Federal appeals court to hear transgender Florida youth's bathroom case

Posted By  on Fri, Oct 1, 2021 at 10:38 am

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A full federal appeals court will hear arguments in February in a battle about whether a transgender male student should have been allowed to use boys’ bathrooms at a St. Johns County high school.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to consider the long-running case during the week of Feb. 21 in Atlanta, according to a memo posted in an online docket.


Adams was born a biological female but in eighth grade told his parents he was a transgender male, according to the July ruling. The lawsuit, which Adams and his mother filed in 2017, stemmed from Nease High School requiring Adams to use a gender-neutral, single-stall bathroom or girls’ bathrooms. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled in favor of Adams in 2018, prompting the school board to launch the appeal. Adams has graduated from the school as the court fight has continued.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) claimed research on gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender minors 'harms kids,' but studies have shown otherwise.

Earlier this week, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced a bill that would end public funding for research on transgender youth health care. Specifically, the legislation would "prohibit the use of federal funds for gender transition in minors."

"The federal government should never fund research that harms kids," Lee said in a statement. "This bill will protect taxpayers from funding spurious research, but more importantly, it will protect kids from the permanent damage this irresponsible research can produce."

The bill, called the Protecting Our Kids From Harmful Research Act, says that "no federal funds may be used to fund research or publications relating to gender transition in individuals under the age of 18," including studies on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and gender-affirming surgery.

Along with Lee, the bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), James Lankford (R-OK), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Accurate, responsible medical research requires proper funding. Lee and his allies in the Senate want to do away with that funding — a move that could have a catastrophic effect on the mental and physical health of trans youths.

Research shows that transgender youth benefit from receiving age-appropriate medical care that affirms their gender identity. A 2020 study found that transgender youths who received hormone therapy and other gender-affirming care earlier in puberty had better long-term mental health compared to their older peers.

Republican attacks on federal funding don't just affect transgender youth, but the entire LGBTQ community. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Public Health explained that an adverse political environment can have a "chilling effect" on necessary LGBTQ health care research. The study's authors found that LGBTQ health-related projects at the National Institutes of Health decreased from 2003 to 2005, "suggesting that the political environment may be responsible, in part, for the marginalization of LGBT health research at NIH."

This trend isn't just happening at the national level. Republican state lawmakers have introduced an avalanche of anti-LGBTQ bills this year, taking aim at transgender youth who want to use bathrooms and participate in team sports that correspond with their gender identity. State lawmakers across the country have introduced more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills this year — including at least 119 bills that focused on issues affecting transgender youth —according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Republicans in Congress oppose the Equality Act, a federal bill that would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care, education, jury service, and in other public settings. And Lee, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) have all used their positions of power to hamstring confirmation hearings for Biden administration nominees who support transgender equality.

The Republican senators are in line with former President Donald Trump on anti-transgender bigotry. "Joe Biden and the Democrats are even pushing policies that would destroy women’s sports," Trump told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference last March.

Kellan Baker, executive director of the Whitman Walker Institute, which focuses on LGBTQ health research and policy, said Lee's latest bill comes as no surprise to LGBTQ health advocates. "It is a longstanding strategy to strangle research on things you don't want anyone to know about in order to make the argument: No data, no problem," Baker said.

"This is one of the things that we see consistently around LGBTQ population health more broadly," Baker added. "A lack of data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity then makes it impossible for us to really fully describe the problems or fully describe the issues that people are facing."

Lee's bill could jeopardize funding for at least one NIH study. The report, slated for the 2021 fiscal year, is titled, "The Impact of Early Medical Treatment in Transgender Youth."

"It would potentially be caught in the dragnet of a bill like this," Baker said of the study.

Lee has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights, and in recent years, he has become particularly focused on attacking transgender rights. In 2012, Lee opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace.

In February, Lee introduced a bill called the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act to exclude transgender girls from girls' sports. He also raised the issue of transgender minors’ health care in March during a confirmation hearing for Vanita Gupta, the then-nominee for associate attorney general. Lee said that Gupta expressed relief that a South Dakota bill prohibiting surgery for transgender minors failed in 2020.

Lee has also claimed that the Equality Act — a law aimed at curbing anti-LGBTQ discrimination — would put cisgender women and girls in harm's way. But according to a February report from the Center for American Progress, there is "a complete lack of evidence that transgender sports participation has had any measurable impact on the success of cisgender athletes."

National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Teams Up with Grubhub To Offer String-Free Funds for Struggling Restaurants Impacted by Covid

WASHINGTON and CHICAGOSept. 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- America's vulnerable LGBTQ+-owned restaurants and bars serving food will find a vital lifeline this fall stemming from the partnership formed by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and Grubhub. These small business owners have been among hardest hit by Covid impact with loss of jobs and income over the past two years.

Grubhub, a leading U.S. food-ordering and delivery marketplace, and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the business voice of the LGBTQ+ community and certifying body for LGBTQ+-owned businesses nationwide, have opened applications for their NGLCC/Grubhub Community Impact Grant Program. The grants are expected to range from $5,000 to $100,000.

