More than 540 student-athletes across the country signed a letter calling on the NCAA to stop hosting championships in states that prevent transgender athletes from competing in college sports. The letter, addressed to NCAA President Mark Emmerts, follows proposals in over 20 states that target trans athletes.

Across 80 universities, the 545 students come from diverse athletic backgrounds, including basketball, rowing, track and field, diving, swimming and gymnastics. The students believe that the NCAA's decision to accept championship bids from states with potential bans goes directly against the organization's anti-discrimination policy.

Aliya Schenck and Alana Bojar, track and field athletes from Washington University in St. Louis, first started the letter. Bojar, 21, says the NCAA has the power to affect change and has the responsibility to stand up for both current and future trans athletes.

"We're standing with trans athletes," Schenck, 20, told CBS News. "The big goal is to really make change within the NCAA, but if we can be allies to the trans community and help fight back against this legislation in any way possible, then we're doing our part."

The NCAA has relocated championship events over violations of its discrimination policy in the past. In 2016, the NCAA pulled seven championships from North Carolina over a law preventing transgender students from using the restroom of their choice.

Lawmakers in over 20 states have introduced legislation targeting transgender athletes. Mississippi's governor signed a bill Thursday that prevents trans athletes from competing on women's or girl's sports teams. Last year, Idaho passed a similar ban, which was blocked in federal court. 

"This is another attempt to strip trans folks in this country of their fundamental human rights to exist and to play on a sports team as kids," said Anne Lieberman, the director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally. "As folks who work in sports and are committed to social justice, (we) have to figure out a way that everyone can be included. And that means making sure that the people who are most impacted by these policies, by these conversations, have an actual seat at the table when these discussions are taking place."

Lieberman argued that not only are the laws against transgender athletes exclusionary, but their consequences can be life-threatening. Many of the proposals would require students to prove their assigned gender. Research shows that ostracizing children for their gender identity leads to increased self-harm and suicide rates, something sports can combat, said Lieberman. 

"All athletes deserve to compete," the letter reads. "All athletes are worthy of protection. No athlete should feel unsafe being who they are."

Schenck and Bojar hope the letter will force the NCAA to take action but vowed to continue raising awareness about these bills regardless of the outcome.

"Sports have always been my constant," Bojar said. "Even now in the pandemic, going to practice is one of my only constants. It's where I get to interact with people, it's where I get to release my stress. And to know that is being denied to people, I mean, who wouldn't get angry about that?

A recent Stanford study showed that, for teens exploring their gender identity, simple acts of caring from their parents were what they valued most.

When teenagers confide that they are transgender or uncertain about their gender identity, their parents may be unsure how to offer support. 

To understand what types of family support transgender adolescents consider helpful, a Stanford research team asked 25 of them for their thoughts. The team also interviewed the teens’ parents.

The actions teens said they valued most were among the simplest, the researchers discovered. Their findings were published March 8 in the Journal of Adolescent Health

Teens said they most appreciated having parents use their preferred name and pronoun, as well as knowing that their parents were emotionally available and listening to their concerns. 

The teenagers usually rated their parents as more supportive than the parents rated themselves, said Tandy Aye, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine and a pediatric endocrinologist at the Stanford Children’s Health Pediatric and Adolescent Gender Clinic. Aye is the senior author of the study.

“Even when parents are thinking that there is tension over gender identity, that parent-child relationship is still super important,” said Aye. She spoke with science writer Erin Digitale about her research. 

1. Set the stage for this study. What was previously known about the value of family support for transgender children?

Aye: Kristina Olson, a researcher in Seattle, has studied how important family support is for young kids going through gender transition or who are gender-expansive, meaning their gender identity doesn’t fit neatly into traditional “boy” or “girl” categories. If they have a supportive family from the beginning, children who are transgender and gender-expansive don’t experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation or suicide compared with cisgender peers. Without family support, all those mental-health risks increase substantially. And having family use a child’s preferred name and pronoun has been shown to be protective. 

2. What was new about your approach?

Aye: In our study, we were trying to classify the commonalities in families that were supportive. No one had really looked at both perspectives — of transgender teens and of their parents — to see what support looks like. 

We used a combination of closed-ended survey questions and open-ended interviews to get information about what parents and teens were thinking, saying and doing at pivotal times during the teenager’s gender journey. We interviewed parents and adolescents separately; it was very important that we got their views independently.

Among those who seek care at our gender clinic, we meet all sorts of families, and as we were doing this study, we realized that there’s support and there’s acceptance, but they don’t always go hand in hand. Hopefully, support leads to acceptance. We hope we can use what we discovered to help families who are not initially supportive learn how to support their teens.

3. What did teens tell you about the support they got from their families?

Aye: The adolescents always rated their parents to be more supportive than the parents rated themselves. I think that’s surprising, since there can be times of tension between parents and children during adolescence; it is a hard time for anyone. Our finding just shows how much teens really value their parents.

