good” or “bad”. These teens have little control over meeting their own needs for survival and don’t have support systems, so they turn to each other as family and protection. Dank said, “They’ll say, ‘I needed a parent and I didn’t have them.’ Peers are serving that role of support they really need.”

The community ties these teens have built make it difficult for them to leave survival sex, even when they are presented with other employment opportunities. And, almost all of the youth interviewed in the study said they wanted to be able to support themselves differently. They reported they did not want to be engaged in survival sex, not even in a year and that, “They wanted a job. This wasn’t a job to them, it was just how they were surviving.”

Dank says, “What we knew was mostly anecdotal, and now we have data to share. LGBT youth are having these experiences all over the country. Whoever is passing the laws about this, we need them to know all of this.”

The end of the report includes a list of recommendations that is intended to reach social service agencies serving LGBTQ youth beyond NYC.


6 Damaging Myths about Non-Binary People

The biggest myth about non-binary people is that they’re non-existent.  What does it mean to be non-binary?  Non-binary gender identities cannot be fit into the male/female, accepted binary. It’s more simple to imagine an entire spectrum of gender and know that everyone fits somewhere on it and they don’t always necessarily remain in the exact same place. Yet, let’s remember that “male” and “female” do not begin and end this spectrum.  “Genderqueer” (GQ) is another word some use instead of non-binary.  There are plenty of harmful stereotypes about non-binary folks out there.  Here are six common ones that need debunking:

It’s just a fad
It is not an option to choose between male and female for gender identity for a non-binary person.  It’s not a game that anyone’s playing for attention…it’s very real.  Gender expression (the type of clothes you might choose to wear, for example) is not the same as gender identity. This is where a lot of people seem to get confused and think of non-binary people as if they’re folks trying to fit in with a trend.

Non-binary people are just confused
Confusion is natural for a lot of people and there’s nothing wrong with being confused.  It is part of the process of many trans people.  However, the fact that someone is non-binary doesn’t mean they’re confused.  It just means that they’re not male or female…or they are genderless (agender).

This is a new concept
The fact that non-binary folks haven’t received much recognition in the US until recently doesn’t mean it’s a new concept. There are  many cultures in the world who use words for genders that aren’t “male” or “female”.

6 Damaging Myths about Non-Binary People

Non-binary people want to destroy gender
Just because non-binary people want more options than “male” and “female” for gender doesn’t mean they’re trying to destroy gender.  This assumption doesn’t observe the fact that many non-binary people do have genders.

Non-binary is the same as intersex
Of course, this is untrue.  Being non-binary means you have a gender identity that doesn’t fit into the male or female genders.  When one is intersex, it means they’re born with a physical sex that isn’t classified as male or female.

Trans oppression is not experienced by non-binary people
Non-binary people experience more discrimination and violence in some circumstances, as they would have negativity coming from both cisgender and binary transgender communities.  This means less of a support system for non-binary folks as well as fewer safe places.  You can become a better ally to non-binary people by insisting on including them whenever the topic of gender arises.  You can be a part of the change that needs to happen in order for everyone to realize they matter just as much as anyone else.

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

Many of us are so used to having conversations that involve a limited amount of pronouns that we take for granted (he/she, his/her, they/theirs) because (when speaking English) we must assign a gender when we’re speaking about one person.  We need to understand that others, particularly trans people, ask to be referred to by different pronouns than we might assume we should use.

Singular pronouns such as “ze” and “hir” are the more common new ones for those not wishing to use “he” or “she”.  Changing pronouns can be a significant part of coming out as trans.  This can sometimes cause a lot of emotional pain when they’re met with negative responses, even violence.  Here are some major reasons why it is incredibly important to use the correct gender pronouns as a trans ally:

We’re helping shape our culture with language

Language is very powerful and we often take the words we use for granted, passing them off as insignificant, gender pronouns included.  Language spreads more quickly than ever now due to Internet and social media sites.  We are validating and making visible those who wish to be described and identified in a way that doesn’t fit into a strict gender binary.  Using the correct gender pronouns, even when we’re not with our loved one, is important and respectful.

We’re showing respect to their reality

Trans people are often told what’s best for them by doctors, politicians, schools, and anyone else who wants to deny their reality with a gender pronoun or name that invalidates who they really are.  It’s not up to us to decide who they are, but to show them the same respect we would want in life.

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

We’re holding the media responsible

The media frequently ignores the requests of trans people who state their gender pronoun preference.  Many allies and activists have prompted change in news organizations, leading them to change their protocol on gender pronouns.  It’s important to keep using our voices.

We’re fighting transphobia and sexism

In our culture, it’s seen as bad or wrong to not fit within the male/female binary, acting outside of the gender of which our culture assigns us.  It’s not up to others to assign anything to us — and we need to realize that if we’re not transgender, and bring clarity to the obvious lack of understanding surrounding these cultural differences.  If you support gender equality, you’re playing a big part in walking the talk by being a trans ally.