"We often say at NGLCC that 'If you can buy it, an LGBTQ+-owned business can supply it.' That is especially true of the LGBTQ+-owned restaurants across America who kept our communities and first responders fed throughout the pandemic. We're proud to partner with Grubhub in offering these grants to support these businesses throughout the nation. America's 1.4 million LGBTQ+-owned business owners have shown incredible resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, in turn, we can help them recover stronger than ever," said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson.

Throughout June, NGLCC was named the official partner of Grubhub's Donate the Change program, which has raised tens of millions of dollars for organizations in need since launching in late 2018. The partnership welcomed Grubhub and Seamless diners to opt-in, round up their order total, and donate the difference, with the company matching eligible donations from Grubhub+ members. The proceeds raised will now be made available through NGLCC to support the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+-owned restaurants.

"As the world starts to return to a new normal, we know many businesses are rebuilding and reopening, especially LGBTQ+-owned restaurants that are often the pillars of their communities," said Kevin Kearns, senior vice president of restaurants at Grubhub. "We're thrilled to partner with NGLCC and give back to the LGBTQ+ community - one that has shown incredible strength and support for those in need throughout the pandemic."

Under the innovative grant program, the NGLCC has set a goal to allocate 30 percent of the funds to businesses owned by people of color and transgender/gender non-conforming individuals.

Restaurants wishing to apply for grants should visit www.nglcc.org/ghgrant

NGLCC and its partners will expertly evaluate applications after the October 12, 2021 closing date. Major grantees will be awarded onstage during the NGLCC Back To Business (B2B) Summit in Hollywood, Florida this November, as well as in local communities.

The NGLCC's network of more than fifty Affiliate Chambers across America will help amplify this grant opportunity to support local restaurants. Those local chambers will also benefit from this initiative's newly established "Affiliate Chamber Fund." This fund will enable any establishment that receives a Community Impact Grant Program that is not currently a member of an NGLCC local affiliate chamber to have one year of membership paid. Additionally, many of NGLCC's more than 300 corporate partners enhanced their Pride 2021 programming with food orders from Grubhub during their programming with Employee Resource Groups and community partners - a best practice expected to continue throughout future Pride celebrations.

For more information on the Community Impact Grant Program regarding restaurant eligibility requirements, timelines, how to apply, and more, please visit www.nglcc.org/ghgrant.

Alejandra Caraballo, 30, spent three years and countless hours after work — which “felt like a second part-time job” at times — putting together hundreds of documents to get her health insurance to cover her facial feminization surgery. 

She even planned to sue her nonprofit employer, the New York Legal Assistance Group, or NYLAG, and the insurance company it used, UnitedHealthcare, in the spring of 2019 for denying the coverage. 

“My own clients at NYLAG were getting it covered under Medicaid, no issue,” she said. “And I, having private insurance, was having it consistently denied and, not to mention, working at a place that prides itself on inclusion and diversity and being social justice-oriented in terms of providing direct legal services to low-income New Yorkers.”

 She said that she had lobbied for policy change but that when she met with NYLAG’s general counsel, she was told that the organization didn’t view the explicit exclusions for certain gender-affirming operations and voice therapy for transgender people as discrimination. 

“It felt really invalidating and just like I wasn’t being heard,” she said, adding that she is a lawyer who knows the case law that affects the issue.

She started preparing her lawsuit, but then, in May 2019, her employer told her that it would be switching insurance plans to Cigna, and she had to start all over again. 

After the switch, in July 2019, Cigna approved the first part of her surgery, which took place in October 2019, but when she tried to get the second part covered in June 2020, it denied the claim, she said. The New York Department of Financial Services overturned the decision in August and forced Cigna to cover the surgery, which she had in October. 

“I did quite an ordeal in terms of getting this covered, and I say this with the tremendous privilege that I’m an attorney who’s connected in the trans rights movement,” said Caraballo, who is now a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s Cyber Law Clinic.

NYLAG said that Caraballo was “a valued member of our team” and that it advocates alongside its team members “as they may experience and navigate life’s systematic inequalities and inequities.” 

“At NYLAG we aim to create an environment that supports all NYLAG employees during their employment, which includes making available the best options for insurance, qualified by the state of New York,” Jay Brandon, NYLAG’s director of external affairs, said in a statement. “We wish all our former employees the best in their personal endeavors and support Alejandra’s continued fight for equitable coverage from her insurance provider.”

A spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare said the company can’t comment on specific cases. The spokesperson said coverage for the treatment of gender dysphoria may include physicians’ office visits, mental health services, prescription drugs and surgical procedures. 

“Our mission is to help people live healthier lives regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Our customer service advocates are trained to help people navigate the health care system by matching them with experts who guide them when they have questions, and we have a special gender identity team to support members through their transition.”

“It felt really invalidating and just like I wasn’t being heard,” she said, adding that she is a lawyer who knows the case law that affects the issue.

She started preparing her lawsuit, but then, in May 2019, her employer told her that it would be switching insurance plans to Cigna, and she had to start all over again. 

