Hawaii has become the 12th state to ban dangerous “ex-gay” conversion therapy. Governor David Ige signed legislation to outlaw the fraudulent practice Friday afternoon.

The usually religion-based scam claims to be able to change people’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We’re seeing significant momentum to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, and The Trevor Project calls on even more states to join Hawaii in banning this barbaric practice,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director, said. The Trevor Project is the leading organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT youth.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all condemned the practice as dangerous to the mental and physical health of LGBT people.

“There are currently more than 700,000 survivors nationally, and an estimated 77,000 teenagers across the country will be subjected to conversion therapy over the next five years,” said NCLR Born Perfect Strategist Mathew Shurka.

“As a survivor, I know how harmful conversion therapy can be, and I could not be happier that Hawaii has taken this important step to protect the health and safety of its LGBTQ youth from this terrible practice.”

Hawaii joins California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Maryland and New Hampshire legislators have passed bans that are awaiting their respective governor’s signature.

The brains of transgender individuals share characteristics with those of the gender they identify with, according to new research.

Researchers used MRI scans to identify how adolescents’ brains responded to a pheromone that men and women are known to react to differently.

The brains of transgender people who identified as women reacted more like female brains, and transgender people who identified as men had brains that responded more like males than their biological sex.

There are sex differences in the brain at the structural level and also how male and female brains perform certain tasks, said neuroscientist Julie Bakker of the University of Liege in Belgium via email. Bakker’s research “found that adolescents with gender dysphoria had brain activity patterns very similar to their desired/experienced gender,” she wrote.

“At the moment, most available evidence suggests that it is a developmental effect, taking place before birth, but of course, we cannot rule out any effects of sex hormones later in life.”

Bakker’s study was small: looking at only about 150 individuals. As such, its findings should be interpreted with caution. Doug VanderLaan, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, is currently working on a similar study at a larger scale, which has yet to publish results.

“This research area is still very much in its early days,” he said. “There have been relatively few studies and the methods have not been consistent. Consequently, there are few findings regarding specific brain areas that have been shown to be reliable and more research is needed.”

However, he said, across studies so far, it has generally been the case that the brains of transgender people share certain resemblances to those of their identified gender.

Bakker suggests that her research could be used to inform how young people with gender dysphoria are treated. “Although more research is needed, we now have evidence that sexual differentiation of the brain differs in young people with GD (gender dysphoria), as they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender,” she said.

With more research, “We will then be better equipped to support these young people, instead of just sending them to a psychiatrist and hoping that their distress will disappear spontaneously.”

VanderLaan thinks it’s a little too soon to jump to that conclusion.

A federal court in Virginia ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen who's been fighting for the right to use the school bathroom that aligns with his gender identity.

The first time Gavin Grimm was on this program, he was a high school junior. He's transgender. And he sued the school board after they prohibited him from using the boy's restroom at his public school in Gloucester, Va.


GAVIN GRIMM: I'm not unisex. The alternative facility was a unisex bathroom. I'm not unisex. I'm a boy. And there's no need for that kind of ostracization.

SHAPIRO: Gavin's case has spent four years in the courts. And in the meantime, he graduated from high school and became a nationally recognized LGBT figure. This week, a federal judge in Virginia ruled in his favor, saying the school board discriminated against Grimm on the basis of sex.

Gavin Grimm, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

GRIMM: Thank you very much. I'm happy to be here.

SHAPIRO: How did it feel to get this ruling?

GRIMM: It was, of course, exciting. We had known for a while that it could come any day now. But I didn't have any expectations for what we might hear. And so to get positive news was just really fantastic.

SHAPIRO: Any word on whether the school board intends to appeal?

GRIMM: I don't know whether or not the school board intends to appeal. But we'll keep fighting if we have to.

SHAPIRO: The judge has ordered you and the school board to have settlement talks. You're no longer a student at the school. So what are you fighting for in this case?

GRIMM: The court case graduated from being about my interests almost as soon as it started. I hope that this will set a positive legal precedent that will aid other trans students in guiding their schools to better support them.

SHAPIRO: Gloucester, Va., where you grew up, is a relatively rural, relatively conservative part of the state. Do you think this case changed things in Gloucester even before this ruling, just by having the debate?

GRIMM: I don't know if I changed many hearts or minds in Gloucester. But the fact that I even was able to have a court case speaks volumes to the progress we have made in this nation. And the fact that we can have this discourse, the fact that we can have this debate - no matter how ugly it can be - speaks to the change that's coming.

SHAPIRO: You brought this case when Barack Obama was president. And now President Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, says the Education Department will no longer investigate civil rights complaints from transgender students regarding bathroom access. Yesterday, she testified to the House Education and Workforce Committee, and she said courts have given conflicting rulings. Here's part of her testimony.


BETSY DEVOS: Until the Supreme Court opines or until this body takes action, I am not going to make up law from the Department of Education.

SHAPIRO: Gavin Grimm, what do you think this means for a student like you who is a few years younger, coming through high school now?

GRIMM: I think that there is no ambiguity to the fact that this is explicitly dangerous to the lives of trans students. Saying that you will not investigate claims about discrimination is saying that you don't care about them, you don't think that they deserve to be protected and that you don't recognize, as well, their unique concerns and challenges in the school environment.

SHAPIRO: Explain what you mean when you say this is explicitly dangerous. What specifically is the danger?

GRIMM: It's explicitly dangerous to not protect trans youth in schools because they are an incredibly vulnerable minority. The suicide attempt rates are astronomically higher than the general population. And to feel completely alone and without options and to feel that helpless and unheard - I can't even imagine what detrimental effect that that can have on the ability for trans youth in schools to feel safe.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about your next step. I know you took some time off after you graduated from high school. You've moved to the West Coast. And you're going to start college in the fall?