When we asked each group what actions they saw as showing support, parents talked about taking their teen to the gender clinic, getting them connected to resources. But what the majority of adolescents wanted most was for parents just to use their preferred name and pronoun. That validated what another study had found.

Parents come to us worried about what a gender clinic would do, with lots of medical questions and concerns about taking those first steps toward the medical aspects of a gender transition. But we found that what adolescents want is just for their families to acknowledge that they’re exploring their gender. If you can use their preferred name and pronoun, it affirms that you support that exploration.

4. You also talked with parents about their internal reactions. What did they say?

Aye: We asked the parents: While you’re being supportive, what’s the struggle you’re having? I don’t think researchers have asked that of the families of transgender or gender-questioning adolescents before. We found that even parents who are being very supportive are still internally having an adjustment. 

The things that were the hardest adjustments for them, interestingly, included using the child’s preferred name and pronoun. The child’s original name was the name that parents really thought about choosing before their child was born, and for the child to say that’s not their name anymore was often challenging for the parents. As to the pronoun, parents would say, “We’ve used it for so long.”

But most parents we spoke to were hiding their adjustment because they wanted to be perceived by their children as being as supportive as possible. I think this is a key take-away from the study, especially for mental health providers. When the parents come in with their child and say, “Yes, we’re supportive,” it’s important to acknowledge what parents are experiencing and talk to parents about providing services for them, to help them process their own emotions.

5. What take-aways from this study will be helpful for other families that you see in the Stanford Children’s gender clinic?

Aye: When families come to us, they’re often thinking about hormones, surgery and how difficult all those treatments at end of their child’s transition are going to be. Typically we bring parents back to the moment they’re in and ask, “Where is your child now? Where are you?”

Sometimes parents say, “We’re just having difficulty using the child’s preferred name and pronoun.” We talk about acceptance and ask them to just practice using the name and pronoun at home, and acknowledge to the family how important that support is to their teen. We also let them know that their teen may argue against them or shut down, but that the love they have for them is not forgotten, and it’s still very important to foster that relationship. 

Our new research adds to the evidence that transgender adolescents’ perception of their parents’ support may be the key protective factor in the teens’ mental health. It’s that perception of support that parents want to nurture. What can you do? It’s things like offering a hug, being there to listen. These are things anyone can do. They are free and fully reversible, whatever path the teen takes in their gender journey. There are no medical side effects to listening and giving hugs, or trying your child’s preferred name and pronoun. It’s all about helping the teen fully explore who they are.

 

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a landmark bill that aims to amend several federal laws to prohibit discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act, passed on February 25 by a vote of 224-206, previously passed the House in 2018 only to stall in the Senate. If passed by the Senate this time around, the law would go further than simply codifying the recent Supreme Court decision holding that “sex” includes a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity for purposes of Title VII. It would also add protections against discrimination and segregation on the bases of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity for purposes of accommodations and education. What do businesses need to know about this development?

Isn’t This Already the Law?

The crux of this congressional proposal might seem familiar to some. That’s because the Supreme Court recently found that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination in the workplace also prohibits discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity in June 2020. The Equality Act would codify this holding by explicitly adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of “sex” in Title VII itself. It would also amend Title VII to clarify that, when sex is a bona fide occupational qualification, individuals are recognized as qualified in accordance with their gender identity.

The Equality Act’s Reach Beyond Employment

Unlike the Court’s ruling, however, this bill would impact more than just employment.  In addition to Title VII, the Equality Act would also expand “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions against sex discrimination under Title II (public accommodations); Title III (public facilities); Title IV (public education); Title VI (federal assistance); and Title IX (DOJ Intervention). It would further amend the Civil Service Reform Act, the Fair Housing Act, the equal Credit Opportunity Act, and federal law related to jury selection.  It would similarly allow the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Moreover, the Equality Act would add sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) as a protected category in various prohibitions against discrimination and segregation under Title II (public accommodations); Title III (public facilities); and Title VI (federal assistance).

The current version of the bill would also prevent use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (which you may remember from the Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby case) as a defense against enforcement of the Civil Rights Act. This would likely not impact the ministerial exception to the law, however, which is limited to religious employers. The Court upheld a broad standard for the ministerial exception just last summer. 

What Happens Next?

The Equality Act will move to the Senate next. While the Senate Majority leader is a co-sponsor of the bill, it will require 60 votes in support to be filibuster-proof. It is unclear if it will pass that hurdle or whether the Democratic majority would be willing to dismantle the filibuster over this piece of legislation. President Biden has already issued a statement in support of the bill, so he would certainly sign the Equality Act into law if it passes the Senate.

 

Kayla Gore wants transgender people of color in the South to have a fighting chance.