After the switch, in July 2019, Cigna approved the first part of her surgery, which took place in October 2019, but when she tried to get the second part covered in June 2020, it denied the claim, she said. The New York Department of Financial Services overturned the decision in August and forced Cigna to cover the surgery, which she had in October. 

“I did quite an ordeal in terms of getting this covered, and I say this with the tremendous privilege that I’m an attorney who’s connected in the trans rights movement,” said Caraballo, who is now a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s Cyber Law Clinic.

NYLAG said that Caraballo was “a valued member of our team” and that it advocates alongside its team members “as they may experience and navigate life’s systematic inequalities and inequities.” 

“At NYLAG we aim to create an environment that supports all NYLAG employees during their employment, which includes making available the best options for insurance, qualified by the state of New York,” Jay Brandon, NYLAG’s director of external affairs, said in a statement. “We wish all our former employees the best in their personal endeavors and support Alejandra’s continued fight for equitable coverage from her insurance provider.”

A spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare said the company can’t comment on specific cases. The spokesperson said coverage for the treatment of gender dysphoria may include physicians’ office visits, mental health services, prescription drugs and surgical procedures. 

“Our mission is to help people live healthier lives regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Our customer service advocates are trained to help people navigate the health care system by matching them with experts who guide them when they have questions, and we have a special gender identity team to support members through their transition.”

 

There are not very many issues more pressing in our region than housing and homelessness. 

In a recent Crosscut/Elway poll, 79% of respondents said homelessness was one of the issues most important to them, with 54% saying that the government should prioritize permanent housing and mental health services.

Yet while most of the coverage of our region’s housing crisis is dire, there are also glimmers of hope.

One such glimmer is the Washington Black Trans Task Force’s plan to create a housing facility for a minimum of 25 “Black Trans Women, Femmes and Non-Binary individuals experiencing or are at risk of chronic homelessness,” according to their project charter. The Washington Black Trans Task Force is a program of Lavender Rights Project, an organization that “elevates the power, autonomy, and leadership of the Black intersex & gender diverse community through intersectional legal and social services.”

The Seattle house would provide permanent supportive housing and wraparound culturally appropriate support services for a group that is among the most vulnerable to homelessness. The Black Trans Task Force is seeking to acquire a former hotel or nursing home property to serve this need and organizers said they received funding from the Health Through Housing program of King County and other sources to make that possible. The house is expected to open in mid-2022 and will cost about $300,000 per permanent supportive housing unit. Like other permanent supportive housing projects, residents will pay rent of no more than 30% of their verifiable income.

To make the house a home for residents, organizers are asking the community for help to furnish the house through a gift registry.

In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), 42% of Black respondents reported experiencing homelessness some time in their lives, compared with 30% of respondents overall and 14% of the overall population from one study in the ’90s. A more recent 2018 study suggested 6% of the general population would be homeless at some point, using baby boomers as a proxy for the eventual population as a whole. 

Ebo Barton, the director of Lavender Rights Project’s housing services, said the house will fill a critical need. He said they have learned that gender-based violence and poverty are symptoms of homelessness and that for many people he has talked to, “​​housing was the underlying issue to all of the barriers they were experiencing.” 

Barton said the house will fill a gap for people who are “not being served by the shelter system, who are not being served by affordable housing, and are not being served by permanent supportive housing in the ways that are necessary specifically for trans people and for gender diverse individuals, especially in King County.”

The intersection of anti-Black racism, transphobia and transmisogyny combine to make it especially challenging for Black trans people to find the housing and support they need.

Barton said because trans and gender diverse people are not well served by the existing systems, they end up couch surfing or avoiding the system entirely, which puts them at greater risk of gender-based violence, poverty and “just more barriers to the barriers that we’re already facing.”

One of the many things that sets this project apart from others is that the vision, strategy and approach for the house is being created largely by those who have lived experience as Black trans people who have experienced homelessness or housing insecurity. Barton said this “for us, by us” approach means “it’s very important that we listen to what Black trans women and femmes are saying and not what we want to hear.”

In addition, the wraparound support services that the house will offer will be gender affirming and culturally competent, provided by people Barton said, “that look like us, that know what our bodies might be going through.” 

“This is the start of work and not necessarily the solution to all of the [housing] problems,” Barton said. “If we’re all invested in any housing projects for gender diverse people in Seattle … we’re all starting on something incredible.”

Lack of gender-affirming care is a problem. In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 34% of Black respondents who saw a health provider in the past year reported that they had at least one negative experience related to being transgender. Further, nearly twice as many Black trans people did not have health insurance compared with the general population.

The Black Trans Task Force house will not be the first to serve Black trans people in the country. In addition to more broadly focused projects like the Queer the Land project I wrote about earlier this year and the Pride Place facility that just broke ground in Seattle, Memphis, Tennessee, has My Sistah’s House and Queens, New York has the G.L.I.T.S house. 

Clearly there is much more needed to address the 23,000 people experiencing homelessness in Washington state in 2020. But centering and amplifying the wisdom, expertise and direction of those with lived experience should be a central strategy for all approaches going forward.

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