We’re educating the community

It’s normal for some folks, activists included, to be confused by different pronouns.  It’s important to  learn them and then be patient as we’re educating others.  As allies, if we consistently use terms that are a true reflection of a person’s gender, we’re not only educating by example, we’re encouraging use of the proper terms by others in the community.  If it seems like a lot of work, just remember, it’s completely necessary and worth our attention.


Misconceptions Every Transgender Ally Should Know

Understanding the difference between gay, lesbian, and transgender lives and experiences is crucial for being a positive ally and member of the community. In regards to trans men and women, there some common misconceptions about their everyday lives:

Getting a job as a transgender person is the same as getting a job as a gay person.
Just about all transgender people are outed during the vetting process. This might be because the person does not “pass” in some way or their background check might reveal their previous name. A Google search might do it. If you’re transgender, chances are you will eventually be outed during the process and it will most likely have a negative effect on your chances of getting an interview, much less hired.

It’s just like LGB dating.
No, it’s a unique experience. Violence is often a result of a trans person telling their story. Even when there isn’t violence, the experience can be humiliating. Also, transgender women often do not fit within the traditional ideas of beauty.  Many times men who find them attractive are acting on a fetish rather than an interest in them as individuals. Trans women who are attracted to women often have a more difficult time finding romantic partners than those attracted to men.

Geography is meaningless.
Depending on where you live, you can go from being a person protected on many levels, with full recognition and access to transgender specific health care, to a person who has human rights in name only. In some areas, you might as well be a member of an untouchable caste. Just because some people in your area seem to be doing okay, doesn’t mean that’s even near reality in other areas.

Career field doesn’t matter.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a career that is LGB friendly. Many have to keep their lives a secret, often when they know others are talking behind their back–like they’re an ‘elephant in the room’.

People know the difference between transgender and drag. The difference between the two is quite obvious to people who have been around either or both communities at all.  The fact that only about 9 percent of Americans know someone who is transgender means this difference escapes most people.

Race doesn’t matter when it comes to these issues.
Complete myth. Most LGBT people murdered in hate crimes are transgender women. Of that group, a vast majority are persons of color. It is important to include trans women of color when you’re having a discussion about the transgender community.

“No, stop. You’re hurting me,” means “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
When a non-trans person is behaving in a way that transgender women find offensive or painful, there’s this idea that they’re just “doing their thing” and that people should be quiet about it.  These actions are damaging.  Regardless of your intentions, your behavior needs to be modified.

“Transgender” has clear definitions.
There is a fair amount of debate over who fits under this umbrella term. Only some accept it.

One voice can speak for all.
This is untrue. Whether or not we are transgender, we all speak from our own truth and life experiences.

10 Things Transgender Men Would like You to Know

Transgender persons exist in a subculture within a subculture, one that, in the mainstream, is not always well-accepted or even simply understood. To be a trans ally, to be considerate of the lives and social experience of trans individuals, might require that you reevaluate your relationship with the transgender individuals in your life. Trans men, specifically, have a distinct experience from trans women — here is what you should know:

You’re guilty by association.
You’ll have more questions asked about them than they will.  This is because people who are curious and confused will often feel more free to ask someone for information when they feel that the person shares a similar experience.  You should talk to your trans friend about what they’re comfortable with you sharing in these situations.  If the case is that they prefer not to be outed, tell them simply that it’s not your place to answer those questions.  If they’re open about their transition, try to find out how to answer or divert these questions.

“But you’ll always be _____ to me” is hurtful.
It’s one thing seeing a relative you haven’t since they were a small child, saying they’ll always be so-and-so to you, but different when relating with a transgender person.  Telling your friend that you still see them as someone other than who they are is hurtful.

Outing someone can be incredibly dangerous.
There is an overwhelming amount of ignorance/hatred toward trans people, despite some media and support.  Hundreds of transgender people are murdered yearly; there are no and/or failed protection laws in place.  Even if you think talking about your transgender friend in public is OK, the wrong person could overhear this and tell another friend, and that friend tells another–this could lead to some serious danger.

10 Things Transgender Men Would like You to Know

The dysphoria is not your fault.
You might feel like you’re responsible for their happiness, but sometimes their sadness comes from a place you’ll never be able to reach.  Trying to make your friend feel better by telling them you love their breasts, or you like them just the way they are, isn’t necessarily supportive.  It means you’ve created an image of who they are that doesn’t match up with reality.

It’s not the “T”.
It’s a huge moment in life to begin hormone replacement therapy.  Your friend might lash out afterwards and blame it on the testosterone.  They’re aware of the emotional changes that happen and realize their mood swings/imbalance are theirs to control.

Don’t walk on eggshells.
It’s easy to get hung up on words and just avoid conversations as a result.  You’re there for your friend and it shows that you care.  Many transgender people lose or don’t have a support system when they come out…the fact that you’re with them is meaningful.

Don’t date them despite their trans status.
Make sure you are interested in dating them for who they are, not despite their transgender status.  You’re not doing them any favors by being interested in them ‘even though’ they’re transgender.

Don’t talk behind their back.
Talk to them about it; learn their

Pronouns are mean a lot.
They have likely chosen a new name and have preferred gender pronouns.  Learn them.  Sure, you might mess up in the beginning, but it’ll be obvious when you genuinely care and are trying!