In 2016, she and her friend Ellyahnna C. Wattshall were working at a local community center in Memphis, Tennessee, when they noticed emergency shelters were discriminating against trans people like them.

“It was just me and Ellyahnna at the (LGBTQ) community center one day,” Gore told CNN. “I was working there … and I was having a lot of frustration with the organizations that provided emergency shelter in Memphis.”

Gore said she was hearing reports from local trans people that shelters were asking invasive questions about their genitalia.

“(There was) no concern for the actual people who were in an emergency situation who needed housing,” Gore said.

That year, she and Wattshall created a new option: My Sistah’s House, a grassroots organization that provides emergency housing and resources to LGBTQ people, and especially trans people of color.

“The desire was for My Sistah’s House to be a place of refuge,” Gore said.

From an open bed to an organization

The seeds of the organization were planted when Gore began housing trans people in her own home.

After a while, though, she and Wattshall bought a dedicated house for trans people seeking emergency shelter.

“They needed somewhere to be,” Gore said. “And it blew up to what we are now — a fiscally sponsored organization that provides housing, sexual health resources and a couple of different advocacy platforms that we engage our community to be a part of.”

My Sistah’s House, along with providing housing, hosts clinics to educate trans people on the legal process of name changes, provides survival kits to local sex workers and offers resume coaching.

The services are “delivered by and for gender non-conforming people of color,” their GoFundMe says.

Covid-19 sparked yet another initiative

During the peak of the pandemic, Gore and her team noticed that more people were facing housing insecurity than ever before.

Finding a wealth of options for families but close to none for trans people, My Sistah’s House launched a project: It would aim to build 20 tiny homes for trans people seeking transitional housing.

GoFundMe was launched and went viral soon after. The campaign raised $300,000 for the project — but Gore said this is only enough to build five homes.

Three have been built so far, and in March the first tiny home resident will be ready to move in.

Trans housing insecurity persists

Gore said that since the tiny home project went viral, more people have come to My Sistah’s House seeking services — and some are traveling long distances.

“I keep telling people it’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “It feels good that we can provide it. But people are having to travel 700-800 miles. It’s an eye-opening experience of the scarcity of housing resources for trans people in the South.”

Gore said the organization is able to secure emergency housing for out-of-state travelers through other programs.

But the challenges of being trans and houseless in the South persist.

Trans people facing financial and housing insecurity, Gore said, can pursue alternative employment like survival sex work, which can sometimes endanger them.

“(Housing insecurity) puts us in a situation where we’re doing things that we normally would not do,” Gore said. “It puts us in fight or flight mode all the time.”

At an office job, someone could take medical leave. But trans people are often left without anything to fall back on.

The aim of My Sistah’s House, she said, is to be the place in which they can fall back.

“Home means safety and security,” Gore said. “It’s a human right.”

Kings Junior High School student Nicki Chambers began her gender transition years ago, in first grade. Like many other students who are transgender, the idea of spending the majority of her day in the classroom with other kids could seem intimidating at times.

"Sometimes the less social, the better for me," she said. "Some days I'm just not feeling social."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students in the LGBTQ community are at higher risk of being bullied by their classmates. For students like Chambers, the move to remote learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity, said Nicki's parent, Kim Chambers.

Jaclyn Keller is a senior at Summit Academy in Middletown. She could relate to Nicki Chamber's anxiety over the social pressures of in-person schooling.

"People were asking me if I was gay and taking my things," said Keller, who began her transition when she was 13. "Later on, they started getting better at respecting me more."

"As she's becoming a teenager, experimenting with how she wants to look, a lot of things regarding transitioning are a lot easier to do at home," they said. "If something goes wrong with something that she's experimenting, it's not a big deal. She can keep her camera off for the day, and nobody will ever know the difference."

When asked if she has experienced any bullying since switching to remote learning, Keller said, "Not at all."

Kim Chambers' younger daughter, Briella, is also transgender, but for her, the remote learning experience has proven more a challenge than an opportunity.

"(Briella) really needs the social interaction to actually be in person, and it's been a struggle," Kim Chambers said. "Nicki is a lot more introverted, and Briella is a lot more extroverted."

Beyond general concerns over isolation, transgender students can face unique struggles when a pandemic demands social distancing and limited contact with friends outside one's household, said Dr. Elise Pine, a pediatrician who specializes in trans-youth issues.

"They're home and isolated and can't meet with friends, and it's been very difficult in terms of depression and anxiety and struggling," Pine said.

Pine's advice for anyone struggling with such isolation right now: Find someone to talk to. Parents of a child struggling with gender issues should make sure they have an outlet where they feel safe.

If you or someone you know is struggling with gender identity or a mental health crisis, help is available. The Trevor Project specializes in providing support for young people who are transgender and can be reached by phone 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386. Call 1-800-273-8255 any time to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 at 741-741 for those who might be uncomfortable with a phone call.

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