GRIMM: Yes, I am working in the world of activism. I've been traveling to get my message out. And I'm also, at the same time, preparing to become a student again.

SHAPIRO: Well, Gavin Grimm, good luck in your next adventure in college. Thanks for talking to us again.

GRIMM: Of course. Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: Gavin Grimm is a transgender teen who sued his school board for the right to use the boy's restroom. And yesterday, a federal judge ruled in his favor.

A new survey finds significant anxiety and fear among teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

The survey findings, released Tuesday, are based on the answers of roughly 12,000 youth ages 13 to 17 who responded to an online solicitation by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and other advocacy groups. Researchers say they reveal the depth of challenges that LGBTQ teens face.

At home, at school, in social circles and communities, these teens are experiencing high levels of anxiety, feelings of rejection and fears for their safety, according to a report on the survey findings.

“Despite the change in social attitudes, they’re still struggling,” said Ryan Watson, an assistant professor in human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut who is one of the researchers. “We still see alarming disparities and experiences, disheartening mental health problems and self-esteem issues.”

The report notes that nearly three-quarters of the teens responding to the survey said they have been threatened verbally because of their sexual identity. Ninety-five percent reported having trouble sleeping.

Problems associated with being transgender were particularly pernicious. About half of transgender teens surveyed said they were unable to use school restrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity, with most of this group citing safety as the reason.

Yet teens generally shared similar concerns about school overall: Just 26 percent of those surveyed said they felt safe in their classroom.

The report comes at a particularly challenging time for LGBTQ individuals, with the Trump administration scaling back protections across several federal agencies. The Justice Department announced last July that civil rights laws do not include workplace protection against sexual orientation discrimination for lesbian and gay individuals. The Department of Education has reversed an Obama-era directive mandating schools protect and accommodate transgender students.

“Anecdotally, we have seen the Trump decision to rescind critical guidance [for schools] has caused fear and worry for transgender students and their families,” said Rebecca Kling, education program director at the National Center for Transgender Equality. “We’ve seen many cases where schools feel like they can roll back protections.”

These changes are particularly disappointing, say gay and transgender activists, because as a candidate, Donald Trump repeatedly expressed support for the LGBTQ community, once tweeting, “I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

The survey, conducted online between April and December 2017 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the University of Connecticut, asked about behavioral health, peer relationships, exercise and fitness, participation in sports, tobacco use and other elements of the teens’ lives.

“We wanted to know about a range of things, everyday lived experience, not isolating one aspect,” said Ellen Kahn, the foundation’s director of the Children, Youth and Families program.

To solicit subjects, the researchers advertised for LGBTQ teens on social media - Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Among the advocacy and nonprofit groups that helped publicize the survey were Planned Parenthood and the Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. The gay activist Tyler Oakley, whose videos on YouTube have reached more than 650 million people, also took part in spreading the word about the survey.

The results cannot be considered representative nationally because participants were not selected through a random sampling method.

Of the LGBTQ teens responding, 77 percent said they felt down or depressed in the prior week. Of those LGBTQ teens whose families did not know of their sexual orientation, 78 percent said they heard negative comments from their families.

Comments included in the report reflect their worries:

- “I’m not out to my parents for safety reasons.”

- “At school I have been bullied and called slurs by other students.”

- “My town is very tiny, racist, and homophobic. I don’t trust anyone to talk about LGBTQ issues.”

Ma’ayan Anafi, policy counsel at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she was not surprised by the results of the survey.

“It’s consistent with what we’ve seen,” Anafi said. “Trans students face immense harassment and discrimination.”

One of the biggest surprises to researchers was the obvious interest in the survey by so many LGBTQ teens.

“It shows that youth are really excited about being asked about their experiences,” Watson said. “They care about being heard.

Conservative estimates show transgender people, those whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth, make up two per cent of the US population. Transgender people must overcome many practical barriers to access healthcare, such as discrimination or prohibitive costs. Locating specific healthcare providers who are transgender-inclusive in their practice is also a stumbling block. Many such patients never reveal their gender identities to their doctors. As transgender identities are not typically recognized within the sphere of public health research, it has been difficult to compare their health status to that of the overall population.

"The lack of inclusion at both the population and healthcare system level systematically erases transgender individuals from the healthcare discourse," Christian says.

In an effort to address these challenges, the Colorado Transgender Health Survey was conducted in 2014. This online tool was developed by advocates and members of the transgender community and is based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Potential participants in the survey were recruited at transgender inclusive events and through specific organizations. In all, 406 transgender or gender nonconforming adults responded. Their health was compared with the general population of Colorado, using data from the 2014 BRFSS.

The researchers found that two in every five transgender respondents (40 per cent) delayed seeking medical care because of money issues, inadequate insurance or because they feared being discriminated against. Around 43 per cent reported suffering from depression, while 36 per cent had suicidal thoughts. One in every ten respondents had tried to commit suicide sometime during the course of the previous year.

"Our study highlighted the mental health of transgender people as a key priority, and that additional research to determine effective interventions is crucial," says Christian.

On the positive side, the researchers found that there were definite benefits in having a transgender-inclusive health provider. Such providers greatly increased the chances that patients received wellness examinations and made them less hesitant to seek medical treatment because of the fear of discrimination. They were also less depressed and less likely to attempt suicide than patients who did not have access to a transgender-inclusive provider.

"Having a transgender-inclusive provider is associated with improved mental and physical health and health behaviors," says Christian, who believes that further population level research and provider education on transgender health should be incorporated into national efforts to eliminate health disparities